Thursday, December 28, 2006

Le Fille-Garçon

We've decided that I'm not actually a girl-boy. It's just the genetic dominance of my French ancestry.*

Oh, wait. Maybe that's the same thing.

* Surely French men have emphatic opinions about the colors of their walls and the shoes of their wives.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

"I miss being part of a coveted demographic."

Genuine Quotes from Very Small People

"When I a mommy I can drink cocktails." [Swigs from sippy-cup and plunks it down on cocktail napkin.]

"Keep the Party Going"

This morning, as I walked Penny past one of the many hurricane debris pickup crews that still prowl the city, the stop-sign-holding-lady smiled, waved, introduced herself (her name is Rose), and gave me her card. In addition to being a stop-sign-holding-lady, she's a DJ—DJ Million from the Wild West Bank. She does bachelor parties, birthday parties, block parties—anything.

I am completely hustle-deficient myself, but I admire the quality in others.

"A Dix Pack a' Sixie"

Well la-ti-da. Weren't those some busy holidays, engendering a blogless silence that has reigned here for many-a-day. But now I'm back, Jack, ready to go again. So what's in store today? Holiday scraps, leftovers that I never quite got around to. I present to you Benny Grunch's "12 Yats of Christmas"—the video!

This is the only version available on YouTube, and it's pretty much crap (as in filmed-off-the-tee-vee-screen crap). I recommend that you go here for the real deal. (There's a little local new lead-in, but it's brief.)

For locals, this song is a perennial feature of the holiday season (though the video is new to me and adds a strange, magical new dimension). For non-locals it's, well, I don't know what it is—probably a bizarre hodge-podge of confusing references* and weird accents.** Either way, it's a hoot.

* Many of the referents, prominent features of the local Yat-scape were severely damaged or obliterated by Katrina. A while back I saw Richard Campanella, author of this completely bad-ass book, speak, and he made a good point. It's widely recognized that the hurricane disproportionately affected the city's black population. What is less widely recognized is that it also disproportionately affected the city's multi-generational population—the families that have been here for decades and decades. The unflooded historic neighborhoods along the river have a substantially higher proportion of transients and transplants. The hardest hit areas—Lakeview, the Lower Ninth, Gentilly, the East—these are neighborhoods full of families whose grandma's grandmas lived here.

** Long-time readers will recall previous musings on the curious nature of Yat-speak.

Thanks to Ms. Nola and company for doing some of the legwork.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Go! Go! Go!

Every region has it's own special driving hazards: snow, black ice, Bostonians, what have you. In New Orleans it's street flooding. Certainly, flooding on the scale of Katrina's was unprecedented (one has to go back to Sauvé's Crevasse in 1849 for anything remotely comparable*), but flooding of less Biblical proportions is a semi-regular occurrence here.

Take this morning when a steady overnight rain covered many streets with a foot of water. The (typically) short drive to Louise's school turned into a harrowing, circuitous journey, tracing along high ground when possible, avoiding the deepest waters, crossing fingers and plunging through when there were no other choices, watching our wake lap into the yards of houses, hearing the engine splutter and churn as the wake of oncoming cars splashed through the grill and slapped against the doors, gripping the wheel and muttering hopeful incantations.

There are, as I see it, three key principals to flood-driving. Take heed!
  1. Think twice or possibly thrice before diving in. You don't want to be that car (and there always is a that car), the one stalled out in the middle of the street, blinkers flashing, water half way up its door.
  2. Once you start, don't stop! Go! Go! Go!
  3. (If and) when you do make it to the other side, don't forget that your brakes have been submerged in water and are now complete crap, and if you're not careful you'll drive into the car in front of you which has stopped to consider its options before plunging into the next small lake.
Am I forgetting any?

We did finally make it, half an hour late and very wet. (The last block was impassible and we had to abandon ship and hopscotch along the sidewalk through the deluge.) But at least we weren't that car. (One of the teachers, alas, was not so fortunate.)

This message has been brought to you by the Slimbo Foundation, promoting vehicular safety and cheeky blather for all Americans.

* Forgive the random factoid-dropping. I couldn't resist.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

For Your Consideration

My wife

My daughter

The Brutal Humiliation and I

The Magic of Childhood

The magic of childhood is that we get to do lots of things we're bad at, and only after repeated failure (and the corresponding humiliation we experience at the hands of those vicious beasts we call other children) do we actually realize we're bad at them and give them up and try to stick to the stuff that doesn't make people laugh at us.

