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New Orleans Diary: Week Six

6 Jan

Goal: You know the deal. Write a weekly post that hopefully has some meaningful content only to realize week week that I am only writing about my mostly meaningless observations. Catch up on the earlier diaries here if you are so inclined! Week One, Week Two, Week Three, Week Four, Week Five.

Saga of the Lost Pants: If you remember from last week, I lost my pants. Well, 2/3 of my pants, anyway. I came to the rock solid conclusion that the bug that had previously been tormenting me had likely made away with them but that theory had yet to be proven. The other theory was that I had in fact left my pants in Houston, Texas over Christmas when I was there seeing my friend Carrie and my Texas Family. In order to either prove, or disprove, this second more reasonable theory, Carrie offered to text her mom to see if I  had left my pants at her house. She checked and, alas! I had not! Clearly my initial response was

I knew it! The bug took them!

But then I looked in my closet and realized that they were folded up on a shelf in there underneath some curtains and a scarf. Perhaps, you might be saying to yourself, I should have investigated the closet before making Carrie’s mom search through her house and also before accusing an innocent insect of theft. And you might be right.

In other news I am wearing my pants right now.

Hipster Bikes: So this is not just a New Orleans post because I also saw these same bikes in New York only far less often. They are those stupid high off the ground bikes. Those really tall ones. You know the ones:

hipsterest-bike

Anyway I see these bikes a lot and it’s like, why?! Why would you ride that stupid thing? First of all, you look like an asshole. Second of all, how do you get on and off? Third of all, it is really far down to the ground when you inevitably fall. And fourth, see the first point. They are just so….annoyingly, laughingly hipster. I just sometimes want to tell people that something ceases to be unique and cool and interesting when all your friends are also doing it but I guess that is a waste of breath. So instead I will just continue to do what I have been doing up until this point: shaking my head with complete and utter disdain.

Food Handler’s License: I am now the proud owner of a New York State Food Handler’s License as well as a Louisiana Alcohol Vendor Permit. (Hold the applause.) Obtaining my vendor’s permit here was, shall we say, eye opening. I know a lot of you readers are from New York and also probably had to go through all the stupid steps to get your food handler’s license. But for those of you who haven’t, here is a brief overview.

You have two choices, you can either take the class in-person or take it online. To take it in-person costs $114 and requires you to attend 15 hours of classes. Online is free. Either way you have to travel all the way up to a filthy building on 125th Street or something in order to take the test itself. Here’s the thing about taking the classes online, at least when I did it. There were a bunch of different sections and each section had a whole lot of information and at the end of the section there was a quiz. You couldn’t go on to the next section unless you successfully passed the quiz by answering all 5 (if I remember correctly) questions right. You also couldn’t go on to the next section if you hadn’t been working on the previous section for something like 2 hours. So if you answered something wrong on the quiz? You had to have the browser open for another 2 hours and then take the quiz again. And if you answered all the question right but hadn’t had the browser open the full 2 hours? Well then you waited. It was one of the most boring, most tedious, most unnecessary processes ever.

In New Orleans, it is totally different. I signed up for my class on Wednesday morning and was sitting in the upstairs area of Saints and Sinners at 3pm. The class costs $25. It takes 2 hours. And then you take the test which is comprised of 20 multiple choice questions, the answers for which have literally been fed to you in the moments preceding. I walked out of the class at 5:15 with my temporary permit, a permit that is valid for the next 4 years. Easy peasy.

So, in summation: New York makes everything so much more time consuming and annoying than is necessary. Also, the Office of Health and Human Services where I had to take the exam was so incredibly disgusting and was infested with cockroaches. And the guy taking the test next to me kept picking his nose and eating what he found. I know that isn’t New York’s fault (the nose picking) but still it was rather unpleasant. New Orleans, on the other hand, was a breeze. I didn’t see any bugs (Hallelujah!) and no one picked anything out of any of the orifices in their body.

Rain: It rains a lot here. It is raining right now, in fact. And it has also rained a lot of the other days since I have been here. But at least it is not snowing. I think this week I will buy one of those nifty bright yellow raincoats that I was embarrassed to wear when I was a kid but now want really badly. Also some galoshes.

