Saturday, December 23, 2006

Dragging Out an Old Post in Time for Christmas. . .

. . .with a few additions.

First, French Quarter Computers (Mike Anderson) is going out of business. He sent me an email. Not only is he losing his business, but he also needs a place to live. I will be writing an entire post on this man in the next week as he is remarkable. To quote him, "I didn't even get flooded and lost everything. I'm ruined." If you're looking for a last minute computer geek gift, please drop your money into his hands. If you have a place you know of for rent, drop him a line as well. He probably only has til Jan 1 to move. Below is the email he sent:

This is a pre-public notice. I won't put this information up publicly until tomorrow [Friday 12/22] afternoon, to give you an opportunity for first-dibs.

I have been borrowing for medicines and am having difficulty paying back. I am losing my housing in a matter of days and must raise cash to get a place to live for myself and my natural family of three cats, Sylvester, Chrissy and Lil Joe - I am willing to live on the streets, but I cannot allow that to happen to them.

I must sell all of the shop's equipment... Small Sony TV's [3], VCR's [4], Spirit of Saint Lois Boom Box with Tape Player, 8 Track Tape Player, Canon ImageClass D760 Copy Machine, Black GE Apartment-sized Refrigerator, Brother Intellifax 775 Fax Machine, Shuttle XPC SK41G Liquid Cooled Computers [5], Computer carts [5], Flat Panel Monitors [7], Bubble Gum Machines [2], Keyboards [many - new in boxes], Mice [many - new in boxes - wireless, optical, ball], Cables, Adapters, Extensions, Combo Digital Card Reader/USB Hubs, Canned Air, Desk Chairs, Stools, Panasonic Video/Audio Digital Effects Generator WJ-AVE3, Sentry Electronic Safe, Sharp XE-A292 Electronic Cash Register, Other Stereo Equipment and cables, Surplus and New, and much, much more - everything must go!
Great, inexpensive Christmas gifts!

Please call me at the shop at 525-4660.

Thank you, and Merry Christmas,
- mike anderson

Meanwhile, I am horribly off schedule publishing the Katrina Refrigerator posts. I had so hoped to do them in real time, and had managed to do that until my computer took a huge dump. I am a few behind over there and will have those up this week as well (that, btw, is thanks in toto to Mike Anderson's generosity.) Below is what I wrote December 18, 2005 in my series of emails to friends and family. Weird how much of it is still relevant. People are still without homes, FEMA is still an issue, the St. Charles streetcar line is running, albeit limited. There was singing in Jackson Square again this year, and we still won't let this city die. Read it all the way to the bottom, and follow the instructions. We're all still waving our kleenex's, but they're in need of a boost. Help us out, will ya?

Subject: It's the week before Christmas, and all through the house. . . .
Date: 12/18/2005 4:27:29 PM Central Standard Time

. . . . is the second trip to storage salvage. Really. Behind me as I write are dolls, lots and lots of dolls. All sitting in front of the electric heater, where they've been for days to dry out. I turn them like chickens on a spit. There's another tupperware full on the porch, still wet, but there's only so much room for salvage so I do it a little at a time.

Meg had a large doll collection, which was added to each Christmas for many years til she decided she'd rather have a stereo at 12, a car at 15. You know the way that goes. We had carefully packed them all up and brought them with us, figuring some day she'd probably want them. When we pulled them out of the sludge that is our storage, the porcelain was mostly okay, but the bodies and the clothes were soaking wet and starting to mold. I've discovered that salvaging this stuff is a three pronged operation. First you get it out of the storage unit, yes it's still in the dark out there, then you get it home and try to dry it out, then you try to clean it up. Some of what you think you can save you can't, some of what you think is just gone, you can. It's pretty schizophrenic. Once this batch of dolls is dry, I'll bring the other batch in and do the same thing. It poured yesterday. Some of the stuff on the porch got wet. Oh well, it's already wet. What else can happen to it?

Snapshots------OOOOOOOHH now there's a bad word for us this week.

Lemme back up a bit. We got into storage again on Wednesday. Apparently it won't be such a problem now as there's going to allegedly be someone there all the time. THAT is a big help. Of course it was still wet, of course it had no power, but we got smart and got little hangie lanterns. The coal miner idea is cemented in our heads now. It looks like a mine in there. So we open the door, get some carts, hang up the lanterns and move some more book sludge. The floor is very slippery and our unit is in the dead center of this maze like building. After a couple of trips in and out with the cart, I literally slipped/tripped and saved myself from falling completely in the dark by placing my face squarely onto the corrugated metal of the corner of the units that I didn't see. Hey, at my age the eyes don't adjust as fast as they did. Don't panic! Quit gasping! I'm okay. I had a fat lip and a couple bruises and a bad headache for a couple days. It was to be expected that one of us would fall. We had to sign waivers prior to going in saying that no matter what happened UHaul wasn't liable so they're off the hook and next time I wear better treaded shoes.

The books don't get any easier to toss out. Each box harder than the last. Then came the box of games, Monopoly, Scrabble, all the games everyone has and soggy Monopoly money flew around us as we tossed the pulpy scraps into the dumpster which is about 10 feet tall. It was a windy day and it drizzled a little, which made tossing things over one's head a redundant effort in a lot of cases. "Hey, honey, here's the FEMA money!" The great golden 500 dollar Monopoly bills going up towards the mouth of the dumpster and then back down on top of us, kinda like a really perverse jewel thief movie where the thieves put all the "take" on the bed and toss it in the air. We are a sick couple. We'll take our humor where we can get it.

Back into the mine we go and now I must issue a retraction of my last email. TUPPERWARE DOES NOT SAVE PHOTOS. We look down and find a gigantic green tupperware. Lid firmly attached, looked pretty okay, sitting on the floor. This was a coup in and of itself as getting to the floor level in this thing is done in little increments by taking all the sludge from the top, then the middle, then finally you clear an area and see floor. Neither of us had any idea what was in it. David opened the lid and the worst odor came out. We picked it up and it was incredibly heavy. We wheel it out, open it up and it's full of black water, then I realize what else is in it. Photos. Tons and tons of family photos. Baby pictures of me. Baby pictures of David. Baby pictures of Megan. The Christmas card I made of her when she was four in her leather jacket and hat eating a candy cane. I had several extra. No more. School pictures from every year of her school. Mine too. My mama had given my sisters and myself our "kid pictures" and they were gone in the black water. I felt like I had let her down, I hadn't protected them. Bullshit, I know, but it's one of those flickering thoughts which must be multiplied 100,000 times all over New Orleans every day. It was horrible. And there are more photos in that storage unit. I haven't gotten to them yet. We're still only about 2/3 of the way through. We figure it will be one more, maybe two more trips to the mine before we have dealt with all of it.

