Sunday, January 30, 2011

The certainty that, as time passes, things won't be at all certain and stable ought not to surprise me as much as it does.

This was what my husband and I bargained for, right, when we had our child?  That we would be perpetually off-balance in one way or another, like a Jenga tower balancing on a few planks in its midsection.  He tends to welcome this uncertainty. I tend to cower in fear of it.  And it's largely because I may have too much of a hold on something my husband only seems to shrug his shoulders at: at this stage of our son's development, we are still largely responsible for his behavior.

I'm not talking about our being the ones that pull his puppet strings from afar.  Once he leaves our home for school, we don't have hands on his hands dictating that he keep his to himself - but now the teachers seem to want us to have something like that going on.  His focus on schoolwork is better than ever, they say, but socially, his tendency to get excited and lose control of his impulses is holding him back.

Sad to say, it's times like these when taking on some Amy Chua-like Tiger Mothering might be in order.

No, I don't want to become Joan Crawford minus the coat hangers.  No, I don't want to chain my child to his guitar until he plays "He's Got The Whole World In His Hands" flawlessly.  No, I am not into his never having a sleepover for as long as he lives under our roof.  I only have these dangerous-feeling spurts of anger and head-shaking over how such a bright guy like my little guy can also be inept in the area of "respecting other people's bubbles", as his pre-K/kindergarten teacher put it. It's not like we haven't tried all sorts of things ourselves to get him to behave once he leaves our house.  He's just...kinda...oblivious when he's in the moment.

I want Chua's fairly cold-blooded certainty, her black and white way of looking at child-rearing.  I want that steely wall she sets out when the kids are anything but attentive to what she feels is good for them.  Gimme that cocktail of right and wrong she's imbibing...because I'm not sure what is right or wrong anymore.

All I know is the "professional help" for the little guy starts tomorrow - and I'm going to need help accepting that help.  Someone hold my hand, because I'm feeling more alone than ever before...but I do know that I have to try not to be so angry at my son.

It's what being responsible is all about.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

The signs lately have been pointing to increased episodes of exercise for me, despite my mildly aching knees, the onset of king cake season and the sudden proliferation of mini king cakes around town.  I'm now in the gym at least four times a week, and it's not as soul-sucking an experience as I thought it was going to be.

This recent post by author Dave Cullen even puts the whole exercise resolution in a new light for me.  I am finding machines I like and am ready to dive into some classes, which are indeed key, but there's more going on when you go to a gym to work out:
Last January, I complained on my facebook page about all the resolutionaries making it tough to get a locker, parking space or workout bench at my gym.
A lot of people chimed in to second my frustration, and then came some push-back, from friends making a new go of it. They could use a little encouragement, they said. The sniping felt nasty.
Point taken. My apologies again.
And this year, a little help, hopefully. 
First, it helps to understand the frustration, which is widespread, and real. Here's why:
Most gymrats are actually happy to see new faces. Everybody starts somewhere. It's actually uplifting to see someone arrive looking and feeling bad, and watch them pull themselves together over the course of the next several months. Often, you can see their whole attitude and posture change.
But that's not what happens in January. A zillion people make New Years resolutions. Every gym sees a huge membership spike. Almost none of the newcomers are visible by February.
It clogs the gyms, frustrates everyone, helps no one.
I'm seeing the difficulties in getting parking and in hopping on my favorite machines firsthand, and yes, it's annoying, but I kick-started things in early December.  I saw some friends of mine starting there as well, and they're still in it, which helps me continue and keeps me in the realistic frame of mind that my waist isn't going to return overnight.  These words help as well:
Your goal is to work out for at least six months, or a year, or preferably indefinitely, right? (How much did you just pay for? Probably at least a one-year membership.)
So you've got a lot of time there. If you look back at the first year next January, will three killer workouts the first week have made any discernible difference in your results?
I understand the eagerness to get there quickly, and to really turn it on and make this new plan work by giving it everything you've got. But that nearly always backfires. You've got the drive and energy while you are at the gym, but you haven't considered the sluggish days at work afterward.
And if you've got beach season in mind as a goal for a better body, you've got five months. You can make a hell of a change in that time. (And it's a good goal. Visualizing a payoff helps.)
Drop the weight and the reps for a couple weeks. Ease into it. Enjoy it a little. If you hate an exercise, forget it for awhile. Add it back a month or two from now once you've got some momentum behind you. Or more likely, you'll discover an alternative.
That's really the whole freaking secret to why most people at your gym in March, June and September are still there. Because we actually come to like the gym. Or at least not dislike it.
So yeah, initially, I took it slow and started in on the exercycles and the rowing machine. I love 'em both, but my knees can't take them.  Glucosamine is helping there, as is work on the elliptical and then walking it off on the treadmill, but I am ready for a change.  I don't think I'll be completely giving up the machines, though, as I'm catching up on a lot of reading and a good amount of TV - as well as some people's TV preferences and commentary on what they see...