Conclusion: So that is it. Week Six is in the books. I have a feeling there will be BIG news next week and hopefully that will not involve my car flooding which is a real concern, a concern that keeps me up at night.

New Orleans Diary: Week Five

30 Dec

Goal: To keep a weekly diary of my time here in New Orleans. This is Week 5! Which means I have been living here for over a month. And also it has been almost two whole months since I left Brooklyn which is pretty crazy. Hi, Brooklyn. Do ya miss me?

Waterbugs, Information: You may recall that last week I saw a waterbug in my bathroom and subsequently hid from the bug, also the bathroom, for a considerable amount of time following the sighting. Then the bug mysteriously disappeared. Dun dun duuuuuun. I then posted about the bug on my Facebook page at which point I received all kinds of comments. Some of them were full of concern, some were full of disgust and vomit emojis, and some were from people welcoming me to Life in the South. As a result of the post, I also received a few bits of information.

  • My friend Heather told me that New Orleans-style waterbugs fly at your face. AT YOUR FACE! Which, since my face is the face that is currently here, means that they will most certainly fly at my face which is not something I hope to experience. She told me to get the Raid in the silver can because it is full of chemicals and the shape of the nozzle allows for pretty good aim which means that you can, from a distance, spray that noxious shit and hopefully hit the attacking bug in mid (at my face) fly. That sounds like a really great idea until one remembers that time I accidentally maced myself in the face. I decided, as a result, to forego airborne chemical warfare and simply go for some traps.
  • My friend Rob told me that here in New Orleans they call these bugs “palmettos.” I am glad to know what they are called here so that when I tell people about The Bug and they think I am talking about silver fish (also ew!) I can use the appropriate regionalism to correct them so that we are all on the same disgusting, flying-at-my-face page.

Waterbugs, The Update: Following the initial sighting I was living if not a carefree life at least one seemingly free of waterbugs. That is until the day before yesterday! I walked into the kitchen to grab something when <BAM!> There it was! Sneaking around on the floor like the huge and disgusting flying hunk of roach that it is. Naturally, I screamed, ran into the bedroom and jumped onto the bed which clearly wouldn’t have helped me one bit if the bug had decided to fly at my face. Luckily for all involved it did not. I’m pretty sure it actually also screamed and retreated under the refrigerator. What to do?! I quickly mined my brain for information and remembered a story my friend Carrie had told me in which her basement apartment became ground zero of a short-lived waterbug infestation during a huge rainstorm and she lined the inside of her doors with duct tape. It worked! And so I snuck into the kitchen and, looking out for monsters (AKA waterbugs), I retrieved some gorilla duct tape – extra sticky! – and laid it out all around the refrigerator so that if the bug decided to try and sneak out it would get caught! Inhumane, I know, but it was the only way I would be able to sleep.

And then I waited. And slept. But also waited.

When I woke up in the morning I went into the kitchen to see if the bug had in fact gotten stuck. I discovered the most awful thing. Not only had the bug not gotten stuck, but it had used its brute strength to actually move the gorilla tape a good 3 inches away from the fridge and then somehow dislodge itself to live another day. It also left behind one leg on the tape. So gross.

In summation the waterbugs down here are like other fucking level. They are like terminators. Seriously if we could train waterbugs to do our bidding we could use them to fight wars. These fuckers are no joke. And this said by someone who now has a 5-legged waterbug wandering around her house, waiting for the next opportunity to fly at my face.

Clothing: I have lost all my pants. I was putting my clothes away yesterday and I can’t find them. I know I had them because I recently wore them but now they appear to be missing. Has anyone seen them?

