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Odd Words Update January 13, 2013

Posted by Mark Folse in 504, art, literature, Mid-City, New Orleans, NOLA, Odd Words, publishing.
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A correction & an addition: Special Tea at 4337 Banks Street is now the home of Spoken Word New Orleans’ Sunday event. They also host another event on Wednesdays:

& Wednesday nights from 7-10 Lyrics and Laughs bridges comedy and poetry featurig performers from both genres at Special Tea, 4337 Banks St.

& The new Sunday show from Spoken Word New Orleans is  Poetry and Paint Brushes. Poets perform as our resident artists paints the crowd and performers. Also at Special Tea, 4337 Banks Street. No longer at the Bayou Road location.

If you host events be sure to keep odd.words.nola@gmail.com in he loop.

This Is No Tight Ship December 31, 2012

Posted by Mark Folse in Everette Maddox, Faubourg St. John, Federal Flood, Fortin Street, Mid-City, New Orleans, Toulouse Street.
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An open letter to the members of the Faubourg St. John Neighborhood Association, our Mayor and other leaders, the people of New Orleans and of the world:

“…I sympathize
with Huck Finn’s taste for
the mixed-up. This is no
tight ship. I wouldn’t
want my moments run off on an
assembly line like toy ducks. That’s
not the point…”
— Everette Maddox, “Just Normal”

Once again I hear the cry raised against the indiscriminate use of fireworks on New Year’s Eve. Yes they are illegal and to some people and their animals terribly annoying. I am sorry for your inconvenience. What disturbs me about this protest is that it is part and parcel of a snowballing intolerance for the transgressive by some citizens and the current city leadership. Whether it is fireworks on New Year’s Eve (or the sadly lost Mid-City Bonfire), unlicensed artisans at Jazz Fest or guerrilla food vendors at second lines or music clubs permitted only by the tolerance of neighbors who have long lived next door, we are losing the tolerance for the transgressive that is fundamental to who we are, to what this city is. It is that tolerance that made New Orleans a haven for gays and a magnet for artists, that makes Carnival and the year-round debauchery of Bourbon Street possible, that puts a pie-man on a bicycle at just the right corner at the very moment when you find you are most in need of a piece of sweet potato. Without it the inherent spontaneity of the city will be lost.

I spent 20 years wandering in regular America with only one dream, to return to this La La Land. I returned after the storm to a city that was not precisely the same one I left in my rear view mirror in 1986, and certainly not the city of my childhood, but so many of us spent so much effort in the years after the flood working to make sure that whatever came out of the events of 2005 it would be recognizably New Orleans. If we allow this creeping intolerance to take over the city it will become a Disney cartoon shadow of itself. If that is allowed to happen everything we have done in the last seven years will have been for nothing. We will become post-Hugo historic Charleston, S.C., a dark ghetto of transient tourist condos for the wealthy. The corner bars and restaurants that birthed the food and music of the city will be permitted out of existence. The city will keep its pretty buildings and fine restaurants but will no longer be New Orleans. It will be a frozen diorama of what once was.

I would not want to live in a city where a bar across from a church was not at least a grandfathered if not an explicitly permitted use.

I’m just a renter across from the race track but I still own property in Mid-City. I understand the complex and abstract math of property values. The banning of the bonfire depreciated my property on Toulouse Street in my eyes. I found Endymion to be mostly a bother (but a great excuse for an open-house party) and would never suggest it be moved out of Mid-City. When I lived in Treme years ago, I walked out of my large and cheap apartment (now an expensive condo) to listen to the New Year’s service music through the open windows of St. Anna’s that opened onto my yard. Before I sat down I noticed a hole in my plastic webbed lawn chair and beneath it a slug smashed on the concrete patio. There are common sense limits to tolerance but trying to ban fireworks, which have been both illegal and ubiquitous since my childhood in the 60s, is probably not a good use of the police’s time on National Amateur Drunk Driver Night. We need to learn to tolerate the inconveniences (fireworks, Endymion, all of Carnival if you happen to live uptown) in exchange for the pleasures our tolerance of the transgressive provides.

If you seek the perfect, suburban peace of the grave New Orleans is probably not the city for you. I am sorry if this statement angers you. I am one of you, if only a renter of a run down half shotgun on Fortin but I searched for a year for a property I could afford in this neighborhood. I have called Lake Vista, Gentilly, Treme and Carrollton home, but once I landed here I knew I had found the best neighborhood of all. When I walked into DeBlancs for the first time in 20 years and the woman behind the counter looked down at my license and up at me and said, “you look just like your father” who had passed on 20 years earlier I knew I was home. I’m not looking to stir up trouble but I have to say all this: I cannot idly sit by and watch the old and rough-running engine of this city throttled by the growing climate of intolerance until it stalls and dies. If you enjoy Endymion I have borne that burden for you, gladly. All I ask is the same forbearance in return.

Walking in August August 18, 2012

Posted by Mark Folse in Fortin Street, History, je me souviens, Louisiana, memoir, Mid-City, New Orleans, Remember, The Narrative, The Typist, Toulouse Street.
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By August we’re done like long basting turkeys in the oven, well-browned and in danger of drying out. The wasps proliferate in the back yard, nesting in the neighbors wild vines behind their shed. The mushroom cloud rising out of the line of cumulonimbus is all the weather forecast that you need, convection foretelling the afternoon’s thunderstorms which coax the grass into miraculous growth the landlord never tends to properly. The pigeons come up to my stoop like hobos although I never feed them. Still, my neighbors walk up toward the grocery on Gentilly or on Esplanade, a subtle racial divide on my quiet street. The feral parrots complete the tropical scene.

We still walk the sunny side up sidewalks not to prove a point but out of habit. Bicycles are almost as frequent as cars on my street not to make some fashionable statement like a car plastered in stickers but out of necessity. Pedestians converge from the fashionable bayou Faubourg and edge-of-Gentilly Fortin Street toward Cansecos and Terranovas groceries, Dr. Bob’s drug store–where you can put your prescription on account or have it delivered–to the democratic coffee shop and the fashionable wine bar and salon.

If I walk up at noon the pavement is brighter than the sky and a hat is advisable. Even the pigeons have sensibly retreated to the shade. I don’t pass as many people on their porches as I would in the evening but air conditioning has driven people inside in the Faubourg unlike black, working class Orleans Avenue ten blocks away where neighbors still gather on shady side stoops and old men drag kitchen chairs beneath the trees of neutral ground trees. Still I am almost certain to converge with or pass someone with a shopping bag when the only others out are tradesmen with their heads bound in bandanas working a saw table, pausing to wipe the sweat and sawdust from their brows with the crook of their elbows.

I sit writing this beneath a whirring air conditioner in South Lakeview. The nearest grocery is on Harrison Avenue a good 25 blocks away around the railroad tracks and a car is a necessity. Lakeview is where the city meets its suburbs, just over the 17th Street drainage canal from the typical American sprawl of Metairie. To the north is the lakefront: Lake Shore, Lake Vista, Lake Terrace and Lake Oaks, the desirable addresses of doctors, lawyers and other men and women of educated industry and the luck of the draw. I grew up in Lake Vista, designed as a paradise of cul-de-sac street divided not by alleys as in Lakeview but by pedestrian lanes named for flowers as the streets we named for birds, shaded paths converging on broad parkways that radiate from the center. Once there was Dudah’s Grocery and Miranti’s Drug Store with its nickle-plated conical cup cherry Cokes a nickle at the soda fountain, a cleaners and a post office. Some idealistic planner once hoped the residents would walk there but in the Fifties and Sixties the automobile ruled. Over time people found it just as convenient to drive up and down Robert E. Lee Boulevard to the new strip malls and the stores of the Center faded into memories.

Across City Park Avenue from South Lakeview in Mid City only stalwarts and holdouts walk to the stores of Carrolton Avenue. When I lived on Toulouse one couple always engagaed in caffinated morning conversation would walk down the street to make their daily groceries in the big greocery up on Carrollton Avenue. The corner doors in that neighborhood are all converted to houses, the shop windows drapped or shuttered. The houses of Mid City are narrow, nestled Craftsmen relics of another era, most with no parking, but even there its hop in the car for the identical aisles of Rouses Grocery and Walgreens, indistinguishable from the stores of Metairie.

You have to journey further into the city or across the bayou to my neighborhood off Esplanade to find where the folk and the houses still match, where the corner store still prevails, and in the evening the closer you get to Mystery Street the walkers proliferate on their evening errands. At six o’clock the sun is hidden by the trees along Esplanade but in August the 90s don’t abate until much later and still they come slowly up the shady side or coast on their bicycles in their after work tanks and shorts and sandals, old habits persistent or forgotten ways rediscovered, a neighborhood that lives in its history like a worn and comfortable pair of shoes.

Krewe of Aeolus February 18, 2012

Posted by Mark Folse in Carnival, Mid-City, New Orleans, NOLA, Toulouse Street.
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I’ve never been that fond of Endymion, which on the stretch nearest my house is a festival of boorish suburban drunkenness and animal territoriality. I’m taking a class in anthropology and have to keep a journal and I’m pretty sure what the next entry will be about, but I’m not going out in this foul weather to refresh my memory. The spray paint marking vast swaths of the public neutral ground as private property began to appear Thursday night, followed by the rebar and caution tape. The tents and locked porta-potties came next.

If you want to see American culture at its basest selfish and aquisitorial level, the complete collapse of social comity one might expect in the Zombie Apocalypse, there is no better place than the Orleans Avenue section of the route. Hell, in most of the zombie films the survivors show more cooperation and camaraderie, which would I guess make the neutral ground hordes the zombies. The chief of police promised to enforce the ordinances against this behavior but if you believe that I have an imaginary prime stake on the Carrollton Avenue street car line I want to sell you.

The gods, it seems, are not pleased with this behavior. Drenching rain, howling winds, frequent lightening and the prospect of tornadoes is likely to dampen some of the enthusiasm of the villaging hordes. The only downside to this will be if Endymion is moved to Sunday night behind Bacchus, which will mean many of these same people will try to crowd themselves onto Napoleon Avenue tomorrow night.

Mid-City Sky June 17, 2009

Posted by Mark Folse in Mid-City, New Orleans, NOLA.
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MidCitySky1

Too Loose Street February 20, 2009

Posted by Mark Folse in 504, cryptic envelopment, Dancing Bear, home, Mid-City, New Orleans, NOLA, parade, Rebirth, Recovery.
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Finally, we get to have the party.

The Travesty of the Commons February 17, 2009

Posted by Mark Folse in 504, assholes, Carnival, Carrollton, Mardi Gras, Mid-City, New Orleans, NOLA, parade, Toulouse Street.
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Photo courtesy of that Yellow Blog guy

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.

Mid-City Bonfire January 2, 2009

Posted by Mark Folse in Mid-City, New Orleans, NOLA.
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In spite of the new configuration of a bonfire in a firebox surrounded by police barricades, my 13-year old son and I managed to run (ok, jog and sometimes walk as fast as we could through the crowds and around all the emergency vehicles) three times around the bonfire.

I kept looking for any sign of other people trying, but did not spot anyone.

All your good luck is belong to us.

Later I will organize some thoughts about the bonfire and New Year, but staying at Mick’s until 3 a.m. then getting up to help clean up the neutral ground left me pretty drained out yesterday, and today is back to work.

The Ghost of Christmas Future December 18, 2008

Posted by Mark Folse in 504, 8-29, food, Hurricane Katrina, je me souviens, Katrina, Mid-City, New Orleans, NOLA, Rebirth, Recovery, Remember, Toulouse Street, We Are Not OK, Xmas, Yule.
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I wrote this little penny dreadful in one furious draft on Monday night, and I have been plinking at it since. I think it probably needs a serious once over with a blue pencil by someone else but Christmas is almost here and I’m not a patient person. Criticisms by comment or email welcome.

This is a work of fiction. Any perceived resemblance to persons living or dead should be discussed with your therapist at your next session.

Finally, this is the sort of thing that happens when you read the early short fiction of P.K. Dick around Christmas, something I don’t recommend. I have since switched to Terry Pratchett’s Hogfather and feel entirely better.

The Ghost of Christmas Future

“Quiet and dark, beside him stood the Phantom, with its outstretched hand. When he roused himself from his thoughtful quest, he fancied from the turn of the hand, and its situation in reference to himself, that the Unseen Eyes were looking at him keenly. It made him shudder, and feel very cold.”
–Charles Dickens’s “A Christmas Carol”

Maria settled into the hard, wooden seat as the antique red streetcar jumped to a start and slowly whirred up to speed, clutching a shopping bag close to her chest. A few rolls of half-used foil wrapping paper stuck out of the package, the odd cut ends flapping a bit in the breeze as the car slowly got up to speed. These cars had once been air conditioned, or so Maria was told, but it had not worked any time she could remember. At least the windows opened, unlike the even older buses that carried her for the last part of her long trip home, those windows long fused shut by neglect and humidity. The December air was a lukewarm bath, not hot like August but not the cool that might come by Carnival if the city was lucky.

As she settled down for her long ride home she glanced out at the brightly-lit high rise buildings that lined the river, then turned her head away. She had spent the day in one of those, scrubbing out toilets and kitchen floors. From a distance at night they looked glamorous, like a city in an old movie. The insides she knew well enough after a dozen years working there as a maid, the apartments did not look so glamorous from down on hands and knees scrubbing.

She peered instead into her package, trying to decide if there was enough paper on the rolls to wrap the cast-offs she had gotten from Mrs. Lafont: toys her employer’s children had outgrown, a beautiful silk scarf in a slightly out of fashion pattern for herself. It would be better than last Christmas, the first after her husband died; coughing up the last of his life with the black mold and stucco dust he had breathed ten and twelve hours a day as a young man demolishing homes after the flood.

Better than last Christmas. She tried to convince herself the children were still so distraught over the loss of their father that the lack of presents that Christmas was a small thing, but she could see it in their eyes as she dressed them for mass on Christmas morning as they stared at the empty corner where her husband had always managed a small, leftover tree on Christmas Eve.. It was just another measure their loss, the first of many days when they would miss his presence.

She lifted up her shoulders and straightened her back as she took in a deep breath, then let it out in a long sigh to settle her mind, looking straight ahead as the car rattled toward the last of the high rises and the first checkpoint. A man in a black uniform with a small automatic pistol hanging at his waist from a shoulder strap stepped into the car, and Maria fished out her papers. It was the first of several times she would need them that evening, and she kept them in the little pocket of her bag ready to hand.

A pair of guards from Bywater Security stood laughing over a cigarette just outside the window at Maria’s seat, but the guard from the Downtown Security District who entered the car was not smiling. He walked slowly down the aisle, glancing casually at everyone’s proffered passes and ID cards. He passed Maria with just a desultory glance, but yanked the papers out of the hands of the young man sitting just behind her. Maria looked straight ahead but could see in her mind the scene unfolding as she had seen it a hundred times before: the guard staring intently at the card, then at the young man, then back at the card; his hand sliding back from its position resting atop the gun and toward the grip, his fingers stroking the metal as if the gun were a small lapdog. She heard him grunt and then shuffle on toward the back of the car. He pulled the stop cord, and the driver released the rear door to let him out.

It was the same at each of the neighborhood security boundaries on her long ride home to the back of town, the private police in their black uniforms manning their check points to see who was coming into their zone. Her grandmother had told her stories about growing up in Chiapas in the days of the rebels, of the soldiers with their machine guns patrolling the streets. Here in New Orleans, her grandmother told her, they mostly left you alone if your papers were OK. Back in Mexico it was not so good. Many young men were killed by the soldiers there, their wives abused. It was so much better, she was so, so lucky to be growing up in America.

She put her ID and pass back into her purse, checking to see that the envelope of cash Mrs. Lafont had given her as a Christmas tip was still safe in the bottom of her bag. Satisfied, she took out a small compact and looked into it instead of at the passing high rises or the river front parks her maid’s pass would never admit her to. In the mirror she saw two men she didn’t notice when she boarded the car, or remember seeing come down the aisle.

One was an older Anglo in a faded t-shirt, some design with a skull and a gun that said Defend, perhaps a retired soldado negro from one of the security districts. . Next to him was another man in a dark hoodie with the top pulled so far up and over his head that she could not see his face. It was so dark under the hood she thought he must be a Black, but she could not be sure. She was amazed the guard had not stopped this odd pair and hauled them off the car for further questioning. Even if the hooded one wasn’t a Black, and you never saw them inside the river front security districts, even if he were also an Anglo, wearing his face covered like that would be all the excuse they would need.

The hooded one turned toward her as she watched them in the mirror, and still she could not see his face in the mirror. She snapped it shut and shuddered as she crossed herself and kissed her thumb, murmuring the last phrases of a Hail Mary under her breath. As she did so the last of the high rises passed them by, and the Old Quarter began. Her grandmother had taken her down to the cathedral when she was a child, before the security districts replaced the old police and instituted the passes. They would sit among the pigeons and tourists and grandmother would tell her of her own girlhood in Mexico, of the cathedral on a square where the boys walked one way and the girls another on a Sunday afternoon, where she had met her grandfather, back in the years before he came to the city to work after the first flood.

She crossed herself again, feeling safer as the three towers of the church passed. She turned her head to watch them go by. In the corner of her eye she saw the seats where the hooded one and his companion had been were empty. The car had not stopped, and no one had gotten off. Her head snapped back to the front. Without looking down her hands fished deep into her bag and she dug out her rosary.

***

Scrouge did a walk through survey of the house. The dishwasher was whirring away in the dark kitchen, and all of the food put away. He took away the last shreds of wrapping paper from the cat, and tucked away the important looking bits of paper or odd bits of gifts. The Santa presents for the kids were laid out by the dining room fireplace. The cookies were out for the Big Guy (his teenage children had rolled their eyes), and he snagged one off the plate as he passed. His wife and children were all asleep. Christmas Eve was almost done.

He slipped quietly into the room they called the walk through closet, the one closest to their back bedroom on that side of the shotgun house, and took off his dressy Christmas Eve clothes. He pulled on some comfortable jeans and a Defend New Orleans t-shirt, one of almost a dozen he owned emblazoned with some emblem or slogan about saving the city. It was time for one last Christmas tradition.

He would slip out as he had every Christmas Eve since he returned to New Orleans for a late drink with friends at the Holiday Lounge deep in the Bywater. The place was a year-round tribute to Christmas, lit inside entirely by the fat colored bulbs he remembered from the trees of his youth, the walls hung with every sort of imaginable cheap holiday decoration: jolly plastic Santas and snowmen in top hats, rainbow-hued wire reindeer and candy canes, and a large Styrofoam figure of New Orleans holiday icon Mr. Bingle, the little snow man with the ice cream cone hat.

The Holiday was a New Orleans icon, and Scrouge was all about the icons. In the years since the hurricane and flood he had worn his love of New Orleans like a forearm tattoo, prominent and indelible. Since his return to New Orleans his life had been part pilgrimage, making a point of visiting all of the city’s notable spots at least once and his favorites whenever he could. He wrote about these places on an Internet site he had founded dedicated to preserving a small bit of each: an anecdote, a photograph, some scrap like a coaster scanned and saved for ever. That was not tonight’s agenda, but he knew he would likely write something out of tonight’s visit.

He sometimes wondered, sitting at the computer late at night, why he felt compelled to do this. It was more than just the web site, although it made him something of a notable character about town, something like always wearing a hat (which he did), and he relished the attention. Some times when the words would not come and he knew he should go to bed, he would instead sit on his porch smoking wondering: was there something more personal driving this constant comparison of the city he had left in his rear view mirror New Year’s Eve 1986 with the one that was slowly rebuilding itself all around him, the compulsion to stuff as much of the city as he could into his head. He told himself it was research, preparation for doing what he most wanted to do: to write something important about the city, a book immortalizing it against the slow erosion of time or worse the final flood, the one that would erase it for ever.

He peeked in one last time on his wife and then his son before leaving. Tonight shouldn’t be about the damned blog, he thought. He was going to see some of his oldest friends, people he had known since they were in kindergarten, the people after his wife and children he most cared about. Tonight should be about a different kind of remembering. He took the pen and small pad out of his back pocket, and laid it on the kitchen counter, and left.

He set the alarm, locked the door and stepped out on the porch. As he double checked the latch by pulling on the door he heard a “pop-pop-pop” in the distance. It could be fireworks, he told himself. They were illegal in the city, but people started buying them across the river as soon as the stands open and shooting them off at all hours of the day and night.

Or it could be something else: gunshots. The city had been in the middle of some level of crime wave—going from bad to horrible to back to simply bad—for years. He felt safe in his immediate neighborhood but there were vast stretches of the city that were simply dangerous, just as there were enormous areas that looked not much different three years after the hurricane and flood than they did three months after.

He often wondered if it was enough just to be here, to just write about the city, if that would really make a difference for a place at once so wonderful and so wounded. He had tried to do more the first year he was home, but the cross-currents of planning meetings and volunteer projects, and of family and his new job, had nearly drowned him. He had spent almost three and a half years writing almost every night about New Orleans, sharing it with the world. That had to count for something.

***

As he left the Holiday and walked back to his car up by the river levee something drew him up to the top of the levee to see the city strung out along the river, the lights of downtown in the distance. He lit a cigarette and looked at the city twinkling in the humid air, then up at the clear sky. A middle-aged man had no business being out looking for magic in the Christmas Eve sky at 1 a.m. in a sketchy part of town, but nothing moved except a tow boat. All was calm, and city was bright.

When the figure in the black jeans and hoodie pulled up over its head suddenly appeared next to him, he froze in place. He could not discern a face inside the hood, as if it were covered with a black stocking. He was certainly about to be robbed, and he hoped it would stop with that. But the figure did not pull a gun, or say a word for what was probably a minute but seemed in his adrenaline rush to be an hour.

The figure pointed at first without speaking, the long sleeve of the over sized hooded sweatshirt hiding its hand, in the direction over his shoulder. He turned and saw the city transformed. The low buildings of the Bywater were gone, replaced by what he was sure were a row of high rise apartment buildings of the sort he remembered from his years in Washington, D.C. A red street car like those that ran up and down the riverfront closer to downtown was slowly crawling up Chartres Street.

It had been a typical, warm Christmas night in New Orleans but he was suddenly soaked in sweat under his clothes and shivering as if he were coming down with the flu. The figure just stood there, pointing at the street car stop down the levee. He tried to speak to it but when he opened his mouth only confused bits of words would come out. Finally the figure spoke. “We’re going to ride the car downtown. There is something I need to show you.” Confused and feeling ill, he pulled his jean jacket closed in front and hunched his shoulders and walked unsteadily down the levee.

***

“How did it happen, Spirit, all of those ugly glass high rises, the private police? Why didn’t we stop them?” Scrouge asked. The empty black hood was silent, its sleeves buried deep in the pullover’s pockets like a robed monk. Scrouge was not sure he had ever seen hands at the end of those overly long sleeves. It set a brisk pace as they walked through the French Quarter. Little had changed here, Scrouge thought, as they passed by knots of laughing people roaming the streets, past restaurants with lines waiting outside, and crowded bars with music blaring.

“It’s quicker this way,” a voice from inside the hood said, clipped and business like, the voice of a policeman urging the crowd to move on.. Nothing to see here, it seemed to announce. “The back-of-town buses don’t run all the way up Canal anymore. They’re not allowed past the checkpoints.” “Checkpoints,” Scrouge repeated as if tasting a new word from a foreign language as he stumbled on a broken bit of sidewalk, trying at once to look around and keep up with his guide.

