Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Diablita

Last night we had some people over for dinner: burgers and potato salad with ice cream with chocolate sauce for dessert. Afterwards, the adults chatted, and the kids ran around.

At some point we noticed that June was A.W.O.L. After a short search, she was discovered in the kitchen, sitting on the stool with her grubby little fist in the (formerly half full - now empty) jar of chocolate sauce. She was quite pleased with herself. She was also quite filthy.

Clearly she is not to be trusted.

Everything's Coming Up Roses

Boo-yeah! The old house has a new roof (that greenspace thing is looking like a non-starter - surprise, surprise). The new house has a phone. We're high tone, baby, high... tone!

Friday, January 27, 2006

Ice Lotto Beer

Happy Bloggy-Birthday To Me!

Cue the Beatles, because today is my birthday - or more precisely, the birthday of my world-wide-alterego, Slimbolala, who sprang into existence one year ago today.

I look back to that first post and see so many of the key elements there right from the start: the aimless cheekery, the obsession with Men at Work, the haughty disdain of all matters gastronomical. And it wasn't long before other tics manifested: coffee, chickens, ass, more coffee, more ass.

But there's still room to grow. Now that I've achieved this major milestone, what can we expect? Experts say:
  • I hold things with one hand while I'm doing something else with the other hand.
  • I try to dress or undress myself, but I'm not very good at it yet.
  • I like to put objects in containers.
  • I insist on feeding myself.
  • I babble in phrases that sound like short sentences.
  • I follow simple directions and understand most things you say to me.
  • I feel great that I have a personality all my own.
  • I am developing a sense of humor and think a lot of things are funny.
  • I love being the center of attention.
Good stuff.

There have been plenty of good times. There have certainly been bad times (eesh!). But we all keep chug-a-chug-chuggin' along. Choo-choo! And you all have been the most sparkling, delightful, luminous, beautiful (having never seen you, I can only assume this is the case) bunch of world-wide-pals a guy could hope for.

Thanks a million. Now, lets have some cake.

Pop Quiz: Choose Your Own Adventure!


Remember those "choose your own adventure" stories from when you were a kid? Well, this is just like that except it's "choose your own bleak, existential narrative", and instead of being presented with lots of exciting choices you just have to write the whole damn thing yourself.

What's this guy's problem? You decide.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

The Lost Painting at the End of the Earth

It was midnight, and we were watching Greg and Ana’s band play. Earlier that day we had been in New York City where we were living at the time*, packing bags, rushing to the subway, catching overcrowded trains. Now, two plane rides and many hours later we were standing in the Hi-Ho Lounge, a funky little dive bar crammed with old sofas and knick knacks on funky little stretch of St. Claude Avenue in downtown New Orleans. Inside were a handful of patrons. Outside was nothing. After our day of travel, with New York still humming in our nerves, it felt like the end of the Earth.

The show ended. We spilled out onto the sidewalk, standing around under the streetlamp, goofy and giddy, laughing, and catching up, chatting about nothing in particular into the little hours of the morning. Eventually I went inside to get something from the back room where the band had stashed their stuff. It was even funkier and more crowded than the rest of the bar, filled with particularly raggedy sofas and overflow bric-a-brac . That’s when I saw it.

There, perched on a broken air conditioner in the corner, falling out of its cracked frame was a painting I had done when I was eleven. It was my very first watercolor, and it depicted a (slightly embellished) view of the back of our farm in Virginia. In the foreground were a deer and a rabbit. Nestled just over the hill was a red-roofed cabin (this was the principal embellishment – no such cabin exists). Beyond that was Appleberry Mountain and the blue sky.

For a moment my brain simply rejected the evidence of my senses. "Whuh? Huh?" My head spun. It made no sense, so it could not be true. But it was. After an indeterminate period of dumb staring, trying to construct some plausible chain of events that led to it being there,** I stumbled out to the street to rejoin my friends.

“There’s a painting back there that’s mine. I did it when I was a kid.”

“What? No, you must be confused. Maybe it looks like something you painted.”

