Alluvial people, alluvial memories, alluvial city

Article 499 of the Louisiana Civil Code sets forth the concept of alluvion, a property law concept going back to Roman times:

Alluvion and dereliction

Accretion formed successively and imperceptibly on the bank of a river or stream, whether navigable or not, is called alluvion. The alluvion belongs to the owner of the bank, who is bound to leave public that portion of the bank which is required for the public use.

The same rule applies to dereliction formed by water receding imperceptibly from a bank of a river or stream. The owner of the land situated at the edge of the bank left dry owns the dereliction.

Moving on …

On this date, August 29, in 1992, I went on my first date with Nicole. Here’s a picture from the next morning, of two happy kids who maybe had an inkling of the significance of that date, or maybe didn’t:

morning after first date

Thirteen years later, on August 29, 2005, we’d been married for nine years, we’d been living back in New Orleans for eight years, and we had a two-year-old son.

Why New Orleans? Because of family. Nicole’s from here, and her whole family is here or very close by. New Orleans is an alluvial city, built on alluvial soils left from the meanderings of river and tides, its people alluvial people, deposited by various historical cataclysms, some searching for economic opportunity or “new world” treasure and souls to save, some running from hard times on home continents, some expelled forcefully from other lands as European powers fought and bargained, some ripped violently from their homelands and loaded into slave-ship holds, but all accreted or derelicted in this place, where they have stayed, grains collecting on top of grains until a land is built up. Nicole’s family represents this alluvial place, these alluvial people, generations deep into this soil, planted with arrivals from France, Germany, crazy places like Kansas, and even the classic New Orleans roots from Santo Domingue (Haiti) to sugar plantations upriver then into the Treme (online genealogical research is amazing–I’ve even located the pew number assigned to one member of the family in St. Augustine church in the Treme neighborhood at the end of the 1800s).

Nicole is from here, lived here since she was born, like generations in her family before her. I was a newcomer when she brought me back in 1997, but my children are from here, too, more accretion of people in this land.


Alluvial memories accumulated since that night ten years ago, huddled in a hotel room in San Destin, waiting for Nicole’s parents to arrive from their evacuation drive from New Orleans. We’d left a few days before, for a trip to the beach. We had a weekend’s worth of beach clothes with us, flip-flops, and our two-year-old son, and we were among the lucky ones. I knew that immediately, as I watched my father-in-law reach out to his employees, more than a hundred families, to find out who was where, who was ok, then to figure out how to change what the business did (he owns the local Terminix, and while eradicating flooded-out bugs was less necessary at first, there was plenty of other work to do) and how they did it so that the employees could all still have jobs when they made it back and so that the business could help get the things done that needed doing back at home. There are a thousand anchors in this town like him, uncelebrated but essential to holding the soil and the people in place.

After the storm passed, we moved together, Nicole and me and our boy, and Nicole’s parents and her sister and her kids, and her brother and his wife and boys, up to Montgomery for a few more weeks. My parents live there, and had secured four apartments in a complex quickly blocked out by FEMA. So many people did everything possible to help everyone who couldn’t go home. But then we did go home, among the lucky ones who could get home before the end of September.


My friend Maurice wrote this in a blog on Dirty Coast Press this past week:

“We can’t forget that New Orleans was essentially cleared out by the storm. This means that everyone here and now had to either (A) come back or (B) come down for the first time. No modern American city can make this claim. It means that we fought hard to survive and have a very real sense that we’re all in this together.”

If you’re here now, in other words, it’s because you’ve chosen to be here. For us, that choice was the alluvial pull of family and history. For so many others, the reason was the same. Others came here for the first time, after the storm, to help rebuild, before it was clear the rebuilding would take.

Other newcomers came three, five, or more years after, when the real gamble had been taken already, and the loot was ready to be raked in. There have always been those who come here because it’s a place like no other, with traditions like no other, and they want a piece of that. Of course they do. And some of those respect those traditions and where and who they come from, and some just take from and appropriate those traditions and move on, leaving a vacuum in their wake. It’s no different after Katrina in that respect, than before, but it’s more profound, more acute.

And still way too many others have not been able to come home yet. Sarah Broom wrote in the New Yorker last week about the frustrations of families of this place wanting to come home, fighting to come home, frustrated in their ability to get home. She writes:

“As long as we had the ground, and as long as we kept him company, we were not homeless, which was Carl’s definition of tragedy. What will happen when the case is resolved, our house replaced by another house on another lot? Will we ever shake the precarious nature of finding home? I think of all the sentinels, like Carl, who still tend to the remains of what used to be and who have not found a place on earth where they might settle down. I count myself as one.”

And Maurice, in another blog post, a prose poem posted this past week, wrote about the tension between the new prosperity of the new neighborhoods occupying the space and neighborhoods of the long-time homeowners and families who could not get home:

“New Orleans. 2015. A new city for better people. Go to a house. Any house. Go to Treme. TV Treme. Disneyland Treme. How long have you been here? A few years. Who used to be here? A man. Where is he? They took him away. And? They took his family away. And? They took them all away.

How many? How many? How many?

96,000 African-Americans did not return after Katrina. …

Where did they go?

To Houston. To Atlanta. Back to Africa. Who cares? This is our city.

Like a good parent. They lied. Anyone who wants to come back can come back.

But your family name is tattooed on a waiting list that stretches from here to the sun. A place where dreams fester and run.”

And finally, this, from Lolis Eric Elie, on Why We Came Back and demand to come back and will come back and have come back, from the Bitter Southerner this past week. I’m not going to block-quote any part of it, because you must go read the whole thing.


My sister moved here, too, for family. She moved here after my repeated lobbying for her to do so, a brother who wanted his sister close by. After her house flooded after Katrina, we worked together to gut the debris out of it:

moving out fridge

I almost feel drained of words for what this city has been through to get back to where it is now. Here are some selected excerpts of the many words I blogged in the three years after the storm. Here’s the full set of all 80,000 of my post-storm blog words.

Here’s Wolfy and me in our Heckuva Job Brownie Baking Company costumes from the first Mardi Gras after, the one everyone else said we shouldn’t have:

blue chef krewe

Here’s my sister and me at the first Jazzfest after, the one everyone else said we shouldn’t have:

jazzfest2006

Here’s Steve Gleason blocking some Falcon’s punt in the reopening of the Superdome, at a football game in a place everyone said we shouldn’t reopen:

Dear “everyone” who had so many opinions about what we shouldn’t do along the way: FYYFF.


There are so many people to thank. I spent hundreds of hours cleaning up neighborhoods, gutting houses, and more with volunteers from all over the country, an endless stream of them, and they’re still coming. In just the first two years after Katrina, more than 1.1 million volunteers contributed more than 14 million hours of direct service to cleaning, gutting, and rebuilding my community.Thank you. In just the first three months after the storm, private givers gave $2.97 billion in donations to the Katrina relief efforts. Thank you. The things we personally felt from others, and the opportunities we had to help others, are almost too numerous to list, and those thank yous have been given out in multitude. We help each other in this world. And also thanks to the more than a thousand people who have clicked over in the last two days to read my post about my brother-in-law Logan’s role in the rebuilding. His is a story worth remembering, too.


There’s been a lot of good and a lot of bad that has washed up and added to this alluvial life in the past ten years. We have two more amazing children now, people of this place. We lost Logan, and we lost a baby, both in the five-year marker post-Katrina. My sister and too many friends and family of friends have either been unable to come back or unable to stay back. Jobs have been lost and gained. New friends made. Old friendships have been cast even stronger. A place called Peauxdunque was founded.

None of this is perfect. Life is imperfect, and so is this recovery. New Orleans has always been in flux, battles between good and bad, divisions sharpening and blurring and sharpening again, tensions between land and water, sea and marsh, old-timers and new-comers, artists and entrepreneurs, white and black, free and not, dark and light, have-a-lot and have-nothing, and that will never end. But the flux keeps fluxing because while we love this all in the most painful ways, we know we have to keep trying. I love this place, and I’m glad to be here, to still be here.

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Alluvial people, alluvial memories, alluvial city

tbt: Remembering Logan

This is my brother-in-law, Logan Martin, back in 2010, navigating in the marshes around Bayou la Loutre, down by Hopedale, Shell Beach, Ysclosckey:

Logan on bayouWhen Katrina hit in August 2005, he was the lead civil engineer for St. Bernard Parish who wasn’t a political appointee. In the first days after Katrina, we were staying in these apartments in Montgomery, and Logan brought his wife and two boys up there. Logan would be outside the apartments all day and into the night, where the cell reception was better, constantly staying in touch with the men on his work crews, first making sure they and their families were all right, then making plans to get back into da’ Parish as soon as they could.

A week after the storm, Logan and our nephew Ricky and I loaded down with six large gas cans, gloves, masks, and sandwiches, and headed back toward home from Montgomery. Logan’s essential personnel pass got us through the military checkpoints and over the Causeway Bridge, one of the few ways back into the devastation, and we went into Jefferson Parish and inspected his house and our house and my parents-in-laws’ house and my sister-in-law’s house. We tore out a lot of flood-damaged carpet and other items from his house, wrangled a refrigerator full of rancid meat from his sister’s house, rescued one of my cats from our house, then drove back to Montgomery as they locked Jefferson Parish down. Going back across the Causeway at the 6 p.m. curfew, we could look back and see smoke and helicopters circling over still-flooded Orleans and St. Bernard Parishes.

The next morning, Logan turned right back around and set up camp at his house. No electricity or utilities yet, but he based out of there, cooking for his workers on his grill, starting the gutting and cleaning of his house, and traveling into St. Bernard each day as the waters receded to start rebuilding that Parish, too. A few weeks later, after the power and water were back on in Jefferson and Hurricane Rita had passed, he came back up to Montgomery and we moved the family back home. But that’s when Logan’s real work started.

Logan director of Public WorksAccording to a Times-Picayune article in December 2010, “Since becoming director about two years ago, he oversaw all parish recovery projects from the construction of fire stations, parks, gyms and drainage pumping stations, to leading the technical review of more than $200 million in street and roadway projects.” Logan was seemingly tireless, in his work, and with his family. Always full of joy and jokes, cooking amazing food and having people over to eat it. But he worked ceaselessly and doggedly to rebuild St. Bernard, too. From that same Times-Pic article: “Friends and family recall stories of Mr. Martin stuffing weatherproofing in floodwall cracks during Hurricane Gustav and traveling to Baton Rouge daily after Katrina to deliver receipts and vouchers straight to FEMA’s doorstep, hoping to speed up the receipt of needed construction money.” I remember sitting in Logan’s backyard with him, as he talked about the frustrations of fighting against federal red tape, state red tape, local politicians who were sometimes just too self-interested and other times were downright corrupted, and the joys of winning those fights and of working with his crews to rebuild roads and fire stations, of literally putting the community back together.

Logan on beachWe lost Logan on the morning of Christmas Eve, 2010, five years into this rebuilding, from a heart attack caused by a congenital heart defect. We think about him, and are shaped by him, every day. There’s a tendency to talk in big, broad, brush-strokes about Katrina, and how Katrina touched people’s lives, but it’s important to flip it around, too, to remember the individual lives, the particular lives, who touched Katrina, who touched and helped communities, not for any glory or self-gain, but because they are just good, indomitable, caring, determined people. Logan was one of those people. So I ask you all to “throwback” to memories of him, whether you knew him or not.

Logan Road

tbt: Remembering Logan

The first three years post-Katrina, selected excerpts

Previously, I posted the full text of my three years of post-Katrina posts from my old LiveJournal, which in full capture the whole spectrum of my experience as we came home and fought for home. For those who don’t have time to read 80,000 words of that, though, below are 8800 words of selected excerpts from those first three years:

From August 30th, 2005 at 11:56 PM: [from a hotel room in San Destin, after listening to WWL radio to figure out what was going on]… i can’t get my head around it. i want to get in, find my other cat, take some pictures for the insurance company, get out, get a check from them, move somewhere far away from the coast, drink heavily to numb my emotions and senses, lose myself in my son and my wife.

but that’s not how it will happen. it will be months and years of being there, hot, sweaty, rebuilding. the small goodnesses of many people will eventually outweigh the large badness of a few people. we will not be numb, but stronger,wearier. our lady of prompt succor will give us another 300 years of protection. the saints may even win a super bowl in that time. … and the dead will be remembered.

From Sept. 5, 2005, 12:39 AM: [from an apartment in Montgomery, after talking to my secretary from work, who had to break out of one of the downtown hospital buildings after being left and locked in the building by the military caravan]… it’s so fucking surreal. not just a little survivor’s guilt happening here. … we’ve got to fix this. i’m putting my shoulder to the wheel, as ginsberg so eloquently wrote decades ago. as anne rice wrote in today’s new york times, new orleans is america, we are you. this has been hell and high water and death, as ray nagin said on cnn today, but we will come together like there has never been a coming together. in the wake of this, new orleans will come back and surpass the rest of bland, tasteless, homogenous, slowly plodding, bureaucratic-death, Other america.

From Sept. 9, 2005, 4:46 PM: … Very sobering trip home yesterday from Montgomery. Went in with my nephew and brother-in-law to gather some things and get back out again. … got out of the Parish right as the 6 p.m. curfew descended. Jefferson Parish is now under a lockdown for the next two weeks, only essential emergency response personnel and some business owners allowed to re-enter while they fix the infrastructure. As we drove back north over the Causeway, you could look back and see the New Orleans skyline, the scarred Superdome, and a fresh column of smoke from something burning over by the Coast Guard station.

From Sept. 14th, 2005 at 11:47 AM: [at the end of a long response to a chain email sent to me by an aunt about “what really happened” in New Orleans]… It’s like the thing I saw the day after the hurricane hit, from a group called Christians for Columbia, which said that Katrina was god’s punishment on New Orleans for all its wicked ways. Wow. Do you know how many good people live in and around New Orleans? Both church-going (of which there is a far higher percentage than much of the rest of the country, as if that matters) and non-church-going, the goodness of the people of New Orleans is unbounded. But why let that get in the way of the pictures of Nebraskans on Bourbon Street that the media and the hate-mongers like to use as the universal picture of debauchery in New Orleans. But it’s OK to let several thousand die and displace a million others as divine punishment, and then just forget about New Orleans and let it rot, right? I’m sorry, but I don’t know how you could forward this drivel to me and ask me if it’s true. You have a heart and a brain. You know this isn’t true.

From Sept. 22nd, 2005 at 5:05 PM: … rita has continued to keep us waiting in montgomery, uncertain. she won’t go the way the nhc says, her track continuing to drift eastward, along with her drenching rain-field. the people in montgomery are super-nice, in spite of their bad driving manners, but i just want to go home, really. there was a reason i wanted nothing more as a teenager than to get OUT of central Alabama.

From Sept. 25, 2005, 12:00 AM: … as the Greatest Boy in the World (GBW) said when we turned down our block, “we home, my darlin’.”

this place (meaning my house, my neighborhood, my town, my region) is a freakin’ mess, but it’s good to be home, sleep on my own matress, crash down on my own sofa, put GBW down in his own crib, grab a beer from my own not-too-stinky fridge.

nolagrl, we welcome you and the Beau to our lovely upstairs suite as soon as rita will release you.

ahembree and Justin, you, too. there’s plenty of room.

From Sept. 25, 2005, 7:59 PM: … There’s two sides to the coin around here. Definite flashes of that New Orleans spirit — the Saints suck, we’re cleaning up, we’ll be back. But then empty stares and wringing hands and shaking heads of people who have lost everything, wondering of who is going to come back, where will there be jobs.

From Sept. 27, 2005, 10:06 AM: … So the weeds are growing up in the front garden again, and the little Bradford Pear trees that we had just planted a couple months ago and which somehow miraculously did not get blown over have little blossoms, as do the dwarf camellias, the white azalea, and the japanese magnolia. As if it were spring again, a reawakening of sorts.

From Sept. 29, 2005, 9:57 AM: … just what the fuck does my insurance actually cover??!!

From Oct. 9th, 2005 at 5:40 PM: … more and more bars and restaurants opening.

saints lost 52-3. that’s so absurd that it can only bring bemusement.

i really really really want a hubig’s pie. oh well, at least i can get a sidewalk sno-ball.

From Oct. 14, 2005, 9:00 AM: … our favorite little pizza and pasta joint, slice, has reopened. went there last night and had great pizza (GBW had his first pizza ever, cheeseless, as they weren’t back with the pasta yet), good wine, and excellent punk rock music pumping through the sound system. GBW was rocking out, playing drums on the table and bobbing his head back and forth. first time home that almost felt like a normal night out, and best meal out that i’ve had in at least two months.

From Nov. 1st, 2005 at 3:09 PM: … so, trick or treating through dark streets littered with rotting refrigerator carcasses and roofing nails being generally considered to be not a good idea, a number of alternative venues were bandied about. in one of them, our church parish offered up its parking lots for “trunk or treating.” not a pseudo-religious, neutered fall festival like what they have put on over in the baptist church parking lot for years, but a venue for some for-real halloween pagan tradition and revelry. … a spontaneous city of ghouls and ghosts and kids dressed up like bounty hunters … and werewolves and witches and power rangers and countless of those “scream” monsters sprang out of the asphalt by the church. full-blown decorations on most cars …, up to and including miniature haunted houses in tents pitched next to SUVs and Winnebagos. …

this is the spirit of new orleanians that comes out just about every opportunity for a celebration of any kind, the thing that drives some of the wildest and tackiest christmas yard decorations imaginable, the thing that makes full living room and kitchenette ensembles spring up out of the neutral ground on mardi gras, the thing that makes folks smile when they smell the first crawfish boiling in late winter. and it’s damaged not at all by kat-rita. we may be leaner and meaner for awhile, but we’ll be back.

… OH, and news — Next June, the “B” in “GBW,’ which heretofore stood for the “Boy” in “Greatest Boy in the World,” will also stand in for the word “Brother.”

From Nov. 3rd, 2005 at 9:56 AM: Taquero’s has reopened! i can’t explain well enough how happy this makes me and mrs. swampy and GBW. Taquero’s was the first place GBW ever ate out, when he was 12 days old.

From Nov. 16th, 2005 at 4:28 PM: … but then i found myself on the way home up by the cemeteries, driving beside waterlined tombs where my car would have been far under water a couple months ago. nobody lives in these neighborhoods, yet, and they won’t for a long time. there’s still several feet of water on canal boulevard under the I610 overpass.

where the city was dry — “The Island,” as chris rose wrote yesterday — life looks normal. out in metairie where we live, life looks normal except for the still present mounds of debris everywhere and the FEMA trailers hooked up to sewerage lines outside of all the houses. but there’s traffic and kids and shopping and schools and joggers. but you cross these lines into huge swaths of neighborhoods with the waterlines and there is nobody living there. just nobody. estimates are that new orleans will be about half its population, back to 1870s levels when the city was still clustered on the high ground by the river, for the next five to ten years. i think that’s right. but we’re still new orleans, and we’re still vibrant, and we’re still a fun place to visit and a great place to live, so y’all come down. have some red beans, drink an abita restoration ale, spend some money.

From Nov. 17th, 2005 03:20 pm: the only thing that fixes the break in the heart is to fix the break in the city. i missed it, probably, in my post, but what i got out of yesterday was the vibrance and, well, new orleansness that is in full bloom in the marigny, the treme, the quarter, uptown. certainly the antithesis still resides across the flood line, but even that is being pushed further back, at least to the powerlessness line, as even the flooded-but-with-power neighborhoods are in full swing clean-up mode. this town ain’t dead, and won’t die until long after the rest of the country goes.

From Dec. 9, 2005, 9:04 AM: … at the visitation, whenever we were introduced as granddaddy’s new orleans grandchildren, the looks on folks’ faces were interesting. some wanted to know if there was still stuff to do, as if they believe the crap spewed about by such intellectual midgets as rush limbaugh that everything’s fine down there. others wanted to know if we could live in our house, yet (the answer for me is “yes” and for nolagrl is “no”), not understanding the variety of damage. … once it was off the news, it faded and mutated for people not there. i fear we will rebuild it on our own, without the help or understanding of the rest of the country. but it is a place not only worth rebuilding, but for the sake of the country MUST be rebuilt. the port, largest exporter of agricultural products in the country, second largest steel entry-point, largest coffee entry-point, fourth largest port-of-entry of any kind; the oil and gas … that comes across our coastline is greater than any other coastline in the country; the seafood nurseries are far more productive than any other in the country. … and then the music, and the food, and the people. i know those are the things that Others probably care least about, but they are far more more important than any of the rest of it altogether.

From Dec. 12th, 2005 at 10:08 AM: … Look, everyone, I need your help. Just a few minutes, really. I need you to write your state’s entire congressional delegation. … Strong, real levees and floodwalls. Restoration of the marshes and wetlands that buffer against these storms. Storm surge protection gates. Rebuilding grants for businesses and homes. Maybe some bridges in Alaska will have to be sacrificed to get it done, but these things are necessary, and every congressmember needs to get the message. This is not to fix or stave off tremendous damage caused by a storm that hit a place that people shouldn’t be living. This is to fix and stave off harm caused by the catastrophic engineering failure of the federal government and those it contracts with. …

From Dec. 15th, 2005 at 1:49 PM: …though I never expressed it, thank you to everyone who gave their own money to various relief outlets. While the government has taken its time and dithered about, private givers have provided $2.97 billion in the last three months. … Happy holidays everyone.

From Jan. 3, 2006, 1:31 PM: …Got back last night from the annual new years eve retreat to dauphin island. as usual, it was a very relaxing refuge from the day-to-day, and a welcome reunion with the friends who could make it — Maureen and Jeff and the new baby Catherine, Jack and Jessica, ahembree and baby einstein, val, and brian along with new friend tessie. the fog was completely settled in from friday night until an hour before we left yesterday morning, day and night, providing a moist quiet broken only by occasional ship fog horns and muffled firework reports as backdrop for the weekend. the surf was a gentle lapping for the most part.

in addition to wrecking our hometown and much of the mississippi coast, katrina did a good job finishing off the beach houses on dauphin island’s west end that ivan had left standing. just stunning how many houses are gone now.

the trip home included the now customary re-sobering up to reality of coastal and urban devastation. it was a little magnified this time, for one because we hadn’t really left the katrina zone on devastated dauphin island; for another, because there was a wreck on the twin spans, forcing us off the I-10 at Eden Isles. as we traveled through that neighborhood on the shore of lake pontchartrain on our way to the US 11 bridge, house after house was gutted to the studs, spray paint markings, both official and home-owner applied (the former marking a search for survivors/bodies, the latter proclaiming “valuables removed”). the Greatest Boy in the World, from his backseat perch, remarked, “The people are all gone, daddy.”

got home, unpacked, and read some missed newspapers. the thing from that to pass on, and i really wish you all read it, is Chris Rose’s end-of-the-year column, noting poignantly that the only thing less comprehensible than coming home to and living in new orleans right now is to not do so.

From Feb. 27, 2006, 2:45 AM: … and then the rebirth brass band tonight at mid-city lanes rock n’ bowl, where the crowd was probably 60/40 black to white but all together in and out through the crowd at the bar, at the tables, on the dance floor, ninety percent locals, everyone dancing their ass off, everyone seeing each other, hugging, asking how each other made it, everyone happy and and relaxed together.

From March 3rd, 2006 at 8:44 AM: …my mardi gras with wolfy began about 10 p.m. on lundi gras, as we retired to the house from a lovely dinner to begin constructing our costumes. one huge bolt of blue tarp and a large roll of duct tape purchased earlier in the day at the hardware store, two chartreuse-fueled imaginations, and we were off. at 3:15 Mardi Gras morning, we proudly hung our outfits up in anticipation of later in the morning: a matching set of pleated baker’s hats marked with our company name (“Heckuva Brownie Company”), a matching set of baker’s tunics bearing our bakery’s menus on the back (“evacuation plans: unavailable; levees and coast: $14B; leadership: priceless; brownies: on the house”), and a matching set of george bush masks set upon wooden spoons. you can see them here.

four hours later, we slowly woke up, drank some coffee and headed down to the marigny, stopping only once for a daquiri on our way. … in addition to countless large chuckles and guffaws and shouts of “Heck of a job, Brownie,” all of which were gratifying, here are some of the other things launched in our path:

  • one full-body flipping of the bird by a young man in a car, followed by laughter and another full-body bird;
  • “what’re y’all s’posed to be?”;
  • one little girl bursting into tears;
  • “get the fuck out of here, bush! get the fuck out of here, bush! get the fuck out of here, bush!” screamed repeatedly until i walked up to this young man and explained to him that we were making fun of bush, not supporting him, “i damned well hope so,” he replied;
  • lots and lots of “no, not bush” and “fuck bush”;
  • one rather timid, “but i love bush”;
  • one “i oughta’ shoot you in the face”;
  • one lady putting aside her joint to get in my face and yell, “well, when are you going to come down and see my house in chalmette?! see what fucking heck of a job you done down there. . .” her husband restrained her;
  • one bearded man with a ukelele who followed along behind us for a block, singing, “brownie you’re the best/to heck with all the rest/we don’t sing this in jest/ ’cause brownie you’re the best” (repeat for one block);
  • one rather large lady holding a live pet rat who sidled up to us and said, “happy mardi gras, from one rat bastard to another”;
  • one very conservative looking older lady (probably in her 70s), who took one look at our company logo and said, “should have said ‘fuckuva’”;
  • an offer (accepted) to step into the offeror’s courtyard for a beer.

that’s just a sampling, a highlight reel. it took us 20 minutes to get down some blocks, for all the picture-taking we were asked to pose for, including standing either side of one of those evangelicals as he berated some poor college student. lots of tv cameras getting shots of us, and many photographers with press credentials dangling….

much fun. it was a little stressful to have the people yelling at me, but i know it served two good purposes: getting “fuck bush” yelled out on the street, and serving as some therapeutic catharsis for some people who really needed it. i wonder if our satire was too subtle.

From May 22nd, 2006 at 10:41 AM: … ever since the Thing (you know, that Storm), people drive crazy. crazier, anyway. flying down the street. it started when we came back, mainly contractors and emergency response personnel, who for a month after the Thing didn’t have to worry about residents and laws and could just go willy-nilly wherever and however they wanted. now everybody seems to do it, flying down our residential street, blowing through stop signs. it’s out of control. the other day, i stopped my car and glared at an oncoming driver. for some reason, he stopped, rolled down his window, and said, “what?” “STOP speeding down my street. PLEASE,” I said, firmly. “I wasn’t speeding,” he said, the liar. “You were FLYING,” I replied. “I wasn’t flying,” said the insolent bastard. “HAVE SOME FUCKING RESPECT FOR THE PEOPLE WHO LIVE HERE,” I said a little more firmly. He glared and took back off, running through the stop sign.

A couple of days later, I’m up in my carport cutting some wood … when i hear a loud revving of an engine as someone takes off from the stop sign. i look over my shoulder to see the little speeding compact blurring past my house. i stalk out to the street, and there the poor bastard sits, parked, not four houses away. i walk down there. he’s got teenage girls, probably his daughter and a friend being dropped off, milling by the car. i ignore them and duck my head into his car. “Please stop speeding on my street,” I say again, to this one, “there are small children and families who live and play around here.” This guy was much more sheepish. “Oh, sorry, didn’t realize I was speeding. So sorry.” Likely what he was really thinking was, “Please don’t pull out a knife, crazy man.”

So, look, everyone. We’re all a little on edge around here. Be nice to us. Drive safely.

From June 8th, 2006 at 9:04 AM: … Dear Senator Vitter, I would appreciate it if you did not have your staff spit out a prefabricated letter regarding my opposition to the “Marriage Protection Amendment,” but would instead respond to my main concern voiced very clearly in the first paragraph of my email to you — that you publicly proclaimed with regard to the gay marriage amendment, “I don’t believe there’s any issue that’s more important than this one.” My email to you, Senator, was not a generic contact opposing your stance on gay marriage, but was a specific concern that you are giving several issues that you very well know are far more important — hurricane recovery and coastal restoration — very short shrift when you engage in such political hyperbole. It is your job for as long as it takes, both as a Senator and especially as a Louisiana citizen, to put NO issue above these. You damage us all when you do so.

From June 28th, 2006 at 5:06 PM: … as soon as i heard the seeger sessions band’s jazzfest set back on april 30, i wanted to review it, properly shout its virtues to the world. but as i thought about it, i realized that part of what made it so perfect was that it was completely undivorceable from the post-Katrina experience as a whole, that a review would have to encompass a reflection on everything about being here these past months. so it took me awhile, what with the book to finish and preparations to be made for the arrival of the King of All the Wild Things, but i’ve done it. …

… on April 30, there I was. It had stormed the night before, leaving ankle-deep mud oozing around our blanket on the infield. We were about halfway back between the stage and sound booth. We sat through great sets by Los Vecinos, John Mooney and Bluesiana, Sonny Landreth, and Allen Toussaint with Elvis Costello, enjoying the music and the vibe. During one of the set breaks, a little Cessna flew over the crowd, towing a banner reading, “Impeach Bush,” drawing the heartiest cheers so far that day.

… The band then slowed into Eyes on the Prize. For the first time that day, 70,000 people stood transfixed, tears at their eyes, singing along softly. I saw one of the burly security guards – if you go to Jazzfest often and go to the Acura Stage, you’ll know the guy, the very large, almost round white man with the wrap-around sunglasses and the purple Staff t-shirt – weeping openly.

… The band picked us up again with a playfully angry Jesse James. After that, Springsteen told the crowd that they were going to play a song “about the other great American natural disaster in our country’s history,” then played My Oklahoma Home. At the chorus of “It blowed away,/ It blowed away./ My Oklahoma home has blown away./ Well, it looked so green and fair/ When I left her standing there,/ But my Oklahoma home has blown away,” again 70,000 voices took the air, spontaneously, as one, to echo out the “blowed away”s.

… Springsteen’s edits continued into the next selection, How Can a Poor Man Stand Such Times and Live, originally recorded by Blind Alfred Reed right after the 1929 stock market crash. Before introducing the song, Springsteen told the crowd, “We had a chance to travel around in New Orleans yesterday, from Lakeview to the Ninth Ward, and I think I saw sights I never thought I’d see in an American city. [cheering] The criminal ineptitude makes you furious. [very loud cheering] This is what happens when political cronyism cuts the very agencies that are supposed to serve American citizens in times of trial and hardship. [more very loud cheering] And this is what happens when people play political games with other people’s lives. [loudest cheering, yet, even louder than when the ‘Impeach Bush’ plane went overhead].”

… Then the band slowed down into the hymn, We Shall Overcome. Before this life where I married a New Orleanian and moved down to this blessed place, I grew up in Selma, Alabama, a place where we sang this song a lot. The lyrics and cadence were burned into my brain. But the Seeger Sessions Band transformed this old spiritual into something vital and completely relevant to a whole new time in my life. The New Orleans cops working the security at the show, their new dark blues looking uncomfortable as replacements for all the old, drowned, light blue uniforms they used to wear, didn’t even bother to wipe away tears as the entire crowd chanted the chorus along with Springsteen.

My City of Ruins was new to me. Springsteen introduced it as a song he had written for his adopted hometown of Asbury Park, New Jersey, which had its own set of hard times, but that he was now dedicating it to the city of New Orleans. From the opening chord, every note and every word felt for us and of us. When the singers got to the “With these hands” chorus, 140,000 hands rose into the sky. No cheeks were dry. The sun, almost ready to set behind and to the right of the crowd, poured sharp golden beams through the sea of arms and hands.

… As the Seeger Sessions Band finished up the encore with a haunting interpretation of When the Saints Go Marching In and my sister and I very slowly made our way to and out the festival gates with the rest of the crowd, something of the anger had eroded away. The anxiety about the impending hurricane season, though not erased, was mellowed.

The Jazzfest organizers had gotten a lot right this year, but perhaps nothing more right than when they penned the fest’s motto, “The healing power of music.”

From Aug. 15th, 2006 at 3:55 PM: … two weeks ago, mrs. swampy’s folks wanted her input as they went down to st. bernard to look at modular houses for something to put where the camp used to be. they had had an old raised camp house in hopedale, almost all the way to the end of what we term around here, “down the road.” it had been built in 1923 and had withstood numerous meteorological tests. the eye of katrina, however, passed less than a mile to the east of hopedale. the camp was wiped away (along with the shrimp boat, the “nicole marie,” upon which we spent many lazy days of shrimping and fishing out in Bay Eloi, Lake Athanasia, Lake Borgne, and out into the fringes of the Gulf).

the trip down to tedesco’s modular housing lot in st. bernard was mrs. swampy’s first real chance to see the worst of the worst. even though i had made the drive through these parts many times in the past year, it never eases in its ability to rip your guts out. lakeview has some life back, but few residents; it was heartbreaking to go see mrs. swampy’s grandfather’s house, which had taken on twelve feet of water. gentilly is still mostly a ghost town. the lower nine has no words, nor does chalmette. and most of the latter three neighborhoods look exactly as they did in october, very few people rebuilding, yet, many not even having gutted their houses, and few fema trailers set up for folks.

… the anniversary is two weeks away from today, and we’re all a long way, as individuals and a community, from getting things put back together again. we’re still at the point, and maybe moreso now that things are starting to sort out a little, where we need outside help. lawyers and doctors to donate time and services. strong (and less strong) backs to gut and build houses for the elderly and the needy and, well, i guess the needy is most of us. mrs. swampy and i have a roof to put over the heads of anyone who wants to come and help out with anything.

From Aug. 29th, 2006 at 9:36 AM: … And remembering, through my own personal veil of survivor’s guilt, in no particular order and sure to leave someplace out (so add those places in the comments to fill this out): Waveland, Bay St. Louis, Diamondhead, Gulfport, Biloxi, Ocean Springs, Bayou La Batre, Dauphin Island, Yscloskey, Shell Beach, Hopedale, Toca, Violet, Meraux, Chalmette, Arabi, Buras, Port Sulphur, Venice, Boothville, Grand Isle, Slidell, Venetian Isles, Irish Bayou, Lake Catherine, the East, Little Woods, Chef Menteur, da’ Ninth Ward, the Lower Nine, Holy Cross, the Treme, the 7th Ward, Gentilly, Park View, City Park, Mid-City, Central City, Broadmoor, Uptown, Jefferson Avenue, Pigeon Town, Holly Grove, Lakeview, Lake Vista, West End, Old Jefferson, Old Metairie, Metairie, Kenner, Holly Beach, Calcasieu, Cameron.

And celebrating: yellowdoggrl‘s and the Beau’s rebuilding, the city’s rebuilding and rebirth, the generosity of a nation and a world.

And condemning: FEMA, Bush (George W., not Reggie, who I should add to the “celebrating” column), Blanco much of the time, hizzoner Nagin a good bit of the time (but I feel for him, I really do, much of the time), the Dan Baums and the New Yorker fact-checkers of the world, Christians for Columbia, hate-mongers and ignorant asses everywhere.

From Sept. 6, 2006, 08:32 p.m.: [regarding one-year-anniversary article in The New Yorker by Dan Baum, excerpts from a heated exchange of comments between me and LJ-user “pobaldy”] … the point remains that the hurricane severely damaged a whole region, regardless of race, and the rebuilding process has been rocky for everyone (see that map to which you provide the link and really study how widespread those proposed building moratoria were). baum ignored this larger truth in an effort to tell a different story, a patronizing and largely inaccurate story, of racism and sinister motives. when he couldn’t even get the smallest facts right, or didn’t bother because they got in the way of his story, and when the new yorker couldn’t bother to check even those small facts, how can the greater article be trusted for any sort of accuracy at all? i mean, hey, outside of the facts, it’s a compelling read. but i worry what those inaccuracies will compel folks not from here to think. … my agenda is daunting. rebuild the metro area. the whole thing. do it together, united, despite the efforts of others to come in and divide us or tell everyone else that we’re divided. … the only distinctions in damage are (1) how close you were to the path of the eye of the storm, and (2) how close you are and how low-lying in relation to, any of the major canal wall breaches. hence, outlying st. bernard parish and lower plaquemines parish were more damaged than chalmette, and arabi, which were as damaged or moreso than the lower 9, which was more damaged (but not much more) than the East and broadmoor and parts of old metairie but just as damaged as lakeview and gentilly, which was all more damaged than parts of metairie, which were nonetheless significantly damaged. and this leaves out slidell and mississippi and bayou la batre. it’s a much bigger picture of devastation than baum’s piece allows for, and short-shrifting the reporting of other parts’ damage deliberately obscures the enormity and gestalt of the rebuilding task facing our region. … my only point, and i grant you is less a rant at baum than it is at fema and the corps of engineers and every planning commission or agency that has recommended that the solution to our problem is higher houses, is that, regardless of how high on a house the water was, the water was there because the corps of engineers fucked up, not because the house was sitting at any particular elevation. there’s the story i want the new yorker to tell the rest of the world, the story that responsible publications like the times-picayune have been telling for a year now.

From Sept. 8th, 2006 at 12:59 PM: … this FANTASTIC NEWS: BROCATO’S IS REOPENING!!! (and i despise exclamation points, generally). this is, for me, the best post-storm culinary news, yet. and a great sign of life for the mid-city neighborhood. mmmm. cannoli, straciatella, spumoni, mezza crema, strawberry ice, fig cookies, rum raisin gelato. i’m weeping with joy.

From Sept. 27th, 2006 at 9:59 AM: … to say that new orleans should not rebuild the Superdome or not hold Jazzfest or not hold Mardi Gras would be like saying that detroit should not rebuild its auto manufacturing plants should they all succumb to some mass catastrophe, or like saying New Orleans shouldn’t rebuild its port facilities.

From Oct. 6th, 2006 at 9:53 AM: … then this morning the news that the first feet-on-the-street hard count of the repopulation has orleans parish at only 187,000 (down from 450,000 pre-katrina), not the 230,000 the mayor has been saying. even jefferson parish is still down from pre-katrina levels, which, along with skiegazer55‘s news about how all his relatives are living in atlanta and detroit and las vegas and other places-not-here, blows my whole well-at-least-most-folks-are-back-in-the-metro-area theory out of the water. skiegazer is right; if we don’t get people, and all people across every demographic line, back, then what do we have? who are we going to be?

at what point does my faith become mere denial? what’s the line of demarcation? i don’t know. i’m going to still call it faith and help out wherever i can. one yard. one house. one block. one street. one neighborhood at a time. we’ll find out whether our culture and attitude can survive this, whether it leaves with the people or whether it lives with the people, whether it is in the place even when so many of the people have gone from it, whether it is inherent or itinerant.

From Jan. 9th, 2007 at 9:59 AM: … so here’s my new formulation on who can be a “new orleanian,” dispensing all regard for family longevity, race, class, or politically-favored status: if you consciously depend on and celebrate new orleans for your economic, spiritual, cultural, or mental survival and/or livelihood, then you are a new orleanian. you are With Us. with that status comes the responsibility of fighting for this place in any way you know how. under this formulation, you can be a new orleanian in any neighborhood of orleans parish, [edit: in austin], in metairie, in baton rouge, in houston, in portland, in minnesota, in oakland, in montgomery, just outside of montgomery, in zurich, wherever.

HOWEVER, even if your mom an ‘dem and her mom and ‘dem and her mom and ‘dem, back forfuckingever, have been residents of orleans parish, you are hereby excommunicated and stripped of your new orleanian status if you do anything to hate or harm new orleans or new orleanians. you are dirt. you are nothing. you are Not With Us. this means you, visitor to Helen Hill’s front door. this means you, murderer of fathers and musicians. this means you, harry lee. this means you, dollar bill jefferson. this means you, insurance industry. this means, you, c. ray. this means you, warren “fun with numbers” riley. this means you, too, dubya. excommunicated, the lot of you, along with everyone like you.

From Jan. 13th, 2007 at 11:37 PM: [Upon returning home from the Saints’ defeat of the Eagles in the NFL play-offs] … i can’t even describe where i just was. hugging my nephew joseph, both of us in tears. that sounds terrible, right? over a football game? oh, if only y’all knew. it’s just so much more than that, now and here. and hugging and high-fiving this massive mass of tens of thousands of screaming, ecstatic strangers…GEAUX SAINTS!

From Jan. 23rd, 2007 at 2:40 PM: … maybe explaining the sociological importance of a football team such as the Saints to our community is as simple as pointing out how the team became a common interest, a uniform rallying point, that broke through any constructed barriers from week to week.

when the season ended when the bears beat the Saints in Chicago in the NFC Chamionship game last weekend, the community unity continued, as captured well in this article. ever the pollyanna on all things regarding the rebuilding, even in the middle of grayest January, i feel and predict that the unity will continue on its own, without the crutch of sports.

From Feb. 8th, 2007 at 9:08 AM: … it seems that, since we’ve been back, the good old times-picayune has been chock-full of nothing but bad news on the recovery, whether it’s the shell-game being played by the corps with money for hurricane-protection projects, the throwing-in-of-the-towel by the superintendent of the recovery school district, crime, what-have-you, there has been little good news since we’ve been back.

and now that the football season is over, it seems the saints are just another football team, and why was the outcome of some football games worth getting so excited about anyway? i look back at the past month’s posts, and i annoy myself.

sure, the saints played well beyond expectations and provided a rallying point for the community and all that. but at the end of the day, the Road Home program is still getting next-to-no-one home; yellowdoggrl is still forced by post-K economics to join the half the city that can’t live in the city; seems like ahembree is on her way out, too; that half the city no longer living here is likely finding it much nicer and easier to live in their other places; and, dammit, it’s still winter and the sun still shines too shortly.

i know, i know. this is still a unique and powerful place to live, and it and we will all survive. and mardi gras is just around the corner, as is spring, and they’re bottling crystal hot sauce in louisiana again. i’m just in a momentary funk is all. it will pass.

From Feb. 28th, 2007 at 9:53 AM: … we took the boys Down The Road sunday to check out the progress on the rebuilding of the old fishing camp. … the old fishing camp was in hopedale on bayou la loutre, about as down the road as you can get before falling off into water that doesn’t end until you get to the florida peninsula or the yucatan or cuba, depending on which direction you drift. the camp had been there since 1923, standing strong through the 1957 hurricane, Betsy, Camille, Georges, Ivan, and countless little storms in between, before getting wiped completely into nothingness by Katrina (along with the shrimp boat and the joe boat, though the flatboat remained, tangled and twisted up in the boat harness in the remains of the boathouse).

i’d been down there a couple times since the Storm, but mrs. swampy hadn’t, nor had the boys. the ride down was initially encouraging. lots of storefronts opened up along Paris Road and Judge Perez Drive in Chalmette, a lot more than last time i was down that way. the people in st. bernard are tough, or stubborn, or both. of course, this morning’s times-picayune reveals that the open storefronts we saw on those two drags are about the extent of it — about one-fourth of the pre-K storefronts in St. Bernard house businesses now, serving a population about one-third its pre-K size. you still pass large swaths of neighborhoods with few trailers and with ungutted, still-muddy, still-moldy mess peeking from broken windows, a situation highlighted in another times-pic article from this weekend.

but then you get down the road, and where there are still houses, they’re gleaming and restored, and where (more often) there are no houses left, there’s a trailer on every lot, sign that somebody is there still making a go of it. all the trees are standing bare and dead in the swamps, and you hope that there’s something that will take their place and root the soil down so more doesn’t wash away, but there’s a wild beauty that remains down there. a large community of louisiana brown pelicans have taken hold along bayou la loutre, too. huge, strong birds skimming the top of the water constantly. and the water’s clearer than i ever remember. there’s still a working fleet down there, mainly oyster boats from what i saw. a few shrimp boats up past the drawbridge in yscloskey (which i’m sure i misspelled, but it’s pronounced “why-kloss-key”). the pelicans followed each oyster boat chugging down the bayou like aerial dolphins, three or four of them right behind. don’t know why, exactly, since i don’t think they eat oysters. maybe the boats’ wake stirred up the mullet and other bayou fish that they do eat.

the boys liked it down there. GBW laid down on his stomach on the pier across from the vacant lot that will hold the new camp house, hanging his head over the edge and watching the little schools of minnows in the shallows by the bank, letting loose leaves and clumps of grass and then running to the other side to watch them float through on the current. KAWT just sat in his carseat, quiet, feeling the breeze.

won’t be long — this summer sometime, probably sooner than later — and we’ll be back down there fishing from the flatboat, staying in the new camp at night. i can’t wait.

From March 5th, 2007 at 10:05 AM: sediments. coastal restoration. storm surge. marsh. it’s all drastically important to understand the link between these things, the history of these things. at least down here it is, though ultimately on an economic basis for the rest of the country, too. the biggest hurdle to the recovery of new orleans and the safeguarding of the national economic interests that are provided for here, is not crime, is not housing, is not tourism. hell, in the long run it’s not even storm levees (though those are a big hurdle we need to overcome, too. it’s the loss of and failure to restore the coastal zone, which is disappearing at alarmingly accelerating rates. … in ten more years, it’s too late.

From March 26th, 2007 at 1:57 PM: … i couldn’t help thinking, as King of All Wild Things in his stroller enjoyed some strawberry italian ice and Greatest Boy in the World gobbled down three anise-iced biscotti while Mrs. Swampy and i had our gelatos (hers, coconut, mine rum raisin), and after the whole place finished singing “happy birthday” to some kid with a candle stuck into his cannoli by his grandfather for his fourteenth birthday, that this truly is the greatest city in America, as much as that country may wish to disown us.

unrelated, and yet too related, there was the attorney i was talking to the day before, a former d.a. of tangipahoa parish and generally nice guy, who told me that he had to cancel his subscription to the times-picayune because he was tired of reading “all that katrina stuff.” (“maybe if i lived in new orleans,” he sighed).

From May 8th, 2007 at 9:19 AM: … his fraudulency, mr. bush, long ago appointed a “recovery czar” to oversee the hurricane recovery along the gulf coast, a gentleman by the name of donald powell. … he wrote the following in a letter to the editor in last friday’s times-picayune:

The president’s commitment to rebuilding the Gulf Coast remains strong, but so does the need for Louisiana to effectively use the resources it’s already been given before appealing again to the already overwhelming generosity of the American taxpayers.

eff you, mr. powell. we are the american taxpayers, too, last time i checked. i don’t recall the white house actually requiring, oh i don’t know, IRAQ to effectively use the resources it’s been given before appealing again to the already overwhelming generosity of the American taxpayers. indeed, i believe the white house is currently fighting tooth and nail against congress’ (and the american taxpayers’) insistence that they do so.

maybe the american government needs to pony up the dough the fix what, in new orleans, was a catastrophe created by that government’s own negligent engineering and construction of navigation canals and hurricane “protection” levees and floodwalls, and its approval and permitting of thousands of miles of oil exploration canals that diced up the wetlands buffer. maybe it’s not necessarily “generosity” if the rest of america gets in exchange for shoring up the government’s mess the continued access to our offshore oil and natural gas fields, petro-chemical complex, port facilities, seafood nurseries, and cultural cradle of so much that is “american.” i posit it might be — might be, maybe — an even trade.

From June 3rd, 2007 at 10:13 AM: … that’s right, another hurricane season is upon us, already two named storms in. evacuation routes have been re-examined. yellowdoggrl and silverdee are on top of the altar formation. chefcdb has consulted the frigatebirds. i am daily consulting the weather underground’s tropical weather page. danbaum has left town (though not without a parting back-handed shot about new orleans being a “small, poor, economically inessential city”).

time to deny, sweat, prepare, sweat, drink dixies, eat fresh fried shrimp, drink more dixies, contemplate the saints’ upcoming season, sweat some more, pray like heck to our lady of prompt succor.

From July 28th, 2007 at 9:58 AM: there was a tremendously positive article about the continued steady pace of repopulation of new orleans, buried in the metro section of today’s times-picayune. the article discusses how there continues to be a steady stream of more people coming than going in all of new orleans’ neighborhoods, even the most devastated ones. orleans parish now stands at 262,000, fifty-eight percent of its pre-Storm population.

From July 31st, 2007 at 9:18 AM: got our notice of insurance renewal last week. our homeowner rates went up fifty percent. the insurance company put in a note that part of the increase was due to the assessment on all louisiana policies for purposes of maintaining the louisiana insurer-of-last-resort (“louisiana citizens”), as if that were the source of most of the increase. but a look at the figures shows that assessment was less than ten percent of the amount of increase. we now pay more than 400 bucks a month to insure our home. and, as i’ve tried to communicate before, we’re among the lucky ones. we didn’t flood; we’re not in orleans parish; it could be far worse than it is. but then i’ve asked around among folks i know living elsewhere and, all things considered (such as assessed value, square footage, etc.), we’re paying between three and six times what it costs to insure a house outside of katrinaland. …

From Aug. 21st, 2007 at 2:42 PM: in the past (almost) two years, more than 1.1 million volunteers have contributed more than 14 million hours of direct service to cleaning, gutting, and rebuilding my community.

thank you.

i’ve had the honor of working side-by-side with a few handsful of you, and i’m glad to have had the opportunity, glad you came down, glad you keep coming down.

on another positive note, the veterans administration has announced today that its preferred site to build a new multimillion dollar state-of-the-art regional medical facility is downtown new orleans. as pakmaps writes, this is the beginning of a new era of real investment in a long-term, high-dollar enterprise for the city.

From Aug. 29th, 2007 at 3:00 PM: there are so many things to say, but it all boils down to this paralysis, this inability to say it right anymore, any of it. when i’m not angry, i’m numb. and then i get angry at myself for being numb, and get a flash of the old let’s-get-out-and-fix-all-this, and then the enormity of “all-this” sweeps over me and i get so angry about it all, and then i’m numb again.

i went to lunch with skiegazer55 today. we went down to stanley for scott boswell’s cheeseburgers (which were quite tasty, by the way). on the way there and back, we unsuccessfully dodged storms with the unhelpful aid of tourist-shop umbrellas. while we were there, we unsuccessfully dodged the media in town for the anniversary. i begged out of an interview, demurring to skiegazer55. and i sat to the side and watched him give the spiel, the one we’re all supposed to give to the outsiders. the the-first-thing-to-remember-is-new-orleans-wasn’t-beset-by-a-natural-disaster-but-the-worst-engineering-mistake-in-history spiel. and the one where the city’s-functioning-enough-that-you-can-come-help-us-by-visiting-us-because-while-we’re-functioning-we’re-still-broken spiel. he’s good at it. i was afraid i would just have come across as vacant and, at best, sarcastic. that’s not going to help our cause.

… if you don’t know it, mom and dad, kim and michael, lori and family, and a number of others in the world, i appreciated and appreciate your support in the After, the securing of an apartment, the welcome baskets, the shelter-from-the-storm, the commiseration and commemoration, the financial help, the toys and books, and the opportunity to reciprocate.

and i guess, after all, i left out something from the recitation of the whole anger-and-numbness cycle. sometimes i feel hopeful, too, sometimes downright jubilant, and thankful to be here, though with that comes guilt that somehow we got spared enough that we get to still be here. i guess the thing is, when it comes to the guilt, is to remember we didn’t choose this. this is just what it is.

and here it is and here we are. (and if that sounded a little bit like numbness creeping back in, it sort of felt like it, too).

From Aug. 29th, 2007 at 4:53 PM: i know i’m supposed to be all for high-minded dialogue and all that jazz, but i wanted to mention that i did get the opportunity to flip off the presidential motorcade this morning.

From April 9th, 2008 at 10:17 AM: well, the louisiana supreme court has let the insurance industry off the hook for insuring katrina damages in new orleans. there was some legitimate question as to whether the flood exclusions in most policy forms were ambiguous concerning the flooding in new orleans. keep in mind that the flooding in new orleans, as admitted by the corps of engineers, was caused by failure of levees, not directly by hurricane storm surge. under most policies, if your house is inundated by a busted pipe or sewer system failure, this is not included within the flood exclusion. the argument here is that the levees on the storm drainage outfall canals were, essentially, just very large pipes that busted. well, that argument seems completely dead now.

From April 10th, 2008 at 7:45 AM: ashley morris. i was late to find his blog, but i’m glad i did. and now i’m sorry he is just as suddenly gone from us. ashley is the epitome of so many things, it seems. the epitome of new orleans, the epitome of our fighting spirit, the epitome of the new orleans blogging community, the epitome of a saints fan. and these are just the things i know from knowing ashley morris the blogger. what i can gather from his wife, hana’s, posts on his blog, and those of his friends, is that he was also the epitome of husband and father, and the epitome of friend. i feel a little strange eulogizing someone i’ve never met, but the new orleans blogging community is a “community,” and i felt a kinship with him. i know you will be missed, ashley, from a number of corners of our world, but certainly add this little corner to that list.

From Aug. 16th, 2008 at 8:06 AM: So, here it is, August. We’ve got a two-year-old (and, this time, a five-year-old), and we’re headed to the beach for an extended weekend of R&R. And there’s a weakish tropical storm (do any of them really feel “weak” anymore) projected to enter the Gulf of Mexico in a couple days over the FLorida Keys and head to Apalachicola as a cat. 1.

