Sunday, February 25, 2007

Our Part of the World

The anonymous blogger da po' blog sums up our situation perfectly. We are truly A People Apart.
...[in the post flood situation] the Americans have seen their opportunity to do what they couldn’t do 200 years ago. They want to impose their ways on us and get rid of our local culture.

American values have been creeping down here ever since the Louisiana Purchase. The rigid race line. The 40-hour work week. The suburbs. The deterioration of the inner city and the public school system. Everything that makes us less a community and more a group of individuals. Everything that separates us from our family, our friends, our culture. Our tribe is in danger....

...America wants to own us. They want New Orleans to be an American town. We must fight.
Sinn Fein.

Show me the money

So, President Bush is planning his twelfth visit to the Hurricane Coast to show is famous compassion for victims of Hurricane Katrina and the Federal Flood. Unless he is bringing a military transport full of cash, he should keep his sorry ass away. Nobody down here but the most soulless political hack or blind partisan could take him seriously in this context.

While I try to keep pure partisan politics out of this space, I am not at all like Ethel Williams of the Ninth Wary, whom NPR reports holds no bitterness at being used as a prop and discarded by Bush. I have made my views quite clear. When the President showed up in November 2005 and stood in Jackson Square and promised national action, people all over the nation took him at his word. Only those of us who live here know it was pure bullshit, a Potemkin rescue only meant for damage control over federal culpability for the failure of their levees and the government's inept response.

If you're one of those unthinking partisans who are here to rush in and tell me about Nagin and Blanco, save your fingers the typing. They will have their own special place in hell for how they have failed us. Blanco in particular is damaged goods and no amount of posturing is going to bail her out at reelection time.

Bush is in many ways Blanco's twin: both claim to have done something for us, but in fact have not delivered. While the governor has pasted her name on the Long and Winding Road Home Plan, parts of Bush's speech as as predictable as his mannerisms in delivering it. And the content will have all of the depth and veracity of a Saturday Night Live performer mocking the president for his tics of speech.

Let's cut to the chase: there has been no $110 Billion in assistance to the victims of Hurricane Katrina and the Federal Flood. Anonymous blogger da po blog has been all over this since early last year, carefully counting up the totals. If you don't trust anonymous bloggers, one might note that he has been weeks and months ahead of the major media, and his postings have been confirmed by the Times-Picayune (which for all I know lifted their article, or at least their story ideas, straight from DPB).

An apocryphal story claims Huey Long once claimed a political opponent was lying. When a reporter asked him now they would know if he was lying, Long supposedly said 'if his lips are moving, he's lying.'

If Bush says $110 Billion on this visit, you will finally have answered the question political pundits on cable TV have argued famously for the last six years: Is Bush a Liar? If he claims that $110 Billion has been sent, then you will know (as we all do) that he is in fact A Lying Sack of Shit.

I just hope that I have the opportunity to be stuck somewhere in traffic as his motorcade passes through town list week,so I can salute him in the way some people stopped in his traffic did last visit, with obscenities and gestures not suitable for the evening news. Pardon my while I load some eggs into the trunk of my car to begin aging.

No, wait: that's not the ending this deserves. In the end, the lesson of the Federal Flood is that a generation of Republican sabotage of the federal government is that we no longer have the capability to do great things through government.

The only glimmer of hope for the future of America is the story of the 200,000: those damaged by the hurricane and the failure of the federal levees, who have made their way home and are rebuilding without any real federal assistance. And that's the real reason I hope I get a chance to toss an egg Bush's way. He does not deserve to come here.

What success there is here is in spite of him, and the governor and the mayor. They insult and sully the work of the 200,000 by trying to bask in its glory. It would be better if he stayed away, but if he insists on coming I hope that we don't all emulate Ms. Williams and try him with southern politeness and reserve. He is a scoundrel. He promised something direly needed and meant not a word for it, which is an unforgivable sin in the south. He is beyond the reasonable expectation of civil treatment.

So whether your plan to greet him with jeers and signs and rotten eggs, or simply ignore him as irrelevant, be sure to give the President the reception he richly deserves. Tell him to send his wife, instead. At least she has the grace to bring something when she shows up uninvited.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

The Last Mardi Gras

It's hard to get a proper post together with all of the carnival madness so I'm ofering this, originally published on another site, and recyled last Carnival. Its a reflection in the time after the Federal Flood when there was an active debate on whether to hold carnival that year. I've decided to make this an annual cop out from writing too much at the peak of the season..

