Sunday, August 24, 2008

Commemoration Vacation

First of all I want to thank everyone involved with organizing the Rising Tide Conference for inviting me to be on the education panel. I had a great time on the panel and at the conference as a whole. I didn’t think I was going to talk so much but I guess that came easy to me because I live this city’s experience every day. I hope I was able to bring the perspective I set out to. I wish we had more time to get into some things more because it is a very complicated problem.

It was cool to meet the bloggers I hadn’t met before and put faces with the names of the people whose words I read and sometimes inspire me to express my own thoughts. I want to especially send a shot out to Allen Boudreaux for our conversation Friday Night and Mrs. Butler from Wounded Bird. She was cool to talk to. I also want to once again thank Clancy DuBos and Kevin Allman from The Gambit for the distinction of being the first guest blogger to appear on the Blog of New Orleans. From now on when Clancy’s on election night I can tell my friends I know someone on television and it’s not a lie.

It’s not lost on me that most of these cool things that I have got to take part in as a blogger have happened because of Hurricane Katrina. I will modestly accept the fact that a portion has to do with some personal talent. I am sure people wouldn’t ask me what I thought if it sounded crazy. However since the aftermath of the storm drives every agenda around this area it can’t be ignored. That’s why this is going to be my last post for the rest of the month.

There are two events this week that stick out in my head. The first one is August 27. That’s my surviving grandmother Mildred’s 90th birthday. It’s not only significant because she’s making 90. It’s significant because her 87th birthday party was the last time my family was all together at her house in the Lower Ninth Ward. The second event is obviously August 29th the anniversary of the storm. That’s the day I lost my other grandmother Geraldine to flood waters when the levees broke. She was 72 years old at the time of the storm and going strong. Beyond just the fact of losing her forever, the sad truth is that everyone I know lost a part of themselves in some way.

The way life has been since August 30, 2005 has required even the strongest person to ignore the human aspect from time to time in order to put their lives back in order. Even people like me who lost so much had to suspend that reality for enough time to move back home or get used to another place, rebuild their homes, plan the next five years and all that other stuff that goes with a total life change. In many ways my personal success and achievement is at an all time high. Unless I have a total meltdown it can only get better. Regardless of that, sometimes I just want to go sit on the patio and drink beer with my aunts or listen to my grandmother tell me how she can refurbish some piece of furniture she found at a garage sale that she has absolutely no room for in her house.

That’s the human aspect of the whole event that we have lost because everybody now is caught up in where the money is and what neighborhood gets enough of it to come back strong or not. I can’t lie and say it doesn’t happen to me. I rant and rave about stuff like that all day because I can’t help it. This year I am not going to do that. I’m not doing anything. I’m not going on the radio. I am not writing anything for anybody. I had a really cool idea I told Kevin about Friday night. I am not doing that either (sorry Kevin). This year I am going to chill out and spend time with my friends and family like every other week. I don’t want any exposure. I don’t want to be Cliff the blogger. I just want to be Cliff from St. Claude Avenue who use to hang out with Devin and Big G. Everybody from New Orleans may not feel this way but I personally think that storm was way to traumatic too turn into a holiday I need to look forward to every year. I’m trying not to give it any more power than it already has. That’s why until September I am officially vapor. If you are looking for me I will be sitting somewhere with a drink in my hand laughing at something crazy.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

I'm Rising The Tide

When I was first asked to be on the Education Panel at this year’s Rising Tide Conference I was honored. Then I remembered just how much I didn’t really like school and it was kind of funny. I would have never guessed in a million years that I would be on a panel about education. Out of all the years I ever went to any school I only enjoyed maybe one year’s worth of that. Nevertheless, I always went and did well. That was probably more of my parents doing than my own.

There will be some very informed people on this panel that know all the ins and outs of the inner workings of the school situation here. I won’t be dropping any statistics. Earlier today I started to do a little research beyond what I already know so I wouldn’t be sitting up there sounding stupid. Then I thought about it and realized that I don’t represent that part of the equation.

I am going to be representing those parents that are confused, concerned, angry, frustrated and hoping they made the right decision when it comes to where their child is going. I’m going to represent the hard working people who don’t want to have three jobs, or lie about their situation in order to be in a better situation. I’m going to represent three generations and the parent of a fourth generation of family to go to public schools in the city. That is important because there is no way anyone can reform the system and ignore the last 40 years. When it comes to local issues there is usually a divide between what is written by the experts and the media and what the people in the neighborhood think.

I’m coming to represent the neighborhood for the good and the bad.

Cliff's Olympic Blog

I’m sitting here trying to figure out why I am so into these Olympic Games. The last time I really got into the Olympics was 20 years ago. I just got through watching the women’s beach volleyball final and it was so exciting (not for the women this time). There are two things I am wondering about. What the hell is Jamaica feeding those sprinters and why do all of these Chinese teenagers look as big as my five-year old? One of the women from the beach volleyball team just sprinkled her mom’s ashes on the sand after they won. That was a tear jerking moment.