Of course, the last time these conditions coincided, the storm blew up to a cat. 5, bumped to the west, leveled Plaquemines, St. Bernard, and the Mississippi Gulf Coast, and triggered a set of events that led to the criminally-negligently designed and constructed federal levees around New Orleans to give way, and we didn’t get to go home for a month and we were lucky because there are sitll people who haven’t gotten home and never will.

I wouldn’t say I’m anxious. I don’t know quite what I’d call it. Agitated memory, perhaps. I’m still resolved to go and enjoy the waves and the sand and the sun and the moon and frozen drinks and reading books and stars and clouds. And Fay will get torn up by Cuban mountains and fizzle into nothing, curve dramatically back to the east of the track and wander the Atlantic looking for lost love. Knock on wood.

From Aug. 31st, 2008 at 5:47 AM: [posted from evacuation, as Hurricane Gustav approached] Can’t do much more now but watch and wait. I know who’s left and where they are, and I know who’s stubbornly staying. I’ve got on my 2006 “Healing Power of Music” Jazzfest tshirt, am drinking my Community New Orleans Blend coffee and chicory from a CDM coffee cup, watching Weather Underground, reading nola.com, and listening to WWL streaming live. Will go to mass up here where they don’t know about Our Lady of Prompt Succor and will pray hard to her anyway. The track is aiming more and more in the wrong places, but there’s hope – dry air could train into the middle and knock it down in size and intensity. Wind shear from an upper low over the western GOM could further inhibit restrengthening. Ridging from the Ohio valley could cause it to slip west right before landfall. All things acting together could at least cause it to just be a bad Monday afternoon at Home, but not something catastrophic.

Fingers are crossed.

The first three years post-Katrina, selected excerpts

Old blog, post-Katrina

In late April 2005, I aimlessly started a blog on LiveJournal. In May 2005, after a second very good college friend died, I determined to start writing seriously again, something I had let fall away for eight years at that point. In June 2005, I took a semi-leave from the law firm I was at, cutting back to part-time, working from home, so I could focus on the writing. In July 2005, I met up with another fellow getting serious about his writing (Maurice Carlos Ruffin — happy 10th friend-iversary, Meaux), and we started meeting and workshopping our drafts. I dug into the writing. I thought my LiveJournal was taking on more purpose, as I started to post about the roller-coaster ride of revision and submission and rejection.

On August 25, 2005, a Thursday, I packed up my laptop with a draft of the (bad) novel I was working on, and Nicole and then-two-year-old Eli, and we headed over to San Destin for a weekend retreat with my law firm. That day, a minor, Category 1 hurricane named Katrina was spinning off the Atlantic coast of Florida, and was projected to cross the peninsula and turn north, make landfall as a Cat 1 or 2 somewhere around Apalachicola by the end of the weekend. We would be safely back home in New Orleans, at that point, we thought. You probably know what happened next, as forecast tracks and intensity forecasts changed wildly from that early projection.

By August 30, 2005, we knew we weren’t going to be heading home soon, even to our house in Metairie. We stayed in San Destin (with Nicole’s folks, who arrived after a sixteen-hour evacuation drive early in the morning hours of August 30) for a few days, then on September 6, 2005, drove to Montgomery and rendezvoused with most of the rest of Nicole’s family in a complex of apartments where my Mom had managed to rent several units for us before FEMA came in and blocked it all out. By September 25, 2005, after Hurricane Rita passed by, we were among the lucky ones able to head home.

During that time, and for the three years after the storm, up until I shut my LiveJournal account down, my blog finally had a focus, as it became one of many outposts in the New Orleans post-Katrina blogging community. For the really good writing that came out of that community, read Please Forward, an anthology released this summer by UNO Press, which collects many of the better posts from the community. I’m pasting in my three years of post-Katrina LiveJournal posts below, more as time capsule than anything. It’s not because it’s good writing, nor is it a definitive record of the post-Katrina experience (other than my own). It’s anger, petulance, disbelief, sorrow, hope, joy, action, guilt (survivor’s), resistance, defiance, wrong-headedness, righteousness, denial, many things. Sometimes it’s downright prescient about what was to come; other times it’s just wrong about what had happened. But here it is, with all its warts. Thanks to all who helped out in the last ten years, helped us, helped New Orleans, helped the Coast, in so many ways, large, small, however.

(Dramatis personae: yellowdoggrl/nolagrl=my sister; swampynoladad=my dad; skiegazer55=Maurice; chefcdb=Chef Chris DeBarr; danbaum=Dan Baum (ahem). Many more (mizlandry, silverdee, ahembree, …) get introduced along the way, and are Facebook and personal friends to this day. Some I never knew outside their blogger names: gutterboylive, entheos93, momusfire, pobaldy, infrogmation, poubelle, dblissmn, I hardly knew ye, though we talked at length for several years).

Without further intro:

incomprehensible

  • August 30th, 2005 at 11:56 PM

one press conference by one official says we’ll be able to get back in on monday to see our houses, get our clothes, and get out again for the next month. another tells us that there’s water everywhere and we can’t get back in. then the wwltv website says that the 17th street canal levee’s about to go in all directions and that 12-15 feet of water will inundate everywhere, then wwl radio comes on with the mayor of kenner to say it’s disinformation and that the breach is only affecting orleans parish and not jefferson parish, then the wwltv website takes the warning about flooding everywhere off the site and replaces it with the message about getting back in next week. then the governor’s on cnn agreeing to the statement that everywhere’s about to flood.

what the hell’s happening? how’s my house and the one cat nicole’s cousin couldn’t find when he was getting stuff out? we were gone on vacation to the beach when this thing turned our way. there’s so much i would have gotten out of there if i could have known.

but i have the most important things. i’ve got nicole and eli with me. the latest draft of my book.

and then i can’t even begin to get my head around mississippi. ellen i hope you are alright and alive. ryan’s folks, same for you. two of nicole’s uncles lived in waveland. they got back in part of the way and walked the rest today. their houses are concrete slabs. one of them found an heirloom crystal punch bowl sitting in the center of the slab, unscathed.

and then there’s orleans parish. one of the secretaries at my firm (our vacation was a firm “retreat,” ironically) lives blocks from the breach in the 17th street canal levee, and his house is completely underwater. no insurance. and then there’s all the folks who live(d) in the 9th ward, who couldn’t afford to evacuate. and the dome. tom benson’s got his retractable roof stadium now. levity just really doesn’t work in this situation, does it?

and then the dead. and then the survivors. the million homeless and unemployed.

and then the looting and the shooting.

and then and then and then. i can’t get my head around it. i want to get in, find my other cat, take some pictures for the insurance company, get out, get a check from them, move somewhere far away from the coast, drink heavily to numb my emotions and senses, lose myself in my son and my wife.

but that’s not how it will happen. it will be months and years of being there, hot, sweaty, rebuilding. the small goodnesses of many people will eventually outweigh the large badness of a few people. we will not be numb, but stronger,wearier. our lady of prompt succor will give us another 300 years of protection. the saints may even win a super bowl in that time. and tom benson might get his stadium. and the dead will be remembered.

…..

FUCK KATRINA.

Comments

yellowdoggrl wrote:

Aug. 31st, 2005 05:58 pm (UTC)

your sister is missing you and your sweet boy *so bad*. I love you, brother. we’re in it together (though not together in the same place drinking right this second, darn it), and we’ll get through it together. michael is going to meet up with you and mr. eddie to go back together, he says he really wants to be able to go with you and be of some help to you. he won’t let me go. anyway. we’ll talk some more on the phone soon, but I just want you to know how grateful I am that you brought me to that beautiful fucked-up city and that I will go back with you. to paraphrase the Passover seder, next year in New Orleans…

Sep. 5th, 2005

  • Sept. 5, 2005, 12:39 AM

watched wynton marsalis play st. james infirmary on larry king tonight, and wept.

it’s so fucking surreal. not just a little survivor’s guilt happening here. yesterday, the phone rang at our temporary quarters. it was my secretary from my law firm. she had called me on wednesday afternoon, told me she was with her daughter in the LSU Health Sciences building in downtown new orleans. i asked her if they were ok, or needed to get in touch with someone to get out. she said they were ok, had a way out. turns out that wasn’t quite right. there were 300 nursing students and family in there. they continually throughout the first few days tried to go down and get attention of someone to come help them evacuate, but couldn’t leave the building due to floodwaters and patrolling bands of young men with guns. finally, somebody made a list of everyone there, told them all to go back to their apartments in the building, that someone would come around in a few hours to get them out. which they did, except they didn’t take roll. my secretary and her daughter and a couple other students were left behind, with seven hungry pit bulls, and the doors chained and padlocked from the outside. for a day they waved sheets out of the window to get the attention of rescuers, then police had to break the chain and lock and get them out by boat, to a helicopter, then to a bus, which dropped them off in the middle of the night friday night in a neighborhood in baton rouge. a passing motorist spotted them there, on the side of the road with their bags, asked them what the hell they were doing there that time of night, drove them to his office building where they could shower and sleep on the floor. and the next day she was calling me asking me if i had heard what they were doing with the law firm, that she needed the job and had no idea where to go.

and there i sat listening to her from a condo at a beach resort in fucking sandestin. found out later in the day from aerial photos that i still had a house and roof on my house. found out today from my father-in-law’s business partner who went in with a buddy who had magic credentials that the water stopped inches from getting into my house. he also tried to get out my one cat that my cousin-in-law couldn’t find when he was evacuating our other cat for us because we were stuck on vacation and couldn’t get back when katrina turned new orleans’ way, but the cat, my father-in-law’s business partner said, was no cat today, but a wild tiger. so he left a big bag of food open for her and three large mixing bowls of water. if she held him off, then i know she’s still healthy. and then here was my secretary, having lived through hell. and then there are so many others who have lived through hell and have NOTHING. and then the others who went through hell and didn’t live. i’m sitting in an air conditioned room with everything.

we’ve got to fix this. i’m putting my (metaphorically) queer shoulder to the wheel, as ginsberg so eloquently wrote decades ago. as anne rice wrote in today’s new york times, new orleans is america, we are you. this has been hell and high water and death, as ray nagin said on cnn today, but we will come together like there has never been a coming together. in the wake of this, new orleans will come back and surpass the rest of bland, tasteless, homogenous, slowly plodding, bureaucratic-death, Other america.

a few words. Now, more than ever, bush should be impeached. the federal government without doubt is directly responsible for many of the deaths and much of the misery of the katrina aftermath. governor blanco should resign immediately. aaron broussard, bless his soul, needs to get some rest and find a less intellectually demanding job. dennis hastert should burn in hell, as should anyone affiliated with christians for columbia.

i could go on and on, but i’m tired, so i won’t.

Comments

zurcherart wrote:

Sep. 5th, 2005 08:46 am (UTC)

Dude. Thanks for your post.

yellowdoggrl wrote:

Sep. 5th, 2005 03:44 pm (UTC)

if your secretary doesn’t have a job, my friend RL tells me there’s an opening for a senior administrative assistant in her department at the University of Houston.

swampytad wrote:

Sep. 5th, 2005 03:51 pm (UTC)

we’ve opened offices in jackson and baton rouge, and can keep everyone on staff. thanks, though. i’msure there will be plenty who need that job.

(Anonymous) wrote:

Sep. 6th, 2005 02:39 am (UTC)

Glad you’re OK

Hey Tad,

I saw the same aerial survey photos of your area late last week, and suspected your neighborhood was relatively OK, but I didn’t say anything… didn’t want to tell you something that wasn’t true. My brother has cleaned out the lowest floor of his home, now has to rip out floors, walls, etc. And he is one of the lucky ones in Pascagoula. My niece and nephew are staying with my parents in Birmingham for the time being. I can’t imagine what lies ahead for the Gulf Coast/N.O. area… I do expect it to recover, as it’s too beautiful (on most days) to leave. Wish I could be there to help in some way… Tony

(Anonymous) wrote:

Sep. 7th, 2005 12:51 am (UTC)

I’m gagging

I’ve got relatives who are alas very red-state (even when they live in blue ones) and are sending me all sorts of dreck. Under the heading of “never mud-wrestle with a pig” (or maybe “never try to teach a pig to sing”, both apply) I am so ignoring them, although I’d like to rake them over the virtual coals. But that’s what the trashcan is for.

How are the domiciles of Mrs.Swampy’s parents and brothers and sister? And how far outside the city will Dr.BIL have to park his family?

— Camera Obscura

(Anonymous) wrote:

Sep. 7th, 2005 07:50 pm (UTC)

Greg, Chris & the Triplets

Tad,

I’m gonna leave all of the political stuff alone and just let you guys know that we are all fine–in East Texas, but fine. Our house is most likely underwater. Will be relocating to Madisonville and commuting to Baton Rouge for work.

The story about your secretary is striking. Unfortunately, there are likely hundreds more like it, some from people you know.

But, I’m just thankful that we are safe for now.

Greg

swampytad wrote:

Sep. 7th, 2005 11:52 pm (UTC)

Re: Greg, Chris & the Triplets

Greg,

Glad to hear from you. If there’s anything we can do to help y’all rebuild (other than refer you to an inadequately capitalized contractor), let us know. I can do basic carpentry and hang sheetrock.

We’ll be sitting down at the Joint and talking politics over barbecue sooner than folks think, I bet.

Give those triplets a kiss and Chris a hug from us.

-Tad

Sep. 9th, 2005

  • Sept. 9, 2005, 4:46 PM

Very sobering trip home yesterday from Montgomery. Went in with my nephew and brother-in-law to gather some things and get back out again. On the I10 bridge across the marsh flats near Moss Point/Pascagoula, six miles inland, huge shrimp boats and tug boats from the port were washed up against the bridge pilings. Then as we got closer in through Biloxi, Gulfport, big thick metal poles used to support the casinos’ giant billboards were snapped in two, as if they were trees. The trees were, of course, all treated the same. We then had to divert north of Lake Pontchartrain, then used my brother-in-law’s essential personnel pass to get down into Jefferson Parish over the Causeway Bridge. Army and Guard troops everywhere. Once in the Parish, the wind damage was amazing. Power lines and trees down everywhere. And trees not just snapped in half, but completely uprooted, pulling up whole yards and sidewalks and water lines with them. Roofs compromised everywhere. Buildings collapsed every few blocks. Three houses in my neighborhood have burned down due to gas leaks.

My parents-in-laws’ house and our house appeared to escape floodwater by a mere one or two inches. But my brother-in-law’s house was not so lucky. The water had receded, but not before six to eight inches had come in and ruined floors and carpets and laid out a path of mold on some of the furniture and clothing. We ripped out all the carpets, threw away what couldn’t be saved, and put some of the other furniture that might be OK out on the carport to air dry. Went to my house and then my nephew’s house to get some clothes and cats and stuff out. Removed my nephew’s refrigerator and its rotting meat from his house altogether. Then got out of the Parish right as the 6 p.m. curfew descended. Jefferson Parish is now under a lockdown for the next two weeks, only essential emergency response personnel and some business owners allowed to re-enter while they fix the infrastructure. As we drove back north over the Causeway, you could look back and see the New Orleans skyline, the scarred Superdome, and a fresh column of smoke from something burning over by the Coast Guard station.

An interesting timeline delving into the reaction of state and local officials as compared to federal officials: http://www.thinkprogress.org/katrina-timeline

A response to the stupid crap floating around

  • Sept. 14th, 2005 at 11:47 AM

Following is my response to email that was forwarded to me by a relative in Virginia. You’ll see the email she forwarded to me at the bottom, introduced by the question, could this be true…

Dear [relative],

This is the most hateful, irresponsible thing that has ever been forwarded into my email address. It is a complete dissembling, a mess of lies. It smacks of so many things unchristian, racist, classist, and I just don’t know even where to begin. Oh, no, it could not be true, in answer to your question.

First, look at the actual facts. And note that these facts can be pinned down to actual documents and news reports, verifiable, not innuendo (go to http://www.thinkprogress.org/katrina-timeline to see a more detailed timeline of when various government actions were taken, with links to the backup documents). On Friday before the hurricane hit, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) moved its forecast track cone from focusing on the Apalachicola area of Florida to include a swath of lower Plaquemines and St. Bernard parishes in the “toe” of Louisiana on its way to a projected landfall at the Alabama/Mississippi line. Governor Blanco at that time declared a state of emergency and requested federal help, three days before the hurricane hit. New Orleans was not in the cone until Saturday afternoon. New Orleans, well protected by a levee system designed to protect against a strong Cat. 3 hurricane (though it and its legislative representatives had long requested stronger protections to levees and marshes to be included in Corps of Engineers budgets), had never had need to declare a mandatory evacuation for the city. Nevertheless, as soon as N.O. was included in the forecast cone on Saturday afternoon, Mayor Nagin declared a voluntary evacuation and strongly encouraged everyone to leave, including the request to check in with elderly and poorer neighbors to see if they had arrangements. On Sunday morning, he declared the first-ever mandatory evacuation for the east bank of Orleans Parish. The other surrounding parishes, including St. Bernard, Plaquemines, St. Charles, and Jefferson, also declared mandatory evacuations on Sunday. Remember, the metro New Orleans area was not even in the forecast cone until Saturday afternoon, and not on the forecast track until even later than that.

Y’all don’t live through the shifting whims of hurricane season every year like we do, dodging Georges and Lili and Ivan. While the NHC does 5-day forecasts, that forecast constantly moves as to both direction and landfall intensity, and you can’t call for a mandatory evacuation until about 24 hours out. The president of the parish where I live — Jefferson Parish — was skewered earlier this year for calling a voluntary evacuation 36 hours ahead of Dennis’s projected landfall, because he did so before we knew where it might hit, and because he did so ahead of evacuations from more low-lying parishes and parishes closer to the Gulf. You see, there’s very few ways in and out of where we live because we’re surrounded by water everywhere. You have to coordinate the evacuations, let lower lying Plaquemines and St. Bernard and West Bank Jefferson go, then metro New Orleans and East Bank Jefferson, or else everyone’s sitting in a big traffic jam. I know these are bothersome little details that get in the way of the kinds of lies that are echoing around right now, but they’re also the kinds of details that saved many tens of thousands of lives in Katrina.

So where was I… right, actual facts. Here’s another one — satellite phones. Nobody in the “MSA” had them. Not just not New Orleans Police and officials, but also not the officials or sheriffs or police or anyone in St. Bernard, Plaquemines, Jefferson, Gretna, Marrerro, Westwego, St. Tammany. There was no reliable communication network at first for anyone. There’s a certain something sinister about singling out New Orleans in the forward you passed along while implying that the other parishes had it together. For the past two years the metro New Orleans area officials had asked FEMA to include contingency disaster communications networks for the area in its budget, to no avail.

In any previous storm evacuation, no more than 60 percent of the metro area had evacuated. We’ve dodged a lot of bullets. This time, more than 80 percent evacuated. The dome was a “shelter of last resort,” without which several more tens of thousands who did not have the means to evacuate would have been trapped in their houses. The coordinated response plan between local, state, and federal officials (yes, there is coordination, including annual simulations involving agencies from all three levels on how to respond to “the big one”), has always been that the local/state officials would try to get everyone out that they could (which they did here), that there would be a last resort shelter provided for those who could not get out in time to get those people through the storm (which we had here), and that the feds would jump in to get those remaining people out for the aftermath (oops, didn’t quite happen so smoothly here).

I saw Cal Thomas complaining in his column today about people whining about the feds coming in to help them out. Look, there are certain things that are the very reason we have a federal government overlaid atop our state and local governments, things that are far bigger than any one locale or even state to handle. International trade. National security. Interstate commerce. And yes, natural disasters. How disingenuous to suggest that the feds shouldn’t have been expected to shoulder the load on the aftermath of Katrina. This was not just some little storm event. This was a once-in-a-lifetime hurricane, that spread hurricane-force destruction across the coastlines of four states and then far inland as well. This is precisely why we had a FEMA in the first place. And that is why FEMA has always been a part of the planning exercises for such an event.

This email you forwarded just disgusts me more everytime I scroll down through it. There are not pockets of people living in New Orleans before the hurricane hit who don’t have electricity or plumbing. How ridiculous is that. The “looters and shooters” aren’t just sitting there with the added irritation of floodwaters. How callous to so flippantly refer to a force that swallowed houses whole and had killed thousands of people. The person who wrote that must be so filled with hate. Of course, the person who wrote that probably doesn’t think that the poor people and the black people who live in those neighborhoods are people, humans of equal dignity before God to himself.

Look at some of what’s happening in that email. Referring to rapes of white women to get your ire up, because who cares about the rapes of black women and children, right? Leaving out the stories of how groups of men, yes black men, banded together in armed sentry duty around their neighborhoods and around where the women in their neighborhoods gathered in order to protect them from the far fewer numbers of drug-crazed criminals. But why tell those stories when it might get in the way of getting out a hateful screed to make people afraid of those Other than them. Because, hey, they must all be evil and inhuman and a threat to our way of life, right?

A lot of what fuels what’s in this email you forwarded is a set of bigotries and rivalries that you don’t know about if you don’t live in Louisiana. As long as there has been a Louisiana there have been divides of New Orleans/everywhere else, Protestant/Catholic, white/black, rich/poor, Republican/Democrat, those in power/those not in power. All of that is reflected in the email you forwarded. And none of it has a place in a response to such a natural and human disaster. It’s like the thing I saw the day after the hurricane hit, from a group called Christians for Columbia, which said that Katrina was god’s punishment on New Orleans for all its wicked ways. Wow. Do you know how many good people live in and around New Orleans? Both church-going (of which there is a far higher percentage than much of the rest of the country, as if that matters) and non-church-going, the goodness of the people of New Orleans is unbounded. But why let that get in the way of the pictures of Nebraskans on Bourbon Street that the media and the hate-mongers like to use as the universal picture of debauchery in New Orleans. But it’s OK to let several thousand die and displace a million others as divine punishment, and then just forget about New Orleans and let it rot, right? I’m sorry, but I don’t know how you could forward this drivel to me and ask me if it’s true. You have a heart and a brain. You know this isn’t true.

Back to some of the misleading representations. The corruption of the levee boards has no connection to the height and physical integrity of the levees that breached. The Lake Pontchartrain levee and the hurricane protection floodwalls along the Industrial Canal, the London Canal, and the 17th Street Canal are all under the jurisdiction of the Corps of Engineers when it comes to physical maintenance and construction. The levee boards only patrol to control access to and activities along the levee corridors. The Corps budgets for and controls construction of the levees and maintenance of those levees. But of course these fact gets in the way of the theory that it’s all those corrupt Louisiana politicians who were responsible for the levee breaches so we should just let them deal with it on their own. What’s the motivation for this lying?

Mayor Nagin has done a good job in the immediate aftermath of an unimaginable situation. Take any U.S. city with any U.S. mayor, and you point out to me where an entire city was given 24 hours notice that it faced imminent destruction, the mayor got 80 percent out of the way altogether, then found shelter for most of the remaining 20 percent, then had to try to both help and control that remaining trapped number with little to no food or water, no power, no communications network. This has never happened before in this country.

Look, what I would ask that you do when you get irresponsible forwards like this is to not forward them on to me or anyone else affected by this storm, but reply to the forwarder and everyone else you can think of with the actual facts, and with an appeal to stop hating and to be kind and charitable to their fellow humans in a time of great natural disaster and tragedy.

Love, Tad

> From: “[deleted]”

> Date: 2005/09/14 Wed AM 09:03:34 EDT

> To: “Tad Bartlett (E-mail)”

> Subject: FW: Eyewitness Account from a New Orleans Deputy

>

> Could this be true?

> —–Original Message—–

> From: Copenhaver, Dennis C. [mailto:Dennis.Copenhaver@vadoc.virginia.gov]

> Sent: Wednesday, September 14, 2005 8:00 AM

> To: Copenhaver, Debbie

> Subject: FW: Eyewitness Account from a New Orleans Deputy

>

> I just received this. True or not-although I believe it is-it makes

> interesting reading!!!

> _____

> —–Original Message—–

> From: Robert [mailto:rhoffman1@cinci.rr.com]

> Sent: Monday, September 12, 2005 8:24 PM

> To: Ron Asher; Karen Houston; Karen Campbell; Jeff Hoffman; Donna L.

> Hoffman; Diana L Bowling; Brian Kuhn; Asher, Tricia

> Subject: Fw: Eyewitness Account from a New Orleans Deputy

>

> Found on an AOL chat/message board by a friend, so consider the source

>

> New Orleans Politics caused the problems

> _____

> I am a Sheriff’s Deputy who is part of Homeland Security and Emergency

> Preparedness in the New Orleans MSA.

>

> Mayor Nagin has been speaking furiously about the lack of everything from

> the State and Federal Government. Here is some info:

>

> 1. There are two States here. Louisiana and the City of New Orleans/Orleans

> Parish. Always has been and always will be. When a State Law passes, Law

> Makers ALWAYS write whether Orleans Parish wil allow the Law or not.

>

> 2. When the MSA (Metropolitan Statistical Area) meets for Disater Planning

> and Equipment Purchases (6 times a year for the last 15 years), we all agree

> how we will spend the Federal Money as a team since we are in this together.

> Orleans DEMANDS they will choose how they will spend their portion.

>

> 3. During Communication Infrastructure Planning we ALL (N.O. MSA) purchased

> Satellite Phones. We all pay several hundred dollars a month as a “Just In

> Case Measure”. Orleans said their Infrastructure was TOP NOTCH and the money

> would be better spent on Ford F-150 Pickup Trucks. I dunno what they bought,

> but it wasn’t sat phones.

>

> 4. The looting, Rape (Newly Wedded European Woman who was raped and beaten

> as well as MANY others), etc. That is life in New Orleans. Why people find

> New Orleans a romantic, cherishable place is beyond 90% of all Louisianians.

> It is Hot, it Stinks, Non of us even go into New Orleans without a sidearm

> and we prefer to leave our women at home. Rape’s, thefts, and murder in New

> Orleans are as common as a High Speed pursuit in California.

>

> 5. When we enter New Orleans to issue an arrest warrant, the SCAT (Street

> Crime Arrest Team) is ALWAYS present. Me and/or other officers have been

> part of 18 arrests in New Orleans and been shot at 17 times. 11 of those

> were with AK-47’s and 3 of those 11 had two 40-round clips taped together.

>

> 6. Even before Mayor Naggin took office the Fed’s and State were never

> allowed to do anything to improve New Orleans. New Orleans ALWAYS wanted the

> cash to do their own improvements, their way.

>

> 7. There was no way in Hell the State was gonna make a move until New

> Orleans asked for help. There was No way in Hell the Fed’s were gonna make a

> move until the Governor asked for help. That is Law.

>

> 8. The people looting and shooting have it better than ever. Those areas are

> known for people living in crappy homes without electricity. Now they have

> some flood water in their home. They stole guns, ammo and food. They have

> never had it so good and don’t want to leave.

>

> 9. The people whining the loudest about racisim are the same people who

> always whined about racisim.

>

> 10. Jefferson Parish President Aaron Broussard declared martial law Monday

> Night. Mayor Ray Naggin didn’t want to alienate any refugees and allowed all

> this to happen. We sent officers in to help. As a report of an officer being

> shot and supplies and boat stolen we BEGGED Mayor Naggin to pass Martial

> Law. NOPE!!!!!!!!!!!!! After 2 days, Our department left New Orleans to die,

> then Mayor Naggin decided to declare Martial Law.

>

> In our own Parish, we have arrest several refugees. We have recovered stolen

> Corvettes, Escalades, Mercedes Benz, BMW’s, etc. A young black female ran

> over one of our officers. She was driving a Nissan with a VIN from an

> Oldsmobile 88 and a Plate from Alabama registered to a Ford Van. An elderly

> white man died because our Hospital was unable to fill his Oxygen Bottle.

> Refugees have stolen an EMS Generator at the Mobile Command Center. Refugees

> have stolen an Entergy Truck trying to restore power. Most Parishes are out

> of gas at all stations and most of us cannot drive to work. All gas stations

> have a 15-20 minute wait for gas. Some stations are selling only 2 gallons

> per customer. One station raised prices to $5.64 a gallon. The owner refused

> to lower prices, we promptly hooked him in the cuffs and dumped him in jail.

> There is tons more.

>

> Mayor Haggin had years and so did his predessessor’s to prepare, but they

> refused and they refused everyone elses help. Now he is bitching because no

> one is coming and everything is falling apart.

>

> The media is asking why was the State and Fed’s not prepared, New Orleans

> NEVER allowed us to hold drills. All other Parishes and Baton Rouge have

> drills just for this. The media is asking why no help is coming for the

> dead. Their Dead, we are only worried about the living. We are tying the

> dead to a tree or pushing them aside in an attempt to save the living.

>

> I say, if you want out, we’ll get you out. You wanna stay, then stay. I

> think we should let New Orleans die and REBUILD the National Infrastructure

> somewhere other than a damn Bowl.

>

> New Orleans Politics caused the problems

>

> _____

>

>

Comments

 (Anonymous) wrote:

Sep. 14th, 2005 11:53 pm (UTC)

Sorry, bro

I’ve been getting a lot of these too, and from people I hoped would know better. I put ’em in File 13, b/c I spoke my piece and it didn’t seem to take (other than to slow down the input from one party).

Camera Obscura

zurcherart wrote:

Sep. 15th, 2005 01:33 pm (UTC)

But is it true? ;->

I’m only waiting for this to get forwarded to my aunt, so that when she forwards it to me (after the latest email about Hillary Clinton’s lesbian witchcraft ways or that communist bastard John Kerry) I can put my name on your answer. (Ok, not really, I’ll attribute my sources.

I saw somthing similiar on my LJ “Friends” list. I already wanted to refer you to the post so that you could answer. However he at least had just enough good sense to make the post “friends only”. I might refer him to you though. The post begins “now I don’t want to sound racist or classist, but …”.

There was an article in today’s Washington Post, that while not outright incorrect had a lot of the same types of innacuracies as in this email liberally sprinkled throughout.

I hope the Ms. Swampy, and the best little boy are well. I am afraid to ask, but I can’t remember, were you able to check up on your cat?

swampytad wrote:

Sep. 15th, 2005 03:37 pm (UTC)

i grabbed the cat when i went in last week. had to put on welder’s gloves and then wrap her up in a towel and thrust her into the cat carrier, because she was not going to leave, even with me. forceable evacuation, i think they’re calling it now. but she’s perfectly happy and content now in montgomery with the other cat.

kellcrow7 wrote:

Sep. 22nd, 2005 05:44 pm (UTC)

When we all get back home, please run for city counsel. Please.

swampytad wrote:

Sep. 22nd, 2005 09:21 pm (UTC)

ahh, if i could, but i live, alas, in jefferson parish, in the unincorporated wilds of metry, where no one would dare vote for a rare liberal democrat like me, except maybe my wife and the one other democratic family that lives in my precinct… thought briefly about trying for a go at jindal next time around, but i’m afraid he’s untouchable and i would just look like a wacko.

kellcrow7 wrote:

Sep. 23rd, 2005 03:36 pm (UTC)

LOL; perhaps not, by the time we finally get to go home…

Anyway, awesome reply to that drivel. Best of luck to yours!

Lovely Rita, Meter Maid…

  • Sept. 19th, 2005 at 12:10 AM

Our Katrina evacuation is nearing an end. Will be heading home from Montgomery on Tuesday. We have spent our time full of activities this week. Tuesday Eli and Nicole and me went down to Selma, my home from 5 through 18. Went to Hancocks for some good barbecue lunch, stopped into the old neighborhood to visit Hanna, then went to the Old Live Oak Cemetery to visit Aimee. First time I’ve been to her gravesite, since Tulane Law School didn’t trust me enough to let me take my exam early enough at the end of first year to make it to her funeral on time. Wednesday we went to the Montgomery Zoo along with Ma-ma, Lisette, and cousins Ni-ni, Brody, and Wyatt. Eli discovered fire ants, but handled it well. Thursday I took Eli and Ni-ni and Brody up to Oak Mountain, where we hiked down to Peavine Falls, Eli played in the pool at the bottom of the falls, and Ni-ni got stuck twenty-feet up a cliff face and I, uncle Swampytad had to go pull her off. Friday I packed the same group up and went to Desoto Caverns. Eli pronounced the caverns “pretty” very loudly upon entering the main room, commented on the “curtains” of stalagmites, was OK with the total darkness when they turned out the lights, screamed at the loud cheesy-voiced (think car commercials and monster truck rally advertisements) voice-over in the Genesis-themed light show, and then wondered at the waterfall in the back recess of the cave. The other cousins also had fun with the maze, the water baloon fight arena, the crystal-dig, and the panning for gems activity. Saturday Eli and Nicole and I joined Bubba and Gram for a trip out to a horse farm. Our hostess was a mentee of Bubba’s, who had put together some clothing donations for Eli and his cousins and had been chomping at the bit to do something for us. We have been trying to redirect anything offered to us to others more needy. We’re in good shape, really. But Eli loved the chance to meet Skunk the horse, and Red Dog, and a host of others you can see in the pictures at the link above.

I look forward to getting home and cleaning stuff up. Having my room to write in again for the first time in three and a half weeks. Getting ready to evacuate from Rita.

Comments

ahembree wrote:

Sep. 19th, 2005 02:06 pm (UTC)

Glad I am not the only one with the Beatles stuck in their head over this latest storm. Oh oh, Oakmountain and Desoto Caverns…Alabama fun! Or about as much fun as I have found north of DI in ‘Bama. Of course, I have yet to take in the wonders of the revitalized mooning by the Vulcan statue in the ‘Ham. Let us know how your drive back goes, we may be heading your way in our new 4×4, gas efficient “cute-ute” seeing as I do not know if we have hydro and I know that using water at our place (assuming it is still standing) would be a hazardous idea.

still waiting…

  • Sept. 22nd, 2005 at 5:05 PM

rita has continued to keep us waiting in montgomery, uncertain. she won’t go the way the nhc says, her track continuing to drift eastward, along with her drenching rain-field. the people in montgomery are super-nice, in spite of their bad driving manners, but i just want to go home, really. there was a reason i wanted nothing more as a teenager than to get OUT of central Alabama.

so, in our waiting time, eli has added to his list of experiences an afternoon at the planetarium. i remember a fieldtrip to there when i was ten. this time, eli and mrs. swampy and i had it all to ourselves. eli loved it, sitting quietly and studiously enraptured during a 45-minute NASA presentation on a satellite mission to Jupiter, and a three-minute laser show to some rockabilly three little pigs song.

we’ve been having issues with our temporary internet/phone provider, so this morning i found myself in a starbucks to use their wireless connection to check on computer modeling to see if rita would let us go home today, and while i was there i picked up Bob Dylan’s live at the gaslight 1962. this is the third album i’ve bought at a starbucks in the past year, and they’ve all been great. i fear some great erosion of my soul for this, but in the meantime i’m enjoying some excellent music. and a cafe mocha, too.

Sep. 25th, 2005

  • Sept. 25, 2005, 12:00 AM

as the Greatest Boy in the World (GBW) said when we turned down our block, “we home, my darlin’.”

this place (meaning my house, my neighborhood, my town, my region) is a freakin’ mess, but it’s good to be home, sleep on my own matress, crash down on my own sofa, put GBW down in his own crib, grab a beer from my own not-too-stinky fridge.

nolagrl, we welcome you and the Beau to our lovely upstairs suite as soon as rita will release you.

ahembree and Justin, you, too. there’s plenty of room.

Sep. 25th, 2005

  • Sept. 25, 2005, 7:59 PM

Cleared the trees out of the backyard today. Then we went by Nicole’s brother’s house — Eddie in Old Metry — to help him move some furniture. Everything ripped out of his bottom floor. Then went by Nicole’s office. Two large windows had blown in to her office, and everything was drenched and covered in glass. Other of the offices in her location had the celing caved in and some new, er, skylights. Then we drove around just to see who’s open. The bookstores are still closed, but the daquiri shops all appear to be open.

There’s two sides to the coin around here. Definite flashes of that New Orleans spirit — the Saints suck, we’re cleaning up, we’ll be back. But then empty stares and wringing hands and shaking heads of people who have lost everything, wondering of who is going to come back, where will there be jobs. I could go on a little longer about this, but Greatest Boy in the World is demanding my attention…

i kind of suspected this, actually …

  • Sept. 26th, 2005 at 12:27 PM

Times-Pic ran a story today that confirmed what I was hoping and thinking, that the nature of rumor in a desperate city, as magnified by a national media looking for anything to sensationalize, as if there was any need for sensationalization of Katrina’s truth, led to reports of violence and mayhem way out of proportion to reality. See the Times-Picayune’s story about the overstatement of deaths and violence in Superdome and Convention Center. they make the right point that it was still hell, but that people did not, for the most part, devolve into animals. they were just tired and hungry and thirsty and on the brink of starvation, but they were still a dignified people waiting for help that took too long to get there.

Sep. 27th, 2005

  • Sept. 27, 2005, 10:06 AM

So the weeds are growing up in the front garden again, and the little Bradford Pear trees that we had just planted a couple months ago and which somehow miraculously did not get blown over have little blossoms, as do the dwarf camellias, the white azalea, and the japanese magnolia. As if it were spring again, a reawakening of sorts. Fitting.

so that’s the reason why…

  • Sept. 28th, 2005 at 12:01 PM

thanks to my friend tony in thailand for hunting down the reason for all the misery: we deserved it. and here i thought it was, you know, ocean currents and low pressure systems and water temperature and sea level and vanishing marsh buffer and sinking levees and such.

Comments

moroccomole wrote:

Sep. 28th, 2005 06:25 pm (UTC)

Don’t try to muscle in — it’s all the fault of the gays and everyone knows it.

yellowdoggrl wrote:

Sep. 29th, 2005 04:01 am (UTC)

oh, no it’s not. Pat Robertson was right. It’s abortion.

yellowdoggrl wrote:

Sep. 29th, 2005 04:01 am (UTC)

and Republican executive committeewomen named Twinkle.

Sep. 29th, 2005

  • Sept. 29, 2005, 9:57 AM

just what the fuck does my insurance actually cover??!! those bastards at usaa can kiss my ass.

apologia

  • Oct. 9th, 2005 at 5:40 PM

so my adjuster showed up today. very nice guy. a dent on my gutter and “oh, we’ll get you all new gutters.” a water spot upstairs and “we need to get you a new ceiling for this room.” and so on. i think they’re going to do right by us. from this experience and others i’ve heard about, good insurance companies, or their adjusters, are trying to get around onerous exclusions in the policies by loosely adjusting so that you can get money for things that are covered but maybe not so damaged in order for you to get relief for things that are damaged but not covered. so, my apologies to usaa, a little (though i’m still steamed about the claims person who told me that their official position regarding the need for temporary relocation expenses was that “if you have no power and no running water we classify that as just uncomfortable, not unlivable.” YOU try living in southeatern Louisiana with no power or running water in September, lady), at least until i see the check i get in three to four weeks.

saw a lady with a card table set up on the sidewalk of st. charles today, kind of like a kid’s lemonade stand, but instead of lemonade there were five or six bottles of flavored syrup and several coolers of shaved ice and a homemade sign reading “SNO-BALLS.”

more and more bars and restaurants opening.

saints lost 52-3. that’s so absurd that it can only bring bemusement.

i really really really want a hubig’s pie. oh well, at least i can get a sidewalk sno-ball.

Comments

yellowdoggrl wrote:

Oct. 11th, 2005 01:01 am (UTC)

i miss home. i miss miss mary, and i miss my books, and i miss care being forgotten.

(but at least i have a great little brother to try to take care of some of my cares.)

Oct. 14th, 2005

  • Oct. 14, 2005, 9:00 AM

more and more coming back to life. our favorite little pizza and pasta joint, slice, has reopened. went there last night and had great pizza (GBW had his first pizza ever, cheeseless, as they weren’t back with the pasta yet), good wine, and excellent punk rock music pumping through the sound system. GBW was rocking out, playing drums on the table and bobbing his head back and forth. first time home that almost felt like a normal night out, and best meal out that i’ve had in at least two months.

lolis eric elie had an excellent column in today’s Times-Pic about the lack of creativity in mayor nagin’s casino plan. his corporate background and approach were excellent pre-katrina and during the chaos, but the rebuilding phase might require more imagination than that background and approach have provided to him.

and got a funny thing in the email yesterday, one of those “you know you’re in ______ when…” kind of deals, which i normally find only mildly amusing and not worthy of passing along, but this one is for the Gulf Coast and specific to all things Katrina. It follows the cut:

You know you live on the Gulf Coast when:

  1. You have FEMA’s number on your speed dialer.
  1. You have more than 300 C and D batteries in your kitchen drawer.
  1. Your pantry contains more than 20 cans of Spaghetti Os.
  1. You are thinking of repainting your house to match the plywood covering your windows.
  1. When describing your house to a prospective buyer, you say it has three bedrooms, two baths and one safe hallway.
  1. Your SSN isn’t a secret, it’s written in Sharpie on your arms.
  1. You are on a first-name basis with the cashier at Home Depot.
  1. Gasoline is a rare commodity worth waiting in line for hours just to get 10 gallons.
  1. You are delighted to be able to pay $3 for a gallon of regular unleaded.
  1. The road leading to your house has been declared a No-Wake Zone.
  1. You decide that your patio furniture looks better on the bottom of the pool.
  1. You own more than three large coolers.
  1. You can wish that other people get hit by a hurricane and not feel the least bit guilty about it.
  1. You rationalize helping a friend board up by thinking “It’ll only take a gallon of gas to get there and back”.
  1. You have 2-liter coke bottles and milk jugs filled with water in your freezer.
  1. Three months ago you couldn’t hang a shower curtain; today you can assemble a portable generator by candlelight.
  1. You catch a 13-pound redfish. In your driveway.
  1. You can recite from memory whole portions of your homeowner’s insurance policy.
  1. You consider a “vacation” to stunning Tupelo, Mississippi.
  1. At cocktail parties, women are attracted to the guy with the biggest chainsaw.
  1. You have had tuna fish more than 5 days in a row.
  1. There is a roll of tar paper in your garage.
  1. You can rattle off the names of three or more meteorologists who work at the Weather Channel.
  1. Someone comes to your door to tell you they found your roof.
  1. Ice is a valid topic of conversation.
  1. Your “drive-thru” meal consists of MRE’s and bottled water.
  1. Relocating to South Dakota does not seem like such a crazy idea.
  1. You spend more time on your roof then in your living room.
  1. You’ve been laughed at over the phone by a roofer, fence builder or a tree worker.
  1. A battery powered TV is considered a home entertainment center.
  1. You don’t worry about relatives wanting to visit during the summer.
  1. Your child’s first words are “hunker down”
  1. Having a tree in your living room does not necessarily mean it’s Christmas.
  1. Toilet Paper is worth more than gold coins
  1. You know the difference between the “good side” of a storm and the “bad side.”
  1. Your kids start school in August and finish in July.
  1. You go to work early and stay late just to enjoy the air conditioning.

Oct. 20th, 2005

  • Oct. 20, 2005, 5:13 PM

ahem, yellowdoggrl, clancy’s is open!

Comments

yellowdoggrl wrote:

Oct. 21st, 2005 03:57 am (UTC)

I saw that. Dinner only, but still… lemon icebox pie. Steve says three weeks.

halloween and finer things

  • Nov. 1st, 2005 at 3:09 PM

so, trick or treating through dark streets littered with rotting refrigerator carcasses and roofing nails being generally considered to be not a good idea, a number of alternative venues were bandied about. in one of them, our church parish offered up its parking lots for “trunk or treating.” not a pseudo-religious, neutered fall festival like what they have put on over in the baptist church parking lot for years, but a venue for some for-real halloween pagan tradition and revelry. but nothing organized, either. just, “come pull your car up in the parking lot and bring your kids and dish out treats to the trick or treaters.” of course, these are new orleanians we’re talking about, and a spontaneous city of ghouls and ghosts and kids dressed up like bounty hunters (i couldn’t really believe that one) and werewolves and witches and power rangers and countless of those “scream” monsters sprang out of the asphalt by the church. full-blown decorations on most cars (not ours — “should we bring some decorations?” “no, surely folks won’t be going to all that trouble” was the conversation at our house before we left), up to and including miniature haunted houses in tents pitched next to SUVs and Winnebagos. Pizzas, tailgating, skatepunks, kindly old grandparent-types sitting on their back bumpers with a basket of candy corn. parents mutated by latex masks into bizarre monsters with smoke machines and strobe lights and screaming soundtracks to lend fright to their goodie bags. here’s some pictures of it all.

this is the spirit of new orleanians that comes out just about every opportunity for a celebration of any kind, the thing that drives some of the wildest and tackiest christmas yard decorations imaginable, the thing that makes full living room and kitchenette ensembles spring up out of the neutral ground on mardi gras, the thing that makes folks smile when they smell the first crawfish boiling in late winter. and it’s damaged not at all by kat-rita. we may be leaner and meaner for awhile, but we’ll be back.

eli was a dinosaur, with perfected lines of “trick or treat,” “happy halloween,” “thank you,” and “roar, i’m a dinosaur,” for all he approached.

OH, and news for the LJ-community — Next June, the “B” in “GBW,’ which heretofore stood for the “Boy” in “Greatest Boy in the World,” will also stand in for the word “Brother.”

(Anonymous) wrote:

Nov. 10th, 2005 03:37 am (UTC)

congrats!

Glad you still got it in ya, Tad. I’ll be looking forward to seeing the 4 of you back over this way in a year or two, when all is rebuilt! your freshman year roommate and fellow theatre freak- Dauphin Island

swampytad wrote:

Nov. 10th, 2005 03:41 am (UTC)

Re: congrats!

well, hell, mr. jones, we aren’t waiting for things to get rebuilt. we’re coming back this new year’s eve. we found one house that will fit us and that has utilities, and we’ll do that one if something else doesn’t come available. we’ll see you then!

reasons to stay

  • Nov. 3rd, 2005 at 9:56 AM

my three favorite restaurants had been rumored to be not reopening ever at all, including the 100 year-old Sicilian ice cream parlor and bakery, Brocato’s; the best Greek food in town, Acropolis; and the best and most authentic Oaxacan/Yucatecan eatery, Taqueros y Coyocan. now, news reports show that at least Taquero’s has reopened! i can’t explain well enough how happy this makes me and mrs. swampy and GBW. Taquero’s was the first place GBW ever ate out, when he was 12 days old. and now we know it will be the first place that Red Bean eats out when s/he pops next june.

reasons to stay, part II

  • Nov. 3rd, 2005 at 2:47 PM

to follow up on the news that Taquero’s is open, let me add that i was out running errands today and figured taquero’s might just hit the spot for lunch. i had been planning to go tomorrow when Mrs. Swampy and GBW could come along, too, but what the hell. it was so good to walk in and see guillermo, the city’s best chef, behind the bar mixing a margarita, to see his wife isabelle hurrying about the floor tending to a fairly packed dining room, and steven back again, too. and let me tell you about the food. a caldo con garbanzos — a steaming, aromatic broth pocked with bits of chicken and chickpeas. albondigas — the oaxacan meatball that guillermo does so well. finished with an incredibly edible vanilla flan, and all washed down with margarita and bohemia. mmmmmm. i can still taste that soup on my lips. going back tomorrow…

Comments

 (Anonymous) wrote:

Nov. 5th, 2005 09:43 pm (UTC)

Mary Mohonies just reopened in Biloxi.

dave kuhl

swampytad wrote:

Nov. 5th, 2005 10:11 pm (UTC)

that is definitely good culinary news.

running, sweeping, driving

  • Nov. 16th, 2005 at 4:28 PM

chris rose is a beautiful man. ok, so i don’t know that really; he could be a jerk for all i know. but sometimes he writes things that are just so fucking right, and he has had quite the propensity for this since The Storm. but the best came yesterday. you really, and i mean REALLY, have to read it. i finished reading it with a lump in my throat and my eyes a little swollen and watery, which of course is indistinguishable from the physical symptoms you get from driving around town these days with all the dust and mold spores in the air.

last weekend was the regularly scheduled fall edition of the crescent city classic. the spring version is a huge 10k that sees competitors from all over the world. the fall classic is a smaller 5k version that organizers decided would go on no matter what this year. so yellowdoggrl came down from longest view, an old friend tom came down from new jersey, and we went over to city park to meet pam with Greatest Boy in the World. there, among all the downed oaks, GBW ran his first 5k, at 2 years old. OK, so he maybe ran a little less than a k of that, but he took great pleasure in getting on the shoulders of various members of our group and yelling, “run, people, run!” it was fun. here are pictures.

afterwards, i took a wrong turn and ended up going down carrolton instead of city park avenue, which brought me by brocato’s, which i was very saddened to see had a water line about seven feet up. they just celebrated their 100th anniversary this year.

went down ino the marigny today to volunteer at the ReStore, a Habitat for Humanity of New Orleans project that in a typical year makes enough money to fund construction of 10-15 houses. of course, we’re gearing up to build 100 houses in the next year just with the local Habitat. national Habitat has much bigger plans than that. the marigny looks great up there on royal street in the portion of the neighborhood hugging the old natural river levee, but then i found myself on the way home up by the cemeteries, driving beside waterlined tombs where my car would have been far under water a couple months ago. nobody lives in these neighborhoods, yet, and they won’t for a long time. there’s still several feet of water on canal boulevard under the I610 overpass.

where the city was dry — “The Island,” as chris rose wrote yesterday — life looks normal. out in metairie where we live, life looks normal except for the still present mounds of debris everywhere and the FEMA trailers hooked up to sewerage lines outside of all the houses. but there’s traffic and kids and shopping and schools and joggers. but you cross these lines into huge swaths of neighborhoods with the waterlines and there is nobody living there. just nobody. estimates are that new orleans will be about half its population, back to 1870s levels when the city was still clustered on the high ground by the river, for the next five to ten years. i think that’s right. but we’re still new orleans, and we’re still vibrant, and we’re still a fun place to visit and a great place to live, so y’all come down. have some red beans, drink an abita restoration ale, spend some money.

Comments

yellowdoggrl wrote:

Nov. 17th, 2005 04:12 am (UTC)

did you find restoration ale?

I am now a member of the Krewe of Muses. non-riding, so don’t get too excited. 🙂

but I have to tell you, it’s looking more and more like this time next year we will be talking about y’all coming to visit us somewhere for the holidays… austin, probably, or atlanta…

swampytad wrote:

Nov. 17th, 2005 03:16 pm (UTC)

got the restoration ale at whole foods. yes, whole foods is reopened. well, kind of. the front quarter of the store has been cordoned off and stocked with a limited supply of things while they fix up the rest of the store. but included in that limited selection is probably 95% of what we relied on them to have anyway, plus the restoration ale.

yellowdoggrl wrote:

Nov. 17th, 2005 04:15 am (UTC)

by the way, I posted that comment before reading that Chris Rose. and I have to say, what he describes is exactly what makes it so fucking hard to fathom ever really being home, at home, in New Orleans again. when I was in Austin, I actually went fourteen whole hours without being sad one single time. that is a new since-August-29 world’s record. my heart is broken, brother, and I don’t think there’s enough duct tape in the world to hold it together while I’m in the confines of Orleans Parish.

swampytad wrote:

Nov. 17th, 2005 03:20 pm (UTC)

the only thing that fixes the break in the heart is to fix the break in the city. i missed it, probably, in my post, but what i got out of yesterday was the vibrance and, well, new orleansness that is in full bloom in the marigny, the treme, the quarter, uptown. certainly the antithesis still resides across the flood line, but even that is being pushed further back, at least to the powerlessness line, as even the flooded-but-with-power neighborhoods are in full swing clean-up mode. this town ain’t dead, and won’t die until long after the rest of the country goes. you gotta’ do what you gotta’ do, and you gotta’ go where you gotta’ go, and we’ll come visit you wherever that is. but you have to come back and visit us, too! after all, you’re a muse now.

Dec. 9th, 2005

  • Dec. 9, 2005, 9:04 AM

Just a quick post. Am in Lynchburg, Virginia, with yellowdoggrl and our folks, for granddaddy’s funeral. snowed and sleeted last night. nasty stuff, really.

at the visitation last night, granddaddy looked fantastic, like he could have just sat up and let out with one of his laughs or his quiet and intense bursts of wisdom. and the pictures and displays were really very touching. included my favorite picture of granddaddy from vietnam, baptizing a young soldier waist-deep in a river. the sincerity, concern, and tenderness in granddaddy’s gaze as he holds the young soldier just epitomize his spirit and character.

also at the visitation, whenever we were introduced as granddaddy’s new orleans grandchildren, the looks on folks’ faces were interesting. some wanted to know if there was still stuff to do, as if they believe the crap spewed about by such intellectual midgets as rush limbaugh that everything’s fine down there. others wanted to know if we could live in our house, yet (the answer for me is “yes” and for nolagrl is “no”), not understanding the variety of damage. everytime a new of the precious few congressmen comes to actually see our town, they come away changed, with understanding, proclaiming that more of their colleagues should see what has and is happening. once it was off the news, it faded and mutated for people not there. i fear we will rebuild it on our own, without the help or understanding of the rest of the country. but it is a place not only worth rebuilding, but for the sake of the country MUST be rebuilt. the port, largest exporter of agricultural products in the country, second largest steel entry-point, largest coffee entry-point, fourth largest port-of-entry of any kind; the oil and gas (though i, of course, hope for this to be less important, i know better), that comes across our coastline is greater than any other coastline in the country; the seafood nurseries are far more productive than any other in the country. READ “BAYOU FAREWELL” BY MIKE TIDWELL. i don’t really believe in all caps or in any caps, but if you’re not from down there, you have to read it to understand, so i resort to them.

and then the music, and the food, and the people. i know those are the things that Others probably care least about, but they are far more more important than any of the rest of it altogether.

so it wasn’t a brief post, but i guess i had some things on my mind.

