The Yard Dog Days of Spring

USAUSAUSA 248It seems every aspect about New Orleans is picked over, the Jazz origin story has been riffled through like a hooker’s coffin, the French history story raised from the dead with a mouth stuffed full of Khat all stumbling and dripping bayou water and peeing into the glow-in-the-dark plastic hurricane glass you got as a souvenir, the corruption story has been picking its butt and nose without remembering to bleach offending finger, and the Katrina story has been so done to death that we now use it as a noun. Hurricanekatrina has been the cause used by artists to get exhibitions, non-profit filches and disaster shills (yeah, talking to you United Way), and generally we did that whole benefit concert because we wanted to help, but we also wanted to smoke mad Shorty Pants Blueberry Kush and hook up so we had a Concert for Hurricane Relief, From the Big Apple to the Big Easy, and did some good events. We also created a discography of disaster albums, the list reads like that shit K-tel mailed you after you got the six albums for a penny you wanted (kids ask your parents) where you lost the packaging, never went to the post office to mail the thing back and otherwise went way past the 30 day “money back guarentee” and got screwed until your parent finally found out, paid the bill, and sat you down to teach you about mailing in cards with pennies attached to them.
USAUSAUSA 195Believe me, you are not humming the non-hit single Heart of America on the way to work, but I hope you at least bought it, so that some part of the proceeds went to the hurricane relief. There are over 50 theatrical documentaries, and according to IMBD they generally had a budget at 2 millions and under. So, that’s 47 (my count from IMDB) times let us say $650,000 average seems to equal about $30,000.000.00 and even if that is grossly overestimated, then your argument is invalid because Rum Ham. So, just going with this number faster and looser than a CNN fact-checker (is there such a thing?), the point is we’re talking about a great deal of money for films, art and cray-paper, percentages for directors, assistant directors, and development directors of non-profits, all those gubberment people and their salaries, the FEMA trailers, you know, the ones that prove beyond a doubt that FEMA can’t build an internment camp for us because they can’t even build a trailer park, and I am sure a ertain percentage of “waste” like when the bouillabaisse starts to bubble and has to be tossed down the hill. So, we’re looking at a lot of money changing hands in a lot of places, a lot of conversations and soul searching, and a lot of bull shit I guess since years later New Orleans remains strangely abandoned, un-rebuilt, dilapidated and wrapped in Tyvek. Much of the population remains scattered in the winds according to the people who live there.
So… yeah, where was out concerted effort to rebuild the city? What happened after we passed the bucket around at our local fund-raisers, those “block grants” and the We Are the World We Are the Children went platinum? Wait… that song was for something else? If Naomi Kline is correct in her (very good) work Disaster Capitalism, and the hurricane was being used for social engineering and to allow the evil corporations to enter the city, where are the evil corporations? Other than cashing checks backed by public money and not delivering on their promises. Which is nothing new anywhere, and doesn’t take a disaster to occur in order for them to assume important links to public funds to line their private profits.
USAUSAUSA 243So, what then is this New Orleans, this beautiful corpse drawn by so many madmen, this Disneyworld of Tits and Booze, this Crust Punk paradise offering endless $3 PBRs – assuming you never run out of $3 -, this conceal permit gun holding socially liberal, kill Americorp kid and 84 year old man in same week, this city that reeks of secret hot wing sauce, hidden voodoo incense ingredients, and whatever is rotting in all those houses that were not torn down in the months after the storm but may yet be torn down after the years of failed reconstruction. It said Sherman’s march set the South back a decade, perhaps even a generation since he worked so hard ripping up rail roads, sapping trenches in roads, and cutting down fruit and nut trees and did such a good job of punishing the civilian population we named a tank after him. This hurricane may have set New Orleans back to zero, that is, a slow devolution of the city until only the tourist centers and gumbo shops, tit joints and to-go cup sheds, street car lines and voodoo souvenir stores and maybe all this will be cunningly relocated to the Super Dome or the Mercedes-Benz Superdom as it is renamed… I mean re-branded.
Which would be fitting. Taking the train the houses were still piled up in places. The ones that remain seem to be slowly being fitted with stilts or placed up on blocks, which gives the area an even stranger feel as if the area is split between those houses ready to be placed onto a truck and those sinking into the mud. This direction wasn’t the famous Lower Ninth Ward, which two fellow members of the guest house I was staying at toured in their car and reported to all of us at dinner that things still looked grim and that it was surprising that so long after piles of debris would remain and places where it looked like someone thought about rebuilding before running out of money. The area the train took was over the 17th Street Canal, one that was breached in several areas. Residence had complained about leaks in the canal long before and nothing happened.
USAUSAUSA 164I remember when I was in New Orleans in 1998 that I would see water seeping out of cracks in the sidewalk, pushing out of manhole covers, and wet and brown spots in yards where salt water had created a puddle. I’ll never forget getting off my bike to inspect this leaking sidewalk, then looking up to see a boat much higher up than I was…. Which, perhaps I am a Northerner, just struck me as a bad idea, hurricanes aside. Perhaps these houses will all be on stilts one day and people from all over the world will come to look at them. Maybe those repairs will finally get done in the next decade where they have failed in the previous and those houses I saw rotting or half-fixed will become the cottages yuppies of the future will fight over in bidding wars. However, I doubt it. It seems that the Juju is on the mojo of the hoodoo voodoo on New Orleans, and it seems that those bones cast a hex on the city, perhaps this is NOLO’s repentance for so many years of living in sin and folly and she deserves everything she gets.
Leaving the city made me a little sad and I know I will work hard to return. While I have sondered the craptasticness, there is indeed something interesting that continues to draw so many of us in to love the city or hate it or talk or write or think about this mix of crass and drunken parties, fancy and private roads, research universities and Crusties with mangy dogs that have testicles the size of grapefruit all coming together in a city dug lower than the ocean, framed in by water water, everywhere. Perhaps all these film makers, artists, and authors need to just step out of the way, stop taking pictures or making hard hitting documentaries, writing editorials for or against privatization, protesting government ineffectiveness or interference, because there is only one group who can look into the Soul of New Orleans and the many people who live there, and that of course are the musicians. This music tells us everything we need to know about the City that Care Forgot. New Orleans? Hashtag, it’s complicated.

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