Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Let there be lights!

We love La Freniere Park, the 55-acre spread a few blocks north of our house, with paths and a bird sanctuary and a small lake, a dog area and a carousel and – at this time of year – thousands and thousands of Christmas lights.

There was a lot to celebrate at the holidays on St. Croix, and we loved the traditions. But there was nothing like this. Mostly not a lot of Christmas lights on the island, except for the Christmas boat parade.

A week ago we drove and walked through the La Freniere display ($3 a carload) and loved it. Here are a bunch of pictures, mostly taken by Kate hanging out the front window of the Beast.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Textbook Definition of Irony

Earlier this week I saw something small crawling on the wall. With catlike reflexes I snatched up the book at hand and swatted it, and got it.

I had killed a small spider with a copy of Neal Gaiman's "Anansi Boys."

For those not familiar with it, "Anansi Boys" is Gaiman's extremely entertaining novel about two young men in modern-day London dealing with the fact that they are the sons of Anansi, the trickster spider god of so many ancient myths. One of the two characters is named Spider.

I'll probably be in some kind of trouble for that, karma-wise.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Catching Up

 So, let me catch up on some of the things that took place while I was busy not blogging. I mentioned them in passing here and I do want to revisit and comment on a couple.

Halloween – It was a successful day for the kids, less so for me and Tori. Understand first that Halloween on St. Croix was very different. There wasn't a lot of trick or treating in the neighborhoods, first of all because virtually every house is fenced, and Crucians just don't walk past the gate without an invitation. They will stand at the gate, even if it's open (and people were always telling me what a bad idea it was to leave my gate open) and shout from the street. In four years someone knocked on my door once, and that was last summer when my neighbor's mother was visiting from Minnesota and needed some help. I was so surprised I didn't know what to do. Even the Jehovah's Witnesses! Really! And the FedEx truck. A plumber you had called. Anyone. A Crucian would no more walk up to your door and knock than he would flap his arms and fly to the moon. But they wouldn't go away. They'd just stand there and shout until you came out and acknowledged them. 

And frankly, many of the neighborhoods you wouldn't want your kids walking up to strangers' doors, even on Halloween.

The one place for a traditional Halloween was Estate Cottage, one of the Hovensa employee housing communities. Inside the security fence they maintained a community of a hundred or so homes for the upper level workers, it looked rather like a lot of western U.S. developments. And on Halloween they'd have a traditional Halloween, kids running up and down the streets, knocking on doors. all the houses decked out with pumpkins and decorations. It was fun. But Hovensa is gone, and the housing complexes are shuttered and vacant. It was sad thinking about those empty streets this Halloween.

Our neighborhood here in Metairie was all lit up and Kate and Max were excited. We had carved our pumpkins and put up some decorations that no one was likely to understand – Slender Man anyone? But the kids loved it. And they set out, returning some hours later with more candy than they had ever scored on a Halloween.

We didn't know what kind of turnout we'd get, so we bought a LOT of candy. Which mostly I ate. Because we had only four kids come to the door. If one more had come I was just going to dump the bucket in his bag, but no luck. Our house is towards the end of the block, and there are two vacant houses to the left, and the neighbors across the street were dark, so kids didn't see the point in coming down. Too bad. I was prepared to be VERY generous.

Learning to Fly. Yes, I did, but not like, in an airplane or anything. I was flying kids in the theater at the local school.

Max Baur IS Captain Hook!
Max was Captain Hook in the school district production of "Peter Pan" and I was dragooned to work on the flight crew backstage, pulling the ropes that made Peter and Wendy and Michael and John fly. My schedule is flexible and I like helping out, especially in theater where my background is useful. I was "flight captain," in charge of the flying, but it had less to do with my actual rope-pulling ability than my gray hair. The rest of the crew were high school kids and one dad who could only make half the shows.

It was fun, but my high school kids seemed to enjoy showing up at the last possible moment, as I frantically made plans for what we'd do when this person or that person wasn't there. They always were there, all 14 performances. They just enjoyed watching me sweat.

Sharing the backstage area with 70 to 80 kids from first grade to 12th, but mostly clustered in the middle school range – it was a BIG show, my hat is off to the production team – was not always easy and I was the one who had to chase kids out of the wings or keep them from playing with props, and occasionally grabbing a drill and repairing some set piece a kid had sat on and broken but which had to go on right now. But they were good kids for the most part, and they had fun. I pretended to be the grumpy old man, but I admit it. I had fun too. And I think the kids learned a little about how to behave backstage.

And it goes without saying, Max was great as Captain Hook! Hilarious. The ultimate accolade was when he got booed! And there was a school performance when the house was full of kindergartners, first and second graders. As Hook snuck on stage to poison Peter, the kids were shouting "Look out Peter! There's a pirate behind you! Wake up!" You had to love it. For that audience, the show was working!
Captain Hook scolds Smee. By the way, the captain is wearing MY boots! The boy keeps growing!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Takin' It to the Street

This was about a week ago, Friday Nov. 30, I think.

We were walking in downtown NOLA, end of a long afternoon, ready to head back to the car which was much too far away. And we sat down on a bench to wait while our friend Robyn checked out a local art gallery.

 There was a busker playing blues guitar, and a woman with him playing washboard. We started chatting – Tori will talk to anyone, which is what makes life so interesting. We mentioned that a big part of why we chose New Orleans was the music. Max is interested in music, plays guitar, clarinet, drums and has picked up and noodled with a couple of other instruments.

Anyway, the guy asks Max is he wants to play. Max says sure – Max doesn't hesitate about things like that. So he starts strumming – it's tuned differently than he's used to, because the guiy plays slide. But with a little help from the woman, Lisa, he gets it figured out.

So we're chatting, and it turns out the guy's name is Dooley. He gave himself the name in honor of Dooley Wilson, Sam's piano player in "Casablanca" – the best movie ever. And that's when it starts getting eerie. Because when Tori was expecting, I had suggested naming him Dooley for the very same reason.

I shot some video of it, which you can see here.

Meanwhile Lisa has joined Max, strumming her washboard. She's good. Then she convinces Max to sing the song he wrote. It's called "Fish Orgy."

See, about six, seven months ago, we were strolling down the Frederiksted pier on the island and looking out into the water, we can see fish roiling around in some kind of biological ecstacy. Tori says, "It's a fish orgy! Hey, that would make a good name for a song." And Max says, "Challenge accepted!"

So anyway, Max played, Lisa and Tori chatted while Dooley watched the show, and the drunk guy drank and offered Max lots of advice about ... well, we never figured out exactly what. We exchanged phone numbers, Lisa made Max sing his song again, over the phone to her daughter. Some con guy polished my shoes over my objections and then demanded twenty bucks for the shine, Joke was on him – I had literally no cash on me.

