Tuesday, April 28, 2015

So Much Weather, All at Once

Amazing storm blew in out of Texas Monday. (Damn you Texas!) The forecast had called for rain, but when I stepped outside at around 10 a.m. it was so dark I had to turn on the porch light. Across the river, Tori was in her classroom and saw the sky turn green. The school told them there were tornado warnings, so keep the kids away from the windows. The kids, of course, immediately freaked out, and every time there was a flash of lightning and a clap of thunder they all screamed.

There was a LOT of lightning and thunder, and the wind swept in with a fury. This is how strong it was – the wind blew a train off a trestle! I'm not kidding, check out the video here. I would have bet that wasn't possible, but looking at the video, I get it. All those box cars made a big sail for the wind barreling down the river, and as they went over, they took the locomotive with them.

That's the train trestle that's part of the Huey P. Long Bridge over the Mississippi, the same bridge Tori crosses twice a day to and from work. When she headed home, the four-lane roadway was reduced to one lane because of all the emergency vehicles.

In our neighborhood, we got a lot of wind and rain, but the power stayed on, at least here. But it wasn't all sweetness and light. Right around the corner a power pole blew completely over. A swath of houses and stores a couple of blocks wide and almost a mile long were blacked out south of the downed line. This is why I'm glad I'm a northerner. We were fine. When I drove by the morning to take the kids to school, the pole was still lying across the road.

See, this is what happens when you build a housing development on what used to be a swamp. Sure, you can put in a bunch of fill, and you can put in a drainage system, but when you get that much rain that fast, some of the stuff you stuck in the ground doesn't stay.

We've been waiting for more today, but apparently it's mostly move on east. (Sorry Florida.)

But boy, it can change fast, can't it? It's not that we have different weather than we had back in Oregon. It's just that we've got so much weather. Often all at once.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

'Suck the Heads, Eat the Tails"

Suck the head ...

We recently attended our first crawfish boil – a Louisiana tradition heartily embraced by our neighbor Eddie. This winter Eddie moved into the house next door, a house that had been vacant for two years. He's a great guy, one of those guys who is always working on a project, always has a story. And he loves holding crawfish boils. In fact, next month is his annual competition – at which a half dozen people compete for the title.

... and eat the tail.
This first one was a test run, his first crawfish boil in his new home. And it was great. Eddie has a custom-designed table, stainless steel with an opening in the middle for the trash. He boiled 70 pounds of crawfish which he poured around the table and everyone dug in.

If you've never eaten crawfish, here's how you do it, if you've never eaten crawfish. Grab the crawfish at the base of the tail and break it in half. Suck the head. That's what I said. Suck the head, because apparently that's where a lot of the flavor is. I'm not sure about that, but it's what you do. Then you peel the shell off the tail and eat the meat inside. 

It's good. No question about that. Eddie prides himself on his culinary ability, and rightly so. He cooked in two batches and the second was a lot spicier than the first. He also made jambalaya. It goes without saying that his jambalaya was WAY better than the pot I had put together a few months ago. Although I've gotta say, mine wasn't completely out of line, and eating Eddie's was educational, almost a revelation. I learned a lot, and my next will be better.

On the one hand, even the bigger crawfish are kind of small, and the whole process of eating one is a lot of effort for a small bite. In that sense they're sort of the artichokes of the seafood world. But that misses the point. They are delicious, and more importantly, it's a whole social thing. We met a lot of people, stood around talking, learned more of the culture. It was a lot of fun.
Eddie's guests gather 'round his crawfish table, where mounds
of the seafood awat. Eddie is the guy in the white T-shirt

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

A Week, a Coincidence, A Deal and a Visit

Good week, with an amazing deal and a visit and some good work. But before I get to that, file this one under karma, or at least under Interesting Coincidences.

Last week I wrote about getting more organized in my work – and I've been doing pretty well, except for the last few days, about which more later – and about how it's fine to have a dream, but you need to plan for how you're going to achieve that dream.

And then I got this in a fortune cookie.

"Acting on a good idea is better than just having a good idea."

A coincidence, sure. But still, the kind that makes you go, "Hmmmmm."

Spent a few hours Saturday at an estate sale in Old Metairie. The house belong to a guy who recently turned 100. His wife had died years ago and his family was moving him up to where they could help him out. It was a big house

Anyway, there was decades and decades of "things." The owner and his wife had obviously traveled everywhere, he appeared to have been a sailor, he had been active in several carnival groups. As a fellow reporter once said after coming back from an interview with a little old lady who had been collecting for decades, "The Knick knack shelves where chockablock with bric a brac."

We picked up some interesting items, including a small Chinese vase that might be worth exactly what we paid for it – $15 – or around $250. Doesn't matter. We got it because we liked it. Same with the Scandinavian pitcher. A couple of vases. And we got a tuxedo that almost fits Max – whole thing, jacket, ruffled shirt, cummerbund, bow tie and pants. Well, the pants will never fit him. The previous owner was a tall man. But Max will grow into the jacket soon and the shirt already fits. Ten bucks for the whole outfit.

But the big thing was a set of Noritake China. There was a big stack of dinner plates – 14 I think – small plates, saucers, a tea ... there were a LOT of pieces. The only thing missing was most of the cups. There were only three left. Cups break, ya know.

And they were asking $65.

I don't know a lot about China, but I know that's not a much for that much dinnerware. Hell, that much Melmac plastic would have cost more than that. I looked the pattern up online. It''s a discontinued design, but it's by no means worthless. Plates were going for $10 a piece. The creamer was listed at about $35. The sugar bowl was listed at $15. And on and on.

They wanted cash, so I had to run to a nearby bank ATM. When I got back Tori was wrapping it in paper and packing it into a plastic bin, with a bemused look on her face. She had approached the women running the sale and said she wanted to buy the China. One of the woman said, "Great. How about $40?" Tori said, "Sure." They even threw in the plastic bin and paper.

As a writer I don't do a lot of bargaining and haggling, but it seems that's backwards. When you're negotiating a sale, you don't lower the price after you've made the sale, do you? We were prepared to pay the listed price. Tori said we were going to buy it. I would have thought that was a done deal. I guess they just like bargaining.

Anyway, we've got several hundred dollars (at least) worth of China. Not sure what we're going to do with it. Maybe give it to one of the kids, maybe sell it online. But even if we just use it to replace the department store stuff we use now, we're way ahead of the game.

Also last week, we had a visit from Robyn, one of Tori's closest friends and of all our Oregon friends the one she's known longest. We hadn't seen her in two and a half years, when she came out to New Orleans to help us through the firstAlex birthday since she died. Before that, while we were in the V.I. she was in Australia. Then she moved to L.A., which she hated, and now she and Daniel have moved to Knoxville, Tenn. (Long story not to be repeated here.)

Robyn had loaded up their stuff and was driving across country in a Ford pickup with a 4-cylinder engine, so progress was slow. But she got here earlier than expected. We expected her late Thursday, but after a short stop at an extremely noisy motel on the Texas/Louisiana border, she decided to hit the road and arrived in our driveway at 3 a.m. Instead of knocking on the door or window, she and her cat Owen slept in the front seat. So when I got up at 6, there they were. I knocked on the driver's side window and she jumped about as far as you can jump in the cab of a pickup.

So she and Tori had a good day together, then she had a "bonus day" when she slept in until almost 11 a.m. – which she never does. The road had taken its toll and she needed the extra day. She and Tori got extra time together, and Robyn made it to Tennessee on Saturday after a grand motor tour of the deep South – Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee.