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The Travesty of the Commons February 17, 2009

Posted by The Typist 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.


1. Adrastos - February 17, 2009

So, I guess like your *other* sister, you’re a ladder day saint….


2. Wet Bank Guy - February 18, 2009

I’m definitely a sinner on ladder days, especially where strong drink is concerned, but like Jeffery I’m definitely on a mission.


3. BeverlyRevelry - February 18, 2009

“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?”

That’s a pretty heady paragraph. The big view is, as usual, scary. I’m with you on the anti gated-community-on-the-neutral-ground thing. It’s the Neutral Ground for cryin’ outloud!


4. Judy R - February 18, 2009

Remember the year NOPD decided to do some enforcement and picked up all the unattended ladders on Napoleon & St Charles?

They only did it one year that I am aware of.

As a rider, I will NOT throw to ladders that are not following the pulled back as far as they are tall rule, and most times, I will throw to kids at ground level rather than kids on a ladder.


5. Sarabeth - February 18, 2009

Last year during Rex, we walked through someone’s “area”. That was an unpleasant interaction and we were just crossing over.


6. Wet Bank Guy - February 18, 2009

I think the city needs to step up and start enforcing the rules, with ample advance communication. I have no problem with people setting up a canopy and a grill at the back of the neutral ground and having a party. People thinking they can rope off areas and claim them for their exclusive use has just gotten out of control.


7. neworleansmusicman - February 18, 2009

Hi, I have a new Mardi Gras blog on WordPress at neworleansmusicman.wordpress.com. How do I get a list of all the NOLA blogs for my blog? How do I get listed on the lists on all the other NOLA blogs with lists? Sorry for all the questions but I am new to blogging.
Happy Mardi Gras!
David Eidler


8. Amy - February 18, 2009

Now I have ladders to worry about? They don’t make it easy for a new New Orleanian, do they 🙂 Really, the whole thing seems a bit silly to me – ladders, stalking out territory, etc. My daughter is afraid of heights, anyway 🙂


9. jeffrey - February 18, 2009

NOPD can deal with this AND they don’t even have to be dicks about it. All they have to do is consistently remind people of the rules. And they should do this early and on television.

What Mark says here is spot on. Carnival is a public event. It’s an opportunity to go outside and have a party with your neighbors and visitors in the public space. Roping off pretend territory should be anathema here.


10. KamaAina - February 18, 2009

“rather than having them circle the floor of the Superdome for ticket buyers”. Shhhhhh! Don’t give them any ideas! That would actually make a nice sequel (by a couple of months) to your dystopian Christmas fable.

“a piece of common ground they cleverly spray painted an imaginary box on”. Hmmm. Might we be able to (finally) get some use out of that “Gray Ghost” guy, by having him run around and paint everyone’s lines gray, so no one would know whose is whose?


11. Cousin Pat from Georgia - February 19, 2009

Well, the local citizenry dedicated to stopping this nonsense can step up, too, and turn this into one hell of a game. If these wankers are showing up in the middle of the night and roping off and spray painting the neutral ground, let’s beat them at their own game.

Interested parties just stockpile yellow caution tape, posters and spray paint during the year. Then, just as these folks sneak around cordoning off their areas, we roll in late at night, spray painting and cordoning off “No Ladders Beyond this Point” and “Public Parade Access” corridors all over the neutral ground. We go really crazy with colors and dazzle paint styles, too, so no one will know where “their area” is.

We only do this on certain neutral ground sections using the signage, so they take that “their area” nonsense down the block and fight with others of the same mindset.

Once they’ve moved on, and marked their area off, we show up the next night with every dog-owning friend we know, who have fed the pooches the good stuff for 24 hours (chili, fatty steak cuttings, beer). We spend the next two hours in galoshes, unleashing the hounds onto those areas others have cordoned off for their exclusive use.

We don’t have to wait for the police to do a thing, and nothing we’re doing is illegal either.


12. Jess - February 20, 2009

I was so frustrated last night at muses – it was like there was a wall in front of me. If it’s not the ladders, it’s the people with chairs and blankets who have staked out a much larger space then they need – and heaven help me if I accidentally step in ‘their’ area. It honestly kinda takes the fun out of things.


13. mike - March 23, 2009

These utopian comments sound good, but the reality is the people claim locations are usually doing it in response to the over-all problem…that being they have too keep coming out earlier & earlier to get any decent viewing location. THE REAL PROBLEM IS THE NOPD & THE CITY OF NEW ORLEANS. THEY HAVE NOT & WILL NOT ‘EQUALLY’ ENFORCE THE ORDINANCES. You can call them, and can’t get 2 cops to give you the same response as to what is ok & what isn’t. Then you get some cops, at some locations, enforcing the ordinances & some not. Then you have partial enforcement…you can stack off all you want 5 feet off the route, but none on the route, and vice-versa. AND IN REGARDS TO THE ‘NEUTRAL GROUND NAZIS’…WHAT ABOUT THE ‘I AM ENTITLED JOHNNY COME LATELY’…THEY DON;T SEEM TO HAVE A PROBLEM SHOWING UP AT 10:00AM MARDI GRAS MORNING, AFTER SOME POOR DAD/MOM STAYED IN THEIR LOCATION FRO 24 HOURS, JUST FOR ‘MR,/MRS. HOLIER-THAN-NOW’ EXPECTING TO JUST PLOP THEMSELVES DOWN. You can’t have it both ways…SO UNTIL THE NOPD & CITY ‘FAIRLY, EQUALLY & CONSISTANTLY ENFORCE THE RULES, WHY SHOULD PEOPLE NOT CONTINUE.


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