So NOLA definitely earned points that day. It's the kind of city where a kid can go out with his parents, do a little busking under their eyes, then be home in time for pizza.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

New Orleans in Metal and Stone

Last week we spent more time as tourists in our new home than we have since we moved here. We had a guest, and Robyn wanted to see the town. So see it we did.

A lot of the pix will show up here in the next week, but there were far too many to show all at once. Today I'm going to post some shots of the statuary.

Albany, where we lived for so many years, had two bits of public art that I can recall – and one of them sucked. Three, if you count the man made out of muffler parts that stood in front of a mechanic's shop. There were a few good pieces of public art on St. Croix.

In New Orleans, you can't swing a cat without hitting another piece of statuary. Some are pretty plebian. Some catch your eye and won't let go.

This is a statue of Joan of Arc, Maid of Orleans, that sits in traffic down near the French Quarter.    

Joan again, this time in the cathedral.

In Louis Armstrong Park there's a lot of statues, dominated by this one of Satchmo himself. Here I'm exchanging a few words with him, or maybe it looks more like I'm asking for directions.

 Tori joins the dance in a statue commemorating Congo Square, a public space now within the park, where in the 18th century slaes were allowed to congregate on Sundays. It became an open air market, where the slaves would sing and dance, creating the environment that infused the city's culture with life and music.

This statue is a tribute to jazz pioneer Buddy Bolden. All three faces in the statue are Bolden, whose coronet helped create the rag time sound that became New Orleans jazz. From 1900 to 1907 his band was the biggest draw in the city. Then he was stricken by dementia, probably brought on by alcohol, and spent the last 26 years of his life institutionalized. He was buried in an unmarked pauper's grave, but his music lives on.

Tori gets up close and personal to a statue at the gate of the park celebrating New Orleans jazz bands.

I share a joke with Jacques the Butcher, outside the Dutch Alley Artists Co-Op.

Not a statue per se, but interesting. Max and Kate stand in front of a tomb in St. Louis Cemetery No. 1, the oldest cemetery in New Orleans. The pyramid behind them belongs to Nicolas Cage, the actor, and no, he's not technically dead yet. According to various tour guides we eavesdropped on, Cage lost a couple of properties in the city (and they sort of agreed it was Katrina, although one of the guides blamed back taxes) so he bought and built this tomb (for what the guides agreed was $1.3 million) so that he'll always have a place in New Orleans. Who knows, it could even be true.

This angel atop a large cemetery monument caught our eye because we're Doctor Who fans. Fellow Whovians will understand the weeping angels reference, and the word 'Silence' at the base adds on ominous note.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Some NOLA Scenes

These are some pictures I've taken in the last week or so that I wanted to share. Tori and Robyn were out all day yesterday, and are out again today, and I'll try to get her to write a little something and post a picture or four. But these are some scenes I captured.

Jackson Square at about 8 p.m. Monday. I'm not sure why the sky is that color. When I took the shot it looked dark to me.

This is the Christmas tree across the street from the square. In fact, I took the first picture standing directly in front of the tree.

The whole gang Monday night next to the tree. From left, Max (sunglasses at night, naturally,) Kate, Robyn and Tori. And some guy who chose that moment to jump into the frame.

Tori passes one of the candlelit origami boats to Robyn, who released them into the Mississippi's current.

OK, I did not take this picture. My son Ben did in New York. It's Mille, the little blonde in the center, taking part in the AMDA Christmas choir performance.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Happy Birthday – Boats on the Water

Tori, and the line of candles floating down the river. 

I like the song "Happy Birthday," don't get me wrong.

What I hate is when it gets sung like a dirge, slow as a funeral procession. I think it's because one person usually starts it off (usually in a key no one else can sing, but that's a different problem) and holds that first syllable/note - "Haaaaaaaa" long enough to gather the rest of the singers. And it never picks up the pace.

C'mon man! It's a birthday! It's a party! It's a celebration! And the wax candles are dripping on the damn cake!

There's no reason the song can't be sung in about 10 seconds, but at most birthdays it seems to go on forever. It's like the Super Bowl in Vegas, where you can bet on the over/under for how long it will take the famous country singer to sing the national anthem. (Always take the over.)

So Monday night, I made sure that we sang "Happy Birthday" at a nice, festive clip, the words floating out over the dark waters of the Mississippi as we celebrated Alex's birthday.

Our daughter, Alexandria Gail Boedigheimer, would have been 27 Monday. She died last summer – on her mother's birthday and Tori has already said we're simply not celebrating her birthday ever again. We still don't know what happened, other than she went to sleep and didn't wake up. It still hurts every day.

Monday was her birthday. It was a rainy morning, but that was OK, since we had plans. As long as it cleared up by evening everything would be fine. We spent the day making little origami boats. 27 of them. I even folded one, and if you know me you know not to associate me and crafts.

The sky did clear up and late in the afternoon we headed out for the Mississippi. Most of its sinuous length is bordered by tall earthen berms designed to keep it where it belongs in severe weather. Much of New Orleans is actually below sea level, and the highest point is only 20 feet (and that's probably the top of the berms) so you can see why that's a good idea. There is a path you can walk along the top of the berm, but the face is fairly steep and covered with riprap to keep it from eroding. So getting to the river can be tricky.

It took us a couple of tries before we found the set of steps going down to the water's edge, off the public parking by Jackson Square. We were separated from the city lights by the berm, but there was plenty of traffic on the river, barges being pushed against the current, a small freighter moving up river, a tourist-looking stern wheeler coming down. At the bottom of the stairs were a couple of young people sitting, watching the river. They offered advice on the best way to the water, and seemed interested in what we were doing.

From the shingle that ran along the riverside, we could see a form about twenty feet out in the river – I never did figure out on what, but he was standing on "something" – facing away from the bank, his arms outraised, chanting to the moon.

We got out the bin full of little paper kayaks and the plastic bag full of tea candles and set to work – but we couldn't find the lighter! Fortunately, the two people sitting on the stairs came over and were happy to help. They were a couple of kids, young 20s, who had hitched and hiked from New Jersey and were in no hurry to be anywhere. They were a guy and a girl in their 20s, long hair, backpacks, knit caps, dog with bandana. In fact, Kate was wearing a similar knit cap that she had gotten from Alex. These kids could have been two of Alex's hippie friends. Certainly I saw enough of her friends to recognize the type. When they said by next summer they hoped to have made it to Eugene, that cemented it. Alex lived there for a couple of years. It was perfect.

They had a lighter and we set to work.

