Hot Reads 8/17/14

Another week has passed and another list of great reading to share with you. First up are three essays about New Orleans. Well, we can never get in enough reading about our city, now can we? One is about cocktails and culture, one has all the color and flair of the French Quarter and one of its legendary characters, and another features one woman’s unique way of coping after Katrina and how it changed her life. All three are wonderful in different ways.

Photo credit: Pableaux Johnson for The Bitter Southerner

Photo credit: Pableaux Johnson for The Bitter Southerner

First up, from The Bitter Southerner (an online journal I just love): “No.4” in their Cocktail Series featuring SoBou bartender Abigail Gullo.
Favorite quote: “Steen’s Cane Syrup is such an integral part of my own life that I’ve often worried that eventually I’ll be drowned in a great wave of the sticky-sweet cane juice, preserved forever like a gluttonous bug in amber.”
Note: True dat! If you grew up in Louisiana or Mississippi and didn’t have Steen’s in the house, what was wrong with your family?

 

 

 

 

 

 

From The Oxford American: “The Chess King of Decatur Street”
Favorite Quote: “Acers pushed his plastic chair back, stood, and made a grand bow, sweeping his arm from high above his head to down around his ankles. “Dear sir,” he cried, “we shall not speak of things that cannot come to pass.””

Image Credit: Dadu Shin for The New York Times

Image Credit: Dadu Shin for The New York Times

From The New York Times: “What the Sparrows Told Me”
Favorite Quote: ” My father had been told that he had terminal cancer 40 days after Katrina. He didn’t know a Mugimaki flycatcher from a Hudsonian godwit. But during his last days he loved to watch the birds come to his feeders. If watching birds could help my father die, maybe it could help me live and teach.”
Note: I remember well the eerie quiet after the storm, the absence of birdsong. It was a sweet moment when I realized I was hearing the tweets of the first returned birds.

 

 

From Unclutterer blog: Modified Principals of Sanitary Design
Favorite quote: “This list may seem restrictive, but we have found when items do pass the test, they last longer, we use them more often, and we have very little mess to clean up afterwards.”
Note: Despite the dry, textbook title of this piece, it has some good ideas about what to take into consideration when you’re about to make a purchase. This was a timely article for me because lately I find myself thinking, “I wouldn’t have bought this if I’d realized what a chore it would be to keep clean”!

Photo Credit: Antoine Bruy

Photo Credit: Antoine Bruy

 

From HuffPo: “Photographer Documents The Men And Women Who Choose To Live Off The Grid”
Favorite quote: “These are, in some ways, spontaneous responses to the societies these men and women have left behind. This documentary project is an attempt to make a kind of contemporary tale and to give back a little bit of magic to our modern civilization.”

 

From Women Writers, Women’s Books: “5 Life Lessons From Women Writers”
Favorite Quote: “And finally, Maya Angelou, Pam Houston, and Amy Tan taught me that laughter, and in particular the ability to laugh at yourself and life’s absurdities, is key to moving from merely surviving to thriving.”

 

MILLENNIALS_COMBO-master495From The New York Times: “The Millennials Are Generation Nice”
Favorite Quote: “Taken together, these habits and tastes look less like narcissism than communalism. And its highest value isn’t self-promotion, but its opposite, empathy — an open-minded and -hearted connection to others.”
Note: This piece made me look at Millennials in a deeper way, as more than social media addicts and narcissists.

 

 

Our book list of the week comes from Bitch Media:  “Hot Off the Small Press”, “As summer is quickly coming to a close, take some time to bask in the sun and soak in a good book. Here are some short, sweet, stellar reads for the rest of August, all works are recent releases from independent publishers.”

And, finally, our poem of the week is “Long Gone and Never Coming Back” by Michael Gillian Maxwell on Literary Orphans.
Favorite Quote (rather,stanza):

“a soldier in fatigues, just back from deployment
tattoos on his knuckles, his face a mask
of sorrows and regrets”

Have a great reading week, y’all. Don’t forget to check in with our Hot Reads From NOLAFemmes.com Pinterest board.

Biking & Walking & River Watching

Algiers Levee

Algiers Levee

Last week I took a little walk along the newly paved bike and pedestrian path on the levee in Algiers.  I’ll be honest, this is something I doubted would happen in my lifetime, yet here it is! The newly constructed path runs from the Algiers/Canal Street ferry landing up to just down river of Federal City, a two-mile stretch. It’s connected to the path that already existed from the ferry to Huey P. Long Ave in Gretna. The new section is lit by solar lights for evening strolling and biking and won’t that just be a gorgeous sight with the lights from the city in the background? Benches will be added along the path in the coming weeks creating great river- watching and breath-catching spots.

