Friday, October 27, 2006

Scattered Smatterings

Horrid title. Live with it. That's how my head is working, or not working, today.

New post at Katrina Refrigerator here. A year old rant about Blackwater, Tom Benson, the Superdome and Emeril Lagasse. Clearly I was pissed off that day, although you'll see from the notes at the bottom, that in some areas, I still feel the same way.

Great post about the "new normal" over at Humid Haney's blog. I think written by a writer for a Chicago paper, (sorry, I shoulda re-read it before I wrote this!), it's sensitive and illustrative of our reality here. Check it out.

Found this interesting little item on NPR the other day. Blogger Jailed for Refusing to Turn Over Video.

Josh Wolf, a San Francisco blogger, shot footage at a demonstration, and a federal investigation into an assault on an officer asked him for the footage. He's refusing to hand it over, so he's been in a California prison for two months. Now the issue being raised is "is a blogger a journalist covered by the shield law." His attorney also feels he's being used as an arm of the government.

Interesting questions. What do you guys think?

Oh yeah, and words fail me with regard to Sheriff Lee's comments and tactics. After reading Dangerblond's last few entries, I don't think his statements are going to help anything, and will indeed be damaging. Wish words failed him sometimes.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

The Voodoo Priestess is to blame. . . . . .

This post is probably gonna be all over the place but it's a strange day.

New Katrina Refrigerator post called Tree Limbs All Over the Tomato Plants is up. It was written six weeks after the storm. We were already trying to cope with the loss/guilt conundrum, and it continues today. We still hear similar statements regarding loss, "Not so bad, nobody died." The sense of loss, while mitigated by the fact that others lost so much more, is still being buried in statements with caveats. "The front of my house is gone, and we haven't been paid by the insurance yet, but we did better than most."

As I expected, the grisly murder/suicide here in New Orleans has made national news. I have been surprised by the understated reportage I've seen, but have also been astonished by the total lack of sensitivity shown by people commenting on it. Some of the worst offenders are right here on the NOLA message boards. Horrendous bad taste. Makes you wonder who these people are.

Meanwhile as I read some of the comments left on national message boards (AOL's are particularly nasty), I didn't know whether to laugh or cry. Some were saying that we should be praying for the families of both the deceased. I agree. I cannot imagine being on either side of that as a parent. Others, though, have apparently lost all sense of decency and sit smugly at their keyboards in Omaha or wherever, saying "Well, it IS New Orleans. What did you expect?" There were the standard white supremacists making bets about the skin color of the perpetrator and putting their website link up to recruit more hate-filled people. Still others talking about the Bible and our inherent immorality in New Orleans, something about adapting to our environment here, which by their reasoning, given that we have bars and strip clubs, is bound to make us go sproing and dismember our significant others. (No bars and strip clubs in Omaha?)

There had also been a report that right after the storm, Addie Hall had shown her boobs to the police patrols that rolled down their street and that that kept the patrols coming, giving the couple a sense of security. (I think it was the Mobile newspaper article, but can't remember exactly.) At any rate, a couple of these idiots with keyboards decided that if she was so immoral as to do THAT, then she probably deserved what she got. :::::::::::shaking head::::::::::::

But by far, the most common anti-New Orleans, racist, ignorant comments are directed at Miriam, the voodoo priestess. Some aver that she made him do it, by slamming some whammy on him, forcing him to do the deed, write the notes and throw himself off a balcony. Others blame her for not noticing the smell of the cooking body above her. Others blame her just for being there when the couple moved in. "They should have known better than to move in above a voodoo shop. What did they THINK would happen?" She had made a statement saying that they seemed like a nice couple but that you never really know what's going on in another person's head. That statement prompted one commenter to say, "Hmmph, guess a voodoo priestess is full of bunk because she should have known." WHAT??? Clearly no understanding of voodoo in our culture, and evidently these people have seen way too many bad voodoo movies.

I go down Dumaine Street in the Quarter often. Perhaps since I live here and walk past voodoo shops regularly I should start walking with my hands and arms stretched out before me and a vacant look on my face. I stepped around a veve chalked on the sidewalk one day out of respect, not because I feared becoming a zombie.

This was a tragedy, but certainly not unique to our city. I should know better than to read those comments, but like picking a scab, sometimes I just can't help it. Every time I read that kind of stuff I am angry all day. I'll spare you the rest of my venom. Besides, what venom I have stored in a bottle in the fridge, I'm saving to put into my husband's soup because a voodoo priestess told me I needed to do it this Sunday on the new moon, and I DO live here in New Orleans after all, so . . . . . .

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

A Tragedy

Poor Addie Hall. Bless her heart. Mid-twenties, dead. Killed by her insane boyfriend. Made it through the storm only to come to this end.

But could this story be any more "only in a bad New Orleans B movie?"

