Wednesday, September 12, 2007

It's not just New Orleans, it's America

We are a killing machine: Iraq (and maybe Iran pretty soon), Tennessee fired up its electric chair last night--the first time since 1960 (now THAT'S progress), our kids are killing each other and the NRA just spouts its standard "guns don't kill people" bullshit. We Americans are really good at killing one another. It'd be pretty easy to start thinking that life is just one big Gunfight at the OK Corral--with the corral moving it's way around our country and the globe.

That having been said, with all that's been said about the crime stats in New Orleans, I was perversely delighted to read one of my favorite bloggers, Mark Morford's latest column. (If you don't know about him, you should!) He makes a good point about not allowing ourselves to live in constant fear, and shows us that it's not just our city "sighing" under the weight of corpses in the streets.

Vote. Take action. Do something, but don't live in fear.

And maybe, just maybe, we should take a look at this country's penchant for killing. Death seems, lately, to be our biggest cash crop and our largest export. Why is that?

Just askin'.

EDIT: This just in, open your wallets, buy a round for the bar, we're all gonna need it, and that right soon.

H/T Zombie

Friday, August 31, 2007

Little Snippets of Sadness and Hope

The anniversary of the Federal Flood was a just plain odd feeling day. Something felt a bit off all day, nothing I could put my finger on, except maybe the helicopters going over shuttling Bush around the city. Every paper coast to coast had some kind of retrospective and the sadness and anger rose up in my throat and the venomous hatred from some Texans overflowed onto Ashley Morris' blog, where he had posted this information from Shelley Midura in its entirety. An open letter to the President, I hope he read it but hope springs eternal and isn't always rewarded.

Eban had posted this about the suicide rate in New Orleans, a topic that seems to be at least being looked at even if nothing much is being done about it. (Buy stock in Walgreen's--they must be making out like bandits.) And Mark Folse had emailed this hilarious (in a really black humor kinda way) gem from Fiore at SFGate.

So as the helicopters went overhead, and Bush told some kids in the Lower 9 that "better days are coming" and he hugged Leah Chase for the cameras, to show that he does, contrary to Kanye West's belief, care about black people, the above stuff was what was showing up in my mailbox and being written about by the locals.

My grandson comes home from school that day and tells me about how his best friend had been eating a taco at lunch in a really gross way, and that tacos are "very rare on the lunch list." He then says, out of the blue:

GS: There are only three kids this color (pointing at his arm) in my second grade.
Me: Really? Does that bother you?
GS: No (said with utter disdain, the tone going up at the end of the NO), there are kids that are light brown, some are dark brown, some are really dark brown. There are three this color (again pointing to his own arm). What's the difference?
Me: None.
GS: Then why did you ask if it bothered me.

I then launch into a Cliff Notes for seven year olds version of segregation, civil rights, lunch counters.

GS: Well even if Eddie was eating his taco in a really gross way, why couldn't we eat them together back then?
Me: Some people were really stupid back then. (I mean what else am I gonna say?)
GS: Well, then someone farted and we all laughed for an hour and got yelled at for laughing but we just couldn't stop.

Grandma's teacher dismissed the class, then we read a chapter of a book in which the entire chapter was a discussion of lying (if the neighbor kid's hamster dies, do you put another one in that looks just like it so the neighbor kid doesn't know?)

Like I said, very strange day.

Maybe some day when it asks us on a form about our race, we can say "This color!" then fart really loud, laugh like seven year olds, and trust that our government won't lie to us.

Like I said, hope springs eternal.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

REMEMBER---Two Years

For further information on where we stand now, please check out Hurricane Katrina News, as well as any of the local bloggers who have dedicated themselves to the aftermath of the Federal Flood disaster known as Hurricane Katrina. They can be found on the blogroll to the right of this post.

(Remember graphic courtesy of Mark Folse. We Are Not Okay graphic courtesy of Greg Peters.)

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Kerouac Still "On the Road" After 50 Years. . . .

. . . and luckily no one here has to be, at least today. The latest computer models show Hurricane Dean heading for Mexico, he has already beaten up Jamaica or is as we speak. Bless them. He might hit the southernmost tip of Texas, near Brownsville, a town known for over the top poverty and people living in shacks that would make a FEMA trailer look like the Ritz. They'll be needing some help. We better get our checkbooks out, since, well ya know how well the powers that be handled New Orleans.

As I was checking around for Dean info this morning, I came across several articles about Kerouac's "On the Road" turning 50. Always a Kerouac fan, even though he really was an avowed conservative and never understood the hippie kids like me who got something else out of his work, I was delighted that a 50th Anniversary edition was coming out and might have to procure one. The original long scroll upon which the first draft was typed in a blaze of amphetamine stream of consciousness will be on display in New York. I wish I could see it.

But in my 'net meanderings, I found this at the New York Times. A great slide show of international "On the Road" bookcovers over the years. Some are hilarious like this one from Czechoslovakia:

He probably would have giggled about that. Some of the others are interesting, one from China is just plain bizarre.

There are tons of editorials and critiques out there about whether or not "On the Road" was or is relevant, whether it was or is good writing, whether it was or is influential. For me, reading "On the Road" every couple of years reminds me that rhythm in everything is important. Some people find Kerouac "wordy," I find his extra words to be like eighth notes in a piece of music. I think he'd be surprised that people are even still talking about this, this work he never really got the significance of, this work that nearly paralyzed him from doing any further work. Oh yes, he wrote several more books--some better than "On the Road", but the pressure to write another "On the Road" along with the cultural issues that book evoked and with which he was at odds, in the end, pretty much killed him.

At any rate, raise a glass to Jack today. Be content that, at least for today, some of our citizens aren't on the road running from Dean. No, not Dean Moriarty, Dean the Hurricane, (although in some minds, they could be the same thing!)

Friday, August 17, 2007

You Can Smell It. . . .

Over the course of today, I've gotten nearly 20 emails pertaining to Hurricane Dean's presence in the Gulf. If you're anywhere within a 100 mile radius of New Orleans, you can smell it, the fear, the anxiety, it's palpable.

People are rabidly checking the storm tracking, some at work but distracted by the possibility of a replay, so near the anniversary of Katrina. That would be the TWO year anniversary.

Little notes are scurrying around through email: I'm not leaving no matter what. I have to leave I have kids. I hope my house which I can almost move into because it's almost done, will be okay.

Just letting all friends and family know, we won't be leaving. Not again. We will send our daughter, her husband, our grandson and all the pets but the big guy out if there is an evacuation. (BTW, this is just to let everyone know that it's not just Dean prompting this post, it's any subsequent storms that may crop up over the next month.) But we will stay. We cannot deal with watching CNN helplessly when people needed help like we did with Katrina, and although we got back the day after Labor Day, and we were able to help, we could have done more if we'd just stayed put like we wanted to.

Okay, that's out of the way.

Nevertheless, with Dean so close, you can smell the anxiety even through the sweat of this horrendously hot weather. Those of you out there who pray, please keep praying. We'll take all the help we can get.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007


Other local bloggers have already talked at length about the fall of New Orleans Councilman Oliver Thomas. Chris Rose already wrote about it in the Times Picayune.

Corruption. Scandal. Graft. Racism being hinted at by some. Just like any other day in New Orleans, it would seem.

But it isn't. It so isn't. Oliver Thomas' fall has broken hearts. No one grieved when Bill Jefferson was found out and indicted. No one is surprised by the Nagin Gang's various contract schemes from trash bins to parking meters to the reconstruction of the French Market. But Oliver Thomas was someone many of us thought was one of the good guys. Many of us were pinning our hopes on his becoming Mayor and actually getting something done around here. His comments generally made sense, were on target and made some of us believe that not everyone in New Orleans politics was either a nutcase or a power/money hungry maniac or both. My stomach hurt upon hearing the news about Oliver. I really liked the guy.

