Archive for May, 2008

Petition: Keep the National Guard in New Orleans

I know, I know: another petition. It seems like I’ve been posting an undue amount of dry, political stuff lately, but to be honest, this is pretty freaking important. For the past few years, the National Guard has helped maintain a semblance of order on the streets of New Orleans. No, it ain’t Disney World (thank goddess), but without the extra manpower, the situation could’ve been far worse.

Unfortunately, the National Guard doesn’t serve for free, and Jindal wants to pull out the troops next month. Keep in mind, he’s doing this at exactly the same time that lawmakers are (a) debating what to do with a projected surplus in the state budget and (b) talking about eliminating the state income tax.

I mean, no, really, that’s fine, Bobby: New Orleans is only the state’s goddamn economic engine, so what does it matter if you wreck it? As Katrina showed everyone, the state can hobble along without us just great.


The National Guard is scheduled to leave NOLA in June!
Take 5 to Help Us Keep Them in the City!
Crime rates across the city have skyrocketed since Hurricane Katrina. Murder rates have spiked, and assaults and burglaries are up. Meanwhile, the police shortage makes NOPD patrols in the storm-affected areas, especially in the Lower Ninth Ward and eastern New Orleans, nearly non-existent. It also pushes response times to 911 calls to an hour or more.

Citizens for 1 Greater New Orleans is supporting the Holy Cross Neighborhood Association in their efforts to keep the Louisiana National Guard in New Orleans until the following goals are achieved:

  • NOPD sub stations are rebuilt and re-staffed in all the storm-affected areas of the city.
  • The number of NOPD officers reaches pre-storm levels.
  • FBI crime statistics show a decrease in violent crime rates.
To date, they have only received 2300 signatures with a deadline to acquire 10,000 by June 2008.  It is imperative that you let your voice be heard!

Take 5 Minutes To:

Thank you for your attention to this urgent matter.

Tommy the Derelict

I haven’t seen any statistics on such, but I would bet the City of New Orleans contains more street derelicts per capita than any metro area in the nation. I have been to New York City and I have been to other great metro areas — but, per block, I say New Orleans has more. I’m not talking about the homeless, whose numbers are easier to track. I’m talking about the homeless PLUS those who have a place to crash but can’t seem to get past the booze/drugs/mental problems/whatever to put two and two together on a daily, societal basis.

Those of you would frequently pass through the intersection of Magazine and St. Andrew (the last one-way block of Magazine as you head Uptown) have seen Tommy. He’s the gnome-like man who often wanders out in the middle of Magazine to shake his cup at passers-by, sometimes stradding the white line before careening, pinball-like, back to the sidewalk. He roots through trash cans to eat, pisses on walls, shouts at people and, generally, endangers himself and creates a small, pitiful spectacle as his daily life. I don’t know Tommy’s story (and I doubt he does either, anymore) and I doubt I could understand a lot of it anyway, given his Dr. John-like manner of growlish Yatspeak. I had to shoo him away from the front of the restaurant this evening, since he’d seated himself at one of our sidewalk tables to dine on leftover macque-choux from the previous occupants. I told him he could take the food, but he couldn’t sit there — so I became a “fucking asshole” as he crept slowly away, corn dribbling down his shirt. He finished it up at a nearby trash can.

The cops tell who know him tell me Tommy has a place to sleep and is not homeless. They’ve been there many times — often to return him from a hospital trip after he’s been beaten severely when calling someone less tolerant a “fucking asshole.” Tommy is one of those many who roam our streets who are beyond reasonable help — likely due to a combination of their own bad choices, unfortunate circumstances and, quite possibly, simple biology. Every city has them, but I don’t think they’re publicly tolerated as much as they are in New Orleans (at least not as long as they’re physically harmless, as Tommy certainly is).

I certainly don’t want him in or near my business. But, at the same time, God bless him and those like him. Please.

New documentary: great stories, little tsoris

Somehow I missed the fact that there’s a new New Orleans documentary on the scene–and it looks fantastic. Centered on the history of the Faubourg Tremé, it’s got great music, great footage, great names attached to it–Brenda Marie Osbey, Leni Sloan, Lolis Eric Elie, and Wynton Marsalis, to name a few–and best of all, it’s celebratory, not mournful. As the website says:

Faubourg Tremé is arguably the oldest black neighborhood in America, the birthplace of the Civil Rights movement in the South and the home of jazz. While the Tremé district was damaged when the levees broke, this is not another Katrina documentary. Every frame is a tribute to what African American communities have contributed even under the most hostile of conditions.

