Wednesday, October 31, 2007


Four of the following eight statements are true. Which ones?
(A) I'm extremely good at Minesweeper.

(B) When I was ten, I accidentally cut the pinkie toe off my left foot with a scythe and had to have it surgically reattached.

(C) I once sat across the aisle from Chaka Khan in economy class on a flight from Washington DC to Miami.

(D) I have a dent in my head.

(E) I've been bitten by a snake (non-poisonous).

(F) I once peed in a urinal adjacent to that of famed evolutionary biologist John Maynard Smith.

(G) I'm extremely good at Trivial Pursuit.

(H) I like beets.
The winner will be awarded my prized collection of autographs from famed evolutionary biologists and bizarrely coiffed R&B singers.
five skulls

Punkin' Rock!

Wishing you a very hairy Halloween!*

* I was going for a "hairy"-as-substitute-for-"scary" play on words. Was that clear? ("Computer says 'no'.") Alas, such is the fate alotted to us by our complicated chain of increasingly obscure insider references (1, 2, 3) and its happenstantial coincidence with Halloween.

Note: I believe this the first time I've ever used the word "happenstantial". I liked it.

Note: It's not easy rendering Ramonian disenchantment in jack-o-face.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

"Coffee Versus Tacos"

Apparently the penchant for battle royales is genetic. Louise has recently taken to quizzing me in exchanges like the following:
"Irma Thomas versus Johnny Cash."

"Johnny Cash."

"Johnny Cash versus the Saints."

"Hmm... that's tough... Johnny Cash."

"Johnny Cash versus coffee."


"Coffee versus tacos."

Coffee almost always wins.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Human Hairdo Project: The Elvis Swayze

"...[A] pompadour and mullet mix. Elvis on top, Swayze in the back"*—my oh my. (A pompallet? A mulladour?) I'm picturing something like this:

Am I close?

* Zack, I've heard you speak of him before. (And Ana was obsessed for a while.) I regret that I never saw the 'do first hand.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Urban pastoral: There are many ways a house can meet its demise. (And these days, around here, we see most of them.) This one has literally gone to seed.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

"Get Ready, Folks!"

Sarah spends Saturdays in class, and I spend Saturdays trying to keep the gals busy and happy. This morning, on something like a whim, I took them to the (possibly last ever) N'awlins Air Show: I packed the papa purse,* loaded them in the car, stopped for cash and earplugs, crossed the mighty Mississippi, journeyed to the distant wilds of Belle Chase (I'd forgotten about that tunnel—how do they make tunnels in this silty river muck?), followed the waving orange batons, wove down a gravel road and across an open airfield, came to a stop on the runway-turned-parking-lot, gasped at a stunt plane tracing loops in the distance, trekked two hundred yards, stopped at a port-a-potty, trekked several hundred more yards, and took our place in the glacial line to enter.

We crept forward, watched a helicopter maneuver beyond the trees, caught snippets of the announcer: "the F/A-18... [garble, garble]... 650 miles per hour... [garble, garble]... get ready, folks!" It started as a speck and a faint rumble. Within seconds, it was large as life straight over our heads, and the sky exploded with noise. Louise covered her ears and trembled in wide-eyed silence. June covered her ears, buried her face in my chest, and burst into tears.

It roared skywards. "Is it coming back?" June asked. It faded, then returned, plummeting straight at us like missile, spiraling silently, and—at the last minute—pulling out with another massive roar, more deafening than the first. It turned and came back... and back. By the fourth or fifth run, the girls were wailing in unison: "I want to go! I want to go!"

We fell out of line and turned back (it was harder going this time—Louise was getting blisters), past the hundreds of new arrivals, caught a rickety old shuttle bus driven by a kid in fatigues blasting country music and chatting about the next plane up ("F-22 Raptor—best plane in the sky—hardly anybody's seen it before"), back to the car (at which point June told me, "I don't want to come here ever ever again"), back past the waving orange batons, back through the exurban sprawl, and back into the circuit of our normal lives.

