Monday, August 30, 2010

Waiting for my niece/nephew to be born: A liveblog

My sister Alissa is scheduled to have a C-section this morning. She and her husband, Aaron, haven't found out if they're expecting a boy or girl - why impose gendered treatment on an unborn child? I highly approve of this decision - and my entire family is now in the waiting room at Mt. Sinai.

Walked into the hospital building. My father asks a man carrying an infant carseat if he's going to the "Claims Department."

My sister Erica asks if we get priority at the vending machines because we were also born at this hospital.

My mother is furiously knitting a blue blanket. She has already knitted a pink blanket. She is getting "ahead of the game," as she says. I'm not entirely sure what game she's talking about.

Many nervous men are in this waiting room. I'm not sure if they're nervous about their baby mamas or their actual babies. Probably a combination of both.

My father goes to the bathroom for the second time since we got here.

Aaron's mother realizes she forgot her phone at home. We rifle through our collective address books to see if anyone has her sister's cell number for when the big moment comes.

Over in the grandpa-to-be section, Aaron's father is trying to get onto the wifi network at the hospital without success. My father is reading a book about vampires. Periodically he tells me how excited he is about the new Louis Armstrong movie.

Aaron's sister shows up. There is some confusion about the missing phone. The security guard is unmoved.

My father points out that many of the signs in the waiting room are in Spanish and not English. He is proud that he can translate them. "Yo soy cool," he says. My sister Erica rolls her eyes.

I have to figure out how to buy flowers for my sister Alissa without anyone noticing. Grandma Selma wants to send some, but her son (my father) has told her she shouldn't. I'm counting on finding a lull in the craziness once Aaron comes downstairs to tell us about the baby.

Discussing the New Orleans public school system with Aaron's mother. It is still a mess, we agree.

"You're not writing a blog, are you?" my mother asks. I nod.

Every time the elevator dings, my mother and Aaron's mother look up to see if Aaron's coming out. As Mt. Sinai is a high-volume facility, this holds the promise of becoming a stressful practice.

Someone turns on the bachata. Nothing like a dance party in the waiting room of the Mt. Sinai maternity clinic.

My father is playing with someone else's toddler in the waiting room. This is both alarming and amusing on many different levels.

We aunts-to-be are discussing where to buy Aaron a chocolate cigar. The consensus is that there's a candy store "around the corner." I don't know if you've ever been on 5th Avenue between 98th and 99th Streets, but there's no candy store "around the corner." This applies to much of the Upper East Side.

Aaron's mother is talking about her new house. Her cat has adjusted well to the move.

My father asks me if he can read on Shtetl Chic what is happening. I told him of course, but I'm just blogging about his asking me if he can read on Shtetl Chic what is happening. Trippy, huh?

The nervous dad-to-be across the row is eating a turkey sandwich. I've heard about the sedating powers of tryptophan. Maybe I should ask him if that's why he chose that particular kind of snack.

Some kind of commotion is occurring by the elevator bank. I think it has to do with the Shabbos elevator having stopped on all the floors. That can be annoying if you have somewhere to go, such as the operating room of a hospital.

A woman on the phone is talking about how the baby hasn't come out of her daughter yet. She says she hopes it is born soon because come on already.

Aaron's dad takes out the Kindle. Why not get some reading done, he says. Why not indeed.

Another man comes into the waiting room with an infant carseat. So far, the most popular color of infant carseats has been black with red accents.

Got an email from my friend Laura about a Katrina article written by our boy Matt Davis. She's upset that she's quoted "cursing like a sailor" about Brad Pitt's Make It Right Foundation. I suggest that maybe she should curtail cursing like a sailor in the presence of reporters. She is not happy with this suggestion.

Aaron's father tries to kill a mosquito. I hope he gets it. That thing's bitten the shit out of my ankle already.

My sister Erica is texting her friends, probably to complain about how annoying the toddler's talking truck toy is. "STOP GO," "STOP GO," it says. Ugh.

A doctor walked out of the elevator. It must be a cool job to deliver babies all day.