Also, no Chris Rose. Seriously, check it:

Since WordPress sucks for embedding media

(Thanks Xeni and BoingBoing!)

Watching and waiting

The French Quarter may not be as fraught with felonies as other neighborhoods, but it’s certainly not crime-free. In fact, it’s seen more than its usual share of activity in recent months–typically nothing too “front page”, but given the fact that the Quarter is the hub for tourists, everything that happens there gets magnified.

In response, author Joshua Clark has started an amped-up, higher-tech version of Neighborhood Watch called QuarterSafe. In a nutshell, he’s encouraging Quarter residents to purchase inexpensive video cams and create their own closed-circuit TV systems to monitor street activity.

Now, on the one hand, I think Clark’s plan is kinda laudable and forward-thinking and potentially very useful, especially given New Orleans’ under-funded police department. On the other hand–the Dear goddess, it’s Big Brother hand–it’s a little creepy. (Though it would be creepier if participants were giving NOPD full access to their computers.) Also of concern: Tuesday’s report in The Guardian that CCTVs don’t have much of an impact on crime. And on a practical note: how big of a hard drive do you need to store all that data anyway? Read the email release I got this morning and discuss below:

For ten bucks and a few minutes of work, you can help drastically curb the daily robberies and assaults on our French Quarter streets. is working alongside the NOPD to build a reliable network of citizen-owned security cameras to deter and catch criminals. There is nothing as efficient and effective as well-placed video cameras to capture criminals. It’s as easy as…

1) Order a camera on eBay for $10 (w/shipping), so discrete [sic] it fits in the palm of your hand. Just search for “480K 6-LED Night Vision USB WebCam” or click here.

2) Install it. It runs off your PC. The driver disk comes with the camera.
Then download monitoring software free from Make sure it faces the street as close to eye level as possible, and leave your computer running passively. Once you have the camera, please contact Detective Mike Carambat at 504 400 5214 or if you’d like him to come help you.

3) Send an e-mail to and with the subject “Camera” with your name, phone number, and the exact address of the camera. Only when a crime occurs near you (God forbid you should be the
victim) may the police ask to obtain specific footage. Already have a camera? Let us know!

That’s it.

Please visit or more information, options, extension cables, and easy links.

Well, it SOUNDS like a party

Yippee! It’s New Orleans’ first-ever Ozone Action Day!

Oh, wait. That’s nothing to celebrate.

Evolution of a bar

I went into a bar today (as shocking as that is to so many) to have lunch. This place is within easy walking distance of our house and used to be a regular hangout — but it seemed to be evolving into a place a bit more negative so I’d been avoiding it except to use the ATM or make some other small purchase. Over the past six months, my total expenditures in the place wouldn’t buy enough gasoline to get to Slidell (though that’s no small feat anymore).

Anyway, I drive by and see the kitchen staff hanging around outside and it’s a veteran crew. I glance in the door and there’s virtually nobody there, so I figure now’s a good time to sit down and give the place another chance. Maybe I’m wrong, y’know? Local place, local dollars, we’re all in this together, yadda yadda.

So I sit down at the bar and order a sandwich and a Barq’s and I’m watching a little baseball and some guy walks in off the street and IMMEDIATELY (like, first glance) tells some guy at the end of the bar he “don’t wanna hear it” and these two yahoos get into a shouting and shoving match. In like, oh, 12 seconds. The barkeep says he doesn’t want this kinda crap in his bar so he tosses one of them and order is restored. About this time my food arrives and I really, REALLY don’t want to wait for Tossed Guy to show back up (and you know he will) to resume this argument. So I ask for a box and walk back to the house with my food and the remainder of the Barq’s.

I get back to the house and open the food and it is, in a word, horrible. And this from a place that’s been featured (deservedly, in the past) in some national publications for its food and atmosphere.

