Sunday, August 30, 2009

I'm trying to figure out what he's saying. It's got to be something all mobbish and tough-like. ("It's like this, see..." or "Hand over the _____....") I dunno. Something.

K + 4

We have arrived once again at what has become an annual milestone here on the Gulf Coast—The Storm hit four years ago yesterday. Four years is long enough that the anniversary doesn't have the chest-tightening potency it once did, but thoughts of what happened then and what has happened since do tend to percolate. I spent the day, rather appropriately, building something (a fence*). We spent the evening, very appropriately, eating (gumbo) and drinking (Dark and Stormies**) with friends. (It's not exactly the kind of anniversary one celebrates. And yet, we don't particularly want to mope around either. I think we got it about right.)

Fence-building has left me tired and far too stupid to say anything more insightful—no pensive ruminations about the four-years-out state for our city. Maybe tomorrow...

* Our house, of course, got the Katrina Makeover, but for whatever, our backyard missed out and has remained, since the storm, in a state of raggedy disheveled disarray. But I'm finally correcting the omission.

** I don't think the choice was intentionally symbolic.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Peaches and tomatoes. (Didn't they sing "Reunited"? Oh, wait...)

School Again, School Again, Jiggety Jog

As the seasons turn! turn! turn! and the girls embark on their new educational adventures, I too return to school, my dear complicated school, once again lending a part-time hand in various computational and computorial matters. It's good to see those nutty middle-schoolers again. Their nuttiness is (in properly managed doses, under properly managed circumstances) oddly endearing and compelling.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Genuine Conversations with Little People: Saline Feline Edition

"Pearl's head is salty. Why is her head salty?"
Good question, June. Better question: Why do you know that Pearl's head is salty.

Monday, August 24, 2009

What do you do when it's Sunday morning, the weather has suddenly turned freakishly moderate (highs with a first digit of '8', lows with a first digit of '6'!), and you've inherited an entire loaf of Leidenheimer's po boy bread from the previous evening's pot luck? You take the gals to feed the ducks in Audubon park, of course. Those Leidenheimer loaves are big and we had a good hour or so of fine fowl-feeding—except for when we nearly got mugged by a particularly aggressive gaggle of geese: "Your bread or your life! Quack!" (Tangent: Because I didn't pay quite enough attention in high school English, and because I'm always a little unsure of when a comma is called for in demarcating adverbial clause-a-ma-thingies and when to use semi-colons in an enumerations—and because I'm a nerd—I recently bought a new grammar book. In the section on plurals, it enumerates all the different terms for multiplicities of various species, and let me tell you, there are some weird ones: a shrewdness of apes, a nide of pheasants, a pace of asses, a skulk of vermin, a clowder of wildcats, a plump of ducks, a sloth of bears, a skulk of foxes, an exaltation of larks...)

Friday, August 21, 2009

Her sister, perhaps? (Anybody care to offer a backstory?)

It's a Small Town After All

Apparently, 'tis my personal season of random minor tangential associations with high profile New Orleans murder cases. Last night, as we were eating Vietnamese on the West Bank, celebrating June's first day of kindergarten, I glanced up at the TV in the corner and was startled to see our next door neighbor on the Channel 4 news being interviewed in front of the Orleans criminal court house (where I have spent my share of time in recent weeks). The bar at the bottom of the screen read "Defendant's Father", and he was disputing (as the closed captioning revealed) the testimony of some witness. As we continued to watch, we suddenly realized that the defendant in question was none other than Michael Anderson, currently on trial for the infamous 2006 quintuple murders, the same murders that turned national attention to our soaring post-Katrina violence and returned the National Guard to our streets.

To be that father. Lord.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Number Two Daughter started kindergarten today. My oh my oh my my my.

"I Say!"

I once again woke mid-dream this morning. I remember absolutely nothing about the dream except the very last utterance:
"Shriners, I say!"
I don't even remember who was speaking. Shriners? What the frak is that about?

Monday, August 17, 2009

I'm pretty sure this is an entirely unironic mustache (because if irony can go here, Lord help us).

Sunday, August 16, 2009

We've been having the most ridiculously beautiful clouds lately, with the most ridiculously beautiful skies in the late afternoon as the sun goes low on the horizon and the rays and the shadows get all dramatic and complex.

