Monday, July 31, 2006

Why Is This Night Different From All Others Nights?

Answer correctly, and you may win a prize.
Since my escape from the rituals forced on me during my 12 years of Catholic Schooling, about the only thing I've done that could be considered religious has been the Passover Seder. Here's the wiki blurb, in case you didn't click the link: "...the Seder relives the enslavement and subsequent Exodus of the Children of Israel from Ancient Egypt through the words of the Haggadah, the drinking of Four Cups of Wine, the eating of matzot, and the eating of and reference to symbolic foods placed on the Passover Seder Plate."

It may not seem like it from the outside, but with the right group of adults, the Seder can be great fun. There's good food, friends, lots of wine, even songs and games (complete with prizes). And most important, there's the retelling of an important story filled with lessons. Everyone participates and every part of the meal is loaded with symbolism.

Despite all the hubbub over the city's August 29th plans, Gentilly Girl managed to find an alternative way to spend the evening, with the New Orleans version of a Seder. This seems quite appropriate, considering the theme of deliverance associated with Passover. And then there's our own Diaspora. We have our own Lost Tribes. So, every year, the evening would be spent remembering the (evolving and unfinished) story of August 29, 2005 and its aftermath, complete with the appropriate symbolic food, drinks, props and beverages. (Given all the waiting associated with the Aftermath, the there may be a lot of competition for the analog of the Cup of Elijah. Maybe we should have more than one.)

I have to say that this idea really appeals to me. I have some friends who used to invite me to their Seder every year, if they happened to remember or run into me somewhere within a week or so of Passover. Everyone contributed something to the meal (I'd make my famous matzo ball soup), and we'd spend several pleasant hours moving through the various parts of the ritual, often consuming an impressive amount of wine in the process. (Well-paced, of course.) I really looked forward to participating in the Seder and to getting to spend time with these delightful friends, with whom I otherwise probably wouldn't have the occasion to spend time. It's been a few years now since I've attended and every year I miss it. (And yes, Rick, if you happen to find this blog and this post, you can take it as a shameless hint. Please forgive me.)

Like most Seders I've attended, I think the New Orleans Version invites improvisation. However, I do think it needs a better name, than the ... ugh...*swallows hard*... Katrina Dinner. And it definitely needs more ritualized beverage consumption. But I really do like the idea of it. If my house was okay, I'd host the first such event, but since it's not, if anyone else is up to commemorating the day in this way, I'll bring the gumbo.

Gentilly Girl - The Summer of Our Discontent

Gentilly Girl- The Summer of Our Discontent

Gentilly Girl captures the value and beauty of New Orleans within the contrasting hues of its struggle for survival...

...Walk down the streets in most of our towns and watch the little kindnesses, the recognitions that we are a part of our whole: New Orleans or the Gulf. Imagine walking into a bar and seeing a Creole shrimper, a gator-trapping Cajun, a Mexican worker, a Drag Queen, two lesbians, a professor and a transsexual having an indepth conversation about the various forms of Jambalaya or the Blues. Where your bartender answers to Miss Love. And then you can get on a bicycle and speed through the Quarter and the Marigny saying hi to folks you know even at 4 A.M....
Now, go read the rest.

[Gentilly Girl, I've tried about three times to comment on your posts but it tells me I can't because I'm not logged in. I've never had this problem before. (?)]

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Parallel Lives Without Parallel Lines

My Racked House
Originally uploaded by LisaPal.
Michael Homan and I are living parallel lives.

We both teach at universities. We both have a son and a daughter. (Our daughters are only a year apart in age.) We both have two-story Victorian houses, both about 100 years old, both pink with white trim, with porch swings and second-floor balconies lined with wrought iron railings, with old knob and tube wiring in some parts of the house, and children's heights are marked on the door jams. We both love and appreciate our old houses and have spent time and money lovingly renovating them.

