Friday, April 30, 2010

Post-Diluvian Follies: Carnie Roofers and Other Delights

After my initial foray onto the roof, and having realized that its tarping was beyond my capacity, I’d sought help. There was certainly nothing like a functional yellow pages—almost all useful information was disseminated via word of mouth—and a friend had a friend… well sort of a friend… a neighbor, really… kind of a weird guy but seems decent enough… who roofed houses. He, supposedly, could help.

I called the number.

“Hello?” It was a low, thick smoker’s voice.

“Hi, is this Chris?”

“Yeah…”

“Hi, I’m a friend of Billy’s, and I’ve got a roof that needs to be tarped. He suggested I give you a call.”

“Where is it?”

I gave him the address.

“Alright, I’ll meet you there tomorrow morning. Bring tarps, a box of three-inch drywall screws, contractors bags, and a shovel.”

“Um, okay.”

“Hey, man, you need a place to crash? I got room. I got a whole bunch of people staying over here.”

“Oh, I’m all set. Thank you though.”


Chris leaned against his truck—a red fifties Dodge pickup—smoking as I pulled up to the house. His face was tan and deeply lined. He wore a panama hat and a loose print shirt haphazardly cut off above the belly.


Chris

After introducing his sidekick, a younger punk-ish guy with short bleached hair, he got down to business. “Alright, we’re looking at a crew of four guys at seventy-five bucks an hour…” As he talked, he gestured emphatically with his nicotine-stained fingers.

“Each?”

“Yeah, each. It’s about a three hour job. You supply the materials.”

My mind raced to a quick and alarming tally. “Uh…” I said. “Holy shit!” I thought.

“Look, I know it’s a lot of money, but I gotta house and feed these guys. You know…”

“Uh… Okay,” I reluctantly agreed. In truth, it wasn’t the shelter and sustenance of his crew that moved me, but the gaping hole in my roof, the urgent need to fix it, and my complete lack of options. (This was the first of many price-shocks in the repair and restoration of our home. Later, any amount measured in the hundreds instead of the many thousands came to seem like chump-change, hardly worth a second thought. But it was a hard lesson to learn.)

“Alright, the guys’ll be by this afternoon.”

“Okay.”

We each went on our way. He no doubt had a busy day ahead of him, purchasing champagne and filets for his crew and fluffing their feather pillows. I had to make lots of staticky, panicked phone calls to spouses and insurance companies and drive the long drive back out of the city to find a functioning ATM from which to withdraw lots and lots of cash.

That afternoon I waited. The large wad of money sat awkwardly in my pocket. They didn’t show.* Finally they called, “Meet us in the morning.”


In the morning they did show. By the time I arrived,** a crew was clambering up and down ladders and swarming over my roof. They weren’t quite what I’d expected (though perhaps I should have).

Chris and his sidekick were back, and they were accompanied by two more guys, one gal, and a nasty looking pit bull tied under the truck with a large rope. They were a motley bunch with various strange configurations of too much or too little hair, weird clothes, weird shoes, weird hats, weird tattoos, and weird piercings.

The motley-est of the bunch was Claire, no mere eccentric, no casual dabbler in the niceties of body-alteration, but a straight up poster child of modern-primitivism, a full on carnie-freakedy-freak.


Claire

She had many notable traits. I directly observed the following:
  • She had tattoos all over her body, including extensive facial tattoos. Her eyebrows were shaven and replaced by ornate curlicues. An elaborate filigree traced the perimeter of her lips.
  • She had dozens of piercings, the most notable being through the flesh at her Adams apple.
  • Her hair was shaved in a strange, irregular pattern.
  • Her attire consisted of a spangled, rainbow-colored, sequined top and cargo pants (the latter was apparently a concession to her roofing work—normally, she informed me, she wore hot pants).
  • Her tongue was forked. (The tip had been sliced down the middle about three-quarters of an inch deep.)
  • She was drinking bourbon from the bottle at ten o'clock in the morning.
  • She was an emotional train wreck. Within the first minute of my arrival, she was in tears, complaining that there was nothing for her to do because there weren't enough safety lines, and that Chris wouldn't let her on the roof. (I silently commended him on his good judgment.)
  • She was the weakest link. If this had been an episode of Survivor: Carnie Roofers in Paradise, she would have been the first one voted off the island. Clearly, the crew had been hastily improvised, and as best as I could figure out, she had been recruited because she was the sort-of-girlfriend of one of the guys. She appeared to have no roofing skills whatsoever. This eventually led to a whispered conversation between Chris and myself in which I made clear that I was not paying his obscene hourly rate for someone to cry on my porch. His response was, "Yeah, she's not working out. I gotta lose that chick."
  • After her initial breakdown, she was actually quite good company. (She was kind enough to share her bourbon, and I accepted. I don’t normally drink bourbon at ten o’clock in the morning with carnie-freaks, but these were not normal times—and I figured the booze was strong enough to kill any carnie-cooties.)
During our lengthy conversation, she also claimed the following:
  • She had run away from the circus several months earlier. (I mean “carnie” quite literally.)
  • She had been at Burning Man when Katrina struck.
  • While there, she had raised $30,000 for Katrina victims: "Man, I was right there with the best art and the best drugs in the whole world, and I didn't get drunk. I didn't get high. I didn't fuck anyone. All I did was raise money!"
  • In addition to being a "roofer", she was a stripper, working at Big Daddy's in the evening. (I confess, I had a hard time imagining anyone paying money to see her naked, but perhaps, during the Katrina-induced stripper shortage, clubs had to take what they could get—and maybe horny FEMA contractors weren't that picky.)
  • She was going to be in Hustler. (Again, I found this a little hard to believe, but…) "Yeah, I got a friend—a journalist—who's working down here for them right now. You got to promote yourself, you know. Of course, it doesn't hurt that I'm fucking him. Ha!"
  • In her free time, she operated as a "one woman welcoming committee for the city", getting drunk in the Quarter, parading around with a tinfoil parasol, being the life of every party.
  • As a part of her "welcoming committee" activities, she convinced groups of drunken National Guardsmen to form human pyramids with her on top and had them take pictures of the spectacle. Apparently, they never picked up on the political satire. (Sadly, she didn’t have any of these photos herself—they had all been taken with the Guardsmen’s cameras—but they’re supposedly out there somewhere.)
As Claire and I chatted, the (actual) workers clambered up and down ladders and went about the business of tarping. Chris shouted instructions, waving his cigarette like a general’s baton, sometimes pausing to talk on the phone or drop a choice tidbit into our conversation.

