Sunday, December 29, 2013

What's Been Up?

What's been up for the last month or so?

• Thanksgiving. We went on the road and visited our friends from St. Croix, the Lopez family, in their new home in Houston. It was a short trip, but a delightful one. The Lopez family may be the most lovely people we know.

It was also the first vacation I have taken in about six years – since the 2006 trip to the Oregon coast, I think – unless you count my whole peripatetic life of late as a vacation. And even then, I worked a little on the computer. But there was something about locking the house, getting in the car and driving that just felt good.

I wasn't crazy about Houston, especially driving in Houston, but I enjoyed the trip very much.

• We had to cut that trip short because the East Jefferson football team continued to succeed and we had to get Max home Friday in time for the game. They won. They kept winning until they played the championship game in the Superdome. VERY COOL. They were playing the number two team in the state, the defending champs, and they pulled it off. The E.J. Warriors are the state champs! Hooray! And Max played in the Superdome!

• Christmas was nice. I've been told that my Christmas list was too boring for words, but I really do enjoy my new potato peeler. Really! Man, that shucks the skin off spuds like nobody's business! We enjoyed the lights at LaFreniere Park again – but man it was cold! With a stiff breeze that brought the temp into the 30s. We enjoyed the lights, but we didn't linger.

• And maybe it was the cold, or the weird hours we tend to keep, or just the luck of the draw, but we've also spent too much of the last few weeks sick. It's always one of us. First Max, then me, then Tori and Kate. Then Max again Christmas day, and back through the loop. Coughing and hacking and the whole thing.

Unpleasant, and made everything more difficult. But we're OK. We enjoyed the holidays, and we'll get by.

• That's not all that's been going on of course, but it gives the highlights. There's been much in the way of writing, as well, but I'll get to that. And much in the way of reading, and some movies. I'll get to all that, too.

Friday, November 22, 2013

A Surprisingly Lovely Afternoon

Serendipity is the knack for unexpected discoveries. It is the talent for discovering things you didn't know you were looking for.

Last Saturday we set out for Costco, me, Tori and Max. They'd just opened the first one in New Orleans area – the closest before now was 300 some odd miles away in Alabama. I was very excited. Probably too excited, I admit it. I love me the Costco.

So we're heading east on Airline Boulevard. Tori asks, "Did you map it?" Of course I did. "When?" A couple of days ago. (Clearly, I had been looking forward to the trip to Costco.) I had it in my head, the route was very clear to me. But when we got to the street where I was supposed to turn left, there was a no-left-turn sign, as there are on so many streets here. So I had to go past, then work back to the main drag, where I turned right and started looking for the store.

And looking. And looking. You know how this goes. It persisted in not being where I though it should. Tori and Max were supportive – by which of course I mean they rode me unmercifully. All in good fun, ha ha! Silly dad!

After about five miles I knew it wasn't where I'd thought it was. The options were to retrace my steps, go home and remap it, or ...

We were approaching City Park. Tori had been there a year ago when the Lopez family came to visit. I had not. So we pulled in. It's a big park, and it includes the New Orleans Museum of Art and a sculpture garden. The museum is huge, and as we drove up, both of my wife and son – who both love me dearly – kept asking helpfully if maybe this was Costco. Of course it wasn't, it said art museum right on the front. 

We drove around, then parked between the sculpture garden and the coffee shop, where we ordered coffee (Max, hot chocolate) and the biggest beignets I've ever had. From my limited experience beignets are roughly the size of golf balls, and totally delicious. These were roughly the size and shape of throw pillows, and equally delicious. And we were served by a young waitress who looked more like an anime character than any human I've ever seen. So that was fun.

Then we walked through the sculpture garden. Wow!

'Heroic Man' by Gaston Lachaise. He's even more
impressive from the front.
I don't know art, but I know I liked this. Big bronze pieces, massive warriors and abstracts. Kinetic sculptures and pieces that interacted with the surroundings. More than 60 pieces in all, each displayed to best advantage among the wandering footpaths. OK, sure, there were a couple of pieces where I raised an eyebrow and said, "Really?" A couple of modern pieces, one that looked an industrial air conditioning unit, another like a pile of stuff that had fallen off a truck and the workers, mistaking it for art, left it in place, or in situ, as the artistic types might say.

But mostly, it was just a lovely day and a lovely way to spend that day, just enjoying the scene with my family. They even stopped chiding me (as much) about Costco.
I hadn't planned to visit the garden, of course, so I didn't bring my camera. All I had was the crapcam on my cell phone – which is not only not a smart phone, it's the world's dumbest phone. The photos aren't very good, don't do the place justice, so I'm only including a couple that didn't turn out completely shitty.

Instead I'll refer anyone interested to the website of the Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden.

Crappy photo of a cool Calder
We spent about half an hour over the coffee and beignets, and another hour in the garden. It was great.

Then we got back in the car. Tori correctly said that from where we were, there was a shorter way home than retracing our steps. But I backtracked, all the way up to the intersection with Airline. No Costco. She raised an eyebrow when I drove through the intersection without turning.

And sure enough, just a couple of blocks later, there it was. The brand new, bigger than life Costco that had opened just six weeks earlier. We spent the next hour or so there, and it was great. If I had turned right instead of left, we'd have been there in a matter of minutes.

But we also would have missed a beautiful afternoon in the park, and a much better time than I'd planned. Sometimes the wrong turn is the best one.

Apropos of nothing: Thursday night's game between the New Orleans Saints and the Atlanta Falcons was a pretty lackluster affair, But when it was over, and the Saints had hung on to win (or the Falcons had squandered their last chance, take your pick) people in my neighborhood were setting off fireworks. Seriously. People in New Orleans hate Atlanta. I mean hate. They hate everything about the city, especially the Falcons. Hate, hate HATE. It surprises me. Atlanta is fine in its own way, I guess, but New Orleans is so demonstrably superior, so much cooler in every way, that hating the other big southern city just seems like wasted emotion.

Friday, November 8, 2013

EJ Was Hot, the Doughnuts Were Hotter

Tori and I had waited long enough. Last night we went to the Easy Jefferson High School football game.

Max is in the band, so he's been going week after week. This week was the last game of the regular season and we didn't want to miss out, especially since ER is supposed to be pretty goo.

EJ was going into the game with a 9-0 record, ranked No. 10 in the state. They were playing a team that was 5-4, so it's not like the opponents couldn't play football. They'd beaten five other schools.

The EJ Warriors were just a machine. I was a sports writer/editor in my early days in the news business and I've seen a lot of high school football, some very good teams. EJ was a whole different level of good. They ran a no-huddle offense the whole game. Ten years ago you rarely saw a college team go no huddle, and these kids did it all game. Their place kicker, a skinny little kid, was booting the ball out of the end zone on kickoffs, and he only missed one extra point, when he was kicking into a wind.

E.J. kicked off to open the game, and forced a fumble on the other team's first play from scrimmage. Scored two plays later. The rout was on.

By halftime it was 48-0.