Need help

  • Dec. 12th, 2005 at 10:08 AM

I just sent this email to some folks, but I repeat it here for my LJ friends in hope that you’ll have a few minutes to help out with this. Consider it a Christmas gift to me and MRs. Swampy and GBW:

Look, everyone, I need your help. Just a few minutes, really. I need you to write your state’s entire congressional delegation. Mine’s already on board, and few of the others’ websites will accept an email from a nonconstituent without saying something to the effect of, “You’re not my constituent; I’m neither going to read nor respond to what you have to say.”

Strong, real levees and floodwalls. Restoration of the marshes and wetlands that buffer against these storms. Storm surge protection gates. Rebuilding grants for businesses and homes. Maybe some bridges in Alaska will have to be sacrificed to get it done, but these things are necessary, and every congressmember needs to get the message. This is not to fix or stave off tremendous damage caused by a storm that hit a place that people shouldn’t be living. This is to fix and stave off harm caused by the catastrophic engineering failure of the federal government and those it contracts with. I don’t know what of the post-Katrina news still gets out anymore, but it is stunning:

(1) There have been ongoing studies of the floodwall system built by the Corps of Engineers and its contractors. The floodwalls sit atop levees, but are anchored by sheet pilings driven through the levees and into the soil below. Soil borings done at the time of the construction showed the subsurface soils to be sandy and peaty, unable to support the pressure of storm surge beating against the floodwalls, but showed hard clay strata at depths of 35-45 feet below seal level. Engineers at the time said piles should be driven to those clay strata. The Corps said, no, just go to 17.5 feet below sea level, ending in one of the softer peat layers. The contractors actually only drove down to ten feet below sea level. Much of the flooding of New Orleans post-Katrina occurred when waves beat against the floodwalls on the 17th Street and London Avenue Canals (not overtopping them) and the floodwalls, supported apparently by next to nothing, gave way and shot into the neighborhoods, followed quickly by the water.

(2) The federal government, led by the Corps, has insisted on maintaining a deep-draft, straight-as-an-arrow shipping channel from the Gulf into the heart of the city’s port, since 1965, even though for the past twenty years on average only five ships a day utilize that channel, a small percentage of the port traffic, most of which uses the Mississippi River. The channel is called the Mississippi-River Gulf Outlet, or MR-GO. The MR-GO is directly responsible for saltwater intrusion and erosion that has destroyed thousands of acres of protective marsh. During Katrina, this straight channel funneled storm surge like a rifle into the Industrial Canal, causing the failure of levees and the flooding of the lower Ninth Ward and Arabi. On its way, this surge breached levees along the MR-GO, flooding St. Bernard Parish.

Please read this column from Sunday’s Times-Picayune.

Then, please take a few minutes to go to your congressional delegation’s websites and send a note to your senators and representatives that the federal government needs to be responsible for its mess, needs to clean it up, do what it said it was going to do a long time ago and do the proper, sound work to keep it from happening again. This port city is too important as a port of entry for steel and other goods, as a port of export for agricultural products from the midwest, as a nursery ground for a greater portion of the nation’s seafood than anywhere else, and as a major production and processing region for oil and natural gas, as well as serving as a cradle of much of the nation’s best music and food and culture.

Thanks, Tad

Reopenings are good things

  • Dec. 13th, 2005 at 4:40 PM

A quick update. Of the three eating joints I had feared would never reopen and which fear had been substantiated to some degree by various sources, two are now open. As I chronicled earlier, Taquero’s is open. Then last week Acropolis reopened. Brocato’s is still up in the air, or down in the flood.

They tested the St. Charles streetcars on the Riverfront and Canal tracks yesterday. The St. Charles streetcars rode out the storm unscathed in their uptown barn, but the tracks on that line, or more specifically the catenary system that drives the cars on that line, was destroyed. Meanwhile, all the new Canal and Riverfront streetcars flooded in their barn on Canal Street, but the tracks and catenary systems were relatively fine, so a (hopefully) brief marriage of convenience between the one set of cars and the other set of tracks will see streetcars return to town as early as Christmas Eve.

That’s it. Nothing heavy today, though I’ve had some discouraging thoughts about all this lately. I’ll share those later perhaps.

Comments

yellowdoggrl wrote:

Dec. 14th, 2005 12:01 am (UTC)

I have just cracked open a bottle of French red from that new wine shop on Magazine, Sip, which was a part of my pretty darned good day. I will tell you about it and you can tell me about your discouraging thoughts and we can see where the middle is and then you can watch Project Runway and I can go upstairs to the guest suite and wrap Texas presents while watching It’s a Wonderful Life on my iBook.

Thank you . . .

  • Dec. 15th, 2005 at 1:49 PM

. . . to all of you, and to everyone, who demanded that Washington address its failures in building the levees to protect my town. They have heard. I’m actually quite shocked (and not just a little skeptical) that this administration is going to actually attempt to get something right, but upping the levee portion of the government relief to $3.1 billion is right on the money, so to speak.

But it’s just a start (albeit the most important place to start). We still need our wetlands restored, and the uninsured losses caused by the catastrophic engineering failure of our levees and the greedy-shortsightedness of the MR-GO addressed. We’ll keep on them about all that.

But, in the meantime, thank you to everyone for getting us this far.

And, though I never expressed it, thank you to everyone who gave their own money to various relief outlets. While the government has taken its time and dithered about, private givers have provided $2.97 billion in the last three months.

Happy holidays everyone.

Bah humbug, or, the News for those who don’t have a daily subscription to the Times-Picayune

  • Dec. 22nd, 2005 at 7:55 AM

Here’s the news. For those without the time to read it. The summary is this: Congress passed a Katrina relief package last night that includes $2.9 billion for improved levees (a good start), plus another approximately $26 billion in relief measures. But this week Ted Stevens from Alaska, with the active acquiescence of David Vitter of Metairie, tied in an ANWR drilling provision to fund $6 billion in wetlands restoration in Louisiana. Some points here, briefly: (1) ANWR drilling is hot-button, divisive. Whether you’re for it or against it, and regardless of the relative merits of it, tying in something that is so guaranteed to lead to division and filibustering to something so necessary as coastal restoration and Katrina relief is greedy and irresponsible. (2) Restoring our coastal wetlands is as, if not more, important than properly designed and constructed levees when it comes to hurricance surge protection. If we had had the wetlands on our coast that we had only thirty years ago, the surges from Katrina and Rita would have been reduced to nothing by the time they reached populated areas. (3) Tying the money to restore wetlands destroyed in large part thanks to oil exploration canals dredged by the oil companies to oil exploration activities in a pristine wildlife refuge somewhere else hardly seems to be a good example of environmental stewardship or lesson-learning.

End result: After some wrangling wherein the entire aid package was part of a successful filibuster aimed at the ANWR provisions, the Katrina relief passed, but sans the coastal restoration that we desperately need. This is critical. I again implore all of you to say something to your people in Washington. I’ve already recommended Mike Tidwell’s fine book, Bayou Farewell, to inspire your pens. Another good resource, this one downloadable for free, though a little drier, is the Coast 2050 Report authored by the Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana.

Also this week, some political grudge matches led to the (hopefully) temporary stalling of a mortgage relief package that would have helped stave off foreclosure on a couple hundred thousand homes in the New Orleans area. Though there are indications it will get done in late January or early February, the three-month grace periods provided by lenders when Katrina hit has ended, and nothing is holding the foreclosure notices back except the good faith and good will of the lenders. Ahem.

(Night before the) Night Before Christmas

  • Dec. 23rd, 2005 at 9:15 AM

Got this new post-Katrina version of Night Before Christmas sent to me off of one of the nieghborhood associations’ websites:

‘Twas the night before Christmas and in the Faubourg

At the edge of the crescent, no creature stirred.

Under the shroud-like blue plastic from FEMA

That flapped in the wind in the wake of Katrina,

Nothing was hung by the chimneys with care

Since chimneys and roofs were no longer there.

The houses, abandoned for trailers or Texas,

Were circled with watermarks, branded with Xs,

And in them no sugarplums danced in kids’ heads,

For no little children slept snug in their beds

On this night before Christmas in Faubourg-St John

Where time had stopped dead, while the world carried on.

Then, lo, from the depths of what once was my garden

(Now a wild cesspool of strange hydrocarbons)

Up drift some voices from out of the dark

To compete with the flapping of my FEMA tarp:

“They all axed for you, dawlin’. How did you do?”

“-Nine feet of water, and how about you?”

“Do ya know what it means to miss New Orleans?”

“-Not enough ersters-or rice and red beans!”

I’m certain of whom this can’t possibly be:

It’s not the adjuster; it’s not Entergy;

With looters gone elsewhere, this can’t be a stick-up;

And who can remember the last garbage pick-up?

It’s surely not someone from Capitol Hill

To tell me, at last, whether I can rebuild.

I lift back what’s left of my old cypress shutters

And peek past the tangle of phone lines and gutters,

And what to my wondering eyes should appear?

Not Santa Claus and his team of reindeer

But, costumed in rubber attire and gas masks,

A long second-line waving hankies and flasks.

Rather than coconuts, beads and doubloons,

This krewe carries gear (and, just barely, a tune).

With wet vacs and power tools, sheetrock and nails,

Brawny and Brillo piled high in their pails,

They’re Superdome faithful, survivors of attics,

Mardi Gras maniacs, Jazz Fest fanatics,

Carnival trackers (from Allah to Zeus),

Believers in Saints (whether St. Jude or Deuce),

Joined by a couple of Dutch engineers,

Some out-of-town builders and church volunteers.

They pause at the dead Live Oak next to my door

In T-shirts declaring Make Levees Not War.

Since ditching my mold-ridden fridge at the curb,

MREs have become the hors d’oeuvres that I serve

So I pass them around with Abita’s new ale

When a wrench taps, “Clink! Clink!” on the side of a pail:

“To Blanco,” they cry, “She got contra-flow down!

To Nagin-he sure told those Feds and Mike Brown!

To NOLA dot com, CNN, and the Times

Who cut to the quick of the Superdome crime!

To all those who took in our downtrodden folks,

Or ferried them out in their flat-bottom boats!

To Tennessee… Texas… Jackson… Atlanta…

Our Baton Rouge brothers … and Lou-i-si-ana!”

I notice no Rudy steps up as their leader,

Yet something unseen guides this flock of believers,

A force that transcends rich or poor, black or white,

A light that can steer this brigade through the night.

In a twinkle they’ve finished the last of the ale

And they hoist their equipment, their masks and their pails:

“On, Comet! On, Borax! On, on **** ‘n Span!

“Come (Yule) Tide and Cheer! Come, All, let us plan!

Up, Mildew! Off, Mold! Out, out, Toxic Waste!

Come, Shout! Away, Wisk! Come, let us make haste!

To the top of the water mark! Up, past the stair!

Let the City that Care Forgot know that we care!”

Then to Lakeview, Gentilly, Chalmette and the East,

Away they all marched to a Zydeco beat.

Ere they rose past the tarps, I heard a voice say

“Merry Christmas-and Laissez les bon temps rouler!”

Happy Holidays from Stephany New Orleans, 2005

Jan. 3rd, 2006

  • Jan. 3, 2006, 1:31 PM

Got back last night from the annual new years eve retreat to dauphin island. as usual, it was a very relaxing refuge from the day-to-day, and a welcome reunion with the friends who could make it — Maureen and Jeff and the new baby Catherine, Jack and Jessica, ahembree and baby einstein, val, and brian along with new friend tessie. the fog was completely settled in from friday night until an hour before we left yesterday morning, day and night, providing a moist quiet broken only by occasional ship fog horns and muffled firework reports as backdrop for the weekend. the surf was a gentle lapping for the most part.

in addition to wrecking our hometown and much of the mississippi coast, katrina did a good job finishing off the beach houses on dauphin island’s west end that ivan had left standing. just stunning how many houses are gone now. as a result, we stayed in a house in the dunes on the east end this time, nestled up against the maritime forest and swampland of the bird sanctuary on the island. just fantastic to play in the beach and dunes, then be able to go hiking in a towering pine stand and walk narrow boardwalks over a swamp filled with fish and snakes and alligators. dauphin island’s truly a magical place.

leaving yesterday, we were able to stop by the estuarium, where brian gave us the behind-the-scenes, feeding time tour, including a walk along the catwalk above the Gulf exhibit tank. the estuarium recently gave about forty large fish from that tank to our aquarium.

the trip home included the now customary re-sobering up to reality of coastal and urban devastation. it was a little magnified this time, for one because we hadn’t really left the katrina zone on devastated dauphin island; for another, because there was a wreck on the twin spans, forcing us off the I-10 at Eden Isles. as we traveled through that neighborhood on the shore of lake pontchartrain on our way to the US 11 bridge, house after house was gutted to the studs, spray paint markings, both official and home-owner applied (the former marking a search for survivors/bodies, the latter proclaiming “valuables removed”). the Greatest Boy in the World, from his backseat perch, remarked, “The people are all gone, daddy.”

got home, unpacked, and read some missed newspapers. the thing from that to pass on, and i really wish you all read it, is Chris Rose’s end-of-the-year column, noting poignantly that the only thing less comrehensible than coming home to and living in new orleans right now is to not do so.

the book is half-finished.

happy new year!

the past most-of-a-year, in first sentences…

  • Jan. 3rd, 2006 at 2:05 PM

following yellowdoggrl‘s lead, here are my first sentences from first entries for each month, beginning last March, when I started lj-ing, and through today, first entry of the new year:

March 2005:

my first LJ entry.

April 2005:

went digging around on the upstairs mac this weekend and there they were — the twinkie emails.

May 2005:

spent some quality time at the jazzFest again this past weekend, and confirmed some scattered beliefs.

June 2005:

so, as nolagrl reported a few days ago in her journal, i have taken an incredibly arrogant, stupid, risky, exciting, frightening retreat from a path i diverted myself onto eight years ago.

NOTHING in July.

August 2005:

one press conference by one official says we’ll be able to get back in on monday to see our houses, get our clothes, and get out again for the next month.

September 2005:

watched wynton marsalis play st. james infirmary on larry king tonight, and wept.

October 2005:

so my adjuster showed up today.

November 2005:

so, trick or treating through dark streets littered with rotting refrigerator carcasses and roofing nails being generally considered to be not a good idea, a number of alternative venues were bandied about.

December 2005:

Just a quick post. (ed. note: It wasn’t.)

January 2006:

Got back last night from the annual new years eve retreat to dauphin island.

what we learn from this is that (1) i sure spend an awful lot of time sometimes between entries; (2) i start too many entries with “so”; and (3) this was not a very interesting or informative exercise, nor may it be, on a whole, a very interesting or informative blog.

Of Tornadoes and Tomatoes

  • Feb. 2nd, 2006 at 9:17 AM

so, if any of you saw on the news or weather that the new orleans area was besieged by tornadoes in the night, knocking a 15-foot gash in the wall and ceiling of the busiest concourse at Louis Armstrong International Airport, collapsing some houses and cell towers in Lakeview, knocking out power to 30,000 homes, toppling FEMA trailers throughout town, and peeling the sides off of warehouses, it is true. But we are OK, and I just got a call from nolagrl, and they fared OK, as well.

now for the tomatoes. as in what should have been thrown at the president’s motorcade on the way home from his state of somebody else’s union address the other night. first his administration puts the kibosh on the Baker Bill, the best plan offered to save almost a quarter-million New Orleans area homeowners from foreclosure on their destroyed houses, houses destroyed thanks to the incompetence and malfeasance of the federal government; then he gives our plight a grand total of 30 seconds buried obliquely at the end of a 54-minute speech where he spent great detail and time describing the rebuilding of a country that we shouldn’t have gone off and destroyed in the first place. President Bush, you, sir, are a huge, gigantic pile of stinking turd. But, then, we knew that already.

3 Things I Learned in Aruba About Why We Should Have Mardi Gras

  • Feb. 14th, 2006 at 1:09 PM

so we just got back from a week in aruba. nice enough place. during the course of that week, on three different occasions an aruban said a comment that stuck with me, and taken together point to Why We Need To Have Mardi Gras:

(1) we were in a little beach restaurant, tiki torches blazing, toes digging in the sand, conch fritters on the plate, when the waitress asked where we were from. a big table of us, laughing and joking, and all of us from New Orleans. “New Orleans?!” she asked, incredulous, and then she fell silent for a beat, just looking from one of us to the next, then adding, “But you all have such great spirits. This is wonderful.” so, reason number one for us to have mardi gras — we have great spirits, apparently, and while perhaps we should be down in the dumps about being down in the dumps, it’s always good to do the unexpected instead and celebrate what makes us who we are around here, show people what makes this place worth being this place.

(2) a couple of nights later, mrs. swampy and i were alone on a date to a romantic little old cunucu (farmhouse), sitting in the courtyard. the owner had just seated us and asked from where we were visiting. “Oh,” she said, after we told her, with not too much caring in her voice, “Well, I’m originally from the Florida-area,” whatever the hell that might mean — is Tennessee in the “Florida-area,” or do you have to at least be in a contiguous state, but I digress — “so I can relate to what you’ve been through,” she concluded. Not wanting to be impolite, I just smiled and remarked, “Yes, well, it’s been quite a year.” She then said, “We had a couple of those kinds of years,” and then walked imperiously off. Look, if you think you know what we’ve been through, or that any metro region in this country has been through this, without having seen it or having tried to understand what it is to be told by your federal government that the levees they build will protect you so please go ahead and build your neighborhoods and live in this town that services our gas and oil and seafood and port industries and then to have those levees NOT get overtopped by a storm, but UNDERMINED because that same federal government threw standard engineering protocols to the wind, and then to have 80% of the metro area flooded and have more than a thousand people die, then think again. you have to come see it. so, lesson number two, unless you want to piss me and the other million folks in the greater metropolitan region off by making flip little comments like that lady in Aruba, please come down here to see our spirit in mardi gras, but also to see what the hell happened to us.

(3) as we were leaving to go back to the reina beatrix airport from our hotel, our bus driver gave his spiel about thanks for coming to the island, hope you had a nice time, yada, yada, yada, and he added at the end, “. . . and thank you very much for your contribution to our economy.” never heard the spiel put quite that plainly before, but that’s lesson number three on why we should have mardi gras. we need your money. people moan and groan over the couple million it costs the city to put on the parades (extra police overtime and other services), but mardi gras also will, conservatively, inject $50 million directly back into the economy. so come on down. laissez les bon temps rouler.

i know, i know, mardi gras first, but…

  • Feb. 15th, 2006 at 4:55 PM

i got my friday jazzfest tickets today. today was the last day for $20 tickets to the fridays of jazzfest, so Greatest Boy in the World and I went down to the green arena box office after i picked him up from school. the air was soft and warm, GBW pointed out all the clouds scudding about. we picked up a couple of tickets for each friday, plus a couple more for the second friday when my friend the communist wolfman and his wife come down from d.c.

and then we got back home and saw that the preliminary lineup has been announced for each weekend. i just love jazzfest. i just love this town.

Feb. 27th, 2006

  • Feb. 27, 2006, 2:45 AM

i’ve sort of let it go untouched, and most folks have, too, but i’m getting pretty sick and tired of the national media talking about the “extreme segregation” of new orleans uncovered by katrina. that’s just so much bullshit, when lives and property lost hit black and white and rich and poor without prejudice. of course, that’s the reality, and not the convenient little package wrapped up and fed to everyone in the neat, preconceived storyline. no one’s denying the abohorrent racism that is still as much a part of the fabric of new orleans as anywhere (though, i posit, to a far lesser degree than other southern cities i’ve lived in, and to a still lesser degree than the under-wraps structural racism that pervades the “more progressive” northern cities), but to say that this shows new orleans to be some sort of especially evil city of george wallace-snarl-in-the-schoolhouse-door racists is just wrong.

another one: that mardi gras and new orleans are whiter now, or only for the white people, or something else equally bullshitty. anyone who walked around at the parades tonight saw what has been the scene at our parades for, well, ever. white families and black families and hispanic families, all camped out on the neutral grounds or strolling the street in ones, couples, groups, intermingling, laughing with each other with no constructs or insincerity getting in the way. a whole city sitting down together to a large communal picnic of “hey, how’re you doing,” interrupted intermittently by parades.

and then the rebirth brass band tonight at mid-city lanes rock n’ bowl, where the crowd was probably 60/40 black to white but all together in and out through the crowd at the bar, at the tables, on the dance floor, ninety percent locals, everyone dancing their ass off, everyone seeing each other, hugging, asking how each other made it, everyone happy and and relaxed together.

walking a mile in the devil’s shoes

  • March 3rd, 2006 at 8:44 AM

my mardi gras with wolfy began about 10 p.m. on lundi gras, as we retired to the house from a lovely dinner to begin constructing our costumes. one huge bolt of blue tarp and a large roll of duct tape purchased earlier in the day at the hardware store, two chartreuse-fueled imaginations, and we were off. at 3:15 Mardi Gras morning, we proudly hung our outfits up in anticipation of later in the morning: a matching set of pleated baker’s hats marked with our company name (“Heckuva Brownie Company”), a matching set of baker’s tunics bearing our bakery’s menus on the back (“evacuation plans: unavailable; levees and coast: $14B; leadership: priceless; brownies: on the house”), and a matching set of george bush masks set upon wooden spoons. you can see them here.

four hours later, we slowly woke up, drank some coffee and headed down to the marigny, stopping only once for a daquiri on our way. we were early enough that we found good parking just a couple blocks downriver from elysian fields. the marigny locals were already (or, perhaps, still from the night before) hopping, all in fantastical costume. we donned our baker’s outfits and bush masks and began the trek into the quarter. we zig-zagged all about on the streets between bourbon and decatur, eventually cutting up toward canal, then poydras and gallier hall, just as the half-fast walking club and the start of zulu began to make their way into downtown streets.

in addition to countless large chuckles and guffaws and shouts of “Heck of a job, Brownie,” all of which were gratifying, here are some of the other things launched in our path:

one full-body flipping of the bird by a young man in a car, followed by laughter and another full-body bird;

“what’re y’all s’posed to be?”;

one little girl bursting into tears;

“get the fuck out of here, bush! get the fuck out of here, bush! get the fuck out of here, bush!” screamed repeatedly until i walked up to this young man and explained to him that we were making fun of bush, not supporting him, “i damned well hope so,” he replied;

lots and lots of “no, not bush” and “fuck bush”;

one rather timid, “but i love bush”;

one “i oughta’ shoot you in the face”;

one lady putting aside her joint to get in my face and yell, “well, when are you going to come down and see my house in chalmette?! see what fucking heck of a job you done down there. . .” her husband restrained her;

one bearded man with a ukelele who followed along behind us for a block, singing, “brownie you’re the best/to heck with all the rest/we don’t sing this in jest/ ’cause brownie you’re the best” (repeat for one block);

one rather large lady holding a live pet rat who sidled up to us and said, “happy mardi gras, from one rat bastard to another”;

one very conservative looking older lady (probably in her 70s), who took one look at our company logo and said, “should have said ‘fuckuva'”;

an offer (accepted) to step into the offeror’s courtyard for a beer.

that’s just a sampling, a highlight reel. it took us 20 minutes to get down some blocks, for all the picture-taking we were asked to pose for, including standing either side of one of those evangelicals as he berated some poor college student. lots of tv cameras getting shots of us, and many photographers with press credentials dangling. didn’t see us on tv or in the local papers after, but an online search shows we at least made the athens banner-herald(registration required), and the thunder bay, ontario’s chronicle-journal (good picture, and no registration required).

much fun. it was a little stressful to have the people yelling at me, but i know it served two good purposes: getting “fuck bush” yelled out on the street, and serving as some therapeutic catharsis for some people who really needed it. i wonder if our satire was too subtle.

old crotchety man, that’s me

  • May 22nd, 2006 at 10:41 AM

i haven’t posted in a while. sorry. life is hectic, with new big boy room being constructed for the Greatest Big Boy in the World, doctor’s appointments and preparations for Baby Brother, a Huge Ass Pile of Dirt to move, Lent revisions to make, niggling little hurricane repairs to make, actual law work to do, yada yada, and more yada. but here’s something:

do you know that old mean guy out in the country? the one who steps out onto his porch with a long shotgun whenever someone approaches his property? you know the one i’m talking about? overalls stained with tobacco juice, a mangy hound cowering behind him, faded Red Man baseball cap on a shock of hair trimmed with a buck knife? right, that’s the one. well, it turns out that’s me. or, at least, is going to be.

ever since the Thing (you know, that Storm), people drive crazy. crazier, anyway. flying down the street. it started when we came back, mainly contractors and emergency response personnel, who for a month after the Thing didn’t have to worry about residents and laws and could just go willy-nilly wherever and however they wanted. now everybody seems to do it, flying down our residential street, blowing through stop signs. it’s out of control. the other day, i stopped my car and glared at an oncoming driver. for some reason, he stopped, rolled down his window, and said, “what?” “STOP speeding down my street. PLEASE,” I said, firmly. “I wasn’t speeding,” he said, the liar. “You were FLYING,” I replied. “I wasn’t flying,” said the insolent bastard. “HAVE SOME FUCKING RESPECT FOR THE PEOPLE WHO LIVE HERE,” I said a little more firmly. He glared and took back off, running through the stop sign.

A couple of days later, I’m up in my carport cutting some wood (see above re big boy room — there’s a surf shack bed involved), when i hear a loud revving of an engine as someone takes off from the stop sign. i look over my shoulder to see the little speeding compact blurring past my house. i stalk out to the street, and there the poor bastard sits, parked, not four houses away. i walk down there. he’s got teenage girls, probably his daughter and a friend being dropped off, milling by the car. i ignore them and duck my head into his car. “Please stop speeding on my street,” I say again, to this one, “there are small children and families who live and play around here.” This guy was much more sheepish. “Oh, sorry, didn’t realize I was speeding. So sorry.” Likely what he was really thinking was, “Please don’t pull out a knife, crazy man.”

So, look, everyone. We’re all a little on edge around here. Be nice to us. Drive safely. Stay away from my property before I pull out the shotgun.

Ahem

  • June 8th, 2006 at 9:04 AM

Dear Senator Vitter,

I would appreciate it if you did not have your staff spit out a prefabricated letter regarding my opposition to the “Marriage Protection Amendment,” but would instead respond to my main concern voiced very clearly in the first paragraph of my email to you — that you publicly proclaimed with regard to the gay marriage amendment, “I don’t believe there’s any issue that’s more important than this one.” My email to you, Senator, was not a generic contact opposing your stance on gay marriage, but was a specific concern that you are giving several issues that you very well know are far more important — hurricane recovery and coastal restoration — very short shrift when you engage in such political hyperbole. It is your job for as long as it takes, both as a Senator and especially as a Louisiana citizen, to put NO issue above these. You damage us all when you do so. That is my issue, and it is that issue as to which I and many others demand a response. I did not generate a generic email to you, and I would appreciate it if you did not generate a generic, and nonresponsive, email/lipservice back to me.

Harvey Bartlett

Jun. 13th, 2006

  • June 13, 2006, 10:07 PM

Max Edward Bartlett was born at 2:27 this afternoon. Seven pounds, one ounce. Nineteen inches. Mama and baby are doing well. I’ll leave it up to my more technologically savvy sister, nolagrl, to post some pictures. Probably this weekend I’ll post a link to a Shutterfly album.

i finally get around to jazzfest . . .

  • June 28th, 2006 at 5:06 PM

as soon as i heard the seeger sessions band’s jazzfest set back on april 30, i wanted to review it, properly shout its virtues to the world. but as i thought about it, i realized that part of what made it so perfect was that it was completely undivorceable from the post-Katrina experience as a whole, that a review would have to encompass a reflection on everything about being here these past months. so it took me awhile, what with the book to finish and preparations to be made for the arrival of the King of All the Wild Things, but i’ve done it. it’s very lengthy, and it’s behind the cut.

A Year Living Among the Lucky Ones, or The Healing Power of Music

By Tad Bartlett

There’s a blood-red circle

On the cold, dark ground . . .

On August 26, 2005, we piled into the car, my wife, my two-year-old son, and me, and headed for the Florida beaches. San Destin. A business trip of sorts. Just three days, no cats, some flip flops, and a kite. There was a storm coming, its name blended in with the year’s alphabetical list, but we were little concerned because it was barely a category one out on the Atlantic side of the Florida peninsula and the only thing it was supposed to do if it crossed over into the Gulf was curve up toward Apalachicola and maybe chase us home a little earlier on Sunday than we had otherwise planned. Some good waves for body-surfing, maybe.

That kite’s still sealed in its package, almost a year later, stuck in the crevice between the driver’s seat and the center console of my car.

The next time I would see my house in the New Orleans suburb of Metairie would be ten days after the storm-that-transcends-its-name, on a quick trip in and out on my brother-in-law’s emergency personnel pass, to secure our house and three of the in-laws’ houses. On the way in from our evacuation home in Montgomery, through Mississippi on the I-10 bridge across the marsh flats near Moss Point/Pascagoula, huge ocean-going shrimp boats and tug boats from the port miles away toward the Gulf were washed up against the bridge pilings. Then as we got closer in through Biloxi and Gulfport, big thick metal poles used to support the casinos’ giant billboards were snapped in two, as if they were trees. The trees were, of course, all treated the same. Once in Louisiana, Army and Guard troops were everywhere. The wind damage was amazing. Power lines and trees down. And trees not just snapped in half, but completely uprooted, pulling up whole yards and sidewalks and streets and water and sewer lines with them. Roofs compromised everywhere. Buildings collapsed every few blocks. Three houses in my neighborhood had burned down due to gas leaks. Our roof was shredded.

Metairie as a whole had suffered widespread flooding when the pump operators had been evacuated a hundred miles north of town and couldn’t get back in until twenty-four hours after the storm. Like New Orleans-proper, without operating pumps, Metairie and the rest of suburban Jefferson Parish is a bowl waiting to be filled up. The debris line marking the water’s furthest advance was a half-inch below the threshold of my front door. The edge of the flooring by the back door still has an even darkness showing that the water had just leveled off at coming in when the water receded. We were a high house on the high street in the neighborhood.

Four houses away and around a corner that day ten days after the storm, I helped my brother-in-law pull out carpeting and stack furniture out in the carport, a foot of water having entered his house. About the same time a few miles away, in a part of Metairie drained by the 17th Street Canal, my other brother-in-law was wading through five feet of water to get to his house. It was still inundated, along with about eighty percent of New Orleans. Like I said, we were the lucky ones.

I grabbed one of our cats that was living half-wild in our house, stuffed her into my brother-in-law’s truck along with some clothes and papers, and we headed back to Montgomery. We were one of the last cars headed out onto the Causeway Bridge over Lake Pontchartrain that evening. At six p.m., Jefferson Parish entered a two-week lockdown, only essential personnel allowed in or out while the parish and the utility companies worked to make at least that portion of the metro area habitable again. As we drove across the bridge, I looked back. I could see the New Orleans skyline, the scarred Superdome, and a fresh column of smoke from something burning over by the Coast Guard station.

The next time I came home was another two and a half weeks later, three days after Rita had roared into southwestern Louisiana and Texas. In addition to the direct devastation over there, her storm surge had re-flooded parts of Orleans Parish, as well as parts of St. Bernard, Plaquemines, and coastal Jefferson Parishes. Her rain bands had plied their way through our Katrina-shredded roof and given us water damage where Katrina had failed. But, we were still among the lucky ones.

You feel a pull, when you live here these days, to drive around, sometimes to stop and help at a neighborhood cleanup or a house gutting, sometimes to just drive around and see and remember. To drive into the neighborhoods where people can’t live these days. There are garish fluorescently hued insignias spray-painted on all the houses in the flooded zones, still to this day. Circles in reds and pinks and oranges, with “x”s marked through them, dividing them into quadrants.

The top quadrant is the date the house was searched. The left quadrant is the abbreviation of the organization that conducted the search. The bottom quadrant marks the disposition of any pets. The right quadrant indicates the number of survivors or bodies found in the house.

* * *

. . . and the rain is falling down.

Here’s my blog entry from August thirty-first, after twenty-four hours of staring in disbelief between a television screen and my computer screen, still sitting at a beach resort in San Destin, interrupted intermittently by hushed and strained conversations with my co-workers, with whom we had been on a firm retreat, and by late-night drives in the car along the beach road so that we could pick up New Orleans’ WWL for any static-laden scraps of local information we could lay our ears on:

“One press conference by one official says we’ll be able to get back in on Monday to see our houses, get our clothes, and get out again for the next month. Another tells us that there’s water everywhere and we can’t get back in. Then the WWL-TV website says that the 17th street Canal levee’s about to go in all directions and that twelve to fifteen feet of water will inundate everywhere, then WWL radio comes on with the mayor of Kenner to say it’s disinformation and that the breach is only affecting Orleans Parish and not Jefferson Parish, then the WWL-TV website takes the warning about flooding everywhere off the site and replaces it with the message about getting back in next week. Then the governor’s on CNN agreeing to the statement that everywhere’s about to flood.

“What the hell’s happening? How’s my house and the one cat Nicole’s cousin couldn’t find when he was getting stuff out? We were gone on vacation to the beach when this thing turned our way. There’s so much I would have gotten out of there if I could have known.

“But I have the most important things. I’ve got Nicole and Eli with me. The latest draft of my book.

“And then I can’t even begin to get my head around Mississippi. Ellen, I hope you are all right and alive. Ryan’s folks, same for you. Two of Nicole’s uncles lived in Waveland. They drove back in part of the way and walked the rest today. Their houses are concrete slabs. One of them found an heirloom crystal punch bowl sitting in the center of the slab, unscathed.

“And then there’s Orleans Parish. One of the secretaries at my firm (our vacation was a firm ‘retreat,’ ironically) lives blocks from the breach in the 17th Street Canal levee, and his house is completely under water. He rented, had no insurance. The wedding rings were supposed to have been left safely in a jewelry box in the house so as not to get lost on the trip to the beach. And then there’s all the poor folks who live(d) in the Ninth Ward, who couldn’t afford to evacuate. And the Dome. Tom Benson’s got his retractable roof stadium now. Levity just really doesn’t work in this situation, does it?

“And then the dead. And then the survivors. The million homeless and unemployed.

“And then the looting and the shooting.

“And then and then and then. I can’t get my head around it. I want to get in, find my other cat, take some pictures for the insurance company, get out, get a check from them, move somewhere far away from the coast, drink heavily to numb my emotions and senses, lose myself in my son and my wife.

“But that’s not how it will happen. It will be months and years of being there, hot, sweaty, rebuilding. The small goodnesses of many people will eventually outweigh the large badness of a few people. We will not be numb, but stronger, wearier. Our Lady of Prompt Succor will give us another three hundred years of protection. The Saints may even win a Super Bowl in that time. And Tom Benson might get his stadium. And the dead will be remembered.

“FUCK KATRINA.”

* * *

. . . The church doors blown open,

I can hear the organ’s song,

But the congregation’s gone.

The St. Thomas More Society – an association of Catholic lawyers – usually holds a “Red Mass” at St. Louis Cathedral in the French Quarter to mark the beginning of the Louisiana Supreme Court’s annual term on October 1 each year. The Court didn’t open on October 1 this past year. The city’s courts were all relocated still, or shut down, and many of the city’s attorneys were still displaced from both home and office. Instead, the service was held December 1. I was there.

It was weird, going down to the French Quarter in the middle of the day with blue skies, perfect breeze and temperatures, and no people. There’s always people in the Quarter at lunchtime, even in hottest summer, and especially in the cooler fall and winter months. Not so much tourists or conventioneers, though plenty of those, but lawyers and businessmen feeling the oncoming holiday season and heading down to fine restaurants for extended lunches and annual reflections.

The Red Mass is a particularly apt occasion for such an influx, a perfect confluence of pomp and circumstance. But not on that day in December, a little over three months after the storm. I parked on a street close to the Cathedral, ignored the parking meter because there were no meter maids living in the city anymore, then walked over and attended a half-full mass. Everyone looked around hopefully and anxiously as others walked in, wanting to see familiar faces. But those familiar faces were still in Baton Rouge, Jackson, Houston, and places even farther afield.

Two months later, I went with a group of young attorneys to a cleanup in the Gentilly neighborhood, a vast residential area on the north side of town that got hit with water from breaches on all sides. Eight to twelve feet of water had stood for weeks in these streets and homes and businesses. The block we were cleaning up held the immense San Rafael church and school complex. We took a break from the gray winds of January and went inside the sanctuary. Pews and once-grand carved wood wall panels kneeled and prostrated themselves before the mold-covered altar.

The stink that greeted all of the lucky ones of us who could return to our homes in September or October or November was still looming in this place. This was just one neighborhood church on one block of one neighborhood in a town full of huge tracts of now-deserted residential areas. New Orleans was and is a confederation of distinct neighborhoods. Families don’t leave their neighborhoods for generations. Well, they used to not.

* * *

. . . My city of ruins

My city of ruins . . .

Early on after the storm, my brother-in-law who works as an engineer down in St. Bernard Parish took a camera with him to take pictures for one of our friends of their house in Arabi. Arabi was a pleasant little neighborhood of comfortable houses downriver from the Industrial Canal, just across the parish line from the Lower Ninth Ward. The pictures he brought back were to become a familiar sight.

Our friends’ house had water up into the attic for weeks. The ceiling had collapsed, with all its weight of blackened insulation, atop all the furniture. The refrigerator and some other heavy appliances had floated up and then laid down on top of some of the other furniture. Everything was covered in climbing black and green and fuzzy white circles of mold.

But there were other pictures on that roll of film. Boats upside-down on the roofs of two-story houses in Chalmette. R.V.s on top of cars. Houses completely shifted off of their foundations and sagging, tired, on their neighbors’ lawns.

In the mid-60s, the Corps of Engineers, hands-in-wallet with powerful shipping interests and congressmen, built the Mississippi-River Gulf Outlet – the “MR-GO” – drawing a straight line across a map from the Gulf of Mexico through St. Bernard Parish and into the port facilities in New Orleans’s Ninth Ward at the Industrial Canal through a tie-in with the Intracoastal Waterway. Fairly quickly upon completion of the MR-GO, thousands of acres of vital, surge-dampening cypress swamps and marsh flats were killed off by the saltwater intrusion and turned into open water.

The MR-GO quickly eroded the marsh grass at its banks and became a three-hundred-foot wide channel for Gulf waters straight into the heart of the city. Ironically, not long after the construction of the MR-GO, ocean-going freighters grew bigger, with deeper drafts, and very few could or did make use of the MR-GO. Yet Congress kept on appropriating money to dredge the channel, and the Corps kept right on maintaining it.

The water that flooded St. Bernard came from two places – overtopping of substandard levees maintained by the Corps along the MR-GO, and the breach of an Industrial Canal filled with waters funneled from the Gulf through the MR-GO.

* * *

. . . Now the sweet veils of mercy

Drift through the evening trees . . .

Trick or treating through powerlessness-darkened streets littered with rotting refrigerator carcasses and roofing nails being generally considered to be not a good idea, New Orleanians adapted. In one adaptation, our church parish offered up its parking lot for “trunk or treating.” Not a pseudo-religious, neutered fall festival like what they have put on over in the Baptist church parking lot for years, but a venue for some for-real Halloween pagan tradition and revelry.

But nothing organized, either. Just, “Come pull your car up in the parking lot and bring your kids and dish out treats to the trick or treaters.” Of course, these are New Orleanians we’re talking about, and a spontaneous city of ghouls and ghosts and kids dressed up like bounty hunters (I had a hard time thinking about the parent who thought this was a good idea, but as a rare Southern liberal, what do I know) and werewolves and witches and Power Rangers and countless numbers of those “Scream” monsters sprang out of the asphalt by the church. Full-blown decorations on most cars (not ours – “Should we bring some decorations?” “No, surely folks won’t be going to all that trouble” was the conversation at our house before we left), up to and including miniature haunted houses in tents pitched next to SUVs and Winnebagos.

Pizzas, tailgating, skatepunks, kindly old grandparent-types sitting on their back bumpers with a basket of candy corn. Parents mutated by latex masks into bizarre monsters with smoke machines and strobe lights and screaming soundtracks to lend fright to their goodie bags.

This is the spirit of New Orleanians that comes out just about every opportunity for a celebration of any kind, the thing that drives some of the wildest and tackiest Christmas yard decorations imaginable, the thing that makes full living room and kitchenette ensembles spring up out of the neutral ground in the days leading up to Mardi Gras, the thing that makes folks smile when they smell the first crawfish boiling in early winter. And it was damaged not at all by Kat-Rita.

Our Eli was a dinosaur, with perfected lines of “trick or treat,” “happy Halloween,” “thank you,” and “roar, I’m a dinosaur,” for all he approached.

* * *

. . . Young men on the corner

Like scattered leaves . . .

My sister’s house is in an uptown area of New Orleans near the devastated neighborhood of Broadmoor. It was only two blocks the wrong side of the water line, the reach of the floodwaters, an ubiquitous series of brown lines around the city, but still it sat in about five feet of that muck for weeks. She holed up with her boyfriend’s parents in Longview, Texas, and worked together a web-based check-in for all of Tulane University’s College of Liberal Arts and Science’s employees and faculty to reconnect. In October, she found out that her position as communications director of the college was one of many being eliminated.

My brother-in-law who waded through five feet of water to get to his house in Old Metairie ten days after the storm had been the pathologist at the lab at Chalmette Medical Center in St. Bernard Parish. That hospital, along with almost every other structure in the parish, was destroyed, along with his job.

While we were evacuated together for a month, I watched my father-in-law, a business owner in New Orleans with a little over a hundred employees, fight through to track down all of his employees, get them home or help them find jobs where they landed, and then put together a business that could keep the ones employed who came home.

As those of us who could get home went home, the men and women who we hired to help us clear our downed trees and fix our roofs and houses and raise our fences were mechanics and grocery store clerks and small business owners from the Ninth Ward, Gentilly, St. Bernard, Plaquemines, and the East. The only way to keep from breaking down when sitting in the back yard at the end of a hot day of cutting up limbs with these guys was to see that they were keeping from breaking down themselves.

* * *

. . . The boarded up windows . . .

When I used to live in the great northern climes of Alabama, we would have an ice storm or snow system come through once every few years. Everyone would go to the grocery stores and buy all of the bread, milk, and toilet paper. Seemed for some reason that this holy trinity of groceries would save you from whatever winter perils lay ahead.

Now that I live in the hurricane zone, I’ve learned a new trinity of emergency preparedness: plywood, batteries, and bottled water. The batteries and bottled water I understand. The plywood’s a bit of a mystery. Preparing to evacuate is hard enough, but then some folks – okay, a lot of folks – take several hours of vital panic time to measure, cut, and install plywood panels over all of their windows. I had always thought that, if the hurricane wants to come in, it’s going to come in.

We never bothered to board up windows before an evacuation. When I went home to secure the house after Katrina, no windows were blown out, or in, but, like I said before, the roof was fairly shredded. Boarded-up windows were not going to have kept the water out. When the Corps of Engineer’s damned “hurricane protection” levees broke, flooding parts of my town with up to twelve feet of water for as much as three weeks, no plywood panels were going to save the hundreds of thousands of affected houses and businesses and churches from destruction.

You would think the plywood would have at least served the purpose of providing a nice, neat canvas for the search and rescue groups to paint their “x”s of information. I mean, who hasn’t seen the pictures of the downtown rug purveyor’s store, with its large plywood paneling screwed over the plate glass windows, with the painted warnings to stay out, that he had a mean woman and large dog inside, amended to read later that the woman had split and that he had dog gumbo for returning evacuees? In my own neighborhood upon our return, flooded businesses would use their window boards to spray-paint their temporary phone numbers and messages that they had reopened in new locations. These were messages often of hope and humor.

But not for the rescue groups these ready backgrounds for their fluorescent spray paint. I got lost one day a couple months after the storm, in my own hometown, trying to get back from my sister’s house, where I had been trying to get the maggot-infested refrigerator out of the upstairs kitchen. Kept getting turned around by piles of debris and abandoned cars, until I found myself driving through the ghost neighborhood of Lakeview.

The water line was well over the roof of my car, a deep set of brown lines about ten feet up the walls of the houses, mud caking the cars in the driveways. Often when I’m driving around town I get a panicked, drowning feeling as I watch that water line, as if the water’s still there and I just need to get my head above it, to breathe.

Well, there they were, on each of those empty houses. The searchers’ marks. Those with earlier dates, in the first week or two after the storm, were up on the walls above the water line, on second stories, where searchers had gone in by boat. But there were fresher marks, coming in the third week after the storm, big orange and pink and red “x”s on the exterior walls adjacent to the front doors. Then I passed a large brick two-story, all its windows diligently boarded-up, big wooden backdrops for the searchers to indicate what was what in the house.

Instead, across the brick exterior in bright orange, large letters was the familiar four quadrants. No one was dead in this house, but some pet rescuers, in primitive CSI fashion, had scrawled “FRESH CAT POOP.”

* * *

. . . The hustlers and thieves

While my brother’s down on his knees . . .

The looting has never stopped.

In the immediate aftermath of the storm, what are you going to do? I mean, the stashes of color televisions that police found in looters’ dens after the storm were stupid and evil, and particularly pointless considering nobody had any power, but there was also just a lot of people who needed food or bottled water or, for God’s sake, deoderant. I mean, come on, it was early September in New Orleans and nobody had air conditioning, and I think you know where I’m going with this.

But leave those moral and ethical dilemmas behind, ten months behind as I write this. The problem now is still here, and far worse. There are neighborhoods hugging the river down through the Ninth Ward, on the sliver of naturally high ground where the Mississippi used to be allowed to deposit an annual load of silt and build things up, where small, old houses sit proud and unflooded. There’s no power to the neighborhoods and still only intermittent clean water, and few residents have returned.

But those that have find that the little architectural details that make their nineteenth century shotguns and camelbacks and creole cottages so uniquely New Orleanian are disappearing each night by the truckload. Cast iron exterior vent covers, gingerbread cornices, heavy cypress shutters, stained glass attic windows. It’s as if the fighter was knocked down, tried to get up, then when the referee had his back turned his foe came over and knocked all of his teeth out.

In Lakeview, there are finally a few homeowners trying to get in and fix their homes. Appliances get delivered, or a precious stack of sheetrock, get locked up in the vacant home until the workers can come and install them, but the next morning it’s all vanished, gone again.

I’m not tough for coming home four weeks after the storm and trying to make a life here. It’s these people who are tough, for whom the storm keeps happening day after day, almost a year later. I don’t know how you do it, except for love. Love of a city where your family’s lived for centuries, or a culture and a people you just can’t find anywhere else.

* * *

. . . My city of ruins,

My city of ruins.

My blog entry from September 5, 2005, begins, “Watched Wynton Marsalis play ‘St. James Infirmary’ on Larry King tonight, and wept.”

On the Friday after the storm – what was it, day four, day five, it had seemed already like forever – I was sitting reading news reports on the internet in our room in San Destin when my cell phone rang. It was my secretary. She had skipped the firm retreat to help her daughter, a nursing student at LSU, move into her dormitory in one of the medical buildings in downtown New Orleans near the Charity Hospital complex.

She was trapped. Two days before, she had called me to tell me where she was, surrounded by water in the downtown Health Sciences Building with three hundred nursing students and their families. When I had asked her then if she needed me to try to call someone to get them out, she had told me they were fine, that someone had gone for help and that they were expecting to be rescued at any point.

But on that Thursday, it had all changed. As they had waited into the night on Wednesday, growing weary and tired, someone in the group had made a roster of who all was in the building and then told everyone to go back to their rooms to try to get some sleep, that all would be rescued when help came. No one dared to go out on their own, my secretary told me, because of the floodwaters, but also because of roving bands of young men with guns.

When help did come, someone forgot to consult the roster they had made and take roll. My secretary and her daughter and a handful of others woke up Thursday to find everyone else gone, rescued, and the doors chained and padlocked from the outside, with several pit bulls left behind prowling the hallways.

My secretary was out of her mind with exhaustion as she told me how they had hung sheets and hastily made banners out of the windows of the building to attract the attention of anyone who could help them, how the police had finally seen them and managed to cut the chains from the doors, how they had then been ferried by boat, then helicopter, then bus, to Baton Rouge, then dropped off in the middle of a crack neighborhood by the bus driver, with no shelter facility, no hotel, no anything around them. She was calling me from the house of a stranger who had passed by them as they huddled on the side of a forlorn street, who had given them a ride and put them up in his own home.

She was exhausted.

* * *

. . . Come on rise up!

Come on rise up!

The first businesses to reopen in Metairie in any great numbers, while New Orleans itself was still under lockdown, were the daquiri shops. Thank God for that. Many of the churches were still shuttered, and most of the bookstores would not reopen for many months, but we could get a nice cold daquiri and that, at least, was something.

Two days after we returned home, which was a month to the day from when we had left for our three-day beach vacation, I noticed that the weeds were growing in the front garden again, and I was glad. I also saw spring blossoms on the Japanese magnolia and the dwarf camellias. Signs of rebirth.

The second week of October, my insurance adjuster showed up. That same day, I was uptown checking on some friends’ houses when I saw a lady set up on the sidewalk on St. Charles Avenue with a folding table, a cooler full of shaved ice, and some colorful syrup bottles, selling sidewalk sno-balls. Another sure sign of rebirth.

On the other hand, the televangelists and the conservative “Christians” were all busy now telling us that we got what we deserved, what with all the sodomy and hedonism. Nice. Real fucking nice.

* * *

. . . Now there’s tears on the pillow,

Darling, where we slept,

And you took my heart when you left.

Without your sweet kiss,

My soul is lost, my friend.

Now tell me how do I begin again?

How many families had to live apart after the storm? By November, my brother-in-law the pathologist was camped out on the second floor of their home, the first floor gutted, while he tried to piece together a fill-in job here or there at the few hospitals operating in the region. His wife and children lived in a little rented house in Arnaudville, two hours away, where the kids could go to a school that wasn’t flooded and shuttered.

Most of my law firm had temporarily relocated to Jackson, Mississippi, but the families of the secretaries and paralegals and attorneys in most cases were living elsewhere, usually with family in far-flung places. The secretary whose home and wedding rings went into the muck in Lakeview was living with the firm in Jackson during the week, and coming to Metairie on the weekends to stay at his mom’s house while he made day-trips into Lakeview to dig through mud and debris for his family’s belongings. In the meantime, his wife and three children were living with his wife’s family in west Texas.

This separation repeated itself over and over, with reunions happening gradually after long absences. During Mardi Gras weekend, six months after the storm, I went with a friend down to Mid-City Lanes Rock n’ Bowl to bowl a few frames and catch a set of good New Orleans street music by the Rebirth Brass Band. Mid-City was another neighborhood that had sat in eight to twelve feet of water for weeks after the storm, another neighborhood where few people live again, yet.

The Rock n’ Bowl would usually be packed to capacity for a Rebirth show during Mardi Gras, but this night, in this neighborhood, it was a group of maybe a hundred, maybe more like fifty, who watched the men wail on their trumpets and trombones and saxes and sousaphones to the steady beat of a snare drum and a big, battered bass drum. During the set break, old friends with glistened eyes bumped fists, white and black, hugged, asked “Where you at?” and “How’d you make out?” and said, “It’s great to be home, great to see you.”

Don’t get me wrong, there were packed venues down in the Quarter and in the Warehouse District near the tourist’s hotels with lots of crowds and raucous behavior. But here, in this place and with this music, this was home, and these were our people, and this was our homecoming.

* * *

. . . My city’s in ruins,

My city’s in ruins.

By Thanksgiving weekend, it was time for a break. Even in the repopulated neighborhoods, the piles of debris and intermittent utilities could take their toll. We headed back to Alabama for the holiday with my family. It was strange to see streets that were quiet and tree-shaded. No mountains of moldy sheetrock on the curb. No trailers installed on every lawn. No endless parade of dump trucks and trailers hauling trees and appliances.