“I’m also a graffiti artist,” Chris told me. “I tagged my own building. This fucker—call’s himself the ‘Gray Ghost’—he’s got some sort of problem—think’s he’s cleaning up the city and goes around painting over other people’s art—this fucker paints over my tag on my fucking building. I chased that fucker down the block with a hammer…”

I tried to pet the dog but withdrew when he tried to eat my hand. When we ran out of tarps, I trekked across the river to the Westbank for more. (Chris slipped me a twenty to pick up cigarettes. The predicament of the nicotine-addict was much like that of the caffeine-addict.)

In time, they were done. As the carnies loaded up the truck, I counted the thick stack of twenties into Chris’ calloused hand. He scrawled a near-illegible receipt on a piece of dirty paper, and we parted ways.

I was happy to have my roof tarped. I was equally happy to be done with them.

* But the Rock Stars of the Mold Intelligentsia did show up, looking to do a bit of sampling. They went through the house swabbing little patches of fuzz. (“Could that be [long string of Latin]?” “I think it is [long string of Latin]!”) Their grad-student minion toted the air-sampler from room to room. (They later sent me a formal letter on university stationary listing our astronomically high spore-counts, enumerated by species.) I noted—with relief and a touch of bitterness—that they certainly weren’t following their own previously prescribed and impossibly baroque safety protocols; they wore street clothes and disposable masks, nary a shower cap to be seen. Then they were off to another house, eager to try the next selection in our city’s cornucopia of moldy wonders.

** I was waylaid by the glorious appearance of free coffee, served from folding tables on the sidewalk in front of a nearby coffee shop. The owners had driven all the fixings (including potable water) down from Baton Rouge in a rental truck, and almost instantly a large, happy crowd of gabbing neighbors had gathered in the middle of the previously hushed neighborhood.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Post-Diluvian Follies: The Ridge, Bra’

My rural base of operations proved to be untenable—I had no interest in repeating the previous day’s eternal commute—so I was moving camp to Fay and Jeff’s* vacant, unflooded house in the city. But first—incongruously—I was going to their daughter’s second birthday party at the grandmother’s house in River Ridge, the quiet suburb to the far west of the city.

Freshly caffeinated and well-shorn, I zipped through the flickering pines of the North Shore and across the wide open sun of the Causeway. Jefferson Parish was weird—weirdly normal. Certainly there were toppled signs and battered roofs—and the absence of mid-afternoon traffic jams proved that many people had yet to make it home—but compared to the wasteland across the parish line to the east, it looked remarkably like business as usual.

I turned onto the quiet oak-lined street and stopped a few blocks from the river in front of the low-slung brick ranch house. It was full of familiar faces: brothers and sisters and aunts and uncles, four generations of family that had convened from their disparate exiles for the occasion. We hugged and talked. I hadn’t been in a large group of fellow New Orleanians since the storm, and it felt wonderful.

Mia ripped open the presents, setting each aside with barely a glance before tearing into the next. Cake was dished up. Kids tore about in a sugar blur. Adults had another drink, commiserating about the plight of the city and the strange fate that had befallen us. Big Joe lamented the deprivations of exile: “Baton Rouge don’t know what osso bucco is. Baton Rouge sucks!”

A family friend—a police officer—stopped in. His shirt read “I protected. I defended. I sacrificed. I stayed through it all. I am NOPD.” He talked of midnight boat-patrols through the pitch-black streets and helicopter flights where the city looked like a lake with rooftops.

Mamere, the ninety-two-year-old great-grandmother asked him, “Maybe you can go by my house and let me know how it is. I haven’t seen it yet. I want to go home.”

“I’ll be happy to, but I’m afraid you got a lot of water in that neighborhood. I don’t think you’ll be getting back there any time soon.”

Her face clouded as she slumped back in her chair, “Aww… I didn’t want to hear that.”

“I’m sorry.”

In time, those with homes to go to left. Others drifted off to guest rooms. I hunkered down on the living room floor, making a luxuriant pallet for myself with several of the home’s immense collection of quilts.

In the morning, I packed to go. As I once again filled my precious thermos from the coffee pot, Fay and Jeff discreetly directed me to the pantry. Stacked chest-high were cases of MREs—Meals Ready to Eat—the government-issue non-perishable foodstuffs typically consumed by soldiers in the field but now issued to private citizens across the storm-battered South. And Sandy, Jeff’s mom, had stocked up. (She also had a formidable stack of some strange off-brand generic analog—dubious-looking shrink-wrapped packages of frank and beans, crackers, and other unpalatable imperishables.)

“Take some.”

I demurred.

“She can’t eat all these. Take some.”

They had a point. Barring a nuclear apocalypse that rendered the surface of the Earth dead and barren, no one was ever going to eat all of those.

“Okay.” I took two cases.


And then it was on to the city in earnest, to settle into the slow hard work of my house. After a quiet morning drive on streets devoid of commuters and a couple of false starts down barricaded highways, I was waved through the large sand roadblock** by a Guardsman and once again entered the shabby streets of Floodville, USA.

* Jeff, a psychiatrist, snuck back into the city shortly after the storm with the intention of providing mental healthcare to first-responders but quickly found himself giving basic medical care (such as the treatment flood-tainted wounds) from an improvised clinic in the gift shop of the Sheraton with commandeered medical supplies. (He also wound up in regular rotation on CNN in an interview where Anderson Cooper asked him a lot of questions about the gun on his hip.) Fay, like us, bounced around the country with the kids before she and Jeff finally reconvened in River Ridge.

** Later, in a refreshing bit of cheek, someone decorated the dune-like barricade with a folding chair and beach umbrella.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010


Straw dispenser and bottle opener

George Jones-itis

All diluvia all the time makes Slim a dull boy. All diluvia all the time makes Slim a dull boy. All diluvia all the time... I'm happy folks seem to be enjoying the Follies, but we can't let the lengthy tale distract from the our daily Slimbological business, tackling important themes like... well... like haircuts in non-Apocalyptic circumstances. So...

I've noticed that, coincidentally or otherwise, I often cut my hair and mow my lawn on the same day. Apparently I have a recurring case of George Jones-itis.

Post-Diluvian Follies: Shear Madness

In the morning, John went off to retro-fit trucks for debris hauling. (Welding was another of his many in-demand skills.) The Rock Stars headed into the city. I cut my hair.

One of my prized recoveries from the day before was the battered old Superman lunchbox that contained my hair clippers. I hadn’t had a haircut since the storm, and—though it might seem like a trifle—my unkempt ’do weighed heavily on me, adding to a general sense of raggedy, homeless malaise. (I was not alone. Many of my city-mates—fellow members of our shaggy, limp-locked diaspora—told of similar tribulations: grown-out roots, fervent attempts to track down beloved barbers, and horrific coifs at the hands of unknown stylists in far-off cities.)

