Quiet Day

Classes ended yesterday. Final exams begin tomorrow. But today is nothing. It’s Quiet Day here at the University.

Apparently at other schools this is called Dead Day. Back at IU, we didn’t have such a day, but we did have Dead Week, which was simply the last week of classes during which no big assignments would be due — a mere convention, if memory serves.

Why we call it Quiet Day here is a mystery to me, but I like it. It conjures in my mind the idea of a time set aside for quiet contemplation, which is surely something we all could use. In fact, I reflected on my morning ride to work, although I enjoy and respect sacred music, nothing evokes the sacred so well as silence. The best sacred music might emerge from silence — but of course that reflects my own culturally conditioned notions of the sacred. Noise can be sacred too, I suppose, but in our noisy society I prefer the quiet approach. My co-worker Jim has been on at least one silent retreat, where participants basically don’t speak for the entire weekend or designated period. It seems like a good practice to me.

The mundane reality is that Quiet Day is a day much like any other, especially for someone like me who doesn’t teach. It’s a little quieter on campus, less active, but it’s not as if people are walking around mute. It’s like a collective intake of breath, a moment of calm before the final movement in the annual symphony, before the final burst of activity that culminates with the commencement ceremony.

What this day really means to me in practical terms can be summed up in one word: shorts. No matter how hot the spring weather, I feel compelled to wear long pants while classes are in session. But today I’m in shorts and will likely remain so for the next five or six months. Sweet relief.

Getting My Stripes

After many phone calls and much wheedling, pleading and cajoling, it appears I’m getting my stripes.


Those are pedestrian crosswalk-style stripes to mark the Jeff Davis bike path as it crosses Tulane Avenue. Since they were resurfacing Tulane Avenue (and Airline Highway) it seemed like a good time.

The idea of course is that it’s a cheap way to enhance safety. Many motorists won’t notice the stripes at all, but a few will. If even a small percentage of people become more aware of the path it will help.

Of course, such striping would also be desirable at the dozen or so other street crossings the bike path makes, but Tulane Avenue is possibly the busiest. Canal Street would be good too.

However, the real hazard at Tulane Avenue is the fact that a cyclist can’t see when the light is about to change. Every so often I will get stranded on the neutral ground, which on Tulane is razor-thin, without even room for a bike. I have to turn my bike sideways while the cars whiz past on either side, way to close for comfort. Possible solutions would be a button to delay the light changing for a few seconds, or one of those countdown displays that lets you know when the light’s about to change.

I’m not holding my breath. But please allow me a moment to revel and bask in the glory of these stripes.

Mid-City Community Garden

My neighborhood is still capable of surprising me every now and again. Such was the case yesterday when we stopped by the Mid-City Community Garden for the first time.

Mid-City Community Garden

Amazing! Here in the shadow of Tulane Avenue are colorful raised beds full of beautiful vegetables.

Cabbage Etc

We were there for a fundraiser event — a mere $5 for a plate of BBQ ribs plus half a dozen sides. Delicious and filling.


But most of all I was impressed by the vision of Joseph Brock and his cohorts. It’s this kind of community spirit that makes me love my neighborhood.

For more information, visit midcitycommunitygarden.com.

Oh, and check out this message, hand-painted on the building next door:

This Owner Don't Care

Keep Out — This Owner Don’t Care — The Block Do!

This really says it all about the problems of blighted property and absentee landlords here.

Postscript: As I was writing this I got word that a former president of our neighborhood organization, Jim Taylor, passed away last night. This makes me sad. Jim was a good guy. He would have loved this garden project. I wonder if he ever got a chance to see it.

Dear Mr. Carrere

Dear Mr. Carrere,

Your name was given to me as a good person to contact in Code Enforcement for the City of New Orleans.

Unfortunately a number of homes in my immediate neighborhood remain hazardous eyesores that have not been properly remediated since the floods of 2005.

Today I am writing to you about what I consider to be the worst of the lot: 3016 Bienville. This double today stands with both doors open and moldering furniture visible inside from the curb. It has never been gutted or even secured. Since I live literally around the corner, I pass by this house often. What I see makes my blood boil. But imagine how the people feel who live one or two doors down or across the street and must gaze upon this travesty every day — not to mention keeping their kids out of harm’s way.

