Monday, October 31, 2005

Happy Halloween!

This picture was taken in Virginia. Louise was tremendously excited about the jack o' lantern. After we lit it she insisted that we all dance around it. That child's a straight up pagan. We didn't make her one. She just is.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Signs of the Times

Now that I know we're leaving, it's easier for me to fully appreciate Austin for what it is. Among it's many charms are lots of cool old signs*:

Lots of cool old signs:

* No, this is not a deliberate product placement paid for by Arby's. I have not sold out. I am not taking money from the nefarious roast beef cabal who is attempting to lure the elusive and coveted Slimbolala market. In fact, I resent the insinuation. Screw you.

Friday, October 28, 2005

I Love It When a Plan Comes Together*

It's all shaping up. A week from tomorrow we head back to N.O. (whoo-hoo!). We'll be renting an apartment (from our darling Miranda) and getting on with our lives: Lulu in her cute little school, me working remotely. And the contractor folks are getting started with the heavy duty work on the house. Very nice. Very nice.

* From A-Team to Wittgenstein, we've got all the references covered, baby!

Back in My Babies' (Plural) Arms Again

I've returned to Austin. C'est bon.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Beaucoup de Blogging

Judging from today's prolifitude, the answer to my question would seem to be "blogging and lots of it!"

Good night.

Barbecue Qua Barbecue

I've recently spent time in several of the nation's major barbecue regions, and I've come to the conclusion that the term "barbecue" is misleading, a misnomer that implies that these widely disparate food items are in some essential way the same thing. By my reckoning they aren't.* I'm no expert on either the detailed taxonomy of the various species or their preparation techniques, but a pork sandwich from North Carolina strikes me as a very different thing from Texas smoked brisket.

Is there a counter argument? Is there some unifying quality** of either method or result that sets barbecue apart from all other foods?

* The genesis of this thought came from a conversation in which someone made the same point about chocolate and white chocolate.

** If we wanted to get fancy (and why shouldn't we), we could point out that Wittgenstein has already covered this territory, although in his particular example he was talking about the definition of games, not barbecue. And his point was that no single unifying quality is necessary. And I agree. So I guess I just refuted myself in my own footnote. Damn!


We Still Got Cultcha', Darlin'

Apparently it's Promote Regional New Orleans Artsiness and All-Around Fanciness Day:

Let's refresh. Where are we at in the redevelopment of the local economy? Bars? Sure. Restaurants? Okay. What next? Bookfairs, obviously. Remarkably, the 4th Annual New Orleans Bookfair is up and running this Saturday.

Alright, I confess. I've never actually been to this particular bookfair, but when they asked me to talk it up I gladly obliged. It's got a bunch of folks from a bunch of punky-funky-indie-zine-y publishers and whatnot, including the folks who published this fine book, so it must be good. It's free. It's from 10 to 6.

And come on. A bookfair, in New Orleans, now. You've got to respect that. If I wasn't in Fort Worth I'd be there with bells on. But alas, I and my bells are here so it is incumbent upon you, you, denizens of our fair city to make magic happen. Show some love. Go forth and be bookish.


My Favorite Grumpy Quote From A Displaced New Orleanian

"Baton Rouge don't know what osso bucco is. Baton Rouge sucks."*
* Apologies to the fine people of our state's capital. My city-mates sometimes become enraged when deprived of their specialty meat products.


Miranda of the Lakes

Our dear friend, fellow evacuee, possessor of the oddest evacuation oddity, and artist Miranda Lake has actually managed to make stuff during this whole debacle. And not just any stuff, good stuff, good art, soon to be on display at a New York City near you.

Go to the Affordable Art Fair, booth 325, and see it. Hell, buy it. Put it on your wall. It's affordable. And you'll like it.

And while you're there, say hello (she's the one with the big, tangly hair). Tell her Slim sent ya'.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005


Live Blogging from Fort Worth!

God forbid I should stay in one place for more than, like, a day. After a single night in Austin I'm now in Fort Worth for a wee spell, traveling for work. It's OK. It's good to have an income again, and it should be only a brief visit.

