Tuesday, December 12, 2006

But we don't have a drink called the Typhoon. . .or red headed step-child. . . .

Hi all,
First let me say thanks to all of you who sent birthday greetings last week. It was much appreciated, and for those of you who sent snail mail cards, don't despair, they'll get here. Maybe it will be January but they will arrive. Mail service here is still hit or miss. Sometimes we get mail two days in a row, then nothing for days, but eventually things do show up. Priority Mail to New Orleans can take as long as two weeks to arrive here, so please, if you sent something, don't think we're unappreciative. We might not have gotten it yet. I'm not doing my usual Christmas this year. I'm only sending to my grandson and daughter and anything that we sent we had shipped from the place we bought it. Online shopping! The only way to go at the moment.

We've been thinking about a lot of things, so this will probably be a little disjointed. Forewarned is forearmed, they say. Consider yourself forewarned.

One thing we've been thinking about is Mardi Gras. The arguments surrounding do we do it or do we not do it are astonishing. There is the racial issue, which can seem insurmountable in just about any discussion of anything at the moment. There are truly some valid points on all sides, but the Mardi Gras issues are really something. Our mayor, whom I have mostly liked, really screwed up this week by saying in Atlanta that he didn't think we should have Mardi Gras this year but that the tourism industry people said it had to happen. Um, YUP, they're right, Mayor Nagin. The police, underfunded and understaffed, are saying they can't patrol Mardi Gras as it has been since there's no money for overtime, so apparently some agreement has been made that all the krewes will parade on the same route (not standard, but workable). Okay, phew. Now come the weird arguments:

1. We shouldn't do Mardi Gras because for decades it was segregated (true, absolutely) and it sends the wrong message to the displaced citizens of color that only white returnees are welcome. These people seem to ignore the fact that Zulu, one of the super krewes is in negotiations now re:their route and will parade. I do hope the city lets them go into the Treme as is customary, because it's needed. For those of you not from here, Zulu is a huge mostly Afro-American krewe that started out as a parody of white krewes and has become one of the premiere krewes in Mardi Gras, and the Treme is an historic black cultural area. Without Zulu, it just wouldn't be Mardi Gras, and they appear to be coming back which leads to the next weird argument.

2. We shouldn't do Mardi Gras because it sends the wrong message to the country that we're all down here partying on the bodies of the perished. New Orleans needs to continue moving forward. That doesn't just mean getting tourists back here (although that's needed and is indeed happening slowly but surely). It doesn't just mean cleaning debris up and rebuilding houses. It doesn't just mean re-opening businesses and doing what we can do to keep existing small businesses viable (a real problem since SBA loans are taking so long and the employees can't come home with no where to live until FEMA trailers show up). Of COURSE all of that needs to be done and it will be done. It will take time. In the meantime, though, we have to psychologically change this city. This is a very sad, very tired, very depressed citizenry at the moment. The culture of New Orleans is something that everyone here is hoping to retain because without it we might as well become Atlanta or Tampa or someplace other than New Orleans. Our collective psyche needs Mardi Gras. Everyone has worked hard and is continuing to. You see people everywhere digging through their stuff, gutting their houses, standing on their rooftops fixing the roof. While Mardi Gras may not be "normal" in any other city, it IS normal here, and we need a dose of normal.

Meanwhile, as everyone argues about Mardi Gras, Grey Line Tours has started tours of the devastated areas. At least that's what we heard. This wouldn't necessarily be as tasteless as it sounds IF the money was going to help the areas being toured and IF it showed people that parts of this city still aren't anywhere near what they were four months ago. There are so many people who think things are back to business as usual here. If those taking the tour would act as ambassadors when they returned to their hometowns, great. BUT I fear that is NOT what will happen and it will just be more horrible exploitation with Grey Line making money.

