Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Meg Whitman Gets Summons to Jury Duty

This pic of Queen Nutmeg has nothing to do with this post, other than it's just funny, but I couldn't resist using it again because ... well, it's just funny.

Okay. I've posted this to Facebook already, but I thought I'd share it here too. Apparently the Redwood City courthouse was in a bit of a hum yesterday because who should show up for jury duty herself but Queen Nutmeg Whitman, presently running for Governor of California? Yes indeed, the Queen herself isn't even exempt from doing her civic duty, even though we all are pretty sure she was excused.

But here's the punch line. Overheard in the hallway today during a break from the trial I'm serving on came this gem. From one witness in the case to one of the attorneys about Meg Whitman having to show up: "Serves her right for finally registering to vote."

Hahaha! For those not in the know, Meg Whitman was seriously uninterested in exercising her right to vote for many years; in fact it's only until recently has she shown any interest in the political process at all. You can read about her voting record (or lack thereof) here. She didn't even register as a Republican until three years ago.

You don't really believe she's interested in serving the constituents of California, do you? I have some swampland in the Gobi Desert to sell to you if so. Her interest can be summed up in a single word: SELF.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

No, My Blog Ain't Dead . . .

See that? That is a picture of the San Mateo County Courthouse in Redwood City, California. Some interesting trivia: this is where Scott Peterson was found guilty of murdering his wife, Laci, and their unborn child.

I am not serving on a case of such monumental proportions, but I have been selected to serve on a short criminal case that should span the next week or so. Thus, Hapless Tigger is sworn to secrecy (regarding the case) and will be busy with that for the next week or so.

Oh, I'm pretty sure it is safe to at least say this much: the jury selection process is long and boring. Be sure to drink coffee when you break for lunch.

See y'all soon.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

It's Not on ME

It's funny about AA meetings. Sometimes I get a bit overdosed on them and wind up bored during the meetings. Same old drunkalogues, same old rambling people wandering off topic, same guy always has to pipe up and lecture us for a few minutes as if he's got all the answers.

But then if I miss meetings for too long, I notice I start to be less tolerant a person, more critical, more easily angered, more anxious.

I suppose meetings help me remember who I am and remind me of the patterns of thinking and reacting that got me drinking in the first place.

But by far the biggest thing I've gotten out of AA so far has been the tremendous relief that comes with knowing everything isn't on ME. I can just hand everything over to my Higher Power and pray for direction. See, I'm learning to trust my physical responses to things. For example, what is this sudden twinge of fear all about? Why am I getting the nagging feeling that something is wrong?

They're just little red flags: "Pay attention, Joyce."

Only now, instead of trying to impose my own intellectual spin on whatever it is (which is usually just me trying to gain control of a situation or me trying to justify some fear-based action or something selfish), I've taken to praying.

It isn't even a profound prayer. It's just "God, show me the way. Let me be your conduit." Or if I have more than a moment, I like to read my favorite, the St. Francis Prayer.

Whatever fear was there, or nagging doubt, or empty hole, it vanishes. Calm descends. I know I'm only human, but if I let myself act out of love, I can't go wrong. I may not always act in the black and white "right" way some people expect when they impose hard and fast rules on us, but I can't feel bad about my choices. Not if they were made out of love.

Maybe this is what serenity is all about: never having to feel bad about yourself for acting out of a negative ulterior motive. It's about checking your motives, feeling they square with your values, and feeling okay in your gut before acting. And trusting that God will lead you in the right direction if you only ask. It's not on ME.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Tracy Chapman: "Baby Can I Hold You"

Here's a great old song off Tracy Chapman's first album. It's now been covered by just about everybody out there. For me, this song has always been about how an embrace can sometimes better say all the things we have trouble saying.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Today's Message Is Brought to You by a Power Outage

Okay, so I'm a dolt. I like to get to work early so I have time to get my stuff together and gather my thoughts before I march into class. Since I have an 8:10am class, I get to campus around 7:30 and go hang out in my office for a bit. Today I arrived at 7:20am since traffic was light on 92.

Well, the building was locked. I reswiped my fob thingy and the door still didn't unlock. And then my cell phone pings. I look at the message. It's from my college. It says:

CSM power is out. The campus is closed. Do not come to campus. Check the CSM website for updates. Next update: 9:00am.


Fine. My 8:00 class is canceled. Do I go home and wait and drive back to campus for my 10:00am class, or do I just hang out?

