Friday, September 28, 2007

"Yes, honey?"
"What's a crash truck?"

Oh, great. Why does he always ask me this stuff when I'm behind the wheel? One of these days he's going to drop a major bombshell like "I'm gonna become the first-ever pregnant man, Mom!" and we'll end up taking out the bathrooms of the Whole Foods - which might be fine with him, since he hates their automatic toilets anyhow - but...but...oh, right...keep your eyes on the road and answer the question without mowing down a pedestrian.

"It's another name for an ambulance," I say carefully.
"Can't a fire truck do what an ambulance does?"
"No, because there's no room in the fire truck to bring people who need medical care to go to the hospital."
"Yes, there IS."
"No, there isn't, kiddo."
"Yes, there IS!!!"

Oh, lovely. I have Mr Omnipotent in the backseat, now. Just when I think he's asking me a question to confirm something, he decides to say it's not the way I said it because he says so. Huh, sounds familiar. Must...not...get...pulled..into...argument...with four-year-old...but it's so

"Yes, honey."
(long pause)
"Yes, honey."
"What is it????"

Spit it out, kid. This trip to school won't last forever. And if you keep testing the micromommyphone, eventually it won't work. I just won't answer back. Nyaaah nyaaah nyaaah......................I'm lying, damn it. I will answer back most of the time, unless I'm completely out of earshot, or in another state. If I'm not careful, after I drop this child off, I may end up in another state. Oh, here it comes:

"Mom why'd you give me the name you gave me?"

Phew. Easy, for once.

"Because Daddy and I thought it was a beautiful name. And also because it was your great-great grandfather's name."


"Mom, what's a star box?"
"Store box?"
"Nooo, star box."
"Start rocks?"
(practically yells in frustration) "Nooo, star box!!!"
"Ohhh, Starbucks. Is that it?"

Where is that coming from? Oh, he heard Dan talking about the little guy and I meeting our neighbor's friend in a Starbucks the other day. Dan made it sound like we'd committed some major traitorous deed by setting foot in the place. We probably have, even though, when I go in there, I only get an iced tea lemonade and the kid gets a chocolate milk and many opportunities to pester patrons working on their laptops. He even got some guy to allow him to get into a game of pinball on his laptop. The kid oughta be running for governor.

"It's a coffee shop, honey."

I am not caving in to this child this time. No no no way.

"Mooom, can you tell me what this is?"
"What what is?"
"What's that?"
"That in my book."

Urrrrgh. I don't have eyes in the back of my head, little guy. Why why why can't you understand that? Why why why can't I just eliminate books from the backseat altogether?

(testily) "Honey, I am driving this car. I cannot read that book to you right now. What happens if I try to read that book to you while I am driving?"
(with a sigh in his voice) " We could get in an accident."
"That's right. So let me drive, please."

(singing from the backseat)
"Save me, save me, save me from this squeeze.
I got a big fat mama trying to break me.
And I love to live so pleasantly,
Live this life of luxury,
Lazing on a sunny afternoon."

Aaaahhh, we're here. Thank God. And my barely-there self control. Into the classroom, back out without the kid, no messing with carseat restraints, no counting down from five to get him climbing into the seat faster, just get in and go. Weave out of the school traffic. Get that granita. Lazing on a sunny afternoooooooon....

(singing aloud)"In the summertiiiiiime. In the summertiiiiiiiime...."

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Today is the first day of Sukkot, the Jewish harvest holiday and the first of the Shalosh Regalim
(literally, "three legs"), the trifecta of biblical holidays that directly involve the commemoration of the biblical exodus from Egypt. This will be the second year we will be eating in our very own sukkah (pictured up above is a smaller version of it) and possibly sleeping in it, since my son is so jazzed about that tidbit of info he learned about from religious school (woohoo! Camping trip on the porch this weekend. Yeah!). We still have to hang some fruit and veggies from the ceiling and get some decorations up, but we have the little hut up and it will remain up into the next week.

Rabbinic interpretation of Jewish law decrees that the sukkah must be a temporary structure to symbolize the wandering nature of the mixed multitude that came out of Egypt. The ceiling must be made of leaves and branches, called schach, that allow one sitting in the sukkah to see the stars in the sky through the branches. The holiday coincides with the harvesting of the first fruits in Israel, so the fruit and vegetables hanging from the ceiling are symbolic of this. The time and, more importantly, the place in which I and my family live, however, make it impossible to celebrate this holiday and not have FEMA trailers in mind.