The problem was the current. Between the fact that the tide was coming in and the traffic was moving up and down the river sending out bow wakes, the boats didn't want to go out. So Robyn rolled up her pants legs and waded out. The two travelers and Kate and Max lit the candles, then carefully passed them over to Tori, who stood at the edge of the river and gingerly passed them to Robyn. She set them adrift.
The boats didn't go out far, not much more than a few feet, but they drifted bravely down the river bank, bobbing in the current, their lights flickering merrily like so many birthday candles. Which was the point, of course.

We were joined by an old man, rail thin, grizzled and with a few missing teeth. And when I say old, I mean probably my age but he looked a lot older – didn't he? DIDN'T HE?? – because of the life he was living. He offered a few comments, then asked where we were from. We told him we lived nearby, and told him what we were doing, and he started crying.

He was a Cajun, from down around Houma, and he had lost his wife, Dale, some time ago – when was not exactly clear. She was his life, she was an angel, she was everything to him. When she died he tried to kill himself, but woke up three days later in a hospital, pretty pissed off about it. He finally left town, he said, because he couldn't take it any more, everything he saw reminded him of her, and he couldn't stand it when people told him, "You'll get over it," "Things will get better." And all the other stuff that just means, "I've never been hurt as deeply as you have been and don't get it, and I don't know what else to say." 

We got it. Some things you never get over, you just learn to accept that the world now has a different shape, a hole where someone important used to be. A hole the shape of Dale. Another the shape of Alex.

That's just the way it is.

He was now living under a nearby pier, just waiting – for what, he didn't say. He actually was very interesting – and funny. He told "a Cajun story" so well, so brilliantly acted, that when he got to the punchline it was a scream. Told Kate and Max a longish story about honoring your father and mother. Told me when he first saw us he'd taken us for tourists and was coming by to panhandle, but now "I couldn't take anything from you. You've already given me so much."

We let him light one of the candles and set it out. We all shared a sip of wine we'd brought down. Then we all joined together, the family who could be there and the others who couldn't be but were there in spirit, our friend Robyn standing in for all the extended family who helped raise our daughter, our new young hippie friends who stood in for all of Alex's friends, and our Cajun acquaintance representing the people you meet on life's journey. We stood together and sang happy birthday, the notes ringing out across the water, joining the sounds of the river traffic and the cathedral bells ringing in the distance as the last of the lights flickered, then went out – too soon – leaving the water cloaked in darkness.

We remember you Alex, and we love you, and always will. Some things never change.

Oops! Moved the camera too soon.

Monday, November 26, 2012


 Spent half of Sunday in the swamp. Seem appropriate.

We were touring the Jean Laffite Wildlife Management area.  It was very cool (photos below,) although my knees are killing me today. Saw no gators. Heard a lot of birds. Saw one raccoon. The thing about swamps? They're swampy. And we've been kind of swamped too.

I know, I know. Haven't written here in forever. And it's not like nothing is going on. I haven't written about Halloween or Thanksgiving or learning to fly (not at ALL what those words imply) or just getting to know our new home. I'll try to explain all those things later this week.

Today is Alex's birthday, our daughter who died last summer. It still doesn't even seem possible. She'd be 27 today. We miss her every day. Tori's friend Robyn came out from California to be with her on the birthday, and it's helped. Tori has laughed more in three days than she has in three months. But it's not a happy day here. Seems appropriate that it's raining.

Anyway, I know I promise from time to time that I'll do better on the blog, and maybe I will. I certainly mean it when I say it. We shall see. In the meantime, here are some pictures of the swamp.

An ancient cypress tree, said to be 600 years old. And my beautiful bride.

A channel winds through the swamp.

Max and Tori on the path through the swamp.

Robyn and Tori (in her Saints jersey.)

On the bayou.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

That was Disappointing

It was my fault, I'm sure of that.

I made some really disappointing corn bread last night. I wasn't paying close attention when I bought corn meal at the grocery store yesterday and managed to come home with self-rising corn meal. I've never used used self-rising flour, and didn't even know self-rising corn meal was a thing.

So I had to follow the recipe on the back of the bag instead of the one I've always used. I should have added baking powder any way. But I followed the recipe, put it in the oven and hoped.

Hope, as they say, isn't a plan. It never rose, we got a corn plank about three quarter's of an inch thick, dense as a Romney supporter, and about as palatable. It tasted sort of OK, but wasn't anything you could call bread.

My inclination is to just dump the bag and get some new stuff, the kind of familiar with. Because there's nothing like good corn bread, and this was nothing like good corn bread.. 

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

A Blue Day

And I'm not talking about the sky, which is bright and warm, or the water – there's a reason they call it The Big Muddy.

No, I'm, a little blue today. This morning drove Millie to the airport. She's going back to school, this time in NY. She was understandably very excited as we left the house. Me? Not so much.

This time, when she leaves, she ain't coming back. Sure, she'll visit from time to time, we get her back at Christmas for a week or two. And we're supposed to go up to see her final showcase in June. And we'll Skype and call and all that.

But when she finishes in June, she's going to start trying to make it in the very touch career she's chosen - show business. She's studyingh musical theater performance. And she'll succeed, I don't doubt it. She's always been that one who, when she's on stage, you look at her. Everyone has said the same thing. She's talented and she can be single minded. Lots of perspective to go with the most outgoing personality you've ever seen.

So we'll also see her on stage and screen and all that. Really. I believe that. She's going to the same program her brother Ben did, and he's beginning to break through. (Checkl out his very successful online web serial, "Hunting Season.")

But she's grown up and flying the next. Literally, right now she's on a plane.

And it's not just that. When she went to L.A. last year at this time for the first part of the program, she was near a brother, and a bunch of cousins and aunts and uncles and we have a friend or two in the area who would do anything if she needed it. People we know in New York? Two. Her brother Ben and my agent Eddie (who's in Brooklyn.) And my former agent Scott, but he's my former agent.

So this summer has been it, and now she's gone. I honestly don't know if we'd have been able to make this move without her.

It was tough watching her walk down the concourse and into the hands of airport security. I  hung around the airport until she called to say she was at her gate and ready to go. Then I went out, got in the Beast and drove home. It's quieter here now.

Gonna miss her a lot. A lot.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

A Trip Into the Quarter

I may have given the wrong impression. Our first two months here have not been all auto repairs and struggling with jobs and schedules. We have taken some time – not enough, but some – to explore the city a bit. Here are some photos from a trip into the heart of New Orleans.

 This shot is pure tourist! The Baurs at Jackson Square. I'll spare you my shot of the statue of Andy Jackson.

Musicians busking in front of the cathedral.

 Millie and Tori checking out hats at a hat shop.
 Max in front of the voodoo shop. His fashion sense is entirely his own, although his sisters blame me.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The Beast Purrs, NOLA Sighs with relief, and More Baur Bad Luck

I turned the key in the ignition and thought something was wrong. It was too quiet.

