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Tag Archives: New Orleans

Alive And Almost Well in the Big Easy

Here it is the day we’ve all been waiting or dreading depending on your beliefs. It’s the day called Fat Tuesday (the literal translation of the phrase) a.k.a. known in French as Mardi Gras. Kind of ironic in more ways than one, too. Ain’t too many fat people around here, not to imply “fat” is a crime; I’ve never been. And although most people who have returned have finally exhausted their supplies of M.R.E.’s (Meals-Ready-To-Eat) that doesn’t necessarily mean we charge headlong into the massive Po’Boys and highly saturated fried seafood of the P.K. days (pre-Katrina, kind of like B.C. & Anno Domini by Gregorian standards). As of today there are few if any neighborhood restaurants operating as were P.K. unless you live in the Quarter. So if you have gained weight recently, it’s nobody’s fault but your own that you drove the four or five miles for each meal instead of jogging.

Apart from the culinary devastation my hometown has suffered recently, something must be said in favor of the spirit of returned New Orleanians. The Mardi Gras you all know is quite rightly defined as the “party of the parades.” It used to be the city tripled it size in the days surrounding the event with about a million people showing up for the biggest party on earth. I don’t have an official count as yet since I write this on Mardi Gras Day, but we’ve got a few people in the streets taking their mind off neighborhoods which lay dormant for miles around the parade routes. That, in and of itself, is not a bad thing. The natives who couldn’t be here might be a little disappointed, but those who really wanted to be, of their own accord, found the way. If FEMA would have offered free money for the trip, many more would have been present. So, suffice it to say, those that did make it here earned the right to party. And you get what you pay for, don’t you?

Now don’t get all huffy! Generalizations aren’t intended to be blanket condemnations in my comments. They’re meant for those people who don’t fit in those shoes. If you’re not here, you’re not necessarily the target. Funnel your frustrations at the goal of being worthy of returning. You have the right of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness at your own expense because most of the returnees here right now are working for those same guarantees with sweat and toil. Wow, kind of like pioneers who used to make this country work in its early days . . . before political correctness hijacked “right” and transformed it into “entitlement.” Fits? Wear it.

Okay, back to the philosophy of Fat Tuesday.

In addition to being a French phrase, Mardi Gras is also a melding of dissimilar traditions. New Orleans being a Roman Catholic province, the holiday is the final fling before the 40 days of penance begun the day after Mardi Gras, Ash Wednesday. You know, the old “sack cloth and ashes” thing where you self-flagellate for your sins? Depending on your belief system, secular or religious, this is another one of those generalizations not intended to spear Roman Catholics, per se, but the truth must be told for proper perspective. And it kind of falls into the same category as Christmas trees, Easter bunnies and Halloween costumes. If you believe the Judeo-Christian deity is it, consider this idea a toss-up for meaningful discussion without stoking up the Salem barbecue pit.

Does it make really good sense to consciously violate every moral concept by getting plastered, exposing yourself (genitally speaking; unfortunately I have seen this happen), wrestling old ladies for a pair of beads, spending inordinate amounts of money to buy those “throws,” and then the next day think your saying your sorry for forty days beyond is the correct thing to do? Granted, I think the majority of people who take the kids to a parade are not violating any moral principles in doing so. Just like the Old Testament people were forbidden to eat food offered to idols and the New Testament people were told food is food. So I guess the operative principle here is where do you stand in your belief and understanding of your role in any participatory event. And if a tree was a pagan symbol for some tribe in the past, does the use of one at Christmas constitute its degradation as a symbol? Remember the Old Testament Golden Calf? Ate at Micky D’s lately? You know, GOLDEN arches, COW patty (not field patty! Get a grip and follow my reasoning!). The dust of the broken tablets is on your conscience, huh? A pebble in your shoe?

I haven’t been a participant in parade revelry for years now. I don’t see the point, but that’s just me. Fundamentalists have their own Scriptural fence posts to skewer people with. I prefer to ride the fence so I can keep a good look at both sides equally and if I ever do “fall off” it most surely will be the Fundamentalist side sans a “judgmental” triple flip as I fall to the ground. I observe and I write my thoughts down then share them via blog. (Oh my! “Gog” & “Magog”! I wonder if there is something relative to alphabetical codes in words ala DaVinci!)

