Friday, April 27, 2012

Meaningfulness

Sometimes I think I should be relevant here on this blog.

Other people are relevant. They write about politics or sports or social justice like they were paid newspaper columnists or something. My problem with trying to do that kind of thing is that I'm not a newspaper columnist, paid or otherwise. I figure I already did my time being paid to do a job, a relevant job, at that. But it's finished now, and I'm retired. I don't have to do that anymore.

Now I'm free to be irrelevant. I've earned the right.

So why do I keep on plucking my fiddle here?

Because this is my letter—not to the world—but to whomever comes along to find it. It's like notes I've jotted on scraps of paper that I drop behind me on this path I find myself wandering along.

And because I have an ego fat enough to think that what little lint I tumble onto in my naval gazing might have meaning to someone else who thinks as small as I do.

I believe, you see, that what is inconsequential has significance, that simple things magnify the greater, and that sometimes the cosmos itself can shimmer in the palms of our hands.

And that, grasshopper, is the sound of a tree falling in the forest.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Lunacy in the Big Easy

It appears that we did indeed win our judgment against the City of New Orleans. Within days of my sending a written request to the Parking Violations Bureau for a refund of the money I'd paid in a disputed parking violation, I received the letter shown here.

It's a clarification of the judgment letter!

It's meant to clear up any misunderstanding one might have come away with from having read the original decision of the Administrative Hearing Officer. (Gotta love a system that sends a form letter in response to your response to a legal document.)

You'll remember in that original determination (see below), the City advised me that I had to formally request a refund of the money the City owed me.

Well, it appears that isn't all I have to do as a voting, taxpaying, and property-owning citizen of the City of New Orleans. (I love using the word citizen in a context such as this. It's so post-French Revolution. And we all know what that was about, don't we?) I not only have to request a refund of the money I paid to get our car out of the auto pound, I have to show proof that I actually paid it—my personal proof apparently being more reliable than the City's own accounting system.

Okay, I'll give 'em that.

I also find it interesting that the letter instructs me (since I paid, not by credit card but by debit card) to send "both the original cash register receipt and [my] duplicate credit card charge slip."

Although I have the cash-register receipt, with Method of Payment - Credit Card written on it, I do not have a "duplicate credit card charge slip." I don't recall receiving one of those, the cash-register receipt being, after all, for want of a better word, a receipt; but since I paid by debit card, I do have my bank statement showing the payment, so I hope that will do.

Of course, I will not be sending the City any original documents whatsoever. There is something in this whole matter that is not ... worthy of trust to this citizen concerning his local government.

If my next step should fail, there is always the I-Team I can turn to or that kid with the eyebrows on Channel 8—I forget his name at the moment, but you know who I mean

Until then, friends, it's liberté, egalité, fraternité, and money back!

Excelsior!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Hard Living in the Big Easy

As you all must recall, we got this doozy of a parking ticket back in November of last year for leaving our Scion where a movie company wanted to film late at night. I wrote about it here.

I didn't mention at the time that I appealed the ticket.

Well, the Administrative Hearing Center of the City of New Orleans heard our case on April 4th, one of those star-chamber affairs, I reckon.

And we won!

Well, I think we won. Click on the image here and let me know if you think we won. The language could mean we lost. I'm not too certain, but I'm going to be optimistic and think that we won, even if we were "given a final warning"—a "warning" about "what," I'm sure I don't know, for sure.

However, notice the part where "NOT RESPONSIBLE" is circled. Then notice that part that says, "IF YOU MADE PAYMENT AT THE TIME OF CONTESTING AND WERE FOUND NOT RESPONSIBLE, YOU ARE DUE A REFUND. ANY REFUND MUST BE REQUESTED BY YOU."

i HAVE A PROBLEM WITH THAT  I mean, I have a problem with that. If I am "not responsible," then why, oh, City of New Orleans, do you want my money so badly? Doesn't that make you something of a big, old-fashioned sandlot bully, filching little kids' lunch money?

Then there's the part about the refund ... I have to ask for it back now that I've won the judgment?

Well, you know how much I hate asking anyone for money (donation gadgets notwithstanding). But I will.

In fact, I have. Of course, a person might have thought the appeal itself was a manner of requesting the money back; but I'm going to play by your rules and spell it out in another letter.

The funny thing about all this—I mean, aside from the hilarity of commonplace highway robbery—is that what we wound up appealing turned out to be the twenty-dollar parking ticket. No part of the appeal encompassed the towing charge of $153.00.

