Monday, February 27, 2006

Boozy Gras

Let’s face it. The commercialization of Mardi Gras is a flop.

The only sponsor the city has gotten so far is a maker of garbage bags. Garbage bags aren’t about Mardi Gras; they’re about Ash Wednesday, about suffering and repentance. They’re about cleaning up, for chrissake. I think we’ve all had enough of that, haven’t we?

I think we all know what Mardi Gras is about, even if we cluck disapprovingly when we read USA Today call Carnival “a bawdy, liquor-soaked celebration inappropriate for a city brought to its knees by Hurricane Katrina.” Of course Mardi Gras is more than that, we tell ourselves. It’s an ancient expression of our Gallic and Latin heritage, steeped in tradition and pageantry.

Isn’t it? Huh? Yeah, I’ll have another of the same.

Okay, so Mardi Gras is a bawdy, liquor-soaked celebration. That’s why I’m so disappointed no one thought to go for the obvious sort of sponsor: liquor and beer companies. Perhaps they did approach them, and in that whole spirit of “enjoy our products responsibly”, they all ran away screaming.

I mean, they do mean it when they say they want us to enjoy their products responsibly, don’t they? That’s why they promote their stuff via spokespeople Tony Sinclair. Doesn’t he just exude moderation and responsibility? (Do you think it’s all right, to leave the boy with Uncle Tony?)

These are the sponsors we need, to lead Mardi Gras into a brave, new commercial age.

Tony Sinclair. Bacardi Guy and Cola. That Drambuie guy. I think a lot of people in New Orleans could identify with the Drambuie guy, being chased by the police through streets, then ducking into his local to try and blend in with the crowd as soon as he gets a slight lead. Sure, a lot of those folks are in Houston right now, but I think the right sort of sponsor could help bring them home.

That’s why I want to see Bacardi Guy and Cola hosting national television coverage of Mardi Gras, standing on a Bourbon Street balcony and smirking at girls the as bear it for beads. I want to see Tony Sinclair high above the crowd, slumped over a gaudy paper mache throne and balancing a tremendous martini glass, casting inappropriate glances at his pages.

That’s the kind of sponsorship we need to get the city back on its feet. We need to let those Shriners and college boys and salary men all over America know that their favorite city is back and waiting for them. Forget what you saw on TV about the convention center. The Swedish Bikini Team is waiting for you on a Bourbon Street balcony, so come on down.

I don’t think we should just stop with the booze and beer companies.

I traveled with my wife to a conference in San Francisco one June, and caught the Gay Pride March. Being several carnivals into my expat exile, I went a little parade crazy, ending up with a big sack of all sorts of colorful and interesting condoms.

Condoms are a perfect fit for the Quarter. I can see where the mainline krewes might not be interested in being sponsored by Trojan or in tossing out prophylactics to the kiddies on St. Charles, but it’s got real potential downtown.

The Uptown parades might require some more sedate and respectable sponsors, something suitable to an older and more gentrified audience. Like that K-Y Warming Lubricant. And Levitra. Hell, I love that Levitra guy. I think if Blaine Kern can’t come up with an entire parade theme built around those Levitra ads, he’s really slipping.

And what about Victoria’s Secret? There’s no reason a classy outfit like that couldn’t do Uptown. The Krewe of Iris, one of the cheapest and least interesting bunches around, could draw a whole new demographic out of their hung over stupor on a Saturday morning if the krewe were sponsored and costumed by Victoria’s Secret.

In fact, why not get a bidding war started between Victoria’s Secret and Frederick’s of Hollywood? Or better, have them both. Carnival is big enough for everybody to get their piece.

The last set of missed sponsorships is so obvious; it’s as painful as an Ash Wednesday hangover to think nobody went after them. Don’t you think Tylenol and Alka-Seltzer would want their names all over Carnival? What marketing guy or gal wouldn’t want the booze-swilling masses to have those product names firmly burned into their brains come the day after, to perhaps wake up the next morning mostly clothed and find a colorful, throw-size Alka Seltzer Plus in their pocket.

Instead, we get garbage bags. While that’s a complete failure for the first post-Katrina and commercialized Mardi Gras, it’s a prefect commentary. It shows the complete lack of initiative and imagination of our leadership, an unwillingness to come to terms with our situation and find a way out of it.

I mean, couldn’t they have at least made a run at Hershey’s or Nestle?

Friday, February 24, 2006

The Last Mardi Gras

Poster by Tony Green

Tomorrow we leave for NOLA. This is one of a few pieces from another blog project, Flood Street, that I'm cross-posting while I'm at Mardi Gras and attending to other business in New Orleans. See ya at the parade.

The Last Mardi Gras

In this city, people talk incessantly of past pleasures and of those to come, even as they regard the meal or the drink or the parade in front of them. We live in a stream of memory as dark and deep and powerful as the river that fronts the city. Memory's currents clutch at us and steer our lives, must be compensated for just as the ferry pilots compensate for the river's at every crossing, must be feared less they take us down into an eddy from which no body returns.

Some of my earliest memories are of . I remember as a child of perhaps five seeing Indians dancing at the corner of Galvez and Canal as we drove do my great aunts' on Royal Street. Later that day or perhaps a year before or after, I can clearly see Rex passing down Canal from atop my father's shoulders.

Much later, my girlfriend and I slouched outside a hall in Arabi in the lost hours before dawn on the night of MoM's Ball, and a famous photographer took our picture. I've never seen the picture, but I will go to my grave easier knowing that years from now, on a wall or in a book, someone will see us in our motley glory, dissolute and unrepentant and utterly glorious in the moment. They will see us and say: this is what Mardi Gras was like back then.

Twenty years seperate those moments, and another twenty seperate that MoM's Ball from the first postdeluvian Carnival. For all that span of years and a century before, Mardi Gras has been as reliable as high water. No one really needed to tell me there would be a Mardi Gras this year, as there has been every year in my living memory, and as I am certain there will be a Mardi gras when no one remembers what it meant to sit on the lawn of the Wildlife and Fisheries building of a certain winter Tuesday. No disaster leaving behind life more complex than the cockroach could prevent it. Just as certain, at some point of a Tuesday twilight, people will begin to talk of about last Mardi Gras, and of the Mardi Gras to come with the certainty of the sanctified they are most certainly not.

The last time in living memory was interrupted was during World War II. Frankly, I don't understand why. Certainly the soldiers and sailors on leave, wandering Perdido Street drunkly in search of women wouldn't have been harmed by the tableaux of paper maiche floats lit by the dripping oil burners of the flambeau. Carnival was probably cancelled by somebody from the wrong side of Canal Street, whose father before him decided Storyville had to be closed to protect the doughboys of World War One from dissipation. There always a Do-Good Daddy looking to tone the city down.

