Monday, July 18, 2016

Goodtime Charlie's Blues

Po Boy Views
Phil LaMancusa
Goodtime Charlie’s Blues
Let’s Eat Grandma
Blow wind blow. As you well know, New Orleans has recently gotten in waves of American immigrants. More expensive places in this country are sending disheartened, disillusioned and disenchanted ex-pats here, effectually making New Orleans now the seventh least affordable place in the country for renters. Bam! People that are poor in other places can live comfortably here, displacing those poor here that, now, can no longer afford to live here and have to move on to places where they, in turn, can afford to live.
The new refugees hail from New York, San Francisco, Boston, Chicago and even places like Portland and Seattle (where they claim to have been Cali-fornicated to suffocation), and other high toned towns. These places are losing good people due to inflated costs of living, and in the process, it’s causing our costs to become inflated as well--like a doll at a bachelor party… with the same prospects. But that’s not the point of this missive; the point of this missive is not that we’re becoming gentrified because we’re not becoming gentrified, we’re being priced out. We got trouble, right here in River City.

Think about it. What we have here is a finite number of domicidal opportunities and logic tells us that when one person moves in, it’s because another has moved (or been moved) out.
Allison and her neighbor had small studio apartments when their landlord evicted them to create short term rentals, they’re in Metairie now. Patricia lost her lease after thirty three years and now has moved to Arkansas. Jen with hubby and baby in tow are off to Ashville (her parents will follow), Kassidy and hubby are also invading North Carolina. Both Laura (around the corner) and Jacob (next door) have gone north for their residencies. Melanie and boyfriend are moving to California of all places! Every day I hear more people I know-- that have made up the fabric of what it means to be New Orleans— bidding me adieu. Businesses that I’ve relied upon are closing, resources and services cut off, buckling under economic disparities between the movers and shakers that move in and those that are simply re-moved; but that’s not the point of this missive.
The question (point) is that: considering the ‘New Orleanian’s Diaspora’—(defined as: “the dispersion of a people, language or culture that was formerly concentrated in one place”)—are Ex-New Orleanians not creating the same dispersal elsewhere? Charlotte? Georgetown? Louisville? Galveston?  “Danger, Danger, Will Robinson!”:  Austin has already fallen; I even hear that our folks are moving to Cincinnati!
I’m fortunate to have a ‘hidden gem’ of a shop in New Orleans, where I get to meet and greet people from all over the country (and the world at large); the stories are the same: it’s happening everywhere. Who are these people, having started this wave, that are leaving my friends left to wash up on other shores? By and large they’re classified as “Techies”, those folks that work from home on their computers and make living enough to pay and play here without adding much to the culture. Spectators. One of my ex-neighbors explained it thus: “they movin’ us poor folks out so much that pretty soon they gonna have to bus us in for second lines!”
E. g. usta be, creative French Quarter chefs had to move into affordable neighborhoods to build their restaurants and reputations, now, they have to move to (affordable) Arabi? The question is--- what happens to Arabi-ans when they are overrun with Orleanians? Gentrification or dispersal?
And once we’ve all left, when we abandon our (no longer) reasonably rented apartments, when we’ve sold our houses for a profit, when our job has been outsourced to Houston, where are we going to go? All the good places have been taken and taken up; Christ on a crutch, we’d have to go somewhere that has winter! Leave the country? That’s an option; however, we’ve already moved natives out of San Miguel, Placencia, Yelapa, Venice, Panama and Chiang Mai; there must be somewhere else! No, nononononono! There is no place like New Orleans; or is that: there’s no place like the New Orleans that was, the one in our memory that we came back to and stayed for?
I have long time New Orleans friends, you know, the ones who like to play the ‘ain’t dere no more’ game and a few of them opine: “wait until after the next hurricane, the next evacuation, then we’ll see!” See what? Oh, I know… all the bad guys will leave with their tails between their legs and all the good people will flock back like birds coming home to roost; giving Newark, Nyack, Norfolk and Newport News back to their displaced; give New Mexico back to the Navahos! New Orleans will return to the glory of yesteryear and we’ll all have kickass jobs, killer digs, meet ‘the one’ and live happy as crawfish in a muddy pond. Not likely. We created this monster as well as the myth that there ever was glory in our yesteryear; the thing that we cherish in our memories is fact: we were happier before. The thing that we fail to wrap our heads around is that it will never be ‘before’ again…ever. The folks that we point fingers at, telling ourselves that they are the cause of our New Orleans Blues came for the same reason we did, and now they, in fact, do live here at the cost of what we selfishly considered our way of life: dysfunctional and licentious but affordable. See?
One theory has it that humans are like a rash upon the planet, another is: “we have met the enemy and he is us”.

