Monday, January 30, 2006

Reporting from Habitat for Humanity

Spent the day sheathing a roof and installing trim on Day 1 of Habitat for Humanity's Bayou Building Blitz in Gray, LA. Swamp country.
Good day though, extremely nice people, very positive vibes from everyone. I'm exhausted but I got the roof up, should have it shingled tomorrow.

Mayor Nagin today finally signed the city council's legislation to allow licensed electricians to certify their work. Thanks for wasting one month of my time, and keeping families out of their houses 30 days longer than needed. Amazing the lack of foresight down here.

Mardi Gras is going to be wild, wacky and likely out of control.

Random notes:::


some observed New Orleans things…

You can roll with Zulu for $1500 bucks and a connection, they need help to continue the tradition, for a once in a lifetime

A local tradition amongst all the local truckers seems to be to have a stuffed animal lashed onto their vehicle somewhere. Whether it is the front grill, or a lever arm to pick up dumpsters, the effigies of Bart Simpson, Santa Claus, Tickle me Elmo, are ubiquitous. I’m not sure if this is an old tradition, or are some sort of homage to all the broken and destroyed lives that can be seen in the dolls and toys littering different streets. It is funny to see large, hairy, grown men clearly proud of their non-age appropriate playthings.

The Fat Boys would be right at home down here. This city is overweight, often grotesquely. I was at Josephine’s last night, to see another great live act the Hot 8, an all brass rap and dance band, and literally one third of the women there were at least 50 pounds overweight, and a large number over 100 pounds overweight. The scene is the same wherever you go, Home Depot is full of Big good ol’ boys.

I’m having a personal contest to see which is the heaviest cop I can find in the city. Everytime I think I’ve found the largest, within a day or two I see someone even bigger, again, well over 100 pounds out of shape. The current leader was an older tall, bald white guy ambling over to a car he’d pulled over. His body shaped like a double 4 sided cone, pointed at the top, to where the cones meet in the middle, then tapering down to his shoes.


I’m in Gray, Louisiana in a Mission house in the Bayou working with Habitat for Humanity. We said prayers before meeting and eating. The group is all white, from all over: Rhode Island, New York, Minnesota, Chicago. The overall feeling is of people who want to help their fellow man, but frustrated that it is difficult to figure out how to do it. Government has been no help.

After dinner I went for a run around the area, across the street from the religious mission where we are staying is a trailer park with three dead end streets. There was a group of about 5 young black youths who told me to turn back, that it was dead end, that I’d get attacked by a big dog, I continued on jogging around and on my way out the kids told me not to come back, and that if they saw me again “they put a cap in me…” Even in the Bayou, a road, in this case the highway, divides white from black, similar to Mass Ave. separating Roxbury from the South End.

It is not hard to find or feel the racial disparities, inequities, and mistrust down here. One of the projects I’m working on is in the Uptown area of town. Across the street from our project is a private Catholic girls school that re-opened in January. It is about 97 percent white, with the requisite skirts and screams during recess. On the other side of the street is the only operating public high school which is 100% black. It is de facto segregation, and what is most interesting to me is how completely accepted and unassuming people are about it. There were some black laborers working next door who commented how nice it was to hear the sound of (white) children playing again in the neighborhood.

Not surprisingly, their temporary bliss probably indicated a much higher sense of happiness and satisfaction in their lives than I, who wastes my time writing these epilogues about my observations of life and the unfairness of much of it. Not to mention vicissitudes conjuring up fanciful dreams of world peace, shared environmental responsibility, equitable capital distribution and more self esteem leading to better use of silicon such as lubrication of motorcycles.

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