Then, on August 29, 2005, our houses were assaulted by the hurricane whose name no one seems to want to utter anymore. Myself included. When the levees broke, both our neighborhoods flooded. The water in my neighborhood only rose high enough to soak the insulation beneath my floors, but this was enough to also cause shorts in some of the wiring and destroy things like the hot water heater and air conditioning units that sat at ground level. Unfortunately, the water in Michael's neighborhood rose high enough to flood the first floor of his house with what looks to be about a foot of water.

Some people think that New Orleans was relatively unscathed after The Storm and that it was the flooding and not the winds that caused us trouble. While there's no question that the flood is responsible for most of the destruction, the hurricane-force winds did not leave us unscathed. Just ask me. Or Michael Homan. In both our cases, water didn't just come up from below; it also came in from above --in my case, soaking almost every wall and ceiling in my house, even the ceilings on the first floor, where water leaking in from the damaged roof and walls ran down the studs and along the second floor's joists and down into the ceiling. And because of the assault of hurricane force winds, our houses are now racked -- twisted and leaning, in both our cases, to the left. We both have damaged foundations that are cracked and separated and exposed brick chimneys with fissures running through them. I've been told that my beautiful chimney can't be saved. I hope that's not true. Neither of us can begin to restore our homes until our foundations are repaired and our racked houses are straightened. And therein lies the problem.

Michael Homan and I are insured by the two largest insurance carriers in Louisiana. I have State Farm and he has despicable AllState. State Farm has been okay up until we came to address this issue. Now Michael and I are having the same adventure. I'm just a few steps behind him.

Let me go back a bit, to where I left off in March, when I had an report from a civil engineer explaining how the hurricane-force winds had racked my house. I immediately took this report to State Farm. After a month of no response from them and no returned phone calls, I asked someone in my agent's office to intervene. They had an engineer from Quick and Associates come out the next day. I got chummy with him as he scoped the house and I tried to casually get him to share his opinion. He informed me that he wasn't allowed to discuss his findings with the homeowner, but eventually he revealed that he didn't disagree with anything on my engineer's report other than the need to replace the entire roof. Ironically, State Farm had never sent a roofing inspector to my house and when they finally did, he changed the settlement from a roof repair to a roof replacement, just as my engineer advised. State Farm's engineer also gave me lots of advice on things that the company should be paying for (but they're not) and how to ask for them. Before he left that day, I asked him how long it would take to get the report to State Farm. He said about a month, but if nagged (I nag State Farm, they nag him), he could have it in as little as two weeks.

All this took place in March. And I did inquire after a month went by with no word from anyone. Adjuster #5 said she'd fuss until she got it. About six weeks after the engineer's visit, she called to say she had the report, but it was missing the data. What data? The storm data, indicating wind speed and direction, etc. I reasoned that this firm must have done hundreds of such reports by then, and since there was only one storm and one set of data for it, it shouldn't take long to get the completed report. Adjustor #5 said she would stay on the case and that they should definitely have the report *soon.* That was in April.

Now, here we are, at the end of July, more than four months since the engineer's visit, and there is still "no data." I am on adjuster #6, who asked me last week if anyone had told me about the preliminary report. Nope. Not a word. So he told me that it said that the huge cracks in my plaster and sheetrock walls were not caused by the hurricane's winds. He says they were there before the storm. Was he kidding? First of all, the issue of cracked walls was nothing compared to the foundation issues and the racked house, especially given the fact that the walls were seriously damaged by water anyway. And #6 had nothing to say about anything but wall cracks in the preliminary report. There had to be more than that in it. But he didn't offer anything beyond that, other than to say that the data, the justification for the engineer's findings, was still missing.

Am I really expected to believe this?? I am expected to believe that after all this time, they can't pull together the necessary data to complete my report, the very same data they've no doubt used for countless other reports? Or that after all this time, cracks in walls is the only issue the engineer addressed? Please! Perhaps they haven't quite figured out how to dispute the wind damage claim. Perhaps State Farm sent the report back for further *editing* until it says what they want. Perhaps they're just stalling, hoping I'll let the deadlines slip by and they can just walk away. Perhaps they're just hoping to wear me out.