I mentioned a wind the kid was kicking into. It was a cold wind, blowing straight down the field and bleachers. When we moved here a year ago after four years in the tropics, I didn't have any warm clothing. I still don't own a jacket, just never got around to it. I wore a hooded sweatshirt and two shirts, and I was cold and getting colder. Tori was equally cold. When we weren't jumping up and cheering for another EJ touchdown, we huddled together.

There was an older couple sitting next to us, and after another score he and Tori chatted briefly about the team. She said something about how good the team was and what fun the kids were having down on the field. (Well, the other team wasn't having much fun, but that was their problem.) The guy allowed as how, yeah, being on that field under the lights was still one of his favorite memories.

"You played here?" Tori asked.

"Oh yeah, back in 1964." Then he kind of grinned and said, "Of course, I was only 8 years old at the time."

Halftime came. We watched the bands because, hey, we're band parents. But we were looking down the barrel of a very long second half. From where we sat in the top row of the bleachers, we could see, two blocks away – Krispy Kreme!

The band marched off the field. We marched out of the stadium and drove immediately to Krispy Kreme for coffee and crullers that definitely made things better.

By the time we got back, the game had just ended. The EJ coach had put in the second and third teamers for the last two quarters, so the final score was 48-0.

There's still the playoffs, so we might make ano0ther game or two. But only if I get a jacket. There's decent chance EJ will go pretty far. For the 10 games of the season, the Warriors have scored 456 points. They've allowed 32. Only three teams even scored on them, and only one game was even close. I can't imagine how good No.s 1 through 9 must be.

Kate is not a fan, so she didn't go to the game. But she was happy. We brought doughnuts home.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Crafting a Happy Halloween

Halloween was last week, and it was fun.

The family project was on full display. Tori made the mask and chain mail shirt that Kate wore, pictured here, and I think you'll agree it turned out amazing! We had been saving the pop top tabs from soda cans for months, and I spent a lot of time flattening them, bending them and then clipping. We all did a little of that. Spent so much time working with the pliers that I thought we'd all end up with bulging Popeye forearms. Then Tori figured out how to link them all together. The result was amazing.

It rained a little that evening – and for a little while it rained a lot – but the kids didn't let that slow them down. Much candy was amassed.We were Halloween central for Max and his friends, and they all came back soaked but delighted with themselves.

We had slightly – slightly – more trick-or-treaters than last year, six knocks on the door instead of last year's four. We're down at the end of the block, with two vacant houses to our left, so there's not a lot of incentive for kids to come down here.

I dressed in my pirate gear – well, what else? – and the first time I opened the door, growling, with cutlass in hand, I found five little kids and a dad. One little kid, three or four years old, took one look at me and ran! He eventually got coaxed back onto the porch and got his treat, and his dad thought it was funny. Made my night!

ODDS AND ENDS – The "most interesting man in the world?" I don't think so. The guy in the beer commercials is a cautionary tale for all of us getting to be of an age. He used to do all kinds of interesting things. Now he sits at a table and buys drinks for pretty girls and talks about how interesting he is. These days the most interesting men in the world, or at least in beer commercials, are the guys in the Heineken ads, plunging through the back alleys of exotic cities, dropping in on colorful bars and amazing parties with great bands and mysterious, beautiful women.

Still, either of those beers, Dos Equis or Heineken, beats the hell out of the mass produced American sludge passed off as beer. Anyone else notice this? Most of the ads for Coors Lite, Miller Lite and Bud Lite spend more time talking about the new shape of their bottles or their amazing cans than about the actual taste of their beer? That's because their beer tastes like horse piss. And I'm not talking about a healthy horse, here.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Out of Sight, Out of Mind

The house we rent here in Metairie faces east. The backyard can't be seen from the street. Because of the eccentricity of the layout, it can barely be seen from the house. You also can't reach it from the house, there is no back door, so to get there you have to go out the front or side door and slip around the side through the gate.

There are no trees, just a few bushes on the south fence line, so in the afternoon as the sun slides down the sky, it gets very warm back there. Very warm. Hot. No shade. On a 90-degree day, it problably gets close to a hundred back there. As the sun bakes the back wall, it radiates that heat into the house. The western rooms of the house, the living room and especially the kitchen, get noticeably warmer than the bedrooms in the front half of the house.

The result is, we hardly ever go back there.

The yard is "textured," one might say. It's a real ankle breaker, and there's a dip in the middle, a patch about six feet in diameter where I'm guessing there was a tree removed either by storm, age or someone who just didn't like trees. We've had a couple of rainstorms that filled up the divot to a depth of a foot or more, which soaked away or evaporated by the next day. Next to the dip is a mound about the same size in reverse, as if someone had dug a hole and slung the debris to one side. I can't imagine why, but it's possible.

Tori planted pumpkins there this spring. At first they took off – The vines extended diagonally from one corner of the lot to the other. The vines looked as if they were going to take over the yard, maybe the world. It developed about three dozen small green orbs about the size of softballs and we thought, "Great! We'll be selling pumpkins this Halloween." I looked up a few pumpkin recipes.

And then they stopped. In bunches, they just broke off their stems and rotted. We ended up with one pumpkin still growing in late August, and something found it and chowed down on it in September.

The point of all this is, we don't do much, if anything, with the backyard.

Saturday we deemed it time to go give it it's annual mowing. The weather has cooled, it was a beautiful day, mid 70s, and we went out in the mid-morning and were finished by 1 p.m. Tori and I took turns with the borrowed lawn mower and the weed whacker we'd found in the shed. The grass hadn't gotten too tall – probably the spread of pumpkin vines had kept it to ankle height in most places. But it was dense, and the uneven terrain made it a chore. We were both sore afterwards, and didn't have much energy left for anything else on Saturday.

But now the backyard is done, except for the mound, which was more densely grown over. I'm going to post this and get out there with the weed whacker for one last pass.

And then it should be done. The weather is cooling, and the lawn – such as it is – is ready to go dormant. If we're still renting here in the spring, we'll take another look at it. Maybe we'll even think of something we want to do back there. In the meantime, the backyard is out of sight, out of mind.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

When the Guy Says, 'Watch Your Head'

"Watch your head," the guy said as we got on the Ferris wheel Sunday at the carnival. They always say that, of course. Turns out there's a reason.

I stepped up and – SMACK – hit my head hard on the cross bar. Saw stars. My hat flew off. I lost a little bit of skin, a patch maybe the size of a quarter, dead center right at the hairline, as if I could afford to lose any there. It bled a little so I performed my personal first aid – put my hat back on.

Today it's two days later and my head feels fine. My neck is a little sore, as if I had jammed it or something. But I'll survive. I can turn my head, it just hurts a little when I do.

The big disappointment is – I have been reading the neurologist Oliver Sacks, his stories about head injuries causing all sorts of interesting mental things – people coming out of a coma or suffering a head injury and suddenly speaking a language they didn't previously know, or with an Irish accent, or suddenly manifesting new musical abilities or memory feats or, you know, cool stuff. There are of course far more stories in Sacks' books about terrible things, but I try not to focus on those.

So today I'm asking, where's the Russian? Where's the sudden ability to play piano, or do complicated lightning math in my head? I'm feeling sort of let down here. I'm the same old boring guy I always was, only with a sore neck. That hardly seems fair.