We went to some friends' house the other night. They were determined to have a Christmas tree this year, so over we went to help decorate it. There were about nine of us, til David showed up after work. We wound up with a tree covered in ornaments that they'd had for a long time that had sentimental value, along with ornaments made from various pieces of an MRE (well, except for the one that Churchill the glorious bulldog ate! It was MRE wheat bread with beads glued to it and he, apparently, is the only creature I know that likes it.), and instead of tinsel, it was strewn with Mardi Gras beads. It is a beautiful tree, and a shining symbol of hope, as hokey as that sounds. Just the act of DOING it was hopeful. And we avoided a huge vet bill for Churchill after a panic over the probability of his having eaten the wire we had used to hang the bread, so all was better than well with the universe.

The next day I went through all of our ornaments from storage. The tin can they were in is a rust bucket and the water still in the can was extraordinary. I do have some words of wisdom for you. Never ever wrap your ornaments in colored tissue paper, particularly red. I have an elf that started out with a little blue jacket and shoes on. He's plastic or resin, something like that. With the red stain of the paper, he's now quite a showy guy. His pants are orange and his jacket and shoes are purple! I have a porcelain angel that survived, but she looks like she's spent entirely too much time in the sun. I saved some, and others are still in the "maybe" column, but at least they weren't all wiped out. Aside from the tissue paper advice, make sure you pack anything that matters to you in tupperware! It will float and keep the water out. It took me about 6 hours to slog through all the tissue paper in that can and clean each one to see if it was salvage pile or trash pile. The ones that made it will be treasured, even though they are few. They are drying in front of the heater right now, then they'll go to stage two sorting. If we can keep the mold off of the wooden ones, we'll be good!

We think we should sell New Orleans to Japan. ::::::::::::::::::::Can you all say LEFT FIELD?????::::::::::::::::::::::::Think about it, folks. As the Japanese say, "You won the war, but we won the peace." Japan, as you know, is tiny. It's an island. It has typhoons, which are the Pacific version of a hurricane. No evacuation routes to Atlanta or Memphis or Texas. Where are they going to go? No where. So they have put together a remarkable system of floodgates and levees to protect their highly populated, heavily urban cities. While FEMA goes on and on about should we rebuild near our coastal cities, Japan is surrounded by coast line, and they manage. I was reading an article about a typhoon a year ago or so, and there were some deaths, three I think. Why can't we manage that? I believe it's a question of will.

There are flood plains in the Midwest. There are fault lines in California. Do we just say that anywhere a catastrophic brush fire is probable there should be no building--certainly no REbuilding. No one blinked an eye when New York needed help. No one blinked an eye after the San Francisco earthquake in 1989. I do not remember a discussion about whether or not to rebuild. And we're certainly not booting people out of tornado alley. "So sorry, this is your home but the insurance companies and we, the other citizens of the country feel it's just entirely too dangerous and expensive to rebuild here, so you need to relocate to.. . . . ." Canada maybe? I imagine they have their weather problems there too. Fact is New Orleans is not recognized for her Port, which is extremely important to the nation's economy. Louisiana, and the entire Gulf Coast, is viewed as the red-headed step-child of this country. Nothing but decadent rich white people throwing beads and eating etouffe or criminally oriented impoverished black people live in New Orleans. At least that seems to be the perception. So now the battle rages over whether to rebuild, where to rebuild, and who's going to pay for it. (Don't get me started on the thieves who call themselves the insurance industry.)

Screw it. Louisiana has been bought and sold more than any other state historically. Let's just sell it to the Japanese. Get their engineers in here, along with some from Venice, Italy and the Netherlands. They'll fix these levees, which have to be the first order of business, and I bet they'd do it right.

Of course we'd have to keep the Calle's and the Rue's for historical accuracy. Rue Royal Tokyo. Rue St. Louis Amsterdam. Rue Bourbon Venezia. We can do this. And we'll just have Pat O'Brien's start serving Typhoons, instead of Hurricanes.

Love and Light and forgive the rant,
Bec and David


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