I took a ride around the neighborhood this afternoon. It’s hard to separate the concepts of judgment and circumstance when you tour the neighborhoods around here. Once again, your belief system tempers those glasses you see it through. Now about 6 months removed from the storm, it’s really hard to know what really happened to this city in minutes or years depending on your political belief system. Whichever political system you choose, it has failed miserably over the years to create the panacea that was promised. I don’t care what side you are on! And just like this party-like atmosphere this city is experiencing as I write, from the decadent, narcissistic body exposers to the ultra-Conservative Inquisition “damned to hell”-ers, most of us are caught in this vise in between. We are squeezed. Kind of like being a foot in the wrong size shoe. Between spirituality and politics. So I guess it’s one I will just have to wear for a while. Praise be to God . . . and Dr. Scholl . . .

 
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Posted by on February 28, 2006 in Katrina

 

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Sometimes Things Just Never Change

It’s not enough that a killer hurricane wipes out an entire community or that a small percentage of the remaining few find it necessary for survival to loot and pillage the little value this city has left, things like TV’s, electronics, designer clothes and one bottle of baby formula. And now today as this city recovers from the devastation, someone feels the justifiable necessity to shoot three people after a Second Line parade in Treme, probably the same cretin who thought his new big screen TV would benefit him during the resulting Katrina blackout.

It’s been peaceful here in the Big Easy for the past few months. I’ve weathered even a small personal storm playing off the phrase “of biblical proportions” with the word “purge” referring to the evacuation of almost all people from this city. Someone mistook me for justifying the characterization as a “divine judgment” deserved of a certain persuasion of persons when all I meant was if it were a purge then why was the Decadence Festival picture the first shot from New Orleans in one national newspaper? Sure, white/black, rich/poor neighborhoods were all destroyed with the same affirmative action. I’m not sure, though, if more women were denied their rights due to the storm, or if the Supreme Court was involved in the dismal abortion drop-off in the past few months but I’m sure Air America will be on the case soon. And while you’re at it, Franken, there weren’t any weapons of mass destruction discovered either. That is, unless a hurricane constitutes a “weapon” because I’m sure the Bush NWS had something to do with that. But I am rather certain that if I’d have seen a Halliburton truck around here instead of FEMA things would be much further along than they are.

Frankly, except for people who shoot other people, the city is moving along somewhat. Ok, we have had one person say he hated another gentleman in a public forum when the gentleman was proposing a legitimate way to rebuild New Orleans. It wasn’t a racist comment because the hater was of African decent while the “vile” developer wasn’t, but let’s not put the devil in the details please. That’s a politically correct impossibility. PC only works one way. And never mind that the duly elected mayor of our fine city, himself, is of African descent along with numerous council members. Can’t we just all get along? If I’m Caucasian and you aren’t and I have never discriminated against you, why do you slap anyone in the face because you think “we all” are out to get you? Could it be . . . racist? In isolated cases, I’m sure you could claim righteousness. But in the larger scope of things, in this city where every one of any color is just struggling to get their little piece of life back into order, racism of any sort is nothing more than an irrational paranoia on the whole—unless, of course your career is dependent on the persuasion—right, Jesse and Louis? I could be wrong, though. At least, I admit it.

Mayor Nagin is proud that this is now one of the safest cities in the U.S. Wasn’t so on August 28, 2005 but it sure has been. So he’s right . . . in essence. (For the record, I think he’s done his best given the situation) We also have the lowest per capita incidence of cancer now also. White collar crime has dwindled drastically. Traffic accidents . . . lowest they’ve been in years. DUI’s almost unheard of. Geez, even our jails have “greenspace” between cells. It’s mold but it’s green! And why? Because they ain’t nobody here! All that’s here now are hard-working people who are rebuilding their lives and a couple who are trying to take lives away. Anybody have any idea which ones we should “purge” now? As long as their civil rights haven’t been violated in the process, that is. We wouldn’t want to screw with the lives and liberties of well-meaning criminals trying to do what they do best. It was a black on black crime, I’m told. I’m not black and I care. So I guess it doesn’t really count then . . .sorry to be so racist about it.

Addendum 1/17/06: Somethings Do Change Or Were They Always Lingering In The Background?

