Sunday, September 25, 2005

TAGGED...shoot...

OK, I've been tagged by Mrs. L. This is payback because I recently tagged her, and fair is fair...sooooooo, here are the rules:

1) Go to your journal's archives.
2) Find the 23rd post.
3) Find the 5th sentence in that post.
4) Post that sentence with these instructions.
5) Tag five more people.


My 23rd post was called
"The Lady of Shallott, or Why I Blog"

The fifth sentence says: "To my delight, my shrink (unlike most shrinks I know, and having worked in a department of psychiatry, I know quite a few) was no slouch when it came to literature...she was well read...and she could give as good as she got, which I enjoyed very much."

I tag:

Lily

Tina

Sierrajazz
Monponsett

and nzforme

Saturday, September 24, 2005

...red sky at night

Hurricane Rita may be wreaking havoc on the coast, but she certainly gave us a beautiful sunset in Dallas tonight. This was the view from the front of my house, looking down my street, at sunset...

Monday, September 19, 2005

Scalzi's Monday Photo Shoot, part 2: the CAKE

Here's the cake that I baked and decorated for Chris on his 6th birthday, when he wanted to be a pirate. See the gold coins decorating the edges of the cake? They're important...read on.

Because Chris and Mike are twins, I always baked two cakes and we always had two parties on their birthday...that's what happens if you're a twin and your mom is studying psychology in graduate school (at least that's my defense). Anyway, that year, as if I didn't have enough to do attending graduate school full time and getting 4 kids settled into 3 different schools - the boys were starting kindergarten; Katharine was starting 7th grade, her first year of junior high; and Alex was starting 10th grade, her first year of senior high...in the midst of all that, in a moment of sheer insanity, I'd agreed to be the den mother for the boys' cub scout den. I get tired thinking of it now, but I was younger then, and had more energy.


Soooooooo...Chris invited all his cub scout buddies to his birthday party, for which he'd chosen a pirate theme. I'd had fun sewing black velvet goody bags and eye patches for every boy. In addition to the other party favors with which I'd loaded the bags, I wanted to add some big gold pirate coins to the goody bags and to the cake.

With this in mind, I went to the grocery store the night before the party. I was so tired I could hardly see straight, but I went looking for the gold-foil covered chocolate coins that are so abundant at Christmastime. It's being August, it appeared there were none to be found.
Have you ever noticed how all grocery stores seem to stock some items randomly? I mean, I've seen bags of those yucky green molded plastic combat soldiers, like the ones in Toy Story, in the middle of a big paper towel display, and little packages of brightly colored barrettes in the middle of boxes of brownies and cake mixes and icings. I'm not talking about individual packages left there randomly by shoppers who've had a change of heart; I'm talking about full-blown displays: multiple cellophane packages hanging neatly from a hook, in juxtaposition to the items all around them.

That night, as I walked down the feminine hygiene aisle, I suddenly saw such a display. I couldn't believe my good luck! There, in the middle of a huge display of assorted brands of tampons and other feminine hygiene products was a display of beautiful bright red velour bags of the gold pirate coins I was looking for! I hurried over and grabbed a dozen of the bright bags, depleting the display, and tossed them into my shopping cart, where they looked festive among the more mundane items like bread and lettuce and frozen chicken.

I noticed that as I finished up my shopping, a couple of other mom-types doing a little late evening shopping like myself looked into my cart with what I interpreted as envy, and I smiled at them, thinking, Ha! it's a good thing I spotted those before anyone else got them! I couldn't help feeling happy and even a bit smug, thinking how excited and proud the boys would be that I'd managed to produce this particular loot. I could imagine them saying, "You're the best, Mom!"

Lost in this pleasant reverie, nevertheless, just before entering the checkout line it occurred to me that I'd better check the price, because no matter how beautifully they were packaged, I wasn't about to buy expensive, imported chocolates for a bunch of 6 year olds.
I felt incredulous and my heart sank when I saw how expensive the chocolates were: $5 for each bag of just 5 coins! Outrageous! What kind of exotic chocolate was this? I picked up one of the pretty bags and examined it carefully, straining to read the fine print on the small tag so I could see why this chocolate was so prohibitively expensive. I felt myself growing warm and knew with awful certainty that my face and neck had just turned the same bright scarlet color as the bags, as the following words, in small print on the tag, came into focus: "...features silicone lubricant, reservoir tip, golden color and a ribbed texture for your pleasure!"

Aaaaaaaaarrrggghhhh!!! I dropped the pouch back into the cart as if it were on fire, and immediately shot a quick look around me, fervently hoping that no one who knew me, even slightly, was in the store. I'd just come close to purchasing 5 dozen "Extra Large! Extra Strength!" condoms, and dispensing them as goody bag party favors from my son to all my 6-year-old cub scouts! What a birthday party that would have been...although I have a feeling I might have gotten out of being their den mother. ;p


My co-leader, the divorced dad of one of the other 6-year-olds, couldn't stop laughing when I told him about it...
Oh yeah, the gold coins on the cake are CHOCOLATE...I swear!

2 movie reviews by moi

OK, I have no credentials to do this, but I love movies, so here are my thoughts on two I've seen this week.