What's interesting about my response to this is that I've been thinking a lot about social contracts lately. As I've said before, the response to Katrina shook my belief that social contracts existed right outta me like salt out of a shaker. We've all talked about it for two years, putting it in various lights--it did exist but doesn't now, it never existed and anyone who thinks it did is nuts, it did exist but has morphed into something else.

Katrina and Oliver Thomas. Well, well, color this optimistic cynic (not a contradiction in terms!) jade green. I still believed that this country hadn't been given over completely to the money changers. Katrina shook that belief, Oliver Thomas dashed it on the rocks lining the Mississippi.

It's not just New Orleans in which beliefs have been dashed, by the way. In fact, it seems to me incredible that any of us have any optimism left.

The entire country has been lied to throughout this President's tenure, and no one seems really outraged. Okay, okay, a few people are really outraged, but not most. Every single day another news story comes out about some administration official dodging a subpoena, or changing the interpretation of the Constitution, or saying they are not a member of this or that branch of the government, regardless of what the law says. The last hold outs for Bush grab onto the "Clinton lied" thing, knowing in their hearts that although what Clinton did was stupid, it wasn't nearly on the scale of the lies we've heard and paid for since.

Hurricanes blow nearly an entire state away, completely destroy the Gulf Coast. An outpouring of sympathy for a few news cycles, some tsk tsk-ing here and there, some remarkable volunteers arriving to help. A section of the Big Dig in Boston falls on someone (thanks, Corps of Engineers!) and kills someone. Again, tsk tsk-ing then nothing much. A bridge collapses killing many people, divers risking their lives on the bottom of the top of the Mississippi River, tsk tsk, it's a damn shame, can't shake my head too much I'm having a good hair day besides I'm late for work and this is too depressing and my Lexus needs servicing---I hope they have a loaner car.

Levees all over the country are determined to be prime for failure. Bridges all over the country are also determined to be prime for failure. Oh yeah, and the subway system in New York, which is old and deteriorating seriously, criminally, floods during a gigantic rainstorm causing no end of problems for commuters. (Imagine if the big hurricane expected to hit there at some point in the "100 year cycle" ever did hit! Geez, a big rainstorm overwhelms their pumps.) Oh yeah, and the pumps in New Orleans. . . . . . . . .

I read an article on the bridge collapse and one of the commenters mentioned that we have built, and had blown up by terrorists or blown up ourselves, the SAME bridge in Baghdad eight times. EIGHT TIMES????

The lies and the greed and the corruption in this country, from the Prez at top of the ladder to the "great hope for New Orleans" councilman, have taken this country from the top of the heap to the depths of dysfunction. Things like infrastructure for this country are tabled in order to take our tax dollars and funnel them into corporate cronies' pockets to rebuild infrastructure that we blew up elsewhere. The feds say it's the states' responsibility to take care of the infrastructure once it's built, and some states can't afford to do that. The feds can. But instead they tsk tsk, shake an accusing finger at the local leaders and go on to their meeting with some war profiteering contractor---behind closed doors, no press allowed, and no logs of the meeting kept.

Forget about any kind of social services, we can't keep our levees and bridges up.

We're all so used to it that we skim the articles, rant over dinner if we're in our cups, and go on to work the next day because lord knows the insurance companies who never have to really, I mean REALLY, take on any risk have to be paid and the energy companies who get bailouts have to be paid, and the mortgage has to be paid to keep a roof over both the mortgage company's head (even if they made hideously stupid loans for the last several years, planting false hope in many family's futures--"No PROBLEM, the balloon payment won't come up for five years!") and our own, and we have to pay our taxes next April so they won't attach our paychecks or put a lien on our house to collect the bucks they want from us so they can rebuild that fucking bridge in Baghdad for the ninth, tenth, eleventh time. Don't take a breath. Keep running, Joe, like a hamster on a wheel, you're getting older now and you have no stock portfolio, no health insurance, no retirement savings, you don't have time to do anything about the lies. Remember, though, Joe, all those bucks you're sending in with your 1040 won't do you any good if a disaster strikes, whether it be a hurricane or a heart attack.

There is no social contract. Faith in government will surely break your heart. Faith in companies will break your heart.

I had a conversation with a neighbor this week who said his mom keeps telling him to move to the suburbs and "get a good job with benefits." No, Mom, there ARE no jobs that just GIVE you health insurance anymore, no jobs that just GIVE you the gold watch and the pension plan for putting in your 30 yrs. In fact, Mom, there are very few companies in which someone can survive and build a career for 30 years--the stockholders must be paid, the profits MUST go up, and anyone, anyone at all can be downsized at a moment's notice. It is not 1960. The government will spend their money on everything but you or your city or infrastructure, and the corporations will just divvy some of their profits out to their stockholders and CEO's (unless the CEO winds up in jail, then dies, in which case the widow can hold on to the illegal stock sale windfall as it's part of an inheritance) but they won't take care of the workers who made them the money. Nor will they take care of the customers who buy their product, a computer will or a worker in India or Jakarta or anywhere-but-here will---they "downsized" their labor force so that cute little Ashley in customer service that you talked to last week is now working at Starbuck's for minimum wage and her kids are home alone watching TV and playing video games and dreaming of a Glock 9mm which would really show that stupid Jimmy who hollered, "You're a piss ant" on the playground the other day. She won't have to worry about her daycare situation too much longer. Her oldest son is 15. He'll be dead in a year.

These are the reasons that I was surprised by my response to the fall of Oliver Thomas. I didn't think I still had it in me.

Wow! That vase made a cool sound as I dashed it against the wall.

Ah well, Karl Rove will totally miss the irony and have a great time after he resigns "hunting doves in West Texas."

Give me another vase, oh yeah, and some Prozac.

EDIT: For an interesting view of how we got here, thanks to Rove, read this from the Washington Post.

For another view of the Oliver Thomas debacle, read "Clean Slate" at Wet Bank Guide.


Monday, July 30, 2007

Post Mortem--Pun Intended

Twenty days ago, I lost a friend. Someone who'd been my friend for years, 15-17, we can't remember, wait, past tense, couldn't remember. He loved New Orleans. He loved books. He loved learning. He loved life. Oh yeah, he loved red wine, and good rum and had a serious jones for boiled crawfish and softshell crab--fried. He loved dark beers, the darker the better. He had better tits than I did, if he pushed them together with his coy look. He loved my idiosyncracies even when he was exasperated by them. He loved his partner, even when he was exasperated by him. He loved his family and more importantly, his "chosen" family even when he was exasperated by them. And ya know, they were all there when he left this earth, just as he wanted.

He believed he'd been a madam here, and of course, those of us who loved him were his whores back then. Makes sense to me, we probably were. He loved history, and big ships with sails or aircraft carriers with big airplanes, which mattered not to him: He preferred to float, not fly.

I haven't cried yet.

He asked that I be there before he left, not after, so there I was, but I had to leave him while he still suffered on this plane. Not to get all metaphysical on y'all, but that mattered to me. I told him as I left that I'd meet him at Lafitte's Blacksmith Shoppe, so this weekend I finally did that. I smeared rum on the bricks on the far side of the fireplace, a spot in which we kept warm when he visited once, visiting me when we lived in a place that had no heat other than space heaters which didn't do much in the middle of February. It was the warmest place we could find. So there we sat, talking and warming and drinking for hours til we had to go back home to the cold.

I went to Pirate's Alley Cafe, which we called "visiting Belize in the U.S." and smeared some rum and coke on the chair he sat in the last time he was here in April/May of this year, convincing me that although he looked bad and was losing weight all the time, that he was just FINE. I knew it was a lie, but I let him lie. We'd lied to each other many times in the past, always knew when we were doing it, it was part of our contract: "You lie to me and I won't call you on it and I'll lie to you and you won't call me on it, unless of course, it's REALLY important." To us, death was just the natural order of things, not necessarily REALLY important, even though we were so not suicidal---anything but. We just accepted that things happened, people were born, people died, that was the way it was determined by whatever had caused, created, or manipulated reality on this planet.

