Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Liveblogging the birth of my sister & brother-in-law's 2nd kid

My sister Alissa is about to give birth SRSLY GUYS ANY SECOND NOW and I am very excited and very much looking forward to meeting the little baby who is FOR REAL GOING TO BE BORN ANY SECOND WHOAAAAAA!!!!111!!!

Friends of the Shtetl may recall my journalistic contribution on the morning of August 30, 2010, when my supremely beloved niece, Aviva Miriam, was born. I was able to be at the hospital on the great day of that great event, but unfortunately this time I am stuck in New Orleans while this baby is squirming its way out of utero in New York.

But Readers, geography is relative, and I feel it would be a disservice to this second child - I am, after all, a second-born child myself - to not make its birth an occasion to liveblog.

So without further ado, please join me as I wait very impatiently for the arrival of the screaming munchkin!!!

But first, a little back story:

Friday, December 7
Baby due to be born. It decides not to.

Saturday, December 8
Same deal.

Sunday, December 9
Establishing a pattern. My mom says it's staying inside, "where it's warm." IT'S 80 DEGREES IN NEW ORLEANS, KID! I DO NOT SYMPATHIZE - YOU CAN JUST COME VISIT ME. Let's go already.

Monday, December 10
For real?

Tuesday, December 11
My mom says it will come on Friday. My sister, who presumably has more insight on the situation, says "no updates." These women are infuriating.

Wednesday, December 12

12:48am CST
No baby. OH BUT WAIT! A FRANTIC TEXT FROM MY SISTER IN THE WEE HOURS OF THE MORNING: THE BABY IS ON THE WAY! Well, duh. We've been expecting this for months!

But alright, I'll bite - seems everyone is just chilling at home; they'd rather wait there than at the hospital.

I get that, but I dunno, if I were having a baby I would prolly feel a little more urgency about it? But then again, I'm not having a baby (sorry Grandma - aunting is gratifying enough for now, thank you!).

My mom, who went to my sister's house to watch Aviva, tells me to go to bed because nothing will happen for several hours. I am also informed that my dad is on duty to babysit Rudy the dog, much to no-one's surprise and probably my dad's relief.

1:09am CST
I am notified by my sister that under no cirumstances am I allowed to post about the birth on Facebook. Aha! But she has said nothing about blogging.

1:31am CST
I decide to go to bed after a text exchange with my sisters that's basically the following:

Me: How are you feeling?
Pregnant Sister In Labor: Freaked out.
Me: I'm freaked out for you.

Me: She's freaked out.
Sister Who Is Not In Labor: Yeah.

Sister Who Is Not In Labor, who lives in London and so in a time zone more amenable to these early morning events, is on call to text me updates as they come in.

1:34am CST
Texts from my sister in London:

"Mom's in Brooklyn"
"Vivs is sleeping"
"They're still in the apartment hanging out. Mom's waiting for them to leave she can go to sleep haha"

3:18am CST
More texts:

"They're at the hospital sleeping"
"Mom is sleeping. Aviva is sleeping. I am on the bus in traffic."


5:20am CST
Email from my pregnant sister saying that her husband is sleeping.

7:52am CST
Shit I need to go to work.

9:06am CST
Email from my aunt: "OMG OMG OMG I CANT CONTROL MYSELF!!"

I feel her on that! It's really cool knowing someone since you were babies yourselves and then they grow up and have a baby.

9:42am CST
I'm taking a mental catalogue of all the gender-neutral gifties I've bought and thought about buying for this baby. It is going to have a lot of gray.

9:43am CST
It crosses my mind that my brother-in-law was not kidding about naming it Lazer.

9:47am CST
I guess Lazer wouldn't be so bad.

9:48am CST
Yes, yes it would be.

9:49am CST
Email from my mom saying she is in the waiting room at the hospital. Glad we got all our news correspondents where we need 'em.

9:52am CST
Email from an ex. They really do come out of the woodwork at the most inopportune times. DON'T YOU KNOW I'M LIVEBLOGGING A CHILDBIRTH HERE, PAL

10:01am CST
Email from my mom: The other grandma is coming to the hospital later, presumably for a knit-off.

10:05am CST
What is with these people at work calling me and asking me for things all morning? It's like they don't know I'm liveblogging a childbirth on company time. Priorities, people!

10:15am CST
Email from my brother-in-law: The doctors say she will deliver sometime in the late afternoon or early evening. Nice to know they value precision around there.

10:19am CST
"HOORAY FOR LIVE-BLOGGING AND SECOND BORN CHILDREN!" exclaims a friend and frequent Shtetl Chic Anonymous Commenter.

I have the best fans.

"!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!" she adds.

11:32am CST
My mom emailed to say that my brother-in-law's mom arrived at the hospital. "Good to have company," she says. I wish I had company but all I have are these coworkers and clients asking me to do things for them. A very needy bunch today indeed.

12:08pm CST
My mom texted to say the doctor thinks it will be five more hours. She's now in the hospital room "chilling," in her words. I asked how my sister looks. My sister texted back to say "I look amazing!"

1:01pm CST
Text exchange with my other sister, E.:

Me: I asked Mom how Lis looks. And Lis texted me saying "I look amazing."
E: If she's texting obviously everything is fine.
Me: Right.

1:35pm CST
My coworker is playing Christmas music loud enough so that I can hear it's Christmas music but low enough for me to not know what song it is. I am trying to counter it by playing all the versions of Adam Sandler's Chanukah Song that I can find on YouTube. One of them inexplicably is some kind of mashup with the "I'm Blue Da Boo Dee Da Boo Dai" song. This is going to be a long afternoon.

2:23pm CST
My people have made a number of important contributions to the world, but this song is not one of them: "'Oy' is just 'Yo' backwards! [Hey Ya!] Hanukkah! Why don't you meet my rabbi / He isn't such a bad guy...."

2:24pm CST
E: Is anything happening 'cause I'm getting nothing
Me: Nope

2:45pm CST
Texts between me and my dad:

Me: Did you tell Grandma and Pops?
Dad: Of course That's why they are calling so much after I told them I would call with news.
Dad: Just saw Lis at her request and she and Aaron look relaxed. We are all just waiting.
Me: That's good.

2:51pm CST
Texts between me and my sister E.:

Me: Dad is at the hospital now.
E: Someone's going to have to feed Rudy at 5:30.
Me: Dumpling [ed: Rudy's nickname].
E: His nose is very dry [ed: This is true].
Me: Dad says Lis and Aaron look relaxed. They are just waiting. Grandma and Pops know.
E: Why is she waiting? Shouldn't she be pushing? Confusion.
Me: No. Doctor says 4ish more hours. Prolly 3 at this pont.
E: Well looks like I'll be awake this evening! But I am le tired.
Me: Ahah That thing still cracks me up.
E: Me too

4:48pm CST
Breaking news! My cousin the firefighter got into GW! What a day in the Schecter family.

4:50pm CST
There is some back-and-forth between my mom and sister E. about how much dilation is required for a baby to be born. Something about "roosting" - -  to be honest, Shtetl, it all makes me a little squeamishy.

4:52pm CST
Our lovely anonymous fan from before sent us this article about the significance of today's date: "12/12/12 Is A Good Day, Say Astrologers." And if there's a group that's never wrong, it's definitely astrologers.