The Thing About My Folks (Paul Reiser/Peter Falk)

The Thing About This Movie - It's Tiresome. I have two good things to say about this film: the scenery is beautiful and Peter Falk gives a good performance (considering what he had to work with in terms of dialog and direction). However, that said, I found this film extremely tiresome; watching paint dry would have been more entertaining. It seemed much longer than 97 minutes. Beginning with opening sequence, where everyone is talking over each other and Paul Reiser is repeating everything that's said to him on the phone, the movie is annoying. The film is filled with clich├ęs and shtick, not to mention endless incidents of audible flatulence by Falk. Also, the director seems to have had difficulty deciding whether to aim for laughs or tears. There are some sequences that are touching, but they're all played for laughs. If schmaltzy, sentimental, and "cute" appeal to you, you'll love it. But if you were hoping for something with more substance, see a different movie.

Side Effects

4 stars - Indie movie of the week. Kathleen Slattery-Moschkau's indie film, Side Effects, is a funny but accurate and intelligent portrayal of what it's like to work as a pharmaceutical sales rep. It was shot in Madison, Wisconsin, in 18 days on a budgetof $190,000, and it's better than most of the Hollywood blockbusters I've seen so far this year. Writer/director Kathleen Slattery-Moschkau was a pharmaceutical sales rep for 10 years for two of the biggest companies (Bristol-Myers Squibb and Johnson & Johnson) before becoming thoroughly disillusioned and leaving the industry to write this fictional script based on her experiences as a rep.

The movie stars Katherine Heigl (of the TV series, Grey's Anatomy) as Karly Hert, a young woman struggling to reconcile her values with the slick requirements and lack of ethics in her job as a pharmaceutical rep. Lucien McAfee plays Karly's boyfriend, Zach Danner. The rest of thecast and crew consists of local Wisconsinites, including the film's Hollywood producer, Holly Mosher, a Milwaukee native.

This is heavy subject matter, but it's successfully presented as a comedy/romance. Side Effects is not a perfect film, but it's informative, funny, and definitely worth seeing.

Scalzi's Monday Photo Shoot: Pirates

The subject of Scalzi's Monday Photo Shoot this week is PIRATES!!! (Click on the link if you want to participate!)

Here's my fearsome pirate, Christo, on his 6th birthday...which was quite a while ago...he's now 6'4", working as an apprentice locksmith, and living with his girlfriend, Stephanie...and he's gonna wanna kill me when he sees this (although Stephanie'll probably like it)...

p.s. - I'm going to post a pic of the pirate cake that I baked for him on that birthday, too.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

p.s.

Re the previous entry...I don't just listen to classical music, and I don't just go to the symphony for entertainment. I like a lot of different kinds of music, including some rap, and I like a lot of variety as to where I go.

Yesterday afternoon I went to one of my favorite places in Dallas: Adair's Saloon in Deep Ellum. That's a picture of the alley door (the entry I prefer to use) above. (Note: I didn't take this pic; I got it from the website). Adair's is a dive bar with one of the best cheeseburgers anywhere. There's live music (country) at night and during the day the jukebox plays mostly Willie and Delbert and Merle and Hank, with a few variations. If you're wondering what the last names of those guys are, Adair's is probably not your kind of place. The booths and walls are covered in graffiti; when a friend took his 20-something future stepson there for a burger and a beer, the dot.com kid was afraid to sit down for fear he'd get marker on his khakis; we all had a good laugh, at the kid's expense, over that concern.

The only things on the menu at Adairs (there are no actual menus) are hamburgers, cheeseburgers, fries, and grilled cheese sandwiches; you can get a soft drink but no ice tea, and Shiner Bock is the only beer on tap...but why would you want anything other than a Shiner Bock with an Adair's cheeseburger? Mmmmmmmmmmm...good stuff.

why I love Ft. Worth...














Note: I didn't take this photo; I got it from Google images for the Bass.

I went to the symphony this afternoon...the Ft. Worth Symphony. I live in Dallas, but I subscribe to the Ft. Worth Symphony, which means that every time there's a concert, I drive (or am driven) 60 miles roundtrip to attend. That's considered...eccentric at best...by many Dallas and Ft. Worth natives. But I discovered a long time ago that insofar as the arts are concerned, Ft. Worth is a happenin' sort of place, much moreso than Dallas. Both have great concert halls; great acoustically speaking, and aesthetically too. Dallas has the Meyerson, designed by I.M. Pei, and Ft. Worth has the Bass, designed by David M. Schwarz. Both have talented conductors; the Bass has Miguel Harth-Bedoya, and the Meyerson has Andrew Litton (although this is his last year). I've gone to my share of concerts in both places, and I buy tickets to individual concerts at the Meyerson, but each year for the past several years I've subscribed to the Bass. It's my observation that Ft. Worth is a little more adventuresome in terms of program selection, but also...there's something sort of "down home" about going to the symphony in Ft. Worth.

A couple of years ago I had tickets for the Rach Three, considered by many to be "the Mount Everest of piano concertos"...it's the piece that drove Geoffrey Rush's character to madness in the movie, Shine. Andre Watts was scheduled to perform it with the Ft. Worth Symphony, and it was rightly billed as one of the highlights of the concert season. Imagine my dismay, then, when, the afternoon of the concert, Miguel Harth-Bedoya stepped onto the podium and said that he regretted to inform us that Andre Watts was unable to perform that afternoon because he'd sprained one of his wrists. There was a shocked silence followed by much agitated whispering, at which point Mr. Harth-Bedoya tapped sharply on the podium with his conductor's wand and said, with a smile, "We've asked a local pianist to step in for Mr. Watts...and we trust that you won't be disappointed!"