This is a historic shotgun double, and as such it is an important part of the fabric of the block. It does not need to be demolished. Indeed its demolition would add injury to insult. It should be renovated. And in the meantime, it should be secured immediately.

It makes me furious to contemplate how a property owner could be so irresponsible, and so disrespectful to me and my neighbors. But furious or not, I understand that some people are just bad eggs. I can accept that. What I wonder about, and the reason I am writing you today, is to ask this question: What can the city do to hold the owner of this property accountable? What will you do?

For my part of I have filed every kind of report I can imagine on this property. We have received assurances that he’s going to sell, etc. And yet today the building still stands there without even the rudimentary and step of boarding up the front door as required by ordinance.

Personally I believe the owner should be fined and punished to the fullest extent of the law.

At the end of my rope,

Bart Everson

PS: You can see a picture of the house here.

3016 Bienville

Note that this photo was taken almost two years ago and not one thing has changed since then, except the weeds have gotten higher.
Continue reading “Dear Mr. Carrere”

Double-Edged Razor Wire

Once upon a time, there was a used car lot next to the University. Now it’s a parking lot for the University faculty and staff. There’s a fence on the perimeter. The fence still had some ugly razor wire along the top, but since the fence no longer goes all the way around, the razor wire no longer served a security function. In other words, the razor wire was purely decorative, or anti-decorative if you will.

I despise razor wire.

In the spring of 2003, I made a personal crusade out of getting this removed. I volunteered to remove it myself. When my offer wasn’t accepted, I printed out a full color picture of the razor wire with snagged plastic bags and the University’s name prominently visible in the background. I sent a copy of the photo to the president.

The razor wire was removed in short order.

That’s a testimony to the power of the photographic image. The photo was alarming. To anyone who cares about the University, this picture was actually slightly sickening.

In fact, such was the visceral power of this image that I thought twice about posting it on Flickr. Maybe I should have thought three times. But when I was sorting through old photos last summer, up it went. And there it remained in relative obscurity — until now.

A couple days ago, the photo was used on the Poverty in America blog to illustrate a point about how hard economic times affect college students.

Because the posting contained the name of the University, it got the attention of the folks over in the Media Relations office. It became a source of some small embarrassment. The blogger removed the photo from her post, and I replaced the original with a highly abstracted version.

Razorwire with Plastic

It’s interesting to note that if the blogger hadn’t done her homework and gone the extra mile to note the name and location of this institution — fodder for a Google Alert — this would never have come to light. I have made it my personal policy to avoid referring to the University by name to avoid just such issues.

I’m happy to report that everyone involved conducted themselves with civility and respect — even myself, or so I hope. No angry accusations or recriminations. I didn’t tell demand the blogger remove the post, nor was I ordered to take the photo offline — I replaced it of my own initiative as a show of good faith.

Dear Goody Clancy

Here’s a letter which I hope to present directly to representatives of Goody Clancy at tonight’s District 4 meeting (6PM @ Jesuit).

Dear Goody Clancy,

Friends of Lafitte Corridor has been reviewing the Master Plan draft. It is quite impressive. However, there are several points that concern us. We believe that the revitalization of the Lafitte Corridor, with a central greenway, offers a model for nurturing the values of sustainability and community that the Master Plan draft espouses. Therefore I am sending this follow-up to my recent e-mail.

  1. Chapter 13 mentions the Mississippi River Greenway Initiative, but we could find no mention of the greenway project planned for the Lafitte Corridor.
  2. The greenway shows up on the proposed bike route map, but it is not the correct length. (It should extend from Basin Street all the way to Canal Blvd. instead of terminating at City Park Ave.)
  3. Note the two-part structure of the project as the Office of Recovery Development has conceived it and City Planning Commission staff has endorsed: development of a Lafitte Corridor Revitalization Plan and design of the greenway/trail itself. These two prongs are distinct and substantial.
  4. In recognition of the unique opportunities the greenway represents, we recommend a special land use designation for trail-oriented development along the entire length of the Lafitte Corridor.
  5. The integrative nature of the project as “green infrastructure” should be emphasized — integrating active transportation, public health and recreation, economic revitalization, cultural preservation and environmental sustainability initiatives.
  6. For an excellent example of trail-oriented land use planning, please see the Midtown Greenway’s Land Use Development Plan

  7. Attached please find a copy of the City Planning Commission’s recent review of the Lafitte Greenway Master Plan. Note their recommendation to integrate this plan into the Citywide Master Plan and Comprehensive Zoning Ordinance effort.

