Category Archives: Diary

THE (FANTASY) LIFE OF RILEY

 Wed, 03 Jun 2009 05:00:19

Someone in NOPD Superintendent Warren Riley’s family must have encouraged him to dream big reach for the stars and all that inspirational hokum. Unfortunately Chief Riley has an alarming tendency to confuse dreams with delusions. Last weekend I was gobsmacked to read that Riley is contemplating running for Mayor. LINK. My initial response was to laugh like a deranged hyena and make jokes about Riley spending too much time in the evidence room. I stopped laughing when I realized that it’s part of a pattern of Nagin-like self-delusion on the part of Riley.

Warren Riley is an unpopular and ineffective police chief running a department that has never recovered from its Katrina trauma. And make no mistake about it: the cops here were traumatized and their leader is a bureaucrat who is as inspirational as a CPA. It’s one of the reasons NOPD is the demoralized mess that it is today.  
 
Chief Riley is now contemplating applying his modest leadership abilities to politics. If he decides to run it won’t be Riley’s first attempt: he lost a race for Sheriff to Marlin Gusman. He ran of course as C Ray’s man and that’s how a run for Mayor would be seen as well. If you like Ray Nagin you’ll love Warren Riley. How’s that for a losing slogan y’all?
 
The last thing New Orleans needs is another Mayor who will surround himself with yes men and overreact to criticism. Warren Riley is just such a man: as his recent dealings with District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro make obvious. The Judge is not one to lash out at someone publicly before making the same criticisms off-stage. Indeed Judge Cannizzaro’s complaints about slow arriving (and badly written) police reports and cops not showing up for court have been made by his predecessors. Riley’s response has been indignation and pettiness. He’s always right because he says he is. Hmm where have we heard that before?
 
The latest petty move by Chief Riley involves NOPD Captain Jeff Winn. LINK.  I’m oversimplifying things but what’s wrong with a bit of oversimplification among friends? Here we go: Winn received some good publicity in the aftermath of Katrina and the flood. That in turn made Riley jealous and he began working to damage Winn by using his bureaucratic skills bury Winn and end his career. But Winn has proven to be a resourceful adversary. Riley dispatched him to the DA’s office as punishment but Winn has done such a good job that Riley has reassigned him in a fit of pique at both the Captain and the Judge. Way to go Chief.
 
Back to Riley’s most recent dispute with Judge Cannizzaro. They have profound philosophical differences. The Judge is a big picture man who wants more detectives so that his office can focus like a laser beam on the most violent offenders by clearing as many cold homicide cases as possible. Riley like the fictional Baltimore police chief in The Wire wants bodies on the street and dope on the table as I pointed out a few years back in this post. Chief Riley seems to believe that by asserting that things are getting better crime-wise they are. It’s another delusion masquerading as a dream which sums up Warren Riley’s tenure as police chief quite nicely.
 
Breaking: Riley has cleared the cops involved in the dubious shooting of Adolph Grimes in Treme on New Year’s Eve. LINK. The officers involved will remain on desk duty pending the results of a federal investigation. Hopefully the feds know the difference between facts and wishful thinking; something Warren Riley has never mastered.

THE FOLLOWERS OF CHAOS OUT OF CONTROL

Wed, 27 Aug 2008 16:21:17

Mr. Wet sucks. Let me explain why. He’s one of my best  friends in the NOLA blogosphere BUT the sumbitch stole my Gustav related post title: Achtung Baby. It makes me wonder if he’s a psychic from all those years of wearing a hat and living in the frozen North. (It somehow gives me perverse pleasure to imagine him plugging in his car whilst conversing with a neighbor who sounds like Marge in Fargo. Oh ja you betcha.) But if Folse *is* a psychic I’m thinking he’s a fake; sort of like Sean Spencer the goofy fake psychic tevee detective on Psych. Hmm now that I think of it Mark’s son Matt is a goofball in the Spencerian vein…


Anyway since Mr. Wet stole my thunder I decided to use a line from another great ’80’s “alternative” band REM. The song Disturbance At The Heron House is actually political but the line “the followers of chaos out of control” sums up rather neatly the panic in the air here in Debrisville. Me I’m just cranky that this fracking storm may goose step into town this weekend and force Southern Decadence to cancel. It’s usually a big weekend for Quarter merchants. For the uninitiated Decadence is a cross between boys gone wild and a gay pride event. As my good friend with a thick French accent and a Russian name Paul Nevski once said to me: “During Decadence everyone in the Quarter is gay. Even the ‘omophobes are gay.”