I was in my car weighing the pros and cons when the door to my building opened and was propped open by one of the Police Academy instructors. So I decided to go wait in my office.

Here is the hallway that greeted me:

I sort of felt my way down the hall to my office and fumbled with various keys until I managed to unlock my door and go in. I sat and waited, and when it was light enough by the window, I sat and read until 9:00am. My Dean stopped by and chatted with me a bit and I told her tales of New Orleans.

Here is what my office looks like in the morning light:

My desk is by the door, so you are actually looking at my office mate's desk and bookcase.

May I just say that my desk and bookcases are more entertaining by a long shot.

Anyway, 9:00am finally arrived and this is the text message I received:

CSM power is out. Campus is still closed. All morning classes are canceled. Next update at 12:00pm.

Yabba dabba doo! I locked up everything and headed home.

ps. It's now 11:00, and another text just arrived saying the campus is now closed until 6pm. Next update at 4:00 regarding night classes. I feel sorry for anybody taking a Thursday night class that meets only once a week.

But not too sorry.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Melissa Etheridge: "I've Loved You Before"

I admit I haven't liked much of Melissa's work lately. Seems like things got stale after the Breakdown CD. I'll always think most highly of her first two albums, but this song off her new album is one I really do like a lot. I've often wondered if the people we become attached to in this life are souls we recognize from prior lifetimes. It's a comforting thought.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Queen Nutmeg Vs. Quaker Oats Dude

Some time ago I mentioned that Meg Whitman (alternately known as Queen Meg, or Nutmeg, among other names I really can't publish here) looked to me a heckuva lot like the Quaker Oats guy.

My friend Stacia has now proven the point. See?

She may think she's "rich enough to rule," but anybody with any sense knows her real agenda in running for governor of California. One, it's a stepping stone. She wants to be Mitt Romney's running mate in 2012. Two, as a corporate head who could not care less that she had ties to Goldman-Sachs and her own little investments that are now termed illegal, she wants to do four things in California: give tax breaks to big corporations; bust up unions and take away pensions from firefighters, police, teachers, and nurses; privatize education because that's a huge money-making opportunity and a great way to ensure business gets plenty of corporate drudges; and deregulate business as much as possible so that those pesky things like environmental regulations and such don't demand corporations to act ethically.

In short, she wants more power and more money for herself and her rich friends.

She doesn't care about California. She doesn't care about YOU.

Besides, who wants to look at that Ugly Nutmug for four years? Blech.

Monday, August 16, 2010

What a Difference a Year Makes

I drove onto campus today to make copies of my syllabus, gather materials for the first day of classes, and to post my door card. On the way in, it occurred to me how things were so very different this time last year. I'd just gotten back from a weekend bender at Del Mar, having spent the last night hunched over the sink in the bathroom puking my guts out and having Chelle tuck me into bed, frustrated and angry at me.

Classes started. The second week, I missed a day because I was too hungover. The third week, I called in sick again on Monday.

That Sunday night, I'd gone on another bender, and I don't remember much of it. I was acting out in horrible ways. I called a friend in another state--a person with whom I was having a kind of long-distance affair--and begged her to come get me. I don't remember much of that conversation. Sometime after I hung up, I somehow made the decision to go to rehab. Maybe it's because a part of me recognized that my life had spun out of control. Maybe it's because it dawned on me that the hell I wanted to be rescued from had nothing to do with Chelle, or my work here, but everything to do with my drinking. I honestly have no idea HOW I came to make that decision.

Another part of me says it wasn't even me. It was my angels, my mother, my Higher Power--something out there in the Universe, anything but ME--that put sense into my head. Who makes a decision like that when they're in a complete blackout?

When I woke up the next morning, I remembered nothing, EXCEPT that I'd decided to go to rehab and get help.

So Monday I called in sick as Chelle checked around, made calls, got me connected with Mountain Vista Farm. What remained was for me to actually pull the trigger... to commit to the program and take the time off work, which would mean telling my boss I had an alcohol addiction and needed help.

It was scary. I had no idea how the Dean would respond to me.

I considered: I'd missed several days of work, but I could make up some lie to cover my ass. I could try (again!) to cut back on the drinking and just get on with my life. No one would ever need to know I'd had a meltdown and practically tossed everyone I loved and everything I had into the breeze.

But I considered again. How many repeats of this was it going to take? I'd only been getting worse over the years. Sometimes I'd clean up my act for a short while, but always, always, I went right back down the tubes.

