Her James

Nearly four years ago, a young boy by the name of Jeremy Galmon was shot and killed after a second line had passed by, a casualty of people using bullets to settle arguments.

The fundraising for Jeremy’s family was held only a few blocks from my home, sponsored by members of the community and by Young Men of Olympia Social & Pleasure Club, who had sponsored the parade on the day that the boy was caught in the crossfire. The city was in an uproar over this latest victim of gun violence here, and the finger-pointing at the parade as a cause of the violence was happening in too much earnest. Casting blame on the second-line was far too easy to do at the time, but the bands were out in force, and people were driving by the Goodwork Network to give funding to the Galmon family and to deliver the message that second-lining was not a cause, but strove to be a solution in a number of ways. It was there that I met Deborah Cotton for the first time, working right alongside the organizers, enjoying the Baby Boyz Brass Band, the Roots of Music in one of its earliest incarnations, and assisting with style and grace.

I knew the name from her book Notes From New Orleans, which was one of the first post-8/29/2005 chronicles I’d read – I feel to this day that it is still unjustly overlooked as a smart, occasionally sassy, and heartfelt window into that time. I then found that she was contributing to Nola.com under the name Big Red Cotton via a blog there entitled Notes On New Orleans (I wonder where that title came from?), where her amazing voice and perspective jumped off the web browser and stood out among all that hot mess. She’d made it a point to immerse herself in the second line culture and invited me out to do so sometime.

I’ll tell everyone a secret: for quite a while, I wanted to write like Deb. Her frankness about how many people were on some sort of antidepressant to deal with the aftermath of the levee breaches helped make me bolder about admitting that I was on them and will most likely be on them for the rest of my life. There’s one post of mine that’s directly inspired by her examples: a multimedia account of a visit to another fundraiser, the Dinerral Shavers Educational Fund, filled with brass bands, love, laughter, and even some “Halftime,” anticipating the Saints’ Super Bowl win later that same month. I was happy to see her posting at the Gambit’s Blog of New Orleans, and touted her extensive online archive of second line YouTubes when I could.

Life gets crazy, and 2010 flew by, then 2011, 2012. I saw Deb again at a Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities program, then at Rising Tide 6, but I wasn’t able to take advantage of that opportunity to dance with her as she took in another of the second lines she so loved. Once I heard she was among the 19 shot by someone lying in wait for the procession to come by this past Sunday, my heart was in my throat. She’d worked so hard for so many years to show that this was a welcoming part of New Orleans culture, and one kid with a gun had struck that down, taking her with it…

She and a few others are still recovering from their injuries. The suspect(s) in the shooting is(are) still at large. And, for whatever reason, I find myself thinking about James.

James is no one specific. In Notes From New Orleans, Deb wrote about wanting a James to come along, and referred to him in one of her most recent tweets. James isn’t someone who can come and take her away from it all completely, but he can certainly make it all bearable for quite a while. James will know just what makes Deb tick, and will respond to her in all the right ways when she’s low, bringing her out of whatever doldrums she’s in. James is a supportive, seductive dream of a black man who hasn’t arrived in her life…but I wonder…

New Orleans may not have been perfect, and it may have lashed out at her, but it has sustained her all these years. She’s believed in it for so long, worked so hard for it, that I couldn’t help but think that one of the greatest tributes to her toils was Ronal Serpas making the point that the second line was not to blame for the shootings – and most everyone agreeing with that assessment. Jeffrey the yaller blogger is correct in saying “no one has done more to cover and celebrate this generation of NOLA street culture.” Deb treated it so well that if it were a person, I’m sure it would be a James.

It’s now time for us all to do what a James would do – support Deb and those others hurt in the shootings.

The Gambit is working with the Tipitina’s Foundation on a fundraiser for them all. Go here and stay alert for further details.

Deb kick-started New Orleans Good Good shortly before Sunday’s parade. Sign up for updates on her condition and details on fundraising. It would also be great, if you are in a position to do so, to sponsor some advertising on the site and keep her work going.

A blood drive effort for shooting victims is being scheduled for May 22, from 2-7 PM. At least 25 donors are needed for the blood drive. Contact meglousteau@gmail.com for further details and to volunteer.

Liprap

Cross-posted at Humid City

Screw You, Times-Picayune Subscriber!

It comes to this for the “can’t get its act together digitally OR dead-tree-wise” New Orleans Times-Picayune. Something – perhaps a prodigious drop in subscriptions? – has compelled the management of the T-P to make this move:

After slashing its newspaper printing to three days a week in late 2012, the Times-Picayune is beefing up its printing, according to a post the paper’s website Nola.com.

