Monday, February 27, 2006

Lundi Gras

It was a busy weekend of old friends, late nights, early mornings, huge parades, crazy crowds, and overstimulated children. Today is Lundi Gras when we slow down, clean up, and put the finishing touches on costumes before rolling out bright and early tomorrow morning.

Until we meet again...

"Hobos Rule!"

Speaking of the Lost Painting at the End of the Earth, enquiries have been made as to how the Hi Ho faired. We drove past the other day, and I don't know if they're open - their sign is missing - but somebody has spraypainted "Hobos Rule!" on the front of the building. Somehow, that seems about right.

"Will You Marry Me"

Yesterday, one of the riders in Thoth proposed to his ladyfriend in the crowd. She accepted, and he tossed her a gigantic, white teddy bear.

Man, chicks these days will do anything for a good throw.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

"Are Chickens Real?"

Louise asked me today, "Are chickens real?" At other times she has asked this same question about:
  • knights,
  • dragons,
  • Kimodo dragons,
  • dinosaurs,
  • unicorns,
  • elves,
and a myriad of other beings. I like being reminded that the all the little bits of empirical knowledge we take for granted as self-apparent actually have to be learned one by one (with lots of very funny questions along the way).

Friday, February 24, 2006

Back in the Saddle Again

Three items worth mentioning from last night's parades viewing:
  1. This guy:

    one of Krewe of Chaos's lieutenants, fell off his horse right in front of us. In all fairness, the horse did give a little buck, but large quantities of booze probably also played a role. The parade stopped for several minutes as cops swarmed around and checked him out. When he finally stood up, waved, and hobbled away, the crowd cheered him like an injured, hometown quarterback.
  2. Many of the flambeaus were Hispanic. This probably means very little to people elsewhere, but it is a significant marker of the changing face of New Orleans in these strange times.
  3. Muses, as always, was fantastic - best krewe ever. Go sassy, smart ladies!

"Mommy, What's This?"

Biking home yesterday, I saw this doll in the trash:

Cute, huh? But you know what would make it extra cute? A third eye, normally hidden under its yarn-hair, but now exposed since the hair has become detached. Oh, wait. It's already got one:

Yowsa! I'm imagining the moment when little Sis discovered it and went into a berserker screaming fit. No wonder its in the trash.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Live and Let Die

Devoted snake lovers might want to sit this one out:

As a young lad growing up on the farm, I had regular contact with all sorts of verminous creatures. One morning as I was walking down to the road, I met a copperhead snake slithering up towards the house. I'm generally a "live and let live" kind of guy, but in my book, poisonous snakes hanging out in the yard is strictly an "us or them" affair. I turned around, walked back up the driveway, went to the toolshed, and grabbed a hoe. I walked back down to the snake, and, with a swift thunk, chopped off his head (this wasn't hard to do - he was taking his own sweet time).

Now, if you've ever beheaded a reptile (and, really, we've all been there at one point or another), you'll know that things get kind of weird once the head is gone. It kept going, sans brain, up the hill. At first, it maintained its former pace. Then it gradually slowed. Twenty minutes later it was still inching along (naturally I watched it the entire time), and finally it stopped.

With the hoe, I carefully picked up the head and carcass and walked back up the hill, intending to throw them on the roof of the chicken house where my dog, Prince, couldn't dig them up and eat them. First, I lobbed the head onto the roof where it landed with a tinny plink. Then, I heaved the carcass onto the roof. Suddenly, reanimated by the hot surface, it sprang back to life, violently surged forward off the roof, landed in the grass at my feet, and headed straight towards me.

I leapt back, emitting a high, girlish yelp, grabbed the hoe, heaved it high over head, and frantically chopped the snake into little bits. Like a scene from a horror movie, the pieces briefly wiggled and twitched, then died. Panting and bug-eyed, hoe at the ready, I watched them. For a long time.

The pieces didn't inch back together and reform as an unstoppable zombie snake. They didn't each turn into a new snake and swarm me. They were dead. Finally, convinced of this fact, I individually picked them up with the hoe and tossed them back on the roof.

They stayed.

The end.

