Remember Manny

Donna comes and cleans my office every day. Her son was killed last Mardi Gras. We talk about Manny frequently. She’s strong, but the pain and distress in her life are evident. She was looking for some grief counseling resources. With the help of Howie and his lovely wife I think she’s got a line on that. Thanks.

Today is the one year anniversary of Manny’s death. Donna took out a memorial notice in the paper, and she was wearing a commemorative t-shirt. I asked if I could take her picture.

Donna Remembers Manny

I was confused, because Manny was killed on Mardi Gras, which was last week. Then I remembered that Mardi Gras moves around the calendar, of course. February 28 will always be a special day of memory for Donna. And for me too. And I asked if I could share her picture. I think it’s important to remember.

Yesterday Donna shared with me the autopsy report, which she’d only just received herself. I’ve never read such a document. It was chilling. Manny was shot eleven times, but only one bullet was fatal.

I wrote about some other details of Manny’s case a couple weeks ago.

Squash Soup

Xy and I always enjoy a good hearty squash soup in the winter.

Unfortunately, winter seems to have ended here before we could use the squash we’d picked up at the grocery. The weather has been positively springlike and lovely since Lundi Gras, and I even heard a weather guy on TV say the “meteorological winter” is probably over.

But the good news is that squash soup really tastes good any time. Xy whipped some up last night and it was delicious.

Soup and Salad

The recipe is pretty easy. Take an onion, some garlic, and a squash — any sort will do. Peel and dice and sauté in oil with a little salt for about ten minutes. Then add a can of broth (chicken or veggie). Heat through and season as you like. Put it in the blender or food processor with a small carton of heavy whipping cream, blend, and serve.

You could probably substitute rice milk for the cream to make a pure vegan dish, but I’ve never tried that.

Bleak and Bleaker

Two articles grabbed my attention this morning:

Reading these makes me sad and angry. The mainstream media is bleak enough, but these perspectives from the radical press are beyond bleak. I wish I could say that they are exaggerating, that they go too far, that what they are saying about New Orleans is not true. But I’m afraid they’re telling it like it is.

None of this is news to those of us living here. I only pass these links along in hopes that some more people outside New Orleans will read these articles and get a picture of the enormity of our struggle.

I’m desperate for a glimmer of hope:

Students from sixteen colleges, including Xavier, Tulane, Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College, San José State, Stanford, and University of Michigan have put out a call to all college campuses to participate in a “National Post-Katrina College Summit” for April 9-14.

The Post-Katrina College Summit will be a nationwide, weeklong effort to raise awareness about the Gulf Coast through documentary showings, speakers, spoken word, teach-ins, rallies, petition drives, and other events. The Summit is an attempt to catapult New Orleans and the rest of the Gulf Coast back into the national consciousness and to promote federal legislation for a New Deal-style program for the Gulf Coast.

Funeral for a Friend

This is New Orleans.

This is how we live. This is how we die.

Clowns

Not everyone gets a jazz funeral. You have to be special. Yesterday’s mournful and joyous procession through the streets of the city was a testimony to an extraordinary woman, an extraordinary life. We will never forget Helen Hill.

Chicken

Helen’s funeral had not one but two brass bands.

You should be so lucky to be so celebrated when your time comes.

Panorama

I was rolling video so I didn’t take pictures. But some of my friends did. I’ve displayed a few above, by Dave and Derek and Howie. There are many more. Derek has a set of 35 pix. Howie has a set of 92 pix. Dave has a set of 173 pix. Schroeder has a set of 92 pix. Thanks, guys.

Helen’s brother Jake was visiting from New York. He served as the grand marshal. Later, I overheard him say that he’s “not angry at the city of New Orleans.” That’s a comforting sentiment, to be sure, and I am grateful he expressed it.

For my part, as a resident of the city, I am angry at New Orleans — and I count myself in that number. I am angry and ashamed of what we did to Helen. We seduced her here with our charms, and we killed her with our violence. How can we be so cruel?

But on days like yesterday, I am also proud of New Orleans, and the culture that Helen loved so much.

Update: Schroeder’s posted audio.

Don’t Forget

Helen Hill had lots of friends here, and most of us couldn’t make it to her funeral in South Carolina. So I think tomorrow’s event is gonna be huge. There will be brass bands. There will be pig costumes. There will be vegan cupcakes. Ernie K-Doe’s hearse will be there. And check the cool poster.

