Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Ashley Morris Award And Taking A Break

I would like to thank the folks involved with the Rising Tide Conference for presenting me with the Ashley Morris Award for 2010. I was very honored and humbled to receive an award named in honor of him. I have to admit that I had a few words prepared but when people started clapping I got a little flustered. It almost felt like my kindergarten graduation when I was supposed to be doing the hokey pokey on stage but ended up crying and my mama had to come and get me. I am glad that didn’t happen Saturday because she’s way in Memphis so we might still be sitting in there waiting for me to stop. I'm not sure Rising Tide has enough money in the budget to pay for that extra time. I’m glad I held it together. I went the great Rickey Jackson route and spoke from the heart. I just made sure not to mention a small town named Pahokee Florida. It was a cool experience and I made it all the way home without breaking the plaque.

I brought my little brother from the mentoring program to expose to him another side of New Orleans life. I knew he wasn’t feeling it at first because he told me he had a dream he wasn’t really there and he never fell asleep. I think his day got better because he wandered around a little. He played around in the book area, seemed to be having an informative conversation with Stephanie Grace from the Times Picayune and even hustled up a t-shirt. I am certain he’s the only little boy in the hood with a Rising Tide t-shirt. I’m happy about that.

Thanks to everyone who came out to the Howling in the Wires book signing and reading last Thursday. That went a lot better than I thought it was going to go. There was a lot of good energy in there for such an emotional topic and I don’t think it was just the alcohol. I’m glad I did it. That was first time signing an autograph. If this keeps up I might end up ego tripping like Kanye West and buy a big medallion shaped like the Superdome.

I also would like to thank anyone that comes here to read my thoughts and opinions. I’m happy you do even if you don’t agree. We can disagree or have different opinions as long as we are trying to come up with the best solution to what’s going on. Last week was so heavy emotionally and draining that I felt like I sat around and didn’t get a lot done. After we made it through the weekend I decided that I would dedicate this week to being productive at work and getting my mind back in order. I’m going to keep that going and spend the rest of this week staying focused and trying to get Sean Payton to accept my phone call so we can over the game plan for opening night against the Vikqueens.

Before I go I want to send a belated happy birthday and shout out to Neecha Turner. She started blogging with me back in 2004 and I am sure if it wasn’t for that storm we just had an anniversary for she would be here in New Orleans right now raising hell. You can click on the link in her name but you won’t find any archives because she won’t stop changing her address and blogger service. I love that sister.

I’ll be back next week.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Today Is Not A Holiday

To my New Orleans friends and family,
It's okay if you don't want to watch, read, or participate in any of the Katrina events. It's also okay if you want to go to the second line then call up a public official and cuss their ass out. Whatever you decide to do today is the right decision. You went through the struggle so the choice is yours. After a long emotional week I think I am going to sit this one out.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

I'm Howling In The Wires

On Thursday evening August 26 at a nice establishment called Mimi’s there will be a book release party for a book called Howling in the Wires. The book is a collection of original writings from local writers and bloggers during the days after Hurricane Katrina. There will be book signing and the reading of some of the work in the book. Somehow yours truly ended up in this book and I am supposed to be reading a piece of my work at the event. We'll see how that goes.

When I was first asked to be involved I was okay with it but I didn’t want to read anything. I didn’t think that I could make it through without being emotional. The emotional phase of Katrina is over with for me or at least I like to pretend it is. That’s why I have been ducking Katrina coverage as much as possible. The other reason is that I had no idea what I said back then and had never went back to read any of it. The blogs that were selected for this project were all written in a hotel room in Jackson Mississippi when my mind was all over the place. I wasn’t sure if any of it made sense or did justice for exactly what I was feeling. I thought about it and I don’t think anyone really could express what they were really feeling. I guess that’s why everyone wasn’t asked to write something new. I’m sure everyone would see things a little different now. I am looking forward to seeing the book for the first time. I want to thank Sam Jasper and Mark Folse for asking me to be a part of it. I would like to invite everyone to come out to Mimi’s on Thursday and see if we can have fun while reflecting on such an emotional time.