Oh, but the church carnival we were at had advertised they'd have 3 tons of roast pork on hand – 6,000 pounds! That was no disappointment. Had a pulled pork sandwich that easily had a pound of pork on it. Delicious. Made the head injury worthwhile.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

My Weirdest Ear Worm Ever

We all get them now and again, it happens to everyone. Ear Worms.

Some song gets in your head, usually when you wake up, and it's stuck there for hours, sometimes all day. It's rarely a song you really like, sometimes it's a song you positively hate. And it's usually not a song you know well, at least that's the case with me. It's usually a song I know one little part of, and that one phrase rattles around in my brain all morning.

I've had some weird ear worms, but today's may be the weirdest. I've had pieces of pop songs from the '80s, old show tunes, and one memorably horrible day, the theme song from "The Real McCoys," a late 1950s sitcom starring Walter Brennan and Richard Crenna, set on a farm. For some reason the singer yammered away just the two lines I could remember (and why could I remember them?) "With Grandpappy Amoes and the girls and the boys and the family known as the Real McCoys!" It was a very long day.

But this morning I've got a doozy. You may have heard this song, but if you're not around my age, the odds aren't good that you have.

"Flat Foot Floogie (with a Floy Floy.)" Seriously. There is such a song. The lyrics, as far as I can recall them, are all nonsense. It's been going through my mind all morning. I can recall my dad singing it once or twice, but that's about it. And certainly I've never heard it or even thought about it for 30 years or more. So why in the world did it suddenly leap unbidden into my head this morning?

I was intrigued, so I looked it up, and it's even stranger.

The song was written in 1938 and recorded by, among others, Louis Armstrong and the Benny Goodman Orchestra. Although I'm pretty sure the only time I've ever heard it was my father singing it. He had an interesting repertoire, and he sang a lot.

What's interesting is that the lyric was originally "Flat Foot FLOOZIE," but it was changed to Floogie so it could be played on the radio. Because saying "floozie" on the public airwaves? Just couldn't do that. We've come a long way since then. Whether that's progress or not, I'll let others judge.

And a floy floy was slang for a venereal disease.

So THAT'S an unusual twist on my morning.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Pork – and More Pork

Loud this weekend – and fun. The church across the street had its annual "seafood festival" – a three-day extravaganza with carnival rides and bands every night. Our street, which is normally pretty quiet, was jammed with parked cars and people walking up and down.

I put "seafood festival" in quotation marks because there was surprisingly little seafood. One booth selling fried catfish, another with shrimp. The rest was the usual carnival food, including deep fried Oreos. No one can say anymore that I've never had a friend Oreo. Not bad.

I approached one of the booths and hesitated. The guy behind the table looked quizzical. I asked him, "Do I want the pulled pork sandwich, or the smoked sausage?" "Pulled pork," he replied without hesitation. "You're sure?" "Oh yeah." He was right. It was almost a pound of pork on a sandwich roll, doused with barbecue sauce. It sat in my stomach the rest of the night like – well, like a pound of pork. But well worth it. Tori had the catfish and pronounced herself satisfied.

I chatted with the guy a little about the festival. Everyone in the booth, he said, were old friends. Their kids are all in the same class and they've been working the booth together every year since first grade Their kids are in eighth grade now, so I guess there will be new faces making the burgers, sausage – and pulled pork sandwiches – next year. Reminded me of the school activities we've been part of over the years.

Next weekend the carnival moves about half a mile down the road to the next church school, only this one the theme is not seafood. It's "lechon," which is to say, pork. The flier promises there will be three tons – 6,000 pounds – of roast pork. That's a lot of pig. They're calling it pigopoly.

I suspect I will not be putting the name of their festival in quotation marks.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

A Terrible Tropical Storm

By terrible storm, I mean if this was supposed to be a storm, it did a terrible job of it. We woke up this morning and the sky was blue, the sun streaming down, light breeze and birds chirping. If this is a storm, I'll take more please.

We've been watching the approach of Tropical Storm Karen for several days, with warnings and alerts and predictions of where it would make landfall. It's late in the season, and Louisiana has not been hit by a hurricane after Oct. 1 since 1898, and as the last days of September flicked by, I was feeling better and better. But you have to keep alert. And you can certainly understand why people here would be nervous about a storm starting with the letter K. So when Tropical Storm Karen formed up in the southern Gulf of Mexico, we went on heightened alert.

We checked our supplies, cleaned up a few things in the yard, and waited. At first the predictions were that it would veer east and make landfall somewhere along the Florida panhandle, but as the weekend approached it seemed to be holding steady for the mouth of the Mississippi.

But it was doing some odd things. All the activity seemed to be to the east of the "center" of the storm. A cold front moving across Texas seemed to be pushing dry wind in from the west. All day Saturday Karen seemed to be stalled just south of Grand Isle on the Mississippi delta.

And then about 10 last night, it just disappeared. I've been watching hurricanes with a personal interest since 2008 and I've never seen anything like this. On the TV weather report, the radar showed a big blob, big blob, big blob, and then practically nothing. It just sort of disappeared.

This morning the weather map showed a clear gulf, with just the letter L indicating some lingering low pressure.

All spring we'd been reading predictions about what a difficult hurricane season this was likely to be. All the signs were there for one cataclysm after another. The reality has been very different. Here in Louisiana we've had a couple of systems start to spin up in the gulf, then sort of peter out and turn inland over Mexico or Texas, drop some rain and die. In the Caribbean, there have been a few near misses to the V.I. as storms steamed across the Atlantic, then veered sharply north and died out at sea. I could be mistaken – I know, it's shocking, but I could – but I don't think a single storm has caused any trouble for the U.S. Atlantic coast.

And it's crazy, because ocean surface temperatures are still high, there's plenty of energy out there. I was talking to one weather watcher on St Croix last week who said September was actually warmer than August, and there's still concern that with the high temps the season could linger on into December.

But from where I'm sitting, it seems like an unusually quiet hurricane season is all but in the books. Still, we won't break into our supplies until Dec. 1. Because you never know, except sometimes you do.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Pirates in Popeye’s – A Curious Coda

I thought I was done writing about Talk Like a Pirate Day for the year. The holiday was a week and a half ago, and I thought my last column was the cap. As usual, I was wrong.

Friday afternoon was busy. At 2:30 I left the house to pick up the kids (Max and his girlfriend Lauren, who practically lives at our house) from high school. Then we had to drive 20 minutes in the opposite direction through heavy traffic to where Tori had been subbing most of the week in a first-grade class and pick her up. Because Max's high school had a football game that night and he and Lauren are in the band, they had to be back at school by 5:30. So we decided to just grab some chicken on the way home. We stopped at Popeye's.

I had placed the order and was waiting when Tori came in and handed me the phone. "It's New Zealand," she said.

The previous weekend I had missed connections with the last of this year's phone interviews, a children's morning radio show in Dunedin, New Zealand, called "Space Station Kiwi." Time zone differences had buggered us. Saturday morning in New Zealand was Friday afternoon here, but we hadn't figured out precisely when. I had written it off. He apparently had not, and now, a week later. he tried again and got through.