I am supposed to be writing a book review of A Howling in the Wires for, but I am obviously very, very distracted. One piece written by New Orleans-based blogger Valentine Pierce in early November 2005 sticks out for me right now, because it addresses the universality of human relationships:

Despite the media's portrayal of [New Orleans residents]...we do not run wild in the streets like dogs on the hunt because we've cleaned those streets. We've had homes on those streets. We raised our children in those neighborhoods and buried our dead in those cemeteries. We give a damn in spite of what you may believe. We honor our dead, respect our elders, celebrate our lives, spoil our babies and pay homage to our heroes.
Another infant carseat walks through the door, toting a nervous new father. This carseat is black with taupe accents. Fancy.

Sorry for the hiatus, Friends of the Shtetl. The internet cut out. You didn't miss much, except for the text messaging tutorial I gave to my father. That and the mysterious banging coming from inside the elevator shaft. I hope nobody got stuck. That would certainly not be ideal.

I have never hated talking truck toys as much as I do now.

My dad is excited to add a new member to the Men's Club if the baby is a boy. So far, membership includes my dad and Rudy, the family dog. He tells my sister Erica, who's pursuing a Masters degree in Feminism and Globalization, that he'd be happy to accept a girl in the Men's Club.

An Orthodox posse rolls into the waiting room, bringing the demographic tally to Latinos: 6, Jews: 9.

A man walks into the waiting room and asks the guard where the Women's Center is. The guard tells him he's here. "Like, for babies and stuff, right?" the man asks. The guard nods.

There are way too many cute children in this waiting room. Thankfully, only one of them has a talking truck toy.

There really aren't better ways of spending a Monday morning than waiting for a new baby to be born. That being said, I hope it's born soon.

I remember Vidal telling me he was eating a cheeseburger when his first child was born. I continue to find that very strange.

Received a text from Drew with a premature "Mazel tov." Would very much like to have some news.

I stand corrected: My father is actually reading Snow Falling on Cedars. It is about Japanese internment camps outside of Seattle. How uplifting.

The waiting room has a mirrored ceiling. I'm not sure why that is. There are certainly no vibrating beds in here.

An ambulance is going by. So is a pack of tourists looking for the Guggenheim.

It occurs to me that the Guggenheim might be closed on Mondays. Maybe they are seeking clarity and mindfulness. Or Alice.

My mother is discussing the merits of marrying a Jewish man. Apparently they are myriad.

My mother scurries to the bathroom. We're not allowed to find anything out until she gets back, she informs us.

My dad says we need to remember to save today's Times for when the baby grows up. I ask where they saved the Times from the day I was born. Silence.

My dad asks if Aaron is going to text us when the baby is born. My mother gives him a look.

Many people have come out of the elevator in the past hour and a half. None of them have been my brother-in-law.

It's kind of hot in this waiting room. I wonder who would choose to be nine months pregnant in August. Note to future self: Timing is key.

Holy shit that talking truck is so irritating.


Update: Check out Liveblogging the birth of my sister and brother-in-law's 2nd kid

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Barry vs. Katrina

President Obama spoke at Xavier University today on the fifth anniversary of when Hurricane Katrina made landfall in New Orleans. He began his address by thanking the politicians present, including Louisiana Governor Bobby "Anyone but Blanco" Jindal, Senator Mary Landrieu (whom Obama referred to as "better-looking" than her brother, New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu), and Lisa "Homegirl" Jackson, the EPA Administrator. [Why Obama feels the need to editorialize on the part of his female colleagues is beyond me, but maybe The Patriarchy hasn't yet made it to the top of his "to change" list.]

He said:

It's been five years since Katrina ravaged the Gulf Coast. There's no need to dwell on what you experienced and what the world witnessed. We all remember it keenly: water pouring through broken levees; mothers holding their children above the waterline; people stranded on rooftops begging for help; bodies lying in the streets of a great American city. It was a natural disaster but also a man-made catastrophe — a shameful breakdown in government that left countless men, and women, and children abandoned and alone.