"NO! HANGING HERE......" Okay, okay, I won't hang here, I promise. Geez!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Ravishing Radishes

Speaking of my shiny new-ish toy, I finally found a genuinely worthwhile drawing/painting app-a-ma-thingy* and can now whisk up little digi-painted creations any time I choose. I drawred this radish with it:**
Do ya like it? Do ya like it? (I'm not sure why, but so far, I've mainly used it to paint lone fruits or vegetables.)

* The same one that was used to paint this New Yorker cover.

** I should note that this was inspired by a very similar painting of a radish in Maira Kalman's The Principles of Uncertainty.


Sometimes, when I'm particularly desperate to entertain and distract our vivacious little June—such as early on a weekend morning when she's a chipper hyper-doodle and I'm still drinking my first sips of cold bedside coffee**—I let her play with my shiny new-ish toy. She's particularly fond of the camera feature and instantly turns into a micro-paparazzo (micra-paparazza?), click-clicking everything and everyone, in all states of candor: family members brushing teeth, the dog in deep slumber, the cat chewing its belly, your truly slurping down the aforementioned cold bedside coffee:

Photograph by June
I know just how Lindsay Lohan feels.***

* Is my Italian completely bogus, or am I close? I'm going for "small female paparazzo".

** I normally drink my cold morning coffee from an honest Fiestaware mug, but on this occasion, I had some coffee left over in my thermos from work the previous day. Good enough for this incorrigible coffee scavenger.

*** Is this reference dated? Apologies. Who is the paparazzi darling of the moment?

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Name/deal? (You know the routine.) Usually, I sit on the sideline for these shenanigans, but I feel like I'm missing out on the fun, so this time I'll offer up my own back story:
In his youth, Alessandro Arrojo planned to join the priesthood, but following an adolescence of waning religious convictions and a burgeoning obsessive compulsive disorder—with a particular fixation on oral hygiene—he chose instead a career in dentistry (though he pursued this new vocation with a near monastic devotion). His profession is both a blessing and a curse, giving him the daily opportunity to exorcise his hygienic demons but also forcing him daily to confront a shocking parade of dental travesties—stains, tooth rot, gingivitis, halitosis—mediated only by thin latex gloves and a flimsy paper mask. Patients complain that he scrapes too hard but are secretly grateful that, in his intensity of focus, he makes no small talk and, consequently, requires no embarrassing mumble-mouthed finger-filled responses.
Your turn. What's his name/deal?

"Draw June a Bath"

Tonight, as we were getting the girls ready for bed, Sarah asked me if I could "draw June a bath".* Being an inveterate punk ass punk, I "drew" June this bath:

* Louise comes by her antiquated verbal stylings honestly.

** If I recall correctly, there's a similar pun in Harold and the Purple Crayon: Harold "drew"
up his covers at bedtime, perhaps?

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Dream, Dream, Dream

I am not generally prone to fannish devotions or obsessions, but last night I dreamt that David Foster Wallace and I were friends.* We were riding around town, having just come from his arranging for his funeral.** Though when I say "riding around town", it sounds like we were in the same vehicle, but by some sort of dream logic, we weren't: Wallace was riding an odd bicycle taxi thing—or maybe a bicycle with a sidecar? I was in another nearby vehicle, a convertible perhaps? or another pedal-taxi? But we talked as easily as if we were seated together in a quiet room. And when I say "having just come from", it sounds like there was an unambiguous solid chronology, but really, the one may have proceeded the other, or the other may have proceeded the one, or they may have occurred in parallel. We talked of various things, though I only remember the last: I was explaining how the streets of the Broadmoor neighborhood are particularly bewildering, how the near-Euclidean grid of Uptown breaks down as the major avenues, the spokes of Uptown's fan, converge towards Broadmoor's vertex (well, actually, the vertex is implied but never quite realized in the distance beyond Broadmoor), at last devolving into a wildly non-Euclidean directionless jumble of tangled, veering streets and Spanish eclectic bungalows......

And then I woke up, and it was morning, and there were no pedal-taxis to be seen, and I realized that David Foster Wallace and I weren't friends and never could be, and the whole thing was just a little bit sad.

