Dear NOLA: An Intervenion

Dear City of New Orleans,

I was having a couple of beers with a friend on Saturday night just as the floodwaters were beginning to recede. We were talking about you and the love/hate relationship we have with you.

New Orleans, my friend observed, is like that alcoholic, fuck up that every group of friends or family seems to have. You know the type. You love them. They are always good for a laugh, they are fun to be around and they generally mean well. But beneath that mask of endearing qualities lies a deeply-dysunctional individual.  That’s right, NOLA. You are everyone’s drunk Uncle Frank.

To be sure, there is so much to like about you – things that made me miss you in my bones when I moved away from you and which drew me back to you like a magnetic force.

Your physical beauty from the wrought-iron balconies in the French Quarter to the pastel-colored shotgun houses throughout your neighborhoods to the giant oak trees draped with Spanish moss in City Park.  Your party atmosphere with a different festival every weekend. Your world class food and music scene. These are your strengths that have been exhaustively chronicled by many a hipster who has come here as a transplant or visitor and attempted to capture your essence.

But I think what draws me to you above all else is your people. It’s the goosebumps that will forever appear on my arm when I think about how a professional sports team lifted up an entire city when we needed it most. It’s the fact that two regular dudes can have a few beers and some BBQ with friends and turn it into a major local festival that now raises millions for pediatric brain cancer. It’s the fact that Sarah and I can raise $14,000 for pediatric brain damage and help kids like Kohl just by throwing a party.  There are few other cities where things like this are possible. It is the fact that we live in the best neighborhood on the planet surrounded by some of our best friends; people who love Kohl and Amelia almost as much as we do. These people would do anything for each other.

And that’s just the thing, NOLA. We just deserve better than this. We love you to our core. We love you, perhaps, to our fault. Many of your former lovers have sought better opportunities and left you, yet you remain in their blood. You have that effect on people.

But your act is getting old. Dismissing your decrepit and dysfunctional infrastructure as the price we pay to live here is bullshit. Sweeping your criminally incompetent leadership under the rug is bullshit.  The “Soul Is Waterproof” t-shirts and “New Orleans: Third World and Proud of It”  bumper stickers no longer cover up your profound dysfunction. 

Maybe it’s because I am a little older now. Maybe it’s because I am raising my family here. Perhaps it’s because one of my kids is severely disabled whose care routinely overwhelms me and creates in me an almost constant anxiety that I’m not doing enough. 

The confluence of those factors has led me to tell you this: I don’t have time for your bullshit. I don’t have time to worry about my house flooding every time it fucking rains. I don’t have time to worry about getting held up at gunpoint when I go out to dinner. I don’t have time to wait around for you to get your shit together.

This is your wake up call, New Orleans. Fucking fix yourself.

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My Crazy Little B

Toddlers are remarkable creatures for many reasons. Among the many ways they fascinate me is the speed with which their disposition changes, oftentimes based on seemingly innocuous stimuli.

Consider Amelia Ann Chrestman, today’s test subject. 

Amelia will turn three in a few weeks. And like many toddlers, she is capable of going from kind, compassionate and loving to insufferable ass hole and right back. All in a remarkably short period of time.

Today was illustrative:

6:30 am:  I am getting ready for the day when I hear a feint plea from a sweet, little voice upstairs. That voice belongs to Amelia, and I get excited when I realize she is asking for me (approximately 85% of the time, she wants mommy).

6:32 am: I go upstairs wearing only boxers and begin my morning routine of slowly opening Amelia’s shades and singing her the “Good Morning” song.  

6:33 am: As I sing the first lyric, Amelia sees that I am wearing only boxer shorts. Her smile quickly turns to a scowl:

“Put some clothes on you,” she demands.

Or maybe it was

“Put some clothes on, YOU,” kind of like when a Marine Corps drill instructor addresses a recruit as “YOU” or “FRICKIN YOU” in the most masterfully condescending way.

6:34 am: I go back downstairs as ordered and put some clothes on me.

6:40 am: I return to Amelia’s domicile. She smiles at me and politely asks to go downstairs

6:41 am: Arrival downstairs. I ask Amelia if she would like grits. She smiles again with an enthusiastic “yes!”

6:42 am: Amelia says she would like to watch a movie. I explain that it is 6:42 am on a Wesnesday and that she has to go to school, so a movie is simply not in the cards.

6:42:35 am: Crying tantrum ensues. Amelia continues to have difficulty adjusting back from vacation mode where she was free to watch movies,  swim like a mermaid, blow bubbles like a mermaid and talk about mermaids. 