Unfortunately, there is need to dwell on what was experienced, because trauma is one of those gifts that keeps on giving. "Shameful" is too tepid a word to describe what happened and is still happening.

Let there be no mistake: New Orleans is still really, really fucked up. So is St. Bernard Parish, Plaquemines Parish, and other parts of the Gulf Coast. Not only are lifelong residents of these areas still displaced in regions as disparate as Houston, Salt Lake City, Las Vegas, and Boston, but they face mountainous barriers to coming back and reclaiming their homes. Not only is this a failing of the US government; this is a humanitarian tragedy.

A federal judge recently ruled that the Katrina-related federal recovery money managed by the Road Home program has been dispensed in a racially discriminatory manner. This is a pitiful, disgusting truth. But it is too late for many black homeowners to pursue recourse.

Spike Lee's sequel to When the Levees Broke addresses, among other themes, the BP disaster and its impact on small business owners in the Gulf. These people are fucked. Not only had their livelihoods been disrupted and, in some cases, completely ruined by Katrina, they now are facing another punch in the gut that, this time, may not lend itself to recuperation.

While many believe the invisible microbes in the Ocean are eating all the oil particles, and every White Sox game carries at least one commercial about BP's "Community Outreach Project," this problem is not going to go away anytime soon.

It is sad enough that the dolphins and turtles are dying in droves, but it is going to be much sadder when entire communities of people turn to already stressed food banks and housing shelters and walk away with a pat on the back and a grim piece of encouragement from the President. Even FDR did better in a national crisis.

Don't get me wrong: I am glad that Obama came down for the anniversary. I am glad that Anderson Cooper keeps showing up in his black t-shirt. The issue still needs attention. But rather than looking into the camera and waxing poetic about a fucking shrimp poboy, why not initiate a concerted and efficient effort to fix what's been desperately broken, and revamp the systems that caused the trauma to begin with?

For more Katrina photos, see my friend Lee Celano's work.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Mr. Banksy, I tore down this wall

The French Quarter Business Association is sponsoring its second annual "Graffiti Clean-Up" on Saturday, August 28th. Intended to coincide with Katrina-related events throughout the city, this initiative is billed as a service to the community, and one that will "remove blight" from and "beautify" the historic downtown area of New Orleans.

What is neglected in the relevant publicity is mention of the so-called graffiti that some cherish as artwork, an expression of unique time, space, and experience. One may remember the fracas surrounding the Banksy "graffiti" in the Lower Ninth Ward, which resulted in his paintings literally being torn off the walls and sold.

Though Banksy himself might have been pleased by this somewhat ironic inversion of the relationship between what is vandalism and what is vandalized, the FQBA's project for this coming weekend ignores the artistic potential of graffiti as part of the city's self-articulation, and disregards the historic roots of the Vieux Carré as a bastion of creative evolution and cultural production.

Moreover, the so-called blight doomed by this event's mission is peanuts compared to the actual physical devastation that so thoroughly mars New Orleans' urban landscape. True beautification efforts would best serve the city via the streamlining of long-overdue relief initiatives, specifically those intended to benefit communities marginalized by the systematic failure of political and social resources, pre- and post-Katrina.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

On the death of Judith Dunnington Peabody

Using your power for good, and not evil:
You're doing it right.

PS: Any time Frank Rich finds it appropriate to quote Tony Kushner, it's probably a good elegy.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Fight crimes with squirt guns

The Big Easy does Night Out Against Crime, a national initiative to take back the streets from "criminals." I saw only one person getting arrested the whole night! It must be working.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Sarah Palin says "balls" on national television

In support of Arizona's anti-immigrant policy package, Sarah Palin went on FOX to talk about the size of AZ governor Jan Brewer's balls, in comparison to those of American President Barack Obama. This is notable mainly because Palin used the Spanish word "cojones" to describe the offending/defending anatomical devices, even though she backs the Tea Party-Goers in their quest to institute "English" as the official language of this country.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Cockabilly on Clio Street, and other misadventures

This one time I was in a dance troupe and we performed at the circus in New Orleans. Then I wrote about it for The Nola Defender, and copied and pasted the link here.