Part of the new printing plan is a new publication, TPStreet, a three-day a week paper “focusing on breaking news, sports and entertainment,” which “will appear in a tab-size format, publishing on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays,” said Jim Amoss, editor for the Times-Picayune, in the Nola.com article.

TPStreet will cost 75 cents and only be available for street sale in the metro area, as opposed to home delivery. The paper will continue to only offer home delivery on Wednesday, Friday and Sunday.

Further details on this latest development say that the subscribers will get an e-edition of TPStreet rather than having the paper delivered to their door – which means Newhouse Publications/NOLA Media Group still only has to pay door-to-door delivery people for 3 days/week deliveries. From NOLA Media’s end, it’s giving the people what they want and only paper cutting themselves a little in the process. (Well, not everything T-P readers want. There’s still no Saturday edition…)

From the still-hanging-on-by-their-ink-stained-fingers subscribers, though? This is still a big “screw you.” The NOLA.com website is still no paragon of navigation. It remains to be seen how prominently the TPStreet e-edition will be featured on the NOLA.com page, or how easy it will be to find the news on it. And nothing has been done about the cesspools that are the NOLA.com comment sections.

If this is NOLA Media Group responding to the public and to pressure from the competition The Advocate has presented, I’d say they need to go back to the presses. This is not a move that inspires confidence in the robustness of their product – in fact, it smacks of desperation. And a huge middle finger pointed in the direction of the people who willingly give them funding for an inferior product.

It’s sad, and it’s no better than Scott Thompson of The Kids In The Hall in the above sketch declaring he wants the right to masturbate in public. Enough of this dicking us around, T-P.

Update, 9:59 PM: Seems that millionaire and wannabe Louisiana politician John Georges has finally bought The Advocate and has installed two former T-P editors as key staffers. Is it merely coincidental that NOLA Media Group announces TPStreet on the same day as this development is made public? All I know is that New Orleans’ newspaper wars are fast headed to 451°…

Adventures In Sexism

Perhaps it may just be me and the particular people I follow via Twitter, but my obsessive tweeting has unearthed far too many misogynistic postings lately, stuff that we were supposed to have left behind us in this country but clearly haven’t yet. I’m having some trouble dating this particular spate of insanity over men’s and women’s roles in society…perhaps it goes back to this past bunch of national elections…or the Makers documentary on women in recent history, the third part of which I still can’t bring myself to watch…

…or all this talk about “leaning in,” which you, too, can do in a circle with the right materials, but only if you’ve socked away a lot of dough to get your own personal staff to help with things like child care:

How much do you have to spend on household help to replace a traditional at-home mom—someone to do the schlepping, cooking, cleaning, child care, and laundry? About $96,261, according to Investopedia.

In all of the voluminous ink that has been spilled on Sheryl Sandberg’s new book, and on women and the barriers they face in cracking the glass ceiling, no one is saying what is glaringly obvious to anyone thinking about how to have a big career and a family: start saving for the army of help you’ll need to pull it off. In other words, a nanny, a housekeeper, and a baby nurse.

This is no longer some bourgeois luxury; it’s a necessity given the lack of affordable child-care options and the reality that men have not picked up much of the slack at home (whether because they are burning the midnight oil at their own work, or because they prefer to watch football with the guys).

All of which, when one cannot afford to lean in despite the stunning amount of talent and hard work one has exhibited, results in the decision I and many of my fellow women have had to make out of necessity and NOT of true choice: to stay at home with the kids instead of essentially working to pay just enough for child care and little else. You’ll have to excuse me when I post the following links for your perusal; I’ve read only one of them all the way through. Guess which one and you’ll win a Twitter follow from lil’ ol’ me.

  • The Retro Wife, in which feminism is somehow still affirmed even when the woman goes right back into the place where patriarchy says she’s gotta go. Someone tell me please how that works – does said woman not go quietly? Is there a message of protest every day in the kids’ & husbands’ lunch boxes? I’m still trying to figure this out.
  • Turnabout is fair play, and Ruth Fowler’s The Retro Husband makes the most of it. So smarmy & darkly humorous, I wish I could really belly laugh over it. I must instead be content with a knowing, wistful guffaw.

And then a tempest in an oven comes down the virtual pike with rocket scientist Yvonne Brill’s obituary in the New York Times:

New York Times obituary for Yvonne Brill, a rocket scientist and inventor of a propulsion system that helped keep communication satellites in orbit, sparkedcontroversy over the weekend, as writer Douglas Martin led not with Brill’s notable scientific achievements but with the fact that she “made a mean beef stroganoff.”

