Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Hurricane Isaac: Live Blogging from the Heart of the Big Easy*

*The French Quarter, That Is.
4:25 PM, August 28th:
Peeked through a crack in the shutters. Misty rain sheeting in all directions while being whipped about by balmy breezes. Sun still refusing to be clouded over. DirecTV remains operational.

4:58 PM:
Just heard from a city-certified Evacuteer asking if I needed help. Not yet. Reminded me of that time a few years ago when I met a Disney Imagineer during Mardi Gras. But that's a story for another day.

5:21 PM:
Wonder if Verti Marte is still delivering.

Our Courtyard, 5:23 PM
Oops, Potted Plant Down
5:47 PM:
Just caught a little of the coverage on CNN. Sorry, guys, but Grand Isle is not New Orleans; and the sky over here is not falling yet. Loved the detailed explanation by the weatherman, though, about why Anderson Cooper's microphone went out. It's that rain whipping all around. Rain water gets into the spongy outer covering of those mics, you see, and can thus screw up a million-dollar operation. A good newsman has to remember to squeeze out the excess. Got that, Andy?

7:18 PM:
And it's getting windy. Sadly, lost most of the second-grade class of our school of goldfish in the patio pond. The teenagers are still partying. Damn punks. Decided to trim back the Pride of Barbados since it was twisting in the wind, and we were afraid parts of it might topple onto some of the smaller plants. Trying to avoid watching the local television channels. It's all weather, all the time now; and those people enjoy this crap too much for anybody's good.

He's Here
8:22 PM:
Okay, it's a-blowin' out there. Gonna try to catch a few Z's so I can get up early and make a go of riding the rest of this thing out awake and alert. I don't entirely trust the roof on this old, old building I call home, and I want to be awake if it decides it's gonna crash down on my head.

The Farmer's Market
Earlier Today
10:13 PM:
My brother Russell just telephoned to see how we were doing, and he woke me up. He's been watching the Weather Channel and was wondering if what Jim Cantore was saying was true. I couldn't say if it was or not. Apparently, Cantore is standing outside on the balcony of the Riverwalk overlooking the Mississippi River and I'm in my apartment set back from the street and surrounded by high walls. The wind is noisy up here on the second floor where my bedroom is, but when I opened the shutters to look outside, it wasn't all that bad. Certainly not as bad as the rainstorm we had a few weeks ago, back on the 20th of July. That was a doozy.

Bobby has looked out into the patio and tells me another potted plant has tipped over.

12:36 PM, August 29th:
Everything here is fine right now. Rain and a little wind. Going to bed for real now.

Ain't Budged
2:52 AM:
Still awake. Had a power outage sometime around 1:45, but the lights flashed back on within five minutes or so. The gate to the back patio no longer has a latch-catch and has been swinging open and shut throughout the storm, growing louder as the winds have increased. That industrial-sized paint can we pushed against it to keep it closed hasn't held; in fact, it has been flung aside. The local television channels are telling us we will be entertaining this stormy guest until Thursday now.

A few days ago, the Mayor described our city as being situated within the "cone of discomfort" within the predicted path of Isaac. I thought it was a silly term. Tonight, I believe it fits.

This hurricane is an inconvenient storm.

4:28 AM:
Fixed the gate! The clanging was getting out of hand, so I went in search of bungee cords I could use to try to wrap around the handle and keep that mother shut.

Once I stepped out back, another thought flared up in my mind. If the big-ass can of paint wouldn't keep the gate shut, maybe it would keep it open. Long story short: it did. So far.

Relaxed and watched a little television. Yep, DirecTV is still running. It functions through a hurricane but dries up and goes blank on a partly cloudy day? Gonna have to talk to those people soon.

Near the end of the crime drama I was passing my time with, I noticed something up on one of the living room walls, right above the new drapes over our French doors.

A great big bubble of water under the paint.

Well, I scurried up a stepladder I keep in the kitchen for just such emergencies (!) and popped that monster pimple with a paring knife. So now the rainwater leaking into the apartment can't hide anymore, but rather has to seep through and out into the open and into the pot I've placed on the floor beneath the open wound.

Bob is sleeping the sleep of the just.

Ain't fair.

