Thursday, December 06, 2007

Johnny Vidacovich Needs Our Help

I just received this e-mail in my box from Stanton Moore--Johnny Vidacovich needs our help to save his house
Hello fans of great music,

I'm writing to you to ask for your help in helping out my mentor, teacher and good friend Johnny Vidacovich. Johnny and his wife Deborah's house is in need of major repairs and they are in need of financial help. To compound matters, Johnny is developing arthritis in his right thumb. I want to keep him from having to play every single gig that comes his way so that the arthritis doesn't get worse. This is the house that I learned my most important musical lessons in. This is also the house that Kevin O'day, Brian Blade and many other great drummers learned in. Johnny is one of the most unique drummers in the world and is a New Orleans treasure.

So I want to help them in as many was as I can by letting as many people as I know that:

- Johnny will be teaching lessons at the house for the next few weeks at a discounted rate of $75 an hour
- You can book the lessons with Deborah via email at jvidacovich@cox.net
- You can make a donations to the Vidacovich cause by mailing a check made out to Johnny Vidacovich to 4816 Bienville St. New Orleans, LA 70119
- You can make a donation online here!


Let's do what we can to help save Johnny Vidacovich's house. He is, by far, the greatest living drummer in the city of New Orleans today.

Friday, November 30, 2007

We Deserve What We Get Part II

I received a response by Charles that went like this:
@ Banzai Bill

I don't think I'm a flame artist (guessing at what that means); I think I'm serious. I am actually just a guy who does not see the need for a comprehensive social revolution here.
I never thought of myself as naive or as representing a segment of society who is oblivious and uncritical of their government, but I suppose I'll allow that there are many who think like I do. But regardless of why they think as they do, there is a majority of the population that does not see itself as living under an oppressive regime or blindly imprisoned by a social system bent on keeping them down. Sure there are people who think that, but if you want to find intelligent people who think that, you need to go to college campuses and coffee houses.

The same arguments of impermeable social strata and prophecies of impending social collapse are, to me, tired. They seem to appear fairly regularly on a fifty year cycle, and thankfully mainstream America doesn't listen. And why should it? Mainstream America will never espouse fringe views unless they perceive their situation to be dire. They don't, because to them it isn't, and that's all that matters. As persuasive as some brands of social thought may have been to them when they were in college or grad school, most Americans divorce these ideas as they become less divorced from responsibility to the point where most who think this way beyond the age of thirty are college professors.

Most Americans see actions taken recently by the government to be unfortunate, but some think that those actions are justified. I'm one of those guys. People who don't speak out against the government or seek sweeping social change don't always hold those beliefs due to naivete. Many who don't have the same problems with society as you do aren't simply acquiescing uncritically. I'm just thankful this "naive" population outnumbers the socialists.

"Your revolution's over, Lebowski! The bums lost! Condolences! The bums will always lose!"

My response is long....

Charles,

This could become a “last word” debate, and I don’t want to be a part of that. I think you affirm exactly my points, though, in your response. I also feel that you didn’t realize that your comments supported everything I posted.

First, a little about Max Weber and Pierre Bourdieu. Neither of these social theorists would ever be thought of a “social revolutionaries.” Weber’s theories have become standard among many disciplines, with his classic work on Bureaucracy as the maxim in the business world. It’s unfortunate that the business world interprets his theory as a “positive” description of how organizations work rather than the “critical” perspective Weber intended. He was not an advocate of the type of “revolution” envisioned by Marx—indeed, he was extremely critical of Marx’ naivety in this area. Bourdieu also never advocated revolution. If change was to take place, it would be through a rather pragmatic and incremental process as people began to understand their position within the class structure and worked to ease or remedy gross social inequalities.

Second, you are correct that many of us lose touch with these social theories once we leave college. That is unfortunate, since they can be so helpful in understanding potential outcomes of actions by leaders, organizations, and institutions in this (and any other) society. A theoretical perspective helps us make sense of the seemingly chaotic (or logically structured) social world. It is the starting point for not only intellectual dialogue and analysis of problems—it is necessary in any credible policy discussion. Again, you are correct to posit that most of us lose touch with theory because we are too busy with everyday life. This is accurate and unfortunate—our lives, as dictated by our relations to global capitalism, keep us from finding the time to sit, read, reflect, critique, debate, and educate. I find most of today’s discussions are not critiques or debates—they are shouting matches that are empirically and theoretically groundless and turn into personal inflammatory attacks. What free time we do find we consume ourselves in entertainment—with or without friends and family.

Third, without a theoretical understanding of the world, you will continue to not see the oppressive conditions in which we all live in. You don’t have to side with me on this—you can pick noted “functional” or “systems” theorists like Durkheim or Parsons. Both stated that capitalist states do produce unequal outcomes—that’s the nature of capitalism. But for Durkheim, the moral imperative (and indeed the truly best functional operation) in a society is to measure people based on their Achieved characteristics—not their ascribed characteristics. When people are no longer able to move up the social ladder based on their lack of social networks, status positions, or free and open access to wealth creation, then the system becomes dysfunctional and must become balanced (equilibrium). Governments, according to Durkheim, must step in and enforce this balanced state of equilibrium. Ironically, we are seeing some “potential” of that taking place today—and may see further movement in that direction—when businesses begin making requests for government to “re-regulate” their runaway industries. Businesses cannot make those decisions on their own—they cannot stop being competitive with others in their industries. But they also realize this runaway capitalist process is damaging to the social structure and they are requesting government step in to control the situation (if I can find it, I will refer you to a NYTimes article that dealt with this issue a few months ago. There are other published examples in recent months as well).

You imply that I and others like me who state that we live in an “oppressive” state are promoting some sort of “conspiratory” process by “big business boogiemen” trying to horde all the profits to themselves. Though some people on the fringe might actually believe this, again this is not a theoretically grounded position. In its simplest, the oppressive state is merely an outcome of capitalism—it is how capitalism works. Free markets produce monopolistic conditions (see economic theory and empirical research to back that up as well). It is not a conspiracy on anyone’s part—it is just the nature of capitalism. Social theory (conflict and functionalism) states that some force (the people themselves or the government, depending on your perspective) must step in to remedy the “natural” extreme inequalities that emerge in capitalism. We don’t realize, at times, that we live in these oppressive conditions because governments and capitalists have been able to “buffer” its impact either with social programs (homeownership incentives and tax write-offs, for example) or business programs (easy access to credit, lower home-loan requirements) help maintain the fa├žade of a “good” quality of life. What Blake observes, and quite accurately I might add, is that the business side is about to fall in on itself—causing large numbers of people who previously felt “comfortable” to come face-to-face with the reality of the social inequalities imbedded in capitalism. Those affected can either move towards perhaps government stepping in to soften the blow of this problem, or they can just “adjust” to this new problem, lower their quality of life, and apathetically accept it. Using Weber again as my starting point, I “predict” the “apathy” option—I don’t have much confidence in our society seeking ANY solution to this dilemma unless some leader emerges to 1) educate and articulate the dimensions of this problem, and 2) can charismatically lead a policy-change movement.