Of course it was. I was in the parking lot at the mechanic's, after waiting an hour and a half for the repair of the broken exhaust pipe, and paying an enormous amount of money. Now the car was so quiet I was startled. I turned off the ignition, went back into the garage and found Vaughn, that guy who'd done the repair, and shook his hand.

The Beast, as we call it, is a nine-year-old Chevy Astro that at one time was a cab on Key West. It is hardly finished or fixed, but it's a lot quieter. A lot. But it still uses too much oil, and I have to keep a close eye on the radiator. I always carry a gallon of coolant and a couple of quarts of oil in the back – just in case.

But driving down the road, taking Tori to work or Millie to the optometrist or Max to rehearsal, I revel in the fact that I can accelerate and not frighten people inside the houses I drive by.

RELIEF – The city is palpably more relaxed this week after the Saints finally got off the schneid and won a game, a game in which QB Drew Brees broke Johnny Unitas's 52-year-old record by throwing a TD pass in his 48th consecutive game. Given that LSU had lost ugly the day before to Florida, if the Saints had fallen to the Chargers or Brees not tossed a TD or – Heaven forbid! – if both of those heinous possibilities had come to pass, they'd have had to close the bridges to keep people from jumping.

But at least for a week God is smiling down on the bayou, and people are feeling as if life might go on.
Speaking of sports and the Baur Curse, and pardon me if you don't care, but I was watching glimpses of the Notre Dame game Saturday in between running kids hither and yon, and I remember another classic example of Baur family bad luck.

In 1970 we had just moved to L.A., and one of the guys who worked for my father had played football for Notre Dame. He got dad two tickets to watch the Irish play Southern Cal, on the Notre Dame side of the stands. We were rooting for the Golden Domers, of course. (And for those of you who don't know, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish are sometimes referred to as the Golden Domers because of their gold helmets and the gold dome of the campus chapel.)

The Irish were ranked second in the nation, had only lost one game, if memory serves. They had Joe Theisman at quarterback. SC was having a down year, they were 5-4. We had great seats, between the 40s, about 15 rows up, and were excited for the chance to cheer for our favorite team.

It was ugly. On a cold, gray day, USC came out of nowhere and shut the Irish down. The score was close, but the game wasn't. There was just no sense that Notre Dame was going to get anything going, and USC cruised to victory.

And somewhere, about five or six rows behind us, was a fan who felt like he knew what Notre Dame should be doing and kept offering his advice to Coach Parseghian.

With leather lungs that pierced the gloom of the subdued Notre Dame rooting section, he kept shouting, "Give it to the Tank!' No. 24! Gutowski! Give it to the Tank!"

His advice began in the second quarter, and continued unabated through the rest of the game. Every time Notre Dame had the ball, "Give it to the Tank! Gutowski!" louder and more insistent as the game wore to its dismal conclusion.

After the game, Dad and I started our slog back to the car, which we had parked on the streets instead of paying for parking. Naturally, we couldn't find it. And it started raining.

For those unfamiliar with Los Angeles, Memorial Coliseum is not located in the best part of town. It's in South Central L.A., Watts, which just a few years earlier had been torn apart by the race riots of the '60s. Boarded up, burned out buildings dotted every block. It was not a great place for a small, middle-aged white guy and his 15-year-old son to wander from street to street.

Fortunately, the rain poured down in sheets. No one in their right mind would have been out but us. Water came up over the curbs, we were wading half the time. It goes without saying that we had brought no rain gear.

We finally found the car, about 45 minutes later, and drove home.

So don't think the family's bad mojo only affects the teams we root for. It has plenty left over to splash all over us as well.

Update/Correction:  In an earlier version of this post I said the Saints would play the Packers next week. Stupid. They played them a week ago. They're on their bye now, and in two weeks they get Tampa, which hasn't been p-laying any better than they do. LSU, however, hosts South Carolina next weekend, and the Gamecocks last week butchered a very good Georgia team. So that might not be good.

Friday, October 5, 2012

The Holy Healthy Word

A bit of news from the island, which I just heard about and thought it funny enough to pass on.

The top brass from St. Croix's Juan F. Luis Hospital were testifying again before the Senate this week. The senator who chairs the committee hates the hospital CEO. She hates him. He's smart – smarter than her, but that's not hard – and he's from off island, he's "an outsider." He was brought in almost two years ago to try to save the hospital, which is staggering under massive debt and years of mismanagement. He's really good at his job, and he's changing the JFL culture and doing the things that need doing to try to turn it around. It's still touch and go whether they'll make it.

But he's had to do some unpopular things, and St. Croix does not like change. I've said it before and I'll say it again, the unofficial motto of the Virgin Islands is "That's The Way We've Always Done It." So even though business as usual would have forced the hospital's closure a year ago, people resent him. And the one senator in particular hates him. You can see it every time he has to testify before her committee. She's just as rude as it's possible to be in such a setting. I've never seen anything like it. She's one of those politicians whose career is based on posturing for the voters that she's always angrily defending them. She follows the political maxim, "It's not what you know, it's how loud you know it."

Yet the hospital CEO never rises to the bait, never reacts angrily or replies in kind. He just answers the questions and is polite and respectful of the office. He's really the best I've ever seen at it. And that just pisses her off more.

So Wednesday she and a couple of her colleagues were just raining down shit on him again, stupid, rude, intentionally offensive questions, and he was answering calmly and as succinctly as he could. And suddenly the senator accused him of ordering the removal of all the Bibles from the hospital. He apparently looked confused.

The senator said one of her "inside sources" at the hospital had told her he'd ordered all the Bibles removed from the patients rooms. What about it?

He shook his head and said, no, he'd never done anything like that. Then, a light dawned, and he figured out what she was talking about.

The Gideon Society had asked to put more Bibles in the rooms, but the hospital couldn't accept them. Hospitals have to make sure the Bibles are sterilized first. A large mass of paper – like a carton or two of books that have been stored for an indeterminate period of time – can become infected with mold or germs and could pose a health risk to patients. So he'd had to turn them down, and asked the Gideons to send a load of Bibles that have been prepared specifically for hospitals.

The senator looked confused, and replied that she didn't think Bibles could get germs, because of their sacredness.

Where do people get this stuff?

What a Difference 40 Minutes Make

Tori had an in-service day at school – no students, just meetings – so I didn't have to driver her in as early. (We still have only the one car, the Beast. Still growling like a gravel truck. More on that below.)