As the clippers whirred and the shorn trimmings drifted down into the tall grass around me, I felt a renewed sense of vigor, strength to tackle the task at hand and take the first step down the long road that lay ahead. I was ready.*

* My bullish optimism was somewhat diminished by my subsequent attempt to cut up the tree that lay across the driveway. My hands-on experience with chainsaws was minimal, but I had good intentions and a moderate grasp of the guiding concepts, including an emphatic belief in the foremost principle: don’t pinch the blade in the trunk. Within two minutes, despite my caution, I had pinched the blade in the trunk. It took a crowbar, a chisel, and a lot of effort to remove it. I let the tree be.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Post-Diluvian Follies: ...I-P-P-I (or Rock Stars of the Mold Intelligentsia)

With his abundance of handy know-how and intimate familiarity with the local lay-of-the-land, John was rapidly becoming a Jack-of-All-Catastrophe-Related-Trades. One of the several hats he had donned, through a twisty series of convolutions, was that of Bill Sr.’s—the mold guy’s—man on the scene, armed with a big truck, a generator, and a general knowledge of what’s what. Bill’s aforementioned Ivy Leaguers were arriving that evening (as John put it, “The Rock Stars of the Mold Intelligentsia get here tonight”), and they were bunking with us.

We made preparations, shuffling our scant sleeping arrangements to accommodate the newcomers and stocking the refrigerator with beer since that, presumably, was the sort of thing hard-traveling mold-gods liked to drink—and since it was the only thing available in Nicholson.

After several wrong turns and phone calls, they finally found their way to our dark little corner of the country—a couple and another woman. They were exactly what mold experts should be: practically-attired, beer-drinking (we guessed right), left-leaning, Latin-spouting, grey-whiskered (in the case of the man), and far more interested in mold than I ever imagined anyone could be.

We sat around chit-chatting about their drive, the city, spore-counts, and the loss of brain-function due to mold-exposure. Then—“Oh, David, we have your mask.”


gas-mask

It was an amazing thing, straight out of Desert Storm, with the big bug eyes, a large pendulous filter, and even a drinking tube to screw into a canteen. (It was nice to know I could sip on a cocktail while I worked.)

She showed me exactly how to tighten the straps, how to stop the mouth hole and suck to test the seal, the precise way to remove it, how to scrub it down each evening, how to de-spore myself, and she listed the full array of garments to wear with it: shower cap, long sleeves, long pants, gloves.

John asked her to look at his mask. She inspected it. “That should be fine.”

I showed her the raggedy thing I’d worn that day. “How about this one?”

“Mmm, probably not...”

Eventually, everyone went to bed. I lay awake on the couch in the darkness feeling the mold spores burrow themselves deep into the moist recesses of my lungs, propagating into a lush jungle, and seeping their evil poison into my brain...

Monday, April 26, 2010

Post-Diluvian Follies: The Big Queasy

The drive into the city proved no simple task. We left early, but the main bridge was still knocked out, and traffic on the highway soon slowed to a crawl. After a long time of getting nowhere, we ditched the highway and tried our luck on the backstreets.

It was my first close up look at Katrina’s serious destruction. A surge of water had ripped through these neighborhoods on the eastern edge of the lake. We wove slowly past expensive new subdivisions now in ruins. The houses that remained were being gutted. Bulldozers heaped their contents in piles as high as the rooftops. Other houses were simply gone. Debris lay in large flattened swirls—like twigs in a dried up puddle. Cars rested upside down. Boats sat in trees.

Eventually we found our way to the old Highway 11 bridge. A line of large trucks, small trucks, vans, and (occasionally) cars stretched to the horizon. We filed into the queue.

There were hardly any “civilians”: it was almost all construction workers, government workers, non-profiteers, insurance adjusters, animal rescue groups, and Christians. The traffic alternated between a slow, walking-paced roll and a dead standstill. At each stop, up and down the line, doors swung open in near unison. Out stepped sunburnt men. Lighters clicked and puffs of smoke wafted up, out over the water. There was no shade and it was blazing hot. We milled about, leaning against the scorching guardrail or chatting with our neighbors. When the line started moving again, doors slammed shut, and we crept forward once more.

As we idled, John and I prepared our story. I had a business. (Business owners were being allowed into the city.) John was my contractor. (Both he and his truck looked the part.) We were going in to secure the property and recover documents. We embellished and tweaked until the story sparkled with the brilliant sheen of plausibility.

At last we reached the other side and approached the roadblock. It swarmed with police: New Orleans cops, New Jersey cops, all kinds of cops. An NOPD officer in a bullet-proof vest and sunglasses leaned over our window.

“What zip code are you going to?”

“70115.”

“Go ahead.”

We were through. Our lengthy preparations were all for naught. The only wrong answer, it seemed, was “We’re here to loot!”


Now we sped along past the swamps, brown and blasted by a storm-driven wall of saltwater. The Wal-Mart man had been right. A deep, earthy funk saturated the air.

Entering the far outposts of New Orleans East, we passed silent auto dealerships with lots full of new cars, all flooded and now turned a strange chalky gray. We passed mile after mile of blasted out apartments and squat vacant suburban homes. A giant sign toppled at a strange angle in the parking lot of a silent mall. There were no people anywhere. It was otherworldly.

The downtown skyline grew larger as we approached the heart of the city. Familiar landmarks flashed past. Everything looked different—not like my pre-storm memories and not like the frantic disjointed clips from the news. Trash littered elevated stretches of highway where people had found refuge weeks earlier above the rising waters. We passed the skyscrapers with their checkerboard missing windows and the Superdome with its strange shredded black roof and jagged holes.

We exited the highway down to South Claiborne. The large billboard that previously proclaimed “THOU SHALT NOT KILL” was now missing a panel. More dead gray cars crammed the neutral ground, parked there—a relative high point—before the storm by their owners in a vain attempt to save them from flooding. Sports boats commandeered for rescue operations sat abandoned by the side of the street. The waterline—a scummy brown streak marking every building*—wavered block by block, tracing the minute fluctuations of the city’s inverted topography, but grew steadily higher as we approached my neighborhood.

It was above head-height as we turned onto my street. The Popeye’s on the corner reeked of rancid chicken. Memorial Hospital loomed a block away.** We navigated around fallen branches, moving slowly past neighbors’ battered houses. And then we were there.


I’d expected to feel glum horror. I actually felt something more like giddy relief (commingled with awe). It was a wretched mess to be sure, but the rank air of home smelled almost sweet after our sad Texan exile. (The glum horror would come later.)