On a personal note—I am surrounded by a number of significantly disgruntled people in my community. They understand, in my conversations with them, that the society is oppressive, it is unfair, that they are usually on the short end of the stick, that their families are sacrificing significantly for the policies initiated by what they realize is an unfair social system and business-focused government. They are concerned with their personal futures, and the future of their children. They are somewhat disappointed in people who don’t see this situation, but are not surprised. They apathetically accept the condition of today’s society, and are rather unwilling to do anything about it since it could jeopardize their careers. They also realize, to a certain extent, that we all are rather apathetic and as long as we all have a perceived good quality of life, we conveniently don’t see the oppression. Well, they’ve experienced the oppression and unfairness, probably starting in October 2006, and If there is anything I might put in their mouths to tell people like you, I think they would say “wake up,” especially as it begins to affect more of us.

Who are these people in my community? They are active-duty men and women and their families who are stationed at Ft. Hood. Over the last four weeks, we have seen about 10,000 troops rotate out of Iraq, while another 10,000 troops are on their way to Iraq. I have a number of friends who serve in both Afghanistan and Iraq, and I sit with the loved ones left behind on a weekly basis as they try to make sense of how they are going to raise their children without a spouse for 15 months (15 MONTHS!!!). They are concerned that if their spouse is perhaps injured in Iraq, they might lose their benefits if he or she is medically discharged—I’m sure you’ve read the articles related to these actions over the past few weeks. They are concerned with the quality of health care they would receive in any case. They can’t believe that their loved ones will be assigned as convoy escorts in dangerous areas, getting paid minimally, yet those in Blackwater get paid $90,000 to do the same work, and if Blackwater personnel don’t like the “heat,” they can always quit. The families and the soldiers are not “revolutionaries” in any way—but they would like to see the oppressive system we live in today start to take care of the people, like themselves, near the middle or the bottom of the social ladder. And, honestly, they would like to see people like yourself, who are not sacrificing at all in this effort (other than perhaps paying for the war for generations to come) to “wake up” and reflect on the direction this society is going in. They can’t speak out because it would jeopardize their careers, but they know its going to be people in the civilian world who must wake up and help change policy.

We Deserve What Is Coming

My friend Blake Haney started something on his Blog Humid Haney the other day that brought a number of people into the discussion.

I thought I would repost some of the conversations here and see where it goes. If anything, I worked too hard on my responses not to see them uploaded here :)

Blake wrote:
We Deserve What Is Coming.
I know what I think is going to happen to the Republic of America in the next 10 years.:

The breakdown of the economy. The schism in our society with those who want to keep supporting the limitations on civil liberties "to keep us safe" and those who wish to break free from state control. The haves and the have-nots getting more spread out and ranks increased. The effects of the lack of investment in our higher education and infrastructure.

And I think we deserve it because we are stupid. We are lazy. We lack vision. We are scared and too religious. We let the media and our government play us.

What do you think?

What got me going was a response by “Charles” that seemed to reflect what I hear often in the public media or on conservative talk-shows:
What country out there provides more hope for the average citizen than the U.S.? Got one? What's their population?
My plan for personal success, regardless of national debt, civil liberties, religion, or media:
1.)Work Hard
2.)Lead a moral life
3.)When a problem arises, don't complain; solve it.

This rather “flippant” response moved me to respond with this:

Good, and unfortunate, assessment. I tend to see things in a very similar and theoretically grounded way. Max Weber said as much would happen to any society which "rationally" operated, yet the rationality created class/status/power system of stratification would become "rationally" impermeable as those groups who control scarce resources seek to maintain those resources. Weber is pessimistic about any social change emerging from this system--only that tensions will emerge as people "realize" that the so-called "fair" system is nothing of the sort, but even then what will be required is a "charismatic" leader to emerge to carry the cause. Even if this is achieved, this charismatic leader can take on the humanistic virtues of Martin Luther King, Jr., or the totalitarian characteristics of a Hitler.

Charles, I really have to laugh at your comments. I don't know whether to take you as serious or as a flame artist. I'm afraid that if you are serious, you reflect the naive tenor of many in American society who do not see the truly oppressive and unfair state we live in--all of us, except those who control between 1 to 5% of wealth in this society. Both Weber and Pierre Bourdieu lay strong foundations for the way those who sit below the top class/status/power tier "legitimate" the existing oppressive and unfair social system, thinking the system is indeed fair and just. Until a good number of us realize how this system is working against our own self- and species interest, and then work to educate others about it, we are not going to see any signficant social change. Unfortunately, by the time we do realize this, it may be the end of our society as we know it.

I'll have more on this conversation in the next post.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving

Hope you all are having a wonderful holiday. Cece is visiting, so we've got a nearly complete family festival. Here's what's on the menu today:

Turkey (of course, though I would like to hear of alternatives)
Oyster Stuffing
Sweet Potatoes (not as good as Miss Lee's, but I'm still trying)
Corn Macque Choux
Jambalaya
Mashed Potatoes
Cranberries (of course)
Yeast Rolls
Apple and Pecan Pies
WWOZ on the Radio

Any leftover turkey becomes Turkey Gumbo tomorrow :)

Y'all can come over if you like :)

Have a great holiday
Banzai

Monday, November 19, 2007

Finally--Elections Are Over

The election is over, thankfully. What a pitiful slate of candidates in general. And I hated the fact that if I had to choose between Jackie and Cynthia, I would have wrote someone else in....

Well, Jackie’s in, Una’s not, and I’m thinking Una’s political career is probably over (one could hope). I am not happy with Jackie in office (again). Watch out French Quarter musicians. She is not a friend to the music community. Una Anderson, on the other hand, has always had her eyes on higher office. Sometimes I thought she probably thought too much about that, neglecting her work at the School Board and at NONDC. If you look at her record at both the Orleans Parish School Board or at the New Orleans Neighborhood Development Collaborative, it does not indicate a "visionary" nor a leader. It's more like "just being there." The “so-called” bribe by Pampy didn’t help, and I honestly don’t think she was part of it. But I do believe the timing couldn’t have been worse for Una. Someone didn't want her to win....

So, we start a new chapter in New Orleans politics. I don't see much change happening. But, we shall see....

