Thursday, August 31, 2006

"Very... Efficient"

The other day, Sarah was in the kitchen, cooking up a storm with four burners going and a meatloaf in the oven. She turned to me and said, "He was right. I am very efficient."

Perhaps, I should elaborate. The aforementioned "he" was a college professor* of mine. And the aforementioned "he" was also... mmm... how to put this delicately?... a catty old queen. I'll call him Dr. Meow Meow.

It was Senior year, and Sarah and I were checking out the brand new fancy grocery store that had just opened up in town. Rounding the bend, we ran into Dr. Meow Meow pushing his little cart full of gourmet goodies down the aisle. We exchanged pleasantries. I introduced him to Sarah. They made small talk about the best type of rice for risotto, the wide selection of mushrooms, etc. Eventually, the chit-chat drew to a close. He paused, gave Sarah one last look from head to toe, turned to me, and smiling coyly said "She seems very... efficient." He bid his toodle-oo and went on his way.


Sarah was, quite rightly, pissed. It was nothing nice, no matter which way you slice it. But time passed, and the claw-marks faded. What had been a rankling source of anger gradually became a running joke. We couldn't help but acknowledge that Dr. Meow Meow's comment, while undeniably bitchy, was also right on the money. She is very... efficient.

Maybe I should get it embroidered on an apron for her. I'm sure she'd love that.

* Yes, Johnny-geeks, I know. "Tutor." Forgive me.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Lil' Monkey

We often jokingly refer to June as our little monkey because she's... well... so damned monkey-like: mischievous, willful, and always getting into trouble. But the events of this morning really sealed the deal. She was sitting at the kitchen counter, eating her breakfast. I left the room for no more than two minutes. When I returned, she had gotten ahold of an entire bunch of bananas, peeled each of them, and taken a bite out of every single one.* Eesh!

Infernal varmint.**

* I guess she's just bananas for bananas.

** "Varmint" is a good word. We should use it more. So is "infernal." We should use it more too.

Signs of Life

Did you know you're missing a book on your shelf? No, you probably didn't. Nor can you be blamed for this omission. The book simply didn't exist until now. But now the book does exist, and now this wrong can be righted. What's the book? Signs of Life. And there are precisely two reasons why you need it:
  1. The book itself: It's a collection of documentary photographs (including several by yours truly) of the hand-made signs that appeared throughout the region after the storm. They range from desperately sad to angry to bizarre to wickedly funny. The signs were (and still are) one of the most striking features of the post-Katrina landscape, and compiled together, they form a remarkable document of the events that unfolded here.
  2. Your soul: All the proceeds go to Common Ground Relief and Hands On Network, two groups doing relief work in the area. Buying this book will assist in the recovery of our region, and it will make you a better person. It's good and good for you.
Learn more about it here. Buy it here. Make it so.

New Year

So The Anniversary has passed. A year later, we're all trying to go about our lives, but yesterday brought a lot of emotions back to the surface. Much of my day was routine. It started with a 6:30 AM meeting with our contractor (which seems somehow appropriate), and then it was business as usual - I didn't make it to any of the public memorials - but a sense of mourning pervaded the city.

My teary moment came at 3 o'clock in the afternoon as I was driving down Broad Street, flipping through the radio dial, and landed on Q93 as a caller was describing the weeks after the storm when he was unable to contact his family and the moment he finally learned his mother had drowned. Unimaginable.

In the evening, lots of friends came over and we ate and drank and talked loudly as kids raced through the house.

And now today feels, to me, like a New Year in a very real and tangible way. One year has come and gone. What has happened has happened. And now we must begin again and brace ourselves to continue the fight. It won't be over anytime soon.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

August 29

I find that I have very little to say today, so I'll say very little. My thoughts are with all the people who lost something in the storm and, in particular, with those who lost everything.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Slim's Word of the Day: "Wodie"

Marco wants more slang, specifically local slang (and what Marco wants, Marco gets), so the word of the day is:
Friend or partner.
It shows up in the lyrics of local rappers such as Juvenile* and is probably derivative of "ward-ie" or "ward-mate," referring to the old municipal wards into which New Orleans is divided.**