All the plants were dead. A big piece of driftwood—it looked like a railroad tie—lay across the brown grass. The left front steps were missing.*** The tenants’ front window dangled from its hinges, broken open by the animal rescue crew that saved their cat. A subsequent crew had spray-painted “SPCA NO PETS FOUND INSIDE 9-26” in large red letters on the front of the house. Upstairs, the balcony rail lay flat, and the awning dangled in limp shreds. Roofing tiles scattered the ground.

We kicked open the swollen front door and were hit with a blast of deeper, stronger funk—warm and very wet. Donning our respirators, we went in.

I was surprised. I had expected lots of mold, and I wasn’t disappointed. Blue-green spots traced elaborate constellations up the walls. Murky splotches covered everything. Upholstery alternated dabs of fuzzy green and caked-on white. A thick, fuzzy carpet grew on one of the stairs. But I hadn’t expected the jumbled chaos:

BeforeAfter

asideboardisecretary
bgreen striped armchairjpiano bench
csmall octagonal tablekturquoise bookcase
dyellow armchairltrunk
egreen stoolmsettee
fbrown armchairnoval flip-top table
gsmall drop-leaf tableoskinny brown shelves
hyellow armchair


The water had simply picked everything up and moved it all every which way. Large pieces of furniture had floated up and drifted around the room, finally coming to rest two weeks later wherever and however the receding waters left them: right-side-up, upside-down, sideways. Some pieces had come unglued and scattered into jigsaw puzzle bits. Our former shabby-Creole-eclectic was looking positively dismal.

And everything was still glistening wet, tightly sealed in the house’s super-saturated air (made worse by September’s ninety-something degree temperatures and ninety-nine percent humidity). Ceiling fans drooped like wilted flowers.


Dali-fan

A brown, oily film peeled from the walls below the waist-high water line.

We made a full tour. The kitchen was the worst. The hulking white refrigerator lay prone on the floor surrounded by a slowly drying puddle of brown goo flecked with wriggling maggots. The mold was denser here, covering the ceiling as well. Plywood cabinet doors curled open, splaying into individual sheets like the pages of our swollen books. Pots and pans still held murky floodwater.

Upstairs was strangely normal. With the exception of ceilings stained brown with rainwater, the toxic air, and the sweltering silence, it was almost unchanged, a freeze-frame of our life just as it had been one long month before. The children’s books we’d read that evening still lay on the bedside tables. An empty glass sat where it was left, abandoned in the haste to evacuate.

We continued our survey. On the tenants’ side, the upstairs ceiling had collapsed. Wind had ripped the backyard shed wide open, and its contents lay in a jumbled pile. My flooded truck sat dead in the driveway, multi-colored mold painting the steering wheel like camouflage. A large tree stretched across the neighbors’ yard.


I diligently documented—photographed and videotaped—everything. We opened all the doors and windows to let in the (marginally dryer) exterior air. And then it was time to tackle our most formidable task: the roof. I could see from the attic that the hole was much larger than I’d expected—certainly much larger than the than the little tarp I’d brought—but we decided to give it a go. Some tarp was better than no tarp.

Getting to the roof wasn’t easy. We’d managed to procure a ladder, but it wasn’t tall enough. Finally we hoisted it onto the balcony and wedged it against the eaves in what seemed like a reasonably secure manner. (More precisely, it seemed like it was as secure as it was going to get.) I looked at John. He looked at me. “I’ll go first,” I volunteered. (It was my roof, after all.) “Okay,” he agreed.

I gave the ladder one last shake and started to climb. I’d been on roofs before. No big deal. True, this one was pretty high up—and getting past the jutting overhang was a little dodgy—but I finally scrabbled myself on.

“Oh, shit!” The roof was much steeper and the asbestos tiles were much slicker than I’d expected. The debris-littered driveway below looked very hard and very far away. I splayed flat, tightly grasping two wriggly shingles, desperately hoping they were stronger than they looked. “This is scary!”

Below, John burst into laughter.

I crab-crawled sideways back to the edge (badly shredding my knees) awkwardly swung myself onto the ladder, and scurried to the bottom where I found John grinning broadly:**** “That’s why I let you go first.”


Having stared death in the face enough for one day (and realizing—in what was becoming something of a personal mantra—that I had no idea what I was doing), I moved on to the humbler task of getting our stuff: clothes to augment our meager Austin wardrobes, toys for the girls, various valuables, and—happily—my work boots. (My raggedy Chucks tended to soak up flood-scum.)

In the bathroom, I puzzled over Sarah’s lengthy list of desired toiletries, trying to sort through the nuanced distinctions between the many talcs and hand creams. Finally, feeling irritable and foolish standing there sucking on my respirator in the sweltering heat—like a sweaty, befuddled Darth Vader in some long ago, far away Bed, Bath and Beyond—I scooped the entire contents of the shelves into a garbage bag, flung it over my shoulder, and headed downstairs. Bag ’em all and let Sarah sort ’em out.

We loaded up the truck, slammed the swollen front door closed, and headed back across the lake in the vivid golden setting sun on the now near-empty highway.

* Actually, there wasn’t one water-line. Multiple parallel lines marked gradations where the surface of the water had lingered. But there was always one dominant line where it had stood the longest.

** We’d listened in shock to the reports of Memorial’s hellish conditions in the days after the storm and to the subsequent discovery of more than forty bodies there.

*** I’ve wondered about those steps. I imagine them gradually lifting up, buoyed by the rising waters, breaking free, catching an invisible current, slowly drifting down the block, around the corner, through the city, and coming to rest days later, maybe in somebody else’s yard. Maybe they lost their steps too and just tacked ours onto their house. Maybe it’s just our bad luck that somebody else’s steps didn’t come our way.

**** He later informed me, my aviator sunglasses somehow made the scene particularly hilarious.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Post-Diluvian Follies: M-i-s-s-i-s-s...

The morning was clear and bright. Sun filtered down through the pine trees, illuminating here and there the crisp yellow of a splintered trunk.

We spent the day doing various rural-ish sorts of things: driving from junkyard to junkyard looking for a new door for John’s old behemoth of a truck, which we would be driving into the city the next day (no luck); going to Wal-Mart; standing in an eternal line with countless Mississippians all printing photographs for their insurance companies of trees on their roofs or the foundations of their homes laid clean by storm surge. A big man with a big gut talked loudly, “You been through New Orleans? You can smell it from the highway. I drove past Jazzland, man, I could hardly breathe.”

That night I made a dinner of mashed potatoes, artichokes, and too-salty pork chops which we ate with plastic utensils. We went to bed early.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Post-Diluvian Follies: Into the Heart of Darkness

Farewell dear children, darling wife, I bid you adieu! Duty calls, and I must travel into that dark land to the east. I will cherish your memory, and perhaps—some day—I shall return.

