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New Orleans All Pro Offensive Lineman Slim Jekins is as big as a house so it stands to reason that his house would be as big as a, ah, ah, The Grinch! No, that was not meant to go there. Somehow just slipped in because--even without TV--I am as susceptible as the next guy to all out media blitzes, and when I used to go to the movies often--before they priced themselves out of my personal economy--I would see that Grinch clip. So that explains that.
Jenkin's new house in "Swampland Estates" on Loyola, in Kenner, Louisiana is big. At 13.000 sq. ft. it is by several thousand feet bigger than the biggest house I've ever worked on as a house painter. Me and the Breux's (two of three generations represented) were out there yesterday priming the windows, the inside and edges of which are bare wood and the outside being metal clad. There are about 64 working casement (the kind that crank open) windows, some more that are just set glass with frame, and then most of the doors are glass with same metal exterior framing and bare wood interior. About 100,000 dollars worth of windows by Pella, which I declare, suck, because the wood parts should be pre-primed at the factory. It was bad enough some years ago when the Pella design allowed for relatively easy removal of the windows from their frames, but now they are designed so that it is impractical to remove them and therefore some crannys go unprimed, but not to worry Mr. Jenkin's, we're gonna take care of you and your Pella windows will work like a dream.
The idea of this job came up a couple of years ago and the Saints weren't much of a team and Ditka not much of a coach and we were wanting to get away from this particular builder who was killing us with his work ethic but then Jenkin's postponed and we quit the builder anyway. A great man to work for, the builder, and some good fun had working around the various subcontractors, but like I said, too much work, way too ambitous. I had always encouraged the slackening of work ethic and my boss was with me on that so for the last couple of years he makes less money, I make a little more, and work is only as hard as it has to be.
But the builder come hunting us recently, playing on our pride by suggesting the painters we gave him as replacements were adequate but he wanted something a little better for the big boy's house. I suspect as much as anything he's just tired of Jose and his boys pretending they don't speak english that well when it suits them. Jose used to work with us and not only does he speak english quite adequately, he can tell jokes in english, which I've always understood equates to near mastery of a language.
And what with the Saints giving us more than a little excitement this year the idea became almost attractive to paint this Lineman's house. I report this at the same time I am flooded with new ideas, ideas that always seem a little bigger than me, but probably are what keep me alive even though I can't access them properly. I can see them so there's hope on that front and as for the people who want to put Christ back in Christmas I say go ahead and do what you think is best.
The Obligatory Sunlight
Early morning sun enters the unwashed windows of an unfinished two story dream home capturing slants of floating sawdust which speckle the face of a worker at rest. The worker sits on an empty five gallon bucket, leaning forward, elbows to knees, hands clasped together, and confesses the dream which put color to the thing which has bothered him for some time.
"I had a dream last night that I was sharing my wife with my brother. We were living in a home like this one, two stories, and apparently the arrangement allowed either my brother or I to pair up with my wife, and this evening my brother says he's going to bed and my wife gets all frisky-like and says 'Wait up, I'm coming with you,' and they gallop up the stairs, laughing and hugging each other as they go. And then I can hear the bedroom door close and them up there giggling and jumping up and down on the bed like kids. I'm sitting on the couch and the TV is playing nothing but white static and I'm thinking this is no good, this arrangement, something has to change, and as soon as I think that my brother calls over to me from the stairway--I hadn't even heard him come down--and tells me in an offhand way that I need to start the laundry. I say offhand, but it was also deliberate, the way he instructed me, head down and eyes up as if looking over reading glasses, and punctuating with a raised eyebrow and a cluck of the tongue. He then did a casual about face and sighed, as if giving me those instructions, and the subsequent task ahead of him (fucking my wife), were heavily weighted chores."
His co-worker thought this was the most sensitive, insightful, and funny thing his boss had ever said in the six years they had worked together, and so to respect that his laughter was both loud and genuine.
Haunting Of A Stranger
I met a girl this weekend and I think its serious. Just kidding, I only said that to make me laugh. To give myself pleasure.
But to be blunt, what inspired that bit of onanism was the single woman with the attractive ass who preceded me out the glass doors of Canal Place Cinema on Saturday--she held the door for me, and I like that in a woman--and then she stopped to talk to an older woman, and I like that too, and then she got into a very crowded elevator with me, and I'm thinking this is like a first date. I took my place front and center, and she squeezed in to my right just after, and so my hand would have had to invade the space that was now occupied by her chest if I wanted to punch my own number, which it actually did, and more I blush to say, but only in the same sense that the strung out boy in the movie took the cop's gun and played keep away with his equally strung out partner and like the strung out girl jammed her fork into the hand of the sleaze bag. It didn't really happen...unless of course it really did. "'Would you press nine?,' was the first thing I asked her," is what we would tell the grandchildren.