The Case Against Plastic

The Case Against Plastic
Phil LaMancusa
            The very first item that you need to accept is that you cannot throw plastic away. First of all, there is noaway’ for plastic; organic matter can compost and degrade and break down into other organic materials; plastic is not an organic material, it does not decompose. Wait, I’m wrong; plastics will decompose; only it takes a little longer than organics. Plastic takes 450-1,000 years to break down.  Where is plastic? Plastic is like God, plastic is everywhere. Bags, bottles, wrappings, ingredients in makeup, decorations, diapers, automobiles, furniture, clothing, kitchen appliances and tools. There are more than 500 foods-- that we know of-- that contain plastic; and no, plastic is not something that I personally want to ingest.  
            FYI: Around the world, the ocean’s currents form vortexes (called Gyres) as they pass by each other going on their merry ways, like the curves on a global ampersand. Finish that bottle of water, crumple up that burger wrapper, toss that pf30 sunscreen tube anywhere near water and where will it wind up (assuming, correctly, that plastic does not sink in water)? Correctomundo! Sooner or later.
There is a North Pacific gyre that is called “The Great Pacific Garbage Patch”, made up mostly of plastic that has gone from water system to water system until at last it comes to rest in an ocean gyre, needless to say, it is not the only “Garbage Patch”. Others are in the North Atlantic, South Atlantic, South Pacific and Indian Oceans. This one, though, is the size of Texas. It will not healthily support marine life; although, there are seers that predict self sufficient colonization and (human) independent living situations including innovative underwater skyscrapers made from ocean trash in our future on those sites.
Plastic bags are a big issue because they are not recycled and end up in landfills, waterways and the cracks and crevices of your world. California has outlawed plastic bags, New York City and Washington D.C. impose a fee on using them and although plastic bags account for no more than 15% of plastics used, environmentalists believe that this is a great start to cutting down on the world’s plastic addiction.
70% of food packaging can release chemicals that act like estrogen: these include baby bottles, deli packaging, flexible bags and even those products marked ‘BPA Free’. Now, let’s consider New Orleans with our go-cups, Styrofoam (which is made from plastic), and large super-markets that pack people’s shopping carts with more plastic bags than there are items purchased. We use plastic bags, wrappers, containers and products here like they’re dollar bills in a whore house on bargain night.
When plastic is heated, the best that scientists will state is that “it is not good for you”. Thanks guys. And yes, smokers, there’s a carcinogenic plastic in those cigarette tips; if the tobacco doesn’t get you then the filter will.
Citing that more than 160 municipalities and Hawaii have some sort of ban on plastic bags, The New Orleans Advocate reported (November 21, 2015) that City Councilwomen Susan Guidry and Latoya Cantrell introduced an ordinance that would require retailers to charge customers (with some logical exceptions) for paper and plastic bags. On March 10, 2016 the Advocate reported that the bill (#31074), indeed, would be taken up at the next legislature session by the House Committee in Municipal, Parochial and Cultural Affairs which had its first session March17 this year.
The plastics industry spends millions of $$ to keep regulation at a minimum, if at all, they don’t care if plastic is choking our planet, they’re fat cats that make mucho dinero and laughing all the way to the bank. They claim that poor people will suffer if they have to pay a fee for plastic grocery bags and neglect to mention that the price of those bags is already factored in to goods purchased; they’re argument is that it is a tax on shopping. Conscientious folk will point out that it isn’t hard to bring your own reusable bag and many companies are willing to give reusable bags away just to have the advertising space.
            Plastic is made of petroleum and chemicals that are compressed into large molecules that are malleable, hence the name. In 2014 plastic grocery bags were the seventh most common item collected during the Ocean Conservancy’s International Coastal Cleanup, behind smaller debris such as cigarette butts, plastic straws and bottle caps. Plastic bags can choke marine life, snag birds and hang about in tree tops like (as they say in Ireland) “witches’ knickers”.
            Proponents of bag usage will tell us that most bags have a second life as garbage can liners, kitty box liners and pooper scooping bags. Logic tells us that this is still only one step closer to the dump. By some estimates, the world uses and throws away more than a trillion bags a year, that’s 1,000,000,000,000; think about that when that BRF employee at the checkout station loads your cart with more plastic bags than items purchased. One big plastic boogie man is BPA, found in food and liquid packaging and containers, thermal cash register receipts and the lining of canned goods (75% of cans in North America are lined with BPA). BPA gets into your bloodstream, and is an endocrine disrupter with links to cancer, asthma, autism, blood pressure, childhood obesity and diabetes as well as compromises in fetal development. BPA is a plastic product. It can even be absorbed through skin pores.
Can we now ever conceive of a world without plastic? Unfortunately not, the genie is out of the bottle and as I look up from my (plastic) keyboard I count twenty different products made from the material within arm’s reach. The most logical solution to the proliferation would be to stop producing the stuff and rely solely upon recycling that which we can and doing without that which we cannot.
In a call to the Councilwomen’s offices, I was told that
“New Orleans households use approximately 225 million plastic bags annually. Reducing the use of these plastic bags will not only beautify our City and save taxpayer dollars on sanitation collection, but will also prevent toxic environmental harms that occur in the plastics production process. By encouraging consumers to bring their own bags to shop, we save resources and lessen the need to create throw-away consumer goods. I have enjoyed working with the Reusable Bag Alliance to educate the public about this ordinance, and look forward to the hearing in September.”
The other day I got a plastic bottle of water as a last resort on being stranded in public unprepared for the heat and the glare of a New Orleans July. I noticed that in five states there was a nickle deposit on the bottle and considered how many people here could live from the plastic bottles that we throw away (or recycle).