On the way back home, though, we re-entered our reality in a hurry. In Slidell, the I-10 traffic came to a halt as everyone narrowed down to go across the one span of the twin spans that was open. Temporary repairs had not yet been completed to the westbound span, which had lost many of its sections to the storm surge in Lake Pontchartrain. We detoured off into Slidell neighborhoods near the lake to wiggle our way to the old Highway 11 bridge.

These neighborhoods, not victims of ineptly designed and constructed levees, had nevertheless suffered their own extreme devastation when the storm surge in the lake had washed through them. House after house sat empty, gutted of walls down to the studs, so you could see through their skeletons to the neighborhood beyond.

After about twenty minutes of this detour, my two-year-old son in the backseat spoke up and said, “The people are all gone, daddy.” Just a quiet observation, and nothing else.

* * *

. . . Now with these hands

I pray lord . . .

Lord, we were an angry people. Almost from the day the storm made landfall, we were beset by people ignorant of history and commerce and culture with diatribes about how sane people wouldn’t live here, how it was stupid to live in this place. Then came the people who said this was somehow God’s will.

Later, it came out that the breaches in the levees came in places where the Corps of Engineers’ designs had ignored the findings of soil borings and good engineering practices and that the floodwalls had been built on sheet pilings put to depths so shallow as to almost guarantee failure. We found out that, at the storm’s strength at New Orleans, if the levees and floodwalls had actually been built to the category-three strength promised by the Corps, we would have never flooded.

We already knew that the federal government couldn’t deal with the aftermath of the storm, what with FEMA’s Mike Brown’s “heck of a job,” and with the President’s oh-so-helpful flyovers and walking tours and his oh-so-empty Jackson Square speech promising a stronger and better New Orleans than ever before. Now we were finding out that it was the federal government’s ineptitude that had caused much of this to begin with.

We also found out that most folks out in the world, once the first month or so had passed, just didn’t much care anymore to hear us talk about it. Get over it, they were saying. Almost a year later, we can’t get over it. More than half of us can’t get back into our homes and start rebuilding, yet, with FEMA rebuilding guidelines not yet finalized, insurance money held up in Byzantine corridors of policy language, and federal money not expected to make its way from Congress’s torture rooms through federal bureaucracy and state bureaucracy to homeowners until sometime this fall, more than a year after. And even for those who have their insurance money or who are willing to take from their own savings and hope for insurance or federal money later, there isn’t anywhere near enough contractors and construction material to go around.

* * *

. . . With these hands,

For the strength, Lord . . .

Perhaps I didn’t have a fix on just how united we were in our anger until Mardi Gras day. A friend of mine and I had been up most of the night before putting together chef’s tokes and hats out of the blue tarp that covered our roofs after the storm. We affixed insignia denoting us as the “Heckuva Brownie Company,” and added a menu on our backs that read, “Evacuation plans: Unavailable/ Levees and coast: $14 billion/ Leadership: Priceless/ Brownies: On the house.” Topping off the costume were George W. Bush masks affixed to wooden spoon handles to cover our faces.

Early Mardi Gras morning, we drove down and parked my car in the Marigny and began a slow, serpentine parade through the Marigny and into the Quarter, then on toward the parade route in the Central Business District, as far as Gallier Hall, the old city hall on St. Charles Avenue where the city officials greet the krewes as they parade down from uptown.

In addition to countless large chuckles and guffaws and shouts of “Heck of a job, Brownie,” all of which were gratifying, there were a number of other tellingly emotional responses to our get-up:

  • One young man, maybe twenty or so, pulled up to a stop sign where we crossed a street in the Quarter, twisted up his arms in a violent contortion and gave us a full -body flipping of the bird. We laughed, hoping he knew we were lampooning and not praising, and he laughed then, too, then flipped another full-body bird.
  • One sleepy looking mulleted man looked quizzically at us and asked, “What’re y’all s’posed to be?” I figured that, if he didn’t understand right away, it would take too long to explain. We just kept our masks up and kept walking silently.
  • One little girl, about five or six, burst into tears upon seeing us.
  • Three teen-aged boys sitting on the low wall bordering Lafayette Square kept shouting, over and over, “Get the fuck out of here, Bush! Get the fuck out of here, Bush! Get the fuck out of here, Bush!” I was so fearful that they misunderstood our intentions that I broke the silent act and walked up to them and explained that we were making fun of Bush, not supporting him. “I damned well hope so,” he replied.
  • There were countless murmurings and shoutings of “No, not Bush,” and “Fuck Bush” from the crowds as we walked past.
  • To counter these, and in the interest of fairness and balance, let me report here that there was also one rather timid, “But I love Bush” that I heard.
  • One young man looked at me and said, “I oughta’ shoot you in the face.”
  • One lady leaning against an old beat-up car in the Quarter with five or six others put aside her joint to get in my face and yell, “Well, when are you going to come down and see my house in Chalmette?! See what a fucking heck of a job you done down there!” Her husband restrained her before she could say or do anything more.
  • One bearded older man with a ukelele followed along behind us for a block, dancing and singing, “Brownie you’re the best./ To heck with all the rest./ We don’t sing this in jest,/ ‘Cause Brownie you’re the best.”
  • One rather large lady holding a live pet rat sidled up to us and said, “Happy Mardi Gras, from one rat bastard to another.”
  • One very conservative looking older lady, probably in her 70s, took one look at our company logo and said, “Should have said ‘fuck-u-va,’” then offered for us to come back to her courtyard for a beer, an offer that we accepted.

That’s just a sampling, a highlight reel. It took us twenty minutes to get down some blocks, for all the picture-taking we were asked to pose for, including standing either side of one of those evangelicals as he berated some poor college student on Canal Street. We ended up making the Mardi Gras coverage of the Athens Banner-Herald and the Thunder Bay, Ontario’s Chronicle-Journal.

* * *

. . . With these hands,

For the faith, Lord . . .

There’s two sides to the coins you dig out of the sludge around here. On one side, the New York Times was reporting in June 2006 that mental health professionals estimate that the suicide and depression rates have tripled in the New Orleans area since Katrina. On the other side, there seem to have been a lot of people taking solace in each others’ arms during the evacuation, as a mini baby boom is taking place in New Orleans. Our own second son was just born on June 13.

From the beginning the two sides of this coin were evident. On September 25, the day we came home, I wrote in my blog, “Definite flashes of that New Orleans spirit — the Saints suck, we’re cleaning up, we’ll be back. But then empty stares and wringing hands and shaking heads of people who have lost everything, wondering of who is going to come back, where will there be jobs.” These dual edges have not changed.

* * *

. . . With these hands,

I pray, Lord . . .

The weekend of April 28-30 brought the first New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival – Jazzfest – since the storm. Opening Friday my wife and I were in line, coming in the gates not long after they opened, tears in eyes and lumps in throats. I barely remember the music I heard that day, but I do remember the people. People from home, and people from everywhere else, coming to sit with us and share with us. We thanked so many people, perfect strangers, for coming to our city and eating our food and listening to our music and spending their money.

On the Sunday of that opening weekend, I camped out with my sister in front of the main stage, the Acura Stage, to hear Bruce Springsteen and the Seeger Sessions Band play their first official performance in support of their just-released We Shall Overcome album. I don’t know why I thought it would be important to be there. I’ve never been a Springsteen fan. He was sort of locked in in my psyche as the guy with the bubbly song and the video with Courtney Cox dancing like a loon on the stage. I’m a touch too young and I was a lot too punk to have gotten into him back then or before.

Regardless, on April 30, there I was. It had stormed the night before, leaving ankle-deep mud oozing around our blanket on the infield. We were about halfway back between the stage and sound booth. We sat through great sets by Los Vecinos, John Mooney and Bluesiana, Sonny Landreth, and Allen Toussaint with Elvis Costello, enjoying the music and the vibe. During one of the set breaks, a little Cessna flew over the crowd, towing a banner reading, “Impeach Bush,” drawing the heartiest cheers so far that day.

When the Seeger Sessions Band’s time came, eighteen musicians took the stage with Springsteen: fiddlers, horn players, a banjoist, acoustic guitarists, a pianist, a couple of drummer/percussionists, a pedal steel guitar player, some vocalists. From the get-go, it was a musical experience, a total immersion and integration of performers and congregants and time and place, like I’ve never had.

At first, they stuck with the We Shall Overcome songs, plus a couple of Springsteen classics re-imagined for the big band – nothing specific to or about New Orleans. Yet, it all was about us that day, and we knew it. The first song, O Mary Don’t You Weep, ostensibly about the escape of the Israelites from Egypt, found Springsteen yelling special emphasis on the line, “Not a wall of water, but fire next time,” with corresponding rise in the crowd’s response.

The following songs, loud, rattling versions of John Henry, Johnny 99, and Old Dan Tucker, lifted spirits. A tension sits on all of us most of the time, and this stretch of the Seeger Sessions Band’s set split it cleanly and took it from us. Springsteen attacked the songs as if his life depended on reaching us, helping us understand and helping others understand us. The band then slowed into Eyes on the Prize. For the first time that day, 70,000 people stood transfixed, tears at their eyes, singing along softly. I saw one of the burly security guards – if you go to Jazzfest often and go to the Acura Stage, you’ll know the guy, the very large, almost round man with the wrap-around sunglasses and the purple Staff t-shirt – weeping openly.

The band picked us up again with a playfully angry Jesse James. After that, Springsteen told the crowd that they were going to play a song “about the other great American natural disaster in our country’s history,” then played My Oklahoma Home. At the chorus of “It blowed away,/ It blowed away./ My Oklahoma home has blown away./ Well, it looked so green and fair/ When I left her standing there,/ But my Oklahoma home has blown away,” again 70,000 voices took the air, spontaneously, as one, to echo out the “blowed away”s.

Springsteen kept the topic going when the band slipped next into the Irish anti-war ballad, Mrs. McGrath. The narrator-mother sings in the original of her paraplegic son returned from war, “I’d rather have my son as he used to be/ Than the King of England and his whole Navy.” Springsteen replaced “King of England” with “King of America,” an edit that drew loud whoops from a crowd proud to be united in their anger and their celebration.

Springsteen’s edits continued into the next selection, How Can a Poor Man Stand Such Times and Live, originally recorded by Blind Alfred Reed right after the 1929 stock market crash. Before introducing the song, Springsteen told the crowd, “We had a chance to travel around in New Orleans yesterday, from Lakeview to the Ninth Ward, and I think I saw sights I never thought I’d see in an American city. [cheering] The criminal ineptitude makes you furious. [very loud cheering] This is what happens when political cronyism cuts the very agencies that are supposed to serve American citizens in times of trial and hardship. [more very loud cheering] And this is what happens when people play political games with other people’s lives. [loudest cheering, yet, even louder than when the ‘Impeach Bush’ plane went overhead]”

Beginning the song, Springsteen dedicated it to “President Bystander.” With the original first verse intact and three new verses penned by Springsteen, it went like this:

Well the doctor comes ‘round here

With his face so bright,

And he says “In a little while

You’ll be all right.”

But all he gives is a hump of pill,

A dose of dope and a great big bill.

Tell me, how can a poor man stand such times and live?

 

He said, “Me and my old school pals

Had some mighty high times ‘round here.

And what happened to you poor folks,

Well, it just ain’t fair.”

He took a look around, gave a little pep talk,

Said, “I’m with you,” then he took a little walk.

Tell me, how can a poor man stand such times and live?

 

There’s bodies floating on Canal and the levee’s gone to hell.

Martha, get me my sixteen-gauge and some dry shells.

Well, God got out of town,

And them who ain’t, got left to drown.

Tell me, how can a poor man stand such times and live?

 

I’ve got family scattered from Texas to Baltimore,

And I ain’t got no home in this world no more.

There’s gonna’ be a judgment, that’s a fact,

A righteous train rolling down this track.

Tell me, how can a poor man stand such times and live?

The final line was repeated by the band triumphantly, horns blaring, pedal steel guitar soaring over it all. If the crowd felt that this show had turned into a revival meeting, that feeling was only confirmed as the band launched next into Jacob’s Ladder, bringing the crowd up to new crescendos with each repeat of the chorus. Then the band slowed down into the hymn, We Shall Overcome.

Before this life where I married a New Orleanian and moved down to this blessed place, I grew up in Selma, Alabama, a place where we sang this song a lot. The lyrics and cadence were burned into my brain. But the Seeger Sessions Band transformed this old spiritual into something vital and completely relevant to a whole new time in my life. The New Orleans cops working the security at the show, their new dark blues looking uncomfortable as replacements for all the old, drowned, light blue uniforms they used to wear, didn’t even bother to wipe away tears as the entire crowd chanted the chorus along with Springsteen.

Springsteen knew when to bring the crowd back to a level of celebration, though, ending the two-hour-long set with a series of joyful songs, Open All Night and Pay Me My Money Down.

* * *

. . . With these hands,

For the strength, Lord.

With these hands,

For the faith, Lord,

With these hands.

The encore sealed the deal. I suppose if I were a Springsteen fan, I would know the song, maybe would have even seen the little internet movies making the rounds since the storm with the slideshow set to the song. But I’m not, so I didn’t. My City of Ruins was new to me. Springsteen introduced it as a song he had written for his adopted hometown of Asbury Park, New Jersey, which had its own set of hard times, but that he was now dedicating it to the city of New Orleans.

From the opening chord, every note and every word felt for us and of us. When the singers got to the “With these hands” chorus, 140,000 hands rose into the sky. No cheeks were dry. The sun, almost ready to set behind and to the right of the crowd, poured sharp golden beams through the sea of arms and hands. At that moment, we knew that, not only had this man, this Springsteen, come and played for us, sought to entertain us, but he had understood us, and ultimately, had become one of us.

Something about that made it, not all better, but infinitely more bearable.

You often hear the cliché that a performer left something of himself out there on the stage. Well, Springsteen and the Seeger Session Band musicians did not just leave something of themselves out on that stage on April 30 in New Orleans, they gave that piece of themselves to us, out in the crowd. I hope to never have a more perfect musical experience.

As the Seeger Sessions Band finished up the encore with a haunting interpretation of When the Saints Go Marching In and my sister and I very slowly made our way to and out the festival gates with the rest of the crowd, something of the anger had eroded away. The anxiety about the impending hurricane season, though not erased, was mellowed.

The Jazzfest organizers had gotten a lot right this year, but perhaps nothing more right than when they penned the fest’s motto, “The healing power of music.”

catching up with katrina

  • Aug. 15th, 2006 at 3:55 PM

two weeks ago, mrs. swampy’s folks wanted her input as they went down to st. bernard to look at modular houses for something to put where the camp used to be. they had had an old raised camp house in hopedale, almost all the way to the end of what we term around here, “down the road.” it had been built in 1923 and had withstood numerous meteorological tests. the eye of katrina, however, passed less than a mile to the east of hopedale. the camp was wiped away (along with the shrimp boat, the “nicole marie,” upon which we spent many lazy days of shrimping and fishing out in Bay Eloi, Lake Athanasia, Lake Borgne, and out into the fringes of the Gulf).

the trip down to tedesco’s modular housing lot in st. bernard was mrs. swampy’s first real chance to see the worst of the worst. even though i had made the drive through these parts many times in the past year, it never eases in its ability to rip your guts out. lakeview has some life back, but few residents; it was heartbreaking to go see mrs. swampy’s grandfather’s house, which had taken on twelve feet of water. gentilly is still mostly a ghost town. the lower nine has no words, nor does chalmette. and most of the latter three neighborhoods look exactly as they did in october, very few people rebuilding, yet, many not even having gutted their houses, and few fema trailers set up for folks.

this past weekend an old high school friend called from out of the blue. he was on his way through, shooting a documentary on post-katrina mental health care, and wanted to know if there were still pockets of devastation almost a year later that he could shoot for “b-roll” footage. i told him to come stay with us and i could guide him to some things. so i took the drive again this weekend. one of the guys with my friend’s documentary crew (actually, the documentarian himself; my friend is the camera guru) had a friend who had lived on marshall foch, in the heart of lakeview. yellowdoggrl, his house on this day, two weeks shy of the anniversary, looked (and smelled) like y’all’s downstairs looked and smelled last october (or was it november when you could get in? this year all blurs together). i was instantly transported back to that day with you and the Beau, especially after the neighbor came out with a pistol readied to see who was poking around his neighbor’s house. part of me thought this past weekend with my old friend and the documentarian (name for a band: Old Friend and the Documentarians) that, having just done the drive with mrs. swampy two weeks before, the intensity of seeing it all again would be lessened. but it wasn’t. if anything, it was only heightened.

since the day after the storm, i have been trying to track down a friend of mine from college who had lived a few blocks from the beach in ocean springs. for various reasons, i suspected that she had not evacuated, but none of my contact information for her worked anymore after the storm. periodically every couple months i would google her and her husband to see if i could find any recent information on them. finally, yesterday, i found that she had a position listed as of 2006 with the federal public defender’s office in mississippi. i emailed her, and got back a response (the content of which i hope she doesn’t mind me synopsizing here). she and her husband had gone for the storm to stay with friends a mile back from the beach. she says that, at that distance, the surge was a mild rising, waist deep in the house. after the surge passed, she went down toward the beach to check on her family’s houses. hers was still standing, the second and third floors (with all the pets) intact, though her parent’s and in law’s and grandparents’ houses, along with most of everything having to do with her childhood, were all wiped out. i can’t imagine being there for all of that.

well, i share all of that to tell everyone that the anniversary is two weeks away from today, and we’re all a long way, as individuals and a community, from getting things put back together again. we’re still at the point, and maybe moreso now that things are starting to sort out a little, where we need outside help. lawyers and doctors to donate time and services. strong (and less strong) backs to gut and build houses for the elderly and the needy and, well, i guess the needy is most of us. mrs. swampy and i have a roof to put over the heads of anyone who wants to come and help out with anything.

post-script to katrina; and aggravating word-smithery

  • Aug. 15th, 2006 at 4:59 PM

i should have linked to chris rose’s sunday column in my catching-up-with-katrina post. it’s another collection of excellent analysis from him. i will warn you that the light and humorous tone with which it begins drags you immediately into an area of heaviness, but it’s a roller-coaster worth reading.

on another front, i’m reading a brief right now, where a sentence actually begins, “Suffice it to say in brief that . . .” you know, if it’s really sufficient to say it briefly, then why the hell are you starting sentences with all those goddamned words??? lawyers are hell on language.

An interview worth reading, and a book worth buying

  • Aug. 16th, 2006 at 10:35 AM

Mike Tidwell, whose excellent look at Louisiana sociology and geology, Bayou Farewell, pretty much dead-on predicted both the cause and the effect of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, has written a new book, Ravaging Tide. In it, he examines the political aftermath of Katrina in terms of how to keep such a catastrophe from recurring, and goes on to explain how our current policy path will place Miami, Manhattan, and Houston next in line for destruction. Tidwell writes on potentially dry policy analyses with a ground-level approach that engages the reader immediately. If you don’t have time in your schedule to add another book to the heap, at least check out Tidwell’s interview with Salon.com.

Lies in the August 21, 2006, New Yorker

  • Aug. 25th, 2006 at 3:23 PM

Dan Baum wrote a story for the August 21, 2006, New Yorker, called “Letter from New Orleans: The Lost Year.” [edited out lots and lots of venomous comments about dan baum and the fact-checkers at the new yorker here]*. [*-the bracketed edits are explained later, related to an email exchange I had with Dan Baum several years later]

Behind the cut is my list of inaccuracies [edited out some more venom here]:

Here they are collected, just in the order in which they appear in the article [edited out some more venom here]:

1) The title. “Letter FROM New Orleans.” Misleading, in that you think it may be written by someone from around here. Dan Baum is a New Yorker staff writer, though, and makes clear toward the end of the article that he wrote it based on a series of occasional trips down here. [edit: I’ve learned from his website that he resides in Boulder].

2) Assertion that the 9th Ward was originally peopled by “Free blacks and European immigrants too poor to crowd into the upriver districts.” Inaccuracy here is that poor immigrants and black people could only live in the cypressy, swampy 9th ward. Many of the “free blacks” lived upriver from the 9th ward, in an area immediately adjacent to the French Quarter known as the Marigny, in areas in the French Quarter itself, and in the neighborhood along the backside of the Quarter known as the Treme. Many poor European immigrants lived upriver from the French Quarter in areas of town today known as Central City and the Irish Channel.

3) “people of the Ninth Ward depended on each other, organizing mutual-aid and benevolent societies to care for the sick and the indigent.” Not just a Ninth Ward or just a black phenomenon in New Orleans. This was common among many groups, in every neighborhood, of town back then, and still is, dating back to the 19th century.

4) Noting the Ninth Ward’s “position near the junction of the Industrial Canal and another canal, the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet, or Mr. Go, which extends eastward from the city.” [edited out some more venom here] the MR-GO and the Industrial Canal do not intersect. The MR-GO dead ends into the Intracoastal Waterway, which then feeds into the Industrial Canal at the Turning Basin. Baum’s point is correct about the funneling effect of these waterways with regard to storm surge, but he needs to get his facts straight: the MR-GO stops well short of actually intersecting with the Canal.

5) description of the Lower 9th Ward residents as “the obesity and missing teeth, the raggedness and strange English.” Baum’s been watching too many bad B-movies about the bayou and New Orleans. His characterization of New Orleanians and Ninth Warders is [edited out some more venom here].

6) “A number of people I encountered — often barricaded in their homes and heavily armed — explained the distinction between the ‘good blacks’ they’d welcome back and other blacks, or passed along a bit of back-fence etymology, saying that the root of the word “Katrina’ is ‘cleansing.'” “A number of people” is a misleading and conveniently unverifiable attribution. There could have been just those two people offering those two things, and that would qualify as “a number.” Hell, one is a number. But Baum’s phrase makes it sound like this is a great deal of New Orleans that feels this way, which, living here, I can attest is not true. [edited out some more venom here].

7) “No other neighborhood, for example, [other than the Lower 9] was cordoned off by troops.” Flat wrong. All of Orleans Parish was surrounded by military checkpoints for weeks, as was Jefferson Parish and St. Bernard Parish for a smaller number of weeks.

8) “only those of the Lower Nine were forbidden to return if they waded out for supplies.” Again, flat wrong. The whole city was under a mandatory evacuation, and only credentialed emergency response personnel were allowed back in.

9) “Already, the city seemed to be cleaving along a black-white line.” [edited out some more venom here]. I know he’s never eaten lunch in any restaurant I’ve been in since the storm, where the whole room is integrated racially. Never walked the streets of this town where everyone of every race greets each other with a look, and often words, of “how’d you make out, you all right, we’re going to make it through.” Never went to rock n’ bowl on a friday night, or to a Rebirth show, or walked the backside of the night parades during Mardi Gras. [edited out some particularly egregious venom here].

10) Nagin’s first election “victory is usually credited to white voters. . . . [Nagin’s been characterized as a] ‘white man in black skin.'” Not until the very end of the article does Baum reveal that Nagin’s reelection came on different terms, but for most of the article he lets you believe that Nagin, though black, is part of a white power structure that plotted to strip New Orleans of its black citizens. [edited out some more venom here].

11) Asserting that pre-Katrina New Orleans’ hispanic population “never had a high profile–no Spanish radio station, identifiable Hispanic neighborhood, or fashionable cuisine,” and citing the fact that “Nacho Mama’s . . . was owned by a man named Shane Finkelstein” as his sole support for this assertion. There actually was a very concentrated hispanic population in Kenner, but [edited out some more venom here]. [edited out some more venom here]. And I don’t know precisely what “fashionable cuisine” means, but I do know that Taquero’s Coyoacan can beat any Mexican or Central American restaurant in New York, that we have a number of Mexican and Salvadoran and Honduran restaurants throughout this town, and that Nacho Mama’s has never pretended to be among the more venerable of those. [edited out some more venom here].

12) “In the nineteen-sixties, city-council members chose to run Interstate 10 through the center of Treme.” [edited out some more venom here]. The city council does not have the power and never attempted to exercise power over where to route a U.S. interstate. This would be the federal DOT. And their first choice was to run it along the riverfront edge of the French Quarter, an elevated expressway not fifty yards outside the archbishop’s windows at the Cathedral. The fight to stop that was very long and very exhausting, and there’s still a segment of this riverfront expressway in a tunnel beneath what is now the Harrah’s casino. Unfortunately, when that fight was over, the city had little fight left, and the Treme community had no political muscle, to fight plan B — the elevated expressway through the Treme over the Claiborne corridor. This did indeed gut a vibrant African-American commercial and residential district, and is a tragedy. But it’s not the tragedy characterized by Baum, one of a city’s white power structure ramming an interstate down the throats of the black population. It simply didn’t happen that way.

13) Regarding the Bring New Orleans Back Commission’s map showing recommended rebuilding of the city, where green blotches signified where parks and green space should be: “All of the blotches covered areas instantaneously recognizable to New Orleanians as primarily black areas.” This is the biggest fiction in the article. First, the map had more than green blotches. It had large areas shaded in a pretty cream color that showed where the Commission recommended a one-year moratorium on rebuilding, large green blotches for park space, and defined red-bordered areas in the vicinity of those parks where the Commission recommended rebuilding. The green blotches included not just parts of the 9th Ward and New Orleans East, definitely areas of town populated primarily by black people. There is also a large green circle overlapping the black Central City neighborhood, the thoroughly integrated Broadmoor neighborhood, and sections of non-Broadmoor uptown that are similarly integrated. Two other circles included one over an area including primarily white parts of the eastern edge of Lakeview and Park Island and including integrated and black areas of the western edge of Gentilly; and another area over Mid-City that is completely integrated among white and black residents. What is more interesting are the large areas of primarily black New Orleans that were outlined in red for areas to target for rebuilding, including much of the area of the Lower 9 around that projected park area. None of white Lakeview was slotted for rebuilding, nor much of somewhat white uptown, but instead was all shaded under the one-year rebuilding moratorium. [edited out some more venom here].

14) Referring to a map in a developer’s office color-coded with darker areas showing the deepest waters and the least likelihood for rebuilding: “He ran his hand over the darkest areas, which included a sliver of the Lower Nine.” This is an Urban Land Institute map. And the part of the Lower 9 shaded darkest is indeed a sliver. On the other hand, much of the darkest shading was in the whiter parts of town, such as Lakeview and Broadmoor, as well as in middle-class Gentilly. [edited out some more venom here].

15) “Metairie, which was lightly damaged . . .” Second biggest lie in the article. “Lightly damaged” relative to parts of New Orleans, yes, “lightly damaged” in general? No. Two-thirds of the houses in Metairie flooded with at least a foot of water, enough to ruin floors, half the walls, and most of the wiring. Parts of Old Metairie flooded with up to 8 feet of water. The infrastructure in Metairie was so torn up that the parish locked down to all but emergency response personnel for three weeks after the storm. Was it damaged as heavily as New Orleans, St. Bernard, or the Mississippi coast? No. Was it still heavily damaged? You bet your New Yorker subscription. Many streets in residential Metairie are lined still today with FEMA trailers in every yard, as there is not enough labor or materials to gut and re-wire, re-wall, re-floor these houses. Those that didn’t flood suffered varying degrees of wind damage. Our house did not flood, yet we still had close to $30,000 in damage. It was not in the same ballpark as what yellowdoggrl and others in New Orleans suffered, and we were also among the luckier folks even in Metairie, but it was not “lightly damaged.”

16) repeated references to “crayfish,” as in “crayfish boils” and “crayfish etouffe.” [edited out some more venom here] here it’s “crawfish.”

17) Describing Mardi Gras day as sunny, cool, and dry, and describing the beads and throws from the Muses parade. [edited out some more venom here]? Muses does not run on Mardi Gras day, or during the day at all, but runs at night, during the week before Mardi Gras. [edited out some more venom here].

18) Editorializing about the inanity of FEMA leaving floodplain elevations essentially untouched in New Orleans. Baum has already told us the truth that the flooding was due to bad levees by the Corps of Engineers. If the government builds the levees they say they are going to build, and that Congress appropriates the money to build, then no flooding happens. No need to raise the floodplain elevation. It’s the levees, stupid. [didn’t edit that for venom; to be clear, i’m not calling baum stupid here, but paraphrasing james carville’s statement about the economy during the 1992 presidential elections]

19) “I drove east from the French Quarter . . . and into the Ninth Ward[.]” You don’t drive east from the French Quarter into the Ninth Ward. First you drive north, then northeast, then east, then southeast, then east again, then northeast again. New Orleans isn’t a nice, neat little northern grid. It’s a rivertown, built against the grain of the river. Baum, you didn’t drive “east,” you drove “downriver.” [edited out some more venom here].

Comments

yellowdoggrl wrote:

Aug. 25th, 2006 09:41 pm (UTC)

I hope you’re sending this to The New Yorker, minus just a teeny couple of things that might make them listen to you less (the personal aside to Baum, mostly, with which I wholeheartedly agree). Feel free to tell them that one of those green blotches (perfect circles, actually) and the yellow of the moratorium took in your sister’s house on her integrated street.

swampytad wrote:

Aug. 25th, 2006 09:50 pm (UTC)

well, i did, actually, send a link to this to the New Yorker. i thought about just sending them a toned-down version of this, but then i figured i don’t want to waste any more of my time on them, and damn it, i’m pissed. if they can’t handle me being pissed off, then they’re just too patrician and prissy to talk to me anyway. and i don’t expect they would listen at any rate. they’ve got a story they want to tell, and they’re going to tell it that way because it makes them feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

miz_landry wrote:

Aug. 25th, 2006 10:30 pm (UTC)

whoa, I’m so glad to read this!

I have been tirading nearly every article about new orleans since katrina. there’s a reporter (can’t remember her name) who wrote a few articles, including one about evacuees in Houma and her number one agenda was to sniff out anything to play into her racist argument.

It’s so frustrating to talk to people here, who, because of the dumb ass media, truly believe that only black people suffered during the hurricane and any white people down there are landed gentry with fully loaded shotguns that were praying for this ethnic cleansing to happen.

ditto on the nagin thing. I’m so friggin glad he referred to nyc’s hole in the ground. i’m sure they’ll be pissed. only New Yorkers can pass judgment on the world. You do it to them or say anything about the trade center (including trying to say that the pentagon was hit, too) and they get all whiny and cry and shit.

I hope someone at that magazine reads your response, but I agree with nolagirl, you need to get this in their letters section. I doubt they’d print it, either, but they should.

Happy Anniversary, y’all!

swampytad wrote:

Aug. 25th, 2006 10:35 pm (UTC)

Re: whoa, I’m so glad to read this!

i’m afraid i cuss too much to get published in some fine northern periodical like the new yorker (all drawling aside, i am a regular, paid, subscriber).

miz_landry wrote:

Aug. 25th, 2006 10:59 pm (UTC)

Re: whoa, I’m so glad to read this!

so am I! I never really questioned their authority until I knew better (they get a lot wrong when they write about the Bay Area, too).

I live way out here and most of my family were untouched (directly) by Katrina, and still I just get so outraged. I also have to be the unofficial spokesperson for Louisiana to all these ignorant people out here.

There is so much anger directed at y’all. I wonder if by projecting to New Orleans, all the classist and racist shit floating around this country makes people in other parts of the country feel better? LIke, well, we’re not as bad as THEM???

What they forget is that anyone in that area is busy taking care of their own shit. They make it soudn like the white people of the Gulf Coast have been sitting on porches drinking mint juleps and complaining that they had to mix their own drinks!

OH, also, there were even more things in the article that got me. Baum himself made some pretty racist assumptions (saying that that man with mud all over him looked like an escape convict…what was that implying???).

I could go on, but I’d better stop.

selphish wrote:

Aug. 25th, 2006 10:33 pm (UTC)

I agree. Beautifully said, swampytad.

swampytad wrote:

Aug. 25th, 2006 10:36 pm (UTC)

thanks. a shame, though, that we still have to say these things to the world a year later, beautifully or not. but thanks.

selphish wrote:

Aug. 25th, 2006 10:37 pm (UTC)

Where did you e-mail them? I’m looking for the contact information on their website, but I don’t want to submit a letter to the editor for publication; I just want to let them know that I think that their editorial department needs to do a better job in making sure their journalists have their facts straight.

swampytad wrote:

Aug. 25th, 2006 10:40 pm (UTC)

i looked for the same contact info you’re looking for, but only found the letter to the editor address. so i sent it there and told them i only wanted it to get to someone who should know they need to check their facts better, not to publish it. it was a half-assed attempt on my part to find the right email address, i admit.

selphish wrote:

Aug. 25th, 2006 10:41 pm (UTC)

Well, I’m searching the entire website, to no avail. I might look for a phone number and call them later.

swampytad wrote:

Aug. 25th, 2006 11:38 pm (UTC)

still don’t know about the right New Yorker contact info, but email for Dan Baum is dan@knoxandbaum.com.

yellowdoggrl wrote:

Aug. 25th, 2006 10:44 pm (UTC)

plus I still have the asymmetrical sunburn from the Miss Congeniality in the Miss Chocolate City Pageant 2006 costume I wore on a warmer-than-ever Mardi Gras day… geezum, Dan Baum just needed to interview me… let’s see, green dot on my house, $230,000+ spent on repairs so far, plus I’m in Muses and had my fridge immortalized and got a Mardi Gras sunburn…

swampytad wrote:

Aug. 25th, 2006 10:48 pm (UTC)

come to think of it, it was pretty damned hot in that blue-tarp chef’s tunic, too . . .

of course, he couldn’t have interviewed you without spoiling just about every premise in his pre-conceived story.

entheos93 wrote:

Aug. 26th, 2006 01:12 pm (UTC)

I’d say you got it spot on.

giographix wrote:

Aug. 25th, 2006 10:46 pm (UTC)

Phew…

That was long, but well worth the read. Yeah… bad reporting never has a good excuse although there’s always the same bad one: sensationalism.

I agree with yellowdoggrl about sending this to the New Yorker. They need to get their facts straight and your corrections (with some minor editing) would be the thing to set them straight. But for one, you’d have to send this to the right department in order for it to get noticed rather than to just have some editor skim through it and pass it off as another pissed off local bitching about inaccuracy. I suggest going to the Times Picayune first, and hopefully that will get some attention to snowball down the proverbial media hill…

gutterboylive wrote:

Aug. 25th, 2006 11:29 pm (UTC)

Hey, man –

Good work. I came here via your sister’s posting on neworleans and wanted to congratulate you.

Dan Baum has a website (www.knoxandbaum.com) with some other of his New Orleans articles on it. I only read two of them, but they had my blood boiling – particularly the one on an elderly black guy who evacuated to Montana. Baum noted that the man brought pig’s tails with him (oh, those Negroes and their soul food!) and made a point of describing his amusingly colorful outfit (oh, those Negroes and their haberdashery!).

The guy just embodies the stereotype of the Ugly Yankee. It astounds me that in a city of so many great writers, The New Yorker had to import a snotty yuppie to make drolleries of the city during its worst hour.

Fuck you, Baum.

swampytad wrote:

Aug. 25th, 2006 11:40 pm (UTC)

Re: Hey, man –

amen, gutterboy. i don’t know why this kind of thing still gets me, but i am astounded. thanks for digging up the website. i’ve emailed a link to my post to baum’s contact info listed there.

infrogmation wrote:

Aug. 26th, 2006 12:35 am (UTC)

Is getting it right too hard a task?

Thanks for taking the time to do this.

By and large I’ve found the New Yorker’s coverage to be better than the majority of the national media (not that that’s a hugely high standard), but your comments on this one are on target.

Though as to how many dumb errors can be crammed into a page, this doesn’t hold a candle to Brinkley’s “Great Deluge of Misinformation”.

yellowdoggrl wrote:

Aug. 26th, 2006 12:38 am (UTC)

Re: Is getting it right too hard a task?

when I worked at Tulane, I had the opportunity to realize just how wrong Brinkley was about just how many little facts… oy, the lack of knowledge of basic history from the so-called historian already! and I had been one of his staunchest defenders…

gutterboylive wrote:

Aug. 26th, 2006 03:25 am (UTC)

Re: Is getting it right too hard a task?

I couldn’t believe the amount of just plain wrong information in The Great Deluge. Who in New Orleans doesn’t know WWL’s position on the radio dial? Brinkley even said it was an FM station!

If he could get something as basic as WWL wrong, what else did he get wrong in that book?

Care to fill us in on some Brinkley experiences at Tulane? I’d really be curious to know. I went to a lecture of his once and found him a mesmerizing speaker, but ever since all I’ve heard is that he’s a dishonest individual.

infrogmation wrote:

Aug. 26th, 2006 04:18 pm (UTC)

The Great Deluge of Misinformation

Brinkley messed up with piles of stuff large and small. For example he lists Belle Chase as one of the comunities wiped off the map in Plaquemines (no, it’s on the West Bank just down from Algiers), puts the London Avenue Canal in the 9th Ward (its in the 7th), gets people’s names wrong… the book is just full of that sort of thing.

NOLAfugees.com satire: Brinkley’s book discovered to have been written by cheap immigrant workers he picked up at Lee Circle

infrogmation wrote:

Aug. 26th, 2006 04:27 pm (UTC)

Re: The Great Deluge of Misinformation

I’ve heard from aquaintances in accademia that Tulane hired him as a media star; the other members of the Tulane History department have developed a dislike for him and UNO is gloating glad to be rid of him.

yellowdoggrl wrote:

Aug. 26th, 2006 05:37 pm (UTC)

Re: The Great Deluge of Misinformation

exactly. though I wouldn’t say “developed.” it was there from the beginning. all I can really vouch for personally is horrendously shoddy work (getting basic dates on the civil rights movement timeline wrong, for instance) and an inability to keep staff, and I can speak to having heard of great arrogance and an inability to play nicely with others. his house has been on the market for a while though (at $1.55 million), so maybe he’s thinking of moving on to greener pastures…

gutterboylive wrote:

Aug. 26th, 2006 06:25 pm (UTC)

Re: The Great Deluge of Misinformation

That story is a peach. Thanks.

poubelle wrote:

Aug. 26th, 2006 03:05 am (UTC)

Well, “crayfish” is an (formerly the?) accepted spelling, and the one that I grew up with. I still pronounced it as “crawfish,” though.

gutterboylive wrote:

Aug. 26th, 2006 03:27 am (UTC)

Crayfish/crawfish

Not to be pedantic, but The New Yorker is incredibly strict with issues of its stylebook, and if the stylebooks says it’s “crayfish,” that’s what it’s got to be.

Some of the spellings in there are so antiquated they’re bizarre. “Preeminent” is always spelled “preëminent,” for instance.

poubelle wrote:

Aug. 26th, 2006 04:18 am (UTC)

Re: Crayfish/crawfish

Ouch, “preëminent”? Do they write “co-ordinate”/”coordinate” as “coördinate”?

project_mayhem_ wrote:

Aug. 26th, 2006 05:44 am (UTC)

Re: Crayfish/crawfish

When you put the umlaut on coordinate it makes it look like some sort of a prim-and-proper metal band. “This one goes up to *whispers* one and a half.

poubelle wrote:

Aug. 26th, 2006 06:12 am (UTC)

Re: Crayfish/crawfish

A prim-and-proper metal band would be the bees knees. 🙂

gutterboylive wrote:

Aug. 26th, 2006 07:10 am (UTC)

Re: Crayfish/crawfish

Do they write “co-ordinate”/”coordinate” as “coördinate”?

I think they do. Really. But the one I’m sure of is “preëminent.”

That one always stuck in my head, as well as the San Francisco Chronicle‘s spelling of “cigaret.”

Of course, they never spelled out “San Francisco,” either, unless it was part of a title (San Francisco Board of Supervisors, etc.). In all other references, it was always “The City.”

yellowdoggrl wrote:

Aug. 26th, 2006 07:57 pm (UTC)

Re: Crayfish/crawfish

when I was a magazine editor in my pre-K life, my magazines used the stylebook as an aid, not a club, recognizing that if something was called “sumthin'” by a subject or as a integral part of the culture being written about, then it should be “sumthin'” and not changed back by us to “something.” then again, I wasn’t editing The New Yorker

that said, I wish I could remember the single strange thing in one of my stylebooks that got me really uptight that I never managed to argue away, but I’ve managed to let it go.

yellowdoggrl wrote:

Aug. 26th, 2006 07:52 pm (UTC)

crayfish and crawdads are both other words for them, but here in New Orleans, it is only “crawfish” and that’s what Baum should have called them.

poubelle wrote:

Aug. 27th, 2006 02:47 am (UTC)

I was, am, and always will be an Algerine (HUNTLEE VILLAGE REPRESENT!), but I have no problems with anyone writing it “crayfish,” as I always have written the word (and have seen it written, even in NOLA and its surrounding area, though I will admit to having seen it more in Vacherie/St James, likely due to the potential for it to be pronounced similarly to the French). It’s simply another spelling representing the sounds /’krɔfIʃ/ and as long as one isn’t an obvious tourist and pronounces it with an /eI/ rather than an /ɔ/, I have no problems. (If they say it as /eI/, I simply correct them, call them a carpetbagger or tourist [if we’re friendly], or giggle to myself.)

Modern English orthography doesn’t reflect pronunciation, nor should it. That’s why we have IPA. 🙂 If their style manual dictates that they choose one version of the orthography over the other, who am I to argue?

yellowdoggrl wrote:

Aug. 27th, 2006 03:41 pm (UTC)

“Algerine”… I love it!

zeldakitty wrote:

Aug. 26th, 2006 08:29 am (UTC)

got here through link at new orleans community, Thanks so much for this eloquent and concise breakdown of baum’s transgressions. I hope they print it. Keep up the good work of truth telling!

swampytad wrote:

Aug. 26th, 2006 11:11 am (UTC)

thanks. you know, i’m the first to recognize that we all have our own truth to tell, but somewhere along the way has to be a recognition that what you’re saying (baum) is nobody’s truth, but just lies.

bettyboot wrote:

Aug. 26th, 2006 09:36 pm (UTC)

i had to stop reading the third section into that article. it was clear to me that the racism was spewing from him not from the likes of anyone i’ve seen here at home. and the inaccuracies were as thick and cliche as creme brulee. i really hope that the new yorker has the balls to publish this, and to hire local writers next time instead of people who are so uninterested in the real story/stories here in post-k nola that they just see fit to write history-flavored, stereotype-spiked fiction that makes a “good” read rather than an insightful one.

swampytad wrote:

Aug. 26th, 2006 10:52 pm (UTC)

hear, hear. y’all commenters on this post are about to make me want to quit my new yorker subscription. except then i’d be deprived of all those pithy insights by dan baum.

(Anonymous) wrote:

Aug. 30th, 2006 07:11 pm (UTC)

Treme and Claiborne I-10 — get your own facts straight

The trees on Claiborne Avenue went down for the construction of the elevated I-10 well BEFORE the fight over the Riverfront Expressway, despite your emphatic statement to the contrary. The deforestation of the median of Claiborne began in the summer of 1966, while the battle over the Riverfront was still firmly on paper. I-10 was NOT some kind of plan B — it was meant as the primary route, as I am sure you ought to figure out from its route number, while the Riverfront was to be numbered as a spur. The Riverfront was not blocked until Nixon Transportation Secretary John Volpe’s intervention in 1969. If you are going to cast stones at glass houses, no matter how large and inviting the target, check the composition of your own walls first.

swampytad wrote:

Aug. 30th, 2006 08:10 pm (UTC)

Re: Treme and Claiborne I-10 — get your own facts straight

My walls are solid, thank you very much. I’ll get back to that in a second. Let me preface with this: It is clear from my post that I am with you in having no love for the elevated I-10 through the Claiborne corridor or what it has done to a vital part of our community. My problem with Dan Baum is not that he points to this as one of the historical tragedies practiced upon this city’s African-American population, which it is, but in the misrepresentative fshion in which he attributes the perpetrators of the deal. I don’t see that we have disagreement on that.

Now, as to the composition of my walls. Unlike Dan Baum, apparently, I do have some source material for my writing. Offline, check the book, “Second Battle of New Orleans,” by Richard Baumbach and Bill Borah, the two New Orleans attorneys who fought the federal DOT on the Riverfront Expressway. That’s my primary source. But I’ve found some links online that give the history very well, as well: For history of the fight over the Riverfront Expressway, check this article from the DOT’s own website. It explains the chronology, that the Riverfront Expressway was the brainchild of Robert Moses in 1946, that serious planning on it got going at least by 1961, before those trees came down in the Claiborne neutral ground. For a look at how the Riverfront Expressway and the Claiborne corridor devastation relate, check this article by Professor Raymond Mohl. The characterization is fairly clear that the Claiborne corridor plan was seen as an appeasement (if not an outright alternative) to the difficulties encountered all along the way on the Riverfront Expressway (not just at the time of the Nixon Administration’s decision to put an end to it).

I’m just showing you what my walls are made of. Regardless of whether the characterization I draw from my building materials is precisely correspondent with yours, my walls are nevertheless nowhere near as ephemeral as the walls of Dan Baum’s glass house. If I break a glass in my stone house, it’s still a house made of something substantial.

Now, on a conciliatory note, I do not at all think what you posit in your comment and what I posit in my post are irreconcilable. Indeed, different segments of the highway system are developed and planned simulataneously. One of the things that drove opponents of federal highway projects mad through the 60s, 70s, and 80s was the treatment of each planned segment as an isolated project, in a vacuum free of the impacts of clearly related segments, in the effort to downplay the comprehensive effect of what they were doing. The segments had different interstate numerical designations attached to them at different points in the planning process. so that fact, alone, is not dispositive. i may well have been off-base in saying “plan B,” because that belies the fact that there really wasn’t strict correspondence between the two projects. But the overall effect of the two projects, at least according to the source material I have seen, is that the Claiborne Avenue corridor was seen as an acceptable alternative (if not official “alternative”)to the Riverfront Expressway and allowed political cover for the feds’ reversal of their decision to build that segment. You and I together have laid this out, and each of our pieces, but especially our collaborative dialogue, are far more accurate than anything Baum put in in his article or the New Yorker fact-checkers let through.

swampytad wrote:

Aug. 30th, 2006 08:29 pm (UTC)

Re: Treme and Claiborne I-10 — get your own facts straight

Actually, looking back at the materials again, it looks like the Riverfront Expressway, long conceptualized, was planned as a way to avoid doing the Claiborne corridor route, not in addition to it:

From a May 22, 1961, memo from G. M. Williams, Deputy Commissioner for Engineering and Operations of the U.S. Bureau of Public Roads (BPR), to Chief Engineer Frank Turner:

“In regard to Question 2 concerning possible adjustments of the Interstate System [within the statutory mileage limitation] to include the Riverside Expressway if found to be merited, the simplest way to accomplish this would be to shift the North Claiborne Avenue leg (southeastern leg) of the present location of Interstate Route 10 over to the Riverside location and extend the southwestern leg of Route 10 to connect with the Riverside route at the approach to the Mississippi River Bridge. Any part of the Riverside route south of the interchange at the bridge approach would, of course, have to be financed with other than Interstate funds. Substantial Interstate funds have been obligated on the southwest leg of Route 10. Only Stage 1 projects [preliminary engineering or right-of-way acquisition] have been programmed on the southeast leg.”

(Emphasis added by me).

I’m not denying the 1966 date of the felling of the Claiborne Avenue oaks. I’m just saying that the timing of the whole I10/Expressway question in New Orleans is not as cut-and-dried as you posit.

swampytad wrote:

Aug. 30th, 2006 08:33 pm (UTC)

Re: Treme and Claiborne I-10 — get your own facts straight

and i should also note here that, while Dan Baum was wrong that the City Council decided where to put the I10 corridor, the city council to a small extent, and the local chamber of commerce to some extent, and the Vieux Carre business community to some extent, and the Louisiana congressional delegation to some extent, all voiced their opinions on where the corridor should go, and none of them in a direction to avoid the Claiborne Avenue corridor. but the decision, which is what Baum was writing about, was solely the realm of the federal DOT. i stand by what i wrote in my original post.

swampytad wrote:

Aug. 30th, 2006 08:36 pm (UTC)

Re: Treme and Claiborne I-10 — get your own facts straight

. . . and while i clearly do appreciate your contribution to this discussion, i would prefer that you would follow the lead of everyone else who has commented here and provide some sort of attribution or identification attached to your comment. i like to be talking to someone, even if you have a goofy name and a goofy picture. i don’t take well to “Anonymous.” i’m sure you understand. thanks.

dblissmn wrote:

Sep. 6th, 2006 12:25 am (UTC)

Re: Treme and Claiborne I-10 — get your own facts straight

Ooops on the Anonymous part. I really did not understand how this Open ID thing works and wasn’t very keen on using an email address as a URL. I finally just dealt with it by adding a LiveJournal account.

As far as the sequence of Riverfront versus I-10, what I’ve depended on more than anything else is the documentation from Tom Lewis’s book “Divided Highways.” Going through Lewis and also the source material he uses, it’s clear that I-10 and I-610 showed up in the 1955 Yellow Book presented by the Bureau of Public Roads to Congress in the run up to the Yellow Book’s enshrinement in US law as the interstate highway act. I-310, the Riverfront Expressway was nowhere to be seen in the 1955 Yellow Book. I-310 was added later to federal legislation with Mayor Schiro’s and Congressman Hale Boggs’s intervention, Boggs also having gotten I-10 and I-610. (You might be confusing the sequence of events with a portion of the planning process. The initial idea for the Riverfront according to Lewis was very early, although Lewis does not specify when planning started on I-10. IN any case, the Riverfront was the suggestion of New York’s leading city planner Robert Moses — who was hired by NO as a consultant in 1946 to deal with traffic problems, and who developed an infamous obsession with elevated highways as can be seen by his creations such as the BQE in New York. For the huge elevated I-78 expressway Moses had in mind for Lower Manhattan, see http://www.nycroads.com/roads/lower-manhattan/)

It seems very clear from Lewis that the New Orleans establishment wanted BOTH I-10 and I-310 — it was not a matter of one-or-the-other. I-310 was not a through route but rather specifically intended to boost road access to the port of New Orleans, which remains a sore point today. Opposition to I-310 (people like William Borah) started to build very quickly AFTER the I-10 disaster on Claiborne, not before. The Riverfront was never intended to be part of I-10 or a subsitute for I-10 — for one thing, at no point in the planning process did it have the kind of necessary lane capacity to serve as part of I-10, as no portion of it was more than three lanes in each direction and a substantial part of it was a mere two lanes in each direction.

Bottom line — Riverfront was a proposal for a local road, not part of the interstate system and certainly not a substitute for I-10. Boggs’ insertion of I-310 into federal legislation at the behest of Mayor Schiro was very clearly a way of getting federal funding for the Riverfront in addition to New Orleans’ other expressways. See also this informative piece at the federal highway administration website. http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/infrastructure/neworleans.htm

(Anonymous) wrote:

Sep. 6th, 2006 07:47 pm (UTC)

better get it right

enjoyed the orginal nyer piece, and wonder if the way you feel slighted is like i do when i hear of tax breaks for the wealthy. i can understand how the national and world media have found gloom and doom among black people an easy story to tell, but the overwhelming number of people affected by the disaster in the area of new orleans are black and poor, and, finally, like the notorious big, they have a story to tell.

as far as fact, your points don’t refer to lies, they refer instead to misgivings and unrequited attention-needs.

1) that it was a letter from new orleans doesn’t mean that the writer dug up through his attic to tell the tale, especially when he makes clear throughout the story that he was an onlooker. simply, it means that the observations came first hand from being in new orleans rather than new york or boulder or gretna, with all the incumbent preoccupations.

2) i don’t know whether the 9th ward was originally peopled by free blacks and europeans too poor to crowd into the upriver districts. the reader has to take the writer at face value on this point, but your point that the writer implied that blacks could only live there is missing in the article, and the reader should not assume it. clearly, the operative terms here are a wave of peoples, “exceptionally integrated” and “too poor to crowd into other areas,” most definitely including the poor whites that are “loyal to the neighborhood.”

3) the reporting about mutual aid does not appear to be written that it was exclusive to black people or the 9th ward. and, under the circumstances of poverty and neglect, mutual-aid reaches a level of importance in this climate that is especially vital.

4) i think it’s correct to note that the funneling effect of the waterways positions the 9th ward as a junction, although the waterways do not junction. and it is written that the industrial canal intersects with another canal, which is the eastern side of the same canal, and effectively positions the 9th ward as a junction with the intracoastal waterways and mr. go.

5) it is written, “Televised images of desperate people wading out of the Lower Nine shocked the American people—the obesity and missing teeth, the raggedness and strange English.” this is very different than the angle you presented, and makes all the difference in the world.

6) once again you have to take the writer at face value, or do your own polling. if, however, “a great deal” of new orleans was “barricaded in their homes and heavily armed” i think they should check their minds for their own racist, or at the very least, militant preoccupations. still and all, the remarks should be understood in the contect of, “Even as the city remained underwater, prominent politicians and businessmen began speaking of Katrina as a quick fix for generations of mistakes and neglect, a deus ex machina that would finally eliminate poverty in New Orleans.” as an end to this summation, the writer includes “A number of people I encountered—often barricaded in their homes and heavily armed.”

