Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Reality Check

OK, so I can't expect good news to last. The front page headline in today's paper is that one of my Good News items a couple of days ago, Greg Meffert, is leaving city government. Meffert is the last of the wunderkids from Nagin's first administration to leave.

Sometimes it's all just so damned depressing.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Time for some Good News

There's been ample opportunity for depression around my town lately.
  • Since winning reelection our mayor has been jetting around the country while ignoring the drifting, directionless reconstruction efforts of the city.
  • Every day more For Sale signs pop up, as people give up on New Orleans and move somewhere that works.
  • The drug dealers & disaffected youth have moved back, with or without their families, and are busy settling their arguments with guns.
So it's hard to stay cheerful and optimistic. But this week a couple of things happened that bring cheer.

Tuesday afternoon I was flying to Atlanta on business & happened to sit next to the manager in charge of the Earthlink project to bring wireless internet to the entire occupied city. He is also working with the city governments of Oakland and Philidelphia. He told me that our project is going faster, and with more city cooperation than anywhere he has worked. It's nice to hear that somewhere in city government things are working. Greg Meffert, the city technology manager, is to be commended.

And Saturday evening Bunny & I went to see a performance of Midsummer's Night Dream at the Shakespeare Festival Theater on Tulane's campus. It was a typically great performance.

By chance I happened to be sitting next to the wife of Trey Burvant, who plays Theseus & Oberon. Their 5 year-old daughter, Evelyn, is the changling child. Evelyn, of course, stole the show, and her father performed competently, as well.

But the real news is that the family has just moved to New Orleans from Boston, where Trey had a successful acting carrer, because they had to be part of the rebuilding.

Thank you. Thank you. Right now I need all the encouragement I can get.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

The Long Black Line

At Jazzfest last month Spencer Bohren intro'ed his new song, The Long Black Line. It was one of those transendent moments when a crowd becomes one. We sat there in the Fairgrounds Paddock, utterly silent, as the music rolled over us. When the music stopped we sat there, stunned. Applause? Tears? How to respond?

Last night, as I was walking past Spencer's house, he & Marilyn were sitting in their car listening to the CD player. I guess if you have 8 visiting homeschoolers staying in your house while they work on their Katrina documentry & you want a little privacy, you move to the car.

But it's what was coming out of the speakers that brought me to a stop. The Long Black Line. The cd arrived yesterday from Germany.

Spencer is freely sharing this with those who want to -- who can -- listen. If you're from here, it won't be easy.

I've duped a low fidelity version. Click the image above to listen. If you want to hear it right, check http://www.spencerbohren.com/ often and order the CD when it comes out.

Enjoy, if that's the word.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

A Disaster Timeline

Sunday the Times-Picayaune released a marvelous animated map of the flood sequence during Katrina. Going through the display, it's obvious our city and region could not have emerged from Katrina unscathed. Even without the MRGO "Hurricane Highway", the water would have been high enough to overtop the Plaquemines Parish levees, and probably those in New Orleans East. But the levee failures and poor design (Why was the embankment at the foot of the Orleans Avenue Canal 6 feet lower than the floodwalls on either side?) added immeasurably to the extent of the disaster.

This story would have been so much different if we had the protection we thought we did.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

The Corps Dodges Again

"We will all be surprised," Dan Hitchings recently told a congressional committee, "when it is soon shown how much water poured into New Orleans before certain floodwalls collapsed."

It is no longer news when a Corps spokesman evades or denys responsibility for the Post-Katrina flooding disaster in New Orleans. But after Lt. General Carl Strock, Corps of Engineers Director, admitted that design errors caused at least some of the flooding, there was reason to hope they were moving on.

No such luck. Dan Hitchings is head of the Corps' civilian Task Force Guardian. He made the statement above at a Congressional hearing last week -- a statement immediately contradicted by two of the independant agencies investigating the disaster.

When we were children our parents taught us to admit our transgressions, accept our punishment and never do it again. Those in FEMA and the Corps could use some remedial training.

Sunday, April 30, 2006

A Great Week

What a Week!

Wednesday we went to Act of Sale on the Zachary house. We are no longer property-owners in East Baton Rouge Parish.
Our Hurricane Hole is no more. We'll have to rely on the weather gods and the Corps to get us through this next hurricane season. I hope they're up to it.

Then Friday Jazzfest finally arrived. I've been looking forward to this even more than Mardi Gras. The success or failure of Jazzfest this year is more valid indication of our city's future. Mardi Gras is mainly a local party, where tourists can come watch. There was no question in my mind whether New Orleanians would celebrate Mardi Gras.

But are the musicians here to make Jazzfest a success? Will tourists come? This is a local party, sure. But it's more than that. It's New Orleans' annual cultural statement. Quint Davis and the NOJHF board had talked up a good story about how this would be the best biggest Fest ever. But could they pull it off. In short, Yes!

Who's playing? Everybody. Who's there to enjoy? Everybody, again. We went Friday, and the food, the music, the crafts, the people...they were all there.

We started with some Jonathan Batiste
What a phenom! 19 years old. Sophomore at Julliard. NOCCA graduate. Incredible stage presence. A happy, happy musician. Ultimate pleasure. Here's a link to a recording of his composition, Sumayra. It's a low- bitrate version with poor fidelity but is a hint of what this young man can do. Highly recommended.

Then, of course, what is Jazzfest without parades?
The Big Nine Second Line danced through the grounds, showing that though the neighborhood may be decimated, the spirit of the Lower Nine is well.

Friday was a big day for the Bohren Family. Andre Bohren is drummer for Johnny Sketch & the Dirty Notes, a band made up entirely of Loyola University music students who took no prisoners during their eclectic rock-jazz-whatever mid-afternoon set. Then his dad, Spencer, closed out the Lagniappe stage with his classic blues and unbelievable guitar skills.

Spencer intro'ed his new song, The Long Black Line. I wish I could attach a clip, but it's not released. The title refers to the long black line of residue left on every flooded building and object in New Orleans, and our compulsion to look for it as we drive around the city. The Long Black Line. Indeed.

We couldn't leave without stopping by the Acura stage to see Dr. John.
The crowd was huge. Dr. John was himself, and the music was good.

A great day. New Orleans music is definately back.

A Lot has Happened

It's been 6 weeks since I've posted anything here. I've started to several times, but each time I've been unable to force myself to actually sit down at the computer and write. I've wondered at it and finally feel that I have a grasp on why:
  • During this interval I read Chris Rose's chronicle of his flame-out, spiral-in, burn-up, personal trip to Hell , 1 Dead in Attic . By the end I couldn't read another word about "The Thing", let alone write one.
  • On April 5, Lt. General Carl Strock, director of the Corps of Engineers, finally admitted the Corps' culpability in at least one of the levee breaches, the one that destroyed Lakeview and Mid-City.

    “We have now concluded we had problems with the design of the structure,” Strock told members of the subcommittee that finances Corps operations. “We had hoped that wasn’t the case, but we recognize it is the reality.”
  • We went to EHCT Easter weekend, as we have every year for the past 21 years but one -- 2005. (Hmm, could there be a connection?) There, in the midst of our friends who are more than friends, we talked and explained and blathered and probably bored them all to tears. But, being the wonderful people they are, they freely let us carry on. Sitting under the Mesquite trees, in the best weather we've had in all those 20 years, 600 miles from the nearest pile of Katrina-trash, I felt mysef recovering.
I just wasn't ready to go back to this blog & scratch my Katrina-scabs yet again.