Don’t Rob Mid-City

I wanted to write something cheerful for the end of the year. I certainly didn’t want to cite another story from the newspaper about killing in my neighborhood. But I can’t help it. The details surrounding this incident are just too compelling.

A little background: La Finca is a restaurant/bar that used to be on Tulane Avenue near Carrollton. Katrina forced a move to Jeff Davis & Baudin, where the Delta Blues Grill used to be. Xy and I stopped in for dinner a couple weeks ago. It’s a working class Mexican joint, serving a style of food which is distinctly different from Taco Bell or Juan’s Flying Burrito. For example, the tacos have only beef and onion, plus cilantro — no cheese, no beans, no sour cream. We were the only non-Latins there, and Fox Sports Español was playing on the television. The food was all right, but the music was blaring at an almost painful level.

It seems that in the wee hours of yesterday morning, two guys tried to rob the place. They came in with guns and held some patrons hostage. A security guard on duty shot one of the guys. The other guy got away, but the guy who was shot died.

I’m not happy that anyone was killed, but my sympathies are with La Finca on this one.
Continue reading Don’t Rob Mid-City

Light from Above

What with all the foofaraw trying to get back on the internet and dealing with spambots and the parental visitation and bloody murder and the holidays and so forth, I almost forgot to mention some good news: We had much of our house rewired earlier this month.

Electrical Guy

Now we have power in the ceiling, meaning our overhead lights and fans work. It was almost a year exactly since we got power but that was only a partial quick fix. For a whole year we’ve had power only in half our receptacles, and we’ve been using floor lamps.

But now we have light from above.

And as an added bonus we’ve got sheetrock up in most of the lower floor.

More Sheetrockin'

There’s still a lot to be done. I wouldn’t be surprised if some of that sheetrock has to come back down for some more electrical and plumbing work. Two steps forward, one step back. That’s progress.

Cognitive Dissonance

In the paper today:

Prominent musician killed while his family watched

Dinerral Shavers, 25, died from a gunshot to the back of his head at about 5:30 p.m. while behind the wheel of his black Chevrolet Malibu in the 2200 block of Dumaine Street, police said…

Although critically wounded, Shavers continued driving four blocks up Dumaine before stopping.

By 6 p.m., Shavers lay motionless on his back in the middle of the street just outside the open driver’s side door as red and green holiday lights blinked rapidly on homes behind him, and a few patrons of the Magnolia Meat Market at the corner looked on.

Shavers was taken to a hospital, but died within an hour, police said.

Shavers was the snare drummer for the Hot 8 Brass Band and the music teacher at L.E. Rabouin High School, where he had recently begun the school’s first-ever marching band. “I’ve got 80 kids marching — we’re making history at Rabouin,” he said proudly in an interview earlier this week…

And:

Big Easy is billed as ‘Fun Spot’

With the media spotlight on New Orleans as the Saints gear up to vie in the National Football League playoffs and as Louisiana State University takes on the University of Notre Dame in the Allstate Sugar Bowl next week, local hospitality leaders announced Thursday a campaign to promote the city as safe, fun and open for business.

Fun spot. Murder capital. Do I even need to explain what I mean by cognitive dissonance?

It’s also Xy’s birthday today, but it doesn’t feel very festive with headlines like these. Xy sent flowers to the funeral of a three-year-old child this morning, the little brother of one of her students who had been ailing for months. Not a happy way to start the day.

Of course, cognitive dissonance is a way of life here. People know how to combine tragedy and celebration without giving short shrift to either. I think that’s the part of New Orleans culture that I admire the most, even though it doesn’t make sense to the puritans, even though it makes us look irresponsible, even though some days it makes me angry.

So, yeah, happy birthday, baby. Let’s try not to get murdered in this “fun spot.”

Perspective

A pair of photos by yours truly are featured on the op-ed page of the Times-Picayune today. The pictures depict a before and after scene on Bienville — a house, and then an empty lot where the house used to be.

Perspective

This is part of a series of “visual commentaries” that the T-P has been running since Katrina. The paper doesn’t seem to put these online, which is unfortunate, because they’re pretty interesting. So instead of putting a link here, I had to take a picture of the paper myself.

Thanks to Annette Sisco who saw these pictures here back in October and had the idea to feature them. In fact, at her suggestion, I revisited the lot earlier this month and shot the “after” picture again to more closely match the perspective of the “before” picture, and without the backhoe that was there in October. I think the piece is much stronger for it.

I also like the way it’s presented, without explanation. It doesn’t say “before and after” as I have here. You have to puzzle it out, take a moment to realize it is the same location, and then realize the house is gone, and wonder what happened.

Head Games

I shaved my head seven months ago:

I Shaved My Head

And then I shaved my beard into a goatee, and of course most of the time I still wear my hornrim glasses, which gets me back to looking like this icon of myself that I created in 1995 or so:

bic.gif

And so I braced myself for the inevitable question: Why did you shave your head?

