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Villages in the Midst January 3, 2011

Posted by The Typist in 504, 504ever.
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Our friends over at THE RUMPUS kindly accepted this, along with pieces from several other New Orleans writers (none of whose pieces are about New Orleans but hey, I’m obsessed) for an online collection of very short pieces on Neighborhood. Thanks Susan Clements and the whole Rumpus team.

Start from the division of the city along Canal Street by a median strip called the neutral ground, one side Creole and the other American, the no man’s land where the old New Orleans of the French and Spanish reluctantly mingled with the Yankee new comers of two hundred years ago. Walk either direction from Canal more than a dozen blocks, downtown past the French Quarter or uptown through the Central Business District and things begin to blur. The grand avenues of St. Charles and Esplanade are both lined with the grand old houses of the wealthy, built when the city could call itself Queen of the South, but a few blocks behind either stand the same square cottages and long shotguns of the working class.

This is where conventional demography breaks down and neighborhood begins: where you got that po-boy or snowball, where you went to school, which church’s bells wake you at six in the morning, the store your parents sent you to as a child for liquor or cigarettes because the owner knew you. There are more than two cities here, not just the division of the old city into Creole and American but also the historic city and the post-war suburbs. Whether your boulevard is lined with grand mansions or strip malls, the back streets share an architectural homogeneity that makes the name of your corner store–not the Piggly Wiggly but the one with a family name–that much more important. This is neighborhood.

There is pride in neighborhood. Is there another city in America where a ten year old can tell you which civil ward he lives in, might even break into a sing-song chant of “1st Ward, 2nd Ward, 3rd Ward: that’s Uptown! 7th Ward 8th Ward, 9th Ward, that’s Downtown!”? The Mardi Gras Indians of either side sew in different styles, one geometrically abstract and feather-heavy, the other defined by detailed patchwork of primitive realism. These streets are where New Orleans’ iconic music is born, played not for the door but for pride; where the food is best not for Fodor’s but because your grandmother’s name is on the sign; where parades are not the lumbering floats of well-to-do Carnival but the high stepping second lines of century-old Social Aid and Pleasure clubs.

These neighborhoods are the villages we create to tame a place in the wild subtropical jungle that surrounds us.

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The Ghost of Christmas Past December 13, 2008

Posted by The Typist in Toulouse Street.
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The last Christmas with real snow and frost on the windows that did not come from a can. A place where you could cut your own northern pine if you had enough hair on your balls to haul yourself out into the woodlot at twilight as the temperature plunged toward the wrong side of zero. The last Christmas with a real fireplace crackling not some video loop on the CW with bad Christmas carols.

It was a good life, one that helped make my children the fine people they are today. It was a good place full of good people, and my wife who brought me there the best of the lot. And still I would sit late at night, perched on the bricks in front of the fireplace sneaking an inside cigarette as the draft sucked away the smoke and I sipped a midnight whisky, hearing this song and dreaming of trees draped not with lights and tin balls but faded beads.

Sneaux December 11, 2008

Posted by The Typist in 504, New Orleans, NOLA.
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It’s snowing. In New Orleans. And it is starting to stick to cars and roofs and by one report to the grass Uptown.

I tried to steal the Times-Picayune’s picture but the damned Counting House firewall won’t let me complete “insert into post”. Scrooges. At least they let me put another lump of coal in the grate.

It was snowing about this heavily (and wetly; the roads were attrocious) on the Friday evening in Februray ’06 when the kids and I left Fargo to bring my wife’s car to New Orleans. How convenient that the Ben Franklin High School entrance exam right after Mardi Gras, so we spent that week here.

I will no longer kid the Mrs. about still having a scraper in her car from it’s days in Fargo, N.D. You never know when you may need one.

Local Bookstores December 5, 2008

Posted by The Typist in Toulouse Street.
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Two quick notes on local bookstores. With the opening of the new Borders on St. Charles Avenue, its more important than ever to remember the local stores that have continued to serve the city when all chain bookstores chose to locate exclusively in the suburbs.

First, there is this note from Stay Local, calling out this Saturday, Dec. 6 as a day to celebrate our local bookstores. It you haven’t finished holiday shopping yet, there is no better present than a book. (My Xmas list for this year was short, and my book is The Maximus Poems by Charles Olson.) (No dear, don’t buy it from Amazon. Have someone local order it. You can walk to deVille from work.) And if someone wants to get me that $225 copy of the Everette Maddox song book, you can find it on Amazon.

On a related note, one of my favorite local bookstores (because it’s just around the corner from work) is hosting some of my favorite local artists/activists. This just in from the deVille Bookstore mailing list:

We are pleased to invite you to the opening reception for Galerie deVille, located in the deVille Books store at 134 Carondelet Street, New Orleans, LA 70130, from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m., on Saturday, December 6, 2008.

The exhibit is entitled Inside Out/Outside In: A Celebration of New Orleans Street Art, featuring the work of Rex, Paint, Scott M., Ellipses, and Bullet-Tooth Maggie, among others.

In conjunction with this event, all “Art” books will be available at a 30% discount during the reception.

For additional information, you can go to http://devillebooks.blogspot.com.

Rex and company. Art books, 30% off. Sounds good. Did I mention that books make great gifts? (Did I mention “Carry Me Home“? Oh, my. I meant to).

Yeah, jewelry and power tools are nice (perhaps not in the same way to the same people, but still nice), but it’s just not a holiday break without a big new gifted book to dig into.

So what are you waiting for?

Another giant passes December 4, 2008

Posted by The Typist in Toulouse Street.
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Folk music and civil/human rights icon Odetta, the woman Dr. Martin Luther King annointed “The Queen of American Folk Music”, has passed.

I have a suspicion that so many social media readers are Gen X and Y, people whose memories stretch back not much further than the late 1970s. Do they know who Odetta is and what’s just happened I wonder?

I had to explain to my son the other day the concept of a variety show, but he’s just thirteen. I wonder how many 30-somethings or younger have any concept of who the Smothers Brothers were or have heard of the Glen Campbell Good Time Hour, much less any knowledge of the prominence of folk signers in the 1950s and early 1960s.

Odetta was a major influence on more familiar names: Bob Dylan, Janice Joplin and and Joan Baez. (Y’all youngsters at least recognize Dylan, right?) And she moved through the mid-century with other giants like Pete Seeger

One of the last of the Baby Boomers, I grew up in a household where there were New Christy Minstrels and Weavers records and strange LPs of African drumming with jackets that could pass directly onto a kerchief at the Congo Square Stage at Jazz Fest. It was not possible to grow up in the 1960s (or 1950s) and not know the landmark singers of the Folk Era. Every time an older musician passes I am reminded of the nights I spent listening to Roosevelt Sykes at the Maple Leaf, of the people who used to play the small gazebo stages at Jazz Fest long ago. So many are gone, and as my generation ages I wonder if these memories will pass as well.

It’s not just the linear, horizontal loss of what we think of as memory. Growing up in an era without the micro-segmentation of cable television and internet content, on any given, random day in 1965 I could just as easily be whistling a song by Tennessee Ernie Ford, Frank Sinatra or the Walker Brothers. Ihad a friend who loved to do his imitation of Louis Armstrong while the rest of us argued over whether we were Beatles or Stones men. Most people my age would know exactly who I mean if I say Caruso, an artist who died in 1921. Is What’s Opera, Doc? as funny if Caruso means nothing? I wonder if the following generations will have anything like the same breadth of exposure unless MTV runs out of programming and starts producing “Ken Burn’s Presents I [Heart] 1960”.

Enough. Here’s Odetta teaming up with Mac “Dr. John” Rebennack on a perfect song for these times, “Brother Can You Spare a Dime”. It’s a damn shame Odetta won’t make her date to sing to Obama at innaguration.

Glory at Sea December 3, 2008

Posted by The Typist in Toulouse Street.
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Vid this me droogies: a film titled “Glory at Sea”, courtesy of Court 13 and NOLA Slate, who has some background on her blog. Go over to the You Tube Screening Room and catch the high resolution version.

“Everybody had their thing, that thing that made it through the storm that had some luck in it, that may help find the person just by its own magic.”

Feel Free to Cry Along At Home December 1, 2008

Posted by The Typist in Toulouse Street.
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There were a handful of songs that sustained me over the last several years, tracing in crescendo and diminuendo curves the path of grief and recovery. First was Eliza Gilkyson’s Requiem which I first heard driving through snow-bound Fargo after dropping my child at school. When she and her daughter sang the line “Mother Mary lead us to a higher place” I had to pull the car over. Then there was “Do You Know What It Means (To Miss New Orleans)”, especially this version that so touched my wife we started down the road to Toulouse Street. After I was settled in New Orleans, I picked up the New Orleans Musicians Relief C.D. via on-line download, and I first heard Susan Cowsill’s “Crescent City Snow”.

Some time after the slow cowboy-Celtic lament of the song’s beginning, between the part where the drummer starts into a Jacobean march then segues into a second line parade, one steps out of the sheath of memory and into today, sashaying down a street where grief is transformed into the steps of a shuffle in the shadow of a parasol, the old ritual unfolded again in the new day. And it’s all good.

That water without sound November 30, 2008

Posted by The Typist in Toulouse Street.
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She hears, upon that water without sound,
A voice that cries, “The tomb in Palestine
Is not the porch of spirits lingering.
It is the grave of Jesus, where he lay.”
Sunday Morning by Wallace Stevens

Has the War on Christmas already begun, and no one told me? The holidays are a difficult time for the unchurched or those of no particular dogma, confronted by those who try (in the best American commercial fashion) to establish an exclusive franchise for their church. Their efforts to make of us A Christian Nation are at least a part of the problem I have with organized religion.