9:11 AM:
No change. No change? No change! This thing doesn't seem to be moving out of here. "Isaac" was a waste of a good name. They should have called him Sheridan Whiteside!

Water is slipping in through cracks in the shutters. Laying towels down to keep it all localized. Wind, too, is blowing in through the crannies near the cracks.

If I ever win the lottery, I'm going to build myself a house all made of steel and concrete. It will have no windows and only one waterproof and windproof door; and the biggest room will be the bathroom!

And the bathroom will not be dependent on any Sewerage and Water Board.

Tropical Storm Isaac
3:19 PM:
Fell asleep. That lasted longer than I expected.

Hurricane has been downgraded. Back to a Tropical Storm.

Thought you was somebody, huh, Isaac? You ain't so tough. Not tough like your Auntie Katrina. Or even your Auntie Rita. You and your Uncle Gustav should a stayed home, 'stead of trying to run your numbers in the 'hood. Yeah, turn your back and drag your tail back home. Go on! (You don't think he's packin', do you?)

8:38 PM:
Plan on getting some restful sleep tonight, beginning soon.  Thanks for all the well wishes and prayers. Good night.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Prepping for Isaac

We've tied down the potential projectiles, fastened the door- and window-shutters, and hunkered down to play the game of wait and see. Another hurricane is creeping up on us, and this time everyone seems to be ready for it.

Our public officials are taking a cue from the weathermeisters and keeping their heads on top of their shoulders this go round. Everyone who's in the know considers this new storm to be a reasonable storm, not a raging Gorgon like Katrina or Camille, but reticent like some tentative, middle-aged guy who doesn't get out much.

The mayor has been on television, saying, "Hey, if ya wanna go, go; we'll be watching the homesteads till you come back. But if you wanna stay, be my guest. Be ready to lose a little power for a while, but that's to be expected. And don't go running outside into those heavy winds. A piece of slate off a nearby roof might do a Monty Python on your ass. And then where are ya...?"

Yeah, things are different this time around. It's like somebody figures, since we've been through all of this before, and not so long ago, we might be able to handle it and ourselves.

It's nice to think so.

It is a shame to have this happen on the seventh Katrina-versary, though. I had pretty much dug myself out of that pit of depression, but memories will come swimming back to me now on the waves unleashed by this new tempest.

That's to be expected.

I think I can handle them.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Male Toughness

I woke up this morning with a slight, very slight, shooting pain in  my lower right abdomen—kinda like a hollow-point tearing into me from close range.

Nothing too debilitating, mind you, but I think it bears watching. I'm cogitating that it could have something to do with my appendix, but today is not a good day to be dealing with emergency rooms or operations. There's too much for me to do.

Gotta tank up the car. Break in a new pair of sneakers. (They are so cool. They're called skaters. When I put them on, I look like a fat, black hip-hop star.) Prepare my mind for carrying a load of friends out to Kenner(!) to see a play(!!!) [sic]. Then doing it. God, theatre in Kenner!? Who would have thought? In the meantime, doing whatever Bobby might want me to do until then.

So far, there's no nausea, fever, or loss of appetite accompanying the pain, so it may be nothing more than a pulled muscle from running all over the Chalmette Walmart yesterday, wildly searching for Bobby after he'd gotten away from me.

Note to self: Never leave the little guy alone with a shopping cart while you pay a visit to a public restroom in a large store or mall. Make him wait outside the door. Or better yet, hoist him up on the diaper counter. It's too high for him to get down.

As for the pain, I can handle that. I'm a dude.

And I ain't a-scared either.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Drunken Pseudo-Poetry

I feel enveloped in transparency

ready to release
to let go

my arm extends
exceeds its length
as if in dreams

my hand

it begs your reciprocity

* * *

I have no idea what any of this is all about. I mean, I don't DO poetry, you know.

Saturday, August 18, 2012


I went to a marvelous party tonight—with Nounou and Nada and Nell ... No, that's not it.

What I really did tonight was I went to my friend Winston's surprise 81st birthday party. Once inside the "party venue," I approached him, expressed my anti-condolences, then went off to try like anything to find a goddamn seat to sit on.