“No, no! There’s the rabbit and the deer and the tree and the fence and the little cabin with the red roof that isn’t actually there, and I remember having a hard time with the perspective of the fence line and…”

I dragged them back to the room and showed them. My friends were still unconvinced, but Sarah immediately recognized the farm and delivered the final verdict. The painting was mine.

Now that the veracity of my assertion had been confirmed, it was time to do something. We came up with a plan. Steal it.

The logistics of the theft was remarkably simple. We slid it through the locked iron gate at the back of the bar. Ana walked around and stashed it in her truck – fait accompli! The ethics were arguably more complicated, but in my humble opinion, defensible. Clearly the fates had intended this reunion. Certainly the neglected piece would never be missed by the pill-popping, trash-hoarding, drunks who ran the place. And really, such ethical niceties just seemed grossly irrelevant in the middle of the night at the end of the Earth.

So the painting came home with us. In the morning we fixed the frame and hung it on Ana’s wall. It looked good. We left it permanently in her care, where it eventually traveled to Mississippi, and now, after Katrina, has migrated to Austin. It still looks pretty good.

* In the mid-nineties Sarah and I, being college educated smarty-pants with vague aspirations of "doing something", moved to NYC. It was all well and good but not our cup of long-term-tea. After a year and a half we returned to New Orleans, making it our permanent home (weather permitting). The events of this story occurred during a brief visit from the Great Northern Megalopolis back to our Sleazy Southern Homeland.


** Later, in the sober light of day, a reasonable sequence was deduced. Though originally painted in Virginia, it had hung for many years on the wall of my grandparents’ living room in New Orleans. After the death of my grandfather, the house had been emptied, and one way or another, via garage sale or trash heap it had found its way out into the world where it was adopted by one of the Hi Ho hoarders. They had taken it to the bar and stashed it in the back room where it had sat ever since. Still, it was pretty weird.

Ask and ye shall receive.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Viva New Orleans

Little Vietnam

Apropos of yesterdays conversation, the Louisiana Weekly has an article on the rapid resurgence of New Orleans East's Vietnamese community:
The Miracle of Versailles
Fascinating.

"The Tiniest Bit of V.D."

Sarah: Are sure you don't want to try a meringue? They're delicious, and they only have the tiniest bit of chocolate.

Chocolate-Hating-Friend:* No thanks. That's like a beautiful woman with only the tiniest bit of V.D.

* This is a culinary preference and has absolutely nothing to do with New Orleans racial politics.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

"Like School on a Saturday..."

I worked for many years in a French restaurant where the kitchen was staffed almost entirely by Vietnamese immigrants. For whatever reason, we got along like gangbusters (well, I can think of one reason - they had the raunchiest sense of humor of any group I've ever met, and I'm a big fan of the raunch).

There were two brothers, Nyun and Tun,* who I was particularly tight with. Tun aspired to be a musician, earnestly singing Vietnamese pop ballads as he worked, and chatting with me about his favorite songs (although I must confess that I barely understood a word he said).** Nyun was incredibly tender (not the least bit raunchy).*** He was determined to improve his English and would regularly quiz me on various English idioms.

One night, after dealing with a particularly unpleasant customer, I tossed out the old Fat Albert-ism, "man, they're like school on a Saturday... no class." Nyun immediately latched on to it, asked me to explain, and adopted it as a personal catch phrase. From then on, when I would walk into the kitchen, he would say the first part: "David, David - like school on a Saturday..." Then we would say the second part in slow, hyper-articulated unison: "noooo claaassss". We would both bust a gut. I hope he still uses it.

They lived in New Orleans East. I wonder where they are now.

* Sorry, these spellings are grossly phonetic. I did learn how to write their names, but time and unfamiliarity have wiped the slate clean.

** Miscellaneous details about Tun that I can't quite fit into the flow of the story:

  • I gave him a guitar lesson.
  • In exchange for the lesson, he brought me a really good Vietnamese po-boy (yes, they exist).
  • He once sat in with local garage rock heroes (and co-workers), the Royal Pendletons, and sang "Donna".
  • He eventually left the restaurant to work in his cousin's jewelry store.
*** Miscellaneous details about Nyun that I can't quite fit into the flow of the story:
  • He had a wife in Vietnam who he had not seen in a very long time.
  • He hoped to bring her to the U.S. someday.