As they came up to Bourbon Street the crowds were heavier and more boisterous, the sort of scene Scrouge had witnessed on a hundred other weekend or holiday nights. He could hear someone picking Christmas carols on a guitar and singing in a nasal, mid-South accent. The hooded spirit stopped for a moment in front of the busker just as he finished a song, turning his dark hood toward Scrouge. “Merry Christmas, y’all,” the busker said to no one in particular, as if Scrouge and the hoodie were not there. “Giving is the reason for the season,” he shouted to the crowd, nudging his guitar case with the toe of a western boot.

The spirit just stood there, the faceless hole seeming to glower at Scrouge, who dug into his pocket and pulled out a rumpled bill and tossed it in the case. “Ho, ho, ho! Merry Christmas to you, sir,” the busker bellowed. Scrouge looked at the Spirit, who said nothing, then turned to ask the singer where he was from. “Tennessee. I’m just down here working for the holidays,” he said. “The French Quarter Corporation doesn’t pay as well as Disney, but they’re a lot looser about how you look or what you do with your off hours. And who doesn’t want to come to New Orleans, at least once?”

Scrouge started to answer but the hoodie pushed through the crowd to cross Bourbon and Scrouge hurried to follow. He looked up and down Bourbon and it was the same strip of neon lit drinking joints it had always been, crowded with people wearing beads they had bought in t-shirt shops that alternated with the bars for blocks in either direction. Scrouge thought it odd that they all wore badges around their necks. Conventions usually didn’t come in town at Christmas. “They’re tourists, but not conventioneers,” the hooded voice said. “Those are passes from the security district. When the city voted to dissolve the police and let the private security districts take over, the Quarter was closed off to the rest of town, to keep it safe for the visitors.”

“But what about locals who want to come down here? Can’t they come to eat at Galatoire’s or Acme or Oliviers?” Scrouge asked. “Those places closed after the second flood,” the hoodie said and marched on. Scrouge stopped walking “Gone?” he said, his gaze sinking down at the sidewalk. “Second flood?” Everything felt like a dream in which he had shown up in a classroom prepared for the wrong exam. He looked at his hands, as if there was something written there that would explain what was happening, but there were no crib notes. He looked up as if to follow up his question and noticed his guide was almost half a block ahead. He hurried to catch up.

The streets were quieter on the Rampart side of Bourbon, just as Scrouge remembered them, but something was missing. There were no cars lining the curb. There were just a handful of gaudy colored little toy things that looked like a cross between a golf cart and the car George Jetson drove, each plugged into an outlet on a small post with a horses head at the top. The carts were painted on the side like cabs: Condo Conti, Vacance en Dauphine, Burgundy Street Guest Houses. The scene made Scrouge think of exclusive beach resorts of the sort that did not allow cars but gave each guest a buggy to use to get to the beach or the golf course. “Precisely,” the hooded voice said, as if once again reading Scrouge’s mind.

As they passed Burgundy headed toward Rampart Scrouge noticed the wall. At first he thought it was just the commercial building that had once stood between Rampart and Basin, but as they came out onto Rampart he saw it was a high wall that ran up and down where the neutral ground once stood. The river side of Rampart inside the wall was filled with men, but it was not the crowd Scrouge would expect to see on mid-Bourbon around the epicenter of the gay bars. These men looked like the spillover from a lobby of a hotel booked solid with visiting dentists, mixed with packs of boys wearing shirts with fraternity letters on them The women stood apart, on the steps of the houses or hanging out of windows, bare-chested in tiny miniskirts , or in burlesque lingerie, or in nothing more than body paint.

The black uniforms of the security district strolled up and down the street in pairs, stopping to eye the knots of drunken men as they approached the women. The men would stop, made hesitant by the guards’ stare, then the girls would grab them by the arm and lead them laughing down the alleys and into the doorways, and the guards would pass on. The sign on the corner did not read Rampart. It said Storyville. “Got to give the tourists what they want,” the hoodie said, pausing a moment while Scrouge took in the tableaux. Then it grabbed his arm, and started to frog march him toward the wall. “Hey, wait, where are we go… ”. Scrouge’s voice was cut off as they passed through the wall.

They were standing on the lake side of Rampart. The street was brightly lit by high street lamps but deserted. “How the hell did that happen?” Scrouge asked, but the hood just turned briefly toward him then started again to walk toward Basin Street. Scrouge just shook his head like a dog shaking off water, and hurried to catch up. “Are we going to the cemetery?” he asked the dark hood. “Not this one,” the voice inside the hood answered. “There is another. We have to catch a bus first.” It turned left at Basin and started to walk toward Canal Street.

The old housing project still stood on Basin, but it was dark. “Where are the people?” Scrouge asked. “Gone,” the hood answered. “Most could not to come back after the second flood. A lot were drafted into the Army after the riots.” “What riots?” “The government announced after the second flood that any return would be limited by lottery, and that the lottery tickets would be sold,” the hood said. “Most couldn’t afford tickets, and they wanted to come home. When they burned all the trailers in the New Treme resettlement park up by New Roads and rioted in the streets in Houston, a lot of the men were swept up and sent off to fight in the Chindopak.”

“Chindopak?” Scrouge asked, his voice cracking as he stopped dead in the sidewalk. His breathing grew heavy and his chest heaved as his body wrestled somewhere deep inside between anger and panic. “What. Second. Flood. You have to tell me. What the hell happened?” Scrouge labored to speak between gasping breaths, and finally bent over and put his hands on his knees and tried to get his breathing under control. “You have to tell me. Damn you.” The spirit had walked ahead a dozen steps. It stopped and turned. Laughter came out of the dark shell of a hood. “Damn me”. More laughter. “Too late,” it said, something like a chuckle in its voice, if you put a chuckle down the garbage disposal. “You need to worry about your own damnation. I’ll take care of myself.” It held out its sleeve toward Canal. There was a hand, Scrouge noticed this time, black and gaunt like an overcooked turkey wing, a thing of skin and bone. “Come on. We have a bus to catch. I’ll explain while we ride.”

***

“Yes, they built up the levees,” the spirit explained as it stared out the window , the ancient bus rumbling down a dark and lamp less Canal Street. “In the last big storm they mostly held but the East and St. Bernard were drowned again, and abandoned. One of the new pump stations was overwhelmed and the lakefront was inundated. The core city was saved by the second line levee they built over the old railroad embankment through Mid-City. That’s when they started to build the high-rises, to pull everyone into the high land in the old city’s footprint. No one argued this time.

The bus slowly rumbled down Canal Street empty and surrounded by darkness. “No one knows where the fire started, but it was a dry storm with very little rain, and with several feet of water in the streets of Mid-City this section mostly burned,” the spirit said. Scrouge measured their progress through the dark by noting the intersections where the car stopped, although there was no cross traffic and no one got on or off: first narrow Galvez, then wider Broad and finally the open expanse of Jeff Davis. Here and there in the dark were bright islands of light, illuminating rows of identical white trailers on city blocks covered with white clam shell and surrounded by metal fences. “They built these parks for the workers they need to keep the tourist industry going.”

“I don’t understand. After the flood….” “The first flood,” the spirit corrected him. Scrouge stared straight ahead and through the empty bus for a moment, then down at his hands again and resumed. “After the flood, we all came back. We worked so hard. How could it they let it all happen again?” Scrouge looked not at the hooded spirit but up at the roof of the bus. “How could it happen again? How could it all turn out so wrong? ” sounding like a child who had just been told there would be no Christmas. The hoodie continued to contemplate the dark windows, ignoring Scrouge’s question. The bus rumbled on and Scrouge turned the other way and likewise stared into the darkness that surrounded him.

The bus pulled up to Carrollton, and the driver announced, “Cemeteries. End of the line,” as he set the brake, opened the door and stepped out and lit a cigarette. He headed off toward a portable toilet set on the neutral ground. The hoodie stood up and waited for Scrouge to do the same. He rose up and walked unsteadily down the aisle toward the door, grasping the railings at the stairs until his hands turned white, unwilling to step out. “Out,” the voice behind him said, and its bony hand gave him a push.

