Thursday, September 14, 2006

Swampish and the City

I'm not in New Orleans this week; instead I'm sitting in rainy New York, trying to finish up some longstanding business. So, there won't be "Where I Got Them Shoes" for this past Wednesday.

But New Orleans is never far from my mind, and yesterday I saw something that made me think about home. To explain, maybe I should back up one step. Or a couple of steps.

You see, everyone living in post-K New Orleans has dealt with the realities "on the ground" (as they say) in his or her own way. Some people have tried to ignore the changes. Some have decided to become activists, joining neighborhood associations or attending city government meetings. Some people have apparently decided to shoot one another. We all have our own way of dealing.

One of my friends spent some time in the role of (in her words) "Crazy Letter-Writing Lady." Filled with righteous zeal, she would fire off blistering letters to the editor flaying local ineptitudes and plain bad decisions. And more than once, Crazy Letter-Writing Lady found her way into print. My wife has now decided to become (again, in her words), "Crazy Trash-Pickup Lady."

Each day, when she walks our dog, she takes along a trash bag and picks up the garbage that litters our neighborhood, some of it dropped casually by callous passersby, some of it spilling from overfilled trash cans awaiting the not-quite-reliable weekly pickup, some of it left in the wake of the trashmen's nonchalant efforts. Each week, the size of the trash bag has grown, from a convenience-store sack in the beginning, to the tall kitchen, and finally to the full-on contractor size, the only size that faces the problem honestly. A couple of weeks ago, I took a photo of her in action:

So far, she still hasn't been able to make it the four blocks to the river before completely filling the trash bag. Is there a size beyond Contractor? Government Contractor? Halliburton?

In New York, though, they always manage to go that extra mile past the mild lunacy of the provincials and assert their claim as neurosis capital of the world. So, I shouldn't have been surprised when I saw New York's version of Crazy Trash-Pickup Lady, decked out in jogging clothes and straw hat for the effort, wearing latex gloves, picking up every cigarette butt and candy wrapper on sidewalk and in gutter using a pair of metal tongs. I congratulate you, New York Crazy Trash-Pickup Lady, you clearly claim the crown, brushing aside legions of amateurs with their brooms and rakes and shovels. You, my dear, put the pulse in "obsessive compulsive."

So, next Wednesday it's off to the St. Bernard Area. Wish me luck.


Blogger crazyletterwritinglady said...

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10:56 AM  
Blogger crazyletterwritinglady said...

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10:57 AM  
Blogger crazyletterwritinglady said...

I applaud the Swamphish effort to honestly chronicle life in the new New Orleans. Anecdotal evidence seems to be able to capture our experience more carefully, with more Truth (with a capital T) than "proper" reporting can. I'm also impressed with Crazy Trash-Pick-Up Lady, who hasn't been so demoralized by our daily insults to give up the habit that allows her to feel she has some small shred of control over all this mess. I sometimes find it difficult to muster the "pulse" to pick up the trash in my own yard.

Keep it up, crazies!

10:59 AM  

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