Shovels and Rakes and Implements Of Destruction

and, furthermore, The Astonishing Non-universality of Snowballs

Today I had occasion to explain snowballs to my fellow amateur lot graders.

First, a pause for amazement. Snowballs. How can anyone not know about snowballs? Is it only the New Orleans area where people figured out that shaved ice covered in flavored syrup is a great thing to stuff your mouth with in the summer? I mean, sure, exotic flavors like “Frog in a Blender” and “Yellow Cake Batter,” those might be ultra-local, sure, and I’m aware that significant advances in snowball technology were invented right here in New Orleans, but–dude, it’s snowballs! Eating ice! It’s a fairly basic concept, right?


Second, an explanation about lot grading….

So, there’s a couple of lots on Terrace Avenue in Slidell, they tell us, that are all ready for the owners to move in except they need to pass their grading inspection. (There is a pun dying to be made here. I am refraining. I am a pillar of self-restraint.) Should only take an hour or two. Would five people please step forward?

And so we did. And we got there. And there was a humongous pile of sand, and several shovels, and a wheelbarrow, and a bouquet of rakes, and, well, that’s it. “We couldn’t get the Bobcat today,” the construction lead tells us, in that sort of long-suffering don’t even talk to me about it tone that indicates that any complaints we could possibly make, he has already made. He has already brought them before the appropriate authorities. In vain.

So the job actually took all day. And it was actually kind of satisfying. Unlike yesterday at the Washington site, I didn’t feel like I was spending half my day wandering around going, “OK, now what should I do?” There was no question as to what I should be doing. Either I was filling a wheelbarrow with sand, or I was raking sand flat from where the wheelbarrow dumped it. Occasionally I was tossing bits of tree leftover from Auntie Katrina’s visit over the back fence.

And since it was fairly quiet work as compared to use of hammers and power tools, we got to chat a lot more while we were doing it. Which led to, among other conversational places, my being asked to help explain such things as po-boys, muffelettas, and the snowballs my cousin and I had enjoyed Tuesday afternoon.

I had not been aware that snowballs needed explanation.

Around about 1:00 PM, the hill of sand had finally been converted to a fairly flat, raised back yard. “So can the owners move in now?”

“Oh, heck no. This is just the beginning. Look at the level of the neighboring backyards.”

Our two lots remained a good… two feet, maybe? Maybe two feet below the goal. I foresee several more hills of sand being delivered to the two-lot “pod” on Terrace Avenue. I hope they get to use the Bobcat on it next time.

In any case, the construction lead recommended that, despite the early hour, we not go back to the other work sites today. Not after the fairly constant level of strenuous physical labor we’d just endured in the hot, hot sun. Most of us took his advice, ’cause we were beat. I’d been contemplating joining the roofing crew on Maple Street, but as tired as I was, I’d probably fall off.

As we found out later, the one gal that didn’t take the construction lead’s advice, she ended up in the emergency room that evening from symptoms that, to my ears, sounded like heat exhaustion. She recovered quickly, but she had to take the next day off just to be sure. The rest of us stopped feeling guilty about leaving early after we heard about that.

My cousin in from New York drove me, her brother, and her brother’s girlfriend all out for a sceond round of snowballs at the snowball stand in Bush on Highway 40. This time I got “Red Velvet Cake” with condensed milk on top. It tasted a lot like the “Yellow Cake Batter,” actually. It was yummy.

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