Whenever there is a birthday party in the Quarter with a food spread, you would not believe how many people will turn out to wish you all the best. People you've never met in your life.

And one of those people I've never met in my life was this young man, very thin, very tall, very green, with a little straw fedora balanced atop his head.

I couldn't help but overhear his conversations. Well, not his conversations, really, his quotes: (These are verbatim.)
"It's nice to meet someone as good looking as I ..." (He really said this. I'm not making it up.)

"I'm visiting from New York. I ..."

"I'll be moving here in September. I ..."

"Well, not New York, originally, but Seattle. I ... "

"I'll be working for the S* B* P*. I ..."

"Oh, then I'll be your supervisor. I ..."
This was when I started to giggle.

When I was his age, I came to New Orleans because I thought, over here, I could begin to be the person I was destined to become: outrageous, common, lovable, smart, artistic, or whatever the hell it was I was meant to be. Sort of like why Faulkner or Tennessee came here. To discover something about themselves that lay hidden and dormant, or forbidden, everywhere else.

I never dreamed I could have come to New Orleans to assume responsibility for anyone else's well-being. To mold a city like clay. I would have found that to be presumptuous.

The thought of it makes me shudder still.

But then, I've been around the block a couple of times since then—and to the Superdome, as well, hanging by my ankles from a festooned trapeze.

People who come here to save the city don't realize that New Orleans is not as malleable as they might think. She's easy, yes. She bends. She'll lean on you.

But she's a self-sufficient whore and so much (so much) stronger than anyone believes, and that's where they go wrong. She has control. She makes the final decisions. And, God knows, she'll outlive us all.

I hope to see that young man that I eavesdropped on tonight in another year or so.

Will he be another Quarter rat, crawling around on all fours, or another Mrs. Grundy clamoring about the noise and the smells and the hours people keep?

Friday, August 17, 2012

Here Comes Mr. Jordan

I hit the streets again last night. What am I turning into?

I took Bobby out to the Allways to catch Leslie Jordan in his one-man-show.

No, I take that back. You cannot call what Mr. Jordan does a "one-man show." He's interacting with too many people in his audience to have you call it that. He is one of those stage performers (and he is a stage performer: there is too much energy radiating from him to be fully contained by any mechanical media) who takes sheer joy in entertaining. Like one of those classic, top-of-the-bill vaudevillians, you get the sense that a very funny man has found his perfect niche on this planet.

There's a video on YouTube of a Dick Cavett interview with Noel Coward, Alfred Lunt, and Lynn Fontanne. I can't find it now, but I saw it only recently. What I remember especially is this, that when the Lunts are introduced and come onstage, Alfred Lunt is caught by the applause and stands there frozen like a little boy on a Christmas morning, taking in all his presents jumbled there beneath the tree. He is all smiles and delight. Leslie Jordan is that kind of actor.

Damn me, if there still aren't some of those people who do it for the joy of the thing!

He's going to repeat his show tonight at eight. If my stomach didn't hurt so much from last night's laughs, I'd be tempted to go again, but then I'd be taking a seat from someone else who needs it more than I do by this time.

But you ought to think about it. It's small change laid out for what you get back in return.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Them Fugue States Can Really Get to You

I seem to have disappeared for a couple of weeks. I don't mean just from here. I mean totally disappeared. Like I was running on automatic, or maybe not running at all. Maybe I was abducted and probed. I don't know.

But everything's been a hazy bluish-gray for a while.

I do remember taking some pictures, publicity photos, for an upcoming production of a play called Michelangelo's Models, written by Robert Patrick, who was one of the founders of the Off-Off-Broadway theatre movement, of which the St Claude theatre district is a part. (Okay, I kinda made that one up.)

I didn't want to take those pictures. I just didn't want the bother, but the guy who was asking me wouldn't take no for an answer, so I wound up at the Shadowbox Theatre for the photo shoot, and once I was there, it turned into a pretty copacetic evening.

First of all, the cast members who were participating in the shoot were really nice. I've grown a little used to un-nice actors, and rediscovering some of the other kind was a pleasant experience. I knew a few of them. Bob Edes was there. Michael Sullivan. My darling Lyla. Lyla Hay Owen, but "Lyla" is enough. The rest were strangers to me then but not, I hope, forever.

