Archive for June, 2006

Friday Funhouse Vol.1, No. 1

Introducing the beginning-of-the-weekend mixed bag of articles related to New Orleans, Louisiana and general geekitude, with editorial comments. In truth, this is a way to clear my Inbox of articles sent by friends and family in the spirit of “She lives in New Orleans and ought to know about this.” What do I do in turn, dear readers? Inflict the pain on you, of course! Here goes.

1. NYTimes: ‘Breathtaking’ Waste And Hurricane Aid – Breathtaking is the amount of hot air created over this. However, the article doesn’t blame just us thieving New Orleanians.

There are the bureaucrats who ordered nearly half a billion dollars worth of mobile homes that are still empty, and renovations for a shelter at a former Alabama Army base that cost about $416,000 per evacuee.

The most disturbing cases, said David R. Dugas, the United States attorney in Louisiana, who is leading a storm antifraud task force for the Justice Department, are those involving government officials accused of orchestrating elaborate scams.

They forgot people like Chuck Henderson of Texas who stood to gain “$12.5 million in FEMA contracts — with $7.5 million as profit for him and his two partners.” His story was brought to light during a divorce trial.

2. Hurricane Machine To Flatten Home

A family home in Canada will be deliberately destroyed by scientists to understand how buildings react to hurricane force winds … The new tests will be carried out at a hangar near London International Airport in Ontario, known as the “three little pigs” facility, after the children’s story. Construction workers have built a two-storey, four-bedroom family home in the hangar for the purposes of the test.

The University of Western Ontario team hopes its work will inform building plans in areas such as New Orleans.

Unless you live in a complete shanty, areas such as New Orleans do just fine in winds. In fact, my 130-year-old house on the Sliver did a lot better than a new-construction, multi-storey house in the same neighborhood, MidCity or the Northshore. Perhaps time would be better spent understanding how these older fortresses were built. Give me a ring when scientists bust a fake levee along a fake canal and drown a fake neighborhood.

3. A club called Ray’s Boom Boom Room (?!) is set to open on Saturday, July 1, on Frenchmen St. in the Marigny (same block and side of the street as Hookah Cafe). The owner invited a friend and me to the opening party on Saturday evening, as well as to the parties leading up to it this past week. I haven’t had a chance to go yet and will probably be on Bourbon St. (YUK!!!) for a bachelorette party this Saturday night. Who has the skinny for me?

With that, we conclude the inaugural episode of Friday Funhouse. Tune in next week, same Monkey time, same Monkey channel.

Of Noses And Faces

Louisana closer to netting offshore revenue

The House measure would lift a 25-year-old drilling moratorium off the U.S. coast and allow states to share in the federal royalties paid by oil and gas companies. The moratorium excludes most parts of the Gulf of Mexico, where the bulk of U.S. oil and gas is produced … The bill would prohibit drilling up to 50 miles off the east and west coasts of the United States, unless those states vote to allow it.

The Daily Advertiser reports:

While it is only the first step in a long process, it is the first movement in Congress to give Louisiana what Blanco and state leaders have been requesting for a long time: significant sharing of revenue from offshore oil and gas production to pay for restoring Louisiana’s coastal marshes and improving hurricane protection.

When I heard Jindal’s and Melancon’s words on this House measure, pride was what initially swept through me. Two state politicians cogently and vehemently fight for our revenue to improve our state. That’s when I realized the weird situation in which this measure places us: We’re going to drill more and closer to shore, increasingly utilize pipelines and run more through the wetlands and use the revenue to save those same wetlands?

In essence, we kill the buffer and then use the money from the killing to revitalize the buffer. Makes sense, doesn’t it?

As an oil industry professional who takes pride in her work (and not necessarily its toll on our environment), I live this ethical dilemma everyday. Although recycling facilities no longer exist in this city, I’ve saved every piece of recyclable material in a large pile behind my house for the day that recycling will once again resume here. I drive a fuel-efficient car when I have to, ride a bike and walk more often, love nature, am angry about the loss of our wetlands as national treasure and hurricane protection, yet am equally diligent in my work onshore and off, and actually like my employer.

In the end, if we don’t grow the wetlands, it will at least be a zero-sum game. I hope.

