Wednesday, August 29, 2012

New Orleans

Hurricane Isaac is taking out its frustration on New Orleans.  This, exactly seven years after Katrina.

On August 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina hit the southern coastal region of the US.  I was still living in Denver at the time, and I watched the news anxiously as Florida, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana were battered and flooded by the storm.  And what I saw happen in the aftermath of the storm…well, that tragedy unfolded over countless days, weeks and months, and frankly diminished my faith in our government’s ability to handle a natural disaster of such a magnitude.

The one and only time that I visited New Orleans was in late December of 2001.  I was there for the Modern Language Association’s annual convention, not to attend the conference myself, but to support those people who were, at the time, a significant part of my life as they interviewed potential job candidates or were interviewed for potential teaching jobs in the field of English.  As with all MLA Convention trips, I was on my own a great deal, which suited me fine as I enjoyed exploring new cities without the constraints of schedules or meetings, especially the constraints of schedules and meetings that were not mine.  I find that it is sometimes much easier to get lost, and then found, when one is on their own…

New Orleans for me was the St. Charles Ave. Line streetcar to Riverbend, Lafayette Cemetery #1, and Anne Rice’s First Street home (her limo idling out front).  New Orleans was also the muffaletta that I had from Central Grocery, the homeless man outside my hotel (who I checked on every day and maybe even gave some money to a couple of times), the little boy tap dancing in the street with his bottle cap taps on the bottoms of his shoes, the frozen daiquiri I had with Satina Smith at the French Market, and later the absinthe I had, again with Satina, at The Old Absinthe House on Rue Burbon as we waited for her then-husband Craig Arnold to finish up with his MLA obligations.  Everywhere I turned, New Orleans was intoxicating green foliage, a preserved decay, and a people who enjoyed seeing you enjoy their city.

New Orleans sits below sea level.  After Katrina hit in August of 2005, eighty percent of New Orleans, not surprisingly, was flooded when the levees that protected the city were breached during the storm surge.  It was difficult to watch the flood-waters rise to the roofs of homes in the Ninth Ward.  It was even more difficult to watch the rescue operations being conducted by other citizens of the city because, as far as I could tell, the government wasn’t sending any help anytime soon.

A few days after Katrina hit, people began to grumble about the rescue effort costing the U.S. so much money, and “Why didn’t those people evacuate in the first place?”  Then there was grumbling about the increasing cost of fuel, this because of Katrina’s interrupting the oil refining in the Gulf…

One morning, as I was pumping gas at a downtown Denver filling station, I was approached by a television news crew that wanted to know if I was bothered by the rising cost of fuel.  I politely declined their on-camera offer of an interview, but I was willing to share my thoughts with them.  I told them that I was originally from the south, and had relatives who were somewhat impacted by Hurricane Katrina.  I went on to tell them that I was less concerned with the price of my gas bill that day but more concerned about was the fact that New Orleans, a city that willingly opens itself up to tourists who gorge themselves on its food, drink its liquor until they vomit, expose themselves during Mardi Gras and even urinate on its streets, was being treated like a third world country where aid has to be approved before it was doled out.  No, that was unacceptable in my book.   The news crew walked away before I could preach to them about how most of the folks who were costing us so much in rescue dollars were people who COULDN’T LEAVE New Orleans because they were the poor blacks and whites whose numbers are so great and their resources so limited that they had nowhere to go and no means to use to get there.  Don’t EVEN get me started.

And then, on September 4, 2005, Anne Rice wrote a NY Times article entitled “Do you know what it means to lose New Orleans?” that said it best:
Now nature has done what the Civil War couldn't do. Nature has done what the labor riots of the 1920's couldn't do. Nature had done what ‘modern life’ with its relentless pursuit of efficiency couldn't do. It has done what racism couldn't do, and what segregation couldn't do either. Nature has laid the city waste - with a scope that brings to mind the end of Pompeii.” 

Seven years later, New Orleans is still struggling to recover from the devastation of Katrina.  Clean-up efforts continue, but it is a monthly, weekly, daily struggle.  Just read this March 21, 2012 article from the NY Times Magazine, Jungleland:  The Lower Ninth Ward in New Orleans Gives New Meaning to ‘Urban Growth.’  Does anyone else out there have a problem with this, or is it just me?

Eric and I are fans of HBO’s series Treme.  It focuses on life in a New Orleans neighborhood after Katrina.  We can’t get enough…

One more thing before I go, I found a short documentary that focuses on eyewitnesses who were stranded in a New Orleans hotel during Katrina.  The documentary is made from footage captured by James L. Bills and is entitled Refuge of Last Resort.  Please give yourself about an hour to watch it.  Please watch it. 

Oh, and of course you cannot go wrong with Spike Lee’s When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts, which may be found on Youtube.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Keyword Search: 1920s, Flapper, Mermaid Dress

I needed a dress for our upcoming Monte Carlo Night fundraiser.  The theme is "Flappers & Bathtub Gin."  Being on a tight budget, I went to eBay to look for something inexpensive.  My keyword search of "1920s, flapper, mermaid dress" turned up this little number.  Seriously.  Scales and jets and hundreds of pleats.  On one dress.  Which is now hanging in my closet.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

A Pirate's Life

"Eric's parents are coming for a visit this weekend," is what I told Memphis and Jace after I had finished up reading a Greek myth to them.  Jace eyed me suspiciously.

