Friday, December 22, 2006

Merry Christmas, all! Simon and I are spending our holiday with my family in Atlanta--a fast and soulless city that nonetheless works. Well--with one exception: we could not find a place to watch the Saints game yesterday that wold broadcast the sound. No--they needed to listen to the depressing calls of the Falcons descending deeper into their pit of mediocrity. Still, we drank pints and watched the soundless game as happily as we could, sound or no. Mostly we wanted to be with other fans. There are 85,000 New Orleanians now living here, so you would think we could have found them. Anyway, the Saints stomped the Giants, and it was a fun game to watch (even in the ultra-lame ESPN Zone in Buckhead).

I have been feeling a lot older this Christmas. At the midnight service last night, I ran into the mother of a girl I used to babysit. Her daughter is now 23 and living with her boyfriend. Our usual Christmas traditions have taken either a hiatus or have permanently ended this year (a Christmas Eve dinner we've gone to since I was nine.) And we fought at the dinner table last night; not an adult event, but one that felt, somehow, like the result of us all getting older and more stubborn. It appears I have become my father's daughter to the umpteenth degree--and while I love him, the mean-streak I've developed is not a gene we wear proudly. We fought over who left the lights on. Yes, really. And now I want to go home. I'm hoping the gluttony and spoils of the day (I am always, always, spoiled when I come home) will change my mood.

Before we left, things were much more jolly. I'd started a post which I never finished. Here are its beginnings (from the 22nd):

Ah, the holidays... this is what I needed. Simon is in the kitchen (where a man belongs! ; ) making spaghetti, we've got family with us, and we spent a lovely day--strolling the Quarter, riding the Algiers ferry across the Mississippi, and (loudly) singing carols in Jackson Square.

Yesterday was not as jolly. It rained for hours and hours on end, and when we drove down to Holy Cross to see the house we've been considering buying, we discovered six inches of water covering the street and saturating the yard.

I was sad. We'd fallen in love with a house that the Preservation Resource Center will be renovating--a lovely little shotgun that was in the same family (whose German name suggests they may have been part of the substantial German immigrant population in Holy Cross) for 85 years. She's small, but the PRC has planned an addition that will allow us room for a family, and she backs up onto the now-abandoned site of Holy Cross school, which could become something wonderful--like a community center--or something lame (condos). Buying in Holy Cross is a gamble for many reasons. But for a couple of teacher with a hefty load of school-debt in tow, it's our only option--and it's one we're happy about, actually.

We'd discovered Holy Cross after I published a piece on my friends' website--a piece about realizing that we're a) grown-up and b) middle-class, and at the same time c) unable to afford a home on high ground in New Orleans. The neighborhood where we rent has become populated by a bunch of aggressive investment realtors out to make a buck off of renters, and also aggressive gentrifiers who call the police when they see more than two black people sitting on a stoop together. There are no longer children, and the artists that once populated the Marigny/Bywater can hardly afford to live here. While we CAN afford to live here (thanks to our kind landlords who are also dear friends), we don't want to live in this whitewashed neighborhood any longer.

The neighborhood association meetings here are mostly bitch-slapping bouts focused on aesthetic matters like roofing-style or policing dog-poop. In the months immediately following the storm, neighbors shrieked about their cable taking too long to be restored, and it felt, well, embarrassing.

Many of the most active neighbors here remind me of my entitled Tulane students--how they are ignorant of others' suffering, and therefore have an exaggerrated sense of their own suffering. Just as I chose to leave Tulane for a (less prestigious) job at UNO (where I love the students), I know want to leave the cat-fights here for the community we've found in Holy Cross.

Of course, there are also the more obvious reasons to leave our neighborhood: no parks, no green space, and one very loud train that we were once used to but that now seems all of a sudden to be louder, closer, and running more frequently. There's a sometimes-violent bar on the corner, too. And the traffic and the noise. And the house under perpetual renovation next door. And there's the wasted money on rent. Plus, I think we're just ready to go.

So anyway I wrote this piece for my friends' site, and in writing it I did research on what houses in the city we COULD afford. I put $150,000 as the price limit (too much, actually--we can't really afford that much) and found nothing but gutted and flooded homes. I kept looking, and soon two pretty renovations appeared in the Holy Cross neighborhood.

When I mention Holy Cross, folks generally want to know where it is. Holy Cross is a mile and a half east of us, just on the other side of the Industrial Canal. It's in the lower ninth ward. Yes-- that lower ninth ward. That is usually enough to have people asking why we would want to live there.

We want to live in Holy Cross because we can afford it, because it is on relative high ground, because it has access to walking trails along the levee, and because it is still diverse. We attended a neighborhood association meeting recently and when we left, I was glowing. I sang carols with Miss Maebell--a real, live old person living in the neighborhood. Simon and I painted pet rocks at the kiddy-table. We met diverse and kind neighbors. I glowed.

(...Here's where that previous, unfinished, post ends. I will continue the tales of our journey towards a home of our own soon.

In the meantime--I love you all, dear readers (Mom, Dannielle, and Mickey). Merry Christmas! Mickey, I hear that Henry's "sacbutt" (sp?) is in the shop. Nevermind--we'll make kick-butt music, all the same.)

Here's to a day of glowing! Oh, how I love to glow!

1 comment:

Danielle said...

If it makes you feel any better about your "who left the lights on" fight, my brother and I made our momma cry when we started arguing (emphatically) about when to open presents. That's right--we brought tears to our mother's eyes over something completely arbitrary and easily solved. I am a mean, horrible, crabby, inflexible person. As such, happy holidays!