Disenfranchised Citizen

Chicago, New Orleans and living a beautiful, angry life between the two…

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Reflecting on a show: Ani Difranco…

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The Fillmore gives free posters when the shows sell out...

Now featuring free posters!

I saw Ani DiFranco two nights ago at the Fillmore in San Francisco…great show, some songs I’d never heard performed before like “School Night” or “Overlap,” and she was in fine form, striking the guitar so hard during “Napoleon” or “Shameless,” you’d think it might break, and performing new songs that thanks to Youtube, I knew by name already, “Careless Words,” “Genie,” and more…and none of this was a surprise. Great shows from Ani Difranco are what I’ve come to expect in seeing her frequently over the past fifteen years.

What did surprise was the crowd…a good crowd, really good crowd and in this days version of San Francisco, these things are not a given. At the show, surveying the people who surrounded I saw a disappearance of the tech-entitled PBR types drunkenly sporting Google Glass or tech company logo’d hoodies. Not this time, the usual omnipresent forerunners of their own declared future instead gave way to what my friend described as a more “earthy” representation of the city…dreadlocks and patchouli oil, couples: straight, gay and lesbian couples (not singles) in jeans with a surprising lack of ornamental facial hair from the men or provocative spandex dresses from the women. It was like being in the city I loved again, and for a night the people seemed more real, genuine, less entranced with status and being seen, and serving more as a communal backdrop to the music Ani Difranco played…

It was nice, special, thoughtful.

And as mentioned above, it was a reminder of what this city used to be, and sadly, will probably never be again.

And it made me think of what this city was like when I moved here the first time, and who I was back then, or who I was the first time I saw Ani DiFranco perform and all the changes I have seen in myself over the years and the changes in the country, by way of all those performances in many other cities since…

Back in 99 or so in Milwaukee, Wisconsin was the first, on a freezing cold night and I was not prepared for what I was about to see, who I was going to see it with or the emotions the show might elicit. This was back in time when most everything I listened to was punk rock and death metal. An acquaintance had turned me onto an album called “Little Plastic Castles” and I used to listen to it alone, quietly and I never really talked about it, lest I be referred to as “soft” or “selling out.” This was a time in my maturation process where such things still mattered, and even though I do shake my head today at the thought this ever mattered, it did once. I even bought the ticket in silence and didn’t tell anyone I was going to the show. I just went quietly and over the course of Ani’s performance was amazed how, just by being there, I was suddenly a part of something so joyful, so genuinely political and real. I was surrounded by more women than I think I’ve ever been surrounded by in my life and most of them were wearing handkerchiefs around their head (standard at the time) and smiling, dancing. They were celebrating. At this time I usually only saw bands called Slayer, Marilyn Manson, KMFDM, etc…and the idea of celebrating music with anything but aggression was foreign to me, and it became surprisingly emotional to me and so very different. I remember when Ani sang the song “Napoleon” and the lights splayed across the crowd and all the movement, the moving heads and dancing and shouting and joy…without anyone clobbering anyone else or slamming into each other in waves of bloody noses and flying elbows and I remember feeling genuinely, very happy. Happy in a good way, a positive way, a way that I wasn’t used to, not then and this helped open my eyes to the possibility of maybe doing things differently…

Six months later, I left the Midwest and moved to Seattle.

And I saw her there too, at the Moore Theater on a usual, drizzly night. I went to the show not only to hear the music, but because I was homesick, nervous, scared about my decisions and intensely lonely. I loved the city of Seattle, but I didn’t know anyone, not closely except a woman I was dating at the time, selfishly because I was afraid of being so alone…and at the show that night, though I don’t really remember too many of the songs (I was drunk. I was drunk a lot of nights that first year in Seattle) I do remember that familiar feeling of inclusion, of being a part of something…a feeling that to this day is something I don’t get to feel too often, and when  this is a stranger to you, when this inclusion approaches, you treat it well, savor and enjoy it because you don’t really know the next time such experience will knock on your door…and I saw her twice more in Seattle and felt the same each time, a special security held in the joy of a resonating performance that though difficult to explain is very real, welcoming and welcomed.