Back to Gustav; at least the motherfracker has a proper scary name. I can respect a storm named Gustav; it evokes saurkraut beer gardens and Prussian militarism. As of now we don’t know where this Teutonic twit of a storm is headed but Dr. A and I are eyeing it cautiously and plan to indulge in a bit of brinksmanhip before deciding what to do which means we’ll be inviting ourselves to my cousin Tina’s house in Dallas if we need to bug out. Katrina was the first time we’d ever gotten out of Dodge and we’re only doing so this time if Gustav is a giant Stasi agent of a storm headed right towards us.

So it’s time to wait watch and prepare. I don’t think freaking out helps anything but I understand why folks who were hit hard in 2005 are flipping out. It’s time for us to be ghouls and root for Gustav to go elsewhere which only people in the Hurricane belt are allowed to do.  I usually hope that storms head to Kleberg County Texas home of the King Ranch where there are more cattle than people. So Gustav moove in that direction so the followers of chaos won’t get out of control:

WOMBAT MANIA

Sat, 28 Jun 2008 05:22:13

Wombat Mania

It’s a northern hairy nosed Homan wombat.

Some days I hate the internets but most days I love it. Where else could I learn more than I ever wanted to know about northern hairy nosed wombats at a site called Wombania.com? Where else could I learn that the Australian Treasury Secretary plans to spend his vacation babysitting wombats? The wombats are an endangered species down under and said Aussie Labour pol Ken Henry plans to do his bit to help said wombats survive. I applaud Mr. Henry’s wombat mania and for inspiring me to keep writing the word wombat which is one of the silliest words known to man woman child or I daresay wombat. Thanks Mr. Henry.

In all seriousness I hope that the wombat survives; hairy nose and all. I may not be as wombatty as some Ozzies because all I knew about the critters before tonight was that my high school crony David wrote a song called Wombat. Our little adolescent garage band used to play it but the lyrics were very un-PC so I shan’t repeat them here. All I can say is that wombat mania rocks.

Since we never recorded David’s little ditty there are no songs about wombats on YouTube; so here’s Oz’s own Midnight Oil doing a tune that is NOT about wombats. Damn I love that word. Must stop must stop…

Btw the Midnight Oil connection is less far fetched than it may seem. The Oil’s lead singer Peter Garrett is one of Henry’s cabinet colleagues he’s the minister for environment heritage and the arts. I suspect he’s a wombat fancier and/or marsupial maven as well.

Finally whilst YouTubing I learned that there is indeed a band called the Wombats and they’re not only Liverpudlians (another word I love) but also pretty good:

The key comment follows:

Holly

Mon, 30 Jun 2008 02:20:22 I love this. We’re a WOMBAT household… my husband’s nickname became wombat years ago as a co-op worker during college (the nickname was based on ‘a wombat’ as Waste Of Money Brains And Time) and since then, as a telecommuter for a group of 5 with 3 of them having the same name, it became his professional name. Wombat is on his business cards and for years, many of his co-workers didn’t know his first name. Some people thought that he didn’t even exist — we were flown up for an office party where I overheard two people saying that ‘they heard WOMBAT was there!!!!’ and wondering if it was a man or a woman. Anyway. This post totally made our night.

Adrastos Mon, 30 Jun 2008 02:37:38 Holly: Glad to be of service. Now I’m *really* glad that I didn’t quote those lyrics…

BEGIN THE BEGIN

Sat, 29 Dec 2007 05:38:41

REM was a great band before they jumped the shark sometime in the mid-Nineties. They were the *ultimate* indie band for much of the Eighties. (I expect some harumphing from some of my punkier colleagues.) They’re also from Athens Georgia which is of course where the University of Georgia is located. Although it’s hard to imagine super spaz front man Michael Stipe hollering “how bout dem dawgs ” ya never know. I know one thing: Stipe had weird hair before he adopted the Mr. Clean/Daddy Warbucks/Michael Jordan look. I don’t think a Southern white boy should ever wear a queue (aka Manchu pigtail.) Stipe looks like a cross between Bonanza’s Hop Sing and Elmer Fudd in the following video which was filmed during the Green tour in 1989:

I spent some time hanging out in the non-Hellenic Athens during my misspent youth. My friends Susan and Steve were temporary trailer trash (aka UGA students) at that point. In fact they lived in SIN for a while so they even had a “guest” trailer wherein they claimed for parental consumption that one of them lived. I spent a *really* uncomfortable night in the “guest” trailer: I was attacked by a kudzu crazed goat or something equally bizarre. (The preceding statement was a grotesque exaggeration which is probably a first on this blog.) I forgave them that as well as Susan’s downright Byzantine directions to the Athenian trailer park. And she has in turn forgiven me for teasing her relentlessly about said directions. So much so that Susan and Steve made like Bob Dylan and gave us shelter from the storm back in August 2005. Of course Susan’s directions to their house in Bossier City were a bit well different if you catch my drift.
I seem to be morphing into a vanity blogger before your very eyes. Of course I think that’s a contradiction in terms: all bloggers are vain and probably think this post is about them…

