Thursday, February 21, 2008


From the Archives. (June 2006, late) The French novelist and essayist Stendhal called his hometown "the capital of pettiness" and fled to Paris as soon as he could. I fled to New Orleans. With Danishgrrrl. And boy am I glad I did.

I savored every second of uninterrupted time that we spent together.

The city itself was sobering though, an empty shell of a once-vibrant place that I am only now able to even write about.

Flood-damaged vehicles still lie in rusted, crumbled heaps beneath overpasses. Small white trailers stand in the driveways of moldy houses still in serious states of disrepair. Blue-tarped roofs are everywhere. And plywood-covered windows and doors stretch across the entire city, punctuated by the snapped-off trunks of palmettos.

But where are the people? Even in the French Quarter—an area the floodwaters ostensibly spared—there were so few people.

I understand that tourist dollars are important right now and that our conference brought needed funds to the area, but felt as if we were invading the precious few remains of someone’s sacred shrine, that we were surfing on the residents’ collective misery in a gauche and callous way as the shell-shocked looked on, too tired and despondent to even react to our thoughtless invasion.

Empty turnstiles suggested where crowds once gathered and all I could think when I saw them was Here is the church. Here is the steeple. But where the bloody hell are the people?

No crowds filled the riverfront park or waited to board the Algiers ferry or stood in line at the cool aquarium and even the residents seemed baffled by the malfunctioning walk/don’t walk signs that nearly got us killed more than once.

And the over-riding stench of rotting garbage was everywhere.

Bourbon Street is a sad spilled beer of a place populated by a few mullet-wearing bleached-blond types clutching plastic and looking down the vast and empty streets, trying hard to find the party they’ve been promised. They whoop it up momentarily but, with so few of them there, their gesticulations are herely sad and overly desperate gestures, signifying nada.

Only Cafe du Monde seemed vibrant, still alive.

The place is surrounded by tropical courtyards maintained behind gorgeous wrought-iron gates, and the balconies still boast overflowing flowerpots set against beautiful pastel-tinted stucco .

Plenty of restaurants still offer gumbo and shrimp with remoulade sauce and crawfish etouffée too.

Danishgrrrl and I even stumbled upon a festive wedding parade be-bopping its way down Royal Street with a brass band leading the way.

That felt hopeful at least.

But what felt most hopeful (um, besides the fact that I learned oh so much that will help me do my job more effectively) was the fact that Danishgrrrl and I got to spend so much uninterrupted time together without the kids or our everyday obligations or deadlines and are now practically glowing in each other’s presence.

Sadly, we must now resume our workouts after all that Creole food that we consumed in the shell-shocked shambles of the once vibrant city that is now America’s shame.

READING: The Piano Tuner, which my reading group will discuss tonight.

BEST-OF SPAM (Subject Line): Your penis reminds a computer mouse? (Well, the florescent blue trackball on my Mac mouse IS a little like one of those dolphin dildos. And I do finger the little gray clitoris on my PC mouse when I need to doubleclick. Still, I’d have to say that my penises—‘cause who wants to be limited to one?—are much more shaftlike than any mouse I've seen. Dude.)

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