I don't think anyone with the city in their heart understood, but I'm sure those generations accepted those losses the way we accept the closing of a favorite restaurant, by finding a new and equally good one to sit in and eat and drink and discuss the loss of the old favorite, remembering what we ate on such a date and with whom. Until, of course, we discuss where the owner or the cook of the failed place is expected to return, and start to anticipate the day we will sit at that as yet unset table, and remember what we ate on such a date and with whom.

Of course there will be a Mardi Gras. I might need to ask which krewes would roll on what nights, to inquire of friends where the MoM's Ball might be. But no one needed to tell me that Mardi Gras would happen, especially the one hidden inside private parties in bars or in courtyards, punctuated by forays out into the streets to parade.

The year the police went on strike and the parades all fled to the suburbs and the Mardi Gras of the hoteliers and the airlines was cancelled, we dutifully assembled at the Wildlife and Fisheries Building on Fat Tuesday. Suspicious National Guardsmen and out-of-state troopers warily regarded the ragged parade of the early intoxicated, smelling of burnt leaves and breakfast screwdrivers, dressed in ways only the part-time preachers among them could have imagined, and then only in a place warmer than the city in February.

We were not about to let a simple thing like a police strike spoil the party.

Several among us dressed as the National Guard, in uniforms from the surplus stores in Gentilly, armed with perfect replica rifles by Mattel. When we went to buy wine and beer at the Walgreen's on Canal, and our friends burst into the door yelling "secure the beer cooler," clerks fell to the floor in fright, fearing perhaps that the Guard had had enough, and were about to shut down carnival.

I fled the city a few years later, and did not return for Mardi Gras once for almost two decades. The few Mardi Gras that followed the police strike were colored by my reasons for leaving the city, memories rent by heartache and drowned in drink. Those last few years did not yield the stories I would tell my children if they fed me too much wine at some holiday dinner years from now. For many years, the police strike was the Last Mardi Gras.

My children, a boy ten and a girl fourteen, grew up knowing Mardi Gras through the Disney film fairy tale filter of the stories I dared to tell them, from the magazine that came with the king cake from Ma Mere every year, in the music I played them from Twelfth Night until the day. We ate jambalaya and king cake, and donned masks and beads to dance wildly to Mardi Gras Vol. 1 in front of the large plate glass window of our home in a small Midwestern town. Neighbors across the street peered through their curtains intermittently at the scene, but no one ever worked up the courage to ask us what we were doing.

I have taken my family to New Orleans. The kids had sneezed powdered sugar all over each other at the Cafe du Monde, fondled baby alligators on flat boats out of Barataria, had learned to eat seafood and gumbo and jambalaya, had even wandered with me through Storyland in City Park. I took them to the exhibit at the Cabildo to learn about Mardi Gras. It's a wonderful set piece but, like a high school health film on sex, it is not quite the same as the actual experience.

So we piled onto an airplane bound for the year before the storm, and went to Mardi Gras. I took them to St. Charles and Napoleon, and my son waved his deftly caught spear with complete abandon. My daughter was bashful about begging trinkets from strangers in a strange land, until I flung myself stone cold sober on my knees in the middle of the Avenue and begged as loudly as I could for a female horse posse rider to give me a purple, green and gold flower for my daughter on her first Mardi Gras. After that, she got the idea. No pretty girl on St. Charles Avenue should go home without her weight in beads. She only needed to ask. We stood for hours all weekend, parade after parade, never tiring of it, interrupted only by a friend's party Endymion party on Saturday night.

After Endymion, I left them with Ma Mere and set out after midnight to return to the MoM's ball for the first time in two decades. MoM's had always been one of my favorite things about Mardi Gras, a gathering of all who chose to live in the fabric of Mardi Gras and not just inhabit a costume for a few hours, a party only the resolutely dissolute can enjoy, or survive. MoM's is what I hope Saturday night in Hell will be like, should I find myself stuck there between planes. But thousands in a shed did not hold up to the memories of hundreds in a hall in Arabi decades before. I don't know if I will return to MoM's, preferring this one true memory of carnival's past. And then I can say well, I don't go anymore, you know, but back when...

I agonized for weeks and months before we went: should I take the children to the Quarter on Mardi Gras Day, or back to St. Charles? As I child, I spent most Mardi Gras at my great aunt's apartment on Royal Street, now the Hove' Parfumier. I decided they should have a glimpse of the secret heart of Mardi Gras, or as least as much as they could handle.

So we rose up early on the day, donned our costumes, and boarded a cab bound for Frenchman Street. We waited endlessly across from the R-Bar for St. Anne's, not knowing those marchers had chosen another route. Facing a rebellion, we took off and made our own way up Royal, stopping to sit a moment on Tante Gert and Sadie's stoop, making Canal just in time for Zulu.
After Rex, I left them in my sister's care for the endless truck floats, and retired to friend's places in the Quarter.

I stopped briefly in the Abbey, a place that had never been the same since Betz sold it. Instead of a motley crew of bikers or transvesties or other folk I had often encountered on past trips home, I found it full of drunken twenty somethings who looked frighteningly like the crowd I remember from my own days, as if the Abbey were haunted for the night by the spirits of the place of my memories. Then the currents swept me back to Frenchman Street, a mad Green Man second lining with a huge palm tree totem given to me be someone who knew just how to complete my costume.

Now I have a new last Mardi Gras.

We are coming back to the city to stay, to march again and again, so that there is no longer a Last Mardi Gras, just the last Mardi Gras. I will march until my time is done, and then I will borrow a ritual from St. Anne's, in this city of borrowed rituals. I will have my children scatter what remains of me into the river. For me, it will be the Last Mardi Gras. For them, it will simply be a moment from last Mardi Gras. They will say a few words, shed a tear, and then all of us will be swept away by the currents. They will turn away from the river, while nearby a drunken trumpeter will perhaps blow a few bars of Oh Didn't He Ramble, and I will march in their hearts back into the Quarter once more.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Katrina Cottages

N.B.--A slightly updated article from July 2006 can be found here.

Behold what could have been: a cottage designed by architect Marianne Cusatto which can be built for the same as a FEMA trailer. You can learn more about these beauties from the designer's website, and from discussion on architectural blogs Building Big Easy and Veritas et Venustas.

