Friday, March 31, 2006

Tyvek



Sunday, as we marched down Martin Luther King, we suddenly emerged beyond the houses closely lining the street and into the open ground of new construction. The dancers, unencumbered by the crowd, went wild, letting loose with their biggest moves, working up a crazed sweat on the warm March afternoon.

Note: The guy in the background danced the route carrying two bottles of wine which he vigorously shook the whole way.

Perfect Gulping Temperature (P.G.T.)

As you know, we here at Slimbolala like to graphically depict really ridiculous things. So what are we graphing today? Key gradations in coffee temperature. They are as follows:

Scalding, or Don't Spill In Your Crotch or You'll Need Reconstructive Surgery And a Whole Mess of Lawyers Temperature (D.S.I.Y.C.O.Y.N.R.S.A.A.W.M.O.L.T.)
Hot, or Perfect Sipping Temperature (P.S.T)
Perfect Gulping Temperature (P.G.T.)
Room Temperature (R.T.)
Iced (I.)

I love Hot and Iced. I'm perfectly content with Room Temperature (I'm drinking it right now). I'll skip the Scalding (thank you very much). But we're here today to discuss Perfect Gulping Temperature. I learned about it from Zena (thanks again, darlin'), and I believe she learned about it from a friend who first identified the concept.

P.G.T. is the absolute hottest temperature at which coffee can be comfortably gulped. Any hotter and it scalds the throat. Any cooler and it's on its way to tepid.

It is a concept of interest, I believe, principally to the die-hard caffeine addicts amongst us. Sipping is lovely, but it's all about "tasting" and "savoring." There is a very special pleasure that occurs only when the coffee has finally cooled to the point where one can swig back the first hearty quaff, feeling it rush down the throat, warm the belly, and send delicious tingles up the jugular veins to the groggy back of the brain. Then another gulp, and the heart begins to pump. Another, and... Oh, Sweet Jesus!

Try it. You'll like it.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

"Dude, I'm Going to the Prom with Swallow!"

Once again, happy "Anecdotes-That-Don't-Really-Go-Anywhere Thursday". This is from a while back:

As I was sitting outside a certain Uptown coffee shop, I eavesdropped on the conversation of a nearby table. It was a couple in their late twenties and their friend, all very much of the Uptown set. The couple had recently had a baby girl named Sparrow who was currently at home with the nanny.

As they were chatting another well-known Uptown lady (I'll call her "Frenchy") pulled up to the stop light. She rolled down the window and called out, "Congratulations! So is it 'Madison' or 'Swallow'?"

The indignant mother shrieked back, "It's 'Sparrow', not 'Swallow'!"

The father guffawed, "Yeah, imagine, 'Dude, I'm going to the prom with Swallow!'"

Frenchy, who was clearly well within earshot, acted like she couldn't hear them, smiled, waved, and sped away as soon as the light turned green.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Smoke Gets in Your Eyes

Last night I dreamt I was in yoga class. As we were doing Downward Dog, I was hit by the smell of cigarette smoke. I looked up and saw that my instructor, Becky, was smoking a cigarette. Then I looked around and saw that other members of the class (which was suddenly populated by various cool-kid smokers I've know over the years) were also smoking.

I asked Becky, "What are you doing?"

She responded, "I'm sorry. Is this bothering you?"

"Well, it's kind of weird."

"I'm sorry. I'll put it out." Then she requested that the rest of the class do the same.

The other students glared at me. Finally class ended. I protested, "Look, I'm not a stickler about this! It was just kind of distracting." They said nothing, one by one lighting up cigarettes, blowing smoke in my face, and silently walking out the door.

Just the Facts, Ma'am

Hilary has passed along a link to this article in the Times-Picayune about students coming to New Orleans for spring break to volunteer. It's not the one I was thinking of, but it does include the relevant statistics. Here are three pertinent paragraphs:
A study by Tulane University geographer and author Richard Campanella shows that black New Orleanians were disproportionately affected by the flooding, although the margin is less than 10 percent, considerably lower than what has been suggested in some national media reports. Pre-Katrina, black residents comprised 67 percent of the New Orleans population, yet suffered 76 percent of the flooding. White residents, 28 percent of the city’s population before the storm, suffered 20 percent of the flooding.