The next phase of the path, from Federal City to the Chalmette ferry landing, will be added when money for the project is raised. I can’t wait for that since I live a block off the river within that span of the levee which will make it a hop, skip and jump for my dogs and me to access the path. This development along the river has long been anticipated in Algiers and I’m very happy to see it coming to fruition.

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.

Southeast Louisiana Winters

I’m from Massachusetts, so I’m familiar with the long, wet, cold winters. The driving during this time of year used to be horrific. We lived on a hill and not a winter would pass where we were out on the street during a snowstorm trying to help push cars up the hill in the stormy and icy conditions.

Driving in icy conditions looks like this:

Southeast Louisiana winters are gentle, but they are not without their hazards. I spent 30 years driving to and from work in New Orleans East in near zero visibility due to the fog. This time of year is the worst for the fog.

Since I retired in October I haven’t even ventured out of bed before 7. But Saturday I got up early and noticed how thick the fog was around our house. So I grabbed the camera and went outside to play.

foggy_sunrise_jan26-3

foggy_sunrise_jan26-2
My dog thought he was hiding.

Taken in Slidell, La on January 26, 2013

Taken in Slidell, La on January 26, 2013

foggy_sunrise_jan26-4

foggy_sunrise_jan26-5

foggy_sunrise_jan26

Saturday, 1/12/13: The French Quarter needs your elbow grease!

The Vieux Carré Graffiti Abatement Program, a donation-funded grassroots effort, needs your time and energy this Saturday, January 12, 2013! Please pitch in and support this fun and satisfying event — you’ll see the results of your effort immediately!

VCGAP Clean-up 1-12-13(Please click on the image above to link to the document.)

From the press release regarding this volunteering opportunity:

WHAT: Volunteer Graffiti Cleanup

WHEN: Saturday, January 12, 2013 at 9:00 AM – 12:00 Noon

WHERE: French Quarter, NOPD 8th District Police Station, 334 Royal Street

For those passionate about making the French Quarter graffiti-free, please sign up and be a part of this fun and worthwhile event! There are opportunities to serve as a group leader, as well as hands-on tasks to participate. With the tools and instructions in hand, volunteers spread out through the Quarter and remove as many graffiti marks as possible. Volunteers receive a work t-shirt (while supplies last), all cleaning products and tools for the cleanup, and are treated post clean-up French Quarter lunch!

With the upcoming major public events, the French Quarter Business Association and VC-GAP invite individuals and groups to volunteer on Saturday, January 12, 2013 to help rid public spaces of unsightly graffiti. The clean-up will begin with check in at 9:00 AM in the courtyard of the New Orleans Police Department’s 8th District, 334 Royal Street.

The French Quarter Business Association (FQBA), along with other prominent French Quarter groups, implemented a French Quarter initiative named Vieux Carré Graffiti Abatement Program, or VC-GAP, in the summer of 2010. VC-GAP hopes to eradicate the structures in the French Quarter of the illegal graffiti.

Graffiti is a real community issue that businesses, activists, residents, and volunteers are willing to face head on. Please join VC-GAP in the fight against illegal graffiti and the eradication campaign!

To volunteer or donate contact the FQBA office at 504-309-1423 or email graffiti@fqba.org

For more information, please visit our website: www.fqba.org. Donations to the effort are also graciously appreciated. Everyone can help!

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.

__________________________________

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.

Help. Now.

“I’m so glad you were in New Orleans for this major storm and in New York for the previous major storm,” my mother said over the phone.

I understood her as a mother understands wanting to protect her child, certainly. As a granddaughter, niece, and friend of many who suffered and are still suffering the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, however, I felt as though my hands were tied.

I’ve felt impotent all through my monitoring of the struggles with public transportation our friends in the Queens neighborhood that was home to us for four years before we moved back to New Orleans have been having. I’ve felt helpless in the face of far too many pictures of the worst hit of the five boroughs, pictures reminiscent of too many neighborhoods across this city that are still recovering over seven years after the levee breaches. And I felt especially sad and angry upon finally getting through to my grandparents in Valley Stream, on their sixth day without power, starting to lose hope.

My grandmother, in our conversation, had never seen anything like what she was seeing in her eighty-plus years as a native New Yorker. Her house and one of the cars she and my grandfather owned were intact, but chilly. A neighbor had a generator and had offered to let them use it for a time, but they didn’t want to impose – gasoline is getting scarce. My aunt has power at her Manhattan apartment, but getting there by car or by the Long Island Rail Road is proving to be a difficult thing to even think about, much less embark upon. I had managed to talk to her when she was in the car on the way to her synagogue, which had heat and was serving hot coffee.

