Friday, August 15, 2008

New Orleans Blues

Po-boy Views
Phil LaMancusa
Rhapsody In Blue
Monday we got together for farewell cocktails with Robert, who has moved back to The City of Angels. Tuesday we met at Claire’s to wish Nita happy Birthday, she stayed for a few days after the storm and her cat made it, she’s staying for now. Thursday, Matt the cook, from down the block, came by to tell us that he’s going back to (don’t call it ‘Frisco) San Francisco. Friday at May Bailey’s we said goodbye to Bea, who is moving to New Mexico. Larry’s in from Saint Louis, but, he’s going back.
People that have moved back are moving away again, maybe this time for good. The first cook at Muriel’s is moving because he can’t find an affordable place for his family to live. It’s a damn shame.
Mba-kayere is a Sudanese word whispered in the dark, a mantra if you will. It is a survivor’s word of exhalation. When screaming Arabs waving scimitars are coming at you in your dreams; and hunchbacks, lepers, amputees and aliens of all descriptions have come out of their secret hiding spaces to watch the fun… When ‘no one speaks English and everything’s broken’… When you lose both chimneys, roofing siding, gutters and a big ass tree is occupying space on your upstairs front porch where you sat last night…
When the levees vomit into your city and “when the levees break…Mama you got to move”. When you’ve commandeered a car after six days and get the hell out of Dodge with seven critters and three nervous wrecks of human beings, you can rightfully say Mba-kayere---I am passed over.
But is being spared enough? People that I know are not/have not evacuated…they’ve evaporated. Do I know what it means to miss New Orleans?
I joke with people who don’t know or suddenly, without warning I start regurgitating my frustration and my rage. The sandbox has gotten smaller, but it’s still a sandbox.
Here’s what I tell people before they slowly back away --- I still need to lock my doors, my bike and my inner most feelings. What’s for dinner, even almost a year later, is what my local grocery store can get in. Not having a car is claustrophobic and I won’t be able to fully breathe until I have a way out of a place that I never before could conceive I would want to leave. I’m just now catching up on making my living space comfortable enough to live in, and it’s dangerous again to be out in the streets without a Sherman Tank.
I used to think that it was funny that, when you went into a restaurant and asked for the non-smoking section, the waiter removed the ashtray from the table and told you to sit down. Now I want to scream: “THIS IS NO JOKE!!”
This city is a logic vacuum. No matter what you may think or say that comes close to logic is swallowed into nothingness, like the dreams that you had where you were screaming and nothing comes out, where you’re running and your feet won’t move, where the Arabs with scimitars are breathing down your neck. And you suddenly woke up. And your dream faded into nothingness. And you wonder what it was that troubled your sleep, certainly it was nothing logical.
And just to speak into that vacuum let’s try these out; and you know this is no post K bandwagon that I’m jumping on. Those of you (both of you) that have been reading me for the last six years know that I’ve been saying things like this for years:
Why do we have murders, muggings and armed robberies and no one has considered gun control? Are we afraid that we’re gonna piss off some dirt bag that wants us to believe that there is any reason to own a working assault rifle?
I guess that maybe gun control is too logical, besides, it would take away from my right to own a gun so that I could defend myself against some dirt bag that wants to murder, mug or armed rob me. Now why didn’t I think of that?
Or how about this one: we can’t bring back over half of our citizens because there’s no place to live. That’s BS. There are plenty of places to live, but try to find one that you can afford and that becomes a different ball of wax. I know people that came back from evacuation to find their stuff on the street and their apartment rented to FEMA. I know people who’s rent was doubled and they were evicted and their space rented to a FEMA family, forcing them to go to FEMA to find a place to live. Here on Royal St. there was a business that was paying over $5,000.00 a month rent, they left because of the storm and the storm ruined their store. With the repairs not finished even into November, the land lord told them that he needed September, October and November’s rent and that come December to be prepared to pay rent of at least $7,000.00 Now with this type of activity abounding, does it sound too logical to consider some form of tenants rights or rent control? I guess so.
San Francisco has raised it’s minimum wage to $8.50 an hour. San Francisco is doing fine. We voted a couple of years ago to up ours by a buck (yes we did, we voted for it!) IT NEVER HAPPENED and we complain about our poverty level.
Well, our citizens are coming back, our children are tap dancing in the streets again, our hustlers are working their corners again and our populace complain about the garbage as they throw their trash and cigarette butts into our streets. And when you take this rhapsody as the pulse of our city maybe we deserve to flat line. I don’t think so. My porch light is always on to keep away the boogey men. My street is kept cleaned. I walk home at night praying that one of the statistics of street crime tomorrow won’t be me, and when I’m home, and when I wake up in the morning and when the weather report doesn’t mention a storm…. Mba-kayere.

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