After a number of complaints on Twitter — and the agreement of the Times’ Public Editor Margaret Sullivan — the opening of Brill’s obituary was altered and the stroganoff line scrubbed. But the new opening sentence provides only the tiniest improvement — it rightly acknowledges Brill’s role as a brilliant rocket scientist up front, but it does so in the same breath and sentence in which she is commended for being a dutiful wife and dedicated, flexible mother: “She was a brilliant rocket scientist who followed her husband from job to job and took eight years off from work to raise three children. ‘The world’s best mom,’ her son Matthew said.”

In contrast, recently deceased film critic Roger Ebert did write a cookbook, but it is mentioned in passing in his many obituaries – and certainly not as a defining element of his life right off the bat, though he dearly loved his wife Chaz and his stepchildren and step-grandchildren and had himself described that love as a transformative force in his life. It just wasn’t deemed by the media to be as defining a role in Ebert’s life as it apparently was in Brill’s.

I wish I could say all of this was new and startling, but it’s the same ol’ same ol’ since well before my time. All of us, women AND men, keep juggling with sexism in our lives. In the movies. In who gets called first when there’s a family emergency. In who should be leaning in – or leaning out, as the case may be. In what we do or do NOT do to help when women start families.

April 9 is Equal Pay Day, calling attention to the fact that women still earn approximately 1/4 less than men do. Why April 9? It represents the time a woman has to work to earn what a man got in all 365 days of 2012 – a year and a little over three months. A suggestion by economics professor Anne York is that the household tasks be split more equitably than they have been to help achieve greater awareness for all and, through both the equal pay and household work time measurements, this will achieve the equality we all crave.

It takes far more than that. It takes our fully recognizing that men are just as capable as women as being child-rearers, nurturers, and caregivers, and that it is just as important as women being successful in traditionally-male roles. It takes all of us making conscious choices to not give in to the stereotypes and to act accordingly.

We’re not there yet…and at the rate we’re going, we may not get there in my lifetime. But I sure hope it’ll happen in this century. And I certainly wish I didn’t have to keep setting my expectations so damned low.

These birds don’t need to fly South — help keep New Orleans free of “duck boat” tours!

The New Orleans Steamboat Co. and Grayline Tours have filed an application requesting a license to operate “duck boat tours.”

These excursions will travel along Decatur Street through the French Quarter to the Grayline location at the Toulouse Street Wharf, then to Canal Street and out to Lake Pontchartrain. At this time, I’m guessing that these WWII amphibious landing craft vehicles will return to that location for tour participants to disembark, but the precise route of travel throughout the city isn’t something I’ve been able to confirm (yet).  It has been reported that tours will likely also depart from and return to the WWII Museum due to its inherent tie-in with the type of vehicle being used.

The congestion and the sheer variety of vehicles traveling on Decatur Street is already alarming. In addition to standard buses directed to use Decatur as an approved bus route, there are the mule-drawn buggies, the questionably safe candy-colored three-wheeled toy cars, shorter buses and faux trolleys that are permitted to travel throughout the Quarter, pedicabs and, most recently, double-decker hop-on/hop-off tour buses — all in addition to personal vehicles, delivery trucks, taxis, bicycles, etc.

Do we really need to add over-sized amphibious landing craft into the mix of traffic traveling throughout our notoriously pothole-riddled city? I suspect that our elected officials will come to realize that it’s simply too much only after the appropriate licenses have been issued (and the wheels and propellers have started spinning).

I view these duck boat tours as an encroaching invasive species — yet another homogenized cookie-cutter tourist experience not particularly different from all of the other duck boat tours offered in several other cities in the United States. And I am absolutely confident that New Orleans will continue to draw a staggering number of visitors (9.01 million during 2012!) without the addition of this novelty tour.

These open-air vehicles will feature amplified music and the tour guides will use theatrical-quality sound systems to broadcast their repetitive spiels. Tour participants are also encouraged to sing along with recorded music at particular locations along the route, asked to use souvenir plastic “quackers” frequently, and urged to be boisterous to draw attention to the spectacle — noisy displays of “participatory fun” are a part of the overall promotional marketing strategy for these tours.

An example of the duck boat tour experience can be viewed via this video:

 

The duck boat tours have recently ruffled feathers in Seattle, as well:

The company bills the rides as a “party that floats,” complete with a “crazy captain” who narrates the passing scenery through a loudspeaker and passengers outfitted with duck squawkers.

At the height of summer, the Duck boats enter and leave Lake Union 150 times a day, or about once every four minutes in a 10-hour day, according to company estimates and the neighbors’ calculations. Plans call for a ramp just south of a small street-end park and 100 feet from the nearest houseboats.

