Ten. August 28, 2015Posted by The Typist in 504ever, 8-29, Federal Flood, Flood, ghosts, je me souviens, New Orleans, postdiluvian, Shield of Beauty, The Narrative, The Typist, Toulouse Street.
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Three years August and the storms are being named like epic ships, a doom upon our shore, and I think of the levees still leaking and of the flood-walls patched with paper mache, our Potemkin defenses are not ready and we are not ready and the Big One is out there, invisible, a mighty wind, waiting for us. Someone empties a pistol into the night and I think of Jessica and Chanel and Helen and Dinerral as I watch the MPs in their Humvees roll by like armored ghosts. I think of the streets running into blocks running into miles of houses houses houses houses houses empty eyed with plywood doors and ragged lawns. And I think I’ll have another drink and light another cigarette and then another drink and then–I stop thinking. That is when this thought comes into my head. It is a compulsion, like biting ones nails until they smart and bleed, this thought that what we blog may not be our Genesis but an Apocalypse, the history of the end. And yet we stay because to live here is to walk through wrack and ruin counting the flowers in the weeds and discover you are not alone, everywhere there are people smiling, people with crumpled souls and rough stomachs, suffering what you are suffering, worse than you are suffering, suffering beyond your imagining and all for the sake of this place, because they see this city as you do, because they are the figures in the frame that make the landscape. A terrible beauty spills out of their eyes like tears and bathes the city in light.
~ Fini ~
Remember August 29, 2011Posted by The Typist in 504, 504ever, 8-29, Corps of Engineers, Federal Flood, FYYFF, Hurricane Katrina, je me souviens, Katrina, levee, New Orleans, NOLA, postdiluvian, Remember.
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This image is (c) 2006 by Mark A.Folse and free for all non-commercial use and posting on all blogs. Please circulate widely.
Requiem August 28, 2011Posted by The Typist in 8-29, Federal Flood, ghosts, Hurricane Katrina, je me souviens, New Orleans, NOLA, Remember, Toulouse Street, We Are Not OK.
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In the dark night of our soul Your shattered dreamers Make them whole O! Mother Mary find us where we’ve fallen out of grace Lead us to a higher place/Mary…
I almost didn’t republish this video I first put up last year on Aug. 28.
This week I was on WWNO and Susan Larson asked me to read a few lines she had selected from the book Carry Me Home, which first appeared as a blog post Ghosts of the Flood on Wet Bank Guide.
“We need to honor these dead and respect them, not with the weight of Confucian ancestor worship but in the simple spirit of the pre-Confucian Japanese who venerated odd stones, in the ways inherent in our own Latin roots mingled with the traditions of Africa, where the community of saints and the loa of Africa intersect. We don’t need an exorcism. We need a conjuration, a ritual that calls up the ghosts and honors them, that welcomes them in the way the way the devotees of Vodoun welcome the possession of the loa.
“Perhaps next August 29, we should all tie a brown cord on some pillar or post of the house at just the point where we have carefully painted over the water stain. Just above that, we should mark in dust of ground gypsum the rescue symbol that is now as much a part of our selves and our city as the sign of the cross. We will do this to tell whoever is listening—Our Father, Oshun, Mother of God, ghosts of the Flood—we remember. We have suffered, and we will never forget the Flood and those who did not come through. We are the people who came through and came back. We remember the lost. We remember you. Je me souviens.
“When we accept and embrace this spirit, perhaps the haunting will end once and for all, will not be a permanent pall over the city, a fearful sound in the night like a howling in the wires, or an unpleasant knotting in the stomach as we pass an abandoned house. It will cease when it becomes instead like the glinting of the sun on white-washed stone above the neat green grass of the cemeteries, just another comfortable part of who we are.”
Today there is a second line down Rampart to celebrate the opening of the new Healing Center in the Bywater. My son isn’t interested in going so I guess I’m going to miss it. It is time for us to look around and notice that our troubles are now often of our own making, the same curse of class and the lash that has troubled us for generations. Some days I wonder if we are no more capable of of overcoming ourselves than the Balkans, that we are too long practiced in our judgements by race and place. I have to hope not, to think that in every generation we here in the city grow a little better.
“We are the ones who came through and came back”, back to wrack and ruin, taxes and Entergy bills that would break a weaker people. We are the ones who did not flee to Metairie and Chalmette or to the East. My neighbors are the strongest people in America, and all I can think of is sitting on my stoop all the days of Jazz Fest and yes, there were tourists but there were many of us as well, those who could afford a ticket and the artists listening like me from across the fence hoping to see a bit of jewelry, and those hawing water at days end to pay the water bill, all milling about on Fortin Street in the joy and excitement of the moment.
Tomorrow is a solemn day, and I am going to post this piece because from the earliest days of the Wet Bank Guide, from the speculation on the dead through the first posts of All Saints Day 2005, all of my posts about those events have centered on one theme: Remember. Je me souviens. But simply to post this without recognizing it is only half the story is false. It is funereal in a way that does not fit New Orleans. Before this long weekend of remembrance is over, it is time to kick the dust of the grave from off our shoes and remember the city as it was, the way we would make it again. Ashes to ashes and dust to dust, if the women don’t get you then the liquor must, bass drum going one, two, one two three four and fast military tattoo of the unmuffled snare and at last the first trumpet notes of Oh, Didn’t He Ramble.
I think I will post that later today. For now, it’s Eliza Gilkyson’s Requiem which I first heard on NPR in early Fall of 2005, a song written for the victims of the Christmas Tsunami but which someone at NPR wisely picked up again after the Federal Flood. The audio on this is poor. You can hear the song still on NPR if you prefer, as this video contains disturbing images of the dead. I remember that moment clearly, driving down 16th Street South in Fargo to pick up my daughter at junior high. Before the song ended I had to pull over to the side of the road. I was late.
The Eye of Moloch December 9, 2010Posted by The Typist in 504, 8-29, cryptical envelopment, Dancing Bear, New Orleans, The Narrative, Toulouse Street, We Are Not OK.
Tags: Howl, Moloch
watches over us in our labors.
“Moloch whose soul is electricity and banks!”
— Allen Ginsburg in Howl
Remember 8-29 August 29, 2010Posted by The Typist in 504, 8-29, Federal Flood, Hurricane Katrina, je me souviens, levee, New Orleans, NOLA, postdiluvian, Toulouse Street, We Are Not OK.
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Requiem August 27, 2010Posted by The Typist in 504, 8-29, Federal Flood, Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans, NOLA, postdiluvian, Remember, the dead, Toulouse Street, We Are Not OK.
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In the dark night of our soul Your shattered dreamers Make them whole O! Mother Mary find us where we’ve fallen out of grace Lead us to a higher place/Mary…
I remember where I was when I first heard this song, on an NPR broadcast. The NPR archive reminds me it was Sept. 14, 2005. I was driving through South Fargo to pick my daughter up at junior high school. I had to pull over because I could not see. I was late.
This video contains disturbing images of the dead. Here on Toulouse Street, as on the Wet Bank Guide, above all we Remember them:
…”[All] Father, Oshun, Mother of God, Ghosts of the Flood—we remember. We have suffered, and we will never forget the Flood and those who did not come through. We are the people who came through and came back. We remember the lost. We remember you. Je me souviens.”
Thank you to songwriter and singer Eliza Gilkyson (who sings in duet with her daughter on this piece). When You Tube sent me a nasty gram about me stealing someone’s audio, I wrote to her and she intervened to allow it to remain. Thank you and apologies to all of the photographers who’ve worked I’ve liberated for this.
Odd Words August 26, 2010Posted by The Typist in 504, 8-29, books, Hurricane Katrina, literature, New Orleans, NOLA, Odd Words, Poetry, postdiluvian, Toulouse Street.
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Its been frantic this week of “vacation” and I won’t go into the gruesome details except to say that in spite of everything else we are ready for tonight’s book launch of A Howling in the Wires at Mimi’s in the Marigny, 2601 Royal Street, in the upstairs bar from 7 until. Open to the public. Books aren’t in stores yet but we will begin to deal with that Friday. The vast staff of the Gallatin & Toulouse Press publishing empire had to put down one’s dog while the other got their daugter settled in college.
If you can’t make it, check your New Orleans Indie book stores, visit our website or Alibris.com. Just please don’t go to Amazon, where I haven’t had time to take the book down. We will loose two cents on every book we sell on Amazon, minus shipping, because as best I can figure the written terms don’t agree precisely with the practices. (i.e., I will not be reimbursed my shipping cost to Amazon. And they take more than 50%. Fuck ’em. I’m going to cancel my pre-order for Treme and close my account. Hopefully the book will disappear from there and I will beat Amazon with the club of Alibris.com and IndieBooks.com (shop local) every chance I get.
Harumph. Rant over. The summer doldrums are behind us (a dangerous cliche in New Orleans) and things are starting to pick up again this weekend.
§ Not specifically a literary event but this weekend is the annual Rising Tide conference. I’ve been too busy with the book to be involved much but would not miss Maitri Erwin’s Treme discussion panel for the world, which will involve two of the writers for the series, Eric Overmyer and Lollis Eric Elie. And I am pretty sure a third writer will be in audience if he can exuent his conflict in time for that panel, because he told us so the other night. Featured speaker is Mac McClelland, human rights corrrespondent for Mother Jones magazine, and there will be panels on the environment, crime and of course levees, which is how all this got started. And Tom Lowenberg of Octavia wlll be there again selling books and media featuring New Orleans and the panelists. It’s hard to get away without an armful every year. While your browsing, don’t forget to pick up a copy of ↑ A ↑ Howling ↑ In ↑ The ↑ Wires ↑ while you’re there. A number of contributors will be on hand to autograph it.