"Have you met them?" he asked.

"Yes.  Several times." I answered.

"What are their names?" Memphis queried.

"Are they any fun?" Jace interjected before I could answer Memphis' question.  He was still looking skeptically at me, as if we, by allowing Eric's parents to come and visit, were about to introduce an adult criminal element into our neighborhood that would completely suck the fun right out of a perfectly good weekend.

"Their names are Lauri & George, and yes, they are fun.  They like to hike and sail.  They have a sail boat that they take out for days at a time.  They sleep on the boat."

Mouths dropped open at this last statement.

Jace:  "Have you and Eric ever gone sailing with them?"

Me:  "We have, yes."

Memphis:  "Who drove the boat?"

Me:  "Sometimes George, sometimes Lauri, sometimes Eric...and George and Lauri would tell us to do things with the sails while we were sailing, so...we were like a pirate crew working together."

They probably now have visions of Eric's parents looking like Anne Bonny and Captain Jack Sparrow...

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The Witches of South 10th Street

I walked outside this morning to water plants and saw these on our porch.  They are fake fingernails.  Children's fake fingernails.  The kind that I used to put on as a child when dressing up as a witch.  I think these belong to two good little witches who happened to stop by The Bungalow last night to beg for Flavor Ice and a story.  They got their Flavor Ice and I offered the tale of Pegasus, Medusa or the Minotaur.  They chose the Minotaur, and sat wide-eyed together on the chaise lounge, listening to the story, until a mother's call lured one of them away...

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Magic 80s Red Sears Bicycle

I have my first poetry stone.  It was painted and given to me by Irene Latham, friend of many talents.  Artist and art educator Mario Gallardo of the Walnut Gallery brought Irene back to Gadsden last week as part of the Walnut Gallery Poetry Series.  Mario was kind enough to share Irene’s visit with us at the library.  So, in addition to Irene giving an amazing reading at the Gallery, she also conducted a children’s poetry writing workshop and an adult/teen poetry writing workshop at the Gadsden Public Library. 

This poetry stone makes me think of a bike I once had. 

Magic 80s Red Sears Bicycle

The day you were given to me
was the day of a spring snow.
When I got you back to school,
all the kids gathered around to admire.
Or so I thought.
I laughed along with the jokes
about Pee Wee Herman.
And then, I ran the kids over
with my vintage white-walled tires.

Now, I’m sure that initially it seems as though I'm speaking about a bike I had in my youth, because that is plausible.  I rode a lot of bikes during the 80s.  But the bike about which I write is actually a bike that was given to me in 2005 by a coworker of mine at the Warren Tech horticulture program in Golden, CO.  The bike had belonged to Jim Foster's daughter, and he gave it to me because I wanted a bike to ride on the streets of my Denver neighborhood, and he wanted it to go to a girl who would use it.

The day Jim gave me the bike was very much a snowy spring day upon which we had taken our horticulture students out for a landscaping field trip.  We stopped by Jim’s house to look at plants in his landscape.  As we passed through the breezeway from his front yard to the back, I noticed the bike and commented on its metallic red beauty.  Ever generous, Jim loaded it up among the students to take it back to school so that I could haul it back to my apartment.

The kids, students with whom I had worked very closely for the entire school year, did indeed rib me good-naturedly about my bike (several of the boys had let me ride their bikes around the parking lot earlier in the year, so we had a history of bike riding between us).  And yes, Pee Wee Herman jokes were made at my expense.  However, I did not run them over with my vintage white-walled tires.  But I thought about it long and hard...

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Vintage Etienne Aigner Belt

Over twenty years ago, I dreamed of owning the Etienne Aigner belt that had tiny little signature A brads interspersed along the burgundy leather.  I would’ve worn it on the outside of whatever shirt or jeans I was sporting that day, just so people could admire the A brads.  It was too expensive for my $5.00 a week allowance.  And I wouldn’t have dared ask my parents to purchase it for me because I was busy working on them for a pair of Calvin Klein jeans.  Or was it Jordache?

I found this vintage Aigner belt at the America’s Thrift store in Rainbow City.  It is the very belt I coveted so many years ago.  It cost me fifty-nine cents.

The belt and I are at work today.  I am wearing it right now with a chambray peasant skirt and a beige fitted camp shirt.  Of course, I have it cinched on the outside of the shirt…so everyone can see the A brads.  I feel like I’m in middle school again.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Paint It Black

In Eric’s dream, Mick Jagger and the rest of the Rolling Stones came to our house.

“Why did you paint your interior walls white?” Mick wanted to know.  “We told you to paint them black.”

“But Mick,” said Eric. “You explicitly said that you wanted the red door painted black.  Well, we don’t have a red door.  AND you never said anything about the walls…”