Ain't No Party Like a Drunken Toddler Birthday Party 'Cause a Drunken Toddler Birthday Party Don't Stop*

I should mention that June's b-day party on Sunday was a topnotch hoe-down. Our little home away from home was packed with the finest caliber of folks. The adults sipped mint juleps. The kids were wild with sugar. A good time was had by all.

And Nik has posted some very cute photos of that merciless slaughter which is more conventionally described as "unwrapping the presents" (thanks, darlin').

* "Drunken" is intened to modify "party," not "toddler." There's undoubtedly some grammatical jujitsu which would allow me to more clearly communicate this, but I'm feeling lazy. Interpret it how you will.

Behold! I Now Present to You...

the Lost Painting at the End of the Earth!

Ana, my partner in crime, has graciously sent me a photo of it for me to share (she offered to send the real thing, but I like her having it). So there you see the deer, the bunny (that blurry white patch in the foreground - I had a hard time figuring out how to paint white objects in watercolors), Appleberry Mountain, and the apocryphal red-roofed cabin peeking over the hill on the right.

Well, it may not be the world's best painting, but it's got a pretty good provenance.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

The MAX Band

Our first post-storm Mardi Gras, like everything else these days, is shaping up to be a confusing mix of "just like old times" and "huh, that's kind of weird." This weekend we saw our first parades. The schedule was a slightly different from other years. Saturday there were five parades scheduled back to back. I thought, "Five parades? This is going to be huge." But the day was a little chilly. Then the parades rolled by. Each was only a few floats with one or two anemic school bands sprinkled in. All in all, it added up to one not particularly good parade on a normal year. This seemed like an ominous start.

Sunday, Louise and I went to the parades again. As we approached St. Charles and Napoleon, we heard the drums start to roll. And they weren't the limp, half-hearted tappings of the day before. They were thundering and precise. Then, as the band rounded the corner, the horns blasted their opening fanfare. My heart started pounding. "That must be the MAX band." I picked up Louise, and we frantically ran the last two blocks to catch them.

The MAX band is a perfect example of the sort of improvisation people have resorted to in the wake of the storm to keep life going. The city's school population is decimated and so are its school bands, but three schools, St. Mary's, St. Augustine, and Xavier Prep have consolidated into one campus. And their bands, three of the best in town, have consolidated as well. Boys and girls who studied separately and marched separately are now in one big, co-ed jumble. The uniforms aren't fancy, but that's alright. The band is huge and they're fantastic: the drum majors, the horns, the drums, the pom pom and flag girls. Perfect. I'm going to schedule my whole Mardi Gras around seeing them play.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Minor Setback... Major Comeback!!

Bags of ice emblazoned with Mardi Gras themed messages of revival, I love it. How are we going to bring this city back? We're going to paaarr-tay!

Quote of the Day

"Dad, if you turn this music down, I can think better, and I want to think."

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Two... It Was a Very Good Year

Today June turns two. The day kicked off with this conversation:
Louise: June, it's your birthday!

June: Feet! (points at her feet)

Louise: June, it's your birthday!

June: I have feet-sies!

Louise: Happy birthday!

June: (Points at her feet again) Yay!
Well, regardless of the source of cheer, she seems to be in an appropriately celebratory mood. Happy birthday, girlie-girl!

The Winter Olympics - The Very Faintly Off-White Olympics

Wow. Just a couple of days ago, I was joking that the Winter Olympics should change its slogan to "The Winter Olympics - The Whitest Olympics." Though this is still overwhelmingly true, it's now ever so slightly less true than it was at the time I made the joke.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

The Feral Cat

Tonsorial Week* continues. Today's style? The Feral Cat (your wish, Ms. Nik, is my command):

There is some controversy as to whether the Feral Cat can truly be considered a hairstyle, with many arguing that it is merely a gross misapplication of the veterinary sciences (others, still, have claimed that it is black magic, though this is entirely false).

To achieve the desired effect, an actual feral cat is captured, starved, and taunted, whipping it into a terrified frenzy. It is then dropped on the head of the customer where it tightly clings to his or her scalp, refusing to let go. Over time the feral cat grafts to the customer's head. Its vascular, digestive, and nervous systems gradually intertwine with those of the customer. Ultimately, it is impossible to tell where the feral cat ends and the customer's actual hair begins.