5:31pm CST
It is very irritating that my sister and brother-in-law are not telling us the potential names for the baby. I have tried to trick them into telling me, but it hasn't worked yet. When she was pregnant with Aviva, I even went so far as to entertain the idea of going into their apartment when they weren't home to look at the baby naming books and see which names they highlighted. "Aviva" came out of nowhere for everyone. Rumor is, this one will have a "J" name but who knows.

Text exchange between me and Alissa:

Alissa: Mom thinks I know the sex and am just not telling anyone. Why would I ever do that?
Me: Mom thinks a lot of crazy things. I just had a client named Jonathan. Will that be the baby's name?
Alissa: No comment!
Me: No comment? That's a stupid name.
Alissa: Grandma asked what side the baby kicked more on and I said the left. She said "Hmm, the left, very interesting. And I said, "What does that mean?" And she said it means the baby kicks more on the left side.
Alissa: Somehow today also managed to be the day I hit my texting limit. Bad timing.
Me: Haha how is that possible? And I am impressed that you are texting while in labor.

5:40pm CST
My dad emailed to say my cousin got into GW. I don't understand how I found out from my mom before he did, when he and my mom were in the room together when my mom found out? Communication - not always a strong suit in my family.

5:43pm CST
Despite my efforts to keep Alissa from knowing I was liveblogging her reproductive activity, she sent me the following text:

"And your blog says Dad was on babysitting duty but supposedly Rudy hasn't been walked since 4am."

Totally busted! This is typical Alissa behavior - sitting in a hospital bed, while in labor, correcting factual inaccuracies in my blogpost about her sitting in a hospital bed while in labor. Love her.

5:54pm CST
E: She said it's going to be a while
Me: Yeah
E: At this rate there will be no 121212 baby
Me: I was thinking that
E: Well there will be some. I just don't know them.

5:56pm CST
Me: Who told you I was blogging?
Alissa: I get it on my Google Reader feed.
Me: Ohhh busted by a true fan

6:34pm CST
My parents are leaving the hospital because they think it's going to be a few more hours. My sister in London is going to bed. Well, Unborn Child, you see your Aunt Arielle is the only one who really cares!

7:22pm CST
Making applesauce for the latke party I'm having tomorrow. You should come! And hopefully by then you can say nice things to me like, "Wow, your sister had a baby? That's awesome!"

8:10pm CST
Talked to my mom. Got some gory details about amniotic fluid, contractions, et al. Everyone hopes the baby has a 12/12/12 birthday. Otherwise I'm afraid it will be resigned to a life of, "Oh, you were born December 13th, 2012? One day earlier and you would have had 12/12/12!" ...Sigh, yes.

9:16pm CST
Mom's going to bed. Anonymous Friend of the Shtetl sends best regards, saying she raced home from grad school to see if the baby had been born yet. Alas. This fetus is calling the shots today.

10:00pm CST
One hour to go to land that coveted birthday, Baby!

10:25pm CST
My sister says there's been no progress. Off to bed for me. If the baby decides to make an appearance anytime soon, I will be sure to let you know!

December 13, 2012

12:04am EST still 12/12/12 in New Orleans!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

An open letter to the New Orleans Zionist Community, UPDATED! with their response

Today I received an email invitation to a "community gathering of support" for Israel, sponsored by the Jewish Federation of Greater New Orleans. Accompanied by photos of sad-looking Jewish children - coded by their yarmelukes - and decontextualized rocket explosions, the invitation quoted the assertion by Benjamin Netanyahu that "Israel wants peace," and asked recipients to donate to something called the "Israel Terror Relief Fund."

I have long struggled with the conflation of Judaism and Zionism, a dynamic validated by the mainstream North American Jewish community that sees Israel as the deserved homeland of the Jews. I am Jewish, but I do not believe I have any more of a right as a US citizen to live in Israel than a Palestinian person whose family has been living there for generations. I especially do not believe that Israeli society has the right to lay that Palestinian person under daily siege of economic deprivation, racial hostility, or military aggression.

Though I remain resolute in my damnation of such injustice, I am often made to feel by other Jews that I am wrong or traitorous for these views. This is a very disheartening experience, and I take it as a rejection from my people.

I was angry when I received the Jewish Federation email today. I felt like its originators were trying to speak for me, as though the Jewish community of New Orleans is a monolithic Zionist entity with all the same political inclinations and perspectives. This is entirely antithetical to my understanding of  Jewish tradition, which values discourse, debate, nuance, and the questioning of the status quo.

I responded with the following. I hope they don't excommunicate me.

Dear Mr. Franco,

I am unsubscribing from this listserve in part due to this email, which I believe is demonstrative of a larger coercive tone from the group asserting its identity as "Jewish NOLA," or the New Orleans Jewish community. I am a part of this group in the abstract sense that I am a Jew living in New Orleans, yet the email bothers me because it does not represent my interests or views as a Jew.

I do not support Israel in its military action against the Palestinian people, now or ever. I do not equate Judaism with Zionism, not do I believe I should have to in order to be considered a full Jew or a member of the Jewish community here in New Orleans or anywhere. I believe that this politicization of Jewish identity is damaging, restrictive, exclusionary, and, to put it bluntly, a turnoff for a civically engaged, justice-minded young Jew such as myself.

There are many reasons why I do not support the Zionist cause, most of which stem from my lifelong pursuit of Jewish education. Through this journey, I have learned to abhor the powers of oppression and marginalization that have victimized Jews for so many centuries. I see no consistency between the rejection of anti-Semitism and the embrace of Palestinian oppression. That is to ask, how can we as Jews be offended by injustice perpetrated against us, and then turn around and act unjustly towards others? Such a hypocrisy is unconscionable and, I would argue, un-Jewish.

I will not be joining you in your upcoming action to support Israel. I will not ever support your organization's - or anyone's - efforts to promote exploitation, racism, intolerance, injustice, or institutionalized poverty, such as it exists in Israel and elsewhere. In fact, I will stand against such efforts.

The comfort I take in this position is the knowledge that I am on the righteous side of justice and tikkun olam, and that I am not alone in this view. If you wish to ostracize me and likeminded Jews from your Jewish community, so be it. It is truly your loss.

Arielle Schecter

UPDATE! Here is the response I received from them.

Dear Arielle,
Thank you for responding to our invitation to Sundays event.

The letter of invitation was signed by Alan Franco, President of Jewish Federation.

Allow me to respond.

The event is themed very simply to express our support for and solidarity with Israel. The vast majority of the Jewish community in New Orleans supports Israel and wishes to feel close to her. That does not mean that we support everything that Israel does. Nor does it mean that we are promoting Zionism or calling for action about Israel’s specific polices.

There are many voices in the Jewish community. We recognize that. And some people take a more critical view and that is legitimate.

We do not “promote exploitation, racism, intolerance, injustice, or institutionalized poverty” as you suggest, in any place and in any way.

Indeed, we like to believe that we care for social justice as an expression of Tikkun Olam whether in New Orleans, the rest of America and Israel.

Some of our local activities are directly focused on that. And I hope that you will join us on our Mitzvah Day here in New Orleans on December 25.

The event on Sunday will not focus on settlements, the IDF, Israel’s role in the West Bank, or even the stalled peace process.

Our concern is about the right of the citizens of a sovereign state to live in peace and not to face daily rocket barrages from Gaza aimed at civilians.

