jump to navigation

Angels Sustaining and Triumphant July 17, 2008

Posted by The Typist in Toulouse Street.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,
2 comments

Like everything here in postdiluvian New Orleans the movement towards a Katrina Memorial drags slowly on. Everything down here moves by fits and start, like an old man pushing a scrap cart up the street.

We are not building the New Jerusalem here, for all of the bright and optimistic noise made back in the heady days of the recovery planning process. Thousands of citizens came together, night after night, to draft the plans for their shining city behind the small hills called levees. So many plans, drawings, maps and renderings, reduced in the end to pickings for that scrap man.

In spite of the monumental failure of the city’s leaders to produce any large projects people all over town are hammering their lives back together. Those who are here are busy and more than a bit worn down by it all, as might be expected. Rebuilding a city is hard work, especially as we are going by the well-established shanty town method of everyone for his or herself because the government and their consultants have only managed to erect promising looking signs (Coming Soon!) after three years. So it should come as no surprise to hear that the memorial will be delayed. I have to wonder if it will ever be built.

Few expect the monument to be built by the target date of Aug. 29, Katrina’s third anniversary. “Maybe by the fourth anniversary, maybe the fifth,” said Gwendolyn Davis Brown, 53, the niece of the Rev. Lonnie Garrison, a longtime pastor at Pilgrim Progress Missionary Baptist Church in New Orleans who died in the aftermath of the storm. “There’s so much stuff going on in the city, people still have to get back into their homes,” added Patsy Dupart, 58, Garrison’s daughter.

The memorial itself looks quite nice online, although the rendering of two angels rescuing a fleur de lis looks off in the promised bright bronze. Here in the back of town (as the cab maps still refer to our section), down by the cemeteries, we are used to the more ethereal look of angels in pale marble. The expression on the picture I found here seems a bit off as well. The top most angel looks a little too coquettish and pleased with herself. We prefer our funereal angels to find the matter a bit more dolorosa. Since we seem unable to locate any construction cranes to erect in the city, perhaps we could manage something more triumphant like Sadako proudly holding her paper crane in Hiroshima; an angel sustaining in the heraldic sense (think of the Columbia Pictures woman bearing a torch), holding a fleur de lis up to the sky.

The sense of rescue the current angels convey seems wrong as well. The lists of the dead and the adjoining ovens to hold the unclaimed will give us enough of a sense of what is past and done. What is needed at the center of the hurricane swirl shaped ground is something that will speak to us on the day it is unveiled, that will tell the story of the New Orleans rising out of the floodwaters.

The city itself is its own best memorial. No one can fault Frank Minyard’s insistence that we have some fitting place to bury the unclaimed dead, somewhere better than the current potter’s field he describes as “a swamp”. If we are to have a memorial to the flood (I haven’t even begun to address whether we need a Katrina or a Flood memorial; some other time), and if it must be on the open piece of ground at Cemeteries and be itself a cemetery, then I would hope there is something about it that rises above that frozen moment of 2005 and carries the visitor into our future.

If the statuary won’t give you the rest of the story, then let the city tell its own story. I would suggest to a visitor that as they leave the memorial site (should we in fact ever manage to build it), then stroll up Canal Street back towards the river, and consider that once ten feet of water stood there. As you reach Carrollton, turn and pick a busy restaurant, any restaurant. As you stand in that bustling neighborhood consider the pictures most shops have somewhere on the wall, showing their business ten feet under or after. Then look at the place and the people around you, the old made new and full of life.

Those people in line with you and the ones behind the counter are our angels sustaining and triumphant.

Advertisements

Quotes From A Life April 10, 2008

Posted by The Typist in 504, New Orleans, NOLA, We Are Not OK.
Tags: , , ,
add a comment

As we prepare to bury our friend Ashley Morris tomorrow, I want to share some quotes from an article I found in the break room todayi n USA Today. These are taken from the write up of a memorial for Norman Mailer, who passed away last year.

I’m not comparing Ashley’s blogging to Mailer’s writing (although at times, on a personal preference level, I’d probably have clicked his blog rather than pick up Mailer. That’s just a matter of taste). It is more the striking synchronicity of the person these eulogists are describing. And there was something of Mailer as well as H.S. Thompson about Ashley. He and Mailer certainly shared a taste for the scatological imperative.

Tina Brown, the British-born writer and former editor of the New Yorker, said Mailer was “everything I came to America for: a large-scale, flamboyant risk taker who refused to be defined by anyone other than himself.”

Write Kate Mailer recalled a family mountain climb led by her father during a thunder storm. She saw a warning sign and told her father, “We’ll all die.” To which he answered, “You have to learn to question authority. We should all be lucky enough to die on a mountaintop.”

And finally author Don DeLillio, praised Mailer as someone “figuring out the world, sentence by sentence.”

If you knew Ashley, this needs no explanation. If you didn’t and you know something of Mailer’s life, the perhaps it will help you to understand the Ashley we have all been memorializing this past week and will bid farewell tomorrow.

And don’t forget to click the link at right to help Hana and the three small children Ashley’s untimely death leaves behind.

