Sunday, August 08, 2010

Dave Dixon Passed Away Today; He Changed Our Lives for Better


This is a sad day for New Orleans. He was a visionary and passionate advocate for our city and the spirit of innovation and entrepreneurship.

Everything the Saints have ever done, every event that ever took place in the Superdome, every smile and tear that we Saints fan have shared--all those things happened because of Dave Dixon.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Ground Zero NYC / Ground Zero NOLA

I'm intrigued by the debate over whether an Islamic Center and mosque should be built near the 9/11 Ground Zero in New York. (I'm intrigued only by the reasonable voices of goodwill in the debate. This excludes you, Fox News.)

To try an analogy that New Orleanians might get, how's this? Saying that a mosque shouldn't be built near Ground Zero in NYC is a bit like saying a civil engineering firm shouldn't be able to build a new office near one of the levee breaks in NOLA.

Why conflate the acts of a few idiots with an entire group?

I'm so impressed with what Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York has said about the proposed mosque:

“What is great about America, and particularly New York, is we welcome everybody, and if we are so afraid of something like this, what does that say about us?” Mr. Bloomberg asked recently.

“Democracy is stronger than this,” he added. “And for us to just say no is just, I think — not appropriate is a nice way to phrase it.”

Either we let freedom reign at Ground Zero, or we restrict everybody and build a John Lock / John Stuart Mill / John Rawls Museum.

I prefer the former.

Friday, May 07, 2010

Steps Will Be Taken

Tomorrow, in the Louisiana Superdome, steps will be taken.

Over the past two years, when steps were taken both years, the Saints have compiled a 13-4 home record, with a Super Bowl win.

Steps will be taken.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Reasons for Hope in NOLA: Money to be Spent, Things That Have Been Done

I went to a public event Friday that featured Greg Rigamer (a demographer), Patrick Quinlan (Ochsner CEO), and Paul Pastorek (state superintendent of education). Here are some reasons for hope that I gathered from their respective presentations on recovery in New Orleans, healthcare in New Orleans, and education in New Orleans:

  • According to Rigamer, only about a third of the money allocated for housing and infrastructure recovery has been spent. The good news: although Nagin has been no good, his tragic inefficiency in spending recovery money means that perhaps a more competent and focused Mitch administration will have some money to spend.
  • Rigamer also reported that the Army Corps has committed $15 billion to levee building, which is significant when one considers that the Army Corps only spends $2 billion nationally on levees each year.
  • Quinlan's presentation wasn't so much about healthcare in New Orleans broadly. It was more about "Ochsner is really great." Hey, that's what he's paid to say, I guess. However, on the upside, he made a great case for the excellent medical outcomes that Ochsner achieves overall. Using statistics, he made a great case for the fact that the hospitals actually do get good healthcare results in metro New Orleans relative to the rest of the country, even if we are starting with a relatively unhealthy population due to poverty, obesity, and so on.
  • Pastorek made a forceful case for the progress on educational reform in New Orleans since Katrina. Now, I know this process has been controversial in the NOLA blogging world. And I know that kids with extra needs haven't been well served by the reform process (I've experienced that in my family.) However, kids with extra needs weren't well served by the old system either. AND--and this is the thing I like about Pastorek--he holds EVERYBODY to the same standard. This is the guy who went to St. Tammany Parish and ripped public school leaders there for patting themselves on the back for their "great" results when they are educating kids from relatively wealthy families with relatively more involved parents. I like Pastorek because I think he wants to bring accountability to the system so that there is true competition between public and private schools. That's the best future for all of us--not the current system wherein many well-off families have withdrawn from the public school system and placed their children in private schools with great reputations, even thought there is no way to find out if those reputations are well-deserved.
  • Pastorek added that Louisiana is now on the cutting edge of school reform in the country and that Tennessee has used the recovery school district model as a standard for their recent reform efforts. That's something to be proud of for us. RSD: Perfect? Of course not, but light years ahead of what was here before. If we stay with this, in 10 years New Orleans will be setting a world-class standard, perhaps.

I walked out of this presentation with a good feeling about what we're up to here.

Now if we could just get us some wetlands . . .

