May 31, 2007

Uh-Ohhhhhh, Did I Do That?

On tonight's show (midnight on WTUL 91.5FM), we'll recite the Mayor's State of the City speech, delivered last night from--in another misguided, yet oddly-fitting attempt at symbolism--the D-Day Museum. We'll attempt to shadow the words of our slippery leader with the proper sounds.

Impressive not just for the continued capability to shirk responsibility and divide the citizenry, the speech reached new depths with the mayor's decision to ad-lib his closing remarks, using the refrain of the old New Orleans R&B song, It Ain't My Fault, originally written by Smokey Johnson.

If you look towards the bottom of the comments section in this Times-Pic forum, you'll see that someone mistakenly but fortunately misconstrued the refrain to be a reference to Silkk the Shocker, who remade the song as a local hit in the late 90's. In the rush to discredit Nagin, this person resurrected the strange sounds of another era of rampant violence, when No Limit and Cash Money covered billboards across the city with their weird marketing/bling cover art, and Nagin ran the cable company.

Read the comments and get a feel for how badly Nagin's speeches affect public discourse, and listen to the show to hear how we'll match tracks to this sad, misguided rant.

UPDATE: We now have full audio of the speech and will sample it throughout. Tune in...

May 28, 2007

DJ on the Balcony

Rigged up a turntable, mixer, two discmans, ran it all thru old guitar amp, played the selector for four hours on Saturday.

May 21, 2007

La Barrera & the Chair Rescue

About a week ago, we made a plan for the barrier’s future. Often we stop there on the way to or from our place, taking in the odd landscape spread out around the block. But now we’d hit upon an easy idea to use the space, or rather, to influence its use.

The barrier cuts across Magazine Street, which runs from Canal Street downtown to Broadway uptown. Consisting of three jersey dividers, a barely standing stretch of cyclone fence, and the sunken ground left behind by a water main break 4 or 5 years ago, the barrier is well known. People come upon it when heading uptown—the direction Magazine runs in this section—and ignoring the meager “Road Closed” sign a block earlier at Erato Street. If you sit there for a few hours, you witness many a frustrated u-turn, along with the usual passing oddball from the neighborhood, the silent thinkers of the Abstract Bookstore, and young couples in search of brunch at Surrey’s.

The two collapsing houses on the block sit across from each other, their fallen corners now patched up and covered in construction tarps. On the riverside uptown sits a parking lot belonging to one of several body shops in the neighborhood; on the lakeside, an empty stretch of weeds runs through to Camp Street.

Pedestrians and cyclists usually travel down the middle of Magazine and pass through the space between the dividers. The asphalt is worn away in around the dividers, and a sand and gravel floor surrounds them. Though there appears to be progress in the renovation of several of the houses, the barrier is a long way from disappearing.

So on Saturday, Kim and I stopped in a sporting goods store on the West Bank and picked up 6 vinyl strap lawn chairs, 4 pink and 2 blue. That night, we walked down to the barrier to think things over. On the block before the barrier, there sits a house nearly swallowed by the accumulated detritus of its inhabitants, a man and woman who apparently share a serious packrat complex. Refuse of all sizes and shapes sits in a pile in their small front yard and overflows onto their porch. Among the broken furniture and boards, crates and twists of scrap metal, two junkyard dogs bark at passersby.

This time we didn’t see them, but noticed two kittens crossing the street in light of the streetlamps. As we reached the broken down, junk-laden truck in front of the packrat house, we saw several more kittens sticking their heads up from the pile. A skinny mama cat emitted a low growl and we tried to assure her we meant no harm.

At the barrier, we talked about the best way to position the chairs. A strange plane appeared overhead, low and white with propellers on the wings. It swooped in a circle and disappeared, then passed by again three times. On the underside of the wings, we could read the word “mosquito,” as thin lines of spray fell down on us and on the neighborhood. A man walked by at one point. We exchanged “hellos,” then he moved on. While we were standing on either side of the space between the dividers, a woman on a bicycle flew between us like we were unseen ghosts.

