View Add to Technorati Favorites

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Nov: too many things and not enough clock

I don't know where November was hiding...maybe on the hard drive that crashed a few weeks ago. We counted our blessings this Thanksgiving, although I must admit I was a little homesick for my family... the problem is I get homesick form something that doesn't exist anymore. A trip to my native land means driving across the state to visit my parents who live in different cities and relatives that live at the end of rural roads scattered all over the state... and that doesn't include a visit to my hometown or alma mater where people I actually have something in common with live. I've learned that the holidays aren't the best time to drive across the continent to see relatives that don't travel... the question is when is the best time?

As time passes I my list grows. There is much to do before I leave in early January. If I think about it too much it will keep me awake at night. I don't know how much any of it matters... which may be why I try not to stress about it. I wish I were more like our neighbor's daughter who has the gift of being able to sleep anywhere. She's crashed in the photo above, with the rest of the world spinning around her. I bet she is too big for that safety seat now, but not too big for a nap anytime she feels like it.

Things that do matter but I will try not to lose sleep over:
*seeing my family before I leave for Paris
*renting the apartment downstairs before the end of the year
*taking care of the Subaru and Landcruiser by the end of the year
*book my beloved's trip to Paris
*have a nice holiday with Harry to make up for last year when I was out of the country
*prepare garden and classes for my return in late April
*making more time to write and get my work together for the show at the painting
center in Soho
*pack for two seasons in Paris

There are many things I've wanted to write about over the past month...I hope I'll have time to catch up before the holidays wreak havoc with me...

Thursday, November 10, 2005

letter from Baton Rouge

Perhaps the girl can leave New Oreans but New Orleans can never leave the girl?
Regardless... it is what is is and we are all living in another world....

Real life in Louisiana, this week. I'm passing on the
following from a good friend in Baton Rouge. Even though it
may not be making headlines anymore, the consequences of
Katrina continue in full force... S. Smith

It is all so depressing and confusing. One day we read that
FEMA is spending $11 million per day on hotel rooms, and
then we read that no one knows how many hotel rooms or
apartments the feds are providing. Just as we had
exaggerated reports about looting and raping during the
crisis, we now have coverage downplaying all that. From the
people I have talked to who have been down to the city, it
is just heartbreaking. Very little progress has been made;
the streets (apart from the spared portions like the French
Quarter and the Garden District) are piled with
refuse--furniture, carpets, thousands of refrigerators,
etc. It's estimated that 150,000 vehicles were ruined.
Between 30,000 and 50,000 houses will have to be
demolished. (The mold is such a problem--houses are unsafe
if it gets into the walls and creeps through the house,
even if the flooding didn't do a great deal of damage
otherwise.) The gray mud is everywhere, by now billowing as
dust, since we have had no rain since the last storm five
weeks ago. Many of the trees are dead--I wish I knew just
what portion--and I've heard the place described as looking
like the post-apocalypse world of Mad Max.
Everyone seems to think that it is going to
take a very long time for the city to come back. A bumper
sticker I saw said, "To move forward we have to move
back"--but it seems that the people who can are
relocating--except for the undamaged areas and people who
have a vested interest in the city. The friend who was
staying with us had managed to arrange for an apartment and
an office in Baton Rouge, but by then he had decided that
he just couldn't stay and is in the process of moving to
California. Even the people we know in Slidell, whose house
was not damaged, are planning to move, since that area is
not much if New Orleans is not thriving. Surely people will
eventually gravitate back, but at present there is nothing
that encourages one to be very optimistic about the time or
the form that the recovery will take. Three commissions
have been appointed: one by the mayor, one by the city
council, and one by the governor. Reports are that the
three are not communicating and may even be at odds, and
there was an article in the New York Times last week about
the factions and problems within the mayor's commission.
The destruction is just so enormous that no one
can seem to get a foothold to begin the climb out of this.
The city has had to let go a great portion of its
employees, and it is borrowing money to make it through the
fiscal year. The state has also suffered huge loss--not
only structures and whole communities destroyed but the
fishing industry is all but shut down, many farm areas were
inundated with salt water, and thousands of cattle were
drowned or starved--and of course the biggest tax base, New
Orleans, is all but gone. Louisiana, like most states,
already had a big deficit, since the federal gov't., in
cutting taxes, dumped heavy costs for education, health
care programs, etc. onto the states. We are now $970
million in the hole. And the feds are not coming through
with the money they promised. The Congress, it seems,
turned it into loans as opposed to actual aid. Now they
tell us that our 10% share of the cleanup expenses comes to
$4 billion! Moreover, the feds have temporarily relaxed the
environmental laws pertaining to oil companies, the
guidelines for competitive bidding on contracts, and the
prevailing wage laws (and hired outside workers for the
cleanup rather than the thousands who have lost their homes
and jobs). The Republicans are seizing this chance to
mandate private "charter" schools, in essence dismantling
the (admittedly dismal) public schools. To top this, the
Congress is all of a sudden saying that the country is in a
financial crisis because of these hurricanes and they must
cut benefits for Medicare and Medicaid. Then there is the
whole other storm of law suits about to break, over who is
responsible for the flooding (experts have reported that
the levees were not property constructed), and whether
insurance companies will pay for people's damage. As I
understand it, only the federal government issues flood
insurance, and many people near the levee breaks were told
that they weren't eligible for flood insurance because they
were not in a flood zone. At least the lawyers are happy.
Our friend who works for a huge law firm in downtown N.O.
plans to take this opportunity to start his own practice.
(His posh place in the Garden District was not damaged, of
course.) But I suppose it will take people like him who
love the city to just get in there and make something new.
It won't be what we loved (and often despaired over), but I
hope it won't be just another Baton Rouge!
As for Baton Rouge, it is simmering down now.
The traffic is horrible but not totally impossible as it
was. Our utilities bills doubled last month (shortage of
natural gas, they say), and we are warned to expect another
increase this month. For our little house the bill was
$320! And reports are that the house insurance rates will
be going way up. But, since the volume has doubled at the
airport, we will now have nonstop flights to New York and
Washington. That is about the only progress I can see right
now. It will be interesting to see what shape things take.
I'll let you know as things improve. We can only go,
slowly, up from here.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Mondays are not Fundays

I wake up every Monday morning just like any other; reach over to see if my beloved is late for work and wait for coffee. (He can't make home repairs or cook but he does make a decent cup of coffee which he will deliver to me in the morning if he isn't running late...) Coffee arrives.
It is good!

Rent checks arrive. (late) Children of friends announce they are not planning to renew their lease. (not good) It runs out on March 1 when I am planning to be away.

I can't locate my important papers needed for art materials. (annoying but not disastrous)
In looking for papers I discover that one of our disenchanted felines has pissed in a basket of paperwork, mistakening it for a litter box. (not good)

When I return home from class I find messages from spouse regarding bills (never a good thing.)

When I call tenant (girfriend of son of friend) I discover they want to break their lease and leave immediately. (ok, now I am officially depressed.)

My answering machine is full of messages reminding me that tomorrow is election day (unfortunately they are all from one canidate, the one I was planning on voting for but NOW I annoyed...)

I walked to class this morning and tried very hard to focus on the luminous yellow leaves demanding attention on our street. It is a perfect day. People are wearing sandles and it is November 7. Why is our heating bill so high already? I turn on CNN over lunch and there are villages all over France with rioting in the streets! My parents are very concerned and wondering why I persist in working in Paris in January... should I not go? I really hadn't considered it.

The French love to riot. Its in their blood. Their history is riddled with bloody riots from one political generation to the next. They may not believe in the right to happiness but they refuse to live without guaranteed medical and retirement benefits as well as five weeks of paid vacation time per year. I am not anxious to witness blood or fire in the streets of Paris and will be sure to stay home on Mondays, which I believe is a good rule of thumb to live by anyway.