The pre-World Ward II housing stock of New Orleans were marvels of design and craftsmanship perfect suited to their environment. I would suggest that the Katrina Cottage meets the same high standards. Be sure to follow the last link above, and note the window seat with built in bookshelves and other details. This is not some turtle shell camper. It is a real miniature home.

I don't see why something like this stretched out to shotgun size couldn't help rebuild entire neighborhoods in the central city. According to details on the Mississippi Renewal Forum, this 308 square foot unit can be built out for less than $35,000. If you take that out to say, 900 square feet (a nice shotgun house size), you could still be under $100,000.

Figure out how to anchor it to piers and make it capable of surviving a moderate storm, and you could solve the city's housing problem. I think the Katrina Cottage isn't just a temporary housing solution, but a way to use manufactured housing techniques to repopulate city with affordable housing that fits the city it would fill.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Oliver Thomas tells it like it is

City Council President Oliver Thomas' blunt remarks that HANO should only admit public housing residents who intend to come home to work passed yesterday with barely a note in the New Orleans blogosphere.

"We don't need soap opera watchers right now," Thomas said. "We're going to target the people who are going to work. It's not that I'm fed up, but that at some point there has to be a whole new level of motivation, and people have got to stop blaming the government for something they ought to do."

His remarks were echoed by two other councilmembers and murmured assent from the audience. I'm going to go way out on this limb and say, yeah you right.

Blogs that touch on matters political tend to be stridently partisan, and part of the federation of fabulists of one party of the other, and this doesn't fit neatly into either side of the fence's world view. That is likely why you won't find any comment on this in the usual locations.

I'm a liberal's liberal. I changed my registration from independent to Democrat in 1984 to vote for Jesse Jackson for President. I loathe George Bush and Dennis Hastert and Bill Frist. And I'm as white as a slice of Bunny Bread.

I think this is a great idea. Folks of my political persuasion, especially white folks, are reluctant to stand up and say things like this. I think they need to be said, and I'm glad people in the African-American community are leading the way, because frankly they have street cred people like me don't have.

It doesn't take a masters in social work or a Ph. D. in political science to look around and see that what New Orleans needs is people willing to work. There is a monumental task ahead, the labor of a decade, a generation, a lifetime. We don't need to be dragging around slackers.

For the time being there is work to be had at good wages all over town, even for people who are the victims of the New Orleans Public Schools.

Most liberals were uncomfortable with Bill Clinton's welfare reform of the 1990s, but anybody who lives in an urban area has to agree that, as well intended as the efforts dating back to the War on Poverty were, we had built an untenable house.

Now that New Orleans is a city of untenable houses, we only need people who are willing to take up hammer and brush and start putting it back together. We're all going to have a hard enough time just carrying ourselves forward, without carrying people who won't put one foot in front of the other themselves.

The people who are organizing events like the NOHEAT coalition to demand continued free hotel housing for people, or those demanding the lower Ninth Ward be rebuilt, need to step up and endorse Thomas' remarks.

The politics of ethnic identity and victimization are a difficult nut to crack because they work politically, just as the white/christian identity politics of the GOP work so well. But they work by dividing us into warring camps, and New Orleans can't afford this any more than it can afford to carry slackers. In the early days of the Flood formerly known as Katrina, I railed against the uptowners who openly called for a whiter New Orleans, and didn't hesistate to call it ethnic cleansing.

We all need to get past that, because that's not what it's really about. Its about how do we rebuild a city that is recognizably New Orleans to its people--all if its people--and not just a false front for the tourists. Yes, we want everyone to come home, but we need to set reasonable expectations for everyone who does: we need people willing to work, and we don't need or want any gangbangers or thugs.

For now there are jobs. What people need now to return are housing and schools. People groaned when they announced Iberville was reopening. I did, too. The dense housing project concept was a failure all over America, and in Europe when it was adopted after WWII.

However, if we want people to come home, housing has to be provided somewhere, and no one wants trailer cities in their neighborhood. That's reasonable, given that the post-hurricane trailer cities of Florida have proven to be just a new kind of housing project. If the bricks have to reopen at all, I think Thomas' remarks are a step in the right direction.

People are also going to need schools, and the Bring New Orleans Back Commission education subcommittee issued a long power point full of charts, graphics and nice sounding ideas this week. I don't know that will be enough. The New Orleans Public Schools were, like HANO's housing projects, a failed and dysfunctional system.

That's why we've seen an explosion of charter school proposals across the city. People are fed up with the identify politics of the board and the general failure to produce a working school system, a tenable house. It would be easy to say that it's "those folks" at Franklin and Hynes and Lusher--predominantly white schools--who are doing this. Again, we need to get past that.

Frankly, the only thing stopping anybody from doing this, from cutting the cord to the school board and screening out the bad teachers and setting high standards is a willingness to do it. That's why we don't need slackers.

New Orleans has a reputation that leads to that awful tourist name "the Big Easy". During my decade in the upper Midwest, I've often felt like the fabulous grasshopper in the world of the ants, and joked about being a lazy and shiftless southerner. Yes, we like to take life easy. It's an ingrained part of both the Creole and Cajun cultures that define Louisiana.

Still, most of us get up to go to work, and many haul their kids around town to make sure they have a decent school. We do what has to be done day in and day out so that we can have the rest of that friendly and easy lifestyle.

That's what the city needs right now. People who will get up and go to work, people who will invest the time in their kid's schools to make sure they are up to snuff, people who are coming home to be part of the rebuilding, not just part of the city. I want all of y'all to come home: white, black, yellow or brown, pink or blue or green. We need your hands to help. There's a lot of work to do.

Pub. Note: Technorati is showing somebody else's post under my headline, so I'm adding this note and reposting to try and trigger a relisting.

Monday, February 20, 2006

FEMA, the Flood and Fraud

I've tried to be sanguine about the lies and distortions swirling around the Flood former known as Katrina in the national press, but this one struck me as odd and I decided I had to run it down. One member of the Congressional delegation this past weekend told the Times-Picayune he was concerned that that one third of claims for FEMA housing assistance were fraudulent.

A closer inspection finds that's not true, but truth doesn't matter in journalism anymore once an idea escapes into the daily news cycle. Most of what passes for cable "news" is actually a lot of moderately informed and highly opinionated people talking, and it carries about the same news value as a bunch of folks sitting in a bar talking.