This morning, we took the 6 chairs and a pot of coffee down there and set up camp. We placed three chairs each in semicircles on the uptown and downtown sides of the barrier. On each, we wrote “N.O.N.” on the back and “NEWORLEANSNATION” on the seat. Then we sat down across from each other and had our coffee.

The first person to appear was an older black guy on a bike, who said good morning and kept riding. The next was a white guy on a bike, who also continued after saying good morning.

Then a black guy walked up and stopped to talk to us.

“I went to school up here, back in the 70’s. It sure has changed.” He motioned toward the school across from our apartment. I asked if he was from the neighborhood.

“This the first I been back, since the storm. I live in Texas. Master P is from right over there, you know that?” He then told us that Master P lived a block towards the river, Mystikal was raised up a block from the barrier, and Juvenile lived over in Magnolia. He named several projects—St. Thomas, Iberville, Magnolia, and Melpomene Street, seemed to get a little confused, but confirmed to us twice that we were sitting, “in the middle of the world.”

“This the middle of the world,” he said as he walked up the block away from us.

A few minutes later, a white guy rode past on a bike, his dog trotting on a leash at his side.

We left the chairs and went home, stopping to talk when an older black woman asked us in an African or West Indian accent, “What’s going on today?” Her sister owns a house and one of the body shops, as well as the parking lot, and she stays there for now while her house on N. Broad is being rebuilt. We talked a little while then went on our way when she got a call on her cell.

An hour later, we drove to Armstrong Park to meet up with b.rox and a group of 10 others. Along with Daniel Samuels, Bart led us on a grand journey along the Lafitte Corridor, a blighted green space where once a canal and railroad tracks ran from Basin Street to the end of Canal Boulevard in Mid-City. The Friends of Lafitte Corridor aim to create a real trail way along this 3 mile stretch, and after hiking with them, we understand the potential such a path has for revitalizing a long strip of the city.

Look here for a FOLC account of the trip, and click here for a selection of our photos.

After a few drinks at the Bulldog on Canal and an air-conditioned bus-ride, we retrieved the Windstar on Rampart and drove home. We checked on the chairs, and there they all still sat, three on either side of the barrier. This was around 4:00, and we planned to go back down for a drink at dusk.

An hour later, as Kim napped, I went downstairs to fix the new license plate to the van. When I looked down the block, I could see the chairs were gone. I walked to the barrier and confirmed the disappearance, then returned home, scanning every house and truck for the chairs.

We were a little upset, but that’s the nature of this kind of project—it could get jacked. It’d be nice if everyone saw the potential for a meeting space, or appreciated an aesthetic way to call attention to the barrier’s continued devolvement, to the issues facing the streets before the storm, but realistically, people see free chairs. Who knows who took them? Might’ve been the packrats, the Abstracts, or some idiots making a U-turn who decided to grab 6 shiny objects. The only thing we can take from the theft was that scavenging, rather than buying new, is the smartest way to continue our plan. We’ll pick up chairs people throw out and bring them to the barrier.

We’re eating on the balcony when Kim spots a man riding a bicycle up Magazine, one of our pink chairs in hand.

“Hey!” I yell. “Hey! Where’d you get that chair?! Hey!”

Kim starts yelling in Spanish, as the guy looked to be Hispanic. Two women on the corner think she’s yelling at them, and as she explains to them the loss of the chairs, I race downstairs and jump on my bike, recently equipped with a really fresh gel-seat from the sporting goods store.

I catch up to the dude at Race Street, but the chair was gone.

“Where’s that chair?” I ask, riding next to him and smiling. “You seen that chair?”

He mumbles something, shrugs.

“Where’d you find it?” I ask.

“No, man, no comprendo.” He shakes his head slightly, unperturbed.

“Alright.” I race up the block, thinking I’d caught that guy pretty quick and maybe he wasn’t the one we’d seen. As I cross Felicity, though, I see no other bikers ahead of me, and so circle back around.