We've been leaving the house at 6:30 and making the roughly 15-minute drive to school down the Earhart Expressway, the sun rising like a big red ball over the skyline of New Orleans as we come down the incline into the city. It's so muted and red you can stare right at it, although I guess that's still not a good idea. Then as it scales the skyscrapers it turns orange, then a burnished gold, then its usual bright yellow. There's other traffic, but not that much.

Anyway, today we got to leave at 7:15. And boy, as soon as we got on the expressway it was tight, traffic thick and slow (like the blood oozing through my cholesterol laden arteries.)

At the end of the expressway there's a rise where the road passes over some train tracks and a canal, then dips down into the city streets, narrowing from three lanes to two, then stopping at a stoplight. At our earlier hour the traffic congests right about at the light. Today, it was slow and go from before the start of the incline.

And naturally, while most of the traffic moved over into the two left hand lanes, a dozen or so vehicles tried to use the vanishing right lane as a chance to zoom to the head of the line and cut in. Assholes. And ahead of us a couple of drivers in the center lane, the one that was about to become the right lane, pulled halfway out across the line to block them. It was fun to watch, even if it was only partially successful – some of the assholes just swerved around them, practically brushing the restraining wall to secure their favored spot in lines. And it didn't help me particularly, since they were already in front of me.

But I liked watching.

The Beast Growls: Some things aren't that different no matter where you live. On St. Croix, if you order something there is no telling when it'll arrive. The standard phrase is "soon come," which translates as "It'll be here when it gets here, and you'll know it's here because you'll see it." 

As I have mentioned, our car has a crack in the exhaust pipe. Driving down the road, we must sound like a mobile rock crusher. The guy at the auto shop ordered a new one that was supposed to be in Tuesday. When I hadn't heard from him by Wednesday, I called.

"Yeah, they said we'd get it Tuesday, but something happened," he said.

"Doesn't it always?" I agreed.

I just got a call, and it's in and tomorrow morning I'll take the Beast in and get it fixed, so to speak.

Soon come, Cajun style.

Quick question: Who designs the "road construction" signs in New Orleans. I've seen lots of road construction signs in my life. On St. Croix, they seemed to just grab whatever signs were lying around, so it might say "Road Construction Next Two Miles," and then you'd see one guy weed whacking the shoulder of the road and nothing else the rest of the way.

Every day for the past two weeks we've driven by a sign that says, "Road COnstruction Next .691 Miles."

.691 Miles? Really?? Did someone measure that and make a new sign just for this project? And is there some Department of Transportation rule that requires them to carry it out to three decimal places? What the hell?

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

What Is This Chilliness?

Cold. Colder than I've been in four years. You might not think it's cold, depending on where you live, but it's cold.

It was down to 71 yesterday, and this morning it was 60 or slightly less. (I don't trust the old thermometer on the wall outside that says 55. It looks older than me.)

I know that I'm back on the mainland and can't expect tropical weather, but this is not what I expected in Louisiana on Oct. 1.

It once got down to 71 one night on St. Croix, we actually had to sleep under the sheet!

Shortly after we moved to the islands four years ago I had to travel to Philly for a pirate appearance. When I stepped outside the airport a cold wind almost blew me down. Fortunately we spent almost the entire time indoors, so that worked. And except for walking through the frozen food section at the supermarket I was never that cold again. Oh, and covering Senate hearings. For some reason, the V.I. Senate keeps its chambers blood-chillingly cool. But the rest of the island? Toasty.

In fact, I was stunned once when grocery shopping to see this guy walking down the aisle in a heavy, puffy down parka. Took me a minute to figure out he worked there and was stocking the frozen foods. I was always surprised when a young islander told me he or she was going off to college in New York or Chicago or Minnesota. Don't they ever watch the Weather Channel? We have a young friend who grew up on the island and in Arizona, who is now at college in Rochester, N.Y. He's never heard of "the lake effect," has apparently never seen pictures of when blizzards blow down out of Canada. Good luck Rafa!

The problem is, we are totally unprepared for this. Before we left Oregon I got rid of all my sweaters. All of them. My wardrobe is mostly T-shirts and Hawaiian shirts. (So you can imagien what my sweaters looked like. My family was glad to see them go.) We have three sweatshirts in the whole house, plus a few sweaters in Millie's closet. I'm wearing one of them now – a sweatshirts, not Millie's sweater. That would be silly. She's tiny.

The sun is out now, and it's supposed to get back up to about 80 today, which I'm looking forward to. But I'm obviously going to have to prepare. From what I've been told, winter here is sort of like fall in Oregon, a little drizzly and cool. And if yesterday was a harbinger of what's to come, I'm not ready.

Monday, October 1, 2012

A Typical Weekend

We have one car – The Beast, which just cracked a weld on the exhaust pipe and sounds like a Sherman tank that got hit by a German 88 and is trying to get the hell off the battlefield – and we all had things to do.

So Saturday started with me running to the mechanic's where he showed me the broken weld, told me he could re-weld it but given where it was, said it wouldn't last a month. So we ordered a new tailpipe which will be in on Tuesday. Vroom! Then we took Kate to the library where she volunteers and Millie to the restaurant where she works (and is learning the value of smiling at diners, she gets great tips) then ran to a couple of stores to pick up supplies for Tori's classroom. Max didn't have rehearsal for Peter Pan (He's playing Captain Hook) so that part of the equation was out for a change. Then we reversed the route and picked up Kate before heading home and ate dinner while Tori did prep for school until it was time to go pick up Millie.

Sunday we ran Millie to work again, then over to school where we rearranged Tori's classroom (she inherited the classroom for the teacher she replaced a month into the school year, it wasn't really hers, although that's not the biggest problem in a class full of kids who don't know how to learn or particularly see the point.) We got it mostly set up the way she wants, then ran Max over to the school where he did have Sunday rehearsal, then went off to a laundromat to do laundry while we waited for him. Then we got him, stopped at the supermarket and headed home, the car roaring like a berserk semi. After dinner I picked up Millie while Tori worked on class prep.

And in there I managed to work two copy editing shifts for the Source.

Kind of a typical weekend.

Today I was hoping to a) get some rest and b) get some writing done. But Millie has the day off and needs to get errands done. She leaves for college in two weeks and has a lot of stuff to take care of. Part of me heaved a sigh when she asked. I was really looking forward to not driving today – the car won't get fixed until tomorrow and I really do need to get some work done.

But I've got all fall to finish the second draft of the book. I've got Millie for two more weeks. So as soon as she's up and ready, we'll be off.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

A Few Obvious Differences

St. Croix has some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. New Orleans has the Mississippi River. It's called the Big Muddy for a reason. There are apparently very nice Gulf Coast beaches within an easy drive, someone told me I could be in Pensacola, Florida, in six hours. We haven't had a chance to explore that yet, and we won't until we make our car more reliable. On the island we were three minutes from a great beach on St. Croix, so even with better transportation, the island wins on that one.

