It's Not Just Bad, It's Worse

New Orleans, I mean.

I was there a little over five years ago, and while I didn't fall in love with the place, I was happy to be there. It was interesting to me, because I'd heard so many things about it from my friend Chris. Not to mention, New Orleans has a certain reputation (ask me about the chicken head someday).

Well, this isn't meant to be a post all about my trip to "Nawlans." It's just an update on my search for Chris and Mary, which is pretty much stymied. In effect, it's time to hurry up and wait.

The city is pretty much destroyed, or so it would seem. Society has broken down. I am consistently amazed by what normally moral people will do when they feel like they can get away with it. It's disgusting. I don't suppose I can say a word about it, as I've never had to live through something like that. Yet I believe in my heart that I would attempt to remain moral.

Looting to survive, for food or water, for basic necessities...that I can almost condone.

Looting to take booze, clothes, cigarettes. I despair for our species.

Anyway, back to Chris and Mary (seen at left; have you seen them?).

Chris, being a doctor in one of the city's emergency rooms, likely remained behind to care for Katrina's inevitable victims. Mary and their new baby girl (born in early August, as I found out yesterday) were probably evacuated.

I managed to connect with two of the folks I met at their wedding. One was the best man, Melinda (yeah, so, she's a woman; it's not quite that odd to have a female best man these days. Heck, I was a maid of honor in a wedding, but I wore a tux, not a dress), and the other was Michael, one of the other groomsmen.

I tracked down Melinda's contact information online and gave her a call at work. As it turns out, she hasn't heard anything from Chris and Mary since the baby was born, and her calls prior to the hurricane went unanswered, just like mine (which gives me hope that they'd evacuated). We exchanged information, and vowed to keep in touch should either of us hear from Chris or Mary.

I tracked Michael down on the internet, too, though he's a bit more visible (and I was aware of that, too). Being a gamer (one of Chris' old gaming buddies, to be precise), he's got a web site with game-related areas. I've surfed in there once or twice in the years since the wedding, so I knew what to look for.

Michael replied to my email with much the same story. He hadn't talked to Chris in some time, either, but we'll be keeping in touch.

One other lead: Chris' brother. I did a little more online investigation, and I think I managed to find him, too. I sent an email his way, but there's been no reply yet. Hopefully the address is still good.

Now, I wait.


Severe Weather

I had a dream last night. I slept poorly, but the fact that I had a dream means that I did get some kind of sleep. Even though I feel like I’ve been put through a ringer, there was some manner of rest going on. What a cruel world.

The dream involved severe weather. Blame Hurricane Katrina for that. Strong winds, tornados, and folks trying to escape. As I moved towards the protection of my mother’s house, I realized that the only photographs I have of my wife and son are digital, stored on my PDA. That battery only lasts so long; if it goes out, I won’t be able to look at those pictures. In the dream, this upset me a great deal. My thoughts were, "What if I don’t see them for a while? How will I cope if I can’t look at their pictures?"

I woke up almost immediately and mulled it over. I definitely need to pick a few of my favorite photos and get some prints made. Nothing beats a hard copy in an apocalyptic environment. Not that I’m expecting an apocalypse on any scale, but I’m sure you know what I mean.

I’ve got a friend, Chris, who lives in New Orleans. His line of work is emergency medicine. He was a doctor in the Navy stationed at Camp Pendleton when I originally met him. After getting out of the Navy, he went to Texas to continue his schooling, and finally did his residency in New Orleans. He always loved the place, and would go there for Jazz Fest every year. I never did get the full story, but I figure that he met Mary somewhere along the way. The two were married on January 6th, 2001, and I was fortunate enough to be invited as one of Chris’ groomsmen.

Chris and I communicate sporadically. Last I heard from him, he and Mary had a baby on the way. Seems like everyone I know is having children these days. I dropped an email his was a few weeks ago, but I haven’t heard back. This isn’t terribly unusual, for we oftentimes have horrible gaps in our correspondence.

Of course, it’s something like Katrina that really gets me thinking about my old friend and his wife, so many miles away and living directly in the path of a category 4 storm. I tried calling them last night, but there was no answer. Not even an answering machine. I don’t even know if I’ve got the correct phone number anymore.

I know that lots of people had evacuated. I get to wondering if Chris and Mary evacuated, too. With Chris’ line of work (being a doctor in an ER somewhere), wouldn’t he be likely to stay behind?

And so I wonder, and I worry, and I hope that they’re alright.


Sea World Excursion

As noted earlier, today's plan was to go to Sea World. My mother bought us a couple of Sea World Fun Passes earlier this year, and we haven't had much opportunity to put them to use...until today.

We hit the road near lunch time, and made our way to my mom's place to pick up the stroller. We've got this monstrously large Eddie Bauer stroller that comes with just about everything but four wheel drive and a pintle mount for a machine gun. We'd only ever used it once before, with the car seat attached, but this time we decided to use the stroller by itself. As you can see, the boy seemed to be happy with his ride.