§ Dave Brinks and Megan Burns are keeping 17 Poets! dark for our book launch (bless ’em) but planning a big celebration of the fifth year of our recovery Sunday, Aug 29 at 5 pm at the Goldmine Saloon, called the All-Hands-On-Deck Poetry, Art, and Music Fundraiser. Featuring music by Rockin’ Dopsie, Jr and the Zydeco Twisters with special guest Cyrill Nevill, poetry, multi-media performances and a silent auction including work by George Rodrigue. All Proceeds will benefit the nonprofit: Protectourcoastline.org $15.00 Donation at Door.
§ I feel bad because I know Paul Benton reads the blog and is a fine poet, but I’m probably going to be at Brink’s thing (since he was going to reopen on the 26th and stayed dark in deference to our book launch, but Paul is the brave soul who took the slot on 8-29. As if poetry weren’t evidence enough of madness.
§ There will be a ONE BLOCK Block Party in the 500 Block of Caffin Street from 4 pm – 7 pm celebrating the book ONE BLOCK, photographs by Dave Anderson, essay by Chris Rose, a powerful portrait of post-Katrina New Orleans as seen through the prism of a single city block whose residents are attempting to rebuild their homes. There will be performances by Rebirth Brass Band and Little Freddie King, a photography exhibition by One Block residents and local artists Chaundra McCormick and Keith Calhoun, and special guests and Octavia will be selling books. (If they are at Rising Tide and this event and their own in-house singing, I think there must be capes and tights involved here somehow)
§ There are a slew of other Katrina and the Flood related books signings, etc. going on this weekend so I’m reduced to a bullet list.:
- I’m not going to diss Dave Eggers even though he’s scheduled up against our book launch, so: The author discusses and reads from Zeitoun. 7 p.m. Thursday. Tulane University, McAlister Auditorium. Still plenty of time when that’s over to get to Mimi’s, Dave.
- Josh Neufeld – A.D.: New Orleans After the Deluge – paperback release at Octavia Books, 2-4 p.m. If you haven’t gotten this one yet, there’s no excuse now its out in paperback. If you’re not at Rising Tide getting a copy, hie yourself over to Octavia.
- Garden District Books hosts three events. First: John Biguenet and other contributors discuss and sign their book Before During and After, Saturday 8-28 1-3 pm
- Also at GDB Rebeca Antoine, (Toulouse Street favorite) Barb Johnson and Niyi Osundare discuss and sign their book Voices Rising 2 Tuesday 8-31 5:30-7:30
- At the same time on Tuesday at GDB Cynthia Hogue and Rebecca Ross discuss and sign their book When The Water Came: Evacuees of Hurricane Katrina.
- And even though I need to get myself over to Megan and Dave’s event at the Goldmine, I don’t know how I can miss Remembering Katrina: A Commemorative Poetry Reading – Yusef Komunyakaa and seven other poets present a reading. 3:30 p.m. Sunday. Tulane University, Lavin-Bernick University Center, McAlister Drive. I mean, Yusef Komunyakaa man. And of course the feature will probably read last.
I think after this weekend going back to work will be relaxing. My plan to diminish the pile of books at my beside at leisure has instead grown it by a couple, and I think I’ve managed few chapters. Maybe next year.
A Howling in the Wires August 9, 2010Posted by The Typist in 504, 8-29, Debrisville, Federal Flood, FYYFF, Gallatin & Toulouse Press, Hurricane Katrina, literature, New Orleans, NOLA, Toulouse Street.
Tags: A Howling in the Wires, Gallatin & Toulouse Press
Gallatin & Toulouse Press announces the publication of A Howling in the Wires: An Anthology of Writings from Postdiluvian New Orleans. This collection combines the vivid post-Katrina experiences captured by internet-based “bloggers” from New Orleans–individuals who don’t think of themselves as writers but who were writing powerfully in the months after 8-29–with the work of traditional writers. Some of those, like novelist Dedra Johnson and poet Robin Kemp, share their most immediate reactions from their own blogs. The book deliberately blurs the line between formats and focuses on cataloging some of the best-written and most powerful reactions of the people who experienced Katrina.
Editors Sam Jasper and Mark Folse are writers who turned to the Internet to chronicle their own experiences and reactions to Katrina and found in the months after 8-29 they were part of a larger community sharing the public and very private events of the period. The book will be published late August, 2010. A launch party and reading is scheduled for Thursday, Aug. 26 at 8 p.m. upstairs at Mimi’s in the Marigny.
Contributors include cookbook author and travel-and-sailing writer Troy Gilbert, poet Valentine Pierce, Professor Jerry Ward of Dillard University and poet/playwright Raymond “Moose” Jackson together with the work of bloggers who are by day engineers, teachers, geologists, computer programmers, bankers, and social workers but in their spare time writers of talent whose only prior outlet has been their Internet-based blogs. These works were edited minimally for basic spelling and grammar, mistakes easily made writing first hand accounts created under great duress, in an attempt to preserve the original “howl” of people who experienced these events first hand.
Editor Sam Jasper’s preface explains: “When we started this project, our goal was to find some of the best words that were howling in those wires once the wind stopped and the levees broke. We read through hundreds of thousands of words for weeks. Sometimes the pain in those words re-opened wounds we thought had healed. Sometimes the words gave us insight into another person’s experience and we were astonished by the nakedness, the vulnerability, the ferocity and often the defiance being expressed so soon after the event. Naked and raw and very, very public.”
“These voices, oblivious to each other and miles apart, sing in pitch perfect harmony—a phenomenon only possible where truth is absolute. Stunned courageous but always in motion, the Every Man and Every Woman of these Gulf Coast narrations and poems lean blindly towards recovery and redemption just as they struggle to comprehend the enormity of what has happened to them. Here you will find no analysis ad nauseum, no academic dissections, no punditry or pretension. Just ordinary folks caught up under extraordinary circumstances, telling their stories in real time, absolutely in the moment—in grief, in anger, and—most miraculously—in good humor. If you only ever read one post-Katrina related book, and if you think you can handle for that book to be an unapologetically unfiltered and dead honest journey back into those dark days and months after the storm, this thin volume is all you will need.”
— Louis Maistros, author of The Sound of Building Coffins
“A powerful and immediate look at post-Katrina New Orleans. Sam Jasper and Mark Folse have done a great service to America by compiling these early writings from the storm.”
— Stephen Elliot, editor of TheRumpus.Net and author of The Adderall Diaries and Happy Baby.
“There are no better guides to post flood New Orleans than the bloggers who emerged here during the immediate wake of the levee breaks. What’s particularly remarkable about these writers is that none hew to the snarky, cynical, superficial style found on most blogs–instead there is an enormous passion for New Orleans, real anger at its injustices and much needed rebukes to the received wisdom surrounding this moment of man made disaster.”
— Ethan Brown, author of Shake the Devil Off and Fat Cat, 50 Cent, and the Rise of the Hip Hop Hustle0072
“From Greg Peters’s prophetic warnings before the levees failures, to Jerry Ward’s abandonment of romance, to the rhythms of Sandra Grace Johnson’s arrest, to Mark Folse’s lifetime of Mardi Gras memories (pre- and post-dilluvian), the pieces in this book form a powerful chronicle of those terrible days when New Orleanians looked around and decided that, more painful than any of these things, would be the failure to move forward.” .
— Lolis Eric Elie is is the producer for Faubourg Treme: the Untold Story of Black New Orleans and a staff writer for the HBO Series Treme
Gallatin & Toulouse Press is a new endeavor, publishing the work of emerging New Orleans writers to a wider audience. This is the first in a planned series collecting short, Internet-published works chronicling the storm and flood collectively known as Katrina and the recovery of the city of New Orleans.
A Howling in the Wires: An Anthology of Writings from Postdiluvian New Orleans, Paperback: 160 Pages, Gallatin & Toulouse Press, ISBN 9780615388793. Inquiries to: firstname.lastname@example.org. (504) 324-6551 Available direct from the publisher Aug. 20, 2010.
You can pre-order here. Please shop local or direct. Amazon charges a ruinous discount to small publishers and we make only pennies on a sale there. Patronize your local bookstores or order directly from Gallatin & Toulouse Press.
The Last Day June 22, 2010Posted by The Typist in 504, 8-29, Hurricane Katrina, Toulouse Street.
Tags: David Simon, Still Life With Soup Can, Treme
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I used to read the blog Still Life with Soup Can long ago. At some point she took it private, which is fine. Some people write for themselves or a small circle of friends, and wish to keep it in that circle. I right for myself and the tiny audience of voices in my head, and chose to hang it out like a line of laundry. To each their own.
I have been contributing a bit and commenting a lot at the Back of Town blog on the subject of David Simon and company’s HBO Series Treme, and one of the regular contributors and founders sent me a link this this post on her blog. The email subject was “this is cool” and contained only a link.
I have a problem with the term bloggers, because it carries some horrible connotations. It is also much too generic, like “periodical”, which would encompass The Weekly World News and the Lewis Laphan-era Harper’s. While there may once have been a Harper’s List which referenced Bat Boy or Faces on Mars in some tongue in cheek way, they are about as far apart as possible.
I read another blogger’s take on Treme here, and felt obliged to comment. I think BatBoy is likely one of his devoted readers and may occasionally comment there as well, unless there is a James Bond marathon on Spike, in which case his entire readership disappears into mom’s basement with a box of PBR and a big bag of Doritos and isn’t seen for days.
Then I read the recommended “cool” post, Still Life’s with Soup Can’s The Last Day.