Granted, the kidding has been a tad dark in its humor. "To really make a FEMA trailer a sukkah, you'd have to take the wheels off, take one wall off, and replace the ceiling with leaves and branches," Dan has said. Considering the formaldehyde leeching out of the pores of the walls, making those kinds of renovations might well be a vast improvement in one sense.

Being in the sukkah these days, however, serves as an extra reminder to me of all those in this time and place who have no permanent home at this time. Those who are still forced to wander aimlessly, whether they are doing so physically or whether they are stationarily aimless in a box with wheels. Those who cannot find mental peace as of yet, even though they are physically grounded in a new, permanent home. Those who are unsettled by world and local events and constantly afraid of what each day will bring.

I guess, overall, it's reminding me of the fragility of the human race.

It is customary to invite ushpizin - guests - into the sukkah to enjoy the hospitality of the ones who have constructed it. I invite all who venture down the gray brick road to catch a glimpse of the little rectangular hut as they pass by. Don't be strangers. Knock on our door or call ahead and accept some of our hospitality for a while. May we all be so honored, and may we all get the chance to return such honor to others in the course of our lifetimes.

Chag Sameach - a happy holiday.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

"...I cursed out Drew Brees about 364 times..."

Gotta love it.

Though I still want to wring Tony Kornheiser's scrawny neck. I'm glad there's a mute button on the TV.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Two intriguing ads seen on the tube this past weekend:

-One for Luter's Supply in Tylertown, MS. The pronunciation of the name was what got my attention. "Renovating your home? Tired of waiting six to eight weeks for your fixtures to arrive? Then come to Looter's Supply for all your bathroom and kitchen needs!" Or something like that.

Nice to know there is a place not too far from the greater New Orleans area where one can take home the Toto Neorest, "the world's most advanced toilet".

-An ad for the T-130. Is it a bazooka? Is it a surface to air missile? A secret government project?

Alas, it is only a home supposedly designed to withstand winds up to 130 mph . Good news is, they're local. They build on-site and can jack up your house to a maximum height of nine feet. No mention of what the cost is, however... all they promise is that there will be no "hemming and hawing" over the cost. If they are doing right by their clients, more power to 'em.

I don't think a Neorest is standard in the T-130, however. You'll have to schlep to Mississippi for that.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

I wanted to make the point that this, too, is an injustice. And that it disproportionately affects the African-American community.
But I couldn’t find the numbers to back that up, even though I am confident that by far the majority of those murdered in New Orleans are African-American, based on where the murders happen and my personal experience as a news photographer and seeing the murdered human beings myself. I get my information for this blog from media accounts, and the media does not think it is politically correct to reveal the race of the victim. Obviously, I disagree with this because I think race is part of the story.
...148 murders 264 days into the year – a murder every 1.7 days, or basically a murder every other day. At that rate, we will end the year with 204 murders. If nothing changes, 56 more human beings will die a violent death on the streets of New Orleans. In a city with a population of 300,000, that comes to a murder rate of 68 murders per 100,000 residents.
That’s too many. It’s too much.
It’s worthy of a march.
There is a difficulty with black on black crime as it relates to a solution. In my opinion, the only way to truly come up with a solution to this problem is to admit that the last 40 years after integration have been a failure and people gave too much to that struggle to admit that. This fight against destructive behavior would be easy if some group of old white men came out and admitted they have been altering the minds of young black people and influencing them to hate one another on a large scale. That would change everything really fast but it's not going to happen. Black Americans feel a common bond to each other more than any other group. That's a blessing and a curse. It's a blessing when something like Jena happens because it leads to common outrage. It's a curse when it comes to violence because we are not comfortable turning our kids over to the system because when we do that's an admission of failure by all of us on some level. I don't think we have a clue what to do about all this killing.
We live in a city in which innocent citizens are often homicide victims. Bad guys are no longer just killing bad guys. We have no more excuses. We need to act immediately. To strike at our enemy, we must launch our bombers. Time spent on the runway is time not spent in the air and over the target.
This is the current situation in the district attorney's office. There has been a concerted effort to recruit experienced attorneys from the public sector as lead prosecutors. But that plan is floundering. Most of the attorneys first appointed to the Violent Offender Unit have resigned, myself included.
Our assistant district attorneys are competent and dedicated, but they are seldom "over target" due to an atrocious lack of support and personnel and a mountain of paperwork. Today, assistant district attorneys leave quickly because they are frustrated by the environment.
Any large office must have adequate support staff. There is no secretarial pool in the district attorney's office. The district attorney asked a City Council committee Wednesday for money to hire clerical staff, but in the meantime prosecutors must do all the typing and copying.
During my brief time with the Violent Offender Unit, I was without an office the first week. I paid for supplies out of my own pocket. I never got a computer, and I frequently wasted time standing in line to use the one good copier in the place.
Meanwhile, investigators with street cop experience are in the minority. The office needs the police experience to assist the prosecutors.
For more perspective on the criminal justice system in these parts, I refer you to Dangerblond's recent posts.
So many more people in this great blogosphere of ours have written so well about this problem. Justice in the form of the U.S. court system can be used for good as well as for bad. It is getting harder for people to do good within this system.
So, hey, let's talk about it.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Dan and I are human. We are also children of our times and places.

