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From Our Vaults 

For the last 30 years, Gambit has served as the home for some of the city's preeminent voices — everyone from true New Orleans Yats to Romanian expats to polarizing New Orleans Saints commentators. For our anniversary, we've rounded up excerpts from the columns of Bob Krieger, Buddy Diliberto, Errol Laborde, Ronnie Virgets, Andrei Codrescu, Clancy DuBos and Chris Rose. Their work spans the beginning of Gambit to today, but many of their messages are timeless. (Except those about the Saints. Everyone was wrong about that.)

Bob Krieger

Bob Krieger helped start Gambit's sports section in 1981. He also spent 23 years working as a TV reporter, anchorman and sportscaster at WVUE, WWL and WDSU. He died of a heart attack in 1996. In "Big Ben and Friends," published in Gambit on Jan. 1, 1983, he discusses the origins of the long-standing rivalry between the New Orleans Saints and Atlanta Falcons:

  Perhaps it all began as early as 1861. That was the year the first president of LSU, William T. Sherman, left that post to lead the Union army that eventually burned down Atlanta.

  Perhaps it was engendered during the early- to mid-20th century, when the professional baseball Southern Association was in full swing, and the New Orleans Pelicans went to war each year against the Atlanta Crackers.

  Or perhaps it was only natural that two great southern cities would build a rivalry that makes the Hatfields and the McCoys look like bosom buddies.

  Whatever it was, it has grown in leaps and bounds since both cities gained membership in the National Football League, and today there is no more emotional matchup anywhere than the one between the New Orleans Saints and the Atlanta Falcons. ...

  The NFL version of the Atlanta-New Orleans rivalry has been a bitter one — far more bitter for New Orleans fans than for those from Atlanta — but it wasn't always so.

  The first-ever meeting between the two was a pre-season affair in 1967. It was the first year in existence for the Saints, and the game was the final of six pre-season games; it was also the first to be played in New Orleans. To the delight of the New Orleans crowd, the fledgling Saints, under Tom Fears, erased the Falcons that night, 27-14, running the pre-season record to 5-1, the best-ever for an NFL expansion team. It was a heady experience!

  When they started playing for keeps that same year, reality set in on the rookies and retreads of Tom Fears, but they did manage to whip the Falcons, 27-21, before a Tulane Stadium crowd of 83,437. It was one of the only three New Orleans wins that season, and it was the last time the Saints would lead the regular season series with Atlanta. Indeed, things have drifted rather steadily downhill since then.

  Through the 1981 season, the two have met 26 times in all, and Atlanta has walked away with 19 victories. Some of those have been especially difficult for the folks from the bayou country. Of it all, the year 1978 lives in infamy.

  That was the season that John Mecom Jr. replaced the ebullient Hank Stram with Dick Nolan, who was known affectionately as Mute Rockne. By November 12 of that year, Nolan had lead his charges to an incredible precedent-setting win over the Rams in Los Angeles. One week previous, the Saints had lost a tough 20-14 game to the eventual Super Bowl champion Steelers in Pittsburgh. Hopes were running high in a city where hope was so often all there was.

  The Superdome was its usual self November 12, about four parts black and gold and one part red, for Falcons fans, like Saints fans, tend to follow their team around and to wear their hearts on more than just their sleeves. Hope was in high gear late in the game that day as the Saints led it 17-13. Then came the play that put the term "Big Ben" in the New Orleans lexicon of frustration forever. At least, some called it "Big Ben." Others called it the "Hail Mary" pass. Many called it things that are quite unprintable.

  What it was was a play in which Atlanta sent everybody but the equipment manager on a fly pattern down the right sidelines, while quarterback Steve Bartkowski was throwing the ball up where the people in the Terrace level could get a good look at it. When it came down, a crowd of Saints and Falcons played volleyball with it for awhile. Finally, Falcon receiver Alfred Jenkins tired of that, grabbed the ball, and danced off into the end zone. The Falcons won it, 20-17, and suddenly it seemed as if final retribution had been made for what Sherman had done to Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh at Tara House. But it wasn't over yet.