Friday, March 26, 2010

Troubling Fallout for Saints from Their "Final Solution" for 1,200 Fans

We've already discussed a solution for how the New Orleans Saints can have a new press box, new suites, AND Chef Who Dat and his 1,200 friends in the house. I am in the process of presenting that plan to top Saints brass.

In the mean time, the Saints should pay attention to troubling signs for their marketing and merchandising efforts. Here's a picture I snapped this morning at my local Winn Dixie. Hostile fan reaction to the displacement and disenfranchisement of 1,200 roofbangers has resulted in radically decreased demand for Saints gear, resulting in this:

Friday, March 19, 2010

The Death of Cafe 641 and the Fate of 1,500 Season Ticket Holders

In New Orleans, especially the new and resurrected New Orleans, we understand the necessity for change, even change that involves sacrifice--maybe especially change that involves sacrifice.

We need to remind the executives of the New Orleans Saints about just how creative New Orleanians are.

Right now, according to this (and confirmed by my conversation with Chef Who Dat), 1,500 season ticket holders (including Chef and his merry band in Cafe 641) are homeless this season and perhaps forever. In order to build a new press box (which everyone supports), the Saints are telling 1,500 people in the top of the Terrace that they have no seats for next year.

This cannot stand.

The old New Orleans would be complaining and whining right now, looking for conspiracies, and so on.

The new New Orleans assumes we are all in this together--including the executives of the Saints--and searches for creative solutions that bring renewed life to our community.

So here's my solution:

For the next season or two, while the Dome reconfiguration goes on, put those 1,200 people on the floor of the Dome, in temporary bleachers. Their view won't be great, but I have no doubt they will love it. Do you know how great it will be to look down from the Terrace and see former roofbangers whooping it up on the field for a season or two? Those roofbangers will surely miss their usual perch, but I think they would be willing to sit in bleachers for a couple of years in the name of progress.

Those displaced neighborhoods would become something special for the rest of the Dome and the whole region--a symbol of what New Orleans is doing to get better, and the creative and humane ways we are doing it.

With this kind of creative solution, the Saints will be heroes. Without it--with the current "Final Solution" they have in place--it's going to get old-New-Orleans ugly.

Nobody wants that.

Killing the Dome neighborhoods of 1,500 people? Imagine plowing under Treme or the Irish Channel.

We don't do that here.

C'mon, Saints. I know you're just as creative as we are. We can turn a death into a resurrection, just like we always do in New Orleans.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Why New Orleans is the Perfect Place to Run

1. It's beautiful.

2. It's temperate.

3. It's visually complex.

4. It's flat.

5. When you run up Camp Street toward downtown the day after the Irish Channel Parade, you find this (and you leave behind lots more on the street):

Katrina as Matchmaker

Odd. From today's New York Times wedding announcements:
Ms. Gomez and Mr. Crosby met in October 2005 through a mutual friend who had gone to the University of Florida for a semester when Loyola University in New Orleans had temporarily closed after Hurricane Katrina. The friend had a get-together shortly after her arrival in Gainesville. “We were just drawn to each other right away,” Mr. Crosby said of Ms. Gomez. “She has an attractive face, it’s proportional, high cheekbones and gorgeous blue eyes.”

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Discernment: What, if anything, does it mean, Dr. Morris?

Many of us remember Dr. Ashley Morris's role in the 2006 Krewe du Vieux parade. He called himself Mime-boy. The image made it all over the place, including CNN. Here's how it looked in 2006:

Then, of course, we lost Ashley prematurely, in April 2008. I still feel the loss.

Fast forward (abruptly) to a few nights ago, Friday evening, February 19, 2010. My friend Kongo Johnny was visiting from Miami for a conference. He had told me earlier in the day he wanted to hear some blues. I asked my friend Grandmaster Michael (who knows a lot about music) for some recommendations about where to go to hear some good blues. At first he suggested Mississippi or Chicago, but then, settling down, he checked the T-P's Lagniappe section. After some discussion, we agreed that going to dba to see Joe Krown, Walter Wolfman Washington, and their gang play just might fit the bill; they at least would be in the bluesy sector of local music.

Without knowing that Mr. Krown is my favorite New Orleans keyboard guy, Grandmaster Michael made this recommendation. I should have known then that it was going to be a special evening.

