God, I miss New Orleans.
A daughter's college graduation and other family matters have prompted a return to Minnesota for the summer, but already I feel like I am missing out on--well--everything.
Nagin Goes for Obama
I was no sooner pointed north on I-35 when superdelegate Mayor ("chocolate city") Ray Nagin endorsed Barack Obama for president on May 13. A statement attributed to Nagin had him explaining that Obama can "heal the divisions of the past and unify this country." Heck, what about unifying and fixing New Orleans?
Would this turn of events negate my prediction of where the NOLA black vote will go this November? More about that prediction later.
The news of superdelegate posturing came just two days after a stunning robbery went down in my mid-city neighborhood shortly before I headed out for St. Charles and points west.
Drag Queens with Revealing Bust Lines in Pick Ups
The MSNBC New Orleans News Channel and WDSU reported that security cameras showed a drag queen robbing the South Carrollton Burger King. The official published report and video showed the "man," attired in "a dress with a revealing bust line and hair barrettes," boldly climbing through the takeout window and holding employees at gunpoint.
Apparently, the robber then climbed back through the same takeout window and drove away in a pickup. Why he/she did not just flounce in through the door like every other cross-dresser in the neighborhood was a mystery. I badly wanted to be back in town to ask this question. WSDU has offered no insight on this difficult point-of-entry.
May 17, the unusual Burger King caper appears to be partly solved.
Since Mayor Nagin's police force is totally understaffed and still relying upon Louisiana National Guard members to staff many of the squad cars, it fell to the forensic analysis of television station WDSU to analyze the video of the crime scene. WDSU crime and safety specialist Howard Robertson assured the public that this was a genuine cross dresser and not a cheap imitation.
"His necklace matched the dress, his nails appeared to be painted and the wig was well made," Robertson was quoted on the WDSU website.
"Most of the time when somebody puts on a wig they're just trying to hide their identity by putting on something like a Halloween Mask, but he's pretty," Robertson said.
I hope my neighborhood is resting easy, knowing that the perpetrator is one of their own and not a terrorist infiltrator.
Monument to Stupidity
Better yet, I am still anxiously awaiting the national media to pick up on a terrific report on George Bush's visit to New Orleans with the leaders of Canada and Mexico on Earth Day -- April 22. The New Orleans Levee ("We Don't Hold Anything Back") revealed a stealth plan by the White House to cover up yet another Bushism and "Monument to Stupidity."
The original granite monument to the ceremonial planting of a Shumard Oak tree in Lafayette Square read -- "Planted a Summard Oak tree on April 22, 2008, in honor of Earth Day and the Cresent City's hosting of the North American Leader's Summit."
"In a hard-to-believe metaphor to the president's response and handling of hurricane Katrina on the Gulf Coast and the catastrophic failure of the federal levee system that caused the horrific flooding of New Orleans, President Bush dedicated to the Crescent City a White House-ordered monument with the word Crescent misspelled," Levee correspondent Michael DiBari wrote.
In addition, there is no such thing as a Summard Oak, but that botanical mistake pales by the Levee's contention that the hapless oak was not an "official" tree, but one that had been planted two weeks prior and dug up as a ceremonial stand-in.
While residents gathered in disbelief, urinating and throwing drinks on the monument, one onlooker was quoted as coining the "monument to stupidity" headline.
The monument was replaced with a "corrected" substitute, but the Summard mistake remains. The whereabouts of the original is a closely guarded matter of homeland security.
After tying up air and land traffic for 24 hours, Bush (referred to as "President Shrub" at the local Gambit Music Awards ceremony that evening), beat a path to a private fund-raiser on behalf of Democrat-turned Republican and State Treasurer John Kennedy. The "Leaders Summit" was a convenient excuse for Bush to pad the coffers of the Baton Rouge fundraiser, where attendees paid a minimum of $2,000 a plate and $5,000 for a photo-op.
You would think that all of Bush's follies in New Orleans would guarantee that the Crescent City would vote Democratic this November. Don't be too sure.
In an informal exit poll conducted on the Airport Access Road, which connects I-10 (remember all those folks stranded on the I-10 after Katrina?) to the Louis Armstrong International Airport, a surprising pattern of black outrage surfaced.
