Sunday, May 30, 2010

Jesus, Joseph and Mary: What Remains, is Left Behind, Preserved, Still Standing

Dancing on the Second Line

If music and dance are what makes your life worth living, New Orleans, even after the flood is where you might belong. Social Aid and Pleasure Clubs have a long history in New Orleans and the second lines that go on today are part of that long history of mutual aid with an eye towards enjoying what of your life is left to be lived. There's plenty to eat and drink and the dancing knows no bounds. People jump up on the porches of houses along the way, take new partners at every chance and just keep on going.  The NOPD comes along for the ride but seems to take a liberal stance with respect to what goes on so long as everyone stays in the line, more or less.

Tire Shop Music

St Claude Tire has a diverse repertoire, and tenacity.  Now you can get some music to go along with your memories of the place. Check out this link to King Lee with Quintron and get a little audio input to go along with whatever else you might find there. If you are lucky something on this grill, which like a lot of what's  on this corner, was made here.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Preparing for the Next Trip

I'm looking back over photographs from the last trip and wondering what it will be like walking around in the heat. I'm eager to go back and looking forward to meeting with the people I met and making some new connections with organizations that I might work with in the future.

Here are more pictures of what remains: old wrought iron, the absent house, the new canal wall that we hope will stand up above and below ground.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Blodgett School

I spent two afternoons at Blodgett Schoot this spring working with the kids in the Peaceful Kids after school program. I know that it takes far more than two afternoons to gain a young person's trust. Even so, I had fun walking around the school with the kids along with their regular teacher, a photographer from Syracuse.   Even though it threatened to rain and we were not able to go beyond the city block occupied by the school, we found things to photograph. Then  along came some neighborhood kids and we hung out on the corner and took pictures of them on their skateboards.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Si ammazza il pesci....

I was back with the Guru of North Salina Street today, a man with Italian roots, middle name Francesco. I tried to express how frustrated I was  with the oil spill, the slow response of BP, of our own government, the glup I saw on a UTube video scooped up by a fisherman in a dingy off the Louisiana shore, and he immediately asked, " Are you upset enough to stop driving." I was, again, brought up short.  Said Guru doesn't drive.  He doesn't even heat his building in the winter. He can stay warm in February by eating and dressing warmly enough, stuff he learned from a book on Eskimos.
He's living lightly in his art studio and I'm living large by comparison, very large.
Today, he taught me a little Italian phrase that one of his relatives in the old country said to him. Of course, if it's not good for your lungs, it's probably not good for you. But then there's that Johnny Carson quote I read in the last issue of the SUN, which read

“I know a man who gave up smoking, drinking, sex, and rich food. He was healthy right up to the day he killed himself.”


Other topics, inspired by what was on the walls, the table surfaces, scrawled on sheets of paper taped to panels of wood propped everywhere in his second story studio, eventually bubbled to the surface: The joy of holding a baby, the importance of play, turning language on its head, and then eventually, Love, which we could, neither of us, adequately define, but which we agreed didn't reside in the possession of all these things. 

Monday, May 24, 2010


My favorite house on Furman Street had a fire. It's all boarded up in the front and along the sides. The porch is charred. The paint still looks nice. The cupola is untouched. I asked the neighbors what happened and they didn't know. Neither did the current tenants living in the unburned part in the back. It's the place I imagined I might live one day when I was finished with school, the one with the large vacant lot to the east.  When I went to the back to have a look, there were people eating at  picnic table and what I thought was a deer skin nailed to a piece of plywood.  It  turned out to be a goat skin. "Cabrita," I said, calling it by the name I learned growing up in Mexico.

They wouldn't let me take pictures without explaining myself and weren't satisfied that I was simply documenting the neighborhood.  They said outright that they don't trust me.  I must have a purpose, what is it?  I said I was working in the tradition of Milton Rogovin and Dorothea Lang, but still they weren't convinced.  " You are taking pictures of the ghetto," he said. "If that's what you call it," I said, not really wanting to call it a ghetto.  Neither were they convinced that I was just doing it for fun.   As the man said, I must have a purpose, although at times, it feels like what I have is an instinct that is driving me and what I need to do is invent a plausible purpose until I understand it better myself.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Uncle Pete, Nothing to Fear

Uncle Pete says he's got nothing to fear because he's always stayed on this side of the law, never done nothing to get into trouble.  I always felt that way too, but it didn't keep the Syracuse Police from harassing me for my pictures. I don't know if it's a post 9-11 phenomenon like what Camilo Jose Vergara writes about on his website Invincible Cities, or if it's just random bad luck on my part for being bold enough to document the Syracuse Police arrensting this man at Columbus Circle. In any case, I was pretty scared when the officer wouldn't let me leave, draped himself over my car and insisted that we were "having a conversation, " while continuing to request for me to share my pictures with him. I was so scared that after I asked his name, I immediately forgot it.  Despite that lapse I'll never forget what it felt like to be physically detained and harassed by the police for photos which I'm within my rights to take, but which clearly can draw the ire of officers who don't want their actions documented.