It was time to pull the trigger. It was after 5:00, so I emailed my boss a quick explanation and told her I'd call her first thing in the morning.

My boss was still at work. She immediately shot me an email back, saying: "Thank you for telling me this. You are doing the right thing. Yes, let's talk in the morning."

I got six weeks off, paid, to check into rehab that Thursday and get sober. My boss and the department secretary both hugged me and wished me well. Off to the Farm I went, nervous as all get-out. I had a last "goodbye" binge that Wednesday night, drinking a few Belgian beers and a couple bottles of wine. I went to bed around midnight, not feeling particularly drunk. When I checked into rehab around 11am the next morning, I nevertheless blew a .04. Still metabolizing.

Detox wasn't too awful for me. I did have occasional DT's (shakes) sometimes after long benders, but shaking hadn't been an everyday thing for me. I tremored only a little during detox. The biggest concern was my blood pressure. It was pretty high for the first three or four days. But then it normalized. I was lucky. For most of my drinking career, I wasn't the kind to do hair of the dog, and it wasn't until the last year or so that I would sometimes drink a Bloody Mary before noon on the weekend if I was a bit hung. My physical dependency consequently wasn't as bad as some who suffered through withdrawals while I was at the Farm.

I look at a friend of mine now who is in utter denial about her alcoholism and has DTs worse than I ever had, but she explains the shakes away the same way I used to: "It's low blood sugar. I haven't eaten yet today."

No, hon. People notice it. People talk about it. You are withdrawing. You are addicted to alcohol, and you have delirium tremens. Keep it up, and one day you'll be seeing pink elephants.

Anyway, all of this was on my mind as I drove onto campus. The campus has gotten a bit of a facelift over the past year, with some new buildings being completed, the roadways repaved and new speed bumps installed, new signage.

And so I see that I, too, have gotten a facelift. I look better; I feel better. My brain is clear. My life is great. You just don't realize how bad you are when you're in the middle of it. But once an addict gets sober, you come to realize how shitty you actually felt all the time. The solution of drinking more booze to make it all feel better had the exact opposite effect.

Last spring semester was one of my best teaching semesters ever. It showed. Students routinely came by my office, if not for help, then just to chat. One stopped by the Writing Center over the summer just to say hello. I was never a bad teacher, but now I'm a good, AWAKE teacher.

This year starts my first full year sober. For the first time in a long time, I'm off not just alcohol, but all anti-anxiety medication as well. And I don't feel afraid. I feel strong and am looking forward to the year, to meeting my new students.

What a difference a year makes.

September 4, 2010 will be my one-year sobriety date.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Happy Anniversary to My Wife

Isn't this miniature guitar the cutest thing you've ever seen?

We went to San Jose Jazzfest yesterday, and Chelle wandered off with our friend Stacia to go buy (I thought) gumbo or fried crawfish tails or something like that, and though she did come back with a very decent gumbo, she also bought me this baby guitar.

That's my Chelle. She is such a generous spirit; she doesn't wait for anniversaries to give me presents. She gives me gifts all the time.

Her presence in my life is a gift.

We've been together for six years today. I haven't always been a picnic; my three-year bender was a rough road for us. But that's past now. We survived my addiction to alcohol and came out on the other side much stronger.

She says the best present I ever gave her was deciding to check into rehab and get sober. Every day I wake up not hungover, not shaking, not remorseful and full of horror over a meltdown the night before, is a blessing.

I hope I continue to give her this gift every day for the rest of my life.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Chaka Khan: "Ain't Nobody"

Speaking of women with phenomenal pipes, here's an oldie but goodie.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Amanda Marshall: "Birmingham"

This is a great song by a woman with phenomenal pipes. To this day, I don't understand why she isn't more well known. This one got the most radio airplay.

When A Friend Has Lost Control

I have a problem. I have a friend whose alcoholism is spiraling out of control. The question becomes, as always, when is it appropriate to say something and when is it not?

My sponsor draws the line thus: "If it affects you, then it's your business. If not, it's nunya."

It hasn't directly affected me yet (in AA, we say that 'yet' means "YOU'RE ELIGIBLE TOO"), but it has recently impacted my wife, Chelle, and a good friend. It's just a matter of time until I'm next. This person does what all alcoholics do--I've said here before that we are amazingly predictable in our behaviors--she gets drunk, she gets enraged. She makes up shit. She feels victimized, judgmental, makes assumptions, leaps to conclusions, blows things way out of proportion. In short, she acts crazy. Of course, I know it's not HER: it's the booze.

