Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Tomorrow I will celebrate my tenth New Orleans Thanksgiving. Usually my parents and brother drive from Atlanta for the holiday, and we go to the Blue Room at the Fairmont Hotel to gorge ourselves on their buffet. Two years ago we did this, and I remember my mom and I, with maybe a few too many glasses of freely-poured champagne in us, danced the Ball and Jack (?) to Bob French's band.

Last year my family stayed in Atlanta (I think--I can't really remember, though... what is happening to my memory?) and we celebrated with friends at their Uptown apartment. There was turducken and lots of stuffing and plenty of friends and booze, but no pies, veggies, or cranberry sauce.

This year my friend and officemate, Matt, will hold the party back at his house (he lives in Mid-City and while his home wasn't flooded, he wasn't able to move back until the new year). I'm making a stuffed mushroom appetizer, a caramel pecan pie, and a cherry pie. Simon's making stuffing and roasted brussel sprouts. We'll cart the food over to Matt's, enjoy a cocktail, and then head to the fairgrounds for the races.

I don't have much to say about the holiday. I'm not feeling particularly thankful. I'm getting over a bad cold and sinus infection, and this weekend was a very bad one in our house on Rampart Street.

For starters, the bar two houses away that I'd hoped would not reopen after the storm has, and it's been hoppin'. This weekend the noise kept me awake, as did the arguments that spilled out onto the sidewalk.

Additionally, our next door neighbor on the west side--whose house is perpetually undergoing repairs or renovations of some sort--has hired a drunk to renovate his house (presumably because he can't afford or won't pay for legitimate contractors). This guy neglects the work all day and then comes in and starts banging away once his hangover has worn off--usually around 8-10 pm. I was kept up every night this weekend with the banging, and Simon, who was away at a conference, had to resort to leaving threatening messages on Mike's cell phone.

I looked up the New Orleans municipal code and learned that construction in residential areas cannot begin before 7 am and must cease by 6pm. Mike has NEVER adhered to code, though, and in this post-storm city, you're hard-pressed to even get a cop to answer the non-emergency number, much less respond to such a complaint. So I put in my ear plugs and piled pillows on my head and finally fell asleep to the thumping sometime around 2am on Friday, since I couldn't very well go over and ask the drunk worker to knock it off (or maybe I could have, but given my extensive experience with drunk people, I think I can safely say that this guy would no be cooperative and might have even been motivated to break a few things to show me what's what). One need look no further than the pile of Budweiser cans this guy's thrown from the window into the side alley to know that he's not super-concerned with the feelings of others.

So when I picked up Simon at the airport on Sunday, one of the first things I said was that I want to move. I have never said this before. I've rarely even thought it.

But I am tired of living two houses up from a loud bar with a violent history, and next door to a house entering its fifth year of renovations (in the seven I've lived in our house), and across from a vacant house, and next to another vacant house, and down the street from the train (whose rumblings would register on the Richter scale and have sent massive cracks travelling across our ceilings), and in a white-washed neighborhood now full of overpriced homes owned by real estate investors (not people who actually LIVE in the neighborhood)--a neighborhood with no diversity, no children, and no sign of being financially accessible to Simon and me, well, EVER. I am just feeling so fed up with it all (and so tired of listening to my own broken-record rants, as I am sure you, too, dear reader/Mom are) that I just want to GET AWAY!

Maybe I DO need to count my f-ing blessings.

Maybe I just need a break.

I don't know what I need, but I'll tell you what: When you are living in this city, and when you read articles like this one, or this one, or this one, well it can be hard to feel thankful.

I know my mom is reading this and wanting to come here and spoil me and do my laundry and my dishes (thanks, Mom. A good and healthy spoiling might do me some good, even.)

But what I could really go for right now is a quick peek at the future...

Will we be okay? Will the bar down the street ever be less loud, less violent, or (oh my word, miracle of all miracles) closed? Will the house next door ever get finished (and when it does, will we be able to hear every burp and fart of our neighbors as we now hear from the drunken carpenter?) Will our neighborhood ever again be racially diverse? Will we be able to afford to live on high-ground, or anywhere in this city? Will we be okay? Or will I, another year from now, be ranting, pathetically--still feeling sorry for myself, still wanting my mommy, still wishing the recovery would hurry up and start to feel like one.

Here it is: I am thankful for even the smallest of recoveries--Thanksgiving back at Matt's house, the re-opening of the Fairgrounds, getting over this cold. Now, bring on the big ones...

Monday, November 06, 2006

No, I haven't mentioned Zack Bowen's murder/suicide. Nor have I written loyally or regularly or much at all. I found tiring all of the focus on that gruesome event, and the suggestion that it somehow had to do with Zack and Addie's being "Quarter Rats". As if moving to New Orleans from out of town and choosing to extend one's adolescence (arguably for too long) makes one crazy and therefore capable of murder. More than anything, Addie's murder seemed to me to be the result of the dangerous psychological scars that her boyfriend bore from his previous military days.

And then there was another murder—this one on the UNO campus—that involved a veteran of the military. He was a former chaplain's assistant, and now we're hearing suggestions that his demise may have been the result of meeting with a male prostitute. My officemate and I talk about this and he says simply, "Men can be scary," but I find the undertones darker. It seems that the men in the military are not just "uneducated," as Kerry would have them, but perhaps they are also compelled to volunteer by histories of their own that they feel they can't discuss openly. It's moments like these that make me grateful for my husband, the passive Brit. I often tire of his logical debates, but I'll take that any day over violence and secrecy.

When I talked to my mom about the Zack and Addie murder/suicide, I told her that we, here, found it all very awful, but that there was something about the way we've ALL been psychologically altered, post-K, that makes us a bit more able to understand how one's disappointment or disillusionment can quickly and uncontrollably turn to rage. No, we do not understand what compels one to murder and cook one's girlfriend. We understand how irrational reactions to anger can seem to possess you. I know this, at least. I've mentioned in entries past my own struggles with rage. A broken window. Screaming and banging and saying things that, when I think of them later, appear to have come from a woman speaking in tongues. This is a post-K thing for me. Before, it was more sadness than rage, and I think I'd rather the sadness, thank you.