* Being a painfully slow reader and, somehow, innately sluggish, I am perpetually a little behind the cultural Zeitgeist (my belated discovery of "Men at Work" foreshadowed an ensuing life of showing up late to the pop-party), and I knew nothing of Wallace but his name before a few months ago, nothing in particular about who he was or which of the famous precocious tomes of the nineties he had written. I'd certainly never read a single page of his work until one afternoon, a little while back, when I glanced over at a library book Sarah had set down on the bed and saw a page laden with far more footnotes than even I would have dared, and picked it up, wondering what the hell it was all about, and discovered that it was his book of essays, Consider the Lobster, and I read "Authority and American Usage" and found that, though my root sympathies have always resided with the descriptivists, and though Wallace is, in his marrow, a SNOOT, his fundamental analysis of the linguistic battlefield is exactly as I would have described, only somehow more thoroughly and precisely stated, and his ultimate balanced conclusion was again somehow was just the thing, and the obsession slowly blossomed, and I found myself watching Googled footage of him grimacing nervously at Charlie Rose, and then, after some hesitation, I dipped my toe into the uncertain waters of the big book, and then there was no turning back. (I'd feared that my turtle-like pace-of-reading combined with his torrential abundance of pages would require me to go on sabbatical for a year to finish the damn thing, except that I'm not an academic and therefore don't have sabbatical, but fortunately, a combination of staying up late more nights than I should plus a month of jury duty with plenty of downtime brought me through it earlier than expected.) And now he's laid claim to substantial swaths of my daily (and apparently, nightly) thought-space and has hunkered down on my very short list of super-fan fixations (a list whose only other occupant is
, I believe, "The Wire").

** In light of his suicide last year (an event I was largely oblivious of at the time), this is, of course, a grim and unhappy detail. But dreams will be what they will be, grim, unhappy, hilarious, pensive, in any order, or all at once, if they so choose. And
strangely, in the context of the dream-narrative, it didn't feel the least bit sad.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Turn! Turn! Turn!*

So summer turns to fall (the-stuff-of-daily-life-wise; we probably still have a good month-and-change of summer, weather-wise**). The girls finished camp. I finished my giant summer book and my figure drawing class (both of which I greatly enjoyed and now greatly miss). The gals whisked off to a packed-with-fun last hurrah in Virginia. Sarah and I whisked off to a packed-with-barbecue,-Mexican-food,-and-margaritas last hurrah in Austin. Now we're back. And the girls just arrived tonight, flown down by my parents. (Yee-haw! Lord, I missed those critters, even if it is undeniably nice to have the chance to miss them.) And then they're back to school. Well, Louise is back to school. June is starting school. Kindergarten—mein Gott! Well, actually kindergarten starts next week, a week after everyone else, presumably to make life for more head-scratchingly fun for working parents who have to figure out what the frak to do with the little near-K-ers in that intervening camp-less week.

And then we we rend. And then we sew. And then we plant. And then we pluck up that which is planted. And then we cast away stones. And then we gather stones together. And then we... turn to the left, and turn to the right. Turn it again. Once, twice, thrice!

* I'm surprised by the exclamation points. I don't remember when I last saw its name written, but it never struck me as an exclamation point kind of song. Makes it sound more like a sixties R&B dance craze number: "Turn to the left, and turn to the right. / Turn it again. Once, twice, thrice! / Do the turn! turn! turrrrn...!" (Hmm, close, although I have a hard time imagining any sixties R&B song using "thrice".)

** Though at least it's the get-hot-in-the-morning,-rain-in-the-afternoon summer weather pattern, not the
get-hot-in-the-morning,-get-hot-as-hell-in-the-afternoon pattern from earlier in the season.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Ol' Virginie

I whooshed the gals, last weekend, up to Virginia to visit the grandparents and stay, for this week-and-change, on the farm, doing wholesome farm-like things, the sorts of things they can't do in their not-particularly-wholesome and not-particularly-farm-like hometown. A photo montage, perhaps?

Time was, traveling parento-solo with the girls was a nightmarish proposition, but now they're just plain easy—veteran pros of the airways. June took a hefty little nap, apparently finding the safety cards as boring as the rest of us.

Riding in the back of the truck. A life without back-of-the-truck riding is, in my opinion, a withered husk of an existence. (Okay, that's a little extreme, but I do consider riding in the back of the truck to be one of the finer joys of life.)

Filling up the water pail.

Bottle feeding baby lambykins. (In sheep farmer heaven, all ewes produce 2.0 lambs annually. In the real world, some make more, and sometimes mama-ewe just can't handle the super-sized brood, so the pragmatic sheep farmer tries to do a switcheroo and pawn the excess lambykins off on a different lamb-deficient ewe who has recently birthed just a single lone lamb and, consequently, has milk to spare, but often, the would-be-adoptive mama-ewe catches on and doesn't much cotton to the idea of feeding some other sheep's not-quite-right-smelling-like-as-in-it-didn't-come-from-my-womb spawn, and the lagniappe lamb is roundly rejected and thrown on the mercy of the farmer, who must then bottle feed the little critter until achieves the age of grass-and-grains-only.)

