Friday, September 16, 2005

If you read my blog as of late, you'd think I was overly fixated on Hurricane Katrina and New Orleans. And you'd be right.

I have my obsessions, things that concern or interest me and the way I absorb information and sort out my feelings is, apparently, to fling myself headlong into whatever is pulling at me.

It's also been a very strange summer, especially for the last month. I left one of the most miserable jobs I had ever been in just before my wedding anniversary on the 30th. I had been distracting myself with daydreams of New Orleans to try and get through that job, because it was one of the few clear visions of joy I had. I was pining especially intensely because I knew I couldn't go this year, money and time not permitting. My job situation changed shortly before the end of the month, as I was able to get out of the job, and was hired on at someplace FAR FAR better.

In the small span of time that my job switch took place, Katrina threatened and hit.
I was remembering the last two years when I had visited the city for our honeymoon and anniversary. I remembered the growing feeling that this was a place I belonged, although when I didn't know.
Then as the disaster crawled on, I had the worst sinking feeling in my stomach. Days crawled on to September 11th, when 4 years before I had also been glued to the TV, filled with that same sinking feeling. The sadness and fear was overwhelming at that time. Perhaps I was also playing too much VNV Nation, but I didn't know how else to deal with the situation.

I was also at a job I didn't like at the time, and desperately needed a vacation. We had plane tickets for the 13th. Needless to say we didn't fly. I wanted my vacation, I wasn't going to give it up. I needed some sense of joy, something to give me a new perspective on a crappy situation.
We drove 15 hours to New Orleans, and arrived on I-10 during the night.
I spent a week last year at this time, wandering the streets of one of the most fascinating places I had ever been. One of my most immediate memories was the silence in the air because of the lack of planes. The Quarter was quiet as tourists were scarce. There was a man in the middle of one of the streets, playing amazing grace on a harmonica - one of the most haunting sounds I have ever heard.

I think of it again now - on the four year anniversary of a major tragedy, coupled with a second tragedy associated with that memory.

I'm not sure how to feel. Besides sad.

I know that I am not a resident of New Orleans, I know that I am safe in my home, I have my family intact, and my friends, a job, and a roof over my head. I am lucky.

That doesn't keep me from mourning a place I was getting to know in more detail every time.
I know the feeling of a pull to a place where you are supposed to be. It happened with Chicago before - and look where I ended up.
I know I will end up there. The question is when, and the answer is definitely not soon, but also not far off.

Perhaps I have tapped into the community sorrow - with the amount of emotion fliying around, TV on or not, it's hard to escape for someone like me.

I have payed as much attention to this disaster as I would had Cleveland if it had been suffering from some kind of disaster.

I'm only 29. These events are to me like what WWII would have been to someone decades ago, or those alive at the sinking of the titanic - something you never fucking forget and into your senior years will be able to describe in more painful detail than the morning's breakfast.

I'm at a loss here. How does one cope with seeing so many people suffering? You can donate, but that doesn't seem like enough. You can pray, but sometimes that doesn't seem like enough.

I do my best to remember as clear as I can the streets as they were, the people we met. Positive thoughts are supposed to attract positive actions, so if wishful thinking were ever going to do its job, I hope I'm contributing somewhat.

I hope that those who lived in the afflicted areas who have decided not to return find a better life, althoughI must say I worry about them, especially those who were already suffering financially. This country has such a class gap, and depending on what city you go to, it can become much more evident. Chicago is a pretty expensive place to be, and let's face it, even with as much racial diversity evident in the streets, it's still a segregated city. Cleveland is as well.

I sincerely hope that these displaced people will not be flung into the same situation in another city, that's all I'm trying to say.


So I'm addicted to crisis TV. At worst, it makes me sad. At best, it puts things into perspective.
I just want things to get better for everyone concerned so I can stop listening to Rita Cosby's voice.


Wednesday, September 14, 2005

So, it's morning, and the best way to wake myself up is to complain about things that piss me off. Here goes.

I guess there's some righteous morons who think that Katrina is punishment for everything from southern decadence, abortionists, to what happened to the gaza strip, to Iraq, and to NOLA being a "wicked city".

I had no idea that todays genetics would allow the size of such enormous heads up such tight asses, but you learn something new every day.