In a similar quagmirish vein, the demolition of the Coliseum Place Baptist Church is almost complete. The remains of the building (with solitary door standing in the middle) look so utterly forlorn that I began to tear up taking pictures again the other day.

Robert Wolf, head of the Coliseum Square Neighborhood Association, informs me that the Curtis family, along with a few other members of the Coliseum Place Baptist Church, formed an LLC two weeks before the fire and demolition. Once the fire is declared an arson, the association is going to fight this case further. I’ll keep you posted.

Just a little advice

I haven’t told this story because frankly it hurts and it is painful. To me anyway. But it’s time to let go and get over it in some way.

I have never owned my own home. Always been a dream of mine (up bringing I guess, who knows where our wants and desires come from) since I started working. My goal was to own my own place with a nice porch and some space to entertain in the back. The inside? Yeah that’s important but I want to sit on my front porch and drink coffee and read the paper in the morning and BBQ and drink beer with friends in the back. That’s all I want. Or wanted.

Well the years went by, city to city, state to state. Never found the city that was like New Orleans. Ever. Been to many great places, lived in wonderful cities. But they were not home. I waited for the opportunity to come back.

April 2002 I got the chance to return. I got the offer to run 690 AM in town. Didn’t care that the station was news talk and I had no experience at news talk. Didn’t matter. It was New Orleans. It was home.

The station was a disaster. No ratings. A complete and utter mess. Worse radio station I have ever heard. EVER. Anyway, not about the station but my energy was focused there for a long time.

January 2005 the station had gotten to the point where it was solid. Yeah still tons of work to do, tons of bridges to rebuild (the wacko who ran it before was insane and at one point had David Duke doing a talk show) but we were getting there. And I was staying no matter what. So I started looking for a house to buy. One I could call my own.

Took a while but I found what I finally thought would be home. Now I have made tons of mistakes in my personal life, this would be a 60 page post if I went there but suffice to say, I’m not rich by any means and my credit stinks. But I had saved and scrimped to be able to buy a starter home in real estate terms.

Here’s where the title comes into play. Just a little advice. Don’t attempt to buy a home during hurricane season. Ever.

Jumping through hoops, throwing my life savings around to get this checked and that checked and oh we forgot this is gonna cost you this amount was rough. But that’s what saving is for right. Anyway this I guess is the killer. I could look at it a different way but I don’t wanna. I want to look at it from what I lost. The house checked out, everything was solid, good property etc…Insurance all set ready to go just show up at the closing Mr. Frazier with your checkbook and you’ll be ready to go. So I had my checkbook all ready to go, hell I had even signed the thing without knowing what amount they would need. Just one problem. The closing was scheduled for August 29, 2005.

Yeah that obviously didn’t happen. I was at the radio station talking to terrified residents trapped in their attics on that day. And they couldn’t swim.

Yeah I know I should be happy I didn’t close on Friday August 26th 2005 like I was pressuring everyone to do. All I would “own” now is a slab where a house once stood. And of course all the money and savings and cost associated with getting ready to buy the house are gone. So it’s back to square one. When I got back to town full time, I went and got a PJ’s coffee and sat on that slab and drank the best tasting coffee I’ve ever had. And cried and cried and cried just like I’m doing now.

I love ciders……really, it’s weird.

There’s a big Freret Street neighborhood meeting at 6pm. They want to address the gunshots frequently heard a couple blocks from my house. Second District has promised to be there as well as Stacy Head (man, she must have had a hell of a time in high school!) I was going to go; I should go; I’m not going. I have opted instead, to go to the King Pin for a drink. Is that the responsible choice? No, I think not. Do I care that its irresponsible? A little, but we’ll round it off to no. Besides, I’m sure someone will fill me in on the details. But still, I’m not setting a very good blogxample.

Thing is, I just don’t feel like tolerating other people. They can sit and plan and figure and come up with agendas to get things done to improve the neighborhood and that’s all fine and all. But lately, I just don’t feel like I have the mental or emotional collateral to deal with other people. Dealing with my own twisted shit has drained my account. And why should I spend time trying to figure out what to do because Thing One and Thing Two decide to shoot at each other. Isn’t that why there are police? And no one has been able to explain to me why the NOPD has to have eye witnesses before they can prosecute someone for doing something. It’s all very odd. Isn’t that what evidence is for? I don’t understand.