Now, we are parents. And for a time, we were parents in New York City.

We see no point in paying for cable or satellite TV. The cost of it is insane, and the cost of it in New York, even more so. However, I'll find myself occasionally humming some songs or mangling some lyrics that came from our time in Queens...and, specifically, the times when we looked forward to watching the only thing on Friday nights that passes for what MTV used to be. On public television, y'all.

For instance, and for everybody's viewing pleasure:

My granddaddy's slideshows were NEVER like that.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

There's a disturbance in the Force in these parts.

As long as Yom Kippur services are going on on Friday night and all day Saturday, however, we will be staying put. As some joker once said of me and mine,"God, if we are truly the Chosen people, why on Earth did you have to choose us?" We're gonna atone, God. Really we are.

Last night, Dan and I were watching some local news, and a report cropped up on the high-tech mapping of the sea floor that was being done in lower Plaquemines parish, which took a direct hit from Katrina a little over two years ago. Seems there is loads of debris still underwater that is clogging up the swamps and posing potential hazards to the hulls of boats trolling those areas. The ultimate irony, however, is that in some of those places where massive amounts of debris have piled up, Mississippi River sediment is also piling up and creating new land. What does this mean? Hellooo, land reclamation!

And our illustrious oaf of a president has yet another reason to veto a bill going through Congress. Why spend money on wetlands restoration and endorse the closure of a waterway that contributes to coastal erosion and acts as a nifty conduit for storm surge when one good, nasty hurricane season can sweep loads of debris into the water and solve the problem right there?

Because it's all God's will, huh?

I think a certain leader of the free world needs to do some atoning himself.


A march in support of the Jena 6 is going on today. Read more about it here. If you are in need of a geography lesson and a few other things to chew on regarding this whole situation, take a look over here, too.

And before you immediately dismiss the whole thing because of the folks involved in organizing the protest, think about the argument successfully used to put a sixteen-year-old kid in prison: that tennis shoes were accepted as instruments of attempted murder. Things are still seriously wacked when racial tensions are stirred up to this point. Support this march if only to support greater understanding and dialogue between us all, no matter what our differences are.

Update, 10:21 AM: Cliff has more.

Another Update, 10:41 AM: Check the comments at Editor B's:

The three young men who hung nooses from the so called “White Tree” in Jena were CLEARLY guilty of– “simple or aggravated criminal damage to property”, “criminal trespass” AND “institutional vandalism.” ...I am just a law librarian and found this law. Why couldn’t the elected DA do this? More importantly, what possed the man to conveen an all white jury to try a black youth in a very small town with a jury pool already loaded/poisoned by this controversy? What judge in his right mind [who either had a bias themselves or WANTED the case thrown out on appeal] allowed this to happen/presided over this trial?

Yet Another Update, 5:22 PM: Maitri weighs in in a highly eloquent manner.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

How can I make this a blog all about New Orleans without my family?

My husband and son have been saying so many funny things lately that I just cannot resist.

Last night, for instance.

The little guy really, reeeally wants one of his best friends to come over. And not just for a playdate. Not just to stay overnight. Try "I want Perry to live with us."

"I don't think that's gonna happen," I manage to tell my son without too much of a laugh.

" with you and Daddy is an adventure!!!!"

Thanks, kid. Thanks a lot.

A while back, Dan and I were on the road back to New Orleans from my cousin's wedding. As we passed through Tuscaloosa, Dan asked about the Alabama mascot. "If they are the Crimson Tide, then how best to explain the elephant?"

"Maybe it's like the Oakland A's elephant mascot," I say.

"Well, they need something, otherwise it's playing a team whose mascot is essentially blood."

"Huh. So if they played Tulane's Green Wave, it'd be Blood vs Puke," I mused.

"Or, in Tulane vs Alabama, Gumby vs Pokey," he said.

Yeah, okay, I'm not immune.