I was raised Catholic, like so many in New Orleans, just old enough to be the among the last who made First Communion in Latin. Outside of a brief episode resulting from watching The Robe with a high fever, which lead to a week of attending daily 6 a.m. Mass and my mother’s fervent hope that she had spawned a priest, I started drifting away in my teens. It was not just the idle rebellion of the young, who preferred to spend an hour Sunday morning lounging about with cigarettes while our parents thought us at Mass. The literature I read in the 1970s was at least partly to blame: a Baghivad Gita from a begging Krishna, all of Carlos Castaneda, the Zen and Buddhist obsessions of the Beats, Joseph Campbell: it seemed a thousand doors opened into the same space. How could only one be right?

Decades later the Catholic Church shows the same conservative face that banished the Liberation Theologists decades ago and claims a prominent place at the head of the homophobic parade running campaigns to Ban Gay Marriage. Those effort’s sole purpose is to advance the election of factions I oppose with my entire heart and soul, and the Church’s embrace of the proto-fascist edge of conservative America was just another nail driven in.

Just last week the Church announced it was dropping funding of Acorn, and the loud boors on NOLA.Com hooted and stamped their feet in agreement. I found myself researching once again the grounds for excommunication. It seems only appropriate that if I wish to formally sever any ties to such a large, persistent organization with a thousand years of closely-kept records, I should have an embossed piece of paper to file with my baptism and confirmation certificates to close the deal, once and for all.

But it’s too much damned trouble, and as one rational commenter on NOLA.Com pointed out on the discussions of the Acorn funding decision, if you’re as far down the road as researching the rules on excommunication, you’re already there. (There are some rational people on NOLA.Com, and I like to think WetBankGuy is one of them. Why are we there? Someone has to stand against the darkness). Instead of reading up on excommunication, I go read Wallace Stevens epic celebration of the question of unbelief, Sunday Morning.

In truth I can never completely sever my Catholic identify (even if I cannot recite the Nicene Creed with a straight face and an honest heart) unless I am willing to sever my head in the bargain. I was married in the Church, and carried the day with the monsignor who interviewed us for our pre-Cannan conference. With twelve years of Catholic school under my belt (stop snickering, Peter), I quickly knew the answers to all the right questions. It helped immensely when he learned I was from New Orleans. He had shared a room for a while at seminary with former Archbishop Phillip Hannan, and our interview quickly turned into old home week.

To be raised Catholic in this city is to be deeply imprinted not only with a faith but by a complex culture that goes with it. The idea of a secular Jew, someone raised in the faith and its observances who no longer follows them, is well accepted. This city is full of people like me who are indelibly marked by our faith if no longer observant: secular Catholics.

Even as I struggle with how to handle the holidays from now through Christmas–I must go to Mass, of course, for my wife is still a Good Catholic in so many ways even if only a Holy Day of Obligation–it is a time of year when my Catholic identify is reinforced not by the Church but by my family. My visiting father-in-law wanted Mass on Thanksgiving, so I got on the phone and found one not too early, then charged my daughter (who seems to be traveling the same path I did at her age, and does not go happily to church) to take him to St. Anthony of Padua on Canal Street.

The choice of church led by dinner time to a long conversation with my mother as well. St. Anthony was “her church” growing up in Mid-City, and I heard a new story, which is always a treat when sitting with older family members. The church was built by Spanish Dominican fathers, and she is a Dominican girl through and through–high school, college, the alumni association. To this day she is among the last of her circle of confirmed Dominican girls who several times a year break break with the remaining nuns of Dominican College, and if any opening to the subject comes up I will hear how this or that sister is doing. My daughter has a Dominican nun doll dressed in full habit, a gift of her grandmother, and I am sure my mom is disappointed that my daughter is at Ben Franklin and not at Dominican High School.

She told me of the young priests who staffed it in her girl hood were a handsome lot who made the hearts of young Catholic girls flutter. All those young men, she told me, were all sent to the Phillipines in the late 1930s, and were murdered by the Japanese. I don’t remember hearing of girls being enamored of priests when I was young, but perhaps that is a guilty secret they only share among themselves until it is a distant memory of youth and a story to tell the family so that it is remembered. Perhaps it is like our own adolescent discussions of whose mother was “hot”, a hermetic ritual of adolescent boys before our popular culture reached the point where MILF is a common word with no trace of indecency.

New Orleans is inseparable from its churches. Jackson Square is a typical colonial plaza, with St. Louis Cathedral central on one side, flanked by what were once official colonial which are now museums. St. Mary’s just a few blocks away was an 1845 addition to the Ursuline Convent in the French Quarter, the oldest building in the district. The Ursulines were the first women’s order to arrive in New Orleans, and their story is deeply entangled in the story of New Orleans. The tale of their prayers for victory before the statue of Our Lady of Prompt Succor persist to to this day and a mass is still said yearly to commemorate the event.

Every wave of Immigrants from the Catholic countries of southern Europe built their church in their neighborhood, and people are still fiercely loyal to their local. When the current leadership announced the closure of the historically prominent St. Augustine in Treme, the first parish built by and serving African-Americans in the city, led to a raucous confrontation with the Church authorities after the Archbishop’s chief henchman, the unpopular Rev. William Maestri showed up with a police escort to confront the protesters. And the more recent announcement of the closure of several healthy, active parishes in the Uptown area has lead to members occupying the deconsecrated buildings and suing in the cannon courts of Rome to have the decision overturned.

I am not fond of Maestri (if the use of the term henchman did not give this away) for his role as the Archbishops right hand man after the storm, particularly his role in the destruction of Cabrini Catholic Church. Whenever his name comes up (and as the spokesman of the Archdiocese and it’s chief enforcer, it frequently did over the last several years) she would always tell me how wildly unpopular he was when Maestri was assigned to the parish I grew up in, St. Pius X on the Lakefront.

Scratch any Orleanian and you will quickly uncover their own stories of their church. We are not so different that anyone else in this regard, but I have a hard time imagining the members of churches I knew in Minnesota or North Dakota rising up against their own Bishop to save their parish. It’s been done in Boston, but there is something temperamental to the MidWest that would likely prevent it. And living in a place that was still frontier just over a century ago, they don’t have the deep ties to a particular parish and building of people whose family has attended the same church for 150 years or longer.

I remain unchurched for the first time since I met that good Catholic girl from North Dakota. St. Anthony would be my parish were we to present ourselves and sign the register, and I will set foot in it for the first time this week when I no doubt find myself accompanying father-in-law and family to Mass. Once again I will struggle with how to respond, and find myself falling into the ritual and its recitations, but will stand silent for the Nicene Creed. It is a far cry from my mother’s wish to have from her two sons a doctor and priest.

To be unchurched–“unsponsored, free” in the words of Stevens–is not to be militantly atheist or a non-committal agnostic. One old friend detects currents in my life that lead her to invite me to join her at Samhain. I still pick up the old texts of Tao, Buddhism and Zen. The words of Jesus still stir me as they did Thomas Jefferson. It is more complex than that.

And so I will go to communion because it is expected and not out of any sense of communion, and without fear that I commit some heinous sin by taking it. It is not for me the transubstantiated flesh and blood simply because I do not believe. Whatever about the Nicene Creed or the political foibles of bad bishops troubles my mind and soul, the familiar space of Mass is something as comfortable as my own skin, and as easily taken up as required as a spoonful of gumbo. The kind teacher of love with the Sacred Heart is an image as powerful today as when it was first imagined. I will just try to let myself surrender to the moment because it is–not simply as I almost said but in a complex way–an ineradicable part of who I am.

But first, a reading for the First Sunday of Advent in anticipation of the Yule.

Still Waiting, Still Dreaming November 28, 2008

Posted by The Typist in Toulouse Street.
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“Nothing to be done.”
–Estragon in Beckett’s
“Waiting for Godot”

Was it a year ago or more that I found something comforting in New Orleans’ embrace of Samuel Beckett’s dark play “Waiting for Godot”. There was certainly something apt about it, to be embraced by those so many who stand in a barren landscape and wait, our frantic debates simply filling the time while we wait for some abstract Redemption.

If we wait, we will find ourselves like Beckett’s characters, left despondent by the news that Godot will not come today, and may or may not come tomorrow, debating how we might go about hanging ourselves and in what order. At least that’s the cheerful feeling I take away from reading the paper this week.

First there was the CNN One Crime at a Time special on crime and corruption in New Orleans. It was a sloppy piece in many ways, giving a complete pass to Mayor C. Ray Nagin on corruption and focusing on excessive use of city cars as its best example of dysfunctional government. Blogger Mominem of Tin Can Trailer Trash offered this better list in an email discussion of the city’s dysfunction, and called us a Failed State.

I don’t know about “broken windows” but “broken government” is certainly an thread. As far as I can tell there is not a single process in City Government that works up to the level of incompetence.
It takes 4-6 months to correct an error in property taxes.
It takes 2 years to get a property tax refund and you can’t apply over payments to future taxes.
The Sanitation Department doesn’t know what houses to tear down
The Police can’t keep track of evidence.
The DA can’t file motions to seize cash from drug dealers.
The Sanitation Department doesn’t know how many houses it’s being billed for, so it just pays the same amount every month.
The City has no idea how many cars it owns, who has them or who uses city gas credit cards.
The IT department can’t get crime cameras installed.
The IT department can’t get crime camera’s repaired.
It takes the city a year to get computers for the [Inspector General].

Our Chief of Police, Warren Riley, was also given free reign to rehearse his stock hand-wringing speech about poverty and bad schools, while offering no hope or relief for either his beleaguered officers or the citizens. It was a speech I would get to hear twice this week, which I will get to in a minute.

Then came the announcement that our Betters have come to a decision on building a new hospital complex downtown. Rather than take the advice of the citizens to rehab the historic Charity complex (and some some loot to boot), or perhaps to take the idle ruin of old Lindy Boggs/Mercy Hospital in my own neighborhood of Mid-City, they will instead demolish an entire neighborhood of hundreds of homes in lower Mid-City to build their bio-science field of dreams.