And all this lack of patience is what’s turned my being alone into feeling lonely. I want to meet new, and interesting people, hear their stories, meet their friends, have someone to go to dinner with or sit around watching crappy TV when there’s time; just someone to say “I dunno, what do you want to do today?” to. But I know what I have to do and what I’ll have to do for the foreseeable future: work on the shanty. And even that seems lonely because I’m trying to make decisions about shit and there’s no one to talk to about it so I just bore my friends with talk of floor staining and shit that even I’m not interested in. Even the friends I have takes an effort to remember what they’re doing so as not to seem inconsiderate. And I know they’re struggling to remember what the hell I’m up to.

I fear that as this all wears on, we’re all going to become more and more self-absorbed. That we’re all going to isolate ourselves in our own affairs and consistently take it all too seriously. Roofs, floor stain colors, cabinets, etc. Sure it’s important on some level; in the little microcosm of here and now, but is it worth what we’re giving up for it? In economics its called “opportunity costs”. I believe it is comparing what you’re doing to the better possibilities you aren’t doing instead. Maybe its just me; that’s the other thing with isolating yourself, you have no benchmark for comparison. When I was in High School I used to watch the marching band practice and yell: You’re all out of step – every one of you!! So maybe we’re all out of step; not with each other, but with the rest of the world. I’ve felt for a while that we’re all alone here, but this feeling that we’re all, individually, alone here as well is new to me.

So, opportunity cost: I’m sacrificing being a respectable member of my community to drink cider and play Golden Tee. I’m almost insistent on being alone and why I’m doing that makes me feel lonely more than being alone does. It’s, if nothing else, a very odd state of mind to find myself in. And on top of it all, I’m taking it all too seriously.

but don’t take my word for it…

In celebration of the first major conference to hit NOLA since the storm, here is a link to updated information on all the open local libraries, inlcuding accurate phone numbers! Reading is super duper, especially when it is free, ya heard! rainbow.gif

Carrollton Oasis

Among the places newly reopened amid the formerly flooded helter-skelter near Mid-City is the Popeye’s at Carrollton and Earhart.

Far as I know, the only Popeye’s available in Orleans Parish has been the one on St. Charles (though the one of Magazine might also be open now). The addition of the one on Carrollton adds another working business to the many that are newly reopened near hard-hit Xavier University.

TBK and I stopped for some fried chicken, red beans and rice at lunch today. The biscuits were (as always) puuuuh-fect and the service as reasonably good, given what I’m sure is a new staff. I say stop by and welcome them back.

A Tangent Worth Further Mentioning

Somehow in the discussion that followed one of Jack’s recent stories, someone brought this up (I’m still trying to figure out what it had to do with Jack’s leaky house). Since most people didn’t seem to know about this, here is an explanation.

Sate Senator Walter Boasso, R-Arabi, is pushing a plan that would plug up the Mississippi River-Gulf Outlet (MRGO) with about 70 abandoned oceangoing ships. The ships can be obtained for free from Texas, Virginia, and California. Once the Ships are obtained the State would still have to pay to get the ships into an environmentally friendly shape which will cost about $300,000.

Once the ships are cleaned up, they would be sunk on both sides of the outlet. After being dredged over, landscaping could be put in place, and over time you wouldn’t even be able to tell that the MRGO or the ships were ever there.

I don’t think the Corp of Engineers has ever agreed, but many experts have said that the MRGO directly contributed to the massive, high velocity storm surge that decimated St. Bernard Parish. The MRGO created a funnel effect, concentrating massive amounts of water through a narrow outlet.

To be fair, any plan that includes the closing of the MRGO, would probably cause a number of businesses located along it to close or relocate. But I think that is a small price to pay in order to avoid another Super Storm Surge.

A house fell on my sister….