And we will express our hope for a peaceful outcome in the Middle East that can bring peace to both the Palestinian and the Israeli peoples.

I hope that you see the event in that light.

I also hope that you will continue to see yourself as a part of this wonderful and diverse Jewish community even if you don’t agree with all that we as Federation do.

And continue to receive our communications.

Thank you for sharing.

Michael J. Weil
Executive Director

Jewish Federation of Greater New Orleans

UPDATE! Here is my message back to them.

Dear Michael, et al:

Thank you for responding to my message and extending an invitation to further engage with the Jewish community of New Orleans.

I would like to articulate a bit further my feelings of distance and rejection that I have been experiencing from the Jewish community here, in the context of "support for and solidarity with Israel."

I understand that my views are not commonplace among Jews in North America and, by extension, the Greater New Orleans Area. However, rather than feeling recognized or legitimized (variations on your words) for or despite my views, I continue to feel as though I have no place in this community.

Indeed, I am a very engaged Jew here. I regularly attended services at local synagogues, I have dined at Shir Chadash's rabbi's house, I joined the Newcomers Program when I moved here, I go to Moishe House and Ayla events, I celebrate all the major holidays (and some of the minor ones), I co-chaired last year's Mitzvah Day on Christmas, and I briefly taught Religious School at Temple Sinai. Yet sadly I have felt pushed away from Judaism and have largely ceased being involved in these activities and community events.

Let me give you an example. The main reason why I stopped teaching at Temple Sinai is because the curriculum they push on the children is one that insists that Israel is the deserved homeland of the Jews: Israel is our home. Eretz Yisrael. Someday we will all live free in Jerusalem.

We sing Zionist songs in the music class. We make Zionist art. We read Zionist books. I do not think that any of this is appropriate unless a political context is provided, which of course it is not. This leaves the students confused and uninformed.

To illustrate this, one of my nine-year-old students asked me why "the Arabs always try to kill us." I told him that the Arabs do not always try to kill us. He then sought to clarify, asking why "the Arabs try to kill the Jews in Israel." I was at a loss in this moment, and did not feel like I had the institutional support to open a conversation on ethnic relations in the Middle East.

In an uneasy response, I told the student a parable of a family in which one of the children is locked in his room all the time. He feels like things are unfair because the other siblings are not locked in their rooms all the time. This child acts out because he feels like nobody is listening to him.

My students gave me the blank stares that every teacher dreads. I'm assuming nobody in their homes or in their larger Jewish communities has ever filled in the details of my simple metaphor, and they remain confused. Many of them probably continue to harbor negative views of Arab people, for no reason they can explain.

Why is this so? Why do we teach Jewish children that we are entitled to live in a land where the Jewish presence is fraught with political, social, and economic contradictions, without exploring those contradictions? Why do we focus on Israeli/Jewish victims of terror, and not examine the daily psychological and oftentimes physical terror inflicted by those same Israelis/Jews on the Palestinian people?

This approach constitutes a blindness that I believe is very dangerous for Jewish communities to perpetrate.

However, as you said, "there are many voices in the Jewish community." I believe it is your responsibility as a leader in this community to honor all of those voices. I do not believe this responsibility ends with responding to emails from your detractors, although that was a nice gesture. I believe it BEGINS with engaging Jews of all political stripes in dialogue that seeks a place of mutual understanding and respect. I have never felt understood or respected as a Palestinian sympathizer in the Jewish community of New Orleans. I have felt marginalized by rabbis' sermons that profess undying support for Israel; I have felt excluded from the Federation due to activities such as the one in question; and I have quit my job as a Religious School instructor because I felt like the curriculum was misguided and I had no one to consult, as my superiors were all of the opposite mind.

Where in all this is the rich Jewish history of questioning, arguing, and justice-seeking? I have never found my views reflected in any official Jewish channel here in New Orleans. I often am forced to discuss and develop my worldviews with non-Jews here, because my Jewish associates will not even stand to hear what they deem anti-Israel, and so anti-Jewish sentiment. Why are we afraid to even talk about this? Why do we assume - as your organization indeed does - that every worthwhile Jew here supports Israel?

It is not enough to say, well, you don't have to come to this event. Of course I don't, and I've made it clear that I will not. But what Jewish Federation event will I ever go to where I feel comfortable? The Federation represents a large swath of the tiny Jewish population here in the Greater New Orleans Area. Any Federation action is likely to be taken as a representation of the Jewish community here, despite what constituent members believe is the righteous path. That is, the Federation is claiming to speak for me when it is not. Non-Jews will believe that "the Jews" as a monolithic entity supports Israel, when it is simply not so. This serves to silence voices such as mine, and promote other, louder, Zionist (and yes they are Zionist) voices in the community. It also does little to curry favor for Jews among people who do not agree with this stance. Are we repairing the world in this way? I think not.

Again, thank you for your response. I do hope you take my thoughts into consideration when you plan ahead for the Federation.


UPDATE: Michael again responded to me, this time with an article detailing an example of Israel's commitment to human rights: a hospital that treats Gazan children. Michael also invited me to continue participating in Jewish community events in New Orleans, saying that he believes "the best way to support Israel is to take a critical view based on learning and understanding." I would agree, except that my process of learning and understanding has led me to support those who suffer from oppression. Agree to disagree, Michael.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

St. Claude Night Market is very sorry and wants to buy me dinner

Friends of the Shtetl may still be reeling from Saturday's decidedly unneighborly neighborhood night market, and there have been a number of updates to the story that I wish to share with you here:

Feedback from my original post about the St. Claude Night Market, brought to us by St. Claude Main Street, ran the gamut from a neighbor's support -

"Thank you Arielle. I wish with all my heart that they find somewhere else to go. I don't want to be bothered by someone else's retail event. These things are not community outreach it is for profit at the neighbors expense. It is rude and cheeky that I should be disturbed by these people."

 - to an anonymous commenter's disdain -

"Please go back to the lame suburb you come from."

The issue of "community-building" - a goal of St. Claude Main Street, in the words of the night market representative I engaged the other night -  in a rapidly changing neighborhood has sparked a heated conversation both online and in person, and I think it's important to keep addressing it.

My main concern with the night market was that I felt the organizers were not being good neighbors.  They/He did not notify the residents of the block that there was going to be a market, nor did he make it clear how the event was going to benefit the neighborhood. I experienced it as an imposition on my space and an affront to the tight-knit set of neighbors on my block, none of whom felt invited to, or, in the case of those who went, particularly welcome at the market.

The offense I took stems more deeply from my own struggle to participate thoughtfully and respectfully in the negotiation of space in my neighborhood. As a white person from another part of the country, I understand that my very presence - as a visitor or a resident - on the largely black, economically challenged, native-New Orleanian block I live on, is loaded with socio-political implications.

It seems that the people behind the night market and similar projects - St. Claude Main Street and Neighborland - desire vibrancy in my neighborhood. [The stated mission of St. Claude Main Street is "to promote and support an economically thriving and culturally rich crossroads of historic communities."] Yet I think everyone would be better off if they supported the cultural richness that already exists here, instead of showing up with a specific, pre-packaged concept or model of what the neighborhood should be like.

I advised the night market organizer to do more meaningful neighborhood outreach the next time he wants to bring an outside event to a block that is not his own. Flyering local businesses is a token effort, but true engagement comes from putting in time and energy communicating sincere concern for neighbors' wellbeing and interests. In the absence of the means or desire to do so, any "community" event must at the very least demonstrate the highest level of respect and politeness towards these neighbors.