The next concert was in another new city, another new home…in New Orleans. I saw her play at the House of Blues, just her onstage with a guitar. I had always seen her with a band, never alone like this and conversely, this is the first show of hers I went to see with other people. I went that night with a woman I was dating and another couple she was friends with…supposedly I was friends with them too, in name anyways though it never really felt that way. He was an asshole who ran around with a handgun worried the mob was coming after him and she was a willing victim, caught between her concerns about his drinking, his erratic behavior and her desire to get out of the relationship (she eventually did). So even though I was with others that night, oftentimes through the show I pretended I wasn’t, listening to this woman onstage with such strength, and a voice alternating powerfully between soft and huge, concerned and angry, in love and in politics and I was reminded of the night in Milwaukee and those nights in Seattle, who I was then and who I was in New Orleans. Concerns on being soft were long gone, concerns about being lonely were fading into my own growing sense of strength. Being independent in mind and life was a growing focus. I was in full swing on my second cross country move and had spent a month in New York, weeks in Las Vegas, a crazy weekend in Los Angeles and I loved living in, being a part of New Orleans. I was bar-tending there, which was okay but I really wanted to do social work. Just couldn’t find a job. The city that care forgot had yet to see Katrina, but it was still plenty uncaring, tight communities notwithstanding; it was the government that didn’t give a fuck.

I was living there when Nagin was first elected mayor: need one say more?

Two years later I was in San Francisco for the first time…and I saw Ani play at the Warfield Theater on Market Street. I was in a strange long distance relationship that I enjoyed, but couldn’t quite figure out. I was falling hard and it was probably more honest than any relationship before because I didn’t care at all about being alone anymore. I didn’t care about being accepted or included…and the softer parts of my personality were welcomed; they blunted the sharper edges of my cynicism and ever increasing anger at this county and the priorities contained therein: Iraq wars, political lies as fact, the forgotten homeless, alienation of the mentally ill and corporation city shopping for the best tax-breaking deal, workers be fucked. I was fully in the trenches of the Tenderloin by this point, working at homeless shelters and wandering my neighborhood of drugs and containment and prostitution and police reprisal, watching it all…all night long. It was around this time that I watched Katrina unfold on the television and at the show that night, those disastrous affects were still paramount in my mind. I felt a loss, one that still affects me at times today…the people lost during the storm, the loss of housing and resources during that storm and as I watched and listened to the show that night I thought about all of it…even as Ani herself reminded us all of the ongoing struggles in Louisiana.

And two nights ago I saw her play again, and I thought some more, about Milwaukee, Seattle, New Orleans and San Francisco…about how much I’ve changed over all these years and about how much our society and these cities have changed. The increasing inequality, the gentrification driving out longtime residents, the political games being played in some far away world while people are being strangled in their homes or on the streets by a lack of opportunity, lack of food, lack of health care and a corporation sought, and government enabled willful transition of money, up to the highest rungs of a ladder whose lower rungs were seemingly smashed for good by the financial collapse of 2008. A growing segment of America’s population gets willfully discarded or ignored, left to dwindling resources they are blamed for needing, shamed for falling victim to a system that has destroyed them through destruction of pensions, false foreclosures, cutbacks on energy and food assistance, skyrocketing rents and layoffs.

I feel fortunate to have the times for these reflections; they remind me to try to do more, to be more than I am on given days and I feel fortunate to see a performer and a performance that helps provide a medium and an open, musical space for these reflections. A life’s soundtrack is an overly used expression, but probably overused because of the truth behind it and there are several performers I would include on that list…the aforementioned Slayer, the Nine Inch Nails, the Dax Riggs and Dr. Johns…and Ani Difranco. So much corruption and decay in this world and she plays, singing about it all, with an energized, joyful anger…and a politics of reality that resonates with so many, myself included.

And of course, who can forget the mistakes…I’ve made so many mistakes over the years and her mistake on Nottoway helps reflect that as well and that’s fine, so long as we all learn and try to do better, be better. And move on once the apologies have been made. As stated before, it was a great show and I feel fortunate to have seen it for the performance, the stories she told from the stage and the time needed to think about who I was and who I’ve become, about the mistakes I’ve made and what I still need to learn and what I need to do.

There’s so much more to do…with joy.

And music.

And integrity.

Have a nice day.

Written by Drake Toulouse

March 9, 2014 at 6:38 PM

Independence Day…

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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.

Written by Drake Toulouse

July 4, 2013 at 10:57 AM

An OPP Bedtime Story…

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Peter Falk demonstrating a rehabilitative choke-hold...