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

A Soldier's Journey from Iraq to Grad School

I heard this story on NPR this morning and will use it in my classes this week. Demond Mullins spent a year in Iraq with the National Guard. When he came back, he felt alienated and angry at what he had seen and done in the war. Now Mullins has found a degree of peace in higher learning. He now is in the CUNY graduate program in Sociology. This story, as well as the other three pieces that aired this week, need to be listened to by as many people as possible. It also makes me believe that I must begin doing research here in the Fort Hood area on the social psychological impact of the war on the veterans and their families here.

Monday, November 12, 2007

New Orleans PoBoy Preservation Festival

Wow—this sounds good. If you don’t have any plans for next weekend, this looks like something to check out. Let me know how it goes, and send me some pix.
New Orleans PoBoy Preservation Festival

Friday, November 09, 2007

DA's Office Screwed Now....

It looks like the Orleans Parish DA’s Office is in another major pickle—attorneys for the winning plaintiffs in the race discrimination case against former DA Eddie Jordan have frozen all the DA’s Office assets. Frozen assets include Payroll. Though the employees at the DA’s office should not be penalized for Jordan’s incredible bad judgment (no pun intended), I think it was a necessary and warranted action by the Plaintiffs to seek remedy. It will spark the DA’s Office, as well as the Mayor and other interested parties to find ways to pay up. It could not happen at a worse time for the City’s public coffers, but some party will need to step up and take leadership in resolving this problem. Don’t look to C Ray to be that party—but I will enjoy seeing him further fumble this problem. Look for the city’s Power-Elite to emerge with a plan of action, with significant strings attached, to bail the DA’s Office out. I believe C Ray is correct to assume that the asset seizure will stop or delay the judicial process in the City (not like I notice any “crimes” being prosecuted right now). And that has got to worry the business and tourist Power-Elite as it will have an “image” impact on the City—and this has the potential to bite into their profit driven self-interests.

What to do in the meantime?

The DA’s Office is an arm of the State Attorney General’s Office, I believe. The AG’s Office can and must take over the affairs, including investigation and prosecution, of the Orleans DA’s Office and begin an immediate restructure. I hate saying this, but that may mean that some of the DA’s staff may have to be let go—even for a temporary basis. I am sure as well that if it presents a major crisis, the Federal AG’s Office could be asked to help in the process.

The action by the plaintiffs was rather bold and immediate. I think that is what shocked me. I am sure the City (C-Ray) was not prepared for this, assuming that their will would be “followed” by the lesser-minions in the plaintiff’s case. This dramatic action, though, was meant to spark an immediate response. It was also meant to show all parties concerned that the plaintiff’s were extremely serious about seeing the judgment carried out. The City needs to be kicked in the ass like this right now.

Now, the Firefighters need to step up and do the same thing with their pensions lawsuit against the City.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

This Damn Illegal War

As many of you know, I now live in a military town—home of the largest military base in the world! Many of my students have some sort of association with the military—as children, spouses, retired, even active duty. And I have learned so much from them and how they truly feel about the “war” and this administration. I want to let you all know a bit about some alternative perspectives from the military family’s perspective.

So, in my delirious state the other night (I was pretty sick), I was scanning MySpace and Flickr for any news from Iraq. I like hearing the “war stories” from the soldiers in the front-lines—I feel like I get a better story from them about what is really going on than from the media. I came across this one blog note, and thought I would pass it on to a larger audience. I’m withholding the solider’s name to protect his privacy.

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what have i been doing for the last 2 months?

Well, Since I have returned from my little stint in Ad Diwaniya I suppose I can talk about it now. For about a month and half my job was to travel up and down the highway from "somewhere south of bagdad" to "somewhere south of Bagdad". (yeah sorry cant be too specific. if you were a soldier I would use phrases like Tampa, Scania and 9B. but that wouldn't mean much to you so I wont even say that.)

Our whole purpose on this strech of road was to patrol at about 8 miles per hour looking for IED's or EFP's. AKA "IED Hunting". one of the disadvantages of Hunting for IED's and EFP's is that if you dont see it before it sees you. you are made painfully aware of the fact [if only for a brief second] by a very loud BOOOOM!. Now before everyone gets all worried there is more to it. Ya see, for the most part the only soldiers that get targeted for ieds and efp's are the ones that have a callous disregard for the iraqi citizens and treat them all like homeless crack heads from detroit.

Everyday we had to drive through Ad Diwaniya. Admittedly a strong hold of people that tend not to be friendly to American troops. When we first got into their rather large city of sunbaked mudbricks straddeling a polluted river we were treated with suspicion. As we drove over the canal where the lil arab boys were jumping off the railing of the rather normal style car bridge into the river where the cattle herd was kept all day and drinking water was drawn in the evening, and after the stench of the Cattle Coral made up of parted out truck frames stacked end on end or side on side leading up the bank of the canal and covering about 2 acres of offal the next thing one noticed was the animosity. It charged the air like a living thing. It was palpable, you could taste it (yes, even over the cattle shit).

Driving 8 mph and scanning the sides of the paved 3 lane road one could not help but notice the homes that were caved in, the mudbrick hovels that were still standing with gaping holes testifying to the power of RPG's,and the half naked children who looked to be adutioning for a Sally Struther "feed the poor ethopians" comerical. One gaped in disbelief to see 5 year old boys riding a donkey cart to one of the vairous watering spots to load up their rubber basins with water for home. The peculiar way in which the women covered from head to toe in black outfits would turn around as you, their "liberator", approached and would not continue on about their business until you were passed left one wondering.. "hmm ya think she was hot?" As you were taking all this in you realized that maybe 4 in ten people had some type of foot wear. and it suddenly dawns on you. its a 140 degrees out and that 3 year old girl is walking on the highway with her father and brother and none of them have anything on their feet.

They make bricks out of mud that they mix right on the spot. there has been lots of "new construction" going on and in the time we were there many homes were built from scratch and many more were repaired or added on to. On the cornor of one traffic circle is a watermelon stand. *Word to the wise, if your going to shop know the local language*. depending on which soldier was getting out to purchase watermellon the prices were anywere from 3 for 10$ USD to 20$ USD for one watermelon about the shape of a soccer ball. There is a lesson in that alone that America could well learn from. The respone you get from the iraqi's is directly related to how you treat them. DUH.

Anyways, seeing as we Americans are the avatars of light and all that is good (insert sound clip from TEAM AMERICA here) some of us decided that we should give care packages (from soldiers angels and other likeminded groups) and additonal goodies to some of the families that lived along the route that we maintained. Since I was the patrol leader it was easy to convince myself of the gloriousness of our plan. We always gave our own icecold water to either the Iraqi Army (IA's) or Iraqi Police (IP's) that were manning check points we traveled through. When little kids would come out we would toss out bits of candy like we were at home on a memorial day parade. or throw water at the feet of travelers who were braving the mid afternoon sun on 150 degree days in search of work or food and there was this one family we used to stop at as it was near our turnaround point and we would give them more things and take pictures of us giving them things (kinda like in a zoo when you get pictures of yourself throwing steaks to the lions.. or is it peanuts to monkeys? anyways..) we did wonderous things to let the "indigioneos peoples" understand that we cared about them. In short we prosecuted a lil war to win the locals 'hearts and minds.'