THE NIGHT I KINDA, SORTA MET THE CANAL STREET MADAM

Wed, 11 Jul 2007 05:01:13

How’s that for a teaser? And no I did not frequent her bordello. Get your minds out of the gutter folks. And that means you blondie.

T’was the night before the 2004 Presidential Election. Dr. A and I joined a group of friends,  Romans and countrymen at the corner of Napoleon and Magazine to wave Kerry-Edwards signs and encourage people to vote out the dolt. We all know how that turned out.

At one point I was on the neutral ground across the street from Miss Mae’s bar. There was a tall brunette who a tabloid writer would call statuesque. I suspect that Ashley or Ray would call her something else. Anyway I chatted with her for a few minutes about how horrible Bush was and I predicted that Kerry would win. We all know how that turned out too.
 
A few minutes later someone (I can’t recall who but it might have been Bob, Cookie Tom,  Julie or Jen) said to me: “Did you realize who you were talking to?”

“Nope. But she looked kinda familiar.”

“It was the Canal Street Madam.”

Tagged

MUDDLING THROUGH

 Mon, 02 Jul 2007 13:50:10

There’s a lot of angst in the NOLA blogosphere this summer. Progress in the city seems to have come to a standstill: the charges against Dinneral Shavers’ accused killer have been dropped and looming in the background is Hurricane season and whether or not the levees will hold. Things do indeed look grim but I remain more sanguine than most about the future of New Orleans. Am I crazy? Well I’ve stayed despite manifold misgivings so I’m at least semi-crazy. The reason I think we have a shot at being okay is that New Orleanians are experts at muddling through. We’ve done it repeatedly throughout our history.

Before the Civil War,  New Orleans was one of the richest cities in the world. Of course antebellum NOLA’s prosperity was built on the rotten and sordid foundation of slavery. The city fell early in the Civil War slavery was abolished and many believed the city would die. It didn’t. We muddled through.
 
The 20th Century brought a series of  calamities: the flood of 1927; Hurricane Betsy; economic stagnation; middle class flight; crime corruption and crack. New Orleans has been declared dead many times. It’s hung in there. How? We muddled through. 
 
Most of our long term problems-crime incompetent leaders bad schools corruption to name but a few-have been with us forever. We’ve survived by learning how to muddle through. Surviving isn’t as uplifting as thriving but there are worse things than muddling through; like giving into despair. I always thought that the post-K  recovery would be a slow and painful process given the profound problems we had before the levees broke. New Orleans was a glorious mess pre-K and now it’s even messier. It’s going to take time patience and above all else the ability to muddle through. It’s one of the things we do best after all.

LETTEN NAGIN OFF EASY?

Thu, 07 Jun 2007 16:33:18

The NOLA blogosphere’s lone investigative Zombie Ashe Dambala has yet another interesting post. It’s based on the comments of an anonymous reader about *why* the otherwise hyperactive US Attorney Jim Letten has left C Ray and his cronies alone. The information is unverified but it makes a world of sense. What follows is informed (I hope) speculation.