The street suddenly comes alive. A man argues with someone inside a pick-up truck next to Dat’s Grocery. Two of the Abstracts ride by on bicycles, looking spooky as ever, the one dressed like he wished he had a Harley. A kid, I think from the African’s block, rides towards me, saying something to the Abstracts, and something to me about police. I continue past Race St., and try to peer in a Dumpster as I ride.

At Euterpe, I see it: one pink chair propped against the tall black fence of the half-gutted mansion on our block. I swing over to the curb and pick it up. Two white men walking a dachshund watch me. I explain to them what happened, then ride on down Magazine, chair in one hand. As I get to our place, I hold the chair aloft in one hand, wave it over my head so Kim can see it from the balcony. We start laughing. Our neighbor, Miss Joan, is on the first floor porch and I tell her of the rescue. She starts to say something about the illegals and I take the bike and chair inside.

So now the pink chair sits on our balcony, where Kim and I finished our meal in a celebratory mood. We’ll continue this barrier project, but right now it’s funny to think that somewhere, someone is selling stolen lawn chairs with “NEWORLEANSNATION” written on them.

May 20, 2007

Photo Essay: the Lafitte Corridor

We began the trip at Louis Armstrong Park, but the entrance was blocked. We made our way to Lafitte Street, and passed by the empty projects.

The Sojourner Truth Community Center

Fred from a junkyard, told us story of Moses and the burning bush, doubted whether New Orleans knew the one god.

The trail opens up.

The group.


Where the city keeps the traffic lights.

Pump station on Broad Street

Lindy Boggs Medical Center, recently purchased on the sly by out-of-state Victory Developers, who plan a great retail channel.

Old car just past N. Carrollton Ave.

Hot box behind the Home Depot.

Liked this one.

Dead dinosaur

This was on the homestretch, not far from Canal Blvd.

Dug this rogue painting.

Nowadays, we have plastic rails.

May 17, 2007

How could I move the crowd? First of all, ain't no mistakes allowed

Tonight begins a summer of sleeping through Thursday evening, waking up around 11pm, making some, uh, preparations, then heading up to WTUL to commandeer the hip-hop show from midnight to 3am. I guess we'll go home and sleep a few hours after that, but Friday afternoons at work won't be pretty.

A funny turn of events, really, cause I've been pretty ambivalent about hip-hop for about a year, not really buying much of anything and content to take what I get from commercial radio down here, which is basically a rotation of 5 or 6 songs from the Dirty South's increasingly uniform offerings. Back at East Village Radio, I had the team from NHB to feed me the new shit and in-studio freestyles to keep me thinking. This staved off what seems to be a general malaise about the music's present and future, about the wasted opportunities and over-stylization, the phoney beefs, and pandering to the suburban mall audience.

As far as the new show's content, we're gonna see what we can find in the TUL vaults, and bring with us selections from our own collection, with a few focal points:

-the early-mid 1990's
-the current underground
-old school New Orleans

And if anyone out there wants to send tapes, CD's, or come in for an interview, get at us.

As far as tastes, I'll let the show speak for itself, and hopefully we'll be able to post setlists and mp3 archives here. For a discussion of taste, check out the list put together at Straight Bangin' and the conversation that resulted from it. I'm a little wary of all the reflection, as it's often the sign of a dying, decadent artform, but argument must be a sign of life. People still care about hip-hop, people still identify with it, people still live it. For a few months, at least, we'll give it our best shot. If you're in the city, we're at 91.5FM midnight-3am.

And a few final words from the god....

May 14, 2007


We took my ma down to "Cajun Country" on Saturday and found some mean streets along the bayou. This was in Klondyke, near Houma.

After some typical round-about driving, we found our intended destination, a Cajun/Swamp Pop festival in Grand Bois park. The first song we heard: She Thinks I Still Care, by George Jones, one of Ma's favorites. Happy Mother's Day.

