Archive for June, 2006

Left Turn Protocols

Sign%20on%20Esplanade%201.jpg

This sign has been up for quite sometime at Esplanade and Claiborne. The bottom line says, ‘so is Metairie’. I propose that we do away with our widespread ‘no left turn’ rule here in the city. I having been testing it for a while, find that I can make a left turn without screwing up the flow of traffic almost everywhere. It’s not being enforced that I can tell anyway. It’s the new-New Orleans. But I am sure we’d first have to get a commission or three funded to consider the issue for two years before we actually go about taking down all those signs. We still need to work at stopping at red-lights maybe we could just focus on that instead of being bogged down by driving in circles trying to find a free left turn.

A man of two minds

In the wake of today’s flooding, part of me wants to express sympathy for the citizens of Washington, DC. I mean, apart from the politicians, they’re not a terribly well-to-do bunch, and the clean-up will be difficult.

Another part of me wants to call up FEMA headquarters and scream, “How’s it feel NOW, bitch? Oh, you’re wet? Oh, your building’s flooded? Oh, your life’s work is ruined? Well, sugar, you just sit tight–I’m sure someone from the Federal Emergency Management Agency is gonna be right there to make things all better….”

Things Not Surreal Enough For You?

Article in today’s New Orleans City Business – “Transvestite Gang Pesters Magazine Street”

Davis said it wasn’t supposed to be like this. They survived Hurricane Katrina’s Category 3 winds and the ensuing looters. They reopened despite the long odds of doing business in a devastated city. The last thing the Magazine Street shop owners expected to threaten their survival was a crime ring of transvestites.

“They’re fearless,” said Ogle. “Once they see something they like they won’t stop until they have it. They don’t care, they’ll go to jail. It’s really gotten bad. You know it’s ridiculous when everyone on the block knows who they are.”

link: http://www.neworleanscitybusiness.com/uptotheminute.cfm?recid=4912

Second Line, same as the first.

I was watching the morning news and they were showing the funerals of three of the five kids killed at 4am one Saturday night some time ago. Every funeral picture of each kid showed them throwing gang signs. Then it turns out that they’d been arrested in a connection with a drive-by shooting in Jefferson Parish but the charges were dropped when no witnesses stepped forward – speculation suggests their deaths were a revenge killing stemming from that.

This is what prompted the National Guard to come back into the city? That’s weird. These kids aren’t exactly sympathetic characters. Something in your brain says “but they’re kids” and that can’t reconcile the fact that they may be murderers, thugs, etc. Seems to me, there’s a group of kids out there playing on that inability to be exceptionally hostile toward juveniles in the way we would be toward someone in their late 20s to early 30s for doing the exact same thing. I mean, I’m 34 and if someone gunned me down at 4am in a nearly empty part of town wouldn’t the first thought that come to mind be, ‘what the hell was he doing there at that hour anyway; buying drugs’? The fact that they’re “kids” makes us throw out the detail and take pity on life wasted in youth. And even if we acknowledge they may not be very good kids, we are still tempted to feel sympathy for the parent(s) – who are exactly the people most responsible for the fact that the kids weren’t very good kids – or if not responsible, at least accountable.

Teenagers are the most dangerous people in New Orleans, and this is probably the case in most American cities. And yet the problem goes nearly unaddressed, in part, I think, because we can not come to terms with the idea that, in some cases, kids, who should be approaching the necessary skills to be worthwhile adults, are just horrible people whose deaths may actually be saving lives. It’s a depressing thought and it may be that we allow it, and hold back our wrath because we feel somewhat responsible. When you look at something like this, don’t you have to ask yourself: Is this really the best we can do? We’re the most powerful, successful, wealthiest, and arrogant nation to ever exist on this planet and we’re manufacturing horrible people who kill themselves off by the handful.

That can’t possibly be a good thing.

Coliseum Place Baptist Church: A Request

For the next two or three days, I will be offshore on a Gulf of Mexico drilling ship. This is a request to all NOLA residents, especially you blogger hounds, to keep on the facts surrounding the destruction of the Coliseum Place Baptist Church and report back to me or, even better, write about it yourself. As long as one or more of us stays on this, we will 1) succeed where mainstream media fails and 2) always have an archive of the facts.

If you are interested, please attend the meeting of the Coliseum Square and Lower Garden District Neighborhood Association scheduled for 6PM this Tuesday at Kingsley House (1600 Constance St.). Adieu for now.

