Offerings to the Frog God

Frog Offering

There’s a house in our neighborhood with a large frog sculpture mounted to the exterior, such that it appears to be climbing up the side of the house. When we pass by my daughter likes to point the frog out, wave, say “ribbit,” etc.

(Imagine my surprise when I learned the house and, presumably, the frog, are owned by friends. Small world.)

A couple days ago, when we got home, Persephone dug out a toy frog and insisted on making a pilgrimage back to the frog house. Intrigued, I walked there with her. I was curious to see what she would do.

When we got there, she simply held the toy frog up to the big frog on the house. It was as if she was introducing them, or perhaps offering the smaller frog as a tribute to the bigger amphibian, an offering or sacrifice to the frog deity.

Yesterday she did it again.

All hail the frog god. Or maybe it’s a goddess? With frogs it’s hard to tell.

Spontaneous Public Sculpture

Lafitte Corridor

This sculpture mysteriously appeared on the Lafitte Corridor last week, just in time for the Urban Pathways conference tour. I was surprised and touched. It’s worth nothing that Friends of Lafitte Corridor did not solicit or commission this sculpture, though in retrospect I’m pretty sure I know who made it. It is, quite simply, yet another indication of the community’s desire for the greenway project to move forward.

Revitalization

[Photos by Joseph Brock]

Samedi Blues

Baron Samedi (encre et crayons de couleurs)

Baron Samedi (encre et crayons de couleurs) by Cecily Devil / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Looking back, I realize we had only four Samedi Gras parties at our old house. It seems like more, because we lived there for seven years. Plus, we always did it up big. A keg of beer. Serious home-cooked food — usually jambalaya, though I think I made gumbo one year. And live music.

We bought that house in 2002, but Endymion was relocated Uptown in 2003 because of the (re)construction of the streetcar line on Canal. So, no party that year.

So we had our first party in 2004. As far as I know this was the first and last live performance by Phantasmagore.

Then we had one in 2005. Our special musical guest was Rabbit Hatch.

Skip a couple years, as Endymion was relocated Uptown again.

We were back on in 2008. I had a sprained ankle and Xy was just as pregnant as could be. Killowatt Rising played, a full-on electric rock band, and the party was showcased on the front cover of the Times-Picayune’s Inside Out.

I didn’t think anything could top that, but then we had our final party in 2009. We didn’t know it was the final party at the time. Still, it was very special. Herbie Jo Johnson provided the musical entertainment. My parents came down for their first Carnival ever. Best of all, our girl’s first birthday fell on the same date.

So at least we finished strong.

Now we’ve moved. We’re still in Mid-City, but everything is different. We’re no longer so close to the parade route. And we aren’t having a party this year.

What to do? I’m not really a fan of Endymion per se. I love the festive atmosphere the parade generates. It feels like the only time that Carnival comes to our neighborhood. but I’m not really into the parade itself. It is the biggest and gaudiest of the Carnival parades, but I don’t find its aesthetic compelling, and frankly if you’ve seen it once you’ve seen it a thousand times. That’s why I enjoyed having htat party every year. It gave me something to do instead of watching the parade.

I guess maybe we’ll make it to a couple of other people’s parties. And maybe my daughter will be excited by the parade.

The whole prospect has got me feeling sort of blue. The day seems to have a different character in different parts of Mid-City. Some of my neighbors have been discussing problems on Orleans Avenue that are positively hair-raising:

Now, I’m as eager as the next guy to celebrate the roll of Endymion, but this has escalated into a problem of mass proportions. The practice of parking cube vans in the area, filled with kegs and ice, has increased exponentially. These vans are often used as makeshift port-a-potties once empty. You don’t even want to know what that’s like. There are fights, there is property damage, there is urination on houses and in alleys. In a surprising twist last year, this element added a new level of public indecency: couples having sex both on the neutral ground on the night before and in the surrounding blocks the day of. I kid you not. This has not just gotten out of control. It’s a plague. If it’s not enough to just be pushed out of sitting on the parade route, this litany of offenses has mounted to unprecedented levels. Imagine Bourbon St without all the pesky laws and controls.

Back at our old place we didn’t have those issues. The crowds would be thinner but still substantial.

I am missing our old ‘hood a bit today.