Why does NBC stick the microphone in the face of these athletes after they fail and don’t win a medal? You know they have been training their whole life to get to this point and it sucks to not win. I wish I was there and someone interviews me with the way I hate to lose. Bob Costas would turn red.

That was messed up how they interviewed the brother about two minutes after he realized he has been disqualified from his medal in the 200m race. He should have punched that guy.

Man, I wish I had the money to go to Jamaica next week for the coming home party of Usain Bolt and the rest of the track and field team. You could party at least three days from the contact high.

Thank goodness the USA Basketball team is returning some respect to hood basketball. If I have to listen to one more commentator talk about how the world is catching up I am going to scream. If they are catching up so much, why do all the foreign players choke in the NBA playoffs?

Would I be a bad American if I was pulling for a Brazil vs. Cuba Women’s Volleyball final? I don't mean to be disrespectful to all the American sisters. They are awesome too. ( I am such a pig when the volleyball is on.)

Some of these sports are kind of ridiculous. Why is walking an event? Trampoline? Badminton? Equestrian? The horse is doing all the work. They might as well put Horseshoes and Cool Can in so New Orleans can bring home some gold medals. ( I realize that most of you don’t know what cool can is. That’s a true New Orleans hood game right there.)

If I was a male Olympic walk racer, I would compete hard as I could for a medal but would never watch a tape of myself switching like that. There are just some things a brother from the Ninth Ward can't have on videotape.

Monday, August 18, 2008

It's The First Day

Well, we sent her on in there. I hope nothing happens to make me show those people why they called me the Incredible Hulk in 8th grade. I'm sure she will be fine. She had to go somewhere sooner or later. Anyway...

In honor of the first day of school I thought I would tell a funny first day of school story. It happened at my first school McDonald # 19 Elementary School. Back in the old days when you went back to school for the new school year kids would go to the previous year’s teacher until they found out whom their new teacher was. Well, I wasn’t aware of that heading to first grade. My mama walked me to school with my three year old sister and 7 month old brother in a stroller. I walked in the door of the school and was talking to my friends about how I was going to my new teacher. That’s when someone told me I had to go sit back in Ms. Ford’s class. Not knowing it was only for an hour or so, I screamed NOOOOO!!!! Ms. Ford wasn’t that bad. I was just a spoiled at five years old and didn’t want anyone to tell me anything. At five she seemed like a demon and I had enough of that.

I took off running down St. Claude St. like Jesse Owens. I made it back home so fast that my mama wasn’t at the house yet. She was just walking up to the gate when I came running behind her.

It was at that very moment when I realized my mama was down for me no matter what. She didn’t fuss or anything. She just turned around with those two babies and walked me back up the street to the school and brought me to the class. Personally, I would have whipped my ass for that.

I need some comic relief so I think I will listen to Monster teach the babies their ABC’s. Don’t laugh too hard. He means well.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

My Meditation Music

Friday morning I had to speak at a meeting. I knew almost everyone in the room by first name but for some reason I felt nervous. After I sat down and tried to figure out what was wrong with me I realized I wasn’t nervous. I just didn’t feel like talking about the topic at hand. This happens to me from time to time. I hit the wall when it comes to dealing with stuff and I get tired of thinking so much. Between the job, school issues, bills, money, and problems of friends and family, Cliff needs to reboot his hard drive.

As corny as it sounds, this is when I go back to hip hop to clear my head. Say what you want about the music but it calms me. I used to be one of those kids on the bus heading to school with the Walkman radio and the backpack full of tapes and batteries. That was the last part of my life that I didn’t have anything to worry about. I didn’t care about much except for school and trying to get a date or two. It’s back during the time when I used to challenge Brian on who could make the best mixtape. That’s before all the stuff my daddy used to preach about applied to my own life situations. It also separates me from him because he hates rap music. It’s when the Ninth Ward wasn’t infamous and we just lived and hung out there. I can’t say if things were better or not but my mental burden was sure much lighter. It does for me what Motown does for older generations. I guess that’s why through all of life changes I still stay true to the music as long as the lyrics aren’t too crazy. There are future queens at the crib so I can't be listening to some of that garbage.

I think my blogging is a way of letting out the frustrated rapper in me. The only difference is bloggers don’t have groupies or money. I’m just doing what I do for the love of it. Friday morning I left for my meeting with my morale really low. When I got in my truck I had to play something to put my energy in the right direction to do what I needed to do. A Tribe Called Quest did the trick.

It's Time For Big School

Did I mention anything about my post on the Gambit's blog about the school issue?
That was more than two weeks ago. My self promotion skills suck.

