Thursday, August 30, 2007

Into the Sunset

We ride, this evening, into the sunset, headed to Austin for a long weekend with our dear friends blown west by the storm. (It's all curiously reminiscent of our own exile nearly two years ago.) I'm drooling in anticipation of my first heaping plate of Texas barbecue. (I'd say "tacos" too, but those are now a near-daily fixture of my diet here in Nuevo Orleans.)

Adios. Until we meet again...

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Two Years

Good Lord, is it really? These dates slip up on one.

It's different from last year. Last year was fraught and raw; this year, the wounds have healed a bit. And we're in our house. That's huge. But it still feels like an early chapter in a long book.

We're not doing anything huge to mark the day. (When the storm's impact is a continuing daily reality, elaborate commemorations feel superfluous—maybe in ten years.) We're just going over to friends for red beans and rice.* That seems about right.

* And to see our friend maybe/possibly be on Oprah.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Rain, Rain, Come and Stay

rain, rain, come, and stay

I (secretly) like our (justifiably infamous) summers here. And what I like best are the afternoon thunderstorms that grace us many days like clockwork. But this August there was nothing—hardly a drop—and it was awful: relentless blinding white heat and merciless humidity.

The rains came back Sunday. The birds knew something was up and flocked outside our bedroom balcony in noisy throngs: a crow, a mockingbird, some turtle doves, and a swarming flock of starlings. (June recovered my bird book—she'd previously horded it—and insisted that I identify them all.) As the sky darkened and the first drops fell, the starlings grew silent and arrayed themselves in a strange, precisely regimented row along the telephone wire a hundred or more birds long.

Then it rained in earnest. The birds disappeared. The girls donned their raincoats and danced gleefully on the balcony.

It was a dance-worthy occasion.

Monday, August 27, 2007

House-A-Day: House, House, House, House, House, House, Church

House-A-Day: House, House, House, House, House, House, Church

I tell ya, I'm a sucker for that late afternoon light. (It conveniently coincides with my evening dog/cat walks which is when I seem to take most of my pictures.)

We've seen this church before.

Friday, August 24, 2007

House-A-Day: Orange You Glad

house-a-day: orange you glad

The adjacent house is almost identically styled, but yellow instead of orange. Somebody's got a serious vision going on.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

A Tick-lish Subject

The other day, Sarah and I got into a debate about how country I was. (Between you and me, I'm really not that country, but I'll be goddamned if I'm going to let some woman from Miami tell me so.) She cited a variety of my big city affectations, but then I bust out my trump card:
Once as a boy, after a long day traipsing about in overgrown fields, I removed eighteen ticks from myself in a single de-ticking.
Wha-bam! That's country.*

* Perhaps you're thinking, "Wha-bam! That's gross." You're not country.

Joe Beats the Heat

Joe beats the August-ennui with a Hansen's Sno-Bliz (cream of nectar) and a troupe of fan-wielding monkeys. Can't do much better than that.


House-A-Day: Tear the Roof Off the Sucka

house-a-day: tear the roof off the sucka

This house is next to this house. Until recently, it had a roof (a sorry excuse for one, but a roof nonetheless). Now it doesn't. But the crisp stack of plywood to the left hints that it probably will once again.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

House-A-Day: Turquoise Down

Our anti-house sub-series continues:

Well, that's one less in the toothpaste-turquoise column. (And it's got to be a bad day when a house falls on your truck.)

Monday, August 20, 2007

Joe Feels the Heat

Joe is suffering from August-ennui—it's hot as blazes, there's nary a drop of rain, and not much has happened in a while.

What should he do?

House-A-Day: Steps and Stones

I believe there's a House-A-Day sub-genre, anti-houses if you will—houses that have more or less ceased to be. Plenty of homes were in questionable shape before the storm. Sometimes Katrina sealed the deal.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Friday, August 17, 2007


  1. If you don’t have any tattoos, and you had to get one, what would it be?
  2. If you do have tattoos, and you had to get one more, what would it be?
  3. If you do have tattoos, and you had to take one away, what would it be?

House-A-Day: Pale Yellow

Ionic columns, my my.

