The Politics of Parking: Saving Your Spot During Jazzfest

Photo Apr 27, 3 53 18 PM

Photo Apr 30, 10 41 55 PMParking is a hot commodity in Bayou St. John during Jazzfest. Most people in the area have off-street parking, and I’m struck by all the different ways people try to hold a spot for their cars.

Some residents have fairly conventional methods, like orange cones or your trash bins. Then there are those that rig more elaborate constructions, like a piece of wood balanced on two trash cans, weighted by a concrete block. Signs are common as well. Last year, I saw a sign that begged people not to park in front a house because this person needed quick access inside to help their elderly family member. The note was pretty detailed for something you would squint to see at 5 mph. Yet, I wondered if this person concocted an elaborate story just so they could park in front of their house.

Photo Apr 30, 10 33 22 PM

Is it Fair to Save a Spot on a Public Street?
Spot-saving isn’t limited to festival time. My neighbors regularly have cones out in front of their house, and it really annoys me. Although they are older, as far as I can tell neither person has difficulty walking. I always tempted to move their cones, but I worry they’d recognize my car and I’d some neighborhood drama on my hands. I just grumble and park around the corner.

I can understand why someone would want to block a spot on the street during Jazzfest. All these people descend on your neighborhood and you just want to go on with your life. I’ve considered it, but I just remind myself that  Jazzfest is only 7 days a year.

ImageImage

Parking Anxiety
Why is it that my pulse speeds up when looking for parking during Jazzfest, when at the most I’ve park 3 blocks away? I don’t have a family, I’m physically able to walk and I’ve never not found a spot. Certainly, there’s a safety concern if I’m alone and trying to park at night, but I can’t explain the fear that I’ll just drive around for hours and find nothing.

photo 1photo 2I can understand if you’re driving to Bayou St. John for Jazzfest and feeling parking anxiety. Looking for a spot Uptown during Mardi Gras is not for the faint of heart. Parking is competitive and hostile and you have to dodge drunk people and oblivious kids in the dark. Finding a decent place to park feels almost as good as catching a Muses shoe.

photoGetting Boxed In
Jazzfest-related parking panic is nothing compared to those who worry about getting “boxed in” during Mardi Gras. A few hours before parades, the NOPD shuts down the streets surrounding the route. People who live within the boundaries of these routes are not able to drive beyond the closures until the parade has passed. You are literally boxed into your neighborhood. Some of my co workers leave the office early during Mardi Gras to ensure they can get to their houses. Talk about anxiety provoking!

Where do you stand on the politics of parking? Have you ever moved cones (or another setup) to park on a public street? Do you thnk it’s fair to save a spot for yourself if you’re not elderly or dealing with tons of kids?

photo

 

 

 

 

The Psychology of Hurricane Season

tskaren

Scary hurricane graphic from the news.

We are almost at the end of hurricane season and New Orleans has emerged storm free. A few weeks ago it seemed the city would be hit by Tropical Storm Karen. The power of a tropical storm pales in comparison with higher-grade hurricanes, but the memory of Hurricane Isaac last summer filled me with dread about the potential of another set of days without electricity or something far worse to disrupt our fragile city. This recent storm threat had me pondering the hurricane mindset accompanied with growing up in the South.

The start of hurricane season on June 1 always makes the news and through the end of November, checking the weather requires a tertiary look at the tropics and the Gulf of Mexico for storm activity. I even know what times the National Weather Center posts their hurricane updates.  In Washington D.C. (where I used to live) it was the lack of conversation about activity in the tropics that made me realize that hurricanes are pigeonholed as regional news across the country. I didn’t miss the pre-storm shopping frenzy and drumbeat of doom fostered by the media, but unless a hurricane made landfall, the threat of a hurricane never made news up there. I moved to DC shortly before Hurricane Katrina made landfall, and I didn’t even know a hurricane had formed until it came ashore in Miami.

Screenshot of Tropical Storm Karen's projected path. It's pretty depressing, but by wishing a hurricane changes direction you're essentially hoping it hits someone else.

Screenshot of Tropical Storm Karen’s projected path. It’s pretty depressing, but by wishing a hurricane changes direction you’re essentially hoping it hits someone else.