It's a little like Bobby not having to pay the annual $15.00 fee for his Residential Parking Permit because of his age, but still having to pay the $40.00 processing fee for his Residential Parking Permit.

Gotta love a city government that functions as its own proud snake-oil salesman.

Or maybe not.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Lazy

Laziness is not a good thing.

Unless it's you being lazy.

Then there are clear reasons that excuse the legs up in front of the TV set, the nachos on the coffee table, the intermittent dozing throughout the day and into the night.

You've fought your battles. Won some, lost a few, but here you are, unbowed.

Just lazy.

For now.

You'll regain your energy soon enough, tackle some cause again and right another wrong.

Until then, you just let the cable news float through the ether round your head.

You find you feel deep sadness for everybody involved in the killing of young Trayvon Martin; but can't seem to muster much compassion for old whats-his-name, that politician who once ran for president and who had an illegitimate kid while his wife was dying of cancer.

You wonder what could have happened to that North Korean rocket that dropped off the radar into the sea, and what is whichever-Kim-he-is gonna do now to save face?

And a part of your waking brain ponders the great national outrage over Mrs. Mitt Romney and her work ethic.

Honk if you really, truly, cross-your-heart-and-hope-to-die believe that Ann Romney raised five boys like your own mama did, without a Roman Cohort's worth of household servants and without ever having to slap a bunch of Mickey D Happy Meals down on the kitchen table because there wasn't enough food in the house to feed five kids?

And people wonder why you just want to let the world go round without you for a while.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Easter Egg Hunt

A friend of ours invited Bobby and me to visit his home on Easter Sunday afternoon. This was a wonderful surprise, coming, as it did, at a time when I felt ready to step back out and rejoin the human race. There would be mutual friends of ours there, and, since my friend's apartment wasn't large, I felt there would not be too much of a crowd.

I'm so happy I went. It was everything I imagined and more.

The food! There was food. My friend is Italian; how could there not be food. And speaking of Italian, his family was there! Such lovely people. There was hugging and kissing and cheeks being pinched until we were all black and blue from top to bottom. And there were Easter bonnets to die for. One guest even brought a bonnet for our host's mother. She was delighted and never took it off the rest of the afternoon.

But we had come together for more than food and dressing up. We were expecting an Easter Parade! There had been two so far, and the one that remained was the long-anticipated Gay Easter Parade, which was guaranteed to have on display the prettiest frocks imaginable.

Before you you could say, "Hippity, hoppity," three times fast, the color guard was coming down the street, and the parade was on. There were people in carriages, wearing extravagant bonnets, a proper Protestant church choir lip-syncing to Dolly-Parton holiday hits. The crowd on the street was ecstatic. Everyone was so happy and colorful that even the parade marchers were taking pictures of the spectators. And people all along the route were making the strangest new friends.

Soon after the parade had ended, though, it was time to head back home; no reason to spoil a perfect afternoon with too much indulgence. Besides Bobby's back was beginning to hurt him from the load he was lugging. It was time to pack away those beads for another day.

It shouldn't surprise you to know I slept like a baby that Easter night.

("Easter Eggs" courtesy of Bob and our friend and host Patrick.)

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Waking the Dead

In late July of last year, something good inside me died. I have been mourning that death ever since.

And, just like any other death that seems to trigger the death-in-three's phenomenon, so had this one.

There was first the sudden, unexpected loss of friendship and the resulting ice-hard loneliness. That was followed by the loss of place, the realization I would never be welcomed into a community of which I had wished to be a part. The third death was the loss of any personal regard, the stunning discovery of my own worthlessness to people I had wanted to befriend and by whom I had wanted to be liked.

We are born to mourn; and I held time in both my hands and grieved through these last months, never once realizing that my span of grief was a gestation that would bless me in the end with renewed life.

Death becomes a friend to us as time leads us down the roads we travel, a companion on our journeys, perhaps our only friend. With his great scythe, he hacks off of our backs the lifeless burdens we carry out of habit as decisively as he rips loved ones from our hearts. He whispers to us that the dark, cold emptiness we feel now will become endurable, will offer peace and an inkling of the presence of God, who is far beyond anything we could bear to imagine.

These last few days, I have been waking the dead. Now I have buried those whom I had sought to love but had not loved me. They lie below the dirt beneath my feet.

The stone is rolled away. Light trickles across the threshold of my place of confinement. I step outside to breathe the cool, damp morning air and cradle this new day with gratitude and love.

Life is new again, reborn, and fat with wondrous possibilities.
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