It wasn't really all that serious, but as we the many stood in the overloaded elevator with doors open, going nowhere, her certainly worried that perhaps her button pushing was somehow amiss (and I couldn't squeeze her hand as comfort because we haven't met yet), and all of us growing perhaps a little restless, and feeling perhaps this tired cosmic joke was pushing the rules of spacial elevator etiquette just a bit far, when finally two party chicks bolted because, as the one said, "this is getting too weird for me." She clearly had not come from the movie Requiem for a Dream, or otherwise lived a very interesting or challenging life because relatively speaking the elevator experience--and I really don't like crowded elevators--did not even register a blip on my "too weird" meter, but of course, to each their own, and thanks to them anyway for I suspect it was the missing weight of those two that set things right and got us moving upward to the parking garage (which I might add offers a none too shabby--almost romantic--view of the French Quarter and Mississippi River).
"He got off on nine, and I haven't seen him since," is what she told the freckled wisp of a boy who came and haunted from that place that could have been.
High School Basketball3/19/00
So as it turns out in the drama that is Louisiana state basketball playoffs, the St. Augustine disqualification held up. Hammond is vilified in the papers as a bunch of sore losing pussies (for alerting the authorities to a minor infraction by St. Aug, after losing to St. Aug in a semifinal game) but still it is them--not St. Aug--who get to play the quarterfinal game against Fair Park. I went to Lafayette anyway, enjoyed very much the music and dance provided by the Fair Park band as they rocked the Cajun Dome with a mix of traditional New Orleans brass, tribal percussion, hip hop, and jazz.
Fair Park had an easy time with Hammond, which set up the championship game against the Shaw Eagles, who beat Hunnington in their quarterfinal game. I ate at two different Waffle Houses a total of three times, had chocolate cream pie only once, as I did not feel--(I can't imagine what I was going to say here so I'm leaving it unedited).
Shaw beat Fair Park in the state championship game. I did not stay for that game as I thought Fair Park would run over those eagles, or hey, how 'bout "clip those eagle's wings." And I had already seen Shaw play this year as they are in the same New Orleans district as the St. Augustine Purple Knights, a team they lost to three times this year. In fact, Shaw was the third place team in that district, behind Jesuit and St. Aug.
Eddie Green just came by to see the paper. "Who won?" he asked. I shook my head, eyebrows raised. Eddie Green surmised, "Shaw won, that's sad."
John was a Vietnam veteran machine gunner from Syracuse who had after the war relocated to Squim, Washington, and was now hitchhiking I-!0 on his way to Florida to surprise his Mom and Dad on their fiftieth wedding anniversary.
In Squim, John could often be found at one of the four bars located there and on one night may have witnessed Raymond Carver suffering from brain tumors order a drink which he left untouched because in his confused tumorous state he still had the presence of mind to call Tess Gallagher to confess the deed--he had long before become a non-drinker--and she told him to get in the car and come home, to Port Angeles.
John would get as far as Mississippi before meeting a woman at a truck stop who mistook him for the deceased Richard Brautigan, and upon reading the work of his new identity which did sit prominently on the bedside table at the woman's trailer home he thought--good deal, I'll be this for awhile.
You know the both of them, the two cousins, one of which came down that street you are familiar with but he did not get his ski mask on quick enough, so the other cousin recognized him, and by doing so kept himself from being shot at, yesterday.
The Rocheblave house is gutted, naked down to its studs and rafters, but I am haggling hard with trash haulers which in this economy is a waste of time because all of us blue collars have the same sentiment, fuck it, I have plenty of work, I ain't cutting you no ($) slack. So no trash whatsoever has been hauled away from the property. I won't save any real big money with my haggling but at least I can firmly establish myself as a cheap bastard so the nickle and dimers don't kill me with their pleas for mercy. I know what its like to be imagined rich and privileged. Which in a sense I am, but look at my printout recently received from the Social Security Administration, with my twenty year work history spelled out, and the "rich" part would be a hard sell.
And after some of that haggling I enter the Dumaine property to see some guy in the corner over by the Esnard Villa side pissing against the fence so I confront him, don't know him, he stops what he's doing, can't be pissing, he didn't shake anything, or put anything back in his pants. I catch the cup of his hand, see the weed laying loosely across the paper. Shelton, and Stink, and Kevin's brother are playing dominoes.