I think to “this is cool” I would add at least a “wow”. And thank you.
5 – 0 – Forever April 11, 2010Posted by The Typist in 504, 8-29, Corps of Engineers, Debrisville, Federal Flood, je me souviens, New Orleans, NOLA, St. Bernard, Toulouse Street, We Are Not OK.
Tags: David Simon, HBO, Treme
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The Tragedy of St. Bernard [excerpt]
Wet Bank Guide
September 01, 2005
….I want to show my children the beauty in a place they don’t understand, growing up in the Midwest. I want them to see people who live with the water the way people in Fargo live with air; people who shrimp and crew towboats and work on rigs in the Gulf and, when the refinery lets out for the day, go fishing; people who chose to live on an island in the middle of a swamp, and not in Kenner or Fargo, ND; people who worked hard and set aside a little and built a place for themselves out of a swamp, a place they would not willingly let go.
I want them to know why I am crying at my keyboard for people who’s views on issues of race I could never understand, and teach my children to abhor; people who took me into their homes and fed me sweet tea and told me stories until the stars and the mosquitoes came out; people who chose to live apart, surrounded by capricious waters, an island; people who would not willingly surrender their island back to the waters.
I want them to understand why some people stayed , and why they would come back and start over again
Shelton Alexander: When the Levees Broke March 20, 2010Posted by The Typist in 504, 8-29, Federal Flood, Flood, je me souviens, levee, New Orleans, NOLA, Sinn Fein, We Are Not OK.
Tags: Shelton Alexander
I posted a clean but abbreviated version of this video a long time ago, but it was deleted from You Tube. I’ve found this bad quality version but it includes Shelton Alexander’s interview and the entire speech.
The original post, with the new video follows:
Ground truth has a face. It is Shelton Alexander’s.
I told you I would be here.
It was important that I came.
All those ships that never sailed August 30, 2009Posted by The Typist in 504, 8-29, Federal Flood, FYYFF, je me souviens, levee, New Orleans, NOLA.
Tags: Bob Kaufman, jim morrison, Sun Ra, Wet Bank Guide, Wet Bank Guy
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I was reading through everyone’s anniversary posting, and mentally comparing those to the page I sort of ripped from my own mental notebook and stuck up, unfinished and a bit confused. I remind myself that down here August is the cruelest month, when we all often wish to be a pair of scuttling claws beneath the sea. And mines been a doozy. Take my job, for instance. Please. I’ll throw in the parking space.
Rex Dingler of NOLA Rising, a warrior for New Orleans of the stature of Ashley Morris, does as fine a job as any and ended his K 4.0 piece with these worlds that I am going to take away and spend part of today noodling on. One reason I stopped the Wet Bank Guide is I found I could not sustain the level of anger that sort of writing required, not both the anger and my sanity.
Ultimately, I will celebrate by offering forgiveness to those who I believe have slighted our city, who have stolen from her coffers, and have made irreverent gains from the suffering of her people. I forgive George W. Bush for the ineptitude of his leadership and those under him for their failings. I forgive the modern day carpet-baggers who have come to be known as disaster profiteers. I forgive those who squandered our opportunity to build a better New Orleans and failed to right the ailments of our city, deciding instead to return to business as usual.
While I forgive them, I will not forget them nor make excuses for their actions or behaviors. I forgive them not to ease their conscience, but to ease my own. I forgive them not to ease their way for greater plunder, but to allow me the clarity of vision to carry out my own dreams for a better city. I forgive so that I can let go of the past and move toward a better tomorrow, hopefully leaving behind the waterlines of misery that this storm had wrought.
I have had various epigrams for my blogs. Wet Bank Guide’s was from Sun Ra: “Its after the end of the world. Don’t you know that yet?: Living in a landscape and among a people that makes Waiting for Godot seem greeting card cheerful it was a good one, and I still carry that one engraved deep inside.
Here on Toulouse Street the closest we have to an epigram is the little box at right quoting Jim Morrison: “I love the friends I have gathered together here on this thin raft.” There are no better words for how I feel about New Orleans and the people I know here, and I have a rough painted sign in the backyard (my own attempt to emulate Rex’s movement) to remind me of this daily.
Perhaps it is time for a new epigram. I am thinking of the one below for now, one which jumped immediately into my mental scribble of a Katrina anniversary post Friday night. I think it encompasses so much of our experience, what is borne out of the alchemy of profound loss and a ruthless optimism, an insistence that there will be a city here if they must build it from our bones. No, that’s a bit too angry, too old fashioned Markus the Wet Bank Guy in his locusts and honey madness (but true none the less).
This epigram is a bit more detached, distant from the anger at the past, anger at the Federal Flood and all that represents; not forgetting the past but a step into the future informed by all that has happened; a rebirth (which is all we ever wanted). It is an experience not unlike Bob Kaufman’s who first spoke the poem the quote below is taken from the day he ended a decade long Buddhist vow of silence–taken after the Kennedy assassination which he kept until the end of the Vietnam War–stepping out of that quiet chrysalis into a world transformed in part by his words.
All those ships that never sailed
The ones with their seacocks open
That were scuttled in their stalls…
Today I bring them back
Huge and transitory
And let them sail
Remember August 29, 2009Posted by The Typist in 8-29, Federal Flood, Hurricane Katrina, je me souviens, levee, New Orleans, NOLA, Remember, Sinn Fein, We Are Not OK.
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Four Years August August 28, 2009Posted by The Typist in 8-29, Federal Flood, je me souviens, levee, New Orleans, NOLA, Toulouse Street.
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I think this piece, written last year about this time, bears repeating:
Three years August and the storms are being named like epic ships, a doom upon our shore, and I think of the levees still leaking and of the flood walls patched with paper mache, our Potemkin defenses are not ready and we are not ready and the Big One is out there, invisible, a mighty wind, waiting for us. Someone empties a pistol into the night and I think of Jessica and Chanel and Helen and Dinerral as I watch the MPs in their Humvees roll by like armored ghosts. I think of the streets running into blocks running into miles of houses houses houses houses houses empty eyed with plywood doors and ragged lawns. And I think I’ll have another drink and light another cigarette and then another drink and then–I stop thinking. That is when this comes into my head. It is a compulsion, like biting ones nails until they smart and bleed, this thought that what we write may not be our Genesis but an Apocalypse, prophetic of the end. And yet we stay because to live here is to walk through wrack and ruin counting the flowers in the weeds and discover: you are not alone, everywhere there are people smiling, people with crumpled souls and rough stomachs, suffering what you are suffering, worse than you are suffering, suffering beyond your imagining and all for the sake of this place, because they see this city as you do, because they are the figures in the frame that make the landscape. A terrible beauty spills out of their eyes like tears and bathes the city in light.
Requiem August 27, 2009Posted by The Typist in 504, 8-29, Federal Flood, Flood, je me souviens, levee, Sinn Fein, Toulouse Street.
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I remember where I was when I first heard this song, on an NPR broadcast. The NPR archive reminds me it was Sept. 14, 2005. I was driving through South Fargo to pick my daughter up at junior high school. I had to pull over. I was late.
This video contains disturbing images of the dead. Here on Toulouse Street, as on the Wet Bank Guide, above all we Remember them:
…”Our Father, Oshun, Mother of God, ghosts of the Flood—we remember. We have suffered, and we will never forget the Flood and those who did not come through. We are the people who came through and came back. We remember the lost. We remember you. Je me souviens.”
I got a nasty-gram from You Tube, noting that I have posted something with content owned by Koch Entertainment. I sent Eliza Gilkyson, who wrote and performed the song Requiem, via MySpace asking if she might call off the hounds for a few days, at least until the anniversary is past.
Update:I just heard back from Eliza Gilkyson via My Space mail. She says it is lovely, and not to worry about Koch. Thank you, m’am.
The Tsunami of St. Claude Avenue August 27, 2009Posted by The Typist in 8-29, Federal Flood, Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans, NOLA, Toulouse Street.
It swallowed them whole, then spit them back out
like a snake’s breakfast, the unwanted bits
left to bloat and bleach and wash up at last
on the brown avenues in back of town.
Some hung from trees as their grandfathers did,
strange fruit that sprung up from a poisoned soil.
Separate but equal triumphed at last.
Indiscriminate and leveling death
made them one with the matrons of Lakeview
and left the men of St. Charles Avenue
unmasked at last: lords of misrule
over the ruins of a lost kingdom.
July 4th, 2009 July 4, 2009Posted by The Typist in 8-29, Federal Flood, je me souviens, New Orleans, NOLA, Sinn Fein, Toulouse Street, We Are Not OK.
Tags: Fourth of July, Independence, Independence Day, July 4th
On this day, I will remember the heroism of the Coasties and the moment Lt.Gen. Russel L. Honore told the soldier at the Convention Center “put down that rifle, son. This is a relief mission.” I will remember the tens upon tens of thousands of good Americans who have come on their own time and their own expense to rebuild a city.
And I will remember that at first the Guard came with rifles and no water and until Honore came they watched the people die in fear and horror because no one in command could figure out what to do. And I will remember the photograph of the elderly woman at the Convention Center, her body hidden beneath the American flag. I will remember the other pictures I have seen of bodies hidden under flags torn down to cover them because after the storm the flags were still there.
I will remember it wasn’t much of a storm here in town (never forgetting the rest of the coast, the Hiroshima barrenness of Waveland) but instead that here the Federal levees failed. And I will remember that this city has largely been rebuilt by the survivors and those church groups and earnest college kids while the central government discovers new ways not to compensate us for the failure of their works. I will remember they rebuilt Hiroshima, and did not need fraternities and church clubs from the Midwest to do so.
