Sunday, February 14, 2010

New New Orleans Hell

Following a fabulous 60th birthday party, hosted by my friend Marlene, I left for New Orleans the the following Tuesday, January 26th, filled with the laughter of that night. One of my sister girls, Felicia, questioned me on the timing—thought I should enjoy the glow of my birthday for a few more days before venturing out into the unknown—likewise my former property manager. But my gut told me it was time. Supposedly the City had signed off on the deal—a grant from them was providing part of the financing for Children of the Village Foundation, a youth empowerment organization, to purchase my property for their headquarters—but two weeks after I got that call, I still hadn’t received paperwork.

Things were shaky from the get-go. I was supposed to meet with their Board Chair on Thursday but that immediately got pushed out to the following day and then he didn’t show. The excuse was, he couldn’t make it in from Baton Rouge, where he works, because New Orleans had torrential rains that day. Tuesday he was off to Miami for the Super Bowl and didn’t fit me in before he left. But the real shit, which I learned from a neighbor, was that they had moved out in November, around the date we were supposed to close. The date she told me was definite, so I purchased a ticket and will now have to pay an additional $180 to use. Why move on the down-low? Why leave my house unoccupied without electricity, gas or water for two months? And if she wasn't living there, why the hell wouldn’t she give me the keys?

I won’t bore you with the details but I finally got into the house on February 8th—almost two full weeks after I arrived. And it was a filthy—toilets looked like they hadn’t been cleaned in a year, probably hadn’t cleaned the stove since she moved in, and there was mold in the refrigerator. And several things, like the iron-gate to the driveway and the faucet in the kitchen—not some cheap faucet but a Kohler—were broken. At least all of the major systems were working. Since I haven’t told any lies or exaggerated one iota, I’ll call her by name, Betty Washington. For those of you who are familiar with Bebe’s kids, she must be one of them grown-up with the lunacy of Mo’Nique’s character in Precious—I’m speaking from hearsay now because I haven’t seen the film. I say that because she continues to call—I left some things in the house I need to get, we’re still trying to buy the house. When I see her name on the caller ID, I let it go to voice mail. The saddest things are that this woman works with at-risk teens—how can they learn anything about moral integrity with her as a role model—and that one Hurricane Katrina survivor would do this to another.

Luckily a guy who helped me with the restoration of the house is working furiously to get it fluffed before I return to San Miguel next Thursday, and has also given me a good price. I’ll deal with Betty later, am completed focused right now on completing this task. But trust me, I’ve got plans for her. I can’t wait to return to my mountain home. The Writers’ Conference starts the day after I arrived and my good friend Blair is coming down—will actually get there the day before I return. So in less than a week, there’ll be creativity and enjoyment in my life again.

I was here for the Super Bowl and now the Mardi Gras season is in full swing. I was glad the Saints won—New Orleans needed that shot in the arm—but didn’t watch the game, nothing personal I just don’t like football. And will be too busy with the house to check out Mardi Gras, but it’s always been too much of a drunken bacchanal for my taste—my favorite New Orleans celebration is JazzFest.

I’ve managed to hang out a couple of times. Twice with my friend Claudia, who, like me, is here from San Miguel, fixing her house following the tenant from hell. The first time, we were in the Quarters on the day they had the Buddy D parade—a tribute to a local sports writer who promised to wear a dress if the Saints went to the Super Bowl but died before that happened. Five thousand men, gay and straight, processing in dresses. This day was a much-needed reminder of why I wanted to move to here.

It's a beautiful house so if you know anyone who wants to live in New Orleans, have them contact me. I’ve got a new email address,—with all these unexpected expenses, I'm forced to switch to a free service. The weather since I came has been miserable—much colder than normal, torrential rains, sleet and snow but in true New Orleans fashion the sun shone yesterday for the beginning of the Mardi Gras parades. Not laughing now but know I’ll find my way through this and discover my sense of humor. Laughter is the only way to get through this life—it’s a bitch and then you die.