Archive for August, 2008

Hurricane Preparedness Watch: Volume #2

Bobby Jindal
• Declares emergency
• Asks for federal help
• Steps up readiness plan, including buses for evacuation

Ray Nagin
• May still be in Denver, or possibly on a plane
• Says there are “no shelters of last resort”
• Questions the stability of levees
• Says that 7,000 people have registered for assistance with evacuation through the 311 service–although that service appears to be down a lot and doesn’t seem to provide any specifics on evacuation plans
• Has a webmaster who posted some lovely photos (but sadly no useful information) from a Gustav-related press conference at City Hall

Jindal: 7
Nagin: -4
CityOfNO webmaster: -6

Being Away

Given my lack of attention to MetroBlogs over the past year, you’d have thought they’d have replaced me long ago with someone else. Wouldn’t blame them, of course, but I’m hoping they understand it’s not for lack of caring. Business is business, and it has had to take precedence. I used to get involved in political discussions and other things in here, but lately it’s just turned into so much noise and effort that I think my time is better used trying to move ahead instead of standing around cursing and grousing and complaining and pointing things out. All that has its place, but it’s for those who have the time and the passion. My time and passion are already largely taken up for now. But it was good to see so many other bloggers at the Rising Tide conference this past weekend. It was good to sit back and listen awhile without being an active participant (other than providing the food). When I have time, I’ve been putting some personal/professional things on my MySpace blog. I think MetroBlogging should be for larger issues.

…which brings me to today’s post. We’re watching this tropical system down in the smaller latitudes and wondering if our annual Katrina observance might contain a little more punch than expected by this time next week. This isn’t merely concern for New Orleans itself, since we’ve got a sailboat in Panama City, many friends spead all along the Gulf coast from here through the Florida Panhandle and family in Tallahassee. It’s a regional thang, donchaknow, and some of us are going to have to face this head-on at some point. Even if the system goes west of New Orleans, there are too many friends (and more family) all the way over to Houston and its ‘burbs.

Our plans are pretty cut-and-dried. If Gustav heads heads up the mouth of the Mississippi as a Category 4 or 5 system, we’re obviously out of here (again). But given lesser conditions, we will likely stay at the (solid brick) restaurant, ride things out and get to cooking quick as we can afterward. We’re pretty well prepared with fuel, a good generator, food and other supplies (including firearms, if need be), so we’ll be in as good a shape as possible.

We’re like pretty much everyone else in town right now, wishing we could fast-forward into next week to get things over with and see how things are going to be. As I mentioned in the other blog, it’s the Being Away that we fear. We’ve gotten pretty adept at handling wrecked neighborhoods and separation from friends and being uncomfortable and cleaning up and making fresh and all the various things another storm would bring. But not the Being Away. For those of us who left last time, the hardest part was the fact that no matter where we were, who we were with, how physically comfortable we might be, how much folks helped or what kinds of experiences we had, we knew we weren’t in home in New Orleans — and we didn’t know when we’d be going back. We weren’t homeless — but we were Homeless.

If at all possible, we never want to feel that way again.

Hurricane Preparedness Watch: Volume #1

Here’s a look at the Gustav scoreboard as of 9:00am today:

Bobby Jindal:
• is prepared to declare a state emergency on Thursday
• is prepared to request a federally declared emergency on Thursday
• has put 700 buses on reserve to assist with potential evacuations
• is prepared to begin contraflow on Saturday or very early Sunday

Ray Nagin:
is cutting ribbons! (though someone from the Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness did remind people to stock up on water and to visit‘s “Hurricane Preparedness” checklist, which we can’t seem to find).

Jindal: 4
Nagin: 0
CityOfNO webmaster: -5

A quick heart-to-heart, dude-to-dude

Hi, Gustav:

I’ve been watching you for a while now. You look awfully familiar. Did you used to be a chick? I could swear we’ve met before.

I know you probably feel a little neglected right now, what with a very large national convention gobbling up the headlines. Not to mention a certain anniversary. It’s true: you’re probably not getting the attention you deserve. Don’t get bent out of shape just yet, though; your timing is pretty damn impeccable, and I think everyone will be looking your way soon….