Driving: But seriously, people cannot drive here. Or, well, they can’t drive in a different way from the ways in which people up North can’t drive. So here is the new thing I have noticed. You’ll be moving along at a steady clip with all of the other people except for the one guy who is driving 25mph above the speed limit and is, like everyone else, allergic to the use of blinkers. And then, as if from nowhere, there is the person driving 20 mph below the speed limit. I don’t think I have driven on a highway in Louisiana once without encountering this person. And he/she is always in the middle lane. ALWAYS. Which is an extra big problem here where the right lane oftentimes goes from lane to exit only lane and back again with basically no warning whatsoever. So it actually isn’t really a lane at all. But the slow person isn’t in the next lane over, oh no. The slow person is in the other middle lane. So this is what happens:

  • The right lane is oscillating between exit only lane, new cars merging in lane and regular right lane where slow drivers are supposed to live so they don’t bother the rest of us.
  • The middle right lane becomes this lane where no one really wants to be because you have to be aware of the constantly changing status of the right lane. That being said this would be the perfect lane for a slow driver because all the other drivers who are merging and exiting and generally confused by signage can easily move into the slow driver lane because the slow driver is, well, so slow.
  • The middle left lane is where the slow driver now lives for reasons that I am not entirely clear on. This messes up all the other lanes because now there is a serious slow-down in the middle left lane resulting in a lot of tailgating. People love to tailgate here.
  • The left lane is basically the only lane that operates under normal lane procedures from what I can tell. The slow driver generally doesn’t venture over there. Although there generally is someone in a mini-van using cruise control at exactly 8 miles over the speed limit which can be problematic.

The result of all of this is a complete and total free-for-all. Every lane is a passing lane. Every car is tailgating some other car which means that every car is simultaneously tailgating someone else while trying to lose its own tailgater. And then there is the asshole who drives like he/she is from New Jersey. You know the guy. Driving really fast, weaving in and out of traffic with no warning whatsoever, squeezing into teeny tiny spaces. This person is almost always in a busted up coup with tinted windows. This guy has watched Fast and Furious too many times. I don’t not like that guy.

Conclusion: That’s all I’ve got for right now. The New Year is fast approaching and everyone seems pretty pleased that 2016 is over since it gave us Tr*mp and pretty much killed everyone that we love. And I don’t want to be the bearer of bad news, but unless 2016 flexes its muscles yet again, we will be inaugurating Tr*mp on the 20th day of January. And then we are stuck with him for the next 4 years unless he gets impeached at which point we are stuck with Mike fucking Pence. So I am sorry to say that 2017 is not looking like it’s gonna be all that much better. But there will be more New Orleans diary entries so that’s something, right?

We Spoke in Hushed Voices

20 Dec

Yesterday was the day of the electoral college vote. Yesterday was also the day I decided to go to the National World War II Memorial here in New Orleans. This was premeditated.

***

I have been somewhat quiet these past few weeks on issues outside of my observations of life here in New Orleans. I’ve been mulling over a number of different things, unable to really put into words what was happening around me, around all of us, and how it has been making me feel. I cannot speak for anyone other than myself – did you hear that, Libby Chamberlain? – and so I will use this space, my space, to share with you, if you care to listen, about what’s been happening in this confused brain of mine.

I have felt silenced.

I am not entirely sure why this is. Is it because Tr*mp was elected? Is it because of all of the hate that he unleashed in this country over the past 18 months, give or take? Is it because I left my comfortable, knowable home in Brooklyn and moved South? Is it because I realized, once again, the seemingly unending depths of misogyny that exist in this world? Is it because I am Jewish and, for the first time ever, I feel markedly unsafe in my own skin?

It is, in a lot of ways, that last one. Although the other ones are notable as well. I have lived a privileged life, all things considered, and so I do want to underscore all of this by stating that I do know it could be worse. I am 33 years old. I have been Jewish for every single one of those 33 years. And now is the first time I feel unsafe sitting in my own reality. This has not been true for a lot of people. And so before I continue, I just want to express my knowledge about my own privilege and express my sadness about the world that so many people have occupied their entire lives, and my respect for them for getting up day after day and moving forward, and keeping on, and for writing and speaking and sharing and singing and for simply living. Being afraid sucks. And so with that, here goes.

***

Yesterday I decided to go to the National World War II Museum because I recalled an article I read in The Washington Post following Richard Spencer’s Nazi-inspired speech in DC. In it was a statement put out by the Holocaust Museum following the conference which read, in part,

The Holocaust did not begin with killing; it began with words.

Just to give you an idea of what exactly is meant by that, here’s an excerpt from the Museum’s piece on the Nazi rise to power.