So, I haven't gotten the full brunt of it yet, but State Farm is starting to play the Liar Game with me, too, by claiming that major damage caused by The Storm was present before it struck. I've told them I can prove otherwise, but they don't seem to be interested in that fact. Now State Farm has joined AllState in calling both me and Michael Homen liars. But if you really want to know who the lying schmucks are, just read Michael's post that I linked to at the beginning of this paragraph. Read it and pay attention to the contents of AllState's engineer's report. And read this. Go to Michael's blog and read all the stuff he's written about this ordeal. Our stories and our sentiments about it are almost identical.

It's 11 months today since The Storm. We cannot begin the work on our houses until this is resolved.

How many others are going through this? It's time to fight.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

2006 World Monuments Watch -100 Most Endangered Sites

2006 World Monuments Watch-100 Most Endangered Sites

Surprise, surprise, we're on the list. The city and the entire Gulf Coast.

Via Richard's Electronic Ephemera.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Everybody's Busy

Lawd, lawd! Y'all are some prolific bloggers! (Y'all is not an expression I tend to use, but it's so endearing when Adrastos does it, that I though I'd go ahead and throw y'all a couple. Adrastos is also responsible for the amusing picture to your right.)

I haven't been able to get much time at the computer lately. Too many distractions and things going on around here. And on top of it, I'm fighting a sinus infection, probably compliments of the head and chest-congested Alex, who I had to schlep to the doctor and then to Children's Hospital so a pathologist could try to identify the entity that he expelled from his lungs this morning. It was a really creepy looking thing which I'll resist describing so as not to gross you all out. Suffice it to say that in all my former days of working as a clinical research coordinator on tons of upper and lower respiratory infection clinical trials, I have never seen anything like this thing. He named it Eduardo. The doctor was kinda perplexed but I have a theory on what it may be (and I tend to have pretty accurate diagnostic superpowers for someone who never went to medical school.) My gut (which is also pretty trustworthy) agrees that it will turn out to be nothing of significance... uh... even though the man-child just walked in here and showed me that he's now broken out in a rash all over his arms, chest and back. But he feels much better than he has in the last three days. (???)

In the meantime, everyone's been posting like crazy and I have a splitting headache and Rachel on my left shoulder. I've been light on the posting and commenting, but assuredly heavy on the reading.

Now, all you folks that aren't in making the regular New Orleans blogger circuit, you really should check out what my pals here have been posting (some not so recent, but very much worth a read. I know. I should have linked to these earlier. But you know how it goes with me, and the road to hell and all that.) I especially appeal to the Deeply Beautiful Bloggers who live far away from here to read the posts below. Come peek in our window.

Ashley Morris has a post about why it's so damned hard to get a seat on a flight into or out of New Orleans. And there's lots of other fun stuff over there, too.

Loki at Humid City informs us that The Federal Emergency Management Agency prohibits journalists from having unsupervised interviews with Hurricane Katrina victims who have been relocated to FEMA trailer parks. Editor B considers putting the policy to the test and follows up with a link to FEMA's response to the recent press.

Oyster at Your Right Hand Thief has made the Big Time with his first post on After the Levees over at TPM Cafe. He apologizes to Vice President Cheney for being a "distraction" to the mission in Iraq.

Gentilly Girl will tell you what the N.O. Mayor (yes, it just as well be NO mayor whatsoever) has planned to commemorate the one-year anniversary of The Storm. Maitri has some better ideas about what we should do with the day. So does Markus over at Wet Bank Guide. Also weighing in: Dangerblond.

Though it may inflame you, go visit The Po' Blog and read the horrific story about how our State Atorney General has charged a doctor and two nurses who stayed behind under horrific conditions to tend to the sick and dying at Memorial Hospital, in a badly flooded area of New Orleans, with murder. Then follow up with Adrastos' posts 1, 2, and 3 for a full analysis.