This was a weird business, these calamities and scarcities and mass-migrations, packing water and provisions, leaving the women and children behind, journeying to a quasi-wild frontier that had sprung up in the middle of our industrialized twenty-first century nation. Had I remembered to pack the squirrel jerky and Bowie knife?

With the gear stashed in the trunk, a full thermos of coffee, and a stack of tacos at my side, I sped down I-71 in the little white car (my aunt Annou’s car actually, the end result of a complicated series of post-storm caravans and vehicle swaps). It felt exquisite to just be moving, doing something after weeks of restless exile spent watching the horrid spectacle unfold on TV. To see my city, no matter its state, to set foot in my house, no matter how wretched—I was near-ecstatic.

An hour later I was near-motionless, sitting in a vicious thicket of cars, occasionally—glacially—creeping forward only to stop again. I was in the midst of a mass of de-vacuating Houstonians who had fled Rita in unprecedented numbers, fearing their city would go the way of New Orleans. Now, it seemed, all four million were returning at once.

The teenagers behind me maintained their spirits by hopping out, in turn, and jogging alongside their car as it crept down the road. Two hours later they were still behind me, slouched now deep in their seats with expressions of hopeless misery. I considered going back but couldn’t turn around and eventually resigned myself to my fate.

Then suddenly the traffic broke free, and we were flying again: past Katy, past Houston with its countless exits and bewildering tangle of highways, and on through the little towns to the east. (I traversed Houston many times those months and breathed a sigh of relief each time I made it to the other side.)


The sun was setting as I drove over the bridge into Louisiana. Now I was in the center of Rita’s path, and her mark was everywhere: snapped trees, missing roofs, flattened signs. Government truck convoys roared past in the left lane.

As I drove into Lake Charles, night had fallen. Black silhouettes of billboards and gas stations slipped past. Only the flashing lights of emergency vehicles punctuated the darkness.

We were diverted from the main highway. I dimly made out the battered forms of buildings. Someone on the radio talked about “the resilience of the Cajun people”. We moved slowly as deputies waved us through with glowing batons.

Then we were back on the highway again, east of town. The flashing lights slipped away behind me. I drove on through the now unbroken darkness towards Lafayette.

Baton Rouge shone brightly, full of life. (It had doubled in size immediately after Katrina, swollen with tens of thousands of homeless New Orleanians.) Late in the evening I stopped for gas (hooray!) and food. A game had just let out and the McDonald’s was full of LSU purple and gold. And for the first time on my journey, I heard the unmistakable New Orleans accent. I was getting close.

I heard the accent again in the car as I picked up the first fuzzy signals of hometown radio.* It was a talk show—WWL. Listeners called in lamenting their exiles, lamenting the absence of po-boys, berating FEMA, berating the governor, and—in what struck me as a jarring contrast—talking about the highlights of that night’s football game.

The announcer reminded listeners, “Remember, folks, Jefferson Parish has lifted its curfew for people going to the game, but you must have your ticket stub to get back in the parish. If you don’t have your stub, they ain’t gonna letchya ’cross the parish line.”

I switched stations but got the same talk show. I switched again and got it again. I flipped around the dial. Was my radio broken or was every station broadcasting the exact same signal? For a few disoriented moments I thought maybe I’d slipped into one of those old science fiction movies where the aliens take over the airwaves to announce their imminent world domination—but instead of world domination they were just chit-chatting about inept governmental bureaucracies and turnover stats.

A more sober survey of the dial confirmed that the individual radio stations really had abandoned their respective hip-hop, gospel, oldies, and whatnot formats and consolidated into a single disaster-centric Mono-Radio.

Shortly after midnight I crossed the Mississippi line and passed through the (barely worthy of the term) village of Nicholson. I crossed the train tracks and wove through the strange new utility worker shanty town that had sprung up—dozens of trailers lit bright as day with towering arc-lights—down a gravel road, and pulled up in front of the quiet little house that was to be my temporary base of operations for subsequent sorties into the city.

John came out onto the porch and helped me with my stuff. And in the early hours of the morning in a small house in the dark night of Mississippi we drank trunk-warm bourbon from champagne glasses (the only remotely viable glassware we could find) and talked about all that had passed.



* Though our “hometown” radio was, as it turned out, housed in Baton Rouge for many months.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Post-Diluvian Follies: Operation Thunderdome

There are no gas cans. Does anybody have gas cans? It was, under normal circumstances, a simple goal, but current circumstances were rather strange, and the pallet where they would stand lay bare as people across the storm-battered South horded gasoline.

I was about to drive five-hundred miles east from Austin—across Hurricane Rita’s recent wake—back to New Orleans, still reeling from Hurricane Katrina four weeks earlier.


Austin to New Orleans

Niceties such as functioning gas stations would be scarce at best, and I didn’t relish the thought of being stranded by the side of the highway in a salt-burnt swamp and September heat a hundred miles from any functioning municipality.

But the cans, clearly, were not an option. I scratched them off my list and moved on.


The plan was modest:
  1. Get back in the city
  2. Tarp the roof. (We had reports of its sorry state.)
  3. Secure the doors and windows.
  4. Recover salvageable essentials.
  5. Just generally figure out what the hell was next.
We had spent the previous eternal weeks, the weeks since the storm emptied our city and flooded our house, ping-ponging across the South—Memphis, Alabama, Texas—finally landing in a crappy apartment in a bland complex in the far suburban outskirts of south Austin.

We were train wrecks—too much CNN, too little to do. Whiling away the days in the Land of Progressive Living while our city drowned in its own filth did not suit my temperament. I was bored, anxious, horrified, cranky, and depressed—desperate to do something. But standing water, National Guardsmen, and most recently, Hurricane Rita had conspired against us. We watched and waited.

Now, though, the obstacles were clearing. The waters had receded; Rita had passed; the highways were open again. And though residents were still officially banned from the city, word was the restrictions were only loosely enforced: roadblocks by day but not at night, on one road but not another. Where there was a will, apparently, there was a way.

The days leading up to my departure were full of phone calls and emails back and forth with friends scattered across the country. Who has a generator? Do Joe and Jeff have a generator? Miranda has a generator—and respirators. You can crash at Zack and Ana’s. John will be in Mississippi. He’ll have his truck. Zack might be there. Jeff and Fay will be at Sandy’s. Billy’s dad’s a mold expert; he’s coming down from New York.

On a mid-week afternoon, I sat amidst the chattering hipsters of a sunny coffee shop patio. I felt jumpy. At the other end of the line, Bill Sr. spoke in a head-spinning New York rat-a-tat (which I barely understood over the crackle of my two-bit cell phone, hastily purchased two days after the storm when all New Orleans numbers were dead).

“David, Billy tells me your house flooded.”

“Uh, yeah.”