* Speaking of Juvenile, does anybody remember that video for his song "Ha"? (If you don't, you can see it on YouTube. I just watched it again for the first time in years). It made a strong impression on me at the time and has lingered in my memory because it appeared on national television at a time when it was extremely rare to see a mainstream depiction of New Orleans that didn't resort to the tired steamy-nights-in-the-French-Quarter-Marie-Laveau-and-Jambalaya clichés. It shows real New Orleans neighborhoods looking like they look today - or, more precisely, how they looked before the storm. (And because it was filmed in and around the Magnolia Projects a few blocks from our house, the neighborhood shots specifically look very much like our neighborhood - the same streets, the same fences, the same signs, the same houses.) Of course, it trades in the old New Orleans mythology for an updated gangster-hero mythology, but at least the latter is more relevant to contemporary life in the city. And visually, the video is right on.

** The wards of New Orleans are a funny business. They're the old city voting districts but now have greater significance as cultural markers of certain neighborhoods than as official entities. The 9th Ward is a little unusual in that that's the primary designation of that neighborhood. Everybody calls the 9th Ward the 9th Ward (and since Katrina, the whole world knows its name). The other wards have less name recognition. People tend to use neighborhood names: Faubourg Marigny, the French Quarter, Algiers, the Tremé, Esplanade Ridge, the Garden District, the Irish Channel, Central City, Lakeview, Lake Vista, Gentilly, Pontilly, Girt Town, Pigeon Town, Broadmoor, Hollygrove, etc. But still, people haven't forgotten the wards. There are endless bounce songs doing endless shout-outs to all the wards. And everywhere I've lived in the city, the neighborhoodod kids always seem to have an intense ward-awareness. They know what ward they're in. They know where the borders are. They know who's from other wards. I have any number of photos of kids flashing their ward signs (index and pinky extended - "11th Ward!"), doing their best little big man impressions.

Thanks, Mothgirl, for introducing me to this little slice of slang.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

One Year

Hmm, as The Anniversary approaches, I find myself looking back over the posts from a year ago. Today is actually the anniversary of my very first Katrina post, an innocent little thing declaring, "I'm sick of hurricanes. At least 'Katrina' sounds like a nasty, Muscovite, femme fatale... Wish us luck." Nasty, indeed. And I though I was sick of hurricanes then...

That was the Saturday before the storm when we suddenly realized this was a thing to be reckoned with, the day we frantically ran around bringing in plants and stashing valuables in the upstairs hallway, eating all the ice cream, and loading up the car; that was the last day we we lived in our house and our neighborhood; that was the day our life took a surprise turn from which it has yet to recover.

It's funny how things work. Sometimes you know when big changes are coming, and sometimes you don't. One day, suddenly, everything is just different.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

And Then There's This...

You might argue that this little bit of YouTubery is callous and insensitive. I'd be hard pressed to come up with a counter-argument.* But I laughed really, really hard. As an official Flooded-Resident-of-New-Orleans, don't I get some sort of special Right-to-Laugh-in-the-Face-of-Calamity exemption ticket? And don't I get extra tickets for my friends and family? Here, have a ticket. Go ahead and laugh.

I guess that 91% dark humor index really pays off at times like these.

* Or you might just find it really silly and juvenile. No argument there, either.

Thanks, Moth Girl.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Joe Seeks Counseling

It's okay, Joe. We all need a little help sometimes. I can't get through a single day without my invisible pet, Lazarillo the Roguish Ape.

<- Previously on "Joe the Skeleton's Big, Very Exciting Day."

Wine Spodee-O-Dee

Apparently, I've established a niche* as the go-to guy for all things Euro-Girlie. I've got a couple of grafs** in Bill Daley of the Chicago Tribune's recent column*** on sangria and wine spritzers.**** It goes a-little sumthin' like this:
David Olivier of New Orleans, a computer programmer, wrote of his affection for the spritzer on his blog, Slimbolala (, but he was frank in discussing the social implications of ordering this drink. He'll never get one in a bar.

"The girlie-stigma is just too strong (my wife just chimed in that even she would probably never order one for this same reason)," he admitted. "And even if I was inclined to drink them in public, there are certain places where it would simply not be an option. No dive bars. Nowhere with a pool table. Nowhere in the state of Mississippi."
That's some good advice, Paw Paw. Although I'm just counting the days until I receive an angry letter from the Anti-Mississippi-Defamation League.