I should have known: girls who hate thunder won't like Thunderbirds.

Really though, it was okay. An ambling semi-pointless trip, five minutes of awesome aerobatics, and a good Vietnamese lunch on the way back—that's good enough for me.**

* That's what the kids call my little Mister-Mom-satchel.

** Plus the weather today was magic.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Human Hairdo Project: The Lego

"The Lego". Examples: Johhny Ramone, Junie Olivier.

Junie is a punk rocker... Junie is a punk rocker... Junie is a punk rocker now!

It's a Bird! It's... a Different Kind of Bird! No... I'm Pretty Sure It's the First Kind of Bird!

Help, is there an ornithologist in the house?

I thought I saw a bald eagle yesterday. Then I thought, "Do we have bald eagles around here?" Then I thought, "That really looks like a bald eagle." The facts:
  • It was a large bird of prey.
  • It was swooping around over Pontchartrain Beach (making me wonder if it was, instead, some water-faring thing—an osprey?)
  • It had a dark torso and wings.
  • Though I saw it from a distance, I could see the white head and (notably) the pure white tail. (I don't think ospreys have that pure-thing going on.)
  • My bird book indicates that bald eagles do sometimes find their way down to the Gulf Coast.
Hmm... I don't know, but I'm going with bald eagle. It makes a better story.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Human Hairdo Project: The Beehive

First up:

I think I'm going to like this hairdo project. All those gently curving parallel lines are very soothing to draw.

And the beehive really is a remarkable thing—an architectural marvel. After looking at whole bunch of photos of various variations, I still don't quite understand how they work. But hats off (literally—'cause there ain't nowhere to put a hat on one of those things) to those that do.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Monday, October 22, 2007

Rainy Days and Mondays

Today was another of our multi-annual deluges resulting in severe street flooding. And the gals' schools seem to have an unfortunate knack for letting them out precisely when the flooding is at its worst. But we all made it through, only a bit soggier for it. (And at least a bit of Fall is finally coming our way.) Life below sea level—ain't it grand!

p.s. I owe you some hair. Please forgive me. The whirligig has been acting up again.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

The Human Hairdo Project

Here's the game:
You name a hairdo—style, era, etc. I draw it.
Sound like fun? And together we can create a comprehensive taxonomy of hairstyles, all archived in a centralized "hair-bank", forming the basis for new, heretofore unimaginable discoveries in the field of hairdo sciences.

Or we can chuckle mildly at the first two or three, then get bored, and quit.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

David, Louise, June

Gyrating Pendulous Crustacean

Driving home from work yesterday on S. Claiborne, I passed a roadside back-of-the-truck impromptu seafood vendor,* and he had a gimmick. Perched precariously on the tail of his truck bed, wearing a Hee Haw-esque straw hat, he stretched his arm out and prominently dangled one of the largest shrimp I've ever seen above the oncoming traffic.

Was this spectacle
a) a clever marketing tactic?

b) a "that's life in N'awlins, darlin'" moment?

c) a traffic hazard?

d) strangely unappetizing, as the gyrating pendulous crustacean took on disquieting sexual overtones?
Justify your answer.

* A not uncommon sight around here: catch something in the morning, throw it in a cooler, drive it into the city, park on a major thoroughfare, sell it. Fresh seafood, good prices. Win-win.

Monday, October 15, 2007

RIP Chopper City Boyz
I promised you a series. (And more graffiti parsing: "13th Killers"—this and the other graffiti shots were taken in the 13th Ward.)

"I Yam What I Yam"

It's funny how kids very much are what they are straight from the get go. Sure we raise them and feed them and school them and nurture them, but there's a whole bunch of is-ness that just comes pre-packed in their embryonic little acorn selves.