On the other hand, the roads on St. Croix are potholed messes, and unusually narrow We lived on a road that wasn't any wider than a standard driveway.

When Public Works finally get around to patching a pothole, the patch would last a month or so, then starts degrading again so that within half a year the hole is as bad as it ever was.

Most of the roads there seem to be what are known as "pie crust" pavement, thin layers of brittle paving over an inadequate base. But there's no rhyme or reason to where the bad paving is. We used to have to drive a stretch every morning and evening where the pavement was pretty good for a mile, then became so bad traffic crawled along for three-quarters of a mile, veering from side to side to avoid gaping chasms. Then back to perfectly decent pavement. We called that stretch "Old Bumpy."

The roads here are really well laid out, well maintained and logical. Locals may find that comment comical, but my experience is that locals never like the road where they live. The main streets here all have U-turn lanes to help you get where you're going, it's all very logical and consistent. And all the streets have names that are well marked. We've gotten lost once or twice, but it was our fault, not the road's.

And for comparison, Albany, the small town where we lived in Oregon, had pretty well maintained roads, but for a town so small the layout was was crazy. The main road came into town going north south, and went out of town going east west, making a big 90 degree turn in the middle. It and the railroad tracks effectively cut the town in half. And the second major road came into town at a 45 degree angle to the main highway, so there was this insane five-way intersection. They've tried different traffic signal systems and one-way couplets and all the usual. Nothing helps.

There was also a five-way intersection on St. Croix. Poorly planned, traffic would wait forever for the light to change and then plunge off in different directions. There was one orphaned lane, it had no signal, and your only choice was to turn right and find a place to turn around. A friend told me it actually worked better before they put the traffic lights in. Everyone just took their turns ina neighborly way. Crucian traffic is bad, but Crucian drivers are very nice. 

One thing I miss about St. Croix traffic is the horn honks. As I have mentioned Crucians honk their horns for any number of reasons – almost all friendly. It's the morning melody of too much traffic on imperfect roads, all trying to get along.

We've heard horn-honking here, but it's not the friendly island style. It's aggressive, angry. It's "Hey, the light changed .0037 seconds ago! Get moving!"

On St. Croix they recognize that everyone is on their way somewhere, so let's all work together. No one on St. Croix is so in a hurry to get anywhere that they feel the need to be rude about it. It's "Island Time," with all that that implies.

And that's one thing I miss about the island. That and the beach.

On the other hand, you've heard of Southern hospitality. It's real. The people in the stores, the people in offices and on the street, are all pleasant, smiling, friendly. They'd be ambarassed to be curt or unfriendly. We've been here two months, and there are supermarket checkers who know us and chat every time we come in.

On St. Croix, the concept of customer service is as foreign as Mandarin Chinese. You can stand at a counter for 10 minutes while the clerk carries on a phone conversation with a friend, not even acknowledging your presence. The people are friendly enough, the Good Morning/Good Afternoon'Good Night mantra making everyone a community, but put someone behind a cash register and you just disappear as far as he or she goes. It's an odd attitude for a community that depends on the tourist industry.

Anyway, those are a few of the differences we've noticed so far as we settle in to ourt new home.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Distraught in the Streets

The people in New Orleans have a reputation for being easy going. Not just the usual Southern charm, which we've met in spades since we moved here, but a real laid back, party in the face of disaster attitude. Hence the nickname, the Big Easy.

But everywhere we go these days, we're confronted with people in agony. The people of New Orleans are distraught. They are beside themselves and they don't know what to do.

Because their Saints, their beloved Saints, are 0-3 and things aren't likely to get better any time soon.

It's been a tough year for the locals who love the Saints – and that's pretty much everybody around here. It started in late winter with the ignominy of being fingered in a bounty scandal that made the team look like a bunch of evil, money-grubbing headhunters. Then the coach was suspended for a year, the interim coach is suspended for half a year, and various players may or may not be under sanctions.

And now the defense can't stop anybody.

I hope they don't learn that it's all my fault.

I was born a Cubs fan, the son of a Cubs fan who was himself the son of a Cubs fan. For anyone who knows anything about sports curses, that's three generations of bad mojo. The Cubs are the oldest team in baseball, but they haven't won a World Series since 1908, haven't even played in the fall classic since 1945, when they became the victims of "The Curse of Billy's Goat." (As Casey Stengel said, "You could look it up.")

I first started really following baseball in earnest in 1969, which Chicagoans will tell you was the year of the big swoon. The team was laden with stars, including Ernie Banks (my all time favorite ball player,) Ron Santo, Billy Williams, Fergie Jenkins, Randy Hundley and Ken Holtzman. (I still have my Billy Williams autograph fielder's glove.) They started the season like a house afire, building an 8 1/2 game lead by mid-August. Then they collapsed and the Amazin' Mets, who until then had never won anything and were notable only for on-field zaniness, went on a tear. The Cubs finished 8 games back and the Mets impossibly won the World Series, and my heart was broken by a sports event. The first time of many.

Oh, and fans still talk about the black cat that got loose that year in Shea Stadium while the Cubs were on the field, believing that deepened the curse.

Since then I've transferred my bad sports luck to whatever team I root for. In the 1970s I lived in L.A. and switched my allegiance to the Dodgers (keeping a soft spot in my heart for the Cubbies) and while they had some very good seasons and won a couple of pennants, they didn't win a World Series until I moved away.

I have been a Seattle Seahawks fan since 1979. They've been to one Super Bowl but didn't win, and mostly they've been pretty mediocre. I lived in Oregon's mid-valley, rooting for Oregon State, which in the '80s, set a mark for futility rarely matched in the pantheon of athletics.

And it's not just me. It's my whole family. The 1972 Lakers were arguably the best basketball team ever. They won 33 straight games, the longest winning streak of any team in American professional sports. They failed to score 100 points in only one game. They beat the Knicks for the championship in five games. So yeah, they were great. One team that my family rooted for actually was a winner.

But get this. The Lakers played 41 homes games that year. They won 36 of them. My father went to four games that year and they lost every time he was in the stands.

So you can see that the Baurs carry a ton of bad luck when it comes to rooting for teams, and now we're in New Orleans. I've always kind of liked the Saints, even in the '80s when they were so pathetic the fans started wearing bags over their heads and calling them "the Aints."

But things turned around, just when New Orleans needed something good to happen. After Katrina, the city was so torn up that the Saints had to play that year in San Antonio, and there was a lot of fear that they'd never come back. But they did, and they gave the city something special to cheer about. After teasing the faithful for years, they won the NFC championship and played heavily favored Indianapolis in the Super Bowl. And they completed the fairy tale of the plucky outsiders who gave hope to a city by refusing to lose, capturing a most unlikely and memorable title. No team has ever meant more to a city.