So there I was standing in the middle of Popeye's chicken (Louisiana fresh!) growling into the phone. With the heavy traffic passing by, taking the phone outside was out of the question, so I moved to the corner of the dining area.

Heads of the eight to a dozen diners jerked up in surprise. The cook heard me bellow "Aarrr! Ahoy thar!" and came out and asked Tori if he should call the paramedics. Really.

I sat in the corner and did the live interview. It was actually fun. "Captain Cornflake," as the show's host calls himself, did all these space sound effects – whooshes and beeps and clanks – with nothing more than his mouth. If I were a Kiwi kid, I'd make a point of listening in. Because it was a kids show the questions were a little off the usual path. I ended up warning the kids about the dangers of scurvy and why they need to eat their fruits and vegetables.

The dozen or so diners were staring, not sure whether to be worried or amused. From time to time I looked up, smiled non-threateningly, and shrugged, as if to say, "Hey, what can I do?"

Meanwhile Tori was standing nearby, trying not to laugh at me, and Max and Lauren (who is fascinated by us) tried to look like they didn't know me and were not in fact really there.


In all, it took about ten minutes, maybe twelve. By this time Tori had our order in hand. I finished, stood, smiled and apologized to the room of bemused diners. "It was an interview, New Zealand. You know how they are." And we left.

The kids made it to their game on time, and their school won 75-0. The EJHS team is apparently pretty good.

Tori had checked out a movie from the library to show the first graders, and we watched it Saturday night. "Muppet Treasure Island." It's not a "serious" pirate movie, but who wants pirate movies to be serious? It's silly, Tim Curry is a great Long John Silver, the kid playing Jim Hawkins wasn't terribly annoying, at least not more than most kids playing Hawkins.

"Muppet Treasure Island" is a fun and funny movie.

It is, as Tim Curry says in my favorite number, "When You're a Professional Pirate," "a festival of conviviality!"

And that, I think, is probably the last word on the holiday for the year.

But I'm usually wrong about that.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Talk Like a Pirate Day – After Action Report

It's my new favorite story about International Talk Like a Pirate Day.

For the uninitiated (and anyone reading this probably isn't among that group) Talk Like a Pirate Day is every Sept. 19, a day with no other purpose than for people all over the world to share in the anarchic joy of talking like a pirate for no other reason than it's fun. Over the years (11 of them now) we've had some remarkable things happen – hearing about the TLAP party held at the Antarctic research station, located 50 feet from the South Pole, hearing astronauts on the International Space Stations talking like pirates, the NY Times crossword puzzle theme, the photo from the White House of Obama pretending to talk with a pirate. The list goes on.

Every year, something happens and we think, "Well, that's as good as it gets. There's no topping this." And then the next year something comes along and tops it.

There was one of those this year, of course. I was watching The Daily Show, and there was no mention of the holiday. But right at the end, Stewart said, "And now, your moment of zen," and the clip showed a guy being interviewed on CNBC, and the interviewer was talking like a pirate! That was a two-fer, both the original interview and the Daily Show pick up. So that was a pretty big deal to me.

But that's not my favorite story. That came late Thursday night, in an email. I will quote it.

"Hi, you haven't the slightest idea who I am ... I am a broke college student who lives in FL with my family (mom, dad, younger siblings aunts, uncles, grandma, cousins, etc...), I just wanted to write to you guys and let you know how much fun my family had celebrating International Talk Like a Pirate Day 2013. I had known of and observed it lightly for the last 4 years but this year, I heard about the Krispy Kreme promotion and I knew that I had to get my family in on the act. My dad couldn't make it out with us to celebrate but he gave us the go ahead and encouraged us to help the little kids dress up and really have fun with the afternoon. The kids helped make their own costumes (or did I help them?) they weren't great but we had a lot of fun making them and getting excited and then they had even more fun when my older sister and I took our younger siblings and cousins out to the local doughnut place and they had a blast – as my 8-year-old cousin John put it: 'This is the best International Talk Like a Pirate Day I've ever had!!!!'"

I love this story, both because of the boy's enthusiasm and the realization that there's a whole generation of young people for whom this isn't just some goofy new idea they've just heard of. International Talk Like a Pirate Day, is a THING. It's just part of the calendar, part of life that's been around (in their experience) forever. Not really that different than Christmas or baseball.

Kind of blows me away.

Mark (Cap'n Slappy Summers) and I have been noting for years that the holiday is sort of outgrowing us, and this year I'm sure of it. Not that that's a bad thing. It's reached critical mass, Mark and I could decide to drop it tomorrow and it would go on. We did fewer interviews this year than in the past – seven years ago we did 82 radio interviews in a 30-hour hour span. This year we were still all over Australia, the Aussies just can't get enough of us. But very few in the U.S. and only one in Europe. But that didn't mean interest in Talk Like a Pirate Day was dying. On the contrary, it's stronger than ever. The holiday was all over the Web, in newspaper and on television everywhere. They didn't need to talk to the founders. They were too busy, there was a holiday to celebrate.

The Krispy Kreme promotion was especially huge. When Tori, Max and I went down for our doughnuts (dress like a pirate, get a dozen free doughnuts) the place was mobbed with buccaneers. We heard similar reports from all over.

People have asked us over the years how long we plan to keep this up. The answer was always the same. "As long as it's fun." It's still fun, but now it's something more. It's not just my and Mark's plaything. It belongs to the world.

And the world is doing just fine with it.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Just a Quick Note

Been buried with work for the Source and work on the book. Finished the third revision of Scurvy Dogs! at 4 this morning. I think it's good, but of course I do. I wrote it.

Tori is in NY visiting Millie and Ben, and I never sleep well when she's not here. This goes all the way back to when we first got married and once a year she took off for a women friends weekend at the Oregon coast. I just don't sleep.

So as long as I wasn't going to be asleep, I just kept going until I'd put "The End" at the bottom. From when I started at 11 a.m. Tuesday to 4:00 this morning, I wrote 4500 words, not counting about 600 I had to chop out when I had a better idea and backed up to take another run at it. I was off the computer for about 5 hours while Max played Minecraft. It was an idea I could have and should have had two years ago, but at least I had it eventually.

Of course I've been kind of a wreck all day. I will try to get some sleep tonight, but I'm not holding out much hope. Tori's not here, and I just don't sleep much.

She just texted that she and Millie and Millie's boyfriend Kevin just saw a matinee of a show on Broadway. Very cool. Tomorrow is Millie's birthday. She turns 21. There may be some drinking.

Friday, August 9, 2013

A Matter of Time and Timing

Max started high school today. We're all very excited. The best four years of his life (so far) coming up. I hope Tori and I can survive it!

But it led to a couple of questions.

Who the hell starts school this yearly? What happened to school starting at Labor Day? It was the same last year, we had no sooner moved to the area than we had to find a school for him? T.H. Harris Middle School was good for him, and now he's at Day One of his four years at East Jefferson High School. But the beginning of August What's up with that?