I've decided to analyze my darling little acorns in terms of what sort of literary/entertainment realms they would naturally inhabit.
Louise: Charlotte Brontë (with a splash of Edward Gorey)

There's something in Louise that hearkens to another century—a sometimes-serious young lady tending towards careful social observations and independent-minded pursuits: nature walks, reading, crafts, elaborate (sometimes eccentric) couture.* (Plus a Victorian Gothic component—a marked interest in the morbid, and a giant-eyed stare that would be well cast in an ominous 19th century costume drama: "Okay, give me 'the look'. Hold it... hold it... queue the raven!") And then all that's mixed together with a whole bunch of plain old goofy, silly little girl.

June: Vaudeville

June is a natural ham. If she does something and somebody laughs, she'll do it again, even if she has no idea why it's funny. And her aesthetic is very twenties/thirties—a bit of Charlie Chaplin, a bit of Laurel and Hardy, maybe some tap dancing. (I can easily picture her with a top hat, tails, white gloves, and a cane: "rat tah ta da da dah!") The voices, the faces—she even does that talking-out-the-corner-of-the-mouth thing like Popeye and the Lollipop Guild.
Maybe when they grow up they can form an acting company reknowned for its daring slapstick reinterpretation of Jane Eyre.

* Though she's recently toned down the Björkian garb.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

audubon park
Audubon Park, 7:30 a.m.

Eccentrics I've Seen Today

  1. A middle-aged, bearded, nondescript-looking man riding a vintage white and yellow bicycle with a very large parrot sitting on the handlebars.*
  2. Four people walking around the path in the park dressed in full Star Wars regalia. Curiously, they were all bad (or lawless neutral) characters: one Imperial officer in a uniform and little cap, one storm trooper, one tie-fighter pilot (holding a model tie-fighter), and one... who were those little guys in the hoods with the glowing red eyes who drove that big thing around in the dessert and picked C3 and R2 up for scrap? The storm trooper was very chatty.
  3. An older man with a bushy gray beard and Ray-Bans walking down Magazine in elaborately embroidered cowboy duds—Stetson hat, boots, and all. He tipped his hat at the girls.
* As my mother points out on the chicken post, my father used to drive around his N. Claiborne yard on a tricycle with a rooster perched on the handlebars.

Friday, October 12, 2007

chopper city
These houses are these houses—a little over a year ago. Perhaps an entire series of R.I.P. graffiti on dilapidated house fronts? (And other graffiti of note: "chopper city""chopper" as synonym for machine gun/assault rifle has come up here before.)

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

swing set

A Mucky Problem

Few things are more beautiful than an elegant solution to a mucky problem:
The Problem: How to sort live crawfish from dead. (Crawfish must be boiled alive, or they taste nasty. But whenever you buy a big bag of the wriggling beasts, there's inevitably a few that have already gone on to Crawfish Heaven.)

The Solution: What's a key difference between living and dead things? Living things move. Dump the crawfish onto a table. The live ones quickly skedaddle off the edge where they drop into conveniently placed receptacles. The dead... well, they pretty much just stay where they are. Sorting completed. Boil away!*
Lovely, non?

* I learned this recently though I can't remember how. The tee-vee? Divine revelation?

Tuesday, October 09, 2007


We had just returned to New Orleans after living in New York, and having taken up residence in an unfamiliar neighborhood, we decided to learn the lay of the land by visiting the neighborhood bar, a no frills but seemingly genial place. It was nearly empty—a couple of middle-aged folks playing video poker or pool in the corner. We sat down.

"Whawcanneyegetchya...?" The bartender was short, mustachioed, and almost incoherently drunk.*

"A gin and tonic, please."

"Make that two."

"Comminraightup-p-p..." He set about his task: two generous pours of gin, two modest splashes of tonic, and the limes. Well... the limes were complicated. His attempts to squeeze the wedges in the drinks grossly misfired, shooting the small green projectiles across the bar:

wayward limes

Finally, after much furrow-browed concentration, he hit his marks. "Heeyuhgoe..."