Look, Gustav, truth be told: I know you have a choice in landfall sites, and I want to thank you for considering southeastern Louisiana. But with all due respect, I think there are better options in front of you right now. According to the guy with the hair plugs on my TV just now, you could hit almost any beach in the Gulf of Mexico. But here’s the thing, dude: we don’t even have beaches! And although people rave about our food, it’s kinda spicy–not quite what you’re used to. Ever been to Mexico? You know what I’m sayin’. Plus there are lots of other people who could use your rainfall. Drought-stricken areas in the South. I’m not naming names, but Google that when you have a sec, k?

Futhermore–and I’m going to get a little personal, man–I know you’re “acting out” a bit. I don’t know who hurt you when you were younger, or exactly what they did to you, but violent outbursts are never the answer. Plus, we’ve been working hard to get things up to speed around here. Even if you took your best shot, I doubt you’d do the damage you would’ve done a couple of years ago. We’d probably hang out for a couple of days, then pick up right where we left off–just like we used to do all the time. Ask your brother Ivan how we dealt with him. I’m surprised I can even remember his name. Don’t you want to be remembered?

Anyway, I know that chatting with meteorological events isn’t really sensible–at least not in public. And I’m sure you’re kinda busy right now, getting focused and all, so you’re probably not even paying attention to lil’ ol’ me, hundreds of miles away. But I thought I’d put this stuff out there, you know, for what it’s worth. Thanks for your time, and remember: if you’re feeling disorganized today, just go with it.


Bansky (or the School of Banksy) does New Orleans?

I’m not a huge fan of Banksy, though I know he’s popular with the cool kids. Still, I think it’s kinda interesting that an artist of that caliber may be lurking the streets of New Orleans right now (at least, that’s what the boyfriend has suggested). Maybe the guy’s notoriety will get Asshole At Large Fred Radtke to reconsider his actions. But probably not.

Back to School

New School Uniforms
Nick Showing Off His New Uniform and New Church Shoes

Going back to school myself this week and getting the neighborhood charges, Nick and Josh, ready to go back to school has occupied my life lately, along with the other usual peripheral civic/property related responsibilities. This new stuff on top of an unusual and insane attack of ants at home has made for a week of transitional wackiness. One of my readers has adopted the Causey kids along with me and another neighbor in the area and it’s really having a positive impact on all of us to have their support.

Miss M. bought Nick and Josh a bunch of school supplies including some really fancy Trapperkeepers binders which they were very excited to receive. She also offered financial assistance with school uniforms which has been rather challenging for their mother Betty, M. and I. Miss M. got the details about the requirement for uniforms for Wicker School which is pale yellow polos and black pants or long shorts . . below the knee. She also got them more t-shirts for layering, we are keeping in mind that it will get cold at some point.

Among the first batch attempt to meet their needs, Miss M. bought some pants for their older brother, Mike, who is 15 yrs old. Mike is a really attentive big brother who sustains a 3.8 grade point average at Craig High. He needed Grey Dickies and T’s. Miss M. got them for him but they were a little big and Miss Betty, their Mom, had to take them back to WalMart to get the right size. Having gone into WalMart and Academy myself, we learned that we should have started this back in June because it was a mad scene in all the stores this past week with everyone scampering for uniforms at the same time. Since I am not a parent, this was a lesson learned.

The search for yellow polos for the younger kids was a real challenge. After a trip to WalMart where they only had men’s polos, which I returned from Miss M’s initial venture, I found none in stock in their size, there weren’t even any at Academy Sports, not even in the girls section. Betty, being in the know, as their Mother, persisted, and found some at Soul Train Fashions in Gentilly, off the beaten track. Meanwhile Miss M. also persisted and found them at a great price online and found some for only $3.99 each!

The RSD is very strict and the kids have to wear black shoes too. Back in May, I had made a deal with Nick and Josh that if they passed the LEAP, I’d get them new shoes. Nick passed and we ventured over to the new Nike Store last weekend and found compliant shoes in his size which was really fortunate.

Josh’s score on the LEAP was marginal and he has a learning challenge, so he ended up not being held back but I have learned that they have a provisional grade for students like him and he has advanced to this 4.5 grade. Josh got an MP3 player which was left behind at my neighbor’s house, that was on his list of ‘immediate needs’ out of sheer coincidence and served as a prize for not completely failing. I know Josh has ADD issues and emotional issues, he occasionally turns into Franken-Josh . . .but, hey, don’t we all.

