3 Christmas Spirits

Dec 27, 2007 by

I had a vision today, as I was driving back to the ‘hood, down Esplanade Avenue. While many of these visions are simply flashbacks from my misspent youth in the 70’s, on this occasion, there seemed to be an actual message involved.

As some of you may have noticed, there has been quite a brouhaha over the scheduled destruction of some public housing facilities. For the sake of simple journalism, I’ll refer to these as what they really are: Projects.

I’ve heard the arguments that everyone has the right to a home, here in America. I’m sure there are tens of thousands of Tribal Native Americans laughing themselves blue over that little gem. I remember hearing the argument that in America, everyone has the right to eat. Richard Pryor commented that in America, everyone could always get something to eat. As long as they had a pistol.

My concern is not how many other people’s rent I’m supposed to pay, since I refuse to endorse “Government” housing that will ultimately come out of ALL of our paychecks (while freeloaders sit and do nothing). My concern is the way this entire deal has been handled. These projects have been sitting empty for two years, pending this resolution. Now Mayor Ray has said that they won’t be torn down ’til everyone has a place to go. Why didn’t that whole program start two years ago?

Housing folks who are FROM here in those projects, even temporarily, offering an education in construction program (which was offered the first year back) would have built a viable workforce and created thousands of new contributing members to our society. Further more, when we have crime analysts saying “Start with the children”, who can possibly grow up seeing a future, when your whole family lives in brick barracks, without any hope of getting out? Slinging dope suddenly seems reasonable, and the violent anger associated with it is no longer a mystery.

Then we have Mister Brad Pitt. He contributed 5 million dollars of his own money, as long as it was matched (and it has been) to build mixed income homes in the 9th ward, just across the canal (makeitrightnola.org). These homes are going up at an alarming rate. Yet I’m told that less than 100 people attended the press conference there. Hmmmm.

This Glamorous Hollywood Bigshot is dumping funds and effort into a part of the city that desperately needs help. Our city government spent almost as much (just over 3 million) bailing out the racist backlash of our own Eddie Jordan, and can’t get it together to let New Orleans families return to live, even temporarily, in these projects that have stood empty for 2 years. Why is that? How come a Movie Star can stop his career, spend millions of dollars of his own money to help folks he has never met, and the city can’t let it’s own people crash in thousands of empty apartments, while paying off a lawsuit against a racist District Attorney?

I’ve heard a lot about this being white against black and black against white. What crap. Even assuming many of those who can’t return are black, the problems they encounter here are from our city’s black leaders, and the solutions seem to be coming from wealthy white sources. That’s because it’s about Power and Control. Nobody seems to mention that St. Bernard parish, hit just as hard as the 9th ward and mostly white, doesn’t even have sewers back yet. That part of our community will likely never recover. Yet no one there cries for free housing.

These issues are deep and complex, certainly baffling to as tattered a brain as mine. So I wait for visions to come…

Today I was visited by three spirits. The first was the Spirit of Christmas past: Ray Nagin, touting a great plan, two years too late, & Eddie Jordan’s overdue bill, hounding a broken city to the edge of bankruptcy.

Then there was the spirit of Christmas present: Brad Pitt: movie star, celebrity, wealthy & beautiful, enviable beyond all measure, stopping his career to move to this city (I know where, but I won’t say) and dump millions of dollars into housing. Personal sacrifice, selfless work and integrity are not often mentioned in connection with Hollywood. Perhaps thats why he & his family have come here to do it. Thanks dude.

And then there was the Spirit of Christmas Yet To Come…

I stopped in the newest grocery chain (Louisiana Owned!) to look at some very overpriced wine today, before heading back to my home off St. Claude, realizing it would be cheaper to drink at the local dive. I stood behind two short & skinny white guys with those nasal accents associated with the North East Coast. They were talking about how nobody here realized that those “Public Housing Communities” were peoples HOMES. I grew up in the projects and we never thought of them that way, either. They were going on & on about “what we’re gonna DO man”, so I shut them out.

As I sat in my old pickup, waiting for the starter to catch, just one more time, I saw them come walking out, carrying deli trays and that expensive beer in the green bottles. They climbed in to an SUV about the size of God’s Ego, with Massachussetts plates, and turned up the music. The blasting strains of lyrics, “muthafukka fuck with me and that nigga be dead” resounded across the parking lot. While I fantasized about trying to get them to play that shit driving through the Iberville Projects around midnight, I realized, this is the Spirit of Christmas Yet To Come. Our little crazy town becoming a stopover for deluded rich white boys who think they want to be Bradd Pitt by coming here and complaining about how things are done, and how the poor folks are mistreated, before they run off to Commanders Palace with mommy’s platinum card. God help us to help ourselves. Let us not become the Cause of the Spoiled Rich Children.

There are creative solutions to every problem, none of which can be seen through anger, racism, hatred, yelling, screaming, hitting, pepper-spraying or tasering. People need homes, medicine, food & jobs. All of these things can be arranged with co-operation, planning and selfless contribution.

The alternative scares the Dickens out of me. And it’s absolute proof that there ain’t no Sanity Clause. Happy Holidays, folks. My resolution for the New Year? Hold on to your hat, it’s gonna be a bumpy ride.

Lord David
Pirate & Artist
Skull Club
New Orleans

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