AllState is screwing Michael Homan, and he'll tell you why that makes the stock a good buy. Schroeder elaborates further.

There's a lot of good reading in these posts. They'll help you understand us better and perhaps will inspire you to come on down her next month for the Rising Tide Conference. We need you, so get involved. We've got the Rising Tide Wiki all set up with lots of info. Please check it out and consider coming down.

The Ambien is really kickinh ion niw...Goodnight.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Other Compelled Ones

And then there was this post on the New Orleans Metroblog, following right on the heels of our very recent Coming Back to New Orleans discussion a couple of posts ago...
Metroblogging New Orleans: Fresh Blood Needed


Friday, July 21, 2006


Right now, I'm typing with the finger of one hand rather than the usual two (and I only use a finger or two on each, anyway), because my left arm is around the sleeping Rachel who is back this evening from a three-day long field trip to Houston. (The camera was within reach, so I just took the picture.) While gone, she purchased this eye-mask, and it's just cracking me up to see her sleeping with it on. Like mother like daughter.

Anyway, while child-free (Alex is house sitting at his dad's), I took the opportunity to decamp to Renard's, which means I was subject to the internet embargo he's imposed in order to assure a little quality time together. This was a rare treat, as we usually only spend one weekly 24 hour period together between Saturday and Sunday evenings. I'm just mentioning this so that any noted absence of my visits, comments, posts or e-mail responses will not be taken personally or as cause for alarm. (Please don't take this as some delusion of self-importance. I'm just trying to be considerate.)

Anyway, I'm working on a post about what's going on with the house and the insurance issue. I'll get back to it once both hands are free, unless the unthinkable happens and I fall asleep first. Otherwise, I'll be reading. But before I go, I want to leave you with a question Renard posed to me not long ago. He asked me if I thought the Chicago Bulls had to pay Condoleeeeza Rice for the use of her likeness and image as their logo. Good question.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Here's Your Excuse

Maybe you've been reading this blog for a while. Maybe you've been reading the blogs of some other folks from this city, too. Maybe you've become curious about us and New Orleans, if you weren't already. Maybe you've grown to care a little or a whole lot about our plight, our fate, about what's happening here and about what life is life for us in the wake of The Storm. Maybe you've wanted to be involved in our recovery and wondered what you could do toward that end. Maybe you've been here before, know what this city means, and have been looking for a reason to come back. Well here it is.

We're reaching out to all our friends in the blogosphere and beyond to join us for The 2006 New Orleans Rising Tide Conference. This event will take place from August 25th through August 27th, just prior to the one-year anniversary of The Event bearing a name that no one around here seems to have the stomach to utter or type any longer. Myself, included. The event is being organized by the some of those people you saw in the pictures from the Geek Dinner.

You may consider coming for any of a number of reasons. But whatever your reason, there's no doubt that you'll get more out of the trip than just seeing New Orleans and meeting New Orleanians and fellow bloggers. Here's our blurb:
The Rising Tide Conference will be a gathering for all who wish to learn more and do more to assist New Orleans' recovery from the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina (and Rita). We will come together to dispel myths, promote facts, share personal testimonies, highlight progress and regress, discuss recovery ideas, and promote sound policies at all levels. We aim to be a "real life" demonstration of internet activism as the nation prepares to mark the one year anniversary of a massive natural disaster followed by governmental failures on a similar scale.

So, don't miss this opportunity to connect with other bloggers, blog-readers, and a variety of tech-savvy and civic-minded people who care about this city and its people just like you do. You can participate in our rebirth, no matter where you live. So please join us and be part of the Rising Tide. Keep an eye on the website, as we will be adding more information as the plan takes shape.

Can We Do This at the Next Geek Dinner?

Given the likelihood that it will still be hot, and the possibility that there will be another pool involved, maybe we should bring a little liquid nitrogen to the next Geek Dinner.