It is most popular among balding men.**

Next up:
The Spittle and Blackstrap

* In the traditional Gregorian Calendar, a week lasts precisely seven days. In the Slimbolian Calendar, it lasts precisely however goddamn long I say it lasts.

** Though it also had a brief heyday as the "it" hairdo among British club kids in the early Nineties.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Portrait by the Artist as a Young Woman

Dad was called Big Bug. I was called Lil' Bug. I'm thinking, perhaps, Louise should be called Shutterbug (and naturally June is Junebug). She has inherited my old camera, my first-generation Canon Digital Elph, now called the "kiddie camera" (thanks for the new one, ma and pa - if you really are my ma and pa). And she's run with it. Here are a few choice samples from the first batch:


Backyard pastoral:



My left foot:


Damn fine. Damn fine.

Carnival Time

A good article in the NY Times about the state of the city as Mardi Gras rolls around:
Mardi Gras Set for City Stripped of All but Pride
The parades start this weekend. We're working on our costumes. I'm so excited.

Pop Quiz: Name That Team

Welcome to an exciting new weekly feature here on Slimbolala, "Pop-Quizzes-With-Not-Particularly-Incisive-Answers-That-Reveal-Absolutely-Nothing-About-the-Deeper-Truths-of-Human-Nature Friday." Enjoy:

This guy walks past the coffice several times a day:

He looks like he got kicked out of the Rolling Stones back in the Sixties because even Keith Richards thought he was doing too many drugs. But in odd contrast to his washed-up-rocker chic, he always wears a sweatshirt emblazoned with the logo of a particular NFL team.

Pop quiz: Which team? I'll give you a hint: it's pretty random (read, "not the Saints"). As always, there is only one right answer and many, many wrong answers. You'll probably get it wrong, but then life is rarely more than a series of misguided failures. Why should this be any different?

Good luck.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

"You're a Fucking Ape"

Welcome to a new weekly feature here on Slimbolala, "Anecdotes-That-Don't-Really-Go-Anywhere Thursday" (we don't call it Pointless Ephemera for nothing). Enjoy:

As I sat outside the coffice, two men in their twenties walked up. They were big and thick and loud and stupid. As best as I could figure out, they did some sort of construction work (doesn't everybody these days?), something involving deafening machinery and toxic fumes. They were smoking huge cigars. I thought, "Wow, Neanderthals can smoke!"

The dominant (and exceptionally slope-browed) one, I'll call him Alpha, was mercilessly bossing around the other, Beta.
Alpha: Yeah, get me something really strong but not too expensive. Maybe cold. Something cold.

Beta: They got like frozen drinks.

Alpha: Nothing too expensive. But strong.

Beta: Okay.
Alpha held Beta's cigar as he went inside. Beta returned a few minutes later.
Beta: Here's your coffee, man. I got you a quadruple espresso.

Alpha: Is it cold?

Beta: No.

Alpha: That's alright. What'd you put in it?

Beta: Oh, I'm sorry, man. Nothing. What do you want?

Alpha: Like four sugars and some milk.
Beta went inside, finally returning after several minutes with the properly prepared espresso.
Alpha: What took you so long?

Beta: Oh, man, I...

Alpha: I'll tell you what took you so long. You're a fucking ape. (ed: Ain't that the pot calling the kettle black?)

Beta: No, man. I...

Alpha: No, I was watching you. You're a fucking ape.

Beta: I...

Alpha: You're a fucking ape.
They sat in silence.
Beta: So what do you want to do for your birthday.

Alpha: I don't know. Go to some bars.

Beta: Okay.
They sat in silence.
Beta: Are you growing a beard?

Alpha: It's not really a beard. I just haven't shaved in while. I think I'll trim it back, but I'm going to keep something for the ladies.
A young woman walked by, taking no notice of his non-beard. They stared. They continued to sit in silence. Eventually they left.

The end.

See, I told you it didn't really go anywhere. But this is the Oughts, baby. Linear narrative is for l-o-s-e-r-s.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

"You Know, a Frog Shop"

Apparently I still give off that hip-to-the-frog-scene vibe. Some kid in a Grateful Dead tie-dye (I didn't know anyone still wore those) just asked me for directions to the nearest head shop. Cheeky monkey.