He then turned toward stage right, and there was a measureable gasp from the audience as none other than Van Cliburn stepped from behind the heavy velvet curtains and walked onto the stage. What an amazing performance I heard that afternoon.

The Ft. Worth Symphony has never disappointed me. Each concert begins with the audience rising to sing the Star Spangled Banner, accompanied by the orchestra, conducted by Mr. Harth-Bedoya. I have friends who might find this corny, but in fact it's rather touching. The audience is then seated, and the orchestra launches into whatever program is planned for that concert, and when it's good...as it usually is...they're not above performing an encore.

And that's what happened today...it was a beautiful afternoon and a beautiful concert: Tchaikovsky's Serenade for Strings in C Major, which has a waltz that almost anyone who's waltzed has surely danced to; Dvorak's Violin Concerto in A Minor, performed beautifully by a very pregnant Adele Anthony, and , after the intermission, Saint-Saens Symphony No. 3 in C Minor, Opus 78 (Organ). The orchestra received a well deserved standing ovation at the end, at which point Mr. Harth-Bedoya came back onto the podium. He flashed a wide smile at the audience, cupped his hand to his ear, and boomed: "What's the magic word?" "ENCORE!" those of us in-the-know shouted back...and we were rewarded.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Scalzi's Weekend Assignment #77

Scalzi's Weekend Assignment #77:
What do you want to be when you grow up? (
This can be answered one of two ways: You can answer by saying what you wanted to be when you were a kid, or, you can answer by saying what you still want to be, one day, one way or another. It's up to you.)

Hehehe...having an older brother whom I adored, when I was a kid, what I wanted to be when I grew up was a Playboy Bunny...uh, that desire didn't last into adulthood, I'm happy to say.

Extra Credit: What did your parents want you to be when you grew up?

My mom wanted me to be a kindergarten teacher. I didn't become a teacher, but I did end up as a Master's level clinician seeing kids with psychiatric problems, soooo...that's sort of a variation on a theme.

But after all this time, I'm still trying to figure out what I want to be when I grow up...and that seems to be true for many of the best people that I know...

Saturday Six - Episode 75
























1. When is the last time you took a vacation and went basically nowhere? Was it as relaxing as previous vacations where you have actually planned a trip? On my way back from Arizona I spontaneously decided to stop at a few places on the drive home that I'd wanted to see even though they weren't exactly on the way. So without planning it more than a few hours ahead of time, I went to Chiricahua National Monument (in Southeastern Arizona); to White Sands National Monument (in Southwestern New Mexico); to Cloudcroft, NM; to Guadalupe National Park (in West Texas); and finally, to Monahan's Sand Dunes (just off I-20, coming back to Dallas).

It was late afternoon when I realized I was getting near Monahan's, and although I hadn't planned to stop, I couldn't pass up the opportunity to watch the sunset from the beauty of the dunes. I stopped at a McDonald's for drive-through and drove on out to the dunes.

It was after hours on Sunday so the park was officially closed, but I'd been there before, and knew that I could drive in anyway. I found a place to park facing the endless western sky, and I enjoyed my cheeseburger and coffee as the sun sank lower and lower on the horizon. When I'd finished eating, I grabbed my camera and began walking out onto the dunes. It was a little eerie, as there was no one else there, but to my delight I noticed lots of wildlife: there were cottontails and whole flocks of roadrunners hurrying about in plain sight. Still, I wasn't prepared for what I saw when I crested the first big dune: there, a couple hundred feet away from me, was a lone coyote. He stopped, looked at me, and clearly lifted his head and sniffed, as if to say: what are you, and what are you doing here?

I hadn't even taken my camera out of its case, and I felt a moment of real regret at not having my 35mm with my telephoto lens; nevertheless, I was able to get one photo of this wonderful creature before he turned his head and loped away, out of sight, across the dunes. It was a magical end to my spontaneous road trip.

2. Take this
quiz: Which historical lunatic are you? Apparently, I'm Joshua Abraham Norton, first and only Emperor of the United States of America! (um, sure I am...)

3. READER'S CHOICE QUESTION #64 from
Jaymi: What is your favorite book from childhood and why? The Box Car Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner. It's the story of 4 young orphaned siblings who run away and survive on their own, without adults, by living in an bandoned boxcar. I loved it because I identified with the self-reliance of the kids. I wanted to join them.

4. READER'S CHOICE QUESTION #65 from Hannah: What book character do you most identify with and why? Hermione in Harry Potter. I identify with her because she's smart and hard-working and thinks outside the box (and all of those applyto me too); also, we seem to share a propensity for falling for guys who frustrate us in a variety of ways.

5. READER'S CHOICE QUESTION #66 from
Holly: What do you think is an appropriate gift to a party? A bottle of good wine and some fresh flowers or a plant are always appropriate, in my book. What do you consider a quality Christmas gift from an acquaintance to a party or get together, a friend, and a GREAT friend? I love Christmas, and I've collected Christmas tree ornaments for over 30 years, so for me, a quality gift would be the same whether it's from an acquaintance, a friend, or a great friend: another ornament for my tree, chosen with me in mind, will win my heart every time.