Remember Chanel, Remember Them All February 29, 2008

Posted by The Typist in 504, Dancing Bear, je me souviens, New Orleans, NOLA, Toulouse Street, We Are Not OK.
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,
11 comments

Ever since I posted a list of all of the New Orleans dead of 2007, not a day goes by that this site is not visited by people searching for their loved ones on the internet. Yesterday, someone searched the internet for “chanell sanchell new orleans”.

Today, we’re going to remember Chanel. I didn’t know this person. That doesn’t matter. If we only choose to remember the people we knew, or the people like us, then remembrance is an act of selfishness. If we only worry about people who look like us or move in our circles and places, then it will never end.

It doesn’t matter that I did not know her or her family. It only matters that she has joined The Ghosts. To be among the ghosts is not to be denied the heaven of one’s dreams. It is to be in an honored host, as honored as those who stand at the foot of the throne if you tend to that version. It is to be remembered, to be a part of the city forever.

Here is Chanel’s story from Nola.com. From the news reports, she sounds like a good kid who ran with the wrong crowd. Perhaps it was the only crowd she knew, was full of the faces she knew from the time she first toddled down the steps of a building in St. Bernard on her own two feet, a crowd that perhaps included her first best girlfriend, the first boy she kissed. How easy it would be for someone like Chanel to fall in with that crowd, the people she grew up with good and bad, and to suddenly find herself on the wrong side of an argument with one of the bad in that crowd, one of the worst; an argument that ended with a gun shot through the heart.

Here is a blog post from a cousin. I think The Book and the comments on his blog say more than I can. Or read the comments on this post from last October at m.d. filter.

Many of those on the lists I and m.d. filter have published are otherwise invisible on the internet. There is only the list, perhaps a mention on this blog or m.d. filter. For most, there is a brief paragraph in the Times-Picayune. “The coroner has identified… Detective so-and-so is investigating. Call Crimestoppers…”. That is all; nothing more.

If you are one of those who stumbles onto this blog looking for someone you knew, please take a moment to leave some memorial in the comments. I know you are out there, looking for something about this person. You can leave your messages anonymously. Or you can email me and I will post it as a comment. Everyone person on that list, even if they had gone down that dark path and died with a handgun in their waste band and an empty look in their eyes, all of them were once as Chanel once was, as my own children once were: as innocent as a lamb in the lap of Jesus. Someone, somewhere who uses the internet remembers them not as a name on a list but as a person. (I know because you come looking for them.) Tell us something about that person. Tell us what you perhaps said or wish you had said when the minister at the funeral asked if anyone wanted to speak.

Some of us chose to remember, like the bone men. I want the dead and the living to know that we remember, that in this city there are many who remember. We will never forget one of you.

Update: I also just found this blog, which mostly captures police reports about violent crime in NOLA.

Update 5-16-08: Corrected spelling of Chanel’s name (except in the Google reference, because that’s how they find this page), per her cousin who published The Book blog.

Down by the riverside February 6, 2008

Posted by The Typist in Carnival, cryptical envelopment, Dancing Bear, French Quarter, Mardi Gras, New Orleans, NOLA, Odds&Sods, parade, Rebirth.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
add a comment

This year on Mardi Gras, with my family all home sick I took off all on my own oddy-knocky and made a point of trying to catch all of the marching krewes I could and taking a lot of pictures, starting with waiting for the Krewe of St. Anne’s on Royal Street in the Marigny and ending with finding St. Anne’s as they marched down to the riverside. I managed to track down the Ducks of Dixieland and Kosmik Debris, but never saw Pete Fountain (largely because I stayed in Marigny until after 11 waiting for St. Anne’s). I also found the Krewe of Whoo Hooo, Mondo Kayo dancing on Frenchman, and a few other odd groups I had not seen before.


Video of Krewe of St. Anne at Royal and Frenchman Streets

As a result, I missed most of the day’s parades, only catching a half dozen perhaps of Zulu as they turned onto Canal Street. The corner of Royal and Canal is not a great place for throws. The floats make a turn there and the barricades are kept far back. The only beads I had for the day were two pair I got from Queen Colleen, mother of old friends who famously parades through the Quarter pushed in a shopping cart by her adoring students and family.

colleen.jpg
Queen Colleen

My one throw was from Zulu. Not a coconut, but a walnut painted in gold. At the day’s end, when I joined St. Anne’s at the riverside and had taken my fill of pictures, I joined the St. Anne members who were memorializing their dead of the past year by throwing beads or more personal items into the river. I clambered down onto the rocks, and offered the Zulu nut to all of the ghosts of New Orleans and the Federal Flood. Inspired by the story of the Bone Men below, I invited them all to come and walk with me the rest of the day, to come and taste the visions of a day spent walking through Mardi Gras, to see the pictures I had captured not with my camera but with my memory.

riverside.jpg
St. Anne’s at the river

mourner1.jpg

St. Anne’s mourners
mourner2.jpg
More St. Anne’s mourners

Memo to my friends and family: this is how I want to go. Hire a band, invite everyone I know, and take my ashes and put them in a cart and parade them through the quarter on Mardi Gras Day. Take them to St. Anne’s in the Marigny, and parade down Royal to Zulu and Rex at Canal Street. At mid-afternoon go to the Moonwalk and wait for St. Anne’s, and scatter them there.