Campanella’s based his numbers on areas that suffered “persistent” flooding, defined as flooded after Katrina on Aug. 29 with water still present on Sept. 8.

When the students are not mucking out houses, they attend anti-racism seminars sponsored by the People’s Institute, a local anti-racism training organization. “We find that if you don’t understand the dynamics of racism, you’re just going to get confused out here,” said Fithian.
And I didn't mention in the previous post how deeply impressed I am by the T-P. They have really stepped up to the plate and shined throughout.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Monday, March 27, 2006

Fists of Ham

Billy and I have been swapping emails recently, lamenting the frequently ham-fisted treatment by the national media of race in New Orleans. Recently he sent a link to this article in The Nation. Among various misleading claims, it makes the following statement:
In greater New Orleans about 125,000 homes remain damaged and unoccupied, a vast ghost city that rots in darkness while les bon temps return to a guilty strip of unflooded and mostly affluent neighborhoods near the river.
The clear implication in the context of the article is that the city's white elite has emerged from the storm largely unscathed while the burden of suffering falls on the city's black population. But as Billy aptly responds, "the areas along the river, that he calls affluent, have poverty rates of about 30% and incomes about 40% less than the national average." Meanwhile, "the ghost city that rots in the darkness" encompasses large expanses of white and mixed-race neighborhoods including Lakeview, one of the richest, whitest, and hardest hit parts of the city.

And this article is not alone. Immediately after the storm there was a shocked outcry along the lines of "race and poverty are still an issue in America!" How anyone could have forgotten this, I don't know, but in the subsequent months news organizations, often with the best of intentions, have zoomed in on the subject. Some of the reporting has been excellent (in particular, I've been consistently impressed with NPR's ongoing coverage), but others, when confronted with the bewildering tangle of racial issues here, have resorted to lazy, broadstroked, and misleading overstatements.

The flooding did disproportionately affect the city's black population (the Times-Picayune had an excellent story tallying percentages of the white and black populations whose homes flooded, although at the moment, unfortunately, I can't find the link), but it was a difference of degree, not extremes. If you are black you are somewhat more likely to have a flooded home, but both populations experienced huge losses.

And there is a tendency to portray New Orleans now, six months later, as a city populated by the fortunate and white. Again a kernel of truth has been stretched until the resulting picture is fundamentally false. The city now is whiter than before, but it is still a very mixed city. I find this error particularly infuriating because it is so easily corrected by a one hour drive through all the various neighborhoods around town. It is immediately, obviously false.

The citizens of our city black, white, flooded, dry, at home, or trying to make it home, we're all trying to make this thing work, make our city whole again. The issues of race and poverty in the story of Katrina are huge and they require no exaggeration. What they do need are attention to detail, nuance, and honest reporting.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

The Sandbaggers

In this household we're big fans of taut, well-written espionage fiction, and right now we're enthralled with "The Sandbaggers," a fantastic Thatcher-era British TV series (thanks for the tip, Zena). It's has that goofy, old, film-outside-video-inside BBC production style. There are lots of bad suits, and the occasional stunningly sexist quip at the expense of one of the female co-workers. But it's brilliant, the perfect anti-James Bond.

There's very little action, and what we do see is blunt and awful. The drama is principally driven by razor sharp dialog in smoky, wood-paneled offices where the characters wade through murky, morally ambiguous puzzles of Byzantine complexity. The intra-office politics are even more acidic than the international. Human lives are routinely weighed against diplomatic concerns. Fantastique!

If this sounds like your cup of Earl Grey tea, be sure to rush right over and put it on your Netflix list.

Vive La Revolution



The Revolution Social Aid and Pleasure Club's second line rolled today, and for the first time in several years, our friend, Jorin (a.k.a. "the white boy"), rolled with them. It was good.

Stay tuned. I'll continue to post photographs throughout the week.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Friday, March 24, 2006

My Favorite Farmer Joke

"Hey, farmer. You lived here your whole life?"

"Not yet."

