Wednesday, April 26, 2006


This morning it rained. No, I mean really rained. I awoke at 5:30 a.m. to total darkness, punctuated by Kodak flashes of lightning -- the “dark and stormy night” of Snoopy novels, shifted to early morning. Reset my alarm for 6. At 6, I told Karl Kastle to shove it. Slept until 6:30, leaving time for only one cup of Community Coffee before Qi arrived for our walk to school. “Do you think we’ll evacuate?” she worried. “If we do, I’m not coming back,” I said. “What will you do?” Of course, I’d been joking. I think. What would I do, if I had to leave New Orleans again? “I’d move in with Mom and Dad.”

That’s Plan A.

Okay, Mom and Dad?

Surely there’s a severe-weather clause in the “You can never go home again” rule. You can never go home again...except in the event of tornado, flood, or hurricane.

Hey, thanks for not turning my bedroom into a second office.

I did return to Murfreesboro for Easter, and found things pretty much as I’d left them. By that I mean, the floorboards are new, as are several kitchen appliances - and there’s a square of duct tape where a marble-top island will soon be erected near the stove (islands in the stream, Dolly). But my parents are still my parents. After we all hugged at the airport, Dad handed me a thermos of coffee and proudly announced Bush‘s newest, bleakest approval rating. Mom referenced a key lime pie in the fridge: “I told your dad ‘No tidying up the edges. We’re saving this for Jesse.’” I have good parents. Damnit. No market for stories about functional childhoods.

I should have taken the Easter long weekend to bulk up on attachment theory and repeated-measures ANOVA, but I instead indulged the childhood routine. Friday afternoon, Mom and I read our respective juicy novels on the sunroom couch. Saturday morning, I browsed the Daily News Journal (still the Newsless Journal in some quarters). Saturday afternoon, Dad and I went to a Middle Tennessee State University baseball game. Go, Raiders.

If I wanted a time warp -- a Tennessee weekend circa 1996, or, why not, ‘86 -- I almost got it. “Almost” is operative. (Isn’t it always?) My book was Julie Powell’s Julie and Julia, not The Baby-sitter’s Club. I didn’t touch the comics in the DNJ. And in the third inning of the ballgame, score 3-1 Guest, Ex Who Shall Not Be Named joined my bleacher.

Funny, I don’t remember ever seeing Ex Who Shall Not Be Named before we started dating. This, despite the fact we went to the same church, used the same gym, probably ordered grape leaves at the same falafel joint off the Public Square. Since the noxious break-up, we’ve crossed twice. What’s that line from When Harry Met Sally? “In a city of over a million people, you’re bound to run into your ex.” (Well, Murf just has 100,000, but any chance to quote my favorite comfort flick...)

As in December, we both smiled the way infants sometimes do right before they throw up. He sat four rows ahead of me and Dad. Two innings later, Ex left.

Are you surprised by the lack of drama? I am, sort of. When I mentioned the encounter to Mom, she said, “Oh, I hear he’s getting married.” Ex Who Shall Not Be Named found a soul mate. Holy guac. That should get a response. Hold on to your cell phone, HTS (or W., or Jessica, or whomever has graciously gone on standby).

Nope, nothing. No sighs or tears or frantic IMing. A couple of gossipy emails. “Mazel tov,” I wrote HTS. “That poor woman,” she replied.

I didn’t think I’d recover from that relationship. It was, after all, my first. At least 50 crossword puzzles. We worked a puzzle on nearly every date. Like many romantic quirks, this one started sweet and got pathological. How was your day? 50 across. What’s on your mind? 14 down. The last clue we completed was “stir fry,” #41 in The New York Times Book of Puzzles for a Lazy Sunday. I’m certain, because I wrote it down in my journal. January 17, 2005: I’ll remember these things forever, and it makes me sick.

Only, I didn’t remember. Not until I reread old journal entries a few weeks ago. You can go home again, but things change, too. What a relief.

So, I’m ending the blog here.

