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August 2nd, 2006


Writes Amazon reviewer Brandywine in a (favorable) review of Soul Kitchen:

I don't follow Ms.Brite's blog or know much about her personally but I am curious, after reading "Soul Kitchen" if she is a fan of Stephen King? There was something reminiscent of his work in this story, maybe it was Milford, who reminded me a lot of a King character, a strong, moral black man, struggling in world dominated by whites, like "It"'s Mike Hanlon or "The Green Mile"'s John Coffey. What really snagged my memory was Milford's description of Rickey. He says dealing with Rickey is "like biting on a piece of tinfoil", which is exactly how one of King's character's describes "The Stand"'s Larry Underwood.

I don't know that Milford Goodman particularly resembles one of King's "magical Negroes," as some people snarkily call his major black characters, but Larry Underwood's mother's description of him is exactly what I was thinking of when I wrote that sentence (which, lest you care, actually reads, "A couple of times in his life he'd accidentally bitten into a piece of tinfoil while eating a sandwich, and being around Rickey gave him that same shuddery, nerve-ridden feeling"). Larry Underwood has great resonance for me for a variety of reasons, and I always thought his mother's phrase was perfect, much more apt than the "You ain't no nice guy" he was always tormenting himself with. The tinfoil thing was my little homage. There's another one in D*U*C*K, a sort of aping of the opening sentences of Misery that I hope will be funny in the context.

Somebody gave me some temazepam, which I understood to be a sleep aid, but not tonight: I finished the difficult first chapter of Dead Shrimp Blues that will allow me to move on to some fun with Lenny, and then I wrote an everfucking speech for the ACLU's Banned Books Evening at the House of Blues, which isn't until September. I have no idea if I will actually read the thing, but it certainly looks eloquent at 4 AM (there's that time again).

The Bon Ton Cafe

I still get a dorky thrill out of getting Recognized, especially in a restaurant. Today it was the Bon Ton Cafe and a nice pair of visitors from South Carolina. It feels so reassuring to have tourists in town again, especially in the summer, especially ones who read books and eat in good restaurants. I've just started going to the Bon Ton again after somehow forgetting about it for 35 years or so, until my father invited me there for lunch one day a few weeks ago and reminded me of its existence. Right across lower Magazine Street from another of my favorite restaurants, Cuvee, the Bon Ton is the kind of place where the tables have red checkered cloths and the waitresses wear white nylon uniforms, but in the summer there is always at least one old man in a seersucker suit, and the bartender knows what highballs are. Casual, but not really. They have excellent seafood gumbo, asparagus salad, Crabmeat Imperial on toast points, and crawfish etouffee. I'm hesitant to say this, but I think I like their etouffee even better than the Palace Cafe's in Opelousas; perhaps it is just that I tend to prefer the thicker, more buttery Creole style of etouffee and gumbo to the thinner, darker Cajun style.

When my dad brought me to the Bon Ton recently, he was disappointed that turtle soup hadn't yet returned to the menu, claiming that it was the best in the city. When I expressed a preference for the Commander's Palace/Cafe Adelaide variety, he rolled his eyes conspicuously, then said, "Do you see me conspicuously rolling my eyes?" He said Commander's was too tomatoey and he preferred a browner stock. Well, it is back on the menu and either they have changed the recipe, which I seriously doubt, or he is tripping -- it's twice as tomatoey as Commander's. Good, especially with a big dollop of sherry added, but lacking the touch of bitter greens I like in the Brennan version.

The bread pudding with whiskey sauce -- a fifth of Early Times in every batch -- was good too, but by then I'd had two gin rickeys and was ready to die. Chris brought me home, then went to see a guy about some plates.


Earlier today I wrote about a relaxing meal in an elegant restaurant. Here's the other side of my life.

November 2005: Disappointed with our insurance company's initial response to the destruction of our home, we hire a public insurance adjuster. Their job is to go to bat for us, wrangle with the insurance company, and see that we are paid what we are owed.

March 2006: The public adjuster (henceforth known as PA) finally reaches a settlement on our homeowner's insurance. They send us the insurance company's check. Unfortunately, they send it by U.S. Mail, which isn't yet reliable in New Orleans. We never receive it and have no idea that a check has been issued, though since the PA starts invoicing us for their share, we figure one will be forthcoming.

May 2006: We call the PA to find out where the hell the check is. They're shocked that we never received it and arrange for our insurance company to issue another check.

June 2006: I receive the check and forward it to my mortgage company, instructing them to start the process that will pay off my mortgage and refund the balance to me.

July 2006 (week one): I receive a call from my mortgage company saying that our insurance company has stopped payment on the check I sent them. Apparently, upon realizing that one check had been lost, they stopped payment on both checks. My mortgage company informs me that unless they receive another check soon, I will have to resume mortgage payments.

July 2006 (week two): The mortgage company sends us a check for $32,716.83, approximately the balance I should receive once the mortgage is paid off. Confused, I call and ask them how we managed to receive a check when the insurance company hasn't paid them. (Obviously I was tempted to just deposit it, but I have a formerly spotless record with this mortgage company and they are probably my best hope of being able to buy another house, so I want to stay in their good graces.) They say it is an administrative error, they can't imagine how it happens, and I should send the check back, which I do, at my own expense ($25) via FedEx.

July 2006 (week three): The check from the mortgage company arrives again, through the U.S. Mail, in an envelope with a vast glassine window through which my name and the figure "$32,716.83" are clearly visible. The mortgage company is not returning our calls, nor is the insurance company, who is only supposed to speak with the public adjuster anyway.

July 2006 (today): I receive a registered letter from the PA threatening to turn my account over to a collection agency if their fee for the money I have been issued four times but have somehow failed to receive isn't paid within seven days. Maybe the Insurance Fairy will pay them the same way they apparently assume she paid us.

Had we received the money back in March as we were supposed to, it's entirely possible that we could have paid off our mortgage and made a substantial down payment on a new home by now. Even so, this isn't a nightmare, mind you. This is just the normal procedure that pretty much every homeowner in the region is being forced to go through, assuming they were fortunate enough to have insurance. These are nightmares.

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