Monday, January 23, 2006

3 Feet High and Rising


Louise measuring herself against the highwater mark (the fainter, higher line, not the skankier, lower line where the water apparently lingered for a while). At the time of the storm she would have been almost exactly the same height as the water.

Yesterday I took Louise to the house for the first time. We had naturally been reluctant to show her too much too early, but enough time had passed and she asked to see it. We decided it was alright.

Her reaction was what I hoped, wide-eyed curiosity and excitement (and a sense of privilege - her little sister didn't get to go). She chatted about all of the details and asked a million questions: "Look, there's no ceiling.", "Oh, this has to be fixed.", "Where are the front steps?" (they floated away), "What's insulation?" We rescued a few undamaged items from up stairs and then went home.

It was refreshing to see it with her eyes: a big, strange adventure. I'm glad we went.

The Night the Lights Went Out in N.O.

Friday night, I joined a gaggle of pals to go see a friend's band play down on Frenchmen Street. It was a drizzly, wet night and shortly before the first set, the neighborhood's frail power grid gave up a the ghost. The lights flickered and went out, sending everything (once again) into blackness. Candles were lit, and the party went on. Sadly, the band had to take a rain check (they declined invitations to reinterpret their brand of modern, electric rock in four-part, a cappella harmony). Trips to the ink-black bathrooms were dodgy and slippery. But conversations thrived. It was weird and wonderful.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Slimbolala on "Slimbolala"

I was recently asked about the origin of the name, "Slimbolala." Well, when I was four, I lived in Kenya for a year* and was given the nickname by the local residents. It's pidgin-Swahili, and it means "the skinny boy with the big head who talks too much."

Either that or it means, "big fat liar." I can't remember.

* This part might actually be true.

Greazy*

This anecdote is dedicated to Maysey.

Sarah overheard the following conversation while waiting in the FEMA line:
"You know they're working on ways for people to live longer. Scientists are doing stuff with mice and are gonna make people live to be a 170. I saw it on 20/20."

"That'd be good. I'd like to live that long. So, how old's your grandma now? How's she doing?"

"Greazy? She's in her seventies, but she looks really good. She's doing real well."

"That's good. Now, tell me how she got that name again?"

"Well, we bought her an answering machine, you know, so she could get messages, but she couldn't figure out how to use it, and now when you call her it just picks up and says, 'greazy!' We started calling her Greazy, and it just stuck."

"How'd she get 'greazy' on there?"

"She doesn't know. She thinks maybe she was talking about chicken."
* Southern for "greasy."

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Mis-mixology

I often enjoy a cocktail in the evening, and normally we have a well stocked bar. Occasionally, though, our supplies run low, and I am left perusing the boozy remainders, too lazy to go to the store, and wondering, "Can I really make a drink out of that?" I was recently confronted with the following ingredients:
  • Madeira
  • Vermouth
  • Tequila
  • Bitters
  • Frangelico
After a brief and queasy consideration, I answered my question with a decisive "no," but it did leave me with the question, what would that drink be called?

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

NOLA Nik

Another one of my compadres has taken the trip to bloggy-town. Check out:
NOLA Nik
Smart cookie.* Good eye. Cool photos. Plenty to say. Stay tuned.

* She asked me to make apologies for her bloggy-beginner status, but I don't think that will be necessary. She's off to an admirable start.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

All Monkeys Are Evil

I'm almost positive that this will go absolutely nowhere, but shucks, what's more fun that watching one's own frail, little idea perch at the edge of its nest, spread wing, and plummet to an immediate, grisly death. So...

This is a contest. The contest is to come up with a proof of the following statement:
"All monkeys are evil."
Begin with whatever premises you want. Use whatever shoddy logic you choose. Extra points are awarded for absurdity. Submissions will be judged by a panel of evil monkeys. The grand-prize is a pet evil-monkey of the particularly vicious, poo-flinging variety. First and second runners up will have poo flung at them.