“Look, I’ve got a crew coming down later in the week, my best guys, a couple of real bulls. We’re making a public-service movie on proper mold-remediation techniques. We don’t want people going into these houses not knowing what they’re doing. And we need a place to film. You’ve got mold, right?”

“Um, yeah… Plenty of mold.” Bulls? What does he mean?

“Are your walls plaster or sheetrock?”

“Uh, plaster.”

“Okay, do you know anyone with sheetrock?”

“Um, I can ask around.”

“And what about people that can distribute this thing? Community groups, public health… people like that?”

“Um, I can ask about that too.”

“And I’ve got some experts coming down later this week to do air sampling—from Harvard and Columbia—best in the field. Do you know a place for them to stay?”

“Um, I’m not sure off-hand, but again I can ask…

“Great. And look, I’m sending you a mask—a really good one—it’ll stop anything. You don’t want to mess around with this stuff. Alright, David?”

“Okay, thanks. I really appreciate it.”

He hung up. I felt jumpier.


I was still wandering the aisles of Home Depot, trying to assemble what I imagined to be some reasonable approximation of the necessary supplies (with the unfortunate exception of gas cans):
  • tarps
  • staples
  • staple gun
  • a set of bright-yellow plastic rain-overalls and matching jacket (for de-mucking the house—and looking ridiculous)
  • rain boots (for de-mucking the house)
  • goggles (I’m not sure why)
  • rubber gloves (for de-mucking the house)
  • duct tape (because one always needs duct tape)
  • bleach (isn’t that what you use on mold?)
  • and a bunch of other crap that I thought might somehow be useful
I had little confidence in my list, but—after sufficient meandering, scribbling, and scratching—I decided it would have to do.

On my way home, I stopped at the dingy neighborhood 7-11 where, to the right of the booty-magazines, I found the Vivarin. Even more than running out of gas, I feared running out of coffee, another nicety of civilization that would be in uncertain supply. My trip would be of little use if, upon arrival, I collapsed under the crushing headaches and debilitating nausea of severe caffeine withdrawal.* And though the chalky little tablets were a poor substitute for my beloved brew, they were infinitely preferable to nothing at all. I made my purchase and returned to the apartment to pack.

* In its early years, I’d felt conflicted about my caffeine-addiction—I am a brow-beaten child of the Nancy Reagan eighties—and in an effort to convince myself of its fallacy, I would sometimes imagine dire scenarios where I was denied my fix. In time, though, I’d made peace with my habit. This is civilization. There’s always coffee. Where’s the problem? But now things didn’t seem quite so civilized. And now my dire scenarios didn’t seem quite so implausible.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Dance, Slimbo, Dance! Post-Diluvian Follies

Zena wants "a funny story from long ago, and a silly quasi-philosophical question":

Happy to oblige.

The funny story from long ago:

How about a recounting of my initial return to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina: the muck, the mold, the misery; the tarps and tribulations and travesties? How about that?

But wait, you say, that doesn't sound funny at all. That sounds bitterly miserable. Ah, yes. Well, that conveniently brings us to our quasi-philosophical question.

The quasi-philosophical question:

I once asserted that "funny" could be interpreted as "bitterly miserable but happened a long time ago". So our quasi-philosophical question is:
Is this true? Is miserable-but-long-ago, in fact, the same thing as funny?
Or is it a subset of funny? Can we (quasi-)formalize it and represent it (quasi-)symbolically? Perhaps:
funny = misery + time
Or is it more complicated than that? (I'll wager it is. Do we need to bust out the Venn diagrams?)*

But let's not debate it in abstract; the proof is in the funny-misery-pudding (or is it a gumbo?).** My tale of post-diluvian follies is a longish one, and blogs are not a length-friendly medium, so I'll be doling it out in convenient bloggy-bite-sized pieces over the coming weeks, starting bright and early tomorrow morning. Don't touch that dial.

* Is the function additive or multiplicative or something else? Are there constants? Is any misery too miserable to eventually be funny, or are all miseries eventually funny from a great enough distance? So many questions. Talk amongst yourselves.

** I actually cooked up this funny-misery-pudding/gumbo some time ago, at pretty much the exact moment when everyone had had their fill of Katrina stories. (Speed and timeliness have never been my virtues. Though in my defense, I was kind of busy doing stuff like trying to get back in our house.) But perhaps the K-fatigue has passed, and with the five-year anniversary fast approaching and a new show giving its take, now's an appropriate time for retro-reminiscences. (And while we're on the subject of "Treme", a note for anyone inclined to compare and contrast: The show is set "three months after" the storm. The events I'll describe occurred at the end of September and beginning of October, approximately two months after. In the hyper-compressed time line of
New Orleans, Fall 2005 , this is a big difference. When I first reentered the city, it was essentially a militarized ghost town. A week later, it was a militarized village. A month later, "Treme"-pilot time, it was a town—a weird little messed up town contained in the shell of a once-big city, with a whole bunch of messed up houses and a lot of Humvees, but townish nonetheless.)

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Joe's Big, Very Exciting New Day: Joe Tells All, and All, and All...



The stories of Joe's genesis are myriad. Here is one, as told by Joe himself:
In the 80s, I was fully enfleshed, a human and a well-known writer, lauded in academic literary circles for my unsparing minimalism, my willingness to flay all linguistic excess from each sentence and strip each story to its structural bones. Then one day, I attempted an autobiography. Subjecting myself to the same incisive scrutiny, I suddenly found myself literally laid bare, a skeletal creation of my own literary logic. I howled and wailed verbose laments, but for naught. And seeing the irrevocable outcome of my folly, I renounced my ways, abdicated narrative control, donned a jaunty chapeau, and set out for a life (or rather, an afterlife) of devil-may-care narrative frivolity. I've had many strange adventures (as dictated by my author-readers), and now once again, I tell my story. (You see, Marco wanted to know my story, but then Slimbo said that Marco and his fellow readers had to tell my story, but then Marco was all like, "I am a reader and I'm saying that Joe's story is that he's telling his own story," and that was logical checkmate, so...) I again place fingertips (or rather, finger bone tips) to keyboard and type:
In the 80s, I was fully enfleshed, a human and a well-known writer.........I again place fingertips (or rather, finger bone tips) to keyboard and type:
In the 80s, I was fully enfleshed, a human and a well-known writer...:
In the 80s, I was fully enfleshed...:
In the 80s...:
In...:

Oh, no! Joe's caught in an infinite narrative loop!* How's he going to get out of this one?!

What's next in Joe the Skeleton's big, very exciting new day?

* You must forgive me. I'm a computer programmer. We love infinite loop humor.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Les Brusiers Avec le Rough 7


Tonight! Starting around 10 p.m or so.