"What are you doing?" And then I see the weed. "No fucking indeed. No, no, no, you can't do that here. What the fuck are you doing?" Lame duck or no, I have a mandated policy on this property which allows almost anyone to hang freely on this porch as long as they don't break laws. I have said recently to a porch gathering of key players that I would back them up against a shakedown as long as they don't hustle from, or smoke weed on, this property. I do not hide the fact from anyone, child or otherwise, that I myself smoke the occasional weed, but my point to everyone is that you will rarely, if ever, see me smoking it. Carelessness in my past has led to some nearly very fucked up consequences. I could almost be a Rebublican I am so conservative these days. But not a compassionate one.
The dude, the one I've never seen before looks flustered, and defiant, as he crosses the line off property.
"Eric!?" I yell, pleading the question mark.
"My bad, Mr. Jim, I told him not to," he says, gathering himself up to leave.
Shelton, ready for my wrath, says, " I couldn't do anything."
I did not respond to that, but I know what he means.
Last Friday Eddie Green hit a three pointer at the buzzer to beat Hammond, the number two ranked team in the state, by one point, and by doing so helped advance his team, the St. Augustine Purple Knights, to the final four in state playoff basketball action, in Lafayette. Hammond is trying to have St. Aug disqualified because one of it's bench warmers might be an ineligible player. The issue goes before some sort of tribunal tomorrow (today for most of you), and if St. Aug is not disqualified, Slim going to Lafayette for Thursday nights' game.
The new Taco Bell at Broad and Tulane is coming along nicely and even with the total destruction of the old Bell, and I mean total--they removed the building, broke out the foundation, drove pilings, and poured a new foundation--I suspect it will be open for business before I am completely finished on Rocheblave. But there's plenty of area projects that can make that lame claim. How embarrassing for those who claim to be more ambitious than me. Okay, no sour grapes, for true I am abundantly happy with the rapid progress of all local finer eateries and slop houses for they the latter are sad but true my sustenance. Elated.
In the interim I've had to travel from Mid-City to Central City to get my quickly made bland tacos, at the Claiborne and Toledano Taco Bell. A society wife on a job a while back took a liking to me and wanted to date me for one meal, perhaps Mexican food in Faubourg Marigny she suggested, but I begged off for various reasons, not least of which was because of her quite serious recommendation of said restaurant, "it's better than Taco Bell." I would hope so was my response. What, I look like a cheap date? ok don't answer that.
Once on my way to the Central City Bell, I made a wrong turn right into the Magnolia(?) projects and I felt vulnerable, that is to say life threatened, for as long as it took me to get back to a major thorough-fare.
And last week, coming back on Broad, burritos at my side, I was forced by police barricade to stop at the light at Washington and wait for a jazz funeral procession to pass. There was a mule drawn turn of the century hearse, some mourners, many video cameras, a group of black women all dressed in bright blue dresses and each wearing distinct head gear and equally distinct 50's retro sunglasses and apparently all members of one of the many local second line social clubs, and the Rebirth Brass Band, and then there was us--the passersby--and those two galloots on the curb both wearing the latest baggy gangsta pants, which are shiny this season, and two stray dogs, and some pigeons, and finally a funeral director who got things, and everyone of us, rolling, towards our destinies.
It was one of those moments that make up the reason I couldn't think of this summer when in NY someone upstairs on Rivington asked me why I ended up staying here in New Orleans and I just had to babble some out of politeness but when it became obvious I wouldn't come up with the right words this person supplied them for me which might piss off someone more well spoken, but not me, I like it when people fill in my blanks, especially if they get it exactly right. "It seduced you," she said.
Demolition is dirty work but satisfying like a good scream, hammer crashing against plaster, plaster cascading down bringing up clouds of dust, dust which existed only as potential moments before.
There's another guy here today. He says, "Slim, you heard about your boy?"
"Jerome, drive the green truck, come by CK sometime."
"Got fucked up bad, Slim."
"You heard about the guy shot those three people over in Kenner?"
"Guy shot two women and a dude, dude was Jerome. Shot in the head, the neck and chest, fucked him up bad, CK told me this, he paralyzed but moving two of his fingers, so..."
"Wow, that's fucked up." Slim and Jerome did not really like each other but were always polite to one another, and would nod or wave in passing.
Slim paid his co-worker for the partial day and drove him to the street on which they both lived. It was none of Slim's business what the man did with his money before going to the church meeting and he tried not to worry about it, in fact turned his head away from that common transaction which was now occuring right in front of him and several other adults, and children.