Take wing, little birdie. Fly! Fly!

"Guess What"

Speaking of jokes, want to hear Louise's favorite?
"Guess what."

"What?"

"Chicken butt."
I introduced her to it, and it is now considered to be a timeless classic in our household, a pinnacle of comedic achievement. I must admit, when she says it and starts giggling uncontrollably, it is pretty funny.

Oh, and even June is getting in on the poultry humor, although her version of the joke is simply to say "chick-un" and burst into hysterics.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Hot Boxin'


photo by Mary T.

Apparently somebody's making themselves at home. FEMA would be proud.

Gawker Stalker



During my two weeks here cleaning out my vile house, it was not uncommon for some shiny car from some outlying area to roll by, full of people gawking out the windows, staring at the houses, staring at my house, staring at me. And as I stood there in my front yard, arms full of soggy trash, sucking on a respirator, and smelling literally like shit, something like the following would run through my head: "Fuck you you fucking high and dry motherfuckers with your shiny fucking car and your cameras and your above-sea-level homes and your hygienic, mold-free lifestyle and fuck, fuck, fuckity-fuck...", etc. (then, because our near-empty city had the intimacy of a small town, we would wave at each other).

Later, when we had permanently returned to the city, and the immediacy of our own crisis had receded, I gawked too, driving around far flung parts of town: Lakeview, Gentilly, the Lower Ninth Ward. I drove past the breaches and saw destruction that made my neighborhood look like a cake walk, houses tossed around like Monopoly pieces, houses on cars, cars on houses, swathes of nothingness that had once been city blocks. And I saw plenty of other people hauling their soggy lives out to the curb, just like I had done weeks earlier.

This role reversal makes me uneasy. There is always something unseemly when private sorrow becomes public spectacle. But I've learned to live with it. Locals need to see what happened to their city, not just their individual homes or neighborhoods. And out-of-towners need to see it as well. Newspapers and TV simply cannot convey it. And the more people who understand this thing, the more likely it is that our city will once again be whole.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Hubig's



Hubig's pies, like so many other local delicacies, were knocked out of production by The-Storm-That-Shall-Not-Be-Named, but as of this past Monday they're on the shelves again. By the time I made it to the store late in the afternoon, the morning's shipment had dwindled to an assortment of the funkier flavors (under no other circumstances would I have purchased pineapple). I scooped up an armful, paid the cashier, and headed home to the gang, though not without consuming two pies along the way. Mmm, eating pie while riding a bike on a warm January day - life doesn't get much better than that.

Hmm, why is there no Hubig's grape pie?

"Who Got Da Baby?"

Last night we had our first king cake of the season (Carnival officially kicked off a week ago on Twelfth Night). Louise got the baby (well, actually it was a fancy king cake from the French bakery and had a cool, little ceramic owl instead). She was very pleased.

Some people have argued there should be no Mardi Gras this year, but I'm here right now to tell you that's crazy talk. We need it more than ever, and I, for one, hope it's the weirdest, best Mardi Gras ever.

The Real World: FEMA Trailer

Man, I'm going to make a mint with this one. Are you ready? Are you ready?
The Real World: FEMA Trailer.
Think about it - an intimate look into the lives of a gaggle of twenty-something cool kids, hooking up, breaking up, loving, hating, fighting, and growing - all in the confines of a 30 x 8 foot FEMA trailer, all set against an oh-so-sexy backdrop of destruction and devastation, blight and misery. MTV will love it. It's gonna be huge - huge, I say!

Hey, don't steal my idea, or I'll sue your ass.

Grape Pie

There is a scene from Curb Your Enthusiasm that has made a permanent contribution to our marital lexicon. In it, Larry has made some series of blunders (of course) resulting in him and his wife, Cheryl, missing their flight and having to make a long and tedious drive to a family wedding.