  • If I come in around 2 PM, the old guys are there on the exercycles pedaling away like they're gonna win the Tour de France at their advanced ages and they insist on having Fox News on. Once the last of those fellas finally left, I switched the tube to The Bernie Mac Show for relief, with some personal trainers nearby commiserating.
  • I try to avoid being in at 10 AM because then I get treated to the trainwreck that is Hoda and Kathie Lee on the Today show.  Their "best of the ambush makeovers" happened to highlight all the women they plucked out of the Rockefeller Center crowds that were made over to look like Hoda and Kathie Lee clones.  I think Kathie Lee is starting to take over Hoda's brain, too, as I'm noticing fewer instances where Hoda gives her co-host that look - the one that says this dizzy broad is going to get it from me if there is one more dumbass comment coming out of her pie hole.  On the other hand, I did notice the two of them sipping some champagne-based beverages out of tall glasses at the beginning of one of their shows, so perhaps that's Hoda's influence.
  • Sunday mornings are fun.  Sunday before last, I switched the tube to the Travel Channel and tortured everybody with some No Reservations and some Andrew Zimmern right after Anthony Bourdain's jaunt through New Orleans.  I then encountered The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers on the tube this past Sunday and pictured all the exercyclers biking like hell away from all the Orcs.
  • I finally found out one late morning what happened to Wayne Brady.  I'm waiting for some more contestants from the American version of Whose Line Is It Anyway? to end up hosting more game shows.  I foresee a renaissance in game show bloopers if that keeps up.
So hey, if the overall entertainment value continues to give as I'm losing some pounds, I'll certainly be a tad lighter in more than just overall weight once our trip to Hawaii comes 'round in early June, and this whole experience of working out will indeed have reaped many rewards.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

It's a largely undisputed classic, despite its cover linking it to some nifty musical made years ago based on its contents .  I read the whole thing, chapter on argot and all - yes, I was and still am a book addict and a nerd - but I left my dog-eared copy at my parents' home, so I must rely on memory right now to conjure up the following speculation:

Jean Valjean is caught for stealing a loaf of bread and vanishes into the prisons of turn-of-the-nineteenth century France. He languishes there for a bit and is aided into escape by some aliens, who, instead of pulling him back into the world he knows, instead disorient him and plop him down into our time and place. Have things changed?  Let's see...

