Thursday, February 11, 2010
A new New Orleans?
I'm laying in bed with Brando on a cold February morning, so I might as well post something, right?
The past week has been crazy in New Orleans, with an election, Carnival and the Saints Super Bowl win. And I've been out almost every night after a long period of hibernation. I voted early, two weeks before election day, so there was a startling time-warp effect as the campaigns all kicked into high gear after the fact. I was pretty clear, early on, on who I'd be voting for. I contributed money to Mitch Landrieu's campaign as soon as he announced, then became frustrated with his campaign's slow start, and then attended several forums and decided he was the logical choice. I also gave some money to James Perry. And to Kristin Palmer. And to Austin Badon. The only real question--which left me standing frozen with indecision in the ballot booth--was how to vote on the question of City Council At-Large. I knew I'd be voting for Arnie Fielkow--one of the few who actually show up at events and engage with the public--but I was torn on my second vote in this category. Should I vote for someone I liked, or should I vote for the person most likely to keep Cynthia Willard-Lewis out of office? CLW is my representative, and for the past three years I've seen her show up for events, latch onto the work of others, and, her worst offense, talk down to her constituents, constantly assuring them that no one else in the entire world cares what becomes of them. Yet, if you contact her office with concerns about blight, crime, vandalism, shootings, absent police patrols, etc, you get no response. Or, you get the helpful information that you should go somewhere else with your problems--even if you initial complaint is that those other places are not helping.
So last week, I went on Wednesday to House of Blues for a Musicians for Mitch concert featuring an insane lineup of the city's best: Irma Thomas, Allan Toussaint, The Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Preservation Hall, Amanda Shaw, Branford Marsalis, Terrance Blanchard, Trombone Shorty, Clarence "Frogman" Henry, Dr. Michael White, Deacon John, etc. It was a mini-Jazz Fest. And the mood was astonishing. The crowd was from all over town (even with the lowest ticket being $100) and there was a sense of something wonderful happening in the city--The Saints were going to the Super Bowl. Nearly every song turned into a chorus of "Who Dat?" I kept saying I'd stay for just one song, but was there til the end.
Then on Saturday, another amazing thing happened. I went to bed early, not having the energy to wait out a long, inconclusive night at the election parties. Everyone was certain there would be run-offs in several categories, including mayor. Then I woke shortly after eight and checked the early returns, jumped out of bed and heading to the Quarter. First stop: Arnie's victory party. On the way into the Royal Sonesta, we passed Irvin Mayfield, who had long been rumored to be Nagin's choice as successor. "He could have been mayor," I said as he passed and my friend turned with a look of horror on her face. After Arnie's, we ran across Canal to The Roosevelt, to Mitch's party. A couple of kids were playing around at the podium; the victory speech had already been made. We weaved through the crowd and talked to friends and watched as various news crews interviewed the mayor-elect and as opponent Troy Henry came in to wish Mitch well. Then it was back across Canal and through the Quarter again, among wall-to-wall crowds of people already celebrating the not-yet-played Super Bowl. At Bourbon House, we congratulated Kristin Palmer and her family for winning district C, then watched as the news reported a narrow victory for Jackie Clarkson over Cynthia Willard Lewis. Off we went to the Monteleone, where we found the Clarkson party still quietly waiting for word on the votes--no televisions were playing in that room. Finally, Jackie got off the phone and announced a victory of 13 votes--ooops, she meant 1300. Then she thanked her supporters and promised to never run for office again--which drew enormous cheers of support from the entire crowd.
Time to go home, then, and get ready for the Barkus parade the next day, which left me so exhausted I slept through the game. Yes, that's right, I snoozed with the dogs right through til the end, and then sat bolt upright in bed suddenly thinking...we must have won. And just at moment, I heard the entire city go wild with cheers.