6. READER'S CHOICE QUESTION #67 from Judi: If you had to make a choice for the rest of your life between food and sex, which would you choose, provided the following conditions: If you chose sex, you would never feel hungry, but just wouldn't be able to enjoy a nice meal or the tastes of good food or drink; if you chose food, you would no longer have the physical intimacy and pleasure, but you still wouldn't feel deprived of it. In other words, whichever one you choose to give up will be a series of pleasures you'll never be able to experience firsthand again. Yep, I suggested this question to Patrick (thanks for using it, Patrick, and I think you phrased it better than I did). However, I have to give credit to my firstborn, Alex, and her fiance, Chris, who posed this question to me on a roadtrip that the three of us took this spring. My answer hasn't changed; here's what I told the kids: although I love to cook and enjoy good food and wine, if I had to pick one or the other to enjoy for the rest of my life, I'd choose sex over food every time.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

another beautiful thing




















Here's beautiful Mia, watching me photograph the orchid...

something beautiful









When I walked into my kitchen this morning, this orchid was in bloom...isn't it gorgeous?

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

more on Katrina

Alright, I know many people are tired of hearing about Katrina, but this is important...I got it from my ex, who received it from a lifelong friend...my ex said, "It's an indictment of local, state and federal authorities and is the long story of two paramedics who were in New Orleans studying when the hurricane hit"

Hurricane Katrina-Our Experiences

Larry Bradshaw, Lorrie Beth Slonsky

Two days after Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans, the Walgreen's store at the corner of Royal and Iberville streets remained locked. The dairy display case was clearly visible through the widows. It was now 48 hours without electricity, running water, plumbing. The milk, yogurt, and cheeses were beginning to spoil in the 90-degree heat. The owners and managers had locked up the food, water, pampers, and prescriptions and fled the City. Outside Walgreen's windows, residents and tourists grew increasingly thirsty and hungry.

The much-promised federal, state and local aid never materialized and the windows at Walgreen's gave way to the looters. There was an alternative. The cops could have broken one small window and distributed the nuts, fruit juices, and bottle water in an organized and systematic manner. But they did not. Instead they spent hours playing cat and mouse, temporarily chasing away the looters.

We were finally airlifted out of New Orleans two days ago and arrived home yesterday (Saturday). We have yet to see any of the TV coverage or look at a newspaper. We are willing to guess that there were no video images or front-page pictures of European or affluent white tourists looting the Walgreen's in the French Quarter.

We also suspect the media will have been inundated with "hero" images of the National Guard, the troops and the police struggling to help the "victims" of the Hurricane. What you will not see, but what we witnessed, were the real heroes and heroes of the hurricane relief effort: the working class of New Orleans.The maintenance workers who used a fork lift to carry the sick and disabled. The engineers, who rigged, nurtured and kept thegenerators running. The electricians who improvised thick extension cords stretching over blocks to share the little electricity we had in order to free cars stuck on rooftop parking lots. Nurses who took over for mechanical ventilators and spent many hours on end manually forcing air into the lungs of unconscious patients to keep them alive. Doormen who rescued folks stuck in elevators.

Refinery workers who broke into boat yards, "stealing" boats to rescue their neighbors clinging to their roofs in flood waters. Mechanics who helped hot-wire any car that could be found to ferry people out of the City. And the food service workers who scoured the commercial kitchens improvising communal meals for hundreds of those stranded.

Most of these workers had lost their homes, and had not heard from members of their families, yet they stayed and provided the only infrastructure for the 20% of New Orleans that was not under water.

On Day 2, there were approximately 500 of us left in the hotels in the French Quarter. We were a mix of foreign tourists, conference attendees like ourselves, and locals who had checked into hotels for safety and shelter from Katrina. Some of us had cell phone contact with family and friends outside of New Orleans. We were repeatedly told that all sorts of resources including the National Guard and scores of buses were pouring in to the City. The buses and the other resources must have been invisible because none of us had seen them.

We decided we had to save ourselves. So we pooled our money and came up with $25,000 to have ten buses come and take us out of the City. Those who did not have the requisite $45.00 for a ticket were subsidized by those who did have extra money. We waited for 48 hours for the buses, spending the last 12 hours standing outside, sharing the limited water, food, and clothes we had.

We created a priority boarding area for the sick, elderly and new born babies. We waited late into the night for the "imminent" arrival of the buses. The busesnever arrived. We later learned that the minute the arrived to the City limits, they were commandeered by the military.

By day 4 our hotels had run out of fuel and water. Sanitation was dangerously abysmal. As the desperation and despair increased, street crime as well as water levels began to rise. The hotels turned us out and locked their doors, telling us that the "officials" told us to report to the convention center to wait for more buses. As we entered the center of the City, we finally encountered the National Guard. The Guards told us we would not be allowed into the Superdome as the City's primary shelter had descended into a humanitarian and health hellhole.

The guards further told us that the City's only other shelter, the Convention Center, was also descending into chaos and squalor and that the police were not allowing anyone else in. Quite naturally, we asked, "If we can't go to the only 2 shelters in the City, what was our alternative?" The guards told us that that was our problem, and no they did not have extra water to give to us. This would be the start of our numerous encounters with callous and hostile "law enforcement".

We walked to the police command center at Harrah's on Canal Street and were told the same thing, that we were on our own, and no they did not have water to give us. We now numbered several hundred. We held a mass meeting to decide a course of action. We agreed to camp outside the police command post. We would be plainly visible to the media and would constitute a highly visible embarrassment to the City officials. The police told us that we could not stay. Regardless, we began to settle in and set up camp. In short order, the police commander came across the street to address our group. He told us he had a solution: we should walk to the Pontchartrain Expressway and cross the greater New Orleans Bridge where the police had buses lined up to take us out of the City.