Bad at Acting

I'm bad at acting, but it took me time to realize this: many years; numerous schlocky school productions; countless hours sitting in rehearsals, watching wide-eyed drama geeks gushingly hyper-articulate the words to "Hello, Dolly", waiting my turn to mumble my line and a half.

The low point of my acting career was an eighth grade production of The King and I. I was a guard. My performance consisted of the following:
  1. Curtain opens. Guard walks downstage and stands far stage right, feet apart, arms crossed.
  2. Guard continues standing, feet apart, arms crossed for the entire duration of the play.
  3. The final scene ends. Guard exits. Curtain closes.
Just to make clear, I had no lines. I stood.

You might say, "but at least you had a lot of stage time." True, performers generally like stage time, but those performers are not eighth-graders dressed only in a red pleather vest and billowy black fake-satin pants.

Somewhere in this wide wonderful world, there might be a person who could pull off this outfit (though I doubt it). It wasn't me. I'm still of a generally slimmish* configuration, but in my younger years I was freakishly scrawny.** I looked like a tacky scarecrow.

The Calculus of Cruelty

Far stage left was another identically dressed guard, Chris, also freakishly scrawny and a fellow member of the T.A.G. class.*** I can only assume that this cruel mirroring was an experiment in social engineering. "Let's take the two skinniest, nerdiest boys we can find, adorn them in garish yet revealing clothing, stand them in front of several hundred of their peers for an hour and a half, and see what happens. I predict mockery."

"And beyond that, my esteemed colleague, I hypothesize a specific degree of mockery wherein the combination of one subject with mock-factor x with a second subject also with mock-factor x will generate a humiliation feedback loop in which the combined mock-factor grows exponentially generating a mockery vortex of unprecedented dimensions!"

Their hypothesis was correct.

* Maintained by a strict regimen of broiled skinless chicken breasts, wheatgrass smoothies, and relentless exercise. You have no idea the pressure I'm under: Got to be thin! Got to be thin! What am I going to do, change my name to "Fatbolala"?

** Sarah says the drawing isn't skinny enough.

*** It was thoughtful of the administration to name the Talented and Gifted class the "Talented and Gifted" class instead of the "Gifted and Talented" class because it so conveniently shortens to T.A.G. which so conveniently rhymes with a common derogatory term for homosexuals. One wouldn't want to make the other children (bless their non-gifted hearts) work too hard to find an abusive moniker to apply to us.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Indices I'd Like to See: How-Stoned-Were-They?

So we were sitting in a pizza restaurant last night, and the Rolling Stones' "You Can't Always Get What You Want" came on the jukebox.* Having relatively recently seen Gimme Shelter, I thought to myself, "I wonder how stoned Mick Jagger was while recording that."

I'd like to see albums labeled with a How-Stoned-Were-They Rating, maybe a little pot leaf down in the corner with the number of leaves highlighted indicating the level of stoned-ness.** There are certainly large swaths of musical period/genre-space where most or all of the participants were notching several leaves:
  • Lots of early jazz and R&B
  • Lots of late jazz and R&B
  • Lots of hip-hop
  • Everything from the late Sixties and early Seventies (except Pat Boone)
  • Everything from Jamaica
  • Everything from K-Fed
Can somebody work on that?

* Or, as June was calling it, the "juice box".

** And we could develop a corresponding slang vernacular. Zero leaves would be a "Pat Boone". Five would be a "Janis Joplin". Or maybe a "Bob Marley". A "Louis Armstrong"? A "Snoop Dogg"? Hmm...

Monday, December 18, 2006

Pop Quiz: I-Wear-My-Sunglasses-at-Night Edition

We'll see how this goes...

Defend or rebut the following assertion:
Bono is a jackass.
Points will be awarded for persuasiveness. Extra points will be awarded to anyone who actually makes it seem plausible that Bono is not a jackass.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

The McGinnys

Sarah and I played Gin the other night. We decided that, for score-keeping purposes, we need proper Gin-playing names. Sarah was Roxie. I was Stan. I thought those were pretty good.

What's your Gin-playing name?

Saturday, December 16, 2006

"What Do You Want to Bring for the Holiday Party?"

"How about potato salad?"


"Well, I could make deviled eggs again."

"Also taken."


