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Gustav: The Waiting

On this, the three year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, we have:

  • procured a generator.
  • stocked up on food stuffs (including booze).
  • filtered lots of water.
  • gathered flashlights and batteries, hurricane lanterns, candles, fans, a radio, our satellite radio, and the contraflow map.
  • filled one car with gas and parked the other in a high and safe garage.
  • assembled phone numbers of friends, families and neighbors.
  • secured several options for places to go in the event we need to leave.
  • packed all photo albums and stored them in a safe, dry place for the duration of the storm.
  • prepared checklists of what to pack if we leave.
  • called Vet to get pets’ rabies documentation in the event they get boarded.
  • prepped my office and CS’s shop.

And now, we wait. We wait to see whether we will stay or go.  This decision is likely to be made Sunday.  Tomorrow, we will wait some more.  What I resist my damnedest to do is watch the Weather Channel or the local news for the next 30 or so hours.  They will know nothing concrete until Sunday.  So why risk my cuticles, my nerves, my very sanity for the media to churn this story?  I can’t and won’t do it.

So, what does one do when the majority of the city is leaving in droves and the nervous energy is all but electric?  I read, play with Sun, nap, twitter, watch TV, span time with CS, call family and friends.  My mind stays on the weather.  Doubt creeps in—I start to get unnerved when the city really thins out.  One of my four neighbors has left already.  But I let reason and season guide me.  I am stubborn but ultimately am more reasonable than stubborn.  And my family members, all born-and-raised New Orleanians, know when to leave and how to stay and be safe.  I trust their seasoned experience far more than all the weathermen combined.

This waiting sure gives new meaning to “long holiday weekend.”

Hurricane Generator

Today was ostensibly spent researching and seeking a generator.   But today was much, much more.  Today was the day I felt more like a New Orleanian than I have in a really long time.  And it had very little do to with the amazing muffaletta I ate at Just Italy with Warrior Engineer.  No, it had to do with seeking the advise and comfort of my elders: my uncle, my former boss and my neighbors.

1.  My uncle.  This man is a New Orleans original.  He has little idea how much I love and adore him.  I seek his counsel on all things seafood, carpentry and hurricanes.  And today we talked over and over about the right generator for me.  And he did it happily and sagely.  His final advise: Buy one and keep it in the box until you lose electricity.  If you don’t lose it and you decide you want a different generator for whatever reason, sell it.  Being still in the box will bring you more money.  See? Sage.  And he interrupted his time at the casino to impart this advise to me.  I told him he’d earned his good luck tonight. Thanks, Uncle Mernie, and do break the casino’s bank!

2. My former boss from the hardware store.  As a last resort on pinning down a generator, I called my first boss ever, E, the owner of the hardware store I worked in as a teenager.  Seemed obvious enough and I am not sure why it took so long for the thought to occur to me.  But I was immediately put at ease with what he told me about the generator he had to offer me.  I knew he wasn’t just trying to sell me something–he’d never forsake a friendship for a sale.  And my uncle supported his recommendation.  A warm bath of ease washed over me.  After hours of twisting and turning and deciding and undeciding, the decision was a simple and obvious one. Thanks, E.

3. My neighbors.  Three of the four neighbors immediately surrounding my house are older; two are in their eighties.  The fourth is a single mom about my age with a four year old son.  We all talked today, us five neighbors, and we each are currently waiting-and-seeing and staying until and unless serious danger seems imminent.  We offered them to come to us if we all stayed and they wanted the benefit of our generator.  The one other of the five of us with a generator made the same offer.  We will take care of each other.  And even if we evacuate, we won’t leave anyone behind.

And so that germ of a dream to live high on the hog during a storm has really propagated into something far more.  It has reinstilled what New Orleans is all about:  The people; the community; the watchfulness we have for each other.  Who knew that THIS is what my generator would, in fact, generate?

The Post NOT About Gustav

From all accounts, the City of New Orleans is aflutter with Hurricane Gustav.  And frankly, I have done my best to stick my head in the sand about it.  It is expected to hit land Sunday or Monday.  We have cancelled our plans (for the third time) to visit CS’s aunt in Houston.  Otherwise, we are on a wait-and-see plan.

Katrina was the first storm I ever evacuated for, and that was done the day before the storm when I called my uncle at 5 in the morning and he said, “You need to leave.”  I cried, panicked, packed and left.  And had no regret about leaving.

Now, with Katrina behind me, you’d think I’d be more willing to evacuate.  You’d be wrong.  The thing is, these storms take days to come in.  And the weathermen LOVE to get all hot and bothered about how it’s going to be terrible: They cry wolf.  A lot.  We’ve had many friends evacuate time and again to drive like a snail out of and back in to town with everyone else and pay lots of money to stay in blah hotels in blah cities.  Only for the storm to miss us.