He stepped out into the single bright street light that stood over the driver’s toilet and looked into the darkness. Moonlight glinted off the rows of white metal boxes that marched off into the distance on the lakeside of Carrollton. “Why isn’t this trailer park lit up?” Scrouge turned toward the hoodie and asked. “Because it’s not a trailer park,” it answered. “It’s what the driver said: Cemeteries.”

Scrouge walked slowly away from the light and toward the field of white boxes. The play of the darkness and the street lamp had confused his sense of proportion and perspective. The boxes were too small to be trailers. They could only be one thing. “Tombs,” hoodie said. “Government-issue ovens, the trailers they used after the first flood, just scaled down for their new occupants. When this section burned, they turned it into a cemetery.”

Scrouge’s slumped like a cheap suit jacket on a wire hanger.

“When the new pumping stations and the high levees were finished everyone started to feel safe. They grew tired of evacuating for every storm. The first flood faded into a story their parents told, something they never thought could happen to them. All of it faded: all the work their parents did to rebuild the city, the constant battles over decades it took to build the levees and try to put things back. They forgot what it was like when the city flooded the first time.

“They grew complacent, stopped paying attention to what the government did. Or rather, what it didn’t do. Part of it was exhaustion. There parents had fought for decades and were just worn out. They stopped trying. The children didn’t remember because their parents were tired of talking about it, and the memories grew distant and vague, just history but not their history. Like their parents before them everyone just assumed all the work was behind them, that the levees would protect them.

“After the second flood, this is where they put the dead,” the hoodie said, “the people who stayed, the ones who didn’t remember.”

Scrouge turned away from the tombs and looked up dark Carrollton Avenue toward the park. This was his old neighborhood, the last of many he had called home in this city. Everything he remembered, all the old storefronts on the river side: gone. Venezia’s and Brocato’s, the old bar with the red door and the new Spanish place that opened after Katrina, the whole river side of the street was wiped clean. . The old Reuters building was a hulk in the distance. And on the other side the white tombs marched away into the distance until he could not see but only imagine them enveloping his house on Toulouse Street, flowing on until they merged with the old cemeteries he knew: St. Patrick’s, the Mason’s, Odd Fellows, Greenwood.

Scrouge fell on his knees and wept. The bus driver ignored them and climbed back into his bus and drove off. He had seen it before. The spirit stood there watching, silent. Finally, Scrouge looked up. There was a faint shimmer of zodiacal light in the east. Soon the sun would come up. He rose unsteadily to his feet and turned toward the hooded spirit.

“If you are the spirit of a Future Christmas, then it’s not too late, is it?” Scrouge asked, his voice still cracked from his tears. “Isn’t that how this works, just like the old Dickens’ tale? If we don’t stop fighting, and always remember, it doesn’t have to be like this? Isn’t that it? Isn’t that how this works?”

The hooded figure was growing transparent as the sky grew lighter. Scrouge could see the driver’s toilet through the sweatshirt and black jeans. As it slowly faded it echoed his words back to him not as a question: as a statement. It raised its bony hand one last time and pointed at Scrouge. “Don’t stop fighting,” it said, the voice growing fainter as the figure slowly vanished. “Remember…”

***

Scrouge sprang up in bed, knocking over a tumbler half full of water and the bed side lamp. The back door of the bedroom in the shotgun house was open, and he heard his wife asking, “What was that?” He could smell coffee. He jumped out of the covers and ran around the bed to the back door and stuck his head out. “What’s today?”

His wife gave him a puzzled look. “Merry Christmas?” she said as much a question as a greeting? “Are you okay?”

“It’s not too late!” he whooped as he took three steps in two hops. He ran over and knelt beside his wife and gave her a bear hug. “Not too late for what,” she asked, “to make coffee? I took care of that.” “Mmmmmmm, never mind, Merry Christmas.” He held her silently for a moment. “I’m sorry, I just had a really weird dream.” He let her go, stood up and stretched. “Do I smell coffee?” “Uh, yeah, that’s what we were just talking about. You forgot to make any last night, goofball. I think you had a bit too much Christmas Eve cheer.”

“Yeah, coffee sounds really good right now. Are the kids up?

“No, so try to be quiet.” His children were teenagers, and as likely to sleep in Christmas morning as any other holiday of the year. They had opened their best presents on Christmas Eve, a habit his wife had brought down from the Midwest.

“OK.” He climbed up the steps to the house and tried to walk as quietly as he could over the hardwood floors. Living in these houses was like living in a boat. You could hear everything. He wondered again how entire families had managed to live in half of the double he’s made into a single home. He grabbed some coffee in the kitchen and went out to the front porch, leaving his wife alone in back with her to-do list and her coffee. He slid the latch as silently as he could, and stepped out onto his porch and looked up and down his street. The mostly shotgun houses ran off in both direction as far as he could see, from City Park Avenue up toward Carrollton Avenue, and in his minds eye he could follow the street all the way through the city to the French Quarter.

It’s not too late, he thought as he sat on the stoop and sipped his coffee and took in the warm Christmas morning in New Orleans. “It’s not too late,” he said out loud to a passing cat, one of the dozen semi-feral cats that lived on their street. It came up and he scratched its head. “We just have to remember, and never give up.” Two children from the house on the corner, just moved home from evacuation and who barely remembered this city, rode by on shiny new bicycles, laughing. A neighbor ducked out in her robe for the newspaper, and waved and shouted a Merry Christmas. As he echoed “Merry Christmas” with a broad smile and a wave, over on Canal Street the bells of St. Anthony of Padua began to ring.

sta

Save The Mid-City Bonfire December 17, 2008

Posted by Mark Folse in 504, Mid-City, New Orleans, NOLA.
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UPDATE: If you are coming to the bonfire, please read the Guidelines here. 10-31 mf

The City of New Orleans has announced plans to try to suppress the century-old tradition of a bonfire of Christmas trees on the Orleans Avenue neutral ground at midnight on New Year’s Eve.

Here’s some commentary from the NOLA.Com Mid-City Forum posted by someone with the pen name doeraymefaso. I think the suggestion that this is all the work of ‘Communiss’ gives some credence to the idea he’s been around long enough to know what he’s talking about.

Sadly, our council member Shelly Midura has indicated that she supports the decision to kill a century old tradition. Rumor is that they will flood the street with police and firemen to make sure it doesn’t happen. Apparently the NOPD and NOFD don’t have enough to do on New Year’s Eve, such as stopping idiots who fire live rounds into the air.

Please call your councilperson, and the NOPD and NOFD and tell them to back off. If they hate New Orleans traditions, I hear they’re hiring in Atlanta.

This bonfire has been going on long before the fifty years stated on this forum. My father remembers having the bonfires as a boy and he is 96 years old. It was always just a neighborhood thing until recent years. Now someone or some group has to protect us from ourselves. I would think the people calling for control don’t lived around the Orleans Ave area, if they did they would know the bonfire has always been under control and people at the bonfire can govern themselves. I guess this is our future, more control by people who think they know what is best for everyone else. It think this is what some might call communism. To everyone out there who thinks they want what is best for other, please leave well enough alone. MYOB Keep it real. Fight the powers that be, hide your trees until the very end. Remember when we had to hide the tree behind Diebert school and when they took the trees off the neutral ground we went through the neighborhood getting everyone to give up their trees. Real Mid-City neighbors would never dream of destructing this historic event.

Help save our city’s traditions. Help save the Mid-City Bonfire.

Samedi Gras February 2, 2008

Posted by Mark Folse in Carnival, Dancing Bear, Debrisville, Mardi Gras, Mid-City, New Orleans, Rebirth, Recovery, Toulouse Street.
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I took a stroll up and down Orleans with the camera running. My wife and son are sick as dogs so the long anticipated Begindymion Bachanal will have to wait for another year. For now, I’m just wandering the neighborhood and enjoying the scene.

Happy Holidays from the Burning Pit December 20, 2007

Posted by Mark Folse in cryptic envelopment, Dancing Bear, Mid-City, New Orelans, New Orleans, NOLA, Odds&Sods, parody, Toulouse Street.
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Somebody stop me, please.