Thanks to my pal Richard at Electronic Ephemera for this one.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

It Was a Hot, Geeky Night...

Oh, yes. It was a hot night indeed, when a gaggle of geeks gathered at the home of Alan Gutierrez of Think New Orleans for the first New Orleans Geek Dinner, attended by a bunch of bloggers and other web and computer-savvy types.

Photos here. (Mine)
And here. (Maitri's)
And here. (Loki's)
Here, too. (Editor B's)

What a great and life-affirming evening for this girl, who seems to have been living out Groundhog Day for the last several months. Real, live people. Different faces and places. I feel like I'm alive again!

At the top of my Must Meet list were Schroeder (People Get Ready) and Adrastos, the two local bloggers with whom I've been having the most bonding experiences in the Comments Sections of our respective posts. Both have made me crack up with laughter more times than I can count and as we all know, in these times, the importance of a good laugh cannot be overstated. (And don't be fooled by the seriousness of the issues addressed by Schroeder on PGR. Just look at some of the comments he leaves hither and yon.) I am duly awed by the Adrastos revelation of having played bass for a while with one of my favorite bands, The Tubes, back in the days when they were good. (Albums 1, 2, & 3.) Adrastos and I also appear to have soaked up a lot of the same elements of the 1970s sub-cultural zeitgeist. (Okay, maybe not just 1970's...)

Also up there on the list is Ashley Morris, whose status is of legend and lore. Not only is he an International Man of Intrigue, and the one who single-handedly took the name Sinn Fein from Irish Rebels and made it the cry of solidarity for fed-up New Orleanians in the blogosphere and beyond, but he's also a quite compelling mime. And when I'm fuming mad about things being said about or done to us here in my beloved city, I know I can count on Ashley to give my feelings a perfectly articulated voice. Ashley, don't ever change.

A prominent figure in the evening's event was The Amazing Maitri, who took on hostess duties with Alan and who seems to find time to do it all. Maitri ranks as the most *together* person I know in this town. I want to be just like her when I grow up, but I don't think anyone will prescribe a high-enough dosage of amphetamines for me to do so. Dangerblond, too, was on the scene, as always offering a good camera pose and plenty of laughs.

There were lots of others present from my blogroll who I'd hoped to meet. There was Oyster of Your Right Hand Thief who, along with Schroeder of PGR ranks among the NOLA bloggers I've been reading for the longest period of time. (I'd actually gotten to meet him, Maitri, Dangerblond, Ashley and Peter and Jeffrey of Library Chronicles, and Blake AKA Humid Haney at our previous Rising Tide planning sessions. More on that later.) I was glad to meet Michael Homan, my soul brother (we're having almost identical insurance experiences with our eerily similar troubled houses) and his enchanting daughter Kalypso, along with Loki of Humid City, whose jambalaya was so tasty I could have easily embarrassed myself with unrestrained indulgence, Editor B, Ray in Austin New Orleans (whose adorable son will be in the same grade at the same school as my daughter this fall), Gentilly Girl, Karen from Northwest Carrollton, and Mark Folse of Wet Bank Guide. And Sharon (Sophmom) came all the way from Atlanta to join the fun.

There were other people there, with and without blogs and I regret that I didn't get to meet and talk to them all. But keep an eye on the blogroll, as we grow to be a larger and more cohesive group.

I can truly say that I had a wonderful time. I can't wait until we get together again. What a terrifc group of people you are. I love you all!

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Ode to Boy- Updated!

At 5:09 AM this morning, I marked the moment 18 years ago that I became a mother for the first time. It's mind-boggling how fast this time has passed. When Alex was a baby, I always wondered what he'd be like when he grew up. Now the day has come I can truly say that I'm awed by the person he is and I couldn't be more pleased. He's smart, responsible, trustworthy, sensitive, compassionate, creative, funny, and an independent thinker. And he's definitely his own person and not a follower of the herd, which is perhaps the quality I most hoped he'd embrace.