I got to Frenchman Street around 9:45 (the show was to start at 10, and it actually did start on time). Kongo Johnny and his friend Stefan the Swede arrived a bit after 10, and we went into dba.

Kongo Johnny LOVED the music, as did Stefan the Swede. They were totally into it (as was I), and I felt happy that I had picked well tonight, with Grandmaster Michael's able help.

My friend Scholarly Nabil also joined us for the concert, and it was a good scene all around.

I stood near the entrance of dba, beer in hand and feeling satisfied with myself, enjoying the first minutes of the concert. Then the corner of my eye caught something large and well-lit moving in the street, approaching the front of dba. Through the open door of the bar, I saw this:
I grabbed Kongo Johnny's arm, blabbered something to him and Scholarly Nabil, and ran out of dba, stunned.

I snapped the picture you see, and just stood there. A chill went through me, and not from the cold.

Then I remembered what Peter had mentioned on Facebook. The new HBO series "Treme" is filming in town, and for an episode they were recreating the 2006 Krewe du Vieux parade. This was in my head somewhere, but to see what they had actually done was just. . . well, I don't know what it was. It was a punch in the gut and a joy at the same time. I didn't even really get tears. I was too stunned.

I saw Peter and Grace marching in the parade, so I went up and talked with them. They were tired and had been filming for at least 7 hours. It's a lot of work to recreate a Mardi Gras parade.

I went back into dba. The parade ended up passing the bar four more times--reshooting again and again, I guess.

After midnight, I think, I noticed that the krewe members then came in to get drinks. I saw Ashley Mark Two standing near the bar, so I walked up to him and told him how Ashley was a good friend of mine. Of course, Ashley Mark Two knew Ashley as well, as I guess he is a krewe member too. (In my stunned state, silly me assumed that "Treme" had hired some actor to do the part.)

I bought Ashley Mark Two and his companion beers, and then I asked him his name. "Chris," he said.

Wow. That stunned me again. That name has some significance for Mr. Clio.

Anyway, that's my story from Friday night. I don't know what it all means. I really have trouble with discernment, reading the signs (if they are signs) that the universe/the Infinite may be sending.

It might mean nothing. It might be (as some would call it) a kiss on the cheek from the cosmos. Or a brush on the wrist. Or a kick in the butt.

The one thing I'm sure about in the art of discernment is that a good guide for the validity and goodness of a sign is its real-life effects. Judge something by its fruits.

So far, the fruits for me have been gratitude and a feeling of connectedness to my friend Ashley. Not bad.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

On Mardi Gras Day, Praise for Mr. Paul Tagliabue

Happy Mardi Gras!

I have been remiss in doing a post on this topic, and then the New York Times did it for me.

Instead of remembering some of the unfortunate dealings of a certain team owner in the fall of 2005, I want to focus on how Paul Tagliabue ensured that our city would retain a source of of civic pride and racial unity.

I'm all for James Carville's idea:
“The city fathers,” Carville said at the time, “should take down the statue of Robert E. Lee at Lee Circle in New Orleans and put up a statue of Paul Tagliabue.”

Friday, February 12, 2010

Dear Mitch

Four years ago, you ran a Mom-and-apple-pie, just-trust-me-I'm-competent-and-sane campaign against Ray Nagin, Mayor Curly.

And you lost. I'm still a little mad at you for that, because the last four years have been awful politically--four squandered years.

This year, you ran a Mom-and-apple-pit, just-trust-me-I'm-competent-and-sane campaign against a bunch of minor candidates.

And you won big. Historically big.

I ask you this: Please don't BE mayor in the same way you ran for mayor. This city needs major re-engineering. We don't need a mayor who just tries to tinker with what is there. A competent guy running this system will get us nowhere. If you do that, you will be eaten alive, and the city will continued to be mired in a mess, artificially sustained by massive federal aid dollars. We will slouch on, wearing our black and gold clothes but knowing we could do better.

If the latter happens, then the Saints' Super Bowl win is nothing more than bread and circuses.

Please, get some advisers who are more creative than you are, who have a little more of a crazy spark than you do. I admire your competence and your love for this city. Please make a team who will take radical steps to lead us to greatness. Do something about all the vacant buildings downtown (tear some of them down). Do something about New Orleans East, a low-lying former wetland with miles of slab-on-grade housing, filled with people who really care about this city and who want to make a life here. Do something about NORD; make it world class again.

