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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.
You know what chaffs my hide? Some man coming onto My hunting grounds and disturbing My traps.
I get this email from M this morning telling me that the general contractor had come over to look at what needs doing on her Dumaine house, and finding one of MY trophy rats in the Gempler's rat trap, discards it.
And then to sprinkle salt onto the slug-like consistency of my male pride, he informs M--it was the biggest f-ing rat I have ever seen.
Oh really, then where is it? The nerve of this interloper to enter my hunting lease, claim one of my monsters, and then suggest that it is the biggest rat ever, or to the point, bigger than mine. AND THEN he takes the evidence AND the trap. You don't throw those traps away man. Where did he put it? In one of those trash bags in the foyer? If in fact there is a rat. I can still produce my rat, mister. Where's yours? I can take a picture of MY rat and post it on the Internet. Can you?
I can show you my rat, mister. It still over there in Brianna's yard where I threw it. My rat is very big. I bet its bigger than yours, ok?, so maybe you think those little rubber rats in gag shops are actual size but those little things are mice compared to my rat. I'm taking my rat to the nearest taxidermy and immortalizing my rat capturing prowess for all time. Can you do that with your so-called biggest f-ing rat ever?
You better not have put that rat with trap attached in one of those garbage bags.
Don't make me put on my blue rubber gloves, mister.
In the last post I said wild dogs were not so much in evidence in New Orleans, like they used to be, but on the way Uptown after posting that spittle, I passed on Cleveland St., near Broad, a discard pile which included three mattresses and on top of those mattresses were three dogs, handsome and carefree and relaxed, and they smiled at me, I swear to God. And then the next day I saw that white dog which has been hanging around the PIB (Public Integrity Bureau, for the NOPD) building on Rocheblave, at Canal. That dog is very skittish and appears lonely and lost and I don't think he digging it here very much.
Yesterday, checking the rat traps on Dumaine, and I see pretty much the classic New Orleans mutt, and he is comfortably in the middle of the street eye balling that chicken/rooster pair down the block. A skinny black cat is right next to the yard birds and seems friendly to them, or perhaps scared of them. The mutt clearly ain't from around here because he getting all into the crouch, ready for the sprint. That dog will not catch those birds. After a pitiful attempt at a stealthy and rapid attack, he gives up and heads off towards Dorgenois. Those birds are really beautiful, especially the rooster, I wish you could see them.
I've been feeling a little dejected lately because I can't figure out this electricity thing, why I don't have it six months after the latest American Tragedy, that happened here, in New Orleans. I don't have enough cell phone minutes to deal with one hour holds to Entergy and my electrician just can't believe it, somebody else just called him to say that his permit filing was not showing up. Mostly I don't care, I'm not really suffering. But every so often all the weirdness of this new world balls itself up and throws itself at me. Eh, boo hoo.
Thelonious Monk Jr. is 30 minutes away from being in the WWOZ studio and I just listened to this chill number on the radio, from his dad, and jazz is pretty well representing my best moods so I listen to it when I can.
My boss was telling me that in the New Orleans suburb of Metairie some of the many people who easily got trailers for temporary housing are already done with them, their houses are renovated and they are trying to get FEMA to come and get the trailers, and are having as hard a time getting them off their property as people in New Orleans are having getting them on their property. I'm looking over at the Chauffeur's trailer, across the street from me on Rocheblave. It's still locked up, two weeks after delivery, waiting for electric hookup. Things are pretty funny here. I watched at a friend's house the Jon Stewart Daily Show repeat last night, riffing on VP Cheney shooting his friend in the face. I laughed a good bit. Laughing is where it's at.
Great White Girly-Man
I am the Great White Hunter, armed only with a pair of blue rubber gloves, a steely reserve, and a single focus. I have traversed through the thinly populated 4th and 5th Wards to get here, to the 6th (as called by it's residents, despite Ward maps suggesting otherwise), at Broad and Dumaine, the northern tip of Treme, yet as much a no-man's land as the neutral ground of N. Broad. A neighborhood claimed wholeheartedly by no one, although rumors, and crude etchings in the sidewalks, suggest there was once at this location a lively black market, ruled by an infrequently ruthless cadre of loosely organized gang members, whose omnipresence, while rarely dangerous, was said to border on the obnoxious. But no groups or powerful neighborhood leaders really claim, with any effect, this interesting and lovely, if at times slightly scary place. Not the Zulus, not that eccentric, emaciated czar of Louisville, not really any Treme association, nor Faubourg St. John, nor Esplanade Ridge, or godforbid, not even the bloated mid-city association. A wind-wobbling and aged neighborhood watch sign screwed to a telephone pole implies an involved citizenry at some point in the past. But there is little evidence of that citizenry, or that other rumored gangbangery, now, as I stand high above it, on Mount 2*46, seeing Dumaine as it has rarely been seen in the 150-plus years of its existence--without human influence.
