Archive for June, 2007

This post over at b. rox is such an indicator. I encourage everyone to read it because it is is such a pristine and well-written example of how cultures clash here in New Orleans.

Bart is a man who publicly admonished the mayor in font of a crowd of 5000 people back in January and has done, well, too much to list here to help the city to recover and this lady, who said she was looking to leave the city for good, took him to task for trying to make a difference and suggested that the only reason he was doing so was because he was from Indiana.

Now, to clarify, she suggested that if he was born and raised here, he wouldn’t have such a rosy attitude toward the recovery.

The locals.

Some of them have MRGO-sized holes in their logic.

First, many of them have the attitude that if you aren’t “from” here then you have no business commenting on what occurs here. Neverminding their vastly different attitudes as to what constitutes being “from” here. But I wont address that, it’s difficult terrain to navigate.

I will say that I have found a direct correlation with being “from” here and “understanding how it is here” to a blanket acceptance of every fucked-up and ludicrous thing that goes down here. Those “from” here fall into two categories, those who are still fighting to fix it, and those who have resigned themselves to the fact that it won’t change. But almost all the people who have moved here from other cities or countries seem to have philosophies similar to the former.

The attitude of those “from” here is often “That’s the way it is and that’s how it will always be.” The reason people who move here become so disgusted with that is because it’s not tolerated in other places.

Part of the reason it hasn’t changed is because these locals who say that the out-of-towners don’t understand are so mired in their own ways that they are blinded towards real life and not the other way around.

And I’d hazard a guess that it is a culmination of these these ways that are to blame for the downward turn in progress the city has endured since 1960, including the events of August 2005 and after.

What?

Is Varg blaming Katrina on the locals?

Well, I’m blaming it on the backwards political process whose responsibility it was to oversee those levees. And that process starts at the voters and moves on up through Washington. They are ALL to blame. And the longer you lived here and did nothing during the years leading up to Katrina, the more you are to blame for sitting back and lamenting that “things are never going to change” and not doing a enough to protect your homes from Lake Ponchartrain.

And if you by chance spoke to your local politicians, or wrote a letter to the editor of the newspaper, or attended a meeting, or wrote a pamphlet, or did one minuscule thing other than complain to people at bars about the levees, then you are excused from any responsibility.

And in the end, every discussion I have had with one of these ignorant locals (by ignorant I mean to separate them from the many New Orleanians, like my neighbors, who have a clear vision of what is wrong with the city and are outraged by it) always ends with, “you just don’t understand how it is here.” That is always the one conclusion they come down to and it often gets repeated over and over as an all-encompassing argument regardless of what I am saying.

But it’s not hard to understand New Orleans, it’s not so complicated and it certainly doesn’t take more than a year or so of living here for a person of decent intellect to get at least a working knowledge of it. There are details sure, but you figure out the basics pretty quick. Many locals know intricacies so deep that newcomers can never catch up. But when that knowledge translates to apathy, there isn’t any catching up to do.

Here are some random things I have learned about the city in the last three years. Some have to do with race because it seems to be something Bart’s lady-in-question latched onto as a reason for the city’s condition.

- When the government is not corrupt it’s inefficient. Some politicians enter the system with the best intentions but are either driven out by those entrenched in the politics or end up becoming another part of the process and take their electorate with them.

- The city and its population contain many working (and in some cases, non-working) poor. Many of its citizens are on government assistance due to three factors 1.) poor schools 2.) low wages / no opportunities 3.) The ready availability of said assistance.

- Its two main industries (the port and tourism) come from abroad. Music, sugar and spices are three exports. Many of America’s vital resources spend some time here, but are shipped away accordingly.

- Racism exists on both sides of the fence and the integrated nature of workplaces and neighborhoods creates a dynamic that is different (though not necessarily better or worse) than the racism that is prevalent in cities like Los Angeles (home to race riots in 1992 and 1965), Philadelphia (home to race riots in 1964) or Cincinnati (home to race riots in 2001). The racism here is overt and not dealt with. Racism in other cities is covert and not dealt with.

- A lot of blame goes around between the blacks and whites in town and neither side accepts any of it very often.

- The city was built on an influx of immigrants from European countries France, Spain, Germany and Ireland. Slavery and trade routes in the Caribbean also had a profound effect on the city’s culture in the 19th century. In more modern years, Central Americans and Asians have also made significant contributions to the population.

And I didn’t even use Wikipedia.

So when when folks say, “you just don’t understand how it is here” when engaged in a disagreement with someone like Bart, what they really mean is “if you were raised here, you would have accepted that you are helpless to change it.”

And that’s why it hasn’t changed.

No great American city, including this one, became great because of a refusal to accept newcomers and their ideas. But somewhere along the way here in New Orleans, probably in recent decades, some locals chose to disregard the new folks’ opinions. And they did it out of pride more than anything else.

The city is worth defending. I know because I have to do it a lot (often to my father, but other times to total strangers). But the shitty parts of it aren’t worth any sort of defense. Explanation maybe, but not defense.

I think perhaps these locals are so defensive of their buffoonery here because they view it as an indictment of themselves. I myself said as much earlier in this post. I’d try and do something to downplay that sentiment if it wasn’t so damn true.

And then, of course, there are those that are leaving. Yes, those folks who lived here their whole lives and, because of the flood and its aftermath are fed up and moving on. We all know someone. And if you are like me you know quite a few. One’s leaving the city is dependent on their expectation of things to change. As I have heard many of them say, “It’s not going to change.”

“If you get the fuck out perhaps it might,” I think to myself.

Oh, and I hope you are treated nicely by the locals when you arrive in Little Rock, Galveston, Montgomery or whatever nice city you have chosen as your new home.

Case dismissed in Shavers murder

Somewhere in this city, there is a mother who has instilled in her daughter that brutality is more powerful than justice, that threats are stronger than truth and crime can overpwer community.

The Socialist State of New Orleans
Private dollars leading recovery of New Orleans
Christian-Science Monitor

Our loss, their gain.
New Orleans Sees Biggest Population Loss in U.S., Census Says
Bloomberg

Awwwwww…
Brees feels at home in New Orleans

News and Courier

I asked around the Web a little, trying to locate some info about Chris Roberts, the man killed last Sunday on Esplanade. Here is what I could find.

The good people at Nolaagainstcrime.com have more information up. I’ve heard nothing about how the investigation into his murder is going. Nor have I heard anything yet in The Times-Picayune.

Here is an image of Chris.

Here is a video.

A note from his friend and co-worker Brian Case…

Chris Roberts was an employee of Confederate Motorcycles, the luxury maker of limited edition hand-crafted muscle bikes. The company was originally based in the CBD of New Orleans, but was chased out after Katrina blew down the factory. Confederate is now based in Birmingham, AL, where Chris had been commuting to recently to perform his skills as an accomplished motorcycle electrician. He was the Bonneville Salt Flats test rider for the company’s landmark Wraith prototype in 2004. He said that run was one of the best moments in his life, shadowed only, I’m sure, by the birth of his daughter last year.

I personally will never forget Chris Roberts. He was insightful, assertive, funny, and a simple man just trying to get by. He was a principled man, who wouldn’t hesitate to fight for someone who couldn’t defend themselves. He will be sadly missed…

This from Jimmy Drakos at Fiorella’s in the Quarter via the restaurant’s MySpace bulletin and reprinted with permission

As many of you already know, Chris Roberts was killed on Sunday night. Chris started working with us at
Fiorella’s shortly after he moved back here.
Originally, Chris was hired as a waiter. I immediately saw how hard working and consciencous he was. I didn’t know him very well in the beginning because he and I never crossed paths that much, but I was impressed by his work ethic and knew right away how well respected and highly regarded he was by his friends. Chris always impressed me as a straight shooting person that went above and beyond the call of duty quite regularly. Only a couple weeks after he started, he was moved up into a manager position. Chris always strived to do a good job and was popular with the customers and well liked by his co-workers. He will be missed not only as part of our staff, but as a good friend and a great guy that always made things better and our work environment more positive.

Edit: The Times-Picayune ran a story dated June, 28.
Robbery, murder leaves hole in the community.

Couldn’t let this one get by…

Irwin Royes, the World’s Smallest Magician, will be at Hubbell Library on Wednesday, June 27, at 10:30 am.

“He’ll mystify your eyes, and tickle your funny bone. Come see for yourself why Irwin Royes is one of our favorite performers. You don’t want to miss this one!”

The Hubbell Library is at 725 Pelican, 596 –2640.

Since Nola.com began allowing its users to post unmoderated comments on the official Web site of the Times-Picayune, the results have been a fine example of how unreasonable many of our fellow citizens can be. When given a venue to freely and anonymously express their stupidity along with the release of any judgment on the content of their character by their friends and family, people start spouting the most ludicrous shit.
Check it:

- On 05/31/07, a poster named “blueshead” advocated shooting liberals.

- On 06/03/07, user “bratman” used the phrase “thug monkies” to describe the criminal population in New Orleans and then called the city a “shithole.”

- “doglick,” on 06/03/07, praised quintuple murder suspect Michael Anderson for his killing of five teens in Central City last year and suggested he should have been given a medal.

- Then again on 06/03/07 user “Bratman” stated, “Everyone bleeding nis one less breeding!”

- On 06/10/07 user “dallanola” said New Orleans was worse than Haiti or Jamaica where visitors to the islands are killed on a regular basis.

- Posted by “pwrboatrace” on 06/14/07 was the wish that, “the levees break and flood (New Orleans) to the gills…”

- User “newworld58″ on 06/15/07 came up with the mathematically equation that “More Blacks = More Crime.”

- This next one should have never been let through. It’s an insult pure and simple. On 06/15/07, posted by “KansasRules” after a story ran on the release of Michael Lewis from the Saints: “Tough luck, Beer Man! Maybe now you can teach that loser wife of yours how to coach, because she couldn’t coach ants at a picnic.”

- The next one was posted by “SwampThing02″ on 06/21/07 who said New Orleans consisted of “no-doers!”

- Then someone tried to stick up the city for the city by posting, “YOUR ASS,,,,, SWAMPTHINGO2 EVERY ONE IN NEW ORLEANS, IS NOT LOOKIN FOR AN HAND OUT,,,,,IN ALL YOUR YEARS WHO HAS YOU OUT SMART?”

I’m not going to even debate weather the opinions expressed above are valid because, without someone stepping forward and being responsible for them, none of them are. None.

The racist posts are particularly troublesome though. Racism is kept in reasonable check in society due to the scorn visited upon hate groups like the KKK. People aren’t so quick to spout their rhetoric when they know they will be responsible for it. The bad judgment visited upon these people is part of the process. If they feel strongly enough about it, like the Klan, the judgment won’t matter. If the person values his or her social standing, it probably will. With these comments, social standing is meaningless. The people could be your neighbor or co-worker and you’d never know.

Remove that responsibility, like Craigslist and now Nola.com have done, and you suddenly have a group of weak-minded turkeys who are free of society’s judgment perpetrating their poorly thought opinions via an avenue provided to them by the local media and disguised as a more thorough news experience.

It’s not.

It’s skewed by anonymity. It’s not a fair representation. It encourages people to behave badly.

Your average geek-on-the-street probably deals with the racial issues our city faces on an hourly basis. It is popular opinion that extremes on both sides of the racial spectrum are just that, the extremes. Most people don’t judge everyone they meet solely on the color of their skin and certainly do not take it upon themselves to project their thoughts to anyone who will listen.

That must mean that those who do are the people who are passionately moved to do so. And many of those people are motivated by anger, prejudice and hate.

————————————

In the interest of fairness I should add that the comment system on this blog is moderated. All users must submit a comment and the first comment must be approved by me. After the first comment is approved, user comments appear instantly. Any racist comments are deleted and all posters can be easily identified and addressed if deemed necessary.

I was out and about yesterday and was able to witness first hand three things that I have blogged about recently:

1.) The “Pothole Killer”
I was riding my bike and came head-to-head with this beast making its way down Evelina, its long snout protruding from the front barfing into various voids in the asphault. I veered to the side and continued my jaunt. As I made my way around the neighborhood, I saw evidence of where it had been. What had been large holes in the roads now was filled with tiny white pebbles. They were everywhere. Doesn’t seem like a permanent fix but it’ll do for now.

2.) French Quarter Garbage Cans
The fiancee and I were going to Mona Lisa and I saw one of them in the path ahead. I crossed the street because I saw no way around its enormous girth. Seriously though, this thing was smaller than my large red Ace Hardware can back at the house. It also seemed rather inconspicuous. That whole situation was ridiculous and having seen one for myself I have to grudgingly side with Nagin’s office.

3.) The “Ghetto Bird”
Coming back from the Quartas, I saw, up in the sky, what I assumed was the Louisiana National Guard Helicopter Nagin spoke about in his State of the City speech. It was hovering over Mid-City between Canal and Tulane and had the spotlight on.

Some say progress, others don’t.

Armed Robbery (gun)
200 Elmira
5/28
10:15 am

Aggravated Battery
300 Slidell
5/35:20 pm
(arrest made)

Residence burglary
900 Elmira 5/1 9:21 pm
800 Eliza 5/17 7:30 am
100 Elmira 5/18 8:30 pm
400 Elmira 5/30 1:50 pm

Auto Burglary
900 Verrett
5/4
10:30 pm

Auto Theft
400 Slidell
5/21
10:30 pm

“Note we went from zero residence burglaries last month to four this month. Entry is being made through rear doors and windows. If you hear anything (breaking glass, etc.) out of the ordinary, do not hesitate to call 911.”

Credit to Mike Rocks, Neighborhood Watch Chairman

The good people at Nolaagainstcrime.com are reporting that last Sunday’s murder between N. Prieur and N. Johnson on Esplanade occurred when the victim, Chris Roberts, was at his apartment and saw someone (not sure how many) trying to steal his motorcycle, when he attempted to stop the theft, he was shot and killed.

The site says they have very little information about the homicide in the newspaper and the NOPD hasn’t released much either.

Check it out.

This is the only thing I found on Nola.com about it.

A guy that is looking for an apartment on a busy street in a residential area of the city gets killed while trying to prevent someone from stealing his motorcycle. Why would anyone want to keep folks from finding out about that?

In case anyone missed it, my and my fiancee’s (nobody told me two Es is the feminine) House Hunters episode will be airing again tonight. Here is the riveting synopsis fro HGTV.com.

Buying in The Big Easy
After living in New Orleans for a year, Romy Kittrell and her husband Lance Vargas are ecstatic about finally buying a home. Lured by the decadent food, classic architecture and soulful music that seems to lurk around every corner, this eclectic twosome has been renting a two-bedroom shotgun-style home in the upscale neighborhood of Bayou Saint John. With a modest budget of $175,000, they are ready to start looking for a home in the less-expensive Algiers Point, just across the Mississippi.

AIR TIMES:
• June 18, 2007 10:00 PM ET/PT
• June 19, 2007 2:00 AM ET/PT

Later this week I’ll post pics of the house since the episode aired.