Invasion of the Toddler Snatchers

Somebody has replaced my sweet daughter with a small, psychotic tyrant:
June points to a fish stick. "Care-yut. [carrot]"

"No, that's a..."

"Care-YUUUUUTTTTT!!!!!"

"Okay."

Maps I Would Like to See : A Chrono-Topo-Hip-Hop-ological Map of the World

The next installment in our absurdly sporadic "series":

It does not need to be said again that hip hop is an international phenomenon. But not all corners of the world arrived at the hip hop party at the same time, nor have they progressed equally far along the path of hip hop evolution. Some latecomers are still making stuff that sounds a lot like the Humpty-Dumpty rhymes of Eighties American rap. Others have picked up the fast/slow switchups of the nineties. That grime stuff from England sounds to me like its out of the future.

I would like to assert that all countries can be placed with reasonable precision along a "hip hop timeline":* Mongolia - 1988, Ghana - 1994, France - 2002, England - 2009.** And if they can be precisely plotted, then they can also be graphically represented with a nice, color-coded map. I would like to see that map.

* Using American hip hop as the measuring stick.

** Now I really don't know what the hell I'm talking about, but that's never stopped me before.

"Price Check, Aisle Three"

About a decade ago when we first lived here, one of the the big grocery stores employed a couple of teenage gals on rollerskates. If a customer needed a price check, they were on it, zipping down the aisles and returning with the results in a flash. It was beautiful, apparently too beautiful for this world because after a year or so it stopped - presumably "exposure to lawsuits," etcetera, etcetera.

Has anyone seen this elsewhere? I haven't. Is it a "thing" or just a one time, glorious anomaly?

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Six Pretty Good Reasons to Comment on Posts*

  1. I'm lazy: the more you write, the less I have to.
  2. It's, you know, like... a dialectic.
  3. You validate me, briefly numbing the cold ache in my heart.
  4. Sometimes that "Word Verification" thing makes up random words that sound kind of dirty - and dirty is funny.
  5. Seriously, what else are you going to do with your time?
  6. It's an excellent tool for character assassination. Write something heinous. Attribute it to someone you hate. Voila! Character assassinated.
* Welcome to Shameless Entreaties Day here at Slimbolala.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Louise: Quote of the Day

"Dad, this is so-o-o not Reading Rainbow."*

* It actually was, but we'll let that slide.

Lovely Rita

Have I mentioned that, in most of the city, there are still no meter maids?* The fabric of life here has so many holes in it, some huge, some tiny, and after a while you just stop noticing. But really, no meter maids? That's kind of weird, particularly since they actually make money for the city, something this broke-ass town desperately needs. You'd think they could just retrain all of the urban planners they laid off,** send them out with their little ticket books, and watch the dollars roll in.

* Meter persons? What is the current term? In truth they are (were) all women.

** 'Cause, you know, we don't need those.

Penn-bloedh Lowen, Pedn Bluth Looan Tha Whye

Which is to say, "happy birthday" (to my lovely lady). In Cornish, of course. Sarah's "Jesus Year" (Mary Magdalene year? No that doesn't sound right - and besides, I already made that joke last time) has also come to a close.* All the best, sweetie. Onward and upward.

* Yes. As the mathematical wizards amongst you will have deduced, I am exactly twelve days older than her. And, of course, twelve days wiser.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

All That Glitters Is Not Gold

We're back. Sarah's mom broke her collarbone.* Sarah stayed an extra day. I flew home solo with two small children. Louise is sick. Eesh! I'm sticking with dark and complicated for a while.

* Best wishes for a speedy recovery, Ann.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Bright, Glittering, and Shallow

Despite my earlier proclamation we're actually off to Miami, South Beach that is, to visit Sarah's mom. After four straight months in the dark, complicated, broken heart of the American South I must confess that I'm looking forward to spending a few days in a place where everything is bright, glittering, and shallow.

I hope we get to see the Microwave Lady. I wonder if she's got a new slogan.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Man Against Beast IV: The Hitchcock Edition

This morning as I was sitting inside the coffee shop, and let me repeat inside the coffee shop, I felt something smack into the side of my head. It was a pigeon, ricocheting back and forth between the window and myself until it knocked over my coffee and landed on the windowsill.

