Once again, words fail. Personally, I don't possess the gifts to make up such things as this and this.
Eddie Jordan: sign of the times, symbolic vestibule of all wrongs, befuddled participant in many sides of a sad, cruel cycle. A busy man with no time to check his messages, he dodders on, malfunction, bloodshed, acrimony, and short circuits fizzling in his wake.
"I don't know if you've been reading the papers lately, but I got some things going on," he said. "I got one or two things going on. I'm getting it from all sides."
October 23, 2007
On the morning of the election, we walked across the street to the International School, the polling place for our district—First Ward, District 2. Just as we reached the steps on Terpsichore, who should enter the school before us but the two hoarders from down Magazine. Check it out, I remarked to Kim.
The only other time I’d been to the school--I believe it was one evening in the first few weeks after my arrival in town-- we’d wandered by and noticed a public event taking place in the ground floor cafeteria. Chris Rose sat on a dais with an interviewer next to him and a nice crowd of 50 or 60 people. Newly returned, I knew only a little about him, though Kim filled me in as we listened. That night he was charming, self-deprecating, funny, all the things that make up his known persona. Yet, there was a palpable commonality between his mindset, the vulnerabilities he expressed, and the mindset of those listening. Survival-ism, the ridiculousness of loving New Orleans, doubt—these were in the air and in Rose’s jokes.
It’s weird now to read articles about publishing deals, Oprah, K-Ville, and Lord & Taylor. Just sayin’.
Anyway, the cafeteria. The hoarder walked up to the registration table and immediately began a conversation with an older black lady who may have had her teeth out. I believe she told him that her mother had passed, and he said he was sorry to hear that. Then he moved on to a white, TV anchor-looking gentleman who asked him for his name and ID. After the hoarder gave his name (an Italian sounding name, which he punctuated by saying, “Italian”), the anchor spelled it out again so that the man next to him could write it down.
Huh, I thought. The hoarder’s actually a pretty normal-sounding dude. The anchor, though, was less than normal, his manner cloudy, like perhaps he wasn’t all there, just smiling and slow. He waved the hoarder over to the booth closest to us, where an older black gentleman closed the curtain behind the hoarder, leaving only the dirty blue pants visible to the rest of us. It was then that I noticed that the lady hoarder had abstained from voting, and that she was about the same age as the man, and thus not his mother.
Kim and I went through the same steps as the hoarder, although when we first approached the registration table, the black ladies said, “Ooh, look at y’all, got your voter cards,” which we held in our hands, eager beaver lil' democrats that we are. We laughed.
The anchor found my name and started to spell it out, and I became sure that he was slow, only dressed up for the part and put at this table to give him something to do. He did fine at reading out my name and told me, and then Kim, to wait outside the booth in which the hoarder now voted.
“You ok in there, sir?” the black gentleman called through the curtain to the hoarder. “Three minute time limit.”
“Be right out,” the hoarder said. A few moments later, we heard the tinkle of electronic bells and out he came. I stepped into his place.
The ballot was laid out on a large square of what felt like vinyl. Each of the names on each of the lists had squares next to them, and when you touched a square, it lit up green. The point was to go through each list of candidates for the various offices, along with the 4 amendment referendums, then to hit a final button to cast your votes.
Once I perused the different lists, I scolded myself for not knowing more about the offices and candidates. Further harsh thoughts shot forth at the realization that no write-in was possible, dashing my hope to vote for Kim for governor. I voted for women, for men with funny nicknames, against known incumbents, and ‘yes’ to the referendums, with the exception of the last one, something about consigned jewelry being tax exempt. Fuck that, I thought.
And I voted for Boasso for governor. I thought maybe he could get to a run-off, though there was no way he could win. Here I am, I thought, ambivalent like so many Louisianans in this time of great challenge and a leadership drought, shrugging my shoulders at the ballot. My choices: a big ol’ Democrat-turned-Republican-turned-Democrat who seemed like a nice guy who no one in the nation would take seriously but who hailed from the devastated St. Bernard Parish; and an extremist Catholic with a dazzling education, an odd and unique position on race, and barely a word in his programs about the recovery of New Orleans, a grotesque suburb of which he represents with strong conservatism in the US House.
I ended up taking the big ol’ guy just to stretch things out, in the hope that Jindal would have to say something in a run-off. Yes, 2007 in Louisiana: the previous sentence was my mindset at the ballot box.
After I hit the final button and exited the booth, Kim entered and I walked back past the registration table. One of the ladies was directing someone, saying, “To the right, to the right.” I smiled and said, “To the left, to the left,” and then everyone laughed and another woman mentioned the Cupid Shuffle. A conversation on the Cupid Shuffle continued as I sat in an office chair near the door and waited for Kim to exit the polls.
October 17, 2007
For those of you in New Orleans, please come by the LEH on Friday evening to view 2 documentaries from our vault, "Uncle Earl," and "Louisiana Boys." Saturday is the primary, so this trip down memory lane oughta gear us all up to pull the lever. Directors of both films will be on hand, we have more than enough wine, and this is the first event I've put on in our new space. I hope to see you there.