Damn Right I Am
Today was the first day I have eaten yellow rice since it was used as a voodoo curse against me this past summer, and among other things it brought to my mind that I wanted to send out a general thank you to the NY voodoo priest who offered to come down here to New Orleans and take care of things for me and also to thank him for his advice and comments. The curse and the offer of help got me to thinking about things and my juices flowing in a way that was most conducive to if not mental health then just my overall happiness in that way I think is similar to Shelton when he is happy because he has pissed someone off, and that person has cared enough to respond, even if in a negative way. It's a way to break away from nothingness, which ain't always all it's cracked up to be.
And as for the supposed voodoo effigy against me--PeeWee hanging from a clothes line--what the priest said has come true only in that way you interpret, and that is pretty much all there is to say about anything. But the idea that a hanging effigy is meant as a curse that will follow the cursed could be seen as true in my case this way--Mama Gambles Kitchen, somewhat locally reknowned soul food establishment, at the corner of Iberville and Dorgenois, diagonally very close to the Rocheblave property, has recently morphed into a Botanical Shop/Spiritual Church which quite simply is modern day code for Things Voodoo. Not to mention the one in the 800 block of N. Broad which is very close to the Dumaine property. Of course, to suggest that either of these establishments has anything to do with me is beyond egotism and into the realm of paranoid delusion. And, this is a pretty good stretch of interpretation on any level because I think what the NY priest said was that "hanging effigies" meant the curse was meant to follow me wherever I went and not that voodoo shops are going to follow me wherever I intend to stay, that is Rocheblave. But I'm only here to report, speculation is my filler. Or vice-versa.
Speaking of priests, I haven't been able to consult with my cousin Jim, who I think may actually be a monsignor (I'm talking Catholicism here and this clarification is for you pagans out there), but his insights would be a crux of this matter because it was like that for me thinking it over back when I first had the offer of help from the NY voodoo priest. Which version of spirituality shall we choose today? I fear I may be too unattached from the necessary faith to make me the ultimate believer of anything, but that will always be the question for all of us: what do you believe and what are you willing to do about it?
Me, I believe all of it, which is similar but different from faith, and is also similar to disbelief. Sounds noncommittal, but that's not really true either.
It's like the street pushers you may have heard in New York, or Portland, or Denver, or Dallas, or Baltimore, or Philadelphia, or San Francisco, them that query simply--"lookin'?" And me thinking literally always have to pause, just briefly now in later age, and consider could they mean something else other than what I know they mean, because mostly my answer is "no," but very possibly if the product were of another nature my answer would be most adamantly, "Yes," and, "how much is it?"
One Red, Two Green, Chocolate Cream Pie3/5/2000
Today I visited Mr. Wilson's Arboretum which mostly got me thinking about Red Tail Hawks, a personal favorite, but I had already been thinking about birds because over at the new house where I work slowly but surely, still sifting through nine years of accumulated garbage (today I focused exclusively on the styrofoam plates in the back corner of the lot, six garbage bags worth), there is in the neighbor's yard a palm tree, two actually, which in the last two days at not exactly, but close to, high noon, there has been a visitation by two--Parrots?
So I went up in the Dumaine attic which is the last place I saw my Field Guide to North American Birds because I don't believe in wild parrots in North America even though I understand they have them in the Miami area. There is nothing in the "green" section of the book resembling the two green squawking, not chirping, birds. The Internet helped me find more personal bird lover pages than I had time to peruse. It doesn't matter what they are really. Another dose of not seen before works for me.
I am a lame duck in this household and try not to impose my controlling manner more than necessary. Exceptions have arisen on the several occasions that our new boarder, fifteen-year-old Shelton Jackson, has tried to burn the house down. I'm sure I have too much pride so the loss of it which occurs when I scream obscenities at the top of my lungs into the face of an apparently indifferent but fairly troubled teenager can perhaps be justified as a cleansing. I can hope anyway, because I don't think the alternative--Who Wants to be an Asshole--would sell even to Fox. Shelton's response of "My bad Mr. Jim, my bad," while appropriate as an apology to throwing a bad pass or spilling punch on the floor is not what I want to hear in response to my initialIy calmer efforts at explaining why it's a bad idea to leave electric appliances running while he goes off to school to await his next suspension. Or why it's a bad idea to quick dry your clothes on a gas space heater while he hangs across the street with the gangbangers, practicing bad attitude, and inhaling the second hand blunt. As for the fashion sense of the inner-city teenager which has him defying gravity with his pants hanging loose below his butt, boxers to the world, I say nothing. What the fuck do I know? As for the lyrics he mimics, likewise.