Snapshots, gone. Snapshots of the day, some of which made it through stage one of salvage. Bizarre things. Meaningless things that have become meaningful:

A temporary driver's license with my Guerrero St. San Francisco apartment address on it. Some old shoot schedule from Video Caroline. The complete Videowest staff list and contact numbers, which I typed on an ancient Xerox word processor years ago. A contact sheet of photos of a video shoot with Greg Kihn, the only picture still intact was one of Juanita, smiling up at me. I'm going to dry it out and send it to her. A sketch Joe Dea made 23 years ago of Meg with bunny ears. A postcard of the Jefferson Starship shoot. Meg wants that. Some sketches made for paintings that I had to throw away. Found the "heart" sketch from the Janis Joplin painting which did survive in my house. If it makes it through the drying process I'm giving that to Stuart and Lon, our dear friends here. A faded picture of me in a baton twirling recital when I was about 6 I'd say. I remember my Mama sewing every stinking green sequin on the yellow fabric and how proud I was of my boots. Pictures of two cats, now gone, the only pictures of pets that remain. Our beloved Dakota's photo was a mush. I had to ask David what had been in the frame. A photo of David's nephew and his dad fishing. We could only see their feet before we tossed it. Some touristy postcards and old newspaper articles from the Dalton Gang Hideout in Kansas. If any of that lives, I'm going to divvy it up between Meg and my nieces who were along for that trip. A Blue Angels tshirt that Meg got when she went to see them with David at age 6. I'll save that for her.

Talk about your life flashing before your eyes. It was all there in storage. I tossed out 30 years of my work. Any writing I'd done was gone, the paintings went into the dumpster, most of the sketches are pulp, and any photography I'd done was now matted blank space. Funny though, one painting that I was always unsatisfied with went into the dumpster but the sketch survived and it was better than the painting had ever been and having spent so much time in water on top of a water color that was in there, it's now a kinda cool piece of art itself. I'll try to keep that. It's a weird kind of numbness that overtakes you when you're sorting through the crap that we all save that reminds us that we were here, we created, we experienced. I actually am nuts enough that I took some photos of some of the stuff before it went over the top of the blue dumpster, especially some of Meg's stuff, so she knows what she had. And I need to tell Angie that I saved most of Meg's Barbie's, and the clothes that Angie had given her for them. At least I think I did. We'll see how stage two goes.

Now, put that kleenex away. This is one of those things that comes with living through Katrina. We'll sort through the rest after Christmas. What else can happen to it at this point? And we'll see Christmas. We'll be walking around dolls and boxes of other stuff that most people would call junk, but we'll be walking around.

David has a friend at work whose neighbor was so distraught that he took his own life this week. Those numbers keep climbing. He had been estranged from his wife prior to the storm, then his house went under water, and he lost his job. He hadn't gotten his FEMA money either (we're hearing that only 13% of people have, and I also heard a story which I've yet to be able to confirm that a large percentage of people were listed as "ineligible" because they had bad credit ratings. I don't get the relationship there. I'll let you know as soon as I can confirm that story.) He had started gutting his house, was getting on with rebuilding. Contractors were coming in. His house was in Mid-City and was reasonably stable. Unfortunately, the whole thing took it's toll on him and the contractors found him upstairs in the house, dead.

City Park did the Celebration in the Oaks this year, much to our surprise. I heard some people griping about that. How can one do a celebration of any kind, they asked. Tonight the traditional carolling on Jackson Square will happen. People with candles and song sheets singing in the Christmas lights and the shadow of the Cathedral. I hear several restaurants will manage to do reveillon dinners, the dinners traditionally served after Midnight Mass. Of course they must.

We are months past the storm, and still there is so much to be dealt with personally and in terms of planning what the future of the City will be. I was in Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop one evening and heard some guys standing at the bar discussing all this. One said, "Okay, it's time to STOP CRYING. We can go on crying forever, or we can get to work and get something done." No doubt we'll cry some more, it's unavoidable, but this guy made a good point.

One thing that will help is for people to celebrate. This is a city that five months ago would hold up traffic for any kind of parade. "Mayor Nagin's dog had a litter!" "GREAT! Let's have a parade!" "It's Wanda's birthday!" "Get a permit, we MUST do a second line!" "No parade today?" "Nope." "Why not?" "No reason." "WAIT, it's St. Theralian's feast day." "Who the hell is St. Theralian?" "No idea but let's have a parade!"

New Orleans won't be that way again for a long time, but celebration is needed. Hell, I saw an actual streetcar coming down Canal the other day! PARADE! There was no parade, but there should have been. Every little step has to be applauded, celebrated, and built on. There's so much depression and despair in this little corner of the world that every bit of joy has to be noted. Christmas lights up on houses, singing, reveillons, these things must be there however sparse. It will help so many get through the ongoing salvage and rebuilding process. And we'll all have to help those who have a real let down once the holidays have passed, because many will still not have a home, or will be going through one more room in their house throwing out everything in it and gutting the walls. David and I will still have to wade through the muck of storage and go through the trunks, the things we're dreading most. It has to be done and we'll do it along with everyone else in New Orleans.