One ignored side effect of this is that the area where I worked for the last year-and-a-half, the north side of the Central Business District, will remain mostly a ghost town of abandoned commercial buildings. All that is needed to complete the hair-brained scheme to convert downtown into some sort of condominium time-share hell is the other bright idea of our recovery leaders to move the civil district courts into the criminal justice complex down Tulane Avenue (adjacent to the new Hospital World), leaving the city’s commercial center a whistling ghost town.

I could go on, but I think Karen of Squandered Heritage has said it all.

Then there was the joyous holiday news that New Orleans is once again Queen of the South, and perhaps of all America and much of the world, a true leader in the field of crimes committed in our streets. Riley predictably attacked the statistics (as City Hall will do when they hear bad news about the city), and gave again his standing spiel on poverty, bad schools and crime, but offered no vision for how to get out of the hell whole the city has found itself in.

Again, I defer to Jarvis DeBerry, who pretty much sums up my own reaction here.

There is no hope under Louisiana law of recalling Nagin and booting Riley or the rest of the band of buffoons who make up his administration. (Still, go sign the petitions anyway). So many opportunities we have missed, from squashing the culture of crime as the city slowly repopulated to turnig a city full of aging and dilapidated homes into a vibrant place again, to perhaps “shrink the footprint” of the city into a space more easily defending against flooding not by government fiat but my making the city core an attractive place to live again.

Nothing to be done, Estragon says. I don’t want to sink into that sort of lyrical dog philosopher cynicism. There is so much to be done. If we cannot drive out Nagin and his crony’s short of a touch-and-pitchfork assault on their castle, then there is a life to be lived here, to day-by-day prove the naysayers wrong. There are letters to write, calls to be made and petitions to be signed. There is a band to see tonight with old friends on Frenchman Street, and a meal to be eaten with my visiting father-in-law in one of our favorite restaurants.

There is the day to day battle of New Orleans: not a glorious moment like the defeat of the British in 1815 or an ignominious one like the uprising of the Klan against Reconstruction. This is the long campaign to make this city livable again by the act of living here against all odds and saving what we can. When Nagin and his crew are memories we will still be here.

Drive-by Tagger Strikes the Gray Host November 18, 2008

Posted by The Typist in Toulouse Street.
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I have been tagged.

God, I hate this sort of thing. It takes me 30 minutes to figure out what to write on a birthday or retirement card, and now I have an obligation to write six random things about myself for all the world to read. I think that last sentence was No. 1 And then I have to visit this unhappy task on six other people, which at least allows a certain sense of shadenfruede.

Thanks a lot, Ms. Slate. But for you and Polimom, I will oblige.

OK: First The Rules.

1. Link to the person who tagged you.
2. Post the rules on your blog.
3. Write six random things about yourself.
4. Tag six people at the end of your post and link to them.
5. Let each person know they’ve been tagged and leave a comment on their blog.
6. Let the tagger know when your entry is up

The first one is easy and already said: 1) as verbose as I may seem here, if you put a greeting card in front of me at work and I need a quick, trite phrase or sentence, I am stumped. That does not make this task any easier.

2) If my hair grew like my toenails, I’d look like Sidney Torres instead of a bald wookie.

3) Like most men I can’t help but look at women appraisingly. At my age, if they look back with anything like a hint of a smile I immediately check my fly, then my shirt for stains.

4) The most popular link on this blog is Middle Aged Men Gone Wild in the French Quarter. I think these visitors are terribly disappointed.

5) I have never been one of the cool kids, and I’m puppy-grateful that they let me hang around anyway.

6) I picked up the nickname Dancing Bear when I was a teenager (after Captain Kangaroo, not the Grateful Dead) because when we would get popped at Pinecone Forest at the lakefront I would do a fake soft shoe dance when the Beatles When I’m 64 came on. It got to be a routine where people would demand I do it. To this day I have friends who still call me Dancing Bear, or just Bear for short.

Four is a cop out. And I (or at least the I who lives on this block of Toulouse Street) is a non-conformist, so here’s another. Think of it as Lagniappe.

6 1/2 ) I tear up at the end of West Side Story. And Cool Runnings.

There. That wasn’t so bad. Now I have to tag six other people, for which I imagine they will forgive me if I avoid them long enough then buy a a lot of drinks when we do meet.

Let’s see: Peter; oh most definitely. Oh, and Skooks because the snark (if he does it) will be endlessly entertaining. Next, Le Mom Noir Pistolette. I think I’ll tag NOLA Notes since all I know about her I learned on Twitter, which is sort of like the relationship you might have with the priest you’ve only met from behind the confession screen. New Orleans Gypsy gets tagged because her blog is fascinating, she doesn’t post enough and her answer would be as interesting as her posts always are. Umm, and Tim just as good natured harassment.

I Read The News Today, Oh Boy November 14, 2008

Posted by The Typist in Toulouse Street.
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Words fail me sometimes. One night’s worth of sleep in the last two days courtesy of the Counting House. Some days I am not sure if a better use of the newspaper is to read, or to wrap a lead pipe and beat my head with. The latter would sometimes be less painful. Maybe I should get a job with one of the city’s sanitation vendors, and let the robotic arms do all the heavy work.

Thankfully others have words for me when I have none. If this poem doesn’t cheer you up, I recommend sitting on the porch reading Bukowski and drinking absinthe until you can just make it in to set the alarm and collapse into bed. Sadly, I’ll probably be shepherding another technical conference call from hell tonight instead. We can all rest in the grave.

Dry Loaf
By Wallace Stevens

It is equal to living in a tragic land
To live in a tragic time.
Regard now the sloping, mountainous rocks
And the river that batters its way over stones,
Regard the hovels of those that live in this land.

That was what I painted behind the loaf,
The rocks not even touched by snow,
The pines along the river, and the dry men blown
Brown as the bread, thinking of birds
Flying from burning countries and brown sand shores

Birds that came like dirty water in waves
Flowing over the rocks, flowing over the sky,
As if the sky was a current that bore then along,
Spreading them as waves spread flat on the shore,
One after another washing the mountains bare.

It was the battering of drums I heard
It was hunger, it was the hungry that cried
And the waves, the waves were soldiers moving
Marching and marching in a tragic time
Below me, on the asphalt, under the trees.

It was solders went marching over the rocks
And still the birds came, came in watery flocks,
Because it was spring and the birds had to come.
No doubt that solders had to be marching
and that drums had to be rolling, rolling, rolling.

Doing Exactly What You Said November 12, 2008

Posted by The Typist in Toulouse Street.
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I started off the day reading this cheerful piece on the Times-Picayune/NOLA>com site about the New Orleans City Council’s efforts to extract someone’s head from their ass (the Mayor’s, the Recovery Czar’s, their own) so they could figure out when the pretty signboards announcing progress in recovery might be replaced by something like actual progress on city-controlled recovery projects. Typical happy reading down here in Year Three.

Thankfully, I got over to read what Cliff of Cliff’s Crib said on a similar subject. Cliff does a better job of summing up what’s going down and going wrong (and right) than anybody else in this town. I wanted to call out this from his last post:

Brad Pitt had a radical idea for hurricane recovery. He presented a plan, people gave him money to do it, and then he did what he said he was going to do. Sometimes great plans are very simplistic. I was wondering. Has the city council or the mayor recognized this man for this work? Has he gotten a key to the city? Does he get to ride in the Zulu parade? What about a good pot of red beans? Maybe we can give him and Angelina a second line in their honor when they are in town. I would like to nominate Mr. Pitt for a new position in the city. He should be the Director of Doing Exactly What You Said You Were Going to Do.

And I nominate Cliff for Director of the Ministry of Speaking Truth to Power, for at least the salary the mayor’s half-dozen press hacks are getting.

Tiny Demons October 27, 2008

Posted by The Typist in Toulouse Street.
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The New Orleans blogosphere is quiet about the news that that Chris Rose was arrested in some sort of alcohol-fueled domestic dispute. Rose is a frequent target of blogger jibes (the term “douchebag” and “Rose” being nearly synonymous), and he is annually brought up as a possible guest speaker at the NOLA Bloggers’ annual Rising Tide conference, and the suggestion is routinely and ritualistically hooted down.

We tend to pick on Rose because New Orleans’ blogosphere is full of people who think they could do Chris’ Rose job better than he does. I’ll admit there are days I read his column and I am one of those. Frankly, there are reporters and writers in the blog list at the side of this page I would hold up any day against anyone at the Picayune. Still, most of the bloggers have never written for a newspaper, have never had space to fill without an idea in their head, with a deadline bearing down on them. Sometimes you pound out some crap and if you have half a talent and more than a little luck, everybody is happy and gets to go home to dinner. Forced to fill the columns of a newspaper Living section, Rose does his 60 Second Interviews and slavers over Brittany Spears in a distasteful way most middle age men secretly understand.

He is certainly full of himself in spite of the crap he sometimes passes over to the copy desk, and so an easy target. Still, I tend not to pick at him in my own little space here. I’ve lived that life where the line a good editor can file any hole isn’t just a lewd jibe over after deadline drinks but a daily fact of life, so I give him some slack for the nonsense. Being the Angus Lind of the X-and-Y generation probably isn’t as great a gig as we all think it is.

I did write one slightly snarky piece when Rose discovered his fellow writers on New Orleans in the blog space after Ashley Morris’ untimely death. I suggested we were more like Rose than many of my colleagues in the NOLA Bloggers group would happily admit. The first time I gave Rose some notice was something I wrote long ago, when the weight of survivor guilt watching It all unfold in my city was almost unbearable. It was a letter to Rose, posted on Wet Bank Guide but also sent as an email. I never got a response, but I didn’t expect one. If you can find your way back to the original Rose column I referenced in Shadow of the Elephant, I think it explains in part at least why I find myself writing this today when something tells me I should just leave it alone.