“It’s like putting a truck route through a quiet, residential neighborhood,” said Dave Galvin, who has lived on a nearby houseboat for 26 years.

Further, a duck boat tour resulted in the deaths of two tourists in Philadelphia, PA: Duck Boat Survivor Describes Chaos of 2010 Barge Crash on Delaware River. A “runaway duck” boat caused a seven-car pile-up in Boston; another ran over a motorcyclist stopped at a red light, then dragged its victim through a prominent downtown Seattle intersection. The Huffington Post conveniently provides additional accident reporting: Duck Boats Have a History of Accidents: A Brief Guide. As one writer noted (regarding the Boston accident), “Weird. It’s almost as if amphibious vehicles from WWII are unreliable or something.” This might very well be true, given that were designed for storming beaches in combat zones instead of providing recreational tours in densely-populated urban environments.

I wonder, how many neighborhoods in New Orleans will be directly affected by these tours? These notably ugly and loud vehicles could end up traveling through any neighborhood deemed “interesting” for whatever purpose serves the tour companies and their guides, just like any other bus tour. Since the most common model of this vehicle exceeds 31′ in length, they won’t be allowed into the interior of the French Quarter… but I don’t believe that any similar prohibition protects any other neighborhood in New Orleans.

(Keep in mind, too, that the Vieux Carré isn’t entirely immune to a future duck boat tour invasion — reportedly there are variations of these vehicles currently in use in other cities that are shorter than 31′ in length, suggesting the possibility they could be seen traveling within the Quarter eventually.)

The way I understand it at this moment, when someone applies for a For Hire Vehicle Certificate of Public Necessity and Convenience (CPNC) license for the purpose of operating a tour, it’s pretty much handled directly by the city’s Taxi for Hire Vehicle Bureau (under the purview of its Director, Malachi Hull). In general, a tour is a tour is a tour — even if an application involves a type of vehicle not yet in use in the city of New Orleans. I am unaware of any particular requirement for new types of vehicles or tours to go before the City Council’s Transportation Committee for public review and comment.

Yesterday I sent the following email inquiry (and will add any reply received to this post):

Date: Sun, Mar 24, 2013 at 5:05 PM
Subject: Seeking Transportation Committee agenda information
re: “Ride the Ducks”
To: “Kristin G. Palmer” <kgpalmer@nola.gov>, “Vincent J. Rossmeier” <vjrossmeier@nola.gov>

Hello, Councilmember Palmer:

I understand that the New Orleans Steamboat Co. & Grayline Tours have requested a CPNC license to operate duck boat tours that will travel along Decatur Street through the French Quarter to the Grayline tour bays, then to Canal Street and out to Lake Pontchartrain, etc.

May I please ask when this might appear on the New Orleans City Council’s Transportation Committee agenda for public consideration and comment? According to the “Tentative Committee Meeting Schedule” posted online, it appears that the next meeting of this committee is scheduled for 10:00 AM on Tuesday, March 26, 2013.

Thank you for your time and assistance.

Kalen Wright

I don’t believe that there’s much available in terms of legal prohibitions for our City Council to trot out to deny the issuance of a CPNC license for these tours. These vehicles are being characterized as “tour buses.” We let tour buses travel the perimeter of the French Quarter routinely (as part of the ages-old compromise to keep them out of the the Vieux Carré’s interior) and to otherwise roam the city freely. However, these ugly-as-hell vehicles and the noisy behavior of tour participants will constitute a regularly-scheduled nuisance for all, most particularly those who happen to live near a featured attraction along the tour’s route.

We need for a popular uprising objecting to the proposed duck boat tour invasion of New Orleans, if for no other reason than to give our City Council a groundswell of constituent concern to use as a shield.

Please write to our city Council members, Mayor Landrieu, and New Orleans Taxicab and For Hire Bureau Director Malachi Hull immediately regarding this issue — because there’s not an overt requirement calling for public review or comment regarding this matter, a license could unfortunately be issued at any time.

For convenience here’s a handy clip-and-paste address list:

Malachi Hull <mhull@nola.gov>, Kristin G. Palmer <kgpalmer@nola.gov>, Susan Guidry <sgguidry@nola.gov>, James Gray II <jagray@nola.gov>, Stacy Head <shead@nola.gov>, Jackie Brechtel Clarkson <jbclarkson@nola.gov>, LaToya Cantrell <lcantrell@nola.gov>, Cynthia Hedge-Morrell <chmorrell@nola.gov>, Mayor Mitchell J. Landrieu <mjlandrieu@nola.gov>

Opposition to outlandish vehicles isn’t without precedent in New Orleans. Please consider the words of Ignatius J. Reilly from John Kennedy Toole’s A Confederacy of Dunces (with a hat tip to Jeffrey at Library Chronicles):

I wish that those Scenicruisers would be discontinued; it would seem to me that their height violates some interstate highway statue regarding clearance in tunnels and so forth. Perhaps one of you, dear readers, with a legal turn of mind can dredge the appropriate clause from your memory. Those things really must be removed. Simply knowing that they are hurtling somewhere on this dark night makes me most apprehensive.