And I still haven't cried.

In front of me is a bar of lavendar soap he bought for me at Vive la France, his favorite store in the Quarter, on Royal Street. He, over the years, bought me the various sized tumblers with the Fleur de Lis on them, knowing that we both had a penchant for it. This last time he bought me the carafe, telling me as he gave it to me that he wanted to make sure "the set was completed." I will never use that soap, which will no doubt piss him off, but I smell it every day. The carafe? Oh yeah, I'll use that. I'll mix up some Sailor Jerry's and coke, just for him and leave a glass on the table til it evaporates or turns to mold. Then I'll wash out the glass, make life clean again, and know that the glass can always be refilled: Never with the same substance, but another, just as valid, just as sweet, just as generous.

For Christmas last year, I was told to go to the Bag Lady Shop on Decatur. (He could be both extremely generous and extremely cheap, depending on the day!) I went down there, it was a hard time financially for us. I had written a post about supporting local businesses, and he found her through that post and called her and bought me a present. I finally got down there, days after I should have, she said, "Oh YOU are her! This is for you." At that she hands me a black cashmere coat, down to my ankles, the warmest thing I'd ever seen. I had expected a scarf or a wallet. I sank to my knees and sobbed in full view of the tourists on Decatur who were perusing her shop. I called him speechless and sobbing. He said, very simply, "Baby, I couldn't let you be cold."

The toads are crying tonight. I'd written him a poem, three weeks before he passed, about the toads, their mating, their progeny. I read it to him before he left us. He said through his morphine haze, "It's good." He was one of a few who knew my pen name. He liked it. I did well on that, and the toads are still crying and I'll read it at the Gold Mine next Thursday.

But I haven't cried yet.

His name was Wes Vincent. He was remarkable and I'll miss him more than words can ever express.

But he'd be pissed. Like atomic blast super pissed (which he was very good at being) if I gave up now.

I've been reading Josh Clark's book about his experience during Katrina (a serious MUST read.) It is so reminiscent of my husband's and my experience, although we did leave for about five days. While Josh was standing looking at the stars on this side of the wondrous Mississippi, my husband and I were drinking warm rum and coke, sweating in the same clothes we'd worn for a week, on the other side of the river, the Westbank, which is actually kinda more South. We were struck by the eerieness of seeing NO skyline, no nothing on the other side of the river. Like a great black void our city stood, not sending out a message, not telling us how many had died and under what circumstances, not telling us that two years later we'd still be missing friends, and housing, and schools and oh yeah, a Mayor and a DA. As we stood there, bodies were still washing out to the Gulf or being ravaged by hungry dogs and rats, but there we stood, feeling that we were at least, doing something to help.

We stopped in Johnny White's this weekend. We had been bringing ice over for them and milk for one of the regular denizens (only because the Nazis in Gretna were allowing people into the Walgreens there, with M16's on their laps). Johnny White's was sticky, and scary, and filthy and the de facto supply depot for the Quarter. Last Saturday night it was clean and we were the only ones in there. Wow. The bar wasn't scary to touch, in fact the bar had a smooth sheen to it. We had a couple drinks, then went for dinner. Tourists were cavorting on Bourbon, it was lovely to see them. We still live in the only place on earth where it's okay to run amuck now and then. That's a blessing.

Intermittently since the storm I've cried for no reason, here and there and not with any kind of closure. I hear about a killing in Iberville and it breaks my heart. I hear of three families living in the Lower 9 on one block, ONLY three, and it breaks my heart. I see the businesses toughing it out, and it breaks my heart. I look, two years later, at the four boxes of photos and ephemera that I saved from our storage unit on Tulane that sat under 10 feet of water for weeks, even though my home was spared, and it breaks my heart. I still can't just get rid of them. It would be like getting rid of my entire history.

I get involved in activism on whatever level I can because I must, I can't let this city die from neglect and corruption and greed. I walk the sidewalks knowing of the luminaries that walked them before me, and feel a need to honor their courage, tenacity and contribution. I look at the slate roofs that named my blog, such as it is, and marvel at their fortitude and their beauty in a soft summer rain. I watch as my husband scrapes the dog hair off the air conditioner filters and remember the heat of September 2005, when no matter what we couldn't get cool.

It's always just kinda back there, ain't it?

So, for Wes Vincent, and all the others named or un-named who are gone now:


Okay, enough hystrionics.

Maybe tomorrow I'll cry.

Monday, June 25, 2007

The Picnic Trash

As you can see from the comments section in my George Bush/Kermit Ruffins post, some people are really upset with me.

I said there and I'll say again, that I had not seen the video when I wrote that. I had only read the transcript, and hey, read it yourself and you might see how I could get the idea that our President was directing the comment to Mr. Ruffins.

Okay, I get it. He wasn't.

That having been said, one commenter called New Orleans residents, probably me in particular, whiners. I have to reject that.

In my opinion, the insensitivity of both the theme and the comment is still troublesome. Someone up there thought a Mardi Gras themed party for Congress, held in mid-June, was a good idea. I find that bizarre and yes, culturally insensitive--but then Americans have always been a bit dense in the area of cultural sensitivity. Just ask the Native Americans, the Vietnamese or the Iraqis.

It was also insensitive to be celebrating an aspect of a city that Bush clearly wishes to forget. He wants to forget his horrendous response to the storm named Katrina, and although he promised that the US Government would stay as long as it took, etc. (his speech is burned into New Orleanians' memories word for word and still lit by arc lights), he has let the Corps of Engineers continue to hold us hostage to their levee and floodgate serendipity. ("We'll build temporary floodgates, no we won't, we'll build permanent ones. They'll be done by 2012.")

Meanwhile, here in the City, the Corps posted maps showing the possibility of flooding pre-Katrina in any given area in the city, and now the possibility post-Katrina. Many people are re-building homes in the areas that are still prone to flooding, and taking their anti-depressants and anti-anxiety pills hoping not to lose what they are just getting back. And at that, there are still entire areas of this city that look like a bomb hit them.

I say to Mr. Bush, come on down and really do something. Then I'll say thanks for coming, we'll take you to K-Paul's for dinner, Mr. Ruffins is playing at the Blue Nile Friday night, we'll give you some beads, and we hope you'll pick up the trash left by the Corps' incompetent levee design on your way out.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Following in Da Po' Blog's Wake

I decided to see what my blog was rated:

What's My Blog Rated? From Mingle2 - Online Dating

This rating was determined based on the presence of the following words:

dead (11x) gun (10x) death (3x) bitch (2x) zombie (1x)

I gotta quit complimenting the Zombie.

George Bush Wants Kermit Ruffins to Pick Up the Trash

This week, President Bush gave a picnic for Congress on the South Lawn. The theme, no, I'm not kidding, MARDI GRAS. Paul Prudhomme catered, Kermit Ruffins and his band played.

Not a word about the current state of New Orleans, or Louisiana, just a really badly racist and demeaning joke about "picking up the trash." You gotta see it to believe it.

I am posting the White House transcript in toto:

June 19, 2007

President and Mrs. Bush Host Congressional Picnic
South Lawn

8:10 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you all for coming. Laura and I welcome you to the South Lawn. This is an opportunity to thank the members of Congress and their families for serving the United States.

First, I want to recognize the Speaker. Madam Speaker, thank you for joining us. It means a lot that you've come. I appreciate the leadership of the House and the Senate who have joined us. For all the wives and husbands, thank you for standing by your spouse. It's not easy to be in public office. It's a lot easier, though, when you have somebody who loves you to help you do your job. And so Laura and I want to thank you all, in particular. We're proud to be serving with you. Occasionally we might have our differences, but one thing we all agree on is we represent the greatest country on the face of the Earth. (Applause.)

