Sunday, August 28, 2011

Wake Me Up When September Ends

When I first started thinking about my annual Katrina anniversary post, I searched for just the right photos to illustrate it. But I won't be using them. After spending the weekend watching what Hurricane Irene did to the east coast, I just can't look at any more flooded streets, any more shattered houses, any more white swirling clouds. So instead, for anyone and everyone savaged by this latest storm, this song's for you:

While hurricane season technically lasts from 1 June to 1 December, everyone in New Orleans knows that the truly dangerous period extends for three weeks on either side of 10 September. It's during that nasty six week window that the Gulf is at its hottest and conditions are somehow ripe for funneling killer storms our way. Betsy, Camille, Katrina, Rita, Gustav, Ike...they all fell within that six week period

This is the time of year when I just sort of hunker down, shut my eyes, grit my teeth, and wait for it all to be over.

Monday will be the sixth anniversary of Katrina. Next year will be seven; soon it will have been a decade, then a quarter century. With every year, Katrina recedes farther and farther into the past. I recently reread some of the posts I wrote in the months after the storm, and I was frankly astonished at the number of the things I'd forgotten from those days. But one thing I remember quite clearly about the weeks after Katrina is the way people kept playing Green Day's Wake Me Up When September Ends. Our houses were either open to the sky or protected by flimsy blue tarps; water was still standing everywhere; the levees were battered, weakened, or gone. We knew if another hurricane hit the city, at that point, all truly would be over. So we watched the sky, and hoped, and held our breath, and waited for that six-week danger period to be over...for September to end.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The English Patient

Although I enjoyed the movie The English Patient when I saw it in a theatre in Adelaide some years ago, I did not read the book. It was described as being “dense” and “inaccessible,” and since I generally have a low tolerance for self-consciously “literary” books, I was never tempted to have anything to do with it.

Well, a few weeks ago my daughter was cleaning out her bookshelves and one of the books she set aside was a trade paperback edition of The English Patient. I picked it up and said, “Are you getting rid of this?” She said, Yes; she hadn’t enjoyed it and could never really “get into it.” My plan was simply to flip through it and then toss it in the pile for the library book sale. To my surprise, not only did I end up reading the entire book (remarkable in itself, since these days I give up on probably nine out of ten books I begin), but I actually enjoyed it. And now I’m left pondering all those adjectives that we hear so frequently applied to it.

Yes, it is nonlinear, but I did not find it difficult to follow. The characters were rich, the language wonderful, and the insights into the human condition thought provoking. (The heroine’s response to the dropping of the atomic bombs on Japan, “If we can rationalize this, we can rationalize anything,” echoes within me still.) But dense? Inaccessible? I don’t think so. And the ending, while only slightly different from the film version, did not leave me with that wretched sense of sadness that characterized the movie.

The book does, however, require a slightly altered frame of mind. I suspect enjoyment hinges on the reader appreciating that the book is not an attempt to recreate a realistic slice of life but necessitates an approach vaguely similar to the way one would read a fable or a fairy tale. Perhaps it’s that shift in thought pattern that so many readers find themselves unable to make—or uninterested in making. Or perhaps one must simply be in a certain mood, and the book and I happened to meet at the right place and the right time. Perhaps if I’d tried it ten years or even ten months ago I’d have hated it, too. I did say I have a low tolerance for self-consciously literary books, didn’t I?

Have you ever had that experience? Pick up a book and hate it, and then try it again at a different time and enjoy it?

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Whiskies in a Box and Co.

Whiskies is one of the kittens born to the mama cat my daughter found abandoned in a state park up in Arkansas two years ago on 4 August (a birthday they share with our President). She managed to find a home for the mama cat and one of the kittens, but we still have three kittens left: Whiskies, Roscoe, and Peanut. Whiskies had trouble being born and is slightly retarded as a result, which is a polite way of saying he's the dumbest cat I've ever met. He doesn't know how to meow and can only make squeaking noises like a pig. He also doesn't seem to know when he's full, so he eats constantly. But he's a lovable little (big?) sweetheart who really, really doesn't fit in a shoebox.

Here is Whiskies's sister, Peanut (with her adopted brother, Oden). Peanut was the runt of the litter and has a thyroid problem. As a result, she's about 1/4 the size of Whiskies. People who don't know better think she's about twelve weeks old.

And last but not least, here's Roscoe:

Unfortunately, I could only find an old photo of Roscoe from last Halloween, although he hasn't changed much. I always thought he'd grow up to be a big tomcat, but he's still fairly small.

A few weeks ago, my daughter went to Mississippi and brought this home...

She'd just had puppies, but the puppies didn't make it and she almost didn't either. Her name is now Bella, and she's looking much better...

I told my daughter she's not allowed to leave the state ever again.