The camera cuts to a scene mid-trip. Cheryl is sitting in exasperated silence. Larry is in the middle of what is clearly a lengthy, stream-of-consciousness diatribe (allow me to paraphrase): "...There's grape jelly. There's grape candy. But there's no grape pie. Why is that? Why is there no grape pie?..."

Sarah and I both laughed in immediate recognition. I can't deny it. I am prone to ruminating out loud, at length, about nothing in particular in the company of my wife: "Doesn't this song sound just like some Jimmy Buffet song? Listen. Da-da-da-da-da-da, da-da-da-da-da-da. Yeah, totally. 'Changes in latitudes, changes in attitudes...' It's totally that song!"

Now, "grape pie" has come to symbolize, for us, the entire category of my aimless (sometimes infuriating) musings. Come to think of it, this entire blog is pretty much nothing but "grape pie", but, for some reason, you crazy kids keep coming back. And, come to think of it, it was Sarah's idea for me to start this thing in the first place. I suppose she was hoping I would channel all that grape-pie-energy into some more "fruitful" outlet.

Hmm, why is there no grape pie?

Piano Man



We saw this guy play a little while back at the Circle Bar. It was alternately beautiful, hilarious, and disturbing. He was an old, white R & B cat from New Orleans’s musical hey-day (I won’t name names – one of the many things he told us that night was that he had recently figured out how to use Google), who had slipped into obscurity for many decades and only recently returned to the stage under the guidance of some local music enthusiasts.

He performed solo, singing and accompanying himself on a big, cheesy electric piano. His voice had roughened over the years, but you could tell that it had once been beautiful, and he put every ounce of feeling he had into it.

Then he would talk. Each two-minute song would be preceded by a seven to ten minute monologue, delivered in his thick Mississippi accent. He was incredibly funny, sometimes intentionally, sometimes otherwise. He talked about who had performed on the tracks: the late so-and-so on saxophone, the late, great so-and-so on drums, so-and-so on guitar, “well he’s still with us but recently suffered a massive coronary, bless his heart…”, and the backup singers, “What were they called? The Sugar Lumps or something like that. I can’t rightly remember…” He talked about racial harmony: “Ernie K-Doe and me, we were both born in Charity hospital. He would say to me ‘You’re bonafide and I’m naugahyde, but man, we’re all brothers.’” He talked about the rebirth of New Orleans. He talked about love, heartache, and death, all in near-Biblical terms (at some point we learned that he was Pentecostal). Sometimes, mid-sentence, he would forget what he was saying, laugh, and then launch into an entirely new topic.

Late in the set he introduced a “Christmas song”, preceded once again by a lengthy and confusing introduction about nothing in particular. It suddenly switched gears, “and to every family who has known the pain of losing a child, be she five or fifteen, a child who has been abducted, raped and strangled, my heart goes out to them, for my family has known that pain. I would like to dedicate this song to the memory of my granddaughter.” He played her song (I'm forced to admit it was awful). Everyone sat in absolute, uncomfortable silence. It never mentioned Christmas.

The set finished with a couple of upbeat numbers, and then we headed to the door, not exactly sure what we had just seen, not quite sure if we had enjoyed it, but unified in the conviction that it was definitely something and that we were glad to have seen it.

Moleskine Survivor

Although my fifteen minutes of ultra-low-grade, Katrina-induced fame is rapidly coming to an end, I, media whore that I am, have managed to squeeze a few more drops of ink from those sensation-hungry press-vultures, this time the sidebar of an article in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette about Moleskines. It refers to my People Project and calls me a "Moleskine survivor". Oh, yeah. And you've got to pay to see it, so unless you're cyber-stalking me, you're probably not going to bother. But there you have it.

Okay, I'm not really a media whore. It's just kind of fun to say: media whore, media whore, media whore. And the reporter was not the least bit vulture-like. She was actually very nice, and it was a good article. But hell, no one ever got in the papers by making truthful, well-balanced statements.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Even More Funny-Ha-Ha

Once again, it seems appropriate to ask, do you know any jokes, good, bad, or middlin'?* Personally, I have nothing to contribute, so the burden's on you.