Peter Falk demonstrating a rehabilitative choke-hold…

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.

Written by Drake Toulouse

May 21, 2013 at 4:55 AM

Across the bow…

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Best of luck to everyone in New Orleans over the next couple of days…in my thoughts.

More to come…

PJ Harvey -The Words that Maketh Murder

 

And she ain’t talking about Steve Newhouse killing the Times-Picayune.

Have a nice day.

Written by Drake Toulouse

August 27, 2012 at 10:29 PM

What’s ten billion dollars between friends?

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A thought on the negotiations: put this on the table between Eric Holder and Bob Dudley and then let them negotiate away…

Despite the continued insistence of public relations hacks employed by the oil company hell known as British Petroleum that all in the Gulf is either well, or quickly on the mend, troubles persist:

“Researchers are trying to determine whether more than 100 dolphins stranded on the Texas coast, most of them in Galveston, died because of the BP oil spill, a deadly algal bloom or some undetermined cause.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration ruled last month that the dolphin deaths qualified as an “unusual mortality event,” said Blair Mase, NASA southeast region marine mammal stranding coordinator.

The strandings also come after a NOAA study found that dolphins in Barataria Bay on the Louisiana coast were in poor health because of exposure to oil. Dolphins in the bay, severely affected by the spill, had low weight and liver and lung ailments.”

And then there’s this:

“Gloom infects the hard-working shrimp and crab docks of this gritty fishing town as the second full year of fishing since BP’s catastrophic oil spill kicks into high gear.

Usually folks are upbeat and busy in May, when shrimpers get back to work in Louisiana’s rich waters. This spring, though, catches are down, docks are idle and anxiety is growing that the ill effects of the massive BP oil spill may be far from over.

An Associated Press examination of catch data from last year’s commercial harvest along the gulf — the first full year of fishing since the 2010 spill — reveals merit in the fishermen’s complaints. According to the analysis of figures obtained through public-records requests, seafood crops hit rock bottom in the Barataria estuary, the same place where some of the thickest waves of oil washed in when a BP well exploded in the Gulf of Mexico.”

So color my less cynical side surprised to read this:

“BP is pushing for a $15bn (£9.7bn) settlement with the American authorities to resolve all civil and criminal claims relating to the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill, substantially less than the $25bn demanded by the US department of justice.”

Okay, so an immediate question springs to mind:

What the fuck is there to even be negotiating about?

This damned company, by way of error kills eleven people and screws an ecosystem, then goes about obscuring flow rates during the response…is in negotiations to lower the dollar amount on penalties they’ll incur as a result of their very costly shenanigans…nice. This is the company taking responsibility. This is the company with all them fancy television commercials. This is the company whose smiling (dick)head Bob Dudley looks on warmly to reassure everyone not living on the Gulf Coast just how righteous, humble and truly sorry he and his corporation truly are…while on the Gulf, where people continue to pay attention, the facts do not bear this out…this guy…I tell ya.

He’s in negotiations with the justice department and reports are these talks are “accelerating.”

Yeah, but accelerating to what?

One more screw-job for the Gulf? One more in a really long list of shenanigans shoved onto a region, poisoning its environment for decades and almost destroying New Orleans, one of this nation’s great cities?

Unlike the Corps, BP must be held accountable, completely.

Maybe for the first time in what, who knows how long anymore, it’s time for the government to stop listening to what’s good for a company and pay closer attention to the people said company screwed.

Idealistic?

Maybe.

But after watching these GOP fucks this past year…it would seem idealism is the only thing they want us to have anymore.

Have a nice day.

In no way an attack on science…

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BP’s version…

Most who have followed the story of the BP Catastraphuk are familiar with the company’s enlisting of scientists and university research departments to silence them with non-disclosure requirements explore what has happened to the Gulf environment, to do the research so all the Gulf States can be made whole, well, complete, fixed like a motherfucker while Dudley sails off to the shareholders meeting, to Texas, into the sunset whilst nodding humbly to the throngs of his adoring fans beach-side…

However, Christopher Reddy and Richard Camilli will not be standing on them sands.

