Friday, March 02, 2007

New Orleans and Police and insights from a great American Storyteller

From texture - misc.
T.H.E. .M.U.S.E. .A.N.D. .W.H.I.R.L.E.D. .R.E.T.O.R.T. hit my email box today, and as always, has some sharp insights from Chris. He has a new song on his myspace page that features a three letter word three times. Chirs is a bit like MacYapper -- but far better in his wit and entertainment value. Perhaps MacYapper should have him as his first guest on his next radio show.
Thomas Wolf said, “You can’t go home again.” I don’t think he meant it like this.

D. R. and I just spent several weeks in New Orleans. It has been a while since I reported in on the progress there. I believe that Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome can effect a place as well as an individual.

New Orleans, the grizzled veteran of American culture stands on the expressway interchange – our cultural cross roads – like a military veteran – homeless, on drugs and prone to sudden inexplicable acts of violence.

She has a cardboard sign scrawled “will work for food.” A few sympathy dollars have been stuffed into her change box, enough for a Po-Boy sandwich today, but like the homeless veterans – it has taken her all day to get it. She can do little else. Survival.

New Orleans should be our proudest triumph, like our veterans – but when we see her taking small chunks of charity, suffering from extreme PTSS, stuttering and staggering, on drugs and prone to violent pointless flare-ups, we roll our windows up, turn up the stereo and stare mindlessly at the traffic light hoping it will change before we are approached.

But New Orleans is a combat veteran still seeing active duty. She is herself a war zone. Twenty-one murders this year. More than one hundred shootings. Seventeen shootings and five Murders in the two weeks I was there.

As many of you know, most of my stories start off with the phrase, “My car broke down.” This one is no exception. I was in the 9th Ward waiting on the bus to a mechanic up in mid city when I heard shots ring out clearly in the block I was standing. I counted 5 shots while keeping low and moving quickly away from the shots and calling 911.

I lived there for many years and I am used to hearing gun shots – but rarely so close and almost never in the day time.

As I ran towards the next bus stop several blocks away a cop approached and I flagged him down. “I am the one who called, or at least one of the ones that called,” I explained. There were 5 shots three blocks ahead on St Claude. With No exaggeration what so ever, the cop did a U turn around the neutral ground and headed quickly in the other direction. He was not responding to my call at all. He just happened to be there, a coincidence. The cops never responded to the call and the next day there was a double homicide in the exact same place – two fifteen year old kids were gunned down. It is a war zone. It is America. It is a crime.

At the car repair place, I waited patiently for my ignition switch to be switched out. A new Orleans cops walked familiarly into the waiting room. He was greeted with habitual how-do-you-dos as he walked behind the counter and sat at a computer terminal. It turns out the cop had to go to the car repair shop to get on-line to file his reports. He has no lap top in his cruiser.

While much of the 9th ward has been cleared to vast swaths of nothingness – there are still countless empty houses and piles of rubble. Some houses still sit in the middle of the streets. Few remain. Nine live in one neighborhood, a dozen in another. Only the most tenacious can survive. Orange extension cords run from construction poles illuminating whole houses with desk lamps. Gas inspectors are few, so people have tapped lines themselves bringing the inevitable fires. In many neighborhoods there is not enough water pressure to put out the fire so helicopters scoop water from the Mississippi river to extinguish them.

I went down to the By-Water to do my laundry. The By-Water only had three feet of water compared to the twelve in much of the ninth ward, so it is coming back – and due to the efforts of some amazing volunteers and courageous residents it is in many ways better than it was before.

At the Laundromat there was a notice of a place going up for rent on Desire Street – a street I had lived on years ago. I wrote a poem about it back then: (LINK if your see his online newsletter.) – our rent was two hundred bucks a month. Now, advertisement for a building two doors down was a thousand dollars.

People are paying triple and quadruple rent, while paying mortgages on what is left of houses and trying to restore them while getting run arounds from crooked insurance agencies and inept Federal Emergency Administrators.

I took the senseless tragic murder of a prominent white Canadian to make the country notice at all The city, known for parading of a different kind, took the streets. Black banners decrying “ENOUGH” hung from balconies. Action was demanded. Little has been accomplished since.

At the ensuing city council meeting the police chief and district attorney pointed fingers at each other and not at violent criminals. The end result is a 60 day revolving door policy in which perpetrators fail to get prosecuted and are back on the street. There is no crime lab. The evidence rooms are crowded with rodents and in disrepair.

To illustrate the extent - in the middle of the Bacchus parade, one of the largest Mardi Gras parades, one of the largest economic engines the city has, one of the biggest tourist attraction ever – in the heart of the heart: my friends were at a hot dog stand when shots rang out. The mobbed crowd of tourists scattered in chaos. Another teenager had been shot in the chest, one of several dozen since action has been demanded.

I guess I am unlikely to get that job with the New Orleans Chamber of Commerce I was hoping for – but someone has to say it.

A very tenacious woman I know in the ninth ward actually rescued her refrigerator after having been submerged for weeks. She cleaned it, scrubbed elbow deep unspeakable maggot encrusted slime inside and out. She fixed it – because she loved it.

It ran for a month. It is dead.
That women's flooded refrig lasted about three weeks longer than Motznik's blog.

I did giggle at today's MacYapper's statement about the give-a-ways of candidates seeking office.

MacYapper: E-DAY APPROACHING EDITION MacYapper - And what do you do with blankets? Why you COVER-UP!
I was thinking of a security blanket that might come from a little tyke, as in Linus, a friend of Charlie Brown.

I try to give away CDs, content and experiences. We provided 'community concerts' and last night I gave out, as a citizen, a batch of free tickets to a pre-release movie called PRIDE. Philly's tough sections in the 1970s look mild next to today's New Orleans.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Someone wrote about a P-G quote:
> Democrats ply city committee members with 'endorse me' freebies

Other than Patrick Dowd's copycat clean sweep idea (!), I see no
problem with this. The real problem is the perception that this is on
par with bribing voters at elections. It's not. The parties are private organizations, and can function under any rules they see fit, including graft-for-endorsement if they want to stoop that low. They're free to endorse whomever they like, just like a Chamber of Commerce, the local Elks Club or a citizens group like PACleanSweep.

The confusion stems from the public's long-time indoctrination and now-belief that inter-party politics is a public function. This confusion would greatly benefit from providing some clarity, such as revoking taxpayer financing of the parties' nomination processes (primaries) and other subsidies of political parties.