Do it.

Mr. Clio

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Why have I cried so many times about the Saints over the past couple of weeks?

Ever since the Saints beat the Vikings to advance to the Super Bowl, it's been common to see tears from New Orleanians and people who care about New Orleans. I've cried multiple times since then. It's ranged in me and others from simply misty eyes to gentle crying to staggered-breath, sudden-release bawling. For me, it usually only lasts about a minute or two.

It happened to me first in the Superdome, a few minutes after Hartley made his kick. It continued to happen during the following two weeks, when I would hear replays of Jim Henderson's radio description of the winning moment, or when I would see TV or Internet highlights of the kick. Sometimes even just video of fellow Saints fans being emotional would set me off a little. It's continued since the Super Bowl win.

[NOTE: I'm not making this up. It just happened again. It's 5:30 a.m. My dog started barking because the newspaper arrived. I went out to get the paper. I read a subtitle under the Times-Picayune's "Dat Tuesday" headline today: "'We have endured the American nightmare. It's our time to live the American dream.'" Tears again. Cheesh.]

Why? How? How can the play of a football team cause such an emotional response? I just wanted to reflect a little on the outburst of tears in New Orleans over the past couple of weeks.

1. All those years of basic sports fan emotionalism. It's a release, the kind of release that a sports fan might have after many years of hope and frustration. Did the same kind of thing happen in Boston in 2004--grown men and women of all ages crying after the Red Sox beat the Yankees and then won the World Series in 2004?

My first Saints game was at Tulane Stadium when I was 8 years old or so. I think it was against the Redskins, and the Saints lost. My dad didn't really want to take me--he preferred playing sports to watching sports--but I think my mom prevailed upon him to do so. I appreciate that he endured a hot, sunny day in that stadium watching a bad team lose. That day was part of the process that hooked me, and I was hooked not on the football, but on the people there and the smells of the stadium and the spectacle of the colors.

I moved overseas a couple of years later, and the distance only increased my love for the Saints. My grandmother would mail entire T-P Sports sections to us, and I would devour them even though it took 10 days or more to reach us.

In high school, I would buy my own tickets for a couple of games per year, and I would take the ferry from the Westbank and walk up Canal Street to get to the Superdome. More love, more losses.

My love for the Saints--and what I was willing to do for that love and as a result of that love--has caused many arguments in my marriage. That's a lot of stress for my poor spouse, but also for me.

So maybe the tears are a release of all of those times. So many varied emotions over the years. So much time and money spent. So much time questioning deeply why the hell I have this near-obsession, when I could be doing more productive things for my family and society.

2. The loved ones who aren't here to see this with us. I know this has been heavy with me, and other people have talked about it too. The Times-Picayune even did a story about it. We remember the people who suffered with us through bad seasons and near-misses and ridiculous referee calls. For me, it's Ashley Morris and Brian Bordelon. It's my Nana, who pretended to scoff at the Saints and would make fun of my brothers and me for even being interested. Underneath, though, I knew it made her happy, and I know she would be dancing her funny little sway right now. That makes me cry.

How could one not cry about this stuff? Ashley Morris was our Moses, the guy who helped us ALMOST get to the Promised Land. However, the Infinite--who/which always retains a sense of humor--had to take Ash away before the Saints could do it for us. I'm glad Dr. Morris got to glimpse Drew Brees and the gang in the NFC Championship loss to the Bears, but I cried with Hana and shared big hugs with her after the win over the Vikes and the Super Bowl win over the Colts.

My tears disappear when I think that Ashley and Brian and Buddy D. and so many others helped push the Saints through this year.

3. A deeper release after what's happened in New Orleans since August 29, 2005. Scenes from New Orleans have been making people all over the world cry for the past four and a half years. This could be part of that continuum, except that this time it's tears of release and joy after so many months of hurt and desolation. I really do have a feeling of hope right now, and I guess others share that.