Time for corn.

Corn, corn, corn, corn, corn...!

June, in Queen Anne's Lace and sundry leaves.

Getting to the root of the matter: I tried to prove to the girls that Queen Anne's Lace is, in fact, wild carrot, but this first specimen I pulled up wasn't particularly convincing, prompting June to respond, "That's just a root." (Louise found a second more obviously carrot-like example.)

Blue Ridge Parkway


Catching fireflies

The firefly chase took us, literally, far afield. Due to the perfidious deceptions of optical perspective, it always looks like there are more fireflies over there than there are here, but once you get over there, you realize it's really just another here, and they only looked densely packed because, from a distance, the large expanse looked small, and in the darkening night, all distances collapse to one equidistance (like stars in the sky), so when the confines of the yard stopped yielding an adequate harvest of the glowing creatures, we traipsed out into the open acres of the adjacent field, but as things trended towards pitch black, catching them became maddeningly hard, because we could only see them when they glowed, and as we rushed over to sweep them into our jar, it stopped glowing, and we were left squinting into the now apparently empty night. And then June decided she didn't like being in the middle of a pitch black field in the middle of the night, and then Louise decided she wasn't that crazy about it either, and then we all decided to head back home and let our glowing captives free and scratch our itchy ankles and call it a night.

Charlottesville Airport: "SHIRT & SHOES REQUIRED." It pleases me greatly that the airport feels compelled to make this requirement explicit.

And whoop, there it was.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

True Story: Café au Lait

True story (as true as any story passed through two or three generations of Creoles):*

The neighbors were a typical big New Orleans family, eight or so kids spanning a range of ages. The mother was nursing the baby. One of younger walking/talking ones came up and stared at the feeding infant, seeming curious/perplexed. The mother explained, "I'm giving him milk." The young walker/talker paused, pondering, then asked, "Is there coffee in the other one?"

* I was reminded of this story by my dad, when it came up that the girls have started drinking coffee-milk: warm milk, a generous spoon of sugar, and the teeniest-tiniest few drops of coffee.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Jury Journal: Rounds 8 and 9 (the Penultimate and Ultimate Rounds)

So how did the last week go? Kind of weird (in a weird weird way, as opposed to the regular sort of weird, like the rest of the time). Let's review:

Round 8 (last Monday):