No matter what anyone tells me I don’t look at myself as a writer. It just makes it easier to wake up every morning and go to the office to look at data and reports all day. Calling yourself a blogger is a lot less official and takes away a lot of pressure because you could just stop one day and it would be easier to deal with. I’m not a writer but I think I am a pretty good blogger. Every now and then I do something the people like and that’s good enough for me. Whenever stuff happens like this because of something I wrote I always feel like the kid in the hood that’s never been anywhere. I’m in awe of the whole experience.

Back in September 2005 I didn’t have a house, many clothes, or my vehicle. All of that was gone. I had a job in New Orleans for a non profit agency and I wasn’t making enough money to put me in a hurry to get back to the city any time soon. Plus, my job is based on funding sources that weren’t necessarily coming back. I didn’t know what I was going to do. One day I got a call from my supervisor Fran. She told me to hang in there and she was going to see if we still had our funding so we could get paid. She called me the next day and told me that we still had funding and not only was I going to get paid but she was going to give me a raise to a level I could survive with. I couldn’t make it to Monroe, Louisiana where the agency had relocated after the storm so she sent me a laptop that I could use for work while I stayed in Mississippi until the agency moved back to New Orleans and I could find a place to stay to come home. If it wasn’t for her sending me that laptop I would never have blogged about anything and wouldn’t be in this book. If it wasn’t for her taking care of me when I didn’t have anything I probably wouldn’t have been in New Orleans with the job I have now.

My participation in this book is dedicated to Fran Ledger. Like most genuinely good people she has never made a big deal out of these things and I am sure we never even discussed it. I’m going to see if she’s in town and invite her to Mimi’s to buy her a drink because she has a lot to do with me being there.

Friday, August 20, 2010

The Blond Haired Sister in Popeyes Chicken

Every month I go to a meeting full of wonderful people who help the city’s most vulnerable and needy people. I don’t want to sound corny but I am truly honored to know and work with people like them. Today’s meeting was a little aggravating because the room was hot as hell and there was just too much talk about Katrina for me. I understand why but the constant talking about it makes things a little heavy. I’ve come a long way but not far enough to want to talk about it for two weeks in a row. I’m usually one of the last people to leave the meeting. Today I was the first one to leave and I left early. I have never left that meeting early until today. I didn't have it in me and I didn't feel like faking it.

On the way back to the office I decided to stop at the Popeye’s Chicken on South Claiborne Avenue because it was early enough that not many people were at lunch so I could probably get in and out. When I walked in the manager was cleaning water off of the floor. I just so happened to have the same color shirt she did. While I was waiting for the young lady to take my order she walked up to me and said “I was about to say he got a shirt just like me. I was about to switch shirts with you because mine is wet.” I then told her I didn’t mind switching if she let me have my chicken for free. She laughed and said no.

About two minutes later a tall lady with blond streaks in her hair and about 7 gold teeth walked in with her elderly mama. She closed the door and the first thing she did was scream “Hi everybody! Praise be to God baaabby! How that song go mama?” She broke out into a gospel song but I couldn’t tell what she was saying because I was too busy laughing at her dancing. She then gave all of the ladies working there a high five and shook my hand. She spoke to all the people sitting down too. She looked at the cashier’s name tag and asked her, “Baby, how do you pronounce your name?..What?....Lord, tell your mama I said stop that madness”. Everybody started laughing. Two police officers walked in after that and sat down. When she noticed them she turned around and said “Hey officers how y’all doing? Ya’ll not the ones that arrested my son in law last night ha? Let me tell you about him. That boy ain’t nothing but the devil.” That’s around the time my fries were finally ready so I got my food and left her in there talking to the police officers while her mama just shook her head saying ‘that child is crazy.”

Now, some people might read that story and find it ignorant but with all the things we have been through I found it beautiful. I can’t quite put into words why this five minute episode in Popeye’s made me feel so good about being from here but I had to sit at my desk before I eat lunch just to write this and thank that blond haired, gold tooth sister for feeling good, being herself, and so New Orleans. I needed that today.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

We Have Enough Trouble Already

About a week after Katrina I was driving my dad and some other family members back from the Army base in Ft. Smith, Arkansas. He kept telling me about the times when the buses would stop and how there would be policeman surrounding them with weapons to make sure no one left the rest area while the bus wasn’t moving. I remember exactly what he told me; “Man, the mayor had those people so scared of us talking about how we were all on drugs that they thought we were going to go out and destroy everything if they let us be free.” If I had to list the most frustrating things about life right now it would be how black men don’t realize that we are not judged as individuals. I wish we were but it is just not true. I know every mug shot that pops up on that screen is a blow to my image.