  Two weeks later, Nolan and the Saints went to Fulton County Stadium in Atlanta, where the Falcons won again by — that's right — 20-17. The Saints finished 7-9 that year, six points away from their first winning season ever.

  On opening day in 1979, an NFL official named Grover Klemmer became Public Enemy Number One in New Orleans when he threw an ill-conceived flag on Saints defensive back Maurice Spencer for pass interference. The pictures said Glover Klemmer was wrong. Maurice Spencer said Glover Klemmer was wrong. The biggest crowd in Superdome history (70,940) said it was wrong. Even some Atlanta people said Grover Klemmer was wrong. The official record book says Grover Klemmer was right. The Falcons used the flag to beat the Saints in overtime that day, 40-34. The Superdome was filled to its massive roof with frustration. ...

  Still, for obvious reasons, New Orleanians don't dwell on the past. This is 1982 and the perennial flower of hope has blossomed once again, (Bum) Phillips' team has been playing well, and there's a chance that the meeting with Atlanta on Jan. 2 could determine whether the Saints will see the playoffs from the field level for the first time in history.

  On the night before, many New Orleans fans will no doubt be pulling for the Georgia Red, the SEC champions, in their quest for a national title. Certainly, the Dome will be flooded with red shirts in the stands.

  In a matter of hours, those same red shirts will become the enemy. And if Bum Phillips and Snake Stabler and Company can clip the black wings from the red helmets of Atlanta, New Orleanians will have forgotten who won the Sugar Bowl the night before. And, for a few months at least, they will have forgotten the ghosts of Big Ben ... and Grover Klemmer ... and ...

Buddy Diliberto

Bernard "Buddy"Diliberto, better known as "Buddy D," was a sports commentator who was both reviled (by coaches and owners) and beloved (by sports fans) as an authority on the New Orleans Saints. Besides writing a sports column for Gambit starting in 1981, Diliberto hosted a daily sports show on WWL after working as a sports anchor for WVUE and WDSU. He famously vowed to wear a dress if the Saints ever made it to the Super Bowl, but sadly he was not able to make good on that promise before he died of a heart attack in 2005, but a lot of other fans did in his honor. Here is a portion of his first dispatch for Gambit from the Saints training camp before the 1982 season, titled "Vero Beach," July 24, 1982:

  I'll be down at the Saints camp in Vero Beach this week as John Mecom's team gets ready for its 16th season in the National Football League.

  Sixteen years — and still a virgin. The Saints have never had a winning season. Someone asked me the other day, "How come every year in July all you guys go down to training camp and all I hear and read are glowing reports about how good the Saints players are and then when the regular season begins it's business as usual — more losing than winning. How come?"

  It's like this, Joe. Training camp is an upbeat time. Everyone is 0-and-0 and it's the only time the Saints are on a level in the record department with the Dallas Cowboys and the Miami Dolphins and all the rest.

  So why not upbeat? There's plenty enough time once they start playing to evaluate. Anyway while the reports from training camp are always upbeat I've never lost perspective.

  In 15 previous years I've never predicted the Saints to have a winning season. For example, in this space a year ago when many were talking about Bum Phillips as if he walked on water I came out of training camp evaluating the Saints as a 5-and-11 team. They finished 4-and-12. That's close enough. I'll save the 1982 prediction for later but my gut feeling at the moment is that it will not be a winning season.

  (Diliberto was correct in his prediction. The Saints didn't have a winning season until 1987.)

Errol Laborde
click to enlarge Errol Laborde served as editor of Gambit for several years.
  • Errol Laborde served as editor of Gambit for several years.