Another patron managed to catch it in a bundle of newspaper. And of course, you know what happened then...

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Incoming!


Projectiles

Our St. Patty's parade happens a couple weeks into Lent, just as everyone is weaning themselves from Mardi Gras, a sort of hair-of-the-Carnival-dog-that-bit-us. It has two notable features:
  1. It is the sloppiest damn parade you could ever imagine, stretching on for hours with rambling bunches of tuxedo-wearing, flower-giving men and the occasional cluster of floats. This is presumably because everybody involved is stupid-drunk.
  2. In addition to the typical throws, beads and the like, they also throw soup fixings: cabbage, carrots, onions, and potatoes (occasionally a male rider will give a cucumber to a lady he particularly fancies - so charming).
Throwing cabbages from floats is a dangerous game. Every year I hear that they're going to be banned, but every year they're still being thrown. I've personally been involved in or witnessed two serious cabbage-events.

When Louise was just a baby, we went to a party at a friends house with a balcony right over the route. Midway through the afternoon we settled Louise down on the couch in the living room for a nap, and I sat next to her, lazily staring out the floor to ceiling windows. At some point I thought, "I really hope a cabbage doesn't come through one of those." About five minutes later a cabbage came through one of them, spraying Louise and me with a fine mist of shattered glass. Louise woke up screaming, and we spent the next hour picking shards off of her and me. Luckily nobody was actually hurt.

The next year we were watching it at a different location, from the street level. One of the float riders was gesturing to a couple of guys on a balcony about 40 feet away. They indicated they were ready to make the catch. The rider hurled the cabbage in a sort of vegetable Hail Mary. It went way wide and clocked a completely unaware woman square in the side of the head. She dropped down, out of sight below the balcony railing. A minute later she wobbled up and gave a boozy, concussive "It's all good" wave.

This year I saw no serious incidents although June did take a potato (pictured above) to the ankle late in the day.

St. Patrick, Patron Saint of Inappropriate Comments


Gay St. Patrick

Saturday was our St. Patrick's Day Parade. I got macked on by a gay St. Patrick: "Son, you need a little green on you. Here, let me jump on you." It took me a moment to get it. "Whuh? Oh. Ha! No-o-o..."

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

People I've Known: Sidney



This is Sidney. I knew him in my Charlottesville where he would spend his days sitting on the benches of the downtown mall or sipping Cokes at Miller's, my late-adolescent, proto-hipster hangout (and at-that-time employer of Dave Matthews - yeah, yeah, get me some coffee, fame-boy). He was stooped, had a severe underbite, and was a little slow (I originally thought this was just because he was old but eventually realized it had been a life-long state of affairs). He would happily talk to anybody who talked to him.

For many years, he was just a familiar face, but I finally got to know him well during the summer Sarah and I lived in town. He was very impressed with my bus, and every time I saw him he would ask me in his strange, slow, underbitten Virginia-drawl, "Hey, David. When you and me gonna go for a ride?" stretching out the last word to three times its normal length (after hearing his many repetitions, it has also found its way into my bag of tics, though I do my best to restrain it). For a long time I put him off, "Sure, Sidney. Soon." I had the best of intentions, but somehow, giving a weird old man a ride around town kept slipping down my to-do list.

Finally, the end of summer approached, and I relented. "Okay, Sidney. Let's go." He slowly climbed in and sat, hunched low in the passenger seat. As we loudly puttered down the street, he stared out the window, not saying a word, with an inscrutable expression on his face.

For several years afterwards, I'd see him when I came to town, although I don't think he remembered me. And then, after a while, he wasn't around anymore.

Hoe-Cakes

A couple of movie-derived tics to add to my dead horse pantheon:

From Hollywood Shuffle:

"Hoe-cakes, 'cuz a ho's gotta eat too!"
Tic-inducing attributes: It's kind of inappropriate, and I get to say it in an angry old man voice.

From Buckaroo Banzai:

"It's not my goddamn planet, monkeyboy!"
Tic-inducing attributes: The term, "monkeyboy," is exceedingly brilliant, and I get to say it in a demented John Lithgow voice.