Which brings me to the point of the blue rubber gloves. For although the humans are gone, the wildlife is not. Oh yes, the wild dogs have so effectively been rounded up by volunteer SPCA groups from around the country, that to see one in New Orleans these days is a rare thing indeed. The feral felines fared a little better (and are certainly happy for the absence of those dogs) and are seen, but in lesser numbers than before The Flood, and are skinnier by absence of the chicken bones, and crab carcasses, and shrimp shells, and crawfish heads (and animal rescue kibble) which used to line the gutters for many, many surrounding blocks.
The beautifully colored wild chickens, apparently, not within the purview of animal rescue teams, nor in need of rescue, can be seen happily hop-walking about; there now are five of them across the street, by the dumpster, which promises nothing, and delivers the same. The rotting meats from the Magnolia, at the corner, which delivered stench for weeks and weeks after the flood, have finally been cleaned up, and the northerly winds and what they brought with them up to this porch, are no longer a thing to be feared, and slack are the gag reflex muscles of passersby.
I unlock the metal grate and enter the Dumaine domicile. The floor is dusty from the gutting of the front room. My boot prints, and no others, are comforting imprints in the dust. The wind ruffles the curtains over the partially boarded up broken front window, broken last week, on a cold night, presumably allowing Goldilocks her entry, while the three bears remain far flung in other American cities.
I already know what is in the kitchen, my bloated prey, resting with broken neck. I walk past it and retrieve the trap by the washer/dryer, the blue rubber gloves superfluous, because the little mouse barely takes up any space on the trap. Death is death, but those poor little mice really suffer an indignity from the spring strength of those rat traps. After walking out to the front porch and flinging that little cut-in-two mouse into the dead banana trees, I have to wash the shiny, flaky red blood off the striker bar. I had to walk past the giant dead rat to do that. It's been dead for two days, but I wanted to be sure it was dead before I picked it up. Call me The Great White Hunter or call me a Sissy Girly-Man, it all the same to me.
From previous experiences I have a decent feel for weights measuring a pound or less, and when I picked up the trap with the gigantic deceased rodent attached, the digital readout on my forehead said, .75 pounds. Some are you are saying--well that doesn't seem that big. To yous people I say, well leave your phone numbers and I'll call your bitch asses when I get another one to discard.
But really, and this is to M, who isn't a stranger to the occasional rat or mouse in the house, the problem, by combination of trapping (although I've only got the one rat and two mice, in total) and cleaning, is noticeably less than it was before my reticent campaign (no, I didn't mean to say recent). At least, I'm less scared walking into the house these days.
Looks like Phillis is back (pulled back to the hood after her house in N.O. East got totally destroyed), got her place all fixed up nice, and almost ready to move in, and there is some action in that place next door, the one formerly owned by the hitman, Paul Hardy, and that brick house that sits high (except for the basement), two down from her, towards Dorgenois, looks like they more or less living there. And cars drive down Dumaine, at early rush hour, sort of like before, but different. It's mostly very quiet though, but my prediction, which will prove as reliable as a weatherman getting rained on, forecasting rain, is this--won't stay that way.
Oh, also, the other day, a, uh, Mister Bg Shw, was in the neighborhood, and asked after you. He said, now tell her it Bg Shw, not Little Shw. I said, I will do that. And so I have.
Sometimes I just ride around New Orleans with my bag of fried chicken obtained from the Ideal Discount Mart (formerly a Spur) at the Canal/Galvez corner, just relishing the aroma and thinking what a fine date this bag of chicken is. I wonder if there is a women's perfume as fine as the scent of fried chicken?
I say to my fried chicken, baby, what you wanna do? And my fried chicken says, oh, I don't know cupcake, whatever you wanna do. I say, we could just drive around a little more before we go to my place, cuz you sooo hot, I'm afraid I'll burn my mouth on your delicious flesh. My lovely fried chicken giggles girlishly, and says, oh you. And I say, no seriously baby, you are just on fire hot, and, moist, and, crispy. I mean I never thought I would fall for a crispy lover but you are so--it. My bag of fried chicken purrs and says, I got a honey dipped biscuit in here for you too, kitten.
