The Travesty of the Commons February 17, 2009Posted by Mark Folse in 504, assholes, Carnival, Carrollton, Mardi Gras, Mid-City, New Orleans, NOLA, parade, Toulouse Street.
Tags: Endymion, ladders, Mid-City bonfire, neutral ground, Olreans Avenue
While reasonable people are safe in bed, visions of flashing Krewe d’Etat throws dancing in their head, there are other truly Odd people out in the dark doing strange things on the neutral ground: painting lines, stretching bits of yellow tape, and effecting odd geometric shapes from wire utility flags. They are out claiming the public neutral ground as their own private parade party spot.
This is nuts.
The ladders are bad enough. Now we never had a ladder that I remember growing up, but this isn’t long repressed ladder envy. I have fond memories of being hoisted on my father’s shoulders to watch the parades pass down Canal St. Ladders are a great way for small children to see the parade. That is how this all started out. Instead my beef is with the people who arrive in the dark of night (or sometimes midday, apparently unencumbered by inconvenient jobs) and plant rows of ladders along the curb on parade routes. The result: only these lucky few can actually see or catch any throws. The rest of us get to stand in back and watch them.
Technically, this is illegal. A ladder must be as far back from the curb as it is tall, and cannot be chained together with other ladders to make a wall. Sadly, the NOPD gave up enforcing these regulations after Katrina. Given that we live in one of the three most dangerous cities on Earth, I guess they have a point. This did not, however, prevent them from deploying the full force of the city to tone down Mid-City’s bonfire.
But on that same neutral ground every year, people (mostly not from our neighborhood) show up and spray paint themselves blocks of neutral ground larger than some homes in our neighborhood, and if you want to challenge their right to do so you had best be ready for fisticuffs. This is insane. Parades are supposed to be for everyone. That is why we allow them to roll down the city’s public streets, rather than having them circle the floor of the Superdome for ticket buyers. But try telling that to the neutral ground Nazi’s.
It is simply another example of the continued crumbling of the basic social contract, and the tendency of some in the greater world to privatize the commons for their own benefit to the greater society’s detriment. When Washington and Baton Rouge are run on this basis, why not grab your own piece of public property for your private party?
When people are ready to come to blows because you might want to stand on a piece of common ground they cleverly spray painted an imaginary box on, is it any wonder we roam around the city killing each other for slightly more egregious slights?
All I know is if the NOPD is too busy to care about this sort of thing, then maybe we should go back to having the bonfire we all enjoyed because, frankly, we’re not interested in being bothered with all the city’s troublesome regulations either.
Thankfully the secret den of the Krewe of Too Loose is conveniently located on the side away from the neutral ground, and the people at the end of our nearest street intersecting the parade route are civil, even friendly, and you can actually wiggle up front without anyone taking a swing at you. Unlike the famous postulate of the tragedy of the commons we don’t ruin our own bit of space because it is our own, a corner we all pass every day. We behave as we do because we are neighbors.
Feel free to break into This Land Is Your Land at any time, especially that verse we never sang in school:
As I went walking I saw a sign there
And on the sign it said “No Trespassing.”
But on the other side it didn’t say nothing,
That side was made for you and me.