31 December 2005

New Orleans - Day 5 - New Years, Lower 9th Ward, LSPCA find them DOA

Saturday started late for us, great to sleep in a little for the first time since arriving. A quick lunch at “Dixie gyro” (our local favorite based on proximity mostly) we headed out at 12:45 to the 9th ward to work a clinic with Common Ground (highly respected by many of the people we’ve worked with for their hard work). The clinic was at a health clinic (a flooded house the owner gave to Common Ground to use while he was gone as far as I understand it) but the legal clinic was not supposed to be held there. Common Grounds had moved to a new site which we visited later, the medical clinic (with med students from the east coast, great people we’d meet up with later that night) was closing the site down that day. We drove around the 9th and lower 9th wards which were some of the lowest, and worst impacted areas. This is where the levy was breached and water levels reached incredible levels very quickly. The devastation on the houses was sometimes clear (fallen trees on houses, burned out businesses, missing roofs, etc) but the major other problems are less visible – inches of mud on the floor, ruined interiors and furniture, etc). Buildings are marked win an "X" which signifies when they were searched, which police department or agency searched them, people or bodies found, number and type of animals found, and some other code we couldn't figure out. Often where there was a marking for a certain number of pets found on X date (mostly in early September) there was a note by the LSPCA stating whether or not they found the same pets and what they did about them (found dead, captured, etc).

Beyond the physical limits to rebuilding there’s the problem of access of the things people need to make living here possible. There are one a couple stores and gas stations and they are mostly by the FEMA Disaster Relief Sites where the demand is high and the people spending money on them are not spending out of pocket. Trees are knocked over, cars are flipped over and lay on top of each other, we only saw a couple kids and they were play fighting each other with debris from the hurricane.

When we returned to the new Common Ground site they were building some kind of storage space and had a few bikes waiting to be repaired, light fixtures to be moved, tent village of staff, and a “food not bombs” kinda vibe. While some were happy we were there others were a little resentful that we were doing “easy” work rather than physical labor. Some were turned off by this. I think there’s a disconnect between the work they are doing (fixing houses, communities) and what we’re doing (making sure the bank doesn’t repossess those house). In the end NOLAC will be staffing their legal clinic, but the small confrontational moment was just a small example of how people who agree about which communities to serve can disagree about the value of the work they are doing.

New Years night: we did go out for New Years, and it was pretty damn fun. I found a more “authentic” hurricane drink (around from long before the most recent bout with the weather) at Pat O’Brian’s (actually I found two there but was some how missing them about 25 minutes later) and enjoyed them thoroughly. We watched a big bowl of gumbo descend at Jackson square at midnight, the crowd was immense and everyone was trashed … a great combination for someone who does not fit through small gaps between people too well and needs to pee. Before the gumbo fell we watched Arlo Guthrie play a 30 minute set next to CafĂ© Du Monde (one of the early stores to re-open) which was out of this world. I’ll try to get the set list from my more sober friends who were there later, but Tambourine Man (“a song by an old friend”) stood out for me. After the big strike of 12 we roamed Bourbon st. for a little longer then made our way to Frenchman st. (apparently a more local hangout area). Being a concerned older brother male type I intervened between my friends and some gropers occasionally, though once we got some mixed signals and my intervention turned out to need an intervention from a friendly 45 year old Georgia man (though we did trade beads in the end which was nice). The gang of would be lawyers and our med-student friends from Common Cause ended up in a Hooka bar/club that was full of hip folks who we made friendly with (we even got cake from a guy named David, thanks!). We danced until about 3am and took a cab home cause our feet were sore from all the boogieing down. Relaxing tonigh was great, tomorrow nothing is open so we will be off the hot seat for a while, we may go back to the lower ninth to see some of the worse areas.

New Orleans - Day 5 - New Years, Lower 9th Ward, LSPCA find them DOA

Saturday started late for us, great to sleep in a little for the first time since arriving. A quick lunch at Dixie gyro (our local favorite based on proximity mostly) we headed out at 12:45 to the 9th ward to work a clinic with Common Ground (highly respected by many of the people weve worked with for their hard work). The clinic was at a health clinic (a flooded house the owner gave to Common Ground to use while he was gone as far as I understand it) but the legal clinic was not supposed to be held there. Common Grounds had moved to a new site which we visited later, the medical clinic (with med students from the east coast, great people wed meet up with later that night) was closing the site down that day. We drove around the 9th and lower 9th wards which were some of the lowest, and worst impacted areas. This is where the levy was breached and water levels reached incredible levels very quickly. The devastation on the houses was sometimes clear (fallen trees on houses, burned out businesses, missing roofs, etc) but the major other problems are less visible inches of mud on the floor, ruined interiors and furniture, etc). Buildings are marked win an "X" which signifies when they were searched, which police department or agency searched them, people or bodies found, number and type of animals found, and some other code we couldn't figure out. Often where there was a marking for a certain number of pets found on X date (mostly in early September) there was a note by the LSPCA stating whether or not they found the same pets and what they did about them (found dead, captured, etc).

Beyond the physical limits to rebuilding theres the problem of access of the things people need to make living here possible. There are one a couple stores and gas stations and they are mostly by the FEMA Disaster Relief Sites where the demand is high and the people spending money on them are not spending out of pocket. Trees are knocked over, cars are flipped over and lay on top of each other, we only saw a couple kids and they were play fighting each other with debris from the hurricane.

When we returned to the new Common Ground site they were building some kind of storage space and had a few bikes waiting to be repaired, light fixtures to be moved, tent village of staff, and a food not bombs kinda vibe. While some were happy we were there others were a little resentful that we were doing easy work rather than physical labor. Some were turned off by this. I think theres a disconnect between the work they are doing (fixing houses, communities) and what were doing (making sure the bank doesnt repossess those house). In the end NOLAC will be staffing their legal clinic, but the small confrontational moment was just a small example of how people who agree about which communities to serve can disagree about the value of the work they are doing.

New Years night: we did go out for New Years, and it was pretty damn fun. I found a more authentic hurricane drink (around from long before the most recent bout with the weather) at Pat OBrians (actually I found two there but was some how missing them about 25 minutes later) and enjoyed them thoroughly. We watched a big bowl of gumbo descend at Jackson square at midnight, the crowd was immense and everyone was trashed a great combination for someone who does not fit through small gaps between people too well and needs to pee. Before the gumbo fell we watched Arlo Guthrie play a 30 minute set next to Caf Du Monde (one of the early stores to re-open) which was out of this world. Ill try to get the set list from my more sober friends who were there later, but Tambourine Man (a song by an old friend) stood out for me. After the big strike of 12 we roamed Bourbon st. for a little longer then made our way to Frenchman st. (apparently a more local hangout area). Being a concerned older brother male type I intervened between my friends and some gropers occasionally, though once we got some mixed signals and my intervention turned out to need an intervention from a friendly 45 year old Georgia man (though we did trade beads in the end which was nice). The gang of would be lawyers and our med-student friends from Common Cause ended up in a Hooka bar/club that was full of hip folks who we made friendly with (we even got cake from a guy named David, thanks!). We danced until about 3am and took a cab home cause our feet were sore from all the boogieing down. Relaxing tonigh was great, tomorrow nothing is open so we will be off the hot seat for a while, we may go back to the lower ninth to see some of the worse areas.

30 December 2005

New Orleans - Day 4 - Nothing is bizarre anymore

Just to confirm that I'm here for a good reason, I've got to say that I was actually able to be productive over the past few days. I've completed the two assignments from NOLAC (New Orleans Legal