Posts-About-Something-Close-to-Nothing: Casseroles

If there’s one word I’d use to describe this blog, it’s “extreme”. True, our existing standards are already pretty low, but let’s make them extremely low. Hear our cry—Extreme Semantic Minimalism! We will smite the Shackles of Meaning with our mighty hammer of Posts-About-Something-Close-to-Nothing.*

Growing up in Virginia, casseroles were a common part of the culinary landscape. But the other day, Louise took a test-like-thing, and one of the questions was about casseroles. She didn't know what a casserole was, which is not surprising. She never eats them. These days, not that many people do. The Golden Age of the Casserole is undeniably over.

Should we be sad? (I think I might be. A little bit. A little bit.) Should there be a museum? With real casseroles? Preserved for eternity? What would you put in it?

Not nothing, but something close to it.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

House-A-Day: Ramshackle Eclectic

house-a-day: ramshackle eclectic

All old houses evolve. Some evolve a lot. In very funky ways. (And yet, somehow, I like it.)

Words I'm Liking: "Fop"

I like:
A man who is preoccupied with and often vain about his clothes and manners; a dandy
I like it for two reasons:
  1. Good meaning. I'm all for folks looking sharp, but everything is best in moderation. And there's always that guy who doesn't seem to know when to leave well enough alone and gets the too-too jeans and the too-too shoes and the too-too shirt and a whole lotta accessorizin' and crosses the line from looking sharp into vainglorious preening peacockery.
  2. It sounds hilarious (in a way that perfectly suits what it describes). Fop. Fop. Fop-fop.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

House-A-Day: Don't Block Driveway

house-a-day: don't block driveway

Somehow, it doesn't seem like a problem.


A very short list of significant developments in the lives of my children:
  • June: Going to her new, lovely little daycare—the one we weren't even going to look at because we were sure it wouldn't have any room but we asked just in case and for some magical reason it did.
  • Louise: Going to her not new but still very lovely school. First grade, my my.
  • June: Learning to swim—a frantic, dog-like thrash (stay clear!), but swimming nonetheless.
  • Louise: Learning to jump off the diving board. (Louise has many wonderful qualities. Brazen physical daring is not one of them. This was a major accomplishment.)

Sunday, August 12, 2007

House-A-Day: In the Details

house-a-day: in the details

How much would those would wood details cost today? (How many people now even know how to make that stuff?) But they still grace many anonymous old houses in many obscure corners of our city.

Drawings-of-Stuff-Around-the-House-I-Feel-Like-Drawing: My Gas Mask

I'm starting a new series, Drawings-of-Stuff-Around-the-House-I-Feel-Like-Drawing. It is (as you might imagine) a series of drawings of stuff around the house I feel like drawing. First up, my gas mask:

It was bequeathed to me at a time when I was spending much of each day amid freakishly high toxic-mold spore-concentrations. Now it hangs on the back of the study door, serving as a quiet reminder of that (thankfully) bygone era. And as a means of amusing/frightening children.*

Note: The dangling tube is designed to screw into one's canteen for toxin-free drinking. It also works as a cocktail straw.

* I do parties—Anthrax the Terror Clown and His Balloon Animals of Doom. Very reasonable rates.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

House-A-Day: Lemon-Lime

house-a-day: lemon-lime

I like the color-coordinated fence.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Contest of Cartoon Captions*

Why should the The New Yorker have all the fun?** Let's have our own cartoon caption contest. I draw. You caption. (We'll see if this works.) Today's illustration:


Submit your entry.

All submissions will be judged by a panel of monkeys in top hats and monocles (each possessing an achingly dry wit that far surpasses your own). Winners will be awarded our grubby, thumbed-through back-copies of The New Yorker.

* Note the unique name. No lawsuits here, nosiree.

** Because you know that place is cray-zee: late night fact-checking parties, ribald puns about ampersands and tildes, uproarious debates on the comparative merits of en versus em dashes. Whoo! (Actually, I would like to see that en/em dash thing.)

House-A-Day: Peppermint Stick

house a day: peppermint stick

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Red Light, Green Light

The other day we were sitting at a red light. A car rounded the corner. The driver recognized the driver of the car in front of us, stopped, and struck up a conversation. (He simultaneously maintained another conversation on his cellphone.) The light changed, and the exchange now blocked three directions of traffic. No one honked. We all waited. After a short bit, they finished their chat, and we all went on our way.