UPDATE: Sorry, guys. We're cancelled. A car didn't want to share the road with Mary's bike, and though she's thankfully (mostly) okay, her arm is in no shape for wailing on the drums tonight. But the Rough 7 are still playing, so check them out. And we'll be playing again soon. See you next time.

Friday, April 16, 2010

How to Win Friends and Influence 5th Graders

Draw a bad-ass of SpongeBob SquarePants followed by a rocking rendition of Tweety Bird.* I'm proud to say that, among the pre-teen crowd, my skills have officially been rated "cold!" (I wasn't quite up to speed on "cold" as a synonym for "really good".** Were you?) I've got an Elmo requisitioned for next week.

* Normally, with all of the busy-busy math-math, there's not much time in class for doodle-offs, but this week was LEAP/iLEAP, the Louisiana implementation of the No Child Left Behind standardized tests, which is itself a drag but allows for some good quiet-fun time each day once the tests are over.

** Another newish-to-me slang-sling: "Gucci" as an adjective, also a synonym for "really good". E.g. "We're Gucci, baby."

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Dance, Slimbo, Dance! Secrets of the Slimbo Revealed

Pookie wants to know how I became Slimbo:

There are myriad stories of Slimbo's genesis:
  1. "Slimbolala" is pidgin-Swahili for "skinny boy with big head who talks too much".
  2. Working in the lab late one evening, I was bitten by a radioactive blog.
  3. There was a time in the early days of something called the Internet when secure websites hadn't realized that most users already had a unique identifier, their email address (an identifier with the particular advantage of allowing those websites to spam their users with updates and promotions), so they obligated their users to make up user names, which was annoying because unless the user had a particularly rare name such as Enrique Frumperdink, all variations of their actual name were already taken, so the user had to do annoying things like add numbers to the ends of his or her name, but then it was hard to remember which numbers to tack on for which website (and subconsciously, our vanity protested: nobody wants to be the 23rd so-and-so; we want to be the one-and-only-one), so some users chose to abandon any semblance of their own names and make up really weird random fabricated user names that nobody else was using. Such was the case with a young gent by the name of David Olivier who, discovering that even his comparatively rare name was often taken, decided to try using "Slim" (because this young gent was what one might call wafer thinwas, not so much is), but this was also usually taken, so he tried the variation "Slimbo", but even that was often claimed, so he tacked on "la", which was the abbreviation of the state in which the young gent resided, but "Slimbola" sounded like an unpleasant virus, so he tacked on another "la", and it turned out that absolutely nobody in the whole wide world was using "Slimbolala" as a user name for anything, and so he stuck with it. And then one day the young gent's wife politely suggested that he find a wider(/alternate) audience for his babbling chatter, so he started a blog, and not giving it much thought (since he never expected it to last more than a week or be read by more than two people), he named the blog (and his blogger-persona) "Slimbolala". And so it was. And so it is.
  4. Slimbolala is not actually the creation of any single auteur but is the work of an infinite number of monkeys (with a fetish for hyphens and footnotes (and parentheses)) typing on an infinite number of laptops for an infinite period of time.
And there are countless other legends, each true in its own way (though some are, perhaps, truer than others), each reflecting some aspect of the ultimate unspeakable truth. So say I.* So say we all.

* "I" in this case being an infinite number of (hyphen-and-footnote-and-parentheses-loving) monkeys.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010


Ann (Sarah's mom), yours truly, June, a baby white tiger (whose name I've forgotten), Sarah, Louise, and a gibbon (whose name I've also forgotten)—another photo from our Miami excursion, though this one was taken not by me but by an animal trainer/MC lady wearing an elaborate enviro-punk-meets-Xena-Warrior-Princess sort of get up (as were all the animal trainer/MC ladies). It was taken at Jungle Island and is, I think, rather cute and very hilarious. (Were you aware that a gibbon is a lesser ape? I don't think I'd like being called a lesser ape.)

Monday, April 12, 2010


Speaking of "places we know", I was pleased that they set the funeral, the closing scene of last night's episode, at the same church I posted a picture of a while back—a curious little church in the obscure neighborhood a few blocks down from uspleased until I realized that I never actually posted it. So now I am. Here ya go. (Okay, that's enough TV talkback to our usual serious fare of gamboling skeletons and earth-art hippies.)

Treme: The First Date

Thoughts, in no particular order:
  • What's it shot in? Some sort of video-made-to-look-like-film something? I'm no cinematographer, but it's definitely something other than the usual something. (You can quote me on that.) And the tight framing and the quick pans? And something curious about the way the camera moves in the close-up shots of the brass band. Definitely something curious.
  • I wouldn't pay nearly so much attention to the quirks of the medium if I wasn't already stuck on the weirdness of seeing our immediate little corner of the world shown back to us, not a far-fetched absurdity too remote to bother with, nor the actual unmediated thing itself as we know it each day, but a closely rendered facsimile: places we know, dramatized versions of people we know, people we know playing dramatized versions of themselves, people we know playing dramatized versions of other people.
  • Some details were too perfect: When Lester Freamon (sorry, I haven't made the transition yet) first opens the door to his flooded house and they flash the shot of the wilted ceiling fan—ooh, boy! I remember that.
  • I'm game. I'll keep with it. I'm happy. They've painted the tableau, established their mode, made the introductions. The long-awaited nervous first date is behind us. Now we hop on the narrative and see where it takes us. What's next?

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Treme

Tonight is the long awaited debut of "Treme", David Simon & co.'s new series about post-Katrina New Orleans, and by hook or by crook, we'll be watching it. (Our household is cable/HBO-deficient, but if we can rebuild a city, goddammit, we can...) We've all collectively been holding our breaths for many months now,* wishing hard: I hope it doesn't suck. I hope it doesn't suck. I hope it doesn't suck. I hope it doesn't suck... But how can it suck? you say; it's made by the creators of "The Wire", the best-est ever-est show ever. Yes, but don't underestimate the allure of New Orleans myth-making and its ability to seduce normally competent individuals into spinning cheesy yarns rife with terrible accents and voodoo and a bunch of gumbo-ya-ya foolishness. For decade after decade, the entertainment industry has rolled out a (nearly) unbroken stream of absurd travesties that tell almost nothing of actual life here. If somebody got it even half right, that would really be something. So I repeat: I hope it doesn't suck. I hope it doesn't suck.... And I am truly hopeful. If anybody's going to get it right, I suspect it's these guys.

On a separate (but equally important) point: What's our "Treme" drinking game going to be?

* And we've all been having our fun for the past months: wrangling third- and fifth-hand scraps of information about the production; catching glimpses of the filming; swapping notes about which friends/acquaintances/folks-about-town are in it or who's been recruited as writers and consultants; enumerating our hopes, judgments, and fears.

