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From ‘How’d You Do?’ to ‘Who Dat!’

Riding our bikes to the Muses parade last week, some friends and I passed one of the parking lot attendants waiving a flag to attract customers. He looked at us, smiled, and yelled Who Dat! Of course we laughed and yelled Who Dat! back at him and continued on our way. It didn’t matter that football season was already over.

That spontaneous but somewhat ritualized exchange with someone we didn’t know suddenly threw me back to the fall of 2005. At that point, we were all rushing, stumbling, or drifting back into our badly damaged city. We didn’t know who was back and who was lost. When you did see a friend or neighbor or familiar face, you didn’t know what they had been through. Had they lost their house? Had they lost relatives? Were they living somewhere else and just back visiting or taking care of business?

In that environment, everyone developed another spontaneous but also ritualized exchange. Upon seeing a friend or neighbor for the first time — or just standing with strangers in a long line at the one open bank branch — we would ask each other: How’d you do? That was it. Everyone knew the reference.

It gave us a safe way to break through to the potentially unspeakable or to the happy news that lay on the other side of the question. You never knew if the response would be “we lost my mom”, “we lost our house and my sisters house”, or “we made out ok”.

But asking the question let the other person know that you were a part of the community. You weren’t an outsider who might not be ready for the answer. They knew you weren’t asking in the same way people all over the country ask ‘How are you today?’ — not really wanting to know. They knew that you cared. Even if you hadn’t known them before the flood, you genuinely cared about what they had been through and how they were putting things back together.

Now, four and a half years later, there is another, much happier way we are letting people know we are part of the community. A simple Who Dat! and a smile. To my mind there couldn’t be a more beautiful echo. The closing bookend to a shared tragedy and a testament to the rebirth of a vibrant community.

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The 8th Ward Pickin’ Party

I’ve wanted to post something recently about the Monday night pickin’ party at the Hi Ho Lounge. We’ve been doing it every Monday now for well over two years. I’ve met and played with some great people and it has created its own little community of players and regulars. It has helped me hone my skill as a player but more importantly it is just a fun and comfortable place to play music and shoot the shit with friends.

Each week it happens and each week I’m still surprised that people show up. Who would have thought? Bluegrass and Country music on St. Claude Ave?

But each time I think about writing about it, I feel as though I can’t quite capture the feel. So I was pretty happy when Ian McNulty wrote this piece about it. I think he captured the quirky improbability of the whole adventure.

Thanks Ian!

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A Weekend of Projects: Large and Small

A great weekend, even if the temperature dropped 30 degrees. K and I managed to get a lot accomplished and still have time to watch Young Frankenstein.

On the large project front, we are taking the next big stab at the back yard which involves busting up the concrete slab where a lean-to shed used to sit. Been a while since we had a reason to pull the sledge hammer out of the attic so we made the most of it.

busting up the old concrete in back yard

And for a project of a much smaller scale, I took some time on Saturday to work on a guitar pick. Talking with John Rankin the other night about my tendency to drop my pick during complex rhythm playing, he suggesting several modifications to my right hand technique as well as some mods I could try on my picks themselves. These included gluing sandpaper to the pick, getting some grip tape for the picks (taking me back to my skateboarding days), and drilling holes in the pick to increase its friction.

I opted to try drilling holes in the pick as well as easing the upper and lower edges of the pick just a bit with some sandpaper to assist the pick in crossing the strings. Results so far are promising.

guitar-pick-modified

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An Un-Natural Disaster

Please take 10 minutes and watch this. It is important–even if you don’t live in New Orleans or in Louisiana.

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Watching the Creek Rise

Note: I wrote this post on my iPhone while evacuated at the cabin but could not post it due to lack of internet access.

At dawn there was no sign of Gustav. The sky was clear, the air was calm and the birds were waking up. Around noon the first rains came. Easy at first, the bands gradually became apparent. At 1pm we lost power for the first time. It came back once or twice but went out for good around 3pm.

Our cabin is tucked into a ravine so most of the wind and mayhem has been happening above us on the ridges. The first tree snapped early on the afternoon. Since then it has been band after has passed through.

As the rains have continued, the dry creek bed I’m front of our cabin has returned to life. No danger to us from the rising water. The tornado warnings are more troubling as we prepare for bed.

creek in front of writers cabin during Gustav

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