Overheard at the Playground

Serpent Mound

Yesterday afternoon I stopped by the playground on the Jeff Davis neutral ground with my daughter. We approached Serpent Mound at the same time as a trio of kids in elementary school uniforms.

I noticed the youngest child, a girl with a withered arm, was crying. I asked if she was OK. One of the other children, a boy just a few years older, said, “I slapped her.”

“Why did you do that?”

“I’m her brother,” he said, as if that explained everything. Maybe it did.

The third child, who appeared to be the older sister, was picked up the younger girl and gave her some advice: “Grandma says if someone slaps you, you gotta slap them right back.” And she pushed her sister toward her brother, but she wouldn’t engage him.

Is this indicative of the deadly violence so deeply ingrained in our culture? Or is it just harmless playground fun?

Today is the Strike Against Crime organized by SilenceIsViolence. Please take a moment to “find some way to step outside your normal daily routine, to express the toll violence takes” on all of us.

Tale of a Burned Out Car

Here’s something I observed a few weeks ago, but am only finding time to write about now.

On Monday, October 26, as I took my daughter to daycare in the morning, I encountered a burned-out car on Cleveland near South Salcedo Street.

Burned-Out Car

I used to see burned-out cars on the streets of our neighborhood with alarming frequency. I always found them compelling artifacts, symbolic somehow of the state of our society. Even so they are disturbing, ugly, and dangerous — and once they appear, they often remain for way too long.

Auto Interior

Happily, this phenomenon seemed to wane after Katrina. I can’t remember the last time I saw such a car. When I saw this one, I sighed. I guess things are getting back to normal. But I also made a mental note to grab my camera.

So on Wednesday, October 28, I passed by again and took some pictures. Imagine my surprise when I saw that this car had been tagged by the city the day before.

Official Notice

But here’s the real kicker. When I passed by again on the morning of Monday, November 2, the car was gone!

I should note that it must have been torched over the weekend before I first spotted it, say October 24 or 25. That means it only took the city two or three days to tag the vehicle, and another few days to actually tow it away.

Note also that this vehicle was in front of an abandoned house on a block without many residents, a place one might expect the city to neglect.

People are often very critical of our city government and our current administration in particular. I myself have been known to gripe on occasion. Perhaps my expectations have been lowered, but this struck me as an instance of something actually working correctly. I thought it was only appropriate to give the city some props.

Using Flickr for Neighborhood Activism

Some of my neighbors have been bickering, er, I mean debating about Comiskey Park here in Mid-City. The basketball goals that used to be there were taken down when an television production company made plans to rebuild the park for a reality show. That didn’t pan out in the long run, and the park was left in a worse state than ever because of it.

But back to those basketball goals. Some neighbors don’t want them back up, and some do. Both factions have conducted informal polls and claimed results that support their positions. As the rhetoric ratcheted up, the legitimacy of these polls was called into question.

I don’t want to get caught up in the debate though. Rather I wanted to cite how one neighbor, Joseph Brock, has responded. He’s created a Flickr account specifically for this issue. He printed out signs stating the pro-basketball position. Then he went around and used his cameraphone to take pictures of various neighbors holding the signs, and posted those pictures directly to Flickr. Check out the photostream. It’s simple, powerful, effective and cheap.

I’m quite impressed.

Moved

With help from over twenty friends and neighbors we knocked our move out in just over four and a half hours. I’m still totally amazed by that. It must be a new world record.

Many thanks to everyone who lent a hand.

So now we are in our new house unpacking. And unpacking. And unpacking… I have heard many stories from people who are still living out of boxes months after their move — or even a year or more later. Those are horror stories to me. We’ve always done a good job of unpacking quickly, but we’ve never had a toddler to look after. She does complicate things.

Creep Factor

Here’s a nasty tale of corporate intrigue.

First, check out this editorial from the Urban Conservancy about the Walgreens which is being built at Carrollton and Canal. I used to serve on the board of the Urban Conservancy, as well as Mid-City Neighborhood Organization; I was contacted for input on the editorial but can’t take credit for much.

Next, read this account of a follow-up meeting between the executive director of UC, the president of MCNO, and Walgreens’ legal counsel. Those two ladies are both people I admire, and I’m proud to call them friends. I’m outraged and disgusted that they were subject to such tactics.

How can Walgreens possibly condone this?