7 & 8) this is not the first place that i heard that people were not allowed to go back in, and whether any differing methodology was used in different neighborhoods.

9) many people are simply exhausted with the debates about black and white, raparations, affirmative action, have and have-nots; and part of that exhaustion, i think, contributed to the neglect and story. any story about the flood would be remiss to ignore the chronicles of not just a few people, both local and nationally, that believe new orleans is just another city that “seemed to be cleaving along a black-white line.” even in the absence of de facto segregation the appearance of disposable minority fits right in with race, and the other.

10) i’m missing the point of contention here, and whatever one’s beliefs about mayor nagin, one must realize that like all of us he is a complicated figure, and at a time of crisis, he probably found himself trying to figure out who had his back. at this time, as i try to focus on the assertion of “inaccuracies, lies and laziness,” i cannot find the issue, although your charges mount, and may appear as guilt by accusation.

(Anonymous) wrote:

Sep. 6th, 2006 07:48 pm (UTC)

better get it right 2

11) the concentrated latino population in kenner is in kenner, right, not new orleans. as for the unreal assertion that the city of new orleans does not concentrate its ethnic (for further reading: class) groups, the point the author was making was that ordinary folk were not invloved in planning and rebuilding. i have heard “many” employers make the point that new orleans folks have either not returned to take these jobs or do not care for them. whether it is the responsibility of employers to affirmatively seek these former residents by placing ads in houston, atlanta, utah, and other far-flung areas, i think merits another letter. also, i would claim that latino radio, fare and culuter are the truest signs of presence and ownership. because you can get a burrito at a dead show does not make it a heady cultural mix.

12) this is your most interesting point, and will require more research. after all, credibility is not your chief charm.

13) you should read the article again. this is not the first time that you mis-characterize the author, and not including the label of “the biggest fiction in the article.” he did not write anything about the 9th ward, but that “In early January, the commission published a map of the proposed shrunken city. Huge areas indicated by round green blotches would be converted to parks and green space. All of the blotches covered areas instantaneously recognizable to New Orleanians as primarily black areas.”

http://www.nola.com/katrina/pdf/planmap.pdf#search=%22Bring%20New%20Orleans%20Back%20Commission’s%20map%22

14) your agenda can be just as daunting as the author’s, for real. in its full context, the author wrote that ““We should talk about blocks and elevations, not neighborhoods, so we can talk about people rebuilding out of harm’s way.” Reilly [the developer], a red-haired man in his forties who likes to call himself “Mr. Tough Love,” showed me a poster-size satellite photograph of New Orleans at the height of the flood, color-coded according to water depth. He ran his hand over the darkest areas, which included a sliver of the Lower Nine. “We’re not going to allow rebuilding where it’s unsafe. We know what the FEMA maps are going to say. They will make some decisions. Certain places are obviously unsafe to build.” the color-coded map indicated the water-depths, at the height of the flood, with the darkest areas including a sliver of the lower 9th. there was no mention that it was worse than other areas.

15) you’re missing the point — again. the writer states, “Metairie, which was lightly damaged in the storm, was in a frenzy of rebuilding, like Reconstruction Atlanta in “Gone with the Wind.” The streets were jammed with high-riding contractors’ pickups and glaziers’ trucks that reflected the sun crazily in every direction. The farther into the city we drove, the thinner the traffic became. Along Napoleon Avenue, the grassy median—“neutral ground,” in New Orleans parlance—was covered with cars encrusted to their roofs with mud, parked there before the storm in the belief that five extra inches of elevation would keep them dry. By the time we reached Almonaster Boulevard, in the upper Ninth Ward, there was little sign of life.”

16) crayfish is the proper term for what is commonly referred to as crawfish and crawdad. crawfish is an american derivation, and i’ve only had reason to refer to them when also linking it to the new orleans or louisiana areas. so i don’t know why there is confusion with folk etymology, as if the writer were writing for a more informed world-wide audience. for sure, letters to the editor should not include accusations of eating garbage.

17) was mardi gras day (fat tuesday) not a sunny, cool and dry day? meaning tuesday or wednesday, not time of the day. the author does not write that either of the events that he writes about in this contect — the muses or mayor nagin — happened during daylight. read it again. the essential facts were mayor nagin leading the parade and how the muses “depicted Nagin playing the “race card” in a Cajun variant of poker called bourré, and FEMA as a barrel of monkeys,” and if he lied about any of these he should be dressed down.

(Anonymous) wrote:

Sep. 6th, 2006 07:49 pm (UTC)

better get it right 3

18) the writer was addressing the politics involved in planned recovery, including the disbusement of government assistance and flood insurance, where fema is involved in possibly requiring that new structures, and rebuilding in the flood plain, be elevated. whether than erring on the side of safety, the writer finds a witness of the state planning authority who believes that fema made its decisions this time in favor of racial politics. he even writes, “The three-feet requirement seemed both arbitrary and pointless in an area where water had run over rooftops.” that’s what you said he should be saying, and it seems like he said it before you.

19) i’m sure i’ve been to new orleans more than the writer, and nobody saw fit to smash me in the mouth or deny me my views because of the fine point about down river. you may need to remind me again, at that.

swampytad wrote:

Sep. 6th, 2006 08:32 pm (UTC)

Re: better get it right 3

not sure where to begin with this anoymous set of posts, or even whether to bother. i stand by my critique of the dan baum piece. i’ll start there. baum got certain facts plain wrong. he pumped up questionable assertions about new orleans in other places. and he missed the bigger picture as a whole. i really don’t know where your anonymous talk of burritos at dead shows and barely shaded accusations of racism (“guilt by accusation”?) come into play here. the point remains that the hurricane severely damaged a whole region, regardless of race, and the rebuilding process has been rocky for everyone (see that map to which you provide the link and really study how widespread those proposed building moratoria were). baum ignored this larger truth in an effort to tell a different story, a patronizing and largely inaccurate story, of racism and sinister motives. when he couldn’t even get the smallest facts right, or didn’t bother because they got in the way of his story, and when the new yorker couldn’t bother to check even those small facts, how can the greater article be trusted for any sort of accuracy at all? i mean, hey, outside of the facts, it’s a compelling read. but i worry what those inaccuracies will compel folks not from here to think.

swampytad wrote:

Sep. 7th, 2006 04:43 pm (UTC)

Re: better get it right 3

my initial thought was to not even respond at all to the post of an anonymous troll. then i thought that this troll’s post was indicative of the fact that, no matter what we try to explain from here on the ground, the rest of the world is going to see what it wants to see and believe what it wants to believe and, so, screw all the rest of you, i’m not wasting my time anymore, and shut the blog down. that’s still a real tempting option. but then i knew i didn’t want the anonymous troll to think that some latent validity in his/her posts caused me to shut up. because nothing could be farther from the truth. so, here it is:

(1) my first point was about laziness, also known as misleading the reader. when i first read the title, “Letter from New Orleans,” in the TOC of my new yorker, i thought, “thank god, a national publication printing some analysis from someone here, living through this, knowing the real ins and outs of what’s going on.” yes, when you get into the article, you realize baum bases his report on a series of visits to here, but that doesn’t change the fact that the title is misleading and lazy. it’s a letter about new orleans, ostensibly, but not from here. i don’t even get the impression reading the article that the article was written in new orleans or that baum was on the ground here for one long extended period of time to really feel the pulse of the people and the recovery, as opposed to a series of shorter visits. neither approach to gathering facts is inherently more valid than the other, but my point remains that the title is lazy and misleading as to the point of view that will be presented by the ensuing article. as for your lumping gretna, a local town in the greater metro new orleans region, with new york and boulder, you already begin to lose credibility. as a general premise, all of the immediate suburbs of new orleans (and some of the less immediate) are together in this. a gretna-ite or a metairian or a chalmatian or an arabian or a belle chassian or a slidellian all depend on the specific new orleans for his or her livelihood and for the identity of our metro area as a whole. to say that the perspective of someone in one of those locales is as removed or no more valid than a perspective from boulder or new york is to display (1) your own ignorance, and (2) a parochial way of thinking that is death to a regional economy such as ours. is there such ignorance and parochial thinking among people all throughout this metro region, new orleans, gretna, metairie, kenner, all parts included? yes. there’s stupid, short-sighted people everywhere, and the metro new orleans region is not excluded. but does that type of thinking predominate here? no. our region would have died a slow death a long time ago if that were the case. of course, you don’t include “gretna” accidentally or as a general signifier for new orleans suburbs. you likely use it as code to signify the turning back of refugees on the bridge by gretna cops and hope to taint the perspective of anyone from gretna or the other new orleans suburbs with this brush. what the gretna cops did is a separate discussion for a separate place, one in which we would like find much agreement. but that incident does not taint as remote or invalid the viewpoint of someone from gretna or metairie or belle chasse, or westwego or mandeville or uptown or downtown or . . .

pobaldy wrote:

Sep. 7th, 2006 10:06 pm (UTC)

Re: better get it right 3

i knew you would reply. you spent entirely too much time on the first post to abdicate your pride and proud heritage to some outsider. i suppose the clannishness down there is even greater, because of everything that’s gone on in the last year. like i said, that’s also why i created an identity or target for you to take aim at, if you like.

i hope that this conversation creates a better understanding, and can actually brings us and a lot of other people together. i am cautious in criticizing because i really am not doing it to make myself look good or smart but to come to an understanding — provide voice and reason, when able.

let’s not wrangle any further on the title: if a reader thought that he was getting the story from someone from new orleans, even though the writer made no effort at all to conceal it, then the laziness as well as the great desire belongs to the reader.

you missed my point, which i take responsibility for not clearly articulating, that it appears that many whites down-there feel snubbed that black people by and large are being given a voice in this time of tragedy. i think it explains alot, and i think however much you try to marry the relationship between black and white in new orleans you dismiss the experiences, via the story, of many blacks down-there, which could not be told without the daily brush of racial preferences. and even with your reckoning of harmony amongst mixed groups you likely won’t find many in that crowd that are poor and angry: white or black.

the story may be a feelgood balm to the preconceptions of northerners or more probably educated elites and cosmopolitans. laissez fare attitudes that existed before the hurricanes are being replaced by greater knowledge of what is happening to-date, which i think harnesses political pressure. the new yorker is one of the better journals, and it usually offers a balanced report. but what do you balance this story with? reconstruction? the reference to boulder and new york were to wherever the writer was writing from, and to gretna because of the bridge-incident. the point is to show that our responsibilities to each other don’t stop at our county or state lines. and to impugn the information because of some trumped-up charge — a letter from new orleans was written by an outsider that signed on as an outsider — is simple.

in fight and survival video games characters have so much power. let’s say that power equals access to institutions, media and power structures. as far as what is happening in the new orleans area, how much power do you have? a black person from the lower 9th? even if it was one person holed-up in his house waiting for looters? a black person from new york? a white person from colorado?

swampytad wrote:

Sep. 7th, 2006 10:16 pm (UTC)

Re: better get it right 3

this is good. i see our differences dissolving. understanding developing. despite my often-angry tone in all this, this is what i want and appreciate. i want a national reading of someone local like chris rose. so you’re right, i was mislead initially by the title because i wanted to be. i’m (sincerely) sorry that point took away from what i hope you or other readers will agree are very valid disagreements with baum’s characterizations.

swampytad wrote:

Sep. 7th, 2006 10:38 pm (UTC)

Re: better get it right 3

as to who’s poor or angry in the crowds i’m referring to (i think we’re talking about my lunchtime cbd scenario and reference to various music clubs and second lines), first note that everyone in the crowd is angry. we’re all pretty damned angry right now, still. poor? you’re right, less represented in the lunchtime cbd crowd. less represented at the maple leaf or maybe (maybe) at rock n’ bowl. but fairly evenly mixed at donna’s and vaughan’s, and heavily represented at second lines around town. but your point about the self-perception of powerlessness is a well-presented one. the biggest concern i have, though, is not that i feel snubbed or that white people feel snubbed in the telling of this tragedy, but that an inaccurate report of racism in the response to the tragedy will cause outsiders and the federal government to believe that this is not a region or a people worth saving. there is that, and there is also in my response to baum’s article and any slight inaccuracy within it a touch of the clannishness to which you refer. as you note, all of us down here are tremendously proud of being down here, where things are not like they are anywhere else (primarily in good ways).

swampytad wrote:

Sep. 7th, 2006 04:44 pm (UTC)

Re: better get it right 3

(2) & (3) you miss the point of this critique entirely when you say that the reader has to take the writer at face-value. not when the writer and the publication display a disregard for even simple facts. the story baum is telling on the whole is one of a city where the lower ninth ward isn’t being rebuilt, that this is the result of some deliberate race-based decisionmaking, and that it is therefore the black population of the city that is being targeted. he sets this up by trying at various points to plant a historical perspective that such has always been the way here, that black people were relegated to the lower areas downriver, forced to rely on social aid societies for basic needs. the point of my critique is that this characterization is incorrect insofar as it tries to paint a picture that only black people populated the 9th ward or that black people could only live in the ninth ward or that the social aid societies were a function unique to the black experience rather than unique to the new orleans experience as a whole. when you start to flesh out the facts with the whole picture, baum’s historical premises begin to erode. what he told on these points were not lies, but it was lazy in its incompleteness and, again, misleading.

(4) this i an astonishing point to me for you to try to defend either the writing or the fact-checking. it is a fact, indeed, that the confluence of waterways creates a funneling effect for storm surge right into the heart of the 9th ward. so why muck up this very salient point by getting wrong basic facts as to which waterways join? this is basic journalism. now, as to the implications of this funneling as a racial problem, note that, when these waterways were constructed, the 9th ward was an integrated neighborhood. to the extent decisions were made based on population, the issue was likely class, not race. these were working-class folks. they obviously were never going to build an industrial canal through uptown or the garden district.

(5) just quoting back to me the full sentence and telling me in a conclusory fashion that the full sentence “makes all the difference in the world” does not refute my point. tell me what that difference is. show it to me. i posit that it makes no difference. it is still baum describing those televised images as “the obesity and missing teeth, the raggedness and strange English,” making new orleans out to be some grotesquery of Otherness, some strange land with which the Rest of America cannot relate.

pobaldy wrote:

Sep. 7th, 2006 10:36 pm (UTC)

Re: better get it right 3

the logic is circular here: he’s lying, misrepresenting, and you cannot take him at face value because he is lying, misrepresenting. you expect that a news provider will check facts, or else risk its authority, and the reader can then relax on the facts of the story. if the facts are no longer in question but they are misleading, then the problem is with the story. who or what is being ignored?

perhaps the story should have been about the lower 9th ward. you definitely don’t get the feel that the story is about all of new orleans. whether people could differentiate between a byline about new orleans or black and poor in the lower 9 is to be considered. in telling the story of the lower 9, i think you had to deconstruct the views and experiences. i hope you are not suggesting that the predicment of most of the people in the lower 9 might not be different if race and class were not material, as intricate and totally separate as the two are. another story might be other areas of the city and the views of its residents, and how that might include all the overreaching to the lower 9.

finally, i don’t feel that the description was racist, as you accused. my position needed no explaining, as i felt that a full reading of that part of the artcile would suffice it. if the writing was racist then the over-exposure of black people in this disaster is also racist. many news agencies chose affirmatively to tell the story of forlorn people, and i am appreciative of it. the writing here was consistent with how out-of-touch most of us were.

swampytad wrote:

Sep. 7th, 2006 10:46 pm (UTC)

Re: better get it right 3

i have no problem with a story focusing just on the lower 9 or on the black experience post-katrina. spike lee’s documentary is a very good look at both of these facets of what’s gone on here. the problem i get is when the story starts to tell the story as if the black experience post-katrina and the struggle of the lower 9 is a story of particular tragedy that has come at the expense of other parts of the city. this is a story of divisions where the tragedy is actually not divided. in fact, the story of st. bernard and the story of lakeview show that the story of the lower 9 is, indeed, a common story not tied directly to the race (or, indeed, the class) of the residents. but with only dan baum’s piece being taken at face-value, the reader can’t know that.

swampytad wrote:

Sep. 7th, 2006 04:45 pm (UTC)

Re: better get it right 3

(6) here you are again taking the writer “at face value” without even addressing my critique of the value of that face. i do take him at face value. he says “a number of people.” the value of that is garbage, because “a number of” literally can mean one person, or two people, or a hundred people. this is a terribly misleading phrase, though, along the lines of Fox News-style reporting, because, of course, the colloquial meaning of “a number of” is “a lot,” and we just don’t know that “a lot” is true. i live here. i work here. i love here. i know this place and these people inside-out. to portray new orleanians of any race as being a majority of them pitted against each other on race lines in any militant sort of fashion, spouting off lines about cleansing of each other, is to fall victim to inaccuracy and stereotyping of the worst order. it would be tremendously interesting to me if baum told me he visited ten houses in the immediate aftermath of the storm and nine of the ten owners displayed these sentiments. not statistically significant, but interesting on an anecdotal level. it would be far less interesting to me if he told me he visited ten houses and two of the owners displayed these sentiments, or even if he only visited two houses and two owners displayed these sentiments. it would be very interesting to me in a rebuttal sort of way if he told me he visited a hundred houses and only found two people displaying these sentiments. but, because of lazy and misleading reporting and writing, resulting in the valueless “a number of,” we’ll never know. so, yes, take the writer at face value, which isn’t much.

(7) & (8) “not the first place i heard. . .” well, thanks a lot, anonymous person, welcome to the rumor mill. your prize? ruination of a city’s reputation and a people’s hope for rebirth. come back to me with facts and we’ll talk. the facts are that every entry-point into orleans parish (and, for a time, the surrounding parishes) was blocked off by military personnel and only emergency response personnel were allowed in. after residents were allowed in to examine their property as each neighborhood’s infrastructure was stabilized (read: live power lines cleared from roadways, gas lines shut off and houses stop blowing up), only those residents were allowed into their neighborhoods by ZIP code. these were restrictions based on public safety factors and were evenly applied to every citizen regardless of race or class. but don’t let my facts get in the way of your rumor-mongering.

pobaldy wrote:

Sep. 7th, 2006 11:04 pm (UTC)

Re: better get it right 3

this is my last reply for the day. i should be working…

the writer has lost you at this point, and you do not believe, or do not want to believe, anything he writes. so when he writes, “a number of…” you resist the racist implication by writing that it is a clear equivication. a writer intended on a lie might have found it more favorable to write “scores” or a lie. i would say that i/myself saw any number of homes with warning signs written to inform would-be looters that they would be shot. i don’t know if these were the homes of racist white persons, or more approvingly people caught trying to hold on to what they had, but i can tell you what my own preconceptions are. whether these preconceptions are the things that make good common sense, they represent the experience of many subject to change in light of improved trust. outside of the textbook or lab, even the fair white people of new orleans must bear this burden.

your second point is an excellent example of dispelling rumor with fact.

swampytad wrote:

Sep. 8th, 2006 02:39 pm (UTC)

Re: better get it right 3

i don’t think baum is intent on a lie with “a number of”; i think this is a prime example of misleading or being lazy. even if he does not intend to mislead with this phrase, it still doesn’t actually mean much or convey with any sort of accuracy to the reader what was or is really going on in new orleans race relations. “looters” does not equate to “black people,” so the signs you saw about shooting looters are not the same as the “number of people” who baum talked to who expressed a view that katrina was about cleansing the city. the biggest problem in looting has come in the months after the floodwaters receded, as people masquerading as contractors or delivery drivers swoop through all of the devastated neighborhoods, taking not just what the hurricane left behind, but new appliances, stacks of sheetrock, architectural detailing, you name it. and, coincidentally and only mentioned because we are discussing race here, these looters, when caught, have almost exclusively been white. so, shooting looters signs definitely does not equate to what baum is talking about here. i’m sensing this is a point on which we’ll have to agree to disagree. i just wanted more precision in language and accuracy in context to know what baum really was trying to report. as it is, i think he has reported Nothing with this anecdote modified by “a number of. . . .”

pobaldy wrote:

Sep. 11th, 2006 03:57 pm (UTC)

Re: better get it right 3

i just had the time to read the responses that i received by email. appreciate you taking the time, and i think that we’ve moved closer on not a few points, and improved my understanding. future discussions that i have will reflect this, and not so automatically, so reflexively, so emotionally, the breadline (cedes) of political power or attention.

as they say in the islands, much respect.

swampytad wrote:

Sep. 11th, 2006 04:20 pm (UTC)

Re: better get it right 3

much respect in return.

swampytad wrote:

Sep. 7th, 2006 04:46 pm (UTC)

Re: better get it right 3

(9) there’s a big difference between reporting the appearance and beliefs about race-divides, and investigating the facts and reporting the truth about race and class relations. the first one, passing on beliefs and appearances, is little more than spreading gossip. the second is journalism. if you’ve read my blog all along, you know i do not deny the racism and segregation in this city, and that i deplore it. but the story about new orleans and race is much more complex, and in many ways more positive, than elsewhere in the South or in the rest of the country. it’s very easy and lazy and reductionistic to paint new orleans as another sinister remnant of racist jim crow South. the truth is much harder to divine and relate. new orleans has long been a more integrated city than many, or perhaps any, other, socially, professionally, and residentially, dating back to prior to the abolition of the slave trade, prior to its entry into the Union. politically, new orleans has been in the vanguard as far as election of african-american city leaders (just a sampling: new orleans’ first black mayor elected in 1978, birmingham in 1979, atlanta in 1974, chicago in 1983, NYC in 1989). again, go out to lunch anywhere in the cbd any day of the week and see if you think this town is segregated. go to vaughan’s on a thursday night, donna’s on a friday night, rock n’bowl, the maple leaf, any second-line parade. more neighborhood are far more integrated racially than any other town with which i am familiar. and yes, this even holds true in many of the suburbs, which before the storm (in some cases, decades before the storm)were integrating racially and class-wise, which process has only been accelerated, of course, after the storm. now, that last point is important as a fact, because it is the exact opposite of saying that, post-storm, new orleans is cleaving along black-white lines. new orleans is not “just another city” on any issue.

(10) you don’t understand the critique, so you level your own accusation, thinly veiled, of racism (“guilt by accusation”)? wow. you’re a stunning rhetorician. yes, nagin is a complicated figure. but to the extent that baum was relaying that nagin is considered by someone to be a “white man in black skin,” and baum did so in the greater context of an article attempting to show how a white-controlled power structure was shutting out black people in the lower ninth ward, baum is being misleading when he then buries reporting of nagin’s post-storm re-election. although, as i discuss above, race and racial politics in new orleans isn’t the simple black-white issue that baum portrays it to be.

swampytad wrote:

Sep. 7th, 2006 04:49 pm (UTC)

Re: better get it right 3

(11) as to kenner being kenner and not new orleans, see my above response regarding ignorance and parochial thinking. as for “ordinary folk” being involved in planning and rebuilding, you are ignorant of (and you have no choice in that ignorance, as you must rely on the dan baum’s of the world to report to you) the neighborhood planning process now in place in new orleans, whereby grant funding from the rockefeller foundation, as administered by the New Orleans City Planning Commission, is being funneled to 73 identified neighborhood groups for use in studying and planning and recommending rebuilding plans for each neighborhood, to be consolidated by a CSO (community support organization) into one unified rebuilding plan. this is nothing but rebuilding planning from the “ordinary folk” up. as to latino culture, which is what the original critique on this point was about, new orleans has it, and has had it for years. the honduran and salvadoran populations in new orleans have been particularly well-established since the 1950s; indeed, the largest population of hondurans outside honduras is in new orleans. and your talk of burritos and dead shows is as off-the-mark and out of place as baum’s citation of nacho mama’s as exemplary of the mexican fare in this city. i addressed that already. next time you’re in town, go eat at coyoacan, then come talk to me about mexican or latino food.

(12) this, actually, is not my most interesting point, but is just an example of another inaccuracy in baum’s reporting and another failure in new yorker’s factchecking. but i will point you a couple posts up to an extended discussion of this very point, between someone who disagreed with me with facts and sources and to whom i responded with facts and sources, and which resulted in a sharing of source-backed ideas and dialogue that results in a far-clearer and more accurate picture than anything baum did. i’m sorry that you find my source-backed discussion does not equate to credibility when stacked up against your rumor-mongering and face-valuation. but somehow i think i’ll get over it.

(13) check that map you link to. not just you, but everyone. read the legend closely. look at all the colors on the map. who is prohibited from rebuilding under the commission proposal? which neighborhoods get to rebuild under the commission’s proposal? the proposal, you will see, is actually harshest in the whiter and/or wealthier neighborhoods. just looking at park space (and looking at it inaccurately, from a demographic standpoint), as baum has done, creates the lie that the commission was going to turn only black neighborhoods into parkland. that’s simply not the case under the commission’s proposal. but, luckily for all the neighborhoods in new orleans, nagin rejected the commission’s proposal and put into place the neighborhood-based planning process discussed above.

swampytad wrote:

Sep. 7th, 2006 05:03 pm (UTC)

Re: better get it right 3

(14) my agenda is daunting. rebuild the metro area. the whole thing. do it together, united, despite the efforts of others to come in and divide us or tell everyone else that we’re divided. now, as to that map on reilly’s wall, you are right that baum did not say that the map and reilly said only the ninth ward was too devastated to rebuild. but baum, again possibly through laziness (giving him the benefit of the doubt) or possibly through an effort to tell a story that doesn’t reflect reality (taking away that benefit of the doubt) leaves out the facts that (1) most of the ninth ward on that map is shown as being far from the most flooded, and (2) the middle-class neighborhoods of gentilly and the wealthy neighborhoods of lakeview are shown as being the most severely flooded. when you have all those facts in hand, you see that maybe reilly wasn’t talking about not rebuilding the neighborhoods where poor black people lived, but rather was discussing not rebuilding neighborhoods that flooded worst. of course, my “it’s the levees, stupid” discussion posits that all the neighborhoods are safe to rebuild if the corps of engineers actually builds the levees that congress originally authorized them to build.

(15) i’m missing no points, anonymous-person. this whole metro area is suffering, white and black, suburb and city. as we are united in suffering, we are united in rebuilding. i explicitly acknowledge that some folks’ damage is less than others, but i would call none of it “lightly damaged.” the only distinctions in damage are (1) how close you were to the path of the eye of the storm, and (2) how close you are and how low-lying in relation to, any of the major canal wall breaches. hence, outlying st. bernard parish and lower plaquemines parish were more damaged than chalmette, and arabi, which were as damaged or moreso than the lower 9, which was more damaged (but not much more) than the East and broadmoor and parts of old metairie but just as damaged as lakeview and gentilly, which was all more damaged than parts of metairie, which were nonetheless significantly damaged. and this leaves out slidell and mississippi and bayou la batre. it’s a much bigger picture of devastation than baum’s piece allows for, and short-shrifting the reporting of other parts’ damage deliberately obscures the enormity and gestalt of the rebuilding task facing our region.

(16) oh. pardon me for speaking improperly when talking about what it is that we eat here in louisiana. so sorry. and as to garbage, i’m again speaking to my local audience and improperly when i talk of eating garbage, i suppose. creole and cajun cuisines have a long and proud tradition of dressing up other people’s garbage and making it elegant. oysters rockefeller. crawfish etouffe. any number of things that we eat and cook down here derived as a way to optimize leftovers and dress up foods slightly spoiled from age or temperature. i didn’t consider it an insult. and, besides, this is no letter to the editor, but an expression of anger at authorial and institutional incompetence.

swampytad wrote:

Sep. 7th, 2006 05:05 pm (UTC)

Re: better get it right 3

(17) mardi gras day was sunny and dry. but it was not cool; i was actually kind of warm, and thankful for the daquiris and cold beer that folks gave me as compensation for my wonderful costume). and re-read the damned article. baum clearly conflates the events of Carneval to make it sound like Muses ran on mardi gras day (oh, and thank you so much for clarifying for me that that means fat tuesday). and “sunny” does connote time of day. and muses ran on the thursday preceding mardi gras day. at night. and i don’t berate baum for getting the details of muses’ floats wrong, but for not even getting the simplest facts right. what would it have hurt his article to put muses in the right time and place? the only thing he has hurt, instead, and needlessly so for the purpose of his point, is his journalistic integrity. when you’re a journalist, writing journalism, you don’t get to take artistic license with even the simplest facts.

(18) to say the elevation requirements are “arbitrary” is to say that they weren’t influenced by racial politics. because then they wouldn’t be “arbitrary” but would be race-based. arbitrary means without basis. my only point, and i grant you is less a rant at baum than it is at fema and the corps of engineers and every planning commission or agency that has recommended that the solution to our problem is higher houses, is that, regardless of how high on a house the water was, the water was there because the corps of engineers fucked up, not because the house was sitting at any particular elevation. there’s the story i want the new yorker to tell the rest of the world, the story that responsible publications like the times-picayune have been telling for a year now.

(19) as i said in my original letter, i let the upriver/downriver point go if not for the rest of the inaccuracies. (and i note from your comment here that you’re just another person from somewhere else trying to impose innuendo and baseless assumptions upon a place of which you have no true knowledge). but since you bring it back up. the river, its bends and crescents and currents, is the reason this place Is, the reason these people Are. its sinews shape our thoughts and reflect back in our music, our food, our culture. and our topography and geography and cartography. i watch the sunrise from my downtown office window every morning, over the west bank of the river. sounds different, and crazy, but it’s the fact of the map. and baum ignoring the fact of the map is just another example of taking creative license that only serves to disserve truth. when you can’t get simple facts right, how can we take at face-value, if you will, the larger truths he’s trying to communicate?

now i don’t quite know what you feel about tax breaks for the wealthy. i don’t like them much, myself, but how i feel about that has nothing to do with how i feel about baum’s piece. your logic escapes me. maybe i’m just some hick, uneducated, barefoot, shotgun by the front door, and can’t grasp your greater use of the brain and language. or maybe you just don’t get it, what’s happened here, who it’s happened to. it’s happened to all of us, regardless of race and class. some interesting studies have compared pre-storm demographic information to post-storm information regarding deaths, property damage, displacement from the metro area, and employment upheaval, and found that the only demographic that showed a disproportionate representation between pre-storm new orleans and any of the post-storm impacts was age. not race. not income. this is a storm that disproportionately affected the elderly. the rest of us, the impacts were proportionate, just as likely to kill or damage or displace white as black, rich as poor. we’re all united in this, down here, regardless of what you want to see from wherever you are, boulder, new york city, wherever. you’ll see what you want to see, though; i’m learning that now.

pobaldy wrote:

Sep. 7th, 2006 08:47 pm (UTC)

Re: better get it right 3

it appears that there is an expectation of full identity disclosure, as if anonymity clouds the ideas, but truly i didn’t have time to create an account. i stumbled onto your blog by way of baum and the new yorker article that i was looking to share with others. i was so incensed by your reading that i spent entirely too much time in responding, that i wasn’t about to create an account. i did later, because i knew the issue of identity would come up.

so now, that i am still playing ctach-up from yesterday, i don’t have time to read your replies. i will. i came back because i also found this, to add to #19.

beginning his article, baum wrote, “The downriver side of New Orleans has always evoked strong emotions. The French avoided it, settling the high ground of a Mississippi River oxbow that would become the heart of the city.”

history

  • Aug. 26th, 2006 at 6:12 AM

the response to my rebuttal of dan baum’s fiction piece in the new yorker regarding the ninth ward has been pretty positive. but i think yellowdoggrl hit on it best when she talked about who’s writing our history. history has often been told by someone else, somewhere else, sometime else. history becomes his story, as krs-one said back in 1990. while i’d like to be all cyber-pollyanna and posit that this age of blogging and these new orleans community blogs change all of that, what i really hope is that our katrina history will go down as told by the chris rose’s of the world, rather than [edited out some venom here] dan baum.

incidentally, [edited out some more venom here], check out this for an example of a good story (other than need for some thorough copy editing) about the lower Ninth Ward. Another example of telling the story ourselves to make sure it’s done right.

and one last thing. i know new orleanians and others have beeb blogging katrina since five days before landfall, but any help we can get, right? there’s a “blogswarm” project being posited by king kranky and shakespeare’s sister. might be worth a look-see.

remembrance

  • Aug. 29th, 2006 at 9:36 AM

Read this for a look at the During.

Read this for a very good breakdown of the centuries of “Why?”

Read this for Chris Rose’s latest take on where we are now.

From that second link is the following passage, as good a brief encapsulation of Katrina and the After as I’ve seen, as far as brief encapsulations go:

“In the course of a morning, Katrina would envelope them in arguably the largest natural disaster in U.S. history — and certainly American civil engineering’s greatest failure, as levees and floodwalls failed across the metro area.

“The toll: 1,464 Louisianians dead, almost all of them in the New Orleans area. One hundred and forty square miles of a major city flooded for six weeks; St. Bernard Parish demolished, wall to wall; lower Plaquemines Parish devastated; southern Slidell and much of Metairie north of Interstate 10 flooded. In all, 160,000 homes destroyed or substantially damaged across five parishes.

“And a more enduring tragedy: the forced relocation of about 240,000 New Orleanians who may never return.

“Katrina would prove a three-stage disaster.

“First would come the hell of flood and fire and thousands of isolated fights for survival that befell the city that first day, Aug. 29 — followed by the wholly unanticipated but unspeakably cruel aftermath of official sluggishness and incompetence that left Katrina’s weakened survivors abandoned, exposed and dehydrated for days before the last could be evacuated.

“And finally, the unrelenting heartbreak Katrina has inflicted every day since then: the misery of impoverishment, separation and uncertainty as tens of thousands rebuild broken lives and restore neighborhoods rendered into bleak moonscapes of flood damage. Tens of thousands more have found themselves effectively exiled in another city, another state, indefinitely cut off from New Orleans in a place arbitrarily picked a year ago by the flight schedule of an evacuation team.”

And remembering, through my own personal veil of survivor’s guilt, in no particular order and sure to leave someplace out (so add those places in the comments to fill this out):

Waveland, Bay St. Louis, Diamondhead, Gulfport, Biloxi, Ocean Springs, Bayou La Batre, Dauphin Island, Yscloskey, Shell Beach, Hopedale, Toca, Violet, Meraux, Chalmette, Arabi, Buras, Port Sulphur, Venice, Boothville, Grand Isle, Slidell, Venetian Isles, Irish Bayou, Lake Catherine, the East, Little Woods, Chef Menteur, da’ Ninth Ward, the Lower Nine, Holy Cross, the Treme, the 7th Ward, Gentilly, Park View, City Park, Mid-City, Central City, Broadmoor, Uptown, Jefferson Avenue, Pigeon Town, Holly Grove, Lakeview, Lake Vista, West End, Old Jefferson, Old Metairie, Metairie, Kenner, Holly Beach, Calcasieu, Cameron.

And celebrating:

yellowdoggrl‘s and the Beau’s rebuilding, the city’s rebuilding and rebirth, the generosity of a nation and a world.

And condemning:

FEMA, Bush (George W., not Reggie, who I should add to the “celebrating” column), Blanco much of the time, hizzoner Nagin a good bit of the time (but I feel for him, I really do, much of the time), the Dan Baums and the New Yorker fact-checkers of the world, Christians for Columbia, hate-mongers and ignorant asses everywhere.

one more link, and a backwards jazz funeral

  • Aug. 29th, 2006 at 4:43 PM

i left out this when providing links earlier today. just a snapshot from one of this weekend’s times-picayunes, of where some basic things are one year after the storm. i really hope that, when history looks back, it notes the times-picayune as the source of record on all of this. they have done an outstanding job. much moreso than the dan baum’s and the Tages Anzeiger’s of the world.

after a lunch with yellowdoggrl at the uptown cajun, one of the joints participating in the share our strenth restaurant fund drive (check that link for participating restaurants near you and go out to eat tonight), i went back downtown to work. stepped out of my office around 3 for the passing one new orleans jazz funeral. a little topsy-turvy, as a brass band playing joyful second line music preceded the casket (which, unfortunately, did not contain the president, who was in town visiting today but who did not grace our jazz funeral with his presence), instead of the other way around as in traditional jazz funerals, but then later in the procession was the rebirth brass band, followed by a bunch of hippy kids (i don’t know), so the procession righted itself a little.

Comments

dblissmn wrote:

Sep. 6th, 2006 03:40 am (UTC)

I agree, the T-P did a very good job on this; it’s reminiscent of the Grand Forks Herald when the Red River of the North flooded their entire city in 1997. It’s all too rare these days in the MSM, no matter where the paper in question is politically. Happily, like the G-F Herald, the T-P got their due recognition, actually getting two Pulitzers. This for a paper that once had a reputation in the industry as being quite undistinguished. They’ve come a long way. Incidentally, if you go and check out the T-P’s prize announcement from April, you’ll see that this was the first year the Pulitzer committee accepted content originally posted online. Back in 1997, the Grand Forks Herald was able to keep printing during their flood thanks to their sister paper in St. Paul, Minnesota (Pioneer Press), while the T-P had no such fallback. If the Pulitzer committee hadn’t finally woken up and smelled the coffee with regard to the Internet, the T-P would have been out of luck.

posting on my livejournal

  • Aug. 30th, 2006 at 3:50 PM

anonymous posting really aggravates me. i expect to be disagreed with, but i like to know who i’m talking to. i won’t screen comments or friends-only my posts, because i’d like to cast wide the net of my ranting, and non-LJ’ers who comment tend to provide some attribution/identification in the body of their comment. but sometimes they don’t. now the post that got me thinking about this was actually quite a good comment about how i shouldn’t thrown stones at glass houses without examining my own walls. while i explained in response that my walls are solid, the dialogue nonetheless only serves to bolster the discussion of Dan Baum’s [edited out some venom here]. still, please, as a general rule, tell me who you are.

Comments

swampynoladad wrote:

Aug. 31st, 2006 12:18 pm (UTC)

Anonymous postings

Glass walls, or not, and I agree, your walls are solid, anyone who doesn’t have the intestinal fortitude to identify themselves deserves to be ignored. Or worse.

Dad

dblissmn wrote:

Sep. 6th, 2006 03:24 am (UTC)

Check out the thread on the Riverfront . . .

I was the anonymous user. I didn’t understand the Open ID thing and all I had to put as a URL was my e-mail, which concerned me a bit. In any case, I’ve now got a LiveJournal account because of this, and I added a lot of detail to my original comment with a couple of URLs that I think should be useful to folks. So go check it out.

swampytad wrote:

Sep. 6th, 2006 02:01 pm (UTC)

Re: Check out the thread on the Riverfront . . .

thanks, dblissmn, for adding to the discussion. i really do like the disagreement and the dialogue. and welcome to livejournal, too.

i’m starting to understand restricted commenting

  • Sept. 7th, 2006 at 1:09 PM

so another anonymous poster hit up my critique of dan baum’s new yorker article last night, this time a troll with nothing to do but make conclusory allegations and parrot back dan baum’s text to me (yes, those are three links to three different posts), in no way actually confronting the substance of my critique. i know i shouldn’t have wasted the time, but i dispatched his/her anonymous comments at length. and then i promptly registered-user-onlied my blog. i appreciate good disagreement and dialogue, but fully anonymous trolling has wasted enough of my time. now i suppose that it’s easy enough to get an lj account and then come set me off again, and maybe i will eventually friends-only the damned thing or shut it off altogether, but i would like to try to keep it all out there to some extent. for now, at least.

Comments

miz_landry wrote:

Sep. 7th, 2006 06:53 pm (UTC)

It’s CRAWFISH, DAMMIT.

Eff those trolls.

swampytad wrote:

Sep. 7th, 2006 07:08 pm (UTC)

Re: It’s CRAWFISH, DAMMIT.

ah, but it’s only “crawfish,” apparently, to those of us who eat them, not to those who write the stylebooks and *know better.* but crawfish seem to be the least of our troubles. i’d eat crayfish if folks would actually stop and look at everything, good and bad, that’s really happening around here.

miz_landry wrote:

Sep. 7th, 2006 07:23 pm (UTC)

Re: It’s CRAWFISH, DAMMIT.

cow=beef

lamb=mutton

brain innards=head cheese (not sure that’s better)

crayfish=crawfish

If you’re eating it, you get to rename it. Didn’t the English invent that rule?

zurcherart wrote:

Sep. 7th, 2006 07:17 pm (UTC)

Oh God. You made me read that whole thing.

And I was DAMN hot by 4.00 on Madi Gras (that means Fat Tuesday doncha know) Day.

But here’s a reason – and an interstesting story – from another friend today on why you might want to allow the anonyms:

http://susandennis.livejournal.com/1033970.html

swampytad wrote:

Sep. 7th, 2006 07:35 pm (UTC)

i’m still not convinced about anonymous posters, nor am i convinced that allowing registered-lj’ers solves my concern. the only real solution, i suppose, would be to ignore them. but i feel accountable (imagine that) to those who read and question what i post, and the conundrum comes in being accountable to someone who won’t identify themselves.

and thank you, and yellowdoggrl, for reminding me of how sweaty i was on mardi gras day.

gutterboylive wrote:

Sep. 7th, 2006 07:26 pm (UTC)

You might want to consider who would have the time, interest, imperative, and ego to compose such a lengthy screed about a two-week-old blog post, and who might’ve come across it, and how.

In August 2004, Dan and Margaret began working exclusively for the New Yorker, with Dan’s byline appearing as “staff writer.” Margaret and Dan’s work usually appears under Dan’s byline. Non-fiction frequently calls for a strong individual voice, and occasionally the use of the first person, so double bylines often aren’t practical.

There’s so much screwy about that statement I don’t know where to begin, but there’s a defensive little ego in there. Double bylines seem a lot more “practical” than leaving off the name of one of the writer.

In what may be a related matter, I’d refer you to this.

swampytad wrote:

Sep. 7th, 2006 07:33 pm (UTC)

those thoughts you’re harboring had crossed my mind, as well.

and it seems to me that a fictitious single byline when a double byline is more truthful is more problematic than use of first person or strong individual voice when someone else is helping you write and/or polish up the writing.

but, you know, whatever floats margaret’s and dan’s boat(s).

and hooray for The New Republic for showing a little institutional integrity. refreshing. thanks for passing that along.

ahembree wrote:

Sep. 8th, 2006 01:38 am (UTC)

You know, I am always amazed at the amount of energy people will put into tearing apart other’s ideas in a blog and saddened by their lack of energy at doing anything about change. I am happy/proud to say you are both a man of words and actions…I doubt very much that I can say that about “anonymous”.

swampytad wrote:

Sep. 8th, 2006 02:42 pm (UTC)

thanks for the kind words, my dear. turns out ananoymous has registered an lj account, pobaldy, and we are now carrying on a spirited-yet-civil dialogue on the tail-end of the whole dan baum post. of course, if not for my concommitant actions, i could also be characterized as sitting around tearing apart another’s ideas by enumerating so extensively what i find offensive about dan baum’s article. i just happen to think i’m right, of course. 😉

gritsinmisery wrote:

Sep. 9th, 2006 05:36 pm (UTC)

I’m still open

I haven’t had to limit yet, but then I’ve seen no trolls. Of course, since I’ve done nothing but lurk so far it’s rather limited my viewership…

But this Katrina anniversary nonsense (as in, the nonsense written / spoken by those who do not live in NOLA) has upset me enough to de-lurk. So I guess I’m now a former-lurker. Or a late-lurker.

beside myself with joy

  • Sept. 8th, 2006 at 12:59 PM

Thank you, yellowdoggrl, for passing on this FANTASTIC NEWS: BROCATO’S IS REOPENING!!! (and i despise exclamation points, generally). this is, for me, the best post-storm culinary news, yet. and a great sign of life for the mid-city neighborhood. mmmm. cannoli, straciatella, spumoni, mezza crema, strawberry ice, fig cookies, rum raisin gelato. i’m weeping with joy.

how awful is it . . .

  • Sept. 19th, 2006 at 9:26 AM

. . . to be looking forward to the weekend when it’s still only tuesday? but it will be a great weekend. on saturday morning, i’m buying wood to build the frame for the palapa roof in the backyard, then at noon is the reopening of Brocato’s. then sunday is the christening of the King of All Wild Things, followed by brunch/reception at Taquero’s y Coyoacan. then monday is the reopening of the superdome, with the googoo dolls, rebirth brass band, storyville stompers, green day, u2, and the saints kicking atlanta’s ass all over the FieldTurf — and we got two tickets! (thought nephew had scooped them all, but turns out he only got two, leaving two for first-comers, and guess who that was?).

elections on saturday

  • Sept. 26th, 2006 at 2:12 PM

this from Maitri-VR at new orleans metroBlog:

“Wasn’t last night a great piece of history? While not at the game, I was surrounded by friends at a favorite local establishment cheering on the New Orleans Saints with the rest of the state and nation. Today is the day after, and it’s time to think ahead. Do you think >30,000 will show up with this much enthusiasm at the polls this Saturday, and vote on ballots that will strengthen our levee oversight?

“You have four days to educate and convince yourselves on 13 proposed amendments to the state constitution. The third page of this article displays statistics of the abject voter apathy here. I love my football, but I love my responsibility to this state, too. So can you.”

The rest of the post provides links to explanations of the 13 proposed amendments.

in other news, this past weekend was great. folks came in for the King of All Wild Things’ christening, then we had the brunch at Coyoacan, which was fantastic. the night before was spent eating cannoli and gelato at the reopened Brocato’s. and last night was spent at the Superdome watching the saints kick atlanta’s ass. ha HA, indeed.

extra-curricular activities

  • Sept. 26th, 2006 at 3:08 PM

i noticed an entry over at the livejournal new orleans community from an out-of-town guy looking for something “interesting” to do with his off-days when he comes down later in the fall for VooDoo Fest. I suggested two interesting things he might do are get involved in a gutting or cleanup, and drive around to educate himself on where things still are and aren’t so that he can go back to new york armed with information about what needs to be done. via email i sent him a link to katrina krewe’s volunteer information page, and directions for a self-guided driving tour, and it strikes me this might be a good thing to have generally available, so here it all is, behind the cut:

Here’s a link that, in turn, has tons of links to cleanup organizations in town:

http://cleanno.org/volunteer.html

Since Voodoofest is in City Park, you may find the City Park cleanup volunteers

link to be especially appropriate. I also saw on the page, but have not checked

out, a link for discounted hotel rooms for out-of-town cleanup volunteers.

The tour I take people on is fairly simple, so I can try and give it to you

directions here. I’ll assume a starting point of downtown, but you can adjust

this however you see fit [edit: this is a simplified version to try to accomplish in as basic a geometric pattern as possible a comrehensive sampling of the damage for someone not from here]. It’s all very straightforward, takes about three

hours, and takes you through the upper and lower ninth wards, chalmette, new

orleans east, gentilly, and lakeview, before returning back to downtown via

mid-city.

(1) drive away from the river on Canal Street.

(2) turn right onto Claiborne.

(3) stay on Claiborne all the way through Treme, upper ninth ward. (it may turn

into North Robertson at some point; just go with this). Just before you get to

the bridge over the industrial canal, turn left on Bartholomew Street; go two

blocks to see Habitat’s Musician’s Village project; beware of very large

potholes. return to Claiborne/N. Robertson and head over the Industrial Canal

bridge.

(4) over the bridge, you are now in the lower ninth ward. turn right down

Tennessee or Reynes or Forstall. wind around the neighborhood. turn left onto

St. Claude.

(5) St. Claude will take you into St. Bernard Parish, where it become St.

Bernard Highway.

(6) Turn left on Packenham (you are now in Chalmette). Go up to next major

intersection; turn right on Judge Perez.

(7) Turn left onto Paris Rd. This will eventually become I-510. Continue on

I-510 over the Intracoastal Waterway and merge onto I-10 West back towards New

Orleans.

(8) Take the Read Blvd. exit. Turn right on Read. (you are now in New Orleans

East)

(9) Turn left on Morrison.

(10) Turn left on Crowder.

(11) Turn right on Chef Menteur (a good ways after you pass back under the

interstate).

(12) Cross over Industrial Canal on the Chef Menteur bridge — road then

becomes Gentilly Blvd. (you are now in Gentilly).

(13) Turn right on Franklin.

(14) Turn left on Fillmore.

(15) Turn left on St. Bernard.

(16) Turn right on Harrison. Cross over Bayou St. John and into City Park. Go

“straight” through all the roundabouts in City Park (and if VoodooFest screws

this part up, my apologies) until you emerge on the other side of the park and

pass over the Orleans Avenue outfall canal. You are now in Lakeview.

(17) Go all the way down Harrison until you hit the 17th Street Canal. Turn

right onto Bellaire.

(18) Turn right onto Hammond Highway (turns into Robert E. Lee).

(19) Continue on Robert E. Lee to Canal Blvd. Turn right onto Canal Blvd.

(20) Turn left onto City Park.

(21) Turn right onto Carrolton.

(22) Stop and eat some gelato or a cannoli (or both) at Angelo Brocato’s, which

will be on your left right before you get to the intersection with Canal Street

(right after interestion with Bienville).

(23) Go back downtown to starting point via Bienville, stopping for a beer at

Liuzza’s.

You can cut off any section of this easily to conform to time requirements. E.g., you can cut off Chalmette and

New Orleans East by turning back around and heading across the industrial canal

on Claiborne, then turning right onto Franklin to head up into the Gentilly leg.

This will save you at least a half-hour off the tour. You can cut off the

gelato or the beer, but I wouldn’t recommend that.

Comments

miz_landry wrote:

Sep. 26th, 2006 09:22 pm (UTC)

Wow, that’s nearly my favorite “Walker Percy Drive” that I took hubby on when we took our first trip to Gulf Shores together. I may have to do it your way when we’re down over T-giving. Last Christmas, just seeing Lake View and Gentilly upset me so much, I couldn’t bear seeing the 9th ward.

We are also hoping to give up at least one day of our vacation doing some work with the Katrina Krewe. Most other volunteer options need a more long term commitment, but given we have two kids and are only there for two weeks, we need something where we can just show up one day and start working. So, great tips.

I AM SOOOO HOMESICK RIGHT NOW, WHAT WITH THE GAME AND MY LACK OF RED BEANS IN THE HOUSE! Can’t wait to arrive at MSY in November.

swampytad wrote:

Sep. 26th, 2006 09:45 pm (UTC)

you can’t get any camellia beans in your grocery stores out there? that *is* a cause of homesickness, indeed.

just a clarifying note. katrina krewe is not itself in the business of doing cleanups anymore, but have switched their focus to education and outreach. the list of volunteer opportunities and contacts on their website, though, is up-to-date and a good one-stop shop for finding the other groups still cleaning up and gutting and such.

november will be here before you know it!

miz_landry wrote:

Sep. 26th, 2006 10:03 pm (UTC)

i’m one lonely cajun out here

Well, before katrina, the basque meat market near my house started selling camelias and I was soooo excited but it took them forever to get the gig going and then with katrina and rita, he couldn’t get them. i haven’t been to the store since the baby was born…to complicated to specialty shop these days. my mama showed up after the birth with a supply of white and red camelias but we cooked all of those except one thing of white that sits in my pantry–may have to due during this bean pinch I’m in. i’m usually not without beans for too long given my family pipeline from oakland to raceland. and, our christening of the girl will be nov. 4 so they’ll show up with shrimp and andouille and beans.

what i really wish I could get were canned blue runners! the best beans when you can’t cook your own!!!! I tried the zatarains from the box, but there are only about 6 red beans in the entire box and they taste like, well, like they came from a box!

november will be here soon. until then, i’ll have to settle for my own cooking. someone made me an anemic gumbo last week. good effort, but it sucked pretty bad!

about that superdome and that game . . .

  • Sept. 27th, 2006 at 9:59 AM

amid the hubbub and cheer of the reopening of the Dome and the return of the Saints, there has been the occasional grumble of, “why’d they spend all that money on a stadium repair/renovation when so many homes are still a shambles?”

aside from the fact that the insurance and grant and bond refinancing pots of money that the Dome repairs were paid from are pots of money not available in any case to anyone who is not the Superdome authority and that repair/renovation of the Dome with this money did not preclude anyone else from receiving funds for other repairs, the Main Fact is that we need things like the Dome and the Convention Center to be operating generators of revenue and attractions for outside events bringing much-needed tourists and conventioneers and their money. here’s an article from this morning’s times-picayune detailing this need and effect, including the fact that just the direct economic impact of this past weekend’s game is conservatively estimated at $17 million, before factoring in the indirect economic multipliers to this weekend’s visitors or quantifying the advertising and pr boost to the city’s convention and tourism business. to say that new orleans should not rebuild the Superdome or not hold Jazzfest or not hold Mardi Gras would be like saying that detroit should not rebuild its auto manufacturing plants should they all succumb to some mass catastrophe, or like saying New Orleans shouldn’t rebuild its port facilities.

if you still think it was just a game, though, read Chris Rose’s column from today’s times-pic.