I don't really know exactly what that pill I took this morning does but if it's anything good I'll let you know......................................
....................................two days later, note to self--don't take that pill again.
God Or Fried Chicken
I am frankly a little hesitant to even pass on this very big news, due to the immaturity of some of my male readers, and each of you, right now, know I'm talking about you, on the east coast--in Brooklyn, Jersey City, and the LES, and to my new readers, New Orleanians and otherwho's, whose immaturity I just assume but lack personal knowledge of, except for that of my Uptown nephew (its pretty much in the bloodline) And you out there in CA pretending to be a Hi-Def corporate giant, keep it shut. And don't think I'm not talking about you, you rock star looking lawyer in Dallas. And you, Mr. BC, in VA, flirting with the Lear and/or a better anti-anxiety biscuit, just shut your immature mouth and don't even think immature thoughts about this big news. Because I got gas, yes I do, I got gas, uh huh, I got gas mthrfkrs, got it down in the N.O. I shouldn't be a sexist pig so I won't be. To my female fart joke lovers, quit being immature, and possibly, you might want to name a band after yourselves, if Dave Barry hasn't already suggested it.
Yeah, so. I got gas running to my house. Nobody told me I had gas, even though to be honest, nobody had to, because due to illness or bad diet, having gas was lately a thing pretty damn evident to me. Lucky for others I stay often to myself. That was an example of the type of immaturity I'm trying to avoid here, on this momentous day. How it happened was that 85 year-old dude back living in his house around the corner, stopped his truck in the street today and we talked about him being back and I ask him if he and his wife had stayed there those few very cold days and nights (it's warm again) recently, and was it cold and he said, no, he had gas, so, after we talked, I went and turned my gas meter on and then my stove, and voila.
I was on a six week waiting list for a hot water heater about 3 months ago. My water heater is in a shed outside and evidently four feet of flood water renders them useless. I should have taken care of that business instead of whatever the hell else I've been doing, (which partly was just assuming I would never have services restored to my neighborhood) because if I had, I'd be taken a hot shower right now instead of typing on this little Sony Vaio (still powered by a hundred foot extension cord running off the converter plugged into my cigarette lighter in the truck) while a big crawfish pot boils just water, slowly on my stove.
I ran some cold water into my tub, but clearly too much, because I just poured the first pot of hot water in there and when I stuck my hand into it, expecting tepid, it was still cold. I got another pot on the stove now, while the sun sets and I get ready to light the candles so I can see what I'm doing.
Over in Metarie today caulking windows to Chicago brick and this guy from India next door starts chatting me up about caulk and I clued him in to the intricacies of pure silicone versus acrylic latex silicone caulk and before I knew it he was confessing his Katrina related emotions towards suicide (the suicide numbers are pretty high in these first 6 post-K months). I told him, man, there is nobody here, I mean nobody, who isn't having some type of extreme emotional reaction to the Great Flood and don't be ashamed or hesitant to seek professional help (some of it free) and he said he was just praying, and I said, cool.
The mother of the woman whose house we are working on said to me on her second visit to the job site today, was that pile of dirt here this morning? I just smiled at her and nodded and she blushed and I said don't sweat it, we all got it, that weird memory thing, evidently related to the unique stress of living in a world turned asunder. She said, yeah, and then you could tell she was trying to remember something and she said, I've got CRS, and then you could tell she was trying to remember what that stands for, and finally she said, can't remember shit. She then told me two jokes and here they are--Beaudreaux in St. Bernard Parish heard that all the churches were being shut down (because there ain't no people because there ain't no viable houses for them to live in) but Beaudreaux said he didn't care about that because he preferred Popeye's. The next joke is lame too, pretty much an old standard, but not as regional and has nothing to do with Houses of God or fried chicken. A man is talking to his buddy and confides--you know, I didn't have sex with my wife before I married her. Hoping for a reciprocal confession he says to his buddy, what about you? His buddy says, well, I don't know, what was your wife's maiden name?
Huge News From New Orleans
I'm sorry, what did you say? Viability? Studies? Commissions? I don't need all that. You want proof that my neighborhood is coming back? I'll give you proof. Go to the corner of Canal and Galvez, this is in Louisville mind you, and the corner store (with gas pumps) you will find there, which has been open for three weeks, just added a new sign on the front plate glass--open 24 hours.
In all the devastated zones of New Orleans, this is the first 24 hour establishment. That's right, baby. Beer, wine, and liquor, and you know, food, snacks, toothbrushes and detergent and stuff, 24/7, in Louisville. You want viabliity, I got your viability, right here.