"What about candy canes?"

"Okay, candy canes."

Claire E. Who?

A little bird turned me on to a fine poetic form—the Clerihew—invented by early twentieth century British smartass Edmund Clerihew Bentley. A Clerihew usually possesses the following five properties:
  1. It's a brief biography or description of a well-known individual.
  2. It's four lines long.
  3. The first line consists of the individuals name.
  4. The lines are of uneven length (for comic effect—see item 5).
  5. It's funny.
Here are a couple of my initial forays:
Brad Pitt
Was trim and fit
Though, according to more than one detractor,
Not much of an actor.
Kurt Weill
Did rarely smile.
His life was filled with strife.
He wrote "Mack the Knife".
Your turn.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Pop Quiz: Dude, What's Your Dial?*

Answer the following:
What are the preset stations on your car radio? Please annotate.
Here's mine:
WWNO: Public radio—NPR, etc. Also a lot of bland classical music and goofy yucksterism, but I try to avoid those.

WWOZ: The non-profit local music station (jazz, R&B, etc.), a wonderful resource. I must confess, there are substantial blocks of programming that I find barely listenable, but when they're good they're the best. The Monday through Wednesday evening old-school R&B shows are incredibly excellent.

WTUL: Tulane college radio. Helps me keep track of what the slouchy white kids are doing. A solid percentage of the music is grating and annoying, but at least it's a novel, unfamiliar grating-annoying, not the completely predictable grating-annoying of most commercial radio.

Q93: Hip-hop, etc. I like the hip-hop. Of the various mainstream contemporary commercial formats, its pretty much the only one I have any interest in. It's not all good, but I like it better than the other stuff. Though, whenever the silky-smooth trills of a slow jam start, my hand instantly flashes for the dial.

WTIX: Oldies! Oldies! Oldies! I love WTIX. Most oldies stations, owned by big conglomerates, play songs from a very narrow play list, the Overplayed Oldies Cannon. TIX is independent and has lots of charming little idiosyncrasies. Certainly they play plenty of the familiars, but they'll also play local stuff and even some weird obscurities, songs that I've actually never heard before. (Some are bizarrely bad and should be obscurities, but at least they're entertaining.) Plus they still have those old-style harmonized station interludes: "♪ W-T-I-X New Or-lee-anssss ♪".
Your turn.

* Forgive the horrible pun. Is it even clear that this is a pun (albeit a horrible one)?

Thursday, December 14, 2006

What I'm Drinking: Real Whiskey Sours

The latest installment in our oft-neglected series:

First, open your refrigerator, grab that bottle of neon-yellow, syrupy-sweet sour mix, walk over to trash can, and drop it in. Next, acquire the following:

1 rocks glass full to the rim with ice

A healthy pour of bourbon (halfway up the glass or a little more)

The juice of half a lemon

A splash of simple syrup*: 1 tbsp. (dry) – 2 tbsp. (sweet)

Pour the bourbon in the glass. Add the lemon juice and simple syrup. Put the entire contents of the glass into a cocktail shaker. Shake vigorously (as vigorously as you can—the purpose is to both thoroughly froth the drink and crack the ice.)

Once shaken, pour the contents back into the glass. Perch a slice of orange or, since we're in Satsuma season here, a wedge of Satsuma on the rim. (Cut a slice in the middle of the slice/wedge to facilitate the perching.) Drop in a maraschino cherry.

Place on a cocktail napkin, and serve with a smile.

* Simple syrup: Combine equal parts sugar and boiling water in a sealable container (a rinsed-out wine bottle with a cork does nicely). Close and shake vigorously until the sugar is completely dissolved. (It's not a bad idea to wrap the container in a kitchen towel first so you don't burn your hands. You'll need them later to hold that delicious drink you're making.) Use as much as you need. Refrigerate the rest for later; it will last a long time.

Things That Make You Go Hmm…

Why do speedometers mark the fives (15, 25, 35, 45...) instead of the tens. If you answer, most speed limits are marked in fives, I will then ask you, why are most speed limits marked in fives instead of tens?*

Write me up for 125
Post my face, wanted dead or alive
Take my license, all that jive
I can't drive 55!
Oh, yeah!
I can't drive 55!
I can't drive 55!
I can't drive 55!
I can't drive 55!

* I was once in a parking garage where the speed limit was 8 miles per hour. What's up with that?