Feel free to contact me if you would like to discuss these matters in greater detail. Also please feel free to contact my fellow board members: Dr. Lake Douglas who is a professor at the Robert Reich School of Landscape Architecture at LSU, and architect Daniel Samuels.

Yours sincerely,

Bart Everson
Friends of Lafitte Corridor

Fourteen Months

Dear Persephone,

You’re walking better than ever, though you still have plenty of spills, including a tumble down the stairs that really scared us. You were frightened too, but you weren’t hurt, and shortly thereafter you forgot all about it. You’re still not scared of the stairs — or anything else, for that matter, which means we have to constantly vigilant so you don’t hurt yourself.

You have certain favorite books now, and you enjoy having them read to you. You will select one, bring it to me, and then turn around and sit in my lap with your back to me, facing forward, waiting for me to read. And you’ll often ask for a repeat performance. A dozen repeats or more.

Last night I discovered you had learned how to bounce a ball. We spent a good amount of time bouncing and rolling a tennis ball back and forth in the hallway. For this game, unlike reading a book, you need to sit facing me. I had to keep turning you around. And eventually I think you got it.

You babble a lot, but you’re still not really talking. A few weeks ago it seemed that you were repeating a few words back, but I haven’t noticed that as much lately. You occasionally utter a few proto-words like “hi and “da.” I wish you’d hurry up. I’m really looking forward to talking to you.

Toxic Waste Panic in Mid-City

Our big excitement today came when the New Orleans Fire Department came out to investigate a suspicious canister leaking a mysterious substance in front of the abandoned house next door to ours.

Leaking Canister

Actually we’re pretty sure it’s just white latex paint. According to a neighbor’s eyeball witness testimony, the canister was deposited in Craig’s yard at the direction of Maria Santana, local landlord extraordinaire — a name that may be recognized by long-time readers.

Still, it’s mighty disrespectful to throw your trash around like that and expect someone else to deal with it. It’s also illegal. The fire department tracked down her number, gave her a call, and left a stern message on her voice mail.

Closer to the Greenway

From New Orleans City Business:

City moving closer to work on creating Lafitte greenway
Redeveloping 3-mile stretch from Quarter to Lakeview billed as recreation hot spot
by Emilie Bahr, Staff Writer

The city has chosen a contractor to plan and design a long-anticipated greenway for a mostly derelict stretch of land connecting Mid-City, Tremé, the French Quarter and Lakeview.

Proponents say transforming the Lafitte Corridor, a ribbon of land that passes through some of the city’s most historic and storm-damaged neighborhoods, into an alternative transportation corridor would offer residents a valuable new amenity while reinvigorating surrounding communities.

In 2006, Bart Everson helped start Friends of Lafitte Corridor, one of the groups advocating for a linear park that has at its center a paved bicycle and pedestrian path.


(Photo by Frank Aymami)

“It’s not just a bike and pedestrian path,” Everson said. “It’s also an economic revitalization plan for the surrounding neighborhoods.”

The corridor runs along a former shipping channel that once connected the northern edge of the French Quarter with Bayou St. John. The canal was filled in 1938, and part of the site was converted to a rail line.

Plans to convert the largely abandoned, three-mile industrial strip into a public greenway have been floated since the 1970s, but the proposals never gained much mainstream traction until Hurricane Katrina.

Jake Wagner, an urban planning specialist helping shape greenway plans, said the storm provided the impetus for translating what for years seemed little more than an idealist’s fantasy into a real possibility. Since the storm, a revitalized Lafitte Corridor has been incorporated in all of the city redevelopment proposals.

The city has chosen Design Workshop of Austin, Texas, to do the planning and design work on the project, which is slated to be built in phases. The trail portion of the greenway will be completed in the first phase, said Debravka Gilic, director of strategic planning for the Office of Recovery and Development Administration.

According to FOLC, about $3 million has been set aside for planning, design and construction, including about $2.6 million in community development block grants.