And then today my roommate and I received this letter:

An apology

It seems that the night market organizer heard some of my concerns and is willing to incorporate my feedback into his work. This is a positive step, and I await a genuine community-building effort. But it remains to be seen if St. Claude Main Street is a good neighbor.


Monday, November 12, 2012

It's your party and I'll cry if I want to: Why the St. Claude Night Market needs to talk to its neighbors

This past Saturday night, there was a community event on my block. Or at least that’s what the people there told me was going on. I wouldn’t have known about it if I hadn’t been home and wondering what all the noise was. My first thought was that Treme was filming in the lot across the street from my house, but then I realized there hadn’t been any signs up, nor any flyers stuffed in my shutters.

Even before I went to check out the event, I had a flash of resentment towards it, akin to the anguished feeling of not being invited to a classmate’s party in grade school. Why didn’t I know a planned "community" event was going on across the street from my own house? Who is organizing such things and not telling the neighbors? 

This feeling turned closer to anger when I opened my front door and found a stranger’s bicycle locked to my elevated(!) front porch, and my neighbor distraught at the possibility she might not be able to park directly in front of her home if she went out again. Far from lazy, this is actually a serious concern given her caretaking responsibility for her disabled mother-in-law (which necessitates quick and easy access to a vehicle in the event of a medical issue), as well as the very real threat of violent crime, particularly against women, in our city. 

When I went to see what was happening, I found that it was an art and food market coinciding with the monthly St. Claude Avenue “walk” amongst and through the neighborhood’s art galleries. Though the market was festive and interesting, I felt a little strange attending a party on my block that I didn’t feel invited to, or even informed about. 

It wasn’t so much that I felt awkward or unusual navigating the space of the market; it was more that I experienced it as an imposition on my neighborhood. This was especially weird because the majority of the market vendors and attendeees were young white scruffy people, just like me. As the presumed intended audience demographic, I was perturbed that I did not know who the organizers were, they didn’t seem to care to know me or even tell me the event was happening on my block, and so the whole thing felt forced. 

While I should have been happy that a normally desolate corner of my street was inhabited by brightly lit creative enterprise, I felt like a bunch of people just came, had their party, and left, with no thought as to their physical or psychological impact. 

This impact was echoed in my neighbor's concerns about parking, my feelings of invasion when I saw that bike on my porch (and there was even valet bicycle parking at the market!), the overall sense of disorder brought by the vendors' cars parked in all kinds of directions on my one-way street, and the slipshod approach to neighborhood ingratiation. It seemed that the people behind the event expected that such a thing would be embraced and celebrated by the "community," but they didn't even check in with their next-door neighbors about it, some of whom are artists and craftspeople themselves and might have wanted to participate in the market as vendors.

So, to the organizers of this market, I think that you should take a look at your goals and the realities of this city we inhabit, and come to a more sensitive threshold from which to make future decisions. You may be artists and entrepreneurs, social movers and shakers, concerned citizens and the like, but you are also a mostly white gentrifying force, bringing all the baggage that entails.

Yes, you bring your clever jewelry made from repurposed materials, but you also bring an anxiety to residents who do not know your intentions. You bring your “shamanic consultations,” along with a sense of unrequested spatial appropriation. 

What I’m saying is that while your aims may not necessarily be antithetical to those of the neighborhood, it would do us all a great service for you to come to an immediate understanding of how your presence imposes upon your surroundings. 

I do not object to you as individuals, to your DIY aesthetic, to your livening up the block with art, people, much-needed street light; in fact I was intrigued by much of your crafts and goods. I do object however to your lack of community outreach and to your overall neglectful attitude towards the very residents of the block you occupied last Saturday night, however briefly. 

Indeed, when I tried to look up your event on Facebook (which is not a medium easily accessible to all my neighbors, it should be said), I found that you had listed the address of the market space completely incorrectly - there is no 3600 block of Independence Street - betraying at best a sloppy approach to event-planning, at worst a lack of localized knowledge. 

I suggest for the next time – and I do hope there is a next time, as your intentions seem to be from a sincere and good place – you do some meaningful outreach in the neighborhood beforehand and gauge the residents’ mood towards your event: What are the concerns? What bothered us about last time? What would we want to see next time? After all, when you look around your event in the Bywater – or anywhere in New Orleans, for that matter - and the faces you see are almost exclusively white and young, you are not having a community event. 

I say this as a person who looks very much like you, who moved here post-Katrina, and who grapples with the very same conundrums of racial, economic, political, and social life that beset your operation. I did not ask my neighbors if it was alright if I moved to the block. But I do invite them to my parties. 


Arielle Schecter

PS: Also, please do a better job of cleaning up your trash when you leave next time. I don’t think that organic empanada detritus was there before you arrived.

UPDATE click here -->

Monday, November 5, 2012

Liveblogging Hurricane Sandy, Part 5

The following piece was written by my friend and mentor Bill Koehnlein, who lives with his partner, Claire, in Manhattan's East Village. In his article, he shares his experience of Hurricane Sandy as a catalyst for authentic community-building as well as a reminder of the inadequacies of our current social order:

The juice returned late yesterday afternoon; for four days we were compelled to live as our primitive ancestors did, illuminating the apartment with candles and flashlights, keeping the cell phones powered down most of the time in order to conserve battery life, enduring a totally dysfunctional landline, relying on a battery-powered radio for news (if anyone can call the blathering of WCBS and WINS "news") and good jazz (WKCR broadcast its Clifford Brown birthday tribute, which was a nice diversion), taking quick showers that became quicker and quicker as the water became colder and colder, and cooking by candlelight (one good advantage to being vegans is that there was very little perishable food to go bad--I estimate that we lost about $30 worth of stuff--and we were able to feast nicely on grains, root vegetables, winter squash and whatever was on hand and in good supply, including a couple of nice bottles of wine). Neither the New York Times nor the Financial Times--I subscribe to both--made it to our door. Such is the primal way of living, how our ancient forebears went about their daily lives, and this modern man, reliant on technology--and, yes, dependent on it--endured life without the Internet quite well.

So, we managed and we are no worse for wear, and I'm really appreciative to everyone from all over the place who called, texted or sent emails to check in to see if we were OK.

Our immediate neighborhood was not that hard hit. Only one tree on our block was damaged (a medium-sized branch fell off); no flooding in our building or other damage; no neighbors injured; and no one displaced. Damage seems to have been minimal. One tree in the little park near Cooper Union was completely uprooted, and one store on Fourth Avenue had its gate blown off, but other than that nothing horrible. The three nearby parks--Tompkins Square, Union Square and Washington
Square--seem to have been hard hit, with a lot of tree damage. Amazingly, Madison Square Park, at 23 Street, seems to have sustained no damage at all--a scaled-down version of the Union Square Greenmarket is being temporarily moved to Madison Square, for those who want to do some shopping (though I wonder how some of the farmers made out; fortunately, the bulk of the Fall crops have probably been harvested, though late season vegetables and cover crops might be damaged or even destroyed).

