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Washtenaw Flaneurade
3 September 2005
Eye Of A Distant Storm
Now Playing: The Casionauts--"Or How I Learned To Love Mitosis"
Last Sunday, before the madness hit back home, I toddled over to the Madison House for that week's show. Stopping off at Jefferson Market, a twee yet scrummy neighborhood eatery and knickknack shop on the Old West Side, I tried the homemade fries with the garlic aioli, which weren't all that good, really. I was one of the first to arrive for the show; one of the musicians had apparently cancelled and several hadn't arrived yet. I chatted with "Mr." Josh Tillinghast for a while about culinary issues, drank some of my Labatt, and we were off.

Catch a Wave was a bit of a rarity--an almost completely vocal duo featuring Aleise Barnett and Patrick Elkins, both of whom had ably thrashed me aruond as part of Elkins' folk-punk ensemble some weeks back. It was almost unsettling in a way, listening to cute situational pop songs with nonfunctioning microphones and punctuated by little more than handclaps. The Salt Miners came next and instantly afforded me an object lesson in not judging people by appearances. From the crisp black suits they wore, I would have thought them one of those wretched Brian Setzer clone nouveau-swing bands. They proceeded to knock out a thoroughly wonderful set of rollicking bluegrass, the best song concerning a girl in a Grand Am. They managed to pry loose one of those "Dukes of Hazzard" rebel yells I'll occasionally let fly at an especially awesome show. They even got me dancing, if the word "dancing" can be used to describe a half-shake, half-shuffle done with great care not to damage someone's back porch. Dabenport, or "the band with Matt Jones and Misty Lyn in it," followed, and thrilled me with pristine alt-country livened up by an expert wall of sound laid across the back. Watching Vince fiddle around with his guitar was almost as fascinating as watching Ryan Balderas with the Casio. I should really learn to stick around for the end of these things, and realize that ten to fifteen extra minutes isn't going to make much difference in getting up for work the next morning. I missed Loretta Lucas, who probably had the most classically country-oriented set I've heard at the Madison--excellent stuff, but much of which I missed. Hobnobbing with Brandon, Annie, Jim Roll, Matt Jones, and others completed the picture.

Against my better judgement, but thankfully so, I went to the pre-Labor Day party at the same place last night, hoping to get my mind off things. I got a consoling hug from Sara, who's awesome, even if she left most of my left leg and side bruised and battered (never mind how). Met some people, including Chuck, Maggie, Bryce, the great Mariah Cherem, lovely lead singer for the Avatars, and last but not least, the mastermind behind Ann Arbor Is Overrated. In retrospect, it was pretty comical how shocked I was that someone had stolen my sixpack. Bob Fucking Saget!! It was good to get my mind off things for a bit, but it keeps returning to the flooded metropolis which afforded me so many wonderful youthful days.

I still have to fully articulate on what happened back home. It's just astonishing, both the natural cataclysm and the government's response.

Posted by Charles J. Microphone at 3:22 PM EDT
Updated: 3 September 2005 3:30 PM EDT
Post Comment | View Comments (8) | Permalink | Share This Post

3 September 2005 - 3:38 PM EDT

Name: Mom

Before you begin slamming the government: be aware that NO ONE on this planet could have anticipated this. The last MANY presidential and local administrations have neglected the levee infrastructure around the city. This has now, not unexpected, become a blame game toward the current sitting President. Don't let that happen. There have been Democrats in the city government in New Orleans for years and years and years and....years. And, in addtion to that, great corruption on the part of that city structure, historically liberal and Democrat. So... my dear son: please do NOT play a part in blaming the currnet sitting President for this calamity. This is a disaster that was waiting to happen for decades, and under a MULTITUDE of presidents, governors, and mayors. The folks now sitting have, sadly, inherited this disaster.
It continues even at this hour, and is impacting the city of YOUR birth. You would not believe what is going on in Baton Rouge this day.

