Tuesday, July 31, 2007

...of Two Eighties "I'm-a-Foreigner"-Schtick Weevils

a) Balki

b) Yakov Smirnoff
Place your vote (for the lesser—a.k.a. "better"—of two weevils).*

* I find this one particularly brutal.

House-A-Day: White Behemoth

white behemoth

This house is a couple of blocks over, a grand white behemoth (of uncharacteristic stone-ish blocks in a neighborhood dominated by wood) that stood untouched until just two months ago. Since then, they've gutted and resurrected on a mammoth scale. (Really, they hauled out an amazing amount of stuff: soggy homework, Mardi Gras costumes, bolts of fabric, old albums...)

It's a massive project*—a massive amount of money—and I wonder, even with insurance payouts, who has the resources for such a huge undertaking in such a relatively humble stretch of neighborhood.

* It was in a sorry state even before the storm.

Monday, July 30, 2007


Long time readers will know I have a fetish for photographing random houses. I've decided to formalize this wayward tendency into a proper series in which, each day (for as long as I wish, with as many omissions as I like), I post a photo of a house from around the neighborhood along with whatever commentary seems relevant.* Choice of houses will be determined by the whizzing and whirring of my whim-cortex.

The series will—hopefully—serve two purposes. It will
  1. allow me to indulge my fetish in a healthy and structured manner.

  2. provide an anecdotal snapshot of the state of the neighborhood.

And though it doesn't qualify as "random", I think I'll start with our house. I've posted photos at previous stages of recovery, from foul shite-hole, to gutted shell, to on-the-mend. Now we're at something like full fruition:**

our house, from the middle of the street

The flowers are blooming. The willow tree is willowing. The porch swing is swinging. The bamboo is shooting skyward. (And our new tenant is putting us to shame with his chock-a-block balcony-ful of plants.) I must say, I think it all looks pretty good, and I'm feeling rather house-proud.

We've come along way, baby. Next house tomorrow.

* I have no idea whether this will interest anyone else, but at least it keeps me off the streets. Well, actually it keeps me on the streets. But it keeps me on the streets in a sort of off-the-streets way.

** Though the picture doesn't show the backyard's wasteland of rusting paint cans and scattered concrete chunks. (That's the next big project. There's always more.)

Friday, July 27, 2007

Plastic People

Here's what I'm wondering. When you see folks with scary plastic surgery—strange, plumped-out lips; taught, shiny faces; teeny, implausible noses—is it:
a) the shoddy execution of an inherently plausible vision?

b) the successful execution of an inherently scary vision?
In other words, did the patient want something different, but the doctor botched the job?* Or did the patient want something weird and got exactly what they wanted? Both? How much of each?

Inquiring minds want to know.**

* A good plastic surgeon must, I assume, have a good eye, not just good technical chops, and I'm sure a lot don't have it. (I vaguely remember hearing some story somewhere... NPR...? Isn't that where I get all my information...? about plastic surgeons taking art classes to improve their aesthetic sensibilities.)

** Don't feel compelled to back your answers with facts and references. We're perfectly content with idle speculation.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

An Eye Perfectly

Yesterday, Louise presented us with this drawing:

It illustrates, as she explained it, the various things a person should be able to do before they grow up:*
  1. write the alphabet
  2. write their phone number
  3. write "you"
  4. draw scissors
  5. draw an eye perfectly
  6. draw a mouth perfectly
  7. draw a star perfectly
  8. draw a lamp
Looks like she's all set.

* We've seen a similar sort of list before.


I spent yesterday lollygagging in bed, smitten with an achy, feverish malady I contracted from a certain grubby little three-year-old. Normally, I don't much care for spending the day horizontal, suffering some dreary ailment, but this time I had a whoppin' huge fresh-off-the-presses Harry Potter book to keep me company, and let me tell you, it wasn't so bad.*

* Fortunately, I wasn't cursed with any of the more noxious symptoms that might have slowed my page-flipping. (Otherwise, I wouldn't have gotten to the part where Harry discovers his true calling as a sequin-and-rhinestone-encrusted Vegas magic act. Oops...!)

