Update: Saints win 23-20…Bwahahahaha…!
This is the day I’ve been waiting for…
New Orleans Saints vs. the San Francisco 49ers.
A day that will live in infamy? The times that try men’s souls? How about it was the best of times, it was the worst of times? Fine, I’ll take the latter and in a few hours I’ll be sitting calmly in a bar in San Francisco, rocking slowly in a rocking chair, wearing Saints gear and knitting away the demise of Colin Kaepernick, Gore and Aldon Smith…I will be the personification of Madam Defarge. I will take the abuse, the ridicule, the criticisms of the French Revolution…
Whole lotta criticisms about the French revolution, 200 years or so later? Jesus, talk about Monday morning quarterbacking.
Yeah, but people don’t like the Saints in this town. For weeks now, about a dozen to be exact, I’ve had to listen to that drunk lady at the corner of O’Farrell and Larkin telling me to get out of her city or the people at work telling me how the Saints aren’t for real. Worst of all, I’ve had to hear it from the guys at the corner convenience store. Definitely, the worst. Once I self-identified as a Saints fan, it’s been non-stop crap and I am in that store almost every day. Have to be…in San Francisco’s Tenderloin neighborhood, the corner store is the be all, end all of your day-to-day odds and ends shopping experience. No grocery stores to speak of in these forty square blocks so, you need some soda, some hot dogs, some water or fruit? The convenience store is where you gotta go and manning my particular store are two guys decked out in 49ers gear, every fucking day.
How many times have you had to hear about that damned playoff game?
How many times have you had to hear about the Saint’s run defense?
How many times have you had to hear about how Drew Brees doesn’t look like the same player, how the Saints couldn’t even beat Alex Smith, how the Saints haven’t faced a defense like the 49ers?
Every fucking day.
I’ve had to listen to this even as the Saints compiled a better record, showed a defense that can actually play and lit it up on offense here and there, certainly a hell of a lot more than the San Francisco 49ers have…like I said, it’s been the best of times, and the worst of times…and I’m ready for it to end.
Knitting away…shit, I’ll even dress like a matronly French woman if it’ll help. This is important…I don’t want to have to finally change stores.
Have a nice day.
The 4th of July…
Tis’ a holiday of conflict.
Maybe it’s twenty plus years of social work that has done this to me. Or perhaps it’s simply a matter of giving a damn about people I’ve never met in towns I’ve never been to, concerns about whether they have enough to eat, a place to live, a sense of safety and hoping these random strangers don’t have to wake up to fear, or massive oil spills, or exploding factories or unemployment. Maybe it’s all simply a matter of wanting this country to yes, encourage entrepreneurs and people who pull up their flags by the bootstraps, but at the same time take care of those who haven’t yet, perhaps as a result of being lost, sick, mired in obsessions or failures and yes, even the ones who are just plain lazy.
Some believe there’s a place for everyone at the table, even if the food’s been purchased by food stamps…and I would be one, believing that as a country of citizens we need to care for one another, especially for those who don’t seem to care for themselves at all right now. Either that, or soon enough when we try to look away from those desperate scenes that cause us such discomfort, we’re only going to find more scenes, even more desperate staring right back at us.
So yeah, tonight I’ll be up in North Beach, standing on Broadway looking to the fireworks over San Francisco Bay and I’ll be thinking about this country’s future, same as everyone else looking up nationwide, with a lot on my mind and a lot in my heart and I’ll be thinking about all of you…all of us, caring and doing better.
Ani Difranco – Coming Up
Independence…from bias, from fear, from ignorance, from a lack of common care, from hate, crass judgement, superiority, misplaced nationalism and American exceptionalism, consumer lifestyles and politics, from the distractions we create and those created for us while the futures are looted by those who left their compassion on the wrong side of that boardroom door, or political office or bank vault or dust from a limousine lobbyist as he or she sped away to the next gig that divided all of us just a little bit more.
Yeah, it’s the fourth.
Let’s go get a beer and think about how we can improve these scenarios. I, for one, have more mistakes than fingers and toes and I think I might like to change that some…
Have a nice day.