I spend my days as the housepainter, back at English Turn, this time across the pond ("Bonita Bay"), from Mr. Cash Money's house. Cash Money produces rapper, Juvenile (Back That Ass Up), and several others, and like Master P, has transformed his experiences growing up in the New Orleans projects into a rap music production company worth tens of millions. The other residents of English Turn (for example the house next door which we also painted) pretend a disdain of their new neighbor and his occasionally overflowing entourage (straight outta the Magnolia Projects, baby), but secretly (yes, I know their secrets), are thrilled to death by this proximity to the notorious. Not to mention--"they run around that house all hours of the night with no clothes on, and no curtains over their windows."
Most evenings/afternoons I go straight to my new blighted property and at least go through the motions of some kind of productive activity. God grants me darkness at 6:30 so I leave out, grab fast food on N. Broad, and then head back to Dumaine to rinse the filth. There I am met by various realities, hopefully none too upsetting, either way, the morphine of exhaustion often has me sleeping by 8:30. Unfortunately this new schedule sometimes has me waking up at 3:30, which is two hours early for me.
Carnival has been running for about a week. I have caught a few parades, did Endymion last night, drank five beers, today thought I would die. Grand Marshall Britney Spears acted like she didn't even know me.
Short day at work tomorrow, next day is Fat Tuesday, no voting here, huge party, or thousands of little ones citywide, if one is so inclined. A lot of people leave the city for Mardi Gras and that will probably include me in future years.
And lastly, it's that time of year again, the St. Augustine Purple Knights have struggled as reigning 5A state high school basketball champs, but still, with a 24-9 record have found themselves amoung the final eight best teams in the state. Should they beat Hammond next Friday(a team I watched them beat earlier this year), they will advance to the final four tournament in Lafayette and that of course means one thing. Road trip for Slim, Cajun accents, cheesburger, fries, and chocolate cream pie at the Waffle House. Purple Knights don't fail me now.
The Horoscope And His Love Kennel
This is designed to make me feel better in this my hour of doubt. My horoscope today said quit being so hard on myself and look at my accomplishments, among which I include this writing, go figure. Bill once said in the breezeway at RedBarnFarm, while I laid in the hammock and someone else threw darts, "you are your own worst enemy." Ah, finally a nemisis worthy of my consideration, I gloat. The mixed bag of me. MeMeMe. The Self is a Lonely Hunter. I once spoke of the therapeutic value (self as psychiatrist) of this type of memoir. My brother, the criminology professor at that small Catholic school in Austin,TX. said in that case I should sue for malpractice. The medicine of humor, but even for a dollar (when dollar movies still existed in NO) I wouldn't go see that Punch Adams flick. I have few but definite standards. Feel me?
Instead of this I'm supposed to be putting my skills to the writing of the letter that is "just so" to that singular audience that is my plumber who is avoiding the completion of the Rocheblave plumbing rough in, this after almost six months, even though I originally played it as a "no hurry" kind of deal, due to the awareness of the singular slowness of my own one man renovation abilities, but now, or actually for the last two months or so, I have made it more that clear that I need him to get his diggers on my job and dig those two trenches (one for the outgoing sewage, one on the other side for incoming water).
All the copper water lines and black galvanized gas lines and the Central A/H ducts are in place, and the furnace is in the attic, and the PVC drainage pipes and vent stacks for the washer/dryer, kitchen, and, bathroom are installed, but without water in the pipes the inspectors won't inspect and until they do I can't insulate and sheetrock, which would put me at a point very close to move in.
Now the reason I'm not in full panic mode is because there is lots and lots of work I can still do, am doing, in the absence of this plumber. But I guess I'm just looking forward to that point when I really need that muhfuh and he playin' hard to get.
And my electrician sent me a bill for completion and then another one with an ever so subtle legal reference and I had to call and say, but you haven't completed (that would be trim out, the installation of switches and plugs and fixtures both inside and out, and ceiling fans, and trim for the recessed interior lights, which all obviously happens after the sheetrock is installed and painted), and his secretary was nice about it but never did she say, "oh, that bill was just a mistake, disregard it."
And for a pretty good while now I really have been working seven day weeks (only ever five at the paying job), sunup to sundown, and then, you know, there is that inner city populace infringement in my living quarters, actually just inches away from where I sleep, kids not doing homework anymore, just playing video games (even with the sound down it can still be intrusive, even though these are all the "good" kids). And then I kick them out just before the city imposed teenager curfew, have a few minutes of peace, and then get to play "dueling attitudes" with the "adopted" teenager, who is probably smoking weed now, but always makes it here for curfew, and apparently needs the representative angst of his rap music, "please put the headphones on" (but I often wait to tell him this after it has already pissed me off and turned me all edgy).