Look, Ma! I'm a Squirrel!

I said my parentage was unambiguous, but now I'm not so sure. Let me tell you about a dream I once had, the first dream I can remember:

It's set in Perth, Australia, my home for the first two years of life. I'm walking with my (biological) parents along a straight, two lane road high above the city. On either side are short grassy embankments, then cliffs plunging straight down a mile to the city below. As we walk, I suddenly turn into a squirrel, slip down an embankment, and plunge over the cliff into open air. I fall down to the city, return to human form, and am adopted by my new family (curiously, my adoptive parents look exactly like my biological parents - this detail never troubled me).

For several years of my early childhood I simply assumed that this was a memory, not a dream, and that I was, in fact, adopted. Only later, as my empirical knowledge of the world grew and I learned that transmogrification is exceptionally rare, did I conclude this was a product of my unstrung toddler-imagination.

But now I'm wondering if there was some truth to it. Ma. Pa. 'Fess up. Did I really descend from the skies in the form of a small, bushy-tailed rodent? Could this other Mr. Olivier be my biological father who I parted company with on that lonely highway so many years ago? I need to know.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

"I Might Be Your Father"

Earlier this week we received a strange message on our answering machine. An old man's warbly voice came on the line, "This is a message for David Olivier.* I might be your father. Please call me." He didn't leave a number.

Later the phone rang. Sarah answered.

"Hello, I'm trying to reach David Olivier."

"Sorry, he's not here right now."

"Okay. Well, I'm trying to reach him because I think I may be his father."

"Uh, this is his wife, and... well... um... you're not his father."

"Oh, okay. Thank you."

A short while later the phone rang again. It was a nurse from the man's nursing home in northern Louisiana. She explained that he had not seen his son for decades after a nasty split with his wife but for the past week had been trying to contact him. He was concerned that the mother might not have told his son the true story, and he still believed that I might be him. The last he had heard, his son had been working at Arnaud's restaurant in the French Quarter.

Sarah explained that I had never worked at Arnaud's and that my parentage was pretty unambiguous. She also suggested contacting Arnaud's directly for more information. The nurse thanked her, and that was the last we heard of it.

* That's my name in case you're wondering.

"It's in the Mail"

I'm not joking about the mail system. It's still effed up. Letters typically arrive weeks or months late. For a long time there was a moratorium on all periodicals. This has officially been lifted but remains de facto in effect. We are considered exceptionally lucky for having received three New Yorkers in the past three months (I know, I know - it's tragic).

Somebody, call up Condé Nast and tell them to arrange an air drop. What a beautiful thought: thousands and thousands of magazines fluttering down from the heavens like so many cultured, chic, and fabulously up-to-date doves.*

* And don't worry, Mr. Lawyer Man. We promise not to sue if one of them clunks us in the head.

Mucho Amore, Mes Amis

I have sent you all adorable homemade Valentines shaped like hearts with lace edges and glitter swirls, accompanied by boxes of Sweetheart candies imprinted with sometimes cheeky, sometimes clever, sometimes tender little messages. Unfortunately, due to the vagaries of the New Orleans mail system, they may not arrive until never.

Monday, February 13, 2006

"Just a Closer Walk With Thee"

I ain't a wuss or nuthin', but I find myself getting teary-eyed at an exceptionally high rate these days (I suspect this is a common symptom among my fellow citizens, though I haven't asked). It happens at odd little moments, often while reading the newspaper (particularly while reading the excellent but painful "Lives Lost" series memorializing people who died in the storm). It happens at other moments too, when I stumble on some little reminder of what our city went through, or some unexpected sign of life coming back.

It happened most recently on Saturday, when Louise and I ran into a jazz funeral honoring the ten members of Zulu who died in the storm. It was my first second line since being back, and damn it was good to see.


I've lived here a long time, but I still encounter regional phrases that are new to me:
"Okay, Claribel. It sounds like you're all set, but if they start crawfishing on you, let me know, and we'll straighten it out"
Let's have a definition:
craw·fish v. To back out of an endeavor (like a crawfish trying to back out of a pot of boiling water)
Got it? And as always, your homework for today is to use it three times in casual conversation.