Or, as Thom Kahler quipped when I started posting my concerns regarding this subject elsewhere on the Internet, “Oh, no, no! Let’s hold out for ‘Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride!'”

Duck boat tours in New Orleans? Please, let’s all sound off with a loud and heartfelt “HELL, NO!” chorus right now! Send a reminder to our elected officials once again that we are a community — not a commodity.

V-Day Pileup: On Silence and Violence

There are two links in this post I urge you to contribute to, one being the fund for the recovery of the Garden District robbery and rape victim, the other for the Metropolitan Center for Women and Children. Read on to see why.

More and more, I’m finding it cannot be avoided, no matter how hard women try. We are still surrounded by people who would put us in what they think is “our place,” a position that tends to be highly restrictive on any and all physical and mental levels.

Tell me I’m crazy. Go on and talk down to me, I dare you.

…the out-and-out confrontational confidence of the totally ignorant is, in my experience, gendered. Men explain things to me, and other women, whether or not they know what they’re talking about. Some men.

Every woman knows what I’m talking about. It’s the presumption that makes it hard, at times, for any woman in any field; that keeps women from speaking up and from being heard when they dare; that crushes young women into silence by indicating, the way harassment on the street does, that this is not their world. It trains us in self-doubt and self-limitation just as it exercises men’s unsupported overconfidence.

I wouldn’t be surprised if part of the trajectory of American politics since 2001 was shaped by, say, the inability to hear Coleen Rowley, the FBI woman who issued those early warnings about al-Qaeda, and it was certainly shaped by a Bush administration to which you couldn’t tell anything, including that Iraq had no links to al-Qaeda and no WMDs, or that the war was not going to be a “cakewalk.” (Even male experts couldn’t penetrate the fortress of their smugness.)…

…Credibility is a basic survival tool. When I was very young and just beginning to get what feminism was about and why it was necessary, I had a boyfriend whose uncle was a nuclear physicist. One Christmas, he was telling–as though it were a light and amusing subject–how a neighbor’s wife in his suburban bomb-making community had come running out of her house naked in the middle of the night screaming that her husband was trying to kill her. How, I asked, did you know that he wasn’t trying to kill her? He explained, patiently, that they were respectable middle-class people. Therefore, her-husband-trying-to-kill-her was simply not a credible explanation for her fleeing the house yelling that her husband was trying to kill her. That she was crazy, on the other hand….

Even getting a restraining order–a fairly new legal tool–requires acquiring the credibility to convince the courts that some guy is a menace and then getting the cops to enforce it. Restraining orders often don’t work anyway. Violence is one way to silence people, to deny their voice and their credibility, to assert your right to control over their right to exist. About three women a day are murdered by spouses or ex-spouses in this country. It’s one of the main causes of death in pregnant women in the U.S. At the heart of the struggle of feminism to give rape, date rape, marital rape, domestic violence, and workplace sexual harassment legal standing as crimes has been the necessity of making women credible and audible.

Events and discussions will occasionally converge that lead me to a boiling point on this subject…

Why it’s disgusting and ignorant of you to imply that a woman caught large Mardi Gras beads in a risque manner, for instance. Yeah, it’s one of the oldest, sexist, dumbest Carnival tropes, but it does get tiring after a while. I caught huge, LSU-emblazoned beads just from being at the start of the Thoth parade route. Next Carnival season, I’m gonna ask the next guy I see with giant beads on what he flashed for them.

A list of the 10 cities where women earn the highest salaries is always nifty, but women are still earning less than men.

The horrific news about the murder of paraplegic Olympic sprinter Oscar Pistorius‘ girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, who was an advocate for victims of sexual abuse.

Controversy over the Eve Ensler-organized One Billion Rising Campaign, which I only just heard about today, but I also wonder about its premise…as do many other women around the world.:

I recently listened to a Congolese woman talk in a speak-easy setting of radical grassroots feminists. She was radiantly and beautifully powerful in her unfiltered anger towards the One Billion Rising movement, as she used the words “insulting” and “neo-colonial”. She used the analogy of past crimes against humanity, asking us if we could imagine people turning up at the scenes of atrocities and taking pictures or filming for the purposes of “telling their story to the rest of the world”. Take it one step further and try to imagine a white, middle class, educated, American women turning up on the scene to tell survivors to ‘rise’ above the violence they have seen and experienced by…wait for it…dancing. “Imagine someone doing that to holocaust survivors”, she said.