I want to thank our Chef, Paul Prudhomme, from New Orleans, Louisiana -- one of the great chefs in America. Thanks for coming, Paul. (Applause.) I thank Tony Snow and his bunch of, well, mediocre musicians -- (laughter) -- no, great musicians. Beats Workin, thanks for coming. (Applause.) Kermit, come up here. Kermit, we're proud to have you.

MR. RUFFINS: Well, thanks for having us.

THE PRESIDENT: Kermit Ruffins and the Barbeque Swingers, right out of New Orleans, Louisiana. (Applause.)

MR. RUFFINS: Thank you. Thanks for having us. We're glad to be here.

THE PRESIDENT: Proud you're here. Thanks for coming. You all enjoy yourself. Make sure you pick up all the trash after it's over. (Laughter.)

God bless you, and may God bless America. Thanks for coming. (Applause.)

END 8:12 P.M. EDT

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Tips on Lennon's Piano

As we all know, John Lennon wrote a song called "Imagine." What we imagine when we think of him and that song is a huge white grand piano, thanks to an album cover image that's stuck in our heads. The piano that he actually wrote the song on is not a huge white grand at all, it's a rather small upright which now belongs to George Michael.

The folks at The Lennon Piano Project have taken this piano all over the country in a van, no less. Their hope is that the piano upon which a great anthem for Peace was written will help bring peace in the playing and displaying of it. (They have some great photos at their link.)

Friday evening the piano was at the Ogden Museum. Saturday night it was at the end of its tour, the last night for it to travel. It sat in front of the hearth at Lafitte's Blacksmith Shoppe on Bourbon Street. Piano players from all over the city were showing up to play ten or twenty minutes on that piano. The place was packed. It was really lovely and some great music was played, although I haven't identified all the players yet, (one is Bruce Elsensohn)and I missed about the first 45 minutes.

The Lennon Piano for Peace people are doing a documentary, which upon completion, will be shown at the Ogden. For now, we have some photos. The one above is the piano with tips on it. I found it odd and funny to see tips on top of John Lennon's piano. (I will also say that when everyone was finished, I quietly walked up to it and played two notes, just to have done it. I noticed a lot of others doing the same thing, like a little connective ritual between the piano, its travels, its message and us.)

I have posted more photos here at Flickr. I hope to identify the other players and label the photos.

It is a lovely idea, and it was a lovely evening.

I'm guessing the tips will go in the gas tank of the van.


Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Three Farewells and a Racist

In the last three weeks, we have gone to three farewell parties, two just this Sunday. One couple is moving to Portland, Oregon hoping to find more stability. One woman is moving back to Connecticut as her dad is ill and she needs to help him. She was also struggling to find an affordable apartment in NOLA on her bartender's salary. Another guy is moving back home, to Monroe, LA, not so far and he says he was only here for a short time anyway, which was true. While attending that crawfish boil, one of the other bartenders said he was moving soon. Back to Chicago where he owns a home and is a chef. He has no timeline, but thinks it won't be long. My guess is he'll become a snowbird and go to Chicago for summers and return here during the fall and winter.

Still it was disheartening. I understood all their reasons for leaving, and they were good ones. We didn't bear them any ill will, feel that they were traitorous for leaving, or feel superior to them for staying. We did, however, wish they had made different choices because we'll miss them. What was interesting was that with the exception of the apartment hunting bartender, most weren't saying they were leaving NOLA because it was doomed, or hurricane season was coming, or anything like that. That was progress on a strange level, and a level that only we who live here can probably understand. These three, soon to be four, weren't leaving out of complete despair like the exodus after the storm. I truly wish them well. They were part of the fabric of the city for us.

One of the evenings we were walking a couple blocks from our house, heading for the corner store. My husband had wanted to point out a "really unique brick building" about two blocks from our house. We went over to look at it, and it looked just like the slave quarters at the Hermitage in Tennessee, Andrew Jackson's home. Small, very compact, tight bricks, square and squat. Definitely an architectural anamoly here in the Marigny. Next to it is an imposing home, in front of it a fence in need of repair with two gates gaping mouth open toward the sidewalk.

We see a man sitting there in the dark in a plastic lawn chair, and so we ask him what the building was back in the day. He says, "It's the slave quarters." We tell him we hadn't been sure, but that it really looked like the ones we'd seen in Tennessee. I commented that the quarters were so very small, it must have been very hard to live in there with possibly two parents and a few kids. His response, "Well, it was better than living in a mud hut in Africa waiting for the Chief to sell you." We were both stunned, both trying to find a way to extricate ourselves from the conversation, when suddenly he became chatty.

"You say you live near here? Not north of St. Claude do ya? Ya know we call that the Congo." Shocked we tell him where we live. He continues, "Well ya know with all the drunks and druggies, I've had to shoot a few of them," at this he starts laughing conspiratorily. "It's not worth renting this thing out. Those people just. . ." at that point I start moving quickly to the open gate knowing that if I stay there another ten seconds I'm going to open my mouth and say something that I'll regret. My husband felt the same and was backing out behind me. We left quickly and headed up to the corner store, both of us shocked that anyone could actually feel that way in this town in this century and worse in our neighborhood.

Once we got over the shock, we realized the guy was about 70 and he was never going to see things another way. No matter what we had said, his mind would not have been changed, and that was the scary part. We learned long ago that some people are not worth wasting your outrage or your breath on as they will go to their graves, prejudice gripped tightly to their still bosoms like a talisman that brings them safety. As Poppy Brite says in "Prime," (paraphrasing), "Some old white guys in this city felt that THEIR black workers or co-workers were okay, but all the others were criminals or worse." This guy definitely fit into that category.

I can still see his bald white pate glowing and nodding, conspiratorial grin on his face, waiting for our agreement. I wonder if it bothered him that we clearly didn't agree. I'd like to feel sorry for him and his behemoth ignorance, but instead, both of us carried disgust with us all weekend, as we said good bye to some people we cared for.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

22 Levees Breached in Missouri and. . . .

. . . George Bush showed up in Greensburg, Kansas wearing a FEMA jacket. There was a statement on CNN that was very close to what he said on Jackson Square--as much as it takes as long as it takes. It was heard briefly then disappeared to be replaced by him saying that he admired the spirit of the people in the heartland, giving his condolences, then that they would work with the local and state "folks" so that the Feds could then give them "as much help as is appropriate" and in there was a telling comment: "within the law." Read STAFFORD ACT. Clearly his advisors told him not to say anything like what was said here.

My heart breaks for the people of Greensburg and the flooded towns in Missouri. I drove through Greensburg so many times on the way to visit my family in Kansas City. The road from New Mexico to KC is Highway 54. It runs right through Greensburg. The standing joke in my family is that I once got a ticket going to KC and coming from KC on the same trip, and both times in Greensburg. I paid them, just for the record.

The Governor of Kansas earlier this week criticized the administration for having too many men and too much equipment in Iraq that could have been used to help the people of Greensburg. Sounds eerily familiar.

The people of Levacy, Missouri were evacuated. The town of Big Lake, Missouri is a total loss. The town of Mosby, Missouri is under 4-5 feet of water so far. At least 20 levees breached and I've heard numbers between 20 and 25, with most reporters saying 22. Sounds eerily familiar.

As George Bush was admiring the pluck of the Kansans who lost 95% of their town of 1600 to a tornado (WIND), and said he knew they'd rebuild, I watched with a sick feeling in my stomach. Let's see how they all are doing in a year, or nearly two years, without help.

And what about their insurance coverage? Missouri (NOT BELOW SEA LEVEL) will have their homeowners policies yanked or raised to immoral limits because the damage was due to water? What, then Kansas will experience the same problems but the reason given will be wind? We need to watch these two situations and see what the insurance companies do.

I also wonder how many horrid comments will be posted on various blogs saying, "You shouldn't rebuild _______________ because it's prone to tornadoes or floods and the people that live there are stupid for living there."