That’s why I cringed when I saw and heard the promotion for Street Negro Sundays at a local club. We have enough trouble without adding to our own image problem. Think about what people might be saying. Not only is New Orleans more dangerous than Iraq, they openly celebrate the folks that make it so. What ever happened to Ladies Night? Now, there could have been only 10 people out there or it could have been 1000. Maybe it was a total failure. Either way I hope it was a one week event because as soon as something happens out there and the news gets a chance to report about violence breaking out at Street Negro Sunday the damage will be done.

Why would anyone want to hangout with that many street Negroes anyway? This isn’t a rap video with a bunch of rich dudes pretending they still live in the street. Real street Negroes are not that cool. They never listen to anything you try to tell them. They always want to keep it real and do what they want to do whenever they feel like doing it. Then, once all of that blows up in their face and it always does, they want to try and make you feel bad if you don’t mess up your credit and spend all your extra money to get them out of the mess they wouldn’t have been in if just listened to you in the first place. If you want to go to a club full of cats like that and hang out go ahead but you better get there soon because it won’t be open that long. I just hope nothing bad happens before they get shut down.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Sitting On My Porch Part Fifty Three

I would like to thank Mother Nature for taking her finger off the humidity button and making this the first morning in weeks where I wasn’t totally miserable. I know the cost for the breeze might be a severe thunderstorm but we get those anyway. August is the worst month of the year in terms of weather. The older I get the more I hate being outside or even dressed during the month. It’s also the month where tropical waves blow up to category 5’s overnight. I can’t wait until it’s over. School started last week in New Orleans. Personally I would prefer starting the year in September and extending it into June if they wanted the extra teaching time. I think parents should get to vote on this kind of thing.

Speaking of voting, anyone who has had a job and pays into social security should get a vote about a raise in the retirement age. You can’t put me in the “no” column. I would vote to lower it to 60 years of age. Social security isn’t a handout because every pay period I give more to FICA than I do to federal and state taxes combined. If all goes well when I turn 65 I will have worked a full time job for 47 years. That’s 564 months and over 1200 paychecks with money being taken out for social security. On June 11, 2039 someone better have a check for me or there’s going to be some trouble.

I had some seafood for lunch today. It smelled okay to me so I went with it.

The following question has nothing to do with the job Mayor Landrieu is doing. With the news this week that people are still fighting the Road Home program for money and that black homeowners were discriminated against, how different would the mayor’s election had been if one of the other candidates knew the person that had a lot to do with setting up the Road Home program would be the first deputy mayor and chief administrative officer? With that being said, I’m happy with my vote and Mayor Landrieu is doing a good job so far.

Unless Osama Bin Laden or Al Qaeda’s name is on the lease the Islamic center in Manhattan should be allowed to go forward. Americans need to realize that when you go against your own basic principles solely because of the religion of people involved you validate everything the terrorist say about us.

So you can’t text and drive anymore in the state of Louisiana. It’s a 175.00 ticket if you do. I guess that makes everyone safer despite the fact you can still get drinks without shutting off your car or try to eat a combo meal from McDonalds from the drive through without getting it on your clothes. Personally, I find women in short pants way more distracting while driving than my phone.

I don’t care about Dr. Laura or what she thinks about me. I have no reaction to her ending her show. I’m much more worried about the mentality in our community that would come up with a club promotion called Street Negro Sundays. The people that attended this are more of a danger to me and my family. As a matter of fact, this deserves its own post.

I’m not ready to get into the five year Katrina anniversary until next week. If I start talking about it this early I would never make it to the 29th without a lot of anger coming back. I would like to personally endorse this post for your reading pleasure. My peeps couldn’t wait to get it off her chest. She did a good job.