Tonight, CS and I had a bit of an argument over plans.  He insists that if it’s over a Cat 3, we are evacuating.  Because of Sun.  I, on the other hand, insist on a slower approach that will keep us here unless it’s serious AND coming pretty straight at us.  Like Katrina.  And yes, I know Katrina was a Cat 3 when it hit New Orleans.  But it was a Cat 5 UNTIL then.  If it’s a Cat 3 in the Gulf, it isn’t gonna get WORSE once it hits land.  And Katrina, though maybe downgraded to a Cat 3, I assure you, had much more tornado activity than “regular” Cat 3’s.

But I digress.  My plan is to have a generator and a window unit.  We can stay cool and have access to a TV or laptop and keep the fridge plugged in.  No long drives; no hotels; no issues with the pets; no heartache about what to bring and what to leave behind.  And if it shapes up, say, the day before to be a serious storm that is barreling down on NOLA, we leave.

CS promised me a generator—in public—3 years ago.  And we both kinda let it go until a storm is brewing.  I called CS earlier today to ask him to finally live up to his promise; he assured me he’d make calls and take care of it.  When he came home, I knew he had done nothing.  And he hadn’t, claiming he was too busy.  To which I responded, “If it were the new i-Phone coming out today that YOU wanted, you wouldn’t have been to busy, I assure you.” (Yeah, I fight ugly).

After a few rounds, CS argued that we didn’t need a generator; that neither he nor I EVER evacuated when we were kids and we lived through no electricity.  Finally, he said, “You only want a generator because your grandfather and your uncle and sister have one.”  And as I sharpened my lawyer’s argumentative claws, I looked at him and, well, looked away.  He had me.  Dammit, he was dead right and I couldn’t lie.  So finally, I admitted it.  “Fine.  So what?  When I was young, we’d call my grandparents during a storm and they’d be living high on the hog.  TV.  Air conditioning.  It was like no storm was passing over them.  Can’t I have that for myself?  Can’t I “grow up” and have a damn generator?  Even if we never use it?”

And he said yes.  I can live high on the hog when storms come to town.  If we stay.  Which we are likely to do.  But nothing is set in stone.

I wrote some time ago about Sun’s hemangioma, or strawberry mark.  Several of you have e-mailed me inquiring about how she’s coming along.  I appreciate your concerns and wanted all to follow her progress.

This is Sun’s leg now:

Today, we had her ninth laser treatment.  The doctor tells me that he is “completely confident” Sun will not need surgery for her hemangioma.  He is delighted with her progress and warns that her leg is likely to have “texture issues”—the texture of the skin is likely to be a bit wrinkly.  But he expects the redness as well as the raised-ness of the mark to continue to completely dissipate.

Overall, we are very pleased with her treatment and have no regrets about the course we took.  I do believe she is too young to remember this experience, and, really, she seems fine as soon as the treatment is over.  So it isn’t too harrowing on either of us!

At this point, the doctor tells us the mark will go away on its own and the laser treatment is just hastening the process.  And having come this far, I am willing to continue with the treatments so that it will be gone before Sun is old enough to be asked directly the rude questions we continue to be asked.  I was surprised to discover that other children are far more kind about it than adults.  And if I can shield Sun from that rudeness by hastening the mark away, then that is the path we will continue to go.

Thanks again to those of you who e-mailed me.  It really meant a lot to me.

Because She Lets Me

CS gives Sun her baths; that is their special time together.  Occasionally, I am called on to do it and find I do it wrong—too little water, the wrong toys, I get water in her eyes.

But getting Sun down for the night, that is our special time.  I play no musical instrument; my fingers are not meant to be over piano keys or guitar strings.  But in getting Sun down for a nice night’s sleep, she becomes my instrument.  I know just when to pat her back as opposed to scratching it.  I know instinctively when to sing along with her lullaby music and when it will only work as a distraction to her.  I know when to rock, when to dip.  I know when to give her my fingers to squeeze.  I know when to hug her closer to me and when to release her to herself.

I know Sun’s nighttime habits the way a musician knows the limits of his instrument—when to call its bluff and when to heed its warning to proceed with caution.  I know the results I will get from tweaking a movement one way or the other.  I know when to come in for an encore and when to walk away and let the artisan’s work be left to play in the memory of the audience.

I know this because Sun and I have developed a routine over these 14+ months.  I know this because I am Sun’s mother and it’s my job to know.  I know this because I long to know it; I know the days of me strumming my daughter to sleep are limited and I best make the most of the precious time I have of her needing me as a part of her nighttime ritual.  And I do and will make best of this sacred time between us.  Because that is my choice as her mother.