And there's this, too: I spent many months being angry about governmental failure and the people who bashed New Orleans and wanted to give up on us; I was also relentlessly angry about people who ditched New Orleans, such as the people who run Ruth's Chris. These days, all I'm thinking about are the thousands of volunteers who have come here to help and the millions of people around the U.S. and world who were cheering for the Saints BECAUSE THEY ARE FROM NEW ORLEANS. I'm also thinking about Paul Tagliabue, who made sure the Saints stayed in New Orleans even though things looked bleak in 2005 and early 2006. That all gives me strength. That causes me some tears, but it also makes them go away quickly.

There may be more to say about this, but this is my first stab. And that's what a blog is for, yes?

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Today Much of the World is Thinking about New Orleans

People in this city have worked hard to get to this day.

It's a step, one of many that we need to take, toward New Orleanians affirming fully its place as a world class city.

We can compete with anybody, and we can win big.

Thank you, Saints, for helping to pull us through the past four and a half years.

Who Dat! Let's go win us a world championship.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Symptoms I've Displayed Since the Saints Advanced to the Super Bowl

1. Intermittent crying and teary eyes (though this has diminished since Tuesday, January 26, which was two days after the precipitating event)
2. Intermittent beaming smiles
3. Intermittent giggling
4. General euphoria

Those have been aspects of my basic emotional response.

Rationally, however, my take has been this (and I'm sticking firmly to this line):

We belong here. This football team deserves this (and this success in the end is all about the football players and coaches, as Grandmaster Wang so rightfully and righteously points out). They have worked hard--this year and three years prior. They are talented. They are smart. Many of them, especially the player leadership, seem very committed to the good of New Orleans.

In sum, although this is a new experience for us and me based on history, I should not be shocked that we are here. Again, we belong here.

Let's get used to this. Let's not settle for less than first place. Let's not settle for less than world class.

We settled for allegedly Category 3 levee protection, levees that were horribly designed and built. Look at what that got us.

We settled for Edwin Edwards, who was effective but corrupt. Look what that got us.

We settled for Ray Nagin, who made the right businessman noises but was untested and (ultimately) unstable. Look what that got us.

We settled for lower-cost, slab-on-grade housing in New Orleans East (a wetland) and elsewhere, and look what that got us.

We settled for abandoning and ignoring the public schools, and many sent their kids to private and Catholic schools with "good enough" reputations. Look what that got us.

I've said this before: I love the Saints. I love Saints' fans even more.

But if we enjoy the football and the parties, and then go back to doing things the way we've always done them, it's all just bread and circuses.

I've been hearing "This is not your father's Saints." Thank goodness.

I want to start hearing "This is not your father's New Orleans."

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

General Honore Says What We All Should Have Been Saying

From today's Times-Picayune:
"People have taken us more than once. We should stand up more than anybody else and say, 'We'll take 500, we'll take 1,000.' I'm not hearing that from anybody in Louisiana and last year we evacuated our vulnerable population twice," said Honore, who commanded Joint Task Force Katrina.
This is dead right and so obvious, and I haven't even thought of it once. I've been almost silent about Haiti because I can't get my mind around it and what I can do about it, other than send money. However, if getting people out of there for awhile, or for a lifetime if that is what is best, will help, then General Honore is right. And Louisiana should take the lead.

I would hope Governor Jindal would second this and then actually do something about it.

My second-favorite thing about what General Honore says is that he uses the first person plural--"us" and "we" and "our." During the last evacuation, he was living in Atlanta, and as a career military man he lived all over the world. But at heart he is a Louisiana guy, and now he and Mrs. Honore have moved back home and live in Baton Rouge.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Saints vs. Vikes: Snakes. Why Does It Always Have to be Snakes?

Hey, Indiana Jones stared down the snakes.

We've already vanquished the reigning NFC champs.

Now it's time to beat the Nemesis. Remember Daunte Culpeper and Grady Jackson's big flop. Remember 44-10. Remember playing a playoff game in Minneapolis with, like, no running backs. Remember last year, when we wasted Reggie's two beautiful punt return TDs.

This is our time. This is OUR time.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

On Saturday, Please Save it for the Dome, Your Fave Bar, or Your Living Room

This is an appeal to Saints fans.

Berto, Fleur D Licious, others, and I were troubled by the performance that occurred in the Superdome against the Dallas Cowboys on December 19.

I'm not talking about Our New Orleans Saints' performance that day.

