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.