A story that moved on the Associated Press wire Feb. 13 (published the 14th in most papers), included this:

The GAO report found that up to 900,000 of the 2.5 million applicants who received aid under the emergency cash assistance program, which included the debit cards, based their requests on duplicate or invalid Social Security numbers, or false addresses and names.
You mean some people tried to apply more than once after being given the FEMA runaround? How many of them were told to complete the questionnaire again by FEMA? As for fraudulent addresses, does that include people who couldn't even find other members of their family may have tried to apply for assistance from the same address? There are an awful lot of people in New Orleans driving around with "by their momma's" addresses on their drivers licenses, and nobody in Louisiana seems to think this constitutes fraud.

The actual amount of fraud is much smaller, according to the Washington Post version of this story:

Investigators said that so far they have learned that about 1,000 people who applied for aid used the Social Security numbers of dead people, 1,000 used numbers that were never issued, and tens of thousands used names, birthdates and Social Security numbers that did not match.
So, is it 900,000 or 2,000 fraudulent applications? How many of the tens of thousands cited actually gave data that didn't match up, or had their telephone applications munged up by FEMA, an agency widely noted of late for its incompetence and inefficiency?

This isn't fraud, certainly not on the scale people are suggesting. This is FEMA's own ineptitude, transferred to the victims.

I'm disappointed that the T-P let this one slide by unchallenged. The editorial board has been doing a bang-up job in setting the record straight. The paper needs to look into this one, because it has become a "meme", a bit of information just barely above gossip in the food chain that spreads via the Internet, talk radio and cable "news" networks and becomes accepted as fact.

These are the lies I wrote about just a few days ago, the lies that set off novelist and blogger Poppy Z. Brite and others on tirades this week against the fabrications that are drowning the city as surely as the negligent failure of the Federal levees.

When I started this blog in August one of my purposes was as a news aggregation site for the displaced, to try and gather up as much information from my safe perch 1,000 miles from the disaster as possible. It morphed quickly into commentary on and analysis of that information, since so much of what was being circulated was little better than rumor.

The more I try, the less certain I am we can staunch this tide any more than we could stop the waters rushing through the breeches. Many other NOLA bloggers are trying, as a casual trip through the list at right will show you. I have been around politics and the media too long to have any naive notions that we can completely overturn the edifice of talk radio and cable television that has replaced news with political posturing unconcerned with inconvenient truth.

If a disaster the scale of Katrina can't topple this behemoth, I don't know what can. Those of us in the blogosphere or in the few remaining outposts of journalism where the idea "afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted" still has currency can try, but it is an almost quixotic task.

Quoted Congressman Lynn Westmoreland told the T-P he voted against the first major aid bill "because it was an invitation to fraud. " No one thought to ask him if his visit to New Orleans would change his future votes. At the end of the day, it is clear that powerful forces could not care less of New Orleans is rebuilt or not, and will happily tell any lie that saves them the bother and the expense.

It is up to ourselves.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Times are not good here

I have found myself collecting quotes for future use here as I read every word I can about New Orleans. I confess I have not yet gotten around to ordering up any of the work of Lafcadio Hearn,a nineteenth century observer of Creole culture.

This quote from a letter Hearn wrote in 1879, far down in today's Times-Picayune story on THEIR MARDI GRAS ... OUR MARDI GRAS caught my eye:

"Times are not good here. The city is crumbling into ashes. It has been buried under a lava flood of taxes and frauds and maladministrations so that it has become only a study for archaeologists. Its condition is so bad that when I write about it, as I intend to do soon, nobody will believe I am telling the truth. But it is better to live here in sackcloth and ashes than to own the whole state of Ohio."
I think when I wander onto on-line forums where the crotchety old ladies warn me I am a fool to come home, to bring my children there, that I will no longer rant at them. I will just simply paste that into the thread, with a date on it.

One book I am reading is Wade Davis' The Serpent and The Rainbow, about Haitian voodoo. In it, Davis has repeated conversations in a mysterious stranger in the hotel where he stays when he is in the country. This one I I have been carrying about with me in my Palm Pilot, and I read it whenever I find myself grinding my teeth over a headline from Washington:

The world is not after Haiti as so many of us feel. The could truth is the world's indifference, and if there is one thing a Haitian hates it is to be unconsequential. It does not matter what is said about you, as long as you are the subject of conversation. Perhaps at some international soiree idle chatter passes to Haiti, but I doubt it.

Finally, credit to the excellent Da Po Blog for first finding this gem when Time Magazine interviewed Coast Guard Vice Admiral Thad Allen:

Actually, my flash of optimism came after reading Rising Tide [John Barry's book about the Mississippi flood of 1927]. Have you read it? I had a sense that if you didn't have New Orleans, you'd have to create one. Because of the requirements of commerce, where it's at on the river and so forth. So it's not a question of whether New Orleans comes back, it's how New Orleans comes back.
These words from a man who spent most of the second half of last year in New Orleans should be run with the T-P's banner, and read at the start of every newscast in New Orleans. There is a lot of despair watching the news from Baton Rouge and Washington, a lot of exhaustion from fighting FEMA bureaucrats. I read the last post on SOS Katrina - We Are Not OK as blogger Dangle gives up in hopelessness and vows never to cross the causeway again, and beg him to keep writing.

I read the angst on Thoughts of the Dark Rose or Polimom and many of the other blogs you find at right, and I think how can I give people heart from a thousand miles away, except to say: hold on. We are coming home. We are all coming home. Yes it is unimaginably tough. I read your words and can almost hear the tears falling on your keyboard or the pounding of your first on the desk as you write.

In spite of what you write, even though the news from the capitols is never good, you are there and we will be soon because the words Hearn wrote 125 years ago are still true. Times are not good in New Orleans. But it is better to live there in sackcloth and ashes than to own the whole state of Ohio.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Nation of Liars, City of Dreamers

That is who we are.

NOLA blogger Sophmom expressed her hope this week that America will wake up to the lies they are being fed about The Flood (formerly known as Katrina). I don't think they will. The report out of Congress will stir up the news for a few more days, but most people are willing to accept that we've been helped far beyond what we deserve, and are ready for everyone to move on..

The American people will not wake up to the lies because that is what we are: a nation of liars and braggarts; fabricators not just of railroads and interstates, of towns and cities but of our own selves. It is an integral part of our culture as the self-styled Nation of Immigrants.

Emigration requires a willingness to suspend disbelief, to listen to the huckster promising a land of milk-and-honey. It presumes a flight from the undesirable life left behind, and suggests a desire to re-invent ourselves, to shed the person we were and to become something different, denying our own history if necessary.

St. Peter should be the patron saint of America. He left his nets and the life he knew to take up with Jesus. He was willing to repudiate who he was to save his own skin. Later, he wept the crocodile tears of television repentance, and went on to found a great and powerful franchise. Oprah must be deeply moved every time she thinks of this tale.