Unity . . . One Voice . . . talking with Dr. King . . . and God’s judgments . . . on the return of a “Chocolate City” . . . somethings are better left unsaid, Mr. Mayor. You’ve pretty much just dashed any progress you’ve made in unifying anything but a racist agenda. But, I guess, since President Bush did not invade sovereign state territory with federal troops a few months ago, his “racism” is much more evident, huh? Oh and you forgot to throw in the part about the demolition of the levees by federal troops to whip up your base, Mr. Farri . . . Nagin. Sorry I got confused for a moment. Isn’t Ex-Lax made with chocolate, too?

 
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Posted by on January 15, 2006 in Politics

 

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Not All Angels Have Wings . . .

Things could be better. But not all things are necessary. It’s a fact that you probably never want to learn and I hope you never have to. But what’s quite evident in the face of tragedy–especially on this day we so woefully remember September 11 from a few years ago—and now we New Orleanians are faced with our own version of catastrophe. It’s the little things that now count and should continue to count from here on and forth. There’s no rhyme and no reason you can put your finger on. It’s just an occurrence and we all must just get over it. Some of us will, but many of us need that little helping hand to push us just a little further over the hump toward normalcy.

So now we New Orleanians have one less thing to worry about today: The Saints are 1 & 0 in the season and the division. That’s a matter of pride and inspiration, but it’s really on a level much less important on the grander scope of things. I could hear the cheers emanate from Houston, Shreveport, Jackson, Pensacola and a thousand other places around this wonderful country of ours (except Carolina for some odd reason!) and it was a nice thing to know that amidst all the displacement and pain of not knowing what tomorrow may bring, alas there were a million plus cheers (more or less) and that’s a good thing. Without technology, there may have been no cheers whatsoever, just deadly silence over the City that care forgot and other parts of the world who wouldn’t have known the difference. But today, they do. Not because of the New Orleans Saints, but other forms of saints yet to be canonized.

Across this vast country, millions of people still with lives of their own, have postponed theirs to provide a much-needed commodity to us who have little left or are simply separated from it for the time being. Numerous times in my current situation the question “Are you from New Orleans?” has been followed with generous offers of cash, jobs, clothes, food, lodging, you name it. And this is not from people I’ve been talking with for hours. It’s a tap on my shoulder on the street. In fact, as I was doing the speed limit down a public street the other day in search of the right street to turn down, a truck sped up to me, slowed down to my speed and “forced” me to roll down the window. I thought he was lost and wanted me to give him directions. Or maybe my rear axle fell off and I didn’t even notice.

“Are you from New Orleans?” he asked.

“Yes, sir.”

“I’d be glad to give you directions if you’re lost. By the way, have you eaten today?”

“Yes, sir. I have eaten and thank you. And I think I see the Interstate just ahead. Right?” I replied.

“You got it. Best of luck. If you need help call me at XXX-XXXX.”

No wings. Just a guy.

Later at the hotel, a local church ( http://www.victoryworshipcenter.com/ ) has adopted us evacuees. In spite of their jobs, their kids’ schooling, their financial situations, they are here everyday serving up beef stew, red beans and rice, beef pasta, vegetables, lemonade, ice tea, cupcakes, chocolate cake and a warm embrace when needed. I feel so guilty drinking the last drop of tea from my cup because before it clears my lips a child of one of these people grabs it from my hands because it would be “shameful” to allow thirst to over take me. But it’s not thirst that is overtaking me. It’s much more than that and it has nothing to do with a lack.

No wings. Just people.

Yesterday, a fellow New Orleanian who escaped with his wife and two kids in the back of someone else’s pick up truck asked me if I might give his wife a ride to Lake Charles (about 5 miles) for a doctor’s appointment. She had injured her back sometime ago falling from a scaffold. They had lost everything including the crucial contact with her doctor back home. That was only a small thing for me to do to repay all the kindness I had experienced. As we were heading back to the hotel, she told me her family was coming over to Sulphur to bring her some money and not to make plans for dinner Monday night because they were taking me out for a meal. I “protested” but it was rebuffed.

No wings. Just a favor.

At the moment, a hotel employee is in my room with a cup of Café Du Monde coffee in his hand (sans beignet, but that’s part of the discussion). As soon as the deep fryer gets here and the other hotel employee brings the only remaining box of beignet mix he received as a gift a couple of years ago, the French Quarter a la Sulphur will be formed.

No wings. Just chicory.

Things could be worse. But the next time you suspect that everything life offers has been wrestled from your grip, don’t be a fool and rush to judgment. There are angels there and they do not really fear anything.

No wings. Just a lot of treading . . .

 
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Posted by on September 11, 2005 in Katrina

 

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