And it was good to see my old co-workers. I still have a strong visceral response whenever I'm around a group of transplanted New Orleanians. Within the first minute the question inevitably arises, "How's your house?" We share little laments, chat about neighborhoods, catch up. Regardless of our many differences, we share the bond of this exceptional experience.

So, what does one do in Fort Worth?

Sunday, October 23, 2005

I Heart New York

After Baltimore it was on to NYC for a whirlwind day and a half in which we actually managed to see most of the oodles of folks we intended to see (and squeezed in a visit to the new MoMA*). It was exhilirating and exhausting and wonderfully distracting. It was just what we needed. Thank you, New York.

Now we're briefly back in Virginia, reunited with our little lasses (they've been loving the farm life), and tomorrow it's back to Texas. It's been good.

* Go. Go to the Contemporary exhibit. Go to the room with 40 speakers arranged in a circle with each speaker playing the voice of a different member of a chorus singing a beautiful work by a 15th century composer whose name I can't remember. Walk around among them. Get teary-eyed. Feel happy. Enjoy. It's worth the price of admission.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

R U Hungry!

Yes, I am! It's nice to be back in the land of incredibly good delis. And the land of "Jewish hot pastrami", if you know what I'm saying. Heh, heh!

As always, sorry. They made me do it.

Wong Wong*

We're in Baltimore. It always reminds me of another shrinking, impoverished, predominantly black city which is close to my heart. I like it.

* You know, two wongs don't make a wight.**

** Sorry.

Pistol Packin' Mama

There are a lot of guns in New Orleans right now.*

* If I claimed to be a journalist, one might accuse me of being a bad journalist. The above combination of picture intext might imply that this particular mama regularly packed this particular gun. That is not true. Nonetheless, there are a lot of guns in New Orleans right now.


Tuesday, October 18, 2005

I Stayed Through It All


C'est Tres Post-K

John's take on Post-Katrina Chic. I think the red of the guayabera nicely offsets the black of the gas mask, don't you?


Aw, Shucks*

* Sorry, I couldn't resist.

No Pets Found Inside

This is the front of our house. There are similar signs on thousands of other houses across New Orleans left by animal rescue groups: "1 cat rescued 9 - 31", "2 dogs rescued", "cat colony here ->", "3 cats rescued". It's a new feature in the cities already distinctive landscape

I admire what these folks did. They saved the life of our tenant's cat. They saved the lives of thousands of other animals across the city. It was a truly decent thing to do.

I must add this though. Animal rescue folks - big hearts, small organizational skills. The first group broke into our house and actually rescued the cat. That's good. The second group broke in, found no cat, and then spray painted "no pets found inside". Understandable - it's a chaotic situation - lines of communication are jumbled. But while I was there, every day, weeks after the fact, multiple groups of animal rescue folks would come by and, despite the clear marker, try to re-rescue the cat. I would have to explain that it was long gone. They would then try to re-rescue the neighbors cats and I would have to explain that those, too, were long gone. It was actually kind of painful to watch, all those good intentions with nowhere to go. I almost wanted to just bring in impostor cats for them to rescue just to validate their efforts.

Oh, well. Such, sometimes, is life.


Lil' Pumpkin

Saturday, October 15, 2005

This Old House

As I said, I now have photos from that first week available, and it's time for a bit of show and tell. I'm going to forego any effort to post things in chronological order. Let's start with the big stuff - the house:

Dear "John", in front of my battered but standing home. His little scowl is probably a response to the putrid stench that pervaded all of the flooded neighborhoods (that or he's just yukking it up for the camera). This is when we first arrived, that Wednesday. Note the (mostly) brown grass. The floods pretty much killed all greenery. Only a few patches of scrubby, indigenous grass and a couple of banana trees survived.