First, are all the children of the world being fed?
The Colorado Department of Education requested an additional $124,229 for the Start Smart Nutrition Program, which subsidizes the cost of breakfast at school for poor children, for the current budget year ending in June.
Because Republicans have regained the state House this year, the JBC is equally split for the first time in almost a decade. There have been a few 3-3 votes this year as the committee has considered budget items, but the one on school breakfasts raised eyebrows at the Capitol.
However, the request failed on a 3-3 party-line vote.
"As a family guy myself with children and grandchildren, I take a very strong responsibility to earn money to feed my own family," said Sen. Kent Lambert, R-Colorado Springs, who voted against the request.
He said charities could step up if some families have difficulty paying the fees. way, way beyond that to take care of families in need," Lambert said. "Out here in El Paso County, for example, we have churches all over the place."
And what of justice for those trying to get their progeny out of their own dire straits? (link via Cliff)
An Ohio mother of two was sentenced to 10 days in jail and placed on three years probation after sending her kids to a school district in which they did not live. Kelly Williams-Bolar was sentenced by Judge Patricia Cosgrove on Tuesday and will begin serving her sentence immediately.
The jury deliberated for seven hours and the courtroom was packed as the sentence was handed down. She was convicted on two counts of tampering with court records after registering her two girls as living with Williams Bolar's father when they actually lived with her. The family lived in the housing projects in Akron, Ohio, and the father’s address was in nearby Copley Township.
Additionally, Williams-Bolar’s father, Edward L. Williams, was charged with a fourth-degree felony of grand theft, in which he and his daughter are charged with defrauding the school system for two years of educational services for their girls. The court determined that sending their children to the wrong school was worth $30,500 in tuition.
When I read about this case, a few thoughts went through my mind. First, it’s clear that the court is trying to make Kelly Williams-Bolar into an example. Even the judge in the case, Patricia Cosgrove, said that her sentence was appropriate ''so that others who think they might defraud the school system perhaps will think twice.''...
...A final interesting blow by Judge Cosgrove that reflects the experience of marginalized African Americans in the criminal justice system relates to Williams-Bolar’s quest to obtain a teaching degree. The single mother was in school studying to become a teacher so that she could create a better life for her girls. But that won’t happen for her family now, given that the judge has all but shut the door on her chance to fulfill her dream:
''Because of the felony conviction, you will not be allowed to get your teaching degree under Ohio law as it stands today,'' the judge said. ''The court's taking into consideration  that is also a punishment that you will have to serve.''
I can't help but feel that Valjean, despite the language barrier and the increased amounts of technological advances around that weren't here in his day, would have no problems dusting himself off and recognizing that this is the same old planet he has always known.  He would keep an eye out for Inspector Javert's descendants in his quest to try to give something back to at least one unfortunate family, an ailing Fantine whose children are in great need...because, after all this time, the needs are still there.

But even Valjean knows that he cannot help everybody, much as he might want to.

Update, 5:22 PM: The Big Man weighs in on the racial dimensions of the justice meted out for the Ohio mother.  So nice that the judge is willing to write a letter to the Ohio Board of Education advocating that Ms. Williams-Bolar not have her teaching license revoked...but what of her two daughters?

Friday, January 21, 2011

Looks like part 2 of the Zombie's report on the October computer crash is up and at 'em at Humid Beings, this time on the woman who was City Hall's CTO at the time of the crash...and, of course, much more about what else went wrong:
Tynia served the IT department of Orleans Parish Civil Court since 1998, over a decade of service in a position which required her and a single assistant to oversee and address the technology needs of more than 300 employees, an estimated 300 computers, 9 servers, multiple printers, Blackberries and any electronic issue which arose in Civil District Court or any of the offices under the Orleans Parish Clerk of Court’s dominion. As her emails reflect, she often turned to prayer and faith in moments when she felt overwhelmed by the responsibilities of her job.
Running a grossly understaffed and underfunded IT department is hard enough under any circumstance but when said department is responsible for many of New Orleans’ most valuable public records, the burden becomes that much greater. Tynia was fully aware of the enormous responsibility she held and particularly aware the servers she administered were the alpha and omega of not just the city’s property records, but the civil court records as well.
Suffice to say, Tynia has offered up a lot of prayers in her tenure.
In reference to Landry’s workload, Chicago-based IT consultant and Microsoft server specialist Michael Dumas said, “If that poor girl was getting 40 to 60 help notices daily, it’s outrageous to think she could run that office properly with a single assistant. It’s not unheard of for a single server administrator to run 9 servers with SQL and Exchange databases but combined with the number of employees she was responsible for, it’s just a recipe for disaster.”
As Landry described it, she spent most of her time “putting out fires”. Up until the October crash, her biggest fire was Hurricane Katrina. In fact, the flood waters of Katrina nearly wiped out the mortgage and conveyance records for good.
An email timeline and some video clips are included as well.

All of this drives home that, as far as the city's public records go, we'd been absurdly lucky 'til this past October that nothing major had happened.  Go read.