Bigger question. Who the hell starts the first day of school on a Friday? What is the possible pedagogic explanation for that? Is it so they can get a day in under their belts, then spend the weekend resting up and/or dreading Day 2?

I sent Millie the pic I took of Max heading out for high school and she said she was getting teary. "He's just a baby! How can he be in high school?" she asked. I replied, "Tell me about it." And of course, she's just a baby, too, but in a couple of weeks she turns 21. And of course I have a son, Jack, who is now 32. How the hell did that happen?

Monday, July 29, 2013

One Year and Rolling at Last

We just marked our first year in New Orleans. We arrived here late on July 26, 2012.

We've had some really good times here, we've had some fun. But I won't pretend it hasn't been a rough year. We still miss the island. We're still trying to find our place here. And of course, one of the move-motivators was a family tragedy we still haven't gotten over, or even accepted. That'll never go away.

Max is the one who has settled in most happily. He had a good year at school, has friends, is looking forward to starting high school in two weeks.

Our biggest problem – in the category of "fixable problems" as opposed to "this is just how life is" – was finally resolved a week ago. We got a car.

We had a car. The Beast. I've written about it. But The Beast went the way of all things. A blown head turned it into a former car just after the first of the year. It was going to cost more to fix than we'd paid for the thing.

So for more than six months we walked everywhere. The grocery store was only half a mile away, but that required you to think while you were shopping about what you'd be able to carry home. If you bought the gallon of milk, did you also want to buy the five-pound bag of flour? And if something was out of our foot range, we either had to figure out the bus that got us closest, or we didn't go. On a few rare occasions we took taxis. Mardi Gras was one of those times, and well worth it.

Something I had been meaning to write almost when we first got here was how, on St. Croix you always knew you were on an island. There were few places where you couldn't see the Caribbean. There were some places where you could see the north shore, then turn around and see the south. It wasn't a bad thing, it was kind of cool. But you knew where you were, what the boundaries, the limits were. We even went through a period there without a car, and I could still get almost everywhere I needed to go for work or family. I actually enjoyed the taxi vans, and one of the world's most beautiful beaches was only a 10-minute walk away.

Almost as soon as we got here, I could feel the difference. Driving to the store or to pick up Tori, I could feel the continent under me, feel the road spreading out, leading everywhere. I didn't need to drive to Minneapolis or Denver or Charleston, but I could feel them there, under my wheels. Then I lost the wheels and lost that sense of connection. Unlike when we were on the island, we felt kind of trapped.

It was even harder for Tori. She was subbing in the Jefferson Parish School District, and not having wheels severely limited where she could work. It had to be a school within reasonable bike distance (we got a bike at a yard sale, five bucks. It took a week of work to make it rideable. It's not a comfortable bike but it got her there.)

Getting anywhere always took the kind of planning that landed the Allies at Normandy, and turned a 20 minute trip to and from the bank into a three-hour expedition involving two buses and some walking. We've missed lots and lots of things. Basically, if it wasn't close, we couldn't do it. Even the library was just outside our range. That was a killer.

This month we finally got a little ahead of the game. Not much, but we were able to get a cheap used car that we think will serve us for a while. Doesn't look like much, but it runs great. It's used, but it was lovingly used. It even came with a name – the guy who sold it to us said his mother called it "Linda" – pronounced the Spanish way, "leen-da" which of course is Spanish for pretty.

Now, if we want to get on the road and visit our friends in Houston, we can do that. Or escape a hurricane, or at least get into the city for a festival or a show or just dinner. Just knowing that makes you feel a little freer.

In the 10 days since we bought Linda we have been to the library twice, other grocery stores (the close by one has good prices but crappy produce,) we made it to several garage sales (good story I'll tell Wednesday.) Saturday we went looking for a farmers market – this is not apparently farmers market season down here, we struck out at three locales, but we had a nice drive.

Sunday afternoon Tori took Max and his girlfriend Lauren to a workshop for young musicians. A handful of kids got to work with a professional jazz trio from a New Orleans club, learning blues riffs, then jamming together. They had a great time and he felt like he learned a lot. We'll definitely be going back. Tori's also talking about a trip to the coast. We've been told Pensacola is only a two-hour drive. She really misses the beach.

So we've been here a year, but we've been sort of locked down for half of it. Now we're ready to spread out a little. Get back into the swing of things, get our groove back a bit.

I don't have to go to Minneapolis or South Carolina, but I can feel them again.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Birthday Odds and Ends Were Odder than Usual

 Yesterday was Max's birthday and it was an unusual day. I think I was more excited than he was in the build up to "Now open your presents."

We'd been looking for an acoustic guitar for him and hadn't found anything in our price range. I figured in New Orleans you ought to be able to find a lot of good used guitars in the pawn shops and music store, and you can, but the owners are not fools. They know a good guitar when they see it, and price it accordingly. Finally we looked online and found a really nice one. An Epiphone, spruce top, mahogany back and sides with a mahogany neck and rosewood fretboard. And it was half price! We could actually afford it! When it was delivered (in only four days!) Tori and I got it out of the box and it was beautiful. It just sat there and glowed at us. We could barely contain ourselves until his birthday.

So the afternoon of his birthday, July 3, we planned to go down to the park where there was a pre-Fourth concert/fireworks show, have a picnic with the kids, watch the fireworks, then come home for cake and presents. We were getting ready to go when the lights went out.

Or more accurately, half the power went out in the house. Living room was still on. Kitchen out except the refrigerator was still running. Two of the three bedrooms were out. One of the two bathrooms (which are side by side) lost power. A/C out. Dryer still worked. Nothing wrong in the breaker box. It was just weird.

At this point I'm thinking, well, at least the guitar is acoustic. 

So I called the power company and they sent a guy out. He showed up right as we were ready to leave for the park, picnic dinner packed. He was a really nice guy; he and Tori chatted for a while about growing tomatoes, and he told us about a great website for enthusiasts – Totally Tomatoes. Their catalog is apparently spectacular. Then he checked the breaker box, checked the meter, then pointed to the line coming in from the transformer. I'm not kidding – a squirrel had chewed through the insulation, shorting out one of the two lines! 

I guess the squirrels are in cahoots with the hawk. 

Another guy was going to have to come out to replace the line, and someone had to wait for him. So Tori and Max and his girlfriend Lauren and two of their other friends went down to the park and I waited.

Max and 'Caroline'
And waited. And waited. The guy finally showed up around 7, a sort of taciturn young guy who didn't want to talk, just got busy. It took kind of forever, but he got it done, all the power came back at 8:30. I shook his hand and lit out for the park. Got there just before the fireworks started.

The fireworks were spectacular, one of the better shows I've seen. I caught up with Tori and the kids – Max and three of his friends – halfway through the show. Even in the dark it was easy to spot them. Tori and the kids "conduct" the fireworks, pointing to the sky and waving their arms as if personally responsible for the show, which I believe they are. Anyway, they created a grand finale. Then we turned around and walked home.

A block from the house, we ran into two girls, one of whom knew Max from school, so Tori invited them over for cake. You know Tori, she picks up stray kids like some people pick up stray cats. Our house has always been full of teens who have trouble at home but respond to her. So we ended up with rather a largish gathering in the living room. It was fun. It was LOUD. 14/15 year old girls and all. 