Here's one of my personal favorites from a masochistic day of reading comments (this is from a USA Today article on insurance):

Skye wrote: 3d 7h ago
Do not rebuild New Orleans! New Orleans is below sea level and continuing to sink. The levees are not high enough to protect against a major storm. It is very likely there will be other major storms. People are already settled in their new homes, new jobs and new schools in other areas. They do not want to suffer a repeat of the horrors of Katrina. As sad as this is, it is a wakeup call. We are not just talking about money here but human lives and raw human emotions. Those of us who live in other areas have suffered, too. We witnessed the horrors of the superdome, death, separation, and miles and miles of rubble representing lost homes and possessions. We do not want to go through this again, either. Other people have to relocate against their wishes for reasons of employment, health, family, etc. New Orleans was a grand city and its loss will be mourned by the entire country if not the entire world. But we have to accept reality here. It can never return to its former glory and we have to accept this to be able to heal and move on.

SHE doesn't want to go through it again "either." Gotta love that. I wonder if she'll write the same thing to the people of Greensburg, KS., Levacy, Big Lake and Mosby, MO. I doubt it.

Levees. Water. Levees breaking. In Missouri, not New Orleans. I wonder if people will be determined to relocate all those people. Or the people living in Florida and California where the wildfires are raging? Do ya think Skye will feel everyone should move and not rebuild these places?

I wonder where she lives. I wonder if she has levees? She may and might not even know. She needs to watch this:

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Serial Killer in 4E or Huge Corporate Profits for Record Companies

Interesting look at the problem. It's been a long time coming. This didn't just happen in a week, or a month, or a year.

Look at this 60 Minutes video called "Stop Snitchin'."

It's not the whole problem by any means, but it sure is part of it.

Monday, April 23, 2007

FEMA and Fluor et al--Smoke and Mirrors

I'm just so sick of this crap, that I'm posting the entire article.

Copyright Associated Press

Updated:2007-04-23 07:23:53
Report Blasts FEMA Over Katrina Contracts
WASHINGTON (April 23) - FEMA exposed taxpayers to significant waste - and possibly violated federal law - by awarding $3.6 billion worth of Hurricane Katrina contracts to companies with poor credit histories and bad paperwork, investigators say.

The new report by the Homeland Security Department's office of inspector general, set to be released later this week, examines the propriety of 36 trailer contracts designated for small and local businesses in the stricken Gulf Coast region following the 2005 storm.

It found a haphazard competitive bidding process in which the winning contract prices were both unreasonably low and high. Moreover, FEMA did not take adequate legal steps to ensure that companies were small and locally operated, resulting in a questionable contract award to a large firm with ties to the Republican Party.

"Based on our analysis, we concluded that FEMA contracting officials exposed the agency to an unacceptable level of risk," according to the report by the office of inspector general Richard Skinner.

The audit was requested by Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., chairman of the Democratic Policy Committee, following complaints last year by some small business owners that they were unfairly shut out of the contracting process. It is the latest to detail mismanagement in a multibillion-dollar hurricane recovery effort that investigators say has already wasted more than $1 billion.

The report also comes after FEMA acknowledged earlier this month that it would not have a federal plan ready for responding to emergencies before the approaching hurricane season , which begins June 1.

In response, FEMA in the report disagreed that the wide price variations put taxpayers at risk. The agency contended that it was comfortable with bidders' financial viability based in part on past performance. In cases where contract prices appeared unreasonably high, those would be offset with lower payments later on subsequent work orders, FEMA officials said.

In the immediate aftermath of Katrina , FEMA handed out lucrative no-bid contracts for cleanup work to large, politically connected firms such as Shaw Group Inc ., Bechtel Group Inc., CH2M Hill Companies Ltd., and Fluor Corp .

Following heavy criticism, FEMA director David Paulison pledged to rebid those large contracts. He ultimately reopened only a portion, awarding 36 contracts which the agency said would be prioritized for small and local businesses.

Among the winners was joint venture PRI-DJI, which received $400 million worth of contracts. DJI stands for Del-Jen Inc., a subsidiary of Fluor, one of the original, no-bid winners which has donated more than $930,000 to mostly GOP candidates since 2000.

"It's not what you know, what your expertise is. I don't even believe it's got much to do with price. It's who you know," contended Ken Edmonds, owner of River Parish RV Inc. in Louisiana, a company of 9 people whose application was rejected.

In the audit, investigators said PRI-DJI was eligible to compete because DJI had partnered with PRI, a minority-owned firm based in San Diego, under a federal mentoring program offered by the Small Business Administration.

However, investigators found that PRI-DJI was given special preference even though it was not registered as a small business and "when neither company had its headquarters in Louisiana or Mississippi nor, in any other way, demonstrated that it had a history of working primarily in the impacted states."

Still, the audit noted the bid by PRI-DJI would likely have been selected anyway - without the special preference - because the price was so low.

Moreover, FEMA did not have formal criteria to determine whether a contractor should be considered local, did not require corroborating paperwork, and watered down requirements under federal law so that a company with only minimal Gulf Coast ties would be given special consideration, according to the audit.

Prices also varied greatly. Some were so high that investigators deemed them unreasonably excessive and wasteful; others were so unreasonably low that taxpayers faced "an unacceptable risk of poor performance."

For example, FEMA:

Accepted bids as low as $74 and as high as $4,720 to completely refurbish used travel trailers. FEMA estimated this service should cost $295 per trailer.

Accepted bids from companies with weak financial statements, incomplete and missing financial documentation, and negative net worth. The Defense Contract Audit Agency determined that at least three bidders presented high financial risks, but FEMA allowed the contracts to go forward.

On the Net:


Homeland Security Office of Inspector General:

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press

I'm just plain disgusted.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007


Anyone who knows me will term what I write now as predictable. So be it. That Second Amendment devotees will not like it and will leave comments telling me so is also predictable. Oh well.

That the massacre at Virginia Tech was horrendous goes without saying. Thirty two dead, plus the gunman, who, predictably committed suicide. Evidently his behavior was so bizarre that many students and a teacher had been concerned since 2005 that he would commit suicide or do something else. He chose to do something else, something murderous, and take some with him when he went. One 23 year old kid, two guns, thirty three dead. Cho had purchased both guns legally, and both had been purchased in the last few weeks, the first on March 13, the receipt for the second was still in his backpack when he went on his killing spree, $570 bucks or so. The guy who sold him the gun said it was a legal purchase, Cho showed three forms of identification, and that Cho's purchase of a Glock 9mm was "unremarkable."

Again, one guy, two guns, thirty three dead in two hours.

For a couple of weeks, this post at da po' blog had been bugging me. Well written as always, and fact filled-something Da Po' does so well. It stated that as of April 1, here in New Orleans, there had been 48 deaths due to murder. Yes, we've all been talking about the crime here and we have dissected all the reasons for it from poverty and bad education, to drugs and entire empty swaths of a city for criminals to take refuge in, to our police chief and district attorney being unable or unwilling to deal with the problem, to our mayor being a lunatic who seems not to notice. (Oh yeah, and today, because we don't have enough public defenders, according to the news this morning on WWL, perhaps as many as 40 criminals will be released due to lack of representation. They were arrested on charges varying from possession of pot to aggravated rape. We'll see what happens with that. And no, I won't go into the why are we arresting people for possession of pot thing. I'll spare you that.)

The number of murdered people has by now increased as we're well into April. I didn't go look up the number, the body count, for today yet. What bothered me most about that post at da po' blog was that it consisted of lists that began to sound redundant in a most gut wrenching way: Unidentified male, Claiborne Ave., SHOT. Josh Rodrigue, found in street near the 2000 block of Iberville, SHOT IN THE NECK. Victim found lying in the street, MULTIPLE GUN SHOT WOUNDS. Man SHOT and killed in Central City. Security guard at FEMA trailer park, SHOT. A 25 year old man identified as Kevin Pham SHOT to death inside his family's home. A 22 year old woman SHOT to death in Treme, her friend was injured in the ankle. A 23 yr old man SHOT in Mid City, shell casings and an AK47 found in a two block area near the body. Da po' blog goes on listing them all. There was a woman who stabbed her husband and killed him in a domestic dispute, and I'm putting that in here so those who go read da po' blog's post won't pull that out and copy/paste it into the comments here saying, "SEEEEEE!!! It isn't just guns."