Everson said the eventual cost of the greenway will depend on the scope of the final proposal.

“The cost is so variable depending on how you want to do it,” he said.

Completion of the trail portion of the greenway could likely be accomplished for about $3 million, but more money is needed to make the project “the true community amenity it can become,” said Billy Fields, director of the Center for Urban and Public Affairs at the University of New Orleans.

“It’s the low-hanging fruit,” said greenway advocate Geoff Coats, formerly of the Urban Conservancy, which has worked with FOLC, other organizations and area residents to get the project going.

At a time of deep public frustration over few visible signs of post-storm recovery, Coats sees the greenway project as one city officials can point to as a success story.

“I think it’s one of the most fully baked, fully developed projects,” he said. “There’s no downside to it at all that I can see.”

Planners envision locals using the greenway for recreation and bicycle commuting, while tourists would make their way from their French Quarter hotels to City Park, the New Orleans Museum of Art and Bayou St. John.

Wagner believes the greenway could be incorporated into cultural heritage tourism.

“You can explain most of the major phases of New Orleans history in that small three-mile stretch,” he said. “You’ve got the entire architectural history of the city” represented.

Fields, former research director for the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy in Washington, D.C., said the greenway could serve as a model for trail-oriented development, a concept that plays on transit-rooted development, or the idea that private investment naturally follows public investment in major transportation nodes.

“You see this in New York, in Tokyo, on a massive scale,” Wagner said, referring to the concentrations of commercial development that can be found in those cities around large subway stops.

Charlie Doerr, owner of the Bayou St. John store Bayou Bicycles, is among the business owners hoping to reap the greenway’s benefits.

“Our backdoor opens out basically right on to it,” said Doerr, sitting in his office looking through a window at what is currently vacant land. But he is optimistic that one day, he’ll be watching bicyclists, walkers and runners move by. He’s already started thinking about starting a bike rental service to tap into the influx of new visitors.

“Once the thing is open, people are gonna use it and we’ll be right in the middle of it,” he said.

Nice article. Now if you want to learn more, please come to the upcoming meeting of Friends of Lafitte Corridor:

Design Professionals Explain the Work about to be Done on the Greenway and hear about FOLC’s 5th Annual Corridor Hike

Come join us for the latest Greenway update and news of our upcoming Corridor Hike! The City is about to award a contract for Lafitte Greenway design and Lafitte Corridor Revitalization planning. Learn exactly what that entails and how you can have your say in what the Greenway will be like. Lake Douglas, FOLC Board member and LSU Professor of Landscape Architecture; and Daniel Samuels, architect and past President of FOLC; and current Chair of the Lafitte Greenway Steering Advisory Committee, explain the process and tell you what sort of timeline we anticipate for construction. Also Bart Everson and Jeff Schwartz will announce plans for our 5th Annual Hike of the Lafitte Corridor. – It’s all at the FOLC Membership Meeting – Thurs April 23rd at 6:30PM at Grace Episcopal Church, 3700 Canal St.

Bring a friend & sign up for FOLC membership


We took the girl to Waveland, Mississippi, yesterday, for her first visit to a beach. Here’s a slideshow of a dozen photos from the trip. Use the full-screen button (in the lower right corner after you press play) for maximum vicarious enjoyment.

Please enable Javascript and Flash to view this Flash video.

A Haphazard List of Possible Future Topics for Pleasure

This is the third installment of three sample documents dredged up from my old Brother WP-500 disks. I really have no idea what this is. Perhaps it had something to do with the Have Fun Club? That would place it circa 1992. I have no recollection of typing it, which is what makes rediscovering it so fun. This was written when I lived in Bloomington, Indiana, of course, but it’s kind of cool to note the New Orleans reference at item #3.