May 9, 2007

Jazzfest 2007: Trombone Shorty and the Tribe of the Hawaiian Shirt

On the 2nd Friday of this year’s New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, a powerful storm struck the city. Up to 5 inches fell in some neighborhoods, streets flooded, and power outages caused several pump stations to shut down temporarily. The Times Picayune headline:

“Downpour: New pumps fail a major test as a strong storm knocks out power and downs trees, but Jazzfest takes it all in stride” (5/5/07)

As clouds broke over the city, festival-goers crowded under tents and kept the party going. The paper showed photos of people in plastic bags and a child belly-flopping in a puddle on the fairgrounds. The show must go on, and fans rocked out to ZZ Top as the sky cleared.

A transit strike had already wreaked havoc on their transportation to Gentilly, as 61 of the 65 bus and streetcar drivers (65!) had called in sick in search of a new contract. This, too, did little to deter the hearty souls here to listen to the music of Counting Crows and other acts.

And so it goes. We can still throw a party. Have no fear, faux Hemingway-types and your straw-hatted wives! Your money is still good here, is the best money around, and we are happier than ever to serve you. Please disregard the still broken drainage system, not yet tested by the Army Corp; the old lady stuck in her car under an overpass, fortunately rescued; the old man who bludgeoned his wife and brother-in-law to death across the lake after years of “crazy-talk” and 2 previous murder convictions; the new school superintendent from Philly, whose wife and kids will live in Chicago during his term, he’ll commute, thankyouverymuch; those menacing black teenagers with the gold teeth and Lil’ Wayne braids, growing up in their own private Haiti, gearing up for a long, hot summer.

Ignore all of that: onstage at the Fest and in the clubs tonight, you’ll hear the truth: THIS is New Orleans! A boozy kiss from one Hawaiian shirt to another while the blues jam rages. THIS is New Orleans! Restaurant capital of the world, land of the open-container! THIS is New Orleans!

All for you and as you please.


This Parrothead motherfucker in front of me wants Trombone Shorty to play the thing, damn it, and stop all this singing. It’s the first day of the festival, and this guy’s not havin’ it. He whines like he’s been caught in the middle of a game of keep-away, “Give me my ball baaaack!” and wrinkles his brow in his wife’s direction like a child whenever Shorty opens his mouth. When a rapper comes on stage for a verse, the little guy in the Hawaiian shirt slumps his shoulders, bears through it. His slurred assessment, if you were to ask him:

“The kid wants to do all this hip-hop shit, singing and putting on a show, when what he needs to do is blow! He’s an amazing player, he’s Trombone Shorty, not Rapper Shorty, you know what I mean?”

When Shorty and Orleans Avenue kick it into high gear, though, the reddened critic dances and throws his arms in the air, really digs it. This is what he paid for, fuck-n-A.

At the end of the set, Shorty decides to leap from the stage and make his exit down the aisle cleared through the middle of the crowd. The stage is a little too high, though, and the kid flubs the landing, has to straighten his coat and sunglasses before strutting out. Certainly he killed it today, but he almost broke his neck doing it.


I’ve been reading a book on Storyville that I bought Kim for her birthday. Along with thousands of bizarre characters and set-ups, “sports” and “madams,” hypocrisy and piano genius, there are black and white pictures of the District and its denizens. Recognizing the old mansions and crib houses is impossible for me, as all but a building or two is left from that fabled section.

Yet I can tell that the sky is bright in the extraordinary, brash way it is now. That has not changed. And as much as things changed from then until 10 years ago when I first arrived, and from then through the storm until today, I find some comfort in that sky’s infinite glare. Benign comfort is presently at a premium.


As I reach the Gentilly Stage in search of Eddie Bo, one of the first acts of the festival, I find a large pavilion, with elevated bleachers and people sitting 8 feet high in the shade of a Mardi Gras-colored tent. A sign on the tent reads, “BIG CHIEF EXPERIENCE.” So this is what it’s come to: at Jazzfest, one can become a BIG CHIEF, meaning (according to the festival’s website):

* Daily Admission to JAZZ FEST
Entry and re-entry for each day you hold a Big Chief ticket. (No car re-entry.)

