Saturday, March 11, 2006

Recent Scenes of Orleans:

A woman on line behind me at the local drugstore tugged at my ponytail, then gigglingly apologized for giving in to the temptation to do so. Noticing the day's paper that I was holding, with the headlines about the first of the mayoral debates, she asked me if I'd had a good laugh at the proceedings on TV the night before.
Hey, you didn't need to turn on the tube to get a laugh in the first place. Twenty-three candidates are up for mayor of New Orleans - twenty-three, I said - and three of them have political experience, one is a twenty-four year old kid, at least two have been wheeler-dealers in the business of developing high-profile sites in the city, one is a preacher, one just wanted the current mayor to listen to him, and one announced her candidacy just before she was tossed in jail for contempt, and for the refusal to give up her previous job as clerk of courts to a FEMA appointed replacement, since she allegedly just wasn't doing her job. A pertinent argument was floated to the local courts in a petition for pushing the election back - a large number of the eligible voters are currently scattered across the nation - but the petition was ineffective.
Hence we will be voting for a new mayor in April - and the first of the debates, involving nine of the candidates, went off this past week and turned into a circus that only confirmed the personalities of the candidates who have been players in local politics and business for a long time.
The lady behind me in line said her husband, a native Minnesotan, had never seen anything like it. He's only seen the tip of a massive iceberg called Louisiana Politics, a source of much consternation and entertainment for locals. The entire nation will be financing the rebuilding of this region, but they probably had no clue they were getting a show for their money in the bargain. This is what happens when natural disaster strikes - political landscapes are remade, too, and the campaign carnage begins in earnest.
The lady formerly in jail was released, and immediately compared herself to Nelson Mandela and Gandhi, both of whom were in jail for much longer and both of whom were truly committed to a cause, not to an image. The men in mention didn't make all of it up as they went along. I have to hope that voters, whether or not they are physically living in the city, will pay no attention to this woman swathing herself in a blue tarp as the people's candidate. That leaves us with twenty-two other possibilities...

Sampling of bumper stickers, signs, etc.:
New Orleans - Proud to swim home
Get Rid of Katrina Water Stain
When Clinton Lied Nobody Died

Our local dog-park demographic has changed. I talked with a woman with four dogs out there, two of whom were hers, two of whom were her sons. I mistook the two boxers (her sons' dogs) for pit bulls, in part because I can be so dense, but also in part because four years ago, there were a large number of people coming to the park who brought 'em. Formerly (and by that, I mean four years ago, when I last lived here), the gutter punks and the students were the main park visitors, but now there are many more young families, older, more established singles and couples, and I have recognized only four people from those dog-park days of yore that are still coming out to the park.
This woman has a son working for a private security firm, chauffeuring people around in Haiti and keeping them safe from the disgruntled poor there, which is most of the country. His two dogs, the boxers, were under her care until his return. Another couple comes regularly to the park with two new arrivals, one a baby girl, another a Katrina rescue dog named Annie. The park is packed in the late afternoon with a lot of boxers (from a majority of pit bulls to a majority of boxers) and owners talking about everything from local politics to the cost of weddings to local real estate assessment.
A local radio personality once said that the world's problems could well be solved after some time spent in the Gospel tent at the JazzFest here at the Fair Grounds. I would make a case for the same thing happening at a local dog-park.
Four years ago, a young girl with a small red Doberman was approached by a sinister looking character while she was out with her dog. He asked her if she could take in another dog, that he had been training it to fight, but it wasn't mean enough. She took that dog home, a big male Doberman, and began taking him to the park with a muzzle on so that he could reacquaint himself with other dogs without attacking them unexpectedly. A recent dog-park acquaintance talked of someone who took in another Katrina rescue dog, who was so grateful to be with a family again. Makes me think of the human evacuees...hope we can extend them the same courtesy as these folks have with these dogs.

Recent related reading material:
1 dead in attic, Chris Rose
Bayou Farewell, Mike Tidwell
A Confederacy of Dunces, John Kennedy Toole
New Orleans, Mon Amour, Andrei Codrescu
A Great and Noble Scheme, John Mack Faragher
Feet On The Street, Roy Blount Jr.
The Mysteries of New Orleans, Baron Ludwig von Reizenstein
The Last Madam, Christine Wiltz
The French Quarter, Herbert Asbury
Time and Place in New Orleans, Richard Campanella
All the King's Men, Robert Penn Warren
Southern Fried Divorce, Judy Conner

Okay, so, I read a lot. Feel free to double-check on me and tell me what you think.

I went to my synagogue's choir practice for the first time in four years and was greeted by....Justin and his termites! No the termites were not in a jar. They were the subject of a small paper he wrote, based on his experience treating termite-infested trees in Lakeview with his fungus and with water to fill in and flush out the insects from the giant holes tunneled into the ground by the termite colonies. His theory (and not his alone, I might add) is that six decades of termite tunneling may well have played some part in the weakening of the levees.
The numbers of folks at practice were small, and I only recognized half the people there. Yeah, evacuations may have played a part in these small numbers, but so has Mardi Gras recovery. No rehearsals for almost a month makes for brain addled choristers who in some cases aren't aware that singing sessions have started back up until someone says something to them.
I ended the session with yet another tacky comment concerning life in a trailer, which is the norm down here for many. My first comment had been earlier in the day at the Parenting Center, when I gave my two cents on an article an administrator was writing about living with one's extended family and raising young children - I said jokingly that it was an especially relevant topic at a time when a large number of folks here are forced to cram together in trailers while their house recovery and renovations efforts are going through. Can you say lead balloon?
Someone after choir practice was talking about the efforts some are making to separate themselves from trailer trash, or something to that effect. All I could think was, oh, boy, an exercise in futility, and I just couldn't stop myself from blurting out, "Oh, come ON, this whole city has become trailer trash!", just for a laugh, which it got.
I got to see the trailer living thing going very strong in Metairie off West Esplanade, where it is rare to find a home without a trailer in front. The Jefferson parish folks got flood waters in their houses because the fellow in charge of the pumping stations told the workers at the stations to leave their posts and turn the pumps off. One man's decision put everyone up a creek and in the drink, though the damages were not as bad as the levee breach areas. I know I myself will never look at trailers in the same way ever again, especially since I am now in a land where each joke is simply a window to the truth, or some sort of mirror. The laughter can become tears in an instant. A double-edged sword, or possibly a coin to be flipped. Everyone's a-takin' their chances down here.

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