Decidedly not business as usual:
  • They called up fifty of us a 9 a.m. This itself was unusual. We normally twiddled our thumbs for a good hour or two before anything ever happened. I was #34. (I wrote my number on my hand, as always, so I didn't forget it during the remainder of our elaborate numerical proceedings.*) We filed into Section G (the same court as Round 3). The first panel of fourteen took their seats in the jury box. The rest of us filled the audience.
  • Also unusual, the defendant didn't look like the usual kid-nabbed-off-some-corner: a white guy, fortyish, with a goatee, wire-rim specs, a dazed bemused expression, and a hopelessly askew tie.
  • Also unusual, the audience, which typically contained no more than a handful of concerned family members, was populated by a sizable gaggle of legal-ish aide- and intern-like professional sorts.
  • Also unusual, the judge talked extra-a-bunch. Instead of a few cursory remarks preceding the voir dire, he discoursed at length (in his hardcore New Orleans accent), standing the whole time. At first, I thought maybe he'd just had too much coffee and was feeling particularly loquacious, but as we learned the charges (2nd degree murder) and their potential implications (life in prison, no chance of parole), I gradually came to understand that we were running in deeper waters, and this wouldn't be the typical brisk rote affair.
  • Not unusual: We were once again asked if we or anyone close to us had been the victim of a crime. I was once again amazed at the number of people who responded that someone close to them had been murdered. Like a lot. Like maybe a third.
  • The prosecutors were young serious women in pantsuits.
  • The defense attorney was smooooth, almost ridiculously so, an older guy, the sort of archetypal embodiment of the genial Southern lawyer from some movie or TV show (except with an N.O., not Southern, accent), bellying up to the jury box, putting both hands on the rail, leaning in real casual-like, then turning emphatically to address the whole court, conducting his entire questioning without notes, addressing each juror personally (rather impressively having memorized all of our names and even our occupations in the minutes before), slipping into to casual interludes about, "Oh, so you work at _______, Mr. _______, great restaruant, making me hungry..." or "Mr. _______, I see you work in finance. My son works at _______. Do you know him?" or "Ms. _______, you're a writer, yes? May I ask what genre? Well, we'll be looking for you on the best seller list," before steering gracefully back to main line of questioning.
  • Metaphor watch: Old Testament, Charlton Heston, Hawaii Five-O (again), cookies, apples, ladders, arithmetic, CSI**, Pete Rose...
  • At one point during the instructions, we were informed that, "If you take 'prejudge' and change around the letters, you get 'prejudice'." I summoned my best anagrammatic skills but couldn't quite get that one to work.
  • When it was revealed that one of the jurors was a DNA specialist at the N.O.P.D. crime lab, she was immediately dismissed from the proceedings.
  • Typically, they read us a list of potential witnesses and ask if we know any of them. This time, there were bookoo witnesses, like two minutes worth of list-reading.
  • The prosecution asked if anybody remembered "anything about this case?", remembered "reading anything about it in the newspaper...? in October, 2005?"*** The prosecutor then approached the bench and whispered to the judge, then crossed the room and whispered to the defense, then turned back to the jury, "anything about... a trunk?" This sounded ominous, but at that moment, rang no bell.
  • As voir dire stretched into a fourth hour, we, the third panel of jurors, were called up and took our seats in the jury box. (Panel 1: jurors 1-14; Panel 2: 15-28; Panel 3: 29-42; Panel 4:.... There was no Panel 4. After the first three panels, they'd picked their jury, and the remaining eight jurors were never questioned, having watched four hours of the proceedings without ever actively participating.) By now, the judge was clearly in a move it along mood, and nobody, prosecution or defense, made much of a fuss, asking only just enough questions to make sure that none of us were stark raving mad,**** then working numerically through us, accepting us in sequential order to fill the remaining slots:
    "...#30, juror eleven; #31, juror twelve; #32, first alternate; #33, second alternate. Okay, we're done."
    And I, juror #34 (along with jurors #35-50), was sent home from the day, one randomized tick away from serving as an alternate on the jury of (what would prove to be) an exceptionally nasty trial.
  • That evening, recounting the days events to Sarah, we suddenly both vaguely recalled: Oh yeah! Clean up crews found a body in a trunk or something. Remember that?
Round 8Epilogue:

On Wednesday morning, this article graced the top left of the Times-Picayune's front page, detailing the allegations that the defendant, John Morgan, had killed his girlfriend, Dana Pastori, in 2002, dismembered her, and kept her remains in a trunk in his apartment, later moving with the trunk to another residence, where it was ultimately discovered after he evacuated for Katrina. Most unsettling detail (from a potential juror's perspective):
"Prosecutors have ghastly evidence—starting with the trunk that reeked inside Judge Julian Parker's courtroom, prompting him to call in janitors to spray sanitizer and sweep the new carpeting..."
And then, on Thursday, this article announced the guilty verdict, further detailing the grisly details of the case, and reporting that:
"The jury of nine men and three women deliberated for about 40 minutes before unanimously finding Morgan guilty of second-degree murder."
Round 9 (last Wednesday):

Wednesday, the final day, was largely anticlimactic. No courts called for any jurors, and the morning passed quietly, with nothing more than the usual murmuring hum of conversation (including several about that morning's front page article) and daytime TV. Then, just as it was looking like we might have to return after lunch, the counter dropped to zero. A great sigh was sighed. And then, a surprising amount of emotion: hand shakes, hugs, swapped numbers, fist bumps, back slaps, and we all went our separate ways.

* The calls always have a touch of the cattle herding about them, like maybe they should punch a number tag through our ear like we do with the sheep back home, for easier ordering, sorting, and parceling. (I've always thought that livestock-tag earrings would make a good punk accoutrement: garish plastic tags with a big ugly number, coarsely punched through the earlobe—We're just sheep, man, being led to the slaughter!)

** The jurors were asked if any of them watched CSI, and if so, why? (The gist of the line of questioning was essentially: Don't expect the N.O.P.D crime lab to be the least damn bit like the gleaming high-tech folks on TV.) Much to my delight, one of the jurors responded that, yes, he watched "CSI: Miami" just because it was so hilarious to watch that David Caruso guy put on his sunglasses.

*** In October, 2005, most of us were scratching our heads, figuring out what the hell to do with our moldy flooded houses, and possess only blurrily addled recollections of anything that didn't directly relate to our immediate crises.

**** After my one month experience, I can assure you, there are some serious kooks in the jury pool. And the kooks got selected more than I did.