The problem is getting her to see it's the booze.

Actually, that's not the problem. I feel pretty sure she'll agree it's the booze and that she has a problem. She's gotten at least one, maybe two DUIs, and comes from a family full of alcoholics. You know, just like a garden variety alcoholic. She'll probably readily admit alcohol is a problem or that she's a problem drinker.

What the real problem is boils down to making the BIG leap, the great plunge: admitting she's an alcoholic. Because doing that is tantamount to admitting you know damn well you shouldn't be drinking at all and will never be able to drink again. You can't control it; you are powerless over what booze does to you; stop thinking you can drink responsibly in moderation. You can't. Forget it. Stop kidding yourself.

You. Cannot. Drink. Ever. Again.

That's a big one, and it took me 47 years to get to myself.

But when she's going to start going on the rampage and ripping Chelle and my friends new assholes based on nonsense she's utterly made up, then she's messing with me. I cannot condone this behavior anymore because it's reached the point that if I don't say something, I'm implicitly saying she is okay, that nothing is wrong. I let it slide once, but this is twice (and I know of other occasions not impacting me), and I just can't ignore it.

Part of an alcoholic reaching bottom is understanding that there are consequences to actions. So, you stop enabling them by looking the other way. You stop wanting to be around them. You get tired of their litany of reasons their life is going all wrong when the OBVIOUS reason is staring them right in the face.

It's the alcohol, my friend.

You need to stop drinking.

You're going to lose all your friends unless you stop.

We will all support you in your recovery; I will go to meetings several times a day with you if that's what it will take. I'm still your friend, but I can't be your friend anymore while you're still using.

Please get some help. We care about you.

But I have to draw the line somewhere, hon. And so ... I'm drawing it, for my own peace of mind.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Hapless Tigger Goofs with Her Guitar

Well, I sure am rusty. But it'll come back with patience and practice.

Never was much of a singer, but you kinda have to sing, or else nobody knows what the hell you're playing. Bear with me.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

On Being A Recovering Alcoholic in a Party Town

Now that I've had a few days to recover from New Orleans, I want to talk a bit about the range of emotions I experienced while I was there, speaking as a person who has been sober for just a month shy of a year.

My first response was horror. We walked down Bourbon Street in the French Quarter our first night in The Big Easy, and as I mentioned in another post, the first thing I saw was a drunk woman. She looked to be in her fifties or so (but you can't really tell if she's a chronic drinker--she could be significantly younger). She was staggering, disoriented, with two guys, one in front of her, and the other to her rear. They stepped off the street onto the curb. She walked two or three paces and BAM! Right into the side of a building. Hard.

The guys with her just kind of stopped, looked at each other, and then each took one of her arms. Then they all kind of staggered and lurched their way on up the street.

Open containers everywhere. BIG BEERS HERE signs. Hurricanes. Every other place was a bar, or, further down, a strip joint. Drunk people yelling and carousing.

I felt horror. At first I had the sinking, awful feeling that I was going to hate this trip to New Orleans. But, no, we discovered that if we avoided Bourbon Street after dark, the French Quarter is just fine. And it's a great old city, lots of history and many things to do and see.

The next day was a processing of my emotions. I'd felt horror, I guess, because a part of me knows very well that THAT woman could've been me. There but for the grace of God go I. And the horrified feeling transformed into sorrow. Sorrow for her, sorrow for every alcoholic out there who is still using and still living that life. One thing that I keep coming back to is the impression people all seem to have that drunks and addicts are just out having one helluva time. That's not so. It is NOT fun.

The absolute worst feeling in the world is waking up hungover, finding blood or bruises on your body, not remembering how the fuck you got home, and having a vague feeling that you've done something really wrong. Hurt a stranger, or worse, hurt a friend or loved one, made a fool out of yourself ... just not remembering. The night before is a big blank after a certain point. You panic. What did you do?

It's a terrible feeling. You feel physically sick anyway, with the shakes and the headache and the queasy tummy, but your heart and soul are also sick.

You get into a fetal position under the covers and wish you were dead. You know you ought to call the friends you were out with and find out exactly what the hell you did. And apologize profusely for being an idiot. But they've heard it all before. They've heard you say you'd never do this crap again. How many times can they forgive? You're too ashamed to make the calls.

