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There is only us January 30, 2009

Posted by The Typist in New Orleans, NOLA, Toulouse Street, We Are Not OK.
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5 comments

“There is only us.”

I read that line on Facebook, from prominent local activist and blogger Karen Gadbois, in reaction to the news that Inspector General Robert Cerasoli will step down for health reasons.

There is only us. We all remember, those of us on the ground, what Ashley said a long time ago: Sinn Fein. Ourselves alone.

That is all we ever had, and that is in the end how it must be. If we can’t do it, then what hope is there for us?

Since 8-29 we have looked for heroes, thinking ourselves incapable of doing it alone. First came Lt. Gen. Honore’ Russel Honore’, the “John Wayne dude”. If he had not come and ordered the Guardsmen to stop pointing their rifles at the people of the Convention Center and the Superdome and start handing out water, how many more would have died?

He was a hero, our hero, for his short time in the limelight. But he is long gone, rejected as Gulf Coast Hurricane Czar when names were first floated.

Cerasoli was a hero, our hero, for his short time as well. And now he is leaving.

There is only us, but that is all we ever really had.

Between Honore’ and Cerasoli we made our own heroes, and a few of the bloggers were among them. Ashley Morris was our special hero among the bloggers, the spirit of an indomitable love for New Orleans that could not be extinguished. Karen Gadbois is another, one of our own and a leader of the movement against the entrenched inertia of what passes for government in New Orleans. Brian Denzer’s tireless work on crime and other data modeling, Eli Ackerman’s investigations into NORA and Matt McBride’s tireless dogging of the Corps of Engineeers just scratch the surface.

We are a rabble, all of us: the bloggers, the housing activists, the anti-crime activists, the guerrilla artists, all of us in New Orleans. We need more heroes to step up from our own ranks because there is only us, and we have to keep all these ground swells against the old and broken ways going.

Go re-read Ashley’s Sinn Fein pieces. He took the phrase from Ronnie Virgets, who said in a chapter titled “Sinn Fein: Ourselves Alone” that “New Orleans and New Orleanians were the only people that cared about New Orleans”. Yeah, you right.

There is only us. Sinn Fein, baby.

If we cannot save ourselves, no one else is going to do it for us. Cerasoli and Honore’ were the exceptions to the carpetbaggers and scaliwags who, like Ray Nagin, are reading Naomi Klein’s Shock Doctine like a business plan.

I keep getting drawn back to these words from a Wet Bank Guide piece from December 2006 titled “How Long, Lord?”, which I last quoted only a few weeks ago:

If we want a city that resembles the one of memory and desire, perhaps it is best if we are left to ourselves to build it. Give me enough people like Shearer, like the New Orleans bloggers listed at right and I believe we can do it: ourselves alone; Sinn Fein, as Ashley says. Going it alone…will be painful. Some will try and not make it, risk everything to return and rebuild or reopen, only to loose everything. If we must go it alone, this will certainly be a smaller city, and some will leave ruined and broken by the effort. Whether we are recalled as heroes or fools only history will tell, but I think know the measure of those who have chosen to come home and try. There is no finer place to be an American today than in their company

There is only us. We had best get busy.

Rising Tide III August 7, 2008

Posted by The Typist in Toulouse Street.
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2 comments

The Rising Tide organizers have been busy as hell while I was lazing in Destin and Miami. The schedule is finalized and it’s time to start banging pans together to build so momentum for this year’s conference.

If you are not familiar with this event, the NOLA Bloggers are organizing their third annual conference on the recovery of New Orleans. This year’s featured speaker is John Barry, author of Rising Tide: The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 and How It Changed America and commissioner for the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority – East.

Last year’s feature speaker, author and blogger David Zirin, told me at lunch in all of his travels for work and book promotion, he has never seen as organized and integrated a blogging community as he found in New Orleans. The success of the last two Rising Tide conferences reflect that clearly. The organizing group has put together a fantastic array of speakers. So far, the only thing missing is you.

So why haven’t you registered yet? You can get more details and sign up at www.risingtidenola.net or on the Rising Tide Blog.

Angels Sustaining and Triumphant July 17, 2008

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FYYFF: Black and Gold Forever July 16, 2008

Posted by The Typist in New Orleans, NOLA, Toulouse Street, We Are Not OK.
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1 comment so far

Don’t forget about this event. The Wets will be back from the beach just in time.

I just had to add this stylin’ poster.

FYYFF

It’s Black and Gold Forever: A Fundraiser for the Ashley Morris Memorial

Saturday, July 26 @ One Eyed Jacks
615 Toulouse Street
Cover: $10

www.rememberashleymorris.com

Dirty Coast Press, The Rising Tide and the Big Easy Roller Girls Present:

FYYFF It’s Black and Gold Forever: A Fundraiser for the Ashley Morris Memorial.

Featuring: Fleur de Tease, The Other Planets, and emcee Andrew Ward – The Reverend Pysch Ward + Simon Lott, Helen Gillet.