Capote is also proving to be fertile ground, but I'll leave that alone for the moment.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Pop Quiz: Embarrassing Personal History Edition

Pop quiz: What's the first album you every bought?

Extra credit: What's the first album I ever bought?*

* Hint #1: Sarah won a dance contest while busting her moves to its title track in Junior High. Hint #2: It's utterly inconsistent with my later-life musical tastes.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Dollar Dollar Bills, Y'all

We had a lovely little birthday dinner Friday at my old place of employment (although I was sad to see that most of the Vietnamese guys from the kitchen were gone). Quite delicious, and a good time was had by all.


The dark-hearted lady and my half-drunk self (photo by Mary T.)

Now, perhaps you're looking at this picture and you're thinking, "What the hell does he have on his shirt. Is that money?"


The money shot (caption by Mary T.)

"Yes, it is! It is money. What's going on? Does he always do that? Is it his 'look'? Does he think it looks good? Or maybe he's crazy. Maybe he's psychotic. You know, I always had a suspicion there was something wrong with that boy. And now it's confirmed. Really, I somehow feel betrayed. Violated, even."

Wait. Wait. Please let me explain. It's a local tradition (do they do it anywhere else? I've never seen it). Friends, family, strangers on the street, anybody will walk up the birthday person and pin a dollar (or maybe even a five) onto his or her shirt. There are strict rules of conduct. The person is never supposed to pin the money on themselves; the donor does it. Counting it before the night is over is bad luck. On previous birthday bashes out in busy bars, I've come home with serious cash at the end of the evening. And a clerk working at Walgreens making five-sumthin'-sumthin' an hour can bring in an extra hundred on her birthday. Everybody instantly knows it's your birthday and anybody who wants to can participate. It's genius.

And of course now, in these post-Katrina times, it gave me the perfect license to harass people: "Now more than ever, we must come together to preserve the traditions of our great city... You must give me money."

Friday, March 10, 2006

Ti Multsã-anji! Uràri Cu-ucazea-a Dzuùãljei Di-aflari

Which is to say, "happy birthday" (to me). In Aromanian, of course. And if you forgot to send flowers, bon bons, or a fabulous silk cravat, don't sweat it. Just blame the mail. That's what I'm going to do when I forget to send yours.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Goodnight, France

June is fond of lullabyes at bedtime, frequently requesting such perennial favorites as Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star. The other night she repeatedly demanded a certain song. For the longest time, I couldn't understand what she was saying but eventually understood that she was definitely saying "Goodnight, France." I explained to her that I don't know any song named Goodnight, France, but she insisted. Finally, I was left with no choice but to make one up on the spot. It went something like:
Goodnight, France.
How I love thee,
With your glorious pastries
And your wonderful cheese.
Oh, goodnight, France...
Now it's become a favorite, demanded each night. The words are always in flux (I can never remember them), but the satisfaction is always the same.

"How's the Weather Up There?"

Jeezum! There's some weird weather coming down, some sort of tornado-laden band of nastiness headed our way. As I biked home into the wind for lunch, I felt like I should be wearing a witch costume, and I think I averaged a wobbly 3 mph. As I headed downwind back to the coffice it felt more like 30. On the way, I passed some workers carefully scurrying along the roof of a house as tarps flapped and their materials blew away. I gave them a big "I'm-glad-I'm-not-up-there-with-you-and-I-hope-you-don't-die" smile. They gave big "yeah-we-hope-we-don't-die-either" smiles back at me. Except they smiled theirs in Spanish, but we understood each other. Big, toothy grins are an international language.

Uptown Meat

"That Vicious Beast You Call a Pet!"

The third installment in our Man Against Beast series, Man Against Beast III: The Beast Wins:

Jonathan was a weird kid, even by the weird standard of my childhood friends. He was pale and big-headed (if they ever make his biopic, his adult-self will certainly be played by Philip Seymour Hoffman). He was too smart and quirky for his own good, and he would have fit very nicely into a 19th century British novel about effete intellectuals who faint too much.

