Eats comma shoots comma and leaves

This evening I finished reading “Eats, Shoots and Leaves.” It is a book about proper punctuation. Very droll and very British. I am thinking about becoming a stickler. (Shouldn’t it be “Eat, Shoots, and Leaves?”- or should I type: shouldn’t it be “Eats, Shoots, and Leaves”? Aargh…).

Going kayaking tomorrow morning. No punctuation out on the bayou, I hope.

Savaged by fire ants!

The long awaited Fort Massachusetts clean-up was delayed by our “Critical Incident Stress Debriefing,” which was in fact very useful as we got some hard news about our Florida district. At least one of our rangers had his home destroyed by Ivan, but nobody was hurt. Most folks are ready to go back to work, and don’t have any place to go back to. Headquarters is still a hard hat area.

Our volunteers worked hard cleaning up; I will ask about doubling their salaries. Mosquitos and biting flies were bad; I myself was savaged by fire ants as well. Please excuse my semicolons: I am reading a book about punctuation.


I come home this evening after a hard day of work to find the Yankees got cremed by Boston again. Prediction: the Yankees will win the division, but lose in the playoffs due to poor pitching. They don’t even have a decent left-handed relief pitcher. Mike Stanton where are you?

Steinbrenner’s gonna get a letter like never before if they choke…

A day of small disappointments

The Davis Bayou area of my park is finally reopened. For some reason, the hurricane shutters were still on the windows of the visitor center this morning. What the hell? We spent the last seven days removing every frigging branch and twig from the ground, but not the hurricane shutters from the building. Grr.

Which reminds me of a joke about John D. Rockefeller, Jr.: how he was so orderly that he had a team of German engineers who picked up every stick in the woods after a wind storm.

And then…

I was listening to a typically close Yankees-Sox game at Fenway. Until the eighth inning when the Red Sox proceeded to pound the living bejeezus out of the Yanks’ bullpen. I liked the Yankees better when they had near flawless pitching and, of course, Paul O’Neill. Yet they will still win 100 games this year. Go figure.

They better win tomorrow or no Christmas card!

Wish I had that sort of focus when I was a teenager

I just got back from the Ocean Springs Film Fest, where I saw a screening of the “Raiders of the Lost Ark” underground amateur adaptation. Back in the 1980s, three local teenagers recreated the movie shot by shot right here in town. It was almost unbelievable how well they did it. The filmmakers had a little Q&A after the screening.

A day off

Today I ran some errands. “Fast Food Nation” is returned to the library and now “Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation!” is under my stewardship. I didn’t get a chance to clean out the aquarium pump, which is getting very noisy, goddammit.

I saw “Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow,” complete with its art deco CGI set and props. It has an exceptionally dull plot that demeans the visual coolness.

No word on working overtime tomorrow, so I guess I’m off. There was talk of me helping to take one of our boats to the Florida district tomorrow, and perhaps staying out there for a couple of weeks. Would’ve been fun, I think.

Ouch. Moving hurts.

Continued cleaning up the park today. I am more bruised, lacerated, dirty, sore, and tired than I have been at work in a long time. In fact, the last time I worked this hard was on fire detail last September. Yikes. I need to hit the gym more often.

My coworker put a song into my head and I can’t get it out.

Watched “The Lion in Winter” last night. It is very long and I haven’t finished it. I may not bother.

Waiting for Sylvia Plath to kill herself

Finally got out to the island today. The fort is a mess. Lots of mud. There are fish living in there now. Some of last week’s plantings survived.

Anyone who’s curious about how the park is dealing with the hurricane can check the NPS Morning Report.

Watched “Sylvia” on DVD. Not too bad, very slow, kinda boring and depressing. Really just waiting for Sylvia Plath to kill herself.

Keep putting off calling the girlfriend. Everybody has different advice.

Back to work

We started cleaning up the park today. We’ll start reopening in a couple of days. On the mainland there’s a lot of debris on the trails. On the island, the boat dock is damaged and Fort Massachusetts has three feet of water in it, so it won’t be open for a while. Our Florida district got slammed pretty hard: Fort Pickens is flooded, the road on Santa Rosa island is washed over with sand, and tons of household belongings, big and small, washed up on Perdido Key. Phones, cell towers, and power are still out. I may be sent there to help out if they need it.

Tonight I will wash the thousands of love bugs off my car- casualties of my return trip from the Delta. I can hardly see through the windshield for all the stains.

Back on the Coast

I’m back, safe at home. My apartment and belongings are fine. There seems to be only minor damage to the area. The hurricane struck further east than expected, and unloaded it’s energy on the Alabama and Florida panhandle coasts.

Vicksburg was a hoot. I watched my friend agonize over a difficult career decision. We made potato pancakes for the Jewish new year. Last night we went to an art exhibit opening in Jackson. I never saw so many lesbians in one place in Mississippi. I almost said that out loud, too.

I just finished typing my letter to the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency’s director. The guy blew off the mind-numbing delays like we were all headed to the county fair or something. In my letter, I described my five-hour odyssey though the small city of Hattiesburg. When you live in the Second World you get to put your life in the hands of incompetent public officials and underpaid cops. Woo-ha.


It took me 10 hours to get to Vicksburg. It is normally a three and a half hour drive from home. The same state that ordered a mandatory evacuation of the Gulf Coast yesterday afternoon shut down a lane in Hattiesburg and let the lights on US-49 run their usual cycle. Meaning, the quarter-million people heading north from the coast had to wait for two or three cars to turn left, then squeeze into one lane.

While stopped in traffic in the Mississippi pines, the two bitches in the car ahead of me kept throwing their garbage out the window. I had nothing better to do for two and a half hours except stare at the scenery, and they were polluting it.