** If we can manage a Super Bowl win, a new—hopefully competent
mayor, and a decent show about New Orleans? Dang! That would be a hell of a trifecta for our city.

Saturday, April 10, 2010


(Formerly) white house

Dance, Slimbo, Dance! One House, Two House, Three House, Four

Pudge450 asks me to reveal "The first 5 houses you remember living in..... and 1 weird/wacky neighbor.":*

The first five houses I remember living in:
0. I have a single fleeting visual memory of the lush back yard of our house in Perth, Australia, where I lived from ages zero to two. But I have no actual memory of living in the house, so I won't claim it in the tally.

1. The brick two-story duplex in Evanston, Illinois. We lived on one floor. I remember very little about it except that I think one time I tried or intended to try to ride my tricycle down the steep flight of outside steps. (I believe there was an older instigator involved.) Apparently I survived.

2. Our little apartment in Nairobi, Kenya, where we lived when I was four and five. All of our Christmas decorations were packed away back on the other side of the globe, so we decked the Christmas tree with paper cut-out faux ornaments.

3. The little white house on Kirk St., back in Evanston again, just a block or so from Chicago proper. (This was the era of Star Trek. I was very pleased to live on Kirk St.) It had a big willow tree in the yard that was perfect for swinging on, Tarzan-style. And the interior stairs were covered in thick red carpet and were perfect for sliding down, bump-bump-bump-bump-bump... (While living there, I had a vivid dream that I floated up the steps and around the red-carpeted upstairs. For a while, I was convinced that it wasn't a dream but that I'd actually done it. I had a similar dream/conviction-that-it-wasn't-a-dream about floating the length of the first floor corridor of our apartment building in Nairobi. Kids are weird. Or at least I was.)

4. The little brick triplex in Lewes, England, when I was eight, one of those absolutely typical British brick row-ish houses that were built all over the country and show up in all those Brit shows such as "Keeping Up Appearances". (Bou-quet!) Though the lady we were renting it from had apparently made no great effort at keeping up appearances, and the pervasive brown carpet reeked of dog urine, and the whole ticky-tacky-ish place utterly failed to live up to Anglophilic expectations of charmed English living. But it did have one great merit: It was on the very last street at the very edge of town, and I discovered that if I squeezed through a secret kid-sized gap in the overgrown hedge at the far back end of the lengthy back yard, I could step right out onto the expansive South Downs with open fields and green hills rolling all the way to the horizon.

5. The white-clapboarded green-roofed four-on-four farmhouse near Schuyler, Virginia, where I lived for most of my latter youth (and where my parents still live), built in a hurry by my grandfather and his brothers in the nineteen-teens with timber milled from the farm after the original family house burnt down in the middle of winter. (I think I've got the details right.)
One weird/wacky neighbor. (Just one? Ooh, it's so hard to narrow down! There's the Chicken Bone Lady, or Inspector Gadget, or the half-tranny couple—one tranny, one not—who spite-blasted Donna Summers in the middle of the night—and then, of course, there's the weird/wacky/awful Porno Neighbors—but they were all later, after the first five houses, so let's go with...):
1. The Earth-Art Hippie: Our little corner of Albemarle county (House #5) was a quiet place, populated mostly by quiet country people whose notions of landscaping tended towards old tractor tires laid flat and filled with pansies, or perhaps the occasional plastic pink flamingo. But then came the Earth-Art Hippie, a young hippie gent with (according to rumor) a trust fund and an excess of notions. He bought a property just down the road from us, and (according to rumor) he was going to get himself a bulldozer and sculpt the place into a big earth-art installation. And so he did. (Or so we heard. The property was back off the road and couldn't be seen.) Until he ran out of either funds or notions and abandoned the project mid-doze and moved on and was never heard from again. (Or so we heard.) After his departure, I decided to go scope it out for myself. Earth-art is fine and good, but let me tell you, half-baked half-finished earth art is a big ugly mess: a multi-acre expanse of red-clay dirt, gouged and heaped according to no particular logic, like some massive toddler's wrecked sand-box creation.
Whoop, there it is.

* It might take me until half-past-forever, but I will eventually dance-Slimbo-dance all of my prescribed shimmies-n-shakes. I never claimed speed as virtue. (Slow and steady, baby. Slow and steady.)

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Joe Gambols and Hugs



So Joe's kicking off a big, very exciting new day, and what better way is there to a start a new day than with a big frolicking dose of cute (well, that or a bagel and coffee), and what's cuter than kittens and puppies? Gambol, Joe, gambol! Hug, Joe, hug!

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

South Beach


Window display



White condo with evening sky



White condo with turquoise and coral balconies (and palm tree)



Palm trees with evening sky



Hungry bird



Yellow, red, blue



Pull



Dog with blue collar (and rhinestones), man with red shirt



I'm oddly compelled to take pictures of pay phones.



Purple dresses



Black SUV



I'm oddly compelled to take pictures of rows of motorcycles.



Government Cut, sunset



Two cafe con leches and a cafe cubano



Alley

Sunday, April 04, 2010

So Many Questions

We just returned from South Beach, taking the gals to see the grandma, and despite repeated visits, this place still scrambles my usually confident social readings, leaving me to ponder:
  • Daughter or date?
  • Dad or gay uncle?
  • And so on and so on...
So many questions. So confusing.

Friday, April 02, 2010

For the Birds

So I was walking Penny, and just down the street from our house, I saw a hawk standing on the sidewalk. Weird. As I approached, I realized it was hunched over the carcass of a pigeon, eating it. When I got still closer, it abandoned the carcass and flew up to a nearby wire. Then a murder of crows (yep, that's actually the word) swooped in and chased it off.* Meanwhile, coincidentally or otherwise, a group of (non-dead) pigeons circled large loops overhead.

That's a whole lot of avian excitement for our urban little neck of the (non-)woods.

* Crows apparently hate hawks. Often, as a kid back on the farm, I saw them mercilessly harassing lone birds of prey. (Why? Are they competing for resources? I assume crows are too big t0o big to become prey themselves.)

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Dance, Slimbo, Dance! Joe the Skeleton's Big, Very Exciting New Day

Marco asks, "What's Joe's story?":



Ah, yes, dear old Joe the Skeleton. He once had a big, very exciting day in which he ate a bagel and jumped over some snakes and went insane and got therapy and did a whole bunch of other cool stuff (and let's not forget the time he played in a banjo/accordion/drum buddy duo). But that was a while ago. What's he been up to lately?

But Marco, you know perfectly well, I can't tell you what Joe's story is. You, the readers, must tell me. So it's a brand new day and time for a whole new action-packed plot line. (Joe's days are even busier than Kiefer Sutherland's.) What happens to Joe in his big, very exciting new day?