Why is it that EVERY time something bad happens in America that it is so obviously God's punishment? Does God really send out that many memos to his "pals" when he checks his daily planner and decides to decimate cities via wind or water?

This kinda of infantile bullshit is why I cringe at the thought of being human half the time, that people still have the capacity to be this stupid and self righteous. These idiots wouldn't be spewing this kind of crap if some sort of disaster hit where they were living tomorrow (and chances are they'd still think some ELSE's bad actions were accountable, not theirs).

If you say that natural disasters are God's punishment, then who was at fault for that tsunami that hit India and parts of lower Asia? I imagine God was unhappy with them because some of them weren't right wing christians with big mouths and an even bigger egos?
I could list of any number of disasters that have happened around the world and throughout our history - such as say...Hitler systematically destroying the Jewish population.
Let me guess, God was punishing them as well? Or maybe he was hell bent on clocking specific countries like Germany or Poland?

There are some takes that say not GOD is responsible, but SATAN; that evil attracts evil. While this applies much better to Hitler's case, and don't see how it applies to New Orleans. Las Vegas has FAR more debauchery in it on a larger scale, and I have yet to see ANY kind of natural disaster hit there, And what about Rio with it's Carnival? I'm sorry, but NOLA has nothing on the "scantily clad" that parade around there. Oh, and did I mention that Brazil is extremely CATHOLIC? MUCH LIKE NEW ORLEANS?!!! How can you deny the religious content of a city which is divided into PARISHES instead of counties?

AS I have previously mentioned in earlier posts, there's not a city without some sort of corruption, stupidity, ignorance, or debauchery of some sort. If God was really doling out punishment, he'd be wacking every major city in every part of the world. I'd say San Francisco was due for another earthquake. While I do believe that negative energy does attract negative energy, I don't believe that it can call up a storm that levels several cities - not just the "wicked" one.

God doesn't brew up storms just to justify someone else's agenda - nor does Satan, as he surely has his own in any case.

When a bad natural event strikes, I don't believe God has that much of anything to do with putting it in motion. I do however, agree with Mike in that our REACTION to it is a test of our humanity. How do we face the adversity? Do we point fingers of blame at each other? Do we deny our responsibility in the face of the disaster? Do we go on a power trip because we're in the position to? Do we sit back from far away and blame the damage on the lack of support of our exclusive political and religious opinions? Do we fall into ignorance and fail to understand what the issues really are?

Or do we see that innocent people are suffering and need to be taken care of? D0 we instead, cut through the red tape and get money and supplies where they are needed? Do we fess us for our mistakes and then do whatever we can to right things? Do we extend our hand to our fellow man instead of slapping them across the face?

Let's face it, the world is an imperfect place, and things get broken now and then. Nothing is meant to last forever here. It's not meant to be perfect, and shit does happen.
But when it does, and people are affected, it's not a time to put negativity into play. If negative attracts negative, then you can bet your ass that those who dish it out will get it back in time, in one way or another.

The best we can do is be TOLERANT and KIND and GIVING to one another. Like breeds like. Who the hell wants to focus on the shit when you could be focusing on the good and ACCOMPLISHING something?

If you haven't guessed by now, I think that whoever thinks New Orleans got hit because of Mardi Gras ( which as those ignorant of its history don't know is a celebration rooted in CATHOLICISM), haunted cemetery tours (you can't swing a dead gator without hitting a cemetery, and let's face it, the entire CITY of New Orleans has gotta be the most haunted place in the country with all the death it's seen), or Voodoo (a spirituality that once again, incorporates portions of Catholicism) - anyone who picks out these lame reasons as an invitation for a storm is completely and utterly FULL OF SHIT.

What about Slidell? What about Gulf Port? Must be a boatload of wicked there too. Those bad bad people who settled in the gulf. And let me guess, God is punishing the Carolinas with Ophelia now. Rrrright.

The major problem I see here is ignorance, pure unadulterated ignorance, a
lthough we can't rule out stupidity, egoism, self righteousness, pig headedness, intolerance, and mean spiritedness.

So to perhaps close the gap on some of the ignorance, I thought I'd post a few links to counteract the crap.

