Secret Pop

Sep 3, 2005

"Narcolepsy is not a superpower."

I was watching CNN's Katrina coverage on the TV in the gym this morning. I remember watching the tsunami coverage there, too. Today, I felt so sad and tired of looking at all the devastation that I found myself watching The Surreal Life on the adjacent monitor. There isn't even closed captioning. But it was easier to watch than all that suffering.

I've been to New Orleans a few times. The first time I visited, it was in the springtime, and it was beautiful. And I shopped like mad in the French Quarter, and foolishly brought back all sorts of New Orleans foodstuffs that you can readily buy locally. I ate very well. Tried all the things that are famous. Beignets. Bananas foster. Coffee with chicory. Bread pudding. Gumbo. Jambalaya. Red beans and rice. Muffalattas. Alligator sausage. Even a Lucky Dog. You name it. I was there for a conference, and my boss was a foodie of grand proportions. So we didn't waste any meals. The next time I visited, it was nearly Christmas, and the city was cold, and my work was tiring, and I didn't make nearly as much of my stay. The next two times were right at the holidays. Once, passing through on my way to Italy to spend time with my family, I spent Christmas Eve and Christmas morning there. That was the time Richard Simmons called me "pretty hair." The last time was in late 1996. I stayed for a week, from Christmas Eve until New Year's Day, visiting with the family of my sister's then-boyfriend. And although it was winter, it was muggy and warm most of the time. And I regretted all the wool I had packed. During that visit, I did all sorts of fun things. And all sorts of cliché things. At Tipitina's one night, a local band was playing a song whose subject was New Orleans and whose unsurprising lyrics kept repeating the phrase, "Big Easy. Big Easy." And a guy in the crowd next to me called out, "More clichés! More clichés! Sing about Bourbon Street. And jazz. And red beans and rice." Later that night, I wrote it down in my notebook.

I think my old college friend Brian Housh may still live in New Orleans. We've fallen out of touch. I hope he's all right. The people I was visiting in that last trip no longer live there. I am so sad for the people who are going through this nightmare. And I am glad that at least some journalists are making a point of calling attention to the molasses-like response of the federal government. Adam sent me this link to Ted Koppel's interview of Mike Brown, director of FEMA. It's encouraging to see some courage and incisiveness return to the news. At the same time, even as these questions are being asked, help is only just getting to New Orleans. And still so little attention is being paid to the rest of the gulf coast, where entire towns have been wiped out. Entire towns. Gone. It's hard to imagine. Hard to believe. And this is just me as a far-off observer. I can't even begin to think what it would feel like to return to your neighborhood and see nothing left standing. I remember the shock of seeing my parents' house after the fire that engulfed it in 1998. I remember just walking through like a zombie saying. "Oh my god. Oh my god. Oh my god." And eventually beginning to cry.

Walking through the parking lot at Trader Joe's today, I thought to myself how fortunate I am. And I hate corny sentiment. But I saw a father and his young daughter trying to decide what kinds of flowers to buy, and I thought that we really are lucky to be out here right now where the sun is shining and the breeze is blowing and the temperatures are mild and lovely. Of course our own local news media wants us to be afraid, too, as usual. There was a segment yesterday evening on disaster preparedness. What if an earthquake hits us? Or some other catastrophic event? A reporter went door to door checking to see how much bottled water and canned food people had. Whether they had flashlights and batteries. Anyone worried about me should relax, knowing that I have enough non-perishable food to last me well into the next decade. And a goodly amount of bottled water. Of course, I also live in a very old building and would probably be crushed by debris and my jerk upstairs neighbors, if the earth were to quake with any great force. And so would all my valuable supplies. So there.

At the gas station, on my way home, where I paid $3.12 per gallon to fill up my tank, a guy with a giant boat of a vintage Cadillac was making conversation with a bum trying to wash his windshield for him. I overheard him say that it costs him seventy dollars to fill up his tank at this price. And then he laughed and said, "It's just a weekend thing." It seemed crass to me. But I was also filled with relief that the freelance windshield washer was too engrossed in his conversation with that freewheeling gas-guzzler to hit me up for any money. We're all jerks on some level, I suppose.

I went to see my friend Ben's show The Thrilling Adventure and Supernatural Suspense Hour at M Bar on Thursday night. I hadn't been able to make it to the past few shows, and I was glad to be catching it again. It was a fine production and I laughed many times. During the Beyond Belief segment, Paul (F. Tompkins) actually had to shush a table to the left of the stage. And later, when they apparently continued to not shut up, he glared at them. I found that awesome. After the show, in the ladies' room, I heard another in a series of mindnumbing conversations I have heard in ladies' restrooms between girlfriends who stun me with the lack of interesting subject matter that infuses their discourse. This one went a bit like this.

Girl 1: I like your hair.
Girl 2: Do you? I think it's getting too long.
Girl 1: Oh, no. I like it long.
Girl 2: Really? Because everyone tells me they like it better short.
Girl 1: I like it long.
Girl 2: How long?
Girl 2: Like long long?
Girl 1: Yes. Long long long. I like long long hair.
Girl 2: I like your earrings.
Girl 1: Oh, they're like doorknockers.
Girl 2: I want to be a more daring earring person.

I saw them outside later on. I didn't care much for Girl 1's earrings or for Girl 2's hair. Paget Brewster clued me in that they were the ones who were making all the noise during the show. It figures. Boy, does it figure.

So, it's Labor Day Weekend. And I guess I'm glad to see summer coming to a close. But I'm not sure that I continue to be grateful for the demarcation. It seems that I am able to access too many of my disappointments when I place them in these seasonal categories. I have had happy summers and horrific summers and summers that passed without much mention. But it seems like the happy times end up getting tainted. Inevitably. Even the good times eventually get hidden behind a feeling of, "Oh, but then THAT happened." I once wrote, "Sometimes when you think you're on top of the world, the world turns over." And I guess that's just the way it goes.

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