* Access to VIP Viewing Stands
Big Chief customers have access to raised and covered private viewing areas with beverage concessions and restrooms at the two main stages, Acura and Gentilly. Seating is first-come, first-served. At 3 other stages, Big Chief ticket holders will have semi-private access to a viewing area at the Congo Square/Louisiana Rebirth Stage, at ground level in front of the stage, and at side-stage viewing areas at the AT&T/WWOZ Jazz Tent and the Southern Comfort Blues Tent.

* Access to a Private Air-conditioned VIP Hospitality Lounge
Renew and revitalize with complimentary light refreshments and full-service restrooms.

* A Jazz Fest Program Guide

I walk to the wall in front of the bleachers and stare up at the BIG CHIEFS.

Now, when you hear the title “Big Chief” in New Orleans, it refers to a Mardi Gras Indian chief, the hallowed leader of a tribe. Many of these men are legends in the city, their names remembered for decades in talk and songs—“here comes the Big Chief….” Here on the fairgrounds of 2007, this means anyone with $600 to spend on 3 days of comfortable listening.

“Sonofabitch,” I say to myself.

Because I understand that times are tough and we all need the money, need to take advantage of what we have left. When I see a movie crew blocking up a street and some chick from Manhattan hissing into a walkie-talkie next to a buffet table, I no longer get heated, or curse. When Hollywood couples buy blocks of the Quarter, I say, thanks for the spotlight. Regardless of who he is, I cheer on the tourist, for he is our greatest cash cow, and I will stop to give him directions regardless of his condition.

But is this worth it? Is the selling of higher ground among the great, even field of the fairgrounds crowd, is that expendable in these times? Will we cede our democratic shoulder rubbing for the comfort of baby boomers? Does enough money trickle down to local people to justify the debasement of a sacred title? Is that the future we have to look forward to?

Fuck the BIG CHIEF EXPERIENCE. If the Jazzfest people have no problem whoring to that division, it won’t be long before Shell Oil executives pay for the privilege to sit in with their favorite band. And if the city’s character wasn’t defeated by the storm, it will surely be defeated then.


I move on and, when called upon, dance in a circle with a group of shy Houma Indians in the section between stages where the Native Americans demonstrate their culture. The drummer’s beat mingles with the sound of Zydeco that bleeds over from the Fais Do-Do stage. A few school children join us, but most people stand on the edge of the circle, hesitant and awkward. After the dance ends, I speak to an old man carving a wooden duck about the best places to visit in Houma, LA, then I eat two Indian tacos next to a blacksmith exhibit.

I remember that the jazz funeral parade for 60 Minutes reporter and festival-lover Ed Bradley runs at 1pm. Near the main gate, I find the tail of the parade and join the crowd around the band. Someone holds up a placard showing Bradley with a tambourine in his hand. I once saw Bradley riding a golf cart at Jazzfest.

At the center of the funeral parade, I see the trombonist Corey Henry. Nowadays, Corey’s like an old head on the scene, and whenever I see him, I can’t help but think back to when he was just a kid like I was, playing with Kermit Ruffins, drinking Bud Lights with the world on a string. Corey looks like he’s aged sorta fast, and I wonder if I have, too, and wonder how things have worked out for everyone.

Back at the Congo Square stage, the Amazones, a group of women drummers from Guinea, have the crowd right where they want them. Consisting of three lead drummers, two lead dancers, and a line of secondary drummers in the rear, the women play the best set I hear all day. The three lead drummers also sing, in that fast tenor of West Africa, and step forward for solos that evolve into a competition of crowd response. My favorite is on the stage left and she points to her self in mid-beat, demanding the cheers. Someone near me mentions that this is, technically, a heretic act—women aren’t allowed to play drums in that culture. That may be true, but I would hate to be the man who tried to stop these women.