Here's some info on the history of Mardi Gras:

And as far as the UNDEAD or HAUNTED spooky aspect,
New Orleans has been a city steeped in death since its inception due to disease, flooding, fires, etc. It is not a city that holds this severe FEAR of death the way many other people do, because death was as common and natural as life although it was a sorrowful event for the living. Historically, people visited the cemeteries frequently to commune with their dead relatives, and often literal feasts and banquets were laid out - especially during All Saints Day (another religious holiday). People celebrated the lives of their dead - not feared them.
This sort of practice, while it's fallen off in NOLA culture, is evident in Mexican culture on Day of the Dead - All Souls Day. Once again - Catholic.

I can't tell you how tired I am of people who open their mouths or their blogs/what-have-you without THINKING first. I'm sick of the fucking black and white views, the people who don't do their research, the US (or in some cases ME) VS THEM mentality, the pure intolerance that is being wielded.

You know what I think GOD wants? He wants people to take accountability for their words and actions, to actually be HUMAN to each other instead of acting like a bunch of uppity children.
There's no room for this kind of bullshit anymore. If you won't help us fix the problems in our world with love and respect then SHUT THE HELL UP because no one wants to hear your narrow minded, uneducated complaints.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Her's an addendum to the last post, with a little lyrical quote from Stace England, who in 2005 put out a musical tribute to the city of Cairo, which is fitting for both NOLA and Cairo alike:

The glory days are gone, leaving only a trace.But each time another building falls down,
A garden could grow in its place.Hold on, hold on, and open up your heart.We can build together
Or keep watching things fall apart.
So I've come across some items written by individuals who think that rebuilding New Orleans is a mistake. One of main reasons sited is of course, that it is bound to be destroyed again by another hurricane and to spend money on rebuilding a doomed city is a waste.

While some of those who make these remarks do have some valid points, I don't think they are seeing the whole picture.

Yes, NOLA was and still IS the city that should not be, but so are many other places in this country and around the world for that matter. If we're going to scrap New Orleans because it's just going to be destroyed by hurricanes again, we might as well scrap the ENTIRE gulf coast, including Florida. No one should be living there, because, let's face it, the devastation could hit ANY PART of that area. And what about the Carolinas?
And how about San Francisco and other areas on fault lines? There's no point in saving those areas either if a massive earthquake hits, right?
And what about tornadoes?
Saying New Orleans is not worth saving because eventually another hurricane will strike is like saying "I'm going to kill myself now because eventually I'm going to die anyway."

So we're supposed to leave a big empty husk of a city lying around?
We're supposed to GIVE UP? That most certainly is not a southern attitude, and definitely not a New Orleans attitude.

To single out NOLA because of it's unfortunate below sea stature is entirely unfair.
Let's not forget that there are still parts of the city where things are not damaged or damage is minimal. Let's not forget also, the importance of New Orleans as a port and entry point for commerce on one of the most major rivers in the country. Never mind that it was also an excellent point of defense in past history BECAUSE it was on the Mississippi. The amount of business that would be hampered if not lost because of letting the city perish would effect us ALL.

I think the thing that perturbs me most about the point of view that would let NOLA curl up and die is as I have commented on before - the throw away nature of our culture. Oh, it's broken. There's no point in even trying to fix it. It'll take too much time and effort that we could be spending complaining about other less significant things.

New Orleans is one of the oldest cities in this country. HOW LONG has it existed before a hurricane threatened it in this manner? And how many times has it been rebuilt after fires, floods, plagues, and god knows what else?

Maybe humans are stupid creatures in that they insist on building in areas where they shouldn't exist. But, if you think about how many places we shouldn't be existing, the living space gets a bit limited. It is man's nature to adapt TO NATURE. If the dutch can build a 10,000 year dyke that keeps their land from being flooded, there's no reason why New Orleans can't build better levees. Yes, it will cost money. What the fuck doesn't cost a buttload of money to help improve our country these days? As long as I'm paying a shit-ton of taxes, I'd at least like to know that some of the money is going to actually helping other people in this country.