I had occasion to speak with someone about the recent kidnapping, robbery, beating, and rape of a young woman in the Garden District, and large chunks of the conversation revolved around the same tropes that come up whenever something like this happens to any woman. It all came around to our living in a world where women are taught “not to be raped,” and the suspicion that comes up is generally directed first against the woman who is the victim rather than the perpetrators. When a victim’s first move is to tell her would-be comforters and shelterers “Don’t touch me. I’m evidence,” then we know who the burden of proof is on.

This hasn’t ended with the capture of the criminals and their upcoming trial. Though a large amount of funds has been raised thus far for the victim’s rehabilitation, she will need far more than that – keep contributing here. This friend of a friend of mine will be grateful.

I ask you to also consider that state budget cuts will likely destabilize what structures there are to assist women who have been victims of domestic violence as well – among them New Orleans’ own Metropolitan Center for Women and Children. They accept donations of time or money here.

Know of any other needy organizations in the city or state that help female victims of abuse, rape, or violence? Please contribute names and links in the comments. It’ll be the best Valentine’s Day gift you give. Honest.

Carnival as Goat Rodeo

From the Urban Dictionary: A Goat Rodeo… is about the most polite term used by aviation people (and others in higher risk situations) to describe a scenario that requires about 100 things to go right at once if you intend to walk away from it.”

- Chris Thile

Thanks to this past Super Bowl, most of the country has gotten a bit of an idea of what it is to live in a goat rodeo as we do in New Orleans. Personally, I think if the scoreboard hadn’t gone out as well, play could’ve resumed right off in a half-lit Superdome, but that 34-minute delay sure made for a lot of fun on Twitter, most of it coming from the locals.

The thing most people cannot understand unless they live here is how much the week of Carnivalus interruptus has thrown us revelers for a loop. Honestly, if I hadn’t had the Abita Springs’ Krewe of Pushmow parade in which to march the Saturday just before the big game, I’d be running through the streets begging the greasy-food stand on my parade-watching corner that disappeared for the week before February 3rd to return and rounding up a bunch of people to throw the carnival goodies collected in my attic at nearby sidewalks and neutral grounds just to justify the booth’s presence. We don’t need all the famous people here to have fun, and if they happen to be here, we don’t particularly care.

Having said that, in goat rodeo terms, this has been one of the easiest-going Carnivals I’ve experienced in part because of that break, in part because I have a bit of a particular party pooper for a son (if he goes to the parades, they must be day parades unless he’s with peers who are attending a night parade, and the weather must be pretty good, and he must be plied with snacks – some of them coming from that greasy-food stand – and a few boxes of gunpowder poppers from the carts that troll the crowds just before a parade, looking to sell wares one can most likely catch off a float later on), and in part because I’ve got so much stuff in that attic I mentioned earlier, it doesn’t matter much to me what we get this year. As a result, I’ve been able to kick back a little and enjoy some of the quirkier aspects of New Orleans Carnival.

I got to enjoy my fifth year of marching in Krewe du Vieux with the Seeds of Decline. We had a marvelous float tweaking Chick-Fil-A, in case you couldn’t tell from my costume:

©SeanAmbrose-47

(Photo copyright 2013 by Sean Ambrose)

I dragged my son to see the Krewe of ‘tit Rex, which he wasn’t thrilled about at first, until he got some of the mini throws the krewe members pass to paradegoers as they pull their elegant (and topical) shoebox floats through the Marigny.

Maximum Jindal: Bare Minimum State

We managed to fit in a look at the Intergalactic Krewe of Chewbacchus a few hours later on the same night – of which my personal favorite part was seeing these guys yip-yip-yip their way along the parade route. Uh-huh uh-huh.

Sesame Street Martians

But we all got together with friends for a beautiful morning of marching through Abita Springs as a band of pirates. I even emerged with sunburned shoulders this year – it’s tough being a faire pirate wenche.

Anyway, I’m sure the goat rodeo will be in full swing in this parade-packed march to Mardi Gras day. ‘Til then, roll with it, be safe

Pirate Me

and Happy Marrrrr-di Gras to all.

Guest Post: It’s your party and I’ll cry if I want to: Why the St. Claude Night Market needs to talk to its neighbors

This past Saturday night, there was a community event on my block. Or at least that’s what the people there told me was going on. I wouldn’t have known about it if I hadn’t been home and wondering what all the noise was. My first thought was that Treme was filming in the lot across the street from my house, but then I realized there hadn’t been any signs up, nor any flyers stuffed in my shutters.