Here’s the gist of the post and my extrapolations therefrom: C Ray was a Republican until running for Mayor. His former aide and ex-Repub State Legislator Garey Forster (who also brokered the Couhig endorsement) spoke to Karl Rove about NOLA politics and told him that C Ray was the best Mayor they were going to get in NOLA. The upshot of this conversation was that C Ray has been left alone whilst they’ve investigated the hell out of the Morial administration which has the added benefit of bugging Senator Mary Landrieu. Landrieu as you may recall was elected by a whisker to her first term in 1996 and went through a Senate investigation as to whether her victory was due to Morial based voter fraud. A Senate committee chaired by John Warner (R-Va.) didn’t find any voter fraud and Mary was seated.
Back to Jim Letten. In the last few months we’ve learned a lot about how the Bush Justice Department is run. The US Attorneys who did NOT play ball politically were fired by Gonzo and his henchmen at the behest of the White House. Jim Letten who is a career prosecutor survived the Gonzo gate purge. He must have been playing ball on the focus on Morial scheme which also made sense from a prosecutorial sense: the Morial administration was rife with patronage and corruption. In short Letten could have his political cake and eat it too without becoming a complete Bush sycophant and whore. He appears to be a very gifted bureaucratic infighter as well as a talented courtier.
The recent raid on the LIFT production company offices indicates that any forebearance that Letten had for Nagin and his cronies may have ended. The Nagin regime was actively involved in the Treme film studio scheme that may be part of the Federal investigation into LIFT.
As I said at the beginning of the post I’m drawing inferences and trying to connect the dots on this thing. Dambala’s information comes from an anonymous source but it makes sense. I also don’t mean to cast any aspersions on Jim Letten: on balance he’s been a very good US Attorney. BUT career prosecutors are rarely appointed US Attorneys; especially not in the Bush-Ashcroft-Gonzalez years. Letten was in fact acting US Attorney for years after then Governor Foster’s choice Fred Heebe withdrew after giving everyone the heebie jeebies over allegations that he abused his ex-wife and ex-girlfriend.
Anyway it’s going to be very interesting to see how the LIFT story unfolds and how Letten’s office handles cases involving C Ray’s cronies in the future. Jim may no longer be Letten Nagin off easy.
Jeffrey and David have more on this story.

QUARTER NOTES: RAINY DAY EDITION

Thu, 24 May 2007 18:02:08

It poured buckets or (fill in your favorite rainy day cliche) in the Quarter yesterday. For some reason the rain brings the weirdos out in droves or perhaps it just drives them under the balconies seeking shelter from the deluge. Two moments in particular tickled my funny bone wherever the hell that’s located:

  • A large group of very wet and rather frantic Russian tourists entered the shop. A brassy and aggressive blond woman (no not Dangerblond she’s a Yank but not a Yankee) demanded that I sell them rain coats. We don’t sell soft goods plastic or anything remotely serviceable as rain gear. After deciding that they weren’t Russian mafia types who would curb stomp me Tony Soprano style I laughed and said: “I can’t sell what I don’t have.” She looked puzzled and somewhat irate  but one of her peeps looked around and started laughing as well. I told them how to swim over to Walgreen’s. Slosh slosh.
  • Some very tall joker dressed in a black suit sought shelter under the Upper Pontalba’s balcony during the downpour. I thought nothing of it until a customer informed me that he had a lizard on his nose. I looked for myself and sure enough it was a genuine bona fide live lizard. But by the time I saw him the lizard had crawled up his face and was resting comfortably on the top of his head. I resisted the temptation to ask the Lizard Man if he’d escaped from a side show…

 

TALES OF THE STORM: MICHEL

Tue, 19 Sep 2006 15:39:01

Michel was our handyman for 5 years. Actually he was Dr. A’s factotum and I was her sidekick as far as Michel was concerned. That was fine by me. Dr. A met Michel the week we moved into our house on Constance Street. A shite tree at the house now owned by the Morons had fallen down and nearly hit our house. The drunk who then owned the building had dragged the dead tree to the curb but failed to have the limbs cut down so they sat on the sidewalk for days. My trashophobic wife swung into action. A man on a bicycle stopped and said: “I’m a handyman lady. I can help you with that mess.” It was Michel.

Michel was the handyman’s handyman. He could garden fix nearly anything and do it for a fair price. Michel was also likable likable likable. There was just something about him that drew people to him. He’d often show up with a crew of helpers: Sweet Andre and his girlfriend Georgeanne. Andre his cousin liked to introduce himself by saying “My name is Andre like the champagne.” Sweet was his primary sub-contractor and still cuts our grass. His nickname is not an ironic one; like Michel he’s as sweet as pie. He prefers to be called Edwin but we can’t help calling him by the affectionate nickname Michel gave him.

Michel wasn’t always as reliable as we would have liked but he’d show up smiling and apologetic and tell us about his latest misadventure. We always forgave him because his explanations were so entertaining. Besides when he worked for us he gave it everything he had. I got exhausted watching him.

Dr. A thought that Michel should have gone on “Survivor.” Every time they’d have a citified African-American guy who couldn’t swim or was afraid of birds she’d say: “They should get Michel. He can operate a boat fish build things and take care of himself.” I don’t think he would have been good at the backstabbing part of the game though: it wasn’t in his nature.

Alas Michel was a heavy smoker. Dr. A gave him her standard spiel about smoking and he’d nod and keep puffing away. In May 2005 Michel was diagnosed with lung cancer after about 6 months of vague symptoms. It was a bad case too. He turned to Dr. A to advise him. He went through the standard therapy torture of chemo radiation but his decline continued unabated. Dr. A even tried to help get him into a clinical trial. Michel still came over to do our yard but his boys did most of the work. Michel was always skinny but he started to look like a toothpick with legs. It was a bad sign.