And through all these thoughts I will join the tens of thousands of others and Go Fourth on the River to watch the fireworks because if you detect feelings of ambivalence here you are fucking well right, but America is not something I left behind because I think I’m so damned smart and Euro-leftie-sophisticated. It is something that was brutally taken from me, the last illusions torn away by the Federal Flood and its never ending aftermath. I still miss it sometimes.
So I will stand on the river levee and watch the rocket’s red glare and bombs bursting in air here on this transient earth in the only place to which I can honestly and without reservations still pledge allegiance: New Orleans.
You may roast your weenies. We will boil our shrimps. Eh la bas.
Sax in the City June 19, 2009Posted by The Typist in 8-29, Federal Flood, Hurricane Katrina, Jazz Vipers, New Orleans, NOLA.
Americans will probably continue to use economists’ numbers to measure recovery from the current recession. But as we debate what to do for the millions of homeowners who are “under water” — owing more on their homes than the homes are worth — we could learn from a city that knows a thing or two about being under water. New Orleans can teach us that the life we build with our neighbors deserves at least as much attention as our endless thrust towards newer and bigger.
–Dan Baum, The Way of the Bayou , New York Times
Yeah, you right.
Except, Dan, “the Bayou” to a lot of folks is a place you get to be crossing over to the West Bank and heading down Highway 90: Cajun Country. You’ve been down here long enough to know that, but I guess Big Apple headline writers are too busy rudely shoving people out of the way to snatch their cabs to whisk them to Tavern on the Green for lunch, or some such goofy stereotype.
Hell, forget about Irvin Mayfield running for mayor. I nominate Joe Braun of the Jazz Vipers. He may be the my generation’s equivalent of a trustafarian, but then he doesn’t really need so steal anything. He’d make sure the important things–music, food, the real life down here–were put first. Joe doesn’t strike me as the political type, but he did make a fine speech at Jazz Fest in favor of reopening Charity Hospital “where so many jazz musicians were born”.
And Dan: you can’t honestly say people down here don’t want change. It’s just that we don’t want change on the terms of a lot of carpetbagging architects from up north who only know how to build a movie facade retail “towne”, or bulgy eyed school reformers looking to start the Ayn Rand Charter Academy of Applied Objectivism.
We want the things most people want. We just want them on our own terms because frankly we’ve figured out what everyone else in our neighbor to the north only dreams about: not how to work and get ahead, not how to pay for it all, but how to live. Sure, things change. The Spotted Cat is no more and I hear there’s been some falling out with Bruce the clarinet player and frankly, a band like that needs a clarinet player (paging Dr. Micheal White, paging Dr. Micheal White). But usually that vanished clarinet player or chef just shows up down the street, and life goes on.
So be sure to come back and visit us. Maybe you can stop by Rising Tide IV this August 22nd. We’ll try to have some bagels and “Northern Coffee” for you.
Not just another one, but someone June 5, 2009Posted by The Typist in 8-29, Federal Flood, Hurricane Katrina, je me souviens, New Orleans, NOLA, Toulouse Street, We Are Not OK.
Tags: John Dauns
Today one of the closest friends of one of my oldest and dearest friends died. His certificate of death will read cancer but in his story we see he was in part another victim of of Hurricane Katrina and the Federal Flood.
His story as told by Victoria Slind-Flor is here. It says, in part:
John never recovered from Katrina. Every task of daily living was three times more difficult for him. He had constant car trouble, and sometimes had to take his bicycle long distances to any of the stores where he could buy groceries. He began eating only one meal a day, and because shopping was so difficult, his food choices became more and more limited. The first time I saw him post-Katrina, when he came out for a visit, I was appalled as he’d lost so much weight and had such ill-fitting clothing. And he seemed so much more anxious than he’d ever been before. Each time he came out to California, he saw more risks, more dangers, more causes for anxiety in all directions. I’d go out into the garden to water and come back inside finding him sitting in exactly the same rigid and vigilant position he was in when I left. He didn’t sleep well at night when he was here, constantly waking and looking around anxiously.
There is a hidden pattern in this story that perhaps only I see, a revelation that the events of 8-29 were one of the last great events of the 20th century. John was certainly marked all his life by his experiences in World Word II as a child. His life, it seems, was booked marked by great upheavals. Epochs do not end neatly in years which end in zero, and I think the failure of our Twentieth Century engineering and the reaction of our governments, hamstrung by the great, late-century conservative revolution of sabotage by tax cut, all brought us to where we are today. The story of New Orleans is as as much a disaster of the Twentieth Century as the burning of the Hindenburg.
And John, like so many of our oldest citizens, survived but just barely, less well equipped to survive the vicissitudes of life. I am reminded of the friend of my mother’s who died well after 2005 but who’s family marked on her stone “victim of Katrina,” of the story someone told at the Rising Tide conference two years ago of the elderly gentleman who simply gave up trying to rebuild his own home and calmly walked into the river.
If you have been here long enough you will know that part of what I do here is in remembrance of 8-29-05, in remembrance of The Dead. My friend Victoria is a Pagan and tells us herself what she will do come Samhain this year, not too unlike what I sometimes do here: Remember.
Every year at Samhain, it’s my privilege to stand on the top of a mountain under the stars, in the middle of a circle of friends, and call out the names of the Beloved Dead, who have passed from this life during the previous year. This year, John’s will be one of the names I will call. And my friends will slowly dance a circle around me, chanting softly “What is remembered lives” at each name. John, you will always be remembered with love and affection. Thank you for the gift you were to me, and to many others.
Je me souviens.
An Odd Fellow’s Memorial Day May 25, 2009Posted by The Typist in 8-29, Federal Flood, home, Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans, NOLA, Remember.
Tags: Memorial Day, New Orleans cemetery
I was born in 1957 and so I am reckoned one of the last of the baby boomers, that generation borne by the parents who went through World War II. I grew up in a neighborhood full of fathers who had served in World War II, some later in Korea, and frankly I do not remember anyone making much of Memorial Day.
It was the sort of day when the grownups would sit outside, cocktails in hand and laughing; one of the last days before the heat became unbearable, when they could reenact the ritual they knew from the days before air conditioning of sitting out and visiting with the neighbors; a day when the children would run wild up and down the lawn-flanked, oak-shared lanes that ran behind all our houses, as tipsy as our parents on the first days of summer freedom. The fog man might come by in his war surplus jeep pumping God only knows what sort of poison out in a bright, white cloud to keep down the mosquitoes, and the kids would run after him and into the cloud yelling, “the fog man, the fog man”, our small bodies sucking up the DDT while our parents drank bourbon and branch and let us run wild.
Most people’s childhoods must seem an idyllic time looking back from the age of fifty-something but ours seems particularly so as I watch my children grow up without a pack of children on the block and among neighbors who mostly don’t socialize as our parents did. The place we grew up, the upper-middle class suburb of Lake Vista with its cul de sac streets and the shaded sidewalks called lanes that ran behind the houses and up to broad parkways that bisected the neighborhood, was certainly Edenic compared to most every other place I’ve lived.
By the early 1960s it was full of families whose fathers had made something of themselves after the war, professionals and small business men who had done well. These were not people who came home and joined the Veterans of Foreign Wars or the American Legion, the ones who kept their old uniforms and decorations to pull out on Memorial Day to parade down the street. Those were not our fathers: men who after the war were busy trying to finish school or start careers with small children and wives they married so young, who were busily trying to sort out and make something of their life. No one in our neighborhood joined those groups or marched in those parades.
Our father’s did not talk much about the war to us even as we ran through the neighborhood armed with plastic replicas of the very weapons they had carried, acting out the hundreds of old war movies that were a staple of television of the time. We did not much go in for Cowboys and Indians, but preferred to play act the battles of the TV show Combat! For my own father perhaps it was the one experience he told me of, huddled in a beet furrow somewhere in France pinned down by machine gun fire and raked by mortars. He huddled in that furrow, dug small shelves into the mud and lined them with tissue and tore down his Browning Automatic Rifle which had landed in the mud.
He was one of the few survivors of that event, and while he never spoke of it except in outline (and to proudly recount how he cleaned his BAR) I can readily imagine laying there in the dark and the rain, cleaning his weapon while around him most of the young men he had trained with for this day lay dead or dying, some of them perhaps crying out, others fingering the rosaries like the one I still have, the one my mother made for my father to take with him. If to these men Memorial Day was not a time to remember what they went through but to celebrate their survival, to relish friends and family over cocktails on a buggy, summery afternoon I can find no fault in that.
I grew up in an era when the little cardboard bank calendars, the ones with the bank’s name in faux gold leaf and a mercury thermometer in the frame, still listed Confederate Memorial Day (observed on Jefferson Davis’ birthday on June 3rd in most of the South, so soon after the current observance). Perhaps that is a small part of the lack of enthusiasm for the official Memorial Day. And this far toward the equator a Monday in late May is not the first day warm enough for the beach or a big picnic in the park, not by a long shot. If anything, Memorial Day is likely as not to be the first truly miserable day of summer, when the mercury in those little calendar thermometers would first climb above ninety and the breeze in from the lake was as full of water as the pitcher that sat on the patio table and we were just as sweaty.
So come Memorial Day down in New Orleans we might catch the President laying a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns on the 10 o’clock news as we crawl into bed, stuffed with grilled steak and itchy with bug bites and sleepy from too much beer in the sun, but the reason for the day will largely escape our notice. As the air conditioning whistles us to sleep it might occur to us that summer, at last, has truly arrived, as wet and heavy and ominous as a blizzard turned inside out.