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

On the Cat Walk*

I've mentioned it before, but Delilah follows Penny and I on walks—not every time, but often (whenever she's not busy dozing in a patch of sunlight).

Penny sniffs out the lead; I follow a leash-length behind; and Delilah brings up the rear a quarter- to a half-block back, warily ducking under cars, perking her ears, scanning for danger, and when the coast is clear, silently scurrying forward on her swift kitty-feet.**

It greatly amuses the neighbors. Ladies on porches nod, "There they go." The kids around the corner stop their games and murmur, "...el gato." Workers, sipping their end-of-day tall-boys, laugh out loud, "Ain't never seen nothing like that."

It is pretty funny. Now if I can just figure out a way to cash in on this feline spectacle of ours...

* I shake my little tush on...

** She's a brazen little kitty, and though our usual circuit stays close to home, we sometimes venture far afield. She'll follow the whole way, carefully scouting the unfamiliar terrain, detouring into overgrown yards or poking her nose into gutted houses to sniff the musty air.

Monday, July 23, 2007


Yesterday, we went to lunch, as we do every Sunday, with my aunt Annou. This time, for the first time since it was flooded by the storm, we went to Mandina's.

Other places have their indigenous versions of the old-school restaurant, but the particular confluence of traits found in Mandina's—and other's of its ilk—is distinctly local:
  • A dark wooded interior that looks indeterminately old even though it's newly remodeled.
  • A mix of fancy and un-fancy. (The patrons' attire ranged from Sunday-finest to shorts-and-tees. The waiters wore standard black-and-whites with bow ties.)
  • Lots of kids.
  • A basketful of plastic-wrapped crackers and little packets of butter.
  • A gruffly chatty waiter with a tremendous neck-roll who asked lots of questions ("How'd you all make out in the storm?", "Are you back in your house?") but promptly forgot the answers and asked the same questions again next time he came to the table.
  • Strong-ass martinis (on the rocks, local style—it suits the climate).
  • One table over, a first-cousin-once-removed-in-law.
  • Two tables over, a family that held hands to pray, then took another sip of their Sazeracs.
  • Three tables over, a middle-aged woman with lots of cleavage having lunch with an elderly nun.
  • Iceberg lettuce, bleu cheese dressing.
  • Turtle soup.
  • Soft-shelled crab served two different ways.
  • A mix of really good and sort of old-fashioned funky. (My Italian Salad would have been better without the canned asparagus and cocktail onions.)
  • Lots of crabmeat.
  • Po-boys.
  • Strong-ass coffee and chicory.
  • Bread pudding.
It was good.

...of Two Family-Oriented Weevils

Okay, we're journeying into new frontiers of crap:
a) Full House

b) Growing Pains
Place your vote (for the lesser—which is to say the "better"—of two weevils.)

Friday, July 20, 2007

#1 Cud Power!

Driving to work this morning, I followed behind a large family-mobile. Somebody had written the following on the back:
#1 Cud Power!
What is that? Sounds gross but kind of intriguing. I'm pretty sure I'm on board. Yeah, let's go! Cud power! But closer examination revealed a different reading:*
#1 Cub Power!
Oh, sports. That makes more sense.

I confess, I was disappointed. Can we make the "cud power" thing happen anyway?

* The uppercase "D" turned out to be a lowercase "b" with a stubby extender.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Na-Na-Na-Na-Na-Naaa-Na-Na Boom-Boom-Boom

The young singer-songwriter turns six today. My goodness, that's even older than five. Happy birthday, lil' darlin'.

"Flowers are Green..."

I felt compelled to post this video of the gals trying to wrangle their way out of bedtime by composing and performing a song. I'm not sure what I find funniest:
  • the song itself
  • Louise's explanatory prologue
  • June's accompaniment

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

...of Two Geographic Weevils

By request:
a) Kansas (the band)

b) America (the band)
Place your vote* (for the lesser of two weevils... which is to say the "better" of the two... such as it is... because there's been some confusion... but hopefully we're squared away).

