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There Go Your White Man
I have probably more time in construction crappers (port-a-toilets) than most of my readers and I'm bragging about it.
Things have really gotten better here in the Deep South as regards to hateful racial graffiti in the crappers.
I remember this English teacher I had during my abbreviated student tenure at the University of Texas, she was from England no less, and once I remember she was going on about how far the United States had come in the arena of civil rights and I just shook my head condescendingly, an 18-year-old know-it-all, and she cited all the obvious advancements and I said take away the laws and not a damn thing would be different. Sure the laws have changed but not the hearts of men, I argued. And eventually men will break laws.
But I'm big enough to admit being wrong, in fact I revel in wrongness, so Teach, you were right and I am wrong.
In Metairie to where I go for work and the most hateful racial attitudes (or not, really) I read in this particular crapper a fairly common sentiment which I have seen year after year after year--KKK, kill all blacks. It is etched in the plastic with razor knife. It is most often hard working black men who drive the crapper suction trucks that clean out these toilets. And I know they are as relieved as I am that we have come as far as we have. Love in the21st century. I mean, in the past, it was always the N-word used. We are truly blessed, all of us, in these times.
Then I will drive home, stop by Rocheblave, and head over to Dumaine to try to do a little something at the house that 11 years ago began my insight into a culture I will never do proper justice to, by description or understanding.
I guess I have a mean stare sometimes, or an edginess. I'm not bragging about it because it is a weakness, although except for choosing otherwise I could have been a good little hard-ass fucker of a businessman, with my edgy persona. I could have been somebody, I could have been a contender, ha.
It ain't nothing really, not yet, but the little dudes are starting to hang out, just lightly, around the 2600 block of Dumaine. I didn't even glance at Dumaine the week my back was most troublesome but pulling up to the curb day before yesterday and seeing some youngster I may recognize as 8 or 10 years older than the 10-year-old kid with the black heart or just bad luck of circumstance, and I hard stare him because he is leaning against the fence of the Dumaine house, and I'm tired, and I don't have the patience for this stupid shit all over again. It's too hard to work, period, without doing it to an audience of lazy fucks. I could love the kid if he would make the slightest effort of respect, but he won't, and I won't. He'll hang, deal drugs or not, smoke or not smoke the blunt, not lift a finger, leave his trash on the ground instead of three feet away in a bag hanging on the fence, and make no courteous hello, so you give up and hard stare, and they hard stare back. It's all fear and anger, on both sides. Something better could be easy if it weren't so hard.
I unlock the grate and kill some time inside because I don't want to have a confrontation on account of I am feeling irrational. It's like counting to ten I guess. I hear the kid outside talking to another kid I know, and he sounds all pissy and punk ass bitchy. I can't hear anything but tone and the words "white man.'' White man this and white man that. I just stay inside even though all the work I am trying to complete is outside. I am not going to wait indefinitely. Although my main goals in life are not to be mean to other people (I often fail at this) and to not get killed, I must get to work. I'm still feeling too irrational though so I wait a few more minutes until I can't stand it any longer and then I bring out the ladders and move back and forth from the foyer to the front porch. The kids have moved on and I start doing some scraping but my heart isn't really into it. I'm not sure scraping is something you can really put your heart into.
Later, I'm back in the foyer, with the front door open, and I hear from across the street the kid I know egging on the kid with the black heart, "there go your white man up in there." Something. Something. "There go your white man." I have never in my life referred to a man as nigger or black man, except the first to describe or act out other people speaking it and the latter to describe the popular conception of African American skin color. Give me the same, you little pissants. But really, I do love you guys when I'm not hating you.
Down south in the 21st century.
Letter To Clifford, 8-9-10
Dear Mom, 6/27/05
How are you doing? I am doing fine, waiting on the guests of JF to wake up so I can do a little work up at the bighouse. That's what I call the main house on this property--the bighouse. J and his wife, L, don't come out too often because of busy schedules with their kid's activities, but occasionally let people use the bighouse for a weekend getaway. I have been painting the metal roof of the house but have met one obstacle after another. First, the pollen from the many trees surrounding the house was so coating the roof that I could barely walk on it, much less prep and paint it. So I waited for that stop happening and now it is getting so hot I can't do much on the roof except for early in the morning and maybe a little in the evening. The roof is peeling pretty bad and some of the cleanser I am using makes it peel even more, so I end up having to scrape it twice.
The section of the roof I am working on now has a view through windows into one of the upstairs bathrooms, so I don't want to make their guests nervous, and am just staying down here at my cottage for awhile. This house is not really a cottage but people want to call it that because they can't really call it a guest house on account of I live here all the time, and I ain't much of a guest. And cottages are associated with country property, which this certainly is. I am pretty much considered the caretaker but there seems to be some slightly negative connotation to that word because of the way caretakers have been portrayed in various movies and pieces of literature, over time. Caretakers have been portrayed as tall thin silent loners who are a little grumpy and occasionally unpredictable in their behavior and rude to strangers who happen onto the property. Which I think describes me pretty well.
I am very slowly getting to know more people around here and before you know it I will know everyone, because there aren't that many people out in this part of Virginia. The town I live in, Washington--sometimes called Little Washington so as not to be confused with Washington DC--has a population of only 186 people. There are no stoplights in town. The entire county, Rappahannock County, has only about 7,000 total residents, and likewise, in the entire county, there are no stoplights. Needless to say, if I don't leave this immediate area, I don't get stuck in traffic jams.
I had two extra tickets to a musical concert in Washington DC recently (which is 70 miles away) and I don't know if you know this or not but your oldest son and my oldest brother, D*n, has a son living in DC this summer, the son's name is J*ck, and he is acting as tour guide, before going back to Texas A&M in the fall, to enter his senior year. So I invited Jack and his girlfriend, K*m, who is also in DC this summer (what a coincidence), and they joined my girlfriend, T, and I for the concert and we had pretty good time. J*ck's girlfriend is summer interning with the CIA and will also go back to A&M in the fall to finish her senior year.
Speaking of Washington DC, let me just remind you that your good friend [sarcasm, my mom was to say the least, not a big fan] and president of the United States, George W. Bush, only has three and a half more years on his second term, so clearly, there is a future worth looking forward to. love, Jim.
I am having some problems writing you a letter this morning. The computer I am writing on tends to freeze up, which means the keyboard won't respond and then I have to turn the machine off and when I turn it back on the words I have written are gone. So this is attempt number three this morning. You might ask why I don't just use a pencil and paper and if you did ask I would say because I can't find a pencil.
Your oldest son (who lives in Arlington), D*n, is my oldest brother, and his youngest son, J*ck, is in Washington DC for the summer, as is his girlfriend, and they have driven out to visit me this weekend. They are driving around the property in a jeep right now. I asked him to be careful and not tip the jeep because that happened to a guest once and the person tore his knee up pretty bad.
I went hiking yesterday with a friend who knows the trails around here as well as anyone and he knows many private trails that lead through and around rather exclusive private properties with giant homes, and manicured, landscaped ponds, and guest houses. Many of these properties around here are weekend homes for well-to-do Washington DC residents. We are 70 miles from DC.
I've been socializing more than I'm used to, going to parties, throwing parties, and I've met some nice people and some other people I could live without.
My guests, nephew J*ck, and his girlfriend, K*m, have come back from riding around in the jeep and we had a little talk and now they are either going to walk into town to window shop or they are going to stay on this property and play tennis and swim. Later tonight, my girlfriend, T, who plays trumpet in a musical band, is having a concert and we are all going to hear her play.