No, just kidding.

I’m veering from journal-style for awhile, though (a month? Two?). Couldn’t leave you without an appropriate epilogue. If you want to know what happened to HTS, W., Jessica, Mary, Joelle and Paul, and a few other names I’ve dropped in the past year, I’m sure they’ll tell you. Um, actually, they are you. Hi, guys.

What’s the future for me? Errrr. New Orleans won’t be my final destination -- I can say that much. Nor will psychology be my ultimate profession, I think. Friend has started dating again (a meltdown you missed), so he won’t be my life-partner. Does uncertainty make me twitchy? You bet. Is this the end?

Is it?


Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Kids, Crime, and a Bloggiversary

Yesterday I tried to convince Qi not to have a baby. “Aw, you don’t want a baby,” I said. We were walking home from Tulane. Qi stayed silent for a full block before replying: “Yes, I do.”

And I didn’t argue. Not much. Because what do I know about having a baby? A husband seems important (though, arguably, not essential). Qi has that. Stable income is nice. Qi is still in school, of course, but her husband works law enforcement for the Chinese government. Good to have the feds on your side in China.

From what I’ve seen in Mr. Mom and Baby Boom, child-rearing also requires a certain tolerance for chaos. “Chinese women are strong,” Qi told me, stepping lightly around someone’s discarded mattress. “I can deal with stress.” Empirical evidence agrees. During the hurricane, Qi slept in the psychology building. (As you can see, it’s a sturdy structure, but not appealing to refugees in the “Give me your tired, your poor” sort of way.)

Then, last week Qi got mugged and bought really cute shoes, all in the same afternoon. The mugging happened at 9 a.m., on our usual school route. Qi was alone, talking to her husband on her cell. When the mugger grabbed her purse from behind, Qi turned around and pulled back. “It was just instinct, you know?” she told our Developmental Psychology class later. So, Qi fell (“He was a little guy, but tough,” she said. Qi weighs about 110). Then, she screamed for help. As it was the middle of the morning (not even), construction workers heard her, tackled the mugger, and called the police. Court date is this summer.

A little therapy might not be a bad idea -- that’s what we all thought, “we” being me, my Developmental prof, our program director, and various classmates. “I’ve had therapy,” I offered, detonating a chain of “me toos"....what’s the truism about psychology students and “me-search”? Qi listened to us, nodded empathetically, and headed to her office. " is having a sale,” she explained.

Say what you want about “retail therapy,” but Qi bought one very reasonably priced pair of Hot Kiss flats. Hardly as potent as Prozac. And if you suspect she’s repressing the incident, well, get a translator and do a quick Google search. “I know what I’ll be blogging about tonight!” she exclaimed. Ah, a girl after my own heart...

Unless I get time for a tutorial in Chinese, I guess I won’t know Qi’s real feelings about the mugging. (This is assuming a blog contains “real feelings” -- debatable, no doubt.) She let me in on the title of her post, though: roughly translated, “I Have Another New Experience.” Personally, I would’ve gone with: “I Lose All Faith in Humankind,” or “I Am Intensely Distressed,” or “Get Me Out of New Orleans Right Now.” But as we’ve established, Qi and I have slightly different coping mechanisms.

In fact, I have not used the title “I Have Another New Experience” once in the one-year (as of today) lifespan of this blog. Amazing, considering the number of “new experiences” I’ve...experienced...since April 11, 2005. New job. New city (two of them). New boyfriend, while it lasted. Evacuation. Relocation. Celebration (“Look, ma! No mold!”). Some sublimation. Frustration, too. Maybe too much. “Goofus Musings” has never claimed to be saintly -- that’s Gallant’s domain -- but the blog title promises a sense of humor, at least. A “quarterlife crisis” is a pretty privileged event, when you think about it. I made it this far. (“Why should you worry so much?” Qi asked me before midterms. “The test will happen, whether you’re anxious or not.”)

