Saturday, September 24, 2005

tom waits on the day after

Heard an interview with Tom Waits on American Routes. It was particularly sweet to stumble upon this taped interview because, well, I am a huge fan of Waits (I hate saying I'm a huge fan because the modifier seems to slip around the sentence a bit), and after the pressure of the past few days it cheered me right up.

They played a particularly fabulous piece from Real Gone called Day After Tomorrow. I tried to put the whole song in a two-column table but evidently doesn't like that, so I'm just including part of the song (I added italics to lyrics I particularly liked because it's my blog, dammit):

    I close my eyes
    Every night
    And I dream that I can hold you
    They fill us full of lies
    Everyone buys
    About what it means to be a soldier
    I still don't know how I'm supposed to feel
    About all the blood that's been spilled
    Look out on the street
    Get me back home
    On the day after tomorrow
    You can't deny
    The other side
    Don't want to die
    Any more than we do
    What I'm trying to say,
    Is don't they pray
    To the same God that we do?
    Tell me, how does God choose?
    Whose prayers does he refuse?
    Who turns the wheel?
    And who throws the dice
    On the day after tomorrow?
    I'm not fighting
    For justice
    I am not fighting
    For freedom
    I am fighting
    For my life
    And another day
    In the world here
    I just do what I've been told
    You're just the gravel on the road
    And the one's that are lucky
    One's come home
    On the day after tomorrow

hunker down

Since you asked:
hunker down

    Nobody seems to know exactly what its origin is, though it has been suggested it’s linked to the Old Norse huka, to squat; that would make it a close cousin of old Dutch huiken and modern German hocken, meaning to squat or crouch, which makes sense. That’s certainly what’s meant by the word in American English, in phrases like hunker down or on your hunkers.

    The Oxford English Dictionary has a fine description of how to hunker: “squat, with the haunches, knees, and ankles acutely bent, so as to bring the hams near the heels, and throw the whole weight upon the fore part of the feet”. The advantage of this position is that you’re not only crouched close to the ground, so presenting a small target for whatever the universe chooses to throw at you, but you’re also ready to move at a moment’s notice.
Hunker down has good onomatopoeia. Overtones of the word "chunk," which is a verb in the south, meaning to throw something like a hunk of debris.

post rita postulations

Rita swerved to the east and Houston was spared. Our house, yard and vehicles are fine and, saints-be-praised, we still have electricity. More specifically, air conditioning. For those of you who have been worrying, we are completely fine. A little more organized for the upheaval. Thank you for your cross-country calls and emails. It is more than a little heart-warming to know we were in your thoughts.

For the record, I don't think god spared us. I don't even think god has a grudge against Beaumont or Port Arthur (seeds of decadence, if I've ever seen them). I'm not sure, but I credit the hand of Zeus or, maybe it was Elvis. So, in homage to superstition
I slung some lamb's blood over the lintel, fastened on my garlic necklace, donned an aluminum foil mind-control shield and sat in the tub with some incense.

I think that's what saved us. Oh, and I wore my special underwear.

Friday, September 23, 2005

not surprising

Everybody does something when they're nervous. It's a little embarrassing to admit, for some reason, what soothes me. I get on the phone and pace. Barbara putters. I want a bowl of comfort food, something warm and brown (apple crisp, beef stew—it makes no bloody difference). Barbara smokes. And now, I blog.

I will attempt not to use this as my pacifier. If you find these entries as fascinating as watching an obsessive-compulsive arrange things in perfectly-spaced, right-angled stacks (100 times), I take some comfort in knowing that you can just close the damn window. My phone call recipients, alas, do not feel the same freedom and I am often unable to read their level of tedium while I rant.

My Puritan wishes that nervousness would make me clean house, exercise or pray. She lives in a constant state of disappointment. The old bitch.

P.S. In case you ever reread this, I need to add that I edit compulsively, hurricane or no hurricane. But it's worse pre-hurricane—I'm sure it's an air pressure thing. High pressure, I edit; Low pressure, I edit more often. So while this post may have originally been written at 11:30 a.m., Friday, September 23rd, it is subject to rewrite, I don't know, through next Easter.


We're all calm and logical, prepared to ride out the storm. I'm trying to work on some other projects while the sun is shining and the electricity is working, but the impending disaster undercurrent is so close to the surface.