I cannot quite discern what she is saying but it sounds like she is upset about not being permitted to watch The Little Mermaid.

I attempt to hand her the bowl of grits. She slaps it away; her enthusiasm for the grits having been replaced with a vehement desire not to have the grits.

6:43 – 6:50 am: Tantrum continues. Mommy and I ignore tantrum and continue getting ready. Kohl sits on the couch, laughing at the tantrum.

7:00 am: Amelia scurries up to me having apparently been enoying some grits and gotten dressed in one of her many adorable outfits.

“Daddy, can you take me to school?”

It is mommy’s turn, but I quickly relent, showing a complete inability to resist. I acknowledge to myself that I am, in fact, Amelia’s bitch.

7:50 am: Get in the car to take Amelia to school. Amelia would like to hear the Moana soundtrack. I continue responding to emails and text messages before departing.

7:50:17 am: Amelia repeats her request for the Moana soundtrack. I ask her to wait a second.

7:50:23 am: Amelia thrice requests the Moana soundtrack. I ignore it.

7:50:26 am: Tantrum ensues

7:51 am: I give Amelia the choice of continuing her tantrum or listening to the Moana soundtrack. She mulls it over. Tantrum ceases.  Jamming out to Moana commences.


5:45 pm: I pick up Amelia from school. She smiles at me, yells “DADDY,” and runs up to me, pausing only to grab her satchel. This is one of the best parts of my day.

5:48 pm: I put Amelia in her car seat. She requests … you guessed it … the motherfucking Moana soundtrack. I ask which song she would like to hear and suggest the “You’re Welcome” song. She enthusiastically agrees.

5:48:30 pm: I begin to start the car. Amelia decides that hearing the “You’re Welcome” song is a terrible idea. She no longer wants to hear “You’re Welcome.”

5:48:35 pm: Tantrum ensues. Car starts, and I forget that I was listening to “Humble” by Kendrick Lamar:

Get the fuck off my dick, that ain’t right,” Kendrick says very loudly before I have the opportunity to change it to a song from the Moana soundtrack other than “You’re Welcome.”

5:49 pm: Tantrum concludes


8:05 pm: Amelia spills water on her nightgown. Mommy attempts to replace the wet nightgown with a dry nightgown. 

Amelia objects, asserting that she wants to put on clothes. Mommy tries to explain that nightgowns are a type of clothes and, in any event, it’s “night night” time.

Tantrum ensues, and Amelia reacts as if she has just been stabbed by mommy:

“What did I ever do to you,” she asks mommy. Mommy laughs hysterically, exacerbating the tantrum.


9:05 pm: I read a masterpiece entitled “Goodnight Mermaids” to Amelia for the third night in a row. She asks me to lay with her for a few minutes. I agree. This is another one of my favorite parts of the day.

“I love you daddy,” she says. 

And the day is complete


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Tacos and Cheese

I consider myself an optimist. But having a child with medical needs as complex as Kohl’s has punctuated that optimism with puddles of anxiety.

So as you sit in your Monday morning team meeting, wishing you were still at the beach, enjoying the first real vacation in years; you assume the worst when you receive a call on your cell phone from your wife.

Is Kohl having a seizure?  Was there something wrong with his feeding tube, I wondered?

Quickly silencing my cell phone, I diverted my attention away from the meeting’s agenda and texted Sarah to find out the reason for her call, which was clearly important since she attempted to reach me on my cell phone after trying my office.

But today’s crisis involved neither seizures nor broken G-tubes. It was tacos (or lack thereof):

When baby girl hawngry, baby girl hawngry.

And speaking of hunger, we learned today that Kohl loves laughing cow cheese. Both Kohl and the cow find this cheese not only delicious, but apparently hilarious:

When one of our two angelic aides sent me this picture it made my day not just because it’s a cute picture. Not just because it was a succees in oral feeding .

The main reason it made my day is because it was one less thing for me to do.

Kohl gets his food via G-tube, and teaching him to eat by mouth so that he can ween off the G-tube is one of many distant goals we have for Kohl.  Among sitting up unassisted, talking, controling muscle tone, avoiding hip dislocation and invasive surgeries. These too are goals.

But they are goals that will require near-constant attention to achieve. They are goals which involve hard work that, by the time Sarah and I arrive home from work, neither of us is inclined to do.

But this was done for us today. It was yet another reminder of how the people we surround ourselves with so often plug the gaps that we create and lift us up as parents when we so often fall short.

Kohl is in good hands.

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