I wound up making some pictures that I like very much. They'll be showing up on My Life in the Quarter over the next couple of weeks. Check them out periodically. You'll probably like them, too.

An unexpected perk of doing these pictures was having Robert Patrick himself "friend" me on Facebook. I'm no starfucker, but I've been a fan of Mr. Patrick's for way longer than Michael Martin has (even though Michael might have the New Orleans monopoly on his plays) for the simple reason that I am way older than Michael Martin is (regardless of the fact I look so many years younger—genes and cheekbones, dontcha know?) and could read before he'd learned his c's, his u's 'n' t's.

After that, I faded a bit and sank back into my haze until Monday night when I took myself to the Allways Lounge and Theatre to catch Waiting Around: the Restaurant Musical. This is a larky musical [sic] revue about dining out—fine or not—from the point of view of the wait staff. So if you've ever served or bussed or prepped or been manhandled by Management-with-a-capital-M, see the show. Revenge is sweet.

And if you've ever dined out in a restaurant, see the show. The guilt is good for you.

Besides, Ricky Graham wrote the book and lyrics. Harry Mayronne did the music. The cast consists of Chris Wecklein, Tracey E. Collins, Darcy Malone, and Jason Kirkpatrick. One of them is my friend; the rest are okay. The evening will leave you satisfied without feeling puffy. What's not to love?

It's running every Monday night until forever. Go. Go.

After that, there hasn't been much, just that haze.

I'm getting used to it.

And I'm finding people are particularly nice whenever you walk up to them on the street and say, "Pardon me ... where am I?"

Thursday, August 2, 2012

The Uncertainty of Certitude

When I was a kid, what I wanted to be when I grew up was smart. I wanted to be smart real bad. Real smart. I wanted that more than anything in the world, more than being a policeman or a fireman or the president.

However, as it did with many other kids on their way to drinking age, life decided it had different plans for me.

And that's okay. Every loss is balanced by a corresponding gain; and life balanced my lack of smarts with a little respectable humility and a silly sense of humor. Humbly admitting to not being all that bright myself, I find I am able to laugh at the brittle antics of eggheaded people.

I noticed this yesterday morning when I stumbled across a conversation on Facebook. (I know, I know, I should let that place be and develop a social life in the real world; but it's hard to get out of the house sometimes.) On Facebook, someone I know had made a reference to the death of Gore Vidal. His comment was immediately met with a chorus of babble from a rabble of super smart people who, to a man, insisted that Vidal was overrated and would be consigned to the surplus bin a hundred years or so from now.

I find that funny. These people would almost certainly deny the viability of Nostradamus' prophecies, yet they were quite content to pronounce their own prognostications concerning the dubious literary tastes of a future society based on—what? Who knows.

None of their names were familiar to me from having come across them in the card catalogs at my nearest public library. So I could not assume they were writers themselves. How could they be so sure of the dismal future lying in wait for those books and essays, articles, plays, and other things left behind by Gore Vidal?

I wonder what real writers are really like.

I'll bet they're a lot like the kind of working stiffs you and I know (and probably are) who get up too early every morning to "lif' dat bale" and earn a little jack to keep body and soul together.

I wonder if a real writer spends a lot of time considering his place in the library stacks a century from now. I'd be willing to lay a bet that Shakespeare never did. Why would he? The smart people of today tell us he wasn't even the one who wrote Shakespeare anyway. Some nobleman did. But then that nobleman didn't give a damn about posterity either because he never left a semblance of a signed confession that he was indeed "the one whodunit." And if he had cared, he would have.

Do you think Charles Dickens cared? I have a feeling he was more concerned about the coins allotted to his word count than the fact that I would one day read Great Expectations and think to myself, "Wow..."

Nah, being none too bright, I rather think a writer writes because he can. If he's lucky, he might make some money stringing words together. If he's gifted, his words will sing a new song.

As for me, I'm content to sit with the dense set, the ordinary guys and gals who, when they come across somebody like a Gore Vidal, will move aside to make a seat for him at the bar, stand him a drink, and show him the kind of easygoing respect they would show to any person responsible for a job well done.

I think he would appreciate that.

Yeah, even a guy like Gore Vidal.
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