April 4, 2008

The Hoarders Are Defeated! Long Live Property!

Imagine my shock when I unsheathed the Times-Pic from the plastic wrap this morning and saw the hoarders on the front page. Then try and imagine them at the exact same time as the demolition crew descended on their family's home, leaving them with no place to live and a flat plain where their world stood just the day before. Then focus on the honk-honk up the block, the one with the marble porch and the short shorts and the Escalade, as he cradles two weiner dogs and smiles at the progress that's come to his end of Magazine Street, to the home he'll never sell in this market.

I wrote about this here, here, and here. This was coming, and many will say that nine years is more than enough time to deal with your problems, to accept the solutions offered by the city, to swallow the benevolent medicine of Stacey Head. Yet these are mentally ill people who for the better part of 5 years lived on a street with no traffic and a barrier that blocked them off from the rest of the city. They weren't a danger until they threatened property value and someone else's out of town dreams of gentrification. And they weren't in danger until the city got its demolition act together a week ago. And even then, when you thought blighted property, you probably thought of thousands of storm damaged houses that were left to fester by FedNaginBlakely.

But, no, first on the list is the family home of the hoarders. For they cannot fight, their neighborhood has no interest in them, and they live in the middle of high-rent land. Soon, developers will steal the land from them and we'll get a loft or condos and imaginary young professionals with jobs in an imaginary economy with imaginary cars and imaginary gas prices and imaginary needs for new clothes and hairstyles will move in and fit in and yes, yes, yes.... As Kim said this morning, those Africans who run the body shop on Melpomene will be next.

What bothers me almost as much as this forced evacuation of those without use-value is the course to come. If, in the history of the world, the lion has always eaten the lamb, Americans living in the wake of 25 years of neo-conservative, anti-gov't policy can expect no safety net and the inevitable triumph of the rapacious. We can mourn it, but that's the consequence of voting and stolen elections.

However, when the lions (be it the fenced-in little homeowner at Terpsichore and Magazine, the salon owner, the childish Councilwoman, the pasty real estate tycoon) are so deformed, sickly, and delusional, the equation serves no purpose. Really, if the supposed "strong" in this New Orleans are to win out, all we'll get is a better track for tourists and fesitval mongers. We won't get a better economy, better schools, or a better shot at longevity. These people aren't trained or equipped for success ala Seattle or DUMBO, they just have the money to buy CliffNotes on the book "How to Get Over in the New Cities Game." No one wins.

People who are weird and don't get with the "program," like the hoarders, are made homeless, people who lost their homes in the storm have to wait for Magazine Street demolitions, and people who want another gelato shop wait in line with some fcker in a fanny pack who read about good shopping in a guide book. It's not progress, it's playtime, except that real folks get hurt while wannabe titans swing their limp processes around.

And by the time I finish this post, three more feeble people will have no home. Just in time for Jazzfest.