The morose biproduct of watching the path of a hurricane so closely is that you hope the hurricane shifts away from your city– essentially hoping it goes and hits someone else. In Miami, where I’m from, the hope was that it would turn and dissipate somewhere in the Atlantic. Here in the Gulf South, a slight turn is a sigh of relief for New Orleans. But if you really consider it, you’re just relieved you’re not in West Louisiana or Mobile Bay.

Growing up within this culture also helped me retain information about the science of hurricanes. I think this is unique to areas threatened by hurricanes, simply because we are inundated with news information about them from the time we are very little. I can barely tell you why it rains, but I know that warm waters strengthens a hurricane.

The branches of a downed tree in my yard, after Hurricane Isaac in 2012.

The branches of a downed tree in my yard, after Hurricane Isaac in 2012.

I wonder if this the same for other regions affected by severe weather? I assume not because earthquakes and tornados don’t have the same predictability. Do regional differences influence the way the weather is covered in your area?

My Favorite Rap about the Saints

The best $5 I’ve ever spent was on a two-song rap EP. It was 2011, and I was at the Howlin Wolf for Hot 8 Brass Band’s regular Sunday-night gig. At intermission the band introduced local rapper Bossman Superior and he performed this song:

Bossman’s song about the Saints contained all of the touchpoints of a classic fan anthem, complete with a call-and-response chorus and a shout out to nearly every player on the roster.

“Mark Ingram, Colston, Meachem, Sproles, Ivoryyyyyyy, Vilma, Moore–I can name everybody!”

I had been back in New Orleans for a few months, and although I followed the Saints from Washington D.C., I was eager to assimilate into full New Orleanian Saintsdom. Obviously, this meant I had to buy the album.

The two songs* on the album cycled over and over in my car throughout that football season. Every turn of the ignition was met with “The lock out over now babyyyy… OoooooHHHH OOOOOooHHHH, Send ‘em out there, Sean Payton!” Bossman’s thick New Orleans accent and his song’s references to local culture made my heart swell with city pride. Each year, I look forward to football season because it’s time to put “Black & Gold” on rotation.

Other Saints Raps
“Black & Gold” is just one of many rap songs associated with the Saints. Arguably, the most famous is the Ying Yang Twins “Halftime (Get Crunk),” re-recorded in 2009 by NOLA rapper K. Gates as “Black and Gold (Who Dat).” It’s become the unofficial anthem of the team.

I visited NOLA a few weeks before the Saints won their first Super Bowl title, and I remember hearing the song at a party. Everyone shrieked and started talking about the Saints chances for the Superbowl. “How does everyone in this room know this song? ” I wondered. “What does it have to do with the Saints?”

Do Other Teams Have Raps?
Is it common for NFL teams to have fan-penned songs that penetrate the local zeitgeist? Some meager You Tube searches reveal other fan bases certainly have songs about their teams, but is it as pervasive as it is here? Perhaps it’s the city’s ties to the team or the city’s strong musical traditions. (Although, I bet Steelers fans have put together some good raps.)

The only other fan song I know is the Dolphins cheerful fight song.. It written by a fan in 1972 and that still reeks of that time period. Growing up in Miami, this was the only song I ever heard about the Dolphins.

Does your NFL team have a fan song? Can you recommend any other songs about the Saints?

*The second song on the album is a ridiculous track about getting a girl in bed. It contains many quotable lines, but it deserves its own blog post.

Remember Me?

Today, I signed into this blog for the first time in nearly six months.  After entering my username and password, I had the option to save my password. The checked the box that said “remember me.” How ironic.

Oh Kind of New Orleanian, I’ve missed you! In April I began a new job, and it has taken up a lot of my time. I also began writing for Go NOLA, a blog I have long admired. It’s the blog for the New Orleans Tourism and Marketing council and they do a spectacular job of highlighting what’s going on in NOLA and also digging into some of the history and cultural traditions of the city. When I did have free time to write, that’s where I directed my energy.

Still, I miss having a platform to work through my thoughts on city identity and observations of New Orleans. Many things have happened in the last six months, so hopefully I can work through them in this space–with the help of your thoughts and suggestions!