On the flights out to California this past week, we waited in our designated Southwest Airlines boarding line before our departure to our first stop on our trip. A father and young son came over to our area and asked which boarding group we were in.

"Oh, this?" I said. "This is the C section."

A bunch of women in line overheard me and said "Ohhh, yeah, it most certainly is!" I realized what I'd just said and started laughing along with the women. The dad smiled at me and moved on down the line. The women took my comment as a cue to unleash their stories about the births of their children (and, indeed, there were a number of them who had been delivered by C-section), and I grinned a little weakly at Dan.

"I'm sorry, honey, it just came right out. I couldn't hold it back," I said.

"You really should have," he said.

Oh, well.

And, speaking of holding things back, know what shoulda been held back from K-Ville (among many other things)? The declaration Anthony Anderson's character Boulet makes in the previews for next week's show that "I'm a black man. I use hot sauce."

God bless the NFL. Go boost the ratings of the Saints-Titans game next Monday instead, everybody.

Update, 8:10 PM: I gave my mom and dad a call to see how their recent move to Tornado Alley was going. I told Mom about the K-Ville premiere, and she said, "Ohh, so it's all about me, now, is it?" with a laugh.

I told Mom about how they made a fellow blogger's neighborhood look even worse for the filming of the pilot, and she said, "Good. The rest of this country needs to know how bad it got over there. How bad it still is in many places around the city."

Huh. Never thought of it like that. Oooo-kay...

Monday, September 17, 2007

Came back to New Orleans. Late.

Brought my son to school this morning. Late.

On the way in the car, I turn on one radio station, only to switch to another to listen to some jazz. After a few minutes, a whine wells up from the backseat.

"But Mooooom, I want the rock music."


Switch back to the first radio station, which is now playing Nick Cave's version of the Velvet Underground's "All Tomorrow's Parties". A content silence settles in the backseat.

I can't decide if this is ultimately a good thing or the first stop on the road to liking some generational-gap version of hardcore hypersexist rap or thrash metal when the little guy hits puberty. Then again, I hear my son muddling his way through the Kinks' "Plastic Man" while he's looking through the safety placard on the airplane, and I can't help but smile. "What the hell is he singing?" Dan asks. What Mommy plays for herself, I think. Which is usually a helluva lot better, in my opinion, than the Wiggles.


And hey, while we're on the subject of music....

I wanna be Sharon Jones when I grow up.*

Update, 11:10 PM: Especially in light of the fact that the guv'mint will now be taxing Winding Goat Path Home grant recipients. I hope the feds are proud of themselves. No name I could call them right now would truly express the magnitude of my disgust.

*How old school does she kick it? Bushwick, Brooklyn old school.

Friday, September 14, 2007

I got a question for those who want a presidential debate to be held in New Orleans: should I do a mommyblog rant criticizing a candidate's and/or a candidate's spouse's parenting skills?

The working mother sat down at her computer one recent morning and fired off a snarky rant on a Silicon Valley moms blog about what a "terrible mother" Elizabeth Edwards is to drag her children along on the presidential campaign trail.

Rebecca Eisenberg expected the usual - a lively debate with a handful of readers about motherhood pressures and politics. What she got surprised her - a direct posting back from Edwards, the wife of Democratic presidential hopeful John Edwards.

"You don't get to say I am a terrible mother because you think you wouldn't make my choices in my situation."

A rapid-fire debate among "mommy bloggers" - plus a second post from Edwards - ensued. Eisenberg was bashed as a "sanctimommy," and the hullabaloo was launched into the far reaches of the blogosphere and in front of millions of "Good Morning America" viewers.

Or, speaking of GMA, should I bring this to their attention? Their efforts on behalf of getting running water out of FEMA for a Pass Christian elementary school being run out of trailers were pretty darned great. Let's get it going for McDonough students - ALL of them, not just the football players.

Then again...back to the presidential debate location we really want New Orleans to become the 21st century version of the South Bronx? The first of the presidential visits was in 1977. Thirty years later, woohoo, it's an urban revitalization success story. And it really didn't have much to do with the folks in and out of the revolving door of the Oval Office. Truly.

Just some thoughts on how best to get things moving and shaking for the better in New Orleans...

Oh, and beware of the "Hurricane That Shall Not Be Named."

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

In the spirit of the month of Elul, after much contemplation, I'm posting this one that my dad passed on to me recently. It's waaay better than the blond jokes he used to send.

Israeli leader Ehoud Olmert comes to Washington for meetings with George Bush and for a State Dinner. Laura Bush decides to bring in a special kosher chef and have a truly Jewish meal prepared in honor of their guest.