And speaking of the whole anonymous commenter thing that was raised a tad at the tail end of yesterday's post, Terri Troncale finds Sports Illustrated's Jeff Pearlman confronting anonymous tweeters about their hate speech online:
This time, I aspired to know why Matt, cloaked in the anonymity provided by the internet, felt the need to respond in such a way to, of all things, a Jeff Bagwell post.
So, going deep, deep, deep undercover, I tracked him down and, shortly after our exchange, gave him a call.
Quite frankly, I wanted to hate him. I wanted to bash him. I wanted to plaster his name, address and personal information atop a column on, so that when someone Googled his name for future employment, they'd find the words "Sent me a link to pornographic material."
Then we spoke. And I (dammit) liked him. Without invisibility or the support of his 54 Twitter followers or the superhuman powers supplied by a warm keyboard, Matt was meek and apologetic. "I was just trying to get a rise out of you," he said. "You're a known sports writer, and I thought it was cool. That's all. I never meant for it to reach this point."
Sadly, Matt's online behavior is far from an anomaly. Anyone who writes or is written about is now a potential target for abuse. Online civility -- it if ever existed -- has withered up and died. And it's only getting worse.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Haven't linked to in a long while**, and I'm not about to start now...

...but I do get a subscription to the dead-tree edition of the Times-Picayune, and I saw this in there:

The accident sustained by the lady who tripped over the plywood Entergy left over a hole they were working on was in 2003 - and in, her case, the emergency sawhorses and caution tape supposedly surrounding the excavated spot on the sidewalk in the Quarter were gone - but here's Entergy, eight years later, and the way they deal with the messes they make hasn't changed much:
Attorneys for Entergy New Orleans countered that both were present on the site, as well as a pole and a flashing warning light. The work was left idle for a week after crews dug out and refilled the hole*, and the utility maintained that the equipment was moved by someone else. 
While the court agreed that the equipment had been moved, it described Entergy's procedure of a 14-day delay to repair or restore an excavation regardless of where it is located, "and no preference or priority given to areas heavily traveled by pedestrians, as "unreasonable."*
...Entergy New Orleans was found liable for the fall because Entergy crews went to the site three days in a row, and Entergy "gave no reason why" the excavation could not have between fully restored and cemented the next day*, according to the ruling, issued Jan. 3. The work was completed the day after (Laura) Garner fell, when it was reported to the utility, (David) Oestreicher (II) said.
So there we have it.  Entergy gives themselves a nifty 14-day window to deal with stuff such as this.  It's been, oh, ten days since they last dug up our sidewalk.  Let's see what it looks like today:

Well, they did fill it in on Tuesday.  That's something. 4 more days to paving!

As for this one, I think they may be keeping it 'round for longer than two weeks because they must like it. Such a cute little hole, with its safety cones and sawhorses adorning it while it waits patiently for some concrete to fill it up:

No, those beads are not hanging from the cone, but if they keep this thing going 'til parade season, I'm sure the cone will get its share.

I know Entergy will probably do its darnedest to appeal the verdict on their liability for Ms Garner's injuries, because that's so much easier than actually reexamining its policies on street repairs.  Apparently, it's also much more fun to have lawyers fight out this garbage in court than it is to do the work right, and in a more timely fashion, in the first place.


*boldface emphases mine
** I haven't linked to since Dambala's true identity was revealed.  I still feel after all this time that the lack of comment moderation (yeah, what comment moderation?) and the encouragement of anonymous commenting tacks such terrible cesspools of bigotry, ignorance and sheer hate onto the good work that many Times-Picayune reporters do, and I don't wish to encourage that in any way.  I salute Billy Sothern for his recent willingness to analyze what makes those toxic comment sections so bad in his new blog, NO Comment, and I hope he keeps donning the hazmat suits so that Advance Publications will take his critiques quite seriously.  I also hope that he doesn't have to keep wading in that filth and hypocrisy over there for too long.

Monday, January 17, 2011

From this site. There is a transcript of the segment as well.

Actually, Rabbi Heschel would have been 104 this month.  Back then, he absolutely got it - we cannot go forward unless we are together.

In 1965, Heschel wrote of his experience marching with Martin Luther King from Selma to Montgomery: "For many of us the march from Selma to Montgomery was about protest and prayer. Legs are not lips and walking is not kneeling. And yet our legs uttered songs. Even without words, our march was worship. I felt my legs were praying."

I have no doubt that if he were alive today, Heschel would be doing his best to continue in the path Dr. King had started upon.