* Do you say the "ch" in "niche" like the "ch" in "chicken" or the "sh" in "shama lama ding dong"? I always go for the latter, but I guess that's the Euro-girlie in me.

** You like that, huh? That's publisher talk.

*** You need a membership, but it's free. Check it out if you're:
  1. Already a member.
  2. Really into booze.
  3. Really into me and need another newspaper clipping for that creepy shrine you're building in your bedroom (you know, the one where the camera zooms in close to show your hand pinning up the clipping, but never pulls back to reveal your true identity to the viewer).
**** The "What I'm Drinking" series has been languishing recently, but that's because I'm still stuck on Micheladas. This probably won't change until some time after Labor Day.

Note: I must say, I'm impressed by the number of links and footnotes this silly little post has generated. That must be because I'm all scholarly and stuff.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006


In other very exciting news, our house (mostly) has walls. Walls! They're the type of thing you'd generally expect a house to have, but for a long time, ours hasn't. Now it does. Walls! They're still a little rough and ready, but they're there. You can't see through them. You can't walk through them. There's functional wiring and insulation and stuff inside. Walls! They have an amazing psychological significance. It actually looks sort of like our home, the place we remember,* a place intended for people for people to live in.


* Today, June saw the inside of the house for the first time since we evacuated. She has no recollection of it. We all call it "the old house." She calls it "the new house." We call it her "old room." She calls it her "new room." Ah, sweet innocence.

First Day

The big little big girl, Number One Daughter, started kindergarten today. She was incredibly excited, then a little bit nervous, then okay. I know she's going to love it.

All the best, sweetie.

Monday, August 21, 2006

What I Saw Friday Night

I stagger forth from yet another bloggy-blackhole weekend, into the harsh, relentless light of bloggy-day:

Do you want to know what I saw Friday night? A 7-year-old playing bad-ass drums at the Circle Bar, along with his father on bass, and his grandfather, South Louisiana R&B hero, Classie Ballou on guitar. And now, through the magic of YouTube, you can see it too! (Well, actually you can't really, because the video turned hellaciously dark once I posted it, but at least you can year it and trust me that it's a 7-year-old.)*

Other things I saw Friday night:

  • A very stoned, middle-aged black guy doing a hankie-shaking second-line dance to a very entertaining middle-aged white guys oldies band in a very sweet and funny mostly-but-not-exclusively-middle-aged-crowd neighborhood bar way downtown in the Bywater.
  • An old-enough-to-know-better woman wearing a way-too-tight black t-shirt with "STAY SINGLE" written in large, metallic-silver letters, a way-too-short, matching, metallic-silver skirt, and way-too-tall, matching, metallic-silver high-heels.
  • Women silently sipping their drinks as their men played video poker on stools nearby.
  • Lots of hats: fedoras, baseball caps, Australian bush hats, bowlers, paper party hats, the full gamut.
  • A way-too-drunk guy passed out asleep on the barstool next to me at a hipster pizza joint way downtown in the Bywater.
  • Nerdy hipster boys silently sipping their Pabst Blue-Ribbons.
  • Two different versions of Proud Mary by two different bands.
I'm sure I'm forgetting something important.

* What's that? This doesn't meet your bourgeois, spoon-fed-by-the-corporate-media production standards? Oh, I'm sorry. But this is guerilla journalism, man! Go home and silently sip your white wine spritzers.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Joe Cracks Up

After battling snakes, Joe decides to freshen up. But when he confronts his own grim visage in the mirror, he experiences an existential crisis.

<- Previously on "Joe the Skeleton's Big, Very Exciting Day."


The porch and steps of a now absent house.

Last weekend, I took my parents on the destructo-tour. I've taken them on it before. They wanted to see what had changed since their last visit. I've taken many other people on it, too. And I regularly go on it by myself. It's not really one tour. It's many tours, many meandering paths through the 80 percent of our city that flooded. One can drive for hours, for days, and not see it all.

We all respond differently to This Thing That Happened To Us. I have friends who struggled at length before bringing themselves to take the tour. It was simply too painful. My reaction is the opposite. I tend to get jumpy, tend to feel weird and disconnected if it's been too long. (Of course, this is less of an issue now that my daily commute is something of a destructo-tour). Neither is better or worse. It's simply how we're built.* For me, understanding in detail the physical form of the damage helps me comprehend it on some other level. I recognize it as awful but also find it weirdly fascinating. It's like retracing the contours of a slowly healing wound, feeling the scar tissue, feeling what's changed, the new contours as each week and month go by.