Max loved the guitar – he's named it Caroline because it sounds sort of classy and French. He spent a good hour noodling with it before remembering he also got an Xbox game. He was up until god knows when playing that. I was asleep.

Tonight there's a fireworks display at the end of the Zephyrs game, so we'll just walk up to the end of the block to watch that and that will be our Fourth of July.

Monday, July 1, 2013

From The Wild Blue Yonder

That was more exciting than I'd anticipated.

Our potted tomato plants have been growing robustly and we needed to rig a system for supporting them. We came up with a plan Saturday and threw a coat of white paint on the lumber to give it a little protection from the rain. Sunday afternoon we built it.

The uprights angle up from the ground to the edge of the carport, and though they fit snugly and almost didn't need any attachment, we decided to angle in a screw at the top of each just to be sure they stay in place. I went up the ladder with a drill, making a pilot hole and then putting in a zap screw.

The first attack had happened earlier in the day when I was standing in the area. It's about six feet between the edge of the carport and the neighbor's wall. I was just standing there when – whoosh! – something flew by my head, something biggish. I spun around and saw a bird swooping away. Couldn't get a good look at him, he was pretty fast and I was pretty surprised.

That was odd, I thought. It's a narrow space, so why did it choose to fly through there? Birds! What are you gonna do?

Now I was up on the ladder, Tori standing below handing me things as I needed them. I had snugged down the first upright, then the second, and had just drilled the pilot hole for the third. I was swapping the drill bit for the Phillips head bit when – WHOOSH! – I was buzzed again, this time even closer. What the hell!

My head shot up and I saw him. He was pulling up from his power dive, wings outstretched as he played off his speed against the wind, then – Oh lord! – wheeled around and headed straight back for another pass at me! He was greyish white, broader in the shoulders than I'd have thought, and his compact body looked sleek, every feather streamlined to hasten his passage through the air. I got a nice view of him head on from about 20 feet – the small, hooked beak and piercing black eyes in his flat, almost owllike face, coming straight at me – then I was down the ladder and under the carport as he whooshed by again. The hawk was beautfully agile in the air, but I like to think I was pretty nimble for an older guy as I got down that ladder and under cover.

Tori grabbed the binoculars and found him, now lazily circling above. We went in and looked it up online and we're pretty sure he was a marsh hawk, or Norhtern Harrier. Except they got the size wrong. According to the reference, the marsh hawl is a medium sized bird. From my vantage point he was gigantic, with a wingson of, oh, I don't know, 30 feet or so, with 18-inch long razor-sharp talons and a mood to match.

Tori thought he might have been attracted to (or offended by) my shirt. I was wearing one of my more colorful Hawaiian shirts. I went in and change to a drab brown T-shirt. When I went back out, there were two hawks riding the thermals high above the neighborhood. Word apparently gets around quickly in bird circles. So Tori, instead of watching my display of power tool machismo on the ladder, kept an eye on the sky. It took only a few more minutes on the ladder, even if my attention was only partly on the work and partly above. When I got down, Tori noted that one of the two hawks was definitely circling lower, but he stayed away long enough for us to finish. The other was probably just there because it was funny, from a bird's perspective.

Now we just have to thread the string through the uprights and the tomatoes are good to grow.

As long as a hawk doesn't decide to nest in them.

TIMING IS EVERYTHING – In life, as in comedy, timing is everything. Thursday Tori added some ladybugs and caterpillars to the tree she is painting on the picnic table. She had set her water bottle on the table, and noted that the beads of water running off it had streaked the paint a little. She decided it needed to be sealed soon.

Friday she came inside and said she'd sprayed a sealant on it. She can still paint on it, but it gave the table just a little protection. It still needs a couple of coats of Verathane, but it had something.

Saturday morning it rained like hell, and even though the table is under the carport, it got wet, awfully wet. (The carport roof leaks.) And the surface was covered with water drops, all beaded up. The paint was completely undisturbed.

Good timing.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

A Blooming Table

An old picnic table has sat in our house's storage shed for longer than we've rented here, a lot longer. It was filthy and wobbly, with odds and ends stacked on it, the detritus of years caked on it.

But it has been given new life in the last week.

Tori dragged it out into the carport, shimming the legs so it's more or less even. Then she cleaned it thoroughly and slapped a coat of white paint on it. That's when the real work started.

She got out the box of art stuff and started painting, enlisting the kids and even me. Typically you don't want me doing "art," especially in a medium that doesn't have an "undo" function. But as a friend often says, "In painting there are no mistakes. There's only texture."

The table isn't finished, not by a long shot, but it now displays a sprawling tree covered with blossoms of every color. Not every color of the rainbow, but every color in our art box.

It's been a week and the flowers continue to spread. We do a little bit every day. I asked Tori, "When will we know it's finished? WILL we know it's finished?" She shrugged and said, "Probably when I get out the glitter. That's probably when I should stop." Then we'll get something to seal it.

The tree is not a realistic tree – what fun would that be? Actually, it's very much in the style of the kinds of trees our daughter Alex painted, and that's not an accident. We're fast approaching the first anniversary of when we lost her, and the date has been looming in the background, rarely mentioned but ominous. Anyone who remembers her paintings will recognize this tree.

We didn't discuss the project before it started. We mostly just grab a brush now and then and paint more flowers. It's a way to pass a few moments in the summer. And something more, but we don't talk much about that because it's still too hard.

But we paint, and we enjoy what we're doing, and we smile a little when we happen to get something just right.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Green Thumb

Tori has been busy since spring, getting some vegetables growing. We now have seven pots with handsome tomato plants, complete with buds that are about to flower, a very healthy looking zucchini patch on the side of the house, also on the verge of bearing, and a pumpkin patch that is taking over the back yard.

We always grew tomatoes in Oregon. There is nothing better than fresh tomatoes. Nothing. The year we lived in Queen Avenue we had amazing plants, five feet high covered with dozens of fruit. When we bought the house on Broadway we continued to have nice harvests, but nothing to compare with that one year on Queen. It turned out the tomatoes that year had been planted directly over the septic tank. Those were some great tomatoes.

But on St. Croix, we never had any luck. We tried growing them every year, and in all that time got one tomato, which the bugs got. We consulted local growers about the best varieties, we followed their instructions scrupulously on light and shade and soil nutrients and watering schedules, and failed every time. Even in the farmers markets, a lot of the tomatoes come from Puerto Rico. We had mango and guava trees and breadfruit and knips (pronounced by the locals, ku-nips) but nary a tomato.

So Tori was bound and determined to get something going this year. And so far her thumb has been bright green.

I don't know why she planted so many pumpkins, and I haven't asked. We've got nine extremely healthy vines going. If my best-case estimate is right, we'll end up with about 50 pumpkins and I don't know what we'll do with them all. Time to start looking for recipes, I guess. I'm a city boy, and the only thing I've ever done with pumpkins is carve them at the end of October, so this will be an adventure.