Errol Laborde is editor-in-chief at Renaissance Publishing, which produces New Orleans Magazine and Louisiana Life, among others. He also has written books and is a regular panelist on the WYES-TV series Informed Sources. His column Streetcar premiered in Gambit on Jan. 16, 1982. In "Here at Gambit" (May 15, 1982), he writes about what working at the newspaper was like. (This staffer attests that besides the cardboard house and hammock, things are pretty much the same.)

  People laugh here and they have fun. During my second week on the job one person began moving furniture into a house she was making out of a cardboard box in the corner. The other day a fellow worker came by to discuss with me the dot pattern on a sheet of paper towel. (It's really quite intricate.) Two of the production people have paper bag hats with the words "Staff Artist" emblazoned across the front which they wear occasionally. ...

  If ever there is to be a symbol of the Gambit office, it will probably be the fishnet hammock which divides the room. It is an incredibly comfortable sling that seems to have its most use on Fridays. That's the big day around here — production day. There are few greater joys than to hand in the last of the week's copy late on a Friday afternoon and then crash in the hammock. Putting out a weekly newspaper is a different sort of occupation. The product is planted, it buds, and it flowers within a five-day period. Next week, it starts all over again. There are few professions where a person's work goes through a life-cycle on a weekly basis. Last week's story is irrelevant; next week's is premature. Pressure builds — pressure which a hammock helps release. ...

  Gambit has dreams of enduring and getting bigger and better. I share in those dreams because sometimes dreams come true. The spirit is here which makes me want to believe that maybe one day someone will be writing about Gambit's 20th — and they'll be celebrating years, not issues.

  The Superdome is the loudest place in the city on game day, but in "Opening Day" (Sept. 13, 1986), Laborde paints quite a different picture:

  "Probably the best news from the NFL's opening day at the Superdome is that the Superdog is back for another season. The hotdog has had detractors over the years, its problem being inconsistency. This season, its colors seemed a little bolder, decorated with an extra splash of mustard yellow. Those who remember past Sundays when the Superdog was hot could relish its potential; unfortunately for opening day '86 the dog was cold, leaving its fans only to hope for next week and that with the passing of time it might become better seasoned.

  Perhaps better news was that the Superdome finally has a scoreboard system that is not an embarrassment. Two Diamond Vision screens give clear pictures of the action, assuming of course there was any worth watching ...

  In fact, far more important than recording scores, the board has taken on the role of a computerized cupid, flashing messages of love and wooing to suspecting couples cuddled at the Dome. The Dome on opening day proved to be an appropriate place for such romance, there being no loud cheering to disturb the mood.

  It was also a good day for the fan to test his skills as a hobbyist. New Orleanians who frequent the Dome have become quiet adept at the folding and sailing of paper airplanes. As the afternoon waned the planes became more frequent, like gliders sailing from the terrace's cliffs to the 100-yard-long landing strip below. ...

  Other than the flying, the romance, and the eating, there wasn't much else worthwile going in the Dome that day. There was some activity down on the field where the day's best catch by guys in a hometown uniform was made by two local cops who apprehended Morganna, the buxom kissing bandit, who had trespassed onto the field, no doubt aware of the hazard she was creating to amateur aviation.

  Later that day the afternoon-long silence in the Dome was broken by the cleaning crew, its take made easier by the volume of would-be debris that had been converted instead to gliders. That evening I watched on television another NFL opening day in another city. The poor people in Denver were having their attention diverted by their team which rallied in the last quarter for a win. A night later, folks in Dallas underwent similar distractions as their team continually broke the solitude by scoring points. Those fans could have no time to contemplate the temperature of the proper hot dog, to experience quietness among the multitude, or to admire the grace of flight. Opening day at the Louisiana Superdome somehow remains just a little bit different.

Ronnie Virgets
click to enlarge Ronnie Virgets started writing for Gambit in 1989.
  • Ronnie Virgets started writing for Gambit in 1989.