It worked. We won. Its crazy how being polite and treating people like people tends to ease tensions.

So.. unfortuantely (thats the soldier in me) the whole time we were there not a single IED or EFP was found or detonated on American convoys traveling through the area.

I give it two weeks before it heats up..and i wont shed a tear. some people never learn. no i wont say anything bad about the active duty that were sent up to replace us. ... just this.. if i have to be called a sympathizer or tree hugger because i used a tactic that brought my soldiers home in one piece and still performed my job well, well,.... "sticks and stones....." heh or better yet. IEDs and EFPs will break my bones but names will never hurt my men. *cavet* it could get your teeth knocked out if we were in the states though...
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Thoughts?

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

A Trolley Story

A couple of things….

First, it’s been a while since I’ve posted anything here. That means that I’ve lost everyone who was reading this in the past. So, basically, I’m writing to myself now, I guess, unless I hear otherwise….

Second, I will try to post something on here at least once a week—more if I have time. It may be brief, but I gotta do this for my own mental health (more about this if you like later).

Finally, I am happy for all those who have encouraged me to keep this up.

So….

The streetcars are coming back to St. Charles Avenue this weekend. Chris Rose has a story about it in today’s TP.

Here’s my streetcar story (there are many, but this one comes to mind first).

It’s a Friday night in the Summer 2004. We (collectively, it’s Susan, Devin, Cece, David, and myself) have parked our car in the lot on St. Peters and Bienville. We’re heading to Samurai Sushi for a wonderful experience (really, some of the best sushi in New Orleans). We have some “leftovers” I believe and we plan on walking around the Quarter, so we get to the car to put things away, and I notice that the lights are on!!! Ugh, lights on for an hour or so. I hope the car starts up. I try, but “click”—nothing at all. Cars are parked on both sides of me, I can’t jump it from this angle even if someone could help me, and the cops won’t jump it because “they aren’t supposed to help” (so they said at the time). So, what’s a person to do?

I tell Susan and the kids to enjoy themselves down in the Quarter while I go back home to get our other car. How am I going to get home? Well, we don’t have that much money, and I can’t really afford a cab (someday, I’ll tell you my “real” story about living near the edge of poverty while in New Orleans—especially in the summer when I didn’t have ANY steady work what-so-ever). So, the Streetcar is the best solution. I know it will be relatively fun too, even under this “crisis” situation. I catch the trolley at St. Charles and Common and figure it will take me about 30 minutes to get to the end (Carrolton and Claiborne). 45 minutes later, I reach the end of the line, and then walk to my neighborhood and house, roughly 15 to 20 minutes away on Walmsley.

It was a great night for a trolley ride. The sounds of the doors opening and closing, the hum of the engines, the rough feel of the wheels on the tracks. Passing Igor’s on St. Charles brought back memories of too many drinks and wonderful burgers and breakfasts. Seeing the houses, the lights of Loyola and Tulane, rounding the corner onto Carrolton and passing by the Camelia Grille—it is just a wonderful experience. It had been a long time since I had taken the trolley all the way back home from downtown. This was a great excuse to ride.

It’s great to see the trolley coming back on-line. New Orleans is way off as far as recovering at a pace I feel is necessary. But this is one more cultural icon the city needs to be back to normal.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Katrina, Year Two In Exile

I’m not sure what is going on in New Orleans for the second “anniversary” of Katrina—but there seems to be less “focus” on the city than last year. Not that that’s bad, but it does represent a sense that we are off the radar when it comes to the national agenda, especially when it comes to continuing efforts to rebuild the city with much needed outside resources. NPR’s Morning Edition has been running some good pieces over the past few days, though. Now that’s a “yat” accent!

This is a difficult time of year for me. I guess it will always be—every year. I’m not home. I should be home. I should be rebuilding the city. And whatever rationalization I use to justify why I’m not in New Orleans, the fact of the matter is I never have a day where I didn’t wish that my family and I weren’t back home.

Not one day….

Life is good in Texas. I would be lying if I said anything less. We bought our house three months ago, prior to the housing debacle the country finds itself in right now. Susan and I have been having constant parties at the house since we moved in—celebrating Huey Long’s birthday just this last Saturday with Hurricanes and Ramos Gin Fizzes, Gumbo, and Pecan Pie. The schools are good, I have a tenure-track job, and Susan gets to stay at home, raising Devin who is nearly 4 into a fine young man. We don’t have to lock our doors at night, and indeed the doors to the cars are never locked. We see a dark horizon out our back porch at night—seeing the stars brightly shining overhead. Frogs burp in the creek below, and we can hear an occasional coyote in the distance.The front porch light is left on, but only for decoration—its red light bulbs illuminating a radiant glow of defiance in the neighborhood. Of course, there’s the Pink Flamingo in the front yard, and the house is full of Simon’s art. With all the walls colored something different (red, yellow, greenish-yellow, blue pillared archways), you can’t help but feel you’re in New Orleans when you come inside the house.

But we’re not in New Orleans….

And if you’re a New Orleanian, you know exactly what I mean.

A piece of my identity lies waiting for me in the Streets of New Orleans—along Decatur Street in the French Quarter, or along Frenchman Street in the Marigny. I long to hear the sounds of the Mississippi River on a Sunday morning—barges pushing goods up river, causing large waves to slap at the side of the riverbank. There is a quiet to New Orleans on a Sunday morning that is a mix of the absence of last night’s party and the faint sounds of cleaning up after the party. I long for a great po-boy—Roast Beef, Oyster or Shrimp. Dressed. Yeah you right. I want to say hello on a Friday afternoon to Kathleen at the antique shop, or Brad at Artist’s Alley, or Rhonda at FunRockin’ I want them to notice how big Devin has become. I want to share a drink at Molly’s with a total stranger who is looking for a great place to eat in the Quarter. I want to walk down a street and be able to smile at people and have them smile back at me—to say “hey, how ya doin’,” and mean it.

That doesn’t exist in Killeen, Texas…. Nor would I expect it to exist here. It’s not fair to Killeen or to the heritage of Central Texas. You can’t compare apples and oranges.