The owners of this property I take care of are my childhood friend, JF, and his wife, and they have three young boys, 11,8, and 5, and they were out for the July 4th weekend. They had some guests staying with them at their house and I had some guests down here at my house and it was an interesting mix of people and we shot off some fireworks and didn't burn the place down so I guess everything went well.
I am going to lay around and read now. I bought 15 used books for about 4 dollars the other day and I got some nice ones.
You be good. love, Jim
Yesterday I saw a movie set in New Orleans. I recognized much of the scenery and the neighborhoods and I felt the effect the movie makers were trying to create and it made me a little lonely for New Orleans, which is where I used to live before moving here to the Virginia countryside. But mostly what I couldn't get over was how they shot the movie without really showing a lot of black people and I thought how could you film such and such a neighborhood in New Orleans without showing more of the people who actually live there. I wonder sometimes, in general, if there is a story to be told that hasn't been told yet, and when I think about that I always think about New Orleans and how so much of the story I know from there doesn't seem to be tell-able or if it is tell-able how to my knowledge it hasn't been told yet. Sometimes I think about trying to tell it but except for a few hundred pages written about it while I actually lived there, sort of a journal I kept, I haven't really begun to work on the New Orleans story as I know it.
Its Sunday and I went hiking again this morning, this time up in the Shenandoah Park proper. I got up there about 9 a.m. and there was a large group of people having a get together at one of the picnic sites. I walked an easy, not overly-inspiring section of the Appalachian Trail and then I turned around and walked back. When I got near the lot I could hear people singing and it turned out that that large group at the picnic site was some sort of gospel, bluegrass, Christian musical group, and, they were pretty good. When I got to my truck though they had finished the song and some guy was just talking the talk, which turned out to be a whole lot less interesting than the music. So, I drove home and went for a swim.
One of your grandsons, J*ck Louis, who is the youngest son of your oldest son, D*n Louis, has been visiting me for a couple of days here in Virginia. J*ck and his girlfriend both attend Texas A&M University but are working in Washington DC (which is about 70 miles from where I live) for the summer and so I have seen them a couple of times.
I learned a secret handshake this weekend. Next time I see you I will let you in on the secret. love, Jim
Letter To Clifford, 7
If it gets any better on Rocheblave I don't think I could stand it. Across Rocheblave from the NOPD PIB (Internal Affairs) building is the parking lot for the United Way building which fronts Canal. Never before, but today there is a free concert over there (and the Chauffeur just walked over and brought me back a couple of free chili dogs) and the stage is such, facing Iberville, that sitting on the porch of my house I can hear this very credible female soul/blues singer belting out standard covers and she pretty damn good, so again the question remains, why leave the porch, why get off the boat? The Chauffeur is over across the street putting some oil in his van so it doesn't burn up when his replacement uses it to deliver advertising circulars (his bread and butter gig and only gig until he gets another limousine to replace the one that flooded) to a major drug store chain. Chauffeur has to fly to Houston, which is where to his mother and father evacuated when a rather impressive natural Corp of Engineers disaster occurred here in New Orleans seven months ago. His mother is in the hospital and very sick.
I am at that stage where I won't be able to put off finishing Sea Wolf by Jack London much longer and I don't know to where I will go next to find such an enjoyable and improbable tale of turmoil, catastrophe, high adventure, love, brutality, and philosophy. Following is a another letter I wrote to my mom in the months preceding her death.
Dear Mom, 6/12/05
The last time I wrote I was going to a Memorial Day party and I'm here to say I survived that. It was a little dicey at the beginning because the ex-boyfriend of my girlfriend, T, was there, and for awhile just by himself, even though he has a girlfriend of his own, and I thought--holy cow, what fun it is to live in a small town. You can't really go anywhere around here without running into people you would easily avoid in a larger town. After awhile the ex-boyfriend's girlfriend showed up and so I cared less about him being there, because If I wanted to be small-minded, I could always flirt with his girlfriend. I am proud to say I took the high road and we were all respectful of each other.
It finally started getting hot around here and my air-conditioner stopped working right about that same time so I got a fan going and am pretty cool if I do say so myself.
Also, there is a swimming pool on this property so I can go jump in that if I get too hot. Usually it cools off pretty well at night.
I have a birdhouse up out here and it was supposed to be for Purple Martins but I didn't attract any of those and instead got a couple of swallows, which I don't mind at all and enjoy watching. A mockingbird was perched on top of the birdhouse the other day and the swallows, Mr and Mrs I guess, took offense to the mockingbird's presence and flew in cirlces around him, swooping in close enough to pick the fleas off of his neck, and the mockingbird just acted like he didn't even know they were there but eventually did fly off and leave them alone.
I found a small copperhead snake near the back porch of the main house (I live down the hill in a caretaker's cottage) today and I was going to kill it but T objected and we had already had a small fight over something stupid the night before so I decided to play it cool and do whatever the hell she wanted, which was to scoop the snake up and take it somewhere off the property and let it out. And that's what I did, so don't tell me you can't teach an old dog new tricks. I had it in a glass jar with a snap on lid and as me and the snake drove along the country roads together I thought wouldn't it be funny if that lid came off and that snake was to take up residence in my truck. But the lid didn't come off and I stopped along the side of the road (although I thought about taking it to T 's house) and I shook it out, and the last picture in my mind is of one pretty ticked off baby snake. If I run across the ma or pa of that baby snake though, I will chop off their heads. I am, afterall, the caretaker out here.
Just a few blocks from here (this property I am at, 70 miles from Washington DC, is on the edge of a small, quaint town) there is a 5 star restaurant [The Inn at Little Washington} and presidents and heads of state are often to be seen dining there and last night T and I walked into town and plopped ourselves down in some comfortable chairs set up in an outdoor pavillion that nobody ever uses and we just watched the fancy people walking to the restaurant from the many surrounding Bed and Breakfasts. T was able to verify that what she sees in fashion magazines is in fact what the women are wearing when they go out with their husbands or men friends who are willing to spend five or six hundred dollars on a meal (or in some instances that amount of money will only buy a single bottle of wine). So I am here to tell you that for women's fashion the color black was all the rage for awhile but now pink is the new black and a lot of women seem to be splitting the difference and are wearing pink and black. That is all for now. Hope you are well.
Renovating At Midnight
My boss and I, both in our forties, six years apart, moan and groan at work, him mostly doing the trim carpentry and me mostly doing the painting. Our backs are for shit and speaking of shit, today at work I made a little funny to myself in the bathroom of a Metairie flood job on which we're doing the final touch-ups. It was so dark in the bathroom, even with the light on, I remarked to myself, I can't see shit in here. Get it? I talk to myself a lot, sometimes out loud and sometimes not. I told bossman on Tuesday that I would only be working to noon until I could put my shoes and socks on in the morning without crying. It happened the next day that I didn't cry like a little baby girl so it wasn't much of a break for me. You're not taking off at noon? he asked me the day after I first took off at noon and I said, no bossman, I didn't cry this morning. Yesterday there were five of us in the house at one time and we all have the same back problem, lower left and into our buttock, and the one woman has it running down her leg a little so she's going for an MRI soon.
Crying out in my sleep doesn't count, I do that even when I'm straight. If they made a movie of my dreams it would evidently be a woeful tale of woefulness (I don't remember my dreams so well for the last twenty years or so, like I ever wanted to be Casteneda's, Don Juan).