Memorial Day has a new and special significance for me: this is the day I arrived home. In May 2006 I left the children with their grandparents in Fargo, N.D. to be put on a plane later, hitched the boat to the back of the car and started south. Three days later on Memorial Day, 2006 I parked the boat in a marina yard in Mandeville, and made my way across the lake to the small house on Toulouse Street that is now our home. When I sat down to write about it this time last year the real significance of the date finally began to sink in. The first years it was, “oh, this was the week the kids and I got to New Orleans”, but not a day fraught with meaning.
I read those old words (trying to recall how many beers in the sun proceeded that post) and I once again recall that drive as if it were yesterday. It occurs to me that taking a short cut down Polk in Lakeview–over broken streets that already looked like Patton’s Third Army had rolled over them 20 years before the flood, lined three years ago with houses that looked like the combat-broken landscape of the war movies of my childhood–I had missed passing all of the large monuments of the cemeteries.
I can’t quite name them all unless I jump in the car or on the bike and ride up and down City Park Avenue but a few some to mind, the firefighter’s memorial from the days of the old volunteer fire companies and the mounded hill that covers the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks mausoleum in Greenwood, the tall Grecian column just across the street that memorializes I don’t know what (but will have to wander over later and find out), the pharaonic family tomb that squats in a corner of Metairie Cemetery just off of the interstate.
Somewhere behind the perpetually uncared for broken clock that stands at the head of Canal Street in Greenwood Cemetery lies the Hilbert family tomb where my father and brother lay with my mother’s family. Someday when my mother and her sister are not around to question me I will put up a stone that says Folse atop the one that reads Hilbert, but I don’t want to be buried there among the Hilberts. I have no idea what anyone reading this should do with my remains, but that tomb is not the place. It will not be my own tiny monument in that field of raised tombs.
I often spoke of building a raised tomb when I lived in Fargo, anxious that I might just be tossed into the ground like the rest of them, wanting my far off branch of the family to have a proper memorial of the sort someone from New Orleans expects. Now I think: better to be cremated and hope I have friends who survive me who will know what to do with those ashes, the places that were significant enough to me to be fitting. The thought that those friends will know what to do is probably memorial enough, to know I will be remembered.
For now the only personal monuments I care about are the ones I have built here, the Wet Bank Guide and this one, Toulouse Street, and the pieces out of the Wet Bank Guide that make up Carry Me Home. I don’t want to be remembered for myself but rather as just another of the people who came home, that one cross you see in some pictures with a flag planted, or a spray of flowers in the endless fields of green and white that are military cemeteries. I want to be remembered as one of them all, as someone who helped to tell their story.
As we planned for the next Rising Tide conference the other night, the talk turned to how New Orleans has changed, and its people with it. Someone madet he comparison that occurs to me over and over again: that of the people of the Federal Flood to those of the Greatest Generation. Orleanians are thought indolent and silly with our devotion to festival and food above all else but all around me are people who have been through a profound trauma most Americans can barely imagine. They survived the biggest displacement Americans seen since the Civil War, returned to a city more like Europe after the bombardment and battles of WWII than anything ever seen on this continent, have struggled for years (still struggle today) to live here and rebuild.
These are a people who have seen death and devastation, known loss and disappointment that is painful to catalog, suffer from a traumatic stress that is not post traumatic stress because it is not yet over, may never be over for people of the generation of the flood, and still they get up on certain days and march down to the appointed place and eat and drink and dance and are happy. They are at once not that different from my parents sitting out on Memorial Day and at some deep level they are profoundly transformed. As we approach the fourth anniversary of the Hurricane Katrina and the Federal Flood they are people who have pulled themselves up by their bootstraps and made the case for why we should be here. Few people since the days of the pioneers have a stronger claim to a place.
Some will think it irreverent and disrespectful to say this on Memorial Day, even as soldiers patrol in far off lands and on this day sacred to soldiers some may die, but I have said it before and I will say it again. I look at the people around me and all they have been through and all they have accomplished to remake their home and I think: there is no finer place to be an American today than in their company, here in New Orleans.
* Yes, I’ve cribbed this title from last year’s post, but it still seems apt. I will leave it to the burrowing graduate students of New Orleans history, the ones I imagine pouring over our blogs a hundred years from now as our own generation scoured the letters of civil war soldiers, to figure out if I was onto something or just lazy.
Find someone or something to cling to May 9, 2009Posted by The Typist in 504, 8-29, Bloggers, cryptical envelopment, New Orleans, NOLA, poem, Poetry, Toulouse Street, We Are Not OK.
Tags: Ashley Morris, Kim Addonzio, Ray Shea, Storm Catechism
Purloined from today’s Poetry Daily (see the RSS feed down the gutter at right), something in this piece at the bottom of this post seems to speak to this day in New Orleans like an especially apt horoscope. The news that another one of us is leaving, torn away by the whirlwind of a bitter child custody dispute, reminds us that we defy the gods to be here and risk the price they can extract.
When I first moved here and through some contacts in the media was interviewed as a willing transplant to a disaster zone, I was asked if I knew of any other post-Federal Flood arrivals. I always recommended Ashley Morris and Ray Shea.
Ashley died last April. In the afterword to Carry Me Home, I recalled something from his funeral:
Three of us were written up by the Los Angeles Times: Ray Shea, Ashley Morris and I. Ashley died April 2, 2008 at the age of forty-four of a heart attack. As we listened to the Hot 8 Brass Band playing at the cemetery after wards, someone came up to me and said, “Now it’s just you and Ray.” It sounded not precisely like a curse, but certainly an unlucky thing to say in a cemetery in New Orleans….
Does that make me the last man standing? By no measure. NOLA is full of people who love this place madly, who by words or paint or music or food or costume or dance live out that madness in a very public way. Its not only false, its a vain conceit, and if one is even a bit superstitious perhaps a dangerous one. Not precisely a curse is what I wrote last year, but Ray’s departure still seems a reminder of the potential price of our defiant stance here on this uncertain ground.
May he, like Odysseus, return home.
The gods are rinsing their just-boiled pasta
in a colander, which is why
it is humid and fitfully raining
down here in the steel sink of mortal life.
Sometimes you can smell the truffle oil
and hear the ambrosia being knocked back,
sometimes you catch a drift
of laughter in that thunder crack: Zeus
knocking over his glass, spilling lightning
into a tree. The tree shears away from itself
and falls on a car, killing a high school girl.
Or maybe it just crashes down
on a few trash cans, and the next day
gets cut up and hauled away by the city.
Either way, hilarity. The gods are infinitely perfect
as is their divine mac and cheese.
Where does macaroni come from? Where does matter?
Why does the cat act autistic when you call her,
then bat a moth around for an hour, watching intently
as it drags its wings over the area rug?
The gods were here first, and they’re bigger.
They always were, and always will be
living it up in their father’s mansion.
You only crawled from the drain
a few millennia ago,
after inventing legs for yourself
so you could stand, inventing fists
in order to raise them and curse the heavens.
Do the gods see us?
Will the waters be rising soon?
The waters will be rising soon.
Find someone or something to cling to.
Vol. 12, No. 3
Carry Me Home book signing Saturday February 13, 2009Posted by The Typist in 504, 8-29, books, Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans, NOLA, Toulouse Street.
Tags: book signing, Carry Me Home, Maple Street Book Shop, Mark Folse
The Maple Street Book Shop will host a signing of Carry Me Home on Saturday, February 14 from 12-2 p.m. Maple Street Book Shop is located as 7523 Maple St. in New Orleans in the Uptown/Carrollton area.
Carry Me Home is available online at Lulu.com and Amazon, but I encourage you to patronize your local bookstores listed on the side of the page.
“It belongs on the bookshelf alongside the other worthy post-Katrina works. [His] heart is absolutely in the right place, and it is that heart — that passion — that the reader will ultimately remember from this book.”
• Voices of New Orleans blog, published by Chin Music Press (publisher of Do You Know (What It Means to Miss New Orleans)
“Mark’s writing is about skill and heart… A blend of reporting, memoir and analysis, Carry Me Home is as immediate as it is reflective. It’s more than a love letter to New Orleans – it’s a survival guide for post-Katrina America. Mark shows how to go through a disaster with your soul intact.”
• Michael Tisserand, author of “Sugarcane Academy” and “The Kingdom of Zydeco”
“Mark Folse is one of the best writers in Louisiana.”
• Greg Peters, Suspect Device cartoonist
Errata, Mea Culpa, (Merda) January 12, 2009Posted by The Typist in 8-29, books, errata, literature, New Orleans, NOLA, Toulouse Street.
Tags: book, Carry Me Home, errata, Mark Folse
To everyone who has received a copy of “Carry Me Home” I want to apologize for distributing an initial printing which, upon close examination, contains not not on the final, approved manuscript but on a early pre-correction copy. It has numerous (previously corrected) typographical errors.
Chaulk this up to the vagueries of on-line, on-demand publishing. The lesson: in this world, nobody has your back except yourself. Check everything three times.
In this case, I had to make a change to correct a publishing issue (page numbers on the end pages, which in Lulu’s on-demand distribution channel–the books that will go out via Amazon, B&N, etc.–is a no no). Through my error the corrected manuscript was not the final one, but an older copy (which had ended up under the newer name on my local hard drive). When I went to proof the corrected version, I only checked for the page numbers, layout, table of contents, etc. without proofing the text. Big mistake.
I am already working with the publisher to correct this, and expect to have copies of the approved manuscript in a week or so days. The on-line ordering copy is already corrected. If you received a review or promotional copy or complimentary copy, what you have is not what is intended for final distribution. I will send the local reviewers clean copies as soon as they are available.