At the dinner that night, the first course is served and it is matzoh ball soup.

George W looks at this and, after learning what it is called, he tells an aide that he can't eat such a gross and strange-looking brew.

The aide says that Mr. Olmert will be insulted if he doesn't at least taste it.

Not wanting to cause any trouble (after all he ate a sheep's eye in honor of his arab guests), George W gingerly lowers his spoon into the bowl and retrieves a piece of matzoh ball and some broth.

He hesitates, swallows, and a grin appears on his face. He finds he really likes it, digs right in, and finishes the whole bowl.

"That was delicious," he says to Olmert. "Do the Jews eat any other part of the matzoh, or just the balls ?"

Shanah tovah u'metukah, everybody. A good, sweet new year 5768.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Some time earlier one prophet, the almost aptly named mayor of Baltimore, Clifford B. Cropper, had scoffed at gloomy forecasts that the war would hurt Maryland's tourist business. Instead, the mayor declared, submarine activity off the beaches would create a great new tourist attraction for shore resorts. Indeed, when the war did arrive residents and businesses in coastal areas seemed determined to help the lurking U-boats. For six miles along the ocean edge, Miami and its suburbs continued to light up the night sky, turning freighters and tankers into perfect targets by silhouetting them against the glow; blackouts, the locals said, would ruin the winter tourist trade. Similar attitudes prevailed northward along the coast. - Thomas Parrish, The Submarine

We're coming up on another disastrous anniversary. Tomorrow.

Six years. Hard to believe that that much time has passed. Six months after the collapse of the Twin Towers, Dan and I were living in New York. We moved back down here six months after 8-29. Please, Lord, don't let another major catastrophe happen in these here United States, because, if it does happen, I know where we'll be living next...

Three months after we settled into a place in Queens, the pile at Ground Zero was cleared away and deposited at the Fresh Kills landfill on Staten Island, save for one piece of metal that was carried out of the "bathtub" with great ceremony, something I listened to on the radio until I couldn't bear it any longer. I have a friend who ran from the towers as they were collapsing and who won't go into Manhattan at night anymore. My husband's business had had offices in the WTC and had lost nearly twenty people whose names were engraved on the wall of the foyer in the new office building in Brooklyn. One of Dan's coworkers would have added another name to that wall: she thought the impact of the plane was an earthquake, went under her desk, and her life might well have ended there if someone hadn't come back for her.

The hustle and bustle of the subways and commuter train stations now includes National Guardsmen and women, and it most likely will as long as our government is keeping the "avenging" machine alive. Recently, when a steam pipe burst underground and left a midtown street looking Ground Zero itself, I knew there were many people who were absolutely, positively on edge and thought the worst, because they knew what the worst could be. They had had a front-row seat, after all. It was these same people who extended a great deal of sympathy to Dan and me when 8-29 happened. They also have made it a point to keep themselves informed about what has happened since - some of them by reading this very blog (hi, all!).

The closest I've been to seeing it is looking at the "bathtub" from the reopened entry from the E train subway station, an entry that used to deposit straphangers into the large underground mall beneath the Trade Center. I didn't want to look at the site while it was being cleared, in part because free tickets for timed viewings from a platform looking out on the pile were being doled out daily at South Street Seaport (which I thought was kind of crass, though possibly necessary for crowd control reasons), but mainly because it was heartbreaking enough to see the nearby church surrounded with shrines, with pictures of the missing and numbers to call - numbers that in most cases would never be called unless DNA testing on nearly microscopic remains revealed that the missing was definitely deceased. Yet another busload of emergency workers was dropped off for a memorial service at the church while I was there.

A short while ago, my friend Shali was riding in a car with me to a final gathering of the summer camp staff, and she mentioned that she had seen the movie World Trade Center. She asked me if I'd seen it. I hadn't. I didn't, and still don't, intend to.

I found myself getting hysterical, recalling that day, though I wasn't in Manhattan at the time. I was making glass vases here in New Orleans and listening to NPR's Morning Edition as I worked, becoming more and more distracted as the bad news took over the radio. I went into the shop in front of the studio, talked to my boss about what was going on, and we turned on the TV only to see the towers fall. I suddenly had to run for the phone and check on my aunt, who lives in Manhattan. I had to make sure that my cousins were okay, that the new law firm my aunt's ex-husband had become a partner in had offices nowhere near Lower Manhattan, that my grandparents hadn't had to go into the city for any reason that day. I managed to leave a message for my aunt, which was more than my grandmother had managed to do. When my aunt called me back, I could hear military planes roaring by her apartment as she asked me for information. My younger cousin had seen one of the towers fall from a distance as he and my aunt left school early, and, once they got home, my aunt kept the TV, the radio, and the computer off because she didn't want him to see any more.