Once, when I was twenty-something, I made a mistake in California and spent two weeks in San Jose County jail and one morning this bad seed kid hit me on the bottom of my feet while I laid in bed reading Michener and he said, hey man, you were moaning in your sleep last night, which was very embarrassing indeed, but nobody liked this kid who was sort of making fun of me and the two guys who liked him least beat the shit out of him one day and he cried like a little baby for the guards to rescue him, and they did eventually, but they didn't really like him either, his jailhouse etiquette was wanting, and so they put him in the group cell with the psychopaths, I think that was C-block, and we were all much happier then. There were about forty of us in our block, in a group cell with bunk beds along two opposing walls, an open shower area with three sinks and four non-private showers and three or four stainless steel toilets, and there was a TV room, with no door, connected to the bunk room. There was never anything good on TV but as I remember it, after early breakfast, to which we marched single file to a cafeteria and back, there were exercise shows with women in leotards and those shows were very popular.
I don't cry for no reason any more here in New Orleans, like I did when I first arrived, but if I long for that feeling of unbridled weepiness I just get in the truck and drive north for several miles and then veer east for five, six, ten, twenty, or forty miles, witnessing not even the entirety of flood wrecked homes, and then come home again, and during these trips If I want to cry (sometimes its a good thing to do) I can easily do it.
I'm not sure what is wrong with the St. Charles streetcar line, because that part of town did not flood but their unflooded green streetcars are now running on the two or three year old Canal St. line, which had pretty, new red cars (however they flooded badly in the streetcar barn about six blocks from here) and so I can look out from my front porch, like right now, to this gap, or view corridor if you prefer, across the Pentecostal-owned half acre lot next to me, and across Iberville St. and the NOPD Public Integrity Bureau parking lot and beyond that to Canal St. and can see the cars go by every once in awhile. It's free to ride them until June. And I think the city buses are still free to ride.
I believe the Chauffeur has trailer fever. I'm ready to get back into my house, he says. Not a lick of work has yet been done on his house unless you count talking about work. It is hard to find reliable contractors and none of them want to come and give you estimates because they are overwhelmed by the so many people who are required to get estimates to free up insurance money, but the contractors just want to focus on the people already with the money, who have work they want done right away. Trailer living is not for me, says the Chauffeur. I say, it's very nice in there but it is sort of jail-like. He walks away, depressed, saying, yes, it's a very nice jail.
Debris from gutted homes is still being picked up and regular trash removal, while not exactly reliable, and certainly not twice a week like before, or even once a week like promised, still, eventually, the black trash bags you put in front of your home get picked up. Some people, in some of the nicer areas, are getting pretty wrecked about this trash thing, but it doesn't weigh too heavily with me. I think, honestly, under the circumstances, things are going swimmingly here, unless it is your druthers to bask in woe, and then, let me tell you, you can bask at full throttle twenty-four seven.
I had one last thing the electrician didn't finish but I finally figured out how to fix that myself, so I can now write that jackleg limp boner, Charlie Labourd, off my "dickheads who bother me" list. Problem is, I, even with the qualifier that I don't really know him, recommended him to the Sculptor and he screwing her bad, so I'm not overly happy about that.
The one crackhouse on this block will never be a crackhouse again, I think. The Sculptor wants to buy it and tear it down and thus improve her property. Still, once in awhile, people who desire what used to be available there, mosey by and call out to people who aren't there. The moldy couches and end tables and beds and book cases offer no condolences. The madam of the house I don't think will come back and even if she does, there ain't no place for her to live on this block, unless she moves into that little shed next door, which is possible I guess. I saw her son a few months ago and he was down from Houston rummaging through the crap to retrieve some things his mom desired and I should have sent a book or two back with him, because she was an avid reader, but I didn't. I used to fix her reading glasses with duct tape and she used to hit me up for three or four dollars somewhat regularly. It was not exactly a symbiotic relationship but on two separate occasions where I was gone from here for months at a time, and with no one in my house, it was not broken into, so maybe she kept her dogs at bay, and was returning my frequent but sometimes begrudging kindnesses.
It would also be good to see Charles, who lived there and worked for me occasionally, so that we could reminisce, even though it would probably cost me twenty dollars to do that. I can be an easy touch if I like someone. He would want to do some work for the money but I don't think I would work him too hard because I would probably just want to talk with him for a while, until he became bored of me. He is an interesting fellow and skates convincingly on that plain where poverty meets richness and intellect meets ignorance. He always wanted to travel out of New Orleans so one can hope that he is happy wherever it is he ended up, if in fact he survived.
It is midnight now and I can still hear the buzz of a circular saw, someone in the neighborhood renovating through the night.
Letter To Clifford, 6
You may be musing, Jim, in the last seven months you've lost a girlfriend, a mother, and pretty nearly the city that most inspires you, does anything good ever happen to you? and if by that you mean something other than being (sort of) free, (mostly) white and (considerably older than) 21, then I would say, well, let me think on that, while you go about minding your own f-ing business, what do you think this is, some sort of online gab forum where I spill my guts about everything from safely sordid sexual encounters with boxes of fried chicken, to personal letters to my recently deceased mother? Because if you think that then you have got another think coming. But all right, Ima give you a bone, because clearly these curiosities of yours imply that you're at a commercial break of American Idol and, although generally I don't do requests or answer questions, except obliquely, or sometimes straightforwardly and you can't shut me up but that's your punishment for even talking to me. I got this gift from Mr. BC over a year ago and it was a 5gb digital music player, a pre-release limited edition, number 131 out of 500 and I don't know what value that adds to what is essentially a disposable piece of electronics but it was really just the right player for me. I had it loaded with the equivalent of about 80 CDs or albums of music and even though I didn't pay for the music any more than I paid for the player, we're talking, in some world, where people actually pay for things, about $1,300 worth of pure musical enjoyment. The music I got from this music hoarding Cajun Russian Jew who holes up on New York's Lower East Side, and on his better days seems pretty intelligent, but still insists he won't come down south for a visit--not just because all his Cajun relations are long departed, or ficticious, but--because he blames the south for the holocaust. When I tell him the holocaust didn't happen down here, exactly, he insists, "oh yah it deed, it moist cer-tain-ly deed." I sometimes suspect his accent is as affected as my every supposition, as spurious as my ability to spell it out effectively. But, accented or not, how you gonna argue with a boneheadedness so thick and complete? This particular chunk of digital music I got from him is a sublime playlist of a thousand songs which often very effectively blot out the noise going on in the internal confusion machine of my being. Stuff like The Velvet Underground, Yo la Tengo, Calexico, Dylan, Cat Power, Four Tet, Fruit Bats, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and Fuck, to name a few. The thing about digital music players, and really, so many things if you think about it, is that they don't perform that well, or at all, after being dipped in soapy bleach water. Which is what happened to my Rio player when I stupidly stored it in my front pocket while scrubbing the black, greasy flood line off of my house back in November. Bending over the bleach bucket the player took a bath and henceforth did not work. I bought a little replacement player, a 1gb Ipod, and I hate it, just hate it. In fact, I bought the Ipod product just to prove to myself what I have said all along, I hate them, just hate them. The Rio player sat in my room, first on the table saw I was using as a bedside table and then, when I had to use the table saw to actually cut something, the shiny Rio sat on the floor. I would look at it occasionally, and sigh, wistfully. The other day, almost four months after the bath, exercising my option towards futility, I pushed the on button, and the Rio lit up and came on. I then crawled through the attic, my backseat, and every box I brought with me from Virginia, looking for the charger, because the battery icon was low. I found the charger and even though the player acts just a bit wonky now and again, it still performs beautifully, all the digital music data is intact, and I listen to it at work, painting, with small, cheap, over the ear headphones, the player comfortable of weight and operable through the fabric of my front jeans pocket, and there you have it, requested or not, a good thing that happened to me. I think American Idol is back on. As for me, I leave you with another Letter to Clifford. Her first name was not an informal appellation but rather her given name.