Ronnie Virgets has entertained New Orleanians with his signature voice and affinity for local characters on television, radio and in several publications through the years. He wrote a column for Gambit — first called Razoo and later Virgets — starting in 1989. He stayed in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina, and after the levee failures, he was rescued by boat. He chronicled his experiences in Gambit and in his book Lost Bread (Pain Perdu) Flavored with a Little Steen's Cane Syrup. In Gambit — "Notes from a Soggy Notebook" Nov. 1, 2005), he wrote:

  As I was swimming naked through the living room ...

  You might say that lead is a dirty little trick, a deliberately distorted view of things worded like the start of a Lewis Carroll chapter.

  The only thing arguing against the "dirty little trick" label is the mere and pitiful truth. I was swimming naked through the living room, here on the forenoon after the hurricane had left. Left, but left behind the effects, with the time to ponder them, fear them, curse them. Here are some floating by now, a purple candle escaped from its candlestick, a Jean Harlow video, a wooden Javanese deity, a coffee table book, a coffee table.

  All looked out of place, of course, like the illustration of a child's book of the fantastic or absurd. All except the Javanese deity. It must have a role here, a role explaining the ways of God to man. In Greek tragedy, the audience was always being warned of the danger of self-security and forgetting the existence of powers who trump correctness and justice.

  It would be hard to forget them today. They are everywhere up and down Hidalgo Street and as far as the eye can see. ...

  The hurricane officially began the night before, when the electricity went out. The house shuddered without light and moaned its fear. Branches slashed the walls, and from time to time things heard but not seen crashed into them. The winds would flex out the sound of a Wurlitzer organ for a half-minute at a time.

  As dawn seeps into the world, everywhere is evidence to back the devoutest gambler's faith in fate. Here the gasping taproots of the overturned shade tree, once the neighborhood's pride and joy, and there its upright tiny neighbor. Here a peeled-back roof and wall showing the furniture inside like a dollhouse, and next door a bungalow serene in its intactness. Such unpredictability is why people bother to pray. ...

  You don't dare take the time to think of Death once he actually steps onto the stage with you. You do your best to push him offstage or get on with your role in the play. That way his presence can be set aside another day, while you make yourself readier.

  But later, lying in bed, I stared out the window into electric-free darkness made even more complete by the regular flash of white light every half-minute or so, like a final holdout against the void.

  Now there is the time and place to think about anything that troubles you. Yet all this leisure yields only this: Death is the certain loss that validates all your wins. And this storm with the silly-sounding name? The uncertain loss to better prepare you for the certain one. ...

  From here you can only see the tops of trees — here a camphor, there a pecan — and they are all badly pocked. Nature can be a horrific pruner of city foliage; block after block of treetops that seemed visited by the cutting crews of the high-wire public utilities. Boys with horrible haircuts. ...

  The saviors are named Eric and Johnny and they wait in their boat while clothes are grabbed. Your worldly possessions look surrealistically picturesque as they float by, one last appraisal before they are soaked and sad and shoveled out of your life forever. It was nice having you around. Maybe I should have paid more attention when I had the chance.

  Outside, the water-shaped city will be part of the public memory, the collective recall of images. But these few, these sad, beautiful few will be mine alone. ...

  A couple of rescue rides and a stupor-walk later, and all around Causeway and I-10 is the churning of people who look like colorized newsreels of those fleeing the guns of war.

  We like to think, even those of us who have received or given great harm, that there is a sliver of innocence that remains, a hidden part of us that believes that although we are aware of even greater evil in the world, we won't be called to witness or promote it.

  After this — this wide circle where minute by minute planes and boats and trucks vomit up the ragged and the ruined — after this, it will be much, much harder to believe in all that.

  After an unruly ride to refugeehood, the yellow school buses disgorged us at a basketball gym. After midnight some generators were located and the lights uncovered people lined against retractable bleachers like gulls on a seawall. In the gym's too-bright lights, everyone looked like figures from a wax museum, things pale and obsolete. Yesterday they might have looked at the world right in the face, with their shoulders back and their backs straight, but now and here, there is only sadness in this place of play, and everyone looks like lost ephemera in the white light.