Friday, February 10, 2006

"You Know, a Frog..."

It was Freshman year. Several guys on my floor had managed to scrounge up a keg. It was also Alumni weekend. Several of the particularly lame alumni had gotten wind of the keg and crashed the party under the erroneous belief that it was perfectly cool for a bunch of middle-aged men to mooch beer off of and get drunk with a bunch of eighteen year-olds.

At one point, an exceptionally freakish alumnus (he would have been perfectly cast as one of the aliens in Buckaroo Bonzai) cornered me, leaning into my personal space, and hoarsely whispered, "Hey, man. You got a frog?" I stared at him blankly. "You know, a bone?" I continued to stare at him blankly. A bone? Is this man coming on to me? Then I understood. Oh! "Reefer." "Doobie." "Ganja." "W-e-e-d." He's looking for a "joint." He'd seen my (at that time) mid-back length hair and concluded that I was "hip to the frog scene."

"Sorry, man. Can't help ya."

I like how anything can be drug lingo. And given the proper context, any drug lingo, however unfamiliar or bizarre, can be understood. Is there anything that won't work? How far is too far?

"Hey, man. You got a..."
  • "toad?"
  • "lizard?"
  • "femur?"
  • "tibula?"
  • "Jamaican cannoli?"
  • "turkey leg?"
  • "twig?"
  • "glowing finger of E.T.?"
  • "swizzle stick?"
  • "chicken?"
  • "green bean?"
  • "rocket ship?"
  • "portal to an alternate dimension?"
  • "Shama Lama Ding Dong?"

"Sorry, man. Can't help ya."

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Back to the Future

Fly on, Little Wing! Now, we not only have phone service at our residence but internet too, actual honest-to-God, highspeed, wireless-fidelity internet. No more chiseling my blog posts into stone tablets and mailing them to my service provider. No more weekend bloggy-black outs (unless I'm actually blacked out or just plain lazy - both are viable possibilities). Now I can serve up my hot, steaming nuggets of quality content at any hour of day or night, whenever the mood strikes. I'm writing this post, for example, while curled up in a fetal position under our dining room table (I find I do my best work that way). Slimbolala - 24/7. Shazam!

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

"You Don't Just Roll Out of the House with a Messed-Up Fade."

Welcome to Tonsorial Week here at Slimbolala. KP has requested a picture, and what she wants, she gets. So, voila!

The Fade. I hope, KP, it's everything you dreamed it would be.

And stay tuned for the rest of Tonsorial Week. We'll be covering other exciting styles such as:
  • The Even Steven
  • The Reverse Fade
  • The Ultra-Mullet
  • The Shama Lama Ding-Dong
  • The Feral Cat
  • The Day After
  • The Condor
  • The Reverse Condor
  • The Bowery Boy
  • The Cathedral
  • The Spittle and Blackstrap
  • The Hellraiser
  • The Chunker

Am I forgetting anything?


Big changes are afoot in the Slimbo household. Perhaps you didn't know, but before her stint as Mrs. Mom, Sarah was an urban planner. And guess what. New Orleans needs planning! So my lovely lady is rejoining the work force. Lookout, forces of blight and chaos. Begone, anarchy and bad zoning. There's a new sheriff in town! From the moldy ashes of Old Orleans will arise a new and visionary city of the future: Sarah-opolis!

Exactly how will she be applying her mad planning skillz? Why, she'll be the liaison between FEMA and the city planning department. Yes, I know - equal parts "wow" and "yikes." You can't get much more in the thick of it than that. But somebody's got to do it, and it might as well be someone who's extremely smart and capable and loves our city.

Also, I'll be quitting my day job to function as her full-time kickback coordinator. Just joking, Mr. FEMA! We don't take kickbacks, but we do take requests. I've requested that the city not turn our house into greenspace, but that they do put some greenspace in the neighborhood - like a lovely little park right across the street (sorry, neighbors - get your own damn urban planner).

I've also requested that the French Quarter be put on a giant, revolving pedestal providing breathtaking views of the river and surrounding environs. Think about it: the tourists will love it, it's resistant to flooding, and it will be really super-ultra-futurismo-bad-ass-cool like the Jetson's.