The crowed cheered and began to move. We called everyone back and explained to the commander that there had been lots of misinformation and wrong information and was he sure that there were buses waiting for us. The commander turnedto the crowd and stated emphatically, "I swear to you that the buses are there."

We organized ourselves and the 200 of us set off for the bridge with great excitement and hope. As we marched pasted the convention center, many locals saw our determined and optimistic group and asked where we were headed. We told them about the great news. Families immediately grabbed their few belongings and quickly our numbers doubled and then doubledagain. Babiesin strollers now joined us, people using crutches, elderly clasping walkers and others people in wheelchairs. We marched the 2-3 miles to the freeway and up the steep incline to the Bridge. It now began to pour down rain, but it did not dampen our enthusiasm.

As we approached the bridge, armed Gretna sheriffs formed a line across the foot of the bridge. Before we were close enough to speak, they began firing their weapons over our heads. This sent the crowd fleeing in various directions. As the crowd scattered and dissipated, a few of us inched forward and managed to engage some of the sheriffs in conversation. We told them of our conversation with the police commander and of the commander's assurances. The sheriffs informed us there were no buses waiting. The commander had lied to us to get us to move.

We questioned why we couldn't cross the bridge anyway, especially as there was little traffic on the 6-lane highway. They responded that the West Bank was not going to become New Orleans and there would be no Superdomes in their City. These were code words for if you are poor and black, you are not crossing the Mississippi River and you were not getting out of New Orleans.

Our small group retreated back down Highway 90 to seek shelter from the rain under an overpass. We debated our options and in the end decided to build an encampment in the middle of the Ponchartrain Expressway on the center divide, between the O'Keefe and Tchoupitoulas exits. We reasoned we would be visible to everyone, we would have some security being on an elevated freeway and we could wait and watch for the arrival of the yet to be seen buses.

All day long, we saw other families, individuals and groups make the same trip up the incline in an attempt to cross the bridge, only to be turned away. Some chased away with gunfire, others simply told no, others to be verbally berated and humiliated. Thousands of New Orleaners were prevented and prohibited from self-evacuating the City on foot.

Meanwhile, the only two City shelters sank further into squalor and disrepair. The only way across the bridge was by vehicle. We saw workers stealing trucks, buses, moving vans, semi-trucks and any car that could be hotwired. All were packed with people trying to escape the misery New Orleans had become.

Our little encampment began to blossom. Someone stole a water delivery truck and brought it up to us. Let's hear it for looting! A mile or so down the freeway, an army truck lost a couple of pallets of C-rations on a tight turn. We ferried the food back to our camp in shopping carts.

Now secure with the two necessities, food and water; cooperation, community, and creativity flowered. We organized a clean up and hung garbage bags from the rebar poles. We made beds from wood pallets and cardboard. We designated a storm drain as the bathroom and the kids built an elaborate enclosure for privacy out of plastic, broken umbrellas, and other scraps. We even organized a food recycling system where individuals could swap out parts of C-rations (applesauce for babies and candies for kids!).

This was a process we saw repeatedly in the aftermath of Katrina. When individuals had to fight to find food or water, it meant looking out for yourself only. You had to do whatever it took to find water for your kids or food for your parents. When these basic needs were met, people began to look out for each other, working together and constructing a community.

If the relief organizations had saturated the City with food and water in the first 2 or 3 days, the desperation, the frustration and the ugliness would not have set in.

Flush with the necessities, we offered food and water to passing families and individuals. Many decided to stay and join us. Our encampment grew to 80 or 90 people.

From a woman with a battery powered radio we learned that the media was talking about us. Up in full view on the freeway, every relief and news organizations saw us on their way into the City. Officials were being asked what they were going to do about all those families living up on the freeway? The officials responded they were going to take care of us.

Some of us got a sinking feeling. "Taking care of us" had an ominous tone to it.

Unfortunately, our sinking feeling (along with the sinking City) was correct. Just as dusk set in, a Gretna Sheriff showed up, jumped out of his patrol vehicle, aimed his gun at our faces, screaming, "Get off the fuckingfreeway". A helicopter arrived and used the wind from its blades to blow away our flimsy structures. As we retreated, the sheriff loaded up his truck with our food and water.

Once again, at gunpoint, we were forced off the freeway. All the law enforcement agencies appeared threatened when we congregated or congealed into groups of 20 or more. In every congregation of "victims" they saw "mob" or "riot". We felt safety in numbers. Our "we must stay together" was impossible because the agencies would force us into small atomized groups.

In the pandemonium of having our camp raided and destroyed, we scattered once again. Reduced to a small group of 8 people, in the dark, we sought refuge in an abandoned school bus, under the freeway on Cilo Street. We were hiding from possible criminal elements but equally and definitely, we were hiding from the police and sheriffs with their martial law, curfew and shoot-to-kill policies.

The next days, our group of 8 walked most of the day, made contact with New Orleans Fire Department and were eventuallyairlifted out by an urban search and rescue team. We were dropped off near the airport and managed to catch a ride with the National Guard. The two young guardsmen apologized for the limited response of the Louisiana guards. They explained that a large section of their unit was in Iraq and that meant they were shorthanded and were unable to complete all the tasks they were assigned.