As we sipped, he launched into a gushing monologue of slurred camaraderie. Within two minutes we were good buddies. ("Awwyuhgreat!") By half an hour, we were soulmates—trusted confidantes to his deepest hopes, grievances, and fears. (Well, he told them to us. We missed some of the finer points)

Finally, drinks drunk, we stood to leave. "Take care..."

"Aww, yuhnevuhcumminbaak."

Quite sincerely, "No, we'll be back."

"Nawyuhwoan." He slumped dejectedly.

"We will. We promise."

His head lifted. He smiled woozily—sweetly. "Oh-kay-ee."

We never went back.

* It's no secret that many bartender's like a tipple. But one is generally expected to maintain at least basic motor function.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Perhaps an entire series of streetscapes featuring inconsequential placements of small red cars?

Stop, Drop...

They're learning "Stop, drop, and roll" at June' school. That reminds me...

We were visiting friends, standing around in the kitchen, chatting. Then: "David! You're on fire!" I looked behind me to discover the tail of my jacket in flames (an unfortunate consequence of leaning casually against a lit stove in a 70/30 poly/cotton blend). And then—with what can only be described as Matrix-like ultra-speed—I flung my feet out from under me and walloped down on my ass, instantly smothering the flames. Stop and drop. (The roll was unnecessary given the localized nature of the blaze.) It was all over in an instant.*

The kids love the story: "Tell us again about the time Daddy's butt caught on fire!"

* The moral of the story? Youthful indoctrination is remarkably effective. Hmm... What other useful or convenient principals can we burrow into those malleable little brains?

Saturday, October 06, 2007

houses: pink, blue, green
Pink, blue, green


We had our first Casamento's meal of the season last night, prompting today's question:
How do you eat raw oysters (assuming you do)?
I eat mine with a squeeze of lemon, a dollop of horseradish, and a dash of hot sauce, either on a saltine or straight from the half shell, depending on my fancy. It is, in my opinion, one of the supreme flavor combinations of all creation.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

fiery flavor
"Fiery Flavor!"

Cluck, Cluck

The other day, as I drove my shiny new car down a bumpy backstreet of our neighborhood, Sarah hollered, "Stop! Look at those stuffed chickens." There they were, arrayed perfectly motionless along the porch rail of a ramshackle little house. We murmured at the strangeness of the decorative impulse.

Then one turned its head, then another, and another. Stop! Look at those live chickens.* We murmured at the strangeness of the urban-poultry-raising impulse.

You've got to love a town where keeping chickens is still considered a viable front porch endeavor.

* We've seen such things before (1, 2).

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

killer side

Peace, Dawg

My first job in New Orleans was as a waiter at a pizza restaurant with aspirations to California-chic. It fell short of the mark and landed, instead, on California-crappy.

The front of the house was almost plausible—the wine racks, the earth tones, the big plants, the high ceilings. And if you'd had enough cheap wine, and weren't paying attention, you might even think the food was sort of okay. At least for a few bites.

But a glance into the kitchen would quickly disillusion even the most gullible culinary rube: the cheap Sysco ingredients, the ungodly amounts of garlic butter slathered on everything to mask the cheap Sysco ingredients, the motley bunch of dope-heads doing the slathering:*
Riz: Riz was the kitchen manager and sole non-dope-head of the bunch. When orders were slow, he meticulously cleaned his car parked outside the back door.

Big Rick: Rick came by his name honestly. He was a large, large man.

Wayne: Wayne was mean. He looked even meaner stoned, when his eyes glowed red like embers.

K-Murder: Despite his menacing name, K-Murder was not the least bit threatening: pudgy, with a speech impediment and an off-kilter eye.

Matt: The skinny white guy. He had numerous tattoos including one prominently proclaiming the very blasphemous name of the sociopath-punk band he'd played in. (He was kicked out of the band shortly after getting the tattoo.) Once, after a long delay, he dished up precisely half my order. When I asked him where the rest was, he checked his tickets and collapsed in a fit of laughter, realizing that in his drug-addled stupor he'd torn off the top half of the ticket while it was still printing and made only that.
At the best of times (there were many not best of times) they were reasonably proficient at cranking out the restaurant's pre-fab fare. But celebrity chefs they were not.