So, I felt horror, then sorrow and sympathy. Next in line was exasperation.

When you encounter drunk and out of control people day after day, you begin to feel a certain amount of revulsion. This feeling materialized for me on our last night in New Orleans, as Chelle and I were walking back to our hotel after dining at NOLA. There were some pretty ordinary, good-looking people pouring themselves out of a bar onto the street--folks I might, under any other circumstance, like to meet. But why not now?

I turned to Chelle. I said, "Why bother interacting with anybody who is that much under the influence? It's not even THEM."

And that's the truth. An intoxicated person is not in their right mind. They may be sane all right, but they're not themselves. Even a normie (a non-alcoholic) is more animated, more loose, less inhibited, louder, sillier, in varying degrees until they slip over into "too fucked up" land. They do things they wouldn't normally do. And as for chronic drinkers, I know from personal experience that when you drink all the time, reality gets twisted around in very bizarre ways in your own mind. I've said before that when I was drinking, I was positive Chelle didn't love me anymore. (I was projecting; I was finding myself pretty unlovable at the time.) When I'd had too many, I would explode and have a total meltdown, accusing her of all kinds of things that weren't even remotely true. Yet in my fucked up brain, I was completely convinced of the truth of what I swore I knew. It was nuts. I'll say it again: a chronic drinker--even when they're sober--is not in their right mind. Alcohol has devastating effects on your brain and on your brain chemistry.

Which brings me to the last feeling. It's gratefulness. Gratefulness that all of that is behind me. Gratefulness that, when all was said and done, I didn't have to lose too many people when I finally got sober. Excepting one person, all of my non-alcoholic friends have forgiven me and we've all moved on. They all like me much better and find me to be a hell of a lot more fun to be around. They can enjoy their beer or their cocktail and it doesn't bother me. My relationship with Chelle is stronger than it's ever been (six years together on the 15th, y'all!) And, I have a much healthier and closer relationship with the woman who is now my sponsor. They're liking me much sharper and more reliable at work, too.

I'm so grateful for this second lease on life. It is a blessing. Gifts of every nature keep coming to me.

As for my few alcoholic friends who are still drinking and who remain in denial, well ... everyone has to hit their own bottom. They're still my friends; I just don't drink with them anymore. So, those relationships have altered. They know where I am. And if they ever need me, they know I'll be there.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Zenyatta: Now 18-for-18!

I approached this race with a little bit of nervousness today, because I remember oh-so-well how Zenyatta just barely hit the wire first in this same race last year. Del Mar's polytrack is a tough and tricky surface. Some horses that run well on other surfaces can't handle this track, and vice versa. And today speed was holding, definitely not favoring Zenyatta's "come-from-wayyy-behind" running style.

It's funny, but the Zenyatta detractors always ramble on about her being "a synthetic specialist," as if all synthetic tracks were the same. They're not. Tapeta is one thing; polytrack another; Pro-ride yet another. Hollywood Park, for example, runs more like a dirt track than the others. And somehow her detractors seem to conveniently forget the fact that she's also won over dirt, twice.

Anyway, I digress. This particular field was, perhaps, a little soft (then again, it's hard to get horses willing to race Zenyatta anymore, at least in California), but the other jockeys all did their best to keep her from winning. Mike Smith wisely kept Zenyatta a little closer to the front this time and started her run about four furlongs to the close. But the pace! It was a dead crawl. I mean, there was no pace to run into at all. But she went on by them, despite the fact that the 4 horse forced her to go very wide, got to the front, and just did her thing. It didn't appear Mike Smith asked her very much.

There will be plenty left in the tank for the next two.

If her perfect records holds, she'll retire at 20-for-20 with a second Breeder's Cup Classic win.

(Oh, and much to everyone's surprise, Quality Road lost today. He got tired in the stretch and got nailed just before the wire by a horse named Blame. I won't blame Blame. You know I had to say that.)

Friday, August 6, 2010

Back Home

This cat slept on top of me all last night. If I rolled over on my side, he climbed back up onto my hip and balanced himself there to sleep. When I woke up this morning, Chelle told me I was on my back when she woke up, and he was on my chest with his butt in my face. She also said I was snoring, but I don't believe that part.

Today, Jerry has been following me around like a puppy, and as you can see, whenever I sit down, he gets on my lap.

Sweet boy, I guess he missed his mama.

Derby, on the other hand, slept on Chelle's pillow all last night and occasionally wanted to give me kisses.