Our city these days has too many such places, events and, in so many cases, people — that we used to trust because they used to be solid and reliable. And they still are, at least to those who have been away or don’t get back as much as they’d like or who prefer to see things through yesterday’s eyes. But they’ve become weak facsimilies of their old selves — surviving on reputation instead of reality. I could list them, but that would only spur needless argument and it would be a subjective list anyway.

New Orleans is, thankfully, a sum of its traditions. It’s one of the main reasons I live here. But it bothers me when there’s too much looking back. In our case, too often, hindsight is far from 20/20. Simple physical myopia is correctible — but I fear our social and cultural near-sightedness could be deadly if we let it.

Nameless Kitty RIP

Kitty Grave

Today I drove off on my way to run in the park but unbeknownst to me, a wild kitten was hiding out in my engine. I forgot my headphones and “made the block” and saw his lifeless body in the street. I had committed kitten manslaughter. I was overwhelmed with a feeling of wanting to throw-up.

We all deal with these wild cat and dog populations throughout the city again after a brief and noticeable respite after Katrina. It’s an inner battle; to feed or not to feed. Ignore? Capture? SPCA is overwhelmed too. Be humane is all we can do.

In addition to the larger issues of how we collectively deal with the feral animal population, I just have a hard time with dead animals. I can’t look at them or else I can’t get the image out of my mind and lose sleep, it traumatizes me.

The local neighborhood kids who know me came by for their usual check-in and I explained my dilemma to the kids about not feeling right about just ignoring it until the kitty became unrecognizable mush but also my inability to pick it up. I stood with them a block away pointing at the kitten corpse, asking for their honest evaluation of the situation. They are 10 and 12 yrs old but I knew they’d direct me on the right path.

Josh said, “What would Jesus Do?” I’m like yeah, bury the kitty.

A ‘rock’ of a neighbor did the dirty work for us. She rallied, along with the neighborhood kids, they ran down the street. Together, they picked up the kitty in a bag which they simply did fast. Like ripping a band-aid off a wound.

I felt bad putting this task on them, I just can’t do this myself.

Then after a little psyche talk amongst ourselves, the kids helped me to dig a hole with pitchforks and shovels. We discussed what the word ‘denomination’ means briefly and talked at length back-and-forth about the proper depth of the grave.

We were all absolute about the fact that this kitten was for sure going to heaven but couldn’t do so if the body was still in the plastic bag. We had to get it out of the bag and into the hole without looking at it. It deserved a proper burial.

We put the bag down and agreed to spill it without looking on the count of three, but Nick still couldn’t avoid a scary glimpse of the kitten as it went in but he seemed ok with it.

In the end, we felt better because we know, as hard as this is, we had to do the right thing. It was right by the kitten and right by the residents for not having to be traumatized too. I told them it really meant a lot to me for their help with this somber task.

After we did this difficult deed, the kids and I spent the afternoon printing coloring pages off the internet and I bought them a box of crayons and some colored pencils and they went off to their evening church service which is obviously giving them some fortitude of spirit which I am benefiting from.

Danneel Park

The other day the baby and I went way up St. Charles to Danneel Park. We had passed by the park a few times before on our way to other locations but this time we made a special trip just to go to the park. Danneel Park is at the corner of St. Charles and Octavia Streets. There are three different “Jungle Jims” in the park as well as a fire engine and a slide that I had heard used to be part of a jump into a sand pit? Behind all the play sets along Octavia the park opens up into a grassy field for running and playing. For those geocachers in the audience there is a cache in the park as well. Some of the park is fenced in and some is not so you have to be careful since the street is very close. It seems once they start walking it only takes a second for them to reach the edge of the road.

It was great having a play set just for really little ones, the baby could climb up there all by himself all he needed was a spotter and that is of course one of a Parent’s many hats. We also spent a good bit of time “driving” the fire truck, see driving the fire engine While we were at the park four or five families came and went, it is definitely a park that gets used but even so it is clean and the equipment is in good repair.

On the way out of the park I stopped to read the wood sign and stone marker near the front fence. The sign stated the usual park rules and list of officials that sit in plush chairs in big offices and signed the papers to help keep this spot a park under NORD (New Orleans Recreation Department). The stone marker is carved with two names and a date, Hermann Danneel, his wife Maria Louisa Grace and 1906. This I could not let lie I needed the story so when I arrived home I did a little searching and this is what I found.