We had dinner tonight with two other couples.  One couple will be leaving Thursday for a big adventure: they are going to Japan for (at least) one year to teach English.  I had a friend do this after he graduated college (about the same age as these two now).  My friend sold or gave away almost everything he owned to go—it was the cheapest solution of what to do with the stuff he wasn’t bringing with him.  I ended up with a lot of his books (sssh, I’d hate for him to ask for them back these many years later).

That friend of mine also introduced me to classical Japanese writers, with Kawabata and Tanizaki (I love, love, love The Makioka Sisters) becoming my two favorites.  Tonight, we talked about these writers.  And about Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude (it is now at the top of my list of books to read).  And about Tolstoy and Dostoevsky (I really, really don’t like classic Russian literature!), and even a word about Hemingway and Faulkner.

It was such a delightful meal.  I hadn’t thought of those Japanese writers in years.  Not like I thought of them tonight.  And those of us there not leaving for Japan in two days, we couldn’t help but feel the excitement, the anticipation, that the two leaving were feeling: its electric current danced around our table like another member of our party.  Oh, youth!  To be 23 with the world at one’s feet!  To have a lifetime of unknown tomorrows in unknown countries (they plan to return to America via India, China, and other Eastern Asian countries).  Ah!

It seemed a sign when my fortune cookie read, “You are a lover of words, someday you should write a book.”  But that sign proved not to be too auspicious when another at the table read us his fortune, “You are a lover of words, someday you should write a book.”

And so it was that we stepped into the damp evening air.  Thoughts ran through my head of the Japanese books I would recommend to our young friends as they begin their big Asian adventure.  Then I saw that I had spit-up cookies dried on my shirt from Sun drooling on me earlier in the day when she was convinced she could fit an entire box of cookies in her mouth (she cannot) and having a mouth too full to chew, her saliva dissolved said cookies out of her oozing mouth and onto me.

My Mother’s Hands

Sun likes to hold my hand when she is readying herself for a nap.  Actually, she likes to hold just one finger in her small hands.  She’s done this since she was born.  She’d hold your finger as she bottle fed. 

My mother commented once that Sun has my hands.  I looked more closely.  And although her thumbs don’t appear to be double-jointed like mine (and the thumbs on my mother’s side of the family), her hands do indeed look like mine.  And my hands, in turn, look like my mother’s and, in turn, her mother’s.  The shape of my fingernails resemble my father’s nails, and my brothers’ nails look like mine too.  But the movement of my hands remind me very much of the movement of my mother’s hands.

I never quite realized the similarity before.  I have never been overly fond of my hands–they are small but not delicate or striking.  And my cuticles are always ruined; but that is my fault and not genetic. 

It took me using my hands as a mother to Sun to realize I had my mother’s hands all along.

The first call I got from Bania was the day before the lease was signed.  I had been warned he was talkative.  I was not warned he’d assume I knew him by just his first name.  After 30 minutes of almost constant talking, Bania said with authority, “Go take care of your baby,” even though I had been trying to get off the phone to tend to a crying Sun for the full 30 minutes.  I didn’t know what had just happened.

Bania initially asked questions about the house–could he paint the wooden parts of the outside of the house?  Of course, he explained, he’d use the same colors and the cost would be his.  And could he install ceiling fans in all four rooms?  At his cost and to be left in the house when he vacated, which he didn’t plan to do for a really long time.  Oh, and he had access to some top-notch marine paint—black—could be also paint our wrought iron fence?

But as the call progressed, his questions turned to statements.  Of course ceiling fans are needed, and the painting of shutters and porches and fences were completely logical.  So his tone suggested.  My guard went up.  And I doubted the authenticity of Bania.  I kept asking, “Is this guy for real?”  The Realtor assured me his credit check was clear; that he had retired at a young age and was, in her opinion, harmless.

Then I Googled him and ran his name through Westlaw.  There were a few minor mentions of him.  And in his talkative fashion, the things I’d unearthed, he’d volunteered when we spoke on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.  He’d taken to calling me every day.  Usually he called to ask a question about yet another improvement he wanted to make on the house–could he install a dishwasher? other new cabinets in the kitchen? replace the light on the front porch? mend the wooden privacy fence?—and to thank me for leasing the house to him; he kept saying he was home.  It warmed my heart that the house I love so much was apparently being equally loved by its new tenant.

But the doubt continued.  Why would someone who owned a home in Mississippi (unaffected by Katrina) and had previously owned other homes not want to buy a house in New Orleans?  I’d learn that he had his reasons.  I can’t say that I agree with his reasons, but I am certain that he has total confidence in his convictions.

