Archive for July, 2006

21
Jul
06

Interpretation

Planning and development frequently put “white do-gooders� like myself (thanks, Mr. H!) in relatively foreign cultures, whether it be overseas work or urban inner-cities in the U.S.  What we in the business like to call the “trust fund babies� might find themselves working with Tanzanian women in microfinance lending circles, adolescent Latinas on the Lower East Side, or displaced, elderly African-American public housing residents.  Connecting with people on a personal level is something I work really hard at, in any situation, but in culturally different environments (say, for example, New Orleans), I spend a lot of time observing, taking notes when possible, and trying to make sense of people’s meanings.  And sometimes their comments just stick with me. 

Wednesday night at a neighborhood planning meeting, one of the members of the Louisiana Recovery Authority – the state agency responsible for overseeing development (a la the LMDC in Lower Manhattan) – spoke to a room of New Orleanians about coordinating state activity with local neighborhood-level planning initiatives.  I’m starting to get a little paranoid about describing my work after reading two different bloggers talk about getting fired for blogging about their jobs, but this guy is just too good to keep all for ourselves in our idyllic Gulf Coast hamlet.  An overweight white guy, he first thanks the room for providing the pork chops in the back (most NOLA public meetings have food), for “pork chops� will get him to any meeting any time.  From there he proceeds to reassure the room that all neighborhoods will come back, even if the neighborhoods don’t look the same in the future.  But, he emphasizes, it’s important to make sure that all New Orleanians are “swimming in the deep part of the river� and are fully engaged in the process.  “No matter how tired you are,� he adds,� get in the boat.  We gotta go.�  Is it just me as an outsider, but is this incredibly ill-chosen vivid imagery for a room full of flood survivors?

He goes on.  It’s like listening to the Boston-Irish head of the AFL-CIO’s mutual fund describe working in Texas (or Mars, he quips), except I speak his language.  This Southern politico-business man, he loses my comprehension but captures my attention completely when he explains to one New Orleanian worrying about the details of the planning process:

“don’t worry about the view, just keep loading the wagon.� 

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20
Jul
06

Protected: The O’Reilly Factor

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18
Jul
06

It’s Almost Miss K’s Birthday

http://www.bestofneworleans.com/dispatch/current/penny.php

by, Andrei Codrescu

(Romanian-born author, poet and commentator from New Orleans)

A different take on the current state of NOLA, in the Gambit Weekly (NOLA version of the Village Voice, Boston Pheonix, etc.).  Will make you chuckle, but perhaps want to weep too.  I’m not sure if I should be insulted, as one of so many outsiders roaming around down here foolishly – it seems – trying to make a difference.  He concludes:

“Another silver lining in the gathering human disaster that is New Orleans pre-K2, is that the vice-riddled of the nation may safely gather here now and indulge. Anyone who might have considered, pre-K, giving up drugs, drink, smoke, sex or whatever, should head this way immediately. We are overflowing with the excess bounty of the nation’s quickly disappearing skid rows. We no longer need to fear, as an editorialist once did, that Katrina destroyed America’s “only party city.” The party’s still on and it’s about 3 a.m. all the time.”

Thanks to the M.A.S. for passing this on!

09
Jul
06

Disaster Tour – Saturday, July 8, 2006

Some of you may have seen my photos from back in January, and there are other NOLA shots at www.mogaphoto.com, from January and March.  Attached here are just a few camera-phone shots from a disaster tour given yesterday, over 10 months after the storm.  I took two friends from MIT around from noon to 7, with long stops at the Backstreet Cultural Museum in Treme, and the House of Dance & Feathers in the Lower 9th.  Finished our long day with whiskeys and tapas at Mimis in the Marigny.  All of the pics below are from the Lower 9th Ward, except for the “St. Bernard to Baghdad” photo, which is from the St. Bernard housing project in Gentilly.  The largest project in the city, slated for demolition by HUD, even though its storm damage is relatively modest.  

My buddy James took a bunch of photos while we were out.  Will make those available as soon as he gets them up on the web. 

From St. Bernard to Baghdad, GentillyBattle Ground Baptist Church, Lower 9th WardBattle Ground, up closeBaghdad in the Lower 9th WardArchitectural Theft in the Lower 9th Ward

For other images, check out the NEW PAGE on this site: NOLA by Camera Phone.  I’ll be adding random images there as I go about life down here.  My crude attempt at a photo essay (though I’m still not sure what that is…a little help from the M.A.S., please?)

 

09
Jul
06

Biscuit

It’s Sunday afternoon in July in NOLA.  It’s sort of still my morning; I got up 2 hours ago.  It’s disgustingly hot outside, and the roaches are in full effect every night.  In my kitchen sink, on my front stoop.  And a rat ran in front of my car 2 nights ago. Sure there’s crime on the rise and trash still on the streets, but add to that the bugs and the heat, and then I really start to wonder, can I deal w/NOLA for the foreseeable future?  What am I doing here?  Why?  Despite my attachment to the city, passion for the post-disaster politics, and intellectual thrill from the complexity of the city’s recovery, I REALLY hate having to wander around my house at night in flip flops lest I step on a roach venturing out of the kitchen towards our office/dining room.  And not feeling comfortable riding my bike through Central City anymore, and not having any close friends down here, and sleeping alone in a big house in a city in which I don’t feel particularly safe to begin with, and having to drive everywhere, and eating large, fried meals more often than needed, and having every little thing cost $$, like I’m in Vegas, etc. etc. etc.  Whine, whine, whine. 

But then there’s moments like now, as the guy behind the counter of the Oak Street Cafe on the corner of Oak and Dublin in Carrollton clears my plate that held a lightly grilled, buttered biscuit.  (Fried foods ain’t the only means of rich calorie-consumption down here!)  After getting up late, I am showered and washed clean of the dirt and bug bites from my 7 hour disaster tour around the city yesterday (for 2 MIT grads in town). I am sitting at the cafe counter rummaging through emails and news articles, listening to a guy play the piano and having some terrific iced coffee (one of the best offerings of the city – great coffee and free wireless at most cafes/coffeehouses). I had a great sausage egg and swiss cheese on whole wheat toast. The guy next to me at the bar is rolling his own cigarettes.  There are fresh flowers on the counter in front of me.  I am sharing the moment with all of you thanks to the wireless.  It is a great, good, slow, lazy sunday morning/afternoon.  The guy behind me at a table is wearing a t-shirt that says across his back, “hell yeah, we’re still here.  Chilly Gentilly.” 

And for the moment, my attachment to NOLA is renewed.  And I am happy.