I haven’t been involved with the planning but here’s what I’ve gathered as to the details: It’s set for Saturday, February 24. Come meet up at 12:30 p.m at Paul and Helen’s old place in Mid-City, 3438 Cleveland Street. That’s one block uptown from Canal Street, one block lakeside from Jeff Davis.

The procession rolls at 1:00 p.m. sharp.

Route: Jeff Davis > Orleans > Claiborne. Here’s a map of what I think the route might be. That’s about two and a half miles, so wear comfortable shoes. Destination: The Mother-in-Law Lounge at 1500 North Claiborne, where there will be more music and more festivities.

You didn’t have to know Helen personally to attend. Everyone’s invited.

Be there if you can.

The Scream

I hope my dad doesn’t mind me sharing this update he sent via e-mail yesterday:

A few years back, Ruth and I visited the Munch museum in Oslo, Norway dedicated to the artist of a famous work called The Scream. It showed a little man screaming.

I was reminded of that painting yesterday when I went in for a checkup eight days after my prostate surgery. My Doctor studied the X-rays, decided that my bladder was now firmly reattached to my urethra. So, he took a firm grip on my catheter, and with no warning, pulled it out. My audible response was heard in much of downtown Indianapolis and sounded something like AAHHHEEEOOOOUUUEEE!

The pain lasted about two seconds and was followed by knowing smiles from the Doctor and the attending nurse. They had seen this response many times. Then we all laughed and agreed on the great sense of relief.

I’m home now and getting around really well. It’s hard to describe how good it feels not to have to worry about the tube, the harness, and the urine bag that make up the catheter. It affected my sleeping, sitting, walking, and so many other little things.

All the worst things seem to be over and I should be near to total recovery in about three more weeks.

Another Day

Is it possible for one day of festivity to change everything?

I woke up Mardi Gras morning wondering if I had a friend left in the world.

Turns out I’ve got hundreds.

Outside the R Bar

If not thousands.

Up Royal

We saw many old friends. We met many new friends. Some were almost a little too friendly, like the guy who grabbed my ass or the dude who kept hitting on Xy. But it was all good. It was all about the love this year.

In the battle of the Sainte Anne factions it would seem that the Bywater faction is ascendant. They had the band. They rule.

Bearded

The costumes were amazing as always, maybe a little less jaw-dropping than last year. Fewer blue people, for whatever reason. I think my favorite was the tourist who got kicked out of his hotel room mid-shave and was forced to wander the streets wrapped in nothing but a towel.

Locked Out of His Hotel Room

As for me, I went for extreme silliness as the Love Raccoon. This costume was based on a velvet painting I found on a trash heap around the corner from our house. That and some face paint and a red fur collar from MF in China and I was set.

The Love Raccoon

I’m happy to report that the costume provoked a lot of smiles and laughter. The woman behind the counter at Envie said it was the best thing she’d seen all day, which is pretty amazing when you consider the competition.

Danger & Son

Tall

Spooky Beautiful

And Xy, the Purple Lady? She did well. She held her liquor, didn’t get lost once, caught her second wind at lunch, and had strength for the bike ride back home. I’m proud of her.

By My Side

I thought last Mardi Gras, six months after Katrina, was the ultimate celebratory event, the most meaningful ever. I was sure this year would not be able to compare. I was prepared to have some fun, but I didn’t expect to be moved, deeply.

Was I ever wrong.

We followed Sainte Anne further than ever this year. I’d heard that they eventually made it to the river to commemorate those who have passed away during the preceding year. But I’d never actually made it that far.

Somehow, this year, we did.

Down by the Riverside

The whole thing was profoundly uplifting and decidedly surrealistic.

And now, the euphoria wears off, and the blood of our people is still running in the streets, but hopefully we all have the collective strength to get through another year and rebuild the city.

PS: I took a camera along for the first time in years, so you can see a set of thirty more selected pix if you’re so inclined.

Gloomy Lundi

Just a few days before my father’s operation, two of my closest friends received news that their own fathers were coming, abruptly, to the end of life. Michael went to Nebraska to be with his father. He passed away yesterday. My other friend’s father has stomach cancer and I gather the prognosis is not good. My heart goes out to both these guys and their families.

Meanwhile, here in New Orleans, it’s Lundi Gras, Fat Monday, the penultimate day of Carnival. It doesn’t feel very festive in our neighborhood. Endymion was once again displaced to the Uptown route this year. So no party at our house. We have no house guests. I haven’t heard from many of our friends.