Hitler was a powerful and spellbinding orator who, by tapping into the anger and helplessness felt by a large number of voters, attracted a wide following of Germans desperate for change. Nazi electoral propaganda promised to pull Germany out of the Depression. The Nazis pledged to restore German cultural values, reverse the provisions of the Treaty of Versailles, turn back the perceived threat of a Communist uprising, put the German people back to work, and restore Germany to its “rightful position” as a world power. Hitler and other Nazi propagandists were highly successful in directing the population’s anger and fear against the Jews; against the Marxists (Communists and Social Democrats); and against those the Nazis held responsible for signing both the armistice of November 1918 and the Versailles treaty, and for establishing the parliamentary republic.

Sound familiar? Because it should.

Words and propaganda were what brought the Nazi party into power in the 1930s; they were what created an environment in which an entire infrastructure could be built with the express purpose of shuttling people to work and, ultimately, their deaths; they were what emboldened a population to exterminate 11 million people. The words and propaganda of Hitler and his Nazi Party were what led Raphael Lemkin to coin the term used to describe what had been done to the Jews and other groups during World War II. He called it genocide.

The article from The Museum came out around the same time Jessy and I were in Chattanooga, Tennessee, about 3/4 the way through our drive to New Orleans. We had spent a lot of time sitting in the car, in our Airbnbs and hotel rooms, walking through national parks all the while talking about the election, what it meant, how we felt, what world we were living in. It had all been sort of academic. Analyses of things we had read and heard, fears we had about how empowered some people suddenly felt to disempower others, how groups that had existed only in the deepest recesses of the Internet were suddenly mainstays of the news. But then, our first night in Chattanooga as we sat at the bar eating dinner and having a much needed glass of wine, it all became suddenly more real. I looked up at the screen and on CNN during primetime I saw the Nazi salute. And then I saw it again and again and again as it was played and replayed. And I watched as the hosts talked it down, rationalized it, normalized it, tried to make it less that what it is: an expression of unbridled hatred and antisemitism and an embracing of all that the Nazis stood for and did in the 1930s and 1940s. And it made me wonder. Have we forgotten our own past? Do we owe nothing to the 11+ million people lost?

There is a word that is used often when talking about the Nazi era. It is Gleichshaltung and is translated from the German as “coordination” but more often refers to the act, politically speaking, of getting in line.The political theorist Hanna Arendt, who escaped Germany in 1933 explained it well in one of her last interviews. She said,

The problem, the personal problem, was not what our enemies did, but what our friends did. Friends ‘coordinated’ or got in line.

Shawn Hamilton expannded on this idea in his article published by The Huffington Post.

People rejected the uglier aspects of Nazism but gave ground in ways that ultimately made it successful. They conceded premises to faulty arguments. They rejected the “facts” of propaganda, but not the impressions of it. The new paradigm of authoritarianism was so disorienting that they simply could not see it for what it was, let alone confront it.

This is what scares me. Every time an act of hatred or violence is talked down, is normalized or excused, those acts, and the people that carried them out, are empowered. The problem is that when we make concessions for the small things, we are accepting the larger message. Remember: before there were the camps, there were the words. The words prepared people to accept that which would previously have seemed unimaginable. In his book, Germany: Jekyll and Hyde, Sebastian Haffner said,

Outside of Germany people often wonder at the palpable fraudulence of Nazi propaganda, the stupid incredible exaggerations, the ludicrous reticences concerning what is generally known. Who can be convinced by it? They ask. The answer is that it is not meant to convince but to impress.

It is not meant to convince, but to impress.

From where we sit in our discussions of history and in the comfort of our homes, Nazi propaganda seems utterly insane. How could this have come to pass? How could people have swallowed their morals, their ethics, their humanity and gotten behind such a hateful, murderous regime? A solution to all their problems. We are living it right now. We are seeing it again. Otherwise decent people willing to accept this lie of why we are where we are, and who specifically made it come to pass. And to then hold those people accountable for something which was not their doing. As Hamilton points out, it is not illegal immigration that is to blame for the downfall of the white working class, it is mechanization, globalization, the disempowerment of unions. Blaming immigrants is demagoguery, not reality. And deporting immigrants will not bring those jobs back. Those jobs are gone. But continuing to propagate this argument, continuing to excuse those who stand by it through silence or the ballot box, can only prepare us for words to become action.