Oct. 2nd, 2006

  • Oct. 2, 2006, 9:30 AM

did i mention that brocato’s has reopened? (the picture that leads the article is a table of my associates and support staff from our friday lunch field trip).

i won’t be cussing you out today

  • Oct. 3rd, 2006 at 1:07 PM

after reading chris rose’s column from da paper today (and thanks to yellowdoggrl for typing in the whole text on her lj page), wherein he eviscerates the out-of-town letter writers to the USA Today who were critical of the refurbishment of the Superdome, i was all revved up to sit down with my blog and type in a ginsbergian screed proclaiming “fuck you, america” (present company excluded, of course), but much longer and more involved, about the lies you tell yourselves about us and about how you ask us to chop off not just our hands but also our arms and legs and reproductive parts, and maybe our noses to spite our faces, too, and then ask us to function and produce and reproduce.

but somewhere along the way i cooled off a little bit. i chilled out. i went to the annual red mass at the cathedral. i walked through the quarter and the cbd. i came back to my office. i found a March article from the louisiana weekly talking about how the fears of new orleans becoming a majority white city were unfounded, that this is still, racially and historically speaking, the gumbo that we all live in and love in. and then i went to usa today’s website to see the source material for chris rose’s screed. and, sure enough, they were there, those six letters that that rag of a paper printed, all spouting our loutishness and brutishness. but they were followed by almost unanimous rejection of the letter-writers’ premise. commenters pointing out the economic, social, and psychic necessity of the superdome renovation. the comment trail was closed down, but it ended with this, from a Robbie Taylor:

“I take exception to your choice to print editorial replies from people across the country offended by the the New Orleans Saints playing in a renovated Super Dome. Did any of them ask what a New Orleanian thought about the event? Did they realise that most of the school children wore the Saints colors (Black & Gold” to school that day. Do they realise that a vast majority of the people down here were estatic about the whole thing and most of us wept at some time during the game? That black people sang and played the National Anthem, that >50% of the fans in the seats were black, that the dome is steel and bronze (not concrete) and that the $185 million did not take one cent away from other programs to restore the city?”

oh, and i want to invite you all to welcome a new lj friend of mine, but my best friend in real life in this blessed and cursed city, skiegazer55.

Comments

yellowdoggrl wrote:

Oct. 3rd, 2006 07:07 pm (UTC)

if the pacifist leftism and humanitarian works of U2 and the replacement of hundreds of musicians’ instruments thanks to The Edge aren’t enough for Our Man In Omaha, has he ever heard of Irma Thomas and Allen Toussaint? I frothed about that one point alone for a good three minutes.

the real question is whether any of the pro-Dome responses to those letter-writers will be printed in the actual left-on-the-floor-of-every-motel-in-America paper ever, or whether the ignorant are given the last word.

p.s. I have friended skiegazer55, as I did rgaddy before him.

swampytad wrote:

Oct. 3rd, 2006 07:13 pm (UTC)

here’s hoping that skiegazer55 gives your friends page more content than my slacker best friend outside this cursed and blessed city, rgaddy, has. 😉

miz_landry wrote:

Oct. 4th, 2006 03:40 am (UTC)

Hey, aren’t U2 good Catholic boys? I thought that was pretty appropriate for a Catholic city!

swampytad wrote:

Oct. 4th, 2006 02:24 pm (UTC)

i had no problem with it. edge and bono have both been very busy helping out our community’s musicians since right after the storm. green day has likewise been a big supporter of the city’s recovery. plus, while maybe it wasn’t emphasized in the tv coverage (i don’t know), the whole jam was begun by and accompanied by the rebirth and new birth brass bands and by trombone shorty and his guys. as eric paulsen said during wwl’s morning show on monday morning, interviewing troy (trombone shorty) andrews, “that sure was great that you got that bono and that green day guy to get on stage and play with you.”

and, of course, the allen toussaint/irma thomas national anthem was the true musical highlight.

miz_landry wrote:

Oct. 4th, 2006 03:07 pm (UTC)

none of that was conveyed very well. But, hey, it was ESPN, for pete fountain’s sake. I did think the addition of “New Orleans” in a lot of the lyrics was a bit corny, but other than that, I was all teary eyed for the entire broadcast. And, didn’t southern perform half time? that was definitley not on tv.

I think there will be a few curmudgeons who have to say shit no matter what and y’all need to just ignore them. Most people, at least most people who think, understand the plight and are rooting for the city and region to recover. Besides, I hear when Nagin presented his plan to get people out the city for the next hurricane that not one city said they’d do it. So, looks like with that neighborly attitude, the country better hope the city comes back majorly fortified!

I also am really pissed that Houston tried to blame it’s rise in crime on katrina evacuees, but that’s another rant.

Keep the faith. Seems like only the cooks get press.

pobaldy wrote:

Oct. 4th, 2006 01:14 am (UTC)

homer

hey man, i was in new orleans for the game. i won a couple of tickets to the game, the flight and a night at a hotel on a radio show here in atlanta. my wife and i were there for about 24 hours, long enough to take a couple of buses from the airport (by choice in order to stay off the blinding “express ways”) to our hotel on canal street, a stroll through the french quarter (in order for her to experience the “loutishness” that the city is famous for) and the crazy environment around the stadium, the first game back. my wife is also 6 months pregnant, and neither the french quarter nor the stadium were the scenes for her, notwithstanding our constant evaluation of how accomodoating a trip would be if we had our other two young children with us. even then, in that we hail from california, where there is virtually no smoking in public, most places from las vegas (a family wedding) to paris fail to make the grade anyway. perhaps more in order not to tarnish my own image, i tried to tell her that, over the years, each time that i would visit the city for the jazz and heritage fess (six times) i would explore another area of the city and outlaying areas, and that the city was far more than the french quarter, including the intense crime and poverty that i was familiar with. it had also been a long time since i had been to a professional football game — it was the first time for my wife — and quite possibly the disorder that we witnessed was common tailgating, common to the game or the return both, but the area reminded me of what it might have been like during the wait after the hurricane.

i also thought it symptomatic that we meet a young white girl at the bus stop at the airport; she tells us that she is headed back home to the 9th ward to clean up, and i later come to find my wife and my mother in-law discussing whether she can possibly be of mixed ethnicity because of where she lived. truth be told, many people ask my wife the same thing owing to the fact that her own father whose ancestors are from louisiana could also pass either way. just so much lack of knowledge about the city, as other cities too. i was listening to this sports radio program today when boston comes up as one of the most segregated cities in the states. i’ve lived in cambridge, worked on the cape, and visited all over the state, and you’ll find as much mixing of the races in some places as you do in new orleans.

anyway, i thought about you when i came across another radio program today around the one year anniversary of the storm. i’m still listening to it, but i am very impressed with jed horne and his comments about the city, and thought they echo some of your statements.

take it easy, and i’ll be back to yer blog cause i’m interested in the city and the recovery; and the way you fight for your city reminds me of the way i fight for the image of my hometown LA.

swampytad wrote:

Oct. 4th, 2006 02:31 pm (UTC)

Re: homer

thanks for dropping by. that’s fantastic that you won a trip in for the game. i can’t quite tell from your description if you had a good trip or not; if not, i hope you come back and your next trip is better. you are right on that new orleans IS far more than the french quarter. for some visitors, the french quarter’s all they need. but for the rest of you, we’ve got plenty more than that.

jed horne does have good insights into the storm, the aftermath, and the city. if you don’t know about it, he has written a pretty good book about it all. of course, i would be remiss if i didn’t plug once again chris rose’s book compiling his pulitzer-prize-finalist columns from right after the storm through the new year. best book, IMO, about the city after the storm.

catch you later.

gritsinmisery wrote:

Oct. 4th, 2006 03:01 pm (UTC)

ooh-lah-lah

Perhaps this is another lesson to all of us to our research before we blow our tops? I mean, everyone other than the mouth-breathers knows that rag is trash. (grin)

But seriously, I agree that no one who does not have to deal with the aftermath of the disaster should have a say in what does or does not get renovated.

And crikey, I was in NOLA for the police strike during 1979. I didn’t go into the Quarter at night, but it was no worse during the day than any other year. Most people are smart enough not to kill the golden goose.

join a conversation about race in post-katrina New Orleans

  • 4th, 2006 at 10:08 AM

Over at skiegazer55‘s page. here’s the specific post, and comments:

skiegazer55 – The Saints/America Today/The Future of Black People in the NOLA [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]
skiegazer55

[ userinfo | livejournal userinfo ]
[ archive | journal archive ]
The Saints/America Today/The Future of Black People in the NOLA [Oct. 4th, 2006|01:10 am]

skiegazer55

It seems that many people around the nation didn’t get the whole Saints revive New Orleans thing
:
A bunch of people in USA Today recently said that we wasted our resources in rebuilding the Superdome. Of course, they don’t know about what they speak. They’re not the only ones. I’ve heard similar thoughts from people on NPR radio and other media outlets. I can’t really blame them. If weren’t inside of the Dome during the game and, more importantly, if you’re not lucky enough to be from New Orleans, then I imagine its hard to appreciate what we’ve gone through in the past year and what a lift the game was. Without sounding too much like a sports fanatic (trust me, I’m not), I don’t think there was ever so much positive energy in one building. 70,000 people (given our current population, practically half of the city) all cheering for one team (there were almost no Atlanta fans in the stadium for a change), miracle plays (that double reverse, that punt block, that 60 yard) and hardly a down moment.

All things being equal, I can see how the game raises questions. I enjoyed the experience, but I wondered about some of the things the writers in USA today mentioned. I did find it strange that U2 and Green Day were the headliners, but not that strange. They are two of the biggest groups in the world and if you want to attract attention to the city, well it works. Yes, most of the African Americans who have not returned to New Orleans would have preferred Lil Wayne or the Nevilles, but they would not have filled the ticket. Maybe Diddy could have or Jay Z.

About the racial make-up in the Dome,I did notice that there were more White faces than Blacks in the seats. (I’m Black. My race radar is always turned on, sorry.) However, the sociologist in me says that it’s more about economics. I’m used to seeing lots of Black faces at the games, but before this season, I sat in the nose bleed seats. Now, I have leather club seats. I can honestly say that I knew nearly every Black person I saw (fellow lawyers, politicians, a fake priest.) That’s scary because I don’t really know that many people. In fairness, I’ll call this example inconclusive.

Yet, there are facts about the racial make-up of the city that suggest to me the population surveys are wrong. My family: Out of the 40 to 50 people in my (and my wife’s) immediate family, less than ten of us are back within city limits. When I drive to New Orleans East or Gentilly, those predominantly Black sections of town are still deserted (except for the few families living in trailers). When I go outside on trash day, the garbage men are not Black anymore, they’re Mexican (or possibly Honduran, I did not ask). When I read the numbers about the New Orleans school system, which was at least 85% Black, I see that enrollment is down from about 66,000 to around 22,000.

All of these things and more make me think that New Orleans really is less Black than it was 13 months ago. Is this good for New Orleans? Is this good for the people that cannot come back? I’m not the man to answer those questions, but I do know that my very young sister-in-law is getting a better education in Houston than she got here before the storm. The same for the other evacuated children in my family.linkReply

Comments:
From: yellowdoggrl
2006-10-04 01:48 pm (UTC)
(Link)

re. those folks in USA Today, the concern I’ve had (and I’ve said this to swampytad several times) is the question of who is going to be writing our history. you have a large extended family here. your observations are valid and born out of experience here. Mrs. Swampy’s family is just about as large and extended, and Swampy himself has been here for 10 years, so I’m always going to listen to what he has to say too. but the people who don’t live here and never have, whose experience is born either of one visit to a convention or of watching TV, whose thusly-informed (uninformed) opinions are grouped together and so given heft by a media outlet that reaches every business traveler in the country every day, well, they’re certainly entitled to their opinion, but I don’t want it to be given the kind of credence that USA Today gives it by printing them all together that way. that’s how history gets written. other doofuses in Sioux City and Cincinnati and Cheyenne will read that, and later they’ll think “oh, I read in USA Today that…” and there you go.

I heard Garland Robinette reference how the black population of Jefferson Parish has changed (upward), but it was a throwaway comment in the middle of his talking to a caller sometime a few weeks ago. still, it would be interesting to know how close to home everyone has managed to get while waiting to be able to start gutting/cleaning/rebuilding. good luck to your family….

From: momusfire
2006-10-04 10:05 pm (UTC)

Katrina tales(Link)

Thanks for starting this discussion. One of the things that’s interesting to me personally (as a former resident and frequent visitor) and as an observer (I’m working on an article on responses to Katrina) is how readily people fall into preconceived narratives to make sense of what they see and hear. One speaker at the TW Festival (I do have his name somewhere) noted that when the media, in the week after the storm, couldn’t tell their usual “hurricane story,” they were lost, retelling “Lord of the Flies” or a highly simplfied story of racism instead. Even the specific cultural stories of New Orleans work against us. Scholars are now uncovering the conscious decisions of civic leaders a century and more ago to sell NO as a party town. So successful were they that the image of NO as an X- or R-rated Williamsburg devalued the city in the eyes of some (many?) across the country. Even more difficult has been the task of explaining why Carnival, why Jazz Fest, why the Saints and the Dome have meant so much — both to intangible sense of identity and to the very tangible bottom line of tourism. (Maybe we shouldn’t tell them about Comander’s; they just wouldn’t get it.)

With last week’s coverage of the Dome, the simple narrative of white insensitivity and black victimhood was the easiest one to use. One NPR host got on her high horse about U2 and Green Day: “Why not Fats Domino? Why not the Neville Brothers?” We know why not; she was more interested in scoring a rhetorical point than doing any real journalism. And of course she made no mention or Irma or Allen or the Southern University Band.

I appreciate your comments and swampytad‘s questioning that asks for more nuance and subtlety so that we can really understand what is happening — because “they” will not take the time to find out, but they may listen to those who do understand. Particularly as we go forward and the tourist-centered areas continue to revive (I thought the Quarter last weekend seemed, on a casual level, much like it’s former self), telling accurate and complex and troubling stories about the rest of the city becomes even more crucial.

From: skiegazer55
2006-10-05 03:41 am (UTC)

Re: Katrina tales(Link)

I agree, Momusfire. The comments on NPR are exactly the comments I was referring too. We talk about how “inconceivable” Katrina was. But what does inconceivable mean? I think it means that people outside of the city can’t (or won’t) understand. We have a downtown corridor, some fancy condos and a tourist sector, but not much else.
When I’m talking to an out-of-towner about the devastation, I compare it to other major cities.
In NY, 911 was one thing. But what would New Yorkers say if everything above 32nd street were wiped away? What would people in Los Angeles say if an earthquake took out everything except for the Hollywood Hills? How well would they get on without Harlem or Central Park West? Or Santa Monica or Compton? What would happen if we told them to forget about those areas and those people?
I think in that context, outsiders can get an appreciation for what we are dealing with in this city. Unfortunately, most Americans refuse to ask the second “why?” They don’t dig deep enough, as you said they accept the easy story.
As to Swampy’s race comments, I agree that New Orleans racism is different from other Southern city racism. We didn’t have (many) race riots or huge paradigm shaking protests. Things didn’t come to a head here. As a result, our racial disparities have become more insidious, more a part of our culture. Racial disparities are more symbiotic (and parasitic) in New Orleans than anywhere else in the country. We need poorly educated, but colorful people from the lower classes to make our Jazz. You won’t find many Mardi Gras Indians with Masters degrees. If all of the Black people in the city moved up the socio-economic ladder, tourists would arrive to find a town with decent food, but boring waiters (probably inept college students).
But like I said in my previous post, its not really about race, its about money. I’m all for Black people who have moved away to better lives (its sad, but probably necessary).(Swampy: my family members have bought houses in Detroit, Baton Rouge and Las Vegas and are renting, with no return plans, in Atlanta, Arkansas, Houston and Alabama.) But here’s what I fear: that our economic structure will not change and that our schools will not improve. Maybe 10 years from now most of the Black people will be gone and our public mis-education system will move onto educating the new people at the bottom of the class pyramid: the new Mexican arrivals. You see, the problem with Katrina, is like the problem with race in this city. We never came to terms with racial disparity and we never came to terms with a school system that was set up to produce low achievers. My prediction: Latino Mardi Gras Indians by 2011.

From: entheos93
2006-10-05 03:50 am (UTC)
(Link)

Well, I have about 2 cents to pitch in.
I’m starting to think the hysteria about the disappearing black population is mostly to make yet another juicy racial story for the press.
There are alot of black families back- not quite as many as there were, but still a significant population.
Many of the others who did live in the city aren’t that far away- the West Bank alot, Baton Rouge, a Jefferson, a bunch of other parishes. Of course there’s still a huge diaspora in Houston and elsewhere- some of whom truly can’t make their way back. Just going on my not-so-scientific analysis, of people I know, and who they know, many people don’t want to come back, or just plan to wait alot longer. There are alot of reasons for that- the kids are in a good school, they’re happy. Parents are making more money. Decisions on property still haven’t been made, or are a mess.
There’s alot to it- NO is still not the most conducive environment for kids or old people- extended families tend to have alot of both. So people want to be where their people are.
You got me thinking about this, because I’ve talked to friends and tried to get them to come back, they being such a part of the culture. It made me think- are they cultural artifacts, or are they families? Is the media treating them as people, or artifacts?

In the end, I think it’s better to leave the matter alone and let people do what’s best for them. I really do believe that most of the original population will eventually return, it’s just going to take a long time. Right now, we need to concentrate on getting quality people there at all, to set the stage for everybody else coming back. Frankly, I wouldn’t want to put my kids or my old parents through the mess right now- luckily, I have neither. Well, parents- but they aren’t coming.

I guess what I’m trying to say- and I’m not trying to be the jerk- is that this is a non-issue given over to hype, because the population, and the racial balance of it, will be back to normal eventually. I just think a year is too soon to tell- give it about 5. I really do know alot of people that plan to come back in a few years, but not now, and not soon.

As for people that truly have no choices, well, that’s a huge problem, but not one that NO in it’s current broken state can really deal with. It will require alot of outside help.

See, I told you it was about 2 cents.

From: skiegazer55
2006-10-07 04:30 pm (UTC)

Better than two cents:(Link)

I’d buy that for a dollar, entheos. Good comments–no I don’t think you’re being a jerk. I don’t agree that the “balance” will ever return to where it was. People have a lot of good reasons not to come back: money, health care, schools, etc. However, I do agree that people need to make their own choices. I realize that I may sound a bit pessimistic, but I’m really an optimist. I’m bullish on New Orleans.
I’ll admit that I was geek growing up (a long time ago) and heavily into comic books. One day they eliminated all of my favorite characters. No explanation, in the new issue, they were just gone. The cover read, “ALL NEW, ALL DIFFERENT!!!” Needless to say, I was not amused. But you know what? The new book turned out to be way better than the old one.
I think we are living in an “ALL NEW, ALL DIFFERENT!!!” New Orleans and I think five (probably ten) years from now this city will be a very cool place to live (I mean even cooler than before). It won’t be easy to get there. This is not like shooting ducks in a barrel. Its more like a jump ball.
But that’s okay. The people that have chosen to stay are by their very nature strong, optimistic, irrepressible. I’m in that number. I’m not going anywhere. And I think when you have a city full of people like that, good things happen.

and back, now, to the main topic of conversation

  • Oct. 6th, 2006 at 9:53 AM

deep-fried hamburgers and priuses (prii?) aside, i’m still living where i’m living and there are still these things to talk about. i’m feeling deep conflict of emotions this morning about our recovery.

last night was great. i attended this packed-house fundraiser at emeril’s last night for covenant house new orleans. big deal event — cocktails, “emeril’s signature drink” (pretty crappy little tropical flavored thing), andouille-crusted redfish, auction of artwork and train rides and caribbean vacations, with local celebrity auctioneer eric paulsen (he was just the auctioneer; he doesn’t go on vacation with you), and then a set of excellent, excellent jazz by local grammy winning trumpeter and spike-lee-joint composer terence blanchard and his band. for most of the folks in the room, this was a $250/head deal. it was a last-minute present for me and mrs. swampy from chno’s executive director for some extensive pro bono work i’ve been doing for chno (can’t say much about that right now, because the deals aren’t finalized, but i can say that it involves several million bucks from a middle-eastern emirate to be administered by chno personnel to rehabilitate a hundred houses in a blighted and flood-damaged neighborhood of especially historic importance to this city; one day i may tell the whole story of how difficult this deal has been to put together, but first we have to see if the story has a happy ending). the energy in the room was amazing. like being in the dome on september 25, but a smaller room with fancier clothes, but everyone intent on how to build this city back, how to chip in.

then this morning the news that the first feet-on-the-street hard count of the repopulation has orleans parish at only 187,000 (down from 450,000 pre-katrina), not the 230,000 the mayor has been saying. even jefferson parish is still down from pre-katrina levels, which, along with skiegazer55‘s news about how all his relatives are living in atlanta and detroit and las vegas and other places-not-here, blows my whole well-at-least-most-folks-are-back-in-the-metro-area theory out of the water. skiegazer is right; if we don’t get people, and all people across every demographic line, back, then what do we have? who are we going to be?

at what point does my faith become mere denial? what’s the line of demarcation? i don’t know. i’m going to still call it faith and help out wherever i can. one yard. one house. one block. one street. one neighborhood at a time. we’ll find out whether our culture and attitude can survive this, whether it leaves with the people or whether it lives with the people, whether it is in the place even when so many of the people have gone from it, whether it is inherent or itinerant.

cleaning up some interesting tidbits

  • Oct. 24th, 2006 at 10:52 AM

ahh, to be involved in politics back home in alabama, from which yellowdoggrl and i at least partially hail, prior to our circuitous routes to this finest of cities on the great river. but here’s a fun tale of sexuality-bashing on the political home-front, for your collective consternation.

now, closer in time and place to where we are now, i present you with chris rose’s meditation on his own depression (i know, sounds real cheerful, doesn’t it?), a piece far more epic and even more serious than his standard post-Katrina fare, and, as i always say when linking to him, well worth the read. it’s hard to judge some of his work against other pieces of his work in the last year, but this one, if not the best i’ve read by him, is certainly among the best. and in dealing with his own struggles with mental illness, he continues to do an excellent job of portraying the greater story, the our story, of the last year.

Comments

swampynoladad wrote:

Oct. 25th, 2006 01:13 pm (UTC)

Alabama Politics

I must admit that I haven’t seen this one. Political commercials are gettins – have gotten – so bad I either physically, or mentally mute them! All mud and various other brown organic stuff slinging by all sides. No infor about what the candidate can or seriously proposed to do. Vague comments about setting up commissions to look into this or that. Nothing serious. But, reading local papers as I travel, not much different from anywhere else in our country. Alas, poor Yoric, I knew him well . . .

At least the Cards are now one up on those damnyankees from Detroit.

miz_landry wrote:

Oct. 26th, 2006 03:10 pm (UTC)

I read the Chris Rose article and it was really intense. I became one of the fans he spoke of and also noted that he did get darker to the point where I stopped going to read him for awhile. Who knew it was deeper.

I went to look at a house in Oakland over the weekend and the realtor was a nice lady with a lovely southern accent. I asked where she was from and she said Tennessee. Funny, I never had any solidarity with people from Tennessee but out here, the entire population of “the south” become my brethren (and sistren).

Anyway, I told her I was from South Louisiana and she asked how my family did in Katrina. I told her I will never view a disaster from far away in the same way now that one hit so close to home. She then said, ‘it’s similar to those of us who went through the Oakland Hills fire, tho on a much larger scale.” The understanding and empathy that came forth from her was very comforting. So many people here say the typical stupid things like “why do people live there if they know the hurricanes are coming, why didn’t they leave, why not go somewhere else, why not start rebuilding on your own, etc. etc. She said that “even if you have money (as most of the oakland hills fire people did)it takes a good three years just to get your basics up and running again: a roof over your head. After that, you spend the rest of your life trying to put back what you had–from art on the walls, to getting to know your new neighbors and all around you everyone else is going on with their lives and looking at you like, ‘when you going to get over that.’

So, with her wisdom (she should say what she said on national tv because I have never heard anyone in the media ever express this understanding), she also said, “and, even tho our entire neighborhood burned, we still had a community in tact, a city, a region. I can’t imagine what it would be like to experience such destruction on an even larger scale than what we faced.”

So, at least one person in California understood what y’all are going through!

swampytad wrote:

Oct. 26th, 2006 05:29 pm (UTC)

you know, your story tells me that i’ve been way too dismissive of people who say, “oh, i’ve been through x, so i can relate to what y’all are going through.” i’m glad you shared that conversation.

miz_landry wrote:

Oct. 26th, 2006 05:37 pm (UTC)

that said, I think, unless you talk to someone who, say, went through the tsunami or the earthquake in pakistan, you’d be hard presssed to find someone evenly matched in disaster experience.

from the conversation with that woman, my take away is, gulf coast folks, cut yourself some slack! you are going to be dealing with this for quite a while. and rest of the country, cut the gulf coasters some slack, they’ll be going through this for a long while.

what’s really sad is the disconnect from locals. my mom said she was really annoyed when her girlfriends who are pretty conservative started saying stuff like “why don’t these people start helping themselves…” I’m like, how clueless can you be living only 40 miles away! don’t they know ANYONE in New Orleans? Don’t they know that those who can ARE taking initiative? Makes me ashamed to know some people sometimes.

ellen de-Generous

  • Oct. 27th, 2006 at 10:48 AM

mrs. swampy just sent the following email; i thought it was a rather nice little report:

“I just thought everyone should know how some of our hometown

celebrities are helping us out. Ellen Degeneres (I may have spelled her

name wrong) is doing a show on New Orleans again today, and she just

gave every single person in her studio audience a trip to our city so

people can come and see and spend money and spread the word. And the

really amazing thing is they all looked really excited!

Hope you all have a fantastic weekend.”

feel that brees?

  • Jan. 4th, 2007 at 11:33 AM

now that drew brees has been overlooked by the AP for both the comeback player of the year and the mvp honors he so richly deserves, i believe it to be a certain lock now that the saints will wind up playing, and demolishing, the san diego chargers in the super bowl. i’m not the only one who feels this way. i know talk about football is a bit off of my beaten LJ path, but it can’t be overstated what this team has done for our community psyche.

who’s a new orleanian?

  • Jan. 9th, 2007 at 9:59 AM

new orleans can be sort of insular (like the pope can be sort of catholic). not long after i first moved down here with my new orleanian wife in 1997, i was going through the obituaries when i came across one for an old lady that read, “[let’s call her mildred smith, because i can’t remember her name], a native of picayune, mississippi, passed away on July 30, 1997, at the age of 99. ms. smith moved to new orleans when she was three . . .” see, ms. smith had lived here 94 years, but she was still a native of picayune. by these old rules, i couldn’t be a new orleanian ever, either. my kids are, and my wife is, but me? no. not allowed. i was cool with that.

but the rules have to change now, and the lines re-drawn.

before the Storm, folks in orleans parish would scoff at anyone elsewhere in the metro area — jefferson parish, st. bernard parish, etc. — referring to themselves as new orleanians. and that scoffing would be reciprocated by some in the surrounding parishes not wanting anything to do with new orleans (except, of course, for their dependence on new orleans for their economic survival).

those rules have to change now, too.

after the Storm, new orleanians (from orleans parish and the surrounding parishes) were scattered all over. a great number haven’t been able to come back. of those who have, a significant number aren’t sure they can stay back. of those who are back, most of them are ardent boosters of this Place. but some of them are a cancer to our survival, either by evil action (fraud, looting, murder, stashing bribe money in their freezers), or incompetent inaction (ahem, mr. mayor and mr. police superintendent).

so here’s my new formulation on who can be a “new orleanian,” dispensing all regard for family longevity, race, class, or politically-favored status: if you consciously depend on and celebrate new orleans for your economic, spiritual, cultural, or mental survival and/or livelihood, then you are a new orleanian. you are With Us. with that status comes the responsibility of fighting for this place in any way you know how. under this formulation, you can be a new orleanian in any neighborhood of orleans parish, [edit: in austin], in metairie, in baton rouge, in houston, in portland, in minnesota, in oakland, in montgomery, just outside of montgomery, in zurich, wherever.

HOWEVER, even if your mom an ‘dem and her mom and ‘dem and her mom and ‘dem, back forfuckingever, have been residents of orleans parish, you are hereby excommunicated and stripped of your new orleanian status if you do anything to hate or harm new orleans or new orleanians. you are dirt. you are nothing. you are Not With Us. this means you, visitor to Helen Hill’s front door. this means you, murderer of fathers and musicians. this means you, harry lee. this means you, dollar bill jefferson. this means you, insurance industry. this means, you, c. ray. this means you, warren “fun with numbers” riley. this means you, too, dubya. excommunicated, the lot of you, along with everyone like you.

Comments

momusfire wrote:

Jan. 9th, 2007 04:39 pm (UTC)

belonging

Thanks! It’s good to be included! Does this mean we can join Comus now?

swampytad wrote:

Jan. 9th, 2007 04:46 pm (UTC)

Re: belonging

maybe krewe d’etat.

momusfire wrote:

Jan. 9th, 2007 05:32 pm (UTC)

Re: belonging

That would be much more fun, I’m sure!

miz_landry wrote:

Jan. 9th, 2007 10:04 pm (UTC)

Ha. Great post. It also reminds me of how my mother, who is from Hahnville, has been married to my dad for 43 years and they have lived in the same house in Raceland since 1964, but my relatives still say that my mom “isn’t from there, she’s from da rivah.” She’s lived in Hahnville (well, technically, she grew up on Waterford where the nuclear plant is) until she was 19, went to new orleans for one year, but for the next 43 years, longer than any place she’s ever lived, good ol’ raceland. go figure.

that said, i am so saddened by what i’m hearing about new orleans lately.

zurcherart wrote:

Jan. 9th, 2007 10:49 pm (UTC)

Great post. I’m very glad to be New Orleanian, but only if I can also retain my status as a native of Picayune.

(Ok Dallas, then Picayune)

swampytad wrote:

Jan. 9th, 2007 10:55 pm (UTC)

i think, in this new World According To SwampyTad, we will accept dual citizenship.

swampynoladad wrote:

Jan. 11th, 2007 03:02 pm (UTC)

Native of Where?

Strange, you don’t look Turkish.

Dad

complex place

  • Jan. 12th, 2007 at 1:18 PM

you may have gathered from my last coupla’ posts that new orleans is undergoing a bit of a crime/murder problem. if we don’t get a handle on this, the recovery process from the Storm could be pushed back another ten years off of its already extended schedule. this, of course, is not to discount the primary tragedy of a crime and murder wave, which is the pain and loss of the actual, direct victims. just to point out that, here, the whole community is an indirect victim of each crime, because each crime convinces someone else to leave, or not to come back, or not to visit and spend their dollars.

it’s the mayor’s fault, to a degree. it’s the police superintendent’s fault, to a large degree. it’s the d.a.’s fault, to another large degree. nobody’s saying it, but it’s also the city council’s fault, to a degree. one of our fine local columnists, who doesn’t get a lot of linkage from me, lolis eric elie, had this to say in a column the other day about the leadership vacuum and the crime wave: “In these discouraging days, it’s so easy to forget who we are. We need to remind ourselves: We are the people who are rebuilding this city despite a lack of government leadership. We are the people who turned Carnival 2006 into the greatest homecoming this country has ever seen. We are the people who have taken a hot, swampy, mosquito-infested, blood-soaked, ignorant and impoverished place and made it into one of the greatest cities this world has ever known. This is not the time to look for leadership from our ‘leaders.’ This is the time to provide leadership to them.”

and we are. yesterday i witnessed, this whole community witnessed, an inspiring sight: thousands of people of every race and class and occupation marching on city hall from three directions to protest the lack of leadership and solutions in combatting the crime. i stepped out of my office and there they were: poydras street, shoulder-to-shoulder, everyone with a sign, stretching from the foot of canal street halfway up to the municipal complex. i surfed along in the crowd for a few blocks, then stepped up onto the sidewalk to take it in. unending procession of determination, sorrow, anger. (click here and here for galleries of photos, and here for an excellent news report with some impressive aerial footage of the converging marches). i choked up, am still choked up about it. and can’t really express why. on the news yesterday evening, it was stunning to watch and see that the mayor was standing behind the podium listening when, after the march, speaker after speaker got up and denounced his administration’s failures, and then to see his press conference afterwards (he wasn’t allowed to speak at the rally) where he was visibly shaken, moved, disappointed in himself, and determined to sincerely work harder. he said that, from this day forward, every action he takes as mayor will be with an eye toward ending the murders. and not in a political way, did he hold himself as he said this, but as a failed person who understands now that this is the Thing That Matters. if only mass action could spur this kind of sincerity and new direction in some other leaders.

then today i was at a grand opening for a friend’s health food restaurant (but the food is good, really, honest), listening to the treme brass band and watching the various politicians filter in and out and seeing this town smile and sparkle and rebuild itself, and i felt a tremendous peace with This Place.

and then tomorrow, thanks to the luck of finding babysitters and the luck of finding tickets, we’ll be in the superdome to watch the saints blow out the eagles on the way to the super bowl. prediction: saints 37, eagles 10. we’ll be leaving a pot of sausage-and-eagle jambalaya on the stove for the babysitters.

Comments

miz_landry wrote:

Jan. 12th, 2007 09:53 pm (UTC)

You know what’s really sad (and, in a way, somewhat hopeful) is that before katrina, Nagin was really focused on fighting corruption and crime. It was where he was putting his efforts. I recall he even arrested a family member, all with the intent of cleaning up the city. I remember my mom and family being all excited about his leadership. Katrina was so devastating, he had to do something entirely different. Perhaps it’s time for him to focus on that mission again. Maybe when you have a gazillion problems you need to fix (in personal situations as well), the best thing is to finally figure out your priorities and tackle them one at a time. If they murders and crime can be contained, then more people will move back. More people back, means more rebuilding. More rebuilding means more jobs. On and on. The biggest mistake was the belief that somehow the entire city and infrastructure could be lifted back to pre-katrina times all at once. Maybe the murders prove that you can’t do that. You have to give things time.

I watched a documentary on the SF 1906 quake and the similarities to katrina were mind blowing. The interesting thing about sf tho, was the quake ended an era of corruption in the city and put the city on a new course. I’m willing to bet that we will never know what the day-to-day hell was like as they rebuilt the city. The documentary was interesting in that once the quake happened, they spent 15 minutes in closing saying the city was rebuilt within 3 years and by 1915 they held a world’s fair. hmmmm. It was NOT rebuilt in a year. It took time but SF grew to be an even better city than it was before. It could be possible for New Orleans too. You need leadership, tho. And, a police force.

The interesting thing about the rebuilding of sf is if you look carefully at what was going on, different morality meant they shot a lot of “looters” (read: chinese, african american, irish) and I also noted that insurance companies seemed EAGER to pay out what they needed to to help people (those that were insured, I s’pose). But, peopel were living in turn of hte century “fema” trailers and many, many people left.

What sucks is,when you’re in the thick of it, you don’t want to think it could take 10 – 20 years for things to get better.

I hope the saints kick some phleagle ass and that things get better for your community!!!!

putting it out on the curb

  • Jan. 12th, 2007 at 3:19 PM

here’s a real load of garbage, courtesy of one john derbyshire at the national review, and forwarded to me by a client.

it’s almost not even worth addressing, but i feel like pointing out to the world john derbyshire’s arrogance and stupidity. for some reason, he feels it important to lead off with a statement that New Orleans is the blackest city he’s ever been in. he doesn’t follow up on that observation. maybe he doesn’t have to. maybe this is some sort of coded bit of self-explanation for readers of the national review.

he then goes on to label mardi gras as the epitome of “camp,” all the way through its historic roots. i start to wonder at this point in the article how clueless this guy can be.

then he points out a high point of his trip — going to a shopping mall with his fourteen-year-old daughter. hmm.

and then this — “Come to think of it, I didn’t see a bookstore the whole two days poking around New Orleans.” that’s right, because we’re a bunch of illiterate slobs, right? fuckwad. we only have some of the best little independent bookstores in the country, but i guess he didn’t find them in the shopping mall.

and then he points out that helen hill and her husband were naive and should have known they were going to get shot when they started trying to help out “the community.” god knows we should know better than to mix in with those community people. hey, maybe this is where that blackest-city-he’s-been-in spiel ties back in. i need to say it again — fuckwad.

his email address, by the way, is gxnmvw7e [at] gmail [dot] com, and he’s a little feisty. EDIT: In response to a rather gently criticizing email from me wherein I suggested it was a shame that he felt the need to spread his misguided impressions of new orleans to a wider audience, mr. derbyshire had this to say: “Fiddlesticks. A fleeting impression is still an impression, and can be recorded. A great many emailers who know N.O. far better than I do–some born and raised there–have taken the trouble to tell me that, a few cute quarters aside, it is a loathsome slum. -JD” Have at him, people.

edit 2: here‘s another nice dissection of derbyshire’s piece.

Comments

yellowdoggrl wrote:

Jan. 12th, 2007 10:23 pm (UTC)

dude. why are you reading the national review anyway? fuckwad is just preaching to his code-reading choir.

swampytad wrote:

Jan. 12th, 2007 10:35 pm (UTC)

a client had gotten hold of it and had forwarded a link on to everyone she knew because she was so pissed. i just found him clueless and generally harmless, considering the ass-backward choir he’s preaching to, but then he responded to my email like an arrogant slime, so i had to post it, here, there, and everywhere, in addition to reporting him to chris rose.

incidentally, i replied to Mr. Derbyshire by quoting our favorite lafcadio hearn line to him, then making some playful comparison between “loatsome slum” and “loathsome scum.” i haven’t heard back, yet.

zurcherart wrote:

Jan. 12th, 2007 10:32 pm (UTC)

Bless his heart. As a semi-professional Eurovision Journalist (and Amy Grant impersonator) I can definitively say, I lived Mardi Gras AND the epitome of camp last year. And they were definitely not the same thing.

swampynoladad wrote:

Jan. 13th, 2007 02:58 am (UTC)

Mr. Derbyshire

I guess I’ll have to contact this idiot, er gentleperson. I wonder how he feels about chainsaws?

zurcherart wrote:

Jan. 13th, 2007 02:50 pm (UTC)

I didn’t read the article ’til now. Disgusting.

zurcherart wrote:

Jan. 13th, 2007 03:31 pm (UTC)

See now you’ve got me agitated.

Just sent:

Dear Mr. Derbyshire,

I was a bit perplexed by your article. I grew up one hour east of New Orleans. Me and my family always drove into New Orleans to buy books. In bookstores. Of course. There were some really great new bookstores and some really special used bookstores. I checked. My favorite, which is in walking distance of the “fashion mall” with the Banana Republic, is still operating now after Katrina.

Struggling, run-down, drowned, mis-managed, fallen on hard-times are all words that one might apply to New Orleans if you are so inclined to look at things that way (sometimes pre- AND post-K), but LIFELESS? Never. No way. To bad you didn’t recognize the signs of the vibrant culture struggling to survive after the storm, but then unfortunately you failed to see the joke in the “Nothing happened here” plaque. So maybe your blinders (something to do with half-informed notions of race and camp maybe?) wouldn’t let you see. And yes that culture was created in the intersection many races and lots of southern camp (and many other intersections), but probably not in the way you imagine.

It doesn’t sound like you really got out much when you were in New Orleans. Hopefully on your next visit you’ll discover something beyond your self-imposed limited first impression. Then I might be interested in reading what you had to write about the crescent city.

Best Regards,

Zurcher Art

swampytad wrote:

Jan. 13th, 2007 03:53 pm (UTC)

i have no confidence, whatsoever, that you won’t get a bitchily british response from mr. derbyshire, but at least maybe if we beat on him enough he will get mildly annoyed.

zurcherart wrote:

Jan. 15th, 2007 09:49 pm (UTC)

Well I started to head him off by writing don’t try and tell me fiddlesticks. But I didn’t.

I did expect some kind of snooty response. But I haven’t gotten one yet.

I sent a revised copy to the National Review letters to the editor. No response there either. Not that a letter in THAT publication will bring anything.

WHO DAT?!

  • Jan. 13th, 2007 at 8:34 AM

GEAUX SAINTS!

Comments

silverdee wrote:

Jan. 13th, 2007 05:07 pm (UTC)

Go Saints all the way! Saints go all the way! OH I BELIEVE!

gutterboylive wrote:

Jan. 13th, 2007 07:15 pm (UTC)

Channel?

I’m outta town, and I can’t find what cable station is gonna be carrying the game. Checked the Saints webpage and it was no help (of course, I probably just missed it).

Anyway, I know it starts at 8e/7c/5p, but does anyone know what network it’ll be on outside of NOLA?

yellowdoggrl wrote:

Jan. 13th, 2007 07:45 pm (UTC)

Re: Channel?

I checked the scoreboard at espn.com for you, where they’re fairly quiet but reliable about telling you where you can see a game… it’ll air on Fox.

gutterboylive wrote:

Jan. 13th, 2007 08:15 pm (UTC)

Re: Channel?

Yep – I found it!

Thanks so much.

the menu for the babysitting/bestfriendfest

  • Jan. 13th, 2007 at 1:47 PM

while mrs. swampy and i will be at the Dome, here’s what will be consumed at the swamphouse tonight:

-Saints’re Going to the Superbowl Salad with Philly-is-Toasted Croutons

-Eagle & Sausage Jambalaya

-Squash the Eagles Gratin

-Black & Gold Bottom Cheesecake

Yum. Maybe we’ll pick up an order of Eagle Wings at Popeyes on the way downtown.

WHO DAT???

  • Jan. 13th, 2007 at 11:37 PM

GEAUX SEAHAWKS! GEAUX SEAHAWKS!

i can’t even describe where i just was. hugging my nephew joseph, both of us in tears. that sounds terrible, right? over a football game? oh, if only y’all knew. it’s just so much more than that, now and here. and hugging and high-fiving this massive mass of tens of thousands of screaming, ecstatic strangers…

GEAUX SAINTS!

Comments

miz_landry wrote:

Jan. 14th, 2007 05:41 am (UTC)

many of us know, man! tears were shed here in oakland, too! i’ve been watching the saints my whole LONGASS life and it’s just nothing short of amazing. it would be amazing if katrina had not happened, but now with all of that, it’s just unbelievable.

and, glad y’all can focus on somethign fun and positive for a while!

here’s how it matters

  • Jan. 15th, 2007 at 9:53 AM

the times-picayune ran a really incrdible account of the intersection between the recovery and the saints’ season in this morning’s paper. the story follows Saturday’s gameday from the point of view and time of a cross-section of residents.

here’s one example, in interviewing a lady working in her gutted home in the lower ninth ward:

“‘I’m one of those good people who works hard, pays taxes, and I kept my house up,’ she said. ‘I am so, so disappointed with this city. . . . How dare they say I’m not worth nothing! How do you say that my community is worthless! I direct that to all the prejudiced people across the world, the prejudiced people who are here in the city of New Orleans. . . . I’m trying to keep it together, but this is not working. It’s horrible. It’s not fair.’

“Hope is slippery. But Oats talked of faith in God. And faith in the Saints.

 “‘Despite everything that happened, they were able to move on,’ she said with a hint of a smile. ‘And that’s what we’re trying to do. The Saints seem to have an extra-special nick about them this year. Sometimes you have to go through something in order to pull the best out of you. It’s inspirational.'”

the whole article’s incredibly good.

a little more hollywood on the bayou

  • Jan. 17th, 2007 at 10:34 AM

so, new residents in town. always good to have new people, and looks like more than just a vacation home, as they’re putting their kids in schools here.

(go saints.)

Comments

swampynoladad wrote:

Jan. 17th, 2007 11:03 pm (UTC)

New Residents

Somehow, I don’t have a lot of faith in the celeb stuff. It’s good for some publicity but how about a year, or two years from now? And, I’m not sure how much mixing with “regular moms” can be done from that multi-million $ apartment in the Quarter.

Cynical Ol’ Dad

swampytad wrote:

Jan. 17th, 2007 11:07 pm (UTC)

Re: New Residents

we’ll take just about anyone who wants to come. as long as they have some respect for this place and some fight in them, that’s all we require.

yellowdoggrl wrote:

Jan. 19th, 2007 01:57 am (UTC)

I’m with docbrite on this one. It’s awfully easy to “just be in New Orleans right now” when you’re them. I don’t see them having to put up with one single thing that makes New Orleans so difficult for the rest of us. Feh.

yellowdoggrl wrote:

Jan. 19th, 2007 01:59 am (UTC)

Direct quote from docbrite‘s take on it:

“The problem is that at a time when many New Orleanians are struggling to afford even one modest home, to repair homes that were destroyed in the failure of the federal levees, or to find anything resembling a home in New Orleans, for the Times-Picayune to report breathlessly on these two Barbie dolls’ purchase of a $3.5 million French Quarter mansion as their fourth home is a slap in the face to ordinary citizens.”

I don’t say this often, but you go, Poppy!

swampytad wrote:

Jan. 19th, 2007 05:19 pm (UTC)

i’m sticking with my take on this in my original post. it’s always good to have people moving here. we need people. and other people elsewhere take note of these particular people, and so maybe even a few folks out there will look and say, “hey, They think new orleans is a place worth living.” that’s a good observation to arouse in others, which makes this move a good one for us, even if it’s nothing more than that.

of course, mr. pitt has been involved on a personal and financial basis with the design and rebuilding of houses in the ninth ward (a good friend of mine is his attorney on the project, and has been impressed with the extent to which mr. pitt is not merely a figurehead in that effot), and both of them have each given in excess of $1 million to efforts in the region. so their living here is helpful in material ways, as well as symbolic ones.

(all that is to the side of all the sniping you see on the celeb magsites about what horrible home-wrecking, voodoo-practicing devils they are, about which i don’t give two flips.)

one last word about the Saints

  • Jan. 23rd, 2007 at 2:40 PM

there’s been a lot of effort in the media and the greater national dialogue since the Storms to define new orleanians and louisianians as divided along race-lines, class-lines, geographic boundaries. some of those divisions were fact. many of them were fiction. all of them are unnecessary. maybe explaining the sociological importance of a football team such as the Saints to our community is as simple as pointing out how the team became a common interest, a uniform rallying point, that broke through any constructed barriers from week to week.

when the season ended when the bears beat the Saints in Chicago in the NFC Chamionship game last weekend, the community unity continued, as captured well in this article. ever the pollyanna on all things regarding the rebuilding, even in the middle of grayest January, i feel and predict that the unity will continue on its own, without the crutch of sports.

momentary overwhelming cynicism

  • Feb. 8th, 2007 at 9:08 AM

mrs. swampy and i went on vacation last week far away from winter and new orleans. it seems that, since we’ve been back, the good old times-picayune has been chock-full of nothing but bad news on the recovery, whether it’s the shell-game being played by the corps with money for hurricane-protection projects, the throwing-in-of-the-towel by the superintendent of the recovery school district, crime, what-have-you, there has been little good news since we’ve been back.

and now that the football season is over, it seems the saints are just another football team, and why was the outcome of some football games worth getting so excited about anyway? i look back at the past month’s posts, and i annoy myself.

sure, the saints played well beyond expectations and provided a rallying point for the community and all that. but at the end of the day, the Road Home program is still getting next-to-no-one home; yellowdoggrl is still forced by post-K economics to join the half the city that can’t live in the city; seems like ahembree is on her way out, too; that half the city no longer living here is likely finding it much nicer and easier to live in their other places; and, dammit, it’s still winter and the sun still shines too shortly.

i know, i know. this is still a unique and powerful place to live, and it and we will all survive. and mardi gras is just around the corner, as is spring, and they’re bottling crystal hot sauce in louisiana again. i’m just in a momentary funk is all. it will pass.

didn’t we do this last February, too?

  • Feb. 13th, 2007 at 9:24 AM

for the second consecutive post-K February, new orleans got hit by a wild night of tornadoes that destroyed homes in recovering neighborhoods, injured several, and killed one elderly woman who had just moved back into her hurricane-repaired home.

mrs. swampy woke to the sudden sound of hail at 3:30 this morning, flipped on the tv and saw we were under a tornado warning, with one set of possible tornadoes indicated on the radar forming pretty much right over us. we hustled the boys into the hallway until the weather passed. it was apparently that set of tonadoes that ended up touching down in the pontchartrain park neighborhood of town, while another set skipped around the westbank and then into uptown.

Baum About Town

  • Feb. 15th, 2007 at 9:44 AM

thanks to yellowdoggrl for alerting me to the fact that dan baum is in town. y’all remember mr. baum, right? wrote a nifty little article in the new yorker back in august 2006, which got me all in a lather with his nineteen misrepresentations and inaccuracies about post-katrina new orleans and what a bunch of racist simpletons we all are?

well, he moved to town on january 31 and will be living here for four months while he writes a book, and he’s journaling fairly consistently on the new yorker’s website. due to his track record, i’m now on “Baum Watch.” so far, aside from some minor dashes of melodrama and some admitted cluelessness about our culture, it is a far better portrait of new orleans than that august 21 piece. i mean, he ain’t chris rose, but so far he’s not assassinating the character of a city as he had in the past. maybe living here for a little while will do him some good. (if you want to look him up or drop him a line, according to his website he’s living in the bywater, at 3106 Dauphine Street, NOLA 70117.)

Comments

gutterboylive wrote:

Feb. 15th, 2007 07:11 pm (UTC)

Errrr…well, I guess I’m glad that the New Yorker cares enough to have a correspondent here.

I just wish they cared enough to hire a local person who knew how to report from the area. I get Baum’s tack here – it’s Stranger in a Very Strange Land – but I really don’t like the constant comparison of everything NOLA to the Way Things Are Done At Home, in Boulder, Colorado.

Imagine if he was corresponding from Baghdad, or Kabul, or some other foreign area with lots of trouble, and kept comparing the supermarkets and the streets and the people to the ones in Boulder. After a while, they’re not the ones who look strange and hickish: you are.

And I really, really don’t want to read a book about New Orleans from someone who came here for four months.

swampytad wrote:

Feb. 15th, 2007 09:23 pm (UTC)

amen.

momusfire wrote:

Feb. 15th, 2007 10:14 pm (UTC)

born here

Muse and Poet Laureate Breanda Marie Osbey put it this way in the T-P this morning:

After Katrina, Osbey found herself turning to the essay form, writing posts on her Web site, pieces for the Nation and National Public Radio, giving a reading at the Library of Congress. In addition to a series she calls “Heavy Water” poems, she is working on an essay tentatively called, “I Was Born Here.”

“I was so angered by all these new five-minute experts on New Orleans,” Osbey said, citing one media person who told her, “And I know what I’m talking about because I’ve been here a week.”

“Everybody who came here suddenly felt they had the right to make a pronouncement,” Osbey said. “I found myself saying over and over again, ‘I was born here.’ People don’t understand this attachment to place. In this mobile society, people don’t understand multiple generations of family living in one place — or even in one house.”

to nolagrl

  • Feb. 21st, 2007 at 10:37 AM

i know you started your great and busy job in austin a couple weeks ago already, but with tomorrow’s exodus of the cats it seems like today is the official last day of yellowdoggrl‘s time in new orleans, so this seems like the day fitting for tribute.

yellowdoggrl, you’ll always be NOLA, girl. from the moment we dined at guillermo’s old place on roosevelt and then drove around town the next day looking at apartments, through to the day you arrived at henry clay, to all the martinis and almonds on the balcony at henry clay, and the get-thoth-gether’s at henry clay, to jazzfests at the fairgrounds, to endymions on the neutral ground in mid-city, to uptown parades at all the corners, not least marengo and st. charles, to you and the Beau finding each other, to the night we met the Beau at the Marigny Brasserie, to a million visits to the Martiny, to flowers and food at Lakeside Hospital when GBW and KAWT each entered the picture, to running through city park, to walking through audubon park, to the family membership to all the audubons, to the development of a damned fine pot of grillades, to living upstairs in the martiny, to returning to uptown and rebuilding a beautiful house, to birthday parties and mardi gras pink wigs and red wigs, to muses throws, to junior leaguing, to times-picayuning together on the letters to the editor page. through all of this and innumerable other fine moments, you have become part of this place and will always be NOLAgirl, yellowdoggrl.

set austin afire with that passion you bring each of the places you’ve lived, but always come home when you have a chance.

Comments

yellowdoggrl wrote:

Feb. 21st, 2007 06:11 pm (UTC)

the worst and hardest part of leaving is not living in the same town as you. even though we didn’t do it often enough, just the idea that I could meet you for lunch on a whim, go for cocktails, hang out, whatever, was the single best thing about living in this town of many good things. I don’t want to get into how much I’ll miss you because I need not to be dissolving in tears all day again today. see y’all for supper tonight.

swampynoladad wrote:

Feb. 21st, 2007 07:17 pm (UTC)

NOLAGRL

Couldn’t have said it better myself.