I was worried about the bird tree, on the next block over, where hundreds of little sparrows roost at night. Fortunately, one of its main branches was beneath a construction scaffold and the birds took refuge there for the night, and the next day their cacophony of chirps and lively conversation was back, full steam. And in the parks on the day after, the wildlife emerged, and seemed to be unscathed.

Our neighborhood took on a festive spirit, with people actually talking to one another, being friendly, checking on elderly, handicapped or homebound neighbors, and helping out where help was needed, It was all very anarchistic, the way people naturally respond when an emergency happens, a spontaneous movement toward self-organization without the licensing, sanctioning and official approving by meddlesome politicians and bureaucrats. In other neighborhoods as well (and I was outside, walking around, quite a bit over the last several days) people rallied and showed solidarity with one another: larger apartment buildings opened up their community rooms or other facilities for anyone to use, and were largely staffed by residents who organized tasks and themselves; impromptu block committees formed to clean up debris and make some kind of order along the sidewalks; and, in general, a spirit and feeling of neighborliness and goodwill prevailed.

Still, despite the festive atmosphere in my neighborhood, and other neighborhoods as well, we can't forget that ninety-two people were killed in this storm, and forty-one of those deaths were right here in New York City. "Natural" disasters are never one-hundred percent natural, and there are political and economic factors that are at once causative and also contribute to how the "natural" component plays out, and in what directions the aftermath goes. We saw this nowhere as clearly and conspicuously as we did during and following Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, where the mangroves and barrier reefs were systemically destroyed--at the behest of business interests--to make commerce easier, which then exacerbated the effects of the storm; the failure of the government to build good levees and maintain them properly; the failure to provide timely and decent emergency care, shelter, food and water to the people most affected, and then the subsequent forced removal from their homes into trailer parks and substandard housing hundreds of miles from New Orleans (many have, to this day, been unable to return to their homes); later, the beginnings of gentrification of neighborhoods from which poor and mostly black people (did I mention the interplay of racism and natural disasters?) had been removed; the criminal and seemingly deliberate ineptitude and mismanagement of the situation by FEMA. Certainly the long-term consequences of Hurricane Sandy in New York will not compare to the lasting effects of Katrina in New Orleans, especially the social effects, but there will be effects here nonetheless. And where has the worst destruction been? In Breezy Point, Queens--a working-class area, where a hundred homes burned down on the night the hurricane hit. In Coney Island and Red Hook, both in Brooklyn, and both working-class communities, which have been devastated and where aid and assistance have been slow to arrive. On coastal Staten Island, Zone A areas, populated mostly by working-class people; the more affluent have the means and the luxury of living in hilly, more scenic areas in the island's center.

In these places, poor people and people of moderate income are bearing the brunt of the "natural" calamity. Yes, there were mandatory evacuation orders issued; some people refused to evacuate (often for very good reasons), some tried to evacuate but were unable to do so, others evacuated and will come home, now, to debris and wreckage, and while there will be some relief and government money available to them their lives will be changed forever. As my friend and comrade Kazembe Balagun put it clearly and succinctly, "thousands in the tri-state area have lost their homes or are without food, power and electricity. Hurricane Sandy was both a natural disaster but also a convergence of class inequality, climate change and the consequences of austerity measures against public infrastructure."

In a cataclysm the rich always have the option of moving to higher ground.

One of the more appalling choices was the decision by NYC Inc. CEO Michael Bloomberg to go ahead with the New York City Marathon. Interesting that the Halloween Parade Wednesday night had been cancelled. The city could not afford to take any resources away from the emergency relief efforts, it was said. Yet, the race was to be a go--complete with massive power generators set up in Central Park, police to direct traffic, city workers to tend to logistical details of the event. But let's keep a bit of perspective. The New York City Marathon is actually the ING New York City Marathon, a major corporate event--and a major corporate entity. In contrast, the Halloween Parade is a minor corporate event; the Marathon's "partners" and sponsors look like some choice listings taken from Forbes magazine. The Marathon was to begin in Staten Island, right down the block from where people were living without power and heat, with little food, with potentially dirty water, in some cases, without homes. Half the deaths that happened in New York City happened on Staten Island. But the race was to be run, for nothing more than corporate aggrandizement and because Bloomberg and Mary Wittenberg, President and CEO of New York Road Runners and corporate shill par excellence, wanted it to be run. In the end, public outcry and indignation--and many of the runners themselves demanded cancellation--was so loud and vehement that the Marathon was cancelled.

For once, the billionaire did not get his way.

Hurricane Sandy, its effects and its response, was a study in contrasts. Earlier today, officialdom, cheer-led by Andrew Cuomo, held a press conference that was utterly and totally disgusting. A lot [of] politicians, bureaucrats, pimps and whores slapping each other on the back and staging a pompous self-congratulatory celebration for a job well-done. The assembled media people--the faux journalists, hacks and political parrots who report what's proper to report, who write what they're told to write, the PR team for capitalism and its corporations--all rousingly cheered each and every creep who got up to speak. There was barely a word for or about the people who *really* did a job well-done: the Con Edison workers who put in sleepless days and nights in generating stations or tunnels under the street; the traffic agents standing in the middle of intersections all day and all night, enabling pedestrians to cross safely and easily; the bus drivers who chauffeured passengers around the city; building maintenance workers, cleaning out the mess; ambulance drivers and EMT personnel; the guys from Puebla delivering pizzas; the transit workers keeping an eye on the subways and restoring service when service was able to be restored; the workers in bodegas and small stores, staying all night, keeping people supplied with some basic necessities; the social workers tending to people forced into shelters; the nurses, orderlies and cleaning people who staffed the hospitals (and were instrumental in evacuating patients from NYU and Bellevue Hospitals after the failure of their backup generators). These were the people who mattered, the ones to be congratulated, not the politicians with ambitious personal goals underlying everything they do. During the pomp-and-ceremony of their news conference one of them (I can't remember who it was) proudly noted that he had spent an hour at the Barclay Center in Brooklyn, shaking hands with commuters who had waited and waited waited for the Manhattan shuttle bus to bring them across the bridge, and to their jobs downtown and in midtown. Gee. A whole hour doing relief work, shaking hands! What a great statesman he is! What a mensch! I wonder if all the shaking made his hands as dirty as the sanitation worker's, the person who will haul away the garbage, or the laborer's, who will be the one to shovel the muck created by Hurricane Sandy into a dumpster parked at the curb.

There will be lasting effects of Hurricane Sandy; that's undeniable. The coastal ecology will probably be altered, and with climate change the effect there will be heightened and accentuated.

Economically, it's going to be quite expensive to repair the damage and compensate those who lost so much; we'll see what social priorities wind up on top (will the police or military budgets be reduced? I doubt it). Some affected people are resilient and will bounce back quickly; others will be hurt, traumatized or economically devastated for a long time. And as time goes by and this event recedes into history, I suspect that many people will remember the spirit of neighborliness and solidarity--the natural state of people when unfettered by corrupted social values--displayed toward each other by each other. As Kazembe said, the hurricane's aftermath "was also an example of working-class solidarity. From places like Penn South Housing Cooperative that opened its community rooms up to strangers, to groups like the Committee Against Anti-Asian Violence, the Red Hook Initiative and Occupy Sandy that set up relief stations on the Lower East Side, Red Hook and Far Rockaway, this storm has proven that while we may have lost electricity, the people have the power!"

Right on Kazembe!