October 14, 2007
Fourteen tubas grunt together under the Saturday morning sun, surrounded by a crowd and a cannon, bouncing the light off one bell to the next.
This was a tribute to Tuba Fats and a call to keep the thump-thump, the wave of brass elephant heads, the center of the beat, the street's pulse.
Big up to Kirk Joseph for putting it together, and to all those tuba players for showing up and carrying their horns up the ramp and back down and through the French Market. It was simple and airy, and much easier than the norm-of-late, a small sign that summer is finally done with us.
Early the following morning, an NOPD officer was shot in his New Orleans East home. At 3am, two men confronted him in his driveway, then forced him back inside his home, where they demanded money. The cop pulled a gun, shots were fired, and he and his wife were both hit. Their assailants escaped.
New Orleans East is living the nightmare right now, with 12 people killed since the beginning of August. Thought it is the largest patrol area, the 7th district has the 2nd lowest staff level.
Which is tragic.
What's odd: that two men would attack a cop at 3am. After all, if you have a cop in the neighborhood, you usually know.
So perhaps these guys weren't from that neighborhood.
Which is weird since, though they escaped and are currently on the run, their names were known almost immediately, released by the NOPD as "persons of interest." How did the cops know the names of these apparently random invaders?
Sorta makes you wonder about the police officer. Guess we'll stay tuned.
Memories of Sheriff Harry Lee
One new feature for trials expected to involve classified evidence is a Plexiglas window separating the small news media and spectator gallery from the floor of the courtroom. At the touch of a button, the military judge will be able to cut off the sound in the spectator section.
This cost $12 million dollars. Apparently, the government can set up it's fantasy justice camp (complete with horny bull logo) any ol' place it will, and jurisdiction will emanate from the peaks of its tents. Apparently the repeated legal blows to the Guantanamo gulag will not stop this instant system.
"With the legal landscape clear at the moment for the prosections to begin,
the military officials said the new courthouse would ease a potential logjam
of trials. Now, there is only one cramped courtroom, in an old airport building
at the top of the sloping hillside that overlooks the new tent city."
Couldn't we get one of these? I mean, doesn't this sound a lot better than the conditions in the Hat's office since the storm? $12 million dollars, that's like an hour in Iraq-occupation time. Give us one of these "M*A*S*H-like set for the age of terror." Won't ya hep me?
Some friends of ours are leaving town. It's hard watching them go, though certainly they need to do it. They put their time in. I keep thinking lately of those original estimates of the 10 years of recovery, or 20, or whatever an expert may have puffed on cable, and how we're 2 years in. Hard does not begin to describe the time these people have lived through, with what to show for it? Now we're left to work through the next 2 years, and the 2 years after that, running on the faith that we can run that far.
I felt good in the Quarter after that tuba concert. I felt the lines of the rooftops were more vivid and the sidewalk calmer, and that it was a familiar feeling, and that the indescribable sensation was nearly enough to keep me going. I know that borders on naive, and builds nothing material. But the feeling was there, will come again, and I will be here for it.
That's about all I know. That, and that ol' Harry Lee is dead and gone.
October 9, 2007
October 3, 2007
Some bright morning when this life is over
I'll fly away
To that home on God's celestial shore
I'll fly away
I'll fly away oh glory
I'll fly away (in the morning)
When I die hallelujah by and by
I'll fly away
When the shadows of this life have gone
I'll fly away
Like a bird from these prison walls I'll fly
I'll fly away
Oh how glad and happy when we meet
I'll fly away
No more cold iron shackles on my feet
I'll fly away
Just a few more weary days and then
I'll fly away
To a land where joys will never end
I'll fly away
...But not from the world in which you were born, in which you belonged. Without the grace afforded those who departed before you, the eventual silence after the parade died out. Not from the arms of a neighborhood full of the old and the young and your peers, all of whom knEw before they knew how to talk that this is the way one leaves the earth, with loud tears and horns and dance steps and grandmothers waving from their stoops. Not from a city which lets your brothers and cousins curl through the blocks well-worn with bygone mourners' feet, allows them to make the decision to blow you on home in their own, unofficial, spontaneous, self-sustained tradition.
No, your passing will be marked with police cars, with the kind of shit that killed the Big Chief, with new homeowners whispering into phones that people like you are out in the street at the ungodly hour of 8pm, making a damned racket. Your people in the parade will leave in handcuffs, as the police believe that smell of the sweat of those like you attracts stray bullets. They who don't understand the very blocks they invest in, with sanitized dreams of getting over, they'll go to bed satisfied, dream of the future when noise will be contained in a well-run, supa-Quarter, with no overflow and no marching, except for the daily staged parade for the tourists, timed for an hour when the threat of sunburn is least. The police will have less to worry about, won't have to consider what is gray, what is beyond the law, what just IS in this city, but can rest on laws and permit fees and some fantasy that order can be had in a city where hope is quarantined and snatched from unruly lips.
All that will be left behind will be shackles and the joyless, empty streets, and the sound of the uptight and greedy, counting their properties and dialing their cops, unafraid, now that even death has been put in its proper place.