Please allow me to introduce myself, I’m a suspicious package. It would seem my brothers and I are causing a bit of a problem in the Crescent City these days. At the WWII Museum, at the Superdome, on Canal, on Poydras, on Rampart: though my first impulse might be to apologize for the actions of my wayward brothers, I can’t. I won’t. Not today, not ever.
You see, there once was a time where my brothers and I could be simply left alone to enjoy the sun, relax while holding a good book or maybe some gym clothes and we could do it alone. By ourselves. Everyone needs alone time right? Well, since that horrible day twelve years or so ago, it would seem that everybody and their mother feels we need to constantly be chaperoned. I mean, chaperoned all the time. Every minute of every day unless we’re tucked neatly into the corner of someone’s apartment or perhaps in the closet, a school or gym locker, anywhere out of sight and out of the sun.
It’s a fucking drag.
How would you feel if you always had to be slung over somebody’s back or swinging wildly from someone’s hands, knocking into shit, each and every time you were out in public. Don’t lie…you wouldn’t like it all. In fact, I’ll go on record right now saying that each and every one of you reading this would fucking hate it.
So why are we supposed to enjoy it so much?
Because we’re supposedly inanimate objects? Because we don’t have feelings, worries or concerns? Because we don’t like to be left alone in peace, maybe over coffee? A drink? Or as mentioned before, out in the sun, enjoying the heat, trying to suck up a little life from the warmth of the day?
Don’t tell me to get over it.
You wanna know what happens sometimes when one of us decides to take a risk and venture forth without accompaniment? I’ll tell you what, some asshole in a police uniform starts to attack us with robots. That’s right, your Terminator nightmares can be the reality for some of us…and what do those robots occasionally do? Sometimes they blow us the fuck up!
Sucks. It sucks a lot.
So keeping all that in mind, here’s a thought: maybe the package isn’t the one that’s suspicious. Maybe the suspicious one is actually…you. Let that sink in for a moment.
You are the suspicious one.
Why else would you call the police every time one of our owners lets us have a few moments of idle time, even if it’s done by accident? You say it’s a vigilance thing, uh-huh. Beware of the terrorists, okay. Still, you gotta ask yourself who would be so demented as to intentionally allow one of us some free time in this day and age? Why, and for what possible reason? Oh, but I’ll tell you. Beyond the occasional absent-mindedness, there are certain criminal elements in society who have learned just how suspicious you all can be, and that you project your suspicions upon us, the package. They know what a distraction we are, that if we’re dropped on a corner the NOPD will get called, everyone will freak the fuck out and the majority of the police will respond to stare all loony at us while those who left us there are free to do whatever it is they didn’t want the police or people to see outside of the now cordoned off zone. That’s right, too often these days we’re just a convenient decoy to lure the police and press away from some of your brethren’s more dastardly deeds, such as ripping off your mortgages, stealing your pensions, cutting food stamps to the poor, killing off your schools, raising the rates on flood insurance and raising rents while destroying your public hospital systems ability to treat the poor both medically and emotionally.
How long do you think it’ll take before this trickles down and would be drug dealers and/or assailants realize that if they want to assault people in one block or deal on the corners of another all they need do is leave one of us, a suitcase, a backpack or a briefcase unattended on a bench two or three blocks away?
I know, it’s crazy right?
Crazy nervous…so many are hyped up by breathless news stories and stupid action flicks and lingering governmental-hyper-vigilance-report-your-neighbor campaigns. You need proof? Okay. How many surveillance cameras did you get spotted by today…and you didn’t even notice, did you? Of course not. Now you’re all way too used to that kind of thing. Warrant-less wiretapping? National Security letters to Google? Eric Holder accessing reporters’ e-mails without their knowledge? The attack on whistle-blowers? The militarization of police departments? Yeah, all of it is so commonplace nobody blinks an eye anymore. Freedoms are being whittled away by the National Security apparatus, including your own NOPD, who thanks to a ruling today by the US Supreme Court can now take a DNA sample and store it away if you ever get arrested…that’s right, a DNA database on you.
That’s what’s crazy.
But hey, it’s your world isn’t it? We just get carried through it so go ahead, be afraid…but dammit, can’t you give us a break sometimes? Not all of us are all that suspicious and none of us like it when the bomb squad gets called in to blow our ass up all over the street. It’s positively inhumane.