I’m puttering around downtown Vickburg today, while I wait for Hurrican Ivan to pulverize my apartment. The weather is still fair. Lots of Louisianans here- refugees as well. The two waitresses in the one lunch shop downtown were a bit overwhelmed. H. Ivan should make landfall tomorrow morning.

As the Hurricane Churns

Hurrican Ivan is about to enter the Gulf of Mexico as of this evening. Today, we started “Hurricane Preparedness” at the park; which for me means I went to the island, packed up, covered, or elevated everything in the fort, then returned to the mainland to help do the same at our district headquarters. Even more of the same tomorrow, then maybe we’ll be dismissed. Early weekend for me, though I’ll be on call.

I’m not used to eating out of cans, so I’ve been having trouble selecting blackout cuisine. Mostly baked beans and creamy soups. I refuse to buy canned pasta. I’d rather starve than eat that shit. I have some ice in the freezer, I don’t own a cooler. I have batteries and a flashlight. I’ll may decide to go to Vicksburg to stay with my friend.

I can’t believe it’s been three years. It feels like one.

As I was very busy yesterday, I managed to pass yesterday without thinking too much about the terrorist attacks. It also helps to be on an island in the Gulf of Mexico, surrounded by people who aren’t New Yorkers. A year ago, I was just returned from a fire detail and spent most of the anniversary sleeping, doing laundry, and unpacking.

I lived and worked on Staten Island when it happened, and was there for the first anniversary as well. On September 11, 2002, everyone in the city was very stressed out. I remember getting some Chinese take-out and everybody was grumpy and growly- more than usual even for Staten Islanders. Somebody yelled at the order taker. People were honking at each other in the street. I know I was sick of hearing about it in the news all the time- and I listened to the news constantly. It something I don’t hear about much in specific terms here. September 11 is more of an abstraction here in Mississippi; it’s something very bad that happened. In New York (for me, at least)- aside from the events of the actual day- it was meeting people who’d lost friends and family or were otherwise affected, avoiding chunks of the WTC that fell off the dump trucks on their way to the Fresh Kills landfill, bridge and tunnel and subway closures, driving past that damned funeral home on Hylan Boulevard where there was a firefighter funeral EVERY WEEK FOR FIVE MONTHS, observing the broken skyline (like somebody missing a couple of teeth), and constant, unrelenting news coverage about the victims and their families, security in the city, what to do with the site, fear about the economy, etc.

I’d never been beyond the lobbies of the towers. I bought theater tickets there a couple of times. I used to enjoy walking around the plaza on occasion. There was a lot of bad, abstract modern sculpture there. The centerpiece was a metal sculpture of a shattered globe, which I interpreted to mean “commerce (i.e. trade) would hold the fractured planet together.” My late good friend asked me shortly after the attacks to consider that all the concrete and glass and artwork and architecture and enclosed walkways and plazas there represented the difference between us and animals, and now it was all gone. In a terrible irony, the globe sculpture somehow survived the barbarism. It is (or was when I was there last) on display in Battery Park, fractured in fact as well as in concept. It looks totally out of place. Bad art damaged and out of context is worse art. I hope they melt down that awful thing and turn it into a cruise missile, or flagpoles, or something useful.

I read the 9/11 Commission Report when it was published in July. It’s a pretty good read, and I suggest you read it, too. I consider it essential reading for our times. You can download it for free.

Sea horses will eat them

Yesterday I planted sea oats, grasses that grow on beach dunes and hold barrier islands together. I organized the project with our biologist and about 18 volunteers showed up. We planted over 1,000 plants (including seaside panic-grass and beach blue-stem). Woo-ha!

The downside is: I feel like I’ve been hit by a truck. I’m exhausted, dehydrated, sore, I have a fire ant bite on my knee, and I’m badly sunburned on the top of my head. I was in the sun so long, my scalp got burned through the mesh in my ballcap (for those of you who don’t know me, I am practically bald and I cut my hair very short to boot). I have this bizarre pattern on my head from the hat. I could start a gang and we’d all have it.

After work I went to the Biloxi seafood festival. Pretty good zydeco band playing. Ate some grilled catfish and “crab puffs.” Never again with the crab puffs. Basically hushpuppies with crab thrown into the mix.

This week’s excitement will be: where will Hurrican Ivan go? It hasn’t enter the Gulf of Mexico yet, but everyone at work is all in a tizzy. If it enters the Gulf, we will begin “storm preparedness operations.”

Spinal cord and spirit still unbroken

I received my birthday gift from my brother and sister in-law: the book “Still More George W. Bushisms.” Apparently the book has a couple of predecessors, which shouldn’t surprise me (recently W. said that terrorists “want to behead us so they can break our spirits”), but does. His father was good for only one book.


I think I was a little hard on my girlfriend yesterday. We both feel bad.

Been abusing my blood pressure this week by watching the RNC. How does Zell Miller speak without moving his arms? He must not be Italian. Nope, never met an Italian named Zell. Giuliani and Pataki (Italians both) disappointed me with their corny speeches. Missed Ah-nuld and Laura Bush. And Dick Cheney didn’t mention the letter I wrote him? Didn’t he read it?

I’d never seen a blizzard in New York in August, but that was quite a snow job.

Now for beer.

Can love bugs just be friends?

On the island where I work, the love bugs are back. They’re really in the marchfly family (you care, you just don’t know it yet) and they pair up and just kind of buzz around. There’s thousands of them, though. They get into everything. One child held a pair in his palm and said to me, “Now I know why they’re called ‘friend bugs. See? They’re friends!” His parents are going to have to give him the Truth About Love Bugs Talk.