I am so going to hell. December 20, 2007

Posted by Mark Folse in Dancing Bear, Mid-City, New Orelans, New Orleans, NOLA, Odds&Sods, parody, Toulouse Street, Xmas.
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I wonder what they do down there on Xmas eve? Roasting chestnuts? I do miss having a roaring fire at the holidays and those little pine cones covered with heavy metals that make the pretty colors…

The Rebel Jesus December 19, 2007

Posted by Mark Folse in Chieftans, cryptic envelopment, Dancing Bear, Mid-City, New Orelans, New Orleans, NOLA, Toulouse Street, We Are Not OK, Xmas.
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I tried to answer Bart’s question about how to deal with Xmas when one is not an Xian as best I could. I think, however, that Jackson Browne kicks my ass.

So here, Bart, is at least part of the answer you are looking for:

So I bid you pleasure and I bid you cheer
From a heathen and a pagan
On the side of the rebel Jesus.

The Rebel Jesus
Jackson Browne
The streets are filled with laughter and light
And the music of the season
And the merchants’ windows are all bright
With the faces of the children
And the families hurrying to their homes
As the sky darkens and freezes
Will be gathering around the hearths and tales
Giving thanks for all God’s graces
And the birth of the rebel Jesus

They call him by the “Prince of Peace”
And they call him by “The Saviour”
And they pray to him upon the sea
And in every bold endeavor
As they fill his churches with their pride and gold
And their faith in him increases
But they’ve turned the nature that I worshiped in
From a temple to a robber’s den
In the words of the rebel Jesus

We guard our world with locks and guns
And we guard our fine possessions
And once a year when Christmas comes
We give to our relations
And perhaps we give a little to the poor
If the generosity should seize us
But if any one of us should interfere
In the business of why they are poor
They get the same as the rebel Jesus

But pardon me if I have seemed
To take the tone of judgment
For I’ve no wish to come between
This day and your enjoyment
In this life of hardship and of earthly toil
We have need for anything that frees us
So I bid you pleasure and I bid you cheer
From a heathen and a pagan
On the side of the rebel Jesus.

Josef Zawinul passes September 11, 2007

Posted by Mark Folse in cryptic envelopment, Dancing Bear, Jazz, Mid-City, New Orelans, New Orleans, NOLA, Toulouse Street.
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No, this has not a damned thing to do with New Orleans, but the passing of a great jazz man is always worth noting.

Here is an early Weather Report appearance on German TV. Peter at Adrastos has an amusing Weather Report/Zawinul story. The clip he posts has one of the later bassists (I’m not sure if it Pastorius or someone else) doing their signature version of Birdland. Here’s something slightly more out there with the larger Weather Report ensemble of the earliest days, including Miroslav Vitous on bass.

Remember August 29, 2007

Posted by Mark Folse in Corps of Engineers, cryptic envelopment, Dancing Bear, Flood, flooding, Hurricane Katrina, Katrina, Mid-City, New Orelans, New Orleans, NOLA, Rebirth, Recovery, Toulouse Street, We Are Not OK.
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remember.jpg

Blinded by Sunrise June 23, 2007

Posted by Mark Folse in cryptic envelopment, Dancing Bear, Everette Maddox, Mid-City, New Orleans, NOLA, poem, Poetry, Toulouse Street.
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Blinded by Sunrise

For Everette Maddox

So listen: it’s not like we ever met
Or anything, but I think we’ve both been
Blinded by sunrise refracted in a bar glass.
It’s like this: I’ve had just enough of a taste
Of your words that I’m haunted like a man
In love who’s suddenly not sure where
His next drink’s coming from, except:
It’s not from her. She’s up and left.
The books stores are dry as Texas on Sunday
And I can’t even get lucky with a librarian
Dropping your name. It’s as if
Every trace of you was washed away
In a flood of bar scotch. I’ve started
Chalking Xs on the shelves I’ve searched.
You being dead and all I’m sorry
To bother but if you scare up a copy
Of any book of yours in some sidewalk box
I might happen to pass by,
I promise I’ll have them bury me
With a bottle so I can repay the favor.

A Poem for New Orleans May 16, 2007

Posted by Mark Folse in cryptic envelopment, Dancing Bear, Everette Maddox, Mid-City, New Orleans, NOLA, Poetry.
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By Everette Maddox. I’ve been looking around and nobody in town seems to carry his work.

JUST NORMAL
for Bob Woolf

Now I don’t care about hum-drum
order any more than
you do. I sympathize
with Huck Finn’s taste for
the mixed up. This is no
tight ship. I wouldn’t
want my moments run off on an
assembly line like toy ducks. That’s
not the point: it’s been
raining possums for a month. And now,
when I’m absolutely up to my neck in
a whole bathtub of concerns, you
walk in unannounced, wearing
an ETERNITY sweat-shirt and leading some
kind of out-of-date dog on a leash, and
shake my slippery hand and tell me
“Just normal, thanks.” Well, no
thanks. I’ve had enough. I’m going to
pull myself up over the side, and get
all the way out of my mind.

Tootie’s Last Suit April 28, 2007

Posted by Mark Folse in Carnival, Dancing Bear, Flood, Mardi Gras, Mardi Gras Indians, Mid-City, New Orleans, NOLA, We Are Not OK.
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tootie.jpg

I so want to see this movie.

The feature-length documentary, TOOTIE’S LAST SUIT explores the complex relationships, rituals, history, and music of New Orleans’ vibrant Mardi Gras Indian culture while telling the story of Allison “Tootie” Montana, former Chief of Yellow Pocahontas Hunters. Celebrated throughout the New Orleans as “the prettiest,” for the beauty and inventiveness of his elaborately beaded Mardi Gras costumes, Tootie Montana masked for 52 years, longer than any other Mardi Gras Indian…

In the aftermath of It All, I had completely forgotten about the St. Joseph’s Night attack of the NOPD on the Indians, and Tootie’s death while testifying to the City Council about it. This sounds like a film that should be run until the print gives out in New Orleans. At the same time, given all the city’s troubles, I hope that this culture does not vanish into the camera’s lense.

The end of the world April 21, 2007

Posted by Mark Folse in Corps of Engineers, Dancing Bear, Debrisville, Flood, home, Katrina, Mid-City, New Orleans, NOLA, Toulouse Street.
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“This is the end, beautiful friend, the end.”
–Jim Morrison
endoftheworld.jpg
World’s End Marina, 2006
At world’s end, I want to be among friends. If we can’t save New Orrleans, the so-called developed world is at its end. I am in the right place at the wrong time, and I can’t imagine being anywhere else.

Cargo Cult of the Endymionites March 8, 2007

Posted by Mark Folse in cargo cult, Carnival, Dancing Bear, Debrisville, Mardi Gras, Mid-City, New Orleans, Odds&Sods, Toulouse Street.
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beadwagon2.jpg
The tribal peoples of Mid-City appear to have erected this cargo cult wagon and covered it with beads in memory of the great god Endymion, which once visited these precincts. On close examination it also contains a snare drum, a favorite of the parading gods, and part of the of the cross-buck lights from the City Park miniature train. I wonder if they intended to signal to the great being that Mid-City is back, complete with amusement rides in the Park for his lordly pleasure. This odd vehicle is on the raised concrete platform in City Park on the west side of the site I recall from my childhood was a seal pool but which Gambit suggests was a swimming pool. (I think I’m right).

I got tamaetas, ripe red tamaetas… February 28, 2007

Posted by Mark Folse in 504, Mid-City, New Orleans, NOLA, Toulouse Street.
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I fell into a brief time/space disturbance this afternoon while working at home when a vegetable vendor came by. No, he wasn’t pushing a cart up the street. He was idling a pickup truck with a bull-horn atop the cab roof. But he had the sing-song delivery of his wares down pat. I was on a telephone meeting and couldn’t stop him, and felt like I had missed a chance to reach out and touch the past.

Musing on Chaos at the Krewe d’Etat February 18, 2007

Posted by Mark Folse in Carnival, Mardi Gras, Mid-City, New Orleans, Toulouse Street.
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or How’s Your MoMs and all

In which our Intrepid Hero once again drags the cooler, chairs and ladder up Napoleon so that he may haul them all home again together with sufficient plastic trinkets to fabricate his own FEMA trailer.