They were planted in the only place she could find in the yard that she could dig down through. Most of the rest of the yard is three inches of dirt over an inexplicable layer of brick. But in the middle of the yard there was a depression that looked like maybe there had been a stump pulled out. Of course, when it rained – huge thunderstorm a few weeks ago, streets flooded, the drainage canal was filled – the pumpkin plants were under about four inches of water and we figured, "Well, there go the pumpkins." Did they go ever! They took it as a challenge or a starting gun or something. The vines have now spread about twice the area of the original planting and show no signs of slowing down.

But the tomatoes are what we're really counting on. She started them by seed and they're doing well, a little behind some of the other tomato gardens we've seen around the neighborhood, but catching up fast. They're in pots, which was handy when we had that storm. We pulled them in under the carport, then put them back out in the sun immediately after. One got mowed down by some kind of bug that took every leaf and left a little green skeleton. Oddly, that one was in the middle of the line of pots, but whatever it was (probably a very hungry caterpillar) never touched the others.

We probably need to transplant them because the pots aren't really big enough, but they've got a great start. I can almost taste the tomatoes now.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

A Few Things We've Been Up To

What have we been up to?

Sunday Tori, Max and I spent the afternoon at the ballgame. Metairie is home of the Triple A New Orleans Zephyrs, and their stadium is less than a mile from the house. When they play at home on Friday night they have fireworks after the game, which we can see over the treetops.

So Sunday afternoon we went to the game. In the '70s I spent a lot of time at Chavez Ravine watching the Dodgers, but have pretty much abandoned watching baseball these days. Long story, don't get me started. Let's just say I don't have any idea who won or even played in the World Series the last few years, and don't care.

It was a wonderful day. Cloudy skies and a breeze kept the temperature out of the 90s, we were seated right behind home plate, two rows up. It's the minor leagues, but at a high level, so the players have skills and they can taste how close they are to the show. Almost every break between innings had some kind of contest for kids – silly things, done in an almost self-consciously silly way. But it was fun.

Sadly, the Zephyrs – who had been on a winning streak – got hammered Sunday by the Albuquerque Isotopes. The Zephyr pitcher started hot, never got behind the three batters he faced in the first inning, took 'em out in order. After that they must have figured him out because they started hitting him hard. By the seventh-inning stretch it was 7-1, and only a rally in the bottom of the ninth made it a respectable 7-4.

But I enjoyed the game, enjoyed being part of the small crowd in the small park rooting on the home team, even though the only result that mattered was to the individual players and how it affected their chances of making the big club. (The Zephyrs are part of the Miami Marlins farm system, the Isotopes belong to the Dodgers.) There was an earnestness about it that I found missing from the major leagues in decades. The most fun I've had watching baseball in 30 years.

Couple of weeks ago we went to the last of the spring concerts in La Freniere Park, but at Tori's suggestion we took it a step farther and packed a picnic dinner. I fried chicken. (No offense, but I've never had fried chicken better than mine. I've had some as good, but never better.) And Tori made potato salad. We both like potato salad, but we realized neither of us had made it since we've been married. So she took a shot at it and it was great. We'll be fiddling with that for a while 'til we get it just right. Potato salad is another of those kitchen things that has less to do with a recipe and more to do with creativity. Which is why she's so good at it. If your potato salad tastes exactly the same every time you make it, you're doing something wrong.

Concert was good. The Bucktown All Stars was mostly middle-aged white guys playing mostly '60s and '70s soul music. They had a great brass section and a fun play list that included some James Brown and Van Morrison and Sly and the Family Stone and "Sweet Soul Music."

But the best thing about the band was the tambourine/maracas player. She was an older woman in a lime-green outfit who was just rocking out nonstop on every song. She was terrific. And then one of the band members happened to mention that she had graduated from high school in 1947! Which by my reckoning makes her 82 or 83! I hope I'm rocking like that when I'm that age. Hell, I hope I MAKE IT to that age!

Saw "Now You See Me" yesterday, the movie about the bank-robbing magicians. Really good, very entertaining. Nice twist at the end that I actually saw coming, which made me feel very smart. Even though I didn't realize it until about 60 seconds before the twist, and in retrospect I should have seen it earlier. In fact, I DID see it earlier, but just like a good magic trick, you don't realize what you've seen and what it means until the magician is pulling the quarter out of your ear. They warn you right up front – the closer you watch, the less you'll see. And with me, they were right.

On the other hand, I have to ask a question. Is ANYONE going to go see the new Superman movie? Anyone? Ye gods! Do we have to have the origin story AGAIN? Who cares! The problem with movies based on DC Comics is that they treat them so reverentially, like it's "The Greatest Story Ever Told" or something. They take themselves so damn seriously you can almost hear their brows furrowing. The Marvel Comics movies just have fun. Stuff blows up. Goofy things happen. Audiences laugh and cheer and have a good time.

Superman again? No thank you.

We also spent some time getting Millie a bunch of stuff for her new apartment. Nothing big. Just a boxful of the kind of stuff you need, but don’t' get until you need it. Pot holders and dish towels and a peeler and Neosporin and a pair of pliers and Band Aids and stuff like that. Maybe she has some of it, maybe she doesn't. But even if she does, she'll eventually use all of it. It was fun. Lots of fun.

And she does like her surprise packages. It goes in the mail today.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Millie Walks the Walk

Millie walks through graduation at AMDA Saturday. 

It's Millie's Day

It's a happy sad day, for a lot of reasons.

Millie graduates today (Saturday, June 1) and begins pursuing her life in the very difficult career she's chosen. At 11 this morning she goes through commencement at the American Musical and Dramatic Academy and then she begins chasing her dream. We couldn't be more proud of her and know great things are coming her way.

We're sad mostly because we couldn't be there. It just wasn't in the cards (or in the wallet) for us to make it to New York to share the day with her. She knows we're thinking of her and pulling for her, but it's not the same as being there. Right now we're hoping to make a trip to New York for her birthday in August. I'm not sure why she'd want to spend her 21st birthday with her parents, but it was her idea.

She and three friends already have their apartment, which they'll be moving into in the next few days. It's almost like an early episode of "Friends" or "How I Met Your Mother," young cool kids move to Manhattan and start their lives. As I recall, the parents occassionally show up in episodes as hoplessly clueless comic relief. That's certainly the part I'm planning to play. I, of course, am also worried and will be – well – forever. It's part of the job description.

As a parent you always remember the silly, funny things, and the times they were scared or had problems and they needed you to be there and make things all right. And we're still there for her and all our kids, but of course now they're grown up and don't need or want us as the first line of defense, the buffer against the world. All you can hope when they grow up is that you've raised them with the energy and smarts and resilience to answer life's challenges and remember what's important – remember to always be true to themselves. But you still watch them walk out into the world everyday with the same trepidation you felt when they took their first steps.

And we couldn't be prouder of her. She's always loved theater, always loved performing and she's good – really good. She was on stage before she was born – in a musical no less, one that her mother was in and her father directed. She's always been one of those people on stage that you looked at even when she didn't have a line or a bit of business to do. There's just this energy, this spirit about her that grabs your eyeballs and demands you watch her, because of what might be coming.