Date Nite

Last night for the first time ever we left our daughter with a babysitter and had a fun night out on the town.

Actually it was a double date. We went over to Sue and Steve’s house just as the babysitter Althea arrived. (Not to be confused with my former co-worker, this Althea has done a lot of babysitting for Sue and Steve’s two boys.) She took Persephone from my arms right there on the sidewalk. When she went in the house, Sue suggested Xy and I not even go inside, so we didn’t. I was worried Persephone would have a meltdown when we left, but this way there was no drama.

Soon we were sitting down at Crescent City Steak House. I ordered a Negroni for a preprandial apéritif. (I guess that’s redundant.) I had to explain the ingredients to the waitress. Steve said he’d take one as well. Unfortunately the bartender didn’t seem to know this drink, so we got them on the rocks and garnished with lemon, but it was still pretty good. We all got rib eyes and shared a bottle of Malbec, and I had coffee and cognac for desert.

After dinner we walked down Broad to the Zulu HQ, where there was a fundraiser for Morris Jeff Community School, a public school that’s planning to open next year in our neighborhood. I’d never been to Zulu before, so that was a treat in and of itself, but even better, my favorite New Orleans musician Kermit Ruffins was playing.

I didn’t have my camera with me, but here’s a picture I took of Kermit seven years ago:

Kermit

We had a couple drinks at the club and enjoyed the music. I ran into a number of people I knew. In fact I saw a few friends at the steakhouse as well, all of which added to the convivial spirit of the evening.

Pretty soon it was all over. We headed back, retrieved the girl, who seemed to have had a fine time, and went home to bed. All in all, a great evening. A restorative evening. I thought leaving our daughter with a babysitter would be more a more worry-fraught proposition, but it was all extremely smooth and relaxing. Hooray!

Update: My friend Robert Caldwell reminded me that a Negroni is indeed traditionally served on the rocks. My bad. The classic garnish is supposed to be a burnt orange, but I didn’t really expect that.

A Pile of Frustrations

It’s been three weeks since the Lutheran Invasion, but there’s still a pile of four-year-old flooded junk in front of the house next door.

Pile

Don’t blame the Lutherans for this mess. Blame the Preservation Resource Center. Blame Operation Comeback.

I was so excited when my neighbor donated his house to this program, so looking forward to some positive activity there. And I do hold out hope that ultimately they will make the situation better, once they get the house renovated and sold to a first-time homebuyer.

But in the meantime they’ve actually made our living situation worse. Our houses are so close together this pile is practically on our front steps. It’s moldy and stinky and nasty and gross. It spills into the street, making it difficult to park our car. I’ve had to shovel the pile off the street back on to itself. Some mirrors and panes of glass that were intact have gotten broken. Neighbors have thrown their garbage on top of the pile, somewhat offset by the pilfering of items from the pile. I’m not sure who would want this water-damaged furniture but I believe I saw some pieces end up on a neighbor’s porch. The pile is actually getting smaller.

I had to warn some kids yesterday that climbing around on and playing the pile is really not a good idea. Our former neighbor, Chastity, stopped by yesterday and took some old vinyl records from the pile. The sleeves were ruined but the records themselves appeared to be in good shape. Today she stopped by and let us know that “some of those records are 200 years old!”

I’ve been in regular communication with the PRC about this problem. They assure me they’re working on it.

Not fast enough for me.

Update: August 18: The pile of crap was removed , hooray at last. Nothing left but broken glass.

Lutheran Invasion

There’s some 37,000 Lutheran kids volunteering in the city of New Orleans this summer. I was surprised to discover approximately half of them working next door Saturday morning.

Lutherans

I think they were mostly from New Jersey.

Their project: gutting Craig’s house. Craig was our next door neighbor, but he’s now living in Texas. He never returned after Katrina, except to remove some of his possessions, most of which were destroyed by the floodwaters.

I talked to him on the phone a couple months ago, expressing my concern about the continuing deterioration of his property, especially with regard to how it was affecting us and the quality of life on the block.

Lo and behold, he agreed to donate his house to a worthy cause, if only I could find one. I asked around, and some folks I respect recommended the Preservation Resource Center’s Operation Comeback. They acquire homes, renovate them, and sell them to first-time home buyers.

I hadn’t mentioned any of this this publicly before because I didn’t want to jinx the deal. I knew Craig might have a hard time letting go of his place. After all, one gets attached to a building after living in it for a couple decades.