I know…I need to be fair and up front here.
Therefore, I feel I must also address those packages out there that may very well be “suspicious,” that one out of a hundred thousand, a million, a billion of us packages who might actually deserve such a label.
You! Knock it the fuck off!
Really, you too are responsible, albeit slightly, for this horrid state of affairs. I know…right now I can hear you all: bags don’t kill people, people kill people. Right, I got it brother…but you bare some of the responsibility. We all know how easy it is to just slip off the shoulder, loosen a strap and just go off. Real easy. So if one of your owners are up to no good, please…be responsible, take one for the team and blow up your owner, preferably when no one else is around. It is an honorable death, and in doing so you’ll make the life for those of us who harbor no ill will a whole hell of a lot easier. Remember how it was thirteen years ago? Before things got all crazy, I used to love spending fifteen minutes or so alone on a Moonwalk bench, feeling the sun and that Mississippi River breeze. Loved it, but now that people are so suspicious and afraid, such a scenario could be my death sentence.
And I don’t want to die.
I just want a safe five minutes alone, unsupervised, monitored or spied upon…in private, clear the head to focus on who’s really doing the wrongs out there.
Hey, maybe we could all use the time.
Hell, anymore suspicious packages and we all just might wind up with some goddamned Duck Tours in the French Quarter and if that happens, an unattended bag will seem like heaven next to thousands of tourists walking down Bourbon Street with quackers in their mouth.
Think about it…and thank you for the time.
Have a nice day.
Walking down Polk Street and taking a left onto Sutter, I passed the entrance to one of the many bars just as a rather rotund fellow came stumbling out. He said something to me, rather excitedly but I had ear phones on and couldn’t hear him. Again, we do that here so random strangers typically don’t try to talk to us, but he was insistent. I took out an ear-bud and he grinned, red-faced and sweaty…
“Is that a who-dat sweatshirt?”
I nodded, “Yeah.”
“And your hat, Giants. Who-dat and the Giants!”
I laughed, “Uh-huh.”
“Man, that was a great year! Super Bowl and the Giants win their first series! I’m from New Orleans, born and raised. You made my night!”
He stuck out his hand and I shook it, saying, “Used to live at the corner of St. Ann and Royal.”
“St. Ann and Royal!” He yelled, looking up at the night-sky, “Christ I miss home!”
And then we parted ways and I continued up Nob Hill to meet a friend for drinks. As I’ve written before, it’s a common occurrence round these parts. All it takes is one simple symbol in this chilly city to find a warm exchange…
Heard dat, and see you all real soon…
Have a nice day.
Only wish I could go to support, best I could do was buy the T-shirt.
Best to all, best to the victims and the second line culture…
Have a nice day.
Once upon a time, there was a tween named Billy in New Orleans, not yet a teenager, but no longer a small boy.
He’d been having a difficult life, but his mother taught him the best she could. Billy loved his mother and Billy loved his house. Billy loved his friends and Billy loved his faithful dog, Rex, more than anything.
One day, after school, where he studied good and hard, he realized he would need some money to buy tasty snacks for Rex, but he didn’t have any money. What was Billy going to do? Billy thought long and hard about this and walked all over New Orleans trying to find a job cleaning pots and pans so he could buy Rex the snacks that made Rex as happy as Billy.
But Billy was treated bad by the people he asked for a job. Billy tried really hard, but there were very few jobs and nobody hired Billy.
Billy really liked to see Rex happy and Billy didn’t know what else to do so finally, Billy did what he felt he had to do.
Billy sold crack, hot solids around his school and very soon, Rex had more snacks than he could eat and everything was fine. Rex was very happy. And this made Billy happy, but when Billy’s mom found out Billy’s mom was really angry.
“You can’t sell crack!” Billy’s mom yelled, “Your cousin and dad are in prison for misbehaving like that already!”
Billy was sad and soon Rex ran out of snacks.
So Billy didn’t stop. Billy’s friends didn’t want him to stop and Rex didn’t want Billy to stop either.
One day, when Billy was making money, he was stopped by Officer Friendly. Officer Friendly was really angry at Billy too, more angry than Billy’s mom. He slapped Billy. He punched Billy. He held a gun to Billy’s head and begged Billy to give him a reason, but Billy didn’t. He had watched what happened in his neighborhood very closely and he knew that Officer Friendly wasn’t really friendly.