After working with them all summer, I see that most of their challenges in reading our summer reading centered around attention span issues. My friend in KC who has kids totally attributes this to video games and computers/mulit-media. After watching Josh spend countless hours on the computer without any trouble being focused completely on printing out coloring pages and playing Monopoly with Mike does struggle with focusing on his reading, so I have to agree with her that the multi-media proliferation is having an impact on learning at their age. It is best that Josh had some form of encouragement in getting the MP3 player yet is also retaking some subjects to be sure he knows them. It seems to be about balance.

Since I am going to law school, it is worth mentioning that some recent academic studies are revealing that having computers in the classroom is detrimental as a distractiion for adults as well. Some professors prohibit computer use in class because it causes students to adopt a transcription mode of operation rather than slowly pondering the cases discussed. Taking hand written notes suffices and I prefer it.

So the boys started back to school this week at Wicker and through the collective efforts of their Mom, Miss M. and MaPo, they are all set with uniforms and we all had a great first week.

I asked specifically about their getting out at 4:30pm, the new longer days adopted by the RSD this year. They are totally fine with the longer days because they were deadly bored and bickering by the end of summer vacation and their Mom often works later than that anyway.

I, too, am back in school beginning my life as a 1L in law school and we are all sharing a mutual enthusiasm, fueled by the support of those around us. Thanks to all who have lended help and encouragement! We are all off to a solid start. Thank god I do not have a dress code but I am sick of capri pants and look forward to wearing sweaters and jeans.

Also returning to school is my niece, Cassie who is med student at Tulane. Today, the boys helped me load all of Cassie’s dorm stuff from my place to the van this morning. We picked her up at the airport and we did the frenzied unload of her stuff together once at the dorm on campus while illegally parked. That whole situation is fucked up. There is no loading zone. You have to have unload in spitfire fashion because you WILL be blocking someone in. Having the boys there for extra help was great and more fun.

For their help I gave the boys $20 each and they have each recently been spending their money earned from odd jobs on pay-per time cell phones. Josh got one last week. They spent today’s earnings on more minutes and Nick got a phone too and is spending this rainy day learning to text message me! Woo hoo! It’s fun. My mom can’t even figure out how to adjust the volume on her ringer, so this is really satisfying. I also just set Nick up with his own Gmail account and he’s been able to send thank-you notes to Miss M. via email. By incorporating the technical with the traditional I am hoping he’ll be excited about working on his written communication skills if he can do it via computer and I am teaching him to use spellcheck too. Forward Motion!

Sissy Bounce: It’s Official

Remember a couple of months ago when I posted all that stuff about Sissy Bounce? Well, the meme is done blowed up, ’cause Gambit Weekly’s current cover story is about–you guessed it–Sissy Bounce.

Not surprisingly, writer Alison Fensterstock is a much smarter writer than I am, and had enough time and curiosity to really explore the topic. Among the article’s more interesting tidbits is verification of what I’d expected: that straight Bounce rappers aren’t exactly thrilled with all the attention being lavished on the sissies. As rapper Plies recalls from his visit to a New Orleans club this July:

“And the DJ played one of those songs,” he said. “What the f*** is that? Come on, play some Soulja Slim or something, play Dizzy’s “Work Ya Elbows.’ The DJs act like they don’t have any other music to play. It’s nothing against them. It’s just the only thing I hear now in bounce is gay, and it’s something I don’t want my children to hear,” Meana added, although he was careful to note that gangsta rap and his own songs glorifying drug use are also off-limits in his house. “They can listen to the radio version,” he said. “But I hear the same complaint (that bounce is gay) at the barbershop, at the studio, everywhere I go.”

Which is, I guess, a marginally more tolerant response than we’d have gotten five or ten years ago. So: yay, but also, boo.

Regardless of the homophobia Allison exposes, it’s a great piece. And as if that weren’t enough, the equally awesome author (and recently repatriated New Orleanian) Kevin Allman has posted a lengthy Q&A he had with Ms. Fensterstock about the whole experience of researching and writing the article. Among her observations:

[T]he NOLA sissies are less a part of queer culture at large, I think, than they are a part of New Orleans culture. There’s a huge Internet fan base for them. It’s totally possible that Freedia or Katey would have a RuPaul moment. They have that kind of rock star quality. But as Matt Miller, who directed the bounce documentary said, the problem is also with the regional quality of the music – it’s really simple and rough and based a lot on the neighborhood-projects-school call and response. So that might inhibit it translating nationally more than the sissy-ness would. But I hope they do.