Back in his post-K hey day, Rose often wrote about his family, in particular about taking his children out to experience everything New Orleans. My children were not raised here, and I have great sympathy for that experience. In fact he wrote so often about his family I was surprised to find that this weekend’s incident took place at an ex-girlfriend’s. It’s hard to feel complete empathy for Rose. If you live here long enough you’ll know enough stupid drunks or worse, and you start to lose patience for that sort of behavior. Maybe it’s just my age. But then I think of those kids.

Rose also wrote about his battle with depression. Down here where people pop Xanax like breath mints it wasn’t as important a story for us as it was for the rest of the world. They need to know that Living in a post-disaster landscape is not anyone’s idea of easy, much less Big and Easy. Of course people go though Zoloft like they’re Chee-Wees. At least the pills are better than the alternative: for example, finding yourself dead drunk at an ex-girlfriends trying to explain how fucked up your life is when she (and her new beau) don’t want to hear it.

It’s been three years since Rose sat on that stoop he wrote about in late 2005, in the middle of the post-Flood bedlam, trying to figure out what happened to his world. Back them I felt an immediate empathy for him which time and his own goofiness have not completely erased. He set himself up to be the poster child for New Orleans post-K but to do that he had to stay through it all, had to continue to find new ways to tell a story we all sometimes wish had an end.

I was immediately reminded when I read the Rose story of Picayune photog John McCusker’s own confrontation with the police. It has taken them a while to catch up, but the demons that chased McCusker like the police have finally caught up with Rose.

Somewhere deep inside my own demon is chuckling as I read about Rose’s mishap, but I shove him back down and tell him to be quiet. We’ve all seen the demons down here get the upper hand. McCusker’s story has always stood out in my memory, as did the story about the elderly gentleman who couldn’t hold on any longer waiting for his Road Home money and walked into the river to drown. We all know of the marriages ruined, the children still afraid of thunderstorms.

It’s best we all just let it go. We don’t want all of the demons let loose down here by the flood and its aftermath to think they’re getting the upper hand. Pay no attention to that guy perched on the edge of your night table in the checkered pants. Demons are like that crazy lady down the street. If you start to pay them too much attention, you’ll never be rid of them. Best we all mix a strong drink and flip on Rob Zombie’s Halloween horror movie festival on cable TV, pretend that demons are only in movies and always meet their well deserved end about the time the popcorn runs out.

In the Zone October 15, 2008

Posted by The Typist in Toulouse Street.
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Inspired by today’s article on the return of the Roosevelt, and a mood not far off from the likes that inspired the piece originally, I offer this repeat from my old, Katrina-themed blog Wet Bank Guide. [Lazy, yes, I know.]

Sunday, August 05, 2007
In the Zone
Today I walked past the Fairmont Hotel on University Place and the back door was ajar. I stopped and leaned over the police barricades that still block the entrance and peered over the once red carpet on the steps–now a burnt umber–down the long lobby hallway into the dark. There was enough light to admire the first ornate arch in the long procession that divides the lobby, and I was fascinated at the lizardish dragon rampant on the gold colored span. The hallway was strung with a chain of work lamps that together with the receding arches gave the impression of looking into a mine works. It was difficult to see much past that first arch in the dim tunnel. A distant chandelier that still hangs between the arches winked faintly with refracted light.

I can’t tell you the last time or reason I had to walk down the hallway of the hotel we all know as the Roosevelt, but I do have an almost visceral memory, like the recollection we have of dreams, of walking down through that lobby, stopping in at Bailey’s on the Baronne Street side for a cocktail after whatever event it was that drew me there. Still, I can’t remember the occasion. That glimpse into the past of Sazerac and the Blue Room (a venue I peered into once but never visited for a concert) sent me rummaging in long forgotten corridors of my own mind, dimly lit and little visited themselves, trying to recall the reason for my last visit without success.

In New Orleans we tend to live in our cherished past a lot of the time. For us history is not a marker on the side of the road, one notable building or a small district full of quaint shops to which we take visitors. Our past stands all around us, bears down on us like the towers of Manhattan on a first time visitor. It reaches up like a hand from the grave and tries to trip our ever step forward, the smoky ghosts of slavery blinding us and the afterbirth of the civil rights movement twisting every turn of public policy in ways we can not seem to stop. It is not just the momentous events of the past we must contend with, but a thousand small things from the past that inform the way we live in the present moment the way water cups a swimming fish or the breezes lift a coasting bird. Our past may is as ever present as the humidity, a very part of who we are and how we live.

In spite of that awful moniker Big Easy New Orleans has never been an easy place to live. Just ask my wife, who traded the Nordic efficiency of the upper Midwest for a turn in the south, a place where mañana and baksheesh are not just scores in Scrabble but instead the way we govern the machinery of our life. I won’t rehearse the entire litany of woe involved in rebuilding a city from scratch. Suffice it to say that every few steps forward, as we watch the ground carefully for roofing nails or bits of nail-studded plaster lath, we walk forehead first into something hard.

In spite of the weight of history and the difficulty of the moment, I am not living in the past. Increasingly, I am living in a Richard Alpert Right Now, a locus in time informed by the landscape around me and my sense of its age, its rightness for the place, the uneven and green-occluded site lines of a city settling into the earth as perfectly as a Mayan ruin rising out of the jungle. The monumentality of the city informs the moment as you perceive it. To truly live here is to walk through a series of present moments like cells in a film, the action is in front of you or inside of you and the great pillared oaks and moss-draped homes are just backdrop.

I think it is in part that very difficulty, as well as something in the climate, that leads me to find myself increasingly living in a present moment. More worrying is the feeling that here where it’s after the end of the world, I am becoming like Thomas Pynchon’s anti-hero Tyrone Slothrop in Gravity’s Rainbow: inexplicably entangled with the ugly juggernaut of history as it unfolded in World War II until he disconnected from it altogether, withdrawing into himself, his “temporal bandwidth” approaching zero.

There is also the story about Tyrone Slothrop, who was sent into the Zone to be present at his own assembly perhaps, heavily paranoid voices have whispered, his time’s assembly and there ought to be a punch line to it, but there isn’t. The plan went wrong. He is being broken down instead, and scattered. His cards have been laid down… laid out and read, but they are the cards of a tanker and feeb: they point only to a long and scuffling future, to mediocrity not only in his life but also, heh, heh, in his chroniclers too…” (737-38)

The reconstruction of the city around me will last at least as long as WWII. There will be long periods of boredom and routine punctuated by times of great excitement, much of that of the unpleasant kind. Yes, we will have shore leave for Mardi Gras and Jazz Fest but most of our time will be spent scrapping rust and paint knowing all the while that just over the ocean’s horizon there is something threatening.

In this peculiar armada the officers are as useless as the French nobility. They look fine high up there in their crosswise hats and give marvelous speeches, but we know from hard experience that they are worthless. People mutter all around the city about mutiny of one form or another, but mutiny is a lot of damn work and it is awfully hot. I like to think we could yet rise up and have our storming of the Bastille moment but every passing day it seems more unlikely. No Fletcher Christian or Maximilien Robespierre has stepped forward to lead us, and every angry mob needs a leader.

Perhaps I ask for too much. If history and the city consumes us all one-by-one but the city lives on, that perhaps what was always intended, why were were all lured home. In the end, perhaps Pynchon has given us the model to surviving it’s after the end of the world. If history has gone too wrong for any one of us to stop what is happening around us, maybe it is better to amble down a shady street in New Orleans without a particular thought in my head except the distant sound of what might be Slothrop’s harmonica, to disappear into the random noise in the signal.

Blessed Relief September 28, 2008

Posted by The Typist in Toulouse Street.
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It is Odd that all the trees are so green, that some are now flowering just when the heat of summer breaks, when we throw open the doors of our converted shotgun and let the cool of autumn blow over us. I have lived where there is a true Fall, where a first freeze browns the garden suddenly and routs the mosquito’s, and the trees respond in kind, turning a crisp red and gold, rustling dryly in the wind like the leaves of a cheerleader’s pom-pom.

We do not live here on Toulouse Street for the weather any more than we lived in Fargo, North Dakota for the fine winters. When my wife and I first discussed leaving the East Coast and I argued for New Orleans, I pointed out that summers in New Orleans were just like those in Washington, D.C.: there was just more of it. That did not turn out to be a winning argument. Here on the Gulf Coast we swelter from March until October, air so thick you don’t breath so much as bathe in it, so fraught with water you’re not sure if you are dripping with sweat or the salty water of the Gulf of Mexico. For relief we have hurricanes, an excuse to flee north and inland to a place where nights in August can be, at least to us, refreshingly cool.

I have to admit that after 20 years split between the middle East Coast and the Midwest I do miss a real Fall with all the trimmings .While only the cypress trees promise a taste of the Fall color my wife misses desperately, there are other signs about us. Here at the back of town end of Toulouse we once again hear the bands and the crowds from the high school games at Tad Gormley Stadium. The serious neighborhood gardeners are as busy as the fairy tale ants, getting their planting beds ready for a change of seasons. The vegetable man in his brightly painted pickup truck changes his list if not his basic sing-song patter. He still announces “I got tomatoes, ripe red tomatoes” but lately I hear he “got potatoes, fresh red potatoes.” I’m often stuck on the phone when he passes on the days I work at home, but the first time I hear “I got squash and pumpkins” I may have to plead technical difficulties and flag him down.

One thing I think I will miss this year is the mysterious appearance of candy corn and (better yet) the little candied pumpkins and all their like. I understand that “we” are going on a diet, so I suspect that the magical appearance of a dish of fall candy that no one will admit to filling would not be met with exactly the same seasonal joy. I will have to wait for Halloween before I can get my metabolism into training for the holidays.