What we need the rest of you to do is not to forget us. Don't let the current quick fix levee solution become a permanent, neglectful patch so that this happens again. The storm would have been a bad one, but it was the failure of the levees that caused this wholesale destruction. I got a great email from a friend in Montana. Showed the system London uses to keep water out, then showed the Netherlands system, then showed the New Orleans system. Appalling. (I'll forward it to you if you want it.) Write the Army Corps of Engineers and tell them that we can do better. Write your representatives and tell them thank you for the 3 billion, but we're going to need so much more than that, then those of you who are versed in "finance speak" can tell them how it wouldn't be a lump sum but would be spread out over the life of the project and it will cost so much less than rebuilding New Orleans a second time. Tell them the insurance industry lobbyists will thank them in the end and contribute more to their campaigns. (Hey, whatever works!) Tell them that if we can afford to run an outrageous deficit to rebuild Iraq, which we spent over 300 billion on last year, that we should be able to make this city safe for it's citizens. Oh, and tell them that you know people here, and that they're tenacious and willing to throw them a parade if they just make it seem like they give a shit.

Tell them that a phoenix rose from the ashes, and that there are a bunch of us here waiting to see what kind of glorious City rises from the sludge. Tell them we won't let them bury any more of us in it.

Now, after you've done that, take that damn kleenex in your hand. That's it. Good. Hold that hand up in the air. GREAT. Put on a brass band CD. Got it? Okay. Now, stand up, wave it in the air. Move your hips around to the music. Get a few of your friends to join you. Now take it to the streets. People will look at ya funny, but they'll get over it. Now you've created a second line. Have fun with it! Pour another eggnog if you want! Keep going, don't wimp out.

Now imagine how wonderful it will be to do that in a renewed New Orleans, knowing that you're in a City that wouldn't let itself die.


Tuesday, December 19, 2006

My Computer is on the Fritz. . .

. . .so posting will be light. I'm behind on my Katrina Refrigerator posts as well, but will get those up to speed in a couple days.

But for those who saw Left Behind, the documentary about NOLA schools, here's a CNN piece on how many of these kids are raising themselves here.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

A Slow Burn, for Now

I went to see "Left Behind" the night it debuted. Devastating and left me with mixed feelings, but will write a piece on that later. It's a definite must-see.

Earlier this week a friend sent me a piece he'd culled from an email newsletter he subscribes to. It came from an organization called the Center for American Action Fund ( I'd never heard of them, but what he sent to me infuriated me, and not at him and not at the Center for American Action either.

Under the Radar

KATRINA -- NEW ORLEANS LEVEE WORK SLOWS AS COMMERCIAL INSURER PULLS OUT OF CITY: The Army Corps of Engineers for months "frantically" prepared for hurricane season, "patching broken levees and building floodgates." "That repair work is essentially complete and the corps has moved on to the task of strengthening flood protection in New Orleans beyond its pre-Hurricane Katrina level, hoping to entice residents back," the New York Times reports. "But lately the bulldozers have been idle, and the trucks motionless." "To save money, the corps will skip interim steps on some projects and go straight for the higher, 100-year level of protection." The move "will leave the city at risk until 2010 at least." The corps "has also scaled back plans to armor the levees against being scoured away when water flows over the top." Meanwhile, "Louisiana's largest commercial insurance provider" has announced it has plans to "cancel all its commercial property policies in the New Orleans area next year, sparking fears that other insurers will follow and slow the region's economic recovery." "This is sending a shock wave through the business community," said one economic development official. "We cannot exist as a business community without insurance." Another commentator says the announcement could be "disastrous to the recovery of New Orleans."

Naturally, I knew of the insurance pullout and had been following the news stories and the blog posts. But for some reason this particular piece struck the very last nerve I had. I think it was gems like "to save money" and "scaled back" and "scoured away" that really got me.

I had remembered hearing somewhere years ago that the California legislature had passed a law after the Earthquake in 1989 forcing insurers to keep homeowners' policies up and running in the state or lose the lucrative automobile/boat/etc. market. I searched for a couple of hours in vain and then came across a blog by a California attorney with the unlikely name of George Wallace here. He had some really interesting posts about insurance issues in California so I wrote him asking if he knew what the law I thought I remembered was. He very kindly and graciously responded with this:

"I don’t recall specifically, but as best I remember California never reached the point of threatening to cut off insurers entirely if they pulled out of the homeowners’ market. In fact, the long term result of the San Francisco/Loma Prieta earthquake and of the Northridge earthquake was to shift nearly all earthquake coverage to a separate entity, the California Earthquake Authority. Not having to answer directly for most earthquake losses, the private insurance industry has happily pushed along writing homeowners coverage.

I know some states have tried the approach you mention – it seems to me that New Jersey and/or Massachusetts, for instance, clamped down when insurers tried to pull out of the private auto insurance market, and I know there have been regulatory pressures on insurers who have tried to pull out of Florida in recent years (after that state’s string of hurricane losses). There is a lot of debate over whether this sort of approach actually works in creating a marketplace in which consumers can get the insurance they need at prices they are willing to pay.

All of that is a roundabout way of saying that I can’t point you to any specific law of the kind you are asking about. The idea you are talking about, though, is one that other states have tried. Since I don’t practice in those other states, I regret that I can’t give you anything more specific."

There, again, were interesting terms: "California Earthquake Authority," "clamped down," "insurance they need at prices they are willing to pay." What about a Gulf Coast Hurricane Authority? Is it possible? What about an Insurance Commissioner who was willing to "clamp down?" Fascinating ideas. But what really struck me was the "insurance they need" part.

The articles saying that 30% of our current residents are considering leaving in the next year are discouraging, but I don't know anyone I talk to regularly who would fall into that category. Most of the people I know are gutting and rebuilding their pre-Katrina homes or are trying to purchase new ones. And there's the rub. How can you close on a home loan without insurance? The short answer is: You can't. No insurance, no mortgage. No mortgage, no home. No home. . . . . .well it's anyone's guess where it goes from there, unless you're so incredibly rich that it barely matters to you. But that's not the case for most.

I am absolutely no fan of insurance companies, or corporate entities that value bottom lines, CEO salaries and stockholders over regular people including their employees. Mark Folse, at Wet Bank Guide wrote the ultimate piece on insurance companies as criminal monopolies a couple months ago (can't find the link--look through his archives and you'll find some brilliant pieces). I can't do better than that.

Altogether now, with gusto: IT'S THE LEVEES, PEOPLE.

I find myself in the curious position of saying that until or unless the Federal government holds the Army Corps of Engineers accountable and shows the political will to rebuild the levees (please re-visit this post at Ashley's if you're unclear on what I'm talking about), the insurance companies can make a fairly reasonable, if immoral, argument against issuing policies in any of the Gulf States.