Something strange happened in my apartment last night: it rained. I don’t mean the roof leaked; this wasn’t a grab a bucket moment. There was really nothing that could be done. I stood there watching the water tumble down from my wood ceiling onto my semi-tarp-covered-belongings and wood floor. Luckily, having long since lost confidence in my contractor, I insisted he not tear the roof off over the room I actually live in. So I stood there watching this and remembering the conversation I’d had with my contractor Saturday morning. I called him over because he’s been staying in the apartment next door for free for almost three months in return for working on the roof. I called him over because I’d told him previously that I expected the roof to be done by the end of the month, which is this Saturday. In the five days previous, he’d done nothing on the roof after having stripped off two-thirds of it down to the barge board deck. And there it sat; exposed to God and the elements. I was pretty upset and intended to ask him to move out by the first and not worry about the roof. He explained that it would be done and he only needed two days to get it done; that day and the next day. That day he got everything all set up after our talk and I left to run some errands. I came back two hours later to find nothing had been done. Later that evening he worked for a few hours and got about an eighth of one side done which put the roof about half done. Not good, but there’s still another day. Then Sunday, he came over around noon, not thinking I was there because I’d taken a cab home from the King Pin so my car wasn’t there. He didn’t realize I’d nailed the back door shut when I got home the night before. He told me he’d been working on the roof all morning and was going to take a break because it was too hot. He had no access to tools or materials and I fail to see how he could do any work without me hearing him. (he later claimed that he put felt paper up with a regular hammer). Then, that after noon they went to the river to swim – I know, that’s a little weird, but heh, I’m not here to judge. He assured me as he was leaving that he’d be back to work on the roof in the evening when it cooled down. That never happened. So Monday, when I got home from work I spoke with him again because I wanted to know what, and I quote: “what the hell”? He assured me again that it would be done by the first and that I should calm down. So I was thinking all this while God pissed on all my shit.

Maybe I am just that stupid

I am no angel. I have done things in my life that I regret. I have never Murked someone, (for the non-New Orleanians, that’s the local word for murder, used usually by actual murderers-maybe someday I’ll write about how I learned that word) but I have done things and said things that I regret. I consider myself well rounded and have been around the block. I’m not a suburbanite that only ventured into the city to shop at Canal Place.

So here we go again. Why in the world would anyone that is a tax paying, God fearing American want to live in a New Orleans Project?

18 families are suing HANO and HUD, accusing the two government agencies of keeping low-income black families from returning to New Orleans. One resident, who has lived in the projects for 30 YEARS, says she wants her apartment back because it’s affordable to her.

Say what? Someone was living in those dumps for 30 YEARS and they want to move back? What the hell have we become as a people? I always thought the idea of the projects were to ASSIST people in getting to a better life. These places were not built for people to live almost their whole lives in them. And they want to go back? Say what?

Craziness Du Jour

Most days I wake up and wonder what kinds of zany third world adventures lie ahead for the day, but today I didn’t even get the chance. I was woken up by a shrill dog bark, which was coming from immediately outside my bedroom window. I looked out and saw three wild dogs in the alley, staring up at the tree in front of the window. Then I noted a terrified kitten in the tree. How cute.

Before my groggy ass could make a decision about how to handle the situation, I heard further commotion and looked outside to see the kitten being used as the rope in a game of tug-o-war between the dogs. I guess they somehow coaxed it from the tree. Watching the dogs kill this cat was kind of disheartening, only because in my half-awake state I was expecting something more like a looney tunes cartoon, where the biggest dog would just swallow the cat whole and be done with it. Instead, two of the dogs lost interest and walked away when the cat stopped fighting back, and the third just sat there prodding its motionless little body. I got sick of watching this and scared the third dog away.

Now I’m not the kind of guy who finds tragedy in one less flea-dispensing, disease ridden stray kitten wandering the neighborhood. In fact I’m kind of glad that wild dogs are picking up the SPCA’s slack. I don’t even have a problem picking up the animal’s corpse and bagging it up. The problem is that once it’s bagged up, where do I put it? Because nobody has picked up garbage or debris from my street in THREE MONTHS. I don’t really know if I want an animal carcass sitting around on the street indefinitely. That sounds unsanitary. If I buried it those dogs will probably just dig it up. I was thinking instead maybe I should just drop it off on the steps of City Hall. Anyone else have creative ideas?

Seriously though, what am I supposed to do with this thing? There’s flies all over it already.

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