The big weekend got off to a bad start Thursday night. There were two shooting incidents in which nine people were injured. Two brothers were killed in a car in the Bywater/Upper 9th Ward; closer to home, six people were shot in a Mid-City nightclub. One of the victims lingered on for a day or so but eventually died.

Of course I can’t help but think of Helen’s passing last month. I am also thinking of Donna’s son Manny, who was killed in the wee hours of Mardi Gras morning last year. And that reminds me of little Bilal who fell off our roof and died on Mardi Gras five years ago.

It might sound like I’m not in any mood to celebrate tomorrow, but that’s not the case. Xy and I aim to hook up with the mysterious Societé de Sainte Anne as we’ve done for the last few years. Maybe next year we’ll have our own marching club that departs from Mid-City, but I doubt we’ll be able to muster anything as mystical and mind-blowing as St. Anne.

There is a connection to all the ruminations on mortality. Every year, the Societé makes its way to the Mississippi and conducts a ceremony to honor those who have passed away, commending their ashes to the waters of the river. We’ve never managed to make it that far, usually getting peeled away by the chaos. But I remain impressed by the gesture, even if I’ve never actually seen it.

There seems to be some controversy over where St. Anne will start this year. (It was mighty confusing last year.) According to Ken, there’s some Bywater/Marigny factionalism at work. This has crystallized in the following directions, just published today on the Societé’s website:

The exact starting point for the parade is uncertain. There may actually be 2 starting points, and the separate subunits will hopefully unite at some point in the route.

So I’m not sure where we’ll be tomorrow morning, probably somewhere between Chartres and Marigny and Clouet and Dauphine around 9am. I’m sure it will be chaotic and cosmic and cathartic.

If you see us, say hi, and help me keep Xy away from the booze.

Chaotic

Xy and I went to see the Knights of Chaos last night. Schroeder’s posted a couple of pictures. It was a good satirical parade that made fun of all our so-called leaders.

Last year, I wasn’t really feeling the Carnival spirit until I saw Chaos and Muses.

This year, not so much.

For one thing, it was really cold. I was dressed warmly enough to be comfortable but Xy wasn’t. I gave her my coat. She also wasn’t feeling well. So we went home before Muses rolled, which was a shame, because Xy hasn’t ever seen Muses and I think she’d enjoy it. She’s not a big fan of any of the parades, and frankly neither am I, but after seeing Muses last year I’ve got to admit they are something special. They are the best of the major parades, with beautiful floats and more interesting throws than anyone else. I was bummed not to see them, but even more bummed for Xy’s sake.

For another thing, I’m in much more of a funk than I was a year ago. I know that the recovery of New Orleans will take a long time. A marathon, not a sprint, as the saying goes. But you can never finish a marathon by going in the wrong direction, and that’s what it seems like lately.

I’m still hoping against hope to have a little fun on Mardi Gras. If only I had a good idea for a costume.

PS: Thanks to Adrastos & Dr. A for the hospitality along the parade route.

Priceless

A while back I was contacted by someone who wanted to use a picture I’d taken and posted online. I’ll call her RJ. Here’s the picture that caught her eye:

Oyster Po Boy

It’s an oyster po boy from Domilise’s. It seems that RJ was working for an advertising firm doing a campaign for Mastercard. They’re building a website at priceless.com that has a “favorite things” theme, and their celebrity guest — one Peyton Manning — had identified Domilise’s as a favorite. So they wanted to use my picture.

I said, no problem. In fact, I pointed out, they don’t even have to ask for permission, as most of my photos are under a Creative Commons attribution license. Just provide a link to my personal site at b.rox.com — that’s all I ask.

RJ replied that they couldn’t provide a link, and could I please sign a bunch of release forms?

Sorry, I said, no linkee no love. Links are the currency of respect on the net, and if they can’t throw me that bone I simply have no motivation.

I thought that would be the end of it, but RJ got back to me. How about if they paid me $150?

Suddenly my motivation picked up a little. I signed the damn forms and the other day I got my check in the mail.

Check

The final irony is that when I check priceless.com, I see a picture of Domilise’s all right — but it’s by somebody else. But I don’t care. I’m laughing all the way to the bank, and we sure could use some laughs around here.

I’m sure there’s a good Priceless parody here, but I can’t work up the energy.

Footnote: Apparently Miguel Pereira was contacted in the same fashion, with less favorable results but some interesting discussion regarding the implications of all this for photographers.