I walk to the Southern Comfort Blues tent and rest my feet during a sound check. Then I make my way to the AT&T/WWOZ Jazz tent and listen to 2 songs from Astral Project before moving on, predictably. I stop off in a tent for Acura, one of the festival’s sponsors. Several new cars sit under large screens featuring car ads, and salespeople drift around the showroom floor. After a couple more cans of beer, I return to Congo Square and listen to Kirk Joesph’s Backyard Groove play “War (What is it good for?)” to a crowd that languidly sings along. Then the band’s white rapper attempts to rock the mic. The war sure is far away, I think, and the people here today are an impenetrable lot, focused on getting their kicks in the bosom of the apocalypse.

Maybe I’m just a little frailer, though, because the beer slows me down enough that I have to sit down and shade my face from the sun. My mind wanders. I recall the mispronunciations of the day—“that’s the Fi Doo Doo stage right there”—and wonder how everyone got here, how they found out about the Jazzfest in the first place. I think about the strange fellow at the planning meeting three months ago, how he really put it together.

“What they do,” he told the recovery committee, “is take Asian food and cook it with another ethnic food—they call that fusion, ok? Fusion restaurants, that’s what we’re gonna end up with, ok?”

That loony fucker was right, I think. The leisure class is strong and likes it easy, and they will find everything edible and they will eat it. The pretense of authenticity, of roots, that’s all fine and good, but what’s most important is what’s easy. People come here for that, and all we’re left with now is hard, hard, and slow.

My muddling ends when the emcee announces the eminent appearance of Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue.


On the second Friday of the festival, the day of the rain storm, I stood in the brand new auditorium in the building where I work. A podium with thousands and thousands of dollars worth of multimedia equipment sat in one corner, with a set of flags in the other, 120 new seats for the audience, a state-of-the-art projector in the ceiling, and artwork by John Scott on the wall. A pool of water spread across the floor, under the podium and seats. The streets outside had flooded and as cars passed, they caused waves to lap against the building, and run under the emergency door of the auditorium. I watched the water run over our new tile floors in a room built for interactive education, and I wondered what would happen if….



This plaintive cry comes around the third song of the set, after the cover of “Back in Black,” the chorus of which Shorty does not sing. That’s a shame, as it would be a great, simple political statement.

The set is not without its subtle politics, though. A great syncopated horn line frames a song with the chorus, “Where is the party?” but its single verse is a description of the perils of going out at all. Shorty continues to reinvent “St. James Infirmary,” and I think that’s a statement in itself.

Look, this is a former Jackson Square kid from Treme, descended from a musically rich family. He knows what’s gone down for a few hundred years, knew the anthems since before he could talk (apparently an unfortunate development for some experts). Handsome and unbelievably talented, Shorty could rest on a mastery of nostalgia and deal out the tightest, safest funk in town, and rake in the loot.

He’s not doing that, though. Trombone Shorty takes risks.

The risks aren’t simply stage-diving, though they often have similar results. His showmanship belongs to a 21-year old, and he can go too far in spots. Clearly he wants it all, and bringing an MC into the fold is a reach, even if it pretty much succeeds. See, the kid is not playing around, not adding in a variety act to nod towards hip-hop and R&B. Instead, he has a DJ/Mixer as part of the band, and increasingly works that in with good results. The beats and horn lines are James Brown, sure, but they’ve come via Pete Rock. Shorty might not have the greatest voice, but he’s using it all the time, and that’s where the risk is.


If a risk is inherently consequential, then one risk involves smaller risks, or they travel in packs, more than one shadow crossing the void with you in the leap to the next rooftop. The risks of living here are ubiquitous, and include threats as small as petty crime and as large as the total disappearance of the wetlands within 10 years. As a result of these conditions, the only music I’m interested in right now is the one that takes chances, that grabs for new ideas, that has the balls to want it both ways, and that is suitably weird. The same standards could apply to the resurrection of this city.