But apparently the deal went through. Way to go, Craig.

Which brings us back to those Lutherans.

Inside

I had never seen the inside of Craig’s house before, yet still it brought back memories — memories of cleaning out our own house back in ’05.

The space between our house and Craig’s was filled with weeds twelve feet high or higher, not to mention a variety of shrubs, trees and other plants. No lie — were able to look up at the weeds from our second story window.

Deforestation

These Lutheran volunteers made short work of it in a single morning.

(By the way, these are ELCA kids. I was raised LCMS. The doctrinal differences between these two Lutheran denominations are “a source of great sadness.”)

I was amazed to see there was still so much furniture in the house.

Whoa

I had thought most everything had been removed. This was some nice furniture once upon a time. It was kind of sad to see it sitting on the curb. I rescued an incense holder from the pile. But it surely made me happy to see some progress on this house. The restoration of this property could have a huge positive effect on this block.

Close Encounter

I had just dropped Xy & Persephone off at the house of some friends and run a few errands. I stopped back at the house to take care of a few things. I was surprised to find a cop car parked in the middle of the street and an officer standing nearby.

I parked my car, a little further from the house than usual because the cop was blocking the way. As I walked past, I asked, “You looking for someone?” He replied in the affirmative and waved me on.

I went inside and checked my e-mail. Read a few, sent a few. I was feeling like lying down in bed and having a good cry, finding the revelations of the past few days somewhat overwhelming, but first I decided to go out back and take care of a chore, namely bagging up some old screen frames with peeling paint.

I opened the back door and started to step outside when I saw something that made me freeze in my tracks.

It was somebody’s shoulder, in a black tee shirt.

That was all I saw, but it was enough. I retreated into the house and locked the door and went back upstairs. By the time I got to the front of the house to confirm the cops were no longer there (they weren’t) I had already dialed 911.

Soon the cops were back. I was sitting on the front steps. The cops had their guns drawn. I told them where the guy was. Peeking around the corner I could see he was still there. He must have either jumped our gate or climbed over the neighbor’s fence.

Our gate was locked, with the key inside the house. I explained that to one of the cops, and he asked, “Could you expedite that, please?” So I got the key and unlocked the gate and the cops went through.

Next thing they’ve got the guy with his hands in the air, and then in cuffs.

I kept my distance, not particularly interested in letting this guy see me, but that meant I couldn’t see him too well either. He was a black male with a fauxhawk haircut, wearing a black tee shirt that said “Bienville” on the back. When I described him to Debra later she said, “Oh yeah, he’s one of the guys who hangs around on the corner, meaning Bienville and Gayoso, I think.

When I asked one of the cops what it was all about, I was told, “He beat somebody up.” And since he trespassed on my property, would I be interested in pressing charges? I said I didn’t think so.

After that I went over to our friends’ house and had a good stiff drink.

Perhaps it is time to move.

Testify

My neighborhood organization alerted me to the fact that a bunch of properties in Mid-City were coming up for code enforcement hearings. I noticed that 3016 Bienville was on the list. (I wrote a letter to Code Enforcement about this property back in April.) My neighborhood organization further advised me that “the city is more likely to take action against negligent owners if neighbors appear to testify.”

So I decided that I would testify. But first I had to appear, and that was trickier than I expected.

For one thing, properties are not scheduled for a specific time. Rather there is a designated period for a bunch of properties, running three hours or so, with no clue as to when a specific property will be heard.

Also, one little piece of information was missing in the message from my neighborhood organization, namely the location of the hearing. I didn’t realize this until I was almost headed out the door.

Hmm, well, surely it’s at City Hall, I thought to myself. So I jumped on my bike and rode down there. Locked up the bike. Removed my belt. (I always have to remove my belt when I go to City Hall in order to get through the metal detector.) Once inside the security checkpoint I looked at the directory and realized that Code Enforcement was actually at 1340 Poydras.

So I rode my bike over to 1340 Poydras, only a block away, and took the elevator up to the eleventh floor, where I wandered aimlessly like a lab rat for a while until someone asked me if I needed help. Oh, the code enforcement hearings? They’ve been moved to the Sheriff’s office. First time they’ve ever had them there.