St. Peter's story is America's. It is the storyline that leads us to a world filled with the likes of George Bush and Bill Gates, The Rev. Jesse Jackson and Donald Trump. We are all actors on a monumental sound stage constructed of movies and television and advertising, each a Truman, playing out the character we have chosen, or have at least accepted.

From the handbills of John Law to the dime novel Western over a century ago to the fantastic blurring of reality and fantasy that began with the proliferation of television, we have created our own world over and over.

We can do it again in New Orleans, just as it the city transformed itself from a French city to a Spanish one, then to an American one. The people who believe, who pick up themselves from what happened and where they've landed and come back, will make it so. You may think me naive, but I've watched my son snap half-inch pine boards with the soft flesh and breakable bones of his hand because he believes he can. I believe we can.

In many ways it will be a different place. Too much is gone to every be perfectly the New Orleans of a year or a decade ago, swept away by commerce or flood. Still, it will be NOLA in a clearly recognizable way, because that is the city we will demand, the city we once invented for ourselves out of the rubble of neglect and crime and poverty in the antediluvian era.

We will make it NOLA again because we believe the world would be a poorer place without it, our lives worth less lived anywhere else.

So, forget the liars in Washington. They will have to build some measure of hurricane protection and coastal restoration, for fear they will lose the oil and gas, or possibly the port. They will find more money (as Bush demonstrated this week) if it seems politically necessary, and in an uncertain election year, throwing money is always one option. And they will tell whatever lies they require to make it happen on their own terms.

We will continue to call them out, and try to win a few more to our side, because we feel we must to save the city, to squeeze out of them a few more feet of levee or to save a few more families from bankruptcy. But if we will win that battle at all, it will be at the margins, a few here and a few there.

The lies we need to concern ourselves with are the ones we tell ourselves, the ones we can no longer afford, and the ones we can't live without. We need to focus on the stories we tell each other of life before and of life after, the dreams and delusions we carry that will plat and plot the rebirth of New Orleans, that will make it a place we will all recognize as the heir to the city left behind, made over again in our own image.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

The Isle of Orleans

That is the sobriquet used by Rep. Peppi Bruneau ( R-Lakeview Lagoon) and my soon-to-be member of the Louisiana Legislature, as he argued for (and failed to win) the consolidation of Courts, Clerks, Sheriffs, Assessors, Registrars, Courtiers, Dressers, and Jesters in the Parish of Orleans. I understand they did agree to combine Rosencrantz and Gildenstern, as they are long dead and there was no one to object.

Of course the legislation for all of this reform predictably failed. Things change slowly in the islands of the south, and who are we to toss anybody with a job out on the street at this time? We have always been the northernmost outpost of the Carribean, the Northward Antilles, a place with more in common with Port-au-Prince than with Princeton, NJ, and predictably conducted ourselves accordingly.

The Isle of Orleans. The name smacks of some developer's fantasy of grand brick homes along canals in the mosquito-infested marshes of New Orleans East. Still, it's the best of all the lot I've heard. The Island simply lacks romance, while the Sliver by the River rings of a headline writer suffering from too little time and too much coffee.

I was looking at this map, squinting to see the bit of dry land that holds Toulouse Street near City Park Avenue where we have found a home. I have been trying to think of a proper new name for my own sliver, a tiny bit of land jutting out into the flood from off the City Park Ridge.

Because of its narrow peninsular shapre, I thought of calling it The Point. I am inspired by my own memories of times past when young lovers would park in the industrial belt that runs along the Bud's Broiler railroad tracks just behind the house, their cars rocking gently in the moonlight like the boats at the Southern Yacht Club.

It's not the Point, however. That was a unique geographical designation, a place that stood out from the rest of the city. My own place is one of scores of points scattered on the map. Looking at the scattering of blues on the page, you see the future layout of New Orleans. The historic city along the river may like to think of itself as the island, but it looms like a continent compared to the rest of the dry spots in the city.

We will be the islanders. I have to think that no matter what, land behind the Gentilly/Metairie ridge and so close to the Canal/Carollton Street Car line is going to fill in, even the worst flooded areas. The land is too convenient to the historic crescent and to Metarie Road and the dry lands to the west. I think this particular outpost seems a good gamble, that the city will fill in around us.

The rest of the dry city is divided into strings of greater and lesser antilles, some bits of land linked by the few high ridges running through the town the way the trade winds link the islands of the Carribean, some as isolated as the Galapagos or Easter Island.

So many people want to come home. If their houses are on these islands and they have work or the resources, I believe they will come. That is the problem wrestled with (unsuccessfully) by the Bring New Orleans Back Commission, and the same politicians who failed to grapple with that plan: what will happen to the people of the islands, a small grouping of homes surrounded by so many empty and ruined ones? Will people insist on resettling in the scattered dry spots of Navarre and Filmore and Lakewood?

Should people settle in the most remote islands, surrounded by too many abandoned and undemolished homes that might fill with the sharks and barracudas which once hunted the housing projects of New Orleans? The simplest things may prove a challenge. Will the city be able to provide water service? How far away will the nearest police cruiser be? The nearest fire station?

I know people can adjust to this, but those who chose the islands will need to be ready. When my son was born in a small town in northern Minnesota (Detroit Lakes, the Waveland of the North), we went and took the birthing class at the local hospital as a refresher. One night was spent on training the husbands on how to deliver a baby, on the assumption that on a blizzarding night outside of town, we would be on our own.

People up here in the Dakotas know how to live when the nearest fire engine is a volunteer company a dozen miles away, where a sheriff's deputy could take 20 or 30 minutes to reach your house, where ambulance service is available only if there are enough volunteers to man the truck, and it's still a good 20 minutes away. Long enough to die.

It's a life they are adapted to, a life that after generations on the prairie comes naturally to them. But they are a tough people. If you haven't spent a winter up here, you have no idea just how tough they are. Today we all have central heat and electricity. I still have a hard time imagining the life my in-laws lived in the Dirty Thirties, hauling in a heavy lumps of soft lignite coal to warm the house, toting these through thigh deep snow in sub-zero tempratures.

I wonder if we are tough enough.

I am gambling that my own little bit of high ground will be part of the future footprint of the reconstructing city, continguous to all the rest. For those landing on the rest of those outer islands, those that as likely as not will be just that--islands--the future will be a challenge, one they perhaps have not fully imagined.

Before you move back to some of those areas, without some plan in place for the resettlement, I suggest your read Paul Theroux's Mosquito Coast, or at least rent the movie. Dreams can die hard in a harsh land, if all you bring with you are dreams. I am bringing mine, just as every returning person will. But it will take more than that.

