Wednesday, April 05, 2006

This joyless spring...

The Misbelieves in the loquat tree drop, rotten, with no children to pick them.

The buckmoth caterpillars remind me of something much more wretched than their natural selves. They are cruel politicians. They are mean-spirited tricks of mother nature. They are poisonous, spiky, angry, stupid turds, and as each fat fiend falls from our oak tree in the back yard, I am convinced that every one of them is destined to land on me.

So I avoid the backyard.

But I was doing this already. Because next door the contractors are perpetually at work on a house that will take years to finish just as it took years to paint. The owner is a viscous overseer of Mexicans, his dentures are too large for his mouth and he yells at the Mexicans in his incomprehensible dialect, louder, slower, toothier, as if they will then understand him. They bang, bang, bang but seem to get nowhere.

One of these contractors drives a car that hit mine a couple of months ago. He was drunk and drove off. I got only the last two numbers of his license plate, and for weeks he stayed away, but now there he is again, his truck with scars the size and shape that correspond with the wounds he delivered to my car that has now been hauled away. Simon hates this man in a way that I find unhealthy. He wants to play gumshoe. He takes photos of the truck while it is parked outside the bar two houses down, and I am scared. Who knows about this man. I think about the beating we witnessed a couple of weeks ago. I think about the 28-year-old who was killed later than week at 5 a.m. on Chartres street. I think about the aggression and frustration that comes with losing everything--with working long hours and sleeping in a parked car. Simon thinks about justice. I think he is too f-ing British. Naive. He angers me.

As he did that day that I saw the beating. It was the middle of the afternoon, and I was just home from teaching. I saw a grown man and a thuggish scrawny dude pushing each other and yelling. I came in and mentioned to Simon, off-handedly, that there was a fight down by the traintracks. I went out and peeked around the fence and saw the older man hitting the young guy's head against the tracks. When Simon comes out, the young guy has gained the upper hand. He has a friend with him, and his friend is dragging a galvanized steel pole to the curb, where the young guy is kicking the man's head in. I run inside and call the police. I am frantic. When I return, Simon is out playing cop again. He says he wants to help, and I tell him he is fucking crazy. Some skinny white dude with a funny accent walks up on a volatile situation. He is a witness to who knows what has even happened, and he is offering ice and help. He is a target. He is a pawn. Which is just what he becomes when the cops arrive and the young dude acts as if he has done nothing and Simon gives and incorrect description of the older man, who has fled to who knows where and the young dude is saying it was his uncle and that he just drove up in a green Suburban and started beating him. I saw very little, but I know this isn't true. When the cop is done taking my limited statement, I tell Simon how angry I am that he didn't listen to me when I asked him to stay inside. He says things like he wanted to help and I say HOW HOW HOW?! And he doesn't understand my worry or my rage. Two days later he tells me as we are driving to Metairie to pick out wedding invitations that he went down the makeshift trailer park where the fight originated (a green space filled with parked cars and trucks where tired workers sleep) to ask around. I am furious and he doesn't seem to care. He shrugs, like, "I'm sorry I mentioned it." I feel like he doesn't understand violence, like he is too privileged, too British, too naive. Part of me wishes I were, too.

Other parts of me are simply tired. My mom and dad were here to help with wedding stuff and my mom, bless her heart, asked all sorts of questions about what this or that was like before the storm and did I think they got hit particularly hard and did I think that the racial tensions are racial ones or are they class, maybe, and I wanted to crawl into a hole. A comfortable one with pedicures and margaritas and nothing, nothing, nothing related to hurricanes or politicians or race or class or beatings or shootings or sagging, rotting fruit trees or buckmoth caterpillars raining on me, giving me further reason to want to stay inside while outside it is spring but feels nothing, nothing, nothing like it.


oscar said...

You have reason to fear those Buck Moths. I have been stung too many times and they are especially nasty Uptown.

As for the contractor, I would be compelled to regulate, but I guess grown law abiding are supposed to call the cops instead. I also agree that it is not wise to get to nosy with street fights. You'll get shot that way, but I can't help but admire my Brit buddy at the same time.

My pal has one hell of a back bone, but this city has always been violent and it's simply not a good idea to paint a snitch target on yourself.

Shannon said...

Hey, it's Shannon again! (remember me? haha).

This question doesn't touch on any of the fabulous things you said in your post...but I was elated at hearing there was a Whole Foods in New Orleans. Where is it located?

I move down there in 2 weeks! I look forward to getting to know the city, and I appreciate your blog for the intelligent, personal p.o.v it offers on life in N.O.