So, if there's anything you want, just let us know. The sky's the limit, baby!

Monday, February 06, 2006

The Annotated World of Louise

Don't understand your kids any more? Feel like they're living in a different world? Well guess what. They are! To learn more about this strange kinder-world, study the following illustration produced by a real child and annotated by trained kinder-world specialists:

Click for larger image

So next time your child isn't listening to you, don't take it personally. Realize, they're probably just distracted by the fairy floating outside the window or the giant, disembodied heart in the sky. Maybe they're watching a watering can hover over the ground. Or, if they're more pragmatically inclined, they're probably wondering how this year's Meyer* lemon and vegetable crops are going to fair.

Really, who can blame them.

* Yeah, I just realized I spelled it wrong in the illustration. Sue me.

Year of the Dog

New Orleans East was a weird place even before the storm, a huge swath of filled in swampland stretching eastward along Lake Ponchatrain for miles, stretched out like an arm from the city-center. It only developed in recent decades, and much of it is still empty swampland. Though technically part of the City of New Orleans it feels decidedly un-urban.

And Little Vietnam was always one of the strangest places in this strange suburb, a cluster of development almost 10 miles away from the city center: a handful of shopping malls, surrounded by a few residential streets with lowslung, brick ranch houses, all populated by Vietnamese immigrants and their children, centered around the Vietnamese Catholic Church that was instrumental in bringing many of the immigrants over.

Now, after the storm, Little Vietnam is certainly one of the weirdest places on Earth, an island of rapid revitalization amidst miles and miles of grey wasteland. And this weekend, amazingly, they held their New Year's celebration. We went.

After driving for twenty minutes past blasted out subdivisions and shopping centers, we rounded a corner and were suddenly confronted with overwhelming life. We parked, and entered the church compound. There were booths set up with all sorts of activities: games, stands with trashy knick-knacks, an "Acupuncture Disaster Relief Team" carefully inserting needles into the ears of elderly Vietnamese nuns and other festival goers. A cheesy, Anglo cover band blasted bad renditions of "Mustang Sally" and "Proud Mary."

We came to see the sights, but more than anything we came to eat. I got us all big bowls of Pho Bo (beef and noodle soup). As we looked for a place to sit, a large family waved us over and gestured next to them. They were incredibly friendly. They gave us fried bananas and water. We, in turn gave them boiled duck fetuses (fetui?) that I had bought for the girls under the misguided impression that they were conventional boiled eggs.

The father and I got into a lengthy conversation about many things including soup preparation, advantageous qualities in wives, and, eventually, the rebuilding of his community:
We learned this from our parents and our grandparents. We ran from the North to the South and lost everything. We ran from the South to America and lost everything. This time we run from Katrina and lose everything. But this time is easier. This time we had a little help from the government. Before we had no help. We had to do it all ourselves.
I tell you, there 's nothing like talking with people who have really been through hell to give a bit of perspective. These are dark days for our city. The obstacles to recovery continue to mount. But people have been through worse and survived. We can't forget it.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Ken Mart

The Chicken Mart's sign took a beating. I'm wondering which is going to be a more viable rebuilding plan: repair the sign, or retool the business to sell small, plastic dolls of closeted, gay men.*

* You absolutely have to follow that Ken link. It will make your day. Or it might ruin your day and give you bad dreams for a week. I'm not really sure which, but at least it won't be boring.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Speaking of Barbershops...

For some reason, this article in yesterdays Times-Picayune on the appearance of improvised, outdoor barbershops in the city makes me extremely happy:
Making 'do
My favorite quote?
"You don't just roll out of the house with a messed-up fade. That's not how we roll in New Orleans."
Somebody should write a history (a hair-story?) of post-Katrina hair: the neglected refugee 'dos, the bad cuts in unfamiliar cities, the extreme lengths people went to to find their old stylists. I remember, one of the first things I rescued from my house was my hair-clippers, and it gave me deep satisfaction to hack back my nasty Texas-shag.

Harold's Barber & Snack Shop

Barber and snack shop?* Is that even legal? What are the hygiene protocols? Are there business efficiencies gained by merging these seemingly disparate industries? Hmm.