We went to school together, and our fathers worked together at the university's anthropology department. One Sunday, his whole family came out to the farm for a barbecue. After eating, we boys goofed off, running around the yard as boys will. This is where the trouble began.

Prince was a good natured and friendly dog, but he did like a little sport, particularly a good chase, and the sight of my oversized, translucent friend dashing this way and that clearly excited him. He gave a playful, tail-wagging little lunge after Jonathan. Jonathan's response was to shriek and run in the opposite direction. This all seemed like great fun to Prince who gave chase. This sent Jonathan into a full-blown panic, arms flailing, yelling "Help! Help!" as Prince pranced about nipping at his heels.

We raced after them, trying to catch Prince and shouting assurances to Jonathan that the dog was harmless. He would have none of it. After a lengthy, frenetic circuit around the yard, Jonathan finally scrambled up the white, rail fence in front of our house, perched at the very top of one of the posts, and furiously screamed, "Get that vicious beast you call a pet away from me!"

I'm going to tell you right now, the world is a cruel place, and we all have darkness in our hearts. We laughed at that poor boy. Certainly we tried to hide it, suppressing our smirks as we caught Prince, but laugh we did. An eight year old boy using full blown, Victorian phrasing in the throws of misguided hysteria is just unavoidable funny. Prince was thereafter regularly referred to as "that vicious beast you call a pet."

Finally, the "beast" was restrained, and Jonathan was coaxed down from the fence. Then we chopped him into little bits and threw him on the chicken house roof. Really, it was the kindest thing to do. The world is no place for a boy like that.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Monday, March 06, 2006

Prince Le Peu

Farm Week continues. This is the first and (I believe only) installment in our Beast Against Beast series. It was brought to mind by events of this past weekend. We were cleaning our house in preparation for my mom's visit, when we realized that something in the house smelled like zombie diarrhea. Initially, I (naturally) assumed it was zombies (they've been a major issue since the cemeteries were flooded), but it turns out it was our dog, Penny. She had obviously found some rank substance, rolled in it, eaten it, puked it, rolled in it again, eaten it again, puked it again, ad infinitum until she was a joyously foul mess. Several baths later she smells somewhat better, and we're having a lovely visit.

My dog when I was growing up was Prince, a beautiful, purebred Collie, just like Lassie, with long, elegant features, and a flowing white mane. He was also pure hick-dog through and through. His hobbies included chasing cars, eating baby groundhogs, and growing large colonies of ticks in his ears. One day, apparently, he decided to eat a skunk. It didn't work out for him, and he slinked home reeking like hell. We couldn't bring him in the house. We couldn't bring him near the house. We were at a loss.

Finally we decided to try the only skunk-stank remedy any of us had heard of - wash him in tomato juice. For those of you in non-skunky parts of the world, I'm not making this up. It is, in fact, something close to standard protocol. And it doesn't work. We trekked to the store, bought umpteen cans of tomato juice, returned home, filled up the washtub, held our breath, and immersed Prince, vigorously scrubbing the tomato juice in and (hopefully) the stank out.

When he finally emerged from the tub and shook himself off he was as hellacious-smelling as ever. And he was pink. He was pink and stinky for weeks. He was pink, stinky, and sad for weeks. It was very pathetic. Don't do it.

The end.

Cock-A-Doodle-Die

Farm Week* continues with the latest installment of our Man Against Beast series:

When I was a young fellow, coming up on the farm, my grandmother lived with us. During the day she was cared for by a woman, Mrs. Smith,** who lived down the road in Schuyler (world-famous home of the Waltons). There are two things you should know about Mrs. Smith. First, she was batshit crazy, like bipolar, running-around-the-house-naked-stuffing-wet-rags-in-faucets-to-keep-the-demons-out crazy. Second, she had a pet rooster (one might, I suppose, argue that this is actually merely an addendum to the first item).

Everyday, she would bring the rooster with her while she tended to my grandmother, holding it in her lap as my father drove her to and from the house. During the day, the rooster spent much of his time in the kitchen sink, but sometimes it would venture out into the yard. This is where the trouble started.