It's a hard field she's chosen. And she's not the first. Her older brother, Ben, graduated from AMDA several years ago and is making his way in show business, starting to get some traction. They both know the odds and they haven't let it scare them away. We've known lots of young people drawn to the theater who allowed themselves to be talked into the safe route to a sensible job or career. "You can always do theater as a hobby." Not Ben. Not Millie. Neither one is going to have to look back years later and say, "Gee, if only I had tried ..."

Today is Millie's day. And there will be many more to come.

We are so thankful to all the people along the way who supported her and shaped her – especially her drunken bastard Uncle Mark, and Pat, and Christie, Robyn and the Coopers, Cate Cafarella, and Julie Buchert and all her friends and family at Albany Civic Theater who helped make her the incredible young woman she is.

This is just the start, Millie. We can't wait to see what comes next. We can't be there today, but you know we're with you every step of the way.

Love – Mom and Dad

Thursday, May 30, 2013

The trouble with most smart kids ...

I was trading text messages with our young friend Ricardo, the 12-year-old son of the Lopez family. They are friends from St. Croix who now live in Houston. Ricardo suggested our families should get together soon. I agreed, but said his mother and my wife should make the arrangements because "I'm always wrong."

He wrote back: "You're not always wrong. You're just wrong whenever women are around."

And the kid's only 12!

(The title of tis post comes from one of my dad's favorite jokes. With eight kids, he had plenty of opportunities to say, "The trouble with most smart kids ... they don't smart in the right place.")

Saturday, May 25, 2013

A Lovely Evening Despite My Brain

Not even my weird brain could screw it up. We spent a delightful evening in the park Friday listening to the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra perform a program of light classics. It was two-hours of music you recognize and enjoy instantly. If you asked me "How does the Waltz from Sleeping Beauty go?" I couldn't tell you, but as soon as I heard it, as we were still walking across the park to the pavilion, I heard it and thought, "Sleeping Beauty!" 

(And yes, we were still on island time. The concert started at 6 sharp. We were island fashionably late.) 

The program also included Hungarian Dance No. 5. ("Oh yeah! Hungarian Dance!") Broadway classics such as "Some Enchanted Evening" and a terrific medley of Duke Ellington songs. Altogether a lovely evening on the sunny lawn at La Freniere. And it was augmented by one of the greatest snacks I've ever had – raspberry/dark chocolate M&Ms. (One warning, don't eat too many of these at one time. The raspberry makes it look as if you're gums are bleeding. Although it's worth it.) I particularly loved the Ellington medley. "A Train," "Mood Indigo," "Sophisticated Ladies," "Satin Doll." What great, great music. Reminded me of a story, which I'll tell some other time. Or never.

There was one fly in the ointment, and this is where my weird brain came in. In introducing a medley from "Fiddler on the Roof," the conductor, a very personable Glenn Langdon, gave some amusing background to the show, and said it was first performed in 1946. I thought I must have heard it wrong, but he said it twice. I asked Tori and she agreed that's what she'd heard. "That's not right!" I thought, and I couldn't shake it. I was still feeling that way the next morning.

Anyone who knows anything about musical theater knows "Fiddler" premiered in the '60s. Langdon even mentioned, correctly, that it was Zero Mostel's return to Broadway after his hit two years earlier in "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum," which was written by Steven Sondheim who would have been 16 years old in 1946 and 14 two years earlier. Sondheim was famously mentored by Oscar Hammerstein in the late 1940s, so 1946 was just impossible. Further, in one of those weird things that no one should know but for some reason I do, famed 1970s/'80s game show host Bert Convy was also in the original Broadway cast, which would have been unlikely had the show opened in 1946.

When I woke up Saturday morning it still bothered me. I looked it up and sure enough, "Fiddler on the Roof" opened on Broadway in 1964, not 1946. All I can guess is Mr. Langdon, a wonderful musician, has a touch of dyslexia and transposed the digits in his notes.

But that's me all over. My mother once called me, "a font of useless information" (I think she meant that endearingly. I certainly hope so.) Things get in my head and bounce around and sometimes they won't let me rest until I sort them out.

But putting that to the side, it was a beautiful evening of music that Tori and I really enjoyed, sitting in the new lawn chairs we'd purchased that afternoon for the event. (Along with the M&Ms!) She also made me buy a new pair of shoes, which I hate doing more than almost. anything. I am not a good shopper, and I particularly loathe shoe shopping. But I'd avoided it several years and the shoes I was wearing were starting to get a little run down, I admit it.

So I now have a new pair of shoes, which I will wear 'til they fall off my feet as per usual, a new favorite snack, and a memory of lovely evening at the park with Tori.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Dancing in the Park

Bopping in Beach Chairs.
The '80s were alive and well at La Freniere Park Thursday night. Mostly the '80s. A little of the '90s and some contemporary. But mostly the '80s.

It was the Mojoeaux Band playing in the park's spring Thursday concert series. They're a local party band, and they're pretty good. They had the audience, which I'd guess around 500 to 800 people – mostly around my age, so that was a little funny watching them try to rock, bopping in their beach chairs. There was also a host of little kids – 2 or so to 10 – who knew just what to do when the music pounded. Get up and move! Tori and I and a handful of other adults joined them and were on our feet most of the night.

The band name, of course, is pure NOLA. Pronounced mojo, but since this is Cajun country we spell it with a lot of imported extra verbs. We have signs that say "Geaux Saints" and Tostitos ads that say "We Kneaux How to Party."

We'd been meaning to get to the concert series for a month, but it was always something. A school activity. Then I got sick and that ate up three Thursday nights – I don't want to dwell on it since I wrote about it recently. I'm mostly better now, Even have my voice back, just still feel a little wrung out.

So anyway, Thursday was also the last day of school, so we celebrated by walking down to the park. We strolled through the bird sanctuary than around the pond. It was peaceful, quiet, even with the band starting up not far away. We were fascinated by the maneuvers of a Roseate spoonbill circling around, his beak in the muddy water, to pull up his dinner.

Then we entered the area where the concert was, and things got very lively. We had a couple of excellent tacos each while the band played a blend of '80s favorites – Journey's "Don't Stop Believin'," Whitney Houston's "I Want to Dance with Somebody," bunch of other songs that made me go, "Oh, yeah! That song!" and a few more contemporary songs. They'd be a fun band to have at a wedding or something.

Soon as we finished eating Tori was on her feet and, unlike me, she can dance and she got into it. We haven’t' had a lot of fun lately, so this was a great chance to let go, and she did. She even got me on my feet, sort of bopping in my middle-aged white guy way.

Mojeaux rocks out.
Max and his friend met us there. Max enjoyed dancing and moving to the beat, especially when Mojeaux rapped ("Gangsters Paradise") but his friend seemed unwilling to let the beat infect her, she seemed self-conscious. She'll get over that pretty quickly if she hangs around our family for any length of time.

Anyway, we had a great time last night. Just a lot of fun, and fun is something that's been in short supply the last month, The Louisiana Philharmonic orchestra will play in the park tonight, and we plan to go give it a try. Sounds fun!