So where does that leave us? That is exactly the problem. We don't know.

Sinn Fein, Ashley Morris' battle cry, is a rallying point for more than just the occupants of this house. His Rebuilding piece is a masterwork. Are we, indeed, in this on our own?

Many have talked about shutting down the port. Let all y'all up there in Minnesota (home of Travellers Insurance) have no toilet paper, wrapping paper (Oh Scrooge, ya don't mean it!), no oil, no natural gas, no NOTHING that comes through this port. Until these levees are rebuilt, you can all freeze and use newspaper to wipe your butts. Sounds cold, no pun intended, and you're right. You live in the United States. This stuff is taken for granted--pay your bill, get your heat. Uh uh. Pay your bill, build some levees for the rest of us who allegedly live in the United States with you, and THEN we'll open the port so you can get warm. Hope your axe is sharpened for all that wood you'll be cutting. (Ours down here are kept mostly for hacking through roofs.)

A friend of mine has also coined the term "economic secession." Let's all pay our Federal taxes. Do it early, but withhold them. I know, I know. An idea from some fantasy world (um, remember where we live?) We tell the Feds that we are willing to pay our income taxes provided that every stinking penny of it goes to build the levees, nothing but nothing else. All that money must go into a separate account, not Federal coffers. We'll pay for the damn things out of our own pockets willingly. Tell Blanco not to back down on this, to support us and we'll re-elect her (or not--hey, it's politics---no WAIT--it's LEVEES!)

These ideas sound seditious, eh? Hey you, up in Dubuque, not liking this? Think we're all a bunch of wild eyed radicals? WRONG, although we could be, soon. As Ashley said, in post-WW2 Europe people rebuilt their city themselves, in some cases brick by brick. Okay, is that what it will take? Tell us and we'll do it. Quit dicking around. We'll get the voter registration rolls and put everyone to work in shifts. Most of us would willingly tote wheelbarrows and trowels if it meant that we'd be safe, a term used often and with great effect in the "War on Terror."

The dictionary defines seditious as:


adj 1: arousing to action or rebellion [syn: incendiary, incitive, inflammatory, instigative, rabble-rousing]

2: in opposition to a civil authority or government [syn: insurgent, subversive]

Is that really what it's going to take? We've already found out that FEMA and the Army Corps of Engineers are not here to help us as Americans. (BTW, see da po' blog's post on FEMA's tale of woe. It's a beaut'. We should never have expected them to help, that's not their job. What on earth were we thinking?) If we're on our own, then tell us and we'll behave accordingly. We'll do what we have to do to rebuild this little blip on George Bush's radar.

We have our own terror here, and our terror isn't some religious zealot with a dirty bomb. The terrorists in our neck of the bayou are the ACoE, the insurance companies, and the inanimate levees that may or may not hold. These terrorists are keeping people from rebuilding with any semblance of confidence in their "safety"---a word that's been bandied about in the last six years more disingenuously than Anna Nicole Smith's wedding vows.

People who live with terror every day will eventually take action. Do we have to become insurgents in our own country in order to get this done?

The other night at the documentary premiere, there were two women of about my vintage who said, after seeing the film, "This time it was water. Next time it will be fire."

I truly hope they're wrong.

Friday, December 01, 2006

And While I'm At It. . .

I went down to Walgreen's on Decatur today and came back with a $48 faboo hat for $9.99, and a lust in my heart for a gorgeous coat that was originally $350 marked at $175. Okay, so it's cold here today, no not Midwest cold, but cold. Oh, I didn't tell you where I found these cool bargains? At The Bag Lady store at 827 Decatur. Great bags, scarves, hats, gloves, coats, sweaters, clothing. Tons of cool stocking stuffer wallets. (Psst, everything is basically from Macy's but here off-market.) I was told that for the holidays (starting NOW) if you buy $35 worth of merchandise, you get a $10 item free. Oh yeah, and they have a "locals only" card that gives you 10% off. They do have a website, but it's not really shop-able, although there are tons of ways to contact them. Worth the visit.

CAUTION: SHAMELESS PLUG AHEAD--Since my husband drives a carriage down there, I would be in big trouble if I didn't recommend (and I really do highly recommend it) that you take yourselves or your visitors for a French Quarter carriage tour. These guys are out there all the time and they don't own the rig or the mule, they live on a small percentage of the fare and TIPS. Yup, that's right, TIPS. There are a lot of good guys out there, but in my opinion the best tours can be had if you ask for David, Marlon, Dennis, Diane or Mickey. And no, they don't all work for the same company!

And in the interest of fun, big fun, and charity and making a political statement, head for the Snowflake site. This site allows you to make a virtual paper snowflake, just like you did when you were a kid only using a mouse instead of scissors. For every snowflake that is created, they somehow get more money for Salvation Army (hey, different from the mall Santa's with bells and buckets, huh?) THIS IS FREE and my six year old grandson absolutely loved it.

Your snowflake will float down and if it's clicked on, your message will appear. My message (snowflake #3039628) is "We want levees for Christmas." I figure I'll make a few more with the same message and maybe if enough of us do it, people will see them. The flakes are printable and searchable.

I'll avoid the obvious "I'm a flake, you're a flake" jokes, but hey, a few flakey New Orleanians putting a message out there AND having fun might not be bad, eh?

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Are We Open for Business--a Potpourri of Answers

First the great news that Greg Peters, Suspect Device, is progressing well. The best news of the day.

A couple weeks ago, someone spammed several NOLA blogs anonymously asking "Are you open for business or not?" I was annoyed, started to respond to Anonymous, but decided not to as it appeared that this person was clearly baiting several blogs.

The question is now being discussed over at ThinkNOLA in the comments section of a post on Microsoft's blatant use of Katrina recovery as a marketing tool. It's interesting because with the republishing of all the emails from last year over at Katrina Refrigerator, I've been re-reading them and in one I talked a bit about how difficult it was to respond to the question "how are things down there?" That was a year ago. It's still difficult. Last year we felt we were doing a great disservice to New Orleans by answering, "It's okay" to that question, but we also were not always in the mood to go off on a rant about the problems. Here we are a year later, and the same issues remain in terms of how to respond to that question.

