Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Getting Caught Up

Posting will be intermittent over the next couple of weeks as we make the move across the River. Since I've been living with boxes from storage on my front porch, in my living room, in my bedroom for months now, a few more boxes aren't going to make that much difference.

I have been reading all my usual blogs and the news as always, and ranting at the screen about some of it, but still have so much packing to do that I haven't sat down long enough to write. Unfortunately some of it will have to wait. But for now, a few things that I've been thinking about.

I'm reading a lot about how we in New Orleans have to look forward instead of back. I agree. But the reality is that there is so much leftover garbage, real and figurative from the storm, that just looking forward is impossible.

Across the street, a pile of debris from a house that was cleaned out that just keeps getting bigger. It hasn't been picked up and I don't think it will be because I believe our area's cutoff for debris removal was April 9. And so it sits.

Man on the Ferry. Tshirt has a huge photo of the Superdome with people all around it. The tshirt says, "Escape from New Orleans, Superdome, September 2005." A takeoff on John Carpenter's "Escape from New York" movie, the lettering is the same as the movie posters. The face above the tshirt, grim and determined.

"We must unite! Race can't be an issue here!" heard everywhere and from every mouth. Driving from Algiers Point to Holiday drive belies this sentiment. Algiers Point, more affluent than the areas just blocks from it, was full of signs for Forman or Landrieu. Cross Opelousas and head toward Newton, and in that predominantly black neighborhood were hundreds of signs saying, "Our Mayor-Vote for Nagin." Nagin didn't carry the black vote definitively, but in some neighborhoods race will be the deciding issue.

Morning news. Better Business Bureau representative with a sheaf of reports on the con artists masquerading as contractors and roofers. (There is a bunch that moved in across the street. Say they're from Texas but have no plates on their raggedy truck. In the last week, a magnetic sign appeared on the side of their truck, "^&**# Roofing Company, LOCALLY OWNED!" This happens every day.) BBB rep tells wrenching stories about people getting ripped off by the contractors who are walking millions of hard to get insurance dollars out of the state and leaving already bereft homeowners with no home to move into. One elderly lady lost her entire $130K settlement to a contractor and her home is still unlivable. "Check references! Check licenses! Check receipts!" She had. The contractor had made phony receipts and a license. The woman was stuck in Baton Rouge. She couldn't see that nothing had been done to her house. She can call a lawyer, but finding this criminal won't be easy. Disposable cell phone number on a business card, fake name on a contractor's license--all hard to track down. Oh yeah, and there are adjusters out there charging a fee to look at houses. Large fees. People all these months after the water took everything they had, are losing everything a second time.

Evening news. Landrieu and Forman walking with Forman's arm around Mitch's shoulder. As expected, according to the maps of the vote, Forman easily took the Garden District and the Lakeshore/Lakeview areas. Both more affluent than some other areas of the city. Forman is now throwing his support behind Landrieu after he issued bruising ads during the run up to the primary. A good point was made by a reporter who said, "It's going to be tough for Forman to un-say what he did about Landrieu in order to support him, and it will be equally difficult to un-say what he did about Nagin and the pressing need for change in order to support him." I agree. I think the electorate is smart enough to see through this and I don't think that Forman's support of Landrieu will make it done deal for his supporters, although I still think Landrieu will win the election, but see next paragraph.

Election night. Nagin's self-deprecating speech was upbeat and it also illustrated why so many New Orleanians voted for him. Most out of towners never read the entire Chocolate City speech, which is too bad. It was an unfortunate turn of phrase for Nagin, but it was totally seized on out of context. Nagin laughed about all the money that was being made on him, from tshirts to a little electronic gadget he pulled out of his pocket that replays his radio speech calling for help down here when a button is pushed. He said, "I paid $8.95 for this!" and he laughed. I don't think Nagin can be counted out. I think this will be a very close race.

Houses burned in Gentilly. Fire Department couldn't respond in a timely way because special bonds and various other hoops have to be jumped through before they can re-open the fire house in that neighborhood. The Fire Department is mad, the people are mad, and in this time and place, the hoops are mad defined the other way. I talked with three people this week whose homes are in Gentilly. They are almost done, almost ready to be moved back into. The people were ecstatic. But no services are readily available for them, and because of bureaucratic nonsense that probably made sense in a pre-Katrina, normal day New Orleans, but really need to be waived right now.

My own personal snippet. BellSouth. "I need to shut off service at this number and have it moved to the new address. I want to keep the same package I have now." "Okay, no problem. You sure you don't want Direct TV?" "Yes, I'm sure." "Why?" "I have cable, I'm fine with it. Can we just get this service switched over? I want it turned off over here on May 3, turned on over there on May 1." "Yes, ma'am. I'll put you on hold for a moment and put the order in. I see you have your long distance with another carrier. Would you like to switch to one of our packages?" "No, I just want to switch my service from one address to another." "Okay, hang on." Minutes tick by, bad music plays between ads for their services. "Okay, ma'am, you won't be able to keep your current phone number." "No problem. I figured that." "Do you have internet service? Can we sign you up for DSL?" "No, I have cable for that. I tried your DSL, your tech support couldn't get it together so I got cable instead. Can we get this switched?" "Yes, let me put you on hold and I'll get you your new number and install date." More hold, more bad music. "Okay, ma'am?" "Yes." "We have------she rattles off four different phone numbers-----you can take your pick." "Great, I'll take the last one." "Okay, great! Your new number will be *********." "Thanks." "I have to put you on hold one more time to get the work order." "Fine." More bad music. It's now been 45 minutes. Sheepishly, "Ma'am? There's going to be a bit of a delay getting service to your new house. We won't be able to install it until :::mumble:::: the 4th." I was sure she said 5/4. "No problem. That won't be a big inconvenience." "Ma'am, I'm sorry. I think you misunderstood. I said NINE four." Pause, processing, then I get it. "You mean SEPTEMBER 4???? Are you kidding? We're only moving 6 miles from here and into a neighborhood that is already wired." "I'm sorry, that's the first date we can get you although I've been hearing about some people getting it sooner." "How much sooner." "Oh they get it in a month or two." I cancelled the order and switched to cable.

Every time you look forward, you find some little thing that makes you look back!

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