I prepared a few snappy answers:

  1. Lice.
  2. I didn’t shave it. The radiation therapy finally kicked in.
  3. To express my solidarity with Ray Nagin. Or Mitch Landrieu. Or the Superdome.

Much to my surprise, no one asked the question. This was a first. Every time I’ve shaved my head in the past, people asked the question. Why not now? I think it’s just another indication that we’re all in a post-levee-failure funk round these parts.

Anyway, I kept my head shaved all summer long, but I let my hair grow once the weather started cooling off. After one month I looked like Curious George:

B

After two months I looked like hell. Truly embarrassing hair. I took a picture to document just how bad it looked, but it was so painful to behold that I deleted it. I couldn’t go out in public.

Again I faced the dilemma: My barber Lou Claverie, to whom I was insanely loyal, got flooded out and has not returned. Here’s what i looked like after my last visit to Lou:

My New Haircut

Lou was the best. I feel it’s a betrayal to get my hair cut by anyone else, but I don’t want to look like a jerk.

And so, again, I go to the Monteleone Hotel Barber Shop. Pat is kind of an asshole (sorry Pat) but at least he knows how to do a decent flattop.

New Haircut

For most of my adult life, I’ve shaved either my head or my chin. I don’t shave both because I look like a skinhead. And I don’t grow a beard while I have a head of hair because I look like a fuzzball. But Xy says she likes the beard. (Dad tried to get me to shave the beard three times during his visit. Sorry Dad.) I am keeping the beard for now, with the head hair, and with some reservations.

So if you see me around New Orleans with a goatee and a flattop, feel free to chime in with your opinion. And feel free to recommend a centrally-located barber.

Parental Visitation

My parents came to New Orleans Monday, but I didn’t see them for a while. They spent the week at Camp Restore, helping to gut homes in New Orleans East.

Restoration Crew

Finally they came over to our place on Friday. Today we went to the Barataria Preserve at Jean Lafitte for a hike of the Bayou Coquille trail.

"Look at that!"

Tonight, Reveillion at Ralph’s on the Park, then Celebration in the Oaks.

Althea

I just learned that tomorrow will be my co-worker Althea’s last day here at the University.

Althea

Althea has been with the University for many years. I believe she started working as an administrative assistant in English. I knew her because she was working a computer lab manager for my unit when I was hired back in 1999. I worked with her for six years. After the levee failures, she was terminated along with many others, as the University made some deep and painful cuts. She got hired back at English when the University reopened.

She’s one of the sweetest and realest people I’ve met here. I always enjoyed talking with her.

But she’s been living in a trailer since her house was destroyed. Her husband found work in Texas, where they evacuated, and he’s still living there. Their son is enrolled in school there. That’s a hard situation. So she’s moving out there to be with her family.

I’m going to miss her. She’s good people.

Here’s a staff photo from the summer of 2003:

CAT Staff 2003

Of the five people shown here, only Janice and I are left in New Orleans.

I do understand why people move on, but this attrition is killing me.

Disconnected, Part III: Attack of the Spambots

After a week of delays and two whole days wasted on tech support calls, I was finally online. I was ready to write a damning invective criticizing Apple and an encomium praising the Computer Shoppe. I pointed my browser to my blog, when what to my wondering eyes should appear but a notice:

Your account has been suspended. Contact billing/support.

What? How could this be? Did we forget to pay the bill? I called my webhost immediately and learned that our account had been suspended because of a “massive amount” of activity on b.rox.com.

It appears that b.rox was under attack by spambots.

Without getting excessively technical, I’ll try to explain this in terms my grandma Mildred (may she rest in peace) could have understood, insofar as I even understand it myself.

Continue reading Disconnected, Part III: Attack of the Spambots

Disconnected, Part II

When last we left our story, we were at something of an impasse. I couldn’t connect my trusty iMac to the internet. Cox said it was Apple’s problem. Apple said it was a conflict with Cox’s modem.

At Todd Kleinke’s excellent recommendation, I took my poor little iMac to the University Saturday morning and plugged it into the local network. Nothing. Damn. Not even a dynamically assigned IP, which I’d at least been getting at home.

Next stop: The Computer Shoppe.

Continue reading Disconnected, Part II

Two for Tomorrow

Locals may want to note that tomorrow (Thursday, December 14) is the final day for public comment on the latest round of proposed FEMA demolitions. Nothing less is at stake here than the unique urban fabric of some of New Orleans’ historic neighborhoods. You can read more on the MCNO website, where you’ll find links to leave comments for FEMA.