Also worthy of excitement: Ya Heard Me, the Bounce documentary she mentions, which features several Sissy Bouncers. More yay for your Wednesday!

Privy Digging in New Orleans

Privy Excavations New Orleans (14)   Digging Out the Mud

Willie White is a well known salvager in New Orleans.  After doing hand salvage in New Orleans for more than 20 years, driving through the Treme he points out a disturbing number of empty lots where he has hand salvaged homes which were blighted and would have otherwise ended up in a landfill.  In the Post-Katrina environment he took me around the city and taught me how to gauge/evaluate the age of houses by crawling under them and their outbuildings. I learned so much in a year.

I also made the drive out to visit the site of the Bohemia Plantation in Plaqumemines Parish with Willie. The Bohemia and the Bechnel homes were both nearly destroyed after Katrina. He dismantled them both by hand with his crew. These home survived Betsy but the encroachment of the water through the erosion of marshland over the years led to their final demise during Katrina. Willie and his son saved everything from the architectural details, to roof tiles and right down to the old cypress wood beams and flooring so that they can be reused by people who know the value of old cypress. 

In taking down these houses of old construction by hand, one learns so much by how they were built. It was surprising when we would visit various sites in the city because what I suspected was a newer building on a lot was actually the original building on the parcel.  The older buildings withstood the wear-and-tear better, deceiving my novice eyes.

As part of this forensic work, Willie’s side hobby became unearthing the privies on these old lots. By studying the old Sanborn maps of the original lot parcels he can figure out where the old privies existed on the original lots in the 1800’s and he begins the hit-or-miss search for the privies with his partner. If they are having a good day, they find them. They start digging. If they have a hit, they often unearth old bottles from local pharmacies and other items people would once discard into their out-houses such as ceramic jugs and other personal effects, preserved in the wet earth for centuries. It’s the dirtiest job, but most fascinating. New Orleans is one of the richest cities for such an ecclectic hobby! Today I spotted Willie’s competition digging a privy and alerted him to their location, he stopped by the site to see what they were up to. For a moment, I enjoyed being Willie’s privy digger spy girl.

Like historical hand salvage, there are only a few people who do this work and they are quite competitive. If a house is removed Willie is always aware that one of the other local teams might come and get to the privy before he does. They cannot leave a privy half excavated, lest another team come by in the dark of night and get the goods. Willie always makes sure to get permission from the owners and it’s often his own bonus to dig a privy after he’s done a salvage job.

Wares from these archealogical digs are sold at bottle shows throughout the region from time to time but I know Willie keeps his best items. Some are museum worthy items. A visit to Willie’s warehouse is a privileged journey through New Orlean’s intimate past. is a site from a guy in Illinois who has set up an online account of his work digging up history.

REM, Pearl Jam call for presidential debate in New Orleans

A string of acts including REM, Pearl Jam and My Morning Jacket have petitioned for the candidates in the US Presidential election to debate in New Orleans about Louisiana coastal wetlands restoration and hurricane recovery.

Ok Go, Jackson Browne, Trent Reznor, Funky Meters, Allen Toussaint are also among the acts to sign the petition which is requesting that politicians focus on issues in the area from wetlands rebuilding and a sustainable hurricane recovery programme.

The Presidential forum is being organised by Google and YouTube, in which members of the public will be able to ask questions of the candidates by submitting YouTube videos. So far, neither Senator Barack Obama nor Senator John McCain have committed to the event. [emphasis totally mine]


Which is not only good news for New Orleans, but also for Pearl Jam, because they probably could use the publicity. Frankly, I’m surprised to see they’re still alive.

Google Street View <3s New Orleans. Finally.

Ladies and gentlemen, it’s official: New Orleans is finally a part of the Google Street View family. Just go to Google Maps as usual, enter a street address, and if there’s a street view available, it’ll pop up right on the map. Sweet!

Based on the view of my house, I’m guessing they’ve been working on this for a while–at least since last year. But whatevs: we’ve arrived.*

* Insofar as a vaguely creepy invasion of privacy counts as “arrived”.

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