  There will be a great deal of healing due when all this is over. I hope to be around for some of it.

Andrei Codrescu
click to enlarge Award-winning writer Andrei Codrescu authored the Penny Post column at Gambit
  • Award-winning writer Andrei Codrescu authored the Penny Post column at Gambit

Novelist, poet and essayist Andrei Codrescu is the author of several books, founder of the online journal Exquisite Corpse, a former English professor at Louisiana State University and has been a National Public Radio commentator since 1983. His column Penny Post ran in Gambit from Nov. 3, 1998 until Jan. 1, 2008. In "Mardi Gras 2006: The First Salvo" Feb. 21, 2006) Codrescu, a former Krewe du Vieux king, writes about the parade's run following Hurricane Katrina:

  "Buy us back, Chirac!" was one of the slogans of the Krewe du Vieux parade marching in the cold of night. The taped refrigerators marched, the corpses floated by, the Krewe du Jieux rotated in a mad bearded hora like rabbis on speed, two huge naked papier-mache women named Katrina and Rita were having lesbian sex, a sea of hard hats bobbed up and down under the balcony over Molly's and a strand of medium-sized ruby red beads nearly ripped out my left eyeball. The balcony teetered perilously from the swarm of people on it and I was afraid to go too close to the edge just like in past years when I was sure we'd collapse into the street and flatten a float. It didn't happen, but there were a lot of flattened people working hard to maintain an elusive high that came with the booze and went with the stories. Five people I talked to lived in emergency trailers, but two of them stayed away as much as possible even if it meant spending the night with somebody they just met if they had a regular house. A Loyola professor told me that Loyola had its own trailer camp but that there was nobody in it. The mystery of a New Orleans choked with traffic, though with just one-third of the people back in the city, was finally explained: cars are the only place you can be alone in. Trailers and houses are full of folks and tensions are high, so people ride around in their cars just to be on their own. A young woman smiling sweetly into her rum and coke explained that she had to leave her hotel by next week and had no idea where she was going to go. A girl from Boston, raised in a small religious community in New York, had come to New Orleans to help. She drank no alcohol, but she had gotten a job in a lingerie shop while pondering the best way to soothe us in our distress. I kept snapping half-hearted pictures like I do every Mardi Gras and, just like every Mardi Gras, they were mostly of half heads, the glints of people's eyeglasses, fuzzy flying beads and unidentifiable lights. My photos are so bad you can call them art and some people actually have. But that was about the only thing that was reassuringly the same. Too many stories of woe got me down so I went home early this first Mardi Gras parade after the storm and turned on the TV to that station that just shows images of devastation without comment. There it was, New Orleans, house by house in ruins, over and over, empty of life, full of tokens of lives gone. Then I watched the station that runs meetings of New Orleans citizens with various commissions 24/7 and I listened to an angry artist tell a faceless panel that culture is what the city is all about. He was followed by an angry woman who demanded more music and less tourism. Then a tourism marketing person got herself up on her high heels and over-articulated her gratitude to the faceless commission for something I couldn't understand. Meanwhile, the government is broken, the state is broken, and the city lies about in shards. The first public spasm of pleasure in the city since the storm was the Krewe du Vieux parade, but I just couldn't get in the spirit. It must be the alcohol: they just don't make it as strong as they used to.

Clancy DuBos

Clancy DuBos, co-owner and political editor of Gambit and political commentator and editorialist at WWL-TV, began writing the Politics column for the paper in 1981. In "Greg Meffert's Hustle & Flow" (Oct. 5, 2009), he talks about former city technology chief Greg Meffert:

click to enlarge In a 2009 column, Clancy DuBos likened embattled city technology chief Greg Meffert to a pimp.
  • In a 2009 column, Clancy DuBos likened embattled city technology chief Greg Meffert to a pimp.