* Using the same joke as last time is permissible, although I must warn you that doing so will brand you with the unfortunate stigma of "lameness". Sorry, it's beyond my control.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Argh!

Upon reading this morning's newspaper, we discover that our house and our neighborhood might be turned into "greenspace", and it will probably be at least several months until we know for sure. The idea that our home may be demolished is undeniably upsetting, but the even greater threat is the possibility that this process could bog down in an interminable morass of political and bureaucratic indecision, with no clear answers at all.

The only thing we do know is that all plans for renovation are on hold for now.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Monday, January 09, 2006

"Crazy Cheeses"

Sarah is a topnotch sleep-talker:

"Are you asleep?"

"No... I... I was just thinking."

"What were you thinking about?"

"Those French kids and all their crazy cheeses."

Comma-dy of Errors

I really, don't know how, to use commas. Can you, set me straight?

"What Kind of Turkey Is This?"

Our friend recently related the following anecdote. She was at the grocery store deli counter getting sliced mini-Swiss cheese. As Deli Lady #1 wrapped up her order, Deli Lady #2 started to clear off the slicer. She picked up the cheese, turned to Lady #1, and asked "what kind of turkey is this?"*

* Typical customer service in New Orleans is, depending on your point of view, hilariously or infuriatingly bad. Our friend, who had just recently returned to the city interpreted this little vignette as a heart warming "welcome home".

The Good Old Days

As the new year and the new school semester kick into high gear, our little sliver by the river has gotten crowded. Allow me a crotchety moment when I confess that I kind of miss the old frontier days.

Friday, January 06, 2006

"Excuse Me!"

This morning at the coffice, I headed to the men's room. As I walked through the wide open door, I heard a loud "excuse me!", and looked up so see a lady sitting on the can, taking care of business. I jumped back with a startled "whoa!" and quickly exited. From inside the bathroom, she hollered at me, "this is the ladies' room!" I graciously corrected her and pulled the door closed so she could finish her task in peace.

That's a lot of misinformed attitude from someone with their hoo-ha hanging out.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Decisions, Decisions

I have a friend who was trying to decide whether to stay in Texas or come on home. She couldn't make up her mind, so instead she just decided to dye her hair blonde.

People are funny.

The Schlock Has Landed

The schlock has landed. The bus tours are rolling.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Weird Event #3,947

Although the normal index is slowly rising in some parts of town, not a day goes by without some exceptionally strange thing happening that reminds one how far we still have to go.

Today I took a break from the coffice to go to my actual office for the first time since the storm and retrieve my belongings. Man, it was weird- three big new buildings, 5 stories each, where about twelve hundred people went to work each day - all completely unusable, drenched, infested with mold. They didn't take an inch of floodwater but all had extensive roof damage and will be vacant for months to come.

The parking lot was full of work trailers, makeshift offices for a some of my coworkers. Giant, industrial dryvacs were airing out the buildings. Biohazard signs covered all the doors. Dumpsters were lined up, full of moldy office chairs and other debris.

And on the ground floor of the parking garage were rows and rows of boxes with everybody's stuff (well, the stuff that survived), arranged in some incomprehensible order. A handful of us were there, wandering through, trying to find our belongings. I eventually found my box, opened it up, and saw those books and knick-knacks that I'd left in my desk that innocent Friday afternoon so long ago.

Auld Lang Syne



On New Year's Eve the city was shrouded in a dense fog which was somehow just right. We had a few friends over. New Orleans did not burn to the ground. The next morning, the city and its hungover residents slowly emerged from their haze to start a new, hopefully improved year.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Smoking Mold Is Not Cool

Unlike "gump stump", "smoking mold" is already a slimbidyad.* Why do I know this? Because on several occasions people have wound up at this site by Googling it. Hmm. I'm no expert or anything, but I'm pretty sure the only thing you need to know about smoking mold is don't do it.

There. Nancy Reagan would be proud. Now, who's going to make the afterschool special?

* Don't worry. I promise to stop boring you with stupid Google games in the near future.