The Jazzfest Crowd

Hello, I’m Craig and I own a business that is boosted by Jazzfest. That is to say my emporium is one that folks from out of town come to enjoy and partronize. And when I say patronize, I truly mean it — in a “yew are jest the kahYEWTest thang in yer apron an’ with yer hat an’….” etc etc.

Please do not misunderstand. Those of us who live in New Orleans are grateful for every dollar brought to us. I’d estimate fully 85% of the folks who are in town this week are wonderful, helpful, tasteful and otherwise affable folks just here to enjoy the music, food and general ambiance that is New Orleans. Thankyouthankyouthankyou. Seriously.

To the other 15% — please put on normal clothing, shut up and go the hell home. Right now. Thank you.

Our place has been fortunate enough this week to host visitors from Hawaii, Sweden, Great Britain, Germany, several Asian nations and a long list of various US states and Canadian provinces. Happy words have been exchanged all around and business cards passed back and forth and laughter traded and all that. It’s great. It really is.

….but please spare me from the oversized, Hawaiian shirt, Jesus-sandal, floppy-hat-and-cargo-short-wearing Baby Huey type (why do their wives always dress in this thing that looks like a baby’s onesie without the crotch snaps? Maybe they DO have crotch snaps. I’m afraid to look). We had a table of them this morning — and I wisely offered to run some errands instead of hanging around and telling them what I REALLY thought….

When you order a “dressed” burger, baby, it includes “all that crap.” And when you order a higher-priced, special burger, it includes even more crap (which is listed on the menu). Sending it back to have us remove crap makes us want to put crap on it that you REALLY don’t want. Seriously.

I got a delivery of fresh produce this morning. I had some myself and it was very good. So, baby, don’t tell me this lettuce is “a little past its prime.” So are you. Big-time.

This is a made-to-order meal for five people. It took 14 minutes to come to your table. If that’s not fast enough, St. Charles Ave. has a McDonald’s, a Burger King and a Wendy’s. Taste the New Orleans food tradition up there. Or, better still, stand in line for 30 minutes at JazzFest to get flaccid facsimilies of what had (maybe) been good food four hours ago. And enjoy it with the real Louisiana flavor of a lukewarm Bud Light.

Okay. Rant over. It’s just been a long day.

We truly are thankful for our visitors over the past couple of weeks. And, even for that 15% who negatively stand out, we’re grateful for giving us something to talk about and stereotype until next year. Really.

But damn.

Yeah, this sounds totally safe

House committee approves college firearms bill
Students could carry handguns to class

BATON ROUGE — All college students 21 or older who have qualified for concealed handgun permits would be able to carry firearms to class and other parts of campus under a bill approved 11-3 by a House committee Thursday.

The Committee on the Administration of Criminal Justice sent to the House floor House Bill 199 by Rep. Ernest Wooton, R-Belle Chasse, its chairman. Wooton said he expects lengthy debate on the bill’s merits when it hits the floor.

The bill drew support from college students who say they feel unsafe and inadequately protected when leaving campus late at night. Student leaders from several campuses teamed with Joseph Savoie, commissioner of higher education for the State Board of Regents, the agency that coordinates higher education funding, policy and curriculum, in asking the panel to reject the measure….

Wooton said his bill is an attempt to make colleges safe by allowing students to protect themselves against a gunman who breaks into a classroom and starts shooting randomly….

Savoie said that similar bills were filed in 17 state legislatures this year and killed in 15 — including Mississippi and Alabama. The only two states still considering the issue are Indiana and Louisiana.

–complete idiotic story at

Now, I understand we have a Republican governor, and I understand the Republican Party’s allegiance to the NRA, and I understand that Charlton Heston’s craggy, homophobic ghost may be roaming the land, terrorizing legislators who don’t support handguns for toddlers. But seriously: Mississippi–the state that thought it was totally fine for me to own a 20-gauge shotgun before I’d learned to write in cursive–put the kabosh on this crap, and Louisiana’s gonna give it a shot (so to speak)?

In the bill’s favor, however, I suppose hiring competent campus police officers would be way more costly than having students just shoot the crap out of each other.

Residents of our great state might wanna drop a note to their legislator about this. And if they don’t know who their rep happens to be, there’s an easy way to find out.

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