Let's start with SOME things are better.

Some people are coming back. Houses are being gutted and repaired. Some of the pre-Katrina Christmas events will be taking place this year, making some things seem normal. Some schools are up and running (although a recent report said that Katrina was the biggest educational upheaval in history with so many children losing from 7 weeks to one year of schooling). Some people have street lights in a relatively consistent way on their streets. I can hear the calliope on the Natchez most weekends now, and that's nice. The Saints are back and doing well, the talk of the town. Some hospitals are open. There are some, but not enough, beds for mental health patients. Some stores that said they wouldn't come back, have. Some grocery stores are open but many neighborhood ones are not. Some of the musicians are coming home. Some of the artists have returned to Jackson Square.

Some Friday and Saturday nights in the Quarter look more like pre-Katrina than they did last year at this time when the streets were full of mostly military vehicles and contractors. Some of our restaurants have re-opened.

::::::::Anonymous hollers, WAIT! You make it sound like no one should come down there! What the hell do you MEAN, "some" of the restaurants are open. You should be telling people that everything's great! Come down, spend your money, enjoy New Orleans!::::::::::::

Well, Anonymous, I do, in fact, say that regularly to people I talk with. There is plenty to do and plenty to spend your money on here---yes, right now----tons of entertainment from theatre to sports and everything in between. Please, conventioneers, tourists, please come to New Orleans, and have a wonderful time. It absolutely can be done with very little effort. That part is easy. Hey, the QE2 is coming to town. Things are looking up! But please don't expect me to gloss over the problems that remain.

What's not easy, for us living here to deal with or for those not here to understand, is how much is still NOT open for business. I hope that some of those tourists and conventioneers will notice how many empty storefronts there are in the Quarter alone. Maybe they'll even wonder why. I hope they venture out into the neighborhoods and see how much has not been done, how much of this city is absolutely NOT open for business--or living for that matter. I hope they talk to some of the people in the neighborhoods who are working tirelessly to form neighborhood associations and to monitor local politicians' "plans" for their neighborhood. These people, many of whom are still in FEMA trailers (a little less than 500 sq ft I understand), are the real pioneers, the ones who remember civics class.

Would Anonymous prefer that we all tell people a sweetness and light story of one year after Katrina? It's really too bad that it can't be tied up like a one hour TV show, with no loose ends and a happy ending.

The problem with doing that, the sweetness and light approach I mean, is that we do ourselves a disservice. As we here already know, many many people across the country think everything is peachy here now. I mean, hey, look at all that money that's been coming from the Feds (not), look at all the various fundraisers they've given to to help us (we appreciate it very very much). In a many corners of this country, folks think that we're all rolling in folding green (that most of us here didn't deserve to begin with in their estimation, and the truth is that I know very few who got anything at all) and they see us in the Superdome painted and cheering, so things have to be okay now. I mean, we HAVE football, what else could we need? Besides, President Bush said "as much as it takes for as long as it takes." Unfortunately it's turned out to be kinda like the No Child Left Behind edict he issued---great soundbite, no funding, and still--not to harp on this or anything but----NO LEVEES that can keep this from happening again.

If we don't keep talking about it, people will forget it. Besides, how can bodies floating in the streets of an American city keep the attention of a country that's more concerned with Britney text messaging Kevin to notify him of their impending divorce and whether or not they should go to Zales to make sure their significant other has a diamond bigger than the neighbor's holly berries for Christmas? Some American's attention spans are short and overall they prefer to not go too deeply into something that's disturbing.

I don't understand why people across this country aren't appalled at what's happened here. Why they don't notice how much we're spending to fight a war across the world for some vaguely messianic crusade to spread freedom and democracy to people who may or may not want it, but they kvetch about money for the Gulf Coast. I don't get it. Oh wait, I forgot, TomKat's wedding just happened and we really want to know what a Scientology wedding is like. Forgive me.

There are many people who write to me asking what they can do. They do realize there are still problems here, and many are totally disgusted with what they're seeing, or not seeing. They ask how they can help, but most are very leery of gigantic charities or funds. They want to actually hand their money to someone here who needs it.

So, for Anonymous and all those who ask me how they can help, here's a small list of businesses and organizations that can use the help. If you're still not done with your Christmas shopping, and you weren't up at 5AM to head to the mall on Black Friday, or you just want something different that can make a difference, then consider shopping New Orleans. If you're here in NOLA, stay out of Best Buy and Walmart if you can. Shop local. If you're not in NOLA, some of these businesses and organizations can still accomodate you. This is a very short list. Travelling Mermaid has a more extensive one here. (Thanks, TM!) I highly recommend that you take a look at her well compiled list.

Other local entities with websites:

Dirty Coast tshirts are a bargain at $20 bucks each. Great designs, locally owned and operated (these are the guys who made my "Be a New Orleanian Wherever You Are" shirt that some of my visitors have wanted to steal!) I asked a few weeks ago for a link ad for this blog, but they must be (hopefully) swamped. They offer gift cards so you can buy a shirt for someone and let them pick their own from an extensive collection.

EDIT: I found the code so that cool add flashing over on the right hand side is the Dirty Coast link. Just click it and it will take you right there. Their link is also on the Katrina Refrigerator site.

Two groups who really needs some help as their membership has dropped by more than half are Save Our Cemeteries and Friends of the Cabildo. Save Our Cemeteries does some great projects and has a fun little shop on its website under the tab "merchandise." Looking to weird out your boss? How about a replica of Marie Laveau's tomb? SOC has that and more. Friends of the Cabildo helps to keep several of our best museums up and running, including the Cabildo, Presbytere, 1850 House and Madame John's Legacy (which still hasn't opened.) They lost so much of their membership that they had to lay off most of their staff. If you get a membership or just donate some money to them, you'd be helping a lot. Besides, the membership will give you free entry into those museums when you come down for a visit.

Music of interest to you? Maybe instead of Amazon, you could buy a CD for that friend from The Louisiana Music Factory. Great regional music and a store that we have to keep in business. Tower Records, now a casualty of a corporate merger, will be gone, but Louisiana Music Factory is a gem that we can't afford to lose.