Although I still don't get it yet. I guess I'll have to keep on taking those tours.

* There were times in the past year when I could quite happily rummage around our gutted, moldy house but could barely read the newspaper. There were times when Sarah felt the opposite.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Joe Evades the Snakes

...slyly slinging over their slithery heads on a conveniently placed trapeze.

<- Previously on "Joe the Skeleton's Big, Very Exciting Day."

Fanny Packs?

I'm thinking of making this a "themed" blog, giving it a particular focus that will draw a desirable demographic of readers and bring in the big advertising bucks. What about fanny packs? Are there any blogs about fanny packs?

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Joe Encounters Snakes on a Plane

Joe continues to the store. But look out, Joe, snakes on a plane! What are you going to do?

You know, Snakes on a Plane and Joe the Skeleton's Big, Very Exciting Day have a lot in common. Snakes on a Plane has snakes on a plane. Joe the Skeleton's Big, Very Exciting Day has snakes on a plane. Snakes on a Plane has been modified in response to audience input. Joe the Skeleton's Big, Very Exciting Day is nothing but audience input. Snakes on a Plane is ridiculous. Joe the Skeleton's Big, Very Exciting Day is ridiculous. See, they're practically the same thing.

I wonder if it's too late to get Joe a cameo appearance in the movie. I'll make some calls.

<- Previously on "Joe the Skeleton's Big, Very Exciting Day."

Monday, August 14, 2006


I was walking Penny tonight, with Louise tagging along on her bright pink bike. A car drove slowly down the street. The driver nodded. I nodded back. He continued down the block, stopped, and then backed up.

"Excuse me. Can you tell me, didn't there used to be some buildings there?"

"Yeah, they burned down in the storm."

"Oh, okay. It's my first time back in the old neighborhood in a year."

"Welcome home."

"Thank you. It feels good."

"I bet it does."

Seriously, I bet it does - first time home in a year.

It's funny how we're all at different places with this thing. Some have been back since the get go. Some are just coming home. Some are still waiting to come home. Some have decided that they're never coming back. Some have been back and are now deciding to leave. There are so many different, personal paths through this giant communal event, all the individual stories adding up to make the new shape of our city and its people, whatever that may be.

Gulf Shores

We're back from our much needed and thoroughly enjoyable respite in Gulf Shores. Going to the beach in coastal Alabama is its own special experience. It's not quaint or fabulous or pristine. It's... well... it's tacky. It's the Redneck Riviera. (I didn't coin this term, and I don't think many of our fellow vacationers would have objected to its use.) It's home to Confederate flag beach towels and lots of very white Southerners with inadequate sunscreen and vivid, splotchy sunburns; thick drawls; gaudy pink bikinis and camouflage caps; bad sunglasses; endless, repetitive, towering, glowing condos; gaggles of Pentecostal teens with long hair and long denim skirts giggling at off-color t-shirts in one of any number of overstuffed knick-knack shops; brassy Bama mamas fussing at their teeny dogs, "On the sand, Cocoa Puff! On... the... sand!"; frizzed hair; bad restaurants; and big, domestic cars. Funny. Obscene. Deeply entertaining. Slightly disgusting.

Gulf Shores is also home to a beautiful state park. The park is a little worse for the wear, having taken a vicious beating from Hurricane Ivan a couple of years back, but it's still beautiful, even if it's now a dead-pine-trees-have-an-austere-grace kind of beauty. And the park has a beach which truly is pristine: sugar-white sand, sea oats, miles of dunes, and the wide open Gulf.

We spent our nights in a cabin in the park. We spent our day on the beach, reading, floating, doing nothing, soaking up that special, wonderful, blissful fatigue that only the beach can provide. And we ventured into town for food and people-watching (making sure, first, to lavishly apply our spray-on sunburn so we would blend in). A little bit of everything. It was perfect.

Friday, August 11, 2006

I Bid You Adieu

My folks are in town for a spell, and they've very graciously offered to wrangle the gals for a couple of days while the lady and I go to the beach. A little rest and relaxation is much needed, and we'll hopefully return fully restored for life in The City Where the Streets Glitter With Broken Glass.