Bush Whacks NOLA -- Again
Air Force One descended on New Orleans like a bird of prey on April 21. My Air Tran flight from Atlanta was diverted to Mississippi, along with several other commercial flights, not because the big bird was on the tarmac, but because presidential security had us circling until we literally ran out of fuel. Whatever the hell happened to the concept of the "welfare of the many?"
At any rate, traffic was backed up, I was hours late, no one was moving on the ground either, so I called my roommate and told her to go home--I would figure something out. She was still dealing with the after effects of shady contractors at her mid-city residence--almost three years post Katrina--and could not afford the time wasted sitting in traffic. Luckily, I found a cabbie who was deadheading back to Canal Street and who would happily turn off the meter for $25 bucks, dropping me near the now-infamous Carrollton Burger King on his way to Canal.
Cabbies love to talk, and we weren't going anywhere, so conversation was flowing freely. I have found that when they pry the information out of you that you are a writer, cabbies think you are smart and ask you to predict elections, natural disasters, when the universe will end -- that sort of thing.
The refurbished Airport Access road parallels the runways, and we all had clear view of a chopper patrolling the tarmac, as well as tinted-window decoy Suburbans with flashing blue lights that meandered back and forth in a display of disarray.
It was getting hot, so the very nice driver and I got out of the cab, watched the display of presidential largesse, and were joined by another black guy who just wanted to hang with us. One white chick and two black guys -- chillin' and figuring it all out.
I tried to keep my own opinions close to the vest. This was a real chance for an exit poll, and besides, we and a couple of hundred other vehicles were not going anywhere for a while.
The Old White Guy
"I'll tell you what's gonna happen," the cabbie volunteered. "That old white guy's gonna win."
This surprised me.
"You mean to tell me, you think the New Orleans' black vote will go to McCain?"
"Is that that old white guy's name? Let me tell you, no (he used the "n" word) is going to vote for Obama. We'd vote for Hillary, not him."
"You've got to be kidding."
"I thought you writer's were smart. You been here in this city very long? You been to the Lower Ninth?"
"Yeah," I said. "It looks like a cow pasture. Just a bulldozed field along the levee."
"You got it, sister," the other guy volunteered.
"Obama ain't one of us," cabbie said. "He's all slick and polished, the guy's a fake. Come to one of the black bars with me. You wanna hear some conversation. You'll get some."
I was still detoxing from one night on Bourbon Street, so that plan was out of the question, but I wanted to know more.
"So, what don't you like about Obama? You think he is inexperienced?"
Oops, personal bias had just entered my exit poll. An unfortunate leading question, but I needn't have worried.
"Hell, he ain't black. He's an elitist. His wife is a member of that Trilateral Commission. That group wiped us out down here."
I pointed out that Michelle Obama was a member of the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations, which hardly qualified as a conspiracy theory, but perception is everything.
The other guy had been silent, but muttered something about New Orleans being better off if Bush would just leave it alone as one of the Suburbans sped past on the shoulder, nearly taking the guy out. I was spared when the cabbie grabbed me by the shoulder and shoved me toward the cab. I had a fleeting moment of paranoia that maybe Bush was trying to take us out.
Cabbie didn't miss a beat.
"I'm tellin' ya, the (n-word) vote is going to that old white guy. That slick smile Obama has ain't foolin' nobody."
I had to ask.
"What do you mean when you say "nnnn?"
I was stuttering the offensive "n" word.
Cabbie was agitated now. The other black guy was doubled over in laughter at this point -- laughter clearly directed at me -- but I got my own stupidity when I heard the response.
"I mean all the poor black bastards who made it back to our city."
I got it all right. There were still no jobs; the city of New Orleans is still largely in shambles except for the tourist areas. White absentee landlords are not investing in repair of blighted buildings. The black population is literally is up against the levees with little help in sight, while public housing is disappearing and gentrification is stalking some neighborhoods.
Now, the mayor of New Orleans, who shares some responsibility in all of this, has just endorsed Obama.
If cabbie is correct in his opinions, and the talk in the neighborhood bars is that Obama is not "really" black--that he is part of political elite--then I am throwing my hat in with the "old white guy" as my prediction.
God, I really miss New Orleans.