I cried out of relief at having been able to talk to her, and out of not being able to hug her through the phone. So many of the things she and my grandpa took for granted had been taken away.

“I keep checking a site that shows the progress of the energy companies on Long Island,” my mother said when I discussed it with her, “and part of the problem is they just don’t have enough people to get everything back on quickly. It also seems the power’s coming back on to the places with the most money.”

“Ooh, none of that sounds familiar,” I said sarcastically.

It’s all far too familiar – coastal areas being washed away or otherwise destroyed – and not quite – debates over whether or not major events held when the weather is not as freaky – like voting or a marathon – should go on as always. (For the record, it was absolutely the right move to cancel the NYC Marathon this year. I have little doubt if a serious weather event happens close to Mardi Gras that the krewe captains would band together and cancel the parades.) The “not quite” is what has me walking away from the computer from time to time, not wanting to impose on the shock of so many others. I have so much sympathy for the northeast and fear for what more is to come in their recovery. My projections upon them have no place whatsoever right now, except in one crucial way…

No matter who or where they are, Hurricane Sandy’s victims need help.

Now.

A few links to consult:

Time Out New York is constantly updating their page of how to help. Donations list is near the end of the post, but new needs are being put up every day. Keep checking in.

Gothamist has a page up on what people need. Keep it in mind when donating.

Brokelyn’s “Where to Volunteer This Weekend” has some donations links as well.

This Recovers.org site is specific to Staten Island’s needs, which are massive.

Strong Island, where folks on Long Island can report on drop-off centers for supplies in their area, places to charge their devices, places to get warm, places in need of volunteers – you get the idea. Got friends, family on Long Island? Pass this link on.

Know anyone who was planning to run the NYC Marathon? This site is set up to help them donate their hotel room to a family in need. Pass it on.

A number of links related to New Jersey are here from one of my favorite writers, as well as a link-o-rama on the climate change talk Sandy and its aftermath have sparked. Any other good Jersey-related donations, needs? Leave them in the comments to this post.

11 Post-Isaac Days & Counting

This is the debris pile and household trash pile in front of my house today, Sunday, September 9. Our trash is usually picked up on Mondays and Thursdays but, because Hurricane Isaac blew through on Wednesday August 29, we didn’t get our regular trash  pick up on Thursday. Totally understandable. So, by Monday September 3 we, of course, had more trash than usual to be picked up. We had to resort to putting household trash on top on the cans which were already filled but when the trucks came by, the workers threw those bags on the ground and left them. Fortunately, I saw what was happening & yelled for my husband who went out and actually threw them into the truck himself as the workers apparently didn’t believe they were trash but, instead, leaves. That’s ok, I can understand the confusion.

On Wednesday, a city contracted worker came by and picked up our debris which was about the same amount as you see in the photo and I’m grateful for that. But, again, on Thursday September 6 we didn’t have regular garbage pick up. We called the company and reported it. On Friday, I tweeted Kristen Palmer who replied within about 20 minutes that the mayor was having a press conference at 3:30 where garbage & debris pickup would be addressed. Great, I said. Except I never heard any more about it. I turned on a local talk radio station (admittedly at 3:45 because I was still raking storm debris in the yard) and there was no press conference on. I watched two local news stations Friday evening: no mention of a press conference.  OK, maybe I just had bad timing but it really shouldn’t be this hard to get garbage/debris pick up information updates.

On Saturday I went on the NOLA Ready website but there was nothing new there. I called 311 and was told by a a very nice lady that they were no longer taking debris/garbage pick up calls and not to worry because it would all be picked up. The big question is WHEN? I watched local TV news on Saturday evening, no mention.

Saturday night I decided to tweet (see Femme Tweets in the sidebar to the left) and post on my FaceBook wall asking about garbage/debris pick up in other areas of the city. (I live in Algiers.) Here are the results from the various people who replied:

No debris pick up as of Saturday night (in no particular order):
Algiers
Uptown
East Carrollton/Riverbend
Bywater
Irish Channel
Lower Garden District
Broadmoor

From what I can gather, my particular area of Algiers seems to be the only area that has not had regular garbage pick up. For two weeks we have had only one pick up instead of two.

Saturday night @NOLA Ready responded to the conversation on Twitter about garbage/debris pick up. They stated, “we just got more crews & equipment in to help; they covering city & will check & see if can get ETA for you!”  and today, ” thank you. We’re still running behind because of massive volume, so please leave out bins – crews working all day today.”

I sure hope today will be my day and I also hope all of my regular garbage, those bags inside the cans and outside the cans, will be picked up without my husband having to police them to make sure it is.