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. Memory's currents clutch at us and steer our lives, must be compensated for just as the ferry pilots must 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 that might have been Galvez and Canal as we drove to my great aunts' on Royal Street. Later that day or perhaps a year before or after, I can clearly recall watching Rex passing down Canal from atop my father's shoulders. Half a life 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 this photograph, 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 during Tuesday;s 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. 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 the cancellations, 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 Flood, 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 the usual 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. I bought a round of snakebites for a familiar seeming couple and 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 on Fat Tuesday. 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.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

There were three men came out of the west

So, the New York Times suggests that the "brain drain" is accelerating post-Flood but offers not a single fact in support of that assertion. Well, that explains why Professor Ashley Morris, Ray Shea and myself--three educated professional who have returned, some of us after very long absences--now doesn't it? It certainly explains my my nephew returned here with his new wife to attend law school.

I asked a few days ago for an example of someone who was leaving, and now I've gotten it. Reading the littany of indignities, this couple has my entire sympathy, although I think I would have preferred that the roofing contractors have crapped on my roof rather than case my house for a burglary on a rainy day when they had nothing better to do.

I'm disappointed by the story in a few ways, but welcome it as another canary in the coal mine. I plan to send a copy directly to the Mayor's and my council member's emails and challenge them to explain: what the hell are you going to do about this? We have all figured out, I believe, that it's not really up to them, it's up to us.

The flaws in the story's logic may seem small, but I think it is important to address them. Even as U-Haul shows more of an inflow than an outflow, it cites moving van services which show more people moving out. Frankly, so many people lost all of the contents of their houses this is a deeply flawed metric. The people moving back have only what you can buy with a $2,000 FEMA debit card and a partial insurance settlement, if they had flood insurance. The people coming back don't need moving vans. They need insurance and Road Home settlements.

What is important here is that this story is part of a growing conventional wisdom about the failure of New Orleans. A prominent bank and credit card company trumpets a study showing how New Orleans is lagging the rest of the Gulf Coast in recovery, even as contrary indicators begin to roll in. The state finds it has underestimated economic activity in the city, and even the Yellow Pages is putting out an extra edition to accomodate an explosive growth in advertisers post flood, and the study ignores the political disparity in how money was allocated between the states. From all I've seen, anything that trumpets Mississippi's recovery over Louisiana's is either fatally superficial or intentionally biased.

As Poppy Z. Brite pointed out, there are two sides to this story. I think the one everyone who is writing about New Orleans should strive to tell, and to insist that the national media tell: there are people (besides the movie starts) who are coming or coming back in spite of it all. As I've said repeatedly until I almost bore myself, this is the Great American Story right now. The spirit that settled a continent (for all that means, good and bad) is very much alive in one corner of America, where the Mississippi meets the sea.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Can't win for losing

Homeonwers who elevate their houses to conform to new flood maps may lose their standard homeowners insurance, says a story the Times-Picayune unfortunately buried on the money or business pages.

To make it as resilient as possible against any future storms, [Pat] Fitzpatrick is rebuilding with rebar and concrete pilings, and he is raising the house another two to three feet, as required by the new flood advisory maps from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to maintain flood insurance coverage. When he's done, the house will be eight to nine feet off the ground.

But Fitzpatrick is encountering opposition from an unlikely source: his insurance company. Allstate told him he's ineligible for homeowners insurance if he raises his home.

"I'm actually rebuilding higher than it was before, but now they're saying, 'We have a rule that if it's four feet above the ground, you've got to get the state plan, the Citizens plan, and it's always been that way,' " a dumbfounded Fitzpatrick said

This may come as a surprise to many homeowners who are elevating houses all across the city. What is truly amazing is that this may comes as a surprise to Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon, as the story points out that "Allstate refused to speak for this story, saying ... its underwriting rules are a secret. "

So, the only way to discover the secret underwriting rule is to elevate your house as directed by the government and then have your insurance cancelled. In wonder what other secret rating rules you would discover if you nailed an Allstate agent's hnd to a railroad crosstie and dangled a claw hammer in front of him as the distant train horn grew increasingly loud.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

I read the news today, oh boy..