"I'm sorry," Shali said. "I didn't mean to make you upset." And she hadn't meant to.

I was upset by the memory. I was also somewhat uncomfortable that this girl, who had already experienced much in the way of tragedy in her home, could be somewhat detached from those events, which, in the movie Oliver Stone made, were made into a tragic yet heroically dramatic background for the Port Authority cops at the center of the story. Had 9-11 become that distant a memory? Enough to be distilled into entertainment?

Is this also what is to become of New Orleans after its own tragedy? Yet another casualty of war?

On the occasion of yet another yahrtzeit, I can only cling to a small hope that we are not ultimately among the forgotten, that we are not fodder for Hollywood moguls to make billions on our stories.

Believe me when I say that, at this point in time, it is a very...small...hope.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

If anyone needs a window as to how many people feel at this moment in time:

I guess the thing is, at least to me, is all the waiting. Waiting for the traffic lights to be fixed, for the streets to be fixed, for crime to subside, etc. Basically for recovery to happen as if it were the big bang....that's what I'm really waiting for...the big bang where all those post storm, 'come on back' promises will be fulfilled. Better? Stronger? I haven't seen that at all. I have seen the opposite though. If you spend enough time waiting for anything that doesn't seem to be coming it starts to feel an awful lot like rejection. Even if you know it's not rejection, wait long enough, even with encouraging words, and it will feel like rejection. I'm sure of it. And rejection is a heavy one to have around be it from a person, group, city, state, or nation makes no difference. It moves fast around you and screams at you the whole time. It's the kind of scream you feel on the back of your neck and makes your eyes feel wet. Rejection is probably the thing I'm least capable of dealing with as a person. And that's just regular ol' me, and doesn't take into account Post K My ice is so thin because I have no patience with damn near anything anymore. I'm furious in a Zack de la Rocha way. Things just seem to get in on me. I read a lot into nothing. I imagine connections that aren't really there. I over react constantly.

Multiply this by close to 300,000, and you've got New Orleans.

The close encounters with Indianapolis fans like the ones these folks had don't help things, either.

God help us all.

Update, 9-9 : There are too many ground zeros to count in New Orleans. Scattered, disorganized repopulation has been driven more by residents than politicians and planners. And while the territory is thousands of times larger and funding more scarce, its early planning process mirrors New York City's efforts to redevelop the World Trade Center site and surrounding neighborhood after the Sept. 11 attacks.

Loosely defined organizations are bickering about who controls what, while residents, planners and politicians debate what to build, when to build it and how to pay for it.

..."The amount of positive citizen energy that the city of New Orleans frittered away in the first six months is appalling," said Reed Kroloff, the former dean of Tulane University's architecture school, who quit the Bring New Orleans Back commission after seeing little political support for it.

Gee, you think the Shock Doctrine has anything to do with our current state of affairs? In which: the process deceptively called “reconstruction” began with finishing the job of the original disaster by erasing what was left of the public sphere.” ?

Hold the line in our city, people, no matter how ragged and worn. Overarching despair is the ultimate weapon in a arsenal of subtlety, wielded by all those who have power in this city and over this city. It ensures that only the stronger than strong will survive. Share your information on things such as the current races for city council and judgeships. Build a wall of political shame that helps ensure that the same ol' characters won't be lying in wait for everybody to forget the last things they had their hands in, only to come out smelling like roses in another election further down the political pike. Keep working together in your respective neighborhoods for change - the change directed not by other interests from outside where you are, but from yourselves.

This is damned hard. But it is still damned necessary.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

I'm in about the same place as the Seestergirl. I'm doing my best to clean this house so that no one having dinner and a beer here tomorrow night gets thoroughly grossed out by the dust bison that are collecting in corners of the rooms from a dog, two cats, a four-year-old, and Dan and me tracking through our own place on a regular basis. So there is all kinds of random crap going through my head as I'm doing all the sweeping, mopping, and disinfecting.

Just got an email from my Queens synagogue's listserve concerning these events last month. It seems that my friends and former neighbors, as residents of the borough of Queens, are now living in a disaster area. Yep, those whose places are now damaged and/or flooded out from the events of August 8th can now head to a FEMA Disaster Assistance Service Center in Flushing to demand money from the guv'mint for their losses. Good luck to all of you. You will surely need it. I'm not kidding.

