Saints owner Tom Benson is vying with Brownie for the title of "Most Despised Man in New Orleans".
Yesterday he attacked a WWL cameraman.
Saints owner Tom Benson is vying with Brownie for the title of "Most Despised Man in New Orleans".
Yesterday he attacked a WWL cameraman.
This one is of my old neighborhood, Alamo Square. Click "Next" a few times, there are about six in total, all of them stunning.
"Anything for him but mindless good taste."
Lately I haven't been posting much about New Orleans, and to be honest, I haven't been reading much about it either. I click over to nola.com, I click through my New Orleans links over there on the right, and then I just want to look away.
Part of it is frustration. The same kind of frustration that a soldier must feel when the war is being fought and won while he sits at a desk job thousands of miles away unable to contribute. The New Orleans links are full of stories of successes and failures in cleanup and rebuilding. I listen to the Big 870 at night, in my car, and people call in with their questions and their rants about insurance adjusters and FEMA and the post office and the shopping situation, and I want to call in and just say, "uh...can I come help?"
Gina has applied for the FEMA architect job, she's been fingerprinted for an FBI background check...but nothing since then. FEMA's hiring process is about as efficient and effective as anything else they do. She'll still be going over there since she is doing the remodel for Mark's house in Metairie, but that's it.
But part of my problem also has been a sense of dread, that in all the flurry of activity of cleaning up, hauling away trash, and trying to rebuild, that the city is dying. The real city. Not the tourist part...I fully expect that in a year, two years, the downtown hotels will be full of conventioneers, the Quarter will be packed with drunks doing lewd things for beads, and the old famous restaurants will be back to their former glory.
But what of the neighborhoods? The Ninth Ward? Mid-City?
What about the Yat?
I read this essay on nola.com last week, and I thought it was brilliant, and I also thought it was so depressing that I couldn't go back to that site for days. It poses many questions about the future of New Orleans culture, and I fear that all the answers are all bad.
Many locals can't describe it because they are blind to it the way a fish is blind to water until he finds himself flapping helplessly on land. You cannot replace forty square miles of antique neighborhoods with a California vision of what a proper up-to-date American community should be and expect the soul of New Orleans to survive any more than a salmon can thrive in a parking lot.
We need to treat the Yat the way we do the spotted owl. That is, we need to restore the cultural ecosystem that provided his habitat. I wonder if anyone in Washington has even started to think of it this way? Is anyone thinking about how to provide more amenities and open space without destroying the dense fabric of the neighborhoods? There were hardly any garages in old New Orleans neighborhoods. What would be the consequences of introducing them? Are planners going to put back Markey's Bar or The Bright Star, both lynchpins of their respective Ninth Ward and Uptown neighborhoods? Will anyone dare to interfere with the property rights of the slumlords? What about the Mom and Pop grocery stores that made deliveries and extended credit; will they be back? Will there be Sno-ball stands? What aesthetic will take the place of the Victorian confections that turned Ninth Ward shotguns into wooden wedding cakes? Will anyone salvage the tall louvered shutters that covered all the shotgun doors and windows? What will they put them on if they do? How will extended families re-establish their neighborhood roots? How do we avoid the extremes of neo-Levittown or what an NPR commentator called "neo-precious?"
I used to think New Orleans was a strong and resilient city, and that it would come back from Katrina the way a forest comes back after a wildfire. That slowly but surely, it would sprout and regrow, and in a little while it would be bustling with life and in a longer while you'd never know there was ever a fire.
And on the surface, that's what it looks like is happening. There is certainly the "feel" of progress.
But more and more, I feel like real New Orleans culture is like a coral reef. A delicate and fragile ecosystem where every piece is connected somehow to every other piece. And if you kill the reef, the entire ecosystem radically changes. There is still an ocean there, there are still fish there, but they are different fish, and if you never saw what the reef looked like in its fullness of life, you'd never know how beautiful it was, how different it was, and how much better it was than what you have now.
Both the Astros and Liam's little league team met with final elimination last night. And I am relieved. I don't know what the deal is, but this year's baseball season just seemed longer and more grueling than any I can remember. Maybe it's because Liam is such a nut about it now, so even on weeks when I wanted to just take a break from it, I had to hear about it constantly.