I'd just finished waiting on a table of tourists, a polite wide-eyed family from who-knows-where, and they'd clearly fallen for the shtick. The father, apparently thinking he'd stumbled upon one of the city's prized culinary treasures, turned to me me: "Everything was wonderful, thank you so much. Do you think could have the chef sign the menu?"


"If it's not too much trouble."

"No... no trouble at all."

I took the (flimsy paper) menu into the kitchen and quietly announced the request. The crew, eyes blazing from a fresh stoning, burst out a giddy blast of uproarious laughter—plainly audible to the furthest corners of the dining room—and eagerly lined up to oblige: "Peace, dawg". "Yo baby! Big Rick", "Word up - Matt". Giant scrawls. Tags. Doodles. When finished, it looked like the back page of a fourteen-year-old's yearbook.

They were still laughing as the father pushed open the kitchen door. His eyes widened. His face darkened. I gave a weak smile and, with my fakest cheeriest "Here you go!", handed him the defaced menu. He took it, lowered his eyes, turned briskly, and left.

But it's okay. Shame's goes down easier with a thick slathering of garlic butter.

* Names have been changed to protect the not-so-innocent.
lil' angel
Baby Vera (lil' angel)

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

"[Pause]... [Pause]... So..."

These days, whenever I call a customer service number, it eventually seems to arrive at a moment like this:
"I'm updating your record now... [pause]... [pause]... It takes a minute... [pause]... [pause]... So, how are things in New Orleans these days?"
It's a familiar routine now, and I launch straight into my slow-but-getting-there-and-some-parts-are-still-a-mess-but-other-parts-are-doing-well-and-oh-you-were-thinking-of-visiting-well-come-on-down spiel.

That's the way you've got to do it, I say—spread the word one perky lady in a headset at a time. For as the old proverb tells us, "He who speaks truth to the customer service representative speaks truth to the world."

And if the International Customer Service Association holds their next convention here, you can thank me for that.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Jason, Mary
Jason, Mary

Tractatus Musico-Domesticus

I've got a fuzzy notion kicking around in my brain:

We all listen to lots of different kinds of music,* but we all have certain musical regions where we feel most at home—genres that scratch our sonic itch in a particularly potent way.

For example, I'll happily listen to sixteenth century lute serenades or twenty-first century Brazilian hip-hop, but what really gets me going is blues, country, R&B, and rock n' roll from the forties, fifties, and sixties.** There's something about that convergence that just really does it for me. Sarah? She likes all that stuff but really flips her lid for sixties/seventies R&B and soul. (This whole thing came out of a conversation about why I don't freak out over Irma Thomas as much as she does.)

So here's the first question: What do we call this personal region/genre/zone of maximum musical pleasure/comfort? My working term is "musical homeland", but I don't like it:
  1. It doesn't exactly roll off the tongue: musical homeland, musical homeland, musical homeland, mus-i-kuh-loam-lawn...
  2. "Homeland" is a tad too G.O.P-licious for my taste—like Dick Cheney's going to jump out from behind a chair and rip the knobs off our stereo and smash all our CDs. (Except for "The Best of Peaches and Herb". He likes Peaches and Herb.*** He'll keep that one. It makes him feel.)
But if not "musical homeland", then what?

And here's the second question: What's your that-which-we-are-not-calling-a-musical-homeland?

* Well, most of us do. Maybe you only listen to mid-seventies Kraftwerk. If so, good luck with that.

** I imagine it has a lot to do with what we listened to when we were young. I spent a lot of time burrowing through my parents' record collection where I first encountered some of my enduring favorites. But I was nerdily oblivious to much of the seventies/eighties pop music that resonates so strongly with many of my peers.

*** Did you know there were five different Peaches?