Thursday, October 27, 2005
Tuesday, October 25, 2005
Oh my goodness. This morning, two of my coworkers commented on the rudeness of some other hotel guests during breakfast the past few days. There is a quilting convention in town, and the guests in questions were quilters--you know, nice granny types. Now, these are lawyers commenting on the assertiveness and bad manners of others. We lawyers as a class have a reputation for rude, assertive conduct, so when a lawyer comments on the behavior of others, you know there's something to it. I told one of my coworkers not to worry, that I would sic DW on the offending quilters. So we went to the evening social hour in the breakfast room downstairs a little while ago, and I wasn't disappointed. One of the quilters ignored the utensils and grabbed some veggies with her hands. DW went up to her and pointed out that most civilized people don't do that. The hotel staff applauded DW. Incredibly, one or two of the other quilters came into the room later on and also took veggies with their hands. One of them ate write at the buffet table; another was licking her fingers at the same table. Heaven only knows where those hands have been! Damn, it was fun to watch.
Monday, October 24, 2005
This is the storm surge from Hurricane Katrina, topping the levee along the Intracoastal Waterway in N.O. East. The water scoured a trench at the bottom of the levee, and the weight of the water in the canal punched holes in the structure. The photo was taken by an Entergy employee who was manning an elevated energy substation.
Toby and I had big fun over the weekend, though I might have had more fun had he not awakened between 3 and 4 a.m. three days in a row, with notebook and pen in hand, demanding that I draw for him. Most amazingly, Toby somehow knew about a lengthy canal that runs along I-10 back behind the John Slidell Park. The two of us spent a couple of hours throwing sticks, branches, and clumps of dirt into the canal. Toby even knew about a stretch of the canal that was obscured by a thick clump of fallen pine trees. He must be able to smell water, or maybe he just figured out from scoping things out from the car and from the swingset how the geography around there all fits together. I had no idea that the creek even existed.
Sunday, October 23, 2005
Friday, October 21, 2005
We brought Toby home to Slidell today, and, a few minutes after arriving home, he took off across the backyard, through the broken fence, and into the woods in his bare feet. "French fries! French fries! French fries!" he shouted, as I--also barefoot--ran across the post-Katrina canopy of pine needles, downed trees, and rather a lot of household garbage behind the neighbor's house. Silly me, shouting "you can't get there that way!," which, while true, was quite beside the point. There was a tantrum as I pulled him back into the yard, but it lasted only a couple of minutes. It should be an interesting weekend.
Thursday, October 20, 2005
First, the good news: The Astros won the NL pennant, which led to much rejoicing in downtown Houston last night. Go 'stros!
Second, the bad news: The New Orleans Saints are openly seeking to make their temporary move to San Antonio permanent. First, on Monday, Tom Benson fired the team's main proponent of moving back to Louisiana; now Benson is trying to get out of the lease on his training facility. It's his team; he can do what he wants, but, hey, what loyalty!
Wednesday, October 19, 2005
A friend has alerted me to this New Orleans-themed, Onion-type website. It's funny, especially if you get the purely local references. For example, "I'll bet you $5 I can tell you where you got them shoes" has been heard in the French Quarter since time immemorial.
Tuesday, October 18, 2005
"A History of Violence" is the best film I've seen about violence since "Fight Club" ripped its way into the psyche of Gen. X and younger-end Baby Boom men and created great unease among film critics and the usual assorted very serious social commentators. "A History of Violence" is very different from "Fight Club," with more conventional storytelling and filmmaking technique. It's a very tightly written and edited movie--there are no wasted or gratuitous moments--though you wouldn't know it at first. The movie is about the corrosive effects of violence and the inability of people to escape the long-term consequences of their violent behavior. And there's violence aplenty, of different types and with differing motivations.
Viggo Mortensen was well-cast as the main character in the film. His sensitivity and physicality make him believable during all of the twists and turns his character goes through. Mortensen had an excellent supporting cast--his character's wife and children are convincing in their reactions to the fall-out from the main character's twists and turns. Ed Harris and John Hurt are cast as quirky, lethal mobsters, unlike any I've seen in the classic mob movies or "The Sopranos."
"A History of Violence" is not a movie for anybody averse to violence. But it's very good, and is likely to be remembered at Academy Award time.
Sunday, October 16, 2005
We spent the weekend in Austin, visiting friends who moved from New Orleans several years ago. We drove around town a bit, ate excellent barbeque at the Green Mesquite restaurant, and hung out with our friends and their kids. Good friends; good times!
