Getting It

For those who didn’t read the Chris Rose column on Sunday, it’s well worth digesting. I went through a stage of not reading his work, since he went kinda off the deep end for a while. But, like so many, he found his legs again with the help of anti-depressants and now he’s back to being, well, just your normal New Orleans whackjob as opposed to being Dangerously or Chemically Bizarre (see a previous entry).

As the year winds to a close, the same questions persist about why we remain here, given the never-ending list of small problems that would have long ago driven your average Joe or Jane around the bend, out to I-10 and headed toward Anywhere But Here. It’s like being pecked to death by ducks — one blow is only slightly bothersome but repeated and incessant attacks can drive one bonkers. But, realistically, the only options are to 1) stay or 2) go.

I won’t go into chest-thumping mode about the reasons we stay. Those who understand are those who Understand and they don’t need convincing. Those who don’t get it will never get it, so it’s wasted effort.

My daughter’s in town. During last night’s light rain, we went for coffee at the Cafe du Monde and then for a sazerac over at Tujague’s. In between, we walked around (deserted) Jackson Square and stuck our heads into the Cafe Pontalba. A rainy night is my favorite time in the French Quarter, for some reason, and we just walked around tallking and laughing and window-shopping. We did, basically, nothing. Our total expenses were less than $12. It was delightful.

Just doing “nothing” in this city is a tremendous Something to me. And it’s a Something I can’t find anyplace else.

….so if daily hassles are the price, then that’s the price. I can’t think of a city with a greater reward.

6 Comments so far

  1. J.B. (unregistered) on November 27th, 2007 @ 2:42 pm

    What, does the man spend 10 hours every week ransoming back his valuables? This is just a regular part of his life now? Beyond bizarre. If the zen calm he has achieved through medication means lying down for that kind of treatment, I’ll stay unbalanced.

    “Sorry, Mr. Editor, right now I gotta go buy back my Blackberry, because that’s where I stored the other phone number that I need to call to buy back my laptop with this week’s column on it.”

    I love New Orleans, but if someone robbed me, and then called me up trying to extort more money, and gave me a physical address, it would be straight-up Charles Bronson time, baby.

  2. Craig (unregistered) on November 27th, 2007 @ 7:35 pm

    You don’t live in Orleans Parish, do you?

    In most cities, victim discovers whereabouts of stolen goods, calls cops, cops arrive and bust perp for (at least) possession of stolen property. Victim recovers goods, perp goes to jail.

    New Orleans reality: victim discovers whereabouts of stolen goods, calls cops, waits at least 30 minutes for arrival (if cops decide to show up at all for such a relatively minor offense). Assuming cops DO show, they take information and develop plan of action (implemented eventually). Perp is arrested and jailed. Victim recovers goods. Perp is released within two hours and returns to victim’s neighborhood. Perp and his/her buds spend next six months slashing tires and heaving bricks through windshield of victim’s car. Unless there are at least two witnesses to said activity (no one ever sees anything), case is unprosecutable. Even if it is, perp is released from jail quickly anyway to start process all over again — thanks largely to ineffective DA’s office, which can’t seem to prosecute a double murder case, much less case of stolen Blackberry. Victim remains continually victimized by perps AND DA’s office, which needs repeated court appearances and statements to keep case alive.

    I’m not defending the idea of ransoming. But when/if you need your stuff back and you need it now, it shortcuts a hell of a lot. One good thing about it is that it’s a quick way to identify who the true assholes really are, since they’re not shy about it. You know who to avoid and who to suspect and, on the surface, the immediate problem is solved. In the overall scheme of daily life in New Orleans these days, it’s a minor hassle.

    This is our world and has been since before Jean and Pierre Lafitte set up shop on Royal St. 200 years ago. I’m not defending it — I’m just saying It Is. Going all Charles Bronson just aggravates the problem for everyone. The solution comes in the form of an effective police and prosecutorial system, electing leaders who will provide proper support for such a system and, as part of that, ensuring that those who DO step forward to provide evidence can be assured of adequate protection and support by both police and by their neighbors.

    When was the last time New Orleans had any of those?

  3. J.B. (unregistered) on November 28th, 2007 @ 2:19 pm

    I take the points of your very thoughtful response, and I am definitely not condemning (blaming) the actions of crime victims– it’s the criminals who are at fault, and it is the criminals who are to blame for any outcome. But I do feel that allowing oneself to be further extorted, and living in fear of reprisals, is embracing the role of victim.

    Annnnnd for the record I live in Treme, behind Louis Armstrong. My truck is parked on the street in Treme, I drink at bars in Treme, and I walk to and from work through Treme at all hours. I don’t feel self-defense or a Charles Bronson mindset aggravate the crime problem; to the contrary, I feel they can in many cases preclude it.

  4. Craig (unregistered) on November 28th, 2007 @ 3:53 pm

    …then we’re seeing things from two different viewpoints. I’m simply seeing it from the side of expediency.

    If you indeed live in Treme, then you’re well aware of some of the issues at work here. My apologies for making a wrong assumption.

    We have also been extorted, when a UPS package was taken from our porch and later a passer-by says he knows who took it. He said he’d gladly retrieve the package in exchange for a few cigarettes, which we gladly provided to simply avoid a hassle. The package was indeed returned quickly (and unopened). My immediate reaction was to follow the sumbitch and nail his ass — but I figured it was best to work him like he’d been working me. Since then, the dude has been a pretty regular informer for us about any other shady folks he’s seen around the house, stopping to look at my truck or whatever. I’ve even paid him to do yardwork from time to time.

    Granted, not all cases are like this. But I’ve found that the recognition factor is a big help. If I see them around the Irish Channel or in some of the stores or wherever and I don’t hassle them, they’re a lot less likely to hassle me.

  5. termite. (unregistered) on November 28th, 2007 @ 4:29 pm

    i had a guy that would regularly steal my roses (the Prytania Theater area) he was making a mess.
    so, one day i waited and approached him. i asked him nicely if he would please stop and that i would be happy to cut the one’s i didn’t want. so, every other week or so, i put my roses in a box on the front porch.
    i’ve been doing this for almost 2 years now.

    works for me. works for him.

    Geaux Saints!

  6. J.B. (unregistered) on November 28th, 2007 @ 5:08 pm

    I only quit smoking a couple weeks ago, but until I did I was constantly handing out cigarettes to every non-little-kid person who asked, just as a general goodwill policy. No, I won’t give you money, no, you can’t use my phone, no, I don’t have an ingpen, but sure, have a cigarette. If somebody asked me too often I’d rag on ’em, but almost always give one anyway.

    So heck, a few cigarettes don’t count as ransom in my book… it’s just the currency of diplomacy. And in the case of the UPS package, I too would absolutely rather cultivate a well-connected acquaintance than raise a ruckus. Life is give and take, termite’s roses being a nice (and symbolically evocative) example.

    I’m not uptight, or a total psycho… it’s just that Chris Rose’s apparent acceptance of being repeatedly robbed– as if it was as inexorable as the weather– struck a very sour note. I would never want to feel my niche in the neighborhood ecosystem was “mark”… I think that does everybody a disservice.

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