Speaking of recovery funds from the government, a fellow dog parker informed me this morning that she and her boyfriend are now ready to start their renovations. After receiving a Winding Goat Path Home "gold letter" similar to what Mominem got...down to the dollar amount they were entitled to...they appealed the decision and got their money, which was deposited in a new joint account by the state. My friend informed me that not only do they have a travel trailer they themselves purchased from a dealer, since they want to avoid the FEMA formaldehyde fumes, but that they are transferring their money from the state to yet another account in the event the state decides to take back those funds. The things folks are doing to preserve themselves and their quasi-sanity. And, in my neighborhood, when I say quasi-sanity, I mean it. I'm not kidding.

I thought about a little something that Ray posted this past week. I have two words for him:

Jewish gangsters.

Okay, a few more words. Prejudices against Jewish folks in the form of overt discrimination such as restricted hotels and quotas at colleges that limited Jewish enrollment, and covert discrimination most everywhere else, gave rise to folks like Arnold Rothstein, Ben "Bugsy" Siegel, Meyer Lansky, "Pittsburgh Phil" Strauss, Abe "Kid Twist" Reles, and other charming folks with great nicknames. Yeah, a good number of these infamous crooks were sick in the head and even sicker with their nefarious doings. But the intriguing thing about a number of the lesser known gangsters is that, if they had families, they made it a point to conceal their business from their children. Many of them still had ties to the Jewish community's institutions and even helped in whatever way they could with the early years of Israeli statehood (mostly in terms of supplying money, guns, and ammo to the folks fighting the Arabs and trying to help displaced persons from the European concentration camps break through the British blockade of Palestine's borders) . The difference between these folks and your basic petty criminal is that, though they embraced a life of crime for themselves, they wanted better for their children and put themselves in a position to get it, no matter how illegal. These folks still had some semblance of hope. Where is the hope for the future in the actions of the poor today? That despair is what we have created and institutionalized, and what we all must work hard to change.

After reading this, I've got a few books for folks to read:

The Provincials and The Lonely Days Were Sundays, Eli Evans
The Jew Store, Stella Suberman
Troubled Memory, Lawrence Powell
New Orleans, Carol Flake
The Temple Bombing, Melissa Fay Greene
anything by Harry Golden

The South can put Jewish people between a rock and a hard place. Even today. I am really not kidding about this.

Things in the local City Council-At-Large race are getting pretty bad. The other day, Dan nearly got Justin to run, but he balked at the qualifying fees involved. When Dan left for work a couple of days ago, he kissed me goodbye and said, "Let me know if I'm running for City Council." I thought about it. I really did. Dan's commute would most certainly be one hell of a lot better. Too late now, though, unless everyone wants to do a write-in campaign. I would advocate doing a write-in on the ballot for this lady, however. If they won't give you paper at the polls, write it with a Sharpie on the voting machine. Would I kid you? Don't answer that...

This Saturday, I will officially become a soccer mom. The little guy starts soccer games then. He has some stylin' silver and black Adidas cleats that I couldn't resist, some little shin guards, and his kicking feet all ready to roll. He even volunteered to mop the floor just now. There's nothing like seeing my kid with a sponge mop Murphy's Oil Soap-ing the floor as best he can. I hope the guests will take note of that gorgeous floor, because I will be doubly proud. The floor is clean - and my guy had his hands in it. He is truly growing like a weed.

I kid you not.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Took a much needed vacation out to the house of a friend of a friend this past weekend. The house happened to be in a little subdivision on Santa Rosa Island, off the Florida panhandle. The weather was beautiful, the water was a clear aqua, the pelicans were flying over in formation, and we didn't want to come out of the sea until we got hungry and/or had our fill of seeing an occasional jellyfish along with the schools of yellow-tailed fish Dan tried to catch. No TV, thank goodness. Just sand and surf, and no rain until we left on Monday afternoon.

I am a born beach bum. I know it would bore Dan to tears to have a beach house like the one we stayed in this past weekend...not to mention how I'd never hear the end of what a money pit it was to have beachfront property. Many of my childhood summer weekends were spent camped by San Luis Pass in Galveston with my parents and, occasionally, some good family friends who didn't mind heading out in my dad's boat to catch copious amounts of trout. I fished with Dad on occasion, but found it to be boring as all hell, and I was not into the whole getting up early thing. Period. I preferred to hang on the beach.