All in all, I think the city and Mayor Landreiu did a great job communicating and preparing the city for this storm – way better than was done seven years ago for Katrina. The NOLA Ready website (and Twitter presence) is a great idea and I referred to it many times during these last two weeks. The mayor has been accessible and visible and nobody has had to ask “Where is the mayor” in these post-storm days as so many of us did for years after The Federal Flood. Of course, no one is perfect so I hope once all the debris is picked up and the streets are clear that perhaps lessons will have been learned in that department for a better trash/debris protocol for next time. Because there will be a next time.

__________________________________________

Addendum: It’s 9:35 pm and today, again, was not the day. Grrrrrr.

Beasts of the Southern Wild: My Thoughts

Recently, Lunanola and I went to see Beasts of the Southern Wild which, as most of you know, is a locally produced film with local actors. This is not so much a review of the film as just an assortment of my thoughts during the movie and in the days following. Indeed, Beasts is a grand over-the-top gothic fairy tale as told by a child called Hushpuppy whose imagination runs wild with the stories told to her by her alcoholic father, Wink. They live on a mythical swath of land off the Louisiana coast called The Bathtub by its inhabitants, a small community of people living on the edge of civilization.

Beasts reminds me of poetry in that the poet tells her story in such a personal way that the reader may never grasp its deepest meaning. The reader reads the poem, or story, through the lens of their own life experiences, often completely missing the poet’s intent. And that’s ok – it doesn’t negate the meaning of the work but enhances it by expanding and challenging the reader. The same can be said of this film and how I feel about it. I didn’t read any reviews before seeing the film because I didn’t want any other opinions influencing, even subconsciously, what I was going to see on the screen.

Having said that, I found myself wincing through much of the film; reacting to the squalor of Hushpuppy’s existence, the harshness and obvious mental illness of her father and the rampant alcoholism of most of The Bathtub residents we met. I didn’t see this isolated community largely as a celebration of a self-sustaining culture as much as the smaller stories of a few delusional souls, who’ve long since forgotten the real meaning of community, compassion and care, barely hanging on by their fingernails to a dysfunctional life. There was more about Beasts that bothered me than delighted or awed me and maybe that’s the film makers intention. In any case, it gives the viewer much to ponder.

I felt sad for Hushpuppy and the absence of a positive adult figure in her life except for an apparently cursory relationship with Little Jo (played by Pamela Harper), the resident Shaman, who taught the local kids about medicinal herbs, the flora and animal life in The Bathtub and the importance of being good stewards of the land and water. (Thank you for portraying her as a real three-dimensional healer instead of the stereotypical Voodoo queen!) She was the only positive, grounded character in the film and the only adult who attempted to prepare the kids for a real life instead of encouraging a life based on fantasy.

The interaction of people with each other, and the cause and effect of that interaction, has always fascinated me. I suppose that’s why I focused so much more on this aspect of the movie, while I was actually watching it, over the surrealism and symbolism the film was obviously pushing. In retrospect, though, the symbolism and subsequent cautionary tale is a vital part of what makes this movie unique. For instance, although I found the glacier avalanches jarring and somewhat disruptive I can acknowledge the part they played in the tale and beauty of the cinematography.

Generally, I thought the acting by all of the actors to be just about perfect. There’s a lot of Oscar buzz around this film and Quvenzhane’ Wallice, who plays Hushpuppy, and it appears she’s the darling of the Indie film set this year. There’s no disputing the child has a beautiful and expressive face but I always felt like someone was just out of view saying, “Now look fierce; now cry; now act crazy”. For me, Dwight Henry, who played the dad, was pretty incredible. I felt like he WAS the person he portrayed with all the nuances and warts of his character’s personality played completely naturally and believably. Children are so close and open to their emotions that I think most of them can act simply by following directions. But adults have to peel away layers of their own experiences and feelings to find the place where a character can come out. For this reason, I think Dwight was the better actor in this film and it’s a shame his achievement is being overshadowed when it should be equally acclaimed.

The cinematography was magical and pleasured us with torridly beautiful landscapes and seascapes. The manipulation of ordinary pigs into the hulking, mythical aurochs was nothing short of genius.

This movie had parts that I loved (Miss Jo with the kids) and parts that I hated (mamma shooting a gator while naked except for huge white diaper-like panties – WTF?). It made me laugh (the joyous fireworks scene) and cry (the death scene). In the end, I still can’t say if I “liked” it or not; I can only say it was a wild and interesting ride.

However, the most amazing aspect of Beasts is that it was made at all on the hand-to-mouth budget that produced it. The creativity of the film makers and the ingenuity required to make it is impressive and showcases the best this city has to offer artistically. That makes me proud to be a New Orleanian and, ultimately, happy I watched the film.

(And I’m still processing it.)