Don't want a CD? Okay, how about helping out a real life musician? So many of them lost instruments, or have no place to live. Both Tipitina's and WWOZ Radio have been doing "direct into the hands of musicians" help. And I know some of you are listening to OZ on your computers wherever you are right now. Help them out in someone else's name if you have a friend who already has way too many reed vases in their house, or give it as a gift to yourself.

And finally, on the website list, is WRBH Radio. Go to their site and you'll see a link for, which will allow you to buy anything from soup to nuts with a portion of the proceeds going to help keep WRBH in business. Not one of the big stations, it is an important station. WRBH is "reading radio for the Blind and Print Handicapped." They read news stories from various sources in their entirety, as well as fiction, non-fiction, kid's books 24/7 for those who are unable to read themselves. A very worthy station.

If you're local and want to avoid big box stores, below are some of my favorites. Granted they are near my house, but they are also of interest to all those tourists and conventioneers we want to attract, so come on down from the Irish Channel or Uptown or Lakeview, wherever you are. I know parking is a mess, but it'll be fun and the residents have already started putting garland on the balconies and galleries.

If you need something different, really different, head for Yesteryear's at 626 Bourbon. Okay, you're saying, you can't seriously be sending me to a Bourbon Street shop. Oh, but I am. While Yesteryear's does have tshirts (of exclusive designs, absolutely NOT the "I puked on Bourbon Street" variety), it also carries some of the most exquisite porcelain dolls you've ever seen, in many sizes and price ranges. This place can turn you into a doll collector even if you're not one now. And you can completely avoid the big jewelry shops as Yesteryear's has some very unique and beautiful gemstone pieces, again in a wide variety of prices and styles. The clothing carried in this shop is fun, affordable and here's the big one, wearable. This store has been in business for more than 26 years, acting as a counterpoint to the schlock commonly found on Bourbon Street. Let's keep her in business now.

Need computer stuff? Some peripheral for a PC or a Mac? Head for French Quarter Computer Services at 824 Chartres. This guy has been going without his meds to keep the business open. He is the only computer store in the Quarter, and for those of us in the area who might not necessarily want to go Uptown for that new mouse when this one craps out, he's a life saver.

Books? New or used there are plenty of places to support. My personal favorites:

Arcadian Books, 714 St. Peter, right down from the Cigar Store Indian (oh yeah, and if you are looking for cigars, go check out that Indian. You'll find Armando in there will be happy to help!)

Faulkner House Books, 624 Pirates Alley, great selection of regional, trade and used books.

Librairie Book Shop, 823 Chartres (yup, right across the street from the Computer store!). The guy there knows just about every book in the store, and like the owner of Arcadiana, if he doesn't know for sure that it's there among the stacks, he sure knows where to look.

So, Anonymous, if you live here, I hope that you'll keep these places "open for business," and if you don't, then please buy a plane ticket, come down and carol with us at Jackson Square, and drop by some of the above-mentioned establishments. Maybe talk to the proprietor's about how they're managing with only half the locals back in town and a much smaller tourist pool. You might get a better idea of what's really happening here, and better yet, you'll be able to DO something by handing your dollars to someone here, right into their hands.

And please don't spam the comments sections of blogs anymore, or if you absolutely must, then at least be brave enough to sign your name.

Any locals who want to add to this list of local businesses in the comments section, please feel free to do so!
EDIT: Thanks to rcs (although thanks isn't the right word) for this: "Unfortunately, according to this post ( forums) FQ Computers is closing down for good today. Shame."

You can find the link in rcs' comment. FQ Computers will be closing. Another one lost.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006


Well, I see I've been a little remiss.

I was still sending out emails this time last year. I didn't put the link for the Halloween one at Katrina Refrigerator, so here it is. It was actually a fun one about the Rebirth Brass Band playing in front of the Cabildo last year. It was lovely to re-read that one.

The Katrina Refrigerator Thanksgiving post is here.

In re-reading the last three K Fridge posts, I can see how truly wild a ride it was. The post before the Halloween post was about Blackwater, those scary guys who we still see around, the next one about the day before Halloween was a night I'll always remember. It was joyful and surreal at the same time.

The Thanksgiving post from last year is a testament to the generousity of people. I also wrote a paragraph asking that people not forget us here. That they continue to write their representatives. That still stands today.

Halloween this year was very different and I keep meaning to write about it here. I will get to it. But the issues with keeping the problems, the LEVEES, in everyone's face continues to be a reality. I've written about the insurance issues and other issues, but the main one is and will remain the LEVEES. If we don't get the levees fixed and armored as they should be, we could see a replay of the devastation we experienced last year.

Want to see what we're talking about (:::::::endlessly, you say as you roll your eyes!:::::::::) look this post over at Ashley's. Last year about this time, a friend had sent me a "Picture of the Day" email, and this was the picture of the day. I stupidly didn't save it. I was so delighted that Ashley had it and posted it.

Copy it, save it, send it out, forward it. Send it to your representatives, send it to the White House.

The President traditionally saves a turkey's life in a photo op around this time of year. I hope he remembers to save the life of a beautiful pearl of a city. He can do that. I hope he will.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Got Tickets? Parking tickets, that is. . . .

GBitch wrote a great piece on the horrible priorities in City Government right now and I agree with her wholeheartedly. That having been said, for any of you out there who might have some of the inglorious red/orange parking ticket envelopes taking over your glove compartment, racking up fines, this is for you.

From November 15 to November 30, the City of New Orleans has declared Parking Ticket Amnesty. You can pay the original face value of the ticket, all fines (you know, for that one that's been in your car for over a year?) will be wiped off the slate. In our case here, for four tickets, the cost of paying them two weeks ago was $340.00. Today, $85.00 (three $20 buck over meter and one $25 buck wrong place wrong time tickets.)

To pay your tickets at their face value go to the City of New Orleans website, look on the left side, click "Pay Tickets", put in your plate number, and voila! It will show all the tickets on your account at their original face value.

If you wait, they're talking about stepped up enforcement after 11/30 including putting a boot on cars with too many tickets. You so don't want that.

Just a public service announcement!

As of this morning, it's impossible to get to the website. I suggest maybe trying it in the middle of the night. Gee, must be a lot of us out here trying to pay tickets!