I thought about ending it here. A year is a nice, neat package for a blog. Plus, I’m done with “new experiences” for awhile. But...I can‘t let go right now. (W. says, “You can’t die on your birthday.” Comforting news.)

Instead, I’m taking a new direction. Until I get bored, I mean -- then I’ll go back to recounting minor meltdowns and electrical outages. At present, I can’t describe this direction, because I have to go to class, and, okay, I’m not sure what I’ll do exactly. Stay tuned. And thanks -- it has been quite a year (by cracky).

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Darkness Falls, Semi-Literally

On the first day I moved into my apartment (the first-first day, not the second-first day), Mom and I arranged to meet my landlord for the key at 10 a.m. At 9:45 we arrived on my doorstep, digital camera and Madeleine’s café lattes in hand. We took turns posing by the mailbox; brushed premature fall leaves off the sill; and, finally, sat to wait. We waited. And waited. August in New Orleans does not provide good waiting weather. At 10:30 we tossed our coffee dregs into the shubs and called my landlord. No answer. We rearranged ourselves on the steps, listened to the mating calls of lawnmowers. You know that saying, “Southern girls don’t sweat...they mist”? Chuck it in your box of grossly misleading adages -- along with “A taste of honey is worse than none at all” and “The early bird gets the worm.” (“This is true,” Qi told me during our 9:30 Developmental class, “but one could also say the early worm gets eaten by the bird.”) Our damp fingers left smearprints on the camera lens. My thighs glued to the brick steps like militant protestors. “Hell no,” they said. “We won’t go.” But it’s almost lunchtime...

11:30, he showed up. “All ready to take a look inside?” Too dehydrated to tell him how ready we were -- how ready we’d been for over an hour -- we nodded. My landlord flicked on the air conditioning, demonstrated the gas stove, and left. I suspect he went back to bed. I haven’t seen him since.

But yesterday I got a note on my mailbox. I’d just returned from administering an IQ test in Kenner. The process of IQ testing -- or the process of me giving an IQ test -- is perhaps worthy of another post. For now, I’ll say it’s long (4 hours, usually) and thus tiring, both for examiner and unsuspecting examinee. I was ready for a beer and a nap, not necessarily in that order. First, the note: “Earlier this afternoon, a tree trimming service knocked out the main power supply to this unit. Entergy has been contacted, and an electrician will perform repairs. You can expect service today, Sunday, or Monday at the latest. Best wishes.”

Oh no. No, no, no. As I climbed the flight to my door, I imagined myself in one of those 1950s horror films. “Don’t go in there! No, don’t! Don’t turn the....” Inside: total darkness. Heat. Worst of all…silence. No reassuring refrigetator hum. No click-click-click from the rusty overhead fan. No creaking and slamming of AIM’s electronic doors. I set down my bag of IQ manuals, unshouldered a tangle of videotaping equipment, and went to bed. It was 2:30 p.m.

Considering my locale, there’s no tactful way for me to describe my attitude toward powerlessness. If I complain that the power loss is inconvenient (which it is), someone will point out that, for God’s sake, most people in this town lost their homes. You want to gripe about a few days without the Bravo channel? If I say the power outage is strangely comforting (which it is, in the “back to basics” sort of way), someone will accuse me of slumming. Like those celebrities who claim to “understand the plight of the African people” after taking a safari.

So, all I’ll say is: I’m glad I can use the Dells in my advisor’s lab. Because I expect I’ll be living in the dark until Friday. Thursday at the earliest.

As a kind of epilogue (or perhaps a prologue), I'll also tell you what I did after I woke up. Dutifully, I rescued a lone Smirnoff from the fridge, delivered it to the light of the porch, and consumed it in four still-cold gulps. "Have you seen the electrician?" my downstairs neighbors shouted from their door. "Not yet!" "You should've seen the tree branch was incredible!" Apparently, my neighbors were home when the arboreal shiznit went down. "There was this intense crash, and a fire right outside our door. We put it out with our feet!"

Now that would have made a good post.