I hate Katrina. Yet, I knew it could happen. What I really hate is the fact that Katrina made the decision for me to leave New Orleans. I didn’t. And perhaps the crime, the bad schools, the gentrification, the politics, the fact I didn’t have a steady job—all would perhaps force me to realize that I needed to leave New Orleans for something more solid and stable for my family and myself. It’s an issue of control. If I had made the decision to leave, I would still miss New Orleans, but I would know that I left giving it my best effort. But Katrina put me in a situation where I had to leave, after coming so close (so close) to actually making it in New Orleans.

So, Wednesday, August 29, 2007, I will be in my classroom at Fort Hood conducting a course on “The City,” focusing on what it means to one’s self to find a “centrality of place.” My students and I will engage in a discussion on this topic, and I may show them a video on why New Orleans matters. And with the lights down, face forward at the movie screen, I will cry. I will cry for my city. I will cry for my friends who are rebuilding the city on their own. I will wish that I was there with them on this night—mourning the loss of a great International City.

Yeah you right…

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Oliver, Oliver, Oliver....

Disappointed.
That’s how I feel now that Oliver Thomas has pled guilty to bribery charges. I thought he was above all that. Well, it appears that the political culture of the city even permeates to the good guys. He was a great advocate of affordable housing, though I was disappointed in his cashing in on the St. Thomas debacle. But, you would always see him around town at all the wwoz events or anything having to do with the culture of the city. He was here digging people out of harms way after the storm, lost his brother to the storm, and had to deal with therapy afterwards. But, honestly, the graft he engaged in occurred before the storm. I wonder how long it will be before the Morial clan is brought into this scandal. And for what gain? Other than to illustrate the obvious—that Huey Long taught all in politics that when doing whatever good for your ideology, you can take some for yourself.

Prediction: The next person to go down? Former Director of Finance for the Morial Administration--Sheriff Gustman. Not a better person to go down, as far as I'm concerned. A real criminal....

Truly sad, really.

By the way, notwithstanding Hurricane Dean, what are you all planning to do for Katrina Year 2 celebrations? I’m actually going to do a Huey Long birthday party here in Tex-Ass. If you want to come on up here, drop me a line and I’ll send you directions to the house.

Monday, June 11, 2007

My Friend Has Been Murdered in New Orleans....

I guess it was bound to happen. A close friend of mine has been killed in New Orleans. Murdered. By a close acquaintance or by a random act of violence? I won’t know until Tuesday morning perhaps.

I can’t believe it. I really can’t believe it. It still hasn’t hit me yet. Yet, I am sadder than I have felt in years. And I am angry. I hate New Orleans—the police and the administration which can’t make the city a safe place to live and rebuild. And I am shook to my core….

And I HATE how I have to turn you into a “blog-comment,” my friend Robin. I should be talking to you in person in August when I come back home. I should be chatting with you in the barber’s chair when I get my hair cut. We should be reminiscing about all the things we have shared since we first met in 1999. When Bobby used to cut my hair. When Bobby died. When you were the “King” of Decadence (the poster is still up at the Golden Lantern—and if you don’t know where that is, then you just don’t know “gay” New Orleans).

I love you Robin—you were always a great friend. And as much as you lamented at times being in New Orleans because of the crime, you relished the wonderful lifestyle and quality of life here in the city.

It is interesting how I mourn you in the “technological” age. I will write an incredible tribute to you here. So all can see. But, given all there is in the world, I would rather noone know about you here so that I can see you again in August—to see that you are safe, alive, and well.

Goodbye, my friend. I will see you very soon. You will be in my thoughts daily. And, as the spirits surround you, I will wish you were here instead….

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Kingdom Coming—Bush Plans to Remain in Power

I first learned of Bush’s recent “Homeland Security Directive” from Mark Morford at the San Francisco Chronicle. Morford’s headline of “Bush Declares Self 'Mega Decider'” caught my eye. It appears that on May 9, Bush signed an Executive Order that would place all governmental power into his hands should America (and/or American Interests) experience some sort of catastrophic event, natural or otherwise. Though Morford’s article is all “tongue in cheek,” I thought there was some merit to worry about what I have speculated since the 2006 elections that Bush WOULD NOT give up his power as President even when his term expires.

The analysis has now begun on this Executive Order. Marjorie Cohn at Alternet.org states that:
“Bush has issued a directive that would place all governmental powers in his hands in the case of a catastrophic emergency. If a terrorist attack happens before the 2008 election, could Bush and Cheney use this to avoid relinquishing power to a successor administration?”

Cohn further writes:
“One wonders what Bush & Co. are setting up with the new Presidential Directive. What if, heaven forbid, some sort of catastrophic event were to occur just before the 2008 election? Bush could use this directive to suspend the election. This administration has gone to great lengths to remain in Iraq. It has built huge permanent military bases and pushed to privatize Iraq's oil. Bush and Cheney may be unwilling to relinquish power to a successor administration.”

One wonders indeed....

Thursday, May 31, 2007

New Orleans NEEDS Your Help Still

American Zombie recently commented about the current state of New Orleans. I wanted to post my response to his comments here as well.

Zombie writes:
I've been dwelling a lot on the growing feeling of hopelessness which is haunting the hearts and minds of we struggling New Orleanians. Times is hard.....real hard....our city is dwindling down to a single street: Magazine. It is the only bright spot as more and more lights are being turned off in the French Quarter, the Marigny, Mid-City, the East and other areas of town.

New Orleans is sinking in a cesspool of inaction and incompetence...I'm just wondering how long we can swim. Right now it's the small businesses going down, but when the towering hotels on Canal go dorment...we're all gonna have to come to Jesus.

My frustration with our current state has drained me. There is so much awry, I don't even know where to start....corruption, chronyism, incompetence, apathy, lack of communication, lack of vision....all of this most vividly reflected in our mayor. We've marched on City Hall, we've formed alliances, we've blogged our asses off....and every time we turn around we get hit with one more scandal, one more set back ,one more blow to our very survival. But still we fight...and still we believe.

In a previous post I equated my feelings to that of a turtle pulling it's head back in it's shell.....the problems of my own city have overwhelmed me and I feel like cowering and hiding from issues on a national level. After reading the comments to that post and having time to reflect on what I was trying to express, I think I have a better understanding of what I was trying to say:

It's not just New Orleans that is dying...I think it's America in general. We are just the cynosure of the descent...the most photogenic example.

As the hurricane season begins, we will no doubt witness a barrage of cameras and journalists descending on our city....the deus ex machina heralding the Greek tragedy which has become our existence. As our pain is played out on stage, I wonder if Americans will see themselves reflected in our plight....leaderless, corrupt, uneducated, greedstricken, at the mercy of bloated beuaracracies...or will they miss that reflection and stay in the zombie haze which has consumed them. I suspect the latter.