As a jump start, I’m going to start cross posting my work from Go NOLA. Last week they published a post I wrote about Bell Street, a street nearly a mile from my house, in Bayou St. John. Enjoy!

Hidden Road of New Orleans: Bell Street

I’m Calling Out Rouses for Using Too Many Plastic Bags

Rouses is a statewide supermarket chain that has three locations in New Orleans. Although Rouses is a vast improvement over the awful Sav-A-Center grocery stores that they bought out, my major quip with the Rouses is that the cashiers and bag boys/girls use an outrageous amount of plastic bags when they bag groceries. A common practice is to place one or two items per bag, so that if you buy six items you have nearly as many bags. Additionally, cashiers don’t seem to notice when I bring a canvas bag. It always feels obnoxious to repeat, “Excuse me, I’m sorry… I brought a bag.” This happens at every single location I’ve been to, even outside of Orleans Parish.  It’s upsetting.

In January 2010 Washington D.C. implemented a 5 cent tax on all plastic bags. Although it’s only 5 cents, I shook my fist in anger when I got caught with the fee. I never wanted to pay it! The tax has also made DC merchants a lot more sensitive to how they bag your groceries. It’d be a long time before Louisiana passed a progressive environmental law, but this blog post is my 5 cents of advocacy and publicity.

A Pictorial Investigation of Rouses Bagging Practices
Last week I made a trip to the Rouses and purposefully didn’t bring any bags. Once at home, I took photos of my all the bags used.

I purchased 27 items and was given 10 bags.

This bag has room for more items.

There is clearly more room in this bag. Perhaps it could’ve been combined with the bags of vegetables.

Four bags with one item each. However, given that I purchased beer, wine, chicken and cupcakes, which are all in delicate cases, I think it’s okay each item has its own bag. (I realize you, dear reader, are going to make fun of my purchases.)

There are only two items here! Unacceptable!

This bag has two items. As you can see, there is room for more.

I believe these groceries are the only ones properly bagged from the shopping trip.

Again, two items with room for more.

If I acquiesce the four items given individual bags, than Rouses used six bags for 23 items. I believe the cashiers could’ve consolidated, what do you think? And have you had this same experience at Rouses?

I’m going to send this post to someone at Rouses, in hopes this will draw attention to their irresponsible bagging practices.

Kind of New Orleanian Interview: Rachael Kansas, New Orleanian (Part 2)

Hey guys!

This is the second part of my Kind of New Orelanian interview with Rachael Kansas. Check yesterday’s post to read my introduction to this new feature and learn what brought Rachael back to New Orleans, two years ago.

Part 2

You went to Ben Franklin High School. I know it’s a really big deal here which high school you went to and what that says about you. What’s the stereotype of someone who went to Franklin?

Nerdy.

Is it? It’s a public school, right?

It’s a public school, but it’s a magnet school. We were all over the news in the last 3 or 4 years—we were number 16 in the nation, so it’s a smart school. You have to test to get into it. It’s the best public school in the state, pretty consistently. We don’t have a really strong football team or anything, but we have some sports that we are good at. I know soccer is a big deal. But so is Mu Alpha Theta.

I know you’re a big Saints and Hornets fan, but there’s not a lot of Hornets fans out there. I feel like your family is really dedicated. What is it about the Hornets that you love?

I don’t know, it’s just something fun to do to mix up your week and go to a game. It’s really interactive. You’re a lot closer to the action. It’s a smaller, more involved experience to go to the game. Also, the sport is great, although I think the NBA shouldn’t have as many games in their season.

A lot of people say that New Orleans isn’t a two-sport town, it’s a one-sport city. But I’ve seen when the Hornets have been in the playoffs, how much enthusiasm people could have for it, so I don’t know—I think people are out doing too many other things to get excited. But, it’s a long season with a lot of games.

Speaking of the Saints, what do you think of the whole bounty thing?

It breaks my heart. On the one hand, I know it’s probably true that every team in the whole league does it to a certain extent. But it hurts that we’ve been doing it and got caught. It’s sad and I’m really upset that they haven’t been able to sign a contract with Brees. And, then, of course Sean Payton lied to everyone and Goodell.

In a perfect world I would love to see Goodell to have to hand over the Lombardi trophy to Benson in the Superdome next year, despite all of the scandal. That would just be the ultimate like, F-you man. We still did it.