Officer Friendly said, “We’re going to take you to a new school, where you can be rehabilitated.”
“What’s rehabilitation?” Billy asked.
“You’ll see,” said Officer Friendly.
So Billy went to his new school and he didn’t get to go home at night either. He had to sleep there and eat there and Rex was not allowed to visit. Soon, Billy found out that his new school didn’t even have classes and Billy knew he was falling behind those people at regular schools.
Billy was sad.
On the fourth night at his new school, two older boys beat the shit out of Billy while a teacher looked on and then walked away. Billy didn’t understand why the teacher didn’t protect him. Two nights later, another teacher gave two older kids crack, weed and brown powder and when they all saw Billy watching them. They beat up Billy again. This teacher walked away too.
Billy was angry.
Billy didn’t like getting beat up at his new school and he didn’t understand why he had to be rehabilitated when the teachers were doing what Billy had done to buy Rex his snacks. Billy decided he needed to make friends with one of the teachers so he could get a shiv, to protect himself, but that night before Billy could get his shiv another older boy attacked him while he was sleeping and pulled down Billy’s pants.
Billy was humiliated.
Billy had never beaten anyone up before, but now after being rehabilitated, Billy was afraid, sad, angry and humiliated. Billy decided he not only needed a shiv, he needed new friends. So he got new friends at the new school and Billy’s new friends taught Billy to fight. Then one of Billy’s new teachers gave Billy a shiv and later that day placed bets on Billy’s fights. He didn’t give Billy any of the money he won, but he did promise to buy Rex some snacks.
Billy thanked him, but Billy really didn’t give a fuck about Rex anymore.
What Billy cared about now was where to hide at the new school so he wouldn’t be on camera when he beat up the other students. Billy wanted to learn which teachers would look away when he used his shiv, but Billy soon found out that nobody cared when he used his shiv. Then Billy wanted to get in on the drug trade, on the guns and the graft at his new school and in time Billy got good and rehabilitated, so rehabilitated Billy didn’t give a fuck about nobody or nothing anymore.
One day, the Headmaster of the school deemed Billy a total success and just like that, Billy was free.
Free and much more skilled, much more angry and though Billy didn’t know it, much more traumatized than Billy had ever been before…and Billy didn’t go home. Billy found friends of his new friends at the school and moved in with them. They liked Billy and Billy liked hurting the people Billy’s new friends didn’t like. It made Billy feel like he belonged.
He liked it so much, Billy didn’t concern himself too much if other people got hurt in the process.
Soon enough, Billy did what most people considered to be a really fucked up thing to do and some people got hurt really bad, but Billy shrugged. Billy was just doing what he had to do, what he knew how to do, what he had learned to do.
Officer Friendly grabbed Billy two days later and told him he would have to go back to get more rehabilitation.
Billy was really angry and really scared, so much so that it all just made Billy feel vaguely numb. Billy didn’t want to show all his crazy feelings so he just shrugged and said to Officer Friendly, “New school, old school. All the same to me motherfucker.”
And just like that, Officer Friendly and Billy rode off into the sunset, breathing in lead from the surrounding environment.
The moral of the story?
Whereas I won’t say tragedies like the second line shooting and the high murder rate in New Orleans are a direct result of Gusman’s fucked up jail and its utter disregard for inmate safety, the idea that they have absolutely nothing to do with each other is a bunch of conservative law and order bullshit focused on easy answers to problems that don’t go away. Climates are created by lack of concern. Trauma often leads to more violence. There are a hundred and one reasons why people can turn, but when people get arrested out of an unforgiving environment and are remanded to ones even harsher, the creeping desperation can blow up and shut all systems down. If there’s no rehabilitation to be had, and very little supportive service or education…not to mention a lack of housing upon release, or jobs, or training, or any sort of real mental health assistance, what can we expect to happen when people leave OPP and elsewhere?
Simply put, little good.
Have a nice day.
I like to keep a low profile.
I’m the background guy, the one standing in the back of the room, watching, paying attention and figuring out what to do next… It’s a role I’m most comfortable and familiar with and my ability to hide in plain sight works well, most of the time.