Dear Mom, 5/29/05
Today is Memorial Day and I went to my girlfriend's house (her name is T ) and worked on her (small) farm, or (very large) garden, whatever you want to call it. She is growing part of her vegetable crop in rows of concentric circles and today we weeded around and around in the asparagus ring.
I got a letter from my brother, and your son, W*lter, yesterday and it says his oldest son is getting married, I think in August, in Kansas. I don't suppose you are going and I'm not sure if I am, but I am thinking about it. His oldest son is M*cah. I think he is still in college.
I am still working on this vacation property of my childhood friend, JF, out here in Virginia, near the mountains, and it is very pretty countryside but kind of dull sometimes if you are used to lot's of excitement, which I'm really not, but I am used to being closer to excitement than I am out here. I am going to the Memorial Day gathering of some people I sort of know, later this afternoon, and that, I expect, will be as much excitement as I can stand. I like people well enough but I don't usually go out of my way to be around them. T, she likes socializing a little more than me so this is one of those things--me being a good sport. I'm sure I will have some fun, even though I don't feel overly sure of that at this point in time.
JF came out for a day with his kids and his wife and that is always a bustle of excitement but then they leave and it seems like a lot of effort and expense just to keep a property like this for such short stays. They bought the property as an investment so I'm sure they know what they are doing. There is plenty of work to do out here on the two houses and the grounds of the property, but it is kind of a strange job, with me deciding what to do more than I am ever told what to do. Like this is something I should complain about, but still, it leaves me feeling a little unsettled, at times.
T is younger than me, she just turned 30, and I just turned 46. I'm not complaining about that either and what good would it do if I were?
It's raining now. I hope this gathering later is not outside.
Letter To Clifford, 5
The stop light at Broad and Bienville is working now, so the stretch of N. Broad St. most surrounding me is totally stop-lit and bigger news than that is the opening of Betsy's Pancake House at Canal and Dorgenois. Now, back to Letter's to Clifford, sponsored by Hallmark.
Dear Mom, It's Sunday and raining here in Virginia. I am still near the Shenandoah Mountains on JF's weekend property. Most of the time I pretty much have this whole property to myself, and sometimes I share it with my girlfriend, T, whom you have met twice. Right now she is watching a movie while I write this letter. The sun is coming out a little and behind me out the window is a fringe tree, a stand of pine trees, and a rather strange version of the magnolia, and it is called a big leaf magnolia. The white blossoms are different than regular magnolia blossoms and the leaves are not shiny. The leaves are, however, bigger than any leaf I have ever seen on any tree. Also on this property are sweet gum trees, dogwoods, crape myrtles, two different kind of chestnut trees, two elm trees, a pecan, a maple, some peach trees, some crab apples, and one or two other varieties that have mostly died out in the United States. The property is on a small hill and is elevated above the town of Washington, population 185, and it is named for the original surveyor of the town, a 17-year-old kid named George Washington. The same George who went on to become president number one. Not to be confused with that idiot in the White House today, who is also named George (and is the 43rd president). I have been working pretty hard out here this spring. There are two houses, a cottage which I live in and then a much bigger house up the hill which is where the F's and their guests stay when they come out. The roof on the big house is metal and I am repainting it and the roofs of the few out buildings are metal too and I am repainting them as well. And I just repainted the back porch and repaired some of the rotten spots. I dug two new flower beds this year and am growing a bunch of flowers, most of which I have never seen before and have no idea what they are going to look like when they bloom. I also started a new vegetable garden and am growing a few different varieties of tomatoes and bell peppers, and cayenne, and jalapenos, okra, beets, string beans, cucumbers, and maybe some cantaloupe. T lives five miles away and I help her in her garden, which is much bigger than mine, almost an acre, and she sells her vegetables and flowers at an outdoor market on Saturday mornings. When I'm not arguing with her I learn quite a bit from her considerable experience. There is a pool out here and it is covered for the winter but was opened up yesterday and the pool guy gets it going right and then I maintain it for the summer until it's time to cover it up ( a fabric covering which allows rain and melting snow to pass through but keeps out falling leaves and other debris). The water is still ice cold and will be for about another month but is nice to look at and occasionally put your feet in. The fact that I am living out here like a king is just further proof that fact is truly stranger than fiction. Hope you are doing well. It was nice to see you last week when JF flew me down in the private jet with him on his business trip. Also, remember, if the volume on the TV gets stuck too loud you can stick your fingernail around the edge of the little button on the TV that makes the volume go up and jiggle it and it will pop out and and then you can push the down volume button and adjust it to your liking. love, Jim.
Letter To Clifford, 4
These are letters to my mom written last year. I am on hiatus. Good books I have read or am reading, Crichton's, State of Fear, not by far his best writing but extremely thought provoking and a hell of a 5 or 6 page bibliography, with notes, at the end, A Paul Auster, I can't think of the name though, about a fireman drifting meeting a skinny card sharp, and they have adventures together, really good. And I'm in the middle of Jack London's, Sea Wolf, it really good, too.
Dear Mom, 3/30/05
Spring has sprung here in Virginia. Daffodils are blooming and Forsythia is coming on and there is this hedge surrounding my back porch which I think is called Winter Jasmine and it has yellow flowers all winter so there is a lot of yellow around here. For another month or so there is still the possibility of frost or snow so the only thing going in gardens right now is spinach, carrots, potatoes or other cool weather crops. T, my girlfriend, whom you've met twice, grows over an acre of vegetables and flowers so she has started over a thousand plants indoors under lights and is now starting to harden them off and they spend the days outside. They are grown in 18X24 inch flats, each of which holds fifty plants. She is also starting an asparagus bed this year and raspberries and blueberries and a few grapes.
As agent for J and LF I am this year undertaking the task of attracting a Purple Martin colony to the property (40 acres two hours west of Washington DC). I have been given the go ahead to purchase two more expensive four-room additions to go on the existing pole with one four-plex, which I put up a few months ago in anticipation of the May-June nesting season. Apparently, the attracting of Purple Martins is a somewhat exacting science and so in the four to six week window in which I have to attract Martin sub adults to their new home I will be playing a Martin dawn song bird tape in the hours preceding dawn (I will put the tape on a timer so I don't actually have to get up to start the tape every morning), and I may have to keep some of the birdhouse holes plugged until they are needed so that sparrow and other common birds don't invade, and I may have to smear a little mud around the openings and stick a little pine straw to it so it has that messy lived in look that Martins evidently like, and I have a couple of plastic Martin decoys to attach on or near the birdhouse, and I may for all I know have to put on a Purple Martin suit and sing a little song my ownself and maybe wear a sandwich board that says--Young Martins Welcome, or, Hey, Young Martins, If You Lived Here, You'd be Home Already.
I repainted a utility shed yesterday and it looks pretty damn good.
I hear that me and my four brothers and one sister were successful in getting you to graciously accept the idea of in-home help and that there is a young woman named Katrina Washington coming by a few hours every day. I hope she is to your liking or in the likely event that she is not exactly to your liking I hope you can find some peaceful middle ground on which to stand, and be peaceful, about it.
I received your Easter card last week. The card was nice even though Easter day itself was cold and rainy.
Take care--from your youngest 45-year-old son, Jim Louis.
Letter To Clifford, 3
J's wife, L, brought out here last summer two birdhouses. They had to be put together. One of them was octagonal, you know, eight-sided, and me and her and her oldest son (10) spent the better part of an afternoon screwing together the metal sides of the two tier birdhouse. So, each tier had eight sides, which meant 16 total sides for this birdhouse. There were 400 nuts and 400 bolts, so small that a person would be better served to have tweezers instead of fingers to handle them.