If you received the book announcement, have been contacted by me about taking the initial placement of the book, or have indicated your interest in the book, I am going to have to step back for a week or so until I have the correct copies in hand.
Anyone with a smattering of Romance language will recognize the third term in today’s Latin for Idiots (Latin Pro Bardus) lesson.
Afterthought: Hey, someday it will be a rare and valuable first edition, so if you have one, I suggest you hold onto it.
For the curious, see the page Errata for the details of the corrections to the book.
Nothin’ Federal Happened Here January 9, 2009Posted by The Typist in 8-29, Federal Flood, Flood, je me souviens, levee, New Orleans, Ninth Ward, NOLA, Sinn Fein, Toulouse Street, We Are Not OK.
Tags: Frontline, Herbert Gettridge, June Cross, PBS, The Old Man and The Storm
“Nothin’ Federal happened here.”
— Herbert Gettridge, in the PBS Frontline
documentary “The Old Man and the Storm”
Yes, Mr. Gettridge, something Federal did happen. Not the relief we were promised, not the levees we were promised. Just what we call the Federal Flood.
It has been a long time since I wanted to cry. There were times, late at night sitting in the basement of a house in Fargo, N.D. with my family asleep, times past midnight when I knew I had to get up and go to work the next day and still I could not tear myself away from what I read about my home town and the compulsion to write about it, and I could not help myself.
Those timesfeel so distant and delirious as to seem not like memory but instead like dreams remembered, something that hints at the remnants of another lifetime lived, separate from this one. Sometimes it is like the experience of someone else. Maybe it is something I read once, or saw in a movie, a disaster film like “The Day After” with characters walking the ruins of an American city. Or maybe that sense of distance and delirium is not a disturbance but a kind of healing.
I haven’t see The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, those moments in the final scene that leaves New Orleans theaters in tears. If you are reading this and have seen that movie and do not understand what I am talking about, why people might cry at scenes of the inundation of New Orleans, then you must see this: The Old Man and the Storm.
This PBS Frontline episode was worth waiting three years for. It is the single best thing done since 8-29 on the subject of New Orleans and the Federal Flood, and every American should watch it. It captures the whole story, both the broad sweep of the failure of government and the details of a single man and his family, the mote like a tear in the eye of Mr. Gettridge and the great, splintery beam in the eye of the nation that left him alone to rebuild his house.
At the end, the interviewer/narrator June Cross, asks Mr. Gettridge “if you had to do it over again, would you do it?”
The aged man who rebuilt his house alone in the Ninth Ward, against odds that would break most men, looks away from the interviewer and the camera. The last we see of him is looking down, and away, and shaking his head.
“I’m kind of skeptical about that now. Once upon a time I could
answer that question in a split second for you. I can’t do that no more.”
I don’t want to just ask America to watch this show, I want to grab it by the hair and hold its head before the television and make the country watch the story of his man and his family, make them watch that final moment.
Two years ago I wrote these words, tonight they still ring true.
If we want a city that resembles the one of memory and desire, perhaps it is best if we are left to ourselves to build it. Give me enough people like [this]… and I believe we can do it: ourselves alone; Sinn Fein, as Ashley says. Going it alone, without fair compensation from the government for the damage they caused, will be painful. Some will try and not make it, risk everything to return and rebuild or reopen, only to loose everything. If we must go it alone, this will certainly be a smaller city, and some will leave ruined and broken by the effort. Whether we are recalled as heroes or fools only history will tell, but I think know the measure of those who have chosen to come home and try. There is no finer place to be an American today than in their company.
An afterthought: If June Cross does not win the Pulitzer and the Peabody for this, then those awards are not worth a bucket of warm shit.
The Ghost of Christmas Future December 18, 2008Posted by The Typist 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.
Tags: A Christmas Carol
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.
Good Morning, America, How Are You June 19, 2008Posted by The Typist in 504, 8-29, Corps of Engineers, Federal Flood, Flood, flooding, home, levee, New Orleans, NOLA, Toulouse Street, We Are Not OK.
Tags: Corps of Engineers, Federal Flood, FEMA, Flood, hurricane, Iowa, levee, New Orleans
GULFPORT, Ill. – Juli Parks didn’t worry when water began creeping up the levee that shields this town of about 750 from the Mississippi River — not even when volunteers began piling on sandbags. ..
Then on Tuesday, the worst happened: The levee burst and Gulfport was submerged in 10 feet of water. Only 28 property owners were insured against the damage…
It is unclear what, if anything, the uninsured Parks would get in government disaster relief. “We’re hoping to rebuild, but it depends what FEMA says and how much we get,” said Parks, who is staying with her husband in a horse trailer…
The rest is here.
A horse trailer: that is where Juli Parks and her husband are staying.
What will it be like to live in a horse trailer for a year. Or two. Or three? Better perhaps than to live in a FEMA trailer and learn too late you have been poisoned, that your children will suffer the rest of their lives.
What our brothers and sisters in Iowa are discovering is the hard truth learned in New Orleans. The levees will not protect you. The government will not save you. What you have still to learn I will get to in a moment. For now, know this: you are on your own.
I blame George Bush.
Wait, stop, don’t hit that comment button yet. Bush didn’t dynamite the levees or destroy their homes. Still, he is the top man in the political establishment that spun the story of New Orleans into a myth with no basis in reality, the ugly story on cable news and AM radio that said what happened in New Orleans couldn’t happen to real Americans. It was “those people” and their corrupt ways that flooded New Orleans. It was the stupidity of people who would choose to live in the shadow of a levee and feel safe.
What happened in New Orleans had nothing to do with you, they were told. Move on. Listen, we have a war to win and we can’t get bin Laden unless you go shopping. Who knows how many more blond high school girls might disappear in suspicious circumstances if you don’t convert to digital cable and get that iPhone. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.
It was all a lie.
And now the people who, almost three years after the Federal Flood, chose to live in the shadow of a Federal levee without flood insurance are learning the truth the hard way. You will lose everything, and the government will give you little or nothing. Maybe you will get your own Road Home program that offers half the replacement cost of a house. Perhaps the mortgage holder will lie to you and insist you have to sign that money over (you don’t really have to but they will lie to you as they lied to us, just as your insurance company lied to you when it said you were covered.) You will be left with a piece of land you can’t afford to build on.
When you try to rebuild you anyway will find the cost of construction materials has doubled and tripled since 8-29. Your insurance will increase five-fold. You will have to bear alone the full cost of rebuilding every thing around you. Your grocery bill will double to pay for the new store. Your utility company will gouge you to pay for what they lost in the flood. They will sell off the current power contracts while the power’s out and when it comes back on, the rates will have tripled. Your children’s schools will go without books for a year, if they have schools at all.
You will be told you will be better off if you move away from your home and leave it behind, to go somewhere else. Perhaps it won’t matter. The last place I lived people changed houses like they bought shoes. People cheerfully uprooted themselves to follow careers or just for a change. America has become a rootless people. Perhaps you won’t care.
Or are you more like us? Did you grandfather or great grandfather first break that earth? Did he found a town, its first bank or oldest church? Do you feel an irresistible compulsion to stay? My family has lived in Louisiana for almost 300 years. I am not going anywhere. If you follow in our footsteps, you need to forget everything you’ve heard about New Orleans, and look hard at us, at the real story of what happened here 8-29- and all the days since, because ours is the life ahead of you.
You will have to max out your credit cards, empty your savings accounts and 401ks, and still it will not be enough. You will have to cram your family into a tiny travel trailer and live there for years, even if it is slowly poisoning you. You will need to go to work all day, and come home and rebuild you house yourself all night. If you hire contractors, many will be the same predators who descended on us. They will take what money you have, and disappear. You will go back into your trailer, and you will weep in front of your children.
And still I think many of you will rebuild.
I think those of you who live in the houses or on the farms your parents or grandparents built, in the towns founded by your families generations ago, will insist on rebuilding just as we have. Somehow you will survive it all. I have a tremendous respect for the American people. They have come in the tens of thousands and still come to give of their time and effort to help us rebuild. Many of you who flooded are of that stock, are perhaps people who came to Chalmette or the Ninth Ward to guy homes or hammer up drywall.
If I sound discouraging I do not mean to. I just want you to open your eyes and see what the people of New Orleans have lived. I want everyone in American who sympathizes with you today to understand the truth. What happened in New Orleans can happen to you, and any suggestion that what happened here was unique or the fault of the victims is a lie. Not an exaggeration, or a distortion, or “spin”: a lie. It can happen to you. Perhaps because it has happened to the good people of Iowa and the other Mississippi River states people in America will wake up.
I hope that now they will realize that the country is full of levees that could fail at any moment, bridges like the one in Minnesota that could collapse. They need to know that the government the ruling political classes have worked at gutting and making ineffective for the last 30 years cannot help you, not in its current form or with its current leadership (not just one party or the other: Reaganomics and Clinton Bubblenomics have both gutted our ability to do anything as a nation). Everyone in this nation needs to know that tomorrow it could happen to them if something is not done, and what it will mean to them when it happens.
I have hope for New Orleans. For a long time, I had lost hope for America. I wrote these words many times in the last several years: the American experiment is over, and the results are in. It failed. Part of me does not want to believe that in spite of all of the hard evidence around me living in a city still half a ruin three years later. I want to find the fire that made me take a job that paid nothing as a journalist, the spirit that left me in awe when I walked the halls of Congress because I worked there. I want to remember what it was like to believe in a perfectible world, in something as big as a continent worth fighting for. I believe in New Orleans, and will fight for it, but I don’t know if it is enough.
