Archive for June, 2008

Adopt-A-Dump

3016-18 Bienville Cleanup   3016-18 Bienville Cleanup (6)

A few weeks ago I was out looking at properties for the NCDC agenda for June 16th. This property at 3016-18 Bienville was one I visited. It’s a fine house, it can be remediated without a doubt and has architectural value on this very beautiful street. A good investment. However, it’s not been cleaned out since Katrina. This is infuriating.

The front yard had become a dumping ground for trash and the long grass/weeds were pretty bad. It’s not boarded up. It was sited by the city for demolition because of these problems. The owner, Louis J. Elliot, et al, who’s address is listed as 1128 Nashville Ave, was at the NCDC meeting and he told me the house was under contract and going to the Act of Sale in early July. He wanted it withdrawn from the demo list. This was all good news but I asked him sternly to go at least cut the damn grass, clean up the trash and board the property up. He said he would. Three weeks later, he had not done this simple task. I called his realtor and bitched too since Mr. Elliot slumlord’s phone number wasn’t available.

Finally, today I took Nick to the Mid-City Library to show him what they had to offer and we got some books. On the way home, we stopped by to get this craphole under control. It took us about 30 minutes to fill up two contractor bags with trash and cut the grass and weeds down to a tolerable level. The neighbor had said she was trying to keep up with it for a while but she was disgusted too and had given up. So we came by to help at least a little. I just get so disgusted with people, sometimes the best way to deal with being angry is to just do something about it.

Shame on Louis Elliot and all the owners who have left these perfectly good properties open and filthy throughout the city while families try to live next to them. Our patience is running out but we don’t want to see homes demolished just because of laziness either. The neighbor said she would prefer to deal with the property rather than an empty lot which would quickly become a dumping ground for tires, trash and trashed cars and all types of crap. 

It’s worth it to me to spend a little time cleaning up and maybe boarding up too if we can prevent a lazy-ass demolition which is free. So far, I haven’t seen any programs for money dedicated to cleaning up these historical properties but there is plenty of funding for tearing them down.  The property, once gone, cannot be replaced to the same level of quality as this old construction.

Betty’s Birthday

Betty's Birthday

Yesterday, I took Nick and Josh with me to computer tutoring over at the Freret Communty Center because they also have arts and crafts for kids on Saturday.

It worked out great because they were able to make “stained glass” items for their mother, Betty, whose birthday is on Monday. We went to Walgreen’s on the way home and got giftwrap and cards so they are ready to give their mom some great, great, great, handmade presents for her birthday along with big hugs. Josh helped me write this post.

Mark Moves

Benefit for Bob La Crepe Nanou (8)

I am not one for large goodbyes.  Anyone who has left New Orleans knows you have to eat/drink your way out of town, resulting in an extra bulge for the road.

Today, one of my very best friends, Mark Williams, is moving to Beaverton, Oregeon. He’s leaving today and I am trying to be positive about him going to a place where the streets won’t wreck your car and crime is a comma.  Mark has lived in New Orleans most of his life aside from his early upbringing in Mobile, AL.  He’s taught me how to Love/Hate New Orleans with the proper authority.  Since he grew up here, he and his friend Tom, who is also in our circle of close friends based out of La Crepe Nanou, they taught me over time how local it really is to get comfortable with your disgust about the city. I was regularly irritated with their negativity until post-K, when I finally understood their position of futility about our historic dysfunction. 

One of the final breaking points leading up to Mark’s decision to bail was the $800 S&WB bill Mark got at the apartment he shares with his friend.  Two people, $800 was simply ridiculous. He had to go to hearing to defend getting it reduced but it was still too much money.  Suddenly, moving to Oregon with his best friend Tom looked easier.

So, today, he’s gone. He’s probably in OK, City tonight. 

We’ve been through a whole lot together. We’ve known each other since about 1995 when I moved here and we worked together in the bookstore.  Over the past 13 yrs. we’ve been through the loss of two friends to drug/alcohol related problems.  He was there for Robert Small’s benefit at ‘the restaurant’.  I’ll never forget the time he was there to lean on when I had to take a pack of feral kittens who appeared in my backyard to the SPCA. I was convinced they wouldn’t last long and he came over to my house to drive me to there and let me bawl my eyes out. 