Now I live here. And of course, as soon as I get here, they start to suck. They've got a bunch of offensive weapons, some great players, but they can't seem to get in a rhythm and aren't scoring a lot of points. And like I said, the defense can't stop anybody. They could play play St. Mergatroid's Home for Blind Nuns, and the ladies would at least put a couple of field goals on the board.

Now they have to go to Green Bay on Sunday and play a very pissed off Packers team. (I will argue with you all day, if you'd like, about whether the Packers are justified in their pissed-offedness, but not now. As Pete Carroll said, "Game over. We won.") The point is, it's likely to be ugly. And as sports statistician will tell you, 0-4 teams do not come back to make the playoffs, especially not when they're in a division with the Atlanta Falcons, who are playing as well as anybody right now.

So it's going to be really unhappy around these parts Sunday night. I just hope people don't realize it's my fault. I like the Saints, I really do. I'm a fan. And that's their problem.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

That Was Unexpected

It was a week ago that Isaac came through and screwed things up. Time to get back to normal.

This morning I woke up at 6, made coffee, got Max up, made his lunch and we walked the half mile to T.H. Harris Middle School, arriving in plenty of time for the 7:20 start of class.

Except we were the only ones there. The gates were closed, the parking lots empty. So we walked home.

It's not like we decided on our own that school would start today. There was a story on the district website that said they were looking for a Tuesday reopening. I didn't just make this up out of wishful thinking. But when we looked this morning after getting home, a new story said it won't be until Thursday. Some schools still don't have power, and others are still recovering from hurricane damage. Three apparently won't reopen this week at all and there's no mention of when they might.

Max took the news quite well, as you can imagine. We decided to call this dress rehearsal for Thursday. And the best part is, his homework is all finished.

Sunday, September 2, 2012


I take it all back! Our power is on!

As we neared the house, we started chanting – Baur Power! Baur Power! Baur Power! BAUR POWER! And as we turned the corner we saw our neighbor's porch light on. And then we saw a couple of lights on in our house, where we'd left a couple of switches on in (what we thought of as) the vain hope that the power would be back.

And it was! Huzzah!

It's still hot in here, it'll take the AC a few hours to cool it down. It was 91 when we walked in, it's 86 now. We shoould be able to sleep tonight.

The clock on out stove indicated that the power had been on for 20 minutes, about the time we were leaving the coffee house.

There are still some things to deal with, but thank god almighty!. It's funny how a little thing like being able to see when you walk down the hall just makes all teh difference in the world.

Hardly Seems Fair

Got home from the coffee shop last night and houses all over the neighborhood were lit up – power back on!

Except the five or so houses along our block, and we were right in the center of the dark. Presumably the same houses on the back half of the block as well, but frankly we didn't have the heart to look. The houses directly across the street were lit up like Christmas trees – the bastards.

So we're back at the coffee shop today. We just picked up Alan at the airport, but the house was too hot to stay. For that matter last night it was too hot to sleep.

Entergy – that's the name of the electric company – says it has 10,000 workers from all over the country in the area doing the power restoration. They expect to have 70 percent back up by Monday, 90 percent by Wednesday. They thank us for our patience.


Saturday, September 1, 2012

Left in the Dark by Isaac

Power is out. Tuesday night the transformer on our back fence line kind of exploded just as Isaac was really kicking into gear, and we've been dark ever since.

It's more an annoyance than a problem, but still, it's annoying. 650,000 people lost power. The electric company supposedly has 10,000 people called in from all over the country to help restore service, but it's not a fast process. The people on the other side of the street got their power back a couple of hours ago, but it may be several more days before we can turn on a light on our side. And yet, every time I walk into a room, my hand flips the light switch.

Thursday we found a Winn-Dixie supermarket open, selling ice. They also had an electric outlet on the side of their building, and we were among those who took advantage to charge the phone.

The library is closed, but their wi-fi is on and we pulled into the parking lot to download the mail and answer the most important, mostly just telling people we're all fine.

The difference between the hurricane here and on the islands is that when the power goes out, we still have running water. We're on a municipal system. On the island most people get their water from the cistern under their house, and with no electricity, the pump doesn't work. You have to pull up buckets of water just to flush the toilet. This is WAY better. Add in the fact that we have gas for cooking and water heating, and it's pretty damn civilized. I'm not complaining. I can take a shower, and as warm as it's been Friday and today that is a good thing.

We found a P.J.'s Coffee in a small area of Old Metairie that got its power back, and we're all hanging out there. Tori and I were here earlier in the day and it was all very civilized, people sharing the outlets and power strips. Yesterday we charged all the gizmos – phones, computers, games etc. – at the laundromat so this is definitely better.

We also have plenty to read, so we're set. Just before the storm the eight boxes of stuff, mostly books, we shipped from St. Croix, arrived. And yesterday the postman arrived bearing two other boxes that included the kitchen stuff we brought along, among other things. Most survived intact. One that didn't, our big countertop oven, was horribly mangled, but it requires electricity to run so we're not mourning too much today.

Max has been out of school since last Friday. It's supposed to reopen Tuesday – but of course that will depend on the power getting back on. And Millie's work can't reopen for a few more days.

It seems to get dark really early when you can't turn on a light to fight off the gloom. We've got candles and some flashlights, but we don't have the lanterns we used to back on the island. But no whining here! Isaac was a pest, but not a monster like Katrina or Hugo or even Omar (which wasn't bad. So for now. we'll take what we've got. We're all fine. Hope you are too.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Heeeeere's Isaac!

Wow, just like that! I glanced out the window at 5:35 local time and just like that the wind was howling and rain was slashing down at a 45 degree or steeper angle.You can hear the storm sniffing at the edges of the doors and the window sills.

Not 10 minutes ago the trees were being ruffled, but not much more than that, and the rain had drifted away again.

Isaac Update

Isaac is now finally at last an official Hurricane. Not a strong one, no one has yet suggested winds will reach 90 miles an hour. A Category 5 storm would have winds around 150. Omar, which was our first, back on St. Croix, was a Cat 3. So if we have to have a hurricane, we'll take a "weak" Cat 1, thank you.

It was raining earlier, coming straight down, not slanting at all. It's not right now. That happens as the bands of clouds being sent out from the center pass over.

Millie got called by work yesterday and told not to come in again until they call her. They shut down early yesterday and they're not reopening until this passes. She's a waitress at Louisiana Purchase Kitchen, specializing in gumbo, red beans and rice, fried chicken and catfish. Their message board also notes: M  TH ERLY BIRD $698 It took a lot of looking at it to realize it does NOT say "Motherly Bird, $698."