And I hope all of you who endured this storm fared as well as Claire and I did.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Liveblogging Hurricane Sandy, Part 4

Well friends, we've survived another night. My parents don't have any power, and I'm sure my mom is crawling up the walls, fiending for coffee. Sis and her family in Brooklyn are doing okay, as is my uncle and all them on the Upper East Side. My badass volunteer firefighter cousin (he's 17!) spent the night at the firehouse he works at, and otherwise everybody is regular. New York and assorted regional neighbors have some fixing to do, so I will continue sending love and vignettes from the City that Care Forgot.

We'll pick up this liveblog from around 6:23pm last night, when I popped into my neighborhood corner store for the finest box wine they had available.

"What do you do again?" the clerk asked me.

"Oh, uh, I work at rehab," I said.

"Rehab? Really? But you buy a lot to drink!"

Yes, great thank you.

At 6:45pm, I realized I had gotten approximately nine text messages, all from hurricane-affected friends and family, responding to my earlier lasagna inquiry. The consensus was sauce on the bottom, then noodles, cheese, other stuff, and so on. To my immense surprise, a broccoli spinach concoction emerged from the oven looking quite a bit like lasagna. Thanks for the support, team!

Anyway, how's that hurricane treating you? My grandma told me around 6:52pm that she can't vote for Romney because "he's so rich, he doesn't know how to care about poor people." Well said, Grandma!

Which takes us to about 7:06pm, when the pumpkin carving party began in earnest. I don't know who ate all the mini Milky Ways (or where all that box wine disappeared to), but let's just say that Slappy "Mel" Jackson III is a true pumpkiny vision of loveliness.

Family portrait: Guess which one is Slappy "Mel" Jackson III?

I can't really recall many details beyond that, but at 8:38am I e-received an adorable photo of my baby niece surveying the wind damage in Prospect Park, an 10:55am email from my mom confirming that she was able to get her some coffee this morning, and a 9:41am conversation with my uncle in which we covered affirmative action, cognitive-behavioral therapy, and the Negev Desert.
So it is now 11:12am in the Crescent City, and they are having some kind of loud screamy meeting in the room next door, in addition to the internet guys banging heavy things in the office directly upstairs from mine. All told, East Coast, I am feeling a little bit of your pain.

Hang in there, and don't take any wooden nickels. Love, Arielle

Monday, October 29, 2012

Liveblogging Hurricane Sandy, Part 3

Living far away from home, I find it is often difficult to know what's going on with my family, especially in times of national emergency. My younger sister, E., lives even farther away, in London, so we try to share family news whenever we come across it.

The following is our latest text exchange, edited for capitalizations and clarity:

Me: Hey not sure how in touch you are but everything seems to be fine so far with Mom, Dad, et al

Sister: Hah I am VERY in touch. Britain is very interested in everything that happens in America so it's pretty much taken over every single news channel. And our offices in New York have been shut so we get emails about that. But thank you for letting me know!

Me: Wow. That is so global. I am also liveblogging. For no reason. Call me a storm chaser.

Sister: Yeah I was gonna ask about that...

Me: My friend asked me to. But I have nothing to say. So I am talking about how boring my day is.

Sister: That's the beauty of Britain - they're very into global news. So I think I know more about what's going on in the world than I did in America.

Me: Yeah I think that's true of most places outside the U.S..

Sister: Dad's like "some bars are still open" and I'm like "are you at a bar..??"

Me: Haha that's the way to do it. Mom just said "status quo."

Sister: Hahah the BBC lady goes "Our weather is a little more straightforward: It is raining, and it is foggy. That's all!"

Me: Ha. Hey do you know how to make lasagna?

Sister: Sort of.

Me: Like what's the order of noodles, sauce, cheese and stuff? Noodles on bottom then sauce? Stuff then cheese? Cheese then stuff? So many options.

Sister: I think sauce, then pasta sheet, then meat. Argh confused now haha

Me: No definitely noodle on bottom. Like a crust. Otherwise it will be too soggy.

Sister: No. Becasue the noodle needs something to smush on. So you press it onto the sauce. ay who knows

Me: Not us. So I ran a half-marathon this weekend.

Sister: I'm 90% sure you put sauce on the bottom.

Me: Haha

Sister: It keeps the noodles from sticking. Then noodles then sauce then cheese then noodle, sauce, cheese, reapeat.

Me: Damn I don't want to ask Mom because there's a hurricane and that's kinda inconsiderate. But where does the stuff go

Sister: What stuff

Me: Spinach. "Beef"

Sister: Judgment call

Me: Like a pizza, after the cheese. I'm putting all this on my blog.

Sister: Sure!

Me: For posterity.

Liveblogging Hurricane Sandy, Part 2

Liveblogging Hurricane Sandy, Part 1 HERE

The clock in my office is stuck on 10:16am. This must be why I keep eating breakfast.

10:16am (again)
I was mad when I ran out of breakfast, but then I realized it's almost 4pm and I'm not even hungry.

I am strangely fascinated by this article detailing what just might be the final blow to America as we know it.

Checked in with some Eastern Seaboard friends. They seem bored. I'd offer them breakfast but I don't have any.

Supposedly the storm is worse than they expected. My level of concern has also risen, except my level of being able to do anything about it remains the same. They haven't evacuated Rikers Island, even though they should.

I am having a pumpkin-carving party tonight. You should totally come by.

Liveblogging Hurricane Sandy, Part 1

Friends of the Shtetl may be aware that when there is an extreme weather event, I usually have some shit to say about it, at least when it's convenient for me.

Today I received a request from a Philadelphia-based fan (hi Kristin!! miss you!) who wanted me to liveblog Frankenstorm/Superstorm/Hurricane Sandy for her personal entertainment while she's stuck at home awaiting the doom and glory that is a natural disaster.

Although I don't live in the geographically affected regions, I do have loved ones in the storm's path, and I am happy to impose my interpretation of events on them and the rest of the Internet.

So here goes - Liveblogging Hurricane Sandy, Part 1

I am at work. Nobody else is here. I think I will sing Joan Baez songs to myself, loudly.

Oh wait, there is someone here. Upstairs. I hope he likes Joan Baez.

Got a text from my mom: "So far just rain and littke [sic] wind but i think the water from the Hudson is coming into Battery City."

I wrote back: "Ok stay dry!"

As you can see, I am a true model of filial piety.

My friend L. is stuck in New Jersey because her flight home to New Orleans has been cancelled. She can't get an airline representative on the phone and the airline website keeps crashing. This is what you get for going to New Jersey in the first place.

I thought about eating a burrito.

I ate a burrito, which just goes to show you that when you will it, there is a way.

The internet is out again at work, possibly because the City of New Orleans is acting in solidarity with its northeastern brethren who will surely lose power soon. Either that, or shit is just wack as usual.

I texted some NYC/DC friends to make sure they had enough to drink. I am disappointed in their lack of preparation. Newbies.

Checked in with Mom. She is knitting. The dog is safe. All is good so far.

I called my sister who is being docked a vacation day for not going into work today, even though public transportation is shut down and parts of Lower Manhattan (where she works) are under a mandatory evacuation order. Shit's bogus.

My coworker asked me to take a walk with her. Doesn't she know I'm documenting important historical analysis here?

Okay, friends, til next time, I remain your faithful correspondent.