I have a love/hate relationship with the Astros. I lived in Houston for six years, including the heartbreaking 1986 season when the Mets beat the Astros in a nailbiter playoff series and then went on to steal it all from the Red Sox in the World Series.
1986 was the best baseball season ever, until the end, when it was the worst.
But the problem with the Astros is that as great a ballclub as they can be, they're from a classless suck-ass undeserving-of-good-baseball town. The Astrodome as a baseball venue sucked, everybody knows that. But when they built Minute Maid, I was thrilled. "Finally, real baseball, outdoor baseball, comes to Houston". Except that Houstonians prefer to keep the roof closed year round. They can't really comprehend baseball if it doesn't echo around inside a big aircraft hangar. Frankly, they want their baseball to sound like basketball.
"But Ray, you have to understand the realities of baseball in the Texas heat. Nobody wants to sit outside in July." Well, I call bullshit, and as exhibit A I give you Ameriquest Field in Arlington. Beautiful outdoor park. In Texas. Wasted on the Rangers, of course, who are as sorry as every other venture that George W. ever got involved in, but still, it's a fantastic and comfortable outdoor ballpark. We like to go up there when the Red Sox are in town.
But Houstonians just don't fucking get it. They are undeserving. They aren't baseball people.
Yes, I am a Fenway snob.
In Little League news, the Rangers came from behind in the last inning to beat the A's 8-7, handing them their second post-season loss and sending them home til spring. Yes, there were tears. The 8-10 year old league is where winning starts to become important to the kids, but some of them aren't yet old enough to be able to walk it off easily when they lose. Fortunately Liam seems to be able to shrug it off pretty easily. Either that or he's inherited Dad's ability to keep things bottled up inside and will need to self-medicate in later years.
So baseball season slogs to an end, and what season starts now?
Football? No. Hockey? No. Food.
Food season begins with Halloween, runs through Thanksgiving and Christmas and Mardi Gras and winds up with a big crawfish boil sometime in April.
Right around the time baseball gets started.
Title seen on a sign at the hotel in San Diego. If you followed it, you ended up at the health club and pool.
Please ignore the general suckiness of this blog's appearance. I'm trying to reorganize a bit and work on fonts, etc, but I can only play with it in five minute spurts, so it's just gonna have to be a sucky work in progress for a couple of days.
The Las Vegas airport has free wi-fi, which is bad-ass since I can now blog and watch the Series at the same time and not spend all my time at the goddamn slot machines.
This past weekend I spent out in San Diego at JournalCon turning a bunch of total strangers into best friends. It started out as somewhat of a fiasco, since on the day I was flying out, both Karl and Sara (the only two JC attendees I actually knew) ending up cancelling. So the whole flight in, I was starting to feel a little queasy. I still get bouts of pathological shyness sometimes, and here I was going totally alone and defenseless to a place where complete strangers will be gathering to drink themselves silly for 48 hours. With my freshly minted 2 Year AA chip still warm in my pocket.
My sobriety was going to be a contestant on "Survivor: San Diego", and if it got voted off the island it wasn't gonna be pretty.
I needn't have worried. I'm usually utterly incapable of walking up to strangers and saying "Hi, I'm Ray", but I managed to fake it well enough. And when Trance Jen arrived, she spotted me across the room and gave me a big booming "Hey, Ray!". Carol gave me a big hug as if we'd actually been friends a long time. Chuck was also a very friendly guy, and Minarae was a total sweetie. What a lovely welcoming bunch of people.
And today I had my first hangover in two years. Apparently if you stay out til 3am with a bunch of drunks all weekend long, you get a hangover even if you don't drink anything.
I don't miss hangovers.
I miss my new friends though. All weekend I've been acquiring new pals the way you keep acquiring new layers of clothes when it's freezing cold out. And then all morning Sunday I've been shedding the friends again, one at a time...Chuck and Beth leave, then Carol, then Mo, then we all say goodbye to LA and Weetabix and share a cab to the airport and one by one I lose Fredlet and Jen and Amy and now I'm all alone again, stuck in Vegas.
I wanna go back.
Last month Toni from Electric Mist asked me to contribute a story to a book to which she was also contributing. A collection of essays about life in New Orleans, from an insider's point of view.