Other remembrances of Dr. King: Audio and transcript of his 1967 speech on Vietnam at Riverside Church in NYC:
Over the past two years, as I have moved to break the betrayal of my own silences and to speak from the burnings of my own heart, as I have called for radical departures from the destruction of Vietnam, many persons have questioned me about the wisdom of my path. At the heart of their concerns this query has often loomed large and loud: "Why are you speaking about the war, Dr. King?" "Why are you joining the voices of dissent?" "Peace and civil rights don't mix," they say. "Aren't you hurting the cause of your people," they ask? And when I hear them, though I often understand the source of their concern, I am nevertheless greatly saddened, for such questions mean that the inquirers have not really known me, my commitment or my calling. Indeed, their questions suggest that they do not know the world in which they live.
Also, give the Rude Pundit a read, as well as Cliff.

Update, 1/18: Also check the yaller blogger's find on Dr. King's last social justice campaign - that of supporting the garbage workers' strike in Memphis.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Monday, last week:

"Ummm, they're digging up the sidewalk again, aren't they?"
"Well, yes, they are."
"Okay, what's up?"
"Well, I can't get in the house."

I walk out onto our balcony to see my husband stranded on the sidewalk because one of our gates is blocked by the hole Entergy workers are digging, the other by the excavator itself.  I can't suppress a bit of a giggle as I tell my husband through the cell phone, "Well, you could just climb over the fence..."

"You have got to be kidding me."
"...or you can wriggle past the caterpillar tracks and get in that way."
contemplative moment
"Okay, I guess I'll try that."
"I'll see you in a bit, then."


Yes, it was happening for a third time when I got home from picking up the little guy after work.

At the time I got home, I did manage to get into our house before the jackhammering began.  It took me another few moments, however, to realize that if Dan couldn't get in the house, I couldn't get out.

This Entergy crew couldn't detect any gas leaks with their instruments even after they doubled the size of the first hole dug...but shortly after Dan made it into the house, he went to turn on the faucet and asked me why we didn't have any water.  A peek over the balcony gave me a glimpse of a couple of the workers frantically trying to work in what had become a water-filled trench - Dan found out from them that a worker had accidentally stepped on the water pipe to our house and it shattered under his foot.  Yes, the Sewerage and Water Board were called by them shortly afterwards.

I couldn't believe how quickly the Entergy crew cleared out of there, though, once they managed to reduce the trench flood to a hefty misting.  It was as though they were expecting their butts to be handed to them once the S. & W. B. came.  They needn't have worried - it took another hour and a half before water was restored to our faucets.

The lingering legacy from this sick comedy of errors, though, is, nearly a week later, still wide open and awaiting completion:

"If you smell anything, don't call Entergy!" was Dan's (mostly) joking cry.

I wish it were really riotously funny.  It's just kinda sad at this point.

I feel the most pity, really, for our tenants who keep calling Entergy and expecting them to clear this up.  The people doing the calling have only been here for over a year.  It's only reasonable for them to believe that those charged with maintaining the city's utilities and infrastructure will finish what they start - right?  That any whiff of natural gas will lead to the source of said whiff and it will then be plugged, never to rear its ugly, potentially lethal scent.  That no other utilities will be harmed in the repairs of the gas lines.  That, once the repairs in the hole are done, the hole will be at least filled in with dirt and the paving of the area that was excavated will conclude these adventures.

These tenants of ours couldn't even look me in the eye when I said hello, like they were considering it their fault that these guys weren't completely doing their jobs.  And it isn't our tenants' fault.  If you are smelling gas, you call, right?  Especially if there are no gas lines running into the house anymore...

Trouble is, I think all of this idiocy may truly cause us to reconsider calling those charged with maintaining what lies underground simply because we keep seeing how badly it is managed.

Unless, of course, we take matters into our own hands.

If the trench is still wide open by the end of the week, I may get my neighbor to put his 'dozer to work on filling it in.  If that isn't available, I'm gonna need a bunch of volunteers with shovels.  Keeping you all posted...

*Oh, and this is one hell of a way to commemorate my fifth blogiversary.  Just sayin'.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

When I first walked into the synagogue here in New Orleans, after a year of nothing but work and heartache, it was the first time I'd been to a regular Shabbat service since well before high school.