He's also more mature in many ways and has better judgment than a lot of adults I know. I have a story that illustrates this very well. A couple of years ago, while a "junior counselor" in the JCC's summer camp program, he attended an outing with all the other teen-aged and early 20-ish camp staff. When he returned, I asked him about it, and asked specifically if anyone was drinking. He affirmed this. He's always been pretty honest about things and I knew he hadn't consumed alcohol before, so I asked if he had any this time. He said he hadn't but it was his explanation that completely floored me. He told me that he knew he had a lot of repressed anger inside (related to girls, and other issues, etc .) and because he didn't have any experience with the effects of alcohol, he didn't want to risk having that anger come out as a result of drinking. I couldn't believe what I was hearing. I know a few adults that should consider this. He's continued to demonstrate excellent judgment in these types of situations and continues to be honest about the things he does, which in the past few weeks has included occasional alcohol consumption, but in a way that seems quite restrained for a kid his age. I think he really understands the risks.

Wow, just as I finished writing this paragraph, his dad called from Italy (on the road with the Nevilles) to wish me a happy birthday, as the one who birthed Alex. He'd already called Alex. How nice.

Anyway, all the good things about Alex make it easy to overlook his occasional crabby and surly moods, his lax attitude when it comes to cleanliness (not that any of us in the house are neat-freaks), and his tendency to be an underachiever. I'll gladly take the trade-off.

I cannot believe I am now the mother of an 18 year old man-child who is now old enough to vote, die in senseless wars, and be held fully responsible for any crime he might commit, but not old enough to legally buy alcohol. I fume at the idea that he has to register for the draft. And to that idea, I submit the following picture, wherein Alex uses the Washington Monument to help express our sentiments toward the U.S. Selective Service Registry and all those responsible for the abysmal foreign policy that makes the risk of draft activation more of a concern than it's been since the days when my brother's number almost came up for Viet Nam.

Happy 18th birthday, Alex! The little bunny-man is all grown up!

ADDENDUM: Alcohol and the Birthday Boy

For his birthday meal, Alex had a nice big beef tenderloin filet, cooked very rare, just like the rest of us. I ofered him a beer, his first legal alcoholic beverage. He said okay.

Partaking of this beverage was only ceremonial though, because after just a little, he capped it and said he didn't want any more. Maybe later. If it were any other kid, I might assume that he'd have finished it if he were in the company of his friends. But it's Alex and I know better. And if you think this belief is a pathetic example of my naive idealism, ask me about the story involving marijuana... it's even more unbelievable. A feel so blessed to have this kid!

Thank you Alex, for being you and all that you are!

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

A Ruffled Mind Makes a Restless Pillow.

Charlotte Bronte gets credit for the title.

Between my restless mind and the lack of air conditioning, sleep will not come. And I feel even worse for kvetching about the A/C after reading Mark Folse's lovely post over at Wet Bank Guide. But I'm not in a shotgun house with 12 foot ceilings. And despite being in the "safe suburbs," mom's uncomfortable leaving any windows open. It's hotter inside than out. Rachel's been thrashing around beside me all night. And I can't stop thinking about how angry I am with State Farm's stalling tactics. I've had enough. (More on all that later.)

Now it's almost 6:00 AM, and though it's not unusual for me to occasionally be up until the morning light starts peeking through, I wanted a little sleep because I have things to do later this morning and I may not get much of an opportunity to catch up with a nap.

I'll just have to console myself with this for now:
Dawn: When [wo]men of reason go to bed. ~Ambrose Bierce

But do they go to sleep?

Monday, July 10, 2006

Bloggery, etc.

(In the picture, that's my son Alex in the background, doing his own blog-thing on another computer.)