Get in this house, young man

We’ve now got a juvenile curfew in effect, and we’ll see how it works out. I’m of the opinion that curfews only work against those who aren’t the problem. I mean, kids who are thugging it up for real don’ care ’bout no steenking curfew. And usually their parents aren’t exactly the model of Republican Family Values (who the hell came up with that term anyway? Doesn’t each family set its own damn values? I mean, my kids’ values ain’t the same as…….hell — this is for another discussion).

Anyway — we’ll see how it works. I imagine the really big impact will come during the work week, when the curfew is at 9pm. How many summer weekday nights was I out cruising around at age 16? Just about all of them, as I remember. That part of me really chafes against this. Just like the 21-year-old drinking age and (dammit — yet another discussion).

As far as the weekend goes, I’d push it back to midnight. The hard-cores aren’t going to obey it anyway. The more decent kids need to feel like they’re getting some time to just enjoy the night air — hanging out at a streetlight or something. Summer nights are indeed special. Lord knows there ain’t any real programs in place for them to do something else. Hopefully some groups will establish a few places for the kids to go.

I guess the bottom line is that I understand the need for the curfew. But once again, the selfishness of the gangbangers has screwed it up for everyone. Our second-lines are now suspect, you can’t go to a public park and just enjoy the night and it’s a major hassle for parents (who’d like a night off themselves) to organize Something To Do.

Maybe the block party will see a resurgence in New Orleans this summer. Parents, kids and neighbors out enjoying things in a large group where one parent is everyone’s parent and…..

I’d like to hope so. But um….

Nah.

Coliseum Place Baptist Church: The Saga Continues

At the end of the day yesterday, it had been decided that the entire church building, tower included, were coming down. According to the paperwork, the J.T. Curtis family had declared themselves owners, had acquired the demolition permit and paid for the demolition, and were bringing the whole thing down.

nola.com: Hopes crumble with walls of church

[Preservationists’] efforts came to naught and the demolition continued apace [shortly after 2PM]. [Banks] McClintock said he was pleased to see that, for all the talk about how unsound the surviving structure was, the sides held up pretty well under the assault by heavy machinery. “They’ve really got to hit it,” he said, with a touch of admiration for the brick.

When I arrived on the scene at 10:45 this morning, no more demolition had taken place. As I walked through Coliseum Square Park to the demo site, the brouhaha began again. Banks McClintock and I witnessed a member of the Curtis family take down the marble plaque on the front of the church only to deliver it to one of their waiting family vehicles. After this was 30 minutes of booting up the wrecking crane for the day’s work. Thinking no more would come of the debacle, I left to get some coffee before witnessing and photographing the rest of the demolition.

Coliseum Place Baptist Church Belfry P1030789
Tower in November 2005 (L) and noon on June 24, 2006

Was I ever wrong. On returning 40 minutes later, the tower was missing one wall and all hell had broken loose. Stacy Head had returned, while a large group of area residents gathered around to watch the demolition and the drama. I walked up to Stacy and said, “I go away for a little bit and they tear down a whole wall of the tower?” Stacy replied with something to the effect of, “I wish I had looked into this in much more detail yesterday and had stopped it. This demolition may not be legal, I may have been fed a bunch of lies.”

What?!?!

NOPD was called and rushed to the scene to investigate any wrongdoing on the part of the Curtises, the city attorney was called, and preservationist residents ran around like headless chickens trying to get a hold of a judge for a temporary injunction.

It was then explained to me by Banks, Stacy and Robert Wolf, head of the Coliseum Square Neighborhood Association, that the Curtises cannot produce any paperwork that shows their complete ownership of the church. To make matters more interesting, Coliseum Square resident and member of the congregation, John Boyd, had finally shown up. He had just returned from a trip out of town, no one had informed him of the demolition and he did not want to see the building go without full examination of permits and a better understanding of what was going on. This had the demo equipment screech to a halt for a few more hours while more legality was investigated and hotly debated.

At this point, a very large and gruff man, who identified himself only as a city official, told everyone involved, including Stacy Head, to back off because he had been paid, the Curtises had paid Gioe’s for the demolition and there was nothing any of us could do about it. The demolition continued. Whomever said yesterday that the walls and tower would require “just a tap” to cave in is an ignorant liar. Each successive wrecking-ball blow, some applied to the same spot several times over given how well the brick held up, felt like a punch to my solar plexus. I am so proud of the tower’s resilience up to the bitter end.