Even with the headphones on I can hear it.
I forget what it was I saw as my "accomplishments" this morning after reading my horoscope. I quit smoking two years ago though, and still pretty much count that as most impressive. Maybe some of this other stuff going on for the last year will look like accomplishments down the road.
What I want most right now is to quit thinking about my plumber last thing at night, and first thing in the morning, that kennel of time normally reserved for the objects of my puppy love.
You never know what you'll be good at until you gain the experience is what I'm thinking as I sidearm sling from the left side another dead cat into the bushes alongside the vacant Iberville dance hall which extends all the way behind the new property which I am currently renovating.
And reputations grow without any prompting--the skinny white dude is a dead cat recycler. Every time we put a dead one by the curb in front of his new house he scoops it up and takes it somewhere. That's voodoo.
I did not go by the new house or anywhere else on Fat Tuesday. Today after work I stopped by, knocked down a couple of ceilings, drank a couple of beers. Immediately upon arriving, however, I walked along the right side and stood in front of the broken windows looking for whatever my instincts were telling me to look for. Oh, bullet holes, shot through the few panes that weren't already broken, small caliber, .22, or .25. Now I'm not going to pretend I don't find this a little discouraging, but not all that much. With so many guns on the planet some will go off occasionally. And it happened on Mardi Gras day, a day of encouraged lunacy. As for the possibility it was a welcome to your new neighborhood type of message all I can say is this--bitches better come with something bigger than a .22, although, no kidding, a .22 can do a good bit of damage, from a distance, and especially point blank.
I think it's important to be cheerful, though.
Whatever He Says
It's not that he was interested in other people's converstations but he couldn't help but overhear them, and the cadence alone was enough to distract him verily.
Sometimes, in crowded restaurants, after he had eaten and was sated, he would start hearing all of it at once, and although this was not always unpleasant, on occasion it gave him the feeling that he was in the wrong place at the wrong time.
He tried music when at home and other occupants of the dwelling--he often wasn't sure how he was related to some of them--were on the phone, but if the music played too loud it also distracted him, and so the Velvet Underground, and his ex-girlfriend's phone coversation, and then that neighborhood girl who had called his name out at the top of her lungs so he would let her in, and her phone conversation, and then Lou Reed who was just waiting on his man--uptown, for heroin, he's not fooling anyone around here--but all of it became not just too much but too complex for him too consider, and so he would reach out towards a simpler unknown, and then...
He woke up in the church of his youth. The pastor was a communist, or so many of the congregation thought, what with his sermons including the thoughts of Kant and Kierkegaard. He had pale blues eyes, the pastor did.
He liked the pastor, so unlike the used-car salesman type of pastor he knew from other daydreams. The pastor once compared him to the founder of the Methodist religion. He took it as a compliment.
Then he was leaving the church, pausing purposefully in the hallway that smelled of old age, death, and coffee. She interrupted his nothingness to say, "penny for your thoughts," and he blushed verily, for he had been thinking about bonking this woman's daughter, up on the alter, in front of the entire congregation, except they (the congregation) would be frozen in time, and he and the woman's daughter would be melting, were melting, had melted.
He stepped outside into blistering silence.
Homecoming For Slim2/13/2000
As I piss through the hole in the floor of my new home I feel the kind of relief that perhaps only a man can know. A little jiggle completes the act of indecent satisfaction and a drop astray instead of inside the hole stains the narrrow Bogalusa-made hardwood planks of my new den. I revel in the stain color, in my ability to create it.
A southwest breeze blowing across the top of the Superdome before veering up Canal and moving through the gap to the NOPD Internal Affairs parking lot crosses the Iberville intersection with a head of steam, causing the tall weeds growing from the cracks in the broken cement of the vacant lot to bend in submission, and then entering the double set of double hung six over twos that glasslessly grace the western wall, caressess my face as I sit stooped over on a bucket, elbows to kneees, on a warm February day. I could sleep there now with this cool breeze fingering my face as I sit in reflection amidst the detritus of the crack artists who have preceded me as resident of this small acadian dwelling. Pile up the unwashed moldy clothes that hang like spanish moss from the shelf and rod of the small closet, and lay this noisy head down for a proper nap.
It is so good to have a home and cry free at last.
The Wonders Of Glazing
It was presented as an option so I took the whole week off, for Thanksgiving, I guess.