We also saw some excellent, violent movies this weekend--"A History of Violence" and both "Kill Bill" movies. DW usually doesn't like blood and gore, but even she liked those movies. Somehow, I kept falling asleep during the first "Kill Bill," and during the Astros game we watched before that.
The Astros lead the Cardinals, three games to one. I hope I win that lottery for World Series tickets.
Thursday, October 13, 2005
The construction company that is rebuilding the I-10 "twin spans" bridge between Slidell and New Orleans announced today that one of the spans will be opened tomorrow to two-way traffic, and that both spans will be open by the end of January 2006. With that, my rationale for working from home once my office moves back to New Orleans will be rendered moot. This bridge job was supposed to take much longer.
According to CNN, doctors and nurses at New Orleans' Memorial Hospital (known locally as Southern Baptist Hospital) discussed euthanizing patients during the few days after the facility was flooded in and the power went off. They may have even whacked some of the patients. I really don't know what to think; I suppose my opinion will depend largely on the circumstances of each patient. I don't think euthanasia would be appropriate when an individual of sound mind doesn't want to die, and I wouldn't want to have a staff treating me making such decisions under the duress the staff faced at Southern Baptist.
Wednesday, October 12, 2005
I had my CPAP sleep test night before last. Evidently, my breathing was much better than it was during my first sleep test, during which I stopped breathing around 400 times--and I thought I had slept well. The other night, I was wired up again, then the CPAP mask was strapped to my face and the machine turned on. The machine forced air through my nose, keeping my throat open. I had trouble all night long, in part because of really bad sinusitis and in part because I had to sleep on my back, which is something I never do. The deeper my sleep, the more the tech had to increase the air pressure, so, at one point, I had to work to get the air out. My face is broken out in tiny pimples today, evidently a reaction to whatever the mask was made of.
I had a couple of related dreams during the CPAP test. In both, I was working in a gigantic furniture/artifacts store. All of the furniture a decor was white, off-white, or cream color, except for the area that drew my attention. That area of the store consisted of black shelves and black wall-covering. On the shelves were African carvings. I walked back behind the area onto a loading dock, and watched as a large musical group of Africans marched into the building, playing native instruments. I was an affictionado of indigenous African music, and I was digging the vibe.
In the second dream, I was preparing the store for its grand opening, and somehow we were selling groceries. I was being a perfectionist, and I didn't think the store was clean enough to open, but I opened it anyway.
Monday, October 10, 2005
DW and I drove through New Orleans today; it was our first time in the city since the storm. Slidell, where we live, is full of people and activity, even in the very badly damaged parts of town.
Anyhow, we started along Hwy. 11 here in Slidell, then drove across the lake. Interstate 10 goes through the Bayou Sauvage swamp before one hits the more populated areas of the city, and the swamp looks much as it always does. New Orleans East, on the other hand, looks dead. N.O. East had a population of about 100,000 before the storm; today, there are few signs of life anywhere--no people or vehicular traffic away from the Interstate, as the place remains uninhabitable. The grass is brown, having been drowned during the weeks of flooding. A thin, dusty film coats everything--evidently, the shit-water that flooded the area has dried up and become airborne. We crossed the Industrial Canal into Gentilly, which also remains uninhabitable. We drove on into the Central Business District, where Charity Hospital looks from the outside just like it always has. The Superdome, however, looks like a gigantic metal ruin, and not at all like the football stadium that previously had remained stylish and withstood the test of time better than most sports venues. We turned near the Dome and drove towards Mid City and Metairie. The areas along the Interstate remain lifeless, so it's perhaps fitting that the roadway goes in between two very large cemeteries. Just across the 17th Street Canal, into Metairie, the grass is green, and things are starting to get up-and-running much as they are in St. Tammany Parish.
My impression is that New Orleans as residents know it will be built from the outside in, rather than the other way around. What that will mean for the culture of the area, I really don't know.
We visited our boys on Saturday and Sunday. This time, we took them out one at a time. Saturday, we drove in from Houston, and picked up Adam at about 2 p.m. We had to time this visit so we could check into the hotel first; Adam goes bonkers if we get to that hotel and he can't go straight to the swimming pool. We spent about 3 hours in the pool, and Adam had big fun. DW bought him some plastic fish that sink slowly in the water, and he spent his time trying to grab them as they sank. DW and I had to snatch the ones that got away and hand them to Adam. Adam also made me place him in a prone position and slide/throw him towards the stairs down into the pool, as he kicked and flailes with his arms, so he could feel as if he were swimming. Adam cried when we got back to St. Mary's, and, as we left, it felt like someone had stuck a biopsy probe into my chest and tore out a sample of heart tissue.