3 September 2005 - 4:35 PM EDT

Name: Wendell

Actually, I was going to say that to be fair to the current administration, from what I know, it's supposed to be the role of the state and local governments to take over emergency relief in these kinds of situations. This is definitely a special case, though, and however corrupt the New Orleans city government has been (corruption that pales beside that of the current federal government), there's no question that historical neglect of the levee system was exacerbated by diversion of resources toward the war on Iraq, etc., as well as a fundamental unwillingness to spend money on necessary government projects that help people (especially poor) at home. "The blame game" is pretty useless right now (even though I think it's only sensible and a civic duty to take note of historically bad decisionmaking made by our political leaders), but I can't help feeling appalled that it's taken so long to do something, and there were plenty of scientists who had been predicting something like this for almost a century.

3 September 2005 - 4:55 PM EDT

Name: Mom

Darling: go back way in time: the levee system was built to be effective for...maybe 50 years; we have FAR exceeded that.
So--it is very unfair, in my humble opinion, to say that the dollars diverted to Iraq should have been saved for the NO levee system. Those decisions were made many,MANY years ago, long before Iraq was a blip on the radar screen.
I know that the popular opinion is to blame Bush...and blame him for EVERYTHING that happens on the earth. That's not fair, and I believe that you and your readers know this. I hope this is the case.
New Orleans will come back, and will come back STRONG. And it will be, in large part, because of this current president, governor and mayor--truly a bi-partisan lot.

3 September 2005 - 6:55 PM EDT

Name: The Younger Brother


Well, having worked for the government for about 6 years now, I feel compelled to add my opinion. I truly believe that the South in general is a neglected part of the country. We seemingly offer nothing of true value and minimally impact the GDP of the United States. As a result, we are neglected on the domestic level. As to the governments response, I can see multiple sides of this issue. Mounting a relief effort of that level, assuming it started around Monday or Tuesday is just about on track for the time it took them to get into the city. Granted, they could have done multiple aerial supply drops, but that would have been a bad idea. Without any type of law and order, the streets (canals) of New Orleans would have turned into Somalia, with different warlords (gangleaders) hoarding food and water. I do find it somewhat suspicious that the President arrived in New Orleans only after the supply convoy arrived. The Presidential staff would have known the ETA of the supply convoy's arrival and likely matched it to the President's itinerary. I am getting sick and tired of the current debate on blame. In the military, we have a process called "lessons learned" which are developed from "After Action Reports." The most important part of the last sentence is "After Action." We wouldn't stop shooting at an enemy to complain to a quartermaster that our magazines aren't working very well, just as a relief effort shouldn't be held up to start pointing fingers. Once the people of New Orleans are returned from their brush with neo-primitivism, the blame game can start. Before blame can be assigned, we have to address what failed and where. That makes it a lot easier to hit the target. I believe there is quite a bit of blame to go around the Local, State, and Federal governments, both past and present. No singular individual is to blame, nor is any one party. The blame spans at least a half-century of United States history. The biggest problem that has been identified is the New Orleans levee system. Blame can be shared on that witht he Levee Board, the State, and Federal Governments. What current individual governmental officials can be held accountable for is their action (or inaction) during this crisis. I think the most repugnant part about this is that, at a very basic level, much of this tragedy is being used as fodder for photo opportunities and soapbox speeches from both sides of the spectrum. Liberals want to blame global warming and the war in Iraq. Conservatives want to blame the inhhabitants of the city of New Orleans. The people of New Orleans probably don't really give a damn right now who is to blame and just would hope that one of the most industrialized and developed countries in the world might possibly be able to get them out of Hell and possibly provide for their basic human needs.

3 September 2005 - 8:12 PM EDT

Name: Mom

I think you commentary is very accurate, save for one observation: the blame game started three days ago. But I belive you are truly objective in your assessment of the situation. There are MULTITUDES of "lessons learned". Let's hope we heed them.

6 September 2005 - 10:51 AM EDT

Name: DrStarr

Hello! (A friend of Wendell's here, just popping by to see what his reaction to the disaster is.)