Rachael loves Drew Brees.

It’s easy to see why the Saints are so beloved post Katrina and the Superbowl win. Do you remember it being as big of a deal growing up?

Growing up the rule was that if we didn’t sell out the Dome, they wouldn’t show the game on TV. It’s ridiculous to think of now tickets go for so much and we have a full, sellout season every year. But growing up, if we didn’t sell out they’d only play the games on the radio. It was like punishment if we didn’t buy tickets. We’d have to sit at home and like listen on the radio, which my dad always made us do. My family was always out fishing on the weekends so we didn’t go to games growing up until more recent years. But, yeah, we were always Saints fans.

What are some touristy things in the city that you’ve not done?

I’ve been plantations to before, for weddings, but I’ve never been on a plantation tour. I’ve never even been to Oak Alley. I know I’ve been to Jean Lafitte Park for something in elementary school. But I’ve never been on the traditional “swamp tour.” But I grew up going out in the marshlands with my dad on a boat and seeing alligators and nutria, and fishing and crabbing. It seems silly to pay to do something that I did all the time with my dad. But maybe it’s different to go on a swamp tour versus being out in the marsh.

There’s definitely a lot of places where growing up I never went to, but I go there now. Like, I never went to the Bywater growing up. And now I go there all the time.

One of the things I’ve been very preoccupied with is that New Orleanians have this kit of things they bring out with them, especially in the summertime.  They have a hat, their koozies and fold-out chairs. I know you keep koozies in your car! Is there anything else you don’t leave home without?

Bug spray. I am really prone to getting chewed up alive by mosquitos. I have one to two cans of bug spray in my house and my car at any given time. They come with me in my purse.

The bugs or the spray?

Both. If I were more responsible, I’d probably add sunscreen to that list.

Rachael's RE/MAX koozie.

What do you like about living in Mid City?

I love Mid City. I love that it’s a neighborhood that people are so proud of and a real community. I love all the little historic homes. The people that live here are just real local, been-in-Mid-City-forever types. When I moved in—and I’ve lived in a lot of addresses across the country— I got four housewarming gifts from different neighbors.

I love that I can walk to a couple places. I love taking the streetcar. I’m a big streetcar rider for Saints games, for Red Dress Run, for Running of the Bulls, for Mardi Gras Day. Basically any time I know I’m going to have a couple of beers, I’m going to take the streetcar downtown.

What do you do with your Mardi Gras beads?

I don’t bring them in the house. Every year I only physically walk in my car or my house with something unique. I’ll catch a lot of beads, but I’ll leave them at my friend’s house, or put them on other people or on someone’s gate. You know, the gates on St. Charles that will all have beads on them anyway. At my friend’s house she’ll put out trash cans and I think she recycles them.

What’s your favorite Mardi Gras parade?

I like Muses because it’s like the beginning of the big weekend. It’s fun to see women partying at night. My dad’s in Endymion, so that’s my favorite. It’s always a good time to be out at the parade or at the Dome. There’s something different because it’s such a big parade, the floats are incredible, it’s the only one in Mid City and my dad’s in it. I get like, real excited. Real crazy. Endymion is definitely my favorite.

What do you hope for the city?

I hope for the same thing everybody else wants… better education and less crime.

What about recycling? People in San Francisco would judge you for not saying that.

More recycling! How could I forget? And, also, I hope that real estate prices continue to go up and up and up.

Does anything in the city surprise you anymore?

Um, not really. Last year I saw a guy in costume in the middle of the day, in the middle of the week. He was waiting at the busstop and I just thought “Eh, New Orleans.”

Actually, I’m surprised when people are rude! I’m like, “Why are you being so rude? There’s no reason to be rude!”

I feel like people here are really assholes on the road. Why is that?

Yeah, they are. See, I’m not surprised by that because we’ve always been notoriously bad drivers.

I always wonder– if everyone here is so nice, why are they dicks in the car? If you put your signal on, they speed up!

I know, people are so rude in the car. It’s weird. But if you were stopped in traffic for two hours, you would roll down your window and become best friends with the same guy you were calling an asshole ten minutes ago.

This interview has been edited for length.