It's a regular game of whack-a-mole, getting to the shore at BP's Grand Isle cleanup. It turns out Peter Fonda was at one end of Grand Isle yesterday, and I was on the other. Neither of us made it close to shore, which is on public lockdown no matter which access road you try to make it past.
Tom Colicchio and the country's top chefs were at Grand Isle promoting Friends of the Fishermen, and he told me he was able to tour the beach up to the tiger dam, but was told that if he stepped over it, he would have to be decontaminated. You keep telling yourself, everyone who has to bar access is just doing their job. We're all just doing our jobs, whatever that turns out to be in the surreal oil spill fallout.
Covering Grand Isle is a beat straight out of Catch 22. I saw Blackhawk helicopters next to empty swingsets. Cleanup workers in hazmat suits piling out of school busses. Sarcastic "Thanks BP" For Sale signs on homes. Pelicans still fly over just as they always did, and you hope they're figuring out where to land.
I told my NewOrleans.com editor that it felt like being in a disaster movie and he said, "You are." Editors are succinct. He and my husband Jeff took film and photos from the pier, which was as close as we could get to the water.
We ran into Beth Galante of Global Green at the packed Fuel film screening at Canal Place last night, and talked about how her team was turned back after being told by Jefferson Parish Deputies that stepping over the tiger boom would be disturbing a crime scene. Global Green helped sponsor the free screening of Josh Tickell's film, followed by a panel with producer Rebecca Harrell Tickell, Fonda and actress Amy Smart.
It takes a celebrity to get press attention for any environmental project, and even that doesn't always work. Big oil interests are strong here in the petroleum parishes, one of the points of Louisiana native TIckell's film.
The movie's other point is how important new sources of energy are going to be as the oil runs out. Tickell has worked with biodiesel experts, specifically those turning algae and waste into sweet crude. The Fuel film also promotes living a sustainable life as a way to tackle the problem on an individual level.
Fonda has been working with the team, and was able to approach Port Fouchon's beach in a unique way. He gave the deputy his drivers license and was asked for a second form of identification. "All I had was my Academy card." That's Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. The official then recognized Fonda and brought him over for full beach access, discussing the need for increased cleanup and protection for the soiled beaches. Fonda was surprised that the official signed a release, since Tickell's crew was filming. I asked if anything like that worked in Grand Isle and he said, "No, those guys are assholes." Vice President Joe Biden and Homeland Security Director Janet Napolitano are on the Gulf Coast today. I would suggest that one of them get Peter Fonda access to a Grand Isle beach. It's not like he's going to make it any worse.
This weekend, Fonda and the Fuel crew in from California were joined by cleanup experts such as Dr. Randall von Wedel, developer of the Cytosol bioremediation process, who heads Louisiana Environmental Action Network and Sea Shepherd. Tickell has been involved in the alternative fuel industry for years. He and his wife recently drove the first bio-algae fueled car cross-country.
And today in New Orleans, hundreds of marchers joined Fonda, Mraz, Smart and the Tickells through the French Quarter singing, "All we are saying is give green a chance" (pictured). The crew met with local groups to brainstorm on solutions to the oil spill and promote greener energy. Cafe DuMonde gave out free beignets and sweet tea, then die-hards braved the rain in Jackson Square to put on black plastic bags to spell out WHY, then WE CAN in green for arial photographer John Quigley.
As we say at Mardi Gras, everywhere else it's just Tuesday.