There used to be little rubber pads covering the bridge of my reading glasses but they are now lost so when I bend over they fall off. While I was helping to construct the birdhouse I had to keep pushing up on my glasses. When I started sighing L said I didn't have to do this if I didn't want to but you and I know she didn't exactly mean that. And anyway, I have a lot more than one or two sighs in me for any given job.
In addition to the difficulty presented by the large number of parts there was the danger of slicing off one or two fingers because the metal was thin, and sharp, like a steak knife. Telling her son, J, to be careful, was about as useful as yelling at a deaf person.
The F's, J and L and their three sons, J, A, and W, don't usually stay out here for the whole day, and so when they left that day last summer I still had a few mystery parts to add to the birdhouse. It was a mystery I was able to solve but then I had to consider the construction of a second birdhouse. The second birdhouse turned out to be much simpler, and studier, so I decided to erect it first, out in the back pasture. The problem with this studier birdhouse is that it only comes with four bird apartments as opposed to the other less sturdy birdhouse, which has sixteen. These are supposed to purple martin houses and you need more than four apartments if you expect to attract even a small flock the first year. And you start trying to attract them in March or April, depending on which part of the country you live in. This being February I thought I should start looking.
I looked on the Internet recently and found several suppliers for the sturdy birdhouse that is known as the American Heritage Quad Pod Purple Martin Birdhouse system. As the name (Quad) implies, each unit, sold separately, had four bird apartments. I had set up just one Quad (four apartments) and the pole can hold up to three more, for a total of sixteen purple martin apartments. I was thinking two more, for a total of twelve apartments, would be adequate. But on sale they cost $125 a piece (regular price--$175). I have the ability and permission to spend J and L's money for property related expenses but I'm not going to spend that much money on a birdhouse, without talking to them first.
I have some tree trimming to do today. Perhaps that will take my mind off of $700 birdhouses.
Take care, from your youngest 45 year old son, Jim.
Letter To Clifford, 2
Due to apparent fatigue or March Madness I am, instead of my usual drivel, posting letters I wrote to my mother last year. My mom died recently, just two weeks after me and my siblings took her from her home and put her in an assisted living facility.
Dear Mom, 3-24-05
I hope everything is going well for you, but as I have heard you say, even if everything is not going well, there's not a heck of a lot you can do about it.
After visiting with you in January and seeing the ease with which you make and carry out doctors appointments*, I decided to make one for myself today because I haven't had a check-up in 10 years and they say you should get checkups more often than that. It took me most of the day to get up the courage to make the call. There are only two doctors in this town and only one of them was recommended to me and predictably that one is booked clear into the next century. But his receptionist allowed me to go onto a waiting list, from which maybe they would call me, she said as long as two months from now. I told her if I had waited ten years I could wait another two months, but I'll probably look into making another appointment in one of the larger nearby towns, like Front Royal, or Culpeper, or Warrenton.
This property I live on is a weekend property and is owned by my old childhood buddy from down the street, JF, and he and his wife and three boys (ages 5, 8, and 10) come out when they can, or not at all in the winter, and maybe every other weekend during the summer.
The property is forty acres on the edge of the quaint Virginia town of Washington (population 300) and is named for the 17 year old surveyor, George Washington, before he became a revolutionary, and first president of the US. It is the first town to use the name Washington in the United States. And there aren't many or any facts about this town much more interesting than that, which is to say the town itself is not that interesting. But it is a nice, quiet, scenic place to live. Manassas, the place where the Civil War began, is about 35 miles away so in the area there is some interesting history.
There are deer and fox and wild geese out here. And black bears, but I have only seen one of those, once.
There is a local guy who makes hats from road kill, like foxes and squirrels and such. If this guy sees a dead animal on the road, he is thinking--hat. While this seems like a peculiar avocation, the hats, the few I have seen, are actually pretty nice looking. Not that you will ever see me wearing one.
I heard that Sar*h came to visit you in February so I hope you two had some fun.
I am writing this letter on a computer. I now have to print it out, put it in an envelope with a stamp, address it, and take it a block away to my Post Office. If you receive this letter it will be proof that minor miracles do occur.
from your youngest 45 year old son, Jim Louis
Letter To Clifford, 1
Phillis say no, Erica didn't have a baby so the baby thing can be a little more speciousness in a day that probably already had plenty.
Between the demands of the day job--painting high end new residential the last few weeks--and the side projects, I'm too tired or time constrained to do much writing so for my few NOLA junkies I'm posting separately the fifteen letters I wrote to my mom last year. Now the only thing holding me back will be do I have the energy to drive over to a St. Charles Ave. curb (my most recent reliable wifi corridor) in the evening, or do I get up a few minutes early of my usual 5:30 a.m. and do it before work.
My mom had progressing Alzheimer's the last couple of years of her 88-year-old life and so I repeat myself a lot over the course of the fifteen letters and any other brief explanation will be done inside of brackets. The girlfriend mentioned was pseudonym-ed Lorina in posts from that era and is referred to in the letters by her real initial, T. Right before I left for New Orleans we reached a point of irreconcilability.
For real-time posts out of New Orleans the best thing going is Editor B at Brox.com, I think, Google it. He lives a few blocks north of my Rocheblave residence, so check it out, and be sure (if you have some high speed) to watch his movie #93, righteous.
I got me now some Krispy Krunchy from the 24 hour Ideal/Spur, corner Galvez/Canal, and a mixture of bottled beers in the cooler behind me in the bed of the truck and last night I had some pretty average grocery store sushi from the first Mid-City area reopened super Supermarket, Save A Center at Bienville/Carrollton. We are at about the 7 month mark post-Katrina.
The rats are gone from the Dumaine house, now just a few mice. Talk to you later.
Feb. 7, 2005
Dear Mom, (did not send)
After I left your house on Bencrest, where I had been visiting you for more of January than you care to remember, I went to spend the night at brother Al*x's, and leaving at 4:30 that next morning I drove straight from Dallas to the town in which I live, Washington, VA., which is about 70 miles west of Washington DC and is situated up against the Shenandoah mountain range. It took me 22 hours driving straight with only a 30 minute nap somewhere after the halfway point, near Nashville, TN. If you count all the money I spent on strong coffee and various energy drinks, which cost over two dollars a can, you couldn't say I saved that much money from not staying in a motel for one night. But I was eager to sleep in my own bed so it seemed like a good idea at the time.
I arrived here at 2:30 in the morning of the next day and after taking a hot shower and a snort of whiskey I went to sleep for eight hours. I woke up feeling like I had just driven 22 hours followed by an eight hour nap. It had snowed here the day before so there was still some snow on the ground. I went hiking up in the Shenandoah mountains because I wanted to try out my new waterproof hiking boots that T got me for Christmas. The boots worked pretty well and so perhaps overconfident I went hiking the next day with T, to a mountain called Old Rag, which is considered one of the more difficult local hikes. A number of times I came to a place where I would say--well, I just can't do this, but T would show me a simple rock climbing maneuver and I would be good to go. We made it to the top and then back down just before it got really dark. There was still snow and ice on the trail and a few groups of people behind us who were leaving themselves some of the more difficult parts of the descending, to do in the dark. I was glad not to be one of them. I hope they all made it down, or slept up there. I have been sore for the last two days, and that is without ever falling down on the rocky trail.
I am starting back to work on JF's weekend property, which is where I live, maintaining the grounds and working on the two houses on forty acres.
Hope you are doing well,
from your youngest 45 year old son, Jim Louis.