I love my children dearly, but I'm greatly looking forward to being away for a bit. I love my city dearly, but I'm greatly looking forward to being away for a bit.

Ciao, belli. Until we meet again...


Why is it always approximately 50 degrees underground? Why isn't it colder? Is it radiant heat from the surface? Is it radiant heat from further underground? And why is it so consistent? Why aren't there greater variations? I'm not making this up, am I? Geo-geeks, speak up.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Joe Goes to the Hardware Store

...picking his nose all the while.*

* Hey, cut me some slack. I don't write this stuff. And technically, skeletons don't have noses, but we'll let that slide.**

** Since, technically, they don't walk around wearing goofy hats and having big, very exciting days either.

<- Previously on "Joe the Skeleton's Big, Very Exciting Day."

Philemon Baptist Church

Monday, August 07, 2006

Joe Feels Bitter Regret

Oh, Joe, you forgot to buy skeleton keys at the hardware store. So sad. At least the bitter pang of regret reminds you that you're alive. Except, being a skeleton and all, you're actually dead. La-ti-da, such is life... I mean death.

Buck up, little pal. This too shall pass.

<- Previously on "Joe the Skeleton's Big, Very Exciting Day."

Phrase-ology: "Talk a Hole in Your Head"

I just heard the following: "My grandmother, she can talk. Give her a chance, she'll talk a hole in your head."

"Talk a hole in your head," I like it.

It's a Small World

I once taught a college course, Geekery 101. I flunked two people, one of whom I ran into at a party the other night. There were no hard feelings (I think she had only attended two classes the entire semester). Then I was introduced to her husband, who, coincidentally, she had met at one of my band's shows. They now have a three year old son and live in Texas. They were very excited. They took photos.

Funny, huh?

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Joe Drinks Coffee and Enjoys a Bagel

First, I'd like to say, Holy Craperoni! I leave you kids alone for one minute and all hell breaks loose. Snakes? Keys? Boogers? Nudity? That's well and good, but how can Joe possibly accomplish so much without a decent breakfast first? So bagel and coffee it is. Everything in its proper order.*

* Ooh, I'm so excited! This is going to be bigger than Ulysses! Forget Bloom's Day. Joe's Day has arrived! Though in fairness to Joyce, there was only one of him, and there's, like, a lot of us. And he was drunk all the time, whereas, at any given moment, several of us are sober.

<- Previously on "Joe the Skeleton's Big, Very Exciting Day."

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Joe the Skeleton's Big, Very Exciting Day

From the "Slim's complicated ideas that probably won't go anywhere, but what the hell..." file:

Meet Joe the Skeleton. He's a nice skeleton. He's got a big day today, a very exciting day. What will happen? I have no clue. Why don't I have a clue? That's a broad question, but I'll give the simplest answer. Because you decide what Joe does. You say it. I draw it. He does it.* You say something else. I draw something else. He does something else. Repeat ad infinitum (or ad nauseum, if you prefer). Eventually you or I get bored with the game and quit. Then Joe the Skeleton's Big, Very Exciting Day is over.

What does Joe do first?**

* There are probably some sort of sensible principals that would guide this exercise, but I don't know what they are yet, and it doesn't really matter because this is all just going to crash and burn. (Ooh, look at the pretty fire!)

** But go easy on me, okay. I gotta draw this stuff, so keep it simple.

"Bad News"

I like the phrase, "bad news," as in, "that guy is bad news." It perfectly captures that quality that some people have where there's no single thing they do that you can point to as the problem, but somehow, whenever they get involved in something, it all goes straight to hell.*

* Don't worry. I'm not talking about you.**

** Okay, I confess. I really am talking about you.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Thursday, August 03, 2006

The Jennifer Aniston of Olives

I was so funny at dinner tonight. Do you want to hear what I said? Are you ready? We were eating olives, mixed olives. I picked one up and said:
"This is like the Jennifer Aniston of olives - no pit."
Get it? Get it? No pit. No Pitt. Oh, snap! That shite is hilarious. Whew! The Jennifer Aniston of olives... I slay me.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Pop Quiz: Studs Terkel Edition

What's the weirdest job you ever worked?

Extra credit: What's the weirdest thing that happened at the weirdest job you ever worked?