And we all thought that the Krewes du Vieux and d’Etat had a corner on the irony angle of Carnival, until my friend the dedicated environmentalist pointed out the irony of watching the Krewe of Endymion parade a large set of floats depicting endangered species, pulled by belching diesal tractors while riders tossed out enough precious petroluem based bric-a-brac to entagle and throttle every sea bird and turtle on the planet.
We saw no one today except Dangerblonde (briefly) as her float of the Krewe of Tucks trundled by. I’m glad I caught her at least once, as I will probably spend next Samadi Gras fending off the desperate parking place theives when Endymion returns to its rightful home a few blocks from ours.
Today was great fun, but Thursday before has really become the quality night of Carnival, as we left burdened with an unimaginable pile of truly nifty throws as we returned to finish the night at Adrastos’ and Grace’s nearby home. The themed floats of the satyric Krewe d’Etat are mong the best in carnival, and the first time I’m sure I’ll see a flambeau is escorting the cotton wagon floats of Chaos. And Muses is the one parade where middle-aged men have fighting chance against cute children and teenaged girls.
Endymion’s not bad, but frankly I rarely attended it in years past. For me the Saturday before meant MoM’s ball, with a drop by to the Mahaptos party hosted by friends from UNO in the very long ago. This year, no MoMs ball. I think I have a duty to get my kids to their first full flight of as many parades as possible, and getting to bed at six tomorrow morning is not a good idea if one wants a decent spot by Thoth to try and hold until Bacchus. But next year, first the Begindymion Bacchanal will certainly be followed by MoMs. Guests are warned there will be a strict curfew enforced a the Begindymion Bacchanal by the clever mechanism of starting to serve alcohol to the adults and sugar to the children as early as possible, leaving everyone thoroughly exhausted when it comes time to dress for MoMs.

January 12, 2007

Posted by Mark Folse in Crime, Debrisville, Helen Hill, Mid-City, New Orleans, NOLA, Rebirth, Toulouse Street.
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Mid-City Marchers against crime and violence as they come up Elks Place from Canal Street toward City Hall.

All Fall Down September 24, 2006

Posted by Mark Folse in Citizen Journalism, Katrina, Mid-City, New Orleans, NOLA.
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All Fall Down
After posting photo of another house about to collapse on Wet Bank Guide, neighbors called another house near collapse to my attention. While my own neighborhood is well on its way back, the Mid-City area’s condition is less recovered the further we get from City Park or the major boulevards. This house is at the corner of D’Hemecourt and Hennessey behind the Rock and Bowl.

The 100 Ways September 14, 2006

Posted by Mark Folse in Citizen Journalism, Corps of Engineers, Hurricane Katrina, Mid-City, New Orleans, NOLA, Toulouse Street, Uncategorized, We Are Not OK.
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City blames 100 day confusion on FEMA September 7, 2006

Posted by Mark Folse in Hurricane Katrina, Katrina, Mid-City, New Orleans, NOLA, Recovery, Toulouse Street, We Are Not OK.
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Deputy Undercover Mayor for Recovery Rob “B-man” Couhig today accused FEMA and the LRA of withholding desperately needed days required to meet Mayor No-C-‘Em Ray Nagin’s commitment to deliver a 100 day plan to the people of New Orleans.

“Under the Stafford Act, FEMA is required to supply us up to 90% of the calendar days necessary for recovery planning, provided we request those days prior to the one year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina,” Couhig said in a call from the Secret Recovery Planning Bunker. “To date, FEMA has not provided the necessary days to us.”

Couhig said the city had only actually completed the first 10 days of the recovery plan, the number of days the city is required to provide as a match to the federal allocation. “Katrina destroyed just about every calendar in City Hall, and none were ordered for 2006 because, frankly, without any calendars we missed the deadline for ordering. In our current state, we can’t get to 100 days without an infusion from the federal government, especially when we’re not even sure what day it is right now.”

Federal Katrina Kingfish Don “Knotts” Powell fired back, arguing the city had first failed to submit a request for the days, then submitted an application that failed to specify if the days should be delivered in blotter, tear-a-way or planner format, said, “It is important that we give each request for time close scrutinity, to make sure that the taxpayer’s days aren’t being squandered but are used efficiently. Given the history of New Orleans and Louisiana, we have to pay particularly close attention to such requests.”

LRA vice-davenport Walter “Scalawag” Isaacson, speaking at the Shaw Group Inc.’s Annual Honorarium Hoedown and Bar-B-Q , pointed out that it’s really a local responsibility to put in a properly formatted request for days. “Even if we had days available for them, if they can’t manage to put together their requests properly with the days they have, it doesn’t indicate it would be a good investment of our scarce recovery resources to give them any more.”

Noted time and calender expert Franklin “Leatherbound” Covey pointed out that the feds are understandably reluctant to part with any of their days. “The Bush Administration is in its last two years, and has less than a thousand days left to secure its legacy. Transferring the blame for the events of the last year to local officials by withholding these days and keeping those days for themselves is a win-win for the White House.”

Remember August 27, 2006

Posted by Mark Folse in Corps of Engineers, flooding, Hurricane Katrina, Katrina, Mid-City, New Orleans, NOLA, Toulouse Street, We Are Not OK.
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The I’Ching of August August 14, 2006

Posted by Mark Folse in Mid-City, New Orleans, NOLA, Toulouse Street.
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In May, shortly before the kids and I left Fargo, ND for Toulouse Street, I fired up the Electronic I’Ching I keep on my Palm Pilot. I have a lovely hard back text with a rice paper front piece and a forward by Carl Jung, but that was packed away. I don’t structure my life around these bits of Chinese folk wisdom as if they were tomorrow’s weather, but I find it focuses the mind, starts trains of thought that truly help shape my future. I think the western aversion to such things causes us to miss out on a tool for the shaping of our own destinies.

That, however, is not my subject. I am posting this (saved for months on the laptop) to consider the third and fourth lines of the first hexagram. As I said, I treat this as an oraclular mind exercise, and not as a prognostication of future events. But I found in terribly interesting that at the start of the peak of the hurricane season, it would tell me this:

19-Lin Approach (K’un Receptive + Tui Happiness)

Approach has Supreme Success
Perseverance furthers
When the eighth month comes
There will be misfortune

The earth above the lake:
the image of APPROACH.
Thus the superior man
Is inexhaustible
In his will to teach
And without limits
In his tolerance and protection of the people

41-Ken Keeping Still+Tui Happiness

Decrease
Decrease combined with sincerity
Brings about supreme good fortune
Without blame.
One may be persevering in this
It furthers one to undertake something.
How is this to be carried out?
One may use two small bowls for the sacrifice.

What, then, is the misfortune of the eighth month? Perhaps it will be as simple as Lusher Middle not opening on time for my son, as it appears it will not. One can only hope. It is a city of misfortunes that we live in now, but as the ancient oracle reminds us, perseverance always pays. “It furthers one to undertaken something” I am reminded. How often have I read this line? Yes, the storm may come, but as the last post here says, once you have chosen (or been chosen) to live here, there is nothing to do but keep rowing.

And the image is of the earth above the lake, of the land rising up. I will probably not work this into my panel at Rising Tide lest I be thought a flake, but the rest of the first hexagram will weigh on my mind. “The Superior Man is inexhaustable…in his wili to teach and without limits….in his protection of the people.” I had toyed with sunsetting Wet Bank Guide on 8-28 and starting a new project, but somehow this calls me, sends my mind off in directions that tell me now is not the time to stop. Yes there is much to do that calls me away from the keyboard, but there is also much to say. For a writer, saying is doing.

“If furthers one to undertake something.” In the whirl of reporters friends in journalism have siced on me to talk about our decision to move to New Orleans, as I am forced to reconsider the decision again and again (as if I needed the prompting of microphones and notepads), I find at the end of each such exercise–even as I consider the lastest baleful headlines–that I have done the right thing.