Love

Dad

miz_landry wrote:

Feb. 21st, 2007 09:44 pm (UTC)

Re: NOLAGRL

Man, I’d like to trade in my old fart brother to have swampytad as a brother. that was so lovely.

swampytad wrote:

Feb. 21st, 2007 09:59 pm (UTC)

Re: NOLAGRL

i’m sure it hasn’t all been wine and roses.

ashes and wednesdays

  • Feb. 21st, 2007 at 2:46 PM

lest anyone think that we are all revelry and no understanding down here, i give you this quote from a 1949 essay by evelyn waugh:

There is witchcraft in New Orleans, as there was at the court of Mme de Montespan. Yet it was there that I saw one of the most moving sights of my tour. Ash Wednesday; warm rain falling in streets unsightly with the draggled survivals of carnival. The Roosevelt Hotel overflowing with crapulous tourists planning their return journeys. How many of them knew anything about Lent? But across the way the Jesuit Church was teeming with life all day long; a continuous, dense crowd of all colours and conditions moving up to the altar rails and returning with their foreheads signed with ash. And the grim old message was being repeated over each penitent: “Dust thou art and unto dust thou shalt return.” One grows parched for that straight style of speech in the desert of modern euphemisms[.] . . . Here it was, plainly stated, quietly accepted, and all that day, all over that light-hearted city, one encountered the little black smudge on the forehead which sealed us members of a great brotherhood who can both rejoice and recognize the limits of rejoicing.

heh. “crapulous tourists.”

came across that, actually, during the priest’s homily today during noon ashes at that very same jesuit church, on an identically rainy ash wednesday to the one encountered by waugh almost sixty years ago. the crowd was also likely equally dense and “of all colours and conditions.” good to know that much in this city is unchanging, as we all gather together in ways and times as we always have. of course, the extent to which we know the “limits of rejoicing” is perhaps far greater now than it ever was.

now, out of church and on to baser arenas, why is it that i feel hungover today when i had not one drink yesterday, nor even went to a parade? GBW’s got the funk, too, so maybe it’s just a run-of-the-mill cold.

bernard

  • Feb. 28th, 2007 at 9:53 AM

we took the boys Down The Road sunday to check out the progress on the rebuilding of the old fishing camp. “Down The Road,” for the uninitiated and not-from-around-here, is lower St. Bernard Parish, roughly everything downriver from the Violet Canal.

the old fishing camp was in hopedale on bayou la loutre, about as down the road as you can get before falling off into water that doesn’t end until you get to the florida peninsula or the yucatan or cuba, depending on which direction you drift. the camp had been there since 1923, standing strong through the 1957 hurricane, Betsy, Camille, Georges, Ivan, and countless little storms in between, before getting wiped completely into nothingness by Katrina (along with the shrimp boat and the joe boat, though the flatboat remained, tangled and twisted up in the boat harness in the remains of the boathouse).

i’d been down there a couple times since the Storm, but mrs. swampy hadn’t, nor had the boys. the ride down was initially encouraging. lots of storefronts opened up along Paris Road and Judge Perez Drive in Chalmette, a lot more than last time i was down that way. the people in st. bernard are tough, or stubborn, or both. of course, this morning’s times-picayune reveals that the open storefronts we saw on those two drags are about the extent of it — about one-fourth of the pre-K storefronts in St. Bernard house businesses now, serving a population about one-third its pre-K size. you still pass large swaths of neighborhoods with few trailers and with ungutted, still-muddy, still-moldy mess peeking from broken windows, a situation highlighted in another times-pic article from this weekend.

but then you get down the road, and where there are still houses, they’re gleaming and restored, and where (more often) there are no houses left, there’s a trailer on every lot, sign that somebody is there still making a go of it. all the trees are standing bare and dead in the swamps, and you hope that there’s something that will take their place and root the soil down so more doesn’t wash away, but there’s a wild beauty that remains down there. a large community of louisiana brown pelicans have taken hold along bayou la loutre, too. huge, strong birds skimming the top of the water constantly. and the water’s clearer than i ever remember. there’s still a working fleet down there, mainly oyster boats from what i saw. a few shrimp boats up past the drawbridge in yscloskey (which i’m sure i misspelled, but it’s pronounced “why-kloss-key”). the pelicans followed each oyster boat chugging down the bayou like aerial dolphins, three or four of them right behind. don’t know why, exactly, since i don’t think they eat oysters. maybe the boats’ wake stirred up the mullet and other bayou fish that they do eat.

the boys liked it down there. GBW laid down on his stomach on the pier across from the vacant lot that will hold the new camp house, hanging his head over the edge and watching the little schools of minnows in the shallows by the bank, letting loose leaves and clumps of grass and then running to the other side to watch them float through on the current. KAWT just sat in his carseat, quiet, feeling the breeze.

won’t be long — this summer sometime, probably sooner than later — and we’ll be back down there fishing from the flatboat, staying in the new camp at night. i can’t wait.

Comments

miz_landry wrote:

Feb. 28th, 2007 11:23 pm (UTC)

That was a very hopeful post katrina post!

GBW watching the minnows and the breeze and all that, took me back my days at our camp in Montegut (near Chauvin). It’s still there, but everytime we go I’m swarmed with these awful biting gnats.

Baum Watch — Our Port (Your Port, too, you know)

  • March 2nd, 2007 at 10:13 AM

as i reported a few posts ago, dan baum is back in town, living and journaling here for four months as he researches a book about post-katrina new orleans. [edited out some venom here.] i’ve been pleased to note that, other than occasionally revealing his own cluelessness about our culture, his time here has been generally open-minded and respectful, [edited out some more venom here].

but his March 1 post post was pretty disheartening. it was a post about how he and his wife took their bikes across the river on the ferry to watch the o.p. walker band rehearse and then play at a mock mardi gras parade at blaine kern’s mardi gras world for a computer convention group. the part that really irked me was this observation he made about the view from his ferry ride: “The trip takes about ten minutes and affords a view of the French Quarter and the Central Business District skyline, as well as a close-up look at what remains of New Orleans’s port traffic.”

[edited out some more venom here]. yes, huge swaths of this city are still devastated. but this is not a wholly broken city. the greatest economic sectors are functioning fine, thank you very much, which is important to note accurately because, when people ask us, “why would you even rebuild that place and live there?”, one of the first answers is because of the strategic and economic importance of the Port. if someone who is read as widely as dan baum appears to be says something like “what remains of New Orleans’s port traffic,” then what’s to stop the idiots in the world from saying, “what port? y’all can’t even fix your port situation, so, really, what’s left to rebuild?”

here’s the facts: the Port was the first industry in new orleans to get back up and running. by august 22, 2006, less than a year after the Storm, they were able to report that their post-katrina tonnage through the Port had surpassed pre-Katrina levels. by december 2006, they were able to boast that cruise dockings had set records. also in december ’06, the Port saw a record-breaking container-ship docking. a lot’s still hurting in this town, but the Port is not part of the pain. [edited out some more venom here].

[edited out lots and lots of venom here].

Comments

zurcherart wrote:

Mar. 2nd, 2007 04:38 pm (UTC)

good work telling the stories that need to be told

and correcting the things that need to be corrected

how can you get a high profile place to do this?

btw, I forgot to tell you that dino kept asking about that national reveiw column from that other guy when we were there. I had told him about the piece, and I think while I told him it was a pack of lies he wasn’t sure which viewpoint to completely believe, given that there is similar coverage over here from time to time and he knows I’m biased. So he was looking to see for himself. He’d ask “where’s the stuff that guy was talking about?” And we did go to the Canal Street mall to shop for American jeans (unfortunately for us but not the sales people closed early for the parades) and the Riverwalk and he said “but you have to work hard to go to a mall here, why wasn’t that guy walking through the streets?” And then we went on an excellant Honey Island Swamp tour (the one they used to advertise along I-10 and I-59 not the one on the brochures in the quarter). And it was incredible. And finally Dino said, unprompted, “that guy was an idiot AND an asshole”.

swampytad wrote:

Mar. 2nd, 2007 05:29 pm (UTC)

what, this blog isn’t a high profile place?

hooray for dino and his spirit of independent investigation!

and while we’re hooraying, hooray for duck fat and your efforts to make sure that it stays in the conscience of the LJ community!

zurcherart wrote:

Mar. 2nd, 2007 07:33 pm (UTC)

Mmmm. Checking below, it seems that it is a high profile place.

danbaum wrote:

Mar. 2nd, 2007 05:51 pm (UTC)

have a heart

you’re starting to hurt my feelings. i’m doing my best here. it is true; i am not from new orleans. guilty as charged. i appreciate your pointing out inaccuracies. but i don’t know where you get the idea that i dislike or look down upon your city. i love it here. it’s going to be hard to leave. and i’m doing my best to interpret it for people who don’t know the city either. where i make a factual blunder, point it out. where you disagree with my opinions, have at it. but show a little respect. i’m writing these columns in good faith.

swampytad wrote:

Mar. 2nd, 2007 06:19 pm (UTC)

Re: have a heart

you know what, dan? you’re absolutely right. and i mean that sincerely, no sarcasm in my tone. what’s happened is that we’ve been bullied and prodded raw, and i’m taking it out on you. and you’re right that there is undue disrespect in my tone in my posts. that will stop, and i’ll go back to edit them back to just a discussion of inaccuracies, and remove the personal venom. because it isn’t the person of dan baum that crimsons me; it’s the dan-baum-as-representative of the outside portraitists of the picture of post-Katrina new orleans. and so my comments, and at times ire, should likewise not be about the actual person of dan baum.

my apologies to you.

and thanks for coming by. oh, and since you seem to be enjoying yourself gastronomically while in town, might i suggest you grab lunch at pampy’s sometime. get the number 9 (the fired chicken with seafood-stuffed mirliton). yum.

swampytad wrote:

Mar. 2nd, 2007 06:21 pm (UTC)

Re: have a heart

and, of course, my own inaccuracy there. that should be “fried” chicken, though i’m sure “fired” chicken would be good, too.

entheos93 wrote:

Mar. 2nd, 2007 10:04 pm (UTC)

Re: have a heart

Wait- isn’t Pampy in jail or something?

swampytad wrote:

Mar. 2nd, 2007 10:08 pm (UTC)

Re: have a heart

he’s awaiting sentencing.

entheos93 wrote:

Mar. 2nd, 2007 09:23 pm (UTC)

Re: have a heart

“And it was hard not to notice that just about the only black people in the room were either ladling gumbo, dragging floats, or playing music.”

Maybe because the people enjoying their party are from somewhere else, and the people working it are from here? Maybe because they are not IT professionals, like those they are catering to? Maybe because service industry is where you’re going to see people working in New Orleans?

I’m sorry, but I fail to see how that comment is relevant to New Orleans. Oh, I’m more than aware of what it is- it’s the requisite insinuation of racism that seems to be a requirement for any article about us, anywhere.

Maybe, in this case, you should insinuate how racist whatever town they’re from is, since they seem to be the evil white folks enjoying the labor of the New Orleanians.

Talk about rubbed raw. Why the constant barrage of implied guilt- and moreover, why the constant reminder to the black people of New Orleans that they work fairly menial jobs? Is your intention to point out their “subservience” to them every single time you write something? Sorry that everyone here doesn’t get to be a systems consultant! Sorry that wvryone isn’t CRO of their own start-up! You know what? Everybody here works at what they can do from the very tiny pool of available employment. I’ve worked many a Blaine Kern party, myself.

gutterboylive wrote:

Mar. 2nd, 2007 10:39 pm (UTC)

Re: have a heart

I’m sorry, but I fail to see how that comment is relevant to New Orleans. Oh, I’m more than aware of what it is- it’s the requisite insinuation of racism that seems to be a requirement for any article about us, anywhere.

Maybe, in this case, you should insinuate how racist whatever town they’re from is, since they seem to be the evil white folks enjoying the labor of the New Orleanians.

Yeah. I think it’s a perception problem, because I read this the exact same way, and couldn’t figure out why the onus was on New Orleans for having a black working class, rather than Company X Having the Fancy Party being exclusively white.

And, Dan, if you’re still reading this: welcome to town, and we’re all glad you’re enjoying yourself…but I have to point out one recurring theme in your writing — the fact that black people are happy to talk to you:

Feb. 28:

Miss Marion stood erect as a soldier, her gray hair pulled back in a tight bun and her hands folded as though she were about to sing an aria. For the past thirty years, she has worked as a powder-room attendant at Brennan’s, a famous restaurant in the French Quarter. Margaret and I had never met her before, but she walked up to us, shook our hands, and thanked us in a soft voice for being there….

On Feb. 15, a black mechanic is happy to talk to you and give you a beer. On Feb. 20, a black family offers you crawfish and conversation. On Feb. 27, you’re back with the mechanic, eating gumbo.

I know these things are more rare in the world outside New Orleans, and they never fail to impress visitors; people are are mostly nice. And I’m sure you’d be shocked when I told you that a lot of folks find it…well, condescending.

How?, you ask. But why? It’s a compliment.

Here’s why.

Say you’re back in Colorado at a dinner party. The food is strange and wonderful. You compliment your host. He thanks you. The conversation continues.

“No, really,” you interject. “This is really good.”

“Thanks,” he says, and changes the subject.

“But it’s really good!”

You know what? At that point, you’ve insulted him. You’re his guest; it would be an insult to him to suggest that he would provide you with anything less than his best. And yet that’s what you’ve just done.

Sir, Miss Marion from Brennan’s is a lady. You come to her grandsons’ funeral, of course she’s going to acknowledge you, thank you, show you her good manners.

If you want to show her your good manners, please don’t write things like this:

Margaret and I stood there, poleaxed with amazement that an elderly woman who’d suffered such a loss could speak about it to two strangers with such calm resolve.

Sir, I’d wager to tell you that Miss Marion has known much loss in her life even before this tragedy. For you to be surprised at her poise, her sangfroid, her plain good manners, might say more about you than it does about her…no matter how much you think you’re complimenting her.

Does this make any sense, Dan? Anybody?

entheos93 wrote:

Mar. 3rd, 2007 01:49 am (UTC)

Re: have a heart

“Dragging Floats” Right. One gets the mental picture of a bunch of black folks in rags, pulling a float by the ropes, as the evil, cackling white man works that whip.

Condesceding is a good key word here. Not to mention, I find the constant snide harping on this to be a direct affront to my deepest moral convictions, and those of (most) white folks in New Orleans.

Since Dan is so aghast, let me offer up this hypothetical scenario-

I’m planning a bash for, let’s say, the staff of the New Yorker. Obviously, I want the best that NO has to offer. How about hiring the staff at Mother’s? Excellent choice!

But wait! I’ve been reading Dan’s columns,so I know they’ll be aghast at having a black staff. I guess I’d better cancel them, and get some nice pink-cheeked kids from the cooking school. Of course, the folks from Mother’s are going to say “You shore is right, Miz Stacey. Y’all cain’t have them lookin’ at the black man slingin’ hash to da whites, oh hell no!’

Uh-uh. They’re going to say “Fuck that white bitch, cancelling us out of a gig we’ve done for years and replacing us with white folks! Now that’s some shit!” And they would be correct- because that would be a true act of racism, there, Dan, that would no doubt soar right over your head.

Sure, Dan, we are picking on you. That’s because you came into this a year and a half after we’ve been browbeaten by every manner and ilk of race-baiter in the known universe.There are endless people hanging around us, not out of any real concern for the people here, but so they can stand on their moral high ground and say “Look at me everybody! I’m so enlightened and socially aware! Loove meee!”

I’ve had it up to my fricken’ neck with the rest of this country and their constant Southern stereotyping. That’s right- White= white sheet wearing assholes who spend their time twisting their Snidely Whiplash mustachios, plotting the demise of black folks. Black=ignorant, downtrodden little victims whose only hope is to bask in the caring and compassionate radiance of people such as yourself, Dan. We get it, already- you can go home now.

Condescending is right. See, I know some big words with my fancy shmancy lib’rull edimicatshun. Yassuh, and I’m gwine tell ’em to you, soon’s somebody tell me what a gwine is.

Sorry, I’m just ranty today, I need to let off some steam. I guess I’ll go out to the shed and take a whip to the negroes. Oh, fiddle-dee-dee- tomorrow is another day!

danbaum wrote:

Mar. 4th, 2007 01:42 am (UTC)

Re: have a heart

Christ. Now it’s my turn to apologize. You’re right. That was a stupid thing for me to put in that posting. Of course: the guests were from out of town and the people working the event were locals. You’re right, and I thank you for calling me on it.

Here’s my problem: I’m not from here, obviously, and the whole issue of race is vexing. I’ve lived in New York, Boston, Atlanta, California…and I’ve never been anywhere as racially complicated as New Orleans. The intimacy between blacks and white here is like noplace I’ve ever seen. There is an ease in the relationship between the races that is mind-blowing (if you’re used to places like Boston.) But at the same time — and this is what really confuses me — New Orleans is amazingly riven by race. These two phenomena seem to exist in the exact same place and time, alongside each other, mutually contradictory yet plainly evident.

Anyone who writes honestly about New Orleans has to wrestle with race. To ignore it would be dishonest. I don’t claim to have “figured this out.” In fact, what you’re seeing in my blog is my daily process of trying. If I were writing a ten-thousand-word piece for the magazine, I’d have month to ask a lot of questions, read a lot, think a lot, and puzzle long and hard over my wording. Writing five blogs a week — a whole new skill — I’m writing as I’m learning. Which feels very weird. It’s like having people looking over my shoulder while I’m figuring out what the story is. So while I hope you’ll keep reading, and responding, I hope you’ll also take my blog in the spirit in which it’s offered. I love this city. I’m going to hate to leave. And what you’re seeing in my column is the real-time process of a person with good intentions trying to figure it out as quickly as he can.

swampytad wrote:

Mar. 2nd, 2007 10:14 pm (UTC)

Re: have a heart

come to think of it, dan, if you’re up for it, and before pampy goes to jail, skiegazer55 and i will take you to lunch at pampy’s. just let me know.

wherein I Eat Crow

  • March 2nd, 2007 at 12:44 PM

ah, so perhaps y’all have heard of this dan baum fellow? new yorker writer at whom i aim my ire from time to time?

well, i’ve taken that ire too far from time to time, and likely to the detriment of my own message, and dan baum visited my LJ and called me on it. frankly, i want to thank him, because i needed to stop it already (the meanness, not the watchdogging). but mainly i wanted to post an apology up top here, for those who might not wade through comment-strings to find it. sorry, dan, for making it mean and personal.

and i’ve gone back and edited personal venom at dan from prior posts (though, of course, i can’t figure out how to edit comments in the strings following posts, so there may still be some venom in there — sorry about that).

Comments

miz_landry wrote:

Mar. 2nd, 2007 07:00 pm (UTC)

Hey, that was big of you. But, in your defense, some of the zingers in his first article were kind of annoying. HOWEVER, I now read everything he writes so I guess it helped him gain a bigger audience. I do think that most of the media have a tough time explaining New Orleans, now or ever. It’s way more complicated than “black and white” and I mean that literally and figuratively. Perhaps with Dan actually living out there, he’ll be able to offer more insight.

miz_landry wrote:

Mar. 2nd, 2007 07:04 pm (UTC)

I would also like to add, why doesn’t the New Yorker let Chris Rose write about New Orleans? Hmmm?

The White Elite

  • March 5th, 2007 at 9:24 AM

Oh, Dan Baum, I don’t want to be a thorn in your side, or a jerk, not to you, not to anyone who comes here to write about our city and our plight, but then I read something like the following, and I can’t keep quiet:

From the earliest days of the crisis, many African-Americans have believed that the city’s white élite would use Katrina to flush the city of its poor black people. The white élite has made it easy to think so.

This is from the March 2 post on your New Yorker journal, wherein you discuss — otherwise, I might add, with refreshing even-handedness — the various protests and positions over the languishing issues over Charity Hospital, New Orleans public housing, and New Orleans public schools. You point out that the state hospital system is behind the drive to build a new Charity and the claims that old Charity is too damaged to reopen (while you don’t actually examine the rationale for those claims, I understand that’s not the point of your March 2 piece). You point out that the state board of education has taken over the New Orleans schools. And you point out that the federal HUD took over New Orleans public housing in 2002. In other words, none of these facilities are in the hands of locals, elite or not, white or black.

Yet, your piece concludes with a paragraph kicked off by the above quote. “[M]any African-Americans have believed that the city’s white élite would use Katrina to flush the city of its poor black people. The white elite has made it easy to think so.” And your post (as with your August 21 New Yorker article), makes it easy to think so, too, unfortunately. Though none of the problems you examine are in local control of any sort. Though none of the local institutions are run by whites, elite or not. You pull out the stale quote from James Riess, not someone in a position of power with regard to public hospitals, housing, or education. You quote Richard Baker, who’s not from New Orleans and doesn’t represent New Orleans’ district (but who proposed an innovative plan for getting New Orleans residential stock back on its feet in the wake of the Storm, only to be plowed under by a slow and suspicious White House, laying the groundwork instead for the overly bureaucratic and ineffective mess known as “the Road Home”). While I’m sure that you could find hateful and misguided powerful white men in any town who would say the same things in the wake of a Katrina-like catastrophe, the thing is that none of these quoted sentiments or their utterers actually have anything to do with the state of public hospitals, housing, or education in post-Katrina New Orleans.

Indeed, I think you would find that if the local “elites” (let’s define this roughly as the locals who wield any measure of political or financial power), who are neither exclusively white nor exclusively black, had the control of the purse-strings to run these institutions, I daresay we would be in far better shape than we are now. But these are political footballs in someone else’s game now. Before I ramble too far off, though, my main point here is that, whatever the faults of the post-Katrina situation with regard to public housing, hospitals, and education, they are not the product of race relations among New Orleanians. To suggest otherwise is both baseless and disingenuous.

Comments

gutterboylive wrote:

Mar. 5th, 2007 07:54 pm (UTC)

Dan wrote this in your last thread on the topic:

Here’s my problem: I’m not from here, obviously, and the whole issue of race is vexing. I’ve lived in New York, Boston, Atlanta, California…and I’ve never been anywhere as racially complicated as New Orleans. The intimacy between blacks and white here is like noplace I’ve ever seen. There is an ease in the relationship between the races that is mind-blowing (if you’re used to places like Boston.) But at the same time — and this is what really confuses me — New Orleans is amazingly riven by race. These two phenomena seem to exist in the exact same place and time, alongside each other, mutually contradictory yet plainly evident.

Anyone who writes honestly about New Orleans has to wrestle with race. To ignore it would be dishonest.

You know, I should’ve seen this earlier. People that come to New Orleans seem to be obsessed with race, whether it’s John Derbyshire or Dan Baum, and they have a real blind spot for issues of class (and by ‘class’ I mean economics, not Grace Kelly in a pair of calfskin gloves).

One great example: Rex and Zulu. People who come to town seem to see those parades as black and white affairs, where the locals see gentry, the ruling classes, whathaveyou. Add into the equation that often black and white are relative terms in New Orleans, and people get hopelessly confused if they’re used to thinking of race as a binary issue.

I noticed two examples just this week in The New York Times. The paper ran one story on “child sleep consultants” that charge $395 for a two-hour session. And these consultants charge not for insomnia, but for families that don’t have the strength to say no when their kids climb into their beds in the middle of the night. And the Times wrote about this as if it were normal, totally blind to the issues of class inherent in the piece. I guarantee you that folks in New Orleans, black and white, would laugh at the idea of paying an expert to sit their kids’ asses back in bed and tell them to go to sleep.

Two days later, the Times ran another, similar story, this one on the child-care experts to the stars in Hollywood. People who didn’t even have kids yet were getting on the waiting lists while their wives were pregnant, willing to pay a fortune in case they needed a “head-lice consultant” (“The Lice Whisperer”) down the road.

People in New Orleans, black or white, mostly can’t afford such things, especially now. Your kid gets lice, you pick up an $8 bottle of RID or you shave his head. Problem solved.

When you have so many folks in the mainstream media who can’t relate, on a visceral level, to issues of class, you get things like a Wolf Blitzer and his famous comment about how so “many of them are so very, very poor, and very, very black.”

So, Dan, rather than focusing on how uncomfortable it might make you to see black waitstaff or domestics, it might behoove your soul and improve your writing to look at the economic side of things rather than the color of their skin. And remember: the “ease in the relationship” between folks has to do with the fact that most of ’em know what it’s like to be one paycheck away from financial Armageddon, what it’s like to work for a clueless boss, what it’s like to be afraid to send their kids to public schools, and – now – what it’s like to be forgotten and misunderstood.

Those are class issues, not racial ones. We’ve been dealing with them for generations, not just since Katrina, so we’re understandably a bit tetchy when people come to town and only see us based on the color of our skin.

swampytad wrote:

Mar. 5th, 2007 10:14 pm (UTC)

here is another good take on the general deficiencies in post-Katrina reporting by out-of-town media outlets (specifically referencing mr. baum, incidentally).

gutterboylive wrote:

Mar. 5th, 2007 11:55 pm (UTC)

there is an unintentional air of elitism, as if they are reporting on the Great American Freak Show, retiring to their hotel room and laptop later in the evening. I doubt many of the writers would be able to appreciate the importance of seeing the lights on again at Christmas time in City Park, or speculating about how much joy it would have brought to someone coming home for the first time since the storm and hearing the distant sound of the calliope on the steamer Natchez, parked by the riverbank. The reporting seems to pity New Orleans while also talking down to it.

Can’t argue with that. Well said.

entheos93 and I both encountered people who were interested in meeting Katrina refugees and were obviously surprised to find that neither of us is black, badly educated, or fit their definition of “poor.”

we’ve got 10 years

  • March 5th, 2007 at 10:05 AM

sediments. coastal restoration. storm surge. marsh. it’s all drastically important to understand the link between these things, the history of these things. at least down here it is, though ultimately on an economic basis for the rest of the country, too. the biggest hurdle to the recovery of new orleans and the safeguarding of the national economic interests that are provided for here, is not crime, is not housing, is not tourism. hell, in the long run it’s not even storm levees (though those are a big hurdle we need to overcome, too. it’s the loss of and failure to restore the coastal zone, which is disappearing at alarmingly accelerating rates. i’ve recommended in the past that you pick up one of Mike Tidwell’s books. but in the meantime, and for free, go read the excellent series in the Times Picayune. and here’s a nifty multi-media display if you don’t feel like doing the reading.

in ten more years, it’s too late.

on a more positive and probably ironic note, the new camphouse went up in hopedale this past weekend. we climbed up a ladder to look around inside (there’s still a lot of work to do, including building stairs to bridge the 14 feet from the ground to the front door). won’t be long now! i’ll link to some pictures later in the week.

Comments

miz_landry wrote:

Mar. 6th, 2007 01:54 am (UTC)

10 years! I totally believe it.

My dad always joked that he’d have beachfront property someday without ever moving. Now, we see pelicans flying along the Bayou, a sure sign the bayou is no longer fresh water.

After Andrew, I went home and my dad took me for a boat ride around Montegut where our camp is, which is around Bayou Terrebone. We were riding in open water for a while and I asked him where was the place we used to go fishing, in the marsh. My dad said, this is it.

That was pretty mind blowing. You just shouldn’t notice the natural world change like that. I haven’t been back there since Katrina/Rita.

New Orleans updates

  • March 6th, 2007 at 11:11 AM

Here’s part 3 in the series on coastal restoration, concentrating on what the atchafalaya success-story tells us to do for the terrebonne/barataria and lake borgne basins that protect new orleans. (here‘s a graphic of the atchafalaya success; here‘s one of the restoration proposal).

concluding the series, the times-picayune has this strong editorial about what’s needed to turn things around and, ultimately, save new orleans. also, jarvis deberry’s column today addresses those who have responded to the dire warnings of the series by opining that this is just some left-leaning conspiracy theory.

finally, on another topic, but equally depressing, salon.com has a balanced and sobering piece on the crime problem in new orleans.

rites of spring

  • March 7th, 2007 at 3:49 PM

i used to have this great collection of t-shirts that yellowdoggrl procured for me when she was at vanderbilt back in the 80s, from their rites of spring festival. really, i had the best t-shirt collection in selma, alabama, mainly thanks to my sister. but they all went the way that all good t-shirts do, stolen out of dormitory laundry rooms, or ripped on barbed wire fences while running through country fields at night, or bleached to oblivion while trying to get rid of stains from darkroom chemicals, or just disappeared.

another rite of spring around here — here being new orleans — is wardrobial in nature, and that is the bringing out of the things you can only wear after easter. in a pleasant piece on hatters and second-liners, dan baum writes:

Not long after, Étienne appeared from out of the crowd. “That’s some hat,” he said. I told him I’d just ordered the pink-and-white seersucker jacket to go with it. Étienne stuck a finger under my nose and lowered his eyebrows severely. “Don’t wear it before Easter,” he snapped. You can block traffic for four hours in New Orleans parading through the street behind dancing men in matching gold suits. You can sell beer without a license and drink it openly on the street. You can paint your face and get howling drunk and throw beer bottles on people’s lawns. But no gentleman would think of wearing pink before Easter.

of course, it’s not the pink that’ll give you a problem, dan. it’s the seersucker. ask docbrite about the seersucker rules.

now, from the department of i-couldn’t-say-it-better-myself comes this nice letter to the editor over at salon.com, from letter-writer “dwg,” in reaction to yesterday’s piece about the new orleans crime problem, though the letter is more generally aimed at the reading public: “In 1722, four years after being founded, a hurricane nearly destroyed it. Here we are again.” definitely give the whole letter a read.

a reminder that i’m not exclusively a jerk

  • March 10th, 2007 at 7:45 AM

by now, all my old regular LJ friends have likely stopped reading this blog, under the belief that it’s become only about playing gotcha’ with dan baum. bear with me. it’s really only an examination of how the new orleans recovery effort is faring in its portrayal in the national media, and dan’s just a handy proxy. i promise to talk about other things again soon.

but first, just to prove i can appreciate it when dan (and, by proxy, the national media) get it 100% absolutely right, i want to strongly urge you to read today’s fine posting in his new orleans journal. he writes about our anger but also about our resilience. it’s this balance that epitomizes post-K life around here. how we can not let go of the fact that we are abandoned and spat upon, while at the same time taking up the rebuilding in our own hands and doing lots of good work, unnoticed. anyway, good post, dan. that offer for lunch at pampy’s is still on the table, you know.

St. Baldrick

  • March 13th, 2007 at 8:57 AM

Chris Rose will shave his head if we give him $10,000. well, not give it to him, exactly, but pledge it to children’s cancer research. of course, he’s just one of the participants, and just in new orleans; looks to be plenty of folks who could be sponsored. check it out.

as to a certain new yorker columnist spending his spring down here, i don’t even know where to begin with his most recent posting, what with its “dark, spooky” swamps, its fat, stubbly cajuns, its Southerners-can’t-give-a-straight-answer-but-must-tell-you-a-good-yarn-or-two-first, its crazy geographical inaccuracies, and its continued generalizations about race. i guess the deluge of stereotyping and the abandonment of subtle analysis must play well with his reader base.

Comments

gutterboylive wrote:

Mar. 13th, 2007 08:03 pm (UTC)

Dept. of Well, Somebody’s Finally Been Paying Attention:

In truth, asking about racial makeup in Louisiana is, on its face, an ignorant question, since it implies that blacks and whites are distinct groups. The reality is that hardly anybody down here is entirely one or the other.

Dept. of But He’s Still Obsessed With Race:

[W]hen I asked Malcolm about the racial makeup of Lafayette, he answered, “When my sister was going to university in Lafayette.…Wait, before I tell you that story I have to tell you two more.” Ten minutes into the second story, which involved some cousins, two dogs, and a friend from Shreveport, I said, “Malcolm, my question called for a numerical answer.”

As for the patronizing tone of the rest of this, all I can say is Well, bless your heart, Dan Baum.

I’m reminded of why I let my subscription to The New Yorker lapse about a year before The Thing. While I still like David Remnick and Hendrik Hertzberg, the cloying condescension of the magazine, the ooey-gooey ain’t-everybody-strange-but-us pose, just got to be too much.

Is Susan Orlean still writing for them? If The New Yorker wants to do the stranger in a strange land thing, I think she could carry it off capably.

entheos93 wrote:

Mar. 14th, 2007 04:04 am (UTC)

“Today’s Cajuns are largely descendants of the French from Acadia—now Nova Scotia—whom the British, in a fit of Francophobe pique, began expelling in 1755. “

As opposed to yesterday’s cajuns from sweden, and the other, amaller portion of today’s cajuns from Estonia.

WTF, Dan?

pumps

  • March 14th, 2007 at 10:43 AM

for new orleans, as important as coastal restoration and competently designed and built hurricane protection levees are the pumps. the pumps get the water out of the city and over the levees. as an example of their importance, the flooding in metairie during katrina (not old metairie, the flooding of which was due to the breach in the 17th street canal floodwall) was due to jefferson parish shutting down the pumps and evacuating the pump operators for 24 hours during the storm. no canal breach floodwaters there, just no pumps to get the rainwater out, essentially.

so, part of the solution to the new orleans flooding was to install floodgates at the mouths of the outfall canals, and put pumps at the floodgates to get the water out once the gates closed to keep the surge out. as with just about everything the corps of engineers has done to “protect” new orleans from hurricanes, they have short-changed the job, fucked it up, known they fucked it up, and then tried to cover it up.

here‘s the uncovering, first broken on the fix the pumps blog, later reported by the AP. the misinformation campaign and political sweetheart incompetence perpetrated by the federal government continues to lie somewhere beneath despicable.

when levees aren’t levees

  • March 14th, 2007 at 3:34 PM

for once i’m going to read one of danbaum‘s entries and post something that isn’t about DB or his new yorker blog or about the entry itself, good or bad. but i do need to talk about some of the things he talks about in there today.

levees. if you read through the threepart series in the times-picayune about coastal land loss that i posted about last week, you know that levees are bad, that it’s the levees that force the mississippi river’s sediment down the river channel until it falls off the end of the continental shelf, instead of letting it, in the form of floodwaters, ooze out over and continuously rebuild the land mass that is coastal louisiana.

if you read my blog much over the past eightteen months, however, you know that levees are good, that properly built hurricane protection levees would not have failed and inundated new orleans during katrina. my car, and several of my t-shirts, and one of Greatest Boy in the World’s t-shirts all proclaim, “make levees, not war.”

so what gives?

different kinds of levees. one is thousands of miles of river levees. the other is targeted “ring” levees for hurricane-surge protection of specific residential areas.

what gets good folks like ivor van heerden and my great friend oliver houck all in a dither about the proposed state plan for hurricane protection is the “morganza-to-the-gulf” levee proposal. this would essentially erect a great wall of louisiana across the terrebonne and barataria basins, attempting to provide hurricane-surge protection but without the targeted attributes of a ring levee. instead, it would employ the river levees’ un-thought-out comprehensive barricade mentality, which will only further subsidence and create barriers to sediment replenishment. read one of ollie’s definitive works on the subject here (and, yes, it’s well worth the 68 pages).

the walls

  • March 15th, 2007 at 4:25 PM

ok, we’ve got the coast, and the levees (hurricance protection). number three (but, unfortunately, number one on august 29, 2005) is the walls. the floodwalls, that is, that sit atop the levees that contain the outfall canals in new orleans. congress allocated funds for the corps of engineers to build floodwalls that could contain a surge coming up the outfall canals from lake pontchartrain generated by a strong category three storm. katrina was barely a category three, if that, by the time its winds hit new orleans proper, but the walls gave way. much has been written, and i’ve blogged it here, about how the corps failed to design what congress appropriated, and then failed to construct even what it designed (and has, belatedly, admitted this).

now it turns out they chose to install a faulty pumping system at the outfall canal floodgates instead of just FIXING THE DAMNED WALLS right. fixthepumps is doing a stellar job of compiling this information, and i thought i’d share it around.

getting to the core of the corps; bravo blanco; eff bush; road home?

  • March 21st, 2007 at 9:55 AM

yet another engineering commission has concluded that the flooding of new orleans and st. bernard by katrina would not have happened, but for the incompetence of the corps of engineers. they conclude their report with a call for congress to conduct an “8/29” commission to investigate the corps’ shortcomings and for the federal government to cut straight to the chase and immediately compensate all katrina/corps-related damages to homes, business, and infrastructure.

if you have a second, please send a link to the report to your congressional delegation, along with a simple request to support the louisiana delegation’s call for an 8/29 commission. thanks.

hooray for kathleen blanco and a very smart decision to not run for reelection as governor. if only ray nagin had arrived at the same conclusion last year in the mayor’s race (but then, who would be defending us from the almighty “they”?). now maybe breaux will run, and jindal won’t have his cakewalk. though i wouldn’t be ardently opposed to either of those two, who both have some washington savvy (breaux, obviously, more than jindal, though jindal’s got his). frankly, washington savvy is what we need right now. i would also be afraid that, if jindal doesn’t aim for the governor’s mansion, he would set his sights on mary landrieu’s senate seat, and give her a real tight fight. party gets neutered to a great extent inside the state, but it causes far more damage in the senate or the house, so if jindal can keep his republican self in the state, i would prefer that. though breaux will get stuff done for the state over the long haul that jindal might not be able to, regardless of who’s in the white house.

and hooray for the Louisiana Road Home for realizing that the only right option in dishing out the money is the lump sum.

finally, effing eff george bush and his administration for crapping on the recovery one more time! he and his corrupt bunch of cronies are despicable.

Comments

silverdee wrote:

Mar. 21st, 2007 07:18 pm (UTC)

Out of all the office holders impacted by Katrina and Rita, Blanco is the only one I’ve felt genuinely sorry for. The only other governor to deal comparable natural disasters was Jeb Bush in 2004 who had four hurricanes hit his state in rapid succession.

As a governor, he had his brother in the White House to ensure he got the speedy and ongoing help he needed and the added bonus of being in a major battleground state during an election year.

She’s certainly not blameless for the slowness of our recovery. But I don’t think any governor has ever had to contend with two such widespread natural disasters within one month while enduring such criminal ineptitude at the Federal level.

swampytad wrote:

Mar. 21st, 2007 09:58 pm (UTC)

and i sincerely mean “bravo” and “hooray” to her for her decision, and do not say it with any sort of sarcasm. it was a very brave, astute, and selfless political decision to concentrate her remaining efforts on legislative activities and to then hand off the baton to a fresh runner. that’s what the state needs. i really wish nagin had done the same thing for the city.

silverdee wrote:

Mar. 23rd, 2007 05:58 pm (UTC)

I’m sure she and her family feel very relieved that the decision is made and announced. It would have been a very rough election for them if she had stayed in the race.

And I can only shake my head at Ray. He needs to have his mouth scotch taped like my mom used to do to me when I talked too much.

the scene

  • March 26th, 2007 at 1:57 PM

picture this. 9:30 on a saturday night. a small, bustling room, five folks behind the counter, a room stuffed wall to wall in front of them, talking, laughing, yelling, jovial, singing, jostling for position. the sidewalk outside lined up with the waiting, but a kind waiting, a chatting, an enjoying of the night air, knowing that, eventually, everyone will make it in, enjoy themselves before the night is over.

what’s this? some hot new bar or club, filled with twenty- and thirty-something hipsters, anxious to be seen, be part of the scene?

no, how about a hundred-year-old gelaterria, purveying fine gelato and pastries and italian anise cookies. and the occupants ranging from the most senior of citizens on down to toddlers and babies in strollers.

so, must be someplace in italy, right? where the bedtimes linger late and the taste for simple sweets is strong?

how about angelo brocato’s on north carrolton in new orleans.

i couldn’t help thinking, as King of All Wild Things in his stroller enjoyed some strawberry italian ice and Greatest Boy in the World gobbled down three anise-iced biscotti while Mrs. Swampy and i had our gelatos (hers, coconut, mine rum raisin), and after the whole place finished singing “happy birthday” to some kid with a candle stuck into his cannoli by his grandfather for his fourteenth birthday, that this truly is the greatest city in America, as much as that country may wish to disown us.

unrelated, and yet too related, there was the attorney i was talking to the day before, a former d.a. of tangipahoa parish and generally nice guy, who told me that he had to cancel his subscription to the times-picayune because he was tired of reading “all that katrina stuff.” (“maybe if i lived in new orleans,” he sighed).

more on the corps

  • March 27th, 2007 at 10:22 AM

in june 2006, the corps of engineers issued a preliminary version of its own post mortem on the katrina levee failures, accepting much of the blame for the city’s destruction.

yesterday they released parts of the final version of the report, as reported in this morning’s times-picayune. the corps still takes responsibility for much of the new orleans damage, resulting from poorly designed and constructed levees and floodwalls. they temper that by claiming that they didn’t have the predictive modeling available at the time to predict the impact of their substandard designs and construction, and they also continue to claim (disingenuously, as they are still trying to bolster the economics of a long-standing proposal to expand the Industrial Canal locks) that the MR-GO had minimal impact on devastating St. Bernard and the Lower Ninth Ward. these particular aspects have been rebutted already by two other independent engineering task forces.

stunningly, contained in the recommendations for future action in the corps’ report:

Base hurricane protection on the risk to people and structures, and not just on traditional corps cost-benefit analyses. Update protection needs in the future to reflect population changes and the effects of climate change or coastal erosion.

no shit. we needed large-scale death and destruction, followed by 19 months of study, to figure out that a hurricane protection system should not be based just on traditional cost-benefit analyses?

on to brighter writings, chris rose’s column today picks up on the same vibe i felt in brocato’s last weekend, and expounds nicely upon it. An excerpt:

In Chicago, outside the downtown luxury hotels and business towers, there are still signs on the sidewalk that say “Watch for Falling Ice” and if that’s not a reason to live here, then I don’t know what is.

. . .

 It’s spring and even a broken town is floating on air. I was on Chartres Street the other night and was listening to the Cajun band that plays on the sidewalk outside K-Paul’s restaurant every night and it was drowned out by a second-line parade that someone had hired to lead a local wedding party to a rehearsal dinner, and that was in turn drowned out by a sprawling high school marching band strutting down the middle of the street, leading a pack of rapturous conventioneers waving white paper napkins.

Kodak can’t touch this moment. Watch for Falling Music. ‘Tis the season.

stereotypes in the national media

  • March 28th, 2007 at 4:46 PM

“But Newport [Tennessee] was the antithesis of New Orleans — as white, Baptist, and conservative as New Orleans was black, Catholic, and wild.”

–from “New Orleans Journal: No Glitter,” by Dan Baum, New Yorker Online (3/28/2007)

i wonder if this sentence and this characterization do as much injustice to the truth of what newport is as it does to the truth of what new orleans is.

Comments

zurcherart wrote:

Mar. 28th, 2007 10:05 pm (UTC)

good lord

gutterboylive wrote:

Mar. 28th, 2007 10:50 pm (UTC)

“Wild.” But are they articulate?

Please don’t get me started.

I went to Kajun’s last night and someone brought up the Baum article on it, and I must confess that an expletive or two slipped from my dewy, beer-flecked lips.

four seasons (crawfish, shrimp, oyster, duck)

  • March 29th, 2007 at 9:29 AM

it’s a most wonderful time of the year . . .

from “Crustacean Nation,” in this morning’s times-picayune:

“The willows and bald cypress are leafing out along the bayou, the first of the wild irises are showing some blossoms, and whiffs of boiled crawfish are wafting from a nearby seafood market. Visions of not only boiled crawfish but also crawfish pie, crawfish cornbread and maybe a big pot of bisque danced in my head.”

 

oh, db, check your facts . . . again

  • April 10th, 2007 at 1:10 PM

so, db, again we find you taking the word of people who don’t know what they’re talking about and spreading it as some sort of gospel. some university of colorado at denver professors and students told you about the terrible and impending doom of the construction of a new high-rise bridge at the florida avenue crossing over the industrial canal, and about their wonderful idea for how to save the lower ninth ward from this scourge and improve transportation along the way. let me disspell a couple of things those well-meaning folks from the university of colorado told you, their fellow coloradan, about new orleans infrastructure (of course, i would think any kind of journalist would have checked the facts himself before printing them in his blog on a national news and culture magazine website, but maybe my standards are too high):

(1) You write, “The rail bed we’d stepped over carries only three or four freight trains a day. New Orleans streetcars downtown already share tracks with freight trains, so the city’s transit system could be extended here.” first, three or four freight trains a day can represent some pretty significant traffic, even if that number is accurately reported to you. recall that new orleans — more than a cutesy streetcar town — is, and always has been — i mean, it’s the reason we were built here to begin with — a cargo transportation hub. second, NO NEW ORLEANS STREETCARS SHARE FREIGHT TRAIN TRACKS. i know what you’re thinking of. you’re thinking about the riverfront spur of the streetcar line, which does run alongside a double-set of freight and public belt railroad tracks that service the various port facilities. but go back and look at them. they are separate tracks. it would be next to impossible to have a functioning transit system relying on multiple individual streetcar units trying to coordinate and share space with a constant stream of port-driven freight train traffic.

(2) Next you “report”: “The students unrolled plans and drawings imagining how a system of light rail would revitalize the Lower Ninth Ward: cute stations surrounded by shops and businesses, a park where the cattails now grow, and a network of boardwalks and shelters around a revived Bayou Bienvenue.” i’m glad you coloradans can think it all so cute. but roll out a map again. florida avenue runs along the northern periphery of the ninth ward, and primarily through an industrial district (at least in the area where the proposed bridge construction is). that would not be the ideal place to provide actual transit service to the eventually returning residents. a more logical corridor would be the old desire streetcar corridor (recall your tennessee williams for this bit of historical perspective). but even that plan (which is actually a fully studied plan, based on real facts, as opposed to what these coloradans fed you) has been shelved as not recommended at this time, due to the lack of ridership and the present alternative of the RTA bus line. the ideal would be for all of the city’s streetcar lines to not have almost all been shelved back in the middle of the last century, so that we wouldn’t have to re-justify the economics of rebuilding them. but we don’t live in that ideal, unfortunately.

(3) Next you write, “Time is running out. The state plans to start constructing the overpass within a year.” at least go to the website you linked to, the Louisiana TIMED website, and read the source material there. you will note that the most recent news article they have posted, from October 6, 2006, discusses how a federal judge has put a halt to the projects to widen and “improve” the industrial canal. that article, i would hope, would have piqued your curiosity as to what the one project had to do with the other, and you would have dug only slightly further and discovered that the florida avenue bridge project is dependent in part for its economic justification on the requirement that a new florida avenue bridge will have to be built one way or another if the corps of engineers’ industrial canal project goes through. without the industrial canal project, the justification for the florida avenue project falls apart. i know a little about this because, eight years ago while a student at the tulane environmental law clinic, i was involved with developing the neighborhood groups’ case against the corps of engineers in opposing the industrial canal widening project. i also know from that work that there were legitimate pros and cons to a new high-rise bridge. for one thing, the local residents pretty much agreed that it sucks having to wait for the current vertical-lift drawbridge to cycle through in order to get from the lower ninth ward into the rest of the city. on the other side, the years of pile-driving and construction noise from the bridge-building would be a nightmare. the real concern, though, was not with the bridge-building, but the dredging and widening of the canal, with a corps-admitted high-level of heavy metals and pollutants in its bottom sediments.

(4) You also observe, “In the nineteen-sixties, the Interstate 10 overpass cut through the heart of Treme, the cradle of Creole New Orleans, turning Claiborne Avenue, an oak-lined boulevard where African-Americans celebrated Mardi Gras, into a dark, smoky, clanging corridor of cement. Forty years later, people are still angry. To do this to the Lower Nine now, of all times, is especially cruel.” look, db, what happened to the treme in the 1960s with the elevated expressway was worse than shitty. to invoke that in new orleans is equivalent on an emotional level to challenging some middle-americans’ fealty to basebal or apple pie. but let’s not get stuck in the ease of emotional response and look at the issue fairly. the florida avenue corridor in the area of the proposed project — i.e., from the industrial canal through to paris road — is not what the claiborne corridor is (or, rather, was). it does not have the cultural importance of that corridor. indeed, in large part it is an industrial corridor. your analogy just isn’t apt.

(5) you conclude, “This is shaping up to be an emblematic battle of conflicting visions: twentieth-century fealty to the automobile, or a more humane concern for community that is at once old-fashioned and forward-thinking.” look, that battle is a real battle, and a good and virtuous battle. but this florida avenue bridge project is not the battleground where it should be fought. especially not based on bad facts.

corroded to the corps

  • April 10th, 2007 at 5:12 PM

i put the link the fixthepumps blog over on the left side of my screen, so you can always go check it, but i need to request special attention to the three most recent posts, from April 1 through April 5. i know some of you reading this have engineering backgrounds. i would appreciate your own insight on what this guy’s got to say and the pictures he’s posted. but suffice it to say that, on my own non-engineering-trained first read, i am sickened by the design, specification, and construction of the pump systems on the outfall canals.

more bad news from the white house

  • April 11th, 2007 at 9:59 AM

this morning’s times-picayune brought this story about how the white house has indicated it will veto the inclusion of the morganza-to-the-gulf hurricane levee. the merits of that actually may be on the good side of things, though i say that with knowledge of the controversy there.

everyone in terrebonne and lafourche parishes wants that levee. i can imagine that, if someone told me that an unseen project at a distance from new orleans was going to prevent storm surge from coming into lake pontchartrain, so we could just get rid of all of our close-in lake levees and floodwalls, i would throw a fit. those levees are a psychological balm on a visual scale. so i can imagine how you might feel in houma, or golden meadow, or somewhere else down that way, when the last thirty years have brought open water nearly to your doorstep, that a great big levee between you and the open water would feel like a mighty good thing.

but then i remember what good such levees did in lower plaquemines, and along the MRGO in st. bernard, during katrina. the only chance such a levee system has against the sudden and catastrophic pounding inundation of a hurricane storm surge is if the entire length is armored front and back, and is built on a stable soil foundation. otherwise it will wash away, get scoured out from behind, breach. it would be false security. more devastating, the chances are awful good that the proposed levee system will only exacerbate the subsidence and disappearance of the vital wetlands that can actually erase the surge as it comes in.

that’s all in the article.

the real problem with the white house action, which is also hinted at in the article, is that it isn’t merely opposing morganza-to-the-gulf on environmental or hydrological grounds, but its opposition is part and parcel of a withdrawal of support for all protection and coastal restoration projects down here. the white house wants to slash a minimum required $14 billion coastal restoration budget to $500 million. and then wants the state to foot half the bill.

the white house has no commitment to fixing the coast, protecting louisiana, protecting even its energy infrastructure or seafood nurseries or port facilities, which provide a hugely disproportionate benefit to the entire nation, not just louisiana.

cooking and reading

  • April 24th, 2007 at 9:41 AM

on saturday, i was one of three folks from my work that participated in a cooking competition sponsored by the local bar association to raise funds for NOLAC, our local legal aid office. we went with a theme of “Tale of 2 Cities,” doing an entree riffing off of the more celebratory aspects of new orleans culture and a dessert designed as a salve for the struggling side of the city. the menu was a smokin’ brass band chicken with second-line sauce on a rosemary doubloon, topped with crystal-infused lundi gras slaw and a heckuvajob brownie a la mode, featuring homemade cocunut gelato and stir-fried coconut flakes.

the chicken was citrus brined, then grilled in the beer-can fashion, with a chicory coffee-based barbecue sauce. the slaw was purple cabbage and purple onions, yellow bell peppers and corn, and fresh jalapeno and zucchini, all julienned thinly, with a dressing of olive oil, champagne vinegar, generous amounts of crystal sauce, and various spices to taste. the brownie recipe is a secret, the coconut gelato an extremely easy recipe involving cream of coconut, and the coconut flakes stir-fried in a wok with some light karo and butter. the first person who stopped at our booth to taste it proclaimed that it “was like an orgasm.” um, ok.

we had to make enough of each to feed 250. that was a lot of freaking food preparation last week.

while The People all raved over our food, especially the dessert, and we generated quite a buzz among attendees, only our chicken dish garnered an award, getting third place (out of thirty entires) for “most creative.” it may not have helped that, by the time the judges got to us, we had been serving food and drinking drinks for almost four hours, and we may not have been capable of explaining the dish adequately to the judging panel (and, indeed, may have forgotten entirely to describe the whole “2 cities” concept). note that there was an audible gasp from the crowd and murmurs about “that coconut brownie thing” when we did not place in the “best dessert” category. oh well. that The People liked it is what matters most, right?