Every city complains about its bad drivers, but the specific complaints vary (Boston, fast; L.A., armed...).* I was trying to put together a list of our particular regional foibles:
  • People stop in the middle of the street for conversations. All other vehicles must wait the appropriate grace period before honking.** (The exact duration is hard to pin down, but it's roughly enough time to wrap up the immediate topic at hand and exchange parting pleasantries.) Premature honking will result in scornful glares from all parties.
  • The first five seconds of a red-light are an implicit yellow. Keep on truckin'. Conversely, the first five seconds of a green-light are an implicit red. Wait for the keep-on-truckin'-ers to go by.
(Others?) The unifying theme is clear: Don't be in a hurry.

House-A-Day: House, Trailer, Church

house, trailer, church

House: Did I include Tang-Orange* in my enumeration?

Trailer: We still have lots of FEMA trailers, though now we're used to the sight and barely notice them.

Church: This is another on the Still-Shuttered list. (We used to vote there.)

* The official house-color of astronauts.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Window Dressing to the Soul

Here's my question for today?
Do you pay attention to eye color?
I don't. I pay attention to people, but I don't (generally) notice a damn thing about eye color. (Though I know other people who are fanatics on the subject.)


My previous praise for the chorus-lyrics of Titus Turner's / Little Willie John's "All Around the World" has sparked a heated debate among our resident music-o-lyricologists concerning the relative lameness of the "Mona Lisa was a man" line, with Herr Matt asserting that it marred the song as a whole. Herr Garth responded:
"I guess I'm trying to say: lyrics is lyrics, music is music. sometimes they go together perfectly, sometimes they don't even have to. Often, the greatest music is the corniest, lamest lyrics sung by the most unique, inimitable geniuses."
You know what I think? I think it's time for a Venn Diagram:*

The easy part is the middle: good music, good lyrics, no problem? The trickier part is where it's just one or just the other. Do we have additional examples of great songs with lousy lyrics or great lyrics with lousy songs? This requires further study.**

* When is it not time for a Venn Diagram?

** And for what it's worth, the "Mona Lisa..." line doesn't bother me. True, it's no "grits..." or "groceries...", but not all lines in a great song need to shine equally. Sometimes the lyrics sit back and let the music do the work. That line has a great melodic hook. (Or maybe I just have high corn-tolerance.)

Monday, August 06, 2007

Dress Your President in Rhinestones and Satin

Our radically intermittent series continues:

Legislature? Never heard of 'em. Judiciar... joo-dish-uh-who? Never mind that. All hail The King!

Cut. Dress. Lewdly swivel hips and sing in an uh-huh-uh-huh-uh-huh baritone:
Hey now, if your voter support base leaves you,
And you got a tale to tell,
Just take a walk down Lonely Street
To Heartbreak Hotel.
* I'm sure there are countless wry political puns to be made with clever reworkings of Elvis lyrics. All I could think of was this crap.

House-A-Day: We Don't Need No Water

There have been a lot of fires since the storm.* I'm not sure exactly why, but I'm pretty sure it has something to do with tens of thousands of vacant houses with screwed up wiring and utilities, a whole bunch of messed up infrastructure, and an overstretched fire department.**

This house burnt a few weeks back.

* Sometimes the houses are completely abandoned, but the saddest cases are when the owners were rebuilding or had recently returned home only to have it all taken away again.

** And maybe the odd handful of dissatisfied claimants looking for a more favorable insurance settlement, though that's pure speculation.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

House-A-Day: Itty-Bitty Wedding Cake

house-a-day: itty-bitty wedding cake

I like this little white house. (The near-horizontal crape myrtle in the side yard looks like it should be growing out of a rocky cliff in a misty Chinese nature painting.)

Saturday, August 04, 2007

House-A-Day: Twins

twin houses

One often sees matching sets of houses lined in a row, copies built at the same time by the same builder: twins, triplets, and sometimes more. But once built, they evolve separately. A hundred years later, it's often hard to tell the houses ever matched, as new additions, stuccoed porches, siding, and a thousand other little changes obscure the original form. Only small architectural details and matching proportions reveal the true history.

