Happy Chanukkah and Merry Christmas, dear readers! Sorry I didn’t post anything since before our French Quarter trip, but we’ve been pretty busy, and I don’t like writing on the WinXP machine that Amy’s parents own. I tried setting up a wifi network here with a wireless router from CompUSA, but their machine wouldn’t even start correctly when the thing was plugged in, so I gave up. Thanks, Mr. Gates!

As it turns out, one of the neighbors has a wifi network set up, which shocks me to no end. Since the neighbor would likely be just as shocked to find out that another person in the neighborhood is wifi-capable, he or she didn’t bother putting a password onto the network.

We spent last night visiting several of Amy’s relatives, then went to a family Christmas party. Unbeknownst to me, there was some sorta NBA draft lottery set up beforehand, and we’d all drawn names of other family members to a buy a present for.

Fortunately, Amy took care of my responsibilities on that one, but I was awfully puzzled when her aunt came up to me and thanked me for the gift.

What did I get, dear reader? Well, my Amazon wish list served up some interesting choices. In this case, Amy’s dad bought me a copy of Charles Burns’ Black Hole book. While it’s an amazing comic, I’m really hoping that none of the family flipped through it before wrapping it for me.

Before the party, as I mentioned, we visited some family members to exchange presents. I met one of them last March, when she was waiting for a diagnosis for a condition that turned out to be ALS. We hit it off last spring because she’s a big fan of the Hornets, and I can talk NBA with just about anyone.

She was pretty optimistic about the team’s chances this year, contending that a couple of trades and a high draft pick would bring the team on the road to respectability. On the way out of her house that evening, I said to Amy, “With all due respect, she’s going to get better before that misbegotten team does.”

Turns out she was right, and I was unfortunately wrong. The Hornets have been better than expected this season. Not playoff-worthy, but winning a fair share of games.

On the other hand, Joyce has deteriorated pretty badly, and now uses a keyboard-driven speech-box.

Her condition (and the team’s relocation to Oklahoma City) hasn’t stopped her from watching the squad, and we started “talking” about the team last night. Amy ventured the question, “Are you still waching the Hornets?” and Joyce spent a few moments keying away on the box with her stylus before, “THEY HAD A BIG LEAD LAST NIGHT BUT LOST TO THE BUCKS” came out.

“I saw the final score, but didn’t know they had a lead,” I told her.


“Yeah, the Times-Pic played up the Mason-Magloire trade,” I said, smiling.


I mean, this woman’s trapped in a deteriorating body by this disease. She just asked us to turn off the Home Shopping Network’s cooking show because “IT MAKES ME WISH FOR FOOD.”

But here she is, conversing with me like we’re a couple of NBA lifers. Amy’s dad told me that she “shouts” at the TV during games still. We joked that there needs to be shortcut keys for “DEFENSE” and “REBOUND”.

Anyway, it’s time for yet more eating, here in Cajun country. Have a fun holiday, everybody.

New Orleans: Proud to Swim Home

Here we are in New Orleans! While the official VM fiancee was getting her test-run on hair and makeup, the official VM father-in-law-to-be & I took the official VM nephew-to-be to Lakeside Mall to pass the time. While there, we saw “Katrina Ridge,” a holiday train-set display based on post-Katrina New Orleans.

The little houses had blue tarps on their roofs. Some had little trees smashing them. Tiny graffitoed refrigerators were in litter-strewn front yards. Military Hummers and police cars were parked next to the train tracks, while the trains carried construction equipment and planks of wood. A toy helicopter circled above the set, two or three evacuees dangling from it by a string.

According to the sign beside the display, there was a community uproar over the display, so the mall had it dismantled.

Then there was a community uproar over the dismantling, so the mall decided to put it back up on display. The mall included a cross section of e-mails that they received. It seemed that a lot of people who had to swim out of the city were tougher than they were sensitive. I’m glad the mall restored the display.

I took about 10 million pix of the display, which I’ll post at my flickr site as soon as I’m home. (Here they are!)