OK, so some good reads: from sunday’s times-picayune, jarvis deberry captures well the sentiment i have only halfway been able to express about feeling not quite a part of this country. then, in today’s times-pic, angus lind reports that the camellia grill is reopened! and melvin and marvin and rickey are all back. no mention of my favorite counter-guy, donnie, but maybe he’ll be there when i bring the boys in for supper tonight.

reading (and writing)

  • May 1st, 2007 at 9:18 AM

it’s crazy how busy i’ve been with work. i have had little time for posting or emailing or anything of that nature.

as evidence, here is a link that i meant to post last friday, and it is now only halfway relevant, but here it is anyway: tom piazza wrote the lead column in last friday’s Lagniappe section, heralding the perfect arrival of jazzfest time. there’s still one more weekend of it coming up, so put your dancing shoes and your feed bags on and come on down. we went friday and saturday last weekend, and it was lovely. so much good music, and so much good food, all in one place. and that’s just new orleans in general; then you super-concentrate all that goodness into the new orleans fairgrounds and it’s just, well, definitely worth the price of admission.

and, speaking of the lead column in the Lagniappe section, where the heck has chris rose been for the last month or so? i hope he’s all right.

in today’s paper, jarvis deberry writes a good reality-check piece regarding the whole right-to-return issue, positing the premise that, no matter what progress is made in the city, there are going to be people who don’t want to return, anyway. our friendly neighborhood new yorker writer blogged yesterday about pretty much the same topic (in anecdotal fashion).

well, that’s it for the reading front. on the writing front, i got a very nice and very personalized rejection from an agent last friday. she had requested the first third of lent about a month ago, and wrote back that it was “skillfully written,” “nuanced,” with “realistic characters,” and even used the term “underhanded” in a rather complimentary way when discussing the new prologue that i had added in my last round of revisions. then, of course, she went into the typical rejection-speak about it ultimately not being a story that she was fully excited about, that it’s a subjective business and she was sure i would find the agent who would love the story and give it the representation it deserves, yada yada. i was a little disappointed about seemingly coming so close and still not getting there. but now i’ve decided to be encouraged by the fact of coming so close.

water rising

  • May 7th, 2007 at 3:10 PM

on friday, two series of torrential downpours passed across new orleans, one in the early morning hours, the second in the early afternoon. the one in the afternoon hit while i was out at lunch at pampy’s with skiegazer55. for once, i had foregone the no. 9 special (fried chicken and a seafood-stuffed mirliton), and had gone for something light and basic with the red beans and hot sausage. i looked out the window from time to time and noticed that the water had been coming down in sheets for almost thirty minutes and that the street was flooded. i got up and went to look out a window at my car, and saw that the water was up to the door sills. i ran out through the downpour and across foot-deep street flooding (yes, in my lawyer suit), and jumped into the prius to move it up onto the sidewalk. luckily, the door seals are pretty tight, and no water had gotten into the car.

uptown, yellowdoggrl was not so lucky, as several inches of water came into the ground floor of the just-finished-Katrina-repairs house on jefferson avenue.

a little while later, the rain not letting up and a conference call breathing down my neck, we slowly drove through the flood back downtown. water was geysering up from three to five feet out of the manhole covers. parts of the city got up to five or more inches of rain in two hours.

now, know this. back in the best of times, before a certain Storm, new orleans’ drainage system was actually renowned for its historical and technological efficiency in keeping the city dry. but even then we all knew that the world’s largest gravity drainage system could only handle an inch of rainfall in the first hour and then a half-inch of water in each following hour before the system could not keep up with the rate of rainfall. that’s a pretty significant rainfall rate, but it will from time to time be exceeded. see tropical storm frances, or the 1995 flood.

so in some ways, friday’s inundation was less a post-katrina headache than it was business as it used to be. but in other ways, it had everything to do with that bad bitch of a storm, or rather with the governmental incompetence that went hand-in-hand with it. one issue was with the corps of engineers’ still-incompetently-built canal floodwalls. on the london avenue canal, in particular, with 14-foot-deep walls and levees, because of the weaknesses exploited by katrina the corps has mandated a four-foot “safe water level.” when city pumps pump that much storm water into the canal, the corps orders the sewerage and water board to shut off their pumps until the water drains out into the lake, for fear of another floodwall collapse like during the hurricane. methinks the corps should bloody well fix their damned mistakes instead of ordering the s&wb to stop keeping the city dry. what happens when a hurricane comes, the corps’ new floodgates go down to stop surge in the lake from backing up into the canals, and the corps’ floodgate pumps break, causing the safe water level to be exceeded and the s&wb’s pumps to be ordered shut down?

as usual, fixthepumps has the full, detailed scoop on what’s up with the corps, the floodwalls, and the pumps, vis a vis friday’s flooding. it’s worth a read.

in other news, rest in peace, alvin batiste.

not of this place?

  • May 8th, 2007 at 9:19 AM

his fraudulency, mr. bush, long ago appointed a “recovery czar” to oversee the hurricane recovery along the gulf coast, a gentleman by the name of donald powell.

powell is, essentially, the day-to-day face of the white house in postkatrinaland. he wrote the following in a letter to the editor in last friday’s times-picayune:

The president’s commitment to rebuilding the Gulf Coast remains strong, but so does the need for Louisiana to effectively use the resources it’s already been given before appealing again to the already overwhelming generosity of the American taxpayers.

eff you, mr. powell. we are the american taxpayers, too, last time i checked. i don’t recall the white house actually requiring, oh i don’t know, IRAQ to effectively use the resources it’s been given before appealing again to the already overwhelming generosity of the American taxpayers. indeed, i believe the white house is currently fighting tooth and nail against congress’ (and the american taxpayers’) insistence that they do so.

maybe the american government needs to pony up the dough the fix what, in new orleans, was a catastrophe created by that government’s own negligent engineering and construction of navigation canals and hurricane “protection” levees and floodwalls, and its approval and permitting of thousands of miles of oil exploration canals that diced up the wetlands buffer. maybe it’s not necessarily “generosity” if the rest of america gets in exchange for shoring up the government’s mess the continued access to our offshore oil and natural gas fields, petro-chemical complex, port facilities, seafood nurseries, and cultural cradle of so much that is “american.” i posit it might be — might be, maybe — an even trade.

on the bright side, people are still moving back to town, particularly in the devastated areas; new orleans has landed one of the top schools administrators in the nation to come in and head up the recovery school district; and students are surging back to new orleans’ collection of universities and colleges.

Comments

miz_landry wrote:

May. 8th, 2007 06:33 pm (UTC)

were you annoyed like i was by the outpouring of support for the tornado victims? comments like “people of the midwest are a take-charge kind of people who will rebuild their communities?” Or that a town of 1500 people has lost all of its infrastructure? Talk of the Nation had a whole show devoted to why people live in dangerous weather places and how the events shape their lives.

No one was saying “hey, stupid, why you living in a trailer in tornado alley?”

It kinda made me sick.

swampytad wrote:

May. 8th, 2007 06:52 pm (UTC)

mmm. god must hate them, too.

miz_landry wrote:

May. 8th, 2007 06:55 pm (UTC)

ha, even that was addressed where they said those that believe in god are more apt to stay and rebuild. hmmmmmm.

blogging about blogging about blogging (metametablogging?)

  • May 11th, 2007 at 1:19 PM

i just received the following email from a fact-checker at the new yorker:

Dear Mr. Bartlett,

I’m a fact checker at The New Yorker. Dan Baum is doing a blog entry on some

of the feedback he’s received from readers. He mentions that he emailed you

at one point about the tone of your blog posts about his work, and then

quotes from your response:

“You know what, Dan? You’re absolutely right. And I mean that sincerely, no

sarcasm in my tone. What’s happened is that we’ve been bullied and prodded

raw, and I’m taking it out on you. And you’re right that there is undue

disrespect in my tone in my posts. That will stop.”

I’m writing now just to double-check that you know we’re quoting the above

in Dan’s post. I’d be grateful if you could let me know today that this is

the case.

Many thanks

so here i am, blogging about the fact that danbaum is going to blog about my blog. i know i haven’t been all too kind to him, so i suppose i’m about to experience some sort of cyberian karma. and i don’t say this because of the impending entry, but really have been meaning to mention it the last few weeks — the lack of mention of mr. baum’s journal on this blog recently is a case of no-news-is-good-news. he’s been doing a fine enough job lately (ok, that’s unfair; he’s been doing a fine job, period) portraying our fair citizens and city that i haven’t felt compelled to bring him up much.

oh, and dan, if you’re reading this, as i told the kind fact-checker to relay to you, that offer for lunch at pampy’s is still open.

Comments

gutterboylive wrote:

May. 11th, 2007 06:50 pm (UTC)

What an interesting quote for Dan Baum to pick! Wonder how he came up with that one?

Should I be hurt that no one from TNY contacted me about this?

“During our first two months here, Margaret and I ignored the Hubig’s pie. We wrote off its popularity as the irrationality of hometown allegiance; we never understood Atlantans’ affection for the Varsity hot-dog stand, or Cincinnati’s love of Skyline chili, either. We assumed that Hubig’s pies were made in some vast, soulless factory from the cheapest imaginable ingredients.”

 As usual, Dan Baum assumes a hell of a lot.

 I’m tired of him examining New Orleans as if it’s the home of a heretofore undiscovered tribe. We may be strange, we may be anomalous, we may even be a bit fucked-up, but one thing we ain’t is quaint, and one thing we don’t need is some bemused self-styled anthropologist from Boulder explaining us to the outside world.

 I gave him a chance; really, I did, and then he wrote this about a month ago:

 “More than in any other city I’ve visited, New Orleanians tend to greet strangers in an open-handed manner, smiling and joking. Maybe New Orleanians treat people they don’t know so kindly because they’re never sure exactly with whom they’re dealing. Someone who looks white may identify himself as African-American; someone who looks black may think of herself as white, or as Creole—and no two people seem to agree upon the definition of “Creole.” Certainly, no one you’re encountering for the first time can be relied on to share your attitudes about race. So the smart approach is to open every encounter in as neutral and pleasant a manner as possible.”

 Or maybe we’re just polite, an explanation that didn’t occur to Mr. Baum, who seems to view every goddam social transaction in Orleans Parish through the prism of race.

swampytad wrote:

May. 11th, 2007 06:59 pm (UTC)

you know, i had kind of let that hubig’s pie thing go. i read it, i shook my head, i thought, “he’ll never change,” and then i had something else to do, and so a week went by and i thought that it would look like i was placing too much importance on the hubig’s pie (which is impossible, i realize), or too much importance on danbaum, and then he started writing about street musicians and turtle soup and good old o. p. walker, and so i figured he was starting to get things together and i just let it go.

besides, any excuse to go to pampy’s, especially because i wonder whether it fits into his paradigm of What This Place Is and Who These People Are.

gutterboylive wrote:

May. 11th, 2007 07:20 pm (UTC)

besides, any excuse to go to pampy’s, especially because i wonder whether it fits into his paradigm of What This Place Is and Who These People Are.

It’ll give him a chance to opine on Why People Are Nice to One Another Here, Especially White People to Negroes, Because You Just Never Know Who You’re Talking To.

Like I said, I’d pretty much given him a chance (or at least forgotten about him), but that column about New Orleanians being polite to one another because of social castes was just jaw-dropping and, yes, racist.

I don’t expect The New Yorker to see it that way, but I think they’d see it in neon if a New Orleanian had gone up to New York and written about social courtesies among people of different races on the IRT.

swampytad wrote:

May. 11th, 2007 07:38 pm (UTC)

ouch (i just snerked strawberry hubig’s pie out through my nose).

gutterboylive wrote:

May. 11th, 2007 08:20 pm (UTC)

Well, that’s not very polite. Remember:

“Certainly, no one you’re encountering for the first time can be relied on to share your attitudes about race. So the smart approach is to open every encounter in as neutral and pleasant a manner as possible.”

Does snerking strawberry Hubig’s through your nose count as a neutral or pleasant greeting? DOES IT?

entheos93 wrote:

May. 11th, 2007 09:25 pm (UTC)

He makes it sound like being polite, even kind, to people of other races is is something freaky, so it must be coerced by some invisible hierarchy. It makes me wonder, when he happens acroos somebody black in Boulder, doe he begin to loudly berate and insult them? I doubt it. As far as I know, people in white places such as Boulder and Portland treat people of other races with extreme civility, so why is it so mindblowing that we would? I’m guessing that he finds it so because he’s sure we’re all such tabacky’chawin’ bassackwards bigots- this I find truly, truly insulting. I’ve also noticed that although he is obsessed with race, he never mentions at all the flagrant black racism that is such a part of public discourse here. How could he not notice this, with his eagle eye? While it’s true that we routinely shrug it off for the sake of harmony, how could such an astute observer of racial matters fail to see it? One would think he’d jump to write an article about the Eddie Jordan lawsuit. I wouldn’t miss a chance at that, if I was writing on that theme.

I’ll bet he’s of the school of thought that only white people are racists- a school of thought that is prevalent in places that are pretty much monoracial, be it Boulder or Detroit.

To me, it’s clear that HE is the one that holds “certain views of race” that he is convinced are different than what they are.

Oh well. Bigots coming here to call us bigots- nothing new under the sun.

yellowdoggrl wrote:

May. 12th, 2007 12:08 am (UTC)

you’ve hit on the thing that discouraged me most about post-Katrina New Orleans, and the thing I will miss the least (and, if I may say, the thing I just do not see here in Austin, where what few divisive societal problems I’m seeing are class issues but not race issues). I mean, I get why reverse racism exists, but that doesn’t mean I like it any more than the regular old racism. Racism sucks no matter who’s being racist, and yet (at the risk of sounding racist) I feel like a free pass got issued somewhere for folks to be ugly without shame.

swampytad wrote:

May. 12th, 2007 05:38 pm (UTC)

i’m going to agree that all racism, of course, sucks, regardless of its perpetrator or its object. but i will diverge rhetorically and posit that the “pass” has by no means been “free.” as you say, we do get why reverse racism exists, and it is this historical “why” (or, rather, series of historical “why”s) that makes it distinguishable from (though no more admirable than) the hierarchical and systemic oppression of white-on-black racism. where the dominant side of the ism uses the unjustified ism to put down and keep down the subjected side of the ism, then the turning of the ism from the subject to the dominant is a logical consequence. overcoming that logical response, however, is the only way to, not just shift, but completely dispose of the paradigm altogether.

i can’t abide white-on-black racism, and i can’t understand it. i can’t abide black-on-white racism, but i do understand it. but, regardless, you’re quite right that it is ugliness without shame no matter which way you flip it, and that ain’t right.

yellowdoggrl wrote:

May. 11th, 2007 07:49 pm (UTC)

a) do we think TNY only started employing that fact-checker on Dan Baum’s blog after he got called out here for being such a fact-challenged doofus?

b) the above exchange needs to be sent to the fact-checker, “accidentally” or otherwise

c) would that be the strawberry Hubig’s from a certain birthday bag?

swampytad wrote:

May. 11th, 2007 08:15 pm (UTC)

AAAAAAUUUUUGGGGHHHHHH!!!!! I haven’t thanked you, yet for the mucho bueno tequila and the hubig’s pie! i can’t believe i let a day (ok, 39 hours) go by after opening it and haven’t thanked you, yet! thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you

yellowdoggrl wrote:

May. 12th, 2007 12:03 am (UTC)

I was really more interested in the answers to a) and b), but I’m glad you liked it… 😉

heck, maybe that will increase my readership

  • May 14th, 2007 at 2:32 PM

that wasn’t so bad. ” . . . pure New Orleans, warm-hearted and emotionally honest.” i’d take that on my tombstone.

Comments

gutterboylive wrote:

May. 14th, 2007 08:50 pm (UTC)

I’m struck by how he didn’t address a single one of your legitimate criticisms, but instead quoted your apology in its entirety.

It just proves that Dan Baum (or is it Margaret? It’s just too hard to use a double byline) is right, right, right.

swampytad wrote:

May. 14th, 2007 09:13 pm (UTC)

i don’t know. he does acknowledge that i continue to find much to criticize, so i don’t feel like he has marginalized my criticism by acknowledging my posts as part of his reader “feedback.” my concern about the exchange with baum is that, while in his initial complaining of my tone he encouraged me to continue to point out where i thought his writing contained inaccuaracies, calling him out on things like the port traffic and the streetcar routes and other objective inaccuracies hasn’t led to any corrections of his posts. even vitriolic old me will go back and provide edits to my posts when i discover the least bit of objective inaccuracy, and will usually even call attention to the edit to ‘fess up to the original misreporting. i suppose my hope, though, isn’t to achieve corrections in past posts (though that would be nice), so much as to encourage a tighter attention to fact and detail in present and future posts, and, ultimately, in the book he’s writing about all of this (and about all of us).

entheos93 wrote:

May. 15th, 2007 09:52 pm (UTC)

I’ve seen him around a few times- I think he lives right near me. I’m betting he’s going to move here.

swampytad wrote:

May. 15th, 2007 10:03 pm (UTC)

what kind of action are you offering on that bet? i’m thinking he refers a bit too fondly to clean, orderly Boulder, so i might want a piece of that.

entheos93 wrote:

May. 15th, 2007 11:05 pm (UTC)

I’ll wager draft Abita at Matkey’s to the point of bloating on that one.

John Barry checks in

  • May 16th, 2007 at 9:21 AM

John Barry, author of the excellent Rising Tide, a book about the 1927 flood, the corps of engineers, and the disappearing Louisiana coast, checked in in yesterday’s times-picayune with this fine column about why the rest of the country should be on the hook for repairing new orleans’ katrina-damage.

After laying out six crucial facts that everyone should know, Barry concludes,

Put simply: Why should a cab driver in Pittsburgh or Tulsa pay to fix Louisiana’s coast?

 Because he gets a stronger economy and lower energy costs from it, and because his benefits created the problem.

 The failure of Congress and the president to act aggressively to repair the coastline at the mouth of the Mississippi River could threaten the economic vitality of the nation.

 Louisiana, one of the poorest states, can no longer afford to underwrite benefits for the rest of the nation.

i highly recommend reading the the whole column

those military checkpoints

  • May 21st, 2007 at 9:07 AM

In his entry from last friday, danbaum writes:

“During the Katrina crisis, soldiers patrolled the foot of the St. Claude Avenue Bridge, which crosses the Industrial Canal to the Lower Ninth Ward. No part of town other than the Lower Ninth was cordoned off by troops this way; one could only imagine, with a shudder, what was going on there. It took me until the Friday after the levees broke to get up the nerve to ask the soldiers for permission to cross.”

this assertion that only the lower ninth ward was blocked off by troops after the Storm was also made by baum in his august 21 new yorker article. i directly addressed this assertion, as well as 18 others, in a post in this journal. in the august 21 article, the assertion appeared to stand for the idea that the powers-that-be were employing any means necessary to keep 9th warders away. here, the purpose of the assertion seems less sinister, but in both cases the assertion is baseless. briefly, here’s the problem with that particular assertion again:

(1) the st. claude bridge over the industrial canal isn’t just an entry point into the lower ninth ward, but also into st. bernard, so this wasn’t just restricting access to the lower 9.

(2) the other only other way into flooded st. bernard in the aftermath of the Storm, other than through flooded lower 9th ward, was from the east, by way of the old highway 11 bridge (the only bridge over the passes into lake pontchartrain that was not knocked out by the storm). there was a military cordon on that bridge, only allowing emergency response personnel across.

(3) i came in with a brother-in-law, who had an emergency response personnel pass, 9 days after the storm. we first came into metairie across the causeway bridge (he subsequently went on to camp out and begin directing the cleanup and recovery in st. bernard, where he is a parish engineer). we had to pass through a military checkpoint at the north end of the bridge, and another one at a crossover halfway across the 26-mile bridge. others coming in to jefferson parish from the west had to pass through military checkpoints on i-10, airline, jefferson highway, and river road, but by 6 p.m. of that day all residents except essential personnel were barred from access to jefferson parish for two and a a half weeks.

(4) of the entry points that i am personally aware of from the west, from jefferson parish into orleans parish, there were military cordons and/or outright blockades at river road, at i-10, at airline, at veteran’s, and at old hammond highway.

(5) a friend of mine tried to walk the lake levee, crossing the 17th street canal at the pedestrian bridge by the old bruning’s, made it into lake vista, and was caught up to and stopped by a heavily armed military patrol.

(6) even once restricted residential access was allowed into certain zip codes of orleans parish (the dry sliver-on-the-river zips), there remained a tightly restricted military cordon to prohibit entry into lakeview, as well as the lower 9th ward.

(7) of course, clearly, none of the military checkpoints likely appeared until the thursday after the Storm at the earliest, as the feds were, ahem, a little delayed in responding to the crisis.

this was a real mess, dan, as you know. ruptured gas lines, stagnant flood waters, unstable structures. there was not a concerted effort to keep certain people from coming back just because they were not wanted back. there was a concerted, and often clumsy, effort to address public safety issues in the entire devastated region.

’tis the season . . . to be fleur-de-lis-rious

  • 3rd, 2007 at 10:13 AM

i wish i weren’t so freaking busy that i could have posted my june 1 post on june 1. oh well, now i get to gank from chris rose, whose column returned on may 29, but who really hit his return stride this morning.

read the whole column, which is about Us and Why We’re Still Here, as well as including an imagined conversation between Buddy D, Nash Roberts (who isn’t dead, yet), and God. But here’s a sample from the end of it:

“The water rises, the water falls. That’s the only guarantee, and how long it takes to fall is anyone’s guess and that was certainly the problem in the summer of ’05, the Endless Summer, for it haunts us still, but still we remain, here and now.

 We’re not stupid. We’re not crazy. As my friend Grace told me the other day: We’re just a little Fleur de Lerious.”

because, that’s right, another hurricane season is upon us, already two named storms in. evacuation routes have been re-examined. yellowdoggrl and silverdee are on top of the altar formation. chefcdb has consulted the frigatebirds. i am daily consulting the weather underground’s tropical weather page. danbaum has left town (though not without a parting back-handed shot about new orleans being a “small, poor, economically inessential city”).

time to deny, sweat, prepare, sweat, drink dixies, eat fresh fried shrimp, drink more dixies, contemplate the saints’ upcoming season, sweat some more, pray like heck to our lady of prompt succor.

Comments

gutterboylive wrote:

Jun. 3rd, 2007 08:17 pm (UTC)

Dan Baum, we hardly knew ye…I mean, ye hardly knew us

That’s better than most of his stuff, frankly. I really liked this, Dan:

I was in Beaumont, Texas, having vegetarian fajitas at an outpost of the Acapulco Mexican Grill chain, when I noticed a woman at the next table looking at my food. “That looks good,” I heard her whisper to her mother. I kept expecting one of them to lean over and shout, “Hey, babe, what’s that you’re eatin’?,” and for all of us to end up at the same table. But they kept to themselves.

That’s a great picture, and something very telling about New Orleans and the rest of the world.

In the speedy, future-oriented, hyper-productive, and globalized twenty-first century, New Orleans’s refusal to sacrifice the pleasures of the moment amounts to a life style of civil disobedience.

But it’s still not in his blood, it seems; if it was, he’d be seeing that New Orleans attitude as normal and human, and the other 99.9% of the country as alien.

Isn’t everybody else in the country pining for more time, more genuine connections, more of what’s real vs. what’s on TV?

And only an auslander would criticize New Orleans for being “economically inessential,” which is the same attitude held by someone who walks through an art gallery looking only at the price tags, not the paintings.

gutterboylive wrote:

Jun. 3rd, 2007 11:03 pm (UTC)

By the way, I hope you didn’t miss this little sapphire…

…from the “We Don’t Even Realize How Condescending We Can Be” file…

One day not long after that, Margaret came home from running errands in Treme and told me about a group of men she’d seen sitting around a funky garage at the corner of Dumaine and North Prieur Streets. “They waved and smiled at me,” she said. “The place had great murals of Martin Luther King, Jr., and Malcolm X painted on the garage doors.”

yellowdoggrl wrote:

Jun. 4th, 2007 01:27 am (UTC)

au ‘voir, Dan! au ‘voir, Doug Brinkley! see you soon, NOLA!

following up on an old friend

  • June 20th, 2007 at 10:46 AM

without comment, i give you this news about a certain (ex-)new yorker writer who has been featured from time to time in these posts.

i can’t really not comment. while i’ve made my peace with the person of dan baum, i continued to have problems with the accuracy of his portrayal of new orleans, new orleanians, and the recovery. that being said, his presence and his writing about the recovery was some evidence of a national media outlet’s commitment to keep a lens focused in our direction. i hope that the new yorker continues that commitment, though perhaps with a correspondent with a keener eye to putting accuracy above story. just so no one misunderstands, i don’t mean that as a slam on dan, the man, kicking him when he’s down, but on the stories and reporting themselves.

in other news, the police reunion tour is now less than two weeks from its june 30 gig in new orleans. by all indications, fans are flying in from all over, i know from at least as far away as vancouver, new jersey, and savannah. a group of about twenty of them will be joining in with the lafayette square conservancy in cleaning and planting in lafayette square park on the morning of the 30th. good stuff.

Comments

gutterboylive wrote:

Jun. 20th, 2007 08:48 pm (UTC)

Suggestions for The New Yorker

  1. Joshua Clark
  1. Michael Swindle
  1. Christine Wiltz
  1. Patty Friedmann
  1. John Biguenet

No, I’m not kidding. I’m serious as a Hubig’s pie.

talking about crabs

  • June 27th, 2007 at 11:37 AM

within the past few weeks, Greatest Boy in the World (“GBW”) turned 4, and King of All Wild Things (“KAWT”) turned 1. many celebrations were had.

this past weekend, the swampy-in-laws (that would be Mrs. Swampy’s folks) had the big moving day, moving all the furniture and stuff that has accumulated over the past year or so down the road into the new camphouse. their camp is only about the fourth (of several hundred) camps to be rebuilt down in hopedale since the Storm. the original one, which had stood since 1923, was completely wiped from existence as the eye passed over that far eastern tip of the “boot” of louisiana. two weeks ago the rebuilding was completed.

after helping on sunday with putting some furniture together in the camphouse, GBW and i went down and across the street to the dock and boathouse on the banks of bayou laloutre. bayou laloutre is an old riverbed of the mississippi, before it took a turn about six thousand years ago to the south, leaving the network of marshes and bayous that now populate the lower end of st. bernard parish. GBW and i were watching the fish in the little shallows between the pier and the bayou bank, when we saw a crab skittering about in the mud. GBW said to watch out i didn’t get my toe bit by the crab, and that if that happened i could just shake him back off into the water. i replied that, to the contrary, i would catch him and we could eat him. “eat a crab?” he asked incredulously. “sure,” i said, “crabs are good. softshells, boiled, crab caked, lump crab on top of speckled trout, you name it.” then i told him about the sauteed softshell crab at galatoire’s that i always get, with the lump crabmeat on top and the meuniere sauce. he said he would have to try it, but that maybe he wouldn’t like it and then would just eat the potato souffles and some chicken. i told him that i was glad he would try it.

then, on the way home from the camp, GBW was snoozing and KAWT was listening to the stereo with Mrs. Swampy and me. “i wanna’ be sedated” came on. it has been documented in this space how much a ramones fan GBW is. let me now proudly recount to you all that KAWT began to laugh and dance about happily in his seat during “i wanna’ be sedated,” then started singing along to the “bam bam bam” refrain at the end. two young boys. two ramones fans.

some updating

  • July 28th, 2007 at 9:58 AM

there was a tremendously positive article about the continued steady pace of repopulation of new orleans, buried in the metro section of today’s times-picayune. the article discusses how there continues to be a steady stream of more people coming than going in all of new orleans’ neighborhoods, even the most devastated ones. orleans parish now stands at 262,000, fifty-eight percent of its pre-Storm population.

signing off for awhile

  • July 31st, 2007 at 9:18 AM

got our notice of insurance renewal last week. our homeowner rates went up fifty percent. the insurance company put in a note that part of the increase was due to the assessment on all louisiana policies for purposes of maintaining the louisiana insurer-of-last-resort (“louisiana citizens”), as if that were the source of most of the increase. but a look at the figures shows that assessment was less than ten percent of the amount of increase. we now pay more than 400 bucks a month to insure our home. and, as i’ve tried to communicate before, we’re among the lucky ones. we didn’t flood; we’re not in orleans parish; it could be far worse than it is. but then i’ve asked around among folks i know living elsewhere and, all things considered (such as assessed value, square footage, etc.), we’re paying between three and six times what it costs to insure a house outside of katrinaland. maybe you folks out in california in the earthquake zone can relate to this.

oh well. in other news, i’ve discovered i have nothing to say here, at least for awhile. not long after starting this blog, the Storm came, and this became a blog about the recovery. well, we’re almost two years into that process, and you’re all probably to the point of tuning out what i’ve got to say. heck, judging from my rather lax posting schedule the past few months, i’ve apparently started to tune out what i have to say. so i could blog about something else, but i don’t think i’ve got anything new to add to the blogosphere. frustrated unpublished writers? dime a dozen. attorneys talking about legal issues? who wants to read that? bragging on the most wonderful kids in the world? i’ll let you see that in person should you come visiting.

i’ll keep my friends page up, commenting there from time to time, because i’ve truly come to enjoy the kaleidoscope of perspectives i read there everyday. and maybe i’ll change my mind and find something worthwhile to say here again sometime later. but for now a hiatus.

now a poem

  • Aug. 7th, 2007 at 8:35 AM

came across this poem by Martha Serpas, from her 2006 collection, Dirty Side of the Storm. This is the poem of the same name:

The Dirty Side of the Storm

by Martha Serpas

 

Death just misses you, its well-defined

eye and taut rotation land on

someone else. No need to study the sky

 

for signs or watch the cows—

not with satellite loops, infrared

imagery, recognizance flights shrinking

 

the orange cones of uncertainty.

If it makes you feel better, go ahead

and push pins through a brittle chart.

 

Your coordinates square neatly east

of the worst wind shear, lightning

strikes, and bursts of air.

 

All convection steers clear

of your splattered doorframe.

The Red Cross mobilizes elsewhere.

 

Take a good look at those oak roots

from a calm doorstep and wait.

The sadness is a surge carrying

 

all its debris back to you, a flood

that shoves clods of ants and snakes

through your walls and then

 

sits in your house for days and days.

This is the dirty side of the storm.

Would Death had blown straight through.

“this is a song charles manson stole from the beatles; we’re stealin’ it back . . .”

  • Aug. 21st, 2007 at 10:06 AM

on august 29, 1992, mrs. swampy and i went on our first date. around about 1 o’clock one morning, we left a group gathering in mobile and drove down to dauphin island to look at the stars, talk, and watch the sun rise. (exactly three years and five months later, on december 29, 2005, i proposed to her on the exact same spot where we spent that first date).

a wonderful anniversary, each summer, until august 29, 2005, when katrina made landfall.

well, this summer we’re taking it back. not that exact date, but a couple days following, in honor of that exact date, we’re headed for a little weekend alone into a little hotel in the french quarter. for the fifteenth anniversary of that first date. i know, i know, celebrating first date anniversaries is about as cheesy as going for that whole “vacation in your own town” thing from the convention and visitors bureau, so maybe if we do both the cheesiness will cancel out. not that i care if it cancels out or not; it will be nice (yes, even with the general rah-rah party insanity of southern decadence sharing the quarter with us that weekend).

the second day of that weekend, though, we’ll be at the last supper at coyoacan before guillermo packs it in and heads to houston. .

. . . and thank you, all 1.1 million of you

  • Aug. 21st, 2007 at 2:42 PM

in the past (almost) two years, more than 1.1 million volunteers have contributed more than 14 million hours of direct service to cleaning, gutting, and rebuilding my community.

thank you.

i’ve had the honor of working side-by-side with a few handsful of you, and i’m glad to have had the opportunity, glad you came down, glad you keep coming down.

on another positive note, the veterans administration has announced today that its preferred site to build a new multimillion dollar state-of-the-art regional medical facility is downtown new orleans. as pakmaps writes, this is the beginning of a new era of real investment in a long-term, high-dollar enterprise for the city. .

here we go round the mulberry bush

  • Aug. 28th, 2007 at 2:51 PM

a new (or at least new-to-me) site has been put together to act as a one-stop resource aggregation of katrina recovery news from around the globe, called, appropriately, Hurricane Katrina News. i have added a permanent link in that sidebar over there to the left of this post. i also have added a link to the website for joshua clark’s katrina memoir, Heart Like Water.

yes, it’s that time again. the two-year marker. jarvis deberry captures in this morning’s times-pic the appropriate mixture of numbness, anger, and ennui that goes with new orleans k+2. as for me, tomorrow will be low-key. i’ll go eat one of scott boswell’s cheeseburgers for lunch. maybe two. i’m sure i’ll post something pithy here (or maybe i won’t be able to). i will remember a lot, about people, events, goodness, badness, generosity, selfishness, sadness, smiles.

there are so many things to say . . .

  • Aug. 29th, 2007 at 3:00 PM

but it all boils down to this paralysis, this inability to say it right anymore, any of it. when i’m not angry, i’m numb. and then i get angry at myself for being numb, and get a flash of the old let’s-get-out-and-fix-all-this, and then the enormity of “all-this” sweeps over me and i get so angry about it all, and then i’m numb again.

i went to lunch with skiegazer55 today. we went down to stanley for scott boswell’s cheeseburgers (which were quite tasty, by the way). on the way there and back, we unsuccessfully dodged storms with the unhelpful aid of tourist-shop umbrellas. while we were there, we unsuccessfully dodged the media in town for the anniversary. i begged out of an interview, demurring to skiegazer55. and i sat to the side and watched him give the spiel, the one we’re all supposed to give to the outsiders. the the-first-thing-to-remember-is-new-orleans-wasn’t-beset-by-a-natural-disaster-but-the-worst-engineering-mistake-in-history spiel. and the one where the city’s-functioning-enough-that-you-can-come-help-us-by-visiting-us-because-while-we’re-functioning-we’re-still-broken spiel. he’s good at it. i was afraid i would just have come across as vacant and, at best, sarcastic. that’s not going to help our cause.

i appreciated shelly midura’s letter to the president posted by gutterboylive.

i appreciated the times-picayune’s litany of gratitude in this morning’s paper.

i appreciated the secondary editorial in the paper this morning.

if you don’t know it, mom and dad, kim and michael, lori and family, and a number of others in the world, i appreciated and appreciate your support in the After, the securing of an apartment, the welcome baskets, the shelter-from-the-storm, the commiseration and commemoration, the financial help, the toys and books, and the opportunity to reciprocate.

and i guess, after all, i left out something from the recitation of the whole anger-and-numbness cycle. sometimes i feel hopeful, too, sometimes downright jubilant, and thankful to be here, though with that comes guilt that somehow we got spared enough that we get to still be here. i guess the thing is, when it comes to the guilt, is to remember we didn’t choose this. this is just what it is.

and here it is and here we are. (and if that sounded a little bit like numbness creeping back in, it sort of felt like it, too).

Comments

swampynoladad wrote:

Aug. 30th, 2007 12:48 am (UTC)

It may have felt like numbness, but I think it was a deeply honest heart

The pain of what has happened to all of you – the ones who have had no choice but to leave and those who have had no choice but to stay – is very raw. The only way to heal the city is your “let’s-get-out-and-fix-all-this” – which you have done so much of; yet, the barriers are so enormous, that I can only imagine the intensity of the anger and frustration that each of you must feel. The numbness is what takes you to the next day so you can somehow regain that sense of hope once again before the cycle repeats itself.

I do not care what President Bush says about New Orleans looking better to him than it does to locals because he only comes to visit and can see the changes better (he really needs a better speech writer – or he needs to stick to a better script)…..we, too, do not live in New Orleans and come to visit only occassionally – but everytime I come, I am struck in my gut with the devastation that STILL is there – the lack of infrastructure and the minimal movement towards a recovered community – despite the strength and hopefulness of those who live there everyday and those who wish they still could.wgbsgram

yellowdoggrl wrote:

Aug. 30th, 2007 01:55 am (UTC)

Re: It may have felt like numbness, but I think it was a deeply honest heart

I was thinking how profound Daddy was being, and there it was you, Mom… anger and frustration is damn right, about everything from the initial levee break to how very little help or recognition we ever received to the continued stereotyping of the tragedy and our town. GRRR!

living in Austin may let me live in denial, but it sure has done a lot to improve my mental health.

but i forgot to mention this little tidbit

  • Aug. 29th, 2007 at 4:53 PM

i know i’m supposed to be all for high-minded dialogue and all that jazz, but i wanted to mention that i did get the opportunity to flip off the presidential motorcade this morning.

oh, and did you hear that president bystander said today in new orleans that it’s really getting much better around here, he just knows it, even if us’n poor folks on the ground can’t see it, because he only comes around every once in awhile so it really looks good to him? god, he’s a joke. too bad what we need isn’t a joke, but a leader.

last word on anniversaries

  • Aug. 30th, 2007 at 10:01 AM

go read chefcdb‘s latest post. It’s here. Did you get that? I said it’s found right here. Really, go read it.

i understand that man can cook, but he sure has a way with words, too. he said everything that needs to be said.

bush brulee

  • Oct. 30th, 2007 at 3:30 PM

this, from a news story a couple of days ago: “Bush, while touring the California disaster area, took an apparent swipe at Blanco’s post-Katrina leadership as he complimented California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. ‘It makes a significant difference when you have somebody in the statehouse willing to take the lead,’ Bush said, according to the Associated Press.”

how about it makes a significant difference when the president decides not to play politics for five days while people on rooftops and in attics and surrounded by floodwaters and guns die? how about it makes a significant difference when the president is an actual leader?

of course, for all of fema’s desire to look good this time around, what with their fake, self-congratulatory press conferences and all, and his fraudulency’s desire to score political points at the expense of two tragedies spread across five states in two different regions of the country, katrina and the california wildfires are not even comparable tragedies. they are both tragic, certainly, and each contain a multitude of heart-rending personal and individual tragedies, but on the macro level they are very different events.

the closest they come is in scope of evacuation. in the california wildfires, a half million reportedly had to evacuate from the potential path of the fires. in katrina, more than 1.2 million along the Gulf Coast evacuated, with many of them never returning.

as of yesterday evening’s news reports, in the california wildfires, 2700 structures (2000 of those being homes) were destroyed and seven dead. in katrina, more than 300,000 homes were destroyed or left uninhabitable, and close to 2000 died. there are so many ways these catastrophes are different (not the least of which being, at least in the case of new orleans, the fact that most of the damage was not created by a natural event but by the federal government’s own admitted engineering failure), but if you read this journal, then you already know what went wrong here and how it’s different from what has been happening in california. the two are, not to be too trite, as different as fire and water. (see this new york times article on the differences for specifics, and also this beyond katrina blog entry).

don’t get me wrong: on a basic, visceral level, there is a fundamental commonality, as articulated in the times-picayune article on the differences in the two events: “Traumatized residents forced to leave their homes while wondering what, if anything, they might find upon their return. And, certainly, an out-of-control fire steadily devouring a large area is as frightening as rising floodwaters inundating a major city.”

and i’m not playing my-city’s-tragedy-sucked-worse-than-yours. i feel for you, california, i do. i’m just saying,

Fuck you, George W. Bush.

Stop playing political games with other people’s lives, Mr. Bush. You’ve only got a little more than a year left (thank God), so please try to stop being petty and start being a leader when the people need you to be one.

Comments

gutterboylive wrote:

Oct. 30th, 2007 09:54 pm (UTC)

You’ve only got a little more than a year left (thank God), so please try to stop being petty and start being a leader when the people need you to be one.

My friend, I’m afraid that’s like asking a Dyson to stop sucking, like asking a paramecium to solve a quadrant equation, and like asking a box of Massengill if it would please just stop being a douche for a while.

gutterboylive wrote:

Oct. 30th, 2007 09:54 pm (UTC)

Quadrant=quadratic.

Thank you.

swampytad wrote:

Oct. 30th, 2007 10:10 pm (UTC)

that did come out sounding like a pretty futile and naive request, now that i go back and re-read it.

connect the dots

  • Dec. 6th, 2007 at 4:04 PM

by now you may have heard the news about brad pitt’s latest rebuilding project in new orleans — the pink houses that are part of the multi-million dollar makeitright rebuilding effort in the lower ninth ward.

(this project is in addition to pitt’s involvement with the global green rebuilding effort in the holy cross neighborhood).

but in all the coverage this week about the pink houses project (and what a great little temproary public arts installation this really is during the kick-off phase), i’ve been surprised to not find any commenters connecting the dots with john mellencamp’s song, “pink houses.” there’s some dots there to be connected, i think, quite easily. so i put those dots out there for your amusement and connection.

Those poor, poverty-stricken insurers get out of a jam

  • April 9th, 2008 at 10:17 AM

well, the louisiana supreme court has let the insurance industry off the hook for insuring katrina damages in new orleans. there was some legitimate question as to whether the flood exclusions in most policy forms were ambiguous concerning the flooding in new orleans. keep in mind that the flooding in new orleans, as admitted by the corps of engineers, was caused by failure of levees, not directly by hurricane storm surge. under most policies, if your house is inundated by a busted pipe or sewer system failure, this is not included within the flood exclusion. the argument here is that the levees on the storm drainage outfall canals were, essentially, just very large pipes that busted. well, that argument seems completely dead now.

check over on my blawg on my legal website for an analysis of the legal problems with the state supreme court’s opinion.

RIP, and give them hell

  • April 10th, 2008 at 7:45 AM

ashley morris. i was late to find his blog, but i’m glad i did. and now i’m sorry he is just as suddenly gone from us. ashley is the epitome of so many things, it seems. the epitome of new orleans, the epitome of our fighting spirit, the epitome of the new orleans blogging community, the epitome of a saints fan. and these are just the things i know from knowing ashley morris the blogger. what i can gather from his wife, hana’s, posts on his blog, and those of his friends, is that he was also the epitome of husband and father, and the epitome of friend. i feel a little strange eulogizing someone i’ve never met, but the new orleans blogging community is a “community,” and i felt a kinship with him. i know you will be missed, ashley, from a number of corners of our world, but certainly add this little corner to that list.

youtube tribute to ashley.

ashley morris memorial and donations site.

hana morris has decided to continue ashley’s blog site, and reports that the community and family of new orleans has come together admirably to help the family and to continue ashley’s fights.

still rotten 2 the corps (props to yellowdoggrl); plus, this website stuff might work out

  • April 17th, 2008 at 11:29 AM

check this out — seems the corps of engineers has short-sheeted the levees that “protect” my neighborhood from a 100-year storm.

and in other news, i’m one page-view away from 600 hits on my brand new law firm website. maybe one day this will translate in getting a paying gig. seriously, i think one of the prime drivers is the blog portion of the site where i update with summaries of published U.S. Fifth Circuit opinions, U.S. Supreme Court opinions, and Louisiana Supreme Court opinions as they are released (see, for example, this morning’s post with the summary of yesterday’s lethal injection opinion by the U.S. Supremes). my stats page shows that people doing searches for info on those opinions are coming to my site to get that info. nice stuff.

Alvin Thomas

  • April 21st, 2008 at 10:43 AM

Yesterday’s Times-Picayune carried a front-page article by Katy Reckdahl (I think of the strongest staff reporters over there) about the death of Alvin Thomas. It is an incredibly moving article, about which I can’t say much that would add to what Katy has already written. But I will say that Alvin Thomas is one facet of what I mean when I tell people that Katrina isn’t over, yet. Of course, that’s just what I project onto Alvin Thomas’s story. You can take from it whatever you want, but I do recommend you read it.

Comments

entheos93 wrote:

Apr. 23rd, 2008 04:03 pm (UTC)

That article depressed the hell out of me.

T-minus one month and counting . . .

  • July 30th, 2008 at 8:34 AM

. . . to the Third Annual Gnashing of Teeth.

To get things rolling, here’s a list I ganked from gutterboylive, who ganked it, in turn, from the internets:

Some things about people from New Orleans:

We don’t care what you think. We’ve been doing our own thing for 300 years.

 We don’t want to go to your parades, ya’ll don’t throw anything.

 100% humidity is the best moisturizer they ever came up with.

 It’s “New A’wlins,” not “N’awlins.”

 We would have been fine if the federal levees hadn’t broke.

 We don’t give a damn if you’re gay.

 We never had that many Starbucks coffee shops to begin with, we think yankee coffee tastes like instant.

 None of those people who are stumbling around drunk in the French Quarter actually live here.

Neither do all those college girls who show their tits at Mardi Gras.

 We aren’t any more ashamed of our politicians than we are of yours.

 At this time of the year, we all have one eye on the weather channel and one eye on Saints training camp.

 We don’t have southern accents, I don’t care how they talk in the movies. And nobody in New Orleans calls people “cher.”

 We know about the danger of flooding. We’re working on it.

 We are not governed under the Napoleonic Code.

 We are well aware of the dangers of hurricanes. Over 400,000 of us evacuated safely in advance of Hurricane Katrina. We hope you never have to try it.

 We are among the most flood-insured populations in the country.

 We didn’t vote for George W. Bush in the first place.

 We all know several people who moved to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, and some who moved here because of it.

 Only tourists wear Mardi Gras beads when it’s not Mardi Gras.

Comments

gutterboylive wrote:

Jul. 31st, 2008 12:47 am (UTC)

That essay – brilliant! – is by New Orleans’ own Dangerblond:

rudepundit.blogspot.com

Scroll down…

Lunch with the Mayor

  • July 31st, 2008 at 10:38 AM

I was at a luncheon yesterday where Hizzoner spoke, and he provided a nice picture of where the recovery is now, almost Three Years After (I know, I know, be careful of the source). Some encouraging numbers – Orleans Parish is now back to 72% of pre-Katrina population, and at 97% of pre-K tax revenues. 97% of the number of pre-K businesses are open now in the Parish, 1,000 of those new enterprises. Tourist revenues are projected to hit a record (pre- and post-K) $5 billion direct dollars in 2008. The long-fabled biomedical complex is edging closer to reality. NASA and the aerospace industry are digging in in New Orleans East and not planning to go anywhere.

Of course, we’ve still a long way to go. Just this morning in the Times-Picayune was another story about how the Corps of Engineers’ repair job at the 17th Street Canal floodwall is still mysteriously seeping into the neighborhood.

uh, beach

  • Aug. 16th, 2008 at 8:06 AM

So, here it is, August. We’ve got a two-year-old (and, this time, a five-year-old), and we’re headed to the beach for an extended weekend of R&R. And there’s a weakish tropical storm (do any of them really feel “weak” anymore) projected to enter the Gulf of Mexico in a couple days over the FLorida Keys and head to Apalachicola as a cat. 1.

Of course, the last time these conditions coincided, the storm blew up to a cat. 5, bumped to the west, leveled Plaquemines, St. Bernard, and the Mississippi Gulf Coast, and triggered a set of events that led to the criminally-negligently designed and constructed federal levees around New Orleans to give way, and we didn’t get to go home for a month and we were lucky because there are sitll people who haven’t gotten home and never will.

I wouldn’t say I’m anxious. I don’t know quite what I’d call it. Agitated memory, perhaps. I’m still resolved to go and enjoy the waves and the sand and the sun and the moon and frozen drinks and reading books and stars and clouds. And Fay will get torn up by Cuban mountains and fizzle into nothing, curve dramatically back to the east of the track and wander the Atlantic looking for lost love. Knock on wood.

Where we are, where we’ve been

  • Aug. 26th, 2008 at 3:00 PM

A couple of interesting articles, one ominous, one hopeful, both simply differing sides of the same coin:

From Sunday’s Times-Picayune, the lead from this story of the reshaping of post-Katrina New Orleans:

“Nearly three years into the recovery, life is as much reshaped as restored, from from how people are housed to how children are educated

Three years after Hurricane Katrina laid waste to the New Orleans area, there is indisputable evidence of recovery.

 Houses are being repaired or built. New and long-established restaurants are seeing busier days. Health care institutions are reopening. Music is pouring out of crowded clubs lining Frenchmen Street. Streetcars are clattering once again along the entire St. Charles Avenue line.

 And sales of café au lait and beignets at Café du Monde’s legendary French Quarter stand have climbed back to about 80 percent of what they were before the storm struck on Aug. 29, 2005, said Jay Roman, vice president of the business.

 But Xavier University President Norman Francis has a warning for the overly cheerful: Don’t be deceived.

 For Francis, whose home near the London Avenue Canal was wrecked by floodwaters, Katrina has left a lingering presence that he likens to a garish dye stain in a rug.

 ‘The deeper you go, you see more,’ he said. ‘You keep rubbing and say, “I think I’ve got it.” No, we don’t have it all.'”

The article also included a set of good graphics showing various yardsticks of recovery, such as population recovery, employment, housing, etc. Unfortunately, those graphics are not available currently on the T-P’s website.

And then the conclusion from this AP story about how the mistakes made after Betsy are being repeated post-Katrina:

“Three years since Katrina killed more than 1,600 people and destroyed a way of life here, New Orleans is trying to reclaim a past taken away from it.

 And there are some promising signs.

 Streetcars are swaying on St. Charles Avenue again. Coteries of old men have reappeared, swapping stories in the shade. There are plans for new parks, schools and theaters.

 But the past remains prologue in another sense, too: This majestic city is still perilously at the mercy of the next hurricane.

 ‘What we learn from history is that we learn nothing from history,’ said Tim Doody, the president of the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East, a consolidated regional levee board created after Katrina to improve levee protection.

 ‘What happened after Betsy? Katrina,’ Doody said. ‘And what’s going to happen after Katrina? Pick a name and put it on it and it’s going to happen again unless we pull together to make sure.'”

 

Prepared, but breathing deeply

  • Aug. 27th, 2008 at 1:22 PM

From the official NHC “discussion,” a little something to remember as we’re still five days away from possible Gulf Coast landfall: “One should not read much into such shifts of the forecast track since the typical error of a 5-day prediction is over 300 miles.” I don’t mean to be all Bob Breck about things, and I have my secondary roads mapped out between here and Montgomery and have figured out what will get moved upstairs if we leave and what will be left to the protection of Our Lady of Prompt Succor, but I’m just saying that I’m looking forward to finding out where we are on the four-days-out tracks tomorrow, after this thing finally starts moving again from where it’s been stalled since last night.

Incidentally, I reserve all rights to switch inconsistently back and forth between zen/deep-breathing about all this and full-on-panicked at whim.

Tags: gustav, new orleans, post-katrina

Comments

gutterboylive wrote:

Aug. 27th, 2008 07:00 pm (UTC)

You can’t be all Bob Breck about things. You have better hair…and by better, I mean real.

Besides, he’s the one that assured the populace that Katrina wouldn’t even get into the Gulf (he had VIPIR technology!). 48 hours later…

For that he should’ve been fired.

swampytad wrote:

Aug. 27th, 2008 07:01 pm (UTC)

I’m more of a Margaret Orr man, myself.

zurcherart wrote:

Aug. 27th, 2008 10:25 pm (UTC)

Which reminds me of one of those summertime severe thunderstorms in the 80’s when Margaret was caught unprepared and she wore her flower print dress when they interrupted the afternoon shows to update the weather. It looked like she had holes in her body cause the blue flowers disappeared and the weather map “shown” through.

zurcherart wrote:

Aug. 27th, 2008 10:22 pm (UTC)

“all Bob Breck about things” 🙂

Oh Bob.

I’m worried for ya’ll. But you do know what a five day forecast is like after all. (Fingers crossed)

(Anonymous) (24.197.7.143) wrote:

Aug. 29th, 2008 02:47 pm (UTC)

Gustav

You should know, after living with a mother of German (maybe, or Polish – possibly) extraction that nothing is for sure. The latest tracking map I’ve seen (9:30 AM on the 29th) now shows landfall on the TX/LA border on next Tues. But… NOAA is a US damnyankee govt org., so, pay your money and take your chances. Send Nicole and the boys on up here now and then you can, more or less, comfortably wait to see what is realy going tohappen.

Love, Dad

Not much to do now . . .

  • Aug. 31st, 2008 at 5:47 AM

Can’t do much more now but watch and wait. I know who’s left and where they are, and I know who’s stubbornly staying. I’ve got on my 2006 “Healing Power of Music” Jazzfest tshirt, am drinking my Community New Orleans Blend coffee and chicory from a CDM coffee cup, watching Weather Underground, reading nola.com, and listening to WWL streaming live. Will go to mass up here where they don’t know about Our Lady of Prompt Succor and will pray hard to her anyway. The track is aiming more and more in the wrong places, but there’s hope – dry air could train into the middle and knock it down in size and intensity. Wind shear from an upper low over the western GOM could further inhibit restrengthening. Ridging from the Ohio valley could cause it to slip west right before landfall. All things acting together could at least cause it to just be a bad Monday afternoon at Home, but not something catastrophic.

Fingers are crossed.

Tags: gustav, new orleans

Chef Chris puts Gustav and everything in perspective

  • Aug. 31st, 2008 at 5:58 AM

Amen, Chris, amen.

CLICK THIS LINK. NOW. Chef Chris says what we’re all thinking right now about Katrina and Gustav and New Orleans and what it all means in relationship to each other, and how we feel about Mississippi and Grand Isle and Terrebonne Parish and Morgan City.

So, click it, now.

Tags: gustav, new orleans, post-katrina

Comments

zurcherart wrote:

Aug. 31st, 2008 09:00 pm (UTC)

I didn’t click. I waited for it to scroll up on my f-list.

Chef Chris sure can say it.

He is very right.

On the other hand, I mean it when I say I don’t want to hear one peep of drama out of Miss Poppy. But I guess you got to let people process things in their own ways.

Old blog, post-Katrina