Our first stop was the seal exhibit. I took Stephen out of his stroller and let him see the noisy, raucous beasts in the pool below. Stephen was not impressed, and instead, he seemed downright disturbed by them. They were loud, so I can't really blame him.

We loaded him back up, and took a stroll to the shark encounter. Oh, boy! Fish! After parking the stroller, we joined the line and made our roundabout way into the shark building. The echoes of a hundred voices were amplified by the enclosed area, and Stephen started to get a little bit worried. As we ventured further into the place, his agitation became increasingly obvious. "Where are we? Where are we going?" he seemed to be saying.

There's a long, plexiglass tunnel in the Shark Encounter, with a conveyer belt of sorts for people to stand on. The sharks in the water above you swim by, and you can see them fairly clearly. The press of people was somewhat more pronounced, and several rude folks actively bumped and shoved my wife from behind. It was at this point that Stephen lost his cool, as you can see in this photo.

We got outside and found a quiet, shady bench. Things seemed to calm down a bit.

Where to go now? The park was absolutely packed to the gills (ha, ha), so it was hard to edge in to see the really interesting stuff. Tide pools? Folks were packed in three deep. The aquariums? Ha! Try again later, maybe, when the park is closed!

Somehow, we ended up by the Clydsdales. Sea World is, after all, owned and operated by Anheuser-Busch. They even have a beer school (though what they teach there, I can only imagine). Past a grassy enclosure that was home to single donkey (or was it a mule?) was the stable area, where several massive Clydesdales were spending their afternoons. These things are big! But they seemed somewhat docile.

Given the crowded conditions of the rest of the park, the Clydesdale exhibit was probably the quietest and most relaxing place we'd been all day. Sort of sad, especially when you consider that seeing the horses at Sea World was the highlight of our day.

We ambled around a bit more, just seeing what was where. A lemon icee took off some of the heat (Stephen liked it, too) as we made our way back towards the exit. We decided that we'd need to go again sometime, when the crowds were a bit thinner. After all, school is still out for a number of kids, and it's not exactly the off season.

As we made our way back to the car, I let Stephen ride up on my shoulders. The view must've been impressive for him, and he seemed to enjoy every minute of the ride. Eventually, he'll be big enough that he can ride and I won't need to hold on to him to make sure he doesn't tumble backwards. Until that day, though, I'll need to keep a hold of him.

That's about it. My last day of vacation is behind me, and tomorrow is another fun filled day at work. I hope there's not a ton of work waiting for me, but even if that is the case, at least I'll be busy. We all know that a busy day goes by faster...right?

I'm Back!

As you may know from my previous ramblings, I was scheduled to go to Gen Con in Indianapolis from 8/17 to 8/21. I made it back home on Sunday night, after several hours in the air. It was good to get back; I missed my wife and son quite a bit, and it was uplifting to see them again.

I plan to do a detailed report of Gen Con, with photos, over at my gaming-related blog, Neuro-Suction.

Today's P.O.D. (Plan Of the Day) is to do something fun before I suit up and go back to work tomorrow morning. In our tradition of taking the boy to places with lots of fish, Sea World is our destination. We've got annual passes to the place, and haven't been there in a long time. We'll take pictures, and this is likely where they will end up.

Here's a recent photo of Stephen, from just this morning, in fact. He and I got to hang out and play a bit before we dragged his mother out of bed. He's still in the painful throes of teething, and there's still no sign of the pearly whites that are likely pushing their way up through his little pink gums.



I can't remember when I was teething. Truth be told, I can't remember much of my life prior to three or four years old, but for small snippets of memory. It's probably for the best, since there's a lot of pain and frustration in store for infants.

Stephen seems to be teething. We were up at 4:30am for a feeding, and he didn't want the bottle. In fact, he was getting quite irate over the whole deal. We calmed him down, and then I fed him some apple sauce. Mommy fed him some green beans (his first time; he seemed to like them). Try the bottle again? No!

No fever. No open wounds. No disabling injuries. It seems as if he's just got a big, tooth-shaped chip on his shoulder this morning.

We broke out the teething rings. He prefers one to the other, at least until it gets too warm to be interesting.

I can hear my wife in the bedroom trying to calm him down. He needs to get a little more sleep; for that matter, so does she.

Me? I have to go to work now. The train leaves in thirty minutes. What a day it is likely to be.


My Stream of Consciousness

I need new shoes.

I've got this horrible habit of buying really cheap shoes. "Fifteen dollars at Target" cheap. Then I complain when they wear out after two or three months. I have never spent more than twenty or twenty-five bucks on a pair of shoes (unless you count the cavalry boots that I reenact in, which I don't). It's a hard habit to break, but I suppose I need to pony up a wad of cash for some good, comfortable, relatively well-made footwear.

It's Monday. My wife and son are napping. Stephen has been a handful lately, likely because he's teething. Very grumpy, indeed. He's got good moments, too...it's not all cloudy skies and thunder.