I had lunch with Dr. John when I was back home for two weeks in December. One thing discussed at the table was the effort to secede from the US. Dr. John envisioned something similar to what Key West did in 1982—blocking off all entrances to the city. It’s quirky enough to represent the City of New Orleans, and it’s a media event that would again force people to look at the current condition in New Orleans.

I presented a discussion seminar at UNO a few weeks ago with a panel of community activists talking about their experiences in rebuilding New Orleans. The point of the discussion could be synthesized into this—the only people rebuilding New Orleans are those who are left in the City, they are the only ones they can each count on, and the whole rebuilding process has been set up to fail from the very beginning. For me, as I comfortably but mournfully sit outside my city observing this process take place, I honestly believe that the only way for New Orleans to fully get back on its feet is to secede from the country. We cannot count on ANY outside sources for aid in rebuilding the city. Those in New Orleans today are completely on their own.

I think American Zombie’s observations are spot-on correct. The New Orleans recovery today is a case study on the decayed state of the Nation. We are a bankrupt nation—socially and politically. Many of us are consumed with the next tv show hit, or the next version of MS-Software, or the next version of the I-Phone. We are happy in our conspicuous consumption, and the rest of the chaos of the world around us is just noisy chatter at times in our busy lives. For me, New Orleans was a place where we could relatively escape all the “normal” amusements of the rest of the world. We represented in New Orleans the “last” real community—a place where our many shared interactions and experiences made all of us part of what Blake Haney calls our “tribes.” The vibe of the city was enough to make us happy. But the rest of the country is not interested in our unique part of the world, or our unique experience, or what we can offer the rest of the country as far as a return to the important aspects of community and neighboring. We don’t matter. And as such, we have only ourselves to rely on in rebuilding the city. Every other city in the country that may experience a similar disaster can count on the same response. And that, unfortunately, is the sad state of our country today….

Friday, May 25, 2007

Politics and The State Screw New Orleans Again

I guess we should have known….

The Road Home Program is paying for Wind Damage as well as Flood Damage that was not covered by the Insurance Industry for the victims of Hurricane’s Katrina and Rita. In the process of doing this, it is blatantly apparent to me that the “Road Home” to Louisiana is paved first through Calcasieu and St. Tammany Parishs—not Orleans….

New Orleans continues to get the shaft from the Governor’s Office and the State Legislature—it’s a historical pattern. Now, with a diminished population, New Orleans can further expect even less support from the State for any aid to help rebuild. It’s not that the Federal Government isn’t off the hook—they could approve more funding to make up the deficit in the Road Home Program. But, damn it all to hell—the majority of the damage and the majority of the funding should have come to Orleans Parish, and that means covering flood damage first.

How screwed up is all this? As I heard during a panel discussion on Recovery a few weeks ago at UNO—THE BURDEN OF REBUILDING IS ON THE BACKS OF THOSE WHO HAVE COME BACK. We have been set up to fail in the whole process….

IT IS TIME TO SECEDE….

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Two Weeks--Two Busy Weeks

Since my last blog, I've:
1. Closed on a house
2. Graded Papers and Finals for 4 courses
3. Taken a group of 12 students to New Orleans to see how WE do community
4. Painted rooms in our new house
5. Tried to catch up with my writing

I'm working on a piece to post here on what my students observed in New Orleans. We had a group discussion on Friday, May 11 at UNO that was incredible. Before I post my thoughts, though, let me just write that it appears that New Orleans has been completely abandoned by the various levels of government in our recovery effort. For those who have returned to New Orleans to rebuild, basically they are ON THEIR OWN. It's a sorry state of affairs that points to our Governments' complete failure to bring New Orleans back. As one panelist in the discussion noted, it's as if we were set up to fail....

Sunday, April 29, 2007

The Generals Have Failed Our Troops

As some of you know, I now live near Fort Hood. I actually teach two courses a semester on base. Many of my students are either active duty, spouses or children of active duty personnel, or retired military. I have come to know many people who have a direct relationship with the Iraq War, and many are beyond tired of having their lives or their loved-one's lives put in harms way for no apparant reason.

Lt. Colonel Paul Yingling recently voiced his concern about the Lack of Military Leadership in this war--specifically, the lack of "the balls" to tell the politicians what was necessary to complete the mission in Iraq.

Yingling is no "Dove." He is deputy commander of the 3rd Armored Calvary Regiment stationed here at Fort Hood. He has served two tours in Iraq, another in Bosnia and a fourth in Operation Desert Storm.

Yingling states that:

"These debacles are not attributable to individual failures, but rather to a crisis in an entire institution: America's general officer corps. America's generals have failed to prepare our armed forces for war and advise civilian authorities on the application of force to achieve the aims of policy. The argument that follows consists of three elements. First, generals have a responsibility to society to provide policymakers with a correct estimate of strategic probabilities. Second, America's generals in Vietnam and Iraq failed to perform this responsibility. Third, remedying the crisis in American generalship requires the intervention of Congress."

In an interview on NPR Friday, Yingling conceded that the only General that he could think of that had the guts to "tell it like it is" was General Eric Shinseki, who was fired by the Bush Administration when he gave his honest assessment of how many troops were needed to succeed in Iraq.

It is incredible to read Col. Yingling's assessment of what is going wrong in the military today. What is the value of a General if they do not have the interests of their troops in mind? Over 3000 troops have given up their lives for a war many of my friends regarded as illegal in the first place. Bush's war strategy is falling apart at every concievable angle today. How is it that the Generals are also responsible for not being honest with the Executive Branch for this failed strategy? What does it say about the dangerous arrogance of the Executive Branch today (our Imperial Presidency) that they not only blatantly disregarded professional advice--they also FIRED the sole voice with the guts to tell them the honest truth?

For me, it is now imperative that we bring our troops home from a dangerous and unwinnable situation. Not even the Generals have the "balls" to give the troops what they need to win. Is "saving face" worth MORE THAN THE LIFE of other soldiers in Iraq today? And where is "saving face" part of the freedoms we have sent the troops to defend? Whose face are they saving by "Staying The Course?"

I'm not sure I agree with what Yingling asserts as the solutions to this problem. There needs to be a heirarchichal relationship between the Civilian authority over the Military Branch. The Civilian Authority should always question and critique the Military Branch's options for war. Still, what Yingling asserts is dangerous--the General Leadership is nothing more than ass-kissing hacks to the Executive Branch. For honest assessments, you get fired. What message does this send to lower ranking officers in the Corps? What message does this send to the troops on the ground?

It is time to get out of Iraq. It seems noone cares about the troops on the ground anymore (if they ever did)....

Thanks Houston

Thanks to Ashley Morris, through Dillyberto, for putting this on their websites. I just had to do the same.