Fall on Toulouse Street is superficially not terribly different from other places I have lived with the stark exception of the turning of the leaves. The same sort of chores call inside and out, and must be scheduled around Notre Dame and the Saints. My wife starts to dig through the closets (too soon, I tell her, much too soon) looking for summer things to put away. She is possessed of a gene prominent among Midwesterners but recessive to the point of the vestigial down here, the one that calls them to fill the cellar with apples and the shed with firewood.

Here on Toulouse Street we do not take the sudden coolness as a call to arms, to the frantic preparations for the long and hard siege of winter. My spigots will not freeze if the hoses are left on. There is no seasonal retirement for the lawn mower or snowblower to get ready. I do not need to beat the first snow that will leave a yard full of leaves sodden with no prospect of enough warm sun to dry them out again. I have no apple tree from which to pick a dozen or more bushels and then figure out what the hell to do with a bathtub full of cooking apples.

That first cool morning is for us not an alarm but something more like the breaking of a fever, a sudden relief from the languid suffering we have just come through. It is not the signal for a frenzy of activity but rather a moment to move out of the sweat spot in the sheets and shuffle off to a comfortable chair, to slowly let go of the delirium of southern summer, to take it easy a few more days until we get our legs back under us.

Blessed Relief indeed.

The streets are too quiet September 14, 2008

Posted by The Typist in Toulouse Street.
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An old story now, but powerful and worth remembering about poet and pre-medical student Trenise Robinson When this story was published in the Washington Post in two years ago August, she and her mother were living in Baton Rouge.

Selected to attend the Hurston/Wright Writers’ Week, a prestigious summer workshop in Washington, D.C. named after the African American writers Zora Neale Hurston and Richard Wright, the Tennessee Williams Literary Festival folks picked up part of the tab. While there she wrote and presented this poem (a title is not given):

The streets are too quiet, no longer flashing hypnotic lights
And beckoning with its rum-soaked, flirtatious breath.
Even the horns of men who made cocktails out of rhythm
And drugs now lay rusted on my doorstep,
Their notes a mere gargle.

I sent the person I think is the author a message to her Facebook and asked her to email me and let me know where she landed, but I never got a response.

If the streets are too quiet, perhaps it is because young writers like her remain displaced.

Flood September 13, 2008

Posted by The Typist in Toulouse Street.
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I am not a musician. Instead, I write a bit: sketch a simple picture, perhaps tell a bit of a story, offer and defend my opinion. Nothing fancy here. If you want art, try the library or the museum. Sometimes the words don’t come. Staring at this glowing panel, songs sometimes come into my head. It is the curse of the post-industrial brain. We expect life to have a soundtrack, conditioned by a lifetime fof ilm and television. Life as Disneyworld via Rogers and Hammerstein: this thought, that song. Fifty years of programming and I am Ipod man.

Sometimes the songs are comforting, other times exciting, or even disturbing. Which ever sort it is, when the brain grows foggy from work or drink or exhaustion nothing can rejuvenate it like music. You read some words, or see an image and, suddenly, it is like some stage piece with a pianist in the corner as chorus. The protagonist wanders off to the edge of the stage, and the spotlight fills on a baby grand. The audience is rapt, waiting for the first note, for the omniscient word.

When I post these videos I often say it is the resort of the lazy blogger. Oh, look what I found on You Tube. Aren’t I clever? Sometimes that is true, the Internet as the modern version of solitaire and the clever find a wining hand. Other times, I go looking for something I can’t find inside my own head, or rather I search inside my head for what I think is there and I find instead this echo of something I heard a long time ago. It takes my breath away, and I have no words.

[Cue music]


Robert Fripp and Peter Gabriel

The Emergency Is Broken September 9, 2008

Posted by The Typist in cryptical envelopment, Odds&Sods, Toulouse Street.
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So Monday night I took my son out to far Metairie around Transcontinental for his saxophone lesson, and tried to run some errands. At that time of day, I usually find I can get down Veterans Boulevard faster than I can down Interstate-10 running in parallel a half-mile over, so my drive takes me through the shopping strip the long way. As I crossed over into Metairie I thought it was odd that the grocery store Dorignac’s had an empty parking lot. At first I thought perhaps everyone had loaded up on groceries to heavily this weekend that business was just slow. I didn’t think about it again until after I dropped off my son.

I pull into the parking lot of Clearview Shopping Center and notice that Target’s parking lot is mostly empty. That’s Odd, I think, then wonder again if there was such a frenzy of restocking after the Hurricane Gustav evacuation (not to mention the post-evac malaise that seems to be troubling everyone) was keeping the shoppers at home. Score for me, I thought. I should finish in plenty of time. So I trundle up to the door. Locked. It’s closed, a woman sitting on the bench by the door tells me. When I ask why, she shrugs and looks away. OK, then.

So I start off towards K-Mart thinking, this is weird. Why would they be closed on a Monday night at 7 pm? One thing I needed were filters for the central air, so I suddenly realize I can drop into Lowe’s and get those. So I execute a perfect New Orleans center lane turn into the parking lot to notice it is eerily empty as well. Then I see that two Lowe’s semis are pulled across the front door, right in the fire lane. As I pull up toward the door, someone inside is waving off another shopper. Closed.

So, I’m about ready to give up until I remember seeing the Right-Aid by Transcontinental all lit up, so I head there. Closed. Zuppardos has people in the parking lot, so I make the quick reverse course u-turn on Vets to get there (a 1/4 mile of suburban driving to cover maybe 75 feet as the crow flies), then decide to check the Rouses just up the street instead. It is open, and even appears to have some frozen food (which was completely absent on Saturday at my Mid-City Rouse’s). Odd. I never asked the clerks why they were open. I figure they had no more clue than I did.

Years ago one of my treasured 1984 Worlds Fair souvenirs was little glass tube containing a sketchy looking cigarette with an Asian imprint on it and a strike anywhere match. A friend picked a handful of these up at the close-out/discount store after the Fair was over. The tube was labeled “The Emergency Is Broken”. I think I know what they meant. When my son was a wee thing, I bought him a cheap Space Shuttle toy of the sort that rolls around and bounces off walls, then takes off taxiing in another direction. Among it’s other Realistic Space Sounds it would announce “Three, Two, One, Blastdown!”.

I think this is called Japenglish, but I don’t want to slight anyone’s native tongue or town. I seriously doubt either of these things were “Made in Japan” like the cheap swords and Confederate skirmish caps we would buy in City Park when I was a little kid. And I kind of enjoy these errors in transliteration. At my last job we used to amuse ourselves by taking Business Requirements Documents written by our customers, running them through the Babel Fish translation from English-to-Dutch, then back again, to see if we could improve the clarity of those sad documents. Sadly, there were times when we could. Internet and instant messaging access are dangerous in a two-hour tele-meeting.

I asked the guys outside Lowe’s, the one who walked up to the door and talked to the clerk if there was still some sort of curfew in Jefferson Parish that I missed hearing about, but he said, “No, but we might as well be.” It seems that out in the land of the big box stores, the emergency is truly broken. Someone needs to tell me when it’s safe to go shopping again.

Red Weather September 7, 2008

Posted by The Typist in Toulouse Street.
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“Only, here and there, an old sailor,
Drunk and asleep in his boots,
Catches Tigers
In red weather.”
–Disillusionment of 10 O’Clock
By Wallace Stevens

The houses are not haunted, as the opening of Steven’s poem says. Our’s is not the haunting of an ancient house or a lonely crossroads. The haunting is not out there somewhere in the dark. It is somewhere in here, in the dark, inside of us.

In August and September of 2005, something died deep inside of everyone who lived in or cared about New Orleans. It was an uneasy passing, like the troubled death of a suicide or a tragic young death. Some call this Post Traumatic Stress Disorder but it is not. There is no “post”, no after. We watch the pictures from Terrebonne and Lafourche Parish. We hear the stories of people abandoned, of promised aid gone awry. We see the houses collapsed or washed by the flood and we remember. The ghosts we keep trying to put away wake up and grab us by the heart.

I heard those ghosts, a low sound like a tone of voice, when the evacuees spoke of their grueling journey to safety, when they called this “their last hurricane”. I hear it in the voices of my friends in the NOLA Blogger community and my older cohort of Orleanians, the people I grew up with who sat out Betsy and sweated Camille. The rest of the country has moved on once the dramatic pictures of the floodwalls overwashed were replaced by something new. New Orleans, America thinks, has once again dodged the bullet: the city did not flood.

The floodwalls of concrete and steel held, but others did not. The chaos of evacuation, our leaders panicking on TV the night before many left; the pictures of water driven to the very top of the walls while ships and barges tore loose again in the canal; and now the chaos of the return, the stories from the towns at the end of the roads along the coast, the relief supplies promised but never delivered: all of this has breached through the scar tissue, the slow rebuilding we have all gone through deep inside. Down there, where the ghosts live, we are awash.

Homecoming should be a relief but it is not. There is too much residual anger at the politicians (we can’t call them leaders) in City Hall, in Baton Rouge and in Washington for their continuing ineptitude. There is too much damage to the east and south, and we must watch our neighbors painful re-enactment of the old story daily, perhaps for the months it will take just to restore them to some semblance of normal life. And now the weather forecasters tell us another storm is pointed at New Orleans.

We cannot know precisely what the poet meant by “red weather”. It is a perfect example of poetic language, something perfectly appropriate to the sound or stanza and to the image, and yet it is not like common language. That phrase is not a brick in the construction of a mundane paragraph. Instead those words are a door into the poem: we must find ourselves what precisely is meant by red weather to gain entry into the poetic moment.

