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.