I was hoping to keep things light for a tleast a week while recapping my wonderful visit with family, but I have to say some things. BP is burning endangered turtles. They know it, they’ve been told not to and they continue. The FEMA trailers, yes the ones with the formaldehyde, are back – this time being used for clean-up workers. Just as well since they’re not given respiration protection at work anyway. No small wonder that the average Valdez clean-up worker died at the age of 51. AND, the U.S. government has now made a rule saying that no one, including reporters, is allowed within 65 feet of any response vehicle or boom on water or on beaches. Only the Coast Guard Captain of the Port of New Orleans can give permission to go any closer. No photos of turtles being burned alive. It reminds me of not showing the coffins arriving from Iraq and Afghanistan. Not seeing the damage won’t make a problem this big go away, it will only further protect BP from fines and public opinion.
I gotta tell you – BP and the U.S. government don’t seem to have the region’s best interests at heart. If they do, I’d sure love to hear their explanation for all of this seemingly duplicitous and careless behavior. Okay, enough.
Last Wednesday was the 5th day of Mom and Elle’s trip here. We took a nice walk to the Rink. Built in the late 1800s, it was the first roller-skating rink in the South. Now it’s a a coffee house and a collection of cool shops, including the Garden District Book Shop which specializes in regional and rare books.
While looking at a case loaded with signed books from the many authors who’ve come to the shop for readings and signings, I mentioned that my friend from grad school in Alabama, Tom Franklin, had a book there. Mom promptly bought the book and the man behind the counter said he was a friend of Tommy’s too. The world is so very small.
We headed across the street to wander into Lafayette Cemetery #1. Built in 1833, most of the graves sit 6 feet over (not under) ground. There are families wiped out by yellow fever, a community tomb for firefighters and another for indigent orphan boys where people leave Matchbox cars and other tiny toys.
From there, we walked to Magazine Street and La Divina – but not for gelato this time – for lunch. It’s not Louisiana cuisine, but they make tasty salads and paninis and Elle was in the mood. I secretly suspect she and my mom just wanted to try more spoonfuls of different gelato flavors.
But, we restrained ourselves from ordering bowls, even though they had my favorite flavor, Chocolate Azteca. We saved ourselves instead for a sweet treat that can only truly be found in the great state of Louisiana. Maybe sno-balls aren’t the only reason this is the happiest state in the union (or was before BP took a giant dump in our Gulf), but they are certainly a factor. There’s nothing else like a sno-ball on a hot day. Like the shrimp bar-b-que I described that had nothing to do with bar-b-que or grills, sno-balls are nothing like snowcones. The ice is shaved, fluffy like snow, then doused with inventive flavors of syrup and often topped with sweetened condensed milk or marshmallow creme. It’s just another thing about this place that’s so indescribably better than the imagination can grasp, that it all falls in the you-had-to-be-there category.
My favorite stand so far, the one I took them to, is SnoWizard on Magazine. One of the oldest sno-aball makers in the city, they’ve got a million flavors to choose from. Mom got nectar with sweetened condensed, I got wedding cake with sweetened condensed and Elle had strawberry daiquiri – all of the flavor with none of the kick.
We came home to finally watch the last episode of this season’s Treme. Mom’s been following all season, Elle had never seen an episode. As always, the music was wonderful. Irma Thomas appeared as herself and sang after kicking butt in poker. As at the Wednesday at the Square, she was outstanding. For a photos and more of that concert:
Steve Zahn’s Davis tried to persuade Kim Dickins’ character to stay by giving her a perfect day in the Big Easy. He started with beignets from Cafe du Monde. Mom and Elle agreed that was a perfect start to a perfect day. He followed with Jon Boutte serenading on the porch. Boutte wrote and performs the show’s title track, “The Treme Song.” Davis followed breakfast with a walk and a nap – genius. Then took her to see the Soul Rebels. I can offer no explanations as to why she left after a day like that.
It was, of course, a joy to finally see the Mardi Gras Indians on St. Joseph’s Day. I have to admit a small bit of disappointment. When I followed the Indians on St. Joseph’s, I saw a cinematographer from Treme at the parade. I assumed that the footage of the parade I attended would be aired during the St. Joseph’s episode. Nope. No idea if they plan to use the footage in the future, I can only say that the daytime parade I attended was packed compared with the nighttime parade they used in the episode so it wouldn’t have represented the struggle to come back from nothing. This year – the Indians were plentiful, as were the crowds. If you haven’t already seen the footage of that most amazing day, it is my favorite video. Watch it full screen.
People around town had been saying that the last half hour of the episode was not what they expected, but was the meat of the show. At first, I thought another hurricane was coming, Rita or something, then I realized it was a flashback to pre-Katrina. I couldn’t help but travel back to before the oil, to when I still thought that Katrina taught us the toll of slow responses, the need to consider safety as more important than money (as shoddy levees led to the flooding, not the storm), that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. I thought we learned to appreciate this region, to treasure and protect it. I thought we learned not to let profits and contracts count for more than human beings dying on national TV – slowly, painfully and needlessly.
We are over 70 days into watching a foreign corporation under criminal investigation run this spill, over 70 days into watching the government allow it all to happen. Even the damn FEMA trailers are back. How could Katrina not have been a big enough disaster to have taught us a thing or two about urgency and organization? How are we to trust our region to a corporation who says they will “focus like a laser” on safety then cuts corners by buying trailers that are proven hazards? And how can we trust a government who allowed those trailers to be sold and plans to allow them to be used as residences for clean-up workers? What has happened to government of, by and FOR the people?
Maybe I’m just an alarmist blogging in her living room. I’d love to be wrong about being ignored by my government while a corporation oils marshes and burns animals and spends $50 million on commercials and not the $10 million requested for mental health, a point heightened by the recent suicide of boat captain, Allen Kruse – reported on just after we watched the Treme finale which dealt with the apparent suicide of Goodman’s character. Heavy stuff for my 14 year old niece to process. Kruse worked 14 days for BP, telling his wife he felt useless, that BP was just putting him out there “for show,” before taking his own life. How does BP plan to make that whole?
It’s all become nauseating. Many people here can’t even watch the news anymore. They’ve lost the stomach for dealing with, not just another manmade disaster, but another round of feeling abandoned, or worse, betrayed, by their own country. Enough again.
Afterward, we went to Frenchmen Street, a convergence of cool clubs and restaurants frequented by locals. We hung out on the street outside The Spotted Cat to listen to the band in the window and watch free swing dancing lessons. Afterward,we had supper at Marigny Brasserie. My shrimp and grits with collard greens was pretty darn good.
A friend who lives there joined us and walked us through a brief history of the neighborhood and past some of the favorite clubs. Walking by a building I remembered from St Patrick’s, I recalled that it was a home for the elderly, that many of them stood in the doorwell or pulled chairs onto the sidewalk to watch the festivities pass. Made me less scared of getting old here.
We ended the evening watching my and my mother’s favorite reality show, So You Think You Can Dance. Usually, I write littles notes to myself and my mom and I discuss the show the following day. It was so much more fun to watch the show with her and comment in real time. I was reminded of what this city has known all along – everything’s better when you share it with people you love. Heck, here, everything’s usually better when you share it with total strangers.