This is when the mainstream media showed up once again and began to interview everyone on the scene (with yours truly locating good interview candidates for them). Stacy Head offered them some comments and then took off to investigate the owernship of the building as well as any possible wrongdoing on the part of anyone involved with the demolition. She is one passionately angry woman about this controversy and I want to thank her for all that she has done on behalf of our neighborhood.

As of 5PM today, the entire front of the church has been destroyed with the rest to continue tomorrow or Monday. There is no more tower to fight for. What remains is a lesson of neglect, loss and future preservation.

People, the city just cut off its nose to spite its face. We just lost the oldest Baptist church in the south, the first one to hold services for slaves in pre-emancipation days and a treasure trove of history. Not a plaque remains to remember this building by (although the retrieval of that plaque is part of the follow-up plan). It is crucial to get to the bottom of this issue before it is used as a precedent to demolish other historic buildings in town for carpetbagger-developers and new architecture discordant with any given neighborhood. Even from a purely economic standpoint, this demolition was a foolish move given that, without its history, New Orleans has very little appeal. Demolition by neglect should be a crime in a beautiful and hurting city on a shoestring. Once we relinquish that which we have going for us, what’s left to preserve?

living nightmare

On Thursday at work I got stuck in the elevator for 20 minutes or so while the lights went on and off, the elevator slipped every few minutes, and the elevator shook and shuddered at random.

No one in the building seemed very concerned or offered any words of encouragement to shout down/up to me.

When I pressed the call button, which I found after ripping a panel off the wall, the ornery receptionist on the other end informed me an elevator repair man would be sent and that he could be expected to arrive in about 40 minutes or so from when the elevator first came to a sudden halt. When I started sobbing at this info, she hung up on me.

I was terrified. I thought I was going to die. I was alone and there was seemingly no one trying to help me. Someone yelled down and asked if I was stuck. I asked what floor I was near. 13th. That was the last I heard from anyone.

And no one cared because the attitude towards emergencies in this town have become quite blase. If an elevator falls down a shaft, its not as bad as the building catching on fire, or the broken water mains shutting down 8 blocks of the city, or rampant violent crime. So a busted elevator with a terrified person within is not really a cause for concern. That or I just work with a bunch of assholes.

“Oh, that weeping sound of despair? Thats just some chick trapped in the elevator. No big whoop”.

Liquor and lit

After a hellacious week like the one I’ve had, two things give me strength to lift the morning coffee to my lips:

  • A keen awareness that there are many New Orleanians who have chosen to see this moment in the city’s history as one of opportunity rather than crisis.

  • The longstanding association of good writing with good booze. Or, well, booze.

Tonight, those two forces go head-to-head for an all-out literary throw-down, courtesy of my friends over at Press Street. They’ve just published a book featuring the work of many additional friends–and a couple of noteworthy enemies–and tonight, they’re gonna party like it’s $19.99. (Though actually it’s only $15, with proceeds to benefit the group’s literacy project.) Join us at 4108 St. Claude Avenue in the Upper Ninth Ward for food, beer, sangria, and, of course, readings. And cheapskates, you’ll be happy to know it’s all free.

intersection.jpg

Smoke, smoke, smoke dat cigarette

State Rep. Gary Smith (D-Norco) is the brains behind legislation now on the governor’s desk to ban smoking in cars containing a child.

Specifically, it would allow police to charge someone who smokes in a car containing any child who is supposed to be in some kind of safety seat (60 lbs or less). The fine would be $150. The governor has until Thursday to make a decision. I guess it’ll still be okay to reach for the Camels on the dashboard once the kid is just a bit older or bigger. This brings up an image of some toothless guy putting his 7-year-old on the scale every day to check the weight. “63 pounds! YES!!!”

I don’t smoke (well, I used to 25 years ago and I still light up a pipe or cigar from time to time). TBK smokes and it doesn’t bother me. But I don’t know of any thinking adult who fires it up in a small enclosed area with a child. I know there are folks who do and we can wag our fingers at them and rail about second-hand smoke and all kinds of stuff. But you can’t outlegislate stupidity and there’s no vaccine against assholes.

Smith was on WWL radio tonight, saying he hasn’t heard directly from the governor on this, but he expects her to sign this bill. Frankly, he sounded all apologetic about it, saying it’s all “for those who don’t have a voice” in the smoking debate and so forth. And, as it turns out, similar laws are already on the books in various places in the US (Arkansas being one).

…but doesn’t this kinda piss you off?

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