  1. smelling old books
  2. approaching Bloomington as a tourist
  3. enjoying graveyards in New Orleans
  4. graveyard picnics
  5. visiting the laundromat
  6. doing something that you just don’t know how to do
  7. ice skating
  8. rising early
  9. staying up all night
  10. naps
  11. cooking
  12. swimming in the winter
  13. going to the mall
  14. improvisational music/comedy
  15. brainstorming
  16. answering machine messages
  17. funny names
  18. riding the bus
  19. obeying the speed limit
  20. tailgating
  21. cleaning is fun if you know how
  22. reading “women’s” magazines
  23. participant/observer activities
  24. going to church
  25. dawn
  26. browsing at the library
  27. rediscovering the lost art of conversation
  28. getting into other people’s heads
  29. snooping in your friend’s house
  30. voyeurism
  31. dressing funny
  32. verbal games
  33. joys of excrement
  34. destruction
  35. visiting the junkyard
  36. memory
  37. fun with Robitussin DM
  38. hypothesizing about the future
  39. dreams
  40. masturbation
  41. group gargling
  42. pranks
  43. frightening IU tour groups
  44. making noise
  45. pain
  46. really gross things that taste good
  47. writing letters
  48. keeping a journal
  49. rearranging furniture
  50. building a sheet fort
  51. the dialectical waltz
  52. games at the grocery
  53. skinnydipping
  54. purification rituals
  55. visiting neighboring towns
  56. basic principles of pleasure
  57. flowers
  58. tempting fate
  59. removing watch
  60. getting rid of possessions
  61. going to work
  62. speaking your mind
  63. saving money
  64. walking
  65. introducing yourself to complete strangers
  66. slang
  67. making fun of Bobby Knight, George Bush and others
  68. going to see a sporting event
  69. student recitals
  70. live music
  71. testdriving for kicks
  72. meeting your neighbors
  73. observing fractals in nature
  74. cellular automata
  75. getting caught in traffic
  76. things that don’t normally seem pleasurable
  77. falling off of tall buildings
  78. getting arrested
  79. being insulted by middleschoolers
  80. climbing on roofs
  81. scoping the opposite sex
  82. unusual foods
  83. reading other people’s mail
  84. prowling about by night
  85. keeping secrets
  86. illicit love
  87. starting rumors
  88. doing evil
  89. cognitive therapy
  90. the problem of paranoia
  91. death
  92. the dark side
  93. impersonating presidents
  94. spiritual quests
  95. suspending judgment
  96. being slightly inebriated at a formal occasion
  97. bouncing on the bed
  98. playdoh
  99. behind the stripmalls

Dear General Zia

This is the second installment of three sample documents dredged up from my old Brother WP-500 disks. I think this letter more or less explains itself. I wrote a number of such letters, inspired by author Bruce West, and in fact that was my original motivation for purchasing the WP-500 in the first place. With its daisywheel printer, it produced documents that looked like they were typed the old-fashioned way. Thus, I think it has maximum impact when viewed in its original format. I’m embedding the document here; please use the “full screen” toggle button in the upper right corner to make it legible.

Continue reading “Dear General Zia”

Obligatory Easter Cuteness

Almost forgot…

Sephone's Egg Hunt

My parents passed along this bunny outfit. I think maybe I wore it when I was one. If so, that garment has held up pretty well for forty-plus years.

Hellacious Saturday

As I rode my bike to my book club yesterday morning, I wondered idly what name the day might have. Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter Sunday… surely this Saturday must have a name too?

We had a new visitor to our book circle, a woman named Charlotte. I’d guess her to be somewhere around my mother’s age — certainly our most senior member, if she comes again. How ironic, then, that we were discussing a young adult anthology. But before we discussed the book, we found ourselves discussing religion, prompted by my suggestion of a name for the day: Hellacious Saturday, in reference to the so-called Harrowing of Hell, the idea that Jesus visited the underworld between his death and resurrection.

It made for some interesting conversation.

Charlotte was quite circumspect at first, seeming to think that the rest of us might be devout Christians. She soon loosened up however. We talked quite a bit about various Catholic doctrines. When I said I was raised in a conservative denomination of the Lutheran church, Charlotte said she was too.

“Missouri Synod?” I asked.

She nodded and laughed. “The worst one!”

For the benefit of any LCMS members out there, and especially my own dear mother, I hasten to add that Charlotte did not mean, at least as far as I know, to insinuate that the people of the LCMS are bad, nor to disparage the many good works done by that church. I suppose she meant simply that they are indeed conservative, (though not, of course, as conservative as the CLC) and she had some doctrinal issues which I share, but mainly I record this brief exchange because it gave me a chuckle as I wondered what my mother the church secretary would have thought.