We arrived at the airport on the day a massive airlift had begun. The airport had become another Superdome. We 8 were caught in a press of humanity as flights were delayed for several hours while George Bush landed briefly at the airport for a photo op. After being evacuated on a coast guard cargo plane, we arrived in San Antonio, Texas.

There the humiliation and dehumanization of the official relief effort continued. We were placed on buses and driven to a large field where we were forced to sit for hours and hours. Some of the buses did not have air-conditioners. In the dark, hundreds if us were forced to share two filthy overflowing porta-potties. Those who managed to make it out with any possessions (often a few belongings in tattered plastic bags) we were subjected to two different dog-sniffing searches.

Most of us had not eaten allday because our C-rations had been confiscated at the airport because the rations set off the metal detectors. Yet, no food had been provided to the men, women, children, elderly, disabled as they sat for hours waiting to be "medically screened" to make sure we were not carrying any communicable diseases.

This official treatment was in sharp contrast to the warm, heart-felt reception given to us by the ordinary Texans. We saw one airline worker give her shoes to someone who was barefoot. Strangers on the street offered us money and toiletries with words of welcome. Throughout, the official relief effort was callous, inept, and racist. There was more suffering than need be. Lives were lost that did not need to be lost.

Patrick's Saturday Six - a couple of days late

1. You find out that you have to appear on a daytime talk show. It doesn't matter whose show you choose, but you must appear on one. Which show would you pick and why? Ummmmmmmm, maybe Oprah...is she still on in the daytime? I never watch daytime television...(which tells you just how out-of-it I am).

2. Have you ever joined an online dating or penpal site? If so, have you kept in touch with anyone that you met there; if not, have you ever thought about joining up? Of course I have...I actually decided to do the Saturday Six this week, late, because when I was reading other journals, I didn't see anyone who'd answered yes to this question. I've had a couple of great relationships as a result of internet dating sites, and also I've made a few good friends whom I'd otherwise not have met, and yes, I've kept in touch; 7 years is the longest duration.


3. Who was the last person you promised you'd keep in touch with following a move or job change? Have you kept in touch? The last people with whom I promised to stay in touch were co-workers in a place that was truly a nightmare working situation; e.g., I had to spin blood but there were no rubber gloves, and when I requested we order some gloves at a department meeting I was told by my supervisor that they weren't about to waste money on gloves; we were to steal them (I'm not kidding! I had lots of fantasies about turning them in to OSHA). Two of my colleagues who stayed behind called me regularly, until they left, to commiserate, and I was good about returning their calls, but I didn't initiate calls to them...it was too much like being in a car wreck together; too many painful memories to re-visit voluntarily.

4. Take this quiz: What pizza best describes your personality? I'm a cheese pizza.

5. You're having dinner with friends at a restaurant. Besides the company, what is the most important part of the meal: the appetizer, the drinks, the salad, the entree, or the dessert? Hmmmm, I'd have to say it depends entirely on the restaurant. My friends and I tend to meet for the ambiance, and food is sometimes secondary, but when it's not, we go to various restaurants for specific items on the menu...e.g., to Mia's for the brisket tacos, etc.

6. Have you ever submitted a Reader's Choice question to the "Saturday Six?" If so, did the answers surprise you? If not, why haven't you? I haven't yet; I'm working up to this.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Scalzi's Monday Photo Shoot: Cats or Feet

Take a picture of your feet or a picture of your cat. Naturally, if you can get a picture of your feet and your cat, so much the better.

OK, I put on one of my favorite pairs of shoes and of course Mia, being the retired showgirl she is, was interested...so here's my pic of Mia checking out my feet...

Monday morning kitchen

OK, I know there are LOTS more important things going on in the world than this, but indulge me...this is what my kitchen looked like last night when I went to bed and, amazingly, it looked the same this morning when I got up! If you don't have children living with you, this will probably just look like an ordinary photo, but...please note...since I no longer have anyone living with me...there's NOTHING on the table except a bowl of apples...the table is CLEAN - no pizza boxes, Coke bottles, tv remotes, take-out containers, etc., etc.

I LOVE my kids but boy, have I been tired of cleaning up after them...*sigh*

I am one happy woman.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Changes

Chris, my youngest child (younger than Mike by 2 minutes), officially moved out on Saturday, into an apartment.

This is a momentous occasion; it means that for the first time in over 29 years, I don't have a child living at home. My oldest daughter, Alex, lives in Chicago; my next daughter, Katharine, is married and lives about 10 minutes away; Mike is a freshman at the University of Arizona; and Chris (who's working as a locksmith) has moved into an apartment that's also about 10 minutes away from me, but in the opposite direction from Kath.

My friends know that I adore my kids and am very close to them. Many of my friends have been asking how I feel about having my last child leave home; in hushed voices, they've asked if I'm feeling "empty nest syndrome".

To everyone who might be wondering...there is one word that comes to mind on this momentous occasion...HALLELUJAH!

:)

Scalzi's Weekend Assignment #76: Reasons I love the South

Tell us something you love about or from the American South.