In the second hexagram, I hear an echo of the feeling I get when I open the envelope and am reminded of the frightful mortgage payment on a dry house. But as it says “decrease combined with sincerity/Brings about supreme good fortune/Without blame”. It also tells me I might bring “two small bowls for the sacrifice”. Yes, I have taken my children out of the place they knew and the friends they had come to love, but they will start school next week. In the elastic way of children, they will make new friends, have new adventures, and do so in one of the great cities of the earth.

I remind my son, whenever he confronts of a challenge, of one of the tenets of Tae Kwon Do, in which he holds a junior black belt or ‘Poom’ rank: indomitable spirit. I remind him of the time in basketball he had a terrible cramp, but only five kids showed for the game. If he left the court, his team would forfeit. He played on in pain. I have to remind myself when I see the first hexagram warn of misfortune, of the phrase that would likely top any concordance of the oracle: perseverence furthers.

I return again to look at the picture I posted the other night, and think: I have chosen (or perhaps been chosen) to be here. There is no other choice but to row into the wave.

The ex-pats make the LA Times August 9, 2006

Posted by Mark Folse in Bloggers, Citizen Journalism, Mid-City, New Orleans, Toulouse Street.
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The story that my wife and I (and Ray and Ashley and David) have all been waiting for has finally made the LAT:

Sense of Duty Lures ‘Expats’ Back Home to New Orleans

By Ann M. Simmons, Times Staff Writer
August 9, 2006

NEW ORLEANS — When Mark Folse told his mother-in-law he had decided to move his family here shortly after Hurricane Katrina hit, she handed him a magazine article about New Orleans’ gang problem.

“The understated text was, ‘This is where you’re taking my grandchildren?’ ” said Folse, 49, a New Orleans native then living in Fargo, N.D. …

“The more people who come back, who value the city for what it was and what it is, the more difficult it will be for them to wrest it from us,” Folse said.

Watching the catastrophe of Katrina unfold last August, “I felt an overwhelming need to come here and plant my flag and buy a house, and try and save New Orleans,” said Folse, who tests computer software for a national bank that lets him telecommute. “Admittedly it sounds grandiose and self-serving. But I felt I had to come here and be part of it.”

There rest is here

http://wetbankguide.blogspot.com/2006/08/have-beret-will-travel.html

New Orleans forever July 29, 2006

Posted by Mark Folse in Citizen Journalism, Mid-City, New Orleans, NOLA, Toulouse Street.
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nola_forever_sm.jpg

I pass this truck almost every day on Bienville. It’s basically somebody’s dumpster. (The kids toys on the ground in this picture are now in the bed of the truck). But every debris piile that moves or grows is someone else making themselves a new home in New Orleans

Pride of Pothole July 24, 2006

Posted by Mark Folse in Mid-City, New Orleans, Toulouse Street.
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PotholePride

Apparently, the Sewerage & Water Board marks their repair cuts with these little plastic buttons. I hadn’t noticed these before, which is odd because this one is right in front of my house. Mid-City is littered with cuts from the center street to peoples homes, and running down the middle of the street to a manhole cover. The quality of the NOLA streets, never that good to begin with, is continuing to deteriorate as the S&WB and other utility cuts go unrepaired after the Flood.

Next year’s model July 20, 2006

Posted by Mark Folse in Bloggers, Citizen Journalism, Mid-City, New Orleans, NOLA, Toulouse Street.
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How did I manage to elect myself the model of anything? Today, an LA Times photographer came by to snap my family and I for a story on returning ex-pats, and next week I will have coffee with an NPR reporter on the same subject. Fellow blogger Schroeder has asked me to read a post for broadcast on WTUL’s Community Gumbo radio show.

While I have publicly chronicled aspects of my return through the past year, I hardly expected to make a national stir. I appreciate it when people take interesting in what I write, as my readership slowly grows and prominent bloggers link back to my posts, when I found myself listed on the Radio France Katrina page–the only blogger–between the links to the BBC and FEMA.

Today I found a link into the Wet Bank Guide from the TPM cafe, where I was once again quoted by Boyd Blondell of After the Levees .  Boyd seems to fancy my angry, ranting side, the same approach that got me some notice from Will Pitt of Truthout back in January.  I’ll have to ask the photog if he can get a shot of my angry side. Then I can post it up in the gutter of the Wet Bank Guide; perhaps I should also have a wistful, thoughtful shot to chose from, a sort of avatar of the mood of today’s post.

The angry posts are the easiest to write and the hardest to publish. I don’t want to tip over the edge in anger, and when there is so much to be angry about that’s a highly springy tightrope I find myself crossing like a bear on a unicycle. Now that I’m about to go national, I think I will have to watch it even more closely. The angry tenor of political blogs, while it has been energizing the marginalized left, is not going to result in a rapid return to civic discourse. Angry sells, but I don’t know that I want to be remembered as a footnote in this history of political talk radio and blogging as the angry voice of Katrina. (And, lets face it, I think Professor Morris does angry so much better).

Instead, I hope I can inspire. I’m glad that, through the agency of some former colleagues in journalism, I have this opportunity to tell my story to a wider audience, and to bring in the stories of another half-dozen returning ex-pats I know of. I hope that the outcome of the stories will be by Ashley (aka Professor Morris) and Ray and myself telling our stories, we will discover we are not alone.

Even more important, I hope that there a hundreds if not thousands more in the ex-pat community who have felt as I have since the unfolding of the flood and its aftermath last September: a powerful desire to come home, to plant their flag for the future of New Orleans, to be another spear in the host who are committed to the future of the city.

I’m reminded of the long, narrative anti-Vietnam war ballad Alice’s Restaurant, which everyone in a certain Baby Boomer age bracket will remember. Toward the end, when Arlo Guthrie talks about singing the song to the draft board, he says this:

You know, if one person, just one person does it they may think he’s really sick and they won’t take him. And if two people, two people do it, in harmony, they may think they’re both faggots and they won’t take either of them. And three people do it, three, can you imagine, three people walking in singin a bar of Alice’s Restaurant and walking out. They may think it’s an organization. And can you, can you imagine fifty people a day,I said fifty people a day walking in singin a bar of Alice’s Restaurant and walking out. And friends they may thinks it’s a movement.

And that’s what this is about–the blogs, the stories–the Rebirth of New Orleans Movement. If these articles push even a couple of ex-pats or lingering evacuees over the edge and make them decide to come home, I can lay aside my lingering doubts about my own suitability as poster child, the nagging fear that I have over taken the story, that the Gonzo Journalism Version 2.0 style that defines much of Citizen Journalism in the blogosphere has eclipsed the subject.

Geek Food July 16, 2006

Posted by Mark Folse in Bloggers, Mid-City, New Orleans, NOLA, Toulouse Street.
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The wine did not arrive a time, a perfect post-Flood New Orleans touch to the Stormhoek Geek Dinner in New Orleans, hosted by Alan Guitierrez of Think New Orleans. The attendees cataloged already by Loki and Danger Blonde were not deterred, and there was beer enough and plenty of carried in food to keep the evening afloat and well fed.

A few of the bloggers in attended had threatened to take Stormhoek to task for the missing wine, but I take that to be just another (minor) example of how We Are Not OK in NOLA. For the evening, this collection of several dozens blog publishers, coders and assorted hangers-on was more than OK. And, when the wine does arrive, we will have a perfect excuse to do it all again.

I agree with Loki that the baby doll in the king cake and unofficial guest of honor was ten-year-old Blogger Kalypso, daughter of blogger Mike Homan who produced this video about our fair city.  And thanks again to GW for putting together this nifty list of the bloggers in attendance:

Toulouse Street July 16, 2006

Posted by Mark Folse in Mid-City, New Orleans, NOLA, Odds&Sods, Toulouse Street.
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Because of the style of my primary venue, Wet Bank Guide, I need someplace to dump random thoughts and notes about life, so I have created this site.  If you’ve found your way here out of interest in New Orleans or Katrina or the Federal Flood, I hope you’ll also stop by Wet Bank Guide, and read as well some of the other blogs of note you will find listed there on the same subjects.

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