Then Hurricane Katrina struck. Dr. A was worried about Michel and he was one of the people we kept calling and calling and calling. It was futile: the area code 504 cell phone servers were down when we needed them the most. This lack of contact added to everyone’s sense of frustration and isolation: if you didn’t have a landline contact number or an email address you were SOL.

After a week in Shreveport we moved to my cousin’s house near Dallas. Dr. A kept trying to get Michel; one day she got an answer. It was the first time she’d gotten through to anyone from home on their cell phone. It turned out to be a bittersweet moment. The phone was answered by Michel’s girlfriend Georgeanne. She too was in Dallas at a relative’s house. Michel’s mother Miss Evelyn who is in her mid-Seventies but looks twenty years younger was with her. We learned that Michel was still alive but fading fast. He’d landed in an hospice in North Dallas.

We fought the crosstown Dallas traffic and found the hospice. Dr. A was relieved to see that it was a clean and well-maintained facility. We had to do some fast talking to find Michel’s room. It was made trickier by the fact that his real first name was Michael. We told them that he had been evacuated from New Orleans and had lung cancer. One of the staff said: “Oh you must mean that incredibly nice black fellow who came in a few days ago.” When we got to his room we found Michel dead. He was still warm. We had just missed him.

When Georgeanne and Miss Evelyn arrived they told us their Katrina story. On Sunday 8/28 Miss Evelyn was able to get Michel from her house on Perrier Street to Touro Infirmary. The docs and nurses let Georgeanne Miss Evelyn and two of her grandchildren stay in the room with Michel and ride out the storm there.

They remained at Touro for several days until “help” arrived. It was a mixed blessing for Michel’s family: he was evacuated but they were on their own. They wouldn’t let his mama or girlfriend come with him. Michel was at Armstrong Airport for 2 days before being moved to Dallas.

Georgeanne and Miss Evelyn walked downtown in the general direction of the Superdome; trying to get to the Hyatt Hotel where they’d heard that there were busses to take them to safety. They waded through waist deep water and saw dead bodies floating on Tulane Avenue. Miss Evelyn did her damnedest to prevent her grandkids from seeing the corpses.  Dr. A and I cringed when we heard the story but Miss Evelyn told it matter of factly without any histrionics.

When Georgeanne and Miss Evelyn finally got to the Hyatt they were told that there was no place for them on the busses but a policeman saw Miss Evelyn looking bedraggled but dignified. The cop broke through the line and got Miss Evelyn and Georgeanne on the next bus. Miss Evelyn was again matter of fact: “I always did like the po-leese and now I like them a mite better.”

They wound up in Reunion Arena in Dallas before moving in with family in North Dallas. Miss Evelyn informed us that the food had been good at the arena but she didn’t have a pair of shoes that fit: she’d lost hers in the walk downtown.  She told us how lucky she felt to be alive and safe. Their luck had just run out with Michel’s death.

We had a tearful reunion but mostly talked about Michel’s sweet and calm nature. He took after his mama in that way: Miss Evelyn was almost ethereal in her calm but was passionate about returning home. It was still unclear at that point how bad things would be in New Orleans so we pondered the fate of our flooded city. Georgeanne was sure of one thing: “New Orleans isn’t buildings. New Orleans is the people.”

Yeah you right dawlin’

SCARRED FOR LIFE

Fri, 15 Sep 2006 18:39:04

Before I became a widely derided pundit I used to write a lot about my dumbass white trash next door neighbors: Mr. and Mrs. Moron. Dr. A and I sometimes believe that they were put next door to us as punishment for some obscure infraction. They’re the sort of people who when confronted with options will pick the stupidest possible course. It wouldn’t surprise me in the least if they were the ones who put  the major appliance in a pothole near Chris Rose’s house.

Anyway today I looked out my kitchen window and beheld a fearsome and awesomely stupid sight: It was Mr. Moron stripped to the waist leaning over a table saw his paunch way too close to the blade. This was a terrifying sight for so many reasons. First Mr. Moron is to be charitable butt ugly. I’d call him simian but that would be an insult to apes everywhere. Second the image of the saw slitting his ample gut entered my head. The last thing I want to see is Moron bits flying about the neighborhood. Mercifully Mr. Moron retreated from the table saw before the slasher film in my head became a reality.

The image however of Mr. Moron’s hairy belly dangling over the saw is seared on my memory. I am scarred for life. On the other hand it gave me an amusing blog entry so it’s no big whoop. I feel better already…