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Pirates of the Gulf Coast

I have too many posts in my head and not enough time in the day. This one has to be posted though.

Mark Folse, over at WetBank Guide, has been talking about this issue for a while: Insurance companies. Some folks commenting at his blog have mentioned the idea of filing an anti-trust suit against these thieves. Legalized extortion guaranteed to hold up the rebuilding effort here is the best description of what's going on here in the Gulf Coast region, with insurers being the extortionists.

Now, I have no problem with the idea of people making a profit, but I have some major issues with corporations crying poor, cutting off service, then posting record profits. Here in the Gulf Coast area, the insurance companies are the single biggest problem in the Recovery effort for many, many people. I think we should do what California did.

After the 1989 San Francisco earthquake I think it was, major insurance carriers refused to issue homeowners' policies. The California legislature passed a law saying to the carriers, "Okay, then you can't have any auto policies here either. Cover homeowners and their cars, or you don't get to cover anything at all. You'll get ZERO bucks outta our pockets to build your bottom line." It worked.

I can't take credit for the title of this post, it belongs to James Byrne. He wrote this editorial today and says it all.

Greg Peters/Suspect Device Laptop Fund

Yesterday I was catching up on all my local blog reading. The writers around here always unearth something I didn't see. It's like having 200 pairs of eyes keeping track of the Recovery. These bloggers don't always agree, but on this topic, we do agree.

Greg Peters, aka Suspect Device, has helped us laugh through our tears on many occasions. His contributions to the Gambit and his blog are priceless. I had been reading him for a long time before I finally met him at Rising Tide. I expected all gruff and teeth and anger. Instead, I met a soft-spoken, sensitive man who was nothing at all like I expected him to be. He clearly has a heart, for the people and the city of New Orleans.

Now he needs open heart surgery, and he also needs to remain employed while he convalesces. So the wonderful Tech Twins, Maitri Venkat-Ramani and Alan Gutierrez, found a way for all of us to contribute to buy him the MacBook he needs.

He leaves for Cleveland 11/20/2006. We can do this for him. There are 100 of us NOLA bloggers out here yammering on about putting money into people's hands, helping each other out, etc. This time it's one of our own and he needs a Mac laptop so he can continue working and speaking out with and for us. We only need 52 pledges of $25.00 each. Hell, most of our bar tabs are more than that on any given weekend!

Please log in HERE and give what you can. It's time to take care of the gruff and teeth and anger soft spoken sensitive guy (don't tell anyone about that last part!)

And more thanks than words can express to Maitri and Alan for figuring out how we can do this and putting up with my non-geek status!

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Explains my dizziness. . . . . all that SPINNIN'!

I have a draft of another post I've been working on, but started getting caught up on my reading and found Ashley Morris's post. I totally stole this from him.

You are The Wheel of Fortune

Good fortune and happiness but sometimes a species of
intoxication with success

The Wheel of Fortune is all about big things, luck, change, fortune. Almost always good fortune. You are lucky in all things that you do and happy with the things that come to you. Be careful that success does not go to your head however. Sometimes luck can change.

What Tarot Card are You?
Take the Test to Find Out.

Too much fun!

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Walls, Shelters and Whose Fault Is It Anyway?

I am reposting a piece written March 28, 2006. I have been trying for weeks to write a post about how our perceptions of having a social contract with our government were thrashed along with the storm. It's a topic I've been mulling over literally for months. I've been trying to define exactly what I think the social contract is, what others think it is, and whether it exists at all. For whatever reason I just couldn't put a coherent piece together on this topic.

Then earlier this week I was searching through my email for a particular piece of mail, unrelated to Katrina, New Orleans, or politics, and came across some email sent to me after I originally posted this piece. For whatever reason, and I'm actually still baffled, this piece really upset some folks, viscerally. Go figure.

After locating the mail I was looking for, I started perusing the news as I do every day. I read the stories of the Pineapple Express and the flooding in Washington state. One fatality so far and a huge nightmare for those living there.

Today in a T-P article about the upcoming National Association of Realtors convention here this weekend, the President of the above-mentioned association, Thomas Stevens, said:

The NAR show features dozens of seminars for agents and brokers. Among the biggest highlights of the show is a Saturday afternoon speech by former Presidents Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush.

Though NAR hopes its presence helps the city, it also is coming with a national political agenda.

"We're pushing for a national disaster insurance (plan) once we have this (midterm) election behind us. There are a lot more (potential) New Orleans-like disasters out there, more areas prone to disaster than others, and it's a national issue," not just one for the Gulf Coast, Stevens said.

"Disaster can strike anywhere in this country," he said. Therefore, legislation to create a public-private national disaster insurance plan is critical, he said, as is the need to prevent insurance carriers from "bolting" from disaster-struck markets.

This article prompted my thinking about social contracts again (it's really a vicious cycle!) but showed me that there are other people out there who think it exists as well.

All this followed on the heels of my reading the Richman Gentleman's Quarterly hatchet-job article bashing New Orleans, our food, our culture, and claiming that we are stupid to live here, stupid to rebuild here, and we're also evidently all staggering out of bars every morning. (YOU CAN FIND THE LINK TO THE COMPLETE ARTICLE ON ASHLEY MORRIS' BLOG. GQ HAD TAKEN IT DOWN BUT PUT IT UP AGAIN YESTERDAY I GUESS. ASHLEY'S BLOG IS LINKED TO THE RIGHT ON THE BLOGROLL--TIME'S RUNNING OUT BEFORE I HAVE TO RUN ERRANDS, ER, STRIKE THAT, BEFORE I HAVE TO GO FIGURE OUT WHAT BAR TO STAGGER OUT OF TOMORROW MORNING, SO YOU'LL HAVE TO CLICK ON IT YOURSELF!)

So all of those things came together at once prompting me to re-post this piece. Circuitous or synchronous, I'm not sure, but there you are. You've gotten an inside view of how my mind works, oh you lucky you!

