A good morning swim followed by a solid writing session at Envie and a short walk through Frenchmen Street during the day. It was sunny and warm, so I sat in the courtyard reading for a bit, and then took a walk through the French Quarter to get the steps in and get a feel for what was going on. I walked down Royal Street and cut over to the CVS on Decatur for a different inventory than the Walgreens, and walked through Jackson Square. A break dancing troupe was playing loud music and dancing, entertaining for a few minutes.
I went into the Presbtere museum, the twin building to the Cabildo, and saw the exhibits on Katrina and Mardi Gras. The Katrina exhibit was moving, but I am very familiar with the material presented. It would be a great introduction for those who hadn’t been paying as close attention to it. The hurricane re-defined the city, and it has not really settled on what it wants to be. By not deciding, or pursuing apparently contradictory goals, it has created a frisson that may result in something good, or perhaps not. The differences between the planned development projects, like Fulton Street, and parts of town, like lower Decatur and Frenchmen Street, where haphazard enforcement of rules and policies have led to some really fun stuff and some hard urban life. It will be interesting to see how it continues to play out.
The Mardi Gras exhibit was more fun, and I like the older costumes and images. It was a good reminder to start getting costuming in progress. I should reach out to the Krewe of Kosmic Debris and the Krewe of Yes, both part of the St. Ann’s umbrella group in the Bywater/Marigny, or figure out something different this year. I’m not sure anyone will be coming down for the day this year. I am thinking a couple of costumes-full on pirate and droog from A Clockwork Orange to take advantage of the bowler hat. Both will require some scrounging or shopping. I am not sure how well they will fit with the themes, but they are good places to start.
I stopped in Manolito’s around 4, and it was empty. I had a Hotel Nacional, a pineapple based rum daiquiri served up. Excellent, and it makes me want to try all of the drinks on their menu, perhaps not all at once.
Another good swim, and a guy in the pool asked me for training tips. It is flattering, but I referred him to the lifeguard who actually teach adult classes. I had a good art meeting with Jamie Ruth, my tattooer. It is going to be a big project, starting tomorrow. I’m always a bit nervous about starting a new one, but I am pleased with the plan. I spent a few hours cleaning, and building a mental list of things that could be improved. I’m thinking I can be searching for an armoire to good effect in addition to the coffee table and chair already on the wish list.
I am still reflecting on the conversation of the other night with the prediction that the New Orleans cannot continue to survive with 70% of the people in abject poverty and 30% living like they are on vacation. I wonder how different this city is from the country writ large. I’m percolating that idea with the nostalgic admiration some relatives have for apartheid South Africa, the growing inequality in our economic system, and the effective populist demonstrations in France.
When I walk by people dumpster diving or begging on the streets, and hear friends complain that those people just are too lazy to work, I hear echoes of apartheid and recognize the strong impulse towards violent exclusion. People are actively arming themselves to protect themselves against an imagined other. The military style of policing has been adopted nation-wide and the police seem to act to maintain the status quo rather than to protect people’s rights. This is frightening. Perhaps my mobster bar buddy was correct in his judgement that things are at a tipping point.
There was a NYT story this morning that reflected some of these ideas, recapping a study of racism and white identity. It is interesting and disturbing that people can somehow reconcile their internal sense of being the good guy who is not a racist with the idea that they are members of a group that is superior to that other group based on race and culture. Somehow you can support apartheid-like policies, with separate schools, living in gated communities, making serious personal plans to shoot people (always, in imagination, those from the other group) who trespass on your privileges, and believe you are not a racist. I suppose it is still worth thinking about.