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John Howell Column

John Howell Sr.

Malevolence may lurk under next step in October

October is my favorite month anywhere, but especially in New Orleans.

I spent last week there. Went to the City Park Botanical Gardens Fall Plant Show and Sale one day, to the Lafayette Square Blues and Barbecue Festival the next.

During the week we hosted my son-in-law for a brief, job-hunting visit. Phil and Mary would love to leave Milwaukee before winter sets in. Last week’s visit didn’t lead to immediate opportunity to head south, much to their disappointment, but it was a step. In their minds any southbound step is in the right direction.

Then there was the malevolent paving stone in our backyard. One morning as I was walking toward the back shed, my foot scooted out from under me when I stepped onto a paving stone. I caught myself mostly with my right arm. Nothing graceful, but no lasting injuries and dignity only slightly ajar.

I looked down at the culprit paving stone and then gingerly raked my toe across it. The stone surface was slick as ice from a greenish, algae-like coating. It’s the same stuff that’s growing on bricks on our front walk. Shady bricks host this growth, I’ve observed. Concrete walks and drives seem immune.

Our front walk (about five feet long from gate to steps) also sports a growth of slick algae. I regularly remove it with a stiff brush and bleach. It promptly returns.

Shortly after lunch the same day as I was levitating — suspended in a horizontal position about three feet off the floor  with only a bed to support me — my wife interrupted this blissful state of concentration with the announcement that she, too, had slipped on that same malevolent paving stone. She had landed in quite a few places, and was making an inventory of her accumulation of knots, bruises and scraps.

But her dignity was not the least ajar. It was a good test, she said, for the strength of her bones. An occasional fall is good for that, she added dismissively, as though she’d planned it all along.