For most of America tragedy is something far away, a topic from Headline News for idle conversation at work or supper: what will we do in Iraq? Oh, those poor people in Florida! Here in Debrisville, the sort of ugly that feeds the news wires and satellite feeds may be just up the street or the other side of town. We don't need to look to the distant east for a failed government or ancient hostilities breeding violence in the streets. We understand displacement and expatriation, having gone through the larget instance of it since Europe after WWII. The refugee camps remain just up the road outside Baton Rouge, more than 500 days after the Federal Flood, and large swaths of the east side of town remain the Brown Zone, even as the tulip trees burst into bloom up on the sliver by the river.

Thanks to b.rox for this nice summary of today's news summary from the end of the week that was:

Man accused of robbing, beating elderly women mistakenly released
from jail
and New Orleans’ future bleak, historian says and Mom gave teen a gun for revenge slaying and Many residents of New Orleans consider leaving and A culture’s sad finale?
Cheerful stuff, that. He left off the man accross the lake who held a child's hand to a stove, but that seemed to lack a New Orleans angle.

The residents leaving story is old news, but I presume the reporter is indirectly responding to the chatter on the streets that so many will give up after Carnival. I keep hearing in online postings about these people, but I have yet to meet one. I do know people who are on the edge, but I havent' talked to anyone who's put their house up for sale or started looking for movers. When I hear people make noise about it, I'm reminded of my mother suggesting over 40 years ago that if Barry Goldwater was elected president, the family should emigrate to Australia. I don't believe she went as far as looking into visas. It was just a way of expressing her feelings about the election. I believe some of the chatter is just that: people who are terribly frustrated by the circumstances in which they live, dependent in large part on people in government who don't seem to share their personal committment to the city.

If you count yourself among those people who are actually ready to give up the ship, please drop me a line. I'll understand. I'm not waiting on a Road Home letter, or spending my nights nailing up sheetrock in a house I gutted myself. I've said it before: not everyone is going to make it. Too much is being asked of them.

I have no use for Douglas Brinkley, who's book on the Flood is so sloppy and gets so much wrong I'm still trying to finish it after 10 months. I keep tossing it down in disgust after I finish a chapter. For once, at least in this instance, he gets it right: at every level our leaders fail us. From the President down to the mayor's Loser's Cabinet of also rans in the last mayoral race, they prove themselves either unequal to the challenge, or just unwilling.

The Chicago Tribune story on the future of New Orleans culture is one that has been done so many times in the last 18 months, and this doesn't add much except the quotes of a despairing Tulane professor. I suspect the reporter has heard the rumours of despair in the streets, and went looking for something concrete to hang it on. Of course our culture is threatened, a point Brinkely also makes. The real risk is that much of our culture lived in the working class black neighborhoods, which face the twin risks of the loss of virtually all affordable housing, and rampant crime. Both of these problems are solvable if there were political will, but so far there is none. The greater United States cares not a whit for culture as a people (to the extent they are a people). The unique and the genuine are impediments to modern commerce and marketing, the only thing that still binds the tenuous nation to the north together.

Amidst all this despair, I took my children to their first parade as Orleanians and not as tourists, and as McDonough 35 and the Chalmette High Owls marched by I thought: whatever I've been through these kids have seen worse ,much worse. They are the kids of people who've come back to one of the worst flooded and still most threatened places in the east, the kids of folks who've come to make a try of it in the working class, predominantly black neighborhoods of the wards east of Canal Street.

They are children clearly in harms way, and American (or at least the America of politicians and the major news media) could care less. I want to call up their schools and ask to come speak to their civics class to tell them, know this: whatever nonsense is in your textbook (should you be so lucky to have one), America doesn't give a rat's ass about you. Remember what they've allowed to happen to you and your parents, to your school and your city, when they come to ask you to enlist. When they start to wave the flag and talk about the heroes of Iraq, look around the room and at the teacher who's dared to come back to the 3-5 and remember: the greatest American heroes today are not in Iraq: these are the real heroes. You can be the real hero if you can rise above it and make it here in spite of every obstacle, every bit of debris of the disaster they've allowed pile up in front of you.

Will all these kids and their families be here a year or five or ten from now? I have no way of knowing. Still, I think anyone who has what it takes to even try in this environment is tougher than anyone looking in from the outside can even begin to imagine. Whatever stereotypes of the lazy-and-shiftless southerner, of the indolent Orleanian you may carry around my distant reader, are wrong. Whatever troubles you in the comfortable cities of the north is a triffle compared to life in New Orleans. And everyday the 200,000 get up and carry on through another day.