In October 2005, Post-Katrina, I kinda lied to him and his girlfriend, Kitty, and said things were fine to come back right when I was looking at a dead dog in the road. But they believed me and came back. I just wanted them to come back.  We all cleaned out our friend Margaret’s refrigerator together.

Mark also lived in my condo while I was away at grad school and took care to call me when there was a bloody shoot-out outside on Toledano. He let me sleep on the sofa bed when I came for frequent visits and introduced me to the illustrious Canadian humor of the Trailer Park Boys to help me keep my sanity. We were good roomies, a real test of friendship. After Katrina, he let me convince him to throw his old bachelor chair on a pile of other furniture on St. Charles Avenue as I was coming back for good and he moved into a new place.

When we both went through some small chernobyls together after Katrina we drank some whiskey on the porch together to talk through things . . . logically.  When I was beyond logical and unable to get out of bed I called Mark to tell me what to do . . .
“take a shower or a bath” he said, and I went about my day, did some laundry and made it through a bad day. 

I’ve relied on him a lot in so many many ways. I sometimes wonder how I will get through the new rough spots yet unseen without him but we promised we will call and he promised to get an email account, he’s a well known luddite, adding to our challenge of remaining connected now that he’s 4 days away from the Small Difficult, our name for the Big Easy.

I am looking forward to hearing his perspective from a city where the mayor isn’t Satan and where they have hills and clean streets, where their MLK has a Starbucks. Some may say he’ll lack the ‘cultural’ stimulation but at this point, normal peace is the goal and not getting shot in the head on the way to get to the corner store sounds like a solid plan of action.

 I have told him a hundred times that I love him and miss him but many people here will miss him and many beers are being tossed back in his honor tonight. As he left, he assured me, “See you at Mardi Gras!”

It is official New Orleans Sparkles

Remember a few weeks back when I wrote this? Well, we won! New Orleans is the nation’s most “Sparkling City.” What does this mean? Well, read on for selections from the press release;
White Plains, NY, June 23, 2008 — [yellow tail] wines announced today that Americans deem New Orleans to be “America’s Most Sparkling City.” After a national survey narrowed the list of nominees to 10 locations, Americans were asked to vote online for the most animated, brilliant, lively and vivacious city in the United States. The winner proved to be the home of Mardi Gras, Bourbon Street, and Jazzfest—as well as a rich volume of American history.
Jacquelyn B. Clarkson, city council member at large, plans to accept the inaugural honor on behalf of the city during an event in New Orleans’ iconic Jackson Square on July 1, in conjunction with the Independence Day holiday. Renowned travel guide author and expert, Pauline Frommer, along with a [yellow tail] wines representative, will be on site at Chartres Mall, in front of St. Louis Cathedral, to present the award.
“It’s exciting that the American people realize New Orleans has not lost its sparkle,” Frommer said. “Although the city has gone through very rough times, the tourist areas are back—and are as exciting and dynamic as ever. It’s great that [yellow tail] is honoring this city for its warm culture and unique history. If there ever were a city that truly sparkles, today and forever, it is New Orleans.”
“We are pleased to name New Orleans as ‘America’s Most Sparkling City,’” said Mark Lyle, vice president of marketing for [yellow tail] wines. “A city with so much determination and hospitality is well-deserving of this title, and we look forward to honoring—and toasting—New Orleans.”

Recovery Perspective

Louisa St.   01

An old friend of mine is here visiting from Chicago with the Hairdressers Unlocking Hope project, they are building a house in Slidell today.

Yesterday, I took Jeff and his friend around the city for a tour of the complete area to show them where we are in recovery. This was previously known as the “disaster tour” but honestly, it’s impossible to give that tour anymore. Things look very good throughout Lakeview but less good in Gentilly. It was hard to give them the picture of how far we have come. Driving from one end of Louisa down back into the Marigny one can still see the devastation clearly but so much of it takes more dramatic language to convey what you could once simply see that this task of the tour is much different.