There are many things that I love about the south, from ice tea to Tex Mex to the unending, wonderful hum of cicadas in the summertime. Although I was born and raised in the frozen north, I grew up loving cemeteries, and one of my favorite places in the south is Bonaventure Cemetery, in Savannah, Georgia. This is the cemetery featured in John Berendt's terrific 1995 book, Midnight in the Garden of Goodness and Evil. I've been there twice, and the above photo is one of many I took in that beautiful cemetery. If you're planning a visit, I recommend the phenomenally pulchritudinous (do I sound Southern Gothic, or what?) and coincidentally romantic (although I've yet to go there with a sweetheart) Hamilton-Turner Inn.

As for BEST BARBECUE - well, I thinkthat'd have to be Texas, of course. I did the Texas Barbecue Circuit (yes, there is such a thing) with my oldest daughter, Alex, and her fiance, Chris, this spring, and after sampling barbecue at a number of places, we decided that, hands down, Black's Barbecue was the best...and for what it's worth, they ship nationwide.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Seven Things

I was tagged by Tina (thanks, Tina!) soooooooooo...here it is:

7 Things I Plan To Do Before I Die:

1. I’d like to take piano lessons and learn to play a few simple tunes.

2. I’d like to write professionally (i.e., get paid for writing).

3. I’d like to take a road trip to all the towns named by Lucinda Williams in the song, "Jackson", on her CD, Carwheels on a Gravel Road...preferably with someone I’m nuts about, but alone, if need be...

4. I’d like to learn tai chi...I can imagine myself, with white hair, doing this...hehehe...

5. I’d like to find a place, near water (river, lake or ocean) where all of my kids and I and any significant others (including their dad and his significant other, if applicable) could get together for a week each summer to catch up with each other. When I think of this, I imagine sand, damp sheets, cooking together, endless board games, arguments into the night, and lots of wine and stargazing...

6. I’d like to trek at least a part of Annapurna, preferably with my son Chris...

7. I want to go to New Orleans when it’s beautiful again, and I believe it will be.

7 Things I Can Do:

1. I can make a cheese souffle

2. I can make an origami paper crane, and I can make it flap it’s wings...

3. I can make a fire without using matches; this involves constructing a bow and hearth (I took a desert survival skills course a couple of years ago)

4. I can re-wire light fixtures, electrical outlets, etc., and I do most of these repairs (though not to the pool) around my house.

5. I can drive a stick (and I do)...

6. I can walk a tightrope (welllllll...I haven’t done this in years, but I think it’s like riding a bicycle). I learned how to walk a tightrope because once, a couple of light years ago, I took a summer class called "circus skills"

7. I can schmooze - in fact, I’m good at this, if the situation calls for it...but one on one, up close and personal, I often feel shy.

7 Things I Can't Do:

1. I can’t sing (but this never stops me!)

2. I can’t ride my unicycle (and yes, I own one, and I really, really wish I could ride it, but I never mastered it...see #2 above)

3. I can’t speak a second language (again, I’m perfectly willing to try - it’s just that no matter what I order in French, I always end up with a hot fudge sundae)...

4. I can’t play a musical instrument (although I love music)

5. I can’t listen to music and have a conversation while I’m driving - I find the music too distracting.

6. I can’t read a map upside down (I have to point it in the direction in which I’m driving, and even then, I have problems)...

7. I can’t play bridge or golf or tennis (and I don’t care).

7 Things That Attract Me To The Opposite Sex:

1. Humor - Crosby, Stills & Nash (in Suite Judy Blue Eyes) had it right: fear is the lock, and laughter the key to my heart... I grew up in a Scandinavian-Lutheran family, and although I found a lot of things funny when I was a little kid, I have distinct memories of my parents and other adult family members repeatedly telling me, sternly: "That’s NOT funny!" When I moved out on my own at 17 it was a huge relief to me to find out that a lot of other people apparently also found that much of life is pretty funny. Maybe because of all that, humor is always slightly exotic and delicious to me...and a guy who makes me laugh is immediately waaaayyyy ahead of any other guys in the room...

2. Intelligence - I like smart guys. A couple of my girlfriends and I were thinking of starting a support group for zappy women (we consider ourselves zappy women) who fall in love with Aspergers-type guys (in plain English, dweebs). I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve thrown caution to the wind because I find myself attracted to someone who can draw the periodic table or do some other lame, useless calculation that I find myself in awe of...you’d think I’d learn...

3. Parenthood/grandparenthood - I have kids, and for the most part, I adore my kids - which isn’t to say there aren’t times...nevermind - but I believe that being a parent makes most of us better people than we’d otherwise be, and I’m drawn to guys who have kids and love them as much as I love mine.

4. Self-confidence and a sense of adventure - I like to try new things, and I’m drawn to guys who aren’t afraid to try new things...

5. A sense of passion - there are many things that I care a lot about, and I don’t do well with guys who don’t give a damn...

6. Empathy - this is an essential quality...I loathe those guys who (in effect) say: "Bartender! Beers for everyone,and a Corvoisier for me!"

7. Hirsuteness - OK, I admit it, I like hairy guys...especially chest hair, neatly trimmed beards, Prince Valiant locks, etc...and over the years my girlfriends have made a lot of jokes, at my expense, about my propensity for hairy guys...

7 Things I Say Most Often:

1. Never say never...

2. You have got to be kidding!

3. Oh my God!

4. ...that’s just more tuition in the school of hard knocks! (to my kids)

5. Sheesh!

6. I love you (to my kids)

7. WOO HOO!

7 Celebrity Crushes:

1. Mark Twain - I mean it, from the time I started reading Twain’s non-fiction, when I was about 14, I had a serious crush on the man, and if I could timetravel, he’s one of the people I’d meet...he was funny and bright, the best combination insofar as I’m concerned...