First of all, as a Brit I'm possibly not seeing the same pictures as you are, but I have to say that we Brits are appalled that newscrews and reporters were able to fly into the affected areas and talk to residents whilst FEMA and its representatives did nothing (and, according to Aaron Broussard, actually hindered attempts to bring food and water into the city in the first 48 hours, *before* things descended into anarchy). "Inaccessable, my foot. If the newspeople could get in there, why couldn't the National Guard?

Oh, wait. 3,000 Mississipi and Louisiana National Guardsmen weren't at their posts. They were across the other side of the world, "maintaining democracy" in Iraq. As a result, the police force in NO was heavily overstretched. Is the fact they weren't there the Democrats' fault?

The local government doubtless failed to organize properly for the oncoming disaster. (Chief amongst their failings is the lack of food and water for the tens of thousands taking shelter in the Superdome.) That said, once the waters came the local officials were stranded. What sort of country throws up its hands and says "Tough luck, you're on your own" when one of its major cities is in desperate need of outside help? Because, to us Brits, that's what it looked like the Bush government was doing. We pictured one of our major coastal towns being flooded under twenty feet of water - Cardiff, maybe, or Bristol - and our Prime Minister ignoring the footage of thousands of people crying for help and not bothering to send relief supplies in until four whole days had passed. If our PM had done that, Britain would want his severed head on a platter, freshly garnished with parsley.

Everyone agrees that nothing could have prevented a breach of the levees. That said, the provision of food and water and some orderly evacuation could have occurred within 24 or at least 48 hours. Nothing got done. Practically everyone outside NO who could have done something engaged in a round of "not my problem", "their own fault for being too poor to get out", "they live like animals anyway so they don't count", "don't criticize Bush, his round of golf was so important". Meanwhile, people died. They died in their attics, they died on the streets, they died of untreated dysentery from the tainted water, they died because they couldn't get to their medication, young children and the elderly died of heatstroke and starvation, all the while calling out for someone to help them.

This shouldn't be happening in America. I'll let you into a little secret: I was actually born in Kentucky, but I took British citizenship at the age of 18 because I preferred to live in a country which takes care of its poor to one which lets them starve. When I told people of my decision and the reasons behind it, they told me I was exaggerating and that America was a caring nation. Now I look at this tragedy - this needless, senseless tragedy - and I know that I was right. But believe me, I'd much, much rather have been proved wrong.

New Orleans will never be rebuilt. Nothing can defend it against another such hurricane, so no insurance company will touch the place again. Those buildings that can be saved will continue to stand, but at least 60% of the buildings are wrecked beyond repair. New Orleans will not come back strong, that's just a soundbite. New Orleans, if it comes back at all, will be a shadow of its former self, a ghost town. The place is gone. The people have left. (If I'd had friends or family killed in this dreadful incident, I'd never want to come back.)

If this sounds like preachy liberal whining, so be it. The fact is that the buck needs to stop with Bush. He's the President. He's in charge. And I repeat, had this happened in Great Britain a Prime Minister who preferred golfing and guitar to getting aid to his fellow countrymen would have been forced to resign.

8 September 2005 - 7:39 PM EDT

Name: Mom

Dear Mr. Dr. Star:
You apparently have not spent a whole lot of time in the most unique city in the country. It has been destroyed a multitude of times in the last three centuries--and it has been rebuilt each and every time...better than the last, and will be rebuilt AGAIN!
I hope that in a couple of years you will visit this very special city and see for yourself! We welcome everyone--liberals, conservaties, and everyone in between. Just ask Rawls...I mean, Wendell!

30 September 2005 - 5:03 PM EDT

Name: DrStarr

Dear Mrs McKay,

Thank you very much for your kind reply: for the past couple of weeks I've been regretting the tone of my last entry on this board, it was needlessly angry and impolite. Thank you for being so pleasant about it, I do appreciate such kindness!

I think I will come back to the US one day, even if just for a flying visit (if the US will let me in, that is; apparently they have a less-than-friendly attitude to Americans who give up their US citizenship ;) ) Best wishes to you and yours,


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