Talk about your irks and delights. I was all fired up for this post earlier, then I went to a 90 minute yoga class and came back all mellow. (After more than four years, I'm finally taking advantage of Renard having me on his health club membership.) Then the air conditioning here at The Mom's House ceased to deliver the cold air to which we've become accustomed dependent. It's 92°F in the warmest part of the house right now, even though it's around 80°F outside. Thankfully, it's about 87°F in the bedrooms (which have roaring ceiling fans), and the humidity is a bearable 68% right now. Unfortunately, I could flip this laptop over and cook bacon on it. So, the heat inclines me to defer the post I initially intended in favor of a shorter one about bloggery.

I started this blog almost 2 years ago (July 24th) without any expectations. I figured it would prompt me to write a little more often and it would give me the opportunity to document little pieces of my self and my life for my kids to read one day (I keep copies of everything), and it would be an easier way to keep friends and loved ones updated on what was going on in our lives. It's served all these purposes and more, as I never really considered the possibility that friendships would develop through this thing. But they have. You can see them in the sidebar, under Deeply Beautiful Bloggers. Sadly, there are some missing from the list who have abandoned their blogs. One such is Lasciate, a blogger we met in person during the first few days of our evacuation. Aside from him and David Oliver (AKA Zaytuni, a name which he no longer uses but I keep because it reminds me of something funny), a New Orleans ex-pat and my friend since the early 1990s, I've never met any of the others in person. But whether I've met them or not, they all feel like family and I care deeply about them, just as I do about my other friends who I know in the *real* world and who drop in and comment here from time to time. I don't know how I would have gotten through these last 10+ months and kept my sanity without their love and care. Like I said, Deeply Beautiful.

And now there is a new and growing group of sidebar blog-friends who are My Fellow New Orleanians. I can't overstate the importance of this group to me. In these blogs I've found many kindred spirits who often express things that I feel but for some reason repress in these posts. They've provided lots of important information about things going on here at home and they've done it at times with utter seriousness, but more often seasoned with that sharp acerbic wit that makes the unpalatable truths go down a little easier. (The ugliness of politics and life here will still make you sick to your stomach, though.) One of the most important things that they've offered is their personal stories, perspectives, and experiences --all of which have given me the comfort of knowing that I'm not alone in what I'm going through and I'm not afflicted with madness either, as life here might make you believe. (If we're all afflicted, then it's the norm and we're not insane, right?) Thanks, y'all!

So, in closing, I salute two of the best of the New Orleans bloggers, both of whom just reached the benchmark of 100,000 hits. Congratulations to Schroeder at People Get Ready and Oyster at Your Right Hand Thief. Go check 'em out and you'll see why these guys hit the mark in a little over a year, compared to the likes of me with my measly 20% of that in 2 years. Excellent work, guys. You've really earned it.

Blog on!

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Early Morning Intrigue (Strangeness Abounds)

Early this morning, around 6:00 AM, I was jolted awake when my cell phone began shrieking like an air-raid siren, the sound it makes when the caller has blocked their number. Lately, the only time I hear this ringtone (which was my phone's default ring for private numbers) is when the latest in the succession of insurance adjustors calls. (But never this early. )

The noise caused the sleeping Rachel to stir and I didn't want to wake her, so I answer answered it in a low, almost whisper-like voice. (I also hoped the called would get the point that they woke me up by calling so early.) My participation in the conversation consisted of one word.


There was a man's voice on the other end. It sounded distant and he seemed to pronounce some of his words with an English accent.

I just wanted to give you advance that you were chosen to be the [something that ended in -tor but I didn't quite catch it] of the tow-heap. [I assume it's spelled and hyphenated as such, though it's not a term with which I'm familiar.] This means you'll be expected to translate the Book of Carlyle. You'll get official communication within the next two hours.

And then he hung up.


Well, 4+ hours have passed and I have received no official communication, which is fine, since I'm not sure I want to be the something-tor or anything else of the tow-heap. Even more so if it turned out to be a toe-heap. And as for the Book of Carlyle, my French is pretty rusty, so unless it's written in Pig Latin, the official communicators (and I'd love to know who they are) would have had to do without my translation prowess, anyway.

I did Google all variations of tow-heap and The Book of Carlyle and nothing came up for any of it. I'll just file this one under: WTF???