2. David Janssen in the tv series, The Fugitive (at 16, I thought he was incredibly sexy)

3. Rennie Davis of Conspiracy Seven fame - I stood next to him in an all-too-short elevator ride once and he had this...energy...

4. Sam Shepard (ohhhhhhhhhhh...don’t get me started...when I was in my 20's, I was IN LOVE with Sam Shepard - was he great looking in Days of Heaven, or what? and that he could write as well as act...*sigh*)

5. Anthony Zerbe - in 1975-76, he played Lt. Trench on the tv series, Harry O (which coincidentally also starred one of my earlier crushes, David Janssen, still sexy albeit 10 years older)...

6. Harrison Ford - I once talked with a woman who’d had a blind date with him in the 60's, and she said he was a real jerk, which may well be the case, but geez...I remember him in Star Wars: Princess Leia blurted out, "I love you!" and he looked at her and smiled that crooked smile and leered, "I know..." I’ve dated guys who were that bad (I once dated a guy who argued with me about the date of my birthday; he insisted I was wrong about the month!!!)...but I’ve never dated a bad guy who looked remotely like Harrison Ford...

7. Robert Redford - I’ve been smitten with Redford since I first saw him playing a stuffed shirt in Barefoot in the Park. He also plays a great sh*t, and that’s a quality I value...a pretty face able to play against his looks. I once read in an interview that Redford had been seen reading a book of short stories called Eleven Kinds of Loneliness between takes on some movie that was being shot. I went so far as to hunt down the book (this was pre-internet, pre-Google); yep, it’s a real book by an excellent writer named Richard Yates, and I read it and then read several other books by Yates - um, I’m not a stalker, but I guess I’m capable of obsessing, a little, on my crushes...

7 people I want to do this :

I'd love to hear from you, if you're up for it:

Lily (Smoke Mirrors)

Mrs. L (Mrs. Linklater's Guide to the Universe)

Tammy (Random Thoughts)

Marc (Grainsof Sand)

Cyndy (TheRealWorldofCyndyGee)

Ann (Hours Minutes Seconds)

Sierrajazz (Tiny Drop Big Ocean)

Monday, September 05, 2005

Leave a Tender Moment Alone...

Playing with my new digital camera, I snapped this pic of Chris and his sweetheart, Stephanie, snuggling on the hammock on Anthony's deck...we all love Stephanie, and I love this pic...

Labor Day weekend 2005

I love yellow mums, and here are the ones I brought over to Anthony's...

on a happier note

Anthony invited family and friends over today for a Labor Day barbecue. I got off easy; yesterday I stopped by his place and did a little cleaning and today I brought potato salad, baked beans, a six pack of ice cold Corona with limes, and a flat of yellow mums to decorate his deck. He spent 3 days cooking some mouth-watering, tender, amazing, barbecued pulled pork, as well as grilled chicken, sausage, biscuits, and baked beans; he also served icy margaritas and his FABULOUS, homemade, dark chocolate ice cream, being scrutinized here by Alexander...who gave it two thumbs up...

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Scalzi's Weekend Assignment #75

This is Scalzi's Weekend Assignment #75: Write a note to those who are suffering in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Take a picture of yourself and the note. Post it online where everyone can see.

the Evacuation

This was posted yesterday on the web by Jordan Flaherty, a New Orleans resident and editor of Left Turn (for the complete article, go to Left Turn)

I just left New Orleans a couple hours ago. I traveled from the apartment I was staying in by boat to a helicopter to a refugee camp. If anyone wants to examine the attitude of federal and state officials towards the victims of hurricane Katrina, I advise you to visit one of the refugee camps.

In the refugee camp I just left, on the I-10 freeway near Causeway, thousands of people (at least 90% black and poor) stood and squatted in mud and trash behind metal barricades, under an unforgiving sun, with heavily armed soldiers standing guard over them. When a bus would come through, it would stop at a random spot, state police would open a gap in one of the barricades, and people would rush for the bus, with no information given about where the bus was going. Once inside (we were told) evacuees would be told where the bus was taking them - Baton Rouge, Houston, Arkansas, Dallas, or other locations. I was told that if you boarded a bus bound for Arkansas (for example), even people with family and a place to stay in Baton Rouge would not be allowed to get out of the bus as it passed through Baton Rouge.

You had no choice but to go to the shelter in Arkansas. If you had people willing to come to New Orleans to pick you up, they could not come within 17 miles of the camp.

I traveled throughout the camp and spoke to Red Cross workers, Salvation Army workers, National Guard, and state police, and although they were friendly, no one could give me any details on when buses would arrive, how many, where they would go to, or any other information. I spoke to the several teams of journalists nearby, and asked if any of them had been able to get any information from any federal or state officials on any of these questions, and all of them, from Australian tv to local Fox affiliates complained of an unorganized, non-communicative, mess. One cameraman told me "as someone who's been here in this camp for two days, the only information I can give you is this: get out by nightfall. You don't want to be here at night."

There was also no visible attempt by any of those running the camp tosetup any sort of transparent and consistent system, for instance a line to get on buses, a way to register contact information or find family members, special needs services for children and infirm, phone services, treatment for possible disease exposure, nor even a single trash can.