It’s too early to give any thoughts on the upcoming Saints season but I already have a dream scenario that would be the second best thing next to the Saints repeating. It’s week three of the season and Brett Favre ankles finally get tired of leaving Mississippi so they both give way and he’s injured and finally has to stop playing. The next week Tavaris Jackson takes the field and throws for 500 yards and 4 touchdowns. The crowd is going crazy, his teammates are excited and Brad Childress is relieved. Soon as the sideline reporter starts interviewing him Tavaris takes off his helmet, looks right into the camera and tells everyone in Minnesota especially Brad Childress and his teammates to kiss his black ass and that Wrangler jeans suck then walks off with Kanye West. I would never delete that from my DVR.

School is back in so the little girl friendly hip hop takes its place on the MP3 player.

Monday, August 9, 2010

One Working Man's Opinion On The Bush Tax Cuts

I have been trying to understand how this debate about the economy as it relates to spending and tax cuts. I listen to Democrats and Republicans argue about this on Sunday morning talk shows yesterday. One of the main issues seems to be the tax cuts for the wealthy that were done by President Bush. Republicans feel like having these tax cuts repealed would be bad for the economy because those are the people that create jobs in America. Democrats and some economists say we should let the cuts expire because they are not paid for so they are just as bad for the deficit as spending. That’s the basic argument without all the big technical words.

First of all, I am not one of those people who believe the rich should pay a higher percentage of their money than anyone else. You shouldn’t have to put in a higher share than anyone else because you are financially successful. I say everyone should have to pay the same percentage. Rich folks would end up giving more because they have more but it would still be the same percentage as people like me so everyone is making the same sacrifice and no one thinks the other side is getting over. I would be on board for something like that since the deficit is as bad as it is and we have two wars to pay for. Once we pay off a few of those loans from other countries and bring the troops home then we can talk about cutting everything again.

The second thing is I find it funny that so many of us want to accuse people of being less American if they think government should help people but think it’s okay that so many people have to depend on the decisions of a private citizen or corporation to determine their faith. What I get out of this debate is “If we don’t take care of the rich they will not do anything to hire you.” Unless you are the CEO or the chairman of the board you are still dependent on someone other than yourself. Every morning people get up hoping that some foreign country or computer program hasn’t shown the powers that be a way to do what you get paid to do for half of the cost. That’s why we have self checkout machines in the stores and the kids play with toys made in China. At least with the government having some say so you can keep voting and hope to get it right. If the private sector is going to decide the faith of the country with no regulation and paying no taxes at all we can’t do a damn thing if they decide to take all that money and keep it in their pocket. Let’s be honest for a minute. If someone gave the majority of us a check for ten thousand dollars and didn’t say we had to spend at least three thousand on other people would we? The answer is no so whether we give tax cuts to businesses or people, it won’t make a difference unless you put some stipulations to it.

The third thing is the one question I don’t hear anyone asking. If the tax cuts are supposed to spur economic growth, why are we in a recession now when the rich haven’t been paying these taxes since 2001? Shouldn’t unemployment be at 5% or lower if low taxes and less regulation was the key? I’m a fair minded guy and if President Obama would have taken office with a surplus, eliminated the tax cuts and things fell apart, I would be the first one to say that was a dumb ass policy but that’s not what happened. The economy finally fell apart in 2008 largely in part to the greed of the same people who weren’t paying these taxes for seven years already. How is that going to change all of a sudden? If you did the same thing with your money for this long without a positive result you would be bankrupt. That’s where we are going to be if both parties don’t start dealing with reality.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Saturday Night School Memories: Bus Tickets and Canal Street

It’s almost the middle of August which means the kids are going back to school. The summer went by so fast. They should give parents the same amount of vacation time as the children get. I haven’t talked about education issues in awhile but I have some things I want to talk about now. We won’t get into all of that heavy stuff today since it’s the weekend. Earlier this week I was having a conversation with my co-workers about school and how it was a good thing now that the city has so many school buses to take kids to and from school. Back in my day most of the kids in Orleans Parish rode the RTA bus with bus tickets. I really can’t stress to you how important it was not to lose those bus tickets. Bus tickets were more important than money. That was a long walk home without them. My friend Fred used to lose his bus tickets for weeks at a time and always have to walk home. That must be why he stayed so skinny. One year they changed up the system and gave us stickers to put on our student ID cards. You could get on any bus in the evening by showing the sticker. We were all over New Orleans in places we shouldn’t have been. That only lasted one year. They got rid of that quick. I’m sure we cost the RTA millions in free joyrides and made at least ten drivers retire.