Even before I went to check out the event, I had a flash of resentment towards it, akin to the anguished feeling of not being invited to a classmate’s party in grade school. Why didn’t I know a planned “community” event was going on across the street from my own house? Who is organizing such things and not telling the neighbors?

This feeling turned closer to anger when I opened my front door and found a stranger’s bicycle locked to my elevated(!) front porch, and my neighbor distraught at the possibility she might not be able to park directly in front of her home if she went out again. Far from lazy, this is actually a serious concern given her caretaking responsibility for her disabled mother-in-law (which necessitates quick and easy access to a vehicle in the event of a medical issue), as well as the very real threat of violent crime, particularly against women, in our city.

When I went to see what was happening, I found that it was an art and food market coinciding with the monthly St. Claude Avenue “walk” amongst and through the neighborhood’s art galleries. Though the market was festive and interesting, I felt a little strange attending a party on my block that I didn’t feel invited to, or even informed about.

It wasn’t so much that I felt awkward or unusual navigating the space of the market; it was more that I experienced it as an imposition on my neighborhood. This was especially weird because the majority of the market vendors and attendeees were young white scruffy people, just like me. As the presumed intended audience demographic, I was perturbed that I did not know who the organizers were, they didn’t seem to care to know me or even tell me the event was happening on my block, and so the whole thing felt forced.

While I should have been happy that a normally desolate corner of my street was inhabited by brightly lit creative enterprise, I felt like a bunch of people just came, had their party, and left, with no thought as to their physical or psychological impact.

This impact was echoed in my neighbor’s concerns about parking, my feelings of invasion when I saw that bike on my porch (and there was even valet bicycle parking at the market!), the overall sense of disorder brought by the vendors’ cars parked in all kinds of directions on my one-way street, and the slipshod approach to neighborhood ingratiation. It seemed that the people behind the event expected that such a thing would be embraced and celebrated by the “community,” but they didn’t even check in with their next-door neighbors about it, some of whom are artists and craftspeople themselves and might have wanted to participate in the market as vendors.

So, to the organizers of this market, I think that you should take a look at your goals and the realities of this city we inhabit, and come to a more sensitive threshold from which to make future decisions. You may be artists and entrepreneurs, social movers and shakers, concerned citizens and the like, but you are also a mostly white gentrifying force, bringing all the baggage that entails.

Yes, you bring your clever jewelry made from repurposed materials, but you also bring an anxiety to residents who do not know your intentions. You bring your “shamanic consultations,” along with a sense of unrequested spatial appropriation.

What I’m saying is that while your aims may not necessarily be antithetical to those of the neighborhood, it would do us all a great service for you to come to an immediate understanding of how your presence imposes upon your surroundings.

I do not object to you as individuals, to your DIY aesthetic, to your livening up the block with art, people, much-needed street light; in fact I was intrigued by much of your crafts and goods. I do object however to your lack of community outreach and to your overall neglectful attitude towards the very residents of the block you occupied last Saturday night, however briefly.

Indeed, when I tried to look up your event on Facebook (which is not a medium easily accessible to all my neighbors, it should be said), I found that you had listed the address of the market space completely incorrectly – there is no 3600 block of Independence Street – betraying at best a sloppy approach to event-planning, at worst a lack of localized knowledge.

I suggest for the next time – and I do hope there is a next time, as your intentions seem to be from a sincere and good place – you do some meaningful outreach in the neighborhood beforehand and gauge the residents’ mood towards your event: What are the concerns? What bothered us about last time? What would we want to see next time? After all, when you look around your event in Bywater – or anywhere in New Orleans, for that matter – and the faces you see are almost exclusively white and young, you are not having a community event.

I say this as a person who looks very much like you, who moved here post-Katrina, and who grapples with the very same conundrums of racial, economic, political, and social life that beset your operation. I did not ask my neighbors if it was alright if I moved to the block. But I do invite them to my parties.

Sincerely,

Arielle Schecter

PS: Also, please do a better job of cleaning up your trash when you leave next time. I don’t think that organic empanada detritus was there before you arrived.

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Editor’s note: Arielle’s post was first published on her blog, Shtetl Chic, where she received quite a response to this issue including the event organizer here.

Harvest the Music – 5th Annual Concert Series Has Begun!

This week the 5th Annual Harvest the Music concert series kicked off at Lafayette Square with a great concert by Los Po-Boy-Citos and the Iguanas. The square was hopping with people enjoying the beautiful fall-like weather, gathering with friends and supporting Second Harvest Food Bank.