It was a pretty intimidating prospect, since I've never really considered trying to get anything published before.
Well, I just got the word: my piece has been accepted!
The publisher is Chin Music Press. They have a previous book that is kind of similar called Kuhaku, a collection of stories and essays about Japan, which has been well-reviewed by smartypants types like Bookslut.
You can find a blog entry about the genesis of the New Orleans book here. Actually, the whole blog there is well worth reading.
Publication is set to coincide with Mardi Gras, which is apropos since my own piece describes my experience as a teenager working inside the parade floats during Carnival.
This calls for something festive. And then I need to figure out what to write next.
The Best Of Austin issue of the Chronicle is out this week and recognizes the work we did at the Convention Center shelter:
Best Katrina Convention Center Hookup
"You will need to be patient and a good listener. Sometimes the good listener part is the most important part of this work..." So began the job description for Austin Free-Net's call up to good citizens to come help offer our Katrina guests a virtual hookup with the outside world ... with their families, with their pasts, with their futures. "Assist evacuees with little or no computer experience in registering on the Red Cross Family Links database so their friends and family can find out where they are..." This year, Austin Free-Net, a nonprofit corporation driven by the mission to bridge digital divides, celebrated 10 years of service to our community. Their presence at the Austin Convention Center during the aftermath of the evacuation of New Orleans helped to create lifelines for countless folks, some passing through, some now calling Austin home. Thank you, Austin Free-Net.
Austin Free-Net frickin' rocks.
The Chron also recognizes AMD for donating those little solid-state internet appliances, which were really cool little machines.
Cassidy is a better guitar player than I am.
And now Liam is a better baseball player than I am.
He's been dying to play catcher all season, but the coach doesn't like to put kids in the high stress positions (pitcher and catcher) until he thinks they're ready, since he believes that putting them in those positions when they are likely to fail isn't a good way to build up their confidence. So Liam has been waiting and waiting and waiting, not always patiently.
Tonight, though, was the night when Coach put lots of kids in positions that they've never played. So for one inning, Liam got to play catcher:
And then the next inning, totally out of the blue, he got to pitch. And got to look good doing it, too.
Walked only one, and allowed no runs (thanks to some excellent fielding by the team).
I didn't realize how little I'd been writing here lately until I noticed today that there were only two entries visible on the main page. Everything else was so old it had been filed away in the archives.
Some of this is due to real life intruding on my available blogging time. Baseball playoffs, fall Little League games, work stuff, home improvement stuff... all are taking a bite. And our fridge died this weekend, so between getting that fixed and cleaning out the thawed stuff and making another huge batch of etouffee (because three pounds of Louisiana crawfish tails are like gold in October so you can't exactly throw them away), much of my Saturday was shot.
The other reason is that I had a real honest-to-god writing opportunity present itself to me, so I needed to buckle down to meet a deadline. If it gets accepted, I'll let everybody know the details. And if it doesn't, I'll just put the damn story up here instead.
I've got a couple of food things I want to write about, and some school pictures to put up, and maybe a little music stuff too, but right now I'm not feeling the blog obsession like I was during Katrina.
It's eerie, and so different from the stories of plucky rebuilding that you hear elsewhere.
We worked from about 10am to about 5pm, and we got a lot of stuff out, and we were exhausted. Mom and Dad drove back up to the North Shore, and I stayed behind for a bit; I wanted to head about a mile south toward the Chef, to see the neighborhood where I grew up.
It was complete desolation.
Every house took 5-6 feet of water. For blocks and blocks in each direction. And I was the only soul in the area.
There was nobody.
No one surveying their houses, no one bringing out trash or soaked furniture or refrigerators. No one tearing out sheet rock or doing mold remediation or trying to gut and rebuild. Nothing. No one.
The lawns were all dead. The streets and sidewalks were covered with chips of dried toxic mud that crunched under your feet, sending up clouds of toxic mud dust that made my nose itch and burn. And I was utterly alone.
It was the creepiest, most unsettling feeling I've ever had in my life. I felt like a character in a Stephen King novel. As I walked around the neighborhood where I was the only living person for twenty blocks, I began to wonder ... when I fall asleep tonight, who will I dream about -- the old black woman or the Man With No Face?