I knew no one and took comfort in the rhythms and liturgy that came so easily to me after years of wrestling with the heritage I'd been raised in versus the world of the arts I'd so yearned to join for so long.  The cantor took up his guitar after a moment of silent prayer, and I knew within the first few chords that I'd found a spiritual home.  I started to sing along with the melody my music teacher from grade school had taught me, one she'd crafted as a round.  I remembered she had been fond of rounds: one didn't have to be preoccupied with one's vocal range in a round.  High voices could take up the second part while the low ones stayed with the first, a layering that created a moment much greater than the words and the melody, a true offering to God.  Anyone could learn it and revel in it, and that Shabbat, I did.  I found my voice again.

Who had given me the tools that had lain dormant within me for so long?  In what was still a fairly paternalistic world in terms of who were the rabbis and cantors, the one who gave us the most in terms of memorable melodies, snippets of Jewish learning through song, some folk standards, and simply an overall sense of what ruach was supposed to be like was a woman, bringing it into our classroom once a week with her guitar, pulling out every performing trick in the book and then some to keep all of us engaged.  We loved her.  And she loved us back.

She died on Sunday, having branched out from our school to bring those feelings to a Jewish world that now mourns her.  So many sang the Mi Sheibeirach she'd worked out of what was a fairly rote prayer said for the continued health of those who'd read from the Torah.  Her words expanded on that prayer, her version becoming part of the Jewish liturgy for Reform (and some Conservative) congregations worldwide, but it couldn't stave off the pneumonia that took her life.

My mother asked me if I could find somewhere online one of the rounds of hers that she'd taught us in the first choir I'd ever been a member of.  My teacher had founded the Zimriyah Choir at the local JCC, and the room in which she held rehearsals was filled largely with the kids I'd been through her grade school classes with.  Here we were entering jaded preteen adolescence and bar/bat mitzvah preparations - at least, outside of that room, we were.  Inside it, we were perfecting a round based on a niggun, a wordless melody built on bim bom, biri biri bom, biri biri bim bom, biri biri bom.  It was a series of rounds that made up the Zimriyah's few concerts, in the largest Reform temple in the area.  I wish it had continued for much longer than that.

The traditional thing to say when one of our community passes is zichron l'vrachah - may his/her memory be for a blessing.

But there will never be a problem with Debbie Friedman's memory being a blessing for me.

Taken much too soon.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

I read Athenae's words on the terrible shootings yesterday and thought of this:

It was made at a time when, it seemed, violence against our country's leaders was at an uncomfortable high that we hoped we wouldn't see the likes of a reminder that the violence has always been with us.

Will the discourse change?  I hope so, but as long as there are those who continue to proclaim, "My way or the business end of a gun," I doubt it will.

Saturday, January 08, 2011

Who by fire and who by water? could just as easily be What by fire and what by water? We've seen a lot of water damage in these parts.  But it seems that the ones that stick in my head the most are the conflagrations, perhaps because there have been a great number of them in my neighborhood these past few years.

It reads as a yahrtzeit list for the dead would: the fires on St Andrew Street a week after the levees breached, the Coliseum Theater, the Coliseum Baptist Church, 1233-1231 St Mary Street, last night's Fellowship Baptist Church fire

...and this is just within a 5-6 block radius of where I live.

What is even worse, however, is when the flames do consume the living, as the warehouse fire in the Ninth Ward did a few weeks ago.  Whatever one thinks of the people who died in that fire, many of them were loved despite their choices.  With many of these buildings 'round me that have gone up in smoke, however, the choices made left these places empty.  And they were built to last.  Especially the places of worship.

One has to wonder about what happens to these remnants of the old world when they are abandoned for the new.  Most folks I know have been in agreement that the architectural gems of churches in the Lower Garden District are in a sad state that is largely unwarranted...but who has the money to keep up these structures?  When not even a simple warehouse can be secured so that people are prevented from squatting in it, what is there to prevent these properties from slowly moldering and disintegrating, or going up in a fiery blaze?  The current real estate market makes things even worse.  How was Fellowship Baptist going to get its price for the church and the glorious house beside it without some sort of miracle?