Thanks again, Houston

Friday, April 27, 2007

Happy JazzFest Everybody

I woke up this morning and turned on WWOZ. They've put up a new webpage--it looks pretty good. I also saw what looked like the new Piano Night 2007 poster. It looks like my friend Lionel Milton did the artwork. He should be out at the Fairgrounds both weekends in Congo Square. If you see him, tell him Banzai Bill says hello.

As I mentally prepare for Jazzfest, I saw this last night for the first time.



Harry Connick, Jr., Branford Marsalis, Freddy Lonzo, and Bob French on drums. Should be the same lineup later this week at the Fest.

I'll be watching you all on the Liuzza's Webcam. And I'll have a drink with you all too. And I'll be there next weekend for all kinds of music madness.

Yeah You Right....

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Adapt or Die?

At times, I wonder if many of us New Orleanians are living in a “make-believe” world when it comes to New Orleans and its recovery. Our initial sense of incredible opportunity after the Storm, a sense that we could perhaps rebuild better levees, better housing, better schools, and induce better economic development into the City has been hit with the reality of not only the slowness of the recovery pace but also the ineptitude of the “so-called” leaders at all levels of government to fund the recovery. Nearly two years after the Storm and large parts of the City remain abandoned and blighted. In my former neighborhood of Broadmoor—one of the better neighborhoods when it comes to post-Katrina recovery—I still find significant pockets of abandoned and blighted housing (my former house, which I sold last year, has yet to be gutted—it most likely will be a teardown). Just on my former street (Walmsley Avenue), I estimate that only 33-35% of the houses are occupied. The others appear to still be in a state of despair.

Mark Hertsgaard, the Nation Magazine’s Environmental Correspondent, reports this week that, given the changes taking place on the planet due to climate change, New Orleans may be lost anyway.

“New Orleans …will be looked back on as one of the first great casualties of climate change. Not because global warming can definitively be blamed for Katrina or the Bangladesh floods; the earth's weather system is too complex to attribute any one event to a single cause. But these events fit a larger pattern: Extra-strong hurricanes and floods are exactly what scientists expect to see--along with fiercer heat waves, harsher droughts, heavier rains and inexorable sea level rise--as global warming intensifies in the years to come.”

As I drove around the city this last weekend, I couldn’t help but feel that the city was full of incredible heroes, those working with a passion to rebuild their houses, communities, and lives. New Orleans is such a great place to preserve—it is important. Yet, one has to wonder how futile this work will be if New Orleans is hit with another hurricane. One thing to consider is that New Orleans has been touched by the four most destructive storms of the twentieth century: the Hurricane of 1947, Betsy, Camille, and Georges. It is difficult to believe that New Orleans will not be hit with a hurricane again this century. It becomes imperative that the Levees be repaired and reinforced to withstand a Cat-5 storm, and Wetlands be restored. Without this, we are in peril of losing New Orleans. We must seriously think about this as we encourage the rebuilding of New Orleans.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Back home for the weekend

We made it back home this past weekend. It was a short but efficient visit—I presented a paper at the Society for Anthropology in North America meetings and Susan had a chance to visit with her children (who she hasn’t seen since December). I’m not sure how I classify this latest visit, other than I am somewhat reserved to the fact that I am now just a visitor to the city I love so much.

During Bob French’s show atWWOZ, I got the chance to meet Bransford Marsalis. We talked about jazz and also about the Musician’s Village
(I’m beginning research on that project) and I enjoyed his “normal” demeanor. He told me Jason (his younger brother) is back in town now, though I’m not sure he’s living in his house on Napoleon Ave. yet. I kept wondering where in Central Texas, other than at KUT-FM Austin would I ever have a chance to meet the artists I have over the years in New Orleans. As I settle into this area, I will try to land a show there.

Our trips back home seem to follow a certain pattern. Most of it centers around seeing the kids and seeing old friends. I enjoy this very much. I also enjoy becoming spiritually grounded again walking the streets of New Orleans. I enjoy seeing friends spontaneously on the streets, and being asked whether I’m back or not (though they all know that we’re not coming home for a long time). We buy things here that we cannot get in Central Texas, much of it art from Brad and Ginger on Decatur St., or books from Beckham’s, or music from the Louisiana Music Factory. And we enjoy the long walks through the Quarter—and the music on Frenchman Street.

We stayed again with our friends David and Jenn in Gentilly. There is a special place for them in Heaven—they host so many people during the year in their house. We had an incredible backyard barbeque on Saturday, and we invited our friend Lynn Drury to meet them and play some music. I love her work—though it probably “works” better in a place like Nashville or Austin.

I also visited the Musician’s Village—and was impressed with the progress taking place there. It is beginning to have a minor spill-over effect on the neighborhood, though time will tell how this helps the overall community return. We also visited our house in Broadmoor, and we were very sad to see the level of decay it has fallen into. It will probably be a “tear-down” now.

Such is life.

And now we are “home” in Central Texas, and they’ve completed our new house, and we begin moving in around mid-May, and we will “officially” start our life anew here.

And we will have Movie Nights on the last Friday of the month.

And we will have Salons on the second Saturday of the month.

And we will walk through the neighborhood with our to-go cups filled with our beverages of choice.

And Devin will hear Brass Band, Funk, and Jazz music playing on the CD Player all day and night long.

And he will know that he still lives on the corner of Walmsley and Rendon (don’t ask me how—I might have to go to jail for that)….

And the smells of shrimp ettouffe, barbeque shrimp, oyster bisque, red beans and rice will permeate the kitchen, and then hopefully drift out of the house into the neighborhood.

And Susan and I will, when we can go outside and “Dance Like Nobody’s Watching.”

We had the contractors place a bag of New Orleans gris-gris in our foundation near the front door. So if you get the chance to come up and visit us, please be sure that you won’t be far from New Orleans when you enter our house.

New Orleans will never be far from where I live—it will always be in my heart.

It was nice to be back home this last weekend….

Tuesday, February 20, 2007


Happy Mardi Gras Everyone! Wishing I was home. We won't miss it next year. Just wishin' I didn't have to miss it ever....
Throw me something, Mister! And have a drink for me on Frenchman Street today!
Banzai

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Super Bowl Fever, New Orleans Style....

It takes a reporter from San Jose, California, to make the best suggestion I have heard in a while to invigorate our local economy, albeit on a short-term basis. I couldn’t agree any more. If the NFL wants to make a contribution to the rebuilding of New Orleans, they need to move the Super Bowl to New Orleans permanently.

And now, back to your regularly scheduled programming.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Ray Nagin--Resign AND STFU

There are at least three good blogs going on right now with great assessments of the situation in New Orleans and the complete ineptness of Nagin, Riley, and Thomas (yeah, Oliver, I’m adding you now) in how they “plan” to handle crime in the Crescent City. Ashley Morris, as usual, hits my reaction square on the head. Adastros does as well. Harry Shearer’s assessment mimicks how I felt when I got back to the City on December 20.