After womenfolk rejoined us, we headed into New Orleans so we could meet with the rep from the venue where we’re getting married. We got to the French Quarter early, so we walked for a little bit.

There were plenty more people around this time than during our visit in October. The street-vendors have started to return to Jackson Square, and more street musicians were playing their tunes. I asked the parents-in-law-to-be if they’d mind if we checked out Faulkner House Books, the used bookstore in Pirate’s Alley (arr!). There was no sign of its existence last time we were here, but I was very gratified to find that it’s open and perfectly fine now.

Walking to the alley, I told Amy that I’d buy a copy of Confederacy of Dunces if the store had reopened. I asked the proprietor how they were affected by the storm. He said that the store wasn’t damaged, but that there wasn’t exactly any business around, so they closed for almost two months.

I ended up picking up two more books that I could’ve bought a lot more cheaply on Amazon, but I figure these guys deserve my business.

We had our meetup about the wedding arrangements, which went well. There are a couple of things I’ve procrastinated on, but we only have about 11 weeks left, so I’ve gotta get a move on.

The parking lot next to the venue was filled with federal vehicles and tents, just like in October. I was a little worried that the lot might not be available when we’re having the wedding, so I asked the manager of the venue what the story is.

“Well,” she said, “the feds said they were going to be out by Dec. 15. But about a week before that, I noticed they were putting Christmas decorations up around their tents. So the current story is that they’ll be out by January 15.”

After the meeting, we (Amy & I & the parents-in-law-to-be) headed to Café Du Monde for coffee and beignets. The place was packed, and it was just beautiful. I mean, Du Monde was still closed when we came in October, and there are so many things that I’m afraid will never come back, so I was ecstatic to see a café full of people, chattering away.


Pictures from Katrina Ridge

Pictures from the French Quarter


Well, dear readers, it’s holiday time, so your Virtual Memoirist is bugging out. I just finished a 366-page issue of my magazine, and now the official VM fiancee and I are packing out bags so we can visit her family in Louisiana for a while.

After last year’s food poisoning disaster, Amy elected to avoid sushi and pizza for the last few days. We did end up eating some variation of Mexican all week, but hey.

I plan to take lots more NO,LA pix, to complement the various other New Orleans photos I’ve taken in the last year or so (none of which I’ve moved up to Flickr yet).

I hope the holidays go well for everybody. I’m going to take some time to relax between Christmas and the new year. Maybe read a book or two. I’ll try to keep in touch.


As promised, here are pix of our French Quarter excursion from Saturday.

We started out in the flea market at the edge of the Quarter, looking for cheap sunglasses and funny T-shirts. We batted .500 on that one.

The Cafe Du Monde will reopen tomorrow.

We’re getting married up in that building, with its great view of the river and the square.

Bourbon Street’s never a pretty sight by the light of day.

We ate at Cafe Amelie.

It was a cliche, sure, but I went to Preservation Hall when I was a student down here.

A couple of musicians were performing near Jackson Square.

The Square was pretty haunting, because it was so empty, I guess. I don’t recall ever walking through the middle of it before. It looks unreal to me, like a perfectly manicured Disneyscape.

Bonus picture: My breakfast partner contended that I am “cool, awesome and handsome”, but three-year-olds’ standards are pretty low.

Drawn and French Quartered

Got back from the French Quarter a few hours ago. During the drive in, we wondered what areas were hit badly by the flood. Then we passed over the 17th St. Canal, and realized what it really looked like. The landscape was gray-brown. It was as if the floodwaters took the color with them when they were pumped away. Amy sez it was like going from Oz back to Kansas.

We came in via I-10, and got off at the Poydras St. exit, the Superdome looming before us. The roof was half-tarped, the rest looking rusted and corroded. Off the highway, the first few traffic lights were shut down for lack of power. Closer into the central business district, the lights were active. There were a few lane-shifting detours on Poydras, but the drive was pretty smooth. Amy said that it was the easiest drive in to New Orleans that she’d ever seen.