In reality, the Saturday before Easter is known simply as Holy Saturday, or Holy and Great Saturday, or the Great Sabbath. But I didn’t recall that, and I quite liked the idea of Hellacious Saturday. That night as I took a bath I envisioned Hallmark and the candy manufacturers getting on top of this and using it so sell more product, with greeting cards and little cinnamon devil candies and so forth. Needless to say, I’m probably intrigued by the whole “harrowing of hell” bit because it’s a mytheme of the descent to the underworld, which alsoe figures importantly in the story of a certain Greek goddess I know and love.

Then we watched the evening news, and were stunned to learn that for one family, at least, it was indeed a Hellacious Saturday, and no joke about it. I’m referring to the triple murder in Terrytown. Amongst the victims: a baby boy, only a few months older than our daughter. He was shot execution-style.

There are many other lurid details in this story, like that the cops tasered the mother of a six-year-old boy who was also killed because she was creating a disturbance.

And I just saw that they have arrested someone and charged him with these murders.

The notion that someone — anyone — can shoot a baby in the head like that is truly horrific. It’s as clear a demonstration of the existence of evil as I can imagine.

Despite being fed up with organized religion, Charlotte mentioned that she still retains some religious beliefs, in main part because of a desire for what I’d call “cosmic justice.” I may share that desire, but I don’t think desire alone means it exists. I think our yearning for justice issues from our human experience. It reveals our common humanity.

The question is, how can someone venture so far from those human norms, to become such a monster, to perpetrate such a monstrous act? I don’t think I’ll ever understand that, and I don’t suppose I want to.

The Mania for Documentation Considered as a Disease

Remember those Brother WP-500 disks I mentioned a while back? I was unable to find a compatible machine to actually read and print the disks myself. My research revealed there were only three models that could read this format. A guy in Britain advised me that they are considered “logically hard-sectored” — whatever than means — and that without the native system, it’s simply impossible to convert these disks without “special bespoke” data conversion software & hardware.

(I’m always interested in expanding my vocabulary. The word “bespoke” sent me running to my dictionary. It means “custom or custom-made” and it’s a British usage.)

After scouring numerous internet forums I concluded he was right. Certain Brother formats appear to be totally unique. I think they actually spin the disk at a different speed or something, so it literally can’t be mounted in any form without custom hardware. It’s like they went out of their way to screw me.

I finally knuckled under and shelled out the bucks for professional data recovery. I went with Pivar Computing Services out of Buffalo Grove, Illinois. They’re just about the only folks in the country who can handle my particular format. Actually, there seems to be only one guy left, Scott, and he’s fixing to close shop. He said they spent two and a half years in the late ’80s to reverse engineer over 100 Brother models. Back then Pivar had 30 employees, now just Scott. I gather they are still using those custom machines they made twenty years ago, because they’re slow. It takes 90 minutes to convert a 240KB disk. Anyway, he gave me a decent bulk discount, so I ponied up and mailed him the disks. I insured them for $1,000 in hopes they wouldn’t get lost in transit.

Then I waited.

I just got the data back. There’s 357 files from 14 disks — letters, journal entries, poetry, fiction, and weird fragments — 2.6 MB in Rich Text Format. There are no time and date stamps, but all the stuff seems to have been written between ’88 and ’92. They range in length from a 5,000 word first chapter of a novel (unfinished, natch) to the extreme brevity of the poem below. I’m not sure exactly what I’m going to with all this text, though I have some ideas. All I can say is it’s been worth every penny in terms of recovering a lost chunk of my life and memory. I thought I’d share the excitement by posting up three samples here.

Without further ado then, a short poem, which enjoys the distinction of having a title almost as long as the poem itself.

Camera lenses leech-like sucking life from Christmas smiles

Ah. Worth every penny. More to come.

Pho Bo to Go

I didn’t get a chance to post yesterday because I was sick. I’m feeling better now, but I was down with some kind of bug for about a day and a half. It was pretty low-grade, with nausea and fatigue as the only symptoms. I missed some work, but still managed to make it to a few neighborhood meetings. Tuesday morning was a breakfast confab with Friends of New Orleans. I was only feeling the vaguest onset of illness at that point — burping a lot. Went to bed early that night with hardly any supper. Wednesday morning, another breakfast meeting, this one with Dr. Jacob Wagner to discuss the implications of the draft Master Plan’s suggested land use designations. I was definitely not feeling my best then. I went home afterward and slept all day. Come night, I managed to make it to one more meeting, to look at a zoning waiver being requested by a bakery/mini-grocery business that wants to open just around the corner. It’s crazy having all these meetings, but when it rains it pours. I haven’t been to such meetings in weeks if not months and now all of a sudden, blam, four in three days.