I want to believe that the people of Iowa and Illinois will make common cause with the people of Louisiana and Mississippi, will insist that things change, will demand that the United States once again be about its people, will be a nation and not just an economy: of the people, by the people, for the people, never to perish from the earth.
People in the Midwest with flooded out lives have no time to think of this right now, but the eyes of the nation are upon them. Those of us who have walked that path must tell this story, must demand on their behalf and for all of us–even as we reach out to help our brothers and sisters in the baptism of the flood–that the levees must not fail again somewhere else, that the slow motion, disaster-without-end lived in New Orleans and the whole hurricane coast from Cameron to Gulfport should not be repeated there or anywhere.
A Tale of God’s Will May 3, 2008Posted by The Typist in 504, 8-29, Federal Flood, Flood, Jazz Fest, je me souviens, New Orleans, NOLA, Toulouse Street, We Are Not OK.
Tags: 2008, 504, A Tale of God's Will, Hurricane Katrina, Jazz Fest, Jazz Tent, New Orleans, NOLA, Requeim for Katrina, Terence Blanchard, WWOZ
Today Terence Blanchard led his quintet, with faces as solemn as morticians’, in a joyful noise together with a backing orchestral group selections of his A Tale of God’s Will (A Requiem for Katrina). It was an Odd moment for Jazz Fest (and so perhaps our favorite here on Toulouse Street). I saw two tributes so far, one for Willie “Tee” and Earl Turbington and a show featuring young students of Alvin Batiste. Both were joyful celebrations of the musicians honored, music interspersed with stories and spoken word tributes. They were perfectly in the tradition of a city where, once we have buried the deceased, the parade begins.
Blanchard’s recital this afternoon was of another character altogether. It was more like the full funeral package, with all of the the sadness and solemnity of the service and the recession from the church and march to the cemetery. The Reverend-esque Blanchard spoke of the deceased and offered an excellent homily.There was his tale of boat rescuers, of people being taken out told to be quiet so the people left behind that trip might not hear them, told to cover their children’s eyes as they passed through an area full of dead bodies, introduced the piece “Funeral Dirge”.
His homily was on the importance of Lee’s film, When The Levees Broke. He told the tale of his mother asked by Spike Lee to let him film her first return to her ruined home, of how he warned her what having a full film crew following her might mean at such a difficult and delicate moment, of how proud he was that she insisted. People, his mother told him, need to know what happened down here. This led into the piece “Dear Mom”.
When they were not playing, Blanchard and his group were as serious as their subject, and as the music they composed. It seemed fitting for the piece of music a friend of mine told me before the show was the one he would put on when he felt compelled to escape his home on the sliver by the river to drive around Gentilly, sometimes checking on homes he had gutted to see if any have made progress. When he does this, he said, he will sometimes bawl like a baby.
At the first orchestral passage, Blanchard reached up to his face and wiped with his fingers just beneath his glasses as if to wipe away tears, a motion I last saw on a jazz stage at a Red Cross benefit in Fargo, N.D., after New Orleans trumpeter Marc Braud spoke of recovering his instrument as the rest of that band played “Do You Know What It Means”.
The audience I could see (and I was rapt and could not turn my head away from the stage) were just as transported. The WWOZ DJ who sat in front of me was not the outgoing, crowd-working celebrity I had seen in the tent and up on stage announcing the rest of the day, but sat solemn as a sphinx. The other stage announcer, a man in a red t-shirt and dreadlocks, sat at the foot of the stage looking not at the musicians but stared straight ahead into some private place. A woman came and sat beside him and put her arm around him.
As Blanchard spoke and the musicians played, the rain that had held off all day finally broke in torrents, as if the music had moved not just a few thousands in this tent on this day but had seized the hearts of the heavenly host and moved them to tears as well as they considered the Odd mix of pain and beauty that is God’s Will.
It was also, as I promised Friday, a time of joy. As the band wailed through the beautiful Ashe and the straight ahead jazz numbers that ended the concert, the orchestra musicians who had sat at attention in their best, serious concert poses, began to be transported by the music as well. The first violin began to show a shy smile, and to bob her head in time as members of the audience around me did. An incredulous cello in a John Brown beard divided his attention between an incredible bass solo and watching the drummer. When Blanchard called on the audience to help him by taking of the chant “This is a tale of God’s will” from the album’s opening cut, we were all transported without moving to the Gospel Tent and the moment of redemption many of us had come for arrived at last.
As I had hoped, Blanchard’s quintet had drowned the bitch in beauty and flooded the streets with tears of joy.
Also, don’t miss the podcast interview which Blanchard’s team (he mentioned bringing in his personal sound man and tour manager to run the boards) had put up the very same evening.
N.B. Fixed numerous typos. Must not try to post when dead tired and trying to rush out the door to the Fairgrounds. Thanks G.P.
Last update: here’s another camera video of an excerpt of Ashe’.
Update 5-12-09 Based on a notice from You Tube that the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra objected to these small, low-fidelity excerpts I shot with my $100 Cannon from 100 feet away, I’m removing the video. In fact, I’m going to go back and edit out references crediting the LPO with participation in this performance and will simply refer to them as “the orchestra”.
We Will Drown the Bitch in Beauty May 1, 2008Posted by The Typist in 504, 8-29, Dancing Bear, Federal Flood, Hurricane Katrina, Jazz, Jazz Fest, je me souviens, levee, New Orleans, NOLA, Rebirth, Recovery, Remember, Sinn Fein, Toulouse Street, We Are Not OK.
Tags: 504, Jazz Fest, LPO, New Orleans, NOLA, Requiem for Katrina, Terence Blanchard, WWOZ Jazz Tent
“I told you I would be here.
It was important that I came.
I’m leaving but I’ll be back again.
Will you be here?”
— Shelton Alexander
Terrence Blanchard. Requiem for Katrina. Tomorrow at Jazz Fest
We will drown the bitch in beauty and flood the city with tears of joy.
Will you be there?
Update: Replacing generic Terence Blanchard YouTube with a camera video shot May 2, 2008 at Jazz Fest, an excerpt from Funeral Dirge from Blanchard’s A Tale of God’s Will (A Requiem for Katrina), featuring Blanchard’s Quintet and the —————- —————— Orchestra.
Update 5-12-09 Based on an objection from the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra, I have removed this brief, low-fidelity excerpt which I had posted pursuant to fair usage for comment and criticism. Apparently they don’t appreciate free promotion. I will also remove any references to the LPO from this piece as well.
Forget Jazzland and Six Flags. I’m Going To Debrisville! April 23, 2008Posted by The Typist in 504, 8-29, Debrisville, New Orleans, NOLA, Toulouse Street, We Are Not OK.
Tags: 504, amusement park, Debrisville, Flood, Katrina, New Orleans, NOLA, Six Flags
A $70 million plan proposed to resurrect the twice-failed Six Flags (formerly Jazz Land) amusement park in New Orleans East! Finally, an idea that could actually produce cranes, if only to drive them into the air to fly away from all the racket.
If this falls through, I think I want to put together a package for a Katrina/Flood themed attraction. I mean, why should the bus and van tour companies be the only ones making money off misery?
Announcing: Debrisville! After your solemn ride through Gentilly and New Orleans East, you’ll be ready for a hurricane of fun living the post-Flood lifestyle! Experience the genuine exhilaration of the frightening Road Home Roller coaster! Hold on to your lunch as you experience Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride Down Annunciation! Don’t miss the thrill-of-a-lifetime ride to the top of the Helicopter Hoist! And dare to live dangerously as you play Red Light Bumper Cars!
Don’t forget to visit our water attraction Lakeview Lagoon and thrill to the latest in wave pools technology in the When The Levees Break flood pool! When that big wave come be sure to watch out for those cars and houses! Or take a leisurely tube ride down our careful fiberglass reconstruction of St. Claude Avenue in Escape from the Ninth Ward!. While you’re there, be sure to experience the ultimate in Roof Top Dining in Lakeview’s MRE Cafe!
And just because it’s not Six Flags doesn’t mean you have to miss some old-time excitement. Be sure to visit Gangsta Town, where we will revive the old Six Flag tradition of cowboy shoot outs updated for the 21st century. In Gangsta Town you can not only visit the Rock Candy Store and see the girls do the booty shake while sipping a 40 oz Barq’s at the all-ages, family-friendly Hip-Hop House Party, you can thrill to a realistic gangta gun battle right there in the street. They’ll be poppin’ and droppin’ like nobody’s business!
Anybody else in on this?
The Shepherds and the Wolves April 9, 2008Posted by The Typist in 504, 8-29, Flood, Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans, NOLA, Toulouse Street.
Tags: Archdiocese of New Orleans, Catholic Church, demolition, Our Lady of Good Counsel, Sinn Fein, Taliban, We Are Not OK
Last night we took a woman and her daughter to dinner at Liuzza’s and to Brocatos, people my wife knew in North Dakota who came here on a Lutheran Church mission to work on homes in St. Bernard Parish for the St. Bernard Project. The church that hosted them was an Evangelical Lutheran Church led by a pastor who himself lived through the disastrous flood of Grand Forks, N.D. and who willingly took on to rebuild a church and congregation here in Lakeview.
What happened here, my wife told her friend, had reaffirmed her faith in organized religion: so many religious volunteers have come and done so much work. I wanted to disagree, but I bit my tongue. It is not organized religion that is rebuilding our community, and most certainly not the church my family professes, the Roman Catholic Church.