  To hear former City Hall technology guru Greg Meffert tell it, it's hard out here for a pimp. A pimp for the city, that is.

  That's how Meffert described himself from the witness stand last week while testifying in a high-stakes civil trial. Two local firms initially hired by Meffert's office are now suing Meffert, the city, Mayor Ray Nagin and computer giant Dell for allegedly conspiring to steal the companies' crime camera technology.

  So far, Meffert has been the star witness — but not necessarily for his own or his fellow defendants' cause.

  Asked to explain an email in which he told a favored contractor that an industry conference offered a "chance for me to pimp your guy's stuff," Meffert said he meant it as an opportunity to promote the city's accomplishments — which seems equally galling in light of how little the Nagin Administration has accomplished post-Katrina. "I did a hell of a lot of pimping for the city," he deadpanned.

  Poor Meffert. He took a 50 percent pay cut to take a job that enabled him to help his friend and former business associate, Mark St. Pierre, score a multi-million-dollar crime camera contract from the city — but, like aspiring rapper DJay in the film Hustle & Flow, he's still gotta get money for his Cadillacs — not to mention his yacht, strippers and some first-class vacations for himself and Nagin.

  No problem. St. Pierre gave Meffert unfettered use of a company credit card, which Meffert used freely to live large during his days at City Hall — while St. Pierre held city contracts. Meffert ran up more than $130,000 in charges, including a 2004 trip to Hawaii with Nagin.

  Technically, I'm not sure if Meffert's relationship with St. Pierre makes him a pimp or a ho, but we'll let the feds sort that out. Meffert's attorney acknowledges that his client is a target of a federal criminal probe, and he predicted before the civil trial began that Meffert would take the Fifth on the stand.

  Instead, Meffert spent seven hours last week giving jurors and the public a dose of his gigabyte-sized ego and microchip-sized judgment. He suggested that the pay cut he took when he joined Nagin's team — at a salary of $150,000 a year — entitled him to lavish perks from St. Pierre. Then, with a straight face, he compared it to cops working overtime or paid details to supplement their meager incomes.

  Asked about the Hawaii trip, which was paid for by St. Pierre, Meffert blithely answered, "Good, bad or indifferent, Hawaii definitely had nothing to do with crime cameras, nothing to do with the city of New Orleans. I had this business. I had the opportunity to give him (Nagin) a break. We went up there as friends. We barbecued."

  Let me get this straight: Meffert and Nagin sat around eating panipopos on St. Pierre's dime while St. Pierre's companies gorged themselves on city contracts — but there was absolutely no connection between the two?

  Yeah, right.

  If Meffert can't come up with a better hustle and flow than that, it's gonna get a lot harder out here for one pimp.

Chris RoseAfter more than 20 years with The Times-Picayune, Chris Rose jumped to Gambit in early 2010. He made a name for himself nationally with his post-Katrina columns, which contained some of the most emotionally raw reportage from the wounded city and earned him a slot as a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Distinguished Commentary. A collection of those columns, 1 Dead in Attic: After Katrina, was published locally to much acclaim, and an expanded edition of the book, published by Simon & Schuster, was a national success.

I've gone on record with this before: Me like the beach. Very much. Even better, so do my kids. And I say that because, well — I wasn't a very adept beach kid. Truth to tell: I was a complete wuss about it.

  Don't get me wrong, I loved going with my family. But that was more about the whole vacation endeavor: The upheaval, the overpacked car, staying up late, sleeping on screened-in porches, the smell of coconut oil, late night card games, hot dog omelets for breakfast and dinner, all the pinball I could play and nights on the boardwalk with all its flashing lights and Tilt-a-Whirl and soft-serve ice cream.

  You'll notice I didn't say anything about the actual beach. And that's the thing. It scared the hell out of me.