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Structures, structures, rules, and locations. The news lately has been full of stories about these things, which has led to some interesting conversations around here."Why rebuild New Orleans? It's below sea level." My god, we've heard that so many times since Katrina hit us. After we get over the anger we sputter our various personal reasons, emotional reasons and cultural reasons, and then, if we're really on a roll, we start in on the economic reasons. Then depending on how much time and energy we have, we try to rationally explain to whatever idiot just made the statement, that New Orleans, and the entire Gulf Coast region, are important to America, and oh yeah, in case they forgot, we are still a part of America. "And by the way, buster, do ya like your SUV? We don't just have rum down here ya know! You can't run that Escalade on rum."

After our road trip, we got to thinking about the weird logic that causes someone to make a statement like that. If we follow that logic then Americans just about everywhere are going to have to rethink they way they build their houses and where they choose to live. Clearly most of them will have to move.

Texas, on fire. California, Arizona, New Mexico, all prone to wildfires, and given what we saw as we drove, it's a real tinderbox in the Southwest right now. In northwestern Texas last week, a wildfire had killed over 10,000 cattle and the locals were talking to the authorities about where on earth (no pun intended) they were going to dispose of the carcasses. Ten thousand cattle. That's daunting. There were many homes destroyed, many people left homeless. That was just in Texas. Is there a FEMA "wildfire plain" map being developed? "Okay, we're not sure you can rebuild here, but if you do, you'll have to build your house out of asbestos and put a helicopter pad on the roof so you can get out if a wildfire is heading your way. We'll give you $2000 dollars toward the helicopter purchase if you qualify, but you probably won't. Besides you won't be able to prove your losses since all your records were burned up, so you're on your own with this. Also we have no idea how much your homeowners is going to increase. It'll probably double. Before you can rebuild we're going to get the EPA out here to see if the cattle carcasses were within 7 miles of your burned out home as they might be an environmental hazard. Why 7 miles? Ah, we just threw a dart. Don't buy the asbestos quite yet though. We're not sure that this will, in the end, be the official plan.

"Okay, let's move everyone out of those wildfire prone states, immediately. Do NOT let them rebuild their homes there. After all, everyone KNOWS wildfires happen in those areas, so anyone who rebuilds there has to be stupid in the first place."

Springfield, Missouri, devastated by a tornado a few weeks ago. Everyone knows the term Tornado Alley. The warning times are a little better than they were years ago, but not by much. And the darn things just love to hit in the middle of the night when everyone is asleep. FEMA's tornado plan would probably require everyone in the Midwest to build their houses underground. "No more above ground structures. You guys in the Midwest are going to have to start building underground cities immediately and at your own expense. Our tornado plain map has shown that the footprint of the Midwest will have to shrink considerably, and no we don't know how you're going to grow corn underground."

"Now we gotta move everyone out of those tornado prone states. Do NOT let the people of Springfield, Missouri rebuild their homes there. After all, everyone KNOWS tornadoes happen in those areas and anyone who rebuilds there has to be stupid in the first place."

The Hayward Fault in the San Francisco Bay area is "locked and loaded" according to an AP article this week. The article continues:

It slices the earth's crust along a 50-mile swath of suburbia east of San Francisco, from exclusive hilltop manors overlooking the bay to Hayward's humble flatlands. It snakes beneath highway bridges, strip malls, nursing facilities and retirement centers, and it splits the uprights of the football stadium at the University of California, Berkeley.

"A lot of these structures are going to come down," said David P. Schwartz, chief of the USGS's Bay Area Earthquake Hazards Project. He spoke with one foot on either side of the fault, marked by a crack that snaked through a parking lot in Hayward's business district.

The anniversary of the 1906 San Francisco Quake is coming up in April. Then there was the quake in 1989 that caused a lot of damage and heartbreak. Is FEMA going to require that all homes damaged by an earthquake must be built on rollers like the Transamerica Pyramid?

Nope, what we need to do is move them out, not let them rebuild there. After all, everyone KNOWS earthquakes happen. . . . . . . . . . . . rebuild. . . . . . . . must be stupid anyway.

This year the hurricane predicters are saying that there will probably be 17 named storms and that many of them will probably hit the Atlantic Coast. We better move those people too. Anyone who might possibly be in the storm path will have to relocate.

Where should all these people build their homes. Not in hurricane, wildfire, tornado or earthquake areas. Not below sea level and not in a dangerous fire zone. Hmm, maybe Minnesota? Everyone should move to Minnesota. That's it! Wait, they have some pretty good blizzards there, so does Chicago. When you think about it, so does New York City. Okay, blizzards, known to happen in certain places. Let's not build there.

. . . . . . .stupid anyway.

I'm curious what the "footprint" of the United States would look like if FEMA eliminated home building in any area prone to a natural disaster. Little islands of habitation, like a hopscotch board drawn on the sidewalk in chalk.

Perhaps we should all move to Canada or Mexico, then FEMA wouldn't have the bother of a population, the inconvenience of citizens. But if we choose Mexico, we better hurry up and evacuate there before they build the proposed 300 mile long wall along the border. Berlin in the Southwest. (As soon as it's built maybe we should put a giant puppet of Ronald Reagan up there saying, "Mr. President, tear down this wall!") We can build a wall on our border to keep illegal immigrants out and protect our "national security," but we can't build levees to keep flood waters out and protect this region? Maybe we need to redefine "national security." Many New Orleanians no longer feel very secure in having a place in this nation.

Get out your maps, folks. You better start thinking about where you're going to move if the "why rebuild" idiots start looking at the disaster possibilities in your city or town. Don't get too comfortable. It might just be too expensive or too difficult to rebuild your home or your city if something catastrophic happens there. These people might try to apply their "logic" to your area, and I guarantee you won't like it.

Maybe we should move to Iraq. I hear they're building new schools there. Lots of infrastructure.

One last FEMA story for today. Young man, 22, resident of Chalmette, enlists in the Navy. Gets sent to Iraq as a corpsman. Nice kid. Hated Iraq. Can't wait for his tour to be over. His home was in Chalmette. It's gone. Katrina ate it along with all his uniforms and everything else he owned. FEMA denied his claim because he was "in Iraq, not Chalmette, Louisiana when the storm hit." He wasn't qualified to receive any assistance and had to pay to replace his uniforms out of his own pocket. I've heard a lot of disqualification stories, but that one takes the cake.

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!