My own growing distaste for that institution (not its people, mind you; certainly not all of the clergy) was firmly cemented when It joined the pantheon of clannish hate cults, jumping up to their too-tight clerical collars into the Gays Aren’t People campaign of the last few election cycles. My loathing was made stronger watching the local hierarchy decide without explanation which parishes would live and which would die in the post-Federal Flood city, especially the painful episodes of St. Augustine’s and St. Francis Cabrini. the “cathedral of the lakefront“.
One simple fact to know about The Church, or any church: where parishes returned, congregations followed. Where pulpits were left empty and the churches left filled with the rotting remains of vestments and missals, people were slow to return if they came back at all.
Witness the miraculous recovery of the Vietnamese-American community of New Orleans East, an area like most of those east of the Industrial Canal lade completely to waste. Led by Father Vien Thé Nguyen, Our Lady Queen of Vietnam first sheltered those who stayed for the storm then led the recovery of their community.
Or look at Lakeview. Fr. Paul Watkins, the parochial vicar (associate pastor) of St. Dominic Catholic Church in there , told Brian Denser of WTUL’s Community Gumbo in 2007: “we have spearheaded the recovery…everywhere the priests were allowed to return those neighborhoods have come back. The parishes that were closed…the neighborhoods are all exceptionally grim.”
Now, take a drive in the area around Parish Avenue where Cabrini Church once stood to you can understand what other areas of the city looked like, say, two years ago.
Today the Archdiocese of New Orleans will announce the closure of additional parishes. These are not those drowned by the failure of the federal levees. Take for example Our Lady of Good Counsel on Louisiana Avenue in Uptown new Orleans. Accomplished local novelist (and blogger) Poppy Z. Brite distributed a statement that tells us the story of the church where she was just baptized into the Catholic faith this past Easter:
This 114-year-old church ministers to 450 families, including a large number of elderly and disabled parishioners who do not have the ability to travel to another church. Both OLGC and another historic Uptown church, St. Henry’s (which is 152 years old and ministers to 300 families) are to be closed in April. Our Lady of Good Counsel was one of the first Catholic churches to reopen in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. Since then, we have repaired the
minor wind damage we sustained in the storm, doubled the size of our congregation, and made great progress toward paying off our debt to the archdiocese. Our congregation ministers to the local poor through the St. Vincent de Paul Society and other organizations, and we hold a popular St. Joseph’s altar each March 19, where the saint is honored and the public is fed.
Our Lady of Good Counsel is architecturally significant, with a magnificent high altar, remarkable stained glass windows, a working pipe organ, and other details that would make it part of a standard church tour in any European city. Under the archdiocese’s current
ruling, this beautiful and sacred building will be sold off to the highest bidder and could even be torn down. Only in New Orleans do we have so many unseen treasures, and only in New Orleans, it seems, are we so ready to throw them away.
An arch diocese, indeed.
Here is the beautiful building the Archdiocese intends to sell off to the highest bidder. Given the building type , unless another faith’s congregation takes it over it will be demolished. I wish the same fate on those who would demolish this as others wish on the Taliban who demolished the great cliff Buddhas. The two groups differ only in degree, not kind.
In the aftermath of the attempts to destroy the nation’s oldest African-American Catholic congregation and the demolition of Cabrini Church, I’m near speechless. What more can I say about Archbishop Alfred C. Hughes and his arch-henchman Fr. William Maestri? Having dropped the F-bomb more times this week than I have in all the months and years since 8-29, I think this time insteadd I’ll just quote (but not profess) the words of a simple carpenter whose teachings Hughes and Maestri once swore to profess: Forgive them. They know now what they do.
As these new centurions of the Roman Catholic Church draw out the last nail, wagering perhaps over what the auction price will be, it is important we remember this: Our city is being rebuilt by in a very large part by individual volunteers who understand, who have internalized an important part of the message of Jesus: to help the downtrodden, the afflicted and oppressed. They come not at the direction of men with great offices in Rome or opulent television studios in the suburbs of the south. They come because of their personal commitment to live out the charge laid on them twenty centuries ago:
And Jesus answering said, A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. And by chance there came down a certain priest that way: and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. And likewise a Levite, when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and passed by on the other side. But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him, And went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. And on the morrow when he departed, he took out two pence, and gave them to the host, and said unto him, Take care of him; and whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee. Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbor unto him that fell among the thieves? And he said, He that shewed mercy on him. Then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do thou likewise.
The Catholic Church, an anchor of this Franco-Iberian founded city, is just another institution that betrays us, just as government–the city, the state, and the central government–have betrayed us. Each of these looked on our suffering and saw an opportunity for profit and advancement. Tomorrow the NOLA Bloggers will bury our good friend Ashley Morris, and we will remember one thing he leaves behind, his own charge to people not his disciples but certainly his comrades: Sinn Fein, Ourselves Alone. The Church’s actions today remind us that the institutions we have trusted are now run not by shepherds but by wolves. We can only save ourselves by our own actions and in spite of them.
Sinn Fein, New Orleans. And thank you, Claudia and all of the volunteers of all faiths (and none) who have come and helped to rebuild our city. May you hold Hughes and Maestri in your prayers and beg for them mercy and forgiveness, for I should give them neither.
The Great Wave March 4, 2008Posted by The Typist in 504, 8-29, art, cryptical envelopment, Dancing Bear, Hurricane Katrina, Japan, New Orleans, NOLA, postdiluvian, Remember, Toulouse Street, We Are Not OK.
Tags: 504, art, Hokusai, Japan, New Orleans, NOLA
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I found this postcard of a picture by Hokusai while in Washington, prompting the following caption-cum-fable for New Orleans..
The foamy fringe is a nest of threatening fingers reaching out to swamp the boats. The mountain is distant, cold capped, oblivious as the gods. The men’s backs are turned to the wave, and bent to the task of rowing. They did not choose the sea; the sea chose them. It is the world they were granted by their ancestors, a way as deeply ingrained in their souls as the salt in their sea-glare furrowed brows. The sea is a mirror of the sky, sometimes placid and other times fierce with wind, and where else shall men live except between the sky and the sea, those promising and pitiless fields of blue? They have heard the tale of tsunami, whole villages swallowed by the sea, places where people no longer beach their boats, coasts given over to ghosts. Still, they rise up with the sun and go down to their own nets. When confronted with the Great Wave, there is nothing to do but row.
This is a repost from long ago, back when visitors number in the high single figures, inspired by taking down the postcard off the wall where it had become buried by other things since summer of 2006. The mood seems apt to me at the moment and it is now my computer desktop and home and work. Tje idea it inspired in 2006 worth repeating for a larger audience now that this is my primary blog.
Its a new day January 21, 2008Posted by The Typist in 8-29, Bloggers, cryptical envelopment, Dancing Bear, Flood, home, New Orleans, NOLA, NOLA Blogroll, Odds&Sods, Rebirth, Recovery, Remember, Uncategorized, We Are Not OK.
Tags: New Orleans, NOLA, Toulouse Street, Wet Bank Guide
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Just a note if you’ve wandered in from Wet Bank Guide, as I transition out of that project and on to others, to welcome you to Toulouse Street — Odd Bits of Life in New Orleans. This is a different space, one I originally started as a place to put odd things that didn’t seem to fit on the high tone I had set at WBG. If you scroll down, you’ll find plenty of odd bits of life in NOLA here, and some just plain odd things that just pleased me as I sit here typing on Toulouse Street.
I have updated the once brief blogroll here to incorporate everyone (I think) who is still publishing that was listed at WBG. I’ve I’ve left you off, sorry. I often steal time away to blog late at night or early in the morning when the faculties have sometimes sent themselves to sleep early even as I bask in the glow of the monitor and thoroughly screw up my circadian rhythms, or else are still lying tangled in the mind’s sheets even as the body stands upright and stares intently at the dripping coffee.
New Orleans remains my theme, my obsession almost. That deep connection was always there in me during the 20 years I lived away, in the manner Catholicism is imprinted upon me by growing up in New Orleans and twelve years of Catholic school regardless of professed or practiced faith. New Orleans will still predominate here, but since this is more a blogger’s blog–what I once called (no insult intended) a vanity blog–I feel freer to drop in bits of favorite music, poetry and the just plain weird.
If you’re looking for something more like what Wet Bank Guide had become over time, keep coming. I am not going to stop writing about New Orleans and I will continue to find joy and sorrow worthy of note and a special effort on my part, and will post some of that here. You can also drop by Poems Before Breakfast and find where some of my creative energy has been going lately.
And here, as at Wet Bank Guide, we will always Remember. The events that drove WBG are as imprinted on us as the necessity that any dish in a pot worth having should begin with celery, bell pepper and onion in a sizzling roux. It is still After the End of the World. Don’t you know that yet? My touch stones remain: Je me souviens Remember 8-2; We will never forget. Still, Toulouse Street is more a celebration than a lament. Jim Morrison’s lyric “I love the friends I have gathered together here on this thin raft” is our slogan, even if we are still huddled together here because it is after the end of the world. For us it’s a new day every day, a continual act of will and creation to make again one of the great cities on this earth.
Ok, that’s enough cheerful stuff this early in the morning. We now return you to your regularly unscheduled coverage of my view from Toulouse Street — Odd Bits of Life in New Orleans.
New Orleans students take on Corps of Engineers November 7, 2007Posted by The Typist in 8-29, Corps of Engineers, Debrisville, Flood, flooding, New Orleans, NOLA, Rebirth, Recovery, Remember, Toulouse Street, We Are Not OK.
Tags: Corps of Engineers, flooding, Hurricane Katrina, levee, levees, New Orleans, Ninth Ward, nola 8-28
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If you have a You Tube account/login, please visit this video’s page and vote for and favorite this video produced by New Orleans school children in support of an 8-29 commission: