Wednesday, August 29, 2007

In Remembrance

For further information on where we stand now, please check out Hurricane Katrina News, as well as any of the local bloggers who have dedicated themselves to the aftermath of the Federal Flood disaster known as Hurricane Katrina. They can be found on the blogroll to the right of this post.

(Remember graphic courtesy of Mark Folse. We Are Not Okay graphic courtesy of Greg Peters.)

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Not What We Need

Okay, This one's been eating at me for a while.

It was a beautiful pre-heatwave Sunday in the Quarter. The artists were out in force adding a brilliant splash of color to what is already (in my opinion) one of the most beautiful spots on earth. The gymnasts were doing their thing across the street. And miracle of miracles, there were tourists! Lots of them. And these were not the grim-faced all-we-want-to-do-is-get-out-of-the-sun type that we see right now. These were happy people in a beautiful place. And the buggies were rolling. The drivers were happy. The mules were happy.

Having finished a tour, I decided to walk down to Sidney's Liquors for a cold drink and a pack of smokes. As I walked, I noticed a large group of tourist gathered on the sidewalk and spilling onto Decatur street, and they were applauding. Applauding what?

Tap-dancing kids!

Now I know a lot of you may have mixed feelings about the tap-dancers.They can be a little aggressive and obnoxious. And SOMETIMES they can be acting as a diversion for pickpockets and such. But like it or not, they're part of our culture. And these kids were GOOD! And since they were just about the first ones I'd seen since "the storm" (she whose name we will not speak), I was glad to see them. The were just one, tiny sign of the city's return to normalcy.

Well the applause and laughter of the crowd were suddenly replaced by a low, rumbling feeling of discontent. Anger even. The source of this was was two of NOPD's finest riding their Vespa's down the crowded, narrow SIDEWALK, literally shoving their way through the crowd. When they reached the dancers, one of them used his black boot to crush the kid's donation box. He proceeded to tell the kids "If we see you around here again we'll take everything you've got." The crowd booed and heckled the officers, at which they replied " Yeah? Well wait until one of these little ( expletive) picks your pocket!" Oh, I see. Proactive law enforcement. Harassing and threatening someone for what MIGHT happen. Interesting approach. The kids left. The crowd dispersed. Another public relations coup for The NOPD.

Now don't get me wrong, I'm not here to bash the NOPD. I have a good friend who is a cop. I feel their pain. I understand that they are underpaid, understaffed, overworked, and stressed beyond belief. Hell, I wouldn't want the job. But I feel, in this situation, things could have been handled better. First, get off the god-damn scooters. Second, OBSERVE. You guys are trained observers, right? Third, try to show a little common sense. Don't you think that Bob and Dorris from Cleveland, Ohio are going to relate this story to their friends back home? You know they will.

My dear Mother lives in Florida (In Pennsylvania it's the law. When you retire, you MUST move to Florida) and she is a great source of information on how the rest of the country views our city. And the main them seems to be our crime rate. The people I meet almost always ask about the crime. The tourism industry is struggling. Many businesses in the Quarter are barely hanging on. And it's because most people around the country are AFRAID to come here.

So here's the deal. We all need to roll out our famous southern hospitality, lay it on thick, and make people feel welcome here. We need to let the folks up north know that this is not a place to be feared. (If it was, I wouldn't have let my daughter and grandson move down here.) We need to do our own PR campaign, since city hall seems unwilling or unable to do so. We ALL need to do this.

And that includes you, NOPD.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Information Please

Okay, for those of you you who haven't guessed, I am a buggy driver. Actually, I prefer the term "carriage" but my significant other says that sounds pompous. At any rate, I meet lots of people from all over the world. Most of them are quite nice, and are truly interested in our city. I find this to be most true of people from other countries, but they are not unique. It seems that the farther away someone is from, the more interested the are. Kind of the opposite of the old journalistic standard which roughly states that a plane crash half way around the world is barely news, but a plane crash close to home is a headline.

I digress. I meet lots of people from all over, and if I'm lucky, instead of a tour, we have a conversation as we meander through the streets of the Quarter, dodging cabs and generally enjoying ourselves. But what really astonishes me is the misconceptions these people have.

Two nights ago a woman from Europe asked me "but New Orleans is okay now, Yes?" After I regained my senses (such as they are) and figured out what she was really asking me, I struggled to find a way to tell her how NOT okay New Orleans really is. Obviously, a trip to the Ninth Ward via mule was out of the question so I told her to get up the next day and book one of the motorized disaster tours for a look at how not okay the city is. I don't know if she did or not. I hope she did.

About a week before that I was lucky enough to pick up a load of college students from Illinois or Indiana or someplace who were down here gutting houses and had decided to spend their last night touring the Quarter. Now I was surprised to get them on my carriage at all because, generally speaking, these kids have no money, and what little they do have usually gets turned into Hand Grenades. But as we were rolling along, one of the girls asked me " was Katrina the biggest hurricane ever?" She was genuinely surprised when I explained to her that the damage she was seeing and in her own way ( god bless her and the thousands like her) fixing, was largely man-made. "Yes", I said "Katrina was a big one. But it was the failure of the levees and the general indifference of our very own government that did most of the damage. If the levees had held, Katrina would be just a memory, just another storm, and you, darlin', wouldn't even be here. Sure, there would have been a hell of a mess, but nothing like what we have now."

She was shocked. THIS WAS THE FIRST TIME SHE'D HEARD THIS! Levees? Army Corps of Engineers? Huh? Not a clue.

So, if there is a point to all of this I guess it is this. If the rest of our country doesn't seem to care, it could be that they are just misinformed. At least, I hope that's the case. I hope the rest of the country isn't really that cold-blooded.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

A Long-delayed Step

I've always had a big mouth. I've always been opinionated, if not always as well informed as I should be. I'm kind of like our current President (god help me). I speak from the gut, although I may be a little short on facts. But he has a staff, so he really has no excuse. But I have passion, if nothing else.

I've never been a captain of industry. I've never been able to park a Lexus in the driveway as a surprise for my wife on Christmas morning. She wouldn't want that, anyway. She would think it was obscene. No offshore accounts, no stocks. Nada. Just like about 200 million other men and women out there working hard to just get by, and maybe have a laugh every now and again.

One of the "other" 98 percent, if you understand my meaning.

So I've decided, finally, to start this blog. I don't know if it will accomplish anything, but at the very least, it may prove therapeutic. At best perhaps it will spark an exchange of ideas and beliefs. Maybe it will improve my typing. Maybe it will awaken some long-dormant parts of my brain. Maybe it will spark a revolution. Who knows? But here we go. I hope somebody reads it.

I don't care if they like it. But I hope it makes someone think.