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Author Archive: "Ken Foster"

The Year I Stayed Home with the Dogs

Several years ago, even before my parents were diagnosed with dueling, terminal illnesses, my sister and I discussed the options, as if we might somehow be given a choice. It was preferable, we agreed, for our father to go first. He was difficult, grumpy, and, more than that, he was so dependent on our mother it was impossible to imagine how he might function without her. My mother, we hoped, would grieve the loss and then move on to another phase in her life, free to do the things that she'd given up because our father didn't share her interests.

Of course, that's not how things happened. Our mother went first, on the eve of their 49th wedding anniversary, and our father, lost without her, followed a year later.

During this same period of time, I suffered a head injury during a mugging, underwent reconstructive surgery on my ear, and subsequently discarded most of my friends as I struggled (sometimes literally) to regain some balance in the world. It felt as if I was living in a separate but parallel reality, and it was impossible to explain ...

New Orleans Intersections

The Evacuationmobile

Honda Element... in KiwiThe Honda Element is the unofficial evacuationmobile of New Orleans. They started popping up all over the place in October, when people began replacing their flooded cars with new ones and people who'd never even had a car before realized that maybe it was time to give in. "Oh, you got one of those Tupperware cars," Skip said when I acquired mine in May. And they are kind of like Tupperware. Everything folds, snaps and removes. You can hose the thing down inside. But I got it because I could imagine living in it if I had to.

Mine is in Kiwi. I figured I'd be able to find it that way. Not just in a parking lot, but just outside on the street, where there are several other Elements within a block. Kiwi is new, and they will only be using it this year. One of the first things I did in it was pick up a neighbor at the airport. Now Elizabeth has a Kiwi Element too.

Intersection | New Orleans


Brando on Desire Street

PLEASE CALLWe live on Piety Street, which is just a block from Desire — and no, the two do not ever intersect. That's always the first question. There used to be a Desire bus that ran slowly through the neighborhood, coughing up exhaust along the way, but as far as I can tell that bus has been replaced by one that simply says BYWATER. After the storm and the evacuation, we returned to find many of these buses scattered around the neighborhood. On St. Claude Avenue one bus was parked haphazardly across the neutral ground, its route sign frozen on this incomplete message: PLEASE CALL.

My oldest dog's name is Brando, but completely independent of Marlon, or Tennessee Williams. Someone in the shelter where I found him gave him the name, and I didn't see the point in changing it. No matter how much it initially embarrassed me. "I didn't pick the name," I would announce as soon as anyone had asked it. Eventually, I forgot there was any other Brando aside from mine. When Marlon Brando died, I remember someone in


My Life on NW 23rd

At the end of 1992, I moved from New York, where I had a job I hated, to Portland, where I had visited only during the sunniest times of year. I wanted to be a writer, and living in New York required too much attention for me to actually figure out what kind of writer I might become.

I enrolled in Tom Spanbauer’s dining room workshop, not having any clue what I was doing, and refused all leads on any real jobs. Instead I took a job at Coffee People, endured 40 hours of training in which we had a practice complicated tasks such as putting ice into cups, and served my time working the drive-thru at Motor Moka before getting a transfer to their location on NW 23rd. Later, I also took a job a few blocks down the street at Kinko’s, working graveyard shift, dealing mostly with lunatics who wanted to Xerox their hallucinations.

It was a miserable year. For a variety of reasons. A lot of it, I discovered, had to do with the weather. At the end of 1993 I filled out applications to graduate schools and


Extreme Close-Up

National Guardsmen ordering caramel cappuccinosOn Tuesdays Coffea is closed, so I have to travel across the railroad tracks at Press Street and into the Marigny to get my morning coffee at Sound Café. Sound was one of the first places to reopen after the storm, so back in October and November it was packed every day with people looking for coffee and internet connection. And the National Guard was here from Seattle, standing in line with their rifles over their shoulders, ordering caramel cappuccinos. One day, eavesdropping on their conversations, I heard one guardsman ask another, "So what would you call a 'good' musical? What about Les Miz?"

Today there are no guardsmen. Just coffee and neighborhood folks.

Extreme Close Up: Photograph

Has anyone else noticed that Powell's seems to favor showing my face in an extreme close-up? At first I thought it was just a way of marketing a sense of mystery about my blog appearance this week. "We'll just show his nose and an eye!" But now that I've actually arrived, they haven't revealed much more of my face. There actually is a whole


Greetings from the Ninth Ward!

CoffeaIt's 9am Monday morning and I'm finishing my first iced coffee of the day at Coffea, a new coffee shop that opened last month around the corner from my house in the Bywater neighborhood of the Ninth Ward. If you've never had New Orleans iced coffee, you should add that to your list of reasons to fly down here for your next vacation. It is made from a coffee concentrate created by brewing the coffee (with a little Mexican vanilla) in cold water for 24 hours. Add ice and milk. I'm not sure how much weight I've gained since this place opened, but I'm pretty sure Gwen (who owns the place with her hubby Andy) is responsible for an extra pound or two. The menu here includes crepes stuffed with homemade chorizo, pastries from Henry's up on St. Claude Avenue and, most remarkably, H & H bagels from New York City.

This isn't the only sign of recovery. Last night I discovered that our local Tower Records is now open as late as 8pm! For a while, they were only open two days a


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