Things take a turn towards the funky once one steps in the front door. The 19th-century-frayed-at-the-edges-Creole-eclectic ain't looking so good. As I mentioned before, I was prepared for the mold. I wasn't prepared for the disarray, the way things had floated every which way and just been dumped down as the flood waters receded. And the antiques. Sad business. A lot of this furniture has been in my family for well over a century. Some of it might be salvaged in one form or another. A lot won't. The only consolation I can take is that dying in a grand flood, the worst disaster in the nation's history, is somehow a fitting and honest way for old New Orleans furniture to go.

Photo by "John"

The dining room. Yes, the demitasses (a.k.a. teacups) are fine, although the walls looking rather dodgy. And of course I'm wearing the latest in post-Katrina chic, currently a regional trend, though various cutting-edge fashion houses are taking note.

Ah, the kitchen. The foulest of rooms. See how the cabinet doors have curled up (I should mention that the ceiling fan was also drooping in the most Dali-esque manner). And let's not forget the fridge, the big white thing in the corner, overturned and lying on its side. Shudder. A couple days after this photo was taken, I finally got around to tossing it out the back door. As I stood it up, its door swung open and a torrent of flood water gushed out, infused with rancid foodstuffs. I nearly vomited,* and had to rush out to get fresh air.

So how did the rest of the house do? Upstairs on our side looks strangely normal. On the tenants side, the downstairs looks a lot like ours. His side also got a lot of roof damage, so his upstairs is a big, fallen-plaster, mess.

Oh, yeah. And our shed didn't do too good...

Stay tuned. There's plenty more post-Katrina-devastation-fun to come.

* I should mention that the respirator I was wearing generally blocks out even the funkiest of smells, so the unmediated stench must have been simply staggering. Also, lets not spend too much time thinking about the consequences of vomiting into one's own respirator - a wretched first step in some hideous comedy-of-errors chain reaction which I thankfully avoided.



So a lot happened that week and a half when I was in a bloggy-blackhole in New Orleans. I've got gobs of photos and plenty of other little tidbits. I've been intending to post some of them, and now, hopefully, I'll have a chance. I'm not sure what the format will be. Let's just see how it goes, shall we?

Oh, Sweet Jesus!

Life is good. We're on vacation! Whoo hoo! Last night we arrived at my parents farm here in rural Virginia where we'll be for several days, being pampered, getting help with the kids. And then? Then we head up the East Coast for a few more days, alone, sans kids (I love my kids but... ) to visit a slew of friends in various major metropoli. Fantastique!

It's strange saying we're on "vacation". The word usually implies a break from the routine, the humdrum, the everyday. In this case we're taking a break from the chaotic, the rootlessness, the weird - a little dose of the warm and familiar - and a chance to recharge.

Whatever. It's good.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

The Wet People Project

Remember The People Project? Well, it's soaked, but not forgotten. Katrina destroyed a lot, but many things survived. I found this the other day, and was happy to see it. That little notebook held up pretty well. And the ghosting of the images on the facing pages somehow seems exactly right. I wonder where all those people are.

Die, Spambot, Die!

Is it just me, or has the comment spamminng gone berserker while I was away? I've turned on comment verification, so now you have to actually prove you're a human-human-readie-readie before you add your two cents. Sorry, but these are the sacrifices one we must make in these times we live in.

"Home" Again

Great to be back with the famille. Lou's still a wee bit cagou, but on the mend. I sure missed them.

Cagou Lou, fallen asleep in her bath.

It's funny what one can get used to. After two weeks in N.O., Austin strikes me as incredibly crowded, and I'm vaguely thrown by the absence of National Guard patrols.

Oh, check out what the Times-Picayune has to say about me and my mold.* Of course, by "teacups" they actually mean demitasses. But in these times of crisis, all is forgiven.

* And keep an eye out for the bold, new musical, Me and My Mold, coming to Broadway this spring.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Здравствуйте, My Faraway Friends

Weird. My blog is being described in Russian. I hope they're saying something nice.

Texas Bound (Again)!