* No "hair-pie" jokes, please.

Being and Foolishness

I like to eavesdrop. Yesterday, as I was sitting at the coffice, I honed in on a nearby table. They were a strange pair. She was young, earnest, and weepy. He was old, bearded, and obese, wearing a button down shirt tucked into sweatpants. I strained to hear their conversation, trying to determine the nature of their relationship.

At one point they both stopped to talk on their cellphones. I could hear her. "Oh, I'm at the coffee shop. I'm meeting with my ontologist." Pause. "He's a doctor who..." The rest was undecipherable.

Ontologist? Did she say "ontologist?" Certainly she said "oncologist." Poor dear. She's too young to have cancer. But no, it was definitely "ontologist." What can she possibly mean? Let's consult the dictionary:
on·tol·o·gy n. The branch of metaphysics that deals with the nature of being.
That's all well and good if you're sitting under a tree in Ancient Greece or hunched over a desk in 19th Century Germany, but it hardly seemed relevant to the current circumstances.

More eavesdropping confirmed that her malady was one of the spirit, not the body. It also confirmed that ontology has gotten a lot groovier since its stodgy old days in the ivory tower. I couldn't get the whole flow but did catch little tidbits from her: "Judeo-Christian...", "Scientology...", "finding peace in myself...". He was harder to hear, but I would occasionally get a real gem: "I don't think you know who you are. I think you know you you're not. Most people think they are who they're not..." He would flip through a large three ring binder and hand her various pamphlets. At the end of the meeting she pushed several twenty dollar bills across the table to him.

This ontology thing seems like a pretty good gig. How does one get trained? What are the accreditation boards? Earn good money while wearing sweatpants? Come on, you can't beat that.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

163 Words?

I generally avoid overtly political statements on this blog, but today I'm making an exception. 163 words? For the largest natural disaster in the country's history? This man is lost, and he's slowly killing us.

"I'm Sorry?"

Sunday afternoon I biked around Central City, a once bustling, now quiet black neighborhood near my house, taking pictures. As I was headed down Simon Bolivar, a Latino man approached me to ask for directions:
Man: [incomprehensible]
Me: I'm sorry?
Man: [incomprehensible]
Me: Say that one more time.
Man: wine... store...
Me: Oh, wine store? Like to drink? [I make the international tip-the-hand-up drinking gesture] Um, uh, I guess Louisiana Discount Market. Go to the light. Take a left. Go a few blocks. It's on the left.
Man: [tentatively nods]
Me: Okay?
Man: Wine... store...
Me: Oh, Martin's Wine Cellar! Martin's Wine Cellar?(a heavily damaged store where he presumably had a job)
Man: [tentatively nods]
Me: Oh, okay. Go through the light. Take a left on...
I hadn't travelled a hundred feet before a truck with three workers pulled up. The man sitting in the middle asked:
Man: [incomprehensible]
Me: I'm sorry?
Man: [incomprehensible]-eee-ana.
Me: Say that again?
Man: Loo-eeez-eee-ana.
Me: Oh, Louisiana Avenue! This is Washington. Take a right. Go to the next light...
I don't know if they understood a word I was saying. I don't know if they ever found where they were going. One thing is clear. Somewhere in the migrant worker handbook it says, "When lost in an unfamiliar city, ask the white guy on a bike for directions."

Misguided-Hipster-Run-Amok Greazy

Speaking of greazy, I regularly see this guy with the greasiest hair you can possibly imagine. He's seems like a perfectly decent fellow, but it's out of control. And it's not a natural, bless-his-heart, biological misfortune kind of greasy. It's a deliberate, I-think-this-looks-good, misguided-hipster-run-amok greasy, as if, each morning he opens up the bottle of Wesson oil, pours out a quarter cup, drizzles it over his scalp, and works it in with his finger tips. What's up with that?*

* Does anybody remember the Saturday Night Live skit where Jerry Seinfeld hosts a terrible, "observational humor"-comedian game show and the contestants have to guess the right joke. They always end everything with "what's up with that?" Or something like that. I'm fuzzy on the details and too lazy to Google it, but I remember it was brilliant.