We saw the housing projects being torn down and I had to explained how much demolition is happening throughout the city. We passed many, many empty lots where there used to be dense housing in many areas but it seemed so impossible to explain what a war zone so much of the city looked like before. The brown landscape, the smell, it all seems like another world today. So many houses are freshly painted and landscaped now, contrasted with an empty, open house every couple of houses. I have become accustomed to this but they seemed shocked by the amount of empty, gutted homes throughout the city.  

Jeff noted the many FEMA trailers and sympathized with people who have been living in them for more then two years now. I know that areas in the lower wards are still struggling but I was quite amazed at how much progress seems to be happening and how much giving this tour had changed and how hard it was to narrate. I had to look up this old photo of myself doing the Population Survey back in 2005 when I returned to remind myself.

While this tour was optimistic, when asked if we’d flood again, unfortunately, I had to say we still feel there is a big risk for flooding, we could still see the loss of property again in some areas if faced with the threat of a low category storm today. We just don’t know until the Army Corps is tested again. This is somewhat hard to tell someone who is investing their time and energy in helping people rebuild. I spoke at length about how volunteers and faith based organizations have helped New Orleans. As Craig, said, we could never repay them.

Summer slowdown

Man…

I know things slow down here in the summer. It’s hot, it’s humid and all that. Folks from elsewhere make fun of Southerners for moving so slow until they come down here — then they learn why: it’s just hot, okay? Years ago, the city of Houston spent untold thousands of dollars to hire a PR firm to come up with a slogan for some international event being hosted. This quick-thinking think-tank came up with “Houston’s HOT!” I wanted to add, “…and humid too.” But I digress….

…so business has SERIOUSLY slowed down on Magazine St. and elsewhere. No wonder so many places simply close their doors for a month or so or wind up curtailing hours. We’re cutting back a bit ourselves, though we’ve discovered it’s better to remain open and reduce hours than to simply close down for two days a week. The lack of cash flow was having a larger effect than I thought it might, so lesson learned.

I note here that there are plenty of folks taking some time these days to give back to the flood-stricken areas of the Midwest (forgive me, but I’m still getting used to the updated site. It seems every freaking site has its own rules anymore and I’m just old enough and cantankerous enough and busy enough that I refuse to learn them all. Oh, and — get off my lawn). Lord knows so many people we never met were so good to us after Katrina that there is really no way we could possibly repay or even try to balance things out. If you can’t actually go up there, I’d suggest contributing whatever you can to the American Red Cross. I know I am.

Of course we don’t wish this kinda thing on anyone. But I gotta say it’s heartening to see someone else getting pissed off at FEMA and the Corps and the false promises and the levee situations and the insurance companies and all the other crap that’s going to take, um, years to even begin to iron out. And, in a lot of the areas, it’s the same as Katrina — the water came up and it’s still there. It just sits there and stews in the hot sun, day after day.

God bless the latest round of flood victims. We’re with you more than you know. On a whole lot of levels.

Ducks

Today I took the baby to City Park. I had seen people feeding the ducks many times so this trip I took some bread to feed them thinking this would be a fun experience for all involved. Just behind the museum I spotted some ducks hanging out and thought this would be a great place to stop. No sooner had I sat the little one’s feet in the grass did the ducks and geese start to waddle toward us from the edge of the water. At first things were ok but they just kept getting closer and closer and before I knew it the geese were just a foot from the baby. They are as tall as he is and seemingly unafraid of humans. So, I picked him up and we walked back a few steps but he overly friendly waterfowl just kept on coming. When the pigeons swooped in, I knew it was time to go. I threw the slices of bread I had left and walked briskly to the car.