We fetched Toby after the St. Mary's church service on Sunday morning. Our visit with him also focused on the hotel swimming pool. Toby loves to jump off the side, and he had more fun throwing the fish than grabbing them as they sank. He was a little frustrated with the grabbing part of the game, so he eventually took the fish and threw them into the out-of-order hot tub. It's only about 3 feet deep. Toby would sit on the bench inside the hot tub and grab the fish with his feet, then throw them all in again. Toby had to play with the hotel elevator again, and this time he actually rode on it. I had to hold him when he rode, but at least he got inside the thing. At one point, he stood behind a balcony, and he would point at the elevator button and shout "up!" when he wanted me to push the button.
Finally, those cards that Toby designed for St. Mary's have been printed, and I have 25 boxes of them. If you'd like to purchase a box, or if you'd just like to get a card in the mail, please leave a comment, and we'll get in touch.
I had a fun little dream the other night. I was at a cocktail party that was part of my MI-6 class reunion. Nobody there seemed to know me, and nobody was socializing with me. All of the other guys there were suave, James Bond types, and I was my geeky, awkward self. I walked by the reception desk, and the nametag babe asked for my MI-6 name and my dates of service. I hesitated a moment, as if I couldn't remember, then said "Remus" and "1978-81" (I would have been 15-17 y.o., btw). She checked her computer, then handed me a nametag bearing the name "Remus." I went back inside the party and began socializing with the one other geeky guy there. Turns out that I was so effective as an agent that I rarely carried a gun, and that I had only been forced to use a firearm once or twice. Not a bad little dream at all.
Friday, October 07, 2005
The sky is blue and the temperature is perfect in southeast Texas today. At noon, I walked around a bit and watched people setting up for an art fair. A few people were placing whimsical floating sculptures into the reflecting pool in front of city hall. Despite the setting, I've found myself under a cloud since about mid-morning. It's one of those days where I almost feel my seratonin and norepinephrine levels dropping as the day goes on. Right now, the cloud is more gray than black, so hopefully I can pull out of this little funk pretty soon. DW wants to go back to a neo-spiritualist-whatever store in a funky part of town tonight, so perhaps I'll purchase a Tibetan singing bowl there to readjust my brain waves.
We're off to see our boys tomorrow and Sunday, then we'll be visiting our house for a day or two. I have another sleep test on Monday night at our local hospital, and our insurance adjuster will be paying us a visit Monday morning. I rather foolishly volunteered to shuttle work between Mission Control, Houston and some of my coworkers who are working from home. There's more stuff needing distribution than I thought, and now I'll be carting case files around in a car trunk that still smells like gasoline. Of course, I'll put in for mileage when I get back.
Wednesday, October 05, 2005
Sunday, October 02, 2005
I attended a 2+ day Zen retreat this weekend, at the Houston Zen Center. The teacher was Reb Anderson Roshi, a senior teacher at the SF Zen Center. The theme was "initiation into reality." Reb spoke mostly about making commitments, then following a process in which the commitment becomes liberating. First, you commit to something or somebody, and let yourself be bound. Second, you relax a bit with the commitment or person, allowing you to maintain equanimity and balance. He had an interesting quote: "whatever you are doing is too serious to be taken seriously." He wasn't belittling anybody's struggles; rather, he was reminding us that, whatever the situation, we live life as it is, and we work through things the best we can. Third, you play with the person or thing to which you are committed. Fourth, you become creative; then fifth, you understand the commitment, and become liberated from it. You need no formal commitment anymore; you'll do whatever it is or stay in whatever relationship because you want to. Then the whole process starts over with something else. He also spoke at some length about how we seek gain from the situations we're in or from individuals with whom we have relationships. I spoke with him privately about my own gain-seeking through Zen practice itself, and I got a nice, new perspective on the whole endeavor.
The Houstonian practice is slightly different from the practice in New Orleans. They chant in English, slowly and in a normal voice, while we chant in rapid-fire, sotto voce Japanese (I, of course, read from a card). Both styles are fine with me, just different. The HZC uses formal eating bowls (oryoki), which was a new experience for me, and kind of fun, once I got used to it. Of course, there were a lot of meditation sessions, some of which were very good, and some of which were frustrating.
I realized as I was sitting how much I've been seeking personal gain in the past couple of years. Not so much materially as in the realm of self-awareness and psychological well-being. I feel self-indulgent, and too inwardly focused. I suppose I'm asking Tony Soprano's question about whatever happened to Gary Cooper. However, Reb Roshi indirectly used me as an example yesterday, talking about how difficult it is for someone who has spent a long time in crisis management mode to find balance once the crises have largely died down (I had brought that up with him).