* I confess, I'm completely out of my league here. Kansas... America... When were they? What kind of hair did they have? How'd they dress? Were there synthesizers? A little or a lot? Oh, right
... that horse song.

Un Poquito Taco

It was a slow day at the taco truck (the rain), and the taco ladies were chatty:
"¿Hablas español?" the grandmother-ish one asked me.

"No," I shook my head.

"¿Un poquito?" she asked, holding her thumb and forefinger together to indicate a little bit.

"Un poquito taco"—a little Taco—I said.
It got big laughs.* Then they quizzed me on the precise extent of my Español/Taco knowledge: buenos dias? buenas noches? frijoles? queso? arroz?...

* It's good to be in with the taco ladies.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Thumbs Up

It was a weekend of domestic bustle:
Saturday: I spent the day figuring out how to Sheetrock our tenant's ceiling (the consequence of a plethora of plumbing troubles I won't bore you with).

Sunday: I dodged raindrops and weeded the front yard, amassing a serious heap of dead greenery. (We're new to gardening and didn't quite understand this weeding thing. With the summer rains, our neglected yard was rapidly returning to its primal state, but I've discovered I actually like weeding, and it's much better now.)
As I crouched and tugged at a ferocious clump of crabgrass, a family strolled by, looking intently at our house and talking amongst themselves. The father said to me:
"It come out good, man.”
It was the most recent of many compliments I’ve received from all sorts of folks as I rooted around the yard in our all-sorts-of-folks neighborhood: grandmas shuffling by in their slippers (“gettin' it right”), mustachioed burn-outs from down the block (“you got a nice house, man”*), shirtless dudes in headphones (thumbs up), and a gamut of other nameless neighbors.

I like that sense of shared pride, that a step forward by any of us is a step forward for all of us, that we're all in the same boat** as we make the slow climb back from flooded ruination. (I'm the same way. I murmur some eager affirmative to myself—"alright"—every time I see a newly gutted house or a newly tended yard.)

* With “man” rendered burn-out-style à la Jeff Bridges in The Big Lebowski, a drawn-out nasal “m-a-a-a-n”.

** Though “boat” may not be the best metaphor. “All in the same below-sea-level trough”? Hmm, doesn’t quite resonate...

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Ripe, Red, Delicious

"Daddy, your knees are just like tomatoes."*

* But rendered in three-year-old-speak: "...jusht like tomatoesh." I, for one, take issue with the characterization.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Honking, Dodging, Weaving

This afternoon, as I darted between the erratically swerving cars along the narrow twisting lanes of S. Broad, I thought to myself, I'd make a good cabbie. I could easily imagine myself nimbly navigating the traffic tumult of some large city, sussing out the best route, knowing all the secret tricks and short cuts, honking, dodging, weaving.

I would make a good trucker too. I'm perfectly happy driving long distances without a break, and I never give up the driver's seat during road trips. My mother is the same way. My uncle actually was a trucker, and though he's now retired, he sometimes drives the trucks that haul the NASCAR cars just for the sheer love of it.

What would you be, if you were other than what you are?

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

...of Two "Municipal"* Weevils

a) Chicago (the band)

b) Boston (the band)
Place your vote.

* Would their entire oeuvres make the playlist?


This morning the front page of the paper announced that the DC Madam's phone list included the number of our self-righteous family-values senator. "What is that word, snackenfreude?" Sarah asked. "I think you mean schadenfreude," I responded.

But perhaps there's a coinism here:
malicious joy in the bad snacks of others

Monday, July 09, 2007

Sunday, July 08, 2007

You Just Might Be in N'awlins, Darlin'

As I walked Penny this morning, I noticed a large brown smudge in the street. It was a cockroach run over by a car. Can this be the first in a series of corny underdog-pride jokes?*
"If the roaches are big enough for roadkill..."

"...you just might be in N'awlins, darlin'."

* à la "you just might be a redneck" or "you might be ghetto".

Saturday, July 07, 2007

What I'm Drinking: Lillet and Soda with Lime

We've mused on the virtues of Lillet before. Now we're enamored with a new variation: Lillet and soda with lime.