He learned to roll over on Saturday. I was playing with him on the sofa, and decided that he could do with some tummy time. I rolled him over on his belly, and he propped himself up with his arms, gave me a look, and rolled himself over onto his back. I was shocked. Now, two days later, he can do it on demand. It's pretty amusing.

Work has been busy. Lots to do. Then I get home, hang with the family, and try to get as much writing done as I can. The current project seems to be dragging. I've got a September 14th deadline, and I really hope I can make it. The chapter I'm working on was originally pegged at nine thousand words; I'm currently well over 15k, and I'm not done yet.

It makes me want to scream...I'm not usually one to write so much over wordcount.

The product developer told me that it's all good, and that it's more of a "living outline" anyway. I suppose that's his way of reassuring me.

I'm also on board with another writing project; relatively tiny, by comparison to the current one, but still significant to me. I'm finally writing for the Midnight product line, which is something I've wanted to do since my work started being published.

Of course, this leads me to mention Gen Con in Indianapolis. Forty-eight hours from now, I'll be there, barring acts of God. It's a trip I can't really afford from a financial standpoint, but it's also a trip that I really can't afford to miss from a professional standpoint, either. If I can find a hotspot or two in Indy, I'll be sure to pop in occasionally and update everyone on my adventures.

That's about all the news I'm willing to post at the moment. There are other things going on, but I prefer to let them lay for the time being. I have more important things to do.

Like buying shoes.


The Week from Heck

Where have I been? What have I been doing? Why haven't I posted an update here in almost a week? Why? Why?!

Well, it's been Heck Week around here. Not only is it busier than Heck, but it's been one annoying thing after another. The bright side is that my copy of the Earth 2 miniseries showed up (Alan: keep it to yourself, buck!).

We got a call from some anesthesiology office, confirming our mailing address. They had our apartment number wrong, so I corrected them. This week, we got a bill from them: $2,000 for my wife's epidural, along with a small finance charge because the bill was past due. Of course the bloody bill is past due; they've been sending it to someone else for the past month or two. I don't see why their mistake is our fault, but whatever.

The up side is that they do not have our insurance information on file, meaning that this bill is liable to be trimmed down quite a bit once they do. Thank ye gods! says I. An expense of this magnitude is well out of reach, even when our savings account was relatively full. If worse comes to worse, I suppose we'll need to make payments on it.

I love being lower middle class. Or am I upper lower class?

Combine this with another bill for $350 from the hospital, that arrived yesterday, which has also been sent to the wrong address ever since Stephen was born. No finance charges, as far as I know, but the bill doesn't give a break down of what the charges are. For all I know, our insurance company won't pay for the pork chop dinner that my wife had the night after the boy popped out.

Responsibility. What does it mean?

I've always considered being able to properly prioritize one's life as being indicative of a healthy sense of responsibility. Making sure that the important things are taken care of so that you can continue to live a relatively normal life. I'd like to think I'm responsible. I try to pay my bills on time, and I seldom fail to do so; I try to make sure the litter boxes are clean, at least until CJ takes a squat in the corner, or pees on a sofa cushion; I kiss my son goodnight, even after he wakes me up at o'dark thirty because he's hungry and wet.

I asked one of the HR ladies about this situation today. She told me that I'd get through it, and that my time would come. Dealing with medical insurance is painful, but I'd rather have it than not. It's the difference between $1,500 in medical bills with the insurance, and close to $10,000 without.

The funny thing is that Stephen would be worth every red cent of it, even if he cost me a million dollars, or resulted in a life of indentured servitude. Note that I am quite happy that I don't owe anyone a million bucks for him, and I am eternally thankful that I'm not a slave (unless I'm his slave) as a result of his being born.

Oh, another kicker: my Gen Con badge was lost in the mail. I still hadn't gotten in on Tuesday, so I wrote to the Gen Con folks and asked about it. Turns out the darn thing was mailed to me on July 14th. I verified my address, and they've got it down right. Heck, they've had the same address on file since I went to Gen Con So Cal in 2003.

How unusual is it that things get lost in the mail? Two payments that I've made for two entirely different expenses have been lost in the mail in the past two months. Try to tell the people you owe money that the check was lost en route, and you can almost taste the skepticism. Are these things rotting in a dead letter room somewhere? Did the stamps fall off? Or is the Postal Service to blame?


Back to the badge: Thanks to Stacie at Gen Con LLC, I've got another one waiting for me at the will-call in Indianapolis. I'll have to give her a hug if I manage to meet her, because she's been all sorts of help with the badge thing. As a person who buys things for a living, I know first-hand that excellent customer service is not easy to find.

Well, I need to do some work tonight. Writing work, that is. I've set a goal for myself that I really doubt I will accomplish this weekend. Tomorrow is liable to be impossibly busy, considering the events that are planned. It's looking like I may have a 12 hour workday in my future, leaving Sunday as my only day to write.

I reckon my next post will be all about the Weekend from Heck.