More thoughts on LOUISiana

All the eyes of the world are on the demaged gulf coast of LOUISiana, Mississippi and Alabama. Such a terrible tragedy made worse by an ineffective bureacracy. We’ll be talking about this one for a very long time.

LOUISiana isn’t an obvious reference point for the song “LOUIE LOUIE.” While author Richard Berry was born in that state, he avoided that area and other parts of the deep south. Coming of age as a black man in the 40’s and 50’s, he wanted nothing to do with an area where segregation thrived, and racism was a serious issue. Perhaps he might have been a bigger figure in the entertainment world had he been a part of the “Chitlin circuit,” but he chose not to do so. Instead, he peformed in semi-obscurity for most of his life, playing various clubs in the Los Angeles region.

Losing New Orleans is a major loss that America cannot afford. While I’ve never visited this fine city, I’m acutely aware of the massive impact this town had on the fabric of American music. In the past week, I’ve been listening to iTunes podcasts of Harry Shearer‘s Le Show from KCRW, and he’s provided some excellent overviews of New Orleans.

A few months ago, I actually met Mr. Shearer at a special showing of his film “Teddy Bear’s Picnic” in Santa Cruz, and had an opportunity to tell him about my LOUIE project. He proceeded to tell me about an amazing version of the song he recently heard by Toots and the Maytals ….. live at a New Orleans festival.

I have no doubt that New Orleans will rise again from the watery grave, and ressurect itself as the fine Bayou city that has inspired countless artists, musicians, writers, architects, photographers, dancers, and lovers of all walks of life.

I’d like to share some links that I hope will be useful.

Habitat for Humanity
New Orleans Musicians’ Clinic
Get Your Act On- Louisiana relief efforts

The evolution of the Big Easy- an article in The Week Magazine
The Katrina Timeline- overview of government response

Lastly, I’d like to share an anonymous essay that arrived in my email box. Share as you see fit.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Dear America,

I suppose we should introduce ourselves: We’re South Louisiana.

We have arrived on your doorstep on short notice and we apologize for that, but we never were much for waiting around for invitations. We’re not much on formalities like that.

And we might be staying around your town for a while, enrolling in your schools and looking for jobs, so we wanted to tell you a few things about us. We know you didn’t ask for this and neither did we, so we’re just going to have to make the best of it.

First of all, we thank you. For your money, your water, your food, your prayers, your boats and buses and the men and women of your National Guards, fire departments, hospitals and everyone else who has come to our rescue.

We’re a fiercely proud and independent people, and we don’t cotton much to outside interference, but we’re not ashamed to accept help when we need it.

And right now, we need it.

Just don’t get carried away. For instance, once we get around to fishing again, don’t try to tell us what kind of lures work best in your waters.

We’re not going to listen. We’re stubborn that way.

You probably already know that we talk funny and listen to strange music and eat things you’d probably hire an exterminator to get out of your yard.

We dance even if there’s no radio. We drink at funerals. We talk too much and laugh too loud and live too large and, frankly, we’re suspicious of those who don’t.

We put Tabasco on stuff without tasting it first.

But we’ll try not to judge you while we’re in your town.

Everybody loves their home, we know that. But we love South Louisiana with a ferocity that borders on the pathological. Sometimes we bury our dead in LSU sweatshirts.

Often we don’t make sense. You may wonder why, for instance – if we could only carry one small bag of belongings with us on our journey to your state

– why in God’s name did we bring a pair of shrimp boots?

We can’t really explain that. It is what it is.

You’ve probably heard that many of us stayed behind. As bad as it is, many of us cannot fathom a life outside of our border, out in that place we call Elsewhere.

The only way you could understand that is if you have been there, and so many of you have. So you realize that when you strip away all the craziness and bars and parades and music and architecture and all that hooey, really, the best thing about where we come from is us.

We are what made this place a national treasure. We’re good people. And don’t be afraid to ask us how to pronounce our names. It happens all the time.

When you meet us now and you look into our eyes, you will see the saddest story ever told. Our hearts are broken into a thousand pieces.

But don’t pity us. We’re gonna make it. We’re resilient. After all, we’ve been rooting for the Saints for 35 years. That’s gotta count for something.

OK, maybe something else you should know is that we make jokes at inappropriate times.

But what the hell.

And one more thing: In our part of the country, we’re used to having visitors. It’s our way of life.

So when all this is over and we move back home, we will repay to you the hospitality and generosity of spirit you offer to us in this season of our despair.

That is our promise. That is our faith.

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