If you look carefully, you will notice that the house on the left has evolved right out of existence. Only the facade remains.

a house with no frame

(Though I thought I saw foundation work behind it, hinting at the possibility that they'll rebuild it anew, behind the existing front. If so, good for them.)

They were gutting the house on the right. The smell was horrible, like a giant cat-in-heat had musked the whole block.

Friday, August 03, 2007

House-A-Day: House o' God

house o' God

I'll maintain an expansive interpretation of "house", including the small neighborhood churches that dot our surrounding streets. Some churches have reopened since the storm, but the little ones near us, for the most part, have not. I suppose you need people back in their houses before you can get them back in their churches.*

This one is just around the corner from us. Before the storm, we used to hear the music every Sunday morning. Now it's empty.** I've peeked in the door, and it looks untouched. There's still a drum kit set up to one side of the altar.

Where's the congregation? Some are undoubtedly attending churches in Atlanta and Houston and other far-flung places. Others must be back. Have they folded into larger churches with more resources? Will this one ever reopen?

(Note—if you can see it in this photograph—the poor man's stained glass, the multi-hued panels of plastic sheeting coloring the window panes.)

*The Times-Picayune recently had a good article on the subject.

** Though it had a short burst of activity as a site for the aformentioned filming of a scene from the new Tommy Lee Jones movie.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Eggs Ain't Poultries

I would like to nominate the following lines from Little Willie John's hit, "All Around the World" (written by Titus Turner), for inclusion in our newly formed Short List of All-Time Great Lyrics:
"Well, if I don't love you baby,
Grits ain't groceries, eggs ain't poultries,
And Mona Lisa was a man."
Really, I find it hard to imagine a better turn of phrase. "Grits ain't groceries"? Brilliant. "Eggs ain't poultries"? Even brilliant-er.* That, my friends, is how to sweet talk a lady.** Love it. (Of course, it doesn't hurt that it's belted out by one of the best voices that ever existed.)

More for the list, please. Submit your nominations.

* I particularly like the plural form—"poultries". Magnifique!

** Admit it, gals, nothing melts your heart like grits-talk. Am I right? Am I right? (Or maybe that's just my lady.)

House-A-Day:* Lemon-Grape


Purple, meet yellow. Yellow, purple. Another notable feature of the local cityscape is the broad and bright array of house-colors,** from gentle blues, and greens to vivid Pepto-Bismol-pinks and toothpaste-turquoises.***

* This is technically two houses. Do I get tomorrow off?

** Though in recent years, a putty/beige fad has swept through the tonier neighborhoods. It bores and saddens me to see long rows of gorgeous, gloriously detailed houses painted in near-monochromatic gradations of off-blah, carefully selected by some overpaid color consultant who reads too many Martha Stewart magazines.

*** The Pepto-Bismol-pink and toothpaste-turquoise are so common in certain parts of the city, one imagines a massive bargain-basement sale where they sold it off by the truckload: "No one else wants this stuff. Ship it to New Orleans."

If Clive Owen Had a Cameo in Veggie Tales

When I woke up this morning, this was the very first thing that entered my head:
If Clive Owen had a cameo in Veggie Tales, what would his name be?

Chive Growin'.
Whoo-hoo-hoo! Oh, Lord-ie! Ha! Okay... breathe... breathe... okay.

What's wrong with me?

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

...of Two Lovable Alien Rapscallions

a) Mork

b) Alf
Place your vote.*

* I, without hesitation, vote for Alf. I really liked that show back in the day. Oh, his gruff charm and love of cat flesh... I still laugh. (Should I be embarassed? Was it actually good? I don't quite remember.)

House-A-Day: Moor is More

Moor is more

Are those supposed to be Moorish arches? Something like that. I'm not sure what it is, but I approve.

Though New Orleans is better known for its ornate colonial townhouses and stately Greek Revival mansions,* it also has an abundance of humbler, charmingly idiosyncratic gems I'll call Grab-Bag Eclectic—quirky flights-of-fancy drawing inspiration from far afield: Spanish haciendas, Hansel and Gretel cottages, Chinese pagodas—scattered throughout obscure corners of the city.

The temporary power pole, plastic-sheeted windows, and tell-tale absence of walls reveal that this particular oddity remains uninhabited.

* WARNING: I barely know what I'm talking about here.