I'm talking about the fans' performance. People seemed quiet--and got quieter still when the Cowboys took an early lead.

By early in the 4th quarter, I actually saw empy seats in the Club level.

The next day, my ears weren't ringing the way the usually are after a big game.

My theory: people were so excited that day and had spent so much time and energy drinking and carousing all day in the streets, that they had little left for the ACTUAL FOOTBALL GAME that was to be played that night. The Saints lost, and perhaps we got what we deserved.

So let's all commit ourselves for this playoff game. Enjoy our beautiful city before the game. Eat, drink, be merry outside. But save plenty of noise and liver capacity for inside the Superdome. Our New Orleans Saints need us at our world class best.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Look at Who Is Featured on the Saints' Website Today

Mr. Willie Jackson. 3 touchdown catches in the Saints first playoff win ever, against the St. Louis Rams on December 30, 2000.

I'd never make it as Saints coach, because Willie Jackson would STILL have a spot on the roster if I were in charge. I never would have been able to cut the guy. Beautiful day, indeed.

And who was the quarterback on the losing team that day? Kurt Warner.

Yes, the Saints' web people know what they're doing by reminding us all of this.

Monday, January 04, 2010

Why We Lost to the Cowboys (and Panthers and Bucs), Part II

Okay, I'm going to get a little wacky about karma and such. I'm a little uncomfortable doing this, but I think it must be done. Please ignore this if you're not into such speculation (and note that I don't do this kind of thing much because I'm so bad at at, and it has backfired on me many times in the past).

The Saints have lost three straight games because it had to happen, given the emotional/spiritual dynamics that were starting to stir, on the team and among Saints fans and in the city of New Orleans and on the Gulf Coast. Simply put, in order to achieve the goal we all want--the Lombardi Trophy--we "needed" these losses, because most of us were getting cocky and feeling a sense of magic and destiny. Dangerous stuff, "magic" and "destiny." We shouldn't think of such things.

This is not to say that the team threw the games on purpose. Of course not. I'm just saying that built into the growing sense of power and destiny we were all feeling were the seeds of trouble. Now that we have looked at ourselves and found ourselves quite human and quite capable of losses and silly pride, we can buck up and move on to great things (or at least hard work).

I wrote (and had published in the New Orleans and Dallas newspapers) letters to the editor noting some poor behavior by Saints fans at the Dallas game. In some cases, Saints fans resembled Bears fans at the January 2007 NFC Championship Game (well, maybe not that obnoxious, but still pretty bad).

After the loss to the Bucs, Charles Grant (okay, it's Charles Grant, but still . . .) reported that Saints fans were booing the team as they left the field. I was at the game. I was as disappointed as anyone, but I didn't think the Saints' efforts were boo-worthy. We lost in overtime. We were 13-2 at the time.

As 2010 and the playoffs begin, let's focus on the cleansing that just went on. We and our team were humbled. In 2005, our whole city and region were humbled.

One response to this is to take the entitled approach to it all. You may have seen this (or even done it--I'm sure I have): "I paid my money. I put in some effort. If I don't get the result I want, then screw it and screw you. I'm picking up my toys and going home to pout and to criticize and to blame others that I didn't get the result I wanted."

When most people talk about an attitude of entitlement, they are criticizing "lazy" people who expect things (welfare payments, whatever) for doing nothing.

A far more damaging and insidious attitude of entitlement exists in those who put in some effort or spend some money, and then expect perfect results--or results that far exceed the effort or money put into the process.

The booing fans at the Bucs game, the abusive fans at the Dallas game--that came from a sense of entitlement. "I bought my ticket. I deserve to have my inflated expectations fulfilled!!!"

Now I am hearing rumors that since the big win over the Patriots, a significant group of Saints players are spending very late hours (till 4:00 a.m.) in the French Quarter. Again, a sense of entitlement. "I put in my hours. I've played hard. I deserve this, and I can do it and still get the excellent results I've gotten up to now."

We can't be guaranteed any results--for the Saints, for our city, for our region.

At its best, New Orleans and its residents know this. We know that we can only work hard, have fun, and care for one another along the way. We are guaranteed nothing.

So let's work hard in January and in 2010, and let's have fun, and let's care for one another, and let's see what the playoffs bring.