So, much to our great pleasure, our kitties weren't mad at us at all.

It's good to be back home and out of the humidity. The cab driver to the airport was teasing us about how visitors to New Orleans got both baked and broiled.

That's about right.

Today it's laundry, mailing souvenirs to friends, and Chelle is making a Cajun shrimp dish with rice tonight. I have a leftover praline to have for dessert. This morning I made chicory coffee, so we are definitely still in The Big Easy in spirit.

Santa Rosa Fair tomorrow ... and Zenyatta will go for 18 wins in a row at Del Mar.

And now I think I need a nap!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Goodbye, New Orleans

We are out of here today and headed home to two very annoyed kitties, no doubt.

Yesterday may have been the most pleasant day here. It was still humid, but not so oppressively hot. Slept in a bit and then I connected with an old friend from college and visited with him and his partner at their house for awhile. Chris had picked up some fabulous croissants from a French bakery. He also made some chicory coffee that was so good I wound up buying a can of Cafe du Monde chicory coffee to bring home. Between the Kona coffee I got on the Big Island and the chicory coffee from here, I'm going to be one wired Tigger.

After visiting with Chris and his partner for awhile, Chelle and I set out to tour the World War II museum right by Lee Circle (where there is a big statue of General Robert E. Lee atop a monument, where he stands perpetually facing north so his back is not to the enemy). The museum was a good refresher course on both campaigns of the Second World War. Then we caught the St. Charles streetcar and headed into the Garden District.

There, it was considerably cooler because of all the shade trees. We walked up First Street to Anne Rice's house to gape at her mansion. It's surrounded by surveillance cameras, so no doubt she gets a lot of gawkers, but we were the only ones outside. I posed for a picture and we were on our way. We walked a few blocks over to Fourth and stopped in a bookstore where I found a signed first edition of her Angels. Since I finished the last Dragon book last night, looks like I will tackle this one on the plane today (should be interesting since I've read only her vampire and witch novels). We also popped in for frozen granita at Still Perkin' coffeeshop.

Across the street was Lafayette Cemetery, one of the oldest in New Orleans, and since we'd been unable to make it to St. Louis Cemetery, we decided to peek in. As you can see in the photo and as I explained here a few days ago, nobody is buried underground because the city is below sea level. So there are three types of aboveground tombs: the regular family tombs (we saw some families with dates back to the 1800s leading up to the present--amazing that these people stay put, or come home to be emtombed); the larger society tombs (we saw one for firefighters); and then the less expensive wall vaults (which looked a lot like the places in regular cemeteries where people inter cremated ashes). This particular cemetery was also interesting because some scenes from Interview with the Vampire were shot here. I posted on Facebook that I kept expecting a door to pop open and someone to stick their head out and say "Boo," but that didn't happen.

Actually, no ghosts showed up here at Le Pavillon, either, so Chelle and I must not have looked like much fun to pick on.

We caught the trolley back to the French Quarter and went back to our room to chill in the A/C a bit, then scored dinner reservations at NOLA, one of chef Emeril Lagasse's restaurants. That made for a fine (albeit pricey) meal. The service was outstanding--the waiter even escorts ladies to the restroom if you have to ask where it is. I never saw anything like that.

We finished the day by wandering through the French Quarter some more and picking up souvenirs for friends and coworkers.

I'm about ready for home now. I'll have one final week of relaxation, and then the fall semester starts. This summer has sped by.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

You Don't Say

Yeah, today will be 98 degrees and the dew point is 80. More stifling humidity. We are talking about walking out of your hotel, taking two steps down the street, and feeling drops of perspiration rolling down your back already.

It's so hot the roads are buckling in places, and I can't even begin to describe what the French Quarter smells like.

Praise the lord for air conditioning.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Red Fish Grill, New Orleans

I'm so full I think I hobbled around the French Quarter afterwards for an hour in a stupor.

For an appetizer, we had crab and tomato salad.

For entrees, Chelle had Jumbo shrimp with jambalaya, and I had the pictured entree: blackened redfish with a shrimp and saffron salad, green beans, and pomme frites.