  I never trusted water where I couldn't see my feet. I grew up on the beaches of Maryland, Delaware and Jersey; once the water gets up to your knees, you can't see your feet. And I knew there were lots of things down around my feet that I couldn't see — stingrays, crabs, jellyfish and regular fish, in diminishing order of terror.

  And up on those Northeast beaches, there's a species of crustacean alien to Southern beaches, an alien called the horseshoe crab, a large, black primeval beast that looks like nothing more than Darth Vader's helmet with a long stinger-like tail in the back.

  They're a clumsy lot, horseshoe crabs, having no control over their movements once they get near the surf, so they get picked up by waves and tossed into your legs and it feels like a hubcap smashing into you.

  A hubcap with legs. And a tail. That looks like a stinger. Never mind that it wasn't; at 9 years old, perception is everything. To me, deadly hubcaps lurked in the sea.

  The World Book Encyclopedia I had as a kid said the horseshoe crab is not a true crab at all, but related to the scorpion family. 'Nuff said.

  I hated going in the water. Absolutely dreaded it. I couldn't bear the thought of unseen animal life lurking around me, things that pinch and sting and giant underwater scorpions that randomly slam into you.

  So it is that, when I was finally coaxed, prodded or shamed into going into the water with my brothers or friends, I spent the whole time treading water — even at three feet deep — so my feet wouldn't touch the bottom.

  Like I said, pretty much of a wuss about it. And this was in the pre-Jaws era, mind you. That came out when I was 15 and, after that — forget it. I didn't go in the water for years.

  But I've come a long way since then. This city boy learned to love the water. Learned to love it in the 25 years I've lived in New Orleans, over on the Gulf Coast where, oddly enough, the water is clear enough to see everything around you and that eventually led me to the conclusion that the dark beach water of the Northeast might be better than the pristine Gulf waters because maybe — just maybe — I'd rather not know that there's a school of stingrays right next to me.

  But my kids, they know none of these irrational fears. Sure, they hate getting stung by jellyfish, and horseshoe crabs freak them out to the proper degree (they don't know about the scorpion thing), but they love being in the water.

  They go hard-charging in and stay until commanded to come out for food or rest or just because I'm ready to go.

  They let their feet touch the bottom and everything. They fear nothing. To me, they're brave, but to most people I guess they're just normal. They even try to pick up crabs which, in my own personal psychological portfolio, is tantamount to grabbing a rattlesnake by its tail.

  It's just not something you do.

  So we love the beach together and we go every summer. And, as I write this, I am in Maryland because the beaches we've been going to since my kids were born have been destroyed — at least, in my psychological portfolio.

  I'm sure there are still beaches on the coast that haven't been despoiled. I just don't know where they are. And I don't want to be there the day the oil comes in.

  So I had to take my children 1,200 miles to go to the beach this summer. And that makes me so angry that I feel like the Macondo well, ready to just blow my own damn top, spew my bad karma like thick black crude all over — not brown pelicans — but anyone and everyone who asks me my opinion on the state of affairs in the Gulf of Mexico, "my" Gulf of Mexico, my family retreat, our beach, our playground, the place we love best on this whole planet.

  Ruined. Or damn near. Or gonna be. And for God knows how long.

  I possess an anger about this that I have never known before. Sometimes, I feel like I want to hurt these people who toyed so frivolously with our lives and marched along so cavalierly in their hunt for riches, seemingly unmoved by having destroyed an enormous body of water, just flat-out destroyed it.

  The bastards. All of 'em.

  And so to go to the beach, we had to travel 1,200 miles.

  Hey, the great part is we get to spend some time with my parents, who live in Maryland. That's a perk. And my kids are filled with the energy and abandon that accompanies the "endeavor" of travel — the flights, the chaos, the motel ice machines, sleeping on screen porches, late-night card games, the flashing lights of the boardwalk, the whole shebang.

  And so it is I take my kids 1,200 miles from home this week to go to the beach, with playful mind, buoyant soul — and firmly grounded feet.

  And murder in my heart.

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