Okay, I'll give you that on that one. But I just took 7 deaths and one injury from that post, all had been shot, some multiple times, one possibly with an AK47 (WHAT??? Why are those on the streets?), by probably at least 7 different people. Seven people, 7 guns, 7 dead. Take a look again. Look at the ages of the dead. Many many of them are the same age as the fallen at Virginia Tech. Most of them probably didn't have the same opportunities as the Virginia Tech kids, and they most assuredly weren't found in classrooms. They were found on the streets, in their homes, on some corner, in a car. The kids at Virginia Tech had every reason to believe that they were in a safe place, which makes the massacre there all the more heart-rending. The kids dead in our streets knew they were not in a safe place. That should upset us greatly: our dead kids in the streets grew up in a culture of violence in our country, a culture ruled by the gun, and had no expectation of safety. That should break our collective hearts.

There was an ad or column I saw recently that said something like, "Come buy a piece of dirt in New Orleans." It was about the realty market I believe. I know for a fact it wasn't about buying a cemetery plot.

When Columbine happened those years ago, I found myself appalled by what had happened there, and also appalled that no one had noticed how many kids the same age had been shot dead in the streets of Los Angeles that same day. While the country mourned the babies of Columbine, so full of promise, they didn't mourn the babies of Compton, the ones to whom no promises had been made.

I feel the same way today. Too many guns, too many dead kids, too many lobbyists saying we'll give you money for your campaign if you vote our way.

Wyatt Earp did something that flew in the face of the Constitution. Old Wyatt, the historical one, not the movie one, was a rigid, moralistic old son of a bitch. He had no qualms about hunting down the murderers of his brother. I don't think I would have liked him much one on one. His idea of frontier justice was every bit as brutal as any gang culture today. But he did something very brave in Dodge City, Kansas. (And you thought I was going to talk about the streets turning into the OK Corral, now didn't you?) He set up what he called a "deadline." He got tired of the cowboys coming into town after the cattle had been herded, with paychecks in their pockets, heading for the saloons and the women, each with a couple guns and probably a rifle on their saddle. There were just getting to be too many killings there, so Wyatt put signs up all over the entrances to Dodge City. "DEADLINE," they said, along with instructions to drop off their guns before entering Dodge. They could retrieve them when they left, but if they were caught with a gun on their person within the limits of the city (above the railroad tracks), they would be put in jail, or in some cases, if they drew them they could be shot. A few gave him a hard time about it, but most handed over their handguns and rifles, went and had a good time in Dodge City, then went on their way to the next herd of cattle.

It was gun control within the city limits of Dodge. He didn't go to court to get any laws changed, he didn't have to fight with the behemoth NRA lobby, he just said, NO GUNS IN THIS TOWN.

Since it would appear that the NRA has way too much power in this country, (see this post at CBS News), I don't harbor any fantasies of real gun control in this country. The Brady Bill was gutted, and automatic weapons can still be purchased by just about anyone. We are a country who loves our SUV's at the cost of the environment. We are a country that was born out of gunfire and bloodshed, and many Americans like that. We are a country that mourns our dead children, and wonders why no one noticed a very disturbed 23 year old kid's problems, or why a gun dealer wouldn't wonder why this kid NEEDED a Glock 9mm. We are a country that sends our lucky kids off to good colleges expecting them not to be gunned down in their classrooms.

We are also a country that seems not at all concerned about our unlucky kids being gunned down in the streets, and not by one disturbed kid, but by whole groups of them. Kids who fill their pockets every morning with their cell phone, their iPod, and their Glock, as though their guns were just another accessory.

We need a deadline around New Orleans. We need gun control in this country. We need to get some DNA from the Constitutional framers, clone them and find out if AK47's and Glocks in everyone's hands were really what they were talking about. We need to put a stop to NRA influence. We need gun manufacturers who keep making better and better fingerprint resistant grips to take some responsibility.

I know. All fantasy. But the blood in our classrooms and all over our streets is not fantasy.

It's predictable.
Amazingly the gun lobbies are trying to turn this to their advantage, jumping into the fray by yesterday afternoon with this.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Guest Post: The Gods of Texas

Given some of the comments by Recovery Czar Ed Blakely, and the subsequent fallout in my email the last two days, I thought that this very much needed to be posted. Written by a friend, Louis Pushkin, it reminds us once again that not all of us here, or even those still desperate to get home, are mendicants or buffoons. Pushkin owns a home in NOLA, evacuated, returned for a very short time, then because his partner's corporate employers decided to bail out of NOLA and head to Houston, he has been living in exile, as he calls it, and wants very much to come home. He wants to come home for all the standard reasons that anyone wants to come home, but he and his partner are very much the kind of people that everyone can agree we NEED to come back. (No, I am not getting into the who should and shouldn't come back argument, I merely state that as evidence that not all the brain drain stuff is true of every professional.) He doesn't want to sell his home and move to Covington. He and his partner care very much about the future of New Orleans and want to contribute to the rebuilding process in a more immediate way (they've already been contributing from afar very generously.)

His big fear is that the "Gods of Texas" won't let him come home, and he wrote this piece. I felt it was important that we remember those who are trying to get home, and the sacrifices they made and will continue to make in that quest. I also love the image of him in gaudy cowboy boots with candles burning. I believe he is rethinking the longhorns attached to the grille.

The Gods of Texas

The Gods of Texas are flat-out mean-spirited.

I first noticed that Texas has a way of not letting people leave easily when my husband was able to return home six months ago, and I drove with him to Baton Rouge the weekend before he started his new job. We sat in traffic for EIGHT HOURS between Houston and Beaumont (a trip that usually only takes about an hour and a half). That's a long time to sit and wonder why you're not moving forward. Enough time to start thinking there are dark and malevolent forces at work. Enough time to think about our other friends whose liberation from post-Katrina Texas purgatory was also difficult. Two friends who skidded off the road in a torrential downpour about five miles outside Winnie. Another whose rear axle shattered as she crossed the desert headed to a new life. And then for my husband's exodus, there we were: stuck in traffic worse than the Evacuation, hungry, bladders ready to burst, and burning through the reserve tank of gas at an alarming rate. Clearly, Texas doesn't like to let go. As I contemplated whether I should just pee in a cup and dump it out the window like we did sitting in Contraflow traffic on the Bonnet Carre Spillway early that Sunday morning, I came to a horrifying realization: Texas had given all of these people a really hard time getting out, and they hadn't even done anything to anger the Gods. They always defended Texas when I would go on a tirade about how soulless and uncouth was this place that I had started calling "Helltown" early on.

The least charitable thing any of them had ever said about Texas was when D explained her snap decision to quit her Houston job and move to California by saying, "I knew I had to get out of here when I realized Texas was growing on me – like mold." And she ended up stuck at an AAMCO station in the middle of the desert for three days getting her axle replaced. I have made it my raison d'etre for over a year now to malign and sully the name of this fucking Hell Hole to anyone willing to listen (or just too stunned, drunk, or polite to flee my outbursts). Sitting in that car in the middle of the East Texas flatlands, I began to wonder what special torture the Gods of Texas would have in store for me when I finally tried to escape. I still had to sell the house, find a new job, and move all our household, never mind the actual travel – any one of these endeavors could be the perfect channel for those vindictive deities to serve me a Texas-sized platter of come-uppance.