Radical Prostatectomy

My dad recently discovered he had prostate cancer. It was “low grade” and slow-growing. More men die with this sort of thing than of it. Among his choices: watch and wait, or get radiation treatment, or just cut the whole thing out. He chose the latter, and on Monday afternoon, he had his prostate removed. Five little incisions, and a robot cuts the gland up and removes it. Sounds like science fiction. The surgery went smoothly, but the blizzard and some car trouble almost kept him from getting home yesterday. He made it eventually thanks to my brother-in-law. I just talked to Dad on the phone, and he said he’s hobbling around like a 105-year-old man and he looks terrible and the pain is starting to kick in — but in spite of all that he seemed in pretty good spirits. The flowers we sent arrived, just in time for Valentine’s Day. Get well soon, Dad!

Turbulence

Last night’s warnings about severe weather proved all too true. A tornado tore through New Orleans in the wee hours of the morning. The swath of damage seems to go all the way from Westwego on the west bank of the Mississippi, across the river and through east back neighborhoods: Riverbend, Carrollton, Mid-City, Gentilly, Pontchartrain Park. Our home is unscathed. We’re not even among the 25,000 that have lost power. All the universities are closed. I was going to make a crack about how I came back here from Indiana to get away from such weather, but there’s really nothing funny about this. Homes are destroyed, people are injured, and at least one person killed.

Update: I rode my bike over to Northwest Carrollton mainly to see how my friend Karen made out. I really didn’t know what to expect.

It’s bad, y’all. I saw houses with roofs ripped off and worse. Karen’s place is all right, I think, but I heard her windshield got smashed by a tree limb. There is devastation all around that area.

I spent a little time helping a NW Carrollton neighbor (Debi) who lost her roof. She was moving most of her worldly possessions to Karen’s mother-in-law’s house, I think. Frankly I’m not sure of any of these details. There was a lot of activity, a lot of chaos, and a lot of people helping.

I didn’t do much, really, but I did get a free sandwich out of the deal.

Pump-blogger Matt McBride was there lending a hand. So was Derek Huston, who plays sax in the Iguanas and from whom we bought our house. I also saw Shelley Midura and Ray Nagin.

Howie’s got some pictures which show the devastation.

New Orleans Tornado Damage

Update: Laureen has the write-up about NW Carrollton on Metroblogging New Orleans.

Salcedo Street Party

The neighbors across the street had a birthday party for their three-year old daughter yesterday. It brought a touch of color and festivity to our neighborhood which remains about 75% uninhabited.

Party

We gave the little girl a fiver. Later in the day they sent over some plates full of good home-cooked food: pork chops, jambalaya, pasta and stuffed peppers. Yum.

Endless Outrages

I was just talking to a lady who works a janitorial detail here at the University. Her son, Jermaine Wise, was murdered last Mardi Gras by none other than B Stupid, aka Ivory Harris. Remember him? He was public enemy #1 until he got arrested March 20th. She pointed out he’s being charged with second degree murder, which she didn’t understand since it was apparently a premeditated slaying. There’s a witness to this murder who is actually willing to testify (a rarity) and who is being protected by the D.A. Here’s what really got me. The guard assigned by the D.A. to protect this witness attempted to rape her. I’m at a loss for words. Somehow “outrageous” seems inadequate.

Fear

Two nights ago, as I lay in bed just drifting off to sleep, I heard a noise which sounded for all the world like someone trying the knob of the door directly beneath our bedroom.

I sprang from bed, turned on the light in back of the house, grabbed a flashlight which didn’t work, turned on the hall light.

I looked down the stairs through the plastic sheeting which still divides the inhabitable part of our house from the portion under renovation, trying to discern any movement in the darkness.

My heart was racing as I envisioned confronting an intruder.

Finally I realized that the noise was caused by a cat.

I never used to be jumpy like this. Hell, we lived here for a good portion of 2006 without locking doors on the lower floor. At some times we didn’t even have doors at all.

Xy slept through the whole thing. I didn’t even mention it to her in the morning.

In the Paper

I was heartened to read a positive story on the front of today’s paper about Dr. Jeff Wiese, who drove around the country for months after Katrina and pretty much saved the residency program at the Tulane School of Medicine. Now the residents are trying to fill in the gap left by the closure of Charity Hospital. He’s a hero. I’ve admired the good doctor for some years; he is the foremost researcher into the mysteries of the alcohol hangover. The paper doesn’t mention that good work. I guess they’re pandering to those puritans from Pennsylvania.

I’m in the paper today too. It’s the 14th story or so about our renovation.
Continue reading In the Paper