Also on Thursday: City Council considers the question of Endymion’s return to Mid-City. You may have thought this was a done deal, that Endymion would follow the Uptown route again this year. After all, it’s been reported on the front page of the Times-Picayune more than once, replete with unfortunate comments which many of my neighbors found insulting. But the Council has the final say. Last month, a bunch of Mid-City neighbors were planning to attend the Council meeting to let their views be known, but the topic was postponed. Have people cooled off and forgotten about the issue, or will they turn out en masse tomorrow? I don’t know. Again, head over to mcno.org to read more, including a couple impassioned letters from my neighbors.

Tomorrow’s Newspaper

I heard a thump on the porch and went out to see the newspaper had been delivered. Ordinary enough, you say, but here’s the rub: It’s Sunday’s paper being delivered at 5 PM Saturday afternoon. I opened it up, relishing the notion of reading tomorrow’s news, but was disappointed to discover sections A, B & C are missing. I called the Times-Picayune’s automated system to report the problem, but of course they only have options for today’s paper and yesterday’s — not tomorrow’s.

Continue reading Tomorrow’s Newspaper

(No Longer) Waiting for the Electrician

The electricians got started on our house yesterday. We didn’t even know they’d been there until we realized we had no juice in our bedroom. (A common problem for old married couples, or so I’ve heard. Rim shot.) I had to break out the oil lamp for the evening — just like old times. As of this morning you couldn’t turn around in our house without knocking over an electrician. I think there were five guys there. At this rate they’ll be done next week, which makes me happy. However, they were playing country music. Nobody warned me about that.

Problem Solving

Here’s a short video I shot and edited featuring three sixth graders at the school where Xy teaches.



Problem Solving on Vimeo

The girls are Kamaria, Tekiesaine & Destiny. They’re singing lyrics of their own, inspired by Xy’s “life skills” lesson, to the tune of “Show Stopper” by Danity Kane.

We’re also sending this video to Children for Children. They sent Xy’s class a bunch of messages in bottles from kids in New York. The New Orleans kids wanted to send something back, so we made this video.

Footnote: This is just an excerpt from a six-minute piece which I’m framing as a “Fifteen Months Post-Katrina” update. For the hardcore, I’ve uploaded this longer video. It’s 24 MB and requires the absolute latest version of QuickTime, so download it if you dare. And, what the hell, here’s an audio-only (1 MB mp3) version.

Push My Button

I bought a bunch of these from Classic Accents.

Single Pole Switch (HD1)

They’re old-style push-button switches, which our house has still has in a few places. We’re expecting that some of the old switches won’t survive the rewiring of our house, so we’ll have some replacements on hand. Mostly, though, these will serve to restore push-button functionality to switches that have been “upgraded” over the years.

These old-style switches are a tad more expensive — OK, a lot more expensive — than the standard modern flip-switch. But maintaining the historical integrity of our home is worth the cost, dammit.

They arrived yesterday. Now if the electricians would just show up we’d be set.

Last December

One year ago today, we moved back into our home.

I’ve been thinking about that time quite a bit recently, in part because I’m trying to reconstruct a bit of narrative ROX #95, but also just because. I think last December was probably the strangest month of my life. Living without electricity, with no neighbors (or lights) for blocks and blocks in any direction. Those were spooky times.

More Scrabble by Candlelight

Yet they were also strangely compelling times. People often ask if we were afraid, but we weren’t. We were nervous about the future of New Orleans, of course. It was actually kind of peaceful, in a sad way. We felt like brave urban pioneers. And I think it brought Xy and I closer together. Don’t get me wrong: It was no picnic. It was very unsettling. I wouldn’t want to experience that again. I’d rather just remember it.

So: A year later, where do we find ourselves? There’s been progress, but not as much as one might hope. At least we have some neighbors. I’d guess about a quarter of surrounding homes are occupied. At least we have electricity (in about a quarter of our house). Our gas heat is still working, but I hear other folks are having recurrent problems with water in their gas lines. I’m not drinking as heavily as I was a year ago, and that seems healthier. One thing that hasn’t changed: We’re still worried about the future of this city and our neighborhood.

Unbusted

Xy picked up this bust at a yard sale around the corner a couple years ago. Recently one of our feline boarders knocked it off the shelf, and it broke into three easy pieces.

Busted Bust

Greek News Neck

We were surprised to find Greek newspaper inside the neck. Did it come all the way from Greece? Don’t know. But over the Thanksgiving holiday, I fixed it with Gorilla Glue, using rubber bands to clamp the pieces together.

Unbusted

At least I feel like I accomplished something, a feeling to be savored no matter how fleeting.

Update: My friend Tall Steve (a.k.a. City Councilchicken Volan) writes in with the following:

It most definitely came from Greece. You can even date it somewhat from the text (which appears to be an obituary section: the large word which looks like “Kndeiai” refers to burial, and I think means “is buried” or “being buried”).

This newspaper uses polytonic orthography, which means it’s no younger than 1982, but it’s probably older than that. I’d guess it’s from the 1960s.