You probably figured right away it says "Monday through Thursday, Early Bird Special $6.98.

Tori just got home from a few final prep errands and said all the stores are boarded up and closing early. So prep is done, and we are now officially "hunkered."

Waiting for Isaac

Random thoughts while waiting for Isaac.

• Our neighbors, as a group, are a quiet bunch who take two things very seriously – The New Orelans Saints and lawn care. Almost every house has a Saints banner or flag or sign out front, and no weekend is complete without the sound of lawn mowers, edgers and blowers as they manicure their already perfect lawns. It's not unusual to see someone come home from work at 5 and whip out the lawnmower to give a quick trim. You can tell a storm is coming because they've all brought in their Saints flags.

• Still can't get over LaFreniere Park. It's just wonderful. Tori has figure out how to make almost any errand include a drive through the park. I'm going to start posting random photos from it, starting with this one. Swans near sunset.

• I've decided there's really no point in eating mushrooms unless they've been sauteed in bacon grease. Seriously, had them that way for Millie's birthday dinner and it was one of those, "This is so good I'm almost angry!" moments.

Max tried out for a production of "Peter Pan" at one of the local schools. Apparently that's how they do drama here, one school does a show open to every school, so that not every school has to have a drama teacher and facility. There were actually two shows having tryouts Saturday and thank God for that. There were about 150 kids at the Peter Pan auditions. They use every kid - double cast and each cast does half the shows. It took all day, but my hat is off to them, they saw everybody, I don't think anyone felt they didn't get a shot, and they came up with good casts. My favorite moment was when one of the little girls asked about trying out for Tinker Bell. The woman in charge explained that in this production Tinker Bell is played by a flickering laser beam. There was an audible moan of despair from about 20 little girls.

Max was cast as Captain Hook! Well, one of two Captain Hooks, of course. It's in the blood, pirate and all. He doesn't get to fly – they actually are bringing in riggers from New York to fly Peter, Wendy, Jonathon and Michael. But he'll get to scare a lot of little kids, and agrees that's WAY better.

• The Jefferson Parish Public Library is really wonderful. It's a big, big building, and it's crammed with everything. A great place to spend an afternoon and evening. Kate is signed up to be a library volunteer, but I'm betting the training session scheduled for tomorrow night gets cancelled by Isaac, so a slight snag in that plan.

Which brings me full circle. Gotta go do the last of the hurricane prep, bringing in a few items from out in the car port.

Take care, trust that we will.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Yeah, We Get It

We are aware of the black humor – not irony, because it was totally predictable – that we moved from the Caribbean, where Isaac passed by as a relatively minor tropical storm, to New Orleans, where the same Isaac is now taking aim as it builds up steam across the gulf.

It's a strange feeling. The weather's lovely right now, the storm is still about 36 hours off. People around here are kind of freaking out, and you can't blame them, what with the recent history of Katrina. We are watching warily and getting our stuff together.

But there's one big difference. On a small island, when a hurricane comes there's no place to go. You HAVE to hunker down. There's no alternative. I don't look forward to the idea of long lines of evacuation traffic, but the point is, if we have to go, there's someplace TO go. And we trust that authorities will tell us when it's time, and we will listen. In hte meantime, just in case, we're pulling a couple of suitcases together and gassing up "The Beast." At leaast it's big enough that, push comes to shove, the kids could sleep in it.

Anyway, we're getting ready, but we're not panicking.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Change of Scene

And just like that, the island sojourn ended.

We arrived in New Orleans a week ago Friday night, and if that seems sudden, it was. We planned our move to St. Croix for a year and a half. I think we pulled together our move to New Orleans in about two weeks.

It's actually kind of complicated, although it seemed obvious enough at the time.
In a nutshell, we had to move. Emotionally and financially we needed a change, and right away. So many of our friends were leaving. We still have good friends on island, but the bulk of our circle has scattered as part of the great Hovensa diaspora. We had been struggling for months with how to stay in the island in the face of changing economic conditions, making contingency plans, and New Orleans was on the list. We'd been here before – unlike St. Croix before we moved – and really liked it. The people were warm and wonderful and the city is more alive than most. Tori even had a couple of telephone job interviews with schools here.

The biggest issue was Max. We could have made some sacrifices and stayed, we were actually leaning that way. But we realized it would mean putting Max in public school, which just wasn't fair to him. (They really are THAT bad here. The "good" public schools are the ones where the water runs every day.)
Then – well some of you know this and some don't. We had a terrible shock that we're still reeling from. Tori's daughter Alex, my stepdaughter I had raised since she was 3, died in Oregon last month. We still don't know what happened. Probably never will. She just went to bed and didn't wake up. I'm still not prepared to say any more about it than that.

It just took all the fight out of us.

We had to "do something." We had to go. It's been a constant challenge – and that's a good thing. It keeps us from brooding too much.

We like it here. We've been here a week, found a home in the suburb of Metairie. A 20 minute drive from the French Quarter in our (very) used car we've dubbed The Beast. It's a way station while we get to know the city and know where we want to stay. And there's a fabulous park only half a mile from here, 150 acres of paths and a bird sanctuary and fields. It's an amazing place. Rabbits hopping along in front of you. Millie got down on her hands and knees and slowly crept towards one, talking softly all the time, until she was able to pet it.

Millie is "The Bunny Whisperer."

One reason we picked NOLA is music. Max is very into music, plays guitar, clarinet and dabbles with others, and we thought this might be a good place for him.

If we'd have gotten here a month ago Tori would have a job by now. School starts Aug. 9 - this Thursday! - and all the schools have quit hiring in the mad rush before opening. But several like her resume and have already told her, Wait a week. As soon as we figure out what what our actual enrollment is we'll need more staff, and we'll definitely be calling you. She's got a good resume, because she's a terrific teacher. Every year, about November, parents of her students would tell her, "This is the first time Xxxxxxx has wanted to come to school every morning!"

I am still working for the Source. I can edit from anywhere there's a wifi connection, and I do a lot of the press release rewrites and stuff. Hell, one of our editors lives in Ecuador, so NOLA is nothing. You've gotta love the flexibility of an online service.

So anyway, that's why Louisiana. Oh, also, it's SO much less expensive to live here. Milk is half the price it is in the island, bread a third. Even something as simple as mac and cheese is way less costly here than on island, where everything has to come in by boat. The only things cheaper on St. Croix are rum and cigarettes, and since I don't drink hardly at all anymore, and quit smoking a year and a half ago, that really doesn't apply.
So, for now, we're not islanders. But we'll continue posting, telling anyone who cares (and I can't believe that's many) about our life on the bayou.