The old saying goes both ways: red sky at night, sailor’s delight; red sky at morning, sailor’s take warning. Because the sailor “Catches Tigers in red weather”, I have always taken it to stand for both danger and excitement. Now that I live beneath the red and black hurricane flags, this poem and the phrase “red weather” comes back to me. I thought of it sitting on my porch in the calm of the evening, contemplating another storm, another evacuation. And for me, at least, it became clear.

Here on the hurricane coast, when the storms stir up the ghosts of the flood, we live in red weather.

Rollin’ on the River? September 6, 2008

Posted by The Typist in Toulouse Street.
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Aw, Hell: I for one am not ready for this. How about you? All I know is I’m not unpacking the precious papers tub yet.

Highway To Hell: No Exit September 3, 2008

Posted by The Typist in New Orleans, NOLA, Toulouse Street.
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Ok, I-59 during the evacuation was not precisely the Highway of Death. Still, many Louisianians were trapped in a miles-long parking lot with no way to exit: not exactly a healthy environment. If no elderly or infirm person died it was mostly a matter of luck. (Note: I went up I-55, the Highway of Shoot Me Now, Its Another Slowdown, but not quite the Highway of Death). So don’t take my word for it: read Loki’s account.

That is Odd, that exits were closed in the most congested areas, and people were not allowed to get off.

Planning my return to Toulouse Street this afternoon, I noticed this:

Lincoln, Pike County – I-55 S at the city of McComb
Last Updated on 9/3/2008 3:00:02 PM
Lanes Affected: Southbound All Lanes
Approximate Duration: 4 hours
Cause: Heavy Congestion
Additional Info: Exits in McComb will be closed intermittently due to high volumes of traffic.

So, when a Federal highway in Mississippi gets really congested the Mississippi State authorities respond by closing the exits so you can’t get off and find an alternate route. I think someone in Mississippi has some explaining to do. Are they afraid that “those people” might get off into back roads where they can’t be controlled? (This is not an exclusive problem to Mississippi. A spokesman for St. Tammany Parish all but insisted on WWL that people who arrived before the blockades were lifted without enough money or gas to go back be moved to the south shore to wait)

Also worth some investigation is Mississippi’s decision to block Louisiana residents access to I-10 East–an interstate, Federal highway–so that the people of the Gulf Coast might evacuate in the direction of the storm unimpeded. Forget Mississippi’s excuse about the Mobile Tunnel. Anyone who’s been to Destin knows that a huge mess on an average Saturday afternoon but there is an alternate route north for people approaching from the west. All they had to do is send the evac traffic up I-65.

What is happening is this: Haley Barbour and the Mississippi authorities are willing to commandeer interstate Federal highways for their own benefit. If those are the “rules” we’re going to play under, I think at the next tropical storm watch the Louisiana National Guard needs to wire the Pearl River bridges and be ready to blow them to make sure we get out first this time.*

*Note for Homeland Security Types: since the DHS probably doesn’t have the sort of high standards of education once required of the FBI, I should probably explain this particular paragraph is a figure of speech known as hyperbole, which I suspect is not on the extrance exam for DHS, and may not be taught in Mississippi public schools.** Hyperbole is an intentional exageration, and in no way indicates that I would approve of this action on undertake it myself. I would, however, unhesitantly take advantage of it were it to occur.

** Yes, that was an insult.

I’m With James O’Byrne September 3, 2008

Posted by The Typist in New Orleans, NOLA, Toulouse Street, We Are Not OK.
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James O’Byrne posted a signed editorial on the NOLA.COM/Times-Picayune website that has since been taking down. In it he states what many in New Orleans are feeling: that the ball of confusion of re-entry gives us one clear message.

Next time, don’t leave.

The editorial has been taken down by the Picayune, but Gambit Weekly’s Blog of New Orleans has an excerpt.

I’m with Byrne. I cannot imagine leaving under the current city, state or federal administration. They have demonstrated a level of incompetence that forces us to stand on our own.

Here’s the excerpt of Byrne’s signed editorial. Someone at the Picayune certainly wishes it would go away, but that person is apparently unfamiliar with how the Internet and blogging work.

News flash: We know it’s dangerous to live here. We accept the possibility of no gas, no power, no readily available food. We’re Katrina survivors. We’ll figure it out.

But if the enduring image of Gustav is a U.S. soldier with an M-16 denying a citizen the right to return to his home, then you can pretty much write off the next “mandatory” evacuation. Leaving your home in advance of a storm is an extraordinarily stressful, difficult, traumatic and expensive proposition. The one thing that must be honored is that people must be allowed to return to their homes as soon as humanly possible.

As a journalist, I spent the past two days driving around reporting on the storm. And by Tuesday afternoon, this city was as safe as it needed to be. Indeed, all those tree branches and debris would be picked up and stacked neatly on the curb by lunchtime on Wednesday if people had been allowed to come home.

I fully appreciate the risks of letting my family stay. But I have to weigh that risk against the alternate risks, of getting trapped in an endless evacuation traffic jam, of being stranded on a highway far from help, of not being able to return in a timely manner, to secure our property and come back to as much of a normal life as possible.

New Orleans is my home. I love it, and I choose to keep living here. But if you are a public official who wants me to leave for the next storm, then you have to hear what I am telling you. It’s time to rewrite the contract.

Update: You can read an image of the full editorial here.

Editor’s Note: Any copyrighted material presented here is done so for the purposes of news reporting and comment consistent with USC 17 Chapter 1 Title 107.

New Orleans Forever September 2, 2008

Posted by The Typist in Toulouse Street.
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Flotsam and Jetsam No. 2 September 2, 2008

Posted by The Typist in Toulouse Street.
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Best on-line source for status of SE Louisiana is http://www.wwl.com, the WWL-AM web site. There are lists of closings (parish re-entry, schools) and a link to the Louisiana State Police web site for road closings. That site shows I-10 closed to east-bound at US 51 in St. John the Baptist Parish, the I-10 Twin Spans closed as Slidell, and US 61 Closed as well. There was no mention of a closure of the Causeway, however.

The WWL-AM site reports Orleans is closed Tuesday and Wednesday (but WWL-TV and NOLA.Com reports that holders of Tier 1 certificates for reentry can get in today.

The blogger embeds are out checking areas of town. Mid-City’s own Michael Homan has power on the riverside of Carrollton, but those of us who are on the grid that powers Old Metairie, Lakeview, etc. are still out.

If we all think the peak days of the evacuation was a cluster, wait until 2 million people all try to go home on the same day. I’ve been told to expect bumper-to-bumper from Jackson, MS south. Looking at my Mississippi map for alternate routes.

Yesterday I was interviewed by ABCNews.COM Sci and Technology desk on Twitter and blogging in the storm. Gave credit to Maitri who called it months ago: Twitter would be a great tool in an evac. I returned the call from the ticket lobby of Graceland, surrounded by Louisianians making the best of a bad day, with Heartbreak Hotel pipped in: a very surreal moment. Talked up Rising Tide and NOLA Bloggers leadership of leveraging technology around emergencies. Sadly, they didn’t do a story that I saw.

Bec, Morwen, Karen, Pistolette, Michael Homan and GulfSails are still in New Orleans and those who can are updating their blogs. Others are using voice and data phone (SMS and Twitter) to send out info and stay in touch.

Flotsam and Jetsam September 1, 2008

Posted by The Typist in Toulouse Street.
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Here some bits of information coming back from the blogger embeds and others:

From Michael Homan in an email to our Mid-City Neighborhood Association mailing list: I walked S. Alexander to Banks Street and to Canal Street a short time ago. There are no powerlines down, no poles down, no cable/phone lines down, no roof tiles, just small oak branches. Winds have died down considerably. Very little rain. It looks very promising.

Pistolette has also kept internet Uptown, and offers a series of updates from the storm on her blog.

NOLASlate and Karen of Squandered Heritage are also embeds in the city, but both are offline. Karen has a working landlind at her friend’s house in the Riverbend section where Carrollton Meets St. Charles and called midday. Her assessment through midday would match up with Michael’s from Mid-City.

No updates from Morwen of Gentilly Girl and and Betz, but they built themselves a storm proof, elevetated bunker. They’re likely offline but they were the ones I was the least worried about, unless they came to blows over the remote.

Greg Peters of Suspect Device offers bulletins and an audio log (Stardate: 62134.8) and more from the capital of the Acadian Autonomous Region (aka Lafayette).

So far the city proper (the east bank) is fine. The West Bank, including the Algiers section of New Orleans and West Jefferson Parish are Ok after a drive through by the Times-Picayune. East Plaquemines, as I suggested last night, has water but so far it is only chest-high water. The forecast for their six-to-eight foot levees was an 18′ storm surge. The flooding at Braithwaite is to far south and east to threaten the city proper. Its too soon to tell if it could bleed up into St. Bernard Parish.

Entergy reports 101,000 customers out in their New Orleans service area, and a timeline of several days post storm just to estimate how long it will take to resume power. Now the almost 2 million people who evacuated begin to figure out how (and when) to get back home.

Follow the NOLA Bloggers on Twitter for real-time updates from the ground and the diaspora.

In spite of the dramatic splashing of water at the top of the floodwalls in the Industrial Canal, New Orleans has in fact escaped.

Memphis August 31, 2008

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Twelve hours to Memphis. Mrs. doesn’t do highways well, much less endless bumper to bumper, so I was way over on hours behind the wheel, just cruising on coffee and trail mix from 4 am to 4 pm. Been in frantic Twitter with peeps plus watching weather sites for last couple of hours.

The 10 pm central National Hurricane Center forecast looks good for NOLA Blogger embeds. tomorrow I will roll up anything I get from them via Twitter, email or from posts of their own if they can keep power and Internet.

What didn’t look good were the storm surge forecasts for East Plaquemines. I’ve put off taking the kids down to see Stella Plantation, which a member of my family once owned as a working plantation in the early 20th century. Not sure there will be anything left.

Must sleep.