But our charge is greater than simply rebuilding and staving off another flood. We’re also required to rebuild the museum, and by that I mean the playland/depository that New Orleans is in the mind of the nation. The idealized vision of the city is a place of libertines, of slow pace, of dances in old houses, where you can eat what you want and get plowed. Again, as progress leveled distinctions in the rest of the country, New Orleans stood out in relief and attracted visitors bent on some “authentic,” wild n’ crazy vacation.

Now there’s a strange class of people who come every year, and expect an all-access pass to a rum-fueled fantasy of outlaw America, without danger and with little struggle. Festivals dedicated to Heritage turned into Baby’s First Bacchanalia, while the poor filled up the flood plane. Sadly, and like a good whore, New Orleans excels at delivering the goods, even if the bed is rotten and rent is way past due. The problem is, that deal had the city on its knees before the storm, and will keep it on its back if it continues. Suffering and smiling is not going to get us out of this mess.

So if Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews chooses to disrupt that exchange by following his own vision, I’m still with him. Much has changed in my view of New Orleans over the last year, but the changes in Shorty are worth the time, worth the risk.


As I write this, two men, one fat and one skinny, hack away at the roof across the street. They tear off sections of the blue tarp that covers the diamond shaped shingles and begin to hammer, it’s not clear why. The wind picks up and the tarp blows wildly. The fat one stands on the ladder and whacks away at a long plank holding down a section of tarp. The skinny one tries to rip off shingles with his claw hammer, then disappears to the other side of the house.

I’ve seen variations of this routine from my window over the last 6 months. I remain uncertain what their goal is, and expect them to reattach the tarp at the end of the day. Probably the roof sprung a few leaks during the rain yesterday and the guys are only patching them up. Or perhaps they’ll tear the whole thing off and start over. Both men appear unsure of the proper course, but they continue to climb up there, careful not to fall, figuring things out as they go.

May 3, 2007

Sunday @ Jazzfest: Right Place, Right Time

We’re listening to local reggae band the Revealers play on the Jazz & Heritage stage when I spy Dr. John hobbling through the crowd, James Andrews guiding him as if Mac was blind. I reach out to shake his hand and he gives me the slip, raising his arm and silently snapping his fingers. I laugh. He continues his stiff-legged walk to the edge of the crowd, moving cautiously like the old junkies that used to ride the bus to Harlem with me every morning. An elderly black lady wraps her arms around his neck, tells him something, and kisses his ashen cheek. When he begins to cross back in front of the stage, a guy approaches and tries to converse, but they’re right by the PA and we can see Dr. John’s lips move, “I can’t hear what the fuck you’re saying.” As he begins to move on, Kim sidles up and asks for a photo. Again, I don’t think he can hear, so Kim points towards the camera and I catch them. James separates them and walks away with his hand on Mac’s back.

May 2, 2007

War Games

Last night, the president vetoed the "emergency" spending bill for Iraq, in essence refusing the Democrats' demand for a withdrawal date. While the two sides battle over the future of US troops and the Iraqi people, we in the Gulf Coast recieve another political pistol-whipping. Less discussed in the national media is the inclusion of a spending package for the region that includes levee reconstruction and wetlands protection, the two most vital issues for recovery. After the veto, the governor and Senator Landrieu, both Democrats, blasted Louisiana Republicans for voting against the bill, decrying their opponents' loyalty to the president over the state.

Which is a valid complaint. It's simply criminal for any legislator to vote against more money for the region, especially for such urgent matters. Yet, isn't it equally criminal to vote WITH a party that ties the future of the Gulf Coast to the war in Iraq? Isn't it as appalling that Democrats would write such legislation and play a patently political game with levees and wetlands? If this is an appeal to the "anti-war" movement, can that movement call itself some new, dumb "Left" if it cheers that game?

Most damning is the failure of Louisiana's Democrats and Republicans to introduce a true Katrina bill, untethered to the vacuum of the war. For either side to claim a moral high ground is ridiculous, yet another example of politicians playing "business-as-usual," continuing the farce that nearly killed this city when the status quo was intact.