The songs were tedious.
The corpse bride was a hundred times hotter than that mousy, vacuous little live bride.
And for them to tease us with the obvious threesome setup for twenty minutes and then not deliver is just unconscionable.
And that is all I have to say about that.
I ran across this flickr account today, emacstudios, published by a guy from New Orleans named Eric McRary.
It has some fantastic pictures of the aftermath of Katrina in New Orleans. The convention center scene. A body at the convention center. Armored vehicles in the French Quarter.
Some of the best photos I've seen anywhere.
Much to my surprise, Gina is pretty gung-ho about the possibility of moving back to New Orleans for a year or two. She's driven partly by professional interest ("the architecture there is just too juicy"), partly I think by wanting a change, partly (and she won't say so, but I'm guessing) because maybe she thinks this is the lever that will finally pry me out of the software business.
So it's not a serious thing, yet, but not necessarily a complete fantasy either. My brother has connections in town which he can work to help me find me a job. Gina is trying to get on either with FEMA or through other architect contacts. I have high school friends I can talk to about which Orleans Parish schools are still viable (the Algiers schools were a bright spot when I was a kid), or whether private school is the way to go. At least until high school, when I know the kids can go to Franklin, my alma mater.
So Gina keeps looking up rental properties, both Uptown and in my childhood neighborhood of Algiers. Unfortunately, rental rates in the non-flooded areas have doubled since Katrina, making it just about as expensive as Austin for renters. And I don't think buying right off the bat is a good idea because the market there is going to be absolutely psycho for a few years.
It's a very weird time. Many monumental choices. Karl probably remembers 12 years ago when Gina and I just up and decided overnight to move from the Bay Area back to Texas. But now there are kids. You don't just up and do things when there are kids involved. But neither should the kids be an excuse for inaction, for stagnation.
I just don't know.
Yes, "Chess Boxing".
Like other great sporting combinations, such as Rice's Beer-Bike, chess boxing combines both the mental and the physical.
Six rounds of chess, five rounds of boxing, alternating.
No, I am not kidding. There are pictures.
They even have an organization, with a fantastic logo (boxing glove with clenched knight).
I'm not totally sure I should tell Liam about this.
Yesterday was apparently Father/Daughter Tripout Movie Day, as evidenced by both Karl and I each coincidentally taking our oldest to see Mirrormask, the new Gaiman/McKean/Henson movie. (Minor spoilers ahead, if you can call them that.)
It is a stunningly beautiful film. The whole time Cassidy was talking to herself, alternating between "this is so weird" and "this is so cool". Thematically very similar to Labyrinth...teenage girl has growing-up conflicts with her parents, ends up in a dreamlike fantasy world that looks a lot like her real-world passions, meets a quirky but helpful character who becomes her guide and friend, goes on a long quest meeting many strange and wondrous creatures, battles an evil monarch, and eventually comes back to the real world with her family issues resolved.
Mirrormask is much more adult in appearance than Labyrinth, however. I've been out of the comics thing for a long time, but the style looked very familiar to me, so a little googling jogged my memory. Neil Gaiman and David McKean created Black Orchid, which I read a little of many years ago, and McKean's been compared to Bill Sienkiewicz, the author of Stray Toasters, which I absolutely loved.
Cass was also hip enough to notice that it looked a lot like Coraline...figures my daughter actually started reading Gaiman before I did.
And much as I would like to say this is a wondrous, stupendous cinematic event...it's actually kind of boring in spots. It's so beautiful to look at that it's almost self-conciously beautiful, like a gorgeous woman who thinks that all she has to do is sit there and look pretty to keep my attention. There's a lot of "look what we can do" footage...seemingly included just "because we can" rather than because it advanced the plot or filled out the characters.
Stilll, you definitely need to see it. I predict it will drop pretty quickly from sight...it's only playing in one theatre in Austin, the Dobie, and that was only one-third full at the showing last night, so I doubt more than a few hundred people have seen it locally. But I predict cult-film status for it in the coming years.
And as for the National Goth Month predictions...maybe the gothlings don't come on Sunday nights, because the predominant stereotype at the Dobie last night was Unix hippy.