Shootings, More Work, And Babies
Last week at the corner of Dumaine and Dorgenois a man was shot and then that man walked a mile to the First District police station at N. Rampart and St. Louis. The man was described as being reticent about the location and circumstances surrounding the incident. He said he had been shot somewhere near Orleans Ave. Police later interviewed the few neighbors existing in the area and found four or five shell casings on the ground at the Dumaine/Dorgenois corner, two blocks from Orleans. Perhaps only one of the bullets entered the man's side.
About ten days ago I reacquainted with Fermin after he came sauntering out of the Dumaine backyard with two of his little buddies. I have known Fermin since he was nine-years-old. He is now a few months shy of his twentieth birthday. A graduate of Clark High School where he played baseball and football, Fermin in his senior year in front of several thousand fans at Tad Gormley Stadium returned a kickoff for a hundred yards.
Did anybody touch you?
Nobody touched me, Mr. Jim.
Fermin was also in marching bands, playing the closest thing to a french horn most marching bands will permit, the mellifone? and also plays trumpet, if he had one, and is self taught on the keyboards, and would play that too if the six D batteries we purchased at the beerless Spur on N. Broad had been enough to make the the portable keyboard in M's Dumaine foyer work. But they weren't.
Fermin also likes to drink dacqueries (which I can't spell) at the lake with his girlfriends.
I don't drink 'em myself, Mr. Jim, I just get them for the ladies and then...
That's more than I need to know, Fermin.
That hairstyle I referred to the other day as long braids is not actually braids. The individual braid-like locks are called twists (which I know thanks to the diligent efforts of my research assistant; I can only ask Fermin so many direct questions about fashion).
The same day I reacquainted with Fermin I saw Snow. He was sitting on the steps of Esnard Villa crouched in the same way I showed him pictured up in the top left corner of this page where the cat sits, when I briefly ran revolving pictures up there. He has always a fathomless expression marked by black unblinking eyes. Jailhouse tattooed teardrops spot his black skin just below his left eye. I paused in the truck that day and called out to him.
You don't remember me, do you?
The faintest nod.
How you doing?
You doing all right?
(Was that a nod?)
All right man, I'll see you around.
The first Saturday I put Fermin to work on the Dumaine house I took him and my friend Laureen to Mother's for breakfast.
Sitting at one of the two tables by the kitchen and knowing that Fermin spent most evenings with his buddies somewhere on St. Ann, I said, Hey Fermin, did you hear about that shooting at Dumaine and Dorgenois?
He said, Oh yeah, that was Snow got shot.
Holy cow, who shot him?
Everybody that ends up on Dumaine wants to know when Mandy coming back. Yes, it's nice to see you, too. Mario (who, by the way, minding his own business, was also shot near the Dumaine/Dorgenois corner a year or two ago) and a few other well behaved boys I recognize but don't know that well, were gathered around Fermin as we finished up work the other day and they all want to know when Mandy coming back. I don't tell them not to lose hope, I'm sure she'll be back soon enough, and when she gets her house fixed up I'm sure she'll welcome you all back so you can have a safe house that people don't shoot at, yet, and you can all go about tearing the house up, again.
Somebody called out to me from over by Phillis's house on Sunday and I turned around to see a woman I did not truly recognize, walking across the street towards me. I went out to meet her in the middle of the street as she said, you don't recognize me, do you? I said, not really, and she said, it's Myrna (Shelton's mom). I kissed her on the cheek and told her she looked good and she said, when Mandy coming back? (nice to see you, too). I really been hoping to see Mandy to thank her for everything she done for me while I was in jail. I said, I'm sure she'll appreciate that, I'll tell her you were asking about her. She looked like someone who could really accomplish what she stated as her goal--not going back to jail.
Phillis's baby boy, D, is walking now, and is the king of Dumaine, next generation.
Oh, and Fermin told me this too--Erica had a baby. I haven't seen Erica since she was nine-years-old. I just loved that girl, but her aunt adopted her and took her off Dumaine because she felt the influences over there were not conducive to uprightness. Wow, what? she must be...? Thirteen or fourteen, Fermin said. Even as a one-year-old she had a remarkably mature bearing, and just amazing eyes, very worldly, as if she'd been here before, and seen the world turned asunder. I bet she'll be a good mom, probably very strict.
Well, it's March here in New Orleans, and I expect elsewhere too, it is March.
There are still dead bodies being found here, ten or so in the last month, decomposed, in attics, out behind sheds, in debris piles, so in answer to how are things going here, I'm starting with that. There are still dead bodies being found here.
That's not in anyway keeping you from eating at Emeril's or Galatoires or Antoines or Bayonna or Dick and Jenny's or Le Crepe Nanou or anywhere you like to eat. MacDonald's is finally open on St. Charles.
I stopped for groceries at Terranova's on Esplanade after work today because I've been forgetting to eat and then when it gets late and I get hungry I get really depressed if I go out looking for food in this part of town. There is no food at night in this part of town. For the quick fix I used to hit one of two MacDonald's or a Rally's or a Church's Chicken or a Popeyes or the Taco Bell/Pizza Hut or if I were punishing myself, the Burger King. Shut shut shut, all of them, not even gutted, not even an inkling that they are coming back. But they need to because people are coming back, a whole bunch in the last month.
There is here now a semblance of normalcy in a town that was never normal, so it's all about comparisons and it just gets tiring after awhile trying to figure out what's good and what's bad about what's happening here.
Like I should complain. A Mr. George Miller, master plumber, came and put in a new water heater for me yesterday and I took my first hot shower on Rocheblave, last night. It felt good.
The 85 year old couple around the corner still don't have electricity. That the city has accomplished as much as it has and has come as far as it has is really, on one level, amazing. All FEMA fuckups, Corps of Engineer fuckups, Insurance company fuckups, Government fuckups, and just all fuckups in general aside, this city has really come a long way in 6 months. But somebody, please, get the Smith's their electricity turned on, or if they need work done on the wiring, somebody step up and help the Smith's, all the Smith's in the city, first.
I got some french bread pizza sitting out un-refrigerated. Guess I better pop it in the oven, take a hot shower, finishing watching that Japanese flick, Afterlife.
I guess before I do that I'll drive down Canal, pick up a CityofNewOrleans wifi signal, post this while stopped at a red light, and in the unlikely event I see a parking space, I guess I could check my email too.
More Opinionated Rat-Laden Blathering
Only a dickless wonder when facing an unwinnable battle would utter the words Mission Accomplished. But at this point the only reason the trophy rats are even thinking about entering the Dumaine house is because the word on the street is-- there a little peanut butter to be had up in there, if you want it bad enough to die for.
That peanut butter is to die for said the one trophy rat to the other trophy rat.
The mission of a ratless world, while not accomplished, is, well, ongoing, but frankly, not that actively. We got 'em on the run though and if it were up to me I would spend billions, I mean billions of dollars, hunting rats in caves as far flung from here as--well, I can't see going as far as Pakistan, but I might venture out to the 7th Ward.
On Rocheblave the Sculptor has partial electricity, the Chauffeur has his trailer now fully electrified and I'm here on my porch electrified enough to type write, plugged into an actual outlet, not the converter running off the car battery (Oh man, if I could only get a wifi signal here).
I eradicated my tiny yet tenacious Rocheblave mice some time ago.
Rodents really don't get a lot of respect, and they have no religion, which makes them so much easier to kill, with impunity.
I was over at Dumaine the other day, just glancing around, and as I prepared to leave I heard voices over in the side yard, behind the wooden gate, which was closed when I came over, and, looking out, was still closed.
I read an article a while back about those crybaby Houstonians blaming all their violent crime on the bad boys from New Orleans, who had relocated there after the flood.
Houston--ya'll kick some ass when New Orleans needed you and you took in the people most in need, with a mere week or two of preparation, when New Orleans, with 300 years of preparation for catastrophic hurricanes, just fell down on the job. Fell down face in the mud while the rest of the world watched. So don't think I haven't respect for Houston (although, my dear God what a hellhole Houston is).
