Archive for October, 2009

“I apologize for this groggy review. I drank some moonshine and ate fresh pork last night. The editor said it was good to go though.” – V

I finished Ethan Brown’s “Shake The Devil” Off” last week like I finish most books – 100 pages straight through to the end. I get so anxious about what is going to happen and so, well, in the habit of reading by that point I always just stay up and finish it in a flurry or set aside an entire Sunday afternoon for a relaxing finish. Unfortunately for me, In Brown’s book, those are the most gut-wrenching and haunting parts of the story, the parts where Brown recounts the lives of New Orleans’ residents and the close friends and family of Zack Bowen and Addie Hall after the flood and gruesome murder / suicide.

Ultimately but not entirely, what I gathered at least, the book was about trauma, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder specifically. In the first part, Brown puts together the pieces of Zack Bowen’s trauma. It’s easy for the reader to distance his or herself from him in the way that we all attempt to distance ourselves from horrible stories in the media, even the local media. We say, “That’s not my neighborhood” or “What were they doing out at that time of night?” or other sorts of defense mechanism based philosophies. Folks say them as a futile means of eliminating the possibilities that such horror could be visited upon them. So with the Bowen / Hall situation one could make a comment about “crazy kids in the Quarter” and then read the book or the numerous articles about them in a removed state.

But Brown doesn’t let the reader (at least the local ones) get away with that. By the book’s end, Brown parallels Bowen’s mental breakdown with that of the entire city after the flood. In doing so, he draws right into the anguish of Zack Bowen.

As I read I began to think about the people who I know who, like Zack and Addie, stayed during the storm and how their lives were effected. There were two guys who stayed on our block. They looked over the houses and ran people out of our back yards and essentially watched over the place (we are several blocks away from where the supposed “Algiers Militia” went on their rampage). About a year after the storm one of them, a healthy, gregarious man, dropped dead at his gym. The other, his partner, has now retreated into the house and can only be heard screaming and chasing his pets.

Instead of an isolated act of horror, Bowen’s murder of Addie Hall was a sentinel of the downward spiral New Orleans’ faced after the levees broke and chaos ensued. It made a great story but it needed more examination that the “New Orleans man kills, dismembers, cooks girlfriend” headlines and the following stories gave us. To Brown, Dinnerral Shavers, Helen Hill, Robin Malta and the hundreds of others are all the same story, a story of trauma.

Brown also adeptly avoids any sensationalism in his treatment of Bowen and Hall. In many magazine articles today, we see a lot of Gay Talese-style decoration of events and situations that, honestly could not be correctly confirmed or denied. Brown essentially sticks to the facts. It’s appreciated. He pays respect to his reader by allowing them to think critically about his discoveries.

He also seems to have been closer to his subjects than a typical writer might have been. His decision to move to New Orleans after the storm and his worry in regard to his wife’s safety thereafter suggest that he endured at least a slight mental health crisis of his own as crime crept closer to his doorstep after moving here (I’ve been there). It doesn’t interfere with the story but is palpable.

To his credit, anyone with empathy would have a difficult time interviewing and developing any sort of relationship with Bowen’s friends and family after being so close to the case. Brown actually has perhaps more insight into the incident than any one person involved as a result of his having spoke in depth to many different people deeply involved.

I interviewed and became friends with Mike Sager, an Esquire writer a few years ago. He had all the real twisted assignments – John Holmes, Rick James, Gary Condit, Veronica Guerin, if there was a sensationalist crime involved, Sager got the gig. He told me that over the years, his involvement in the cases began to effect him. “I started to feel like a sin eater,” he said in reference to an act in Scottish history where a man would take up the sins of the dead through consumption of food and drink at the deceased person’s doorstep.

I know I’ve been walking around with the Ghosts of Addie and Zack on my back for a week even after just reading the book. Working and reveling in the exact streets where Zack and Addie’s drama unfolded, where their atoms likely remained. I too needed to shake the devil off.

Reggie get’s downplayed.

New Orleans Saints’ Reggie Bush shows class with acceptance of reduced role

I admit, when it comes to Reggie Bush, it’s always “What have you done for me lately?” But like him or not, his manic play produces memorable moments. His fumbles have changed games. His athleticism has changed games. His six yard leap and reach into the end zone last Sunday being a recent highlight. He is quick but his desire to run around linemen and defenders rather than through them confounds me. It lies in some fear of getting hit or a reliance on what he was able to get away with in high school and college.

I actually love the guy. I feel like, having seen him in his most humiliating moments (this recent reduced role being one of them) that I have a more human response to him. But then he will fumble or lose yards running backwards and my face goes into my hand.


Ray Nagin: Cuba’s government is ideal for storm response

Somebody call Officer Angelo Mancuso!

Now it makes sense. The Cuba trips. The China trips. Dang, I’ve called him some shit in the last 7 years but here he was a oinko the whole time!

I guess those Che Nagin folks were on to something…

I just really love Sarah Vowell.

Sarah Vowell brings her sharp wit to NOCCA

“Today in Detroit Public Schools, all students will get free breakfast and lunch. Also, Radio One will raffle off a 42-inch plasma flat screen television, laptop computer, five iPod nanos and 25 American Express gift cards.” Dang, at least we’re not Detroit…
Districts counting on count day as enrollment continues to dwindle
Freep is constantly putting a link up on their homicide stories that says “View All New Orleans Homicides.” Except the link goes to 2008 homicides and here we are most of the way through 2009.
22-year-old murder defendant freed by Orleans Parish jury trial

Barkers getting bit. And that’s fine but really, what about the shoeshine scammers? Also, it’s always the kids screwing it up for everyone.
Bourbon Street may lose its bark


Today starting at 3 p.m. there will be live-blogging of the Saints HUGE fourth game versus the also-undefeated and hyped New York Jets coming straight from the Superdo…uh, Sylvania 42-inch! We’ve heard sportscaster after sportscaster describe this as “game of the week. I am just hoping to keep my blood pressure around 110 /70. They seem to be really pushing the high-powered Saints high-powered offense (First in the League) versus the Jets stingy defense (third in the League). But maybe it will be the Saints 10th ranked defense beating up the Jets’ 20th ranked offense eh?

Also, not sure if Pants is doing it today but he tweeted the last home game consistently from the 600,000 section of The Mothership so we may have some Skooky stuff going down, going down.

See ya at 3 p.m.

5:57 Damn, Dirty’s having a bad day.

5:50 Derek Sharper you are a god! I think we got this one yall! :)

5:47 Win or lose, defense has been excellent today.

5:42 Thank God, finally we are in. Bless you Frenchy. Merci! Merci!

5:37 They just showed Dirty eating his own fingernails. Like ripping them off and eating them. Not just chewing on them.

5:34 I’ve never even heard of the “hard count” before.

5:32 I do have to ask why they are going for it on fourth and short again!

5:20: Skooks is calling the game over. Said they lost it on the fourth-and-one. Offense is doing nuttin. Brees is having a rough day. We are still ahead though.

5:14 Jesus. I need to drink more. Abita Harvest, I need you.

5:07 Save us Pierre! SAVE us!

4:59 Goddammit Reggie.

4:55: Hey! Little Stevie Weatherford is back in the Dome! Saints offense gets the ball back. Perhaps we could, like, you know, put something together eh? Certainly not a very exciting offensive game. Neither team is looking very hot. Drews got like a hundred yards paaing?

4:50 Damn, offense is stalling. But we still have those two drives from the fist half. Even if one resulted in just a field goal and the other looked like it was going to be good and then it got bad and then it got good again.

4:46 Dirty’s got pressure on him damn nearly every play. Go Saints D-Line.

Just hooked up an awesome snack. Half an avocado, sprinkled with Garlic powder and Sriracha sauce, spooned individually onto tortilla chips. Simple, but good.

4:20 No, not THAT 4:20. Saints going to try and get some points before the half. Hell ya.

4:03 Oh, fine. Fumble for the TD. That’s cool too. We are fucking these guys up. 14 defensive points. Daaaaaaang.

4:00 Why did Coach Muniz feel the need to gor for it? We didn’t desperatly need the TD. The Jets wer showing resiliency in the previous three plays. It’s okay though. Perhaps a safety?

3:57: Sharper however is quite teh awesome. He just made the damn INT touchdown and already his Wikipedia page is updated.

3:36: Porter is pissing me off.

3:26: Announcers have now twice made comments that refs have missed penalties that would have favored New York.

3:22: Hey, there’s pink everywhere. It’s because it is breast cancer awareness day in the NFL.

Now we the tenth-ranked defense versus the 20th ranked offense led by “Dirty” Mark Sanchez!

Carney kicks a field goal and the announcers refer to him as “the aged one.” Except I think they pronounced it “the ay-jed one.” Which I sorta like.

3:08: Bush runs up the middle! And gets a first down! That’s a good Reggie. Also, the Saints haven’t been behind all year? Inconceivable!

3:05: Announcers are Greg Gumbel and Dan Dierdorf. Hey ain’t Greg from here? Everyone says it’s loud as hell in the Mothership.

2:50: Game isn’t on but bull riding is! I notice some bull riders wear helmets and some wear the old fashion cowboy hats. If the bull is going to be forced to have a strap tightly around his balls, the rider can see to it to risk his skull as some sort of tribute.