Roosters are often portrayed in farm literature as proud, and noble creatures. Perhaps they usually are, but this one wasn't. He was a spittin' mean, nasty beast, with huge spurs on his feet. And for whatever reason, he hated me. Whenever our paths crossed, he would charge right at me, wings flapping, beak pecking, spurs flailing, until I turned tail and hauled my skinny butt into the safety of the house.

After several encounters like this, the adults finally counseled me, "Stand your ground. He'll leave you alone." I didn't like the idea but decided that they knew best and I would follow their advice. At our next meeting, I steeled myself, stared him straight in his beady, poultry eyes, and stood my ground. He ran straight at me and gouged his spur straight into the flesh below my knee. Blood ran down my leg, soaking my sock, as I hobbled into the house to seek medical care.

Then I had an epiphany. I asked myself, what makes a man? Is it blind, stubborn, foolhardiness, so called "bravery," in the face of any danger? No. It is the use of tools to torment and suppress beings with fewer and crappier tools.

We met once again. He stared at me with blood-lust in his eyes, scratched the ground, and charged. I turned around and ran. But this time I didn't vanish into the house. I stopped at the porch, grabbed a broom, and turned. Suddenly it was a whole new game. I believe even the rooster, in his feeble chicken-brain, realized the gig was up. This time, it was I who charged, broom swinging, with gleeful joy in my eyes and hatred in my heart. The rooster ran as fast as his little chicken-legs would carry him, scurrying this way and that, until I finally relented, secure in the knowledge the rooster would never trouble me again. It was a merciless rout. Man: 1. Beast: 0. Victory, sweet victory, was mine.

Then I chopped him into little bits and threw him on the chicken house roof...***

* As always, the Slimbolian Calendar applies.

** Name changed to protect the batshit crazy.

*** Just kidding, Mr. SPCA.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Pop Quiz: Julie Andrews Edition*

Enough about me. Let's hear about you.

Pop quiz: What's your favorite pair of shoes and why?**

* Bonus points for explaining the obtuse and not particularly funny title of this pop quiz.

** Unlike most other Pop Quizzes, you're almost guaranteed to get this one right. Unless you're deeply self-deluded, in which case failure to successfully identify your favorite pair of shoes is probably the least of your troubles.

Pop-Pop-Pop. Pop-Pop-Pop-Pop.

Late last night we heard the sharp report of pistol fire. Pop-pop-pop. Pop-pop-pop-pop. Gosh, just like old times. It's nice to know that the city really is getting back to normal.

Police Hot Spot



I'm trying to figure out who would have written this. The police? Not likely. The guys trying to avoid the police? Hmm. Concerned neighbors? Maybe.

"Freak Street"

I assure you, this is the last Mardi Gras-related post. After this, we will revert to strict, Lent-ian sobriety:

My ideal Mardi Gras is to trek all over the city and check out the different things going on. This is more logistically complicated with the wee ones (infernal varmints!), but we still do o.k. We spent most of Tuesday on St. Charles watching Zulu and Rex, within a few blocks of a bathroom and a well-stocked refrigerator. But late in the day, when Sarah and June had had their fill of festivities, I asked Louise, "Do you want to go downtown and see the freaks?" She said yes.

Driving on Mardi Gras is complicated. For much of the day, the city is scissored in half by miles of back to back parades. Even late in the afternoon, one is likely to be waylaid by stray floats returning back to their warehouses, or a block party choking off the street.

As we drove along S. Claiborne, traffic ground to a halt as police cars and then giant floats rounded the corner. We hooked a left over to Broad. On the way we passed a small troupe of Mardi Gras Indians marching and drumming through the uninhabited streets of Broadmoor. On Broad, we ran into thronging crowds left over from the end of Zulu. We hooked a right, down a narrow street, past the empty projects. As we approached N. Claiborne and the overpass, traffic again ground to a halt. To our left was a lone Indian in brilliant yellow feathers. We hooked another left, through the projects, threaded through the crowds of Orleans Ave., along back streets and finally down to the Marigny.