And so it was that I found myself riding up Poydras to Broad Street. After a bit of tomfooolery involving the Broad Street overpass I finally found the correct building. I had to knock on a locked door to be admitted from the sidewalk, and I brought my bike right in with me. By this time I was about to melt from the heat and nearly delirious and just grateful to be out of the sun. I was in a large room with all kinds of people sitting around waiting.

I was late, and the hearing period was well underway. I checked in with a couple women sitting at a table in some sort of official capacity; they assured me that 3016 Bienville hadn’t come up yet. Luckily a guy I know from the Lakeview neighborhood organization was sharp enough to notice that they were wrong, that the hearing for this property had just started. I was ushered to an alcove around the corner where a couple of judges were sitting and talking to a contractor. Also at the table: my hero Karen Gadbois.

The judges asked for my testimony. I said something along these lines:

I live just around the corner from this house. I have here a couple of photos which I took myself. This first one is from 2007.

3016 Bienville

And this one was taken just a short time ago.

3016 Bienville

As you can see, nothing has changed except the weeds are taller. The front door is still standing wide open, and all the flooded furniture is just sitting there rotting.

So when I heard this property was on the docket, I decided I wanted to come down here and say that something needs to be done. It at least needs to be boarded up, and whoever is responsible needs to be held to account.

The contractor said he was working on the house now, that he’d put a dumpster in front and they were cleaning it out and that it would be gutted and boarded up in a couple days.

I added: “I think this house does contribute to the architectural fabric of the block, so I hope it isn’t torn down. I would like to see it renovated.”

One of the judges said she’d take a very dim view of any demolition request from the owner. They found him guilty. That’s a $500 fine, plus $500 per day if the property remains out of compliance starting 30 days from now. At least I think that’s right; I was still somewhat delirious.

Boom, that was it, I had made my testimony, and I was free to go my way. Shortly thereafter I passed by 3016 Bienville and saw that indeed there was a dumpster there and indeed it was being filled with the flooded contents of the house.

Dumpster

I saw the contractor on the front porch and I gave him the thumbs-up and congratulated him on being a man of his word. He said something, but I couldn’t hear him. I was listening to music on my headphones.

Welcome Home

Canister

When we got back from our trip Sunday, one of the first things I noticed was that damn canister is still sitting there next to the curb just a few feet from our house. The canister doesn’t directly impinge upon us, but it kind of junks up the area. I had hoped against hope that someone would have taken responsibility for disposing of this thing properly while we were gone. Alas, not the case.

(You do remember the mysterious canister, right? I wrote about it a couple months ago.)

As I was unloading the car, I happened to notice Maria Santana was visiting her rental properties. I caught her attention, pointed to the canister, and asked her: “Is that yours?”

“No.”

I shrugged and carried on about my business. On my next trip out to the car, I asked her a follow-up question: “Do you know whose it is?”

It seemed like a reasonable question to me. But she responded by biting my head off. She told me to mind my own business and dressed me down for a good minute. I could hardly get a word in edgewise, but I tried. Eventually she asked me why I would think she had anything to do with the canister. I pointed out that the canister appeared to be full of white paint, and it materialized right next to a house that she owns on the same day that it was painted white. Purely circumstantial, of course. I didn’t mention some of her tenants had fingered her as the culprit — she evicted those folks, so I could imagine her response.

She denied any wrongdoing, but she continued to yell at me so vociferously that I only tended to suspect her all the more. In any case, it became abundantly clear that she is not a very nice person. Maybe she’s still mad about her confrontation with Xy three years ago.

The canister is still there and shows no signs of moving. I really don’t know what to do about it at this point. It’s too heavy for me to move, and I don’t know where I’d take it anyway. I guess it will just sit there forever.

Hair Ideas

Hair Ideas

We were sad to see a bank repo underway at the corner of N. Rendon and Iberville. That’s the site of Hair Ideas, where I sometimes got my hair cut. I forget the name of the lady who was the proprietor. I think she also owned the building, which contains some apartments. She made a couple years of effort to bring her business back after Katrina, but I guess it wasn’t enough. I’m sorry to see this local neighborhood business go.

Here’s a picture of me after my first visit, in July of 2007. It wasn’t exactly the style I wanted, but I was still a very happy customer.

Spontaneous Haircut

Getting My Stripes

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

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.

Brock

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”

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.