Friday, August 15, 2008

'K' First Year in New Orleans

Po-boy Views
Phil LaMancusa
The Long Black Line
A Very Merry Un- Birthday
In essence this article is a time capsule. What happens is this: at the time of this writing, it is July 27th, the August issue of Where Y’at comes out next Tuesday (Aug. 1), and I’m writing about the events of last year’s tragedy and travesties. Some time in the future, I’m going to reread what I’m writing now and wonder what the hell I was thinking. Welcome to my world. There’s one issue out, this rant is due to hit the stands and I’m on a deadline for another a month from now. Do I ever sound confused to you? You should see it from the inside.
So, I’m sending you a one-year anniversary card, in advance, hoping it will get to you, on the occasion of that that will not be named. This is not a Happy Birthday card. At this point, I am hard pressed to find a happy person that lived through IT and lives here now. I’m not sure how the displaced feel.
Today’s headline, page one, reports: “Mayor finally breaks post-election silence”. (Your mayor was re-elected in May). In the third paragraph of the article it says: “…with the most devastated areas showing few sign of life and even the most resilient neighborhoods still dogged by crime, debris and shuttered stores, Nagin said that the city is becoming safer, cleaner and economically healthier by the day”. You be the judge.
As of today, as I see it, our previous post K woes and concerns have not been assuaged . As of today the police are still supplemented by the Guard and State Police. Guns and drugs remain in the news.
On the economic front: In the French Quarter, walking from coffee to work (five blocks) I pass no fewer than sixteen businesses abandoned, shuttered, empty and failed. I’ve seen new businesses open and fail and leave. Many shops cannot open seven days a week, as previously the norm, because of the lack of customers and staff.
Staffing is a challenge. Why? Two reasons: two thirds of the city is still decimated and rents go unregulated. This month I was given the option of moving or paying double my rent, this was a less than three-week notice. I am not an isolated occurrence.
Does the administration have the authority to institute rent control and tenant’s rights measures. You bet your sweet ass it does. Did it? Ask the people that have been evicted for the landlord’s shot at more lucrative prospects.
We’re asking people to come back to $10.00 an hour jobs and telling them that the only housing available is beyond their financial reach.
How’s our school system coming along? Last week it announced that the rigorous teacher qualification process took too much time so they’re going for short cuts. Has anyone thought of suing the school system for failing to do it’s job for the last thirty years? Probably not smart enough.
We stayed for six days after the storm because we had parked at the Krauss lot (fifth level) that took too much water to drive through and because we weren’t going without our critters. Our generation has a deep-seated distrust of organized government so, we did not want to be rescued and sent to some refuge “of last resort”. Does anyone remember the phrase (in another language) from another refuge of last resort: “Work Will Set You Free”?
We live in the Quarter. Half of a big tree came down on our own refuge. We lost gutters, siding, chimneys and roof tiles. We were the lucky ones. We went through six days of flooding, fires, looting, death and warm beer. We went to sleep by gunshot sounds; explosions awakened us. We sewed money into our clothes. We commandeered a car. We were scared shitless.
Through the processes of car returns and rental car juggling, a week after our evacuation we were rolling into San Francisco. There before us was the skyline of the true Oz. We had talked on the way of relocation to this great city.
We’re driving in, the radio is playing a benefit for New Orleans musicians.
They play “Do You Know What IT Means To Miss New Orleans?” And we lose it.
Don’t get me wrong, we had a great time out west. We were treated like royalty. We drove to Monterey to do Laundry, we visited Santa Cruz to shop for groceries, and we had lunch in Mill Valley just up the road from Sausalito on the bay. We had lovely two-bedroom kitchenette motel digs on the Pacific Ocean. We watched the updates from New Orleans like news junkies and believe me, a transistor radio in the dark on Dauphine St. paled by comparison to our West Coast telly. I had cold beer.
We came back as soon as we heard that the city was reopened. We came back to streets of refrigerators, coffin flies, decomposed matter and water that smelled like bleach.
We got jobs; we opened a small, but perfect, cookbook shop. We have the Katrina cough or whatever you want to call it. We find it hard to keep up our spirits. At times I feel as though I’m being punished for coming back to the city that I love.
Debbie said that not coming back would have been like “leaving your dying mother”. I claimed that not coming back was more like deserting your home team just because they had gotten their butts kicked. We’re not as upbeat now.
I think that the one-year mark will signal the return to something better than what we were OR the anniversary of our discontent.
I don’t know. You’re the one that’s going to be reading this (hopefully) on the milestone occasion. From where I sit today, it don’t look too promising. Please, please tell me that I was wrong.
Oh, P.S. Another headline today “Corps: We can’t be held liable.” Figure that one out. See you in September.

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