For those who can’t, here’s some music courtesy of Kansas Joe and Memphis Minnie. Remember, this was a song about long ago, about 1927 and the Delta lands I skirted all day on I-55.

On The Road Again August 31, 2008

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If I don’t see you no more in this world, I’ll see you in the next one. Don’t be late.

>

Godspeed Y’all August 30, 2008

Posted by The Typist in Dancing Bear, New Orleans, NOLA, Toulouse Street.
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Everyone on the Hurricane Coast, and most of all my people of New Orleans: I’ll see you on the other side. We are the people who came through, the people who remember. Whatever happens, we will rise above.

Toulouse Street is strangely quiet. I haven’t seen a bird today, but as dusk approaches they are callling from the trees. About half of us are still here, but by dawn tomorrow I expect our street’s population to be one or none. (That one is not me).

Toulouse Street is singing off for now. For more Odds Bits of Life in New Orleans, you can check me out on http://www.twitter.com/wetbankguy.

More back here perhaps after we unload in Memphis and pour the frist evac drink.

Shhhhh! August 30, 2008

Posted by The Typist in Toulouse Street.
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Don’t mention the war.

Paying the Price August 27, 2008

Posted by The Typist in Dancing Bear, New Orleans, NOLA, Toulouse Street, We Are Not OK.
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I think we’ve all that that feeling, the sense that we would love to live at some fantastic vacation destination. I often feel that way when I visit the ocean, a landscape I love almost as much as I love New Orleans. All we see are the beautiful views as we live the lazy life of the visitor and we think: this could go on forever. Why don’t I just move here, open a business, live this life year round?

I wonder sometimes if visitors to New Orleans have that same reaction, if they imagine themselves living in a slave quarters somewhere in the back of the Vieux Carre’, getting some tattoos and a tricked out bicycle and hanging every night on Frenchman Street. It would be a powerful temptation to a cloistered office worker with a sense of the Romantic. Just think, to be here all year: all that food, all that music, Jazz Fest and Mardi Gras.

What they don’t know is that we pay a price to live in these places, whether in New Orleans or on some bucolic bit of Florida beach. When a tropical storm with the makings of a powerful hurricane starts to drift toward the Yucatan Straits, that is when we pay the piper. First there’s worry, then a brief flash of panic. After that, it’s all on autopilot in a sort of state of shock: find a place to stay, pack up the important papers and a bag, gas up the car, start to put away and and tie down outside. Where’s the cat’s travel bag?

People who live in the city hate the term Big Easy because that’s not what life here is about. It’s never been an easy place to live except for the very young and rootless, and the storm blew away a lot of the cheap flops the bohemians once relied on. Crime, corruption, and now the interminable marathon of reconstruction. It’s anything but easy but we find the city compensates for that in other ways, some visible to the tourists and some not. That is why we find ourselves three years after the flood, anxiously watching the Gulf.

We look at Gustav circling our cousin Haiti to the south and know the reckoning is at hand, the price we pay for the life we have. No one here wants to wish a hurricane on someone else. We all know too well what that means. Still, everyone at some level wishes it so, wants to make it go away and knows that the chances are it will not just vanish.

It will be an odd anniversary, this 8-29. By Friday we will have a good idea of our fate (but storms are fickle, watch them until the last moment). Some of us may already have begun to leave. One of the last things I plan to put away is the furniture on the porch. Like some traveler on the last day of vacation, I want to savor that moment and carry it away in memory because of something we all know in New Orleans: I don’t know when I’ll be back to that place again.

That’s a burden most of America can’t imagine: fleeing their homes not knowing when they will come back. It’s a high price to pay, but in the end I know we will be back. That is why the very last thing I will do is to strike the colors, the flag of New Orleans that flies on my house every day of the year, Fourth of July and Christmas. In my head I won’t hear the mournful strains of taps, but something like the dirge march of a brass band, something like St. James Infirmary. Taking down the flag will not be a coda but an act of continuity, an affirmation of who I am. It will come with us to remind us that whatever happens and where ever we are, we are always first and foremost Orleanians. And as we have proved these last three years, we will return.

Achtung Baby! August 26, 2008

Posted by The Typist in Toulouse Street.
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A few days ago I was singing the Fred Flintstone “Happy Annivesary” song (as quietly as possible, since I work in a beigeworld, the cube hell that haunts Dilbert’s nightmares.) to my wife’s voicemail. Nineteen years, thanks.

Now it is that Other annivesary. And a Happy Fucking Anniversary present is Gustave.

What You Don’t Know About Katrina August 25, 2008

Posted by The Typist in Toulouse Street.
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Those of you who are regular readers of New Orleans blogs will find few surprises in John Barry’s campaign to educate Americans about the truths of Katrina, New Orleans and the Federal Flood (our term as NOLA bloggers, not Barry’s).

If you find you way to this blog or this post because you are searching on Katrina on the anniversary, then you need to click this link right now and go read what Barry–author of Rising Tide: The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 and How It Change America–has to say.


What You Need to Know About Katrina– and Don’t–
Why It Makes Economic Sense to Protect and Rebuild New Orleans

Still Raining, Still Dreaming August 24, 2008

Posted by The Typist in cryptical envelopment, Dancing Bear, New Orleans, NOLA, Toulouse Street.
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A lazy day as the last of Fay rains itself out over New Orleans. I posted up some stuff on the Rising Tide Blog and moved the mailing lists for NOLA Bloggers to Google for reasons I don’t think I’ll get into. If you’re on the list, you probably know why.

The short of it: Rising Tide was another success. Our keynote speaker John Barry his current talk (which I’ve seen bits of online), and it is a powerful and important message on why New Orleans matters to the entire nation. All of the panels were interesting and well-received. I think the Levees.org film was a bit of a letdown, and I may have something more to say about that later. The food from J’Anita’s was fantastic. Thanks to Octavia Books for coming and setting up at the conference. I hope they did good business. I did my part, picking up a copy of Barry’s The Great Influenza and finally a copy of blogger Deidra of G-Bitch’s novel. I think I’m the last NOLA blogger to finally get a copy, and I plan to start it this afternoon.

After all, it’s a rainy day and I have nothing much pressing to take care of. I think I’m going to plant myself on the porch and be one with the plants, every now and then turning a page. A cigar sounds good.

Since it’s going to be such a lazy day, I will fleed to the ultimate refuge of the lazy blogger: YouTube. I somehow missed Blind Lemon in the 1990s, and came across this song as an oldie on the kid’s favorite radio station. It’s a perfect song for a rainy day. The instrumental solos are among some of the most fabulous in jam/grunge; no strike that, one of the great bits of rock in any sub genre. Listen to the bass line and tell me this doesn’t want to make you go out and dance in the rain.

Five Years August 21, 2008

Posted by The Typist in cryptical envelopment, Dancing Bear, New Orleans, NOLA, Toulouse Street, We Are Not OK.
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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 song comes into my head. It is a compulsion, like bitting 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.

Planning To Fail August 20, 2008

Posted by The Typist in Toulouse Street.
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When first proposed by the Bring New Orleans Back commission in late 2005, the idea of “shrinking the city’s footprint” was overwhelmingly by the citizens of New Orleans. This has not prevented the city and it’s hired technocrats from proceeding to do everything in their power to shut off entire neighborhoods from the recovery.

Blogger Eli of We Could Be Famous has followed the Recovery School District Facility Master Plan process as closely as anyone could, given that there was virtually no opportunity for public input. Read what he has to say about the Facilities Master Plan and the decision taken (essentially in secret) to cut back on schools in impacted areas. People follow their churches and schools home, as has been amply demonstrated. This plan is just another attempt to push through the BNOB footprint plan under cover of doing something else.

Read what he says about the decision to propose no schools for Gentilly, Mid-City or the East:

Planners believe that services must be improved to better serve the most populated areas after the storm. This is not an improper calculation by itself but becomes regressive when one considers the practical consequences of this seemingly rational policy. In order to receive money, attention, and services a neighborhood has to prove it’s viability through re-population estimates and projections. Sections of the city that were more severely damaged during the storm obviously repopulate at a slower pace and therefore do not qualify as viable neighborhoods and are subsequently enshrined as poor investments. Thus, it is the neighborhoods that did not flood (generally better-off socioeconomically) that are being provided the lion’s share of recovery dollars. Neighborhoods that sustained heavier flooding (generally worse-off socioeconomically), are not seen as having a large enough population to necessitate things like roads, schools, public transportation, police, and hospitals.

If you don’t agree that entire neighborhoods should be abandoned by Fiat of an unelected cabal of our “betters”, I suggest you contact the BESE Board immediately. With most of the School Board on their way out, there’s probably not much chance of getting them to vote again. Let the BESE Board know that this plan is inconsistent with the citizen’s clearly communicated intent for the future of New Orleans.

Oh, and check out Leigh’s guest post at BlogOfNewOrleans.com for another take on the master plan. And as she suggests, read every post on E’s blog tagged Recovery School District or RSD. After reading the pieces quoted above, start here.

Come On Now We’re Marching To the Sea August 18, 2008

Posted by The Typist in Toulouse Street.
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I have no set theory to go by. I have not worked out the science of satyagraha in its entirety. I am still groping. You can join me in my quest if it appeals to you and you feel the call.
— Gandhi

What will another crime march do?

A better question: What will happen if we do not march?

Nothing.

I’m with ReX and UNITED FOR PEACE.

I say we march. A march for all the victims. Not just for Helen Hill or Dinerral Shavers or Jessica Hawk or Nia Robertson. For No. 37. For George Hankton. For Chanel. For all the others people come to this blog every day to search for some trace of. For the famously remembered and the almost forgotten.

For ourselves.

(For some background on the picture above, see Child of Desire on Wet Bank Guide from December, 2005.)