Thousands of school children of all ages would be on Canal Street in the afternoon just walking around. That was the meeting place for school aged children. Most of the city’s bus routes connected up there so we all could hang out thee and still get home. You could stay up there for a long time if your transfer didn’t expire. If it did then you were stuck and had to walk from Canal and that was a lot of neighborhoods to make it through to get to your house. That happened to me a few times since I was so careless with small stuff. The thing about being on Canal after school was that since there were so many people from all over the city up there you could run into anyone and see anything. If it was football season there was always a chance for a good school fight to happen. Some days you might get a cute girl’s phone number. Some days you might run into friends from elementary school that moved to other neighborhoods. On other days a group of guys from Fortier High School might try to steal your new tennis shoes (I shouldn't be picking on a school that had their building stolen after Katrina. I was a just a joke.) It was always fun, sometimes dangerous, and we did it everyday either way.

After the Canal experience was over everyone would go the bus line that took them home. My spot was the St. Claude Bus Stop on Canal and Rampart in front of the Popeye’s Chicken place where the old man used to sell newspapers and pecan candy in the front. The only goal then was not getting on one of those round shaped buses where the windows didn’t open. This was extra important if it was raining because a crowded bus full of sweaty people who have worked all day and rain water does not mix very well. You also didn’t want to get one of the bus drivers who had a bad attitude so he would pass up a bunch of stops just to make everybody walk a little longer.

Just thinking about those times in my teenage years reminds me of how you change with age. Back then I couldn’t wait to get up there in the evening to see what was going on. Now you can’t get me to go anywhere if I think there will be the slightest argument. I’m glad these kids today don’t have to deal with all that stuff after school. Besides, we got out at 3:15. Kids now get out anywhere between 4PM and 5 PM so they wouldn’t get home until dark. I guess we can chalk transportation up to the positive side of school reform.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Congratulations Again To The City Champ

I know my team’s place in NFL history. This weekend my favorite NFL player of all time Rickey Jackson is going to the Pro Football Hall of Fame at the same time as Emmitt Smith and Jerry Rice. I love Rickey but those are two of the top ten players in NFL history with a lot of rings. I understand why they are going to get the majority of the spotlight. I was hoping that the NFL Network would dig up a tape of one of # 57’s games in his prime so the rest of the country that are not long time fans of the Saints would understand just how good of a football player he was. I hope there aren’t many people that think he got in because the Saints went to the Superbowl. That probably made the committee look at his resume closer but he earned it on the field. He’s going to look good in his yellow blazer.

I have the same love of football that I did when I was ten years old. The only difference now is that I have a better understand of how life works and money flows. I understand that the Saints are only here because we found a way to make it profitable for the owner. I also realize that as much as we love someone like Drew Brees, if Miami would have put up a few more dollars and been more positive about his shoulder injury a few years ago he’s probably playing there and the San Antonio Saints may have started training camp this week. That’s not a shot at Drew. Those guys get beat up in the prime of their lives and need to make all the money they can. I don’t get mad at any player for doing what they have to do to get paid even if it means not playing in New Orleans for my team.

I can dig that at 36 but when you are a kid sports are different. You look at those guys like they are larger than life. I was 7 years old when The City Champ was a rookie. I grew up with his career. That wasn’t easy because before Jim Mora and Jim Finks hit town some of those Saints teams looked so bad it almost seemed like they were losing on purpose. Through all of that Rickey Jackson brought it game after game. He never whined and he never complained except for that one time when he gave the Trigger Man speech that I and my dad still quote when leadership is breaking down (Greatest post game interview ever and I can’t find it anywhere). That’s why for the first time I am going to watch an entire hall of fame induction ceremony because from my perspective the greatest Saint ever is getting the recognition he deserves. I’m sure that about 20 years from now some current little kid is going to feel the same way about Drew Brees.

If anyone knows the post game interview I am talking about when he talks about the trigger man please let me know where I might find it. It happened during the season when Steve Walsh was quarterback.