Monday, October 8, 2012

They have different words for things in the South

I've been teaching Hebrew School to fourth graders, and in a quasi-culturally dissonant "kids say the darndest things" episode yesterday, the following exchange took place:

Me: The Torah is very important to the Jewish people. It is so important that Jews have risked their lives to preserve it over time. There are stories about Jews that smuggled parts of the Torah scroll in their clothing while they tried to escape the Holocaust.

Student: Did your family escape the Holocaust?

Me: No, they came over earlier. They were from Russia and they were running away from the pogroms. Does anyone know what pogroms were?

Students: [Blank stares]

Me: Pogroms were when the soldiers and people came and burned Jewish synagogues and businesses and homes and told the Jews they had to leave or else.

Student: Oh, like the Yankees?

Me: The Yankees? ...Oh, those Yankees. Um, yes, kind of.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

How Young Can We Make These Asian Girls? Race in the Evian “Live Young” Print Campaign

They are pictured in brightly colored tights, short pleated skirts and shorts, their hair and makeup styles more likely to be found on tweens and young teenage girls than the women pictured here.

They are females of Asian descent. Their ages are unknown, their clothes look like they belong on younger women, and they are wearing tee-shirts with baby bodies printed on them. One of the three women carries a bottle of water in her purse. The overall image creates a distorted bobble-head effect through which the viewer is meant to equate Asianness with youth. These women are the faces of the new Evian "Live Young" print campaign.

How young do you want us to be?

Ostensibly the purpose of the advertisement is to suggest that consumption of Evian-branded water imbues you with a more youthful appearance or affect. It would seem logical, then, that the ad's models are depicted as younger than they actually are, and this is true.

However, the dual imposition of youthfulness on these Asian models is problematic, especially because the non-Asian models in the same campaign are not subjected to it. They are portrayed in uniform clothing - jeans and the baby shirt - that does not obfuscate their proper ages or create much of a sartorially unique identifier. Only the Asian women are wearing something radically different, and what this distinction serves to do is infantalize the female Asian models in a way that it does not with non-Asian models, despite the fact that they are all being portrayed like babies.

The other explicitly racial markers evident in the campaign is one print of a black man wearing a hoodie in addition to his jeans and baby shirt. Given the recent - and some would say, racist - treatment of Trayvon Martin's hoodie, the presence of this sweatshirt does more to politicize an image of a black man than do much else. There is another featured black man holding a basketball in an image that can only be understood as a reference to black people's supposedly innate athletic ability.

Hoodie on a black man: What does it mean?

Other differences among the models are slight:

People of color are depicted roughly as much as white people in these ads. With the exception of a small white boy, most of the models appear to be young adults, with a few middle-aged folks thrown in as outliers. Some models are wearing glasses. Some have on hats. A variety of hairstyles is represented, even among the black men. One white man has very long hair. In a separate print, an Asian woman is also seen in jeans and the baby shirt.

So why make the three Asian women in question look so different from everybody?

For starters, the only women of color in this print campaign are Asian. They are special, perhaps intended to be read as exotic. The costumey outfits, makeup, and hairstyles accentuate how different they are from the other people in the same campaign.  Unlike the other models, the bright colors these women wear seem to pop from the glaring white background of the print space.

Asian people have historically been subjected to age manipulation and related sexualization.  Women in particular are understood in this way; for example, the Japanese schoolgirl has long been an overtly fetishized figure in modern consciousness.

What this Evian campaign does, then, is validate the stereotype of the ageless Asian woman and use it to promote its own commercial message, one that conflates the Evian brand with youthful appearance.

Evian wants us to know that you too, can look as young as Asian women always seem to. Drink Evian and you can appear - and by extension, be -  as fun and youthful as these Asian girl-women.

If you yourself would like to be infantilized by Evian, the baby shirts are for sale to the general public. You can get a peach or brown baby body, but not anything in between. Each $34 here.

And here you can even insert yourself in the ad campaign's crowdsourced baby shirt music video, dancing to lyrics like "Eat your words / but don’t go hungry / words have always nearly hung me,” whatever that means. This activity is a bit more inclusive, with three color options for the baby you wish to be.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Liveblogging Hurricane Isaac, Part 5

New Orleans: ever optimistic
 Well hello again, Dear Readers! Although this "liveblog" has become more of a "nonblog," I assure you I have been thinking sassy thoughts during this 5-day power outage in New Orleans, Louisiana, and fortunately for you, O Patient Ones, I am willing to share them here in this very public forum.

When I last left you, my adopted city was under siege by Hurricane/Jerkface Isaac.  Collateral damage took out my power and internet, so I've had little to do in the interim except drink heavily, sweat in the 95-degree heat, and curse Entergy (our electricity provider). Many adventures befell me during this time, and I tried to document most of them on Twitter and in frantic/reassuring texts to my mom.

Most of the activity happened when my roommate and I went exploring the neighborhood during the hurricane, which turned out to be more like a really fucking long and windy rainstorm.  We visited our neighbors, making sure they had plenty of food and vodka to last them through the storm.  We also checked on some evacuee friends' houses to see if they had been damaged or looted (no, and no, thankfully, although someone broke into our neighbor's house on the corner and was quickly apprehended by the National Guard. Apparently the guy who saw the robbery taking place was on vacation visiting his friends / my neighbors, and later went on to rescue someone's dog from the gutter. I guess you learn quickly that nothing normal ever happens in New Orleans, and anyone can become a hero.)

My roommate and I also snuck into the Delicious Kitchen on N. Rampart to watch our friends prep for guerrilla empanada-selling in the aftermath of the storm, when no one had power to refrigerate or cook food.

The lack of power was by far the worst part of the experience, rectified only this evening in my neighborhood. But we were able to make lemonade out of lemons - or "lemon juice solids," if you were eating MREs, but more on that later - and have a nice Clean-Your-Fridge Potluck Party with lots of creative dishes (did someone say kale & cream cheese dumplings?). You'd be surprised to find out how many different hot sauces you own until you have to completely empty your refrigerator: we have 17.

Below you will find some photographic highlights, as the power is now back on and we bid adieu to remnants of Isaac. (Sorry the layout is so wonky - Blogger makes it very difficult to edit photos & captions once you stick them in.) Missing is the snapshot we took of the beloved Mike's Grocery staff members, one of whom was guarding the store with a - I shit you not - samurai sword.

A house collapsed on Galvez & St. Philip.

Poor Laura was cutting jalapeƱos for Empanada Intifada and came down with a mystery burn on her hands. We tried to heal her with various crap from our house but it was dark and we couldn't really see what we were making her slather all over herself. She was eventually cured, but we're not sure how.

Parkway PoBoy had some wind damage.

This fence hiding the AT&T fiber optic whatever on my block fell on my neighbor's car. When AT&T came to fix it, my neighbor flirted with the repairman so he would hook up her freezer to their generator. This was obviously not her first hurricane.

I think the water supply is supposed to be inside the house, but I could be wrong.

Train track parking on Chartres Street

Fallen branches & trash can on Chartres Street

We went foraging and found this mystery citrus.

Downed tree & fence on Alvar Street

Empanada Intifada feeds the Bywater on Friday morning.

Wagner's had some roof damage but was open for (limited) business.

They say St. Claude Ave. isn't safe, but this isn't the usual reason.

Y'all can prolly just pop that back in.

Playground hazards in the Treme

Busted tree in Bayou St. John

I've had some good times under this Bayou St. John tree.