Murder/suicide in New Orleans' French Quarter above a voodoo shop on Rampart Street with body parts in the oven and a head in a pot on the stove. The apartment's landlord a failed mayoral candidate and the perpetrator jumps from a balcony of a major hotel populated by out of towners. And all of this allegedly brought on by infidelity.

Let's see what the national press is going to do with this tragedy. No doubt the Quarter will be filled with reporters trying to tie this to . . . . . . oh, you name it.

I am not making light of this. It's a horror. I am, however, not looking forward to the national press feeding frenzy. I can hear the clucking now.

EDIT: Zackery Bowen, it turns out, was a bartender at one of our regular haunts and was an Iraq/Afghanistan war vet.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Walking to New Orleans II

A new Katrina Refrigerator post here. Its title is Walking to New Orleans.

This is Walking to New Orleans II.

Last night, while my grandson and I were playing a game, my husband and daughter were sitting in the front room watching TV and talking. The rest of the story comes from my husband as I didn't know about it until today.

They heard a knock on the door. My husband opened it to find a 60-ish, emaciated, black woman standing there. She asked him if he could ask his wife to make her a sandwich. She had walked and walked to get to our neighborhood because she was so hungry, but found the church (probably the one up on the corner of Rampart and St. Anthony) closed. She was clearly unaccustomed to knocking on random doors in search of food, and according to my husband, clearly in need of the food. She didn't look like a substance abuser, just a desperate, very poor, very hungry woman. My husband packed her a sack lunch with a sandwich, some chips, some peanut butter crackers, whatever he could find in our kitchen and gave it to her. When he gave it to her he said she was crying and then she disappeared into the night.

There are so few services here that we couldn't think this morning of where we could have sent her and we're going to look into putting a list together of shelters, etc. so that we will have that information for someone who needs it.

As unaccustomed as she was to knocking on random doors in order to eat, we are also unaccustomed to having our door knocked on for that reason. It is shocking to us. I wish we knew who she was, where she was. Maybe we could help her in some other way than just a sandwich and some chips if we knew that, but the whole thing transpired fast and my husband, in his shock, didn't get any information from her. How many others like her are there out there?

For sure they're "out there"----not in an apartment.

There was help for the very poor right after Katrina, but now so many services are just not up and running, and there are grants for homeowners coming through, but this city has been a city of renters for a long, long time. There has been no help at all for renters (Section 8 aside, but that's another story). We regular Joe's in the middle are at the mercy of "the market." There is no chance for a woman like her to find an affordable apartment as rents have doubled in many cases, and the number of apartments available has declined.

Yesterday's Times Picayune had an article on rising rents. While I understand that some landlords have extraordinary refurbishment expenses, there are others out there who clearly raised the rent to a number that would be close to what the Section 8 voucher amount is, even though the apartment would have rented for half that much last year, or certainly the year before Katrina.

Businesses can't get workers, workers can't find affordable housing. Without the workers there is no business----who's not GETTING this? It seems so obvious.

No one is saying that landlords should give away their rentals free, (there is a story in the article of one landlord who waived the deposit---that's fabulous! What a novel idea!) but as one woman in the article said, who was now making $500 more a month than she was pre-K, she thought she could do better and fears she "missed the market." C'mon! You're already making more than you were before so what are you griping about? The rest of us are paying you all the money we have to keep a roof over our heads. And Entergy is raping us for the rest of our paycheck. Throw in paid utilities and maybe your apartment would be worth it.

I fear that if something isn't done to cap rents in this city, that our labor issues will only get worse, and more people will leave, especially those who work in the service industry. The tourism and convention people need to get involved in this or they're gonna tout our culture and music and party town only to have the conventioneers find that they hafta make their own hurricane at Pat O's and bring their own pots to make red beans. There won't be anyone here to make it for them. The bartenders and cooks won't be able to find an apartment.

The woman who knocked on our door last night might be a harbinger of things to come if we don't get services together, figure out what HANO is thinking, and get some rent controls in here.

None of that makes you think? Okay, how about this: What if that woman was YOUR mother?

Thursday, October 12, 2006

The Looters, the Cops and the Media

A new post on Katrina Refrigerator that sounds, in some ways, as though it could have been written yesterday. Instead of "looters", today it would be "young black thugs in oversized white shirts." Crime is a problem, my neighborhood has really been hit hard lately, and our legal system is a mess. Curious, though, that the perception problem we had a year ago, persists and might be getting worse.

Read the post here.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Grandma, Mama and FEMA

Maybe I need to re-read the post on FEMA and mental illness! We're feeling a little crazy today thanks to them.

BTW, new post at Katrina Refrigerator here with lots of photos and notes. Still haven't gotten the rest of the photos uploaded but will.

Okay, back to FEMA! Or not.