But Houston had an already rising crime rate that got a little bit exacerbated by some new gangsters and, in total, five or six or maybe eight murders were attributed to New Orleanians, between the flood and the time the article was written, about a month ago. Houston, I think, has ten times the population of New Orleans and they were crying about one or two extra murders a month? Two or three times a year or sometimes more, in the 10 years I lived here full time, we had 4 or 5 murders in a day, in a town with 470,000 people. You know, just for a little perspective.
I'm not saying Houston should not be upset about more murders. Murder is bad. I am against murder. Everybody I know (expect for that handful of murderers I've sort of crossed paths with) is against murder.
In the article there were descriptions by Houstonians about the New Orleans gangster, how you could tell who they were because they talked funny and because of their distinctive hair styles--the long braids as opposed to the corn row hair style of the Houston gangster. Newspapers can be so laughable in their political correctness but that's another harangue. So we're talking about black gangsters, no disrespect intended to my white gangster brethren with corn rows or long braids. Anyway, it was interesting to hear an outsider's view of what distinguished a New Orleans gangster. The long braids is definitely a trend here among black youth, gangster or choirboy. Ok, probably not choirboys.
I couldn't really see who it was out in the Dumaine side yard, I could only get a glance through the windows above the kitchen sink, but, OH MY DEAR GOD!!!, they were BLACK, and, I think I could see, BRAIDS!!!
I contemplated, briefly, suicide. I would put my skinny neck under the Gempler's rat trap kill bar and just end this pitiful existence of fear and misunderstanding. But, eventually, and I know this, crawfish will be affordable, and where there are affordable crawfish, there is hope. I then heard a faint, mocking voice--they won't be affordable anytime this year, pencil-neck, go ahead, Gemplerize yourself, before them gangbangers outside fuck you up. I will not be berated by faint, mocking voices. I went out on the front porch to meet my fate.
The gate pushed open. There were three of them, oh shit, all with braids.
I said, Hey Fermin, I thought that was you, what's up mane?
What you been up to?
I didn't want to make the two younger braided boys nervous so I just ignored them.
I said to Fermin, you working?
He said, yeh.
Where you at?
I may have some work for you if you're interested.
Oh yeah, Mr. Jim, for sure.
So we exchanged numbers and the next morning at 7:30 I got a call from Fermin, but I was already at work, doing the day job, and told him we would have to arrange something over the next few days, working on the Dumaine house, or my house on Rocheblave.
But I got to tell you, Fermin looked really good with his hair like that, and the two younger boys looked respectable with it too. Some people shouldn't wear it though, they should just shave their head so it looks more like their ass. That's right Treme Fatty, I'm talking about you over there disrespecting your Grandma at the laundromat on Dumaine and Rampart. Yeah I know it's been five months but I ain't forgot about you. You should go on a diet too. You getting too old for all that baby fat. All weight and hair issues aside though, you ugly.
In New Orleans pulling the truck to the curb I see a fellow who once threatened to burn my house down, preparing to smoke a blunt on the steps of Esnard Villa. I called out to him and he stopped what he was doing but I said don't stop on my account. We shook hands and bumped right shoulders together in that approximation of hugging that is popular among some men and then while standing at ease we caught up on that very limited piece of time and space when/where our lives had intersected.
He had once crawled under a car to escape a mad gunman but the gunman got eight shots into him and he went from critical to back on the streets in 15 days. At least one of the bullets had altered his face so that he looked like half of his cheek was just starting to melt.
On this day that I saw him, he had longer hair and some beard and he looked good and I told him so. He said he was in town for the parades, had seen another mutual acquaintance, one I am not overly fond of, and, that having already left New Orleans two years previous at the urging of a wife hoping to extend his lifespan, he had no intention of moving back to N.O. In only a couple of minutes we ran out of things to say to each other. I expressed with some heartfelt directness--It's good to see you, J. He said it was good to see me, too (calling me Mr. Jim, which you know I get a kick out of), and we parted.
It turns out this temporary Catholicism thing I'm embracing as a way to quit smoking (for Lent) has a troubling loophole, in that the thing you give up for Lent you can partake of (it) on Sunday's. Boy, boy, boy. Ain't that some namby pamby shit? I'm so close to trying it. If the Catholics say its ok then it must be ok. Four days without a cigarette and the Catholics are telling me if I want to be weak then go ahead, it's ok. I mean, namby pampy. It's enough to make you wish Saddam Hussein were running your life. I bet Saddam Hussein wouldn't let me smoke on Sunday's. The Pentecostals are tearing down the big pink house that fronts Canal, for more parking said the preacher's son and I don't know how I feel about that so I'm airing it out right here, next to Saddam Hussein's anti-smoking campaign.
My patience has limits. So I just went on ahead (with some advice from the Chauffeur) and pulled that meter out and removed the condoms from the male prongs and then pushed that meter back in and presto, house on Rocheblave is energized. So for the first time in six months you can flip a switch and a light will come on, or ceiling fan will twirl, and the electric glow plugs on the gas oven and gas furnace and gas dryer will ignite. I went ahead and paid Entergy that 225 dollars for the zero service they had performed and if they don't punish me for my renegade actions I won't begrudge them the extortion. We could try to say all's well that ends well but there is so much here in New Orleans that hasn't even begun, it's a stretch to refer to an ending.
Concentrating On Rampart
Continuing with a recent theme, I saw this morning a man walking up the neutral ground near Broad and Canal, and the man was holding by the tail a large dead smooshed flat rat. The man walked jauntily and appeared happy and carefree at
7:30 this morning, a 24 oz. beer in one hand, the crusty flat grey rat in the other. The man wore a black top hat, a black jacket and pants and black shoes.
After gassing up I headed for the diner on Bourbon St. but upon arriving there the doors were locked and through the glass I could see chairs up on tables. A woman who had just tried the locked door herself told me the new hours for the time being are 9 to 9, due to another employee shortage. She was an employee herself but evidently not one trusted with a key.
I walked back to my truck parked on Rampart and drove aimlessly, forlorn by the very thought of that bland and often cold fare from the Trolley Stop on St. Charles. I zigged through a construction zone at the corner of Perdido and tried to be more alert than I had been the other day on Broad, at Orleans, where I had pulled out into the intersection to purposely ram a car that was moving out of turn at the four way stop, but instead of ramming I just paused and gesticulated wildly, with arms stretched wide, head cocked, mouthing--what the hell are you doing?--only to realize Broad and Orleans is lighted, has been for awhile, and this I got when glancing up from the middle of the intersection I saw the light above me was red. And it was me who was the asshole, again.
But this morning, concentrating on Rampart, I turned left on Poydras and it came to me that I should see if Mother's has reopened. I got to the corner, I think it's Camp, and there was not a long line out the door which has always been pretty much the standard at Mother's, especially Saturday mornings. But there was a sign out front that said they were open so I U-turned a couple of times and parked on Magazine and walked over. There were just a few of us in there. A young black college girl with oversized sunglasses was ordering at the counter in front of me and the counter person was grilling her as to why she seemed so out of it. "Girl, what did you do last night?" The girl shyly reported back that she had been, you know, partying all night, and the other counter person just shook her head, saying her niece, who staying with her, had come in at 5:30 this morning and if she expects to keep staying with her, that shit will change.
I placed my order, the special--eggs, grits, ham, biscuits--which had to be served on two plates, and weighed about five pounds, and then slid on down to pay, and get some coffee with milk. The young college girl was in front of me again and a different counter person was trying to ferret out just what the girl had special ordered, and at one point said--"oh no, unh unh girl, that too much bread, you can't have that."