The gals are feeling better. It took me all day to wrap up what needed doing. Tomorrow I head back to Austin. Glad to have finished this shitty little chapter of my life. Looking forward to seeing my family again. This is the longest I've ever been away from the girls, and I haven't even had a chance to think about how much I miss them. But, boy, do I miss them.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

The Day in Pictures

The weather in New Orleans has turned remarkably beautiful. It had been nasty-hot, but is now mid-seventies, clear, and breezy. This has made working in the house more tolerable. My respirator no longer accumulates pools of sweat. And the city doesn't stink quite as bad.


Lil' Slimbo.


A very nice sunset over my battered, old neighborhood.


Tomorrow I head back to Austin - wrap things up here in the morning and then head there later in the day. The gals are sick. I need to be there. And I need a break from this stuff. Enough is enough.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Smite, If You Will...

...but Sodom and Gomorrah shall rise again!

I mentioned a couple of posts ago that the bars are leading the way to economic recovery. If you follow this logic to it's end, you will deduce that Bourbon Street is the most fully recovered place in New Orleans.

So when we went out last night, that's where we went. And we sat around drinking big silly, excessively sweet drinks (actually I drank bourbon because that stuff is nasty, but anyway...), and we talked about how good it was to see the Quarter coming back to life.

There are two funny things about this:
  1. In all my prior years living in New Olreans, I have never "spent an evening" on Bourbon street. There have been evenings that included brief strolls coming or going from other places, but even those are few and far between. The notion that a "return" to Bourbon Street is a return to normalcy is dubious.
  2. Bourbon Street looks almost like before, but everythings a little weird. It's full and busy, but it's full and busy with National Guardsmen, and off-duty cops, and off-duty reporters, and off-duty contractors. They're acting like tourists but they're not. They're the strange collection of people our city is packed with right now. Besides Fay, Jeff, and I, everyone in our group was either law enforcement or media: N.O.P.D., F.B.I., CNN, ABC. The cops were telling cop stories. The media folks were networking, and swapping media tips. Strange business.
I'm sleepy. It's bed time. I hope to get out of here in a couple of days and get back to my family. Goodnight, and as always, ciao, belli.


Thought you might like to see the steering wheel of my truck. Yummy, no? There will be plenty more pictures to come, once various technical hurdles are resolved.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Gettin' There

I'm still not finding much time to post, but perhaps a brief update:

The house is still overwhelming, but slightly less so. The house is still filthy, but slightly less so. That's good.

Tonight my friends and I are actually going out, as in "on the town", something that might actually happen in a normal city. Lord knows, we could all use a drink. That's good.

Ciao, belli. Much love.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

The Road to Recovery

I'm still in New Orleans. There's so much to do, and I will probably be here the remainder of the week.

I arrived in the area Monday night, a week ago, and entered the city for the first time last Wednesday. My immediate response was joy at being home and seeing it, not on CNN but with my own eyes. It's beaten down. It smells terrible. Large swaths are devastated, blasted out, and empty. But over all it's slowly coming back to life, and that's good to see.

I also saw my house for the first time on Wednesday. It's wretched. I had braced myself to be overwhelmed at the shock of seeing it firsthand, but that actually didn't happen. I had been warned in detail what to expect, and it was actually slightly better than I imagined. Despite everything, being there felt good.

I've been in New Orleans full time since Friday, staying with friends. It's a very strange place to be right now, a large American city with a sliver of its population, occupied by the National Guard. The flooded areas are uninhabited, although during the day there is scattered activity as residents and businesses begin cleaning up.

The areas that didn't flood are recovering more quickly, although there is still a very long way to go. People living there, not many people, but some. A handful of businesses have opened: a drugstore, a couple of restaurants. In practice, the bars are exempt from the curfew and are leading the way for economic recovery. The few that are open are packed every night until well into the evening.

My first few days were spent assessing the state of the house, making phone calls, tarping the roof, and just trying to get a handle on the situation. Now I've settled into the slow grind of picking through our stuff, seeing what can be saved and throwing away the rest. It's sad, filthy, lonely, awful work. I'll be glad when it's over, and the next step can begin.

There's plenty to more to report, but that's enough for the moment. I now have internet access and hope to post more regularly. Until we meet again...