Anybody got nearly $2 million they can spare?*

It's enough to drive anyone crazy.  It's been a few years since the property was put on the market.  Too many of my friends thought "arson" when they heard about this one, but the dangers to the surrounding neighborhood are pretty immense.  I am grateful for the Fire Department putting in the manpower and the time to successfully contain this thing, as it was shooting up sparks and smoke that covered everything with ash for blocks.  As of this writing, the stretch of Prytania between Josephine and Jackson Streets is blocked off, as is Josephine between Prytania and St. Charles Avenue.  The shells that were the church and the house beside it are awaiting demolition and the hauling away of their remains.  Zara's diagonally across from the site is now where the neighbors convene and confer about the place, about their memories of it, about how sad they were that it stood so empty for so long.

I'm glad no one was hurt in there.

What I can't help but wonder, though, is which abandoned property will be next?

And, when will it be who by fire?

(Cross-posted at Humid City)


*The real estate listing was taken from these pictures on jtknola's Flickr.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

On Broadway*

Our holes haven't been fully paved over yet.  The small pile of broken concrete and rebar is still sitting in the street with a couple of sawhorses atop it.

I'd tell Entergy not to start what it can't finish except for the fact that a gas leak is a serious thing.

So, aside from some spackled-up spots between the two massive dirt-filled openings in our sidewalk, things aren't completely done yet.

I want to think that for big companies like Entergy, it must rankle at least a little that there's still work to be done on my block - for most people who care, and most entities truly concerned about their bottom lines, there's nothing like that feeling of unfinished things left hanging in the air like that.  It nags at you and it won't go away.

I see holes all over this town in the streets and can't help but think that those are the many reminders we have here of work that still needs to be done, the Sisyphean tasks that can sometimes seem to be designed to grind us down. My first impulse with these things is to go around taking pictures of them all, posting them on a blog of my own invention titled The Hole Story...but I keep seeing that we really don't need these things to tell us something somewhere is still in need of our best efforts.

There is no shame in New Orleans to say you celebrate both felicity and misery, as they are twin mistresses who court you just the same.  My regret over the past year is that I have let my fears guide my life and I have let misery be my wife.  Now, it’s been a successful year on many accounts, but that doesn’t mean I’ve let it be a happy one.
In reflection, I’ve been beating myself up for a long time and it’s progressively gotten worse.  You wouldn’t know it by talking to me because I’ve gotten good at professing hope, fearlessness, change and everything 504.  The problem is that in all my talk of better worlds and better people I haven’t been able to exercise the same will that exists in my rhetoric.  I believe what I say, but I’m not living it and I haven’t been for quite some time.
For most of this year, it seems we’ve been bombarded with crime after oil spill after crime…et cetera ad nauseum.  It’s been a great year for me to rabble rouse and, as Mark Folse says, be “a great agitator.”  I believe in the causes I get behind because they have a profound affect on my friends, my city and me.  However, I have beaten myself up over ideas, solutions, and the daily barrage of stories I filter though on any given day.  I beat myself up and pass the stories on; I beat myself up and write fourteen page rants I never publish; I beat myself up and rip canvases apart rather than paint what is inside. 
I wish this were as simple as filling in and paving up holes.  It's not.

Once again, living here can be beautiful and hard.  There's so much we've taken on ourselves that people in most cities shake their heads at and wonder why we keep subjecting ourselves to it all.  When are you going to just admit that this place is a lost cause?  When will you see it clearly and get out?

Truth is, many of us see it all too well - we just need the reassurances that our efforts are not in vain, we need acknowledgment that we are not alone in this, that we are human, that we stumble and are brought to our knee by tests of our resolve.  But we don't want pity, just the strength to keep going.

Turn to someone on as many days as you can and let them know you are there, that you know the work is hard, that the road is long and bumpy.  Do it to the people that, in your estimation, seem like they need it the least...because they may be putting on a damned good show.  You will be giving them the gift of release, even if for a moment or two.


*Oh, the hole in the pictures? It's in front of 320 Broadway. The gravel's rubbed right out and you may be nowhere - if your axle gets smashed in it.  If you wanna, give the Sewerage & Water Board a piece of your mind about it - or any other holes in your neighborhood that need fixing. Even if nothing gets done 'til shortly before Mardi Gras Day, you might feel better after you vent.