After not having eaten hardly anything for 36 hours, my appetite was finally returning. I got some pho bo to go (I love saying that) from Doson’s, and that was just what the proverbial doctor ordered. I knew I was feeling better this morning at about 5:15 AM when I went across the street and asked a guy sitting in his pickup to please turn his music down because we were trying to sleep. He was so drunk it was frightening to think of him driving around in that vehicle. He was also quite apologetic, once I was able to even get him to focus on me.

Today’s Holy Thursday, a staff holiday, so I’m home again filing taxes and generally cleaning the house and trying to redeem myself in Xy’s eyes for being in absentia on the parenting front. Leftover pho bo for lunch — yum!

At the Meeting

Here we go again, I thought, as I sat down at the MCNO meeting last night. Once again New Orleanians are being asked to engage the planning process.

But, in fairness, this time is different. This is for the New Orleans Master Plan, which will have the force of law. And another thing that’s different: Many of us have been through the wringer already. We’re tired, but we’re also wiser and savvier to how these things work. We have a clearer idea of what we want.

So it’s not really 2006 all over again. Back then we were all so shell-shocked. We were scared and bewildered. How did find the strength to carry on through all the devastation? For some of us the planning process was like a lifeline, a dream to believe, a dream of a better future. We threw ourselves into that process heart and soul and spent thousands of hours on it.

It kept us going. And now we know what we want out of the planning process. And this time, it’s for keeps.

Last night’s meeting was to focus on the new Master Plan first draft which has been released by Goody Clancy for public review and comment. Even though this was not the official District 4 meeting, a representative from Goody Clancy was there, and also someone from the City Planning Commission.

We had a quick review of Mid-City’s previous planning efforts, and it did my heart good to hear language from that first draft we formulated three years ago, language which made its way into the final draft of the Lambert Plan. “The recovery of Mid-City should be just, humane and democratically controlled by the people of Mid-City.” When that line was cited, a guy in a priest collar sitting next to me snorted, “What does that mean?” I wasn’t sure if he was simply being rhetorical or not, so I asked him: “Would you like me to explain it to you?” He said he would, so I simply said, “It means the process should be controlled by us and not some distant politician.” He said that sounded reasonable.

Things got off to a rocky start, when not one but two folks from Liuzza’s attacked MCNO president Jennifer Weisshaupt about the Victory development. I was frankly disgusted by their blatantly hostile approach. They seemed to be ignorant of the facts, but out for blood nonetheless, and of course they weren’t even speaking to the topic at hand. I have enjoyed frequenting Liuzza’s in the past, but it will probably be a long time before I can muster up any enthusiasm for eating there again.

After that the meeting proceeded in a slightly more sane fashion. The primary focus of attention was the proposed land use map, which shows the bulk of Mid-City as “low-density multi-family,” designated by a brown color. Many people in the audience seemed to feel “one and two family residential,” shown on the map in orange, was a more appropriate designation. There was plenty of confusion. Planners seem to speak their own special language that most of us don’t quite understand. Some people seemed to think the plan called for rebuilding the housing projects in Mid-City. Other folks spoke in defense of increased density. There was plenty of talk about brown and orange. Sparks flew occasionally. But for the most part I got the sense that the planners were listening to the people and will revise accordingly. Of course we’ll just have to see what they come back with in the next draft. It’s clear to me that people in Mid-City, at least, are engaged in the process, paying attention and trying to understand, and that’s key.

Naturally, one of my main concerns is the Lafitte Corridor. The draft maps do not indicate the correct full length of the planned greenway. Happily, the planners were already aware of this deficiency, and said so. Maybe they read my e-mail.

I left after an hour and a half. Apparently the meeting went on for another 90 minutes after that.

The official District 4 review meeting is April 22nd, 6:00PM, at Jesuit.