Boogeymen, Burgers & Bullets


Much shouting happens over guns every time something big hits the news. But g
uns aren’t the issue – even as they are obviously the issue. Gun control won’t work simply because we aren’t Australia. We’re America, with 88.6 guns for every 100 citizens per capita. No one. And I mean no one is going to take them away. It’s just reality. In fact given the overall psychic state of America’s emotional and mental health they’re increasingly seen as an answer by a public slowly drowning in debt, poverty, fiscal disparity, fraudulent government, a quiet dread that their retirement plan will consist of moving in with their kids or robbing a liquor store so they can spend their golden years at scenic San Quentin By the Sea, with a media that daily, almost gleefully points to how “they” are coming to take what little resources we have away. We’re all scared shitless and pole-vaulting over mouse turds. It’s not that bad. At least not where you’re being told to look.

When Stef and I left New Orleans we felt a tension building around us. Something nefarious shifted in the feel of our neighborhood. Two weeks before we packed up to go, a mother’s day parade got shot up 6 blocks from our house in broad daylight. A couple of weeks before that a neighbor stepped off his porch and fired rounds at a guy who’d been trying to break in. A week before that a guy got robbed at gun point a block up across from the Ruby Slipper and it didn’t work out the way the robber planned. Since then things have gotten worse. The Quarter has seen such an uptick in violence that Quarter merchants have banded together for security.
Here’s why it’s gotten worse; New Orleans is a beautiful, eccentric, mess of a second world city. That said, there was always a strong sense that we’re all in it together. Hurricanes happened no matter which neighborhood you lived in. Entergy loses power for days at a time whether you live uptown or in the 7th ward. Everyone gets to boil their water a few times a year for several days at a time because the pumps backed up sewage into the municipal water. Everyone suffers the heat and humidity. Everyone gets rained on. Everyone relishes in it’s music, food, corruption, and colorful characters. No one’s immune. That’s what made it’s gumbo work. It was unspoken and completely understood.
Only now gentrification is pushing the poor out of traditionally lower middle to poor neighborhoods. Pushing them further out of their city. That camaraderie is being replaced with “Fuck you, we aint in this together no more. Gimme your damn wallet.”

That little story was okay as long as it was happening somewhere else. Not affecting my quiet little middle-class life. Let the poor brown people tear at each other far away on the news. But that’s not how it is anymore. The middle-class is feeling just as shut out and disenfranchised as the poor and brown have always felt. And we’re being told to blame the poor and the brown for it. But by all means PAY NO ATTENTION TO THE MAN BEHIND THE CURTAIN!!

It’s happening everywhere. Here in the bay area it’s becoming less and less possible to live if you don’t work in tech with a double income. Hell, if my father wasn’t a smart guy back in the 70’s and made it possible for me to own a house, my wife and I would’ve been forced to leave awhile ago. We barely live month to month as it is. Our answer is to hang in and hang on as long as possible and in the meantime practice that “we’re all in it together” mentality. All the things we do here at the house are a part of that belief. We help. We ask for help. We share. I was raised that way. A part of me scratches my head and wonders why everyone doesn’t do just that too. Because opening our house fosters a small town mentality where people feel safe. And it enriches the fuck out of us to do it. Love and service baby, love and service.
We’re in it together here. I own 5 firearms. The thought of giving them back is ridiculous. I’m not worried about poor people robbing me. They’re in it together, just like me. We all keep this sanctuary afloat. I worry about the people telling me I need to worry about my neighbors. And how easily Americans buy that narrative.

Decadence, Elegance and Resurrection


I cant begin to describe how in love I am with New Orleans. I’ve often said that I’ve traveled all over the states and many places had their charms but I’d trade none of it for my bay area. I found the exception off the bayou. New Orleans touches something in me that I havent found a voice for yet but I fully intend to visit and revisit till the words come.

Hidden within it’s dense, humid evening air is 400 years of secrets, legends, music, sex, cuisine, corruption, culture and beauty that insists upon slowing down and breathing deeply in every decadent, elegant piece. It becomes a part of you. If not for the complicated obligations holding me here I’d trade this place in for a first floor shop and upstairs apartment on Royal street in a second.

I am taken with the sense of family that permeates each subculture I passed through there. Everyone is somehow interconnected. It was almost as if I hadnt known I was holding my breath when confronted with NOLA’s playful, gregarious, baudy warmth. Sitting outside our hotel the first night three old women stepped out to hail a cab from the 50th anniversary party they’d been attending. They chatted as if they knew us about how nice it was to see the judges again and chuckled wistfully that they’d all outlived their husbands, dubbing themselves the First Widows’ Club. As one passed me to sit on a marble landing I told her to hang on. She set her hand on my thigh, looked me in the eye with a twinkle and this elderly woman of old Nawlins money said in a purposely lusty voice, “You said hold on” to bursts of cackles amongst them.
Later in the week we were sitting in a seedy bar having amazing red beans, rice and andoulie sausage when the bartender suddenly bolted out the door shouting after someone. She brought him back in, slapped him and gave him the business about slipping out the back on his tab a few nights back. He sheepishly paid up as she waved him off, saying not to do it again. She came right over to ask how we were as if we were regulars. This sort of casual, sensual familiarity played out over and over during our stay. It called to me all week long. It truly is the Big Easy and even as it still tries to find its footing post Katrina, (the upper and lower 9th wards made me cry in their ever-present X marked shacks acknowledging searches and bodies like so many poor man’s makeshift crypts) it is a stunning city in all it’s forms. Wherever we went we were welcomed warmly. people thanked us for coming and pleaded for us to let people know that Nawlins had survived. Indeed only half of it’s original 600,000 inhabitants ever came back. Only 1 in 10 remain in the 9th ward where people were handed down shotgun shacks and row houses generationally and had no insurance.

NOLA is San Francisco’s sensual, traveled great aunt, chuckling sweetly at it’s angst-fueled reinvention of the sexual wheel. Patting it’s chilly, damp, activist, no left turn allowing kin on the knee she proffers assuredly, “Oh honey, you just go have fun!” with the wink of a worldly retired whore. I cant wait to know her biblically again.