I realize that some other comments that those against the rebuilding of NOLA have made is that it wasn't that great of a place anyhow. The school system was failing, the police were corrupt, the murder rate was high and so was poverty. I won't dispute the poverty rate. The other forementioned items were linked either directly or indirectly to the poverty rate.
Instead of looking at this as a situation that was hopeless and should be forgotten, is it instead possible that this disaster could be viewed as a WAKE UP CALL that there is a serious poverty issue that needs addressing and maybe someone should care enough to fucking deal with it finally? Poverty was not exclusive to NOLA, but it was very concentrated there.

Being someone in the middle class who is just barely above LOWER middle class, whose parents and inlaws are still in the lower middle class - lower class, I am WELL aware of the class gap and how it has been steadily widening over the years.

And would someone please find me a city where police or officials AREN'T corrupt? We ARE in Chicago, and let's just say that we've had our share of crap heads. As for public schools? AS Mike about Cleveland public schools and how they've been failing for years.

Yes, NOLA had concentrated problems, but they were not problems that were exclusive to their area and the bad history is a terrible reason to SCRAP it - the history is a reason to DO RIGHT by it.

Let me tell you a little story about a town that once was a bustling port - one that was strategically important back in the civil war era, which was also on the Miss. river, and one that WAS allowed to decay from a disaster which is a fairly natural one - TIME.

There is a town called Cairo, which sits at the junction of the Miss. and Ohio rivers, and is the southernmost town in Illinois. It is also one of the few towns protected by a levee. It was founded in the early 1800's because of its location. It was an important strategic location in the civil war. "General U.S. Grant, the Army of the Tennessee, the Siege of Vicksburg, the Naval Battle for the Mississippi---all were launched from Cairo's riverbanks." (- was a major steamboat port, and it also became an important railroad hub. Lumber Mills, furniture factories and even the Singer Sewing Company did a lot of export business from the area as well. As the turn of the century ensued, things began to slide backwards. A railroad bridge across the Miss. River took traffic away from Cairo, and water seepage became a nuisance (the city was built on low ground).

The bustling city was in slow decline, and if you look at timelines, it is apparent that the advent of the car, the first world war, and the depression were the knives in the back of the city. Time is almost always a city killer, but those who could have kept the town up were not exactly lending it a hand. It was let go. The businessmen let it go, the citizens let it go, those who could have invested in it gave up on it. Extreme racial tension - notable especially in the 60's, tore the already dying town apart. Corruption was also a murderer of Cairo.
Why? Because no one cared or tried enough to do anything about it.

Cairo stands out on billboards as you head down south through the Illinois border. The Brochures about it make it out to be a lovely, picturesque, historical place. To the tourist passing through, you believe these images until you go there. Sure, the buildings on the brochure are as beautiful as their photos, but the landscape around them is rife with decay.
Cairo is a ghost town waiting to happen. Structures that were obviously gorgeous less than a century ago are decrepit, the atmosphere is tense and depressing, if not menacing. It's obvious that poverty, lack of jobs, and poor education has a chokehold on the city. It's even more obvious that no one seems to care - the city was left to die because no one even wanted to try anymore - and this was a city that wasn't threatened by floods as those on the lower Miss.

The following is an excerpt from wikipedia:
"Cairo today faces a number of serious issues, including poverty, teenage pregnancy, education, a lack of jobs, and poor access to health services. The 2004 closing of the last major industry, a plant manufacturing foam stuffing for automobile seats, has intensified concerns about Cairo's future. If the population continues to decline at its current rate, the city will be abandoned by 2020."

We spent the last leg of our 2004 trip from New Orleans staying overnight in Cairo. We were shocked to see the town in daylight. I had never seen a placed so marked by despair.

This is what happens when people give up and scrap a place that has promise. Cairo's life exists only in the nostalgia of postcards and historical documents. No one is left alive who remembers what the place was, could have been, and should have been.

I had just left New Orleans, a place with both problems and beauty, a city of graveyards but a place so alive - and was saddened by the thought that Cairo was probably very much like it at one time long ago.

I will say it again, New Orleans is worth saving. In the end, you really can't compare it to Cairo for its importance in our economy, industry, transportation and in our hearts. As one should not leave behind the sick and elderly to die in the floodwaters, so we cannot leave a wounded city that needs our help. It deserves far better than what it has gotten, and so do the people who live there.