It was the first full week of full days I have been able to spend on the Rocheblave project since I began almost nine months ago, which is a long time relative to the time it would have taken a fully competent person to complete this job. It was kind of nice. Maybe I'll do such work for a living down the road a piece. My imagination still gets the best of me though, and I did not complete as much as I imagined I would and I have to keep in perspective that in the end it will just look like a house and all the work will amount to little more than stored memory, and experience, I guess, the experience might have some value.
The Rocheblave house has a lot of windows for such a small ( 800 sq. ft.) house. Fourteen in all, unless you count the back door as window because of its' four panes of glass, and the two sidelights on either side of the front door, and the crescent above the front door and then you'd have say there are eighteen windows, in which case I really did not accomplish jack by refinishing and reglazing only eight of them.
The windows are double hung which means there are actually two windows in each opening which slide independently in their wooden frame tracks. The bottom window lifts up, and the top window can be brought down. They are commonly referred to by the number of panes in the top window over the number of panes in the bottom window. They can be one over ones, nine over nines, or just about any imaginable combination. The Rocheblave windows are six over twos. So the eight windows are actually 16 and amount to 64 panes of glass. I was a little better than jackleg at window glazing before the week, now I am a little better than that. The house to work in is purely depressing with the windows boarded up so after the glazing cures for a week or so I hope to prime and put one finish coat (color?) on them and expose my hard work to the world of vandals. But I have to have natural light. Which is to say I didn't do that well for my 20 months in Seattle some years ago.
The refinishing part was like this: A common disc sander, which looks like a drill with a five inch circular pad on the end, and is mostly Makita blue, and let me say that just about anything Makita made, before it's Johnny-come-lately competitors, is the superior product. That being said, I don't own anything Makita, but I did borrow a disc sander as backup for the exterior siding sanding, and I know what's up with their cordless drills. Anyway, the disc sander rotates at about 5,000 rpm, which is a nice, effective, almost soothing speed. Soothing that is compared to the 20,000 grinding whining rpm of the Roto-Zip with its attached "Zipmate" (sold separately) to which is attached the "Zipmate Back-Up Pad," which is designed to wear out and can't be replaced from any local retailers so you have to resort to online shopping and a place in Mass. gets one (or two) out to your doorstep by mail in three days. But that's what I used, the Roto-Zip, first with a 36 grit pad (are you mad man?), and then the 50 grit (that's still too rough), and finishing with 80 grit on a one quarter sheet orbital palm sander (80 grit to finish?, you call yourself an artisan?).
I'm looking for speed here in this sanding off of the previous interior (almost black, crackled stain) finish, and yet my tool and choice of grits are risky because a slip of the hand could cut one of these window frames almost in two, or more likely--gouge the shit out of it. So the high speed Zip has to just float above the surface, allowing just the tips of the roughest grit to come in contact with the wood. Once with the 36 to expose the bare wood, once with the 50 to make the bare wood look cleaner, and then over with the orbital 80 to try to take out the deep scratches of those previous two grits. The final product shows some circular scratches which is my testament to human frailty, and if interpreted properly (these scratches) can be used to determine winning lottery numbers, successful business strategies, and more importantly, if interpreted with careful precision, will lead to true love.
By the way, all this work is done with the windows unattached from their weighted sash ropes and removed from their frames, laid flat on saw horses.
So bare wood, what to do? I decided on stained woodwork against white walls from the beginning, to let it be like the original for awhile at least. So natural finish or some stain color and then finish? One way to determine what the wood will look like with a natural finish is to spit on it and then smear the spit around to see the darkened wood. But I did not use that method. I rubbed a rag with paint thinner over the wood and decided the result was pretty sexy, at least to someone who has almost forgotten what sex is like, and so I went to my local Sherwin Williams, on Earhart, and bought a gallon of Sanding Sealer, which let me break it to you gently home and busisness owners, many of us professional painters have been using this not only as the pre-finish (to lacquer, or such) but as the finish itself, for years. I have refinished a couple of chairs for my own self over the years and am more than satisfied with the results. If we think you are paying too much attention to our methods we peel the label off the cans, and say these are just our work pots.
Not yet, almost forgot, you know how wooden sash windows are, there's all that flat surface area but that part closer to where the glass will actually go almost always has some curve to it. Can't power sand. So the 64X (4 sides) of the curved sashes had to be stripped (rubber gloves, stripper, steel or brass bristled brush, steel wool, rinse with wet rag, and next day hand sand, maybe run a putty knife along the grooves to remove gunk, and then because that stain and sealer smeared all over the flat surface you need to do a quick resand of the flat areas with 50 and 80). Now.