Profiles in Courage, Excellence & Garbage August 18, 2008

Posted by The Typist in Toulouse Street.
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Blogger Bayou St. John David once again takes apart the city’s fabulously inflated garbage contracts, raising the question: why isn’t Sidney Torres of SDLC on the the Excellence in Recovery Host Committee. I would think he would find Nagin, like, most excellent, dude.

And in light of my own recent question about Black politicians who use racial code and open racial attacks to protect themselves from questioning over palpably questionable behavior, David doesn’t hesitate to ask “Perhaps we should ask the [Southern Christian Leadership Council] why Richards Disposal is offering predominantly white Jefferson Parish a significantly lower price today than it negotiated with predominantly black Orleans Parish two years ago?” You may recall that the SCLC was not afraid to taunt the New Orleans City Council and threaten an economic boycott of New Orleans, suggesting that any challenge to these smelly garbage contracts was racist.

These garbage contracts are anything but “lemony fresh-smelling“.

Three Years August 17, 2008

Posted by The Typist in Dancing Bear, New Orleans, NOLA, Rebirth, Toulouse Street, We Are Not OK.
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“I never thought I’d need so many people.”
–David Bowie, Five Years

Every day I drive slowly down rough and littered streets beneath sooty overpasses, through neighborhoods lined with hollow houses, the empty windows watching over the slow collapse of the roads into rubble, the rampant lawns and the vines claiming the roofs. Familiar landmarks are vanished into weed-choked lots even as new buildings rise up here and there. I tell myself this is not a disaster area, it is the New Orleans of memory, the postdiluvian city of shabby gentility slowly settling back into itself. It is the place I remember not transformed but instead amplified by the flood, the decay accelerated by the casual incompetence and common corruption of a government that would shame Haiti.

The streets and sidewalks still sag and heave as they did before, as if something beneath them were trying to break through and reclaim its place. There are more of these upheavals now, as if the flood had woken something that once moved slowly as in a dream, as if what lay below has grown hungry and anxious to completely crack the thin veneer of concrete we call civilization and begin to consume us in ernest. I can no longer be certain whether the roots that tear up the sidewalks run down from the trees, or if they are something clawing up from below, tossing up oaks and cypress to reclaim us for the swamp primeaval.

That is my city: not the delicate traceries of iron balconies or mossy-bricked patios at the end of a gas-lit carriageway in the Quarter–a postcard place for tourists–or the clean and quiet, manse-lined streets in the better parts of Uptown untouched by the flood. I live in the heart of the place, a section named Mid-City but called Back of Town by the cab dispatchers, rows of small houses crowded up to streets drapped in a tangle of overhead black wires, an early 20th century working class neighborhood made good (just), clinging desperately to gentility just a block from the railroad tracks.

Things mostly look good on our stretch of Toulouse Street three years after the levees failed and the city was drowned. Our biggest problem is that all of the rentals are full and its getting hard to park. I can drive to work up Orleans and tell myself it doesn’t look that different, until I get to the fields of sand and debris that were once the Lafitte Housing projects. Or I can take my son to school first, taking a part of my own boyhood route to school up Jefferson Davis and Nashville, and convince myself that things looks much the same as they did three years ago today, or twenty years ago when I left for the east coast.

I can make a point of not venturing into the heart of Gentilly Woods or New Orleans East. I can leave my newspaper folded on the porch, not reading of peoples homes demolished by mistake, or a building badly in need of demolition but ignored collapsing onto someone’s nearly restored house. I can pay no attention to the latest recovery scandal, the diversion of funds to help the elderly and poor into the pockets of the mayor’s brother-in-law. Instead I can make head out to any of a dozen of world’s finest restaurants in the country, then wander out into the night to listen to music you won’t find anywherre else in America, and tell myself everything is going to be alright.

Instead, I find myself getting up most mornings or coming home at night not to the daily paper but to a computer. I login and after vainly checking for comments and counts here, I pull up the writings of dozens of New Orleans bloggers who will not let us forget, who will not let you forget wherever you may be. They are a daily reminder of the ground truth of this place, that our recovery still struggles after three years and will continue for years to come. They remind me as well that I no longer have the time or energy to crusade as I did on Wet Bank Guide for the first two years after the flood, but that the battle goes on.

We are an odd bunch, the NOLA bloggers. I wrote not long ago:

“We are people who write about this city and the people in it… as one of the tethers for our sanity in this crazy place where It’s After the End of the World…part an underground resistance to the poor, lost fuckmooks [in City Hall] on Perdido Street and everywhere you can find them, here and away; to the “shootings happen to someone else, to bad people but not to me” mind set; to the “charter schools are wonderful, just like Catholic school without the tuition or the knee patches and let the rest rot” view of the world; a resistance against anyone who would profit from our pain or settle for less than something better for New Orleans.

“[w]e’re not paragons, of virtue or anything else. We’re as dysfunctional a band as any mid-career high school class, mad as bats as often as not, cranky as an Ash Wednesday hangover and drunk 24-7 on the elixir of New Orleans.”

Our community is an on-line analog of the movement that blossomed two years ago when the government failed to step in to rebuild the city. Organizations rose up in the neighborhoods among those who came home first, and became a movement of civic engagement. Among the leaders that movement cast up were bloggers: Karen Gadbois and Bart Everson most prominently, with dozens of others in the ranks. When it became clear that the government would not save us, the people of New Orleans moved to save themselves and blogging became an important part of that movement.

What we all blog is important because we will not let the government write our story, or the out-of-town journalists with their own angle or even our local newspaper, beholden as it is to the lot of carpetbaggers and scaliwags who are swarming like flies around the recovery money that dribbles down like. We tell our own story, the real story of the drowning and slow rebirth of New Orleans, sometimes from the fly-over view of what might be called the big picture, but more often in the stories of our own neighborhood, our block, ourselves. The people who would write our history for their own ends must contend with us. They have their own reasons, their own agendas. We have only one purpose: the salvation of the city and our own post-traumitized selves in the bargain.

Who do I read? If I start to name names, I know I will leave someone out, but on the odd chance you have just stumbled in here from elsewhere, I have to call out at least a few. Karen’s Squandered Heritage, Eli’s We Could Be Famous, the anonymous bloggers David’s Moldy City and Dambala’s American Zombie do not just take apart yesterday’s news; they are a at least a day (if not months) ahead at least. Karen and Eli can take credit for breaking the most recent City Hall Scandal. For a taste of life in the postdiluvian city you should be reading Micheal Homan, Kim’s Dangerblond, Mominem’s Tin Can Trailer Trash, Gentilly Girl, Cliff’s Crib, author Poppy Brite’s Dispatches from Tanganyika or Ray in New Orleans (currently on a blogging sabatical, but read back through his story of working on gutting houses in New Orleans). If you want to see people get their snark on and find a way to laugh through the veil of tears, then visit Peter’s Adrastos or Jeffery’s Library Chronicles.

Ah, what a slippery slope this is. See, I’ve gone and left out Leigh, Derek, Deidre, Glen, Bart, Lisa, Greg and Oyster and bog only knows who else. If you come away from this list hurt, hit me up for a drink at Rising Tide III, the bloggers conference on the recovery of New Orleans. You see, we are not just a lot of computer-equipped malingerers and malcontents. Many individuals (Ray, Bart, Karen, and others) have gone great things for the city. As a group, we have mounted Rising Tide, an annual conference on the city’s slow reconstruction. We have been able to attract national authors for featured speakers and active locals to our panels because they too have learned that there is a force moving in the world called blogging. It is not just a spin-off phenomena of politics or the ugly murmurring of the mob you read below the stories on NOLA.COM. It is as powerful and as democratic as Tom Paine setting type and as powerful and as ethereal as William Blake carving visionary plates.

Three years is too soon to know if we will succeed or fail, whether we are writing small pieces of the history of a great beginning or a tragic ending. It is a tremendous task, not merely to rebuild a city but at the same time to try to correct a century of past mistakes that had led to the city I described when I began, the city already full of broken streets and broken dreams before the flood came. Will we collapse of our own internal contraditions like the revolutions of the 20th century, or be drowned beyond recovery by yet another storm? All I know for certain is that unless the Internet collapses or is suppressed you can watch it play out here. Or even play your own part. Blogging alone, we have learned, is not enough, but it is a start: a public declaration that you care about New Orleans, and will not let is fade away.

Cross-posted from Humid City, where this first went up as part of Loki’s Carnival of Blogging for the anniversary and Rising Tide.

TS Fay: Sponsored by Bacardi and State Farm August 17, 2008

Posted by The Typist in Toulouse Street.
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Why the hell is it that a few thousand Cubans and their allies) can force us to maintain a state of cold war with Cuba that prevents Hurricane Hunters from reaching a storm that threatens the United States? We learn this from today’s tropical storm discussion from the National Hurricane Center:

…the center of Fay is too close to the coast of Cuba to be accessible to the Air Force hurricane hunter aircraft…so there are no direct measurements of central pressure or precise positioning of the surface center…

That is as insane.

And for fun, go check out the five-day forecast map on Weather Underground, brought to you by State-Farm, the company that used doctored engineering reports to lower payouts to Mississippi policy holders. (A helpful federal judge explained to us last April that while this constituted bad faith, it was not fraud. I plan to keep that in mind as I prepare my next year’s tax return using multiple, doctored W-4s. I mean, if it’s OK for State-Farm it should be OK for me, right?)

I’d go on, but I’m off to check around the neighborhood for rabbits with pocketwatches…

Nagin Award Drives Me To Drink August 16, 2008

Posted by The Typist in 504, Dancing Bear, New Orleans, NOLA, Toulouse Street, We Are Not OK.
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This Nagin award thing is going to drive me to drink. I say we honor the Survivors of Katrina that are being used to promote this sham award. I say we drink to the Salt of the Earth.

Christ, did Keith Ridchards every really look that young?