We drove past the French Market on Decatur, parked on the edge of the Quarter, and started walking around. Our first challenge was to find funny T-shirts about the storm in the section of the marketplace that was operating. Unfortunately, there wasn’t a good selection of really good ones. A few were variations on the Survivor logo. One was a collegiate-looking design about being part of the relief team. The best was one that read, “FEMA: Federal Employees Missing Again.” I guess I should’ve mentioned that, down here, “FEMA is a four-letter word,” as Amy’s dad said after we got off the plane.

So we checked out the selection of cheap T-shirts, sunglasses and other junk, because nothing says French Quarter to me like a selection of cheap T-shirts. Well, drunken frat boys and momentarily topless girls are a close second, but I’m all about the cheap novelties.

We started walking toward Jackson Square, which is across the street from Jax Brewery, the building where we’re having the wedding. The square was utterly empty, a sight I’ve never seen, including the time in 1999 I got locked out of my hotel room and had to walk around the city all night long. There were tourists around, but not many. They were interspersed with military and police, as well as some locals and some indigents.

Amy had some trepidation when she noticed several cockroaches lying dead on the pavement. “Looks like natural causes,” she said. “I didn’t think cockroaches had natural causes to die from.”

Jax Brewery was sealed up; a couple of the restaurants and stores had signs up saying they’d be open for business on Nov. 1. Across the street, Caf� Du Monde–which Amy was really hoping to hit so she could score some beignets–said that it’ll reopen on Wednesday. There was a sort of anticipatory air in that section of the quarter, as shopkeepers talked about which locations would soon open, and what it took to get their own locations up and running.

We headed over toward Bourbon Street, figuring we’d find an open restaurant for lunch, and also to scope out the bar scene. Pat O’Brien’s is still closed, so I’m afraid you won’t find any photos of me drinking a Hurricane. We checked out Johnny White’s, which was the only bar to stay open through the entire hurricane and its aftermath. It wasn’t distinguished, but that’s Bourbon Street for you.

We thought of stopping in at the Tropical Isle for a Hand Grenade, but we discovered an interesting phenomenon about Bourbon Street: If you remove the reek of beer and tourist-piss, the street and environs smell overwhelmingly of ass. I guess there’s some strange gestalt at work, with a stable, less-offensive smell emerging from the grotesque odors of those streets.

Given the out-of-balance smell, the scene really wasn’t conducive to eating or drinking. We got lunch a few streets over at Caf� Amelie, which was pleasant and overpriced. There were about 10-12 customers in the courtyard, brunching away on the limited menu. We sat inside where it was cooler and split a muffaletta and a roast-beef sammich. Looking outside, I noticed how utterly clear and blue the sky was today. I told Amy that it reminded me of the days after 9/11, which were cruelly lovely. If you’re sitting in a city of ghosts, shouldn’t it be dark and foreboding?

We got back to meandering, and approached Jackson Square from the other end, by the state building and the church. Pirates Alley, home to an eponymous bookstore, was all shuttered doors. I couldn’t remember which doorway was that of the bookstore, and that depressed me a little. I hope it comes back, but that brings me back to the issue of how they’ll bring the city back to life.

There was a pair of musicians playing on the corner, getting tips from the few tourists for their Beatles medley. That square is usually crammed with musicians, psychics and painters, but now it’s bare bones. Dying or sleeping? When will we know?

We talked about how much progress the city’s going to make in the next few months and how our friends who come in for the wedding won’t believe our descriptions of this weekend. If it sleeps, can it dream?

Keep walking:

Muriel’s, with a limited dinner menu for the next few weeks

military Hummers parked up on sidewalks

a couple walking into the Square, the woman photographing the man in front of the statue of Andrew Jackson

an open door in the Jax Brewery building, entryway for the elevators to the condos, a relief of air conditioning in the well-appointed hallway

horse-drawn carriages waiting at the Square, an occasional guest climbing in for a tour of the empty town

refrigerators on the sidewalk, covered in magic-marker scrawls against the White House

the pigeons devouring bread, a gift

We drove home. When I got in, my only NO,LA-based buddy wrote to me. He’s been relocated to Houston, and he’s getting along.

New Orleans

As I mentioned a few posts ago, I took some pix down in Louisiana last weekend. I meant to post them earlier, but my flight trouble Monday/Tuesday, combined with the official VM Mom‘s flight delays yesterday, left me with no time or energy to get to processing them.

Without further ado:

Here’s a streetcorner in New Orleans. I liked the color composition, but the day was pretty overcast and ugly.

This is the Cornstalk Fence Inn, which doesn’t seem to require much by way of explanation.

Jackson Square. It was, as mentioned, overcast and foggy.

Really overcast and foggy. This is the Mississippi.

Did I mention that fog?

AAIEE! Ghost ship! With gambling!

Another composition I liked. A local mentioned that it used to be a brothel.

Back to the home of the official VM girlfriend‘s parents in Des Allemands! Time for lunch!

I’m not joking here. It’s a whole table of boiled, seasoned crawfish.

Mason (official VM girlfriend’s godson) doesn’t know what to make of it all. I had some trepidation when they warned me, “Don’t eat the dead ones.”

“You mean there are live ones?”

Evidently, if the crawfish’s tail is straight, that means it was dead before it was boiled with the others. That means it might taste funny or have weird microbes. You know: as opposed to the ones that were pulled live out of the carcinogen-laced Mississippi runoff.

“You actually eat those?” Mason asked. I was with him. I ate the meat from the tail, but I was convinced they were just pulling my leg about sucking the juice from the front half. “But not too hard, or the other stuff comes loose.”

On Easter, Mason broke out the John Deere tractor.

He hauled ass for a while.

The tyke at rest.

It was a fun trip, even with the general trepidation that’s supposed to come with “meeting the folks.” My own can be pretty entertaining, so I never make a big deal out of meeting other people’s.

I’ll be in Dallas for a couple of days next week, and I’ll try to get some nice pix down there. As I recall, though, it had one of the most grotesque skylines I’ve ever seen. My other main memory of Dallas is jumping around a hotel room, blown up on Colt 45, cheering as Charlie Hayes caught the last out for the Yankees in the 1996 World Series.

Oh, and there’s the time I almost got killed in a sports bar in the hotel. I’ll save that one for later.

Explosive Shells

Made it into Des Allemands, LA last night. Had the pleasant surprise, after checking in at Continental, to find that my seat had been upgraded to first class. I hadn’t flown first class since 1990, so this rocked the house.

The official VM girlfriend was unhappy about having to sit in row 29, squeezed between two fat passengers, but I’m sure she was assuaged by the in-flight movie.

After we got in, her family took us to Drago’s, where I got to experience some famous char-broiled oysters. Her dad said he tried to use their recipe at home, but the grill wouldn’t get as hot as they keep it at the restaurant.

“Also, some of the oyster-shells would explode.”

Off to New Orleans today. It was about 78 degrees with 245% humidity at 8am, but it’s better than ice and snow.

Meet the Parents

So sorry to be away, dear reader. I’ve been working on some nefarious plots (moo-hoo-ha-ha-ha) that have taken away from my VM time. I’ll fill you in when they come to fruition.

Today, I’m heading off with the official VM girlfriend to Louisiana to see her family for Easter. Keep in mind, Easter’s not a particularly fun holiday for Jews to be on the outskirts of, but she sez her family doesn’t make any sort of somber occasion out of it. I literally have no idea what gentiles do on Easter, so it oughtta be fun, anthropologically speaking. As long as they don’t break out in a chorus of Throw the Jew Down the Well, everything oughtta be fine.

I still haven’t put together any sorta coherent opinion about the Schiavo case, except to feel bad about noting the irony that she got into this condition because of an eating disorder.

On the radio Wednesday, I heard Governor Pataki (R-NY) explain how the NFL will bring the Superbowl to New York in 2010 if the city builds the new stadium. I thought, “How wonderful! Eventually, New York City will be able to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with cities like Jacksonville and Tempe!”

That’s all the funny you’re getting.