You see, in the city of San Francisco, I live in one of the worst neighborhoods where people don’t like to be known so I slide quietly through, eyes open and watching the drug deals behind parked cars or out in the open. I hug the building facades on midnight strolls looking at lit candles and flowers and graffiti placed seemingly at random alongside a wall, maybe on Leavenworth Street but marking a place not random at all, another place somebody died on some night, some day. I move through groups of homeless people who if they eye me at all, eye me suspiciously and I especially enjoy sitting on benches outside of darkened, closed, small urban parks where the bus comes, stops and then moves on while across the street people huddle against the outside walls of twenty-four hour convenience stores bathed in the neon glow from beer signs. I’m good at being unseen, fortunate to be ignored or when not, physically big enough for most to realize there are easier targets in my neighborhood’s night…
That is, unless I’m wearing one particular brand of clothing…one emblem in fact that pulls me from this background, from these shadows and from my more comfortable anonymity.
It’s a defining difference out here. I can wear anything by the San Jose Sharks, any band living or dead or just my usual mostly all black, but if I’m wearing the fleur-de-lis, it might as well be a warm spotlight on these darkened streets, and with this symbol, you find friends and acquaintances you never knew you had and sometimes, on those rare nights where one doesn’t want to be so nondescript, it’s awesome.
“Saints!” I hear called out from across Ellis Street.
“NOLA!” shouts a guy rounding the corner onto Larkin.
“New Orleans, baby…” says the person I pass while coming out of the movie on Van Ness Avenue.
Just the other day, I was wearing a sweatshirt with that well known symbol, partially hidden under a black jacket and I found myself engaged in conversation with a woman outside my building, someone I’d seen a number of times but never acknowledged until she saw the fleur-de-lis…and suddenly we’re talking about Uptown, the Bywater, Mandina’s, seeing Rebirth at the Maple Leaf. She told me how she and her mother were displaced after Katrina and how they wound up in San Francisco living in subsidized housing, how they really want to go home and still can’t. We talked about restaurants we knew, stores that are long gone and the vibrant, warmer, slower feeling in New Orleans that, much as I enjoy this city, is very, very different.
It’s really that simple and it says something which is probably not news to a lot of people until you maybe experience it for yourself – New Orleans has a special place in the hearts of most any who have ever been there, lived there and/or left there. It’s simply that kind of place.
Last night, I had the good fortune of seeing a musician’s first stage performance in San Francisco. He’s someone I know through work and he helps make my job just a little bit better, a few more laughs and a bit more relaxed…all because he’s from New Orleans. We have nothing else in common really, nothing but that city and we hang out here and there, just talking about the politics, the Quarter, the Marigny, the river. We talk about three egg breakfast from Verti-Mart brought by bicycle to the bar at 3 am. Best yet, we reminisce about the look of the fog as it rolls into the Quarter off the river, lending a few square blocks some of the most darkly beautiful atmosphere I’ve ever experienced.
A little something else about San Francisco: it does have its own beauty, the Ocean and the Bay, City Lights and Vesuvios, the Golden Gate Bridge and Golden Gate Park but man, it is a cold place and I don’t just mean the temperature. People here are wary of strangers. They rarely speak to one another on the street. Hell, eye contact is asking a lot round here. It’s just not done, which of course means, for someone who likes to sit in the background or go unnoticed, this can be a real easy kind of town, but that isn’t necessarily a good thing0 even if it is my preference. I’ve lived in my building for a year. 40 apartments. I don’t know anyone’s name and have never stumbled more than a halted hello or two. But two weeks ago I was on a city bus, coming back from the grocery store wearing a Saints hat and some guy I didn’t know was talking rapidly at me. I didn’t know what he was saying cause I had headphones on. You do that here so people don’t talk rapidly to you, but he was real insistent so I pulled out an ear bud and he grinned…
I laughed and he clapped me on the shoulder before getting off at the next stop.
No, not so undercover when you’re wearing the fleur-de-lis.
New Orleans got a spirit, even 2300 plus miles away. It’s infectious and it will make a stranger your friend and sometimes, every once in awhile, even that guy in the background could use a friend.
Love it, and wouldn’t have it any other way…
Have a nice day.