Outside, in the sunny, brisk November air, on saw horses, eight of sixteen at a time--seal, sand, seal, sand, seal. They look good, so good you worry which of the people passing on the street and doing business at the Auto Title Transfer place next door might want to break in and steal them that night. But you sleep peacefully on Dumaine and are happy to see no breach of property the next day.
Then you glazed, that's like putty, applied along each side of each pane.
And the week ends and come tomorrow (Saturday) night your ex-wife and newborn sixteen-year-old son return from a week in the West. And you can't help but wonder why your leaving is taking so long.
Eulogy For Jack2/7/2000
Jack was ubiquitous. He would be across the street, right in front of you, and then down by the corner. He moved to all these places at once with purpose.
He was not a menace to the society of which I am aware.
Crack means (processed) rock cocaine, Dope means heroin, and marijuana is hardly worth mentioning in this context. Marijuana does not lead to harder drugs. Insecurity, pain, anguish, lost love, never being hugged, having to wake up every morning and pretend a life of sensibility, watching your friends die on the streets and decay in prison; these are things which in some cases might lead to harder drugs.
He, Jack, was mentioned once in these missives on a first day of school, in a sentence that included Kojack.
He liked his dope, and today he died.
Last night about bedtime, except I wasn't tired, and because it was stormy much of the day I was only mildly alarmed at the crashing noise from next door at the still burnt out Esnard Villa. Heavy rains sometimes make pieces of the house fall down and crash. But these noises soon became more reminiscent of its former occupants, my good little buddies, Justin, D'Andre, and Chris Alexander, who would occasionally, overwhelmed by boredom, hurl objects from the second floor of their house onto this one. Because the irregular syncopated beat was definitely being drummed out on this house now, and because I was able to remind myself that there are no occupants next door, I was at a loss to explain, I was in the dark, I was ignorant. And their was an element of bliss to that.
The next vivid image that came to mind was of a large group of heavily armed men firing off weapons from some distant courtyard, and the bullets were coincidently landing mostly on this roof. I was able to feel for a brief moment what I think would be the most literal interpretation of "under siege."
Then I opened the front door and witnessed, with my neighbors, a hail storm of gradually increasing intensity that did in short time become so severe and frightening that I rushed myself inside and shut the door. And then the wind kicked up another notch and the beating against this non-insulated hollow structure became what will later be called--memorable.
Not softball sized hail, and not golf ball sized hail, but definitely not pea sized either. It would be fairly accurate to say, ice cube sized hail.
Shelton was excited, thought it was snowing, "Is it snowing, Mr. Jim?" I told him no, and don't go outside. He asked would it hurt and I said, "Yes." He immediately got on the phone and called Glynn's mom, his Aunt Nettie, who along with BaBa, and others, lost the battle to keep the family home across the street, and now live in an upstairs apartment on Claiborne, near Frenchmen. "Nettie," Shelton exclaimed, "It snowing."
All of the windows on the vulnerable side of the house are double hung six over sixes. The hail that found glass made loud cracking noises to go along with the loud drumming against the wood siding, and hard asbestos roofing. I was gathering materials: a razor knife, cardboard, duct tape. In ten minutes the worst of it had passed. Mandy was vaccuming glass, Shelton was asking me the difference between snow and hail. I did not have a ready answer, so I asked him to get the ladder for me.
Five window panes busted out, probably that many more cracked. Hail was still hitting the house and I had three cardboard replacement panes cut and ready to place. In the time it took me to tape up the last two windows in the back, Mandy had gotten under the covers of her bed, Shelton on his couch.
It was about 11:30 by then, passed my bedtime, but I was taking Monday off so I stayed up and started reading this book sent to me by Jeff Franzen, called--Black Panthers for Beginners. Pretending to be nothing else, it is a pretty good simplistic, fairly liberal representation of the Panther History, with cartoon drawings.
In between pages I would think about this house I would like to buy, the second one I have been serious about since I started looking in earnest.
This morning I got a couple of loads of laundry going, found my tax returns in the attic, organized account numbers, phone numbers, addresses, and other stuff that applies to me, called the realtor and was told the house was already under contract.
It is 11:30 again, twelve hours later, and Shelton, who also seems to have Monday off, and has had his breakfast, is out the door wearing his insulated Dallas Cowboys warmup jacket.
I guess I'll go look at a house over in the lower ninth ward, on Chartres, and maybe that one over in Hollygrove, uptown near the river.