Ask yourself this as you contemplate returing to your own bit of high ground among the lesser Antilles: are you ready to deliver that baby?

Friday, February 10, 2006

Markus for Mayor of NOLA!

I have decided to run for mayor of New Orleans. With ten announced candidates, this is going to be the most fun since Rodney Fertel and Dan Dial were on the ballot. How much less of a clown could I be than everyone who now stands up to represent us?

In the spirit of Mr. Dial, on my way out of North Dakota I'll pick up one of those big Bombardier caterpillar things they use up in Canada, and drive it around town like Dial on his bicycle. My slogan will be "Ready for Any Emergency".

I will wear my auto-inflating PFD with offshore quality safety harness at all times, and the waders I used for launching my boat in the frigid waters of May in upper Minnesota. I will demonstrate proper usage of the self-inflating PDF every Friday evening in Mardi Gras Fountain during the city-sponsored Bubble Hour beer blast.

In the spirit of the entire charette process, I will reorganize our city government along the most decentralized basis, starting with Cuban-inspired, neighborhood-level Committees For The Defense of Our Parking Places. These committees will be the main agency of government. In addition to maintaining the garbage can barricades, these committees will be empowered to convert contractor's vehicles parked on the sidewalk into spare parts that the city will then sell to Emeril's cousin Vinny in New Jersey for a tidy profit.

These committees may keep a portion of the proceeds of these sales to cold-fill the potholes in their neighborhoods, or convert those same potholes into lagoons stocked with sport fish, at their discretion. They will also have sign-off on all zoning matters, and the issuance of permits for construction and renovation. Consideration of the quality of your Christmas display, how much space you take up when you park and how well you tie up your garbage will be allowed to enter into their deliberations. So be nice.

Due to the failure of the levees, we will henceforth refer to them as dikes, which will give them that Dutch cachet we are all striving for. I will replace the levee board with the Queen of Dikes, to be selected at Lundi Gras every leap year based on who gets the golden Harley-Davidson charm in the king cake. She will be given the right to mint coin and print reasonable facsimiles of federal currency and to impress federal contractors as required in the maintenance of flood protection.

Her royal consort the King of the Ferries will take control of all means of mass transportation, including the Regional Transit Authority, the Canal Street and Jackson Avenue ferries, the Rocket V-8 Cab Company, and the Greater New Orleans Bridge. He will greet every boat and bus arriving from the West Bank, and be empowered to conduct full strip and cavity searches of everyone arriving from over there, to make sure they are not the wrong sort of element.

The bridges, you may note, will no longer be called the Crescent City Connection, but will revert to the proper name, even though there are now two of them. If you don’t like the fact that New Orleans is in the name, why do you tell everyone when you’re out of town that you’re from New Orleans? You are not. You are from Marrero.

In this vein, anyone who wishes to enter the Ninth Ward to protest the ethnic cleansing of New Orleans will no longer be admitted from the Orleans Parish side, but will be required to park in New Orleans East, and march though St. Bernard Parish to get there. This will give them an opportunity to explain to the people out there how Katrina was a vast racist conspiracy.

I will expropriate Entergy and form a municipal utility relying primarily on power from windmills, since we wish to emulate all things Dutch. Members of the governing board of that utility--a hereditary office open only to the descendents of Little Caesar---will be known as the Dutch Boys. The only requirement of office is that they must not get any funny Dutch boy ideas about the dikes, or there will be trouble.

The Orleans Parish School Board will be relieved of its responsibilities forpublic education, but the board members and all of their family member formerly employed by the school system will hold the rights to the concessions at all future Hornets games. They can divvy up the takings from the popcorn and cokes and beers anyway they like.

The degradation of the French Quarter is of concern to us all. I will establish a Board for the Licensure of Tourist Entertainment, and will personally inspect all applicants for licenses to dance on Bourbon Street, assisted where required by the King of Ferries. Bartenders will be required to demonstrate their competence to me on demand. I am pretty particular about my Sazeracs and the head on my Guinness.

The French Quarter must be once again a heckofa place to bring your family. I will ban the sale of beads in units of less than a gross, and the sale of all foam pimp hats and plastic booby breastplates. I will also prohibit the display for sale of any t-shirts that would offend the sensibility of the Bush twins. Use of the phrase "huge ass" and "beer" together in advertising will be forbidden inside of historic districts and anyone selling a beer larger in size than 12 ounces will be required to make their restrooms available to the public on demand and without cover charge or minimum.

Carnival is central to who we are, and the rapid recovery of this event must be a priority. The license fees for all parading and marching groups at Carnival season will henceforth be one dollar, with the exception of those which want to parade on the streets facing the Boston Club. Licenses to march in those particular blocks will be $100,000. Per marcher or rider. Zulu will be allowed to march anywhere they damn well please for their dollar, provided I get a coconut. Parades will be allowed to return to the French Quarter. However, tourists will be banned from the streets of the Quarter during those parades.

Food is a corner stone of our lifestyle, and its quality and diversity must be ensured. Now that we known worldwide as The Chocolate City, all chocolate sold in New Orleans will be required to contain a suitable proportion of fruits and nuts, without which it just wouldn't be sufficiently New Orleans-esque to be suitable. The use of frozen seafood in restaurants will be forbidden without a proper disclaimer on the menu, and the interior of the Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. will be converted into fuel for the Mid City bonfire.

In the interest of preserving our city’s character--both historic and moral-- I will declare that anyone whose family publicly supported the Riverfront Expressway, the Jackson Square sound and light show, the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet or Marc Morial will be henceforth banned from voting or owning property. Morial supporters may apply for leniency by submitting their pleadings neatly written on the back of as many crisp $100 bills as are required to make their case.

In the interest of open government, which the Bureau of Governmental Research and other tired holdovers from the anti-Long movement have made such a lot of noise about lately, all public offices which I have not mentioned heretofore will be made available by an open and public auction.

Recreation will be of critical importance to me. In memory of Rodney Fertel, we will rename the Audubon Park and Zoo the Rodney Fertel Park and Zoo. We will replace the current head of the facility with two gorillas. The savings in salary will go toward replacing all of the animals lost at the aquarium after the flood. Additional income will be realized the new aquarium exhibit/fishing concession demonstrating the beneficial aspects of our largest industry: Offshore Oil Platforms, Good for the Environment and Good Eating.