Since 9.10.2005 we've been sending documents, photos, whatever was asked for to FEMA. We never got a single dollar and we won't. After getting another letter asking for yet more documentation a few weeks ago, I sent them everything we had ever sent them along with more photos and another letter. Here's how this worked, for those of you not in New Orleans:

First you had to register with FEMA. If they denied you, then you were sent to the SBA to apply for a loan. If they denied you, you were shipped back to FEMA for a grant. If that was denied you could then appeal. Got it? Well, we did it all. Everything they said they needed was sent.

Today we got two letters of denial. Two. For two different reasons, I might add. One was a denial for rental assistance, the other was for our storage unit with the reason given as "Other reason." Gotta love that. Now, just to make this more absurd, if that's possible, on the back of these letters are lots of "notices." Please keep the two words "other reason" in your head as you read this: "Money received from FEMA should be used as specified in the category (OTHER REASON) above. If you do not use the money as specified (OTHER REASON), you and/or your household may not be eligible for additional help from FEMA." Okay, I got it. If I had gotten money for "other reason" and used it for anything other than "other reason", then I couldn't get more. Well, that won't be a problem for us, but we are having a lot of fun with the language.

We opened the letters of denial (and there may be a way to appeal still more, but ya know, why?) read them and got into a giggle fit. We said, "We have a grandma, a mama and a FEMA. Our FEMA is like the crazy old aunt that is kept locked in the attic. Everyone knows she's there but no one's ever seen her."

Poor, crazy Aunt FEMA. Better track down a band for the funeral.

We went off on a stream of consciousness thing and wound up here:

Ding dong the Witch is dead! Which old Witch? The Wicked Witch.

She’s gone where the goblins go...below, below, below...

As mayor of the (Chocolate?) Munchkin City, in the county
of the Land of Oz, I welcome you most regally…
We’ve got to verify it legally, to see if she is morally, ethically, spiritually,
physically, positively, absolutely, undeniably and reliably dead.

As coroner, I must aver, I thoroughly examined her, and
she’s not only merely dead, she’s really most sincerely dead.

Lalala la, la la la la la la. . . . . . . . . . .We're NOT sending in anymore paperwork. We'll just put on our ruby slippers, say there's no place like home, get Ashley Morris's "Sinn Fein" piece tattooed on our backs, and revel in the knowledge that we're secure thanks to the Department of Homeland Security's FEMA division.

Ah. That feels much better. Nothing more to be done. Liberating in its own way!

Friday, October 06, 2006

FEMA and Mental Illness

New post at Katrina Refrigerator here. I have been so lucky that so many kept all the emails. I think thanks to their lists that I've found two that I missed. I want to thank all of them who responded to my email asking them to search their files. Interesting though that I didn't write anything for 10 days last year. I do remember being tired, and I was spending an awful lot of time trying to get the FEMA/Red Cross stuff figured out.

Meanwhile, here in our real world, FEMA still looms large, or small, depending on how you look at it.


On Wednesday, upon signing the Homeland Security funding bill, President Bush said:

Bush's signing statement Wednesday challenges several other provisions in the Homeland Security spending bill.

Bush, for example, said he'd disregard a requirement that the director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency must have at least five years experience and "demonstrated ability in and knowledge of emergency management and homeland security."

His rationale was that it "rules out a large portion of those persons best qualified by experience and knowledge to fill the office."

That was found in an AP story filed today. Strange rationale, in my humble opinion, but there you have it.

Loki, over at Humid City (see blogroll), has heard the same rumors I have with regard to some folks who were given emergency relief last year by FEMA suddenly receiving letters dunning them for repayment. These are regular folks, mind you. Honest, non-fraud committing people who were never expecting to be told that the money that magically appeared in their bank accounts (not in ours, but for some that's how it showed up---a magical direct deposit into their bank accounts) would have to be paid back. In fact, in looking over all the mountains and reams of paper from FEMA, I've never seen anything at all that even intimated that any "help" they gave was a loan as opposed to an emergency help grant. While neither Loki nor I have actually seen one of these dun letters, the people I'm hearing this from are credible, so I have no doubt that one will be seen in the flesh, so to speak, soon. (If anyone out there got one of these letters, please scan it and email it to me.)

Oh yeah, and now FEMA has gotten into the mental health business. Yeah, you heard me right. Mental health issues in New Orleans are reaching critical mass--too few beds, too few doctors, no safety net. So FEMA put together this program, (the Times-Picayune article is here,) which will allow "debriefing" but no doctors, no treatment. I'm not kidding. Read the article for yourself, it's astonishing.

So down the road, should there be another catastrophe here or in your city, please be prepared. 1. The next head of FEMA, if chosen by our illustrious President, is required to have experience but the Prez might choose to disregard that in the interest of getting an experienced person in there. (It really is a most bizarre statement!) 2. If you get emergency money from FEMA, make absolutely sure that it's not a loan because it could be unbeknownst to you as you wade through the paperwork and the trauma. 3. If you are traumatized by the event, or by your dealings with FEMA, you can probably be debriefed a year later, but please do not expect any money to be forthcoming to your city for actual treatment.

I'm just sayin'.