I didn't put much thought into what I should do about my impending battle with the Cowboy Gods for several months; the date of my emancipation seemed distant enough not to cause worry, and besides, I had Carnival Season to keep me busy (note: I have been able to prove that the Gods of Texas don't impede passage if they know you're coming back in a few days.) After Mardi Gras, we put the house on the market, and miraculously, we received a break-even offer on the house we owned just over a year. There's one thing the Gods of Texas won't hang me up with. I quit my job in HellTown, and have interviews lined up in Louisiana. I don't think the Texas Gods can influence the hiring process once I am across the State line, so that's one more area in which I think I am safe. I have resigned myself to losing all of our furniture in the moving truck to some mishap, but that loss will be insured. I can pack all the irreplaceables in the car with me, just like I did when we evacuated – after Katrina, I know exactly the items I do not want to leave behind ever again.

I am actually really nervous that the Gods seem to be narrowing the scope of their attack. That makes me believe they're going to deliver a quick knockout punch. Running over one of my cats on the way out the driveway, maybe, or the car catching on fire. Very possibly a heart-attack as I drive down I-10.

In an effort to placate the Gods, I have changed my tune lately; I have learned to two-step. I bought some country music CDs. I have eaten beef barbecue. I bought a tall votive candle with the word "TEXAS" painted on it, along with a big Lone Star and tacky, stylized cowboy boots. It has been burning on my bedside table for three days now. Since so many of my worries revolve around my physical liberation and the road leading to it, I decided to make the ultimate show of good faith: I bought a pair of genuine Texas Longhorns to mount on the grille of my car. (How did we ever live before eBay?) I am little troubled, though, at the thought that I might just be digging my own grave. I can just see myself cruising East on that final sweet morning and some hair-line fracture in my less-than-professional mounting job causes the longhorns either to fall onto the raod, puncture a tire, and send me careening into a bayou, or better yet -- fly through the windshield and impale me to my seat.

I confided my plans to a friend last week who approved of my strategy to offer pennance to the Texas Gods, but pointed out that I should also notify the spirits of my beloved Louisiana that another one of their lost children is coming back to the fold, and ask their assistance. I have made a phone call to the 504 area code to get my supernatural prescription. I have burned, buried, written, scattered, eaten and fed all the right things, according to a Louisiana perspective. The last piece of the puzzle is where you all come in. I need you all to think of the people who belong in New Orleans but aren't sitting with you tonight. Remember those who need to move on, but encourage those who want to come home. Celebrate those who make it back.

The Gods of Texas are only scary when you have to face them alone.

Friday, April 06, 2007

I Want Some of What Cheney's On

I rarely post anything about national politics as there are others who do so much better than I, but this was too good to pass up. At the risk of being called the "L" word, (no, not lesbian, not lady--bite your tongue!, not loony--although that sometimes applies), LIBERAL, here's this from WAPO's Dan Froomkin's blog (a good read btw):

It's not a coincidence that Cheney was talking to Limbaugh yesterday. The show has been one of Cheney's favorite venues.

As I wrote in my January 29 column, The Unraveling of Dick Cheney, Cheney is increasingly out of touch with reality. He seems to think that by asserting things that are simply untrue, he can make others believe they are so.

In Limbaughland, he's right.

In Limbaughland, not only were Saddam and Al Qaeda linked but -- more significantly -- liberals hate America. In Limbaughland, Cheney can say a lot simply by failing to disagree with his host's assertions.

Consider a few of yesterday's exchanges.

Limbaugh was complaining to Cheney about how the Democrats seem to be primarily motivated by a desire "to make sure we come home defeated."

Limbaugh: "Can you share with us whether or not you understand their devotion, or their seeming allegiance to the concept of U.S. defeat?"

Cheney: "I can't."

I wrote yesterday about Bush's recess appointment of three controversial officials including Sam Fox, whose nomination to be ambassador to Belgium was opposed by Democrats on account of his 2004 donation to the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth.

Limbaugh called Fox "a great American" and praised the White House for making an end-run around Democratic opposition.

Limbaugh: "This is the kind of move that garners a lot of support from the people in the country. This shows the administration willing to engage these people and not allow them to get away with this kind of -- well, my term -- you don't have to accept it -- Stalinist behavior from these people on that committee."

Cheney: "Well, you're dead on, Rush."

The two also chuckled about the White House move.

Limbaugh: "You go on vacation, this is what happens to you."

Cheney: "If you're a Democrat." They both laughed.

Okay, then.

Interesting Flag

Last weekend, we were at the Cabildo and my husband noticed this flag. He knew what it was, the Flag of the Independent Nation of Louisiana.

A little later, we were out with our grandson and my husband wanted to see the old Mssrs Marigny and Almonaster's tombstones in St. Louis Cathedral. So I showed him where they were and we noticed the same flag flying among all the others in the Cathedral.

This flag really was called the Flag of the Independent Nation of Louisiana. It was flown when Louisiana seceded and before it joined the Confederacy. (Once they joined the Confederacy they flew the Confederate flag.) Thus the above flag was only flown for about two months, officially, but is still flown among all the other flags at both the Cabildo and St. Louis Cathedral.

Thought it was interesting. Might have to buy one. No doubt Ashley will want one.

Also an interesting idea. Perhaps we could set up some new rules for insurance companies and file charges against them, while we summarily execute pirates. Okay, so I'm really anti-capital punishment, but still, the idea of setting up the gallows on Jackson Square while flying this flag was a cool image. Get the Corps of Engineers out there too, maybe? Just to watch? Lord knows we don't want them constructing the gallows.

Just sayin'.


Friday, March 30, 2007

Louisiana Oil in the Backyard

No, not the oil rigs in the Gulf. A guy in Lake Charles literally found high grade oil and natural gas in his backyard. Watch this at CNN

Opens up a whole bunch of questions about the slowness of the rebuilding here, but then maybe I'm just a cynic.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Ya know, this just doesn't seem fair

Higher fees for second lines than for krewes? What are we doing?
Read this article
This is just wrong.

I was trying to stay out of this but I'm a BITCH

I live in the Marigny, just two blocks from Esplanade. One day two weeks ago, we heard a lot of clunking and banging. Everyone on my little street went outside, and thinking it was a film shoot we didn't know about, (hey we're easily entertained over here!) peered into what we thought was a grip truck. No. It was two guys in an open huge truck tossing out 96 gallon trash "carts." Up and down Burgundy was a sea of black, HUGE black carts. One building with four units and a nice porch had four of the damn things tossed in front of it. The next day they did our little street, which is only about 2 blocks long. We all stood there astonished and had a de facto block meeting right then.

First we looked at the sheer size of these things, big enough to hide a couple bodies in easily, and after the expected jokes about that, we started talking about how much actual trash we put out each week. We are not huge families over here, and we figured on a really busy week of spring cleaning or yard work, maybe we'd fill it up, but mostly we were all talking about maybe two kitchen size trash bags per week. One of the neighbors called the head of Sanitation, as she had talked to her earlier in the week about the FQuarter bins, explaining patiently that there simply wasn't anyplace for her to put the albeit smaller FQ trash cart at her place of business. Madam Sylvia told her, "Well then, just put it in your living room." Our neighbor dialed the number as she was telling us the story, and asked upon getting connected with the office, whether we in the Marigny would have the option of asking for smaller carts. We were told NO. PERIOD.

At that, the rest of us were incensed. (BTW, we have a different trash company than the Quarter does, part of the "new improved three company-costs three times as much as it used to" contract Nagin signed.) Some of us decided that perhaps we should all just use one or two for the whole block. That seemed more reasonable, then one of our number, a very astute guy said, NO. If they're going to make us have these, then put your one little plastic bag of trash in it, don't use anyone elses and make them pick up every damn one of them every damn time.

Most of us over here are fairly ecologically minded, and we thought that combining would make sense, send the rest of the gigantic petroleum product carts back, but another of our neighbors thinks that they're expecting us to do that and that in five years or less there will just be one big dumpster on every block to make it more expedient for the mechanized trucks to pick it up. It's possible I suppose. Speaking of the mechanized trucks, the parking situation here is very dense, short of putting our carts out IN the street, the guys are still gonna have to come get them off the sidewalk, take them to the mechanized arm for emptying and return them.