But then came the grand finale, which was the most sinful thing I think I've ever eaten: double chocolate bread pudding. Our server came to the table, set it down in a little pot, then poured two little carafes of melted white grenache and dark chocolate grenache over the bread pudding. Here it is before we dove in:

It was such a production that the table next to us of three beautiful African American women were ooh'ing and aah'ing and craning their necks to see. We were reluctant to dip our spoons in at first to mess up the delicious presentation, but our tastebuds put a quick end to that. And we made quick work of dessert:

As we sat finishing up our drinks (coffee for me, Abita SOS beer for Chelle), the lesbian manager came over and chatted us up about other places to visit in New Orleans, apologizing for the relentless heat as if somehow she were responsible for it.

And then Chelle ordered another dessert for the ladies at the table next to us and had it added to our bill. We hit the restroom and were sneaking out the front door when we were collared by one of the women, who burst onto the sidewalk and hugged us both.

Ah, N'awlins!

More on New Orleans

Okay, Chelle is off to her conference for a bit, so I'm able to take a minute to catch you up. First, it has been unbearably hot and muggy. We were watching the local news last night, and apparently yesterday's temperature of 100 degrees set this summer's all-time high for New Orleans to date. Even the shop owners are cackling at the tourists walking down the sunny sides of the street. "Why don't they at least walk in the shade?!" giggled a man behind a counter to us today. "Dunno," we shrugged. The good thing about the "to go" cups is that I was carrying club soda with lime around all day. Everyone can think I'm drinking vodka tonics all day long if they like, but I'm just staying hydrated.

We found Queen Doreen Ketchens again today and I picked up one of her CDs and we chatted with her a bit. Turns out she and her band traveled to California this past year to see if they'd have any luck in the music biz, but they weren't in the right places. Sacramento and Modesto aren't exactly known for their music scenes, and they were regretting not trying North Beach in San Francisco. I was telling a friend today that really there doesn't seem to be the audience for her brand of jazz that there is for country music, rock, pop, and the like. They are really good, but they do a lot of improvisation and to so many ears, that sounds like utter discord. It's most exciting to hear live. Well, I wish her and the band a lot of luck. One of these days ... but until then, they'll be entertaining tourists on the streets of the French Quarter.

We made it down to Cafe du Monde this morning but it was so hot and humid I passed on the coffee with chicory and went for a frozen cafe au lait instead. The beignets were everything everyone raves about, with a ton of powered sugar dumped over top, as you can see in the photo above. I tapped each doughnut before taking a bite. My mouth was still covered; I looked like a very messy cokehead.

It wasn't peak temps yet, so we hopped in one of the carriages in front of Jackson Square (named for Andrew Jackson; statue to the left) and tooled around the French Quarter with the sassiest tour guide ever. She quickly sized us up as a gay couple and showed us all the gay bars. I made friends with the mule, Bullwinkle, and afterwards we tipped her extra to get Bullwinkle a treat. She handed us a banana to give to him. That was a trip. Who knew mules like the whole thing, including the peel? He hoovered the whole banana right out of my hand and stood there gumming it for a while before swallowing it. Here is a pic of the two of us, with him looking a mite bored.

After all this, it was too hot to make it over to the St. Louis Cemetery as we'd planned, so we strolled around a bit and checked out some of the voodoo shops. Funniest charm ever: if you're being sued, get the "Make Other Lawyer Stupid" doll. And don't touch the altar; it's bad luck, even if there are saints candles all over it.

Tonight it'll be dinner at Red Fish Grill and chillin' in the air conditioning here in our room. I'm making my way through a book about the St. Louis Cemetery and learning no end of fascinating geeky crap no one cares about but me. Like, Plessy of the famous Plessy v. Ferguson trial is buried there. And the tombs are above ground for the obvious reason that you can't exactly bury anybody around here when the city is below sea level. The famous Voodoo Queen of New Orleans, Marie Laveau, is buried there, too... or so they think; it might be her daughter. They move dem bones around. But more on this later (I hope).

I forgot I video recorded just a teeny bit of the Jazz Brunch here at Le Pavillon on Sunday, so here's a quick snippet of the grandeur of that. I posted on Facebook that everybody in that room except me was drinking a mimosa. This is a tough part of town for a recovering alcoholic. Even the pecan pie turned out to be bourbon pecan pie. Oops.

(No worries; I had only one bite.)

Sunday, August 1, 2010

The Clarinet Queen of New Orleans

Chelle and I stumbled upon Doreen Ketchens this morning while wandering around the French Quarter again. She can sing, and boy can she play the clarinet! It's the sweet little surprises such as this that make a trip very special. Thanks to my buddy Christopher who let me know who this woman is! We'll have to try to find some of her CDs.