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

I Love You, But...

Today is July 4th, and as usual, I'm not inclined to partake of any kind of celebration. And I'm not alone in this sentiment, as many of my fellow New Orleanians join me here. Schroeder does an outstanding job of explaining why we may be feeling this way today, in this post. If you're not already one of his regular readers, all I ask is that you click that link and read his post and follow the links he's included. In other words, if you're not in the mood for lots of reading, skip what follows and just do that. The rest is just my personal explanation.

In November of 2004, (election day, to be precise), my uneasy feelings about my country came to a head and I seriously began looking elsewhere for a place to call home. It was a difficult decision that I tried to explain here. (And here's one version of another post I never got around to -- the one that enumerates some of my reasons -- by The Yankee Doodler, via Suspect Device.)

Leaving America wouldn't be hard. But leaving New Orleans would be excruciatingly difficult, as I, like most of us living here and/or passionately fighting for this city's rebirth, am afflicted by the Curse of Marie Laveau. (The only internet reference I can find to this piece of local lore comes from a tour site, so I linked to a cached version of the page to make it easier to find the relevant info.) I tried to explain that difficulty and my love for New Orleans in a subsequent post to the first of mine I referenced:

...I am somewhat pathologically attached to New Orleans. There are many reasons for this, though it's not always been this way. But since the days when I was eager to call someplace else home, I've traveled to many places around the world. And what it's taught me is that there is just no place on Earth as beautifully whacked as this city. It's got its own peculiar culture, soul and spirit and lots and lots of reasons to hate it, but, ironically, those things are also what you love it for. Those and more.

There's a strange beauty to this city and even to New Orleans' particular brand of dysfunction. Our way of life and our approach to living it is undoubtedly different than anywhere else. We New Orleanians all understand that every aspect of our culture, our society, our local government, our people, be they perceived as good or bad, are all necessary to make New Orleans the odd character that it is. And the people here really do love each other under whatever veneer we place on the outside of ourselves, (and it's not hard at all to tell that we do), because we know that by choosing to live here and to embrace all of New Orleans' pretty and ugly truths, we are united under the skin.
When I wrote that, long before Katrina made landfall, I wasn't really thinking about all the particular aspects of New Orleans that are perceived as bad. I was generalizing and writing from the position of passionate and unconditional love for this city, not necessarily from a position of reason. I've never believed that things like the violent crime, the outrageous corruption, the abysmal education system, or the abject poverty were actually necessary components of our culture.

Katrina shook so many of us from our isloated personal love relationships with our city to see the harsh realites within the whole of it. Love can be so blind at times. And in the aftermath of The Storm, those who fight to return and remain here will not be those with a half-hearted love for this place. It's those of us who love New Orleans so passionately that we stay and are are willing to fight wholeheartedly to bring her into her fullest glory.

I am here. I will fight for New Orleans. And if the day ever comes that I give up, it will not be because I've lost any love for my home, for this wonderful place where I was born and raised. It will be because of this country that we're a part of. I struggle more every day with what America is and is becomming than I've ever struggled with life in this difficult and challenging city. If I really believed we could pull off succession, I'd never entertain a single thought of leaving. In the absence of that practicality, I'lll end with Schroeder's words about this July 4th:

About the only thing to celebrate is the fact that we have congressional elections coming up this fall, and if our system works, the American electorate will vote the current party out of power, and a new Congress will offer sensible alternatives to correct the course of our nation.
Amen, brother.
Please check out the ongoing list of bloggers expressing these sentiments, found via Schroeder (People Get Ready) and Oyster (Your Right Hand Thief):

da po' blog - Independence Day

TravelingMermaid - This is an American city

Gentilly Girl - Speaking Frankly ...

Wet Bank Guide - Happy 16 Messidor CCXIV

Ashley Morris- Dateline: Vienna

Michael Homan- America, Social Studies, and New Orleans

"Oprah Help Us"