Sunday, September 04, 2005

Sunday, September 04, 2005
Waxing Moon
Chiron Retrograde
Neptune Retrograde
Uranus Retrograde
Sunny and beautiful

As I watched the quick rounds of briefings yesterday on (I believe it was C-SPAN), I was horrified to hear that the Pentagon was ready to move in the National Guard on “the first day of the storm” – but didn’t get the phone call.

The phone call has to come from the Commander-in-Chief.

It backs up what the individual National Guard members with whom I spoke on Friday here in New York mused. As they explained it to me, this is what they do – get in where most people can’t, and get in quickly. The only reason they could think of that it took so long, was that the press conference promising aid was held, but the actual phone call allowing them to deploy had not yet been made. And probably wasn’t made for at least 24 hours.

It all leads back to the top.

Bush says the slow response was “unacceptable” and he’s going to fix it – but HE is the problem because he did not pick up the phone and give the orders that could ONLY come from him in a timely manner.

Our government’s hypocrisy at work, yet again.

There were failures all along the chain, but it starts from the top – both in the lack of response from the top, and the fact that the people named to head the organizations who should have been running things well did not gain those positions by their qualifications, but by nepotism.

How many more people have to die before we remove this incompetent? As several police officers mentioned to me here in NY, the individual departments around the country are bracing for another terrorist attack – this is a prime time for it, when the attention and resources are focused on our Gulf Coast, and our resources are stretched very thin between there and Iraq.

And this deep failure – which, of course, Bush’s handlers are trying to spin. You want to prove he’s doing his job? Share the phone records with the public. On what day and at what time where the necessary calls made? That would answer a lot of questions. But would they release the true records?

The military couldn’t act on its own, because can you imagine the ramifications if the military began to move without orders from the Commander-in-Chief?

Hop on to NY Newsday’s site and read the searing commentaries from both Jimmy Breslin and Ellis Henican. They are well worth the read.

As Harry Connick Jr. asked, if people could get to the Convention Center and the Superdome and the media could move around unencumbered, how come no help could get in?

And, do you blame police officers for quitting? Most of them had been on duty for 72 hours without a break, they had no gas, no water, running out of bullets, and no sign of help on the way.

International aid is STILL held at bay. The UN is STILL not being allowed in. Fidel Castro, for crying out loud, offered to send 1000 doctors and medicine, because he can get them there quickly, and the offer’s been ignored.

The world community is horrified (I’ve read a good many editorials in the past few days from international news agencies), rightfully so, and they also see where the biggest problem lies.

At the top.

Cartoonist Walt Handelsman brought up a very important aspect about New Orleans: “You don’t really live in New Orleans, New Orleans lives in you.”

I started making a list of the people I care about in New Orleans, and spent time surfing the net trying to see if I could find out something about them. It’s difficult, because, for many of them, I only know their first names. Even most of the students in the workshop I taught down there a few years ago, I only have first names.

How could they then be “friends”?

Because things work differently in New Orleans. Kindred spirits find each other. You’ll meet somebody at the newsstand or at the buffet in the Funky Butt, or at the chef’s counter at NOLA and, in a few hours, be closer to them than people you’ve known for years.

How often have I heard, “I don’t have a regular address to get mail, but you can always find me here” with here being Jackson Square or Pere Antoine’s or the Voodoo Museum or the Moonwalk.

I won’t be able to find them “here” anymore.

Because so much of the population lives in poverty, little of daily life is handled in cash transactions. Most people I know have a two or three part-time jobs to get by – there’s not enough work to have a single job and make it. Whatever can be bartered, is bartered. They’ll trade pies for haircuts, car repair for roof repair. That’s how it works down there. Because the Bush administration has cut so many services, and moved so much money out of things like construction to reinforce levees out of the area, people barter. Each year I traveled down there during the Bush administration, I’ve watched the poverty grow exponentially.

The most expensive hotel room smells just as moldy as the cheaper ones – so you might as well save the money and use it on good food. And whether it’s a five star hotel or a one star hotel, for some reason, they still stick lace doilies in embroidery hoops and hang them on the walls. I’ve never quite understood it, but it makes me laugh. Or, I should say, made me laugh.

I suppose I shouldn’t be as surprised by the outbreak of violence as I am. For years – since the Bush administration took a machete to all social services down there – gangs have risen in prominence. It actually started during the previous Bush administration, then died down a bit during Clinton, because some of the services were restored, and then picked up again once Clinton was out of office.

I always felt remarkably safe there. Granted, I was careful. Hotel concierges, the staff at Pere Antoine’s restaurant, the caretaker at St. Louis Cathedral, the guide at the Ursulines' original convent, and the cab drivers who took me to and from Fair Grounds Race Track always questioned me closely as to my plans and how I wanted to get around. And I listened.

The one time some street guy tried to scam me with the “where your shoes at?”, I said, “On my feet, asshole, and don’t pull that shit on me, I’m from New York.”

He grinned at me and apologized. And I bought him a beer.

That’s how things work down there.

During the trip down there in the months after 9/1l, everyone wanted to take care of me. Since I revisit many of the same places each trip as well as exploring new ones, I had a group of people who knew I was a New Yorker who wanted to “help me through it”. Also, when your accent is different than what they’re used to, every waiter, every store clerk, everyone you meet asks where you’re from. And when I said, “New York” everyone wanted to talk about the tragedy and do something to help.

I felt safe, loved, and at home in that city. Even with only making one trip down there a year, there were people who would light up when I walked into their place, and we’d pick up the conversation where we left off a year ago.

I am directionally challenged, yet I never got lost there. I always knew where I was and how to get where I needed to go. I didn’t need a map. I just knew.

A wise jazz club friend once said to me, “Your soul comes to N’Orleans early and then your body has to catch up. But you get here eventually.”

I have to work on the serials today, especially The Widow’s Chamber – which is currently set in New Orleans. I tried yesterday – and couldn’t. But I have to pull it together.

My SO has to head back out late this afternoon – he’s got to be bright-eyed, bushy-tailed and ready to go at work tomorrow morning. I am deeply grateful he came in. We’re in for a long, rough separation, but the fact that it meant enough to him to drop everything and come here means a lot.

In addition to the candles I burn for New Orleans, I’m also burning one for the victims in the bridge stampede in Iraq a few days ago, the victims of the typhoon in China, and to mark the anniversary of the Beslan massacre.

I did write yesterday – eleven pages on Untitled, which was originally supposed to be the Christmas story, but has evolved into something quite different, and four pages on a fantasy novel tentatively entitled Thoughts are Things, that is still in too delicate a stage to really discuss.

Now, to try to focus on contracted work. Though, if I don’t get my new contracts soon, it will no longer be an issue. Pun intended.

Devon

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