The golf course expansion in Audubon Park will be converted into a Frisbee golf-only course, and picnic and playground facilities will be built on the fairways to present a new and innovative hazard. Unfortunately, all houses fronting Audubon Park will need to be condemned by the Board of Health as uninhabitable due to the lack of available maids. The Iberville Housing Project will be given a quick coat of paint, and the evacuees from around Audubon Park given 90 days free rent there.

City Park will not be ignored. The oak trees along Audubon Place will be uprooted by those mammoth tree-moving machines, and planted along Dreyfus Avenue. Survivors who wish to come home will be free to park their trailers at Tad Gormley stadium. I mean, if we can put up with those silly Air Stream folks every year, I think we can make room for people from here. The facilities of the park will be expanded to include a new West 18 golf course with numerous exciting water hazards, the waterfront "Lower Nine" clubhouse and bar, and the Memphis Street Water Park.

Crime will continue to be a problem in New Orleans, and I intended to be harsh but fair. All of the police forces in the city will be combined, as I think the addition of the indolent levee board and city park police will have a calming influence on the NOPD. All minor offenses will be pushed by Death by Chocolate, while more serious offenses will result in a one-way bus ticket to Houston. I think that sentencing someone to Houston might constitute cruel and unusual punishment, but I believe we must be firm.

Let me finish by saying this: if there is anyone in New Orleans I have not offended by this speech, please just give me four years as your Mayor, and your turn will come. Even Dutch Morial, in the last bond issue of his last administration, saw fit to include the resurfacing of Robert E. Lee Boulevard. If you just give me a chance, you will get yours. After I’m done getting mine.

Ed Note: This bit is dedicated to the Krewe du Vieux sub-krewe Seeds of Decline. My wife Rebecca will be marching in her first Mardi Gras tonight, and I keep telling her, "honey, this ain't no Krewe of Iris." I hope she has fun.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Imagine It Happened To You

This is a letter to the editor I am sending to my area newspapers around Fargo, N.D.

Imagine this: A fully loaded KC-135 tanker crashes after takeoff in the city of Grand Forks, N.D. The ensuring massive fireball leads to a wind driven firestorm that levels much of the city, leaving it a black and smoking ruin. Thousands are dead.

Now, imagine the federal government informing these people that they are not entitled to any direct compensation from the federal government, because they chose to live there, and should have carried homeowners insurance to address this issue.

Just for fun, imagine that the private insurance companies have all ruled this to be an Act of War (since we're at war), and decided they don’t have to pay a penny out to anyone.

You have lost everything but the clothes on your back. You owe the full balance of your mortgage and will receive no insurance. For good measure, you have also lost your job as a direct result of this tragedy.

So, should the federal government bear any responsibility, or is it your own fault for choosing to live next to an airbase? That is precisely the position Louisiana is confronted with.

New Orleans wasn't destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. It was destroyed by the failure of the federal levee system due to bad engineering on several levels. I won’t go into the details here for space reasons, but you can visit for the details.

In spite of the clear culpability of the federal government, particularly the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Bush Administration argues the feds have no real responsibility to directly compensate the residents of the city.

Most of the post hurricane “aid” paid out so far has gone FEMA expenses, with a couple of thousands dollars in immediate aid to each displaced family. Some have received temporary housing assistance as well, and tiny camper/trailers are being provided to some (at $75,000 each) to live in while they gut their ruined homes and try to rebuild.

The $85 billion figure cited by the White House is inflated by counting money twice and by including flood insurance payments, for which people paid premiums and which the government is obligated to pay out.

The rest is in Community Development Block Grants that will largely go into infrastructure repair, and money spent on federal facilities, such as Keesler A.F.B. All of that is welcome relief, but it doesn’t address the losses of the 200,000 families whose homes were damaged or destroyed by the Corps’ neglect.

Some people have flood insurance, but in New Orleans—like much of the rest of the country—the $250,000 cap isn’t enough to replace even a modest home. Many, many people did not have flood insurance, because the federal flood insurance maps told them they didn’t need it. And because they trusted the Corps of Engineers levees to protect them.

Others had homeonwers policies with hurricane riders, but are not being paid becuase the insurance companies say "flood" and walk away from all other responsibility, even roofs clearly damaged by wind. They won't even pay Additional Living Expense riders, leaving people to accept housing assistance from FEMA even though they've paid premiums to protect themselves from being out of their houses.

Many of these people face bankruptcy, a group nearly the size of the population of North Dakota, all of whom bought all the insurance they were told they needed, all of whom trusted their government to protect them.

To address those 200,000 homes without flood insurance, U.S. Rep. Richard Baker (R-Baton Rouge) has proposed a plan that offers to sell government bonds to finance a 60% settlement. Homeowners would receive a 60% payout of homeowner equity, deducting payments received from flood or other insurance.

Mortgage holders would have to accept 60% payout of the remaining balance of the mortgage as payment in full. The properties bought up would be taken out of development or bundled and sold to developers for redevelopment to pay off the bonds.

If the above plane crash scenario played out, would you think 60% a fair payout for your losses? How about zero percent, which is the counter proposal from the White House? Please ask your Representative and Senators to not only support Rep. Baker's compensation plan, but to insist that it be raised to 100% of equity for homeowners.

Mark Folse
Fargo, N.D.


Sunday, February 05, 2006

Give up hope?

If you read the Times-Picayune on-line as I do, you might miss this cheerful story by Laura Maggi, as it is lurking behind the More Stories link.

Feds counter state's damage tally
State must make hard decisions, official says
BATON ROUGE -- The message state officials are getting from the White House is clear: Give up on the hope that the federal government will provide a bailout for every hurricane-damaged home in Louisiana and make do with the money you have.
Reading that article set me off writing another screed against the damned politicians, but the line about giving up hope kept jumping off the page at me and made me pause. Clearly some people have not given up hope. I've already written about our own decision to return to New Orleans. One thing I haven't talked about is how hard it is to find a house.

Someone is snapping up houses, especially dry or minimally damaged houses, almost as fast as they come on the market. Somebody is coming back, or at least gambling that people will come back, and looking to make a buck off that proposition.

Maggi, people gave up hope when it comes to the feds a long time ago. Still, people are coming home, with or without help from Washington. When life gives you lemons, you invite your friends over and you make a whiskey sours. They haven't given up hope for New Orleans.

I believe the people of New Orleans haven't given up hope because we had so little of it to begin with. The venality of politicians, the inefficiency of government, the vicissitudes of weather and termites, of social and economic decay, all of these breed a certain sense of fatalism, an "if Allah wills it" quality that is alien to most Americans.