On Monday morning my baby will be headed to kindergarten. It’s a big day for her and she is ready to go. I have no doubts she will do great and take to school like a fish to water. She can’t wait to get in there. She's been dying to go for months. Times have changed because I don’t remember my parents telling me I was even going to school. My mom just dropped me off with a strange mean lady and some snotty nose kids and left me there. She could have warned a brother that I wasn’t going to be watching Tom and Jerry that day.

I am nervous about her first day for several reasons. I’m wondering if she’s going to a decent school. I’m worried about environment in and around the school. I am not ashamed to admit I love my hood but there are some aspects of it that I don't want my kids exposed to. I am concerned about her being under too much pressure since everything is based on test scores and her homework package has things in it I didn’t see until the third grade. I have been beating myself up for the past two weeks because I figured I had five years to put myself in a position to send her wherever I wanted even if it meant paying tuition. That was before a company downsizing, a pay cut, and a hurricane. Now she's going to a public school I never heard of until a few months ago. I guess that's what happens when new charter schools pop up weekly. All you can go on is what they promise you.

I don’t want to be overly negative about the situation. I met the staff and reviewed all of their plans and it appears to be a good deal. This morning in the newspaper there is a big story about the plans for new schools. If everybody's actions go along with the plans then the situation should be constantly getting better. I want to believe that. I need to believe that because my lack of confidence in the ability or willingness to educate black kids in New Orleans is the first issue that has ever made me really consider leaving. Nobody should love the city enough to compromise their child's future. If I still believed in conspiracy theories I would say that this is all being done at a slow pace purposely to keep black families from moving back into the city. If you fix the schools too quick then even people who left before Katrina are coming back. I have been trying to talk myself out of thinking that way even though my own experience tells me it might be true.

Maybe that's not happening this time around. Maybe I am stuck in my old way of thinking and can’t notice the things changing around me. Maybe ten years from now we will look back and feel good about sticking with the system. Maybe she can roll through this one charter system until she graduates high school and end up prepared to handle the Ivy League. Maybe I’m just a paranoid daddy. Her grandpa told me any good parent is supposed to be paranoid. He calmed my nerves a little. After talking to my daddy about it we will go with the positive outlook.

Tomorrow morning the only thing I will be thinking about is how she looks like a big girl in her uniform and her backpack on and trying not to cry when she walks in the building. I promise not to drive around the building every 30 minutes like I planned on doing. I can't go in with her. She probably doesn't want me to anyway. When she sees those other kids she's going to forget all about me. Man, watching your daughter getting bigger is rewarding and it sucks at the same time.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Sending All Reporters To Mandeville

I hope no one thought I wasn't going to say something about the great city of Mandeville........

I will concede that Mandeville is a really nice city. Their public schools are great. There is very little crime. If I didn’t have such a problem driving across the Causeway everyday I wouldn’t mind living over there myself. The way people live across the lake isn’t a problem for me. Their horrible and judgmental attitudes are. Every time there is a story about something going on in New Orleans I have to sit and read letters in the paper and messages on comments and messages boards online about how New Orleans is a cesspool and how that’s why they left in the city years ago.

Northshore residents talk lots of trash when they are minding other people’s business. Well, apparently some of the corrupt politicians and crooks liked living across the lake too. This week has been great. It’s been fun to see them muster up the energy to react in the same spirit they give towards city issues when it’s their own tax dollars and a man they trusted. I just have a few thoughts about this whole mess.

Ralph Goyeneche, of the Metropolitan Crime Commission is an honorable and fair man across the board. I don’t know exactly where he lives but I would trust him as mayor. He’s the only one who stepped out forward and suggested Mayor Price step down. I know some of you are wondering why he has never asked for Ray Nagin to step down. That’s because Ray Nagin hasn’t stole anything like this no matter how bad everyone tries to turn him into The Godfather.

Could you imagine if Ray Nagin had spent 65K of city money for personal use and it was backed up by a state audit? Spud McConnell’s head would have exploded on the air and Stacy Head would be calling in the National Guard to seize City Hall. Lee Zurick would have gotten his own 30 minute special just to go over the credit card statement on the air. I won't even think about what would have happened if Mr. Goyeneche asked him to step down and he said no. If Warren Riley would have misspent money from the Toys for Tots fund that was funded by citizens’ donations he would have had to resign from the force and leave the state.

I challenge anyone to argue with me that the coverage locally has been even in intensity. If your point is that Mandeville only has 7000 residents compared to over 300,000 in New Orleans I will simply say that when it comes to prestige and the influence in the area the Northshore has lots of it. If the radio stations here can have a show about city government and think its ok to take calls from the suburbs all day putting the city down because we all have a vested interest in the city, then the suburbs deserve the same scrutiny when they do something wrong. If you don’t want it, then mind your own business next time Ray Nagin puts his foot in his mouth. Even one of his misspoken moments can’t add up to a trip to Mexico.