I periodically turn off the tv, radio and close the online news window because all they do is force that useless worry to break through the surface. This morning's news: 24 nursing home patients fleeing Houston, died in the gridlock south of Dallas when their bus caught fire...and the levees are starting to fail in New Orleans. Suddenly I could just weep. (But, of course, I don't. The Puritan in my head says there'll be time for that nonsense much later. Actually she says nothing. Just stares me down.)

I'm going to try and focus on getting some things done now.

it's one a.m.

I've watched and read all the good news, bad news, intelligent commentary and speculative drivel that I can. An ulcer is making a mini-rita in my stomach and I must get some sleep. Until tomorrow...

Thursday, September 22, 2005

no go on the contraflow

Well, the word is out that TexDOT (that's the Texas Department of Transportation...but it always conjures up the image of a middle-aged woman named Dorothy working the diner counter in a small Texas town) is not going to create contraflow lanes on Highway 290. That is the way we get to Barbara's brother's we're here for the duration.

It also looks like the storm is going to hit just east of us so we won't get the brunt of it and we will be on the "clean" side. The clean side. It sounds so Mormon. To balance that out, Barbara just picked up the last 12-pack of Corona from the gas station convenience store. What? It's got water in it. In case of a water shortage, we could use it to brush our teeth.

rita p.s.

Random hurricane thoughts

  • What's left on the grocery shelves when almost all the non-perishable food is gone? Bush's Chili, for one. I don't know what it tastes like but that's a powerful consumer vote of no-confidence if the hurricane-panicked won't even buy it.

  • Picked up yard items to reduce the number of projectiles. I reluctantly brought in our plaster "gnome with a gun" (perhaps you can't imagine what he looks like; here's an example of a similar, if less beguiling, armed gnome). If we end up sustaining a lot of damage from this storm, I kind of wish he could go out in a blaze of glory: sailing through the air, stubby rifle clutched in his gnome hands, a twinkle in his faded, painted-on eyes just before he hits the side of the new Compass Bank building.

  • Deciding what to take and what to leave is really not that hard. Especially when you have this much warning. What is harder is dealing with the possibility that you might have a hoarding (make the air quotes) "problem." However, now is not the time to begin sorting through all your shit. Really.

  • In spite of the fact that this is a very dangerous storm and that we're doing everything we can to protect ourselves, you can not deny the undercurrent of excitement. Our lives, however happy, are not very edgy. So, yes, we're a little fearful of the next 36 hours but you can't ignore the adrenaline rush...okay, it's more like an adrenaline spritz.

  • If you had t-minus 12 hours to a hurricane, what might you be doing? Hmm? Our neighbor is vacuuming his porch. First of all, vacuum and porch should never be used in the same sentence unless you're talking about being sucked up into a tornado while sipping iced tea on the veranda. (And wouldn't that be ironic, an appliance that sucks being consumed by Nature's biggest vacuum cleaner.) Then, there's the curiosity of getting it all clean so that the debris will have someplace tidy to land. Maybe it's nervous energy that drives him.

uncle, rita

Okay...goddammit, we're getting ready to leave. Rita's now a Category 5 with Galveston in the crosshairs...I don't want to throw my old house in the ring against the 170mph challenger.

Problem is, the freeways have turned into parking lots with cars and gas stations running out of fuel. The evacuation people are trying to close the southbound highway exits and funnel all traffic north on both halves of the freeway but so far they haven't been able to complete that task on I-45, not to mention 290 and 59. So, we're packed up and waiting to hear that the contraflow lanes are set up. Otherwise, we'll run out of gas an hour north of Houston and have to weather the hurricane in our truck...which is such a bad idea.

In the meantime we want our friends and family to know that we're taking all the precautions we can. We have a room in the center of the house without windows and we've got water and supplies to get us through. We've got our big butch truck to get us out if there's street flooding.

David and his friends are staying here, which makes my maternal geiger counter tick a little louder but they are in a brick house and well-supplied.

The last thing to be packed will be this computer*, so for as long as the DSL line holds, I'll add updates. Please don't worry, we're tough, sensible women with cell phones and power tools.