In an op-ed for the Boston Globe, these two Massachusetts scientists from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute had some sharp words for British Petroleum…the same company they came to help at said oil company’s request, volunteering their time for the good of the Gulf:

“We responded by leading on-site operations using robotic submersibles equipped with advanced technologies that we had developed for marine science. We applied them to measure the rate of fluid release from the well and to sample fluids from within the well. We then volunteered our professional time to scrutinize this data and published two peer-reviewed studies in a respected scientific journal. We determined an average flow rate of 57,000 barrels of oil per day and calculated a total release of approximately 4.9 million barrels. BP claimed that it needed to better understand our findings because billions of dollars in fines are potentially at stake. So we produced more than 50,000 pages of documents, raw data, reports, and algorithms used in our research — everything BP would need to analyze and confirm our findings. But BP still demanded access to our private communications.

Our concern is not simply invasion of privacy, but the erosion of the scientific deliberative process.”

And so British Petroleum goes to the judge, seeking the writings that contain much of the deliberative process, one where scientists question and challenge each other, push their colleagues to go deeper, be even more accurate, playing devil’s advocate against their colleagues and their own conclusions…you know, communications ripe with fragmented ideas.

And…BP wants…

“BP was able to use the federal courts to gain access to our private information. Although the presiding judge magistrate recognized the need to protect confidential e-mails to avoid deterring future research, she granted BP’s request.”

BP gets.

And now that they’ve gotten, what do you think might happen to those e-mails in court, as the topic turns to that magic flow-rate number of 57,000 barrels of oil per day? Or the total of 4.9 million barrels released into the Gulf, when that little fact comes up?

One might think a BP lawyer could obscure conclusive facts by reading off fragments from these e-mails…taking the smallest part to impugn the conclusions of the whole.

One might…

Yes, those more realistic about the sham that is the court of law cynical could certainly think this, but personally, I hardly think it possible, what with BP’s long history of integrity, sound science, culture of openness, safety and responsibility to not only their shareholders, but to the environment both land and sea, and all the people of this earth and beyond…

However, Reddy and Camilli have a different opinion:

“Our experience highlights that virtually all of scientists’ deliberative communications, including e-mails and attached documents, can be subject to legal proceedings without limitation. Incomplete thoughts and half-finished documents attached to e-mails can be taken out of context and impugned by people who have a motive for discrediting the findings. In addition to obscuring true scientific findings, this situation casts a chill over the scientific process. In future crises, scientists may censor or avoid deliberations, and more importantly, be reluctant to volunteer valuable expertise and technology that emergency responders don’t possess.”

No way. BP overreaching on information control, gearing up to discredit the science, the very people they turned to for help, all in order to serve their own interests? Utter insanity…and to prove this point, up to the microphone marched another BP spokesperson who said the company’s subpoena was, “in no way an attack on science.”

Well of course not, that would be ridiculous…and entirely irresponsible.

Have a nice day.

Today would be that day…westward.

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No, I can't afford to live in this neighborhood...pretty though huh?

By the time any of you read this, I will have left my comfy confines in the Midwest for a far more uncertain future on the West Coast…San Francisco to be exact. Got some money saved, a lot of social work experience, several contacts and possibilities and a 2nd job interview already scheduled for three days after my arrival…

Oh, and did I mention the San Jose Sharks are in the playoffs? If ur around, I’ll be at the Outsider on Geary Street watching the games.

Anyways, the past two years of writing this blog have been frustrating, fascinating and fun. I’ve met a lot of good people in the New Orleans area and plan to meet more. My change of scenery isn’t the end of this blog, however, it will be a bit spotty the coming weeks as I’ll be writing it on a shitty laptop over wi-fi connections until I get things all set up.

Furthermore…this cross country move will be my fourth of this type. Every previous transition has been one solely of great adventure, possibility and new experience…good things all, but this time it is bittersweet. Although it does contain that similar sense of thrill and excitement, it’s also tempered by sadness.

Those who know, know why.

Enough said…

Alright then, a couple of links before I go, for those not already in the loop…

Of course I will stay informed about all things New Orleans the next four days as I drive through Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, Colorado, Nevada and California…how can one not with Editilla around, putting together the New Orleans Ladder?

BTW…fuck Sean Pamphilon, what an asshole.

And of course I will stay informed about the upcoming Stanley Cup Playoffs by way of Fear the Fin.

BTW…fuck the Blues, Go Sharks!

So then, I’ll be looking forward to seeing you all back up here soon…and I’ll also be looking forward to May 12th, more than anything.

Have a nice day.

-Drake

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