I take no pleasure in another city getting messed around by their mayor. I just want that mayor to be treated like mine gets treated for a lot less.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Monday Morning Wandering

It’s a rainy Monday morning and I am back at work after taking an extended weekend. I took an extra day because I felt myself slipping into one of those moments where I was going to be a little too honest about things around the office and get myself in trouble. There is nothing like taking things too far at work. It can’t be that bad of a job. The fact I am writing this blog from my desk should prove that. I got time to kill sense the dummies that get here before me never make the coffee. They can’t make a pot but as soon as I do they run out there with those big ass construction site mugs to fill up. One day I am going to bring the pot to my desk so I can monitor who gets a cup and how much they pour.

My name is Clifton and I am addicted to caffeine….

I was going to write something last night but I was too upset about Isaac Hayes. I had to listen to By the Time I Get to Phoenix a few times. I also was too focused on the awesome power and sexiness of the Cuban women’s volleyball team. They are always the highlight of the Summer Olympics for me. Just for the record, I was pulling for the American women to win but man those Cuban sisters are awesome. I have to think that Castro must really be as bad as everyone says he is if men are willing to make homemade rafts and float through the ocean to get out of there and leave women like that behind.

The volleyball game was a good way to end a frustrating weekend. There is nothing like getting a child ready for school to make you feel the economic pinch. Kindergarten sure has changed. All I needed for the first say of school was a fat pencil and an ABC tablet. These schools ask for so many supplies. Why do I have to buy two boxes of crayons? I’m telling everyone right now, she better come home with something in color. Why do you need glue and glue sticks? I’m 34 years old and can barely get a glue stick to work right. Between the supplies and the homework schedule, there is no fun left in Kindergarten. I guess that’s the plan to reform inner city schools, take out all the fun.

I guess I will sit here and watch this rain today and watch some Bernie Mac clips.

Oh yeah…..and do some work too. Companies should really block You Tube.


One of my favorite singers and a founding father of the Bald Head Brothers Club passed away Sunday. I would like to say rest in peace to Isaac Hayes.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Who you are just as you are is precious and totally unique. Make friends with yourself and become empowered by your own distinctiveness.

I got this in a text message from a friend of mine. I would give them credit for it but I am not sure if they stole it from someone and I don't need any plagiarizing issues.

One of my good friends stopped and dropped off a bottle of liquid relaxation as a show of appreciation. I am going sit outside in my yard, drink a glass and listen to Frankie Beverly. If it's too damn hot maybe I will sit in the den next to the window and pretend I am outside while the AC blows. Hopefully I will make it to be before 1AM.

Fooled Me Again

Please excuse me today. I am speaking as an angry black New Orleans resident who’s losing faith and feeling kind of silly about asking for patience on this NOAH story. My patience has been rewarded with a headache.

My people sure make it hard sometimes to make a point when they do silly things. I didn't know who Stacey Jackson was until all of this started but appearently she hit the jackpot. She had a non profit flying under the radar. Why wouldn't someone tell Ray Nagin about these things before he stood up there and defended this group? Don't all these people who make good money because of him at least owe him the chance to not look foolish? I still don't think he's a criminal but it does not look good for the city as a whole when the mayor stands up and defends a potential scandal. Who’s going to invest money in that city?

Why would Ms. Jackson or the contractor be bold enough to think it would be ok for anybody associated with agency contracts to live in a house owned by the agency? Why would she give contracts to people connected to her that closely? I work in the non profit world and I know that at the end of the day everything has to be accounted for. Your agency lives or dies on documentation. Why would she buy property from another agency in the city for a cheap price, not refurbish it then sell it for a profit? That's just ridiculous. Shouldn’t there be someone on the mayor’s staff who monitors these kinds of things for potential trouble so he can get rid of those people and avoid this kind of embarrassment for the city? No one benefits from this story getting bigger.

I actually had a broader view of this whole story about wondering who's going to maintain the legitimate properties on the list now that NOAH is out of business but the conflict of interests in this thing are so glaring I can't express it without sounding stupid. The next time a story comes up like this I guess I will have to just be quiet and watch no matter how mad I get from listening to the radio. Thanks NOAH and everyone involved for giving me one less thing to worry about and for further destroying the benefit of the doubt I was so willing to give. I might be late to the party on that mind set. I think most of the people have already given up on leadership. That could explain that 11% voter turnout the last election. Maybe I am just a dreamer and want everyone to have the same vision for the city that I do. It doesn't matter. Let the talk shows and news media do and say what they will while I go sit somewhere and ponder how we managed to abuse the access we fought so hard to get.

A.P. Tureaud must be rolling over in his grave as we speak.