On New Year’s Eve, the Clan White-Thomas spent a wonderful night watching one of the best, if not THE best, fireworks shows ever produced on the River. Incredible fireworks. My little son Devin was laughing the whole time, saying to me “broken” to mean that the fireworks were doing all sorts of wonderful things (I guess I’m the only one who understands what he means at 3 years old). As we walked away from the Moonwalk, we wandered over to our favorite watering hole Molly’s and cheered with others the New Year. The favorite saying we all had for each other was “Happy New Year—2007 has got to be better than last year—it can’t get any worse….”

By January 4, it had gotten worse…

It wasn’t until Saturday, January 6 that Nagin and Riley had some sort of “reaction” to the crime spree gripping the City—it must have taken them two days to get back into the city from their safe-houses located probably in snowed-in Colorado…. And what a “lukewarm” reaction it was, with Willy-Wonka asserting that if you didn’t believe he was busy doing his job, you could follow him around for one day to see exactly what he does (another idle-promise).

As Ashley states, Tuesday’s press conference is nothing more of the same old shit. I want Riley OUT. I want Nagin OUT. I want Pendleton back as Police Chief. I want order and safety made THE priority in New Orleans. I want the brave residents rebuilding the City to be RESPECTED AND PROTECTED.

For those who forgot, let me refresh your memory about C-Ray?—Not Lately Nagin. He didn’t do a damn thing in his first four years in office—not one damn thing. Oh, yeah, he did bust a bunch of taxi-drivers and brake shops for malfeasance…. Wow!!! But here was a mayor so “wishy-washy” that he didn’t even call for a Mandatory Evacuation of the City during Katrina until he had “consulted” with his legal experts so that his ass was covered—and by the time he DID call for a Mandatory Evacuation (I heard him finally do it around 9am Sunday, August 28 while we were midway through our evacuation journey), it was TOO LATE.

Yeah, Nagin made me proud when he finally went mental with Garland Robinette on WWL. But that got NAGIN more than anyone else. Hell, he even got to “relax” with a shower and shave on Air-Force One. Once coddled with Bushy-Boy, he came back to his patronizing, whimpering, indifferent self.

Please, March on City Hall on Thursday if you are in the City of New Orleans. Please let there be a HUGE show of people disgusted with what’s going on in New Orleans that day. Please, just go up to the podium and call for Nagin’s and Riley’s heads on a pike and post them at the entry-ways to the City. Barbaric? Yes. But what has the city come to right now? Frontier Days and the Wild West!!! (hell, if YOU aren’t packing heat these days to protect yourself, you aren’t totally safe) .

I am still pissed off. I am still angry. I am still sad to the point I was after the storm when I saw NOONE in any position of authority doing a damn thing to save our residents and our city. This is a chance for all of us to actually plan something and work to see it through.

THIS IS ANOTHER OPPORTUNITY FOR ALL OF US TO TAKE BACK OUR CITY. LET’S NOT SCREW THIS OPPORTUNITY UP.

Oh, and by the way, here’s a message from my son Devin to all you thugs and politicians who want to take my city away from me:

Friday, January 05, 2007

I AM IN SHOCK....

Just got back from two incredible weeks in New Orleans. I was going to post some of my observations from the trip back home here, but as I settled into Central Texas and then went back to work on Thursday, I was greeted with this news from the Times-Picayune:

At the time I heard about this senseless killing and assault, no names or information had yet been revealed. I was still angry over the senseless killing of Dinerral Shavers,drummer with the Hot 8 Brass Band.

But as I read the article, I got a sick feeling envisioning what sort of chaotic scene took place where a woman is killed in front of her two-year-old baby, and her husband barely escapes death. I have a three year old son and I could only imagine what he would go through if he lost Susan and/or I to murder that he witnessed.

When I found out who had been killed, I got even more angry….

First, my thoughts go out to the little two-year old son of Helen Hill and Dr. Paul Gailiunas. I hope your family and your parents’ friends are taking as best of care of you as they can in this terrible time. If anyone knows what I can do to help in this situation, please contact me at drwswhite@yahoo.com.

Second, my thoughts go out to all of Helen and Paul’s friends and family, all of whom should have never experienced this senseless tragedy.

A number of numbing emotions are going through my mind right now. Nobody should experience this tragedy anywhere, but NOBODY SHOULD EXPERIENCE THIS AT ALL IN NEW ORLEANS—ESPECIALLY THOSE THAT ARE MAKING SIGNIFICANT CONTRIBUTIONS TO THE REBUILDING OF THE CITY WE ALL LOVE AND CARE FOR.

I am pissed off—those who HAVE returned and ARE WORKING to make New Orleans a BETTER PLACE are the true Saints of the City. They sacrifice every single day in ways many of us who live in exile just don’t know about until we return home. They have made a commitment, though, to make significant contributions to creating a great place for community, neighborhood, the arts, children, education, small business, music, and culture—the things we all find important to the City of New Orleans. THESE PEOPLE MUST BE PROTECTED. THEY NEED THE RESPECT DUE TO THE BRAVERY OF NOT ONLY THEIR BEING IN NEW ORLEANS BUT THEIR COMMITMENT TO REBUILD.

RESPECT BY THE POLICE DEPARTMENT WHO SHOULD BE DOING THEIR JOBS TO PROTECT THEIR COMMUNITIES, PROPERTY, AND PERSONS.

RESPECT BY NAGIN AND THE COUNCIL TO DEMAND THAT THE POLICE DEPARTMENT EITHER DO THEIR JOBS OR GET THE RESOURCES TO DO THEIR JOBS.

This murder and this assault did not have to take place. I remember being back home in New Orleans in October 2005, cleaning out the house every day with others who had made the commitment to come back home. The National Guard, the NOLA-PD, hell, even the Orleans Sheriff’s Department—all drove down my street every single day more than once. At night, I never felt safer in New Orleans in my whole life. Those of us here then, and those of us here NOW, all shared a great sense of hope that our rebuilding efforts will create a better New Orleans. Helen and Paul exemplified that hope. Now, she is gone, her son is motherless, and I hope that Paul is able to cope with all the added efforts he faces in rebuilding his life with his son.

Letters? Yeah, letters are needed. But I’m calling for something deeper and more organized than that. We must begin working hard to hold these public officials accountable for their collective INACTION. I’m not sure what to do right now, but I am very open to ideas and getting in contact with people who want to help.

Again, my thoughts are with the friends and family of Helen Hill and Paul Gailiunas and their little two-year old son. THIS HAS GOT TO STOP.