Along the way, Louise asked a million questions. "Where are we going?" "Frenchman Street." "Why?" "That's where the freaks are." "What are freaks?" "People who wear fancy costumes and dance crazy." "Why are they on Freak Street?*" "That's just where they all go on Mardi Gras day." "Oh."

We parked and walked the rest of the way. The street was packed with hundreds of people, all elaborately costumed. Some stood around, drinking and chatting. Others danced in the street to loud, bad samba music. Some guy asked me, "Hey, is there a drum circle around here?" At first, Louise was very quiet, taking it all in. Then she perked up. She pointed out her favorite costume, a sort of sparkly, sequined, birdlike ensemble. She asked more questions. "Do freaks listen to loud music while they sleep or only in the daytime?" "What do they wear when it's not Mardi Gras?" "Where do they live?" "Are we freaks" We ran into friends. She saw one of her little schoolmates, also dressed as a princess. They jumped around and played.

Finally, after taking it all in, we headed back to the car. On the way, we stopped at a barbecue stand from Arkansas and got her a sausage-on-a-bun with potato salad for dinner. As we whisked home on the highway, with the sun dipping below the horizon, she chomped on her sandwich and nattered happily in the back seat about all of the things she'd seen. It was nice.

* Her inadvertent but entirely apt alteration of the true name.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

The Many Faces of Mardi Gras

KP has expressed some puzzlement at the Mardi Gras phenomenon. This is not surprising. It's confusing even if you live here. And, of course, there's not just one Mardi Gras. It's many very different elements combined together (like a gumbo). There's the beads-and-boobs-on-Bourbon-Street which is, sadly, the only Mardi Gras many people know. This is a tourist thing, and you'll do just fine if you banish it from your mind forever. There's St. Charles Avenue with elaborate parades, college kids, and lots and lots of families, rich, poor, and everywhere in between. There's the downtown hipsters, hippies, and drag queens. There's Mardi Gras Indians wandering Central City and the Treme. There's barbecues on Orleans Avenue and under the Claiborne overpass.

It's a day where the daily civic life and normalcy comes to a complete halt (sort of like Katrina, only much more fun). People dress up and take on different personas, maybe get a little tipsy and silly. You can go to any neighborhood in the city. People will nod and say hello - and laugh if you've got a good costume going. It's a way to come together as a community and forget about all the things we worry about the rest of the year (and, eesh, there's no shortage of worries this year). At its best, it's really quite wonderful.

Mas Masquerade

There were so many good costumes this year ranging from satirical to beautiful to bizarre. FEMA and blue tarps were popular themes: sharply tailored blue tarp suits (damn fine looking and waterproof too), FEMA clowns, etc. Nagin's "chocolate city" debacle was another popular to target. And well... let's let the pictures do the talking.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Zulu



I love Zulu, far and away my favorite of the old line krewes. Sadly, we missed the first time ever real Zulu warriors at the start of the parade. Inevitably we're running late Mardi Gras morning (all that preening takes time), but fortunately, Zulu is also always running late, so we did manage to catch the rest of it.

And we caught a coconut - mission accomplished. Louise didn't quite understand what a prized item this was, but the rest of us were very excited.

Masquerade

Early in the morning we were up, getting breakfast together and donning costumes. Friends from next door came over to borrow glue guns and safety pins. Buzz, buzz, buzz. Finally, nourished and bedecked, we were ready to roll.

Let's review:

Louise:



Louise was a princess... or a shooting star (if she felt inclined at that particular moment to wear the shooting star cape that Ana had very patiently helped her make)... or a shooting star princess. Or... well, whatever. It looked good.

June:

June was a stubborn two year old who wore whatever she goddamned wanted to wear which most certainly wasn't some stupid costume, and she certainly wasn't posing for no stinkin' pictures.

Sarah:



The lovely lady was a lovely chicken (thanks Mary T. for the needle-and-thread magic).

Yours truly:



And (obviously) I was "The Eternal Cycle of Death and Rebirth in the Post-Apocalyptic, Franco-Afro-Caribbean South (TECODARITPAFACS)" or "Pushing Up Daisies (PUD)" for short.

Stay tuned...

Ash Wednesday

We made it through. We're tired and dense. More to come...