We have a sense that New Orleans, without those burdens, would no longer be the place we love. We cherish a notion of ourselves as the equivalent of a nineteenth century sailor's Shanghai, a colonial outpost of sensuality and corruption and decay. We don't want to be 21st century Singapore, a model of totalitarian efficiency and cleanliness. It just ain't who we are.

And yet, the insha'Allah and the ennui are a mask, one we wear not just on a certain winter Tuesday, but most days of the year. Behind that mask are the people who get up five days a week and haul their kids to school, then go to work. They get up on a sweltering Saturday and overcome their tropical torpor to mow the grass. Later that night, they go out to try that new restaurant.

They get up on Sunday and hope that, this time, the Saints might win. Somewhere today in New Orleans (or Houston or Baton Rouge or Atlanta), someone will put down their beer, and talk about how wild it will be in the Quarter the year the Saints win the Super Bowl.

At some level, and as much as we might not want to admit it, we are a hopeful people. Hedged in by levees that may or may not hold, beset Formosan termites and feckless politicians at every level, it would be impossible to live here without it.

Its a funny kind of hope, as old as Abraham. When you expect the worst around every corner, as often as not you will turn that corner and find some small thing that gives you a tremendous lift. That's where we find hope, like a glinting half dollar on the broken sidewalk as you walk from a bad day at the track to Liuzza's, the little mystical sign that maybe today or at least tomorrow is going to turn out all right.

Its the kind of hope we like, because it lets us wear that cynical mask of the weary nabob struggling through another rainy season, slightly superior to our surroundings yet completely captivated by it, certain the natives are stealing from us even as we steal from them and hoping we all at least come out even.

So why are people snapping up all the houses? Its because they haven't given up hope, even if it's the jaded hope of people who have beaten the odds for 300 years, and aren't about to get up from the table now. Perhaps they want to be here the year the Saints play the Super Bowl. Who wouldn't want to be? It'll be something, when it finally happens. Yeah, you right.


Saturday, February 04, 2006

Toulouse Street

You know you're from New Orleans if the first thing you think about is the party.

Imagine this: your wife has bought a house that you've never seen, not so much as the tiny little on-line pictures the real estate agents have. You're not even sure how many rooms there are, or exactly what it looks like beyond the archetype of Craftsman double bungalow burned into your memory.

The loan isn't closed and the insurance isn't written. The inspection isn't until next week, and you, the "man of the house" will not be there with a flashlight taping on walls and flushing toilets and asking a hundred knowing questions, in the same impressive fashion one peers under the hood of a modern emission controlled car while waiting for the tow truck.

There's no phone or cable service in this part of town, and no ETA. No internet and no cable. Suddenly, you remember that book they made you read in eight grade. What was it called? The Lord of the Flies? You eye your son in the next room watching Cartoon Friday, and imagine him and his sister dressed in rags, a vacant look in their eyes, hefting pointy fire blackened sticks.

You're buying a house you can walk two blocks from and peer down Marconi and see the pumping station at the head of the Orleans Canal, and easily imagine Lakeview just over the tracks, and Lake Pontchartrain at the end of that canal, slopping like a drunk with a bowl full of soup right toward your lap.

And the first thing you think is, what am I going to call the party?

Because the house, you see, is on Toulouse just off Olympia, up smack against the Bud's Broiler railroad tracks. It's a whopping two blocks from the site of Samedi Gras, that huge celebration of the start of the Endymion parade. As if moving back to New Orleans weren't stressful enough. A party. I'm going to have to through a huge ass party. Every year for the rest of my life.

But first I have to sell the house I have, throw out or pack up an immense mound of stuff, and get the boat I usually tow all of forty miles to the lake ready to drag 1,200 miles to its new berth. To sell the house, I have to fix a half dozen windows, two bathroom floors, and clean out a garage and closets. You know about closets, don't you; those little rooms people in other places have to store all sorts of stuff? A lot of that has got to go.

And don't forget, your wife needs to find someone to cut a door to make the double a single, build a wall in one of the walk throughs to make another bedroom, convince the assessor this double really is a single, and figure out how to get a reliable high speed internet connection, essential to bringing my job home with me.

While at the same time I figure out what to do with the kids: can I get my kids into Franklin and Lusher, or will I get whacked by the note on a dry house plus parochial school tuition? What will the kids do this summer? Where can they go swimming? Will they make friends quickly?

Even as I wonder about living on the edge of a no man's land that was Lakeview, Mid-City reverted back into the back of town, knowing I'm hedged by levees the Corps of Engineers promise they'll have up to spec by June 1, and they're almost 16% done. You do that math, and you can probably get a job as an engineer with the Corps, or perhaps even an appointment to the Levee Board.

Yeah, that's a lot to think about. Even more to do.

What I have to do is to emulate my highly organized wife, the woman of the many lists. Forget the Big Worries, the ones you can't do anything about. They just make you crazy. You take the rest, and you make a list and prioritize it. It beats figuring out which of my daughter's dainties can go in the dryer, or trying to decide what I should ask for the house in Fargo.

Organize. Prioritize. I can do that.

I'm thinking The Begindymion Bacchanal, but I'm open to suggestions.


Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Our leaders went to Washington, DC
and all I got's this stinkin' paragraph

So that's it, huh? One little mention of the fictitious $85 billion.

The largest natural disaster in a century, 23,000 square miles devastated, and we get a paragraph. With 3,200 still missing, its clear that far more people died in Katrina and its aftermath than died on 9-11. And this is what we get.

New York gets a victims compensation fund and a war on terror. We get community development block grants.

I'm more sanguine this morning about all this than I thought possible. I mean, if the President or the leaders of congress were an alcoholic relative, I'd feel saddened every time they screwed up.

Even though this time, its my car they've totaled.

But what can you do?

I always struggled with the old Catholic school argument that God made your developmentally or physically disabled fellow students that way so you would learn compassion. What an evil old bastard, I used to think to myself, which is not the reaction the good sisters and brothers intended.

But I look at the lot of them up there in Washington and think, God made them venal and malicious and stupid so I could learn compassion, and patience, and disconnect myself from the material worries of this world.

Then I snap out of it. I grab another beer out of the fridge and reload my son's Nerf dart gun, and go back to watching the rest of the after-speech cable nonsense. Look, there's Sen. Ted Stevens.

Thunk, thunk, thunk.


Ed. Note-Fixed a tag, and added this line to try to convince the aggregators to accept this as new so they read the tag.

"And when we speak we are afraid our words will not be heard nor welcome, but when we are silent we are still afraid. So it is better to speak remembering we were never meant to survive." -- Audie Lorde

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