***

Yesterday I went to the National World War II Museum because the Holocaust Museum is in Washington, DC and I am here in New Orleans. I went there because I wanted to be in a place where I was free to remember, to grow teary and tired, to educate myself. I know there was more to World War II than The Holocaust. But I needed to be in a place that actively recognized that The Holocaust happened, that was just steeped in an acknowledgment of what humans are capable of doing, of what we can grow accustomed to, of what we normalize. And I wanted to be angry. I wanted to be angry about all the lives lost and angry that, all these years later, all these lessons later, all these deaths later that we could still, as humans, Gleichshaltung. That we could, again, fall in line behind the propaganda. But instead of feeling angry, I felt physically ill when I saw a few swastikas on the side of the airplane of a Tuskegee Airman who had, as the tour guide explained to us, had “a few German kills.” Those swastikas almost made me vomit because all of a sudden they don’t feel like a relic of the past anymore, they are a part of our present.

Tearful I turned to a woman in the group who stood next to me. A woman who had family who had fought in all the wars starting with World War I. A woman who had traveled down from New Jersey with her family to enjoy New Orleans, to visit this museum and to remember. And, in hushed tones, we talked. We talked about Tr*mp and the election; about racism and sexism and antisemitism; we talked about our fears for the future of this country; we talked about all the lies, the propaganda and how people were just eating them up. It was good to have an ear, to have a conversation with someone who was feeling some of the things I was feeling. But still, we spoke quietly. And today I am forced to ask myself why.

New Orleans Diary: Week Three

16 Dec

Goal: To keep a weekly, running diary of my time here in New Orleans. I have hopes that this will sometimes cover some serious topics but so far I mostly have been talking about driving and plastic bags. That should change any week now, maybe even this one! You can read Week One and Week Two if you want to know all about it.

The Ferry: For the first almost two weeks that I was here I stayed with my super awesome, sparkly, magical friend Carie at her great spot in Algiers Point. As previously noted, I have a car, something that makes getting around a city with rather limited public transportation significantly easier. Especially considering that in order to get into the New Orleans you guys think about when you think about New Orleans you either have to drive or take the Ferry from Algiers Point to Canal Street just on the other side of the river. The ferry ride itself is rather nice. It’s like the Staten Island Ferry’s much smaller, somewhat lazier sister. It’s not lazier because it only runs twice an hour from each side of the river for most of the day. It’s lazier because sometimes it just doesn’t run. At all. For no real reason. So the other day I was driving back from the city, listening to the radio, when I heard an announcement that the ferry wasn’t running.

Oh no!

I thought.

Carie is at work on the other side and she doesn’t have a car. How will she get home? I had better go pick her up so she doesn’t spend a bunch of money getting back to the house!

So that’s what I did. No big shakes. But then the next day I decided that I wanted to go into the city and I didn’t feel like having my car. I wanted to just, you know, go there, wander around, drink too much Southern Pecan Iced Coffee from PJ’s and then make my way back home, twitchy from the caffeine overload but pleased that I didn’t have to drive. So I laced up my big girl boots and sashayed my way over to the ferry landing where I was stopped by a few men in bright orange vests who appeared to be in the middle of eating lunch.

Orange Vested Guy: Ma’am, the ferry isn’t running today.

Me, after I got over being called ma’am and feeling like an old fart: Oh, I see. How come?

Orange Vested Guy: Because the captain is sick.

Me: You just have the one?

Orange Vested Guy: Mhmm.

He went back to eating his lunch. I suspected he was lying to me but with no proof I sadly turned around and meandered back to the house, this time with considerably less pep to my step. Was the captain really sick? Do they really have only one captain? And was it possible that the captain was, in fact, among the orange vested men sitting there eating lunch but his lunch was just so good that he couldn’t be bothered to drive the boat 5 minutes across to the other side of the river?  So many questions. So few answers.

