Tuesday, January 30, 2007

I've Never Felt This Way Before

I haven't written in another week (YOU my friends were supposed to be kicking my butt about that. We had an agreement... remember?) and I have had several things planned to write about (from the State of Disunion to the ZAP festival), but when Mary sent me this video link this afternoon it stopped me in my tracks.

THIS is my answer to the dumbfuck who I had my unfortunate confrontation with last week.

THIS is what the Saints were all about this year and why it's the first time in my half century of life that I give a damn about a football team .

They ain't playin' Sunday... but they still won.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Thanks Boys!

Well… the great football hope ended yesterday when “Duh Bears” beat the Saints in Chicago. I was listening to WWL this morning to hear how folks in the Crescent City were taking it, and I was heartened by the fact that most people on the radio and phoning in were talking about how much the spirit of the team brought to New Orleans in the last few months. It seems to me that this is really the perfect end to the metaphor. For the Saints, the team that couldn’t win started doing a lot of winning this year and they came back with a force that was strong and dynamic and hopeful. They didn’t go all the way and win the Super Bowl, just like the city remains a long long way from real recovery, but the spirit is there and the hope is there and the will to pull it off is there.

Next year in Jerusalem.

Most people I know were expressing condolences to me yesterday as I sat down at my local watering hole still wearing my black and gold, and most of them understood that I took the game lightly (I’m not exactly a football fan) but that I also held a lot of meaning in the mythological container that it provided. Under circumstances like these, like a truffle pig in the woods, you dig for hope anywhere you can find it. I wasn’t the only one who found some in the Saints and most people I know understood that.

It wasn’t until later that evening that I ran into someone who just had to make the remark that, “I’m tired of hearing all about New Orleans and how the Saints are bringing the city hope.” Well… I lost my cool and let him have it. Not physically, but verbally. Blasting him with a diatribe I have unleashed before, but which I have held at bay in the last few months. I later apologized to him for the pummeling, but while I was sincere in the apology I’m not sorry for the feelings that were raised.

There was a nice video before the game that showed the reality of New Orleans RIGHT NOW. A New Orleans that pretty much looks the same as it did last year at this time with people still without houses, or help, or hope of much assistance from the people who promised it. There was an article in the New York Times over the weekend that took a look at the reduced population of the city and the dire predictions that it’s likely to remain that way. But with those exceptions, out here in the “real world” New Orleans is no longer news. While we can continue to dump billions of dollars and thousands of bodies and lives into Bush’s desert quagmire, and we can talk that thing to death (and just for the record – withdrawal IS a plan!) news from New Orleans has, for many people, reached the saturation point. In just the last week and half I’ve had two people look at me in all seriousness and say, “Well it’s pretty much all back to normal, right?”

How many ways is it possible to say NO!?!?!

So thanks again to the boys in Black & Gold for keeping New Orleans in the news (and forcing idiots like the guy I was talking to last night to have to face into the reality of America in 2007) and for giving New Orleanians (both in and out of the city) hope, if only for a little while.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Dead Man Talking...

I've spent six hours over the last three days watching the DVD of Spike Lee's Katrina documentary, "When the Levees Broke" and it has been a deeply moving experience. There have been a lot of comments about one aspect of the film or another, but like most things it's pretty important to watch the thing for yourself and take it all in. For me, it seems pretty well balanced and pretty damn accurate. Even the controversial elements (like accusations by some in the Lower 9 that they heard explosions right before the levees broke) are treated with an examination from both sides. The only people that really don't get a pass in this one are the folks from the Federal government (Bush, Brownie, FEMA, The Corps of Engineers), and that seems to me to be the way it should be.

Through it all, the most disturbing moment for me came yesterday morning as I sat down to watch Act 3 before I started my day. Right there from the beginning is a brass band funeral procession followed by Dick Shavers strolling through the Lower 9th Ward and talking about all the people who had disappeared. As soon as he came on the screen I sat bolt upright and nearly spilled my coffee in my lap. The experience was exactly like seeing a ghost. As the scene continued on, I sat mesmerized by the image on the screen a young man full of life and potential, a great player, and, at least from everything I could see on the screen, a terrific man.

Now he's gone... 16 months after Katrina, another casualty of the storm.

Afterwards, I went to the Hot 8 website and found what seems to me to be the perfect song for the moment. RIP Dick Shavers... play that heavenly snare like nobody's ever heard.

Harry Shearer's column in The Huffington Post has some worthwhile things to say about the situation in New Orleans right now, and as usual Chris Rose has his share of things to say in two columns from Sunday and from Tuesday.

As for the rest of you... get the video... watch it... and do something. If you can't find a copy of the video, or you can't figure out what to do, email me or leave a comment and I'll help you figure it out.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Enough is Enough... Damnit!

This picture, taken from the New Orleans Times-Picayune, is of a man praying outside the house of the next to most recent murder in The Crescent City (there was another one this morning). The woman who was murdered at this house, Helen Hill, was not actually a friend of mine, but a typical NOLA acquaintance (which is pretty much the equivalent of a friend anywhere else in the country); a friend of a friend and someone I had met, but had not really gotten to know yet. Helen was the mother of a two year old and an animator and filmaker who, like me, was deeply in love with New Orleans. Her partner, who survives her, is a doctor deeply committed to public health and solid health care for those at the bottom of our economic reality. They were shining, bright, enthusiastic and loving people. Now... Helen is dead, her child is without a mother and her partner is set loose on a sea of confusion (and I would expect no small amount of bitterness).

THIS is the reality of my city at the start of 2007. Less than a week ago Dinerral "DICK" Shavers, the snare drummer for the Hot 8 Brass Band, the up and coming challengers for the Brass Band musical crown previously held by the Dirty Dozen Brass Band and Reirth Brass Band, was shot and killed. The police chief of New Orleans likes to point out that the murder rate is down, but when you consider the fact that less than half the population of New Orleans have come home... well, per-capita, the murder rate is actually UP.

In less than four weeks, I am planning to return, but with this - and so many other circumstances - I don't know what that means. When I was living in New Orleans a year ago there was a sense of hope and progress; I'm not seeing much of that now. I hope I see it again when I return in a few weeks.

It seems to me that THIS may be the central issue of peace making in the world right now. All violence seems to be simply a highly expanded version of this "small" violence, a violence that we all seem capable of at one point in time or another, but which seems to strike too often in urban environments and in the houses of the innocent. As Gandhi said... "you must become the change you wish to see in the world." What does that mean... right here and now? How can I truly make the world, the country, my neighborhood, and my home a better and more peaceful place?

Or... to quote the Irishman with whom I share my birthday... "What's so funny about peace, love, and understanding?"

On the Twelfth Day of Christmas...

Okay... First off, I apologize for dumping two YouTube videos in a row on you. I promise I won't ever do it again (probably). However, this song for Christmas, produced by The Rumor Mill in NYC is a particularly poignant play off of the classic Frosty the Snowman song... a slightly twisted look at Christmas and Global Warming.

Have a look at the video and then drop by the Save Frosty site for more information. You might even consider purchasing the fundraising album of very interesting Christmas songs for next year's holiday playlist... I did.

Merry Christmas until next year.