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Go Fly a Kite

On a summer afternoon a couple of years ago, a hurricane, one of several to clobber Florida that year (Charley? maybe Charley) was churning in the Gulf. While this was unfortunate for our neighbors to the east, we were having stunningly beautiful weather: freakishly mild temperatures in the seventies and a strong, refreshing breeze. It seemed like a good day to fly a kite.

I packed Louise, the kite, and myself in the car, and we drove down to the park by the river. Once there, we discovered that the breeze, while refreshing, was less than ideally suited to our task: one moment, it would surge forward in a gail-like bluster shooting the kite skyward; the next, it would come to a complete stop, and the kite would plummet to the ground.

It was during one of these lulls, while my attention was diverted, that a particularly strong gust shot the kite forward and wrenched its handle from my grasp. I dashed after it, but in a moment it had swept over the river bank and plunged into the river, slowly sinking. Louise burst into tears, and I did my best to console her. After a few minutes, the crying stopped.

Half an hour later, as I sat by the water and she gamboled about in the grass, I noticed a small crowd gathering a little ways downriver. Looking more closely, I saw a kite—our kite—flying in the air. "Louise, come see!"

Sure enough, there it was, hovering above the river. The taut string sloped down at an angle down into the waters and disappeared out of sight, the handle presumably snagged somewhere in the depths below.* "That's our kite! That's our kite!"

It flew for a minute or two, wafting back and forth. Then the breeze slackened. The kite gradually lowered, landed in the water, and once again disappeared. We watched for a bit hoping for another miraculous resurrection, but the kite stayed sunk, and after a bit, we went home.

Legend has it, though, that if you go down and sit on that river bank late at night during a full moon in August and stay real quiet and watch real carefully, you might, you just might see that stubborn ol' kite come a-risin' up outta them muddy ol' waters and fly—fly!—once again.

Today's Moral: Things rent asunder by the winds of a hurricane and delivered to a watery demise can rise up again prouder and stronger than ever before. Until, um, they sink again, finally succumbing to their eternal waterlogged destiny. Yeah, never mind. Stupid moral. Crappy moral.

* I understand how, once airborne, the kite flew around by itself for a while, but how does a drenched piece of plastic floating in a river catch enough wind to get airborne at all? That's the surprising part to me.

You want more stories? You got more stories.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

At the track.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Flatulence in the First Degree

I was on another of my long-distance bus trips, this time from Wisconsin to Virginia. It was late afternoon, and we were driving south, out of Milwaukee. The bus was full. Behind me were two teenage kids, little tough guys from the city heading to who knows where. As we settled into the journey and the sky slowly darkened, they grew bored, and the one directly behind me chose to entertain himself by aggressively, loudly, and repeatedly farting. Each time, this sent them both into paroxysms of laughter, causing them to flail wildly about and violently kick the back of my seat. My occasional not-as-stern-as-I-wanted-them-to-be glares went unheeded, and I resigned myself to my fate,* consoling myself with a silent stream of indignant curses.

This went on for some time, the teens foul shenanigans and my muttered stewing. Then, very suddenly, everything changed. Lights flashed behind us in the darkness and a siren wailed. The bus slowed and edged onto the shoulder of the highway. Were we speeding? The door opened. Police climbed on board and quietly conferred with the driver. Word spread to the back. No, they were looking for someone. My immediate reaction was, "I hope they arrest that kid."**

They arrested him.

The bus was escorted to the next exit where we stopped again in the middle of a large empty parking lot. The police boarded and asked all the women to exit the bus and the men to get out their IDs. They worked their way down the aisle, checking cards one by one. They came to me, looked at my driver's license, and told me I could get off.

Out in the parking lot, passengers clustered around excitedly gossiping. Somebody stabbed someone, and somebody else saw that somebody get on our bus in Milwaukee, and that's who they're looking for. Where they came by these scraps of information I don't know, but they were repeated and elaborated with great certainty and enthusiasm.

One by one, more men came off until only a gaggle of ragtag riffraff remained, those with insuffficient investment in society to bother with the niceties of document-carrying. (This group forms no small portion of the Greyhound customer-base.) We saw the police working through them, asking questions. They too, in turn, slowly straggled off the bus. Then, at last, came my gassy friend, handcuffed and escorted by two policemen, his little associate following close behind.