September is Hunger Action Month, and while the food bank is usually busy talking about hunger in our community throughout the month, this year things were delayed a little because of Hurricane Isaac. Second Harvest has been operating in disaster response mode since August 31 and to date has distributed just over 1.5 million pounds of food in the areas impacted by Hurricane Isaac. Through Harvest the Music this year, we will talk about the HUNGER issues affecting south Louisiana and how to use your voice to “Speak out against hunger.”

Wednesday night, the Mercedes-Benz Superdome was aglow in ORANGE to support the kick-off of the Harvest the Music concert series and to put HUNGER in the spotlight. The first concert was a big success and this week Dr. John is sure to draw a huge crowd for a great cause.

Please spread the word about the concerts and I hope to see you all out there the next 5 weeks enjoying great food, friends and a good time!

 

Fighting Child Hunger with a new Toyota

We all feel hunger pains at some point during the day. Most of us are lucky enough to not have to worry where our next meal will come from, however not everyone is so lucky. Summer is a busy time for most families and before starting my new job at Second Harvest Food Bank a couple months ago, I never really thought much about how families and children that receive free and reduced lunches are affected during the summer.

What I’ve learned is both eye-opening and frightening: 1 in 5 CHILDREN in Louisiana struggles with hunger, this means someone my son goes to school with could be hungry. The need for food assistance during the summer months at Second Harvest is tremendous and it is usually a time of year when donations are not as plentiful.

Last June, Second Harvest Food Bank opened the Community Kitchen inside the spacious 700 Edwards Avenue warehouse. This community kitchen prepares hot, nutritious meals for children through its Kids Cafe and Summer Feeding program sites across the New Orleans metropolitan area. Last year the community kitchen at Second Harvest fed 2,500 children breakfast and lunch totaling 101,525 meals at 36 sites.

This summer, Second Harvest has increased its Summer Feeding program to over 50 sites and feeding almost 4,000 children daily. That’s nearly a quarter million meals for children who might otherwise go hungry this summer. These meals are prepared, plated and delivered daily by a team of volunteers who often use their own vehicles. This summer these meals will feed children in the Greater New Orleans area as well as three sites in Lafayette, St. Martin and Calcasieu parishes. A new Toyota vehicle will help Second Harvest Food Bank deliver nutritious meals to more children in need!

This Saturday, June 9 Second Harvest is competing against 4 other organizations to win a new Toyota from the Toyota 100 Cars for Good program. I hope the NOLAFemmes community will support Second Harvest and their mission to end hunger and especially child hunger across south Louisiana.

To vote visit: www.100CarsForGood.com  voting takes place between 9am – 11pm CDT Saturday, June 9.

I hope to be able to share more news from Second Harvest Food Bank to all of you again soon.

Blight or Might?

neigh·bor [ney-ber]

noun

1.

a person who lives near another.
2.

a person or thing that is near another.
3.

one’s fellow human being: to be generous toward one’s less fortunate neighbors.
4.

a person who shows kindliness or helpfulness toward his or her fellow humans: to be a neighbor to someone in distress.
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This is a story about  Kweku Nyaawie’s  house, his neighbors and what happened when he became physically unable to complete the restoration of his house at 616 Port Street in the Marigny.  It’s a story with details that deserve to be read so I’m going to link to the story on NOLA Slate and I hope you’ll click over and read it. Long story short: Ku was restoring a shotgun he bought shortly after Katrina. He became  involved in the community including the Community Garden Project in Treme. Then he was involved in an accident in 2010 that left him unable to walk and resulted in his having to have physical therapy in Texas. Recently, he received a letter from the city summoning him to a blight hearing  as a result of complaints by neighbors. Neighbors who most likely knew of his accident and the circumstances of why the restoration was on hold. He was given a list of things that had to be fixed or he would be levied a $500.00 a day fine. Personally, I find it interesting that he received a blight notice so quickly when other people in the city have lived next to blighted property since the storm with absolutely no response from the city to their repeated complaints.
Enter other neighbors into this story. Neighbors who know the true meaning of the word:  “a person who shows kindliness or helpfulness toward his or her fellow humans: to be a neighbor to someone in distress.”
On Martin Luther King Day a group of neighbors (physical neighbors and metaphorical neighbors) came together to help Ku with the to-do list mandated by the city. It’s my understanding much was accomplished but, as of this writing, supplies and money have run out. Fund raising is being discussed to raise the money  to complete the project and I will let you know when I hear more on that.
Meanwhile, please read the complete story and ‘Like” Ku’s House on FaceBook. If you’re unable to help physically or monetarily then please show your support on the FaceBook page. Let Ku know we support him.