Anyone who's been to Galveston knows that it ain't no Riviera. The water is brown and there are what seems like a gazillion sandbars heading out into the gulf. I didn't care. I loved it anyway. I'd dig in the sand, and head out into the water to see how far I could get. I must have ensured that my mom's heart would be in her throat on a regular basis, but she would get out there with me, too, most of the time. My kiddie love for a fairly cruddy beach has ensured that I will love darn near any seaside spot, so long as it ain't seriously polluted.

The problem these days, however, is that most beaches near me are kind of tainted. The specter of hurricanes hovers over them like bad, bad dreams.

It's tough to leave that specter behind when it is all around. Driving over Escambia Bay, Dan casually remarked that the section of I-10 we were on had been ripped apart some by Ivan nearly three years ago. That storm also made it a certainty that every house on Navarre Beach was going to sport storm shutters on every window, and that one house in particular was going to look exactly like a modified flying saucer on stilts, ready to launch at even the slightest whiff of a gust in the triple digits. The fact that most of the houses on the beach were there before and after Ivan is a testament to the changes in housing codes enacted and enforced by the aftermath of that granddaddy of bad hurricanes - Andrew in 1992.

Somebody did comment over at Ashley's about Andrew's anniversary. Coozan Pat made a note of it as well. It's because of the latter that I dug up my copy of Carl Hiaasen's Kick Ass, a compilation of his columns for the Miami Herald, and found yet another case of plus ca change, plus ce le meme chose:

The other day, the Latin Builders Association took out a full-page ad to whine about all the bad press that the construction industry is getting. The LBA implied that shoddy workmanship wasn't widespread, that Andrew's supernatural gusts were humanly unstoppable.

Especially if your contractor didn't bother to fasten your roof to your house.

...other developers also are pitching the myth of the Big One: Hey, we sell sturdy homes. Nothing could have survived Andrew. (Except the low-cost houses built by Habitat for Humanity.)

While the companies try to cover their butts, homeowners are filing richly deserved lawsuits. A grand jury is convening (yes, again). Even the State Attorney's office is on the prowl for indictments. More shocking revelations are sure to come.

Andrew exposed, at a terrible human cost, what happens when a system meant to protect citizens is poisoned by greed, politics, corruption and ineptitude.

Failure occurred at every step. The vaunted South Florida Building Code deliberately was weakened to allow faster, cheaper work. Staples instead of nails? Great idea! Waferboard instead of plywood? Hey, give it a try. What next - Lego blocks?*

We drove back from the beach in rain, but the clouds parted when we decided to exit I-10 and head to Highway 90. Casinos are back, and they are fully land-based. There are three brand new Waffle Houses between Biloxi and Gulfport. Chiquita bananas are coming through Gulfport once again in shipping container loads. What is not there, however, screamed bloody murder at us as we drove past. Weeds choke crumbling foundations all along the highway. There's not much along that scenic byway that is being rebuilt unless it is commercially viable for Mississippi, it seems. I really wish what we've got here in NOLA with the blogpocheh were as easily discernible and accessible in the Mississippi Gulf Coast, because I think it would help a heckuva lot more to draw attention to the region than having our illustrious oaf of a president visiting Bay St Louis. On-the-ground accounts of doings in that area mean a great deal more for everyone involved - as well as for those who want to be involved. Such accounts can be grounds for change.

Without the voices of all our survivors of the Big Ones (or the Big Crimes) raised in the same song, we are truly lost. It is at that point in time that the decision to say good-bye to the places where the land meets the Gulf has been made for us.

I'm happy to say that, though I now know full well what can befall these beautiful places, whether it be nature's fury or human folly, I'm not ready to say good-bye.

My son has only just begun to say hello. There's so much more to show him yet.


*from Carl Hiaasen's Kick Ass : "Blustery Talk About Andrew Is All Hot Air" 10-18-1992

And, yes, that pic is of a 1" x 4" plank imbedded in a palm tree. To learn more, head here.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

New to my blogroll - a massive site about Buras, Louisiana (thanks, Charlotte).

Buras sustained a direct hit from Katrina two-plus years ago. Go visit.


Haven't posted any of these in a while:

As seen on the West Bank, a huge ad for a remodeling place -

We've been in the bathroom since 1934!

Sounds like a serious UTI to me, or else someone's been a bit liberal with the Ex-Lax.

Seen in Joey K's last night -

If Ifs Were Skiffs We'd All Be Rowing

Many Gulf Coasters lived that one two years ago or so. We still are...

And finally, as worn by my pal Justin at choir practice the other night (think limericks, now) -

Knowing Justin, I believe it, too.