So as each day passes and Bania ticks off the jobs he wants done on the house before he officially moves in, my doubts recess.  The new marine paint on the wrought iron fence does indeed look nice.  And the ceiling fans work and have not caused a fire.  And he has not asked for a reduction in rent in exchange for his work and improvements.

Can this be a case that ISN’T too good to be true?  Will Bania prove to be just what he presents himself to be?  Can I have been that lucky?  Is it the lawyer in me or am I just cynical?  When will I trust that someone is NOT out to get one over on me?  What would your gut have told you about Bania?

On Writing

If only the mastering of the keyboard, the typing of letters, were all there was to writing well.  I have ideas and thoughts that run through my mind when I am away from a computer (or even pen and paper).  And often, when I clear away everything and crack my knuckles and get serious about writing, I find I have nothing.

Tonight, I have turned off the TV, left all rooms that may distract me, and am focused on writing.  I am sitting in the dark on my back porch.  A mild breeze is blowing and the only sounds I hear are cicadas, distant trains, wind in the leaves, and the whir of air conditioners.

I read for the words—the stringing together of everyday words in a way that is beautiful and thoughtful and inspiring.  Sometimes I am overwhelmed with a writer’s ability to WRITE.  Some writers are good at storytelling, others are good at the stringing together of the words.  The genius is the one that can do both.

I am reading two books right now—Pat Conroy’s “Beach Music,” and Alan Moore’s “Watchmen.” To be fair, I just finished Conroy’s prologue and am further in to Watchmen.  Contrary to the fact that I LOVE attending the International Comic Convention every year and am somewhat well versed with comics (due to my hubby), I am not a huge comics fan.  The main reason is that I tend to prefer character development than action.  And a lot of the comics—at least the superhero genre—is action packed.

There are several graphic novels I have read that I consider some amazingly good reads, and not just for the comic crowd.  And Watchmen is quickly falling into that category, even with its hooded avengers.  And the reason for this is simple: The writing is strong and well crafted.  The story, although dated in that it involves the U.S.’s cold war with the Soviets, is timeless.  You could just as easily swap Iraq for the USSR and the story would be the same—our government will always have some political enemy that it behooves it to scare its people (you and me) by highlighting our differing cultures to make the other one ungodly and evil.

But I digress.

The writing.  Alan Moore’s writing is pretty incredible.  And he’s written things you know and you just may not have ever thought of them as starting as comics—like “V for Vendetta” or “From Hell.”  But I am not here to write his biography or inform you of the great things he’s written.  I will leave you with one line from Watchmen, just one.  It is writing like this that inspires me.  It also unnerves me because I could never string everyday words together so beautifully as these.

The word “cancer” runs through the audience on a firecracker string of anxious whispers.

The Grass is Quite Green

I was preparing to write a quick post explaining that lately I have been uninspired with writing, and until that passes not much activity would be going on here.  But then this morning, doncha know, I was inspired.

I had to go to another attorney’s office to review documents today.  The building I had to go to was the building I worked in for my first job as a lawyer.  I hated that first job.  And the smell of the building brought my mind back those some 10-odd years ago. 

I entered the law office and admired the art on their walls—far more contemporary than what is on the walls in our office.  Then I was shown to the upstairs waiting area.  Beyond the waiting area was their library.  Leather chairs and legal books; wooden carrels and shelving—all behind glass walls.  Our office has a nice library, and it is right outside my door, but I see our library all the time, so much so that I really don’t see it anymore.

There was no one in the library, and I saw a large leather arm chair with books spread around on the floor near the chair with a piece of paper over the opened books. I am sure the paper read as our orange cards read, “Please, do not disturb.”  And in that instant, that one quick scene, I remembered.  THIS. This is why I became a lawyer.  Not to go to court or argue professionally.  Not to earn copious amounts of money or hob-knob with the intelligently elite.

I became a lawyer so that I could do the things I love best in the world: read, research, and write.  I could just have easily been a researcher or librarian of another field.  Except my mind works better at solving legal problems, problems often of words—contracts, wills, agreements—than solving other, often less concrete, issues. 

It is strange to me how powerful that pull was today.  I was reminded of my days clerking, where I’d work in the law firms’ libraries.  I loved being surrounded by all those books.  And being the go-to girl to use those books.  In modern law firms, things are online a good deal—we lawyers use books, true paper books, less and less.  And our libraries keep getting smaller and smaller.

For an attorney who rarely works with other attorneys and visits nursing homes more than courtrooms, it was nice to visit another law firm and be reminded of the beauty and allure of a regal law library.  Sometimes you need to leave your own yard to realize how nice your grass is.

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