Me, I came home after. I didn't have to gut and don't have to fight with Baton Rouge. I just got the insurance renewal bill from hell, but found another company writing in New Orleans that wasn't there before and is writing cheaper. It's a small thing, but its a signal that things can still turn around to the good. And of course, there's Mardi Gras. If you're far away and don't understand how the home of the headlines Bart collected above can still celebrate, then you don't quite understand us. We've got a full week left of Mardi Gras and the hotels aren't full. Come on down and see. It's not all the despair you'll get from the papers or the cable new. There remains in us all a kernel of hope, a funny kind of hope that masquerades as an insAllah resignation, but it leads people to climb up on floats and throw beads to adoring crowds that assemble in all weathers to see the parade.

There is another story here, one that's lost in all the headlines above, the story of the 200,000. Thank you Poppy Z. Brite, who sees the hope through some of the most deservingly jaundiced eyes I know of in New Orleans today:

Wouldn't It Be Nice ...... if for every story like [those above] there was a national news story about those of us who've bought new homes in New Orleans? Or the people who've fought to repair and keep the homes they already had? Or the young couple I met at my reading Tuesday night, new in town, who'd been planning to move here for years and finally decided to go ahead and do it because they realized the city needs people? Or my friend who thought for months that she wasn't going to be able to come back at all, but returned last week with her husband and 17-month-old baby? The national media can try to bury us all it likes -- this seems to be a bit of a trend right now -- but we ain't dead and we ain't dying.
No, we're not dead and not dying. Every sub-krewe of Krewe du Vieux was staffed by a brass band. An old friend's wife is having an art opening this week. The marching bads of 3-5 and Warren Easton were filled with kids who are at least getting a crack at learning a brass instrument (at least one band's courtesy of the Tipitina's Foundation). I spole to someone last night who had been trying to buy costume beads, who spoke of the Mardi Gras Indians she ran into at the same store, working feverishly to finish suits when all their materials were lost.

I said this several weeks back, when I wrote about the Ship of Theseus (and I've said this so many times since the flood and the start of this blog: "The city I left in 1986 was not the city of my childhood. The city I returned to last Spring was neither the city of my childhood nor that of 1986. All are recognizably New Orleans. " We're not over yet. Some things will be lost and others gained, but the 200,000 are enough I believe to make sure that the city we shall build here is again recognizably New Orleans.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Throw Me Somthin', Mister Advertiser

So, once again, the commercialization of Mardi Gras is a flop. Big surprise there, given the conpetence level of the folks who occupy City Hall on Perdido Street. I was going to pen something about this, but I think I about summed it up perfectly this time last year in this piece from 2-27-06, republished below:

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 the Mardi Gras, standing on a Bourbon Street balcony and smirking at the as the balcony girls bare it for the boys. 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?

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Uncle Sam's Poodle

Today's good news from the Times-Picauyune that a federal judge will allow a lawsuit to proceed against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for those parts of the Federal Flood arrising from the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet is another indication we are not ready to by Uncle Sam's poodle bitch.

It may be the first crack in the dike that unleashes the flood of federal dollars to which we are entitled (or at least in Louisiana, where the pro-business right has put in place the so-called tort reforms they always clamor for that prevent our timid attorney general from going after the the insurance companies they way they have in Mississippi). The attorney investigating a suit over the failure of the 17th Street Canal is looking closely as this to see if it buttresses his claim that the dredging that contributed to the collapse of the badly engineered floodwalls should be considered a navigation project and so could follow the same path into court. (There were shrimpers who used the canal as a harbor).

However, I am going to be Uncle Sam's trained poodle in tonights satirical Krewe du Vieux, forced by my wife (Uncle) to attempt to jump through hoops to get my money, in keeping with the theme of our sub-krewe Follow the Yellow Brick Road Home and the hoops that frame the road. As a result I've been too damned busy with sewing and hot glueing my costume and untangling beads to try to post this week. Readers seeking a bead shower need only to shout out Hey, Wet Bank! as the sub-krewe Seeds of Decline pass (2nd float after the title float) to let me know you are a faithful reader.

"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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