The ham served with my special was three or four gigantic chunks of tender meat, and not too salty and I got one of the slabs between the extra biscuit, wrapped in a paper towel, sitting in front of me right now, parked back at Rocheblave.
Thought I Was Wrong Once Before...
It is a thing that happens so rarely I am not upset, but, rather, bemused by it. I was wrong about something. Gosh, what alien words to hear coming from my mouth. I was wrong? That must be a misprint, a mis-utterance.
After getting up at five-thirty a.m. and spending a long hard day breathing paint fumes and construction dust I like to head to an American ghetto and dig through a dumpster where rumored there is the biggest f-ing rat ever attached to the phenomenal Gempler's reusable rat trap.
Because I appeared to be pretty damn serious about my beloved rat trap M had to suffer the mild embarrassment of asking the visiting general contractor via email where the hell did he put the rat w/trap attached that he reported removing from her house on Dumaine, like he a can-do man, not afraid of hard work, and fastidious with rats by putting them in dumpsters, give me the job. Not a bad angle really. Dead rat removal.
It's been about a week so the sun beating down on the black plastic top of that dumpster behind the shut down Magnolia corner store had caused this man's biggest rat ever to sort of decompose quickly. Maggots had helped to remove all the unnecessary fleshy matter and yet by shear toe to tail length I am giving this man his props. Although technically he didn't catch that rat, I did. I set the trap in a strategic locale. I waited patiently. All he did was carry it across the street. But I'm giving him his due for that because that rat could have re-animated while he carried it dangling heavy from the Gempler's reusable rat trap, and bitten his hand off, him thereafter writhing in pain, supine on the pavement, in a practically de-populated American ghetto, never to be seen again by his loved ones.
People, more than a few, hell, I've said it myself--oh, the nicotine fit only lasts three minutes, you can withstand that, be strong, you can do it, be a hero, be an inspiration to all the weak, fun-loving, doing what they want and enjoying it folks in the land who may or may not suffer any long term consequences from it.
I would badly like a cigarette.
I mean, holy shit, how long do you want to live anyway?
If this part of the city weren't still so devastated I would find an old used up and disease-ridden set of works in the gutter and I would round up some shorts, butts, squares or rounds and boil them down and shoot them up, straight into my veins. Okay, not so many words written but that was a lot longer than three minutes and I'm still feeling very crazy in an unappealing way. I'm chewing some nicotine gum now. Calm down. Not smoking cigs is better for a number of reasons, none of which I can think of right now. Only losers smoke, happy, doing what they damn well feel like losers, luxuriating in the smoke, it's sooo good, being a loser is the best thing in the world... I don't know if I'm going to make this happen. Just being honest. That's how I feel right now, knowing that I could walk a few minutes and buy me a fresh pack. Do you hear that? Jimmmmy, jiihimmmy? Come buy me, come smoke me. Love me Jimmy. I will love you if you love me.
So, the dude's rat was bigger than mine, big deal.
Mardi Gras is over, than God.
Now there is nothing left but work, thank God.
Oh, March 1st, six months after the rising waters de-energized and de-populated that 80% of New Orleans existing outside the tourist grid, they flicked that little fuse up on the pole in front of my house on Rocheblave, my street light is on, the street in on the Entergy grid, and If I wanted, I could play basketball at night, and I could also, with some assistance, illegally turn on my own juice, but Ima wait a little longer, because obeying the law is every bit as rewarding as not smoking.
I was going to tell you how frustrating it is to get through to Entergy but every time I mention it to someone around here their eyes insta-glaze because they have been there, done it, heard it, lived it, and are trying to think about something else. I have failed so many times at it I can confidently wave the consolation prize trophy of run of the mill failure, at unadoring fans. I got through to a human last night, I thought by a little trickery, but the trick was on me and she couldn't help me, wasn't even based in New Orleans, wasn't the kind of operator who could (or was allowed to) pull up my account. When she asked where I was from I said New Orleans, is there anyway you can help me with my New Orleans issues? and when she said no and I said okay I'll start over, it seemed she was someone getting a lot of these calls, and was feeling the pain of it, and it was really through an awkward silence that she communicated this and if only for that silent second or two, it was nice to be felt.
Money For Nothing
Since I have not done a change of address back to New Orleans, from my Virginia address (to which I will be returning in 3 months), I set up online billing from Entergy so I can be all good and ready when they turn my electricity back on. Gas service would be on the bill too, and as I mentioned in a previous post, gas service was restored recently. I have run the gas for a total of two or three hours to boil big pots of water.
I had called Entergy back in November and let them know I was back and that billing should be in my name, not the renter's, so they had me in their database, and when I called to get my account number to set things up online, the automated phone system informed me that I had a current bill of 22 dollars, which seemed fine to me.
Last week I got my first online bill and it was for 225 dollars. I can't call during the week due to long hold times getting through to a human at Entergy, so I have done all my previous talking to them on Saturdays, because I have unlimited weekend minutes on my cell phone plan, but very few anytime minutes.
I called this morning to politely ask what is up with my bill, seems kind of high, seeing as how I don't have electricity running to my house. Things have changed at Entergy and they can't help me on weekends. A human told me this, not like they don't have humans down there anymore on Saturdays, but they can't help me or the many like me, getting ridiculous bills, and only cell phones to communicate with, many of us budgeteers, with small minute plans.
Well ok, thank you, I said. Cussing is immature so I'm trying not to do it as much.
The Sculptor came over to Rocheblave (she is staying at a friend's house in the Marigny) last week and appeared very upset. Do you have electricity? she asked.
Entergy called her--which in itself is weird--and told her that if she didn't pay her 350 dollar electric bill by 5 p.m. that day, they would shut off her electricity. She said to Entergy, I don't have electricity.
Yes you do, said Entergy.
No, I don't, said The Sculptor (but she had been out of town attending her mother's funeral) and so maybe it had been turned on while she was gone and she told the woman she would go over and check and if she had electricity she would gladly rush down and give them money for the exaggerated bill.
Sculptor and I have both had our electrical work done by a licensed electrician, month's ago, and hers was a little more involved and they had to disconnect her wires from the house, whereas mine are all hooked up (and I'm just waiting for the flick of that little fuse up on the transformer in front of my property).
Sculptor still wasn't sure, so I said, Sculptor, no, you don't have electricity, period, running to your house, period. Those people are lying to you.
She got madder, and before I knew it she had convinced me to go down to the TV station and she vented to a person who took notes, and our phone numbers. My nephew later asked me if I had to be on TV to get my service restored, would it be worth it to me. That sort of stumped me. Frankly, I would rather just bribe somebody. Or if that extortion Entergy is trying to pull on the many of us without electricity is the price to pay for somewhat immediate restoring of service, I'm good with that too, but me and many others are getting these weird bills, after going months without any service of any kind, and, like I said, I'm trying to cuss less, which then just leaves me pretty speechless.
Some of the billing can be back billing, which is understandable, but when I called today, before speaking to the human, the automated part of the system recognized me from my phone number and then the punched in last four digits of my SS#. It told me that there was past due billing in the amount of 22 dollars. So what's with the 200 extra dollars? I guess I'll just have to borrow a land line telephone during the week and find out, or spend a frustrating hour or two getting through the hold period, and not really find out. And I'm cutting back on the cussing. And I'm going to try and quit smoking again, for Lent, even though I'm not Catholic, but my nails are getting a little long so I guess I can start chewing on those.
Oh yeah, it's Mardi Gras here. Don't believe what you see on TV. None of the really cool stuff happens on Bourbon street.