Top a rocks glass with ice. Fill two thirds with Lillet. Add club soda to the top. Squeeze in a wedge of lime. Drink.

A touch sweet, but not the least bit cloying. Perfect in the heat. You'll like it.

Friday, July 06, 2007

...Before the Shopping Horse

I've lived places where people conscientiously return shopping carts to the appropriate spot, diligently wheeling them back and tucking them in the stack. That's not how it works here.

Clearly the consensus is that shopping carts are an open-ended courtesy, and the public may do with them as they see fit. Responsibility for recovering them falls squarely on the store-owners. And not just from the far reaches of the parking lot. With a large car-less population, carts tend to stray far into the surrounding neighborhoods* where they are left and eventually picked up by the truck that patrols for them.

Many never make it home at all but are adopted for a new life in a variety of creative uses including but not limited to:
  • Bus stop bench
  • Bicycle sidecar
  • Transport for surprisingly large furniture
What have you seen shopping carts used for?

* With recent security improvements, this practice has slowed but not ceased.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

I Make the Cut

Some places have lots of young people bars. This place has lots of old people bars, often enforced by a "No one under thirty-five" policy.* Whoo! I make the cut. At last I can realize my dream of whiling away the days, sipping on Crown and Seven and talking about nothing as classic R&B plays in the background.

* I thought of this on Fourth of July Eve as I walked past "Silkys", and it was hopping with lots of very sharply dressed folks (and nary a thirty-four-year-old to be seen).

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Happy Fourth

Cake by the Rock-A-Lady. Decorative assistance by yours truly.

Monday, July 02, 2007


June came home from day-camp saying she'd seen a movie about an elephant, "Gumbo."

"I think you mean 'Dumbo'."


"No, I'm pretty sure it's 'D..."


Words, Words, Mere Words

I think the world is divided into two types of people:
  1. People who pay more attention to the lyrics.
  2. People who pay more attention to the music.*
I'm definitely in the latter camp. It's not that lyrics don't matter; it's just that I don't always give them a whole lot of conscious attention (unless they suck, in which case I wince, shake my fist, and yell at the radio). If they're good, they might sink into my brain without much notice (where they'll jumble together with lyrics of other songs and turn into one of my unintentional mash-ups). I deeply love many songs that I couldn't recite more than the briefest snippet of.

But I know people for whom lyrics are first and foremost, who know exactly what a song is about after the first listen, who can recite every line from their childhood favorites, for whom the music is a means of transporting the all-important words.

Which type are you?

* Of course, it depends on the specifics. Some songs are intrinsically more lyric- or more music-centric.

Patchwork City

The New York Times has published the first of a series of articles on New Orleans' slow, stumbly, but persistent recovery:
Patchwork City: Largely Alone, Pioneers Reclaim New Orleans
It's good. (I think it strikes the right balance.) Read it.


For the past few years, Sarah's primary occupation has been raising adorable rapscallions,* but she is, by training and background, an urban planner. This is a town that needs planning, and since the storm, she's been eager to throw her hat into the ring, roll up her sleeves, and set this city straight.

It's been a long road: federal jobs whose funding vaporized on the first day, programs that never quite got off the ground, a variety good ideas and good intentions that fizzled as the powers-that-be scratched their heads and tried to figure out how to deal with this huge mess.

But Sarah is now officially a Rockefeller Fellow, one of the "best and brightest urban development professionals" enlisted by the Rockefeller Foundation "so that the city can accelerate its recovery and rebuilding efforts." It's a two-year program administered by the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Urban Redevelopment Excellence, a combination of professional training from various national redevelopment big-guns and hands-on work with local government and non-profit entities.

Good job, darlin'. Go get 'em! (Now we just need to figure out what to call her: Rockefeller Lady-Fellow? Rock-A-Lady?...)

* Well, raising adorable rapscallions and navigating the administrative tangle of rebuilding our house: insurers, contractors, lawyers, failed governmental bureaucracies, etc. (It's been something close to a full-time job.)