We didn't need this fence in our backyard, anyway.

Liveblogging Hurricane Isaac, Part 4

Dear Loyal Fan Base,

The following post was just about to be uploaded shortly before our power went out Tuesday night. Luckily for you, I subscribe to two adages in life: "Waste Not, Want Not," and "Better Late Than Never." Also, "The Wheels On The Bus Go Round And Round." But that's "Neither Here Nor There."

So without further ado, the missing post:

It's almost bedtime here at the Shtetl, Dear Readers, so you get this one last live update before I go snoozy-bye.

Recent installments:
Chloe is above the influence
  • Lots of power outages are being reported around the city. Don't worry, Mom, I bought extra flashlights.
  • My cat is handling the hurricane stress like a champ.
  • I made sweet potato fries that are only a little burnt.
  • A tree fell where my friends usually park their car on Alvar Street. Good thing they moved it this morning.
  • "Water and electrical devices don't always mix," according to our resident meteorological experts over at NPR.
  • Don't yuck my yum
  • I am getting shit over my recent report in which I shared that I had been enjoying a fine and icy PBR at my friend's house. "Surely you can upgrade the beer selection," my critic suggests. Well if only I weren't so busy hunkering down all the damn time, I might have had time to consult my local sommelier, thank you!
  • I see your Monument to
    Fallen White Soldiers,
    & I raise you a parking space

  •  I got in a minor Twitter battle with @NOLAReady over the use of the hashtag #deep, as in "The water is #deep." Another interesting use of hashtags is evident in their recent warning that "the water under 1610 [sic] Underpass is deceptively deep & citizens should NOT try to cross it. #TurnAroundDontDrown #NOLAReady." Thank you, @NOLAReady. I hope all the drivers trying to cross the 610 underpass consult Twitter before doing so.
Okay, chiefs, it is time to go, mostly because I cannot stand NPR anymore and our power is probably going to go out soon oh wait it just did. I will keep you posted as to my whereabouts and whyabouts. And if you are my mother / grandma / other concerned party, please don't be alarmed. "All's well that ends well."

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Liveblogging Hurricane Isaac, Part 3

Well hello, concerned citizens of the Shtetl! I am back from various neighborhood (mis)adventures and ready to report on this hurricane!

Tell 'em, Sammy
On a side note, I have been accused of misusing the term "liveblogging" due to my long gaps of time between posts, and to that I say, THIS IS A STATE OF EMERGENCY AND I WILL NOT BE TAKING YOUR GUFF, MISTER/MA'AM.

Now that I have dealt diplomatically with my critics, I will tell you what has befallen the fair city of New Orleans thus far:

Over on Independence Street, Taylor and Chessa were having a nice porch party where we shared microbrews and wasabi peas next to their freshly boarded-up Empanada Intifada food truck. A visitor showed off the machete-induced banana harvest he had collected from N. Rampart Street earlier in the afternoon.
Empanadas must be protected at all costs

[NB: That is my complete knowledge about that last situation...]

We talked about how fast the clouds were moving and how creepy the wind had become. While I was there, a branch fell from a tree onto a car, but didn't seem to cause much damage or alarm.

Later, I braved the rain - which is now more of an aggressive drizzle, a change from this morning's steady mist - and went over to Jessi and Jason's house, where the PBR was flowing freely and the broccoli cheese casserole was making delicious smells. The consensus there was to stay inside and hope the hurricane action wouldn't be too, well, active.

Hurricane party: BYO Plywood
I hurried back home before dark and have since been sitting in the kitchen listening to the inanity that passes for NPR hurricane broadcast coverage these days: "A spinning motion is taking place," we are informed. "Be advised."

Alright, NPR, I will take that to heart.  As a friend wrote, "During a hurricane they really shouldn't be called 'weather reports,' as much as 'whether reports,'" seeing as the so-called experts seem to know very little about what's actually going on, and know more about what's going to freak people out and keep them listening.

Mixed media messages seem to be contributing to the general confusion coming my way: In the past two hours, I've received a few frantic texts from loved ones in New York, and then a few reassuring calls from loved ones more familiar with Southern weather patterns. "Looks like this is going to be a major storm," one said. "Seems like it won't be so bad after all," said another.

When the wind blows
When eventually I got home, my roommate said she'd been receiving regular calls from Entergy our electricity and gas provider. The first message had been comforting, telling us they'd be over right away with a repair crew should service be interrupted. Subsequent communiques had suggested that while Entergy was really, really sorry for future power outages, they were not about to send repair crews out in 80mph winds. Thank you, Entergy. Your concern will take us far in this storm.

And "the wind is indeed blowing," the NPR reporter is saying. I can confirm this with eyewitness reporting data, ie: looking out my damn window.

We've also been told a tornado watch is in effect for all of Southeast Louisiana, coupled with the hurricane watch and flash flood warnings that will last until tomorrow afternoon at least.

Downed tree on Pauline Street
My cat, who is normally unperturbed by most events, has been extra cuddly all day today. Taylor, the porch party host, said he heard a seagull making a distress cry. Unfortunately, video footage of Taylor's imitation of this birdcall has been lost due to my technological inadequacy, and so, Dear Readers, we have met an early casualty of Hurricane Isaac. Please allow me to take a page from Entergy's book and extend my apologies to comfort you in this time of need.

'Til later, I remain your faithful reporter.

Liveblogging Hurricane Isaac, Part 2

Welcome back to the news from my living room!

The wind is picking up and rain is coming down more steadily. People are still driving around town, so I guess not everywhere is out of gas like reports alleged yesterday.  Curfews are in effect for surrounding parishes, and the mayor is saying to hunker down for real this time because "we are officially in the fight." Still no explanation as to what "hunkering down" is supposed to look like.

Photo by Jessi Taylor
A few blocks over, a friend reports that the National Guard has set up a surveillance station in anticipation of the devastation / militarization to come. Coincidentally, my neighbor told me that someone broke into a house on the corner of our street this morning.  "The neighbors saw him," she wrote on Facebook. "Police was on his ass like redbeans on rice. By the way is what I'm cooking." So while the city may be on high mediumish alert, at least we plan to be well-fed.

We saw our handyperson boarding up that neighbor's door after the incident, a scene which reminded me of the phone conversation I had with our absentee landlord yesterday. I had called her to ask her if we should be making any special preparations for the storm and she said, "Oh, that." Yes, darling, "that." I also asked if the handyperson would be coming by to repair the leaky windows and doors we've been hounding her to have fixed, and she said she didn't know. Wonderful.
Hurricane supplies

In keeping with that impressive effort to distance oneself from reality, I am planning on getting a lot of drinking reading done while I'm on lockdown at home. I started by skimming an email from the Executive Director of the Jewish Federation of Greater New Orleans which read, in part:

When I think about the name of the hurricane, I revert back to the Bible. Isaac was the middle child sandwiched between two charismatic forefathers. Isaac was weak and manipulated by his wife and sons. He was more reactive than proactive and left very little mark on our heritage except for the afternoon mincha prayer. Something to think about...

Thank you, Executive Director of the Jewish Federation of Greater New Orleans. As a middle child, I take great offense to your extrapolation of negative meaning from Isaac's birth order. I hope they name a hurricane after you.

Soundtrack: Maybelle and Sarah Carter's "Cannonball Blues"