*If I could wrap my tablesaw in a hefty bag and tuck it under my arm, I'd be taking that, too.

Monday, September 19, 2005

secret squared

Secret project absorbing my life. Every weekend and weeknight. Will report back soon. I feel like I'm committing journal adultery.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

i miss new orleans

If you've heard any of the righteous alluding to the modern day "Sodom and Gomorrah" or any of the smug remarking that anybody with any sense would not live there, just remember: when hurricanes batter Florida, earthquakes shake California, tornados whip through Oklahoma or avalanches hit Colorado, there is always some asshole making obnoxious, hindsight-bloated commentary.

Like they knew this was going to happen. If you work in a high-rise: you should expect to die in a fire for being so foolish. If you live on California's coast: you deserve a mudslide for your ignorance. Inner city: drive-bys. Gulf Coast bathers: shark attacks. So—human nature being myopic, know-it-all and easily frightened—the people of New Orleans are now being subtly or outrightly blamed for their own misfortune. Or most offensive, some suggest that god was punishing the whole city for its sins.

All I can say in response is that I love(d) New Orleans. I've worked and vacationed there and those memories are full of wonderful images and laughter. New Orleans sounded, New Orleans tasted, New Orleans looked, like no other city I'd ever visited. It had a piquancy–visual and oral and aural. The people a rare mix of black, white, Cajun, Catholic and Voodoo. The decadent, wild Mardi Gras events were just a part (although a critical part) of the glittery whole cloth that made New Orleans. That and jazz musicians, beignets, cajun french and african art all combined in a figurative and literal culinary symbol: gumbo. And the architecture! Wrought iron gates, balconies, rich pastel colors and
french doors, all part of the charm. And I mean the verb, to charm: "To cast or seem to cast a spell on; bewitch."

So, in my own way, I pay homage to that wonderful American city and mourn with those that loved her best.

blogger clogger

Among the more trivial aspects of this disaster in New Orleans is the blog explosion. It's never taken so long just to get to connect (5-10 minutes, which isn't awful but unusual). Victims and relatives, volunteers and organizers have flooded the blogger ranks. It is the present-day ham radio.

What a fucking mess. First of all, let's just worry about slamming the powers-that-be for mishandling this situation (to whatever degree) later. As much as I think W is a horse's ass, I can't get behind those who want to hang him for this...not now, not here in Houston. We need to get all these people cots, food and clean underwear...and figure out how they can survive for the next three months. Then, we can blast whoever deserves to be blasted for not doing their part.

Yesterday, along with thousands or tens of thousands (the numbers cease to adequately convey the image of that many people in one place) volunteers, we went to the convention center here in Houston to join in the relief effort. If you combined all the Bennetton, United Way and public television advertisements, you might begin to represent the array of humanity volunteering there.

Side-by-side we worked (and Barb & I were only there for about five hours). A human chain passing box, bag or basket of every imaginable donation. We helped move a mountain of donations from the curbside into the huge exhibit hall where countless volunteers sorted the mountains into clothing, bedding, toiletries, etc. so other volunteers could distribute them to refugees. Which cleared a space for the next mountain.

Here is a description of the panoply* of regular people in, or visible from, our small section of the chain:

  • Asian man, mid-twenties. Pearl stud in his nose piercing. Hair in a single braid down his back.
  • Very tall, dark-skinned black queen. Funny, irreverent and hard-working. Slinging items into the huge pile while keeping an eye out for good-looking men.
  • Middle-aged church-going couples from the suburbs. Portly, quiet and diligent.
  • Young, pretty black woman–maybe late teens or early twenties. Many grown women stepped back from the heavier packages and let the men handle them. Not this one.
  • A boy, about 10 years old, working alongside his dad.
  • Hispanic teenagers in their low-rider pants.
  • Men of Indian or Pakistani descent ferrying bags across the street.
  • Older white men and women, straining a bit with the effort.
  • Folks here on vacation.
  • People who had planned a New Orleans vacation and ended up here instead.
  • Women in burkhas driving up with donations.
  • Wealthy white socialites in coordinated casualwear.
  • Middle-aged lesbians in their sensible shoes.
And I wasn't looking for the feel-good liberal image. That's just how it all shook out.

*lovely word: panoply n A splendid or striking array.