We then drove around to the playground area where we played and were able to toss the rest of our bread to some ducks in the water who were much more respectful of our personal space. And when I say ‘we’ threw the bread I mean ‘me’ because though the baby seemed to like the birds he just ate his bread. Lesson learned; few birds – cool, lots of birds a la The Birds– not cool

Voudou Bayou

This just in from Sallie Ann Glassman:

On Monday, June 23rd at 7pm, Sallie Ann Glassman and La Source Ancienne Ounfo will celebrate St. John’s Eve with their annual ceremony on the footbridge over Bayou St. John (near Cabrini High School).

Vodou Ceremony: Wear all white and bring a white scarf or rag for your head. (It will get dirty.)

Marie Laveau: Bring an offering for Marie Laveau. She likes flowers, blue and white candles, Creole foods, hair ribbons and hair dressing supplies,(she was a hairdresser), Vodou-esque items (Voodoo dolls, potions, gris-gris bags, etc.), or images of Marie Laveau.

FYI, this is not the same as her annual Hurricane Ceremony–nor, obviously, are the stakes as high. But it’s always a good time.

Unclean! Unclean!

Many of you have been following the ongoing effort to get rid of derelict buildings in New Orleans. Since Katrina, the number of blighted structures has absolutely mushroomed — only adding to the number of buildings that were abandoned and in poor shape BEFORE the storm hit. It’s been obvious in recent months that Something was going to be done — since not only our overpromising mayor but the entire City Council as a unit has decided it’s time to press ahead and either get these joints cleaned up or get them into the hands of those who will. Or to simply get them torn down, and the list of targeted properties is a long one. Our own Laureen Lentz has been heavily involved in this process, as she has documented.

Welp — it’s working. It was only a couple of months ago that Councilwoman Stacy Head participated in a news conference just a few doors down from our house — in front of a longstanding hellhole that everyone agreed had to come down. The place was bad when we moved here — disintegrating only moreso since Katrina. But it’s being cleaned up — at least outwardly — and all of us in the neighborhood are grateful.

But the even bigger news is that the junkyard (owned by the same person) next to our house has been the object of a massive cleanup effort over the past several days. Gone are the old cars, the overfull dumpster, the assorted appliances, the rotting bags of beer cans and bottles, the six-foot weeds and virtually every (outward) sign of decay. It looks like you could land a small plane in there (well, not really — but y’know).

Something Actually Worked. We appreciate it.

…though our cats are wondering where all their buddies have gone.

Bobby Jindal vs. Linda Blair. FOR REAL.

Holy freakin’ crap:

Bobby Jindal, the 36-year old governor of Louisiana, is being taken seriously by the national press as a candidate on the shortlist to be John McCain’s Vice President. No one doubts that he’s a political prodigy — his impressive resume includes stints as president of the state university system, a Congressman and now governor.

But one of Jindal’s job titles hasn’t gotten much attention — and it just might prompt a few questions if his Veep candidacy gains steam: Exorcist.

We’ve discovered that in an essay Jindal wrote in 1994 for the New Oxford Review, a serious right-wing Catholic journal, Jindal narrated a bizarre story of a personal encounter with a demon, in which he participated in an exorcism with a group of college friends. And not only did they cast out the supernatural spirit that had possessed his friend, Jindal wrote that he believes that their ritual may well have cured her cancer…. [emphasis mine]

And from Jindal’s essay:

It appeared as if we were observing a tremendous battle between the Susan we knew and loved and some strange evil force. But the momentum had shifted and we now sensed that victory was at hand.

While Alice and Louise held Susan, her sister continued holding the Bible to her face. Almost taunting the evil spirit that had almost beaten us minutes before, the students dared Susan to read biblical passages. She choked on certain passages and could not finish the sentence “Jesus is Lord.” Over and over, she repeated “Jesus is L..L..LL,” often ending in profanities. In between her futile attempts, Susan pleaded with us to continue trying and often smiled between the grimaces that accompanied her readings of Scripture. Just as suddenly as she went into the trance, Susan suddenly reappeared and claimed “Jesus is Lord.”

read all the fabulousness at TalkingPointsMemo.com

I mean, I had some extreme moments in college, but, uh, nothing quite like that. Not while I was sober, anyway.

Thanks for the link, Tyler. Holy crap, thanks for the link.

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