So we've decided to decorate ours. We are going to have a get together, come up with a theme, and decorate all our damn carts with slogans asking HOW MUCH DID THESE COST? WILL OUR PARKING TICKET PAYMENTS COVER OUR TRASH BILLS? THINK WE COULD GET SMALLER ONES? and of course, lots of pretty flowers.

I know Varg has weighed in on this, and there's a piece over at Suspect Device. And yes, I do understand that bitching about this when some people can't get trash pickup seems ridiculous. But what we see is what appears to us to be an overpriced, overkill approach that's costing too much, and offers no room at all for compromise, at least when it comes to the Sanitation Department head. And all the talk about "Hey I live in the French Quarter, up yours" that I'm seeing is ignoring the very REAL issues business owners are having. The place where we go to get our hair cut has no place to put these bins, at all, period, finito. He will have to leave his bin out in front, put it IN the shop, or eschew the cart altogether and take the trash from the shop home, which is what he's thinking of doing. Another little shop on Royal has no alley and a very narrow sidewalk in front. She has no room inside for this cart, and if it's on the sidewalk, people will have to walk single file to get past her shop. Her concern is that they will do just that--walk PAST the shop which is barely squeaking by anyway. Oh yeah, and she's in her late 60's, takes a cab home and can't take her trash with her.

Not all of us who live in this area are a bunch of "up yours the rest of NOLA" snobs, nor are we all monied property owners. (Our block is half renters, half owners.) One commenter on Suspect Device's blog said, "at least the black plastic bags were picked up and GONE, the carts will stay out." And yeah, it WILL change the look of the French Quarter, and YEAH, that is a problem. I've already heard tourists asking if they can move the damn things to take a picture. No kidding. I mean, hey, they wanna show the folks back home the lacy iron work, not the behemoth trash bins. But some of what I'm hearing has a tinge of screw the tourists and the business owners who exist thanks to them. Lupin called her a bitch, how petty, how typical of all those snobby FQ/Marigny folks.

Well ya know, he was RIGHT. He could have been more politic, but my guess is he's heard more stories about "keep it in your living room" than the rest of us have, and I know he's been trying hard to find a compromise which apparently is impossible even though the Sanitation Dept originally said they'd give waivers to people who couldn't accomodate the carts, and now they're evidently taking that back.

Those of us living here care deeply about the problems of other parts of this city, things like no garbage collection, or the gigantic hole on Magazine Street. Ya know why? Because we LOVE New Orleans, all of it and cuz WE are the ones on our bicycles riding through the bewildered tourists, being asked, "Hey you know a good place to find. . . ." Know what we do? We send them to Uptown, we send them to Magazine Street with lots of praise for all the fabulous shopping they'll find there saying, "There's way more to New Orleans than just the Quarter." We patiently look at their maps with them, we explain that the street names change once they cross Canal, we tell them about NOMA, we tell them about City Park, we tell them they'll love the city. We're also the ones who have to move the damn carts out of the way while they hand us their cameras to "take a picture of us, will you?"

Oh yeah, and for the record, I loaded up my cart for its first pickup: All the trash I could find, including an old vacuum cleaner and all its parts that had been sitting around here for a year. (Yes, the entire vacuum, its parts and three bags of trash fit with room to spare and the lid went all the way down.) The following week there was one bag in there. What a waste.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Quick list of things overheard, seen, experienced

In the last couple weeks, there have been little weird things showing up in various ways in my life. Thought I'd just give you a quick list:

1. A knock on the door last night about 9:30PM. Sheriff's Department. The car had been left unlocked and someone had rifled through it stealing all my CD's but leaving the registration, for which I was grateful. Cops had seen the light on in the car, waited to see if we were coming in and out, and after seeing that we weren't, knocked on the door and checked it out with us. I thanked them. Still mourning the CD's.

2. Went to the Maple Leaf on Sunday, via cab. Got caught in the glorious colors of the Mardi Gras Indians that I had so wanted to see, but couldn't fit in. Found out that Taxicab Medallions are running at nearly $500K/per and are considered property that can be inherited.

3. Overheard at a parade, spoken by someone who has been in meetings with our Governor: "She has a DINNER bell that she rings when she wants to say something." Laughter all around, along with the question "DINNER BELL?? NO SHIT????" "Does it work?" "Yes, people are so shocked that they all get silent." "Is this done to get the meeting kinda called to order?" "No, she just rings it when she wants to say something, even if it has nothing to do with what we're discussing." That's discouraging, ain't it? Or would that be the Army Corps of Engineers and the PUMP/LEVEE situation? What if she stands in St. Bernard and rings it REAL loud? Will that help?

4. Our Mayor, stating the obvious in incendiary terms, while being one of the "thems" that he's talking about. Nothing more to say about this that can be said in polite company (not that that's ever stopped me before.) He needs to do something about the housing situation here, and I don't mean having the developers polish his, um, head. (No, you dirty minded people, the OTHER one.)

5. Learned a new term, "Going Bare" and thought maybe someone knew of a cool swimming hole or something. Found the term in an article here about people unable to afford insurance. I can hear the population of the upper 47 clucking about irresponsibility right now. Too bad they're not talking about the insurance companies. Wonder how many of those folks would do the same thing in the same situation? Um, ACoE, PUMPS??? LEVEES?

6. Having my hair cut, guy says, "Oh yeah, I talked to my homeowner's guy. Was told that if I rebuild on a slab, I can't get flood insurance, but if I raise the house like they want, I can't get wind insurance. No way to get both." Yoo Hoooooooo, blink blink, raising my shirt so my saggy boobs at least get their attention: ACoE guys, yeah, you cuties! PUMPS???? LEVEES????

7. Mortgage brokers in a panic. No insurance, no mortgage, no mortgage no commission. The insurance companies will shortly put mortgage companies out of business if they can't close loans. Having my daughter raise her shirt, that oughtta do it---Hey, sweetie, I'll show you a GOOD time (hey, kid, you're still my daughter, don't get out of control here, geez, you were raised up better than that!) if y'all give me some good PUMPS and LEVEES! (Still no response, but her father is having conniptions.)

8. Haven't actually counted them yet, and remarkably the Sheriff's didn't say anything as they peered into the interior of our car with flashlights last night, but have gotten maybe 20-30 parking tickets while parked in front of my own house. Don't have the "Marigny" sticker yet, was waiting for the registration, which finally came two days ago (thus my relief at finding the thieves hadn't stolen IT.) Lately the Ticketmeisters, not to be confused with Ticketmaster, have been out in force, even ticketing beer trucks and UPS or FedEx delivery trucks in the Quarter. The passenger side floor of my car is a really cool red/orange sea. I'll have to deal with all that here at some point. A cop friend said "Just go to court and get it all over with at once." Hey there, Officer, if I PAY them will the money go for PUMPS OR LEVEES? No? That's too bad.

9. Am hearing the spring birds and seeing yellow pollen all over, so for all of you sneezing from morning til night, it's time for the claritin, or the zytec or whatever you take.

10. And finally, if you're feeling old, fat, in need of a facelift, or something, please buy makeup and a copy of Photoshop instead. This will make your day:

Oh yeah, and I've had to breakdown and put the Comment control thing on the blogs. I really don't need spam for Asian porn or some of the other stuff that's been dumped en masse into the comments sections lately. I don't have time for that. I have tickets to pay.

And maybe a raft to build:::::::::muttering::::::Fix the PUMPS::::::::::Fix the LEVEES:::::::::Hey, am I talking to myself?::::::::

EDIT: Governor Blanco isn't running for re-election so may have to retire her dinner bell. And most of my CD's are still in my possession, but my husband can never again holler at me for not putting them in their cases. The cases were gone, but my lax CD storage techniques saved most of the discs.