They were seated in the back of a squad car, lights flashed, and they sped away. The rumor mill churned into action again. He's not the the stabber. He's somebody else. Drug charges. There was a warrant out for him.

We straggled back onboard and found our places. The seats filled again, all except the two behind me. The bus turned back on to the highway and drove south. The road raced beneath us. In time, a hush settled over the passengers and, in that still darkness, my eyes grew heavy. At last, I slept—the deep, fartless slumber of the innocent.

* Greyhound busses are full of crazy people. One must choose one's battles carefully.

** This is the point, when telling the story, that my capital-defense-lawyer friend chastises me, and fair enough. I'm a left-leaning kind of guy. I'm not, in general, a huge fan of throwing kids into a dysfunctional juvenile detention system; there are probably, in most cases, better solutions to societies woes. But repeated farting and kicking will drive a man to abandon his principals and think desperate thoughts.

Ask and ye shall receive.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

"From Da Cakulater"

We recently attended a St. Nicholas party (thank you, Mr. Elf) where the real-for-true St. Nicholas came and gave all the children bags full of goodies and advent calendars with little chocolates behind each door. June is very pleased with this chocolate-yielding calendar and now walks around the house insistently (though slightly erroneously) repeating:
"I wan' chockit from da cakulater."*
* Calculator.

More Genuine Conversations

Child #1: I like Summer.

Child #2: No! No! Summer's not good.

Child #1: Why?

Child #2: Heat makes hurricanes grow!

Child #1: I know..........But my birthday's in Summer.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous

We were living in NYC, and I was temping in Midtown near Columbus Circle. It was the middle of the day, and I was sitting on a bench in Central Park eating my lunch. Nearby, a très très Uptown woman (the giant glasses, the hat—straight out of an old New Yorker cartoon) was walking her très très Uptown dog (big* and very purebred). The dog hunched and did his business. When he was done, the lady reached into her purse, retrieved a tissue, and daintily wiped his ass.**

Oh, you didn't catch that? She wiped his ass. One more time. She wiped... his... ass.

Todays moral:
Rich people are weird.

* This was the 90s. Teeny-tiny dogs had not yet achieved their supreme dominance as the de rigeur accessory of the so-and-so set.

** As my friend righty asked, if you're that rich, don't you pay someone to wipe your dog's ass?

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Genuine Conversational Tidbits

Child: Does everybody have bosses?

Father: No.

Child: Do bosses have bosses?

Father: Yes.

Monday, December 04, 2006

The Bruisers Have Done Ridden

So the show was a hoot and a half. Our set was short* but, if I may say so, really quite sweet.

If I wasn't still so supremely stupid from lack of sleep, I could probably tell you something interesting about it.

* When you're the fifth out of six bands and the schedule has hopelessly slipped—as it always does, these are musicians after all—and you're playing to a club full of parents and the hours are counted in single digits and the collective baby-sitting fees are counted in the many thousands, brevity is a virtue.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Friday, December 01, 2006

The Bruisers Ride Again

Well, after various complicated comings and goings of various members over the past couple years involving various things such as hurricanes and goats, the Bruisers are back. And for our massive reunion gig, we're playing at the Lusher Soirée,* a fundraiser for Louise's fine, fine school. Since both of our drummers were blown west to the Land of Tacos and Barbecue we're now a lean, mean trio: Mary, Jason, and myself. (I don't count Arturo the Bongo Playing Monkey because, belonging to a lesser species, he has no soul and cannot technically be considered a member.)

Of course, times have changed, and in this new post-Katrina landscape, our patented brand of fun-lovin' honky-tonk-garage-sumthin'-sumthin' no longer seems relevant, so we've got a brand new bag: epic atonal soundscapes (to which Mary will perform her dramatic, Noh-inspired juggling routine).

Either that or we'll get really messed up and start an onstage, intra-band fight.

Or maybe both—I'm thinking both. Whichever way, it's going to be huge.

Check ya later!

* In addition to our humble selves, there's a whole slew of other fine acts including some that are actually kind of famous.

The A-Team Sequence

Don't you wish life had A-Team sequences? You've come up with a plan, but there's a lot of tedious, menial work that has to be done to implement it. Daaa-da-da-daaa! The high-powered music kicks in, and a whole bunch of people do a whole bunch of stuff really quickly. Two minutes later, your helicopter crafted from barbed wire (or whatever your plan may be) is done.

Can somebody make that happen?