But that’s not all! There is another thing about the ferry that maybe, maybe explains the first thing. So the ferry costs $2 a ride. There is no discount if you live in Algiers like how there is if you live in Staten Island and have to take the Verrazano; there is no card like there is for the subway in New York; there is no ticket counter. You simply go to the ferry and drop your $2 in this big plastic container thing and someone in a bright orange vest sits there purportedly supervising the transaction. The thing is though that you have to have exact change because the orange vested person doesn’t have access to the money inside the plastic container so if you give them, say $5, you just overpaid by $3. But they also never count the money before you drop it in. It’s all on the honor system. So, theoretically, if you were a dishonorable person you could just drop a whole handful of nickels in the container that only amount to like 95 cents and no one would be the wiser. So maybe too many dishonorable people underpaid for their ride and the captain got miffed and decided to not come to work. Or decided to come to work but instead of working eat his lunch. Although I heard that the ferry operators make a fair bit of money so perhaps this logic is flawed. I will research this and get back to you.

Apartment (!!): I was really anxious about finding an apartment because I grew up in the North East and spent the last 12 years living in Brooklyn. Apartment hunting there, like basically anything else in NYC, has some element of cut throat involved. First of all, you basically have to promise your first born to whoever the fuck is renting the apartment out in order to secure it. Second, you have to give them all this information and practically a million dollars. And third, you basically end up living in a closet somewhere in a neighborhood no one has ever heard of but is maybe going to be “cool” AKA gentrified in the next 5 years at which point your closet will be too expensive and you have to move again. Not so here! I looked at 3 apartments and all the home owners were like

LIVE HERE

And I got to be picky about it and ended up getting a fully furnished apartment with a washer/dryer and a private yard in a great location.It’s basically a nothing walk from everything (nod to Jessy Caron for highlighting that little speech nugget). It’s so big I got lost in it the first day even though it is a railroad apartment, or a shotgun in New Orleans parlance. I discovered after speaking with some other people that it is easier as a single woman to find an apartment. I imagine there are some other factors at play here too but I don’t know enough about racial relations in this city to feel comfortable weighing in on all that. And so I will just say, phew, what a relief. And also, hey, does anyone need a kind of awesome room in Brooklyn? Because mine is going to be available January 1st. No promising of unborn children required. The neighborhood is actually cool and not only is the room bigger than a closet, it has a rather sizeable one all for you. I’m pretty sure I even left a bunch of hangers in there. Message me for details.

Job Interview: I had a job interview at an about-to-open restaurant. I knew when I agreed to go to the interview that it was a mistake. I have been on the opening staff of a few restaurants in my day and it always is a fiasco. Too much staff, not enough money, lots and lots of micromanaging. But whatever, I need a job so I went in and tried to have a good attitude about it. The third question the interviewer asked me was what my ethnicity was. Needless to say I turned down the job. (I will write a stand alone blog about this later, me thinks. Once I assess whether or not writing about it is wise or unwise given my need for a job. Speaking of, does anyone want to pay me?)

Bags: I discovered that you can, in fact, get paper bags here. Granted you still end up with A LOT of bags, but not nearly as many bags as you would if you were to opt for plastic. This further strengthens my theory that it is not that people here love bags, like I at first assumed, but instead that there is a general mistrust for the strength of plastic bags and so baggers here just put one item per bag for safety purposes. Paper bags, in comparison, seem to have more heft to them. They are the safer bet. And easier to recycle, it seems. So that might just be that. And this might be my last installment about bags. Maybe.

Conclusion: Some other things happened this week also but I fear that I spent too much of my real estate this post talking about the ferry and I might have lost some of you. But in case you were curious about some of the other things, they were fun! I went to AcroCats, something I highly recommend. Also, the Abita Mystery House, the Abita Brewery, Fountainebleu State Park that has some pretty baller trees, and I ate Tachos, something that I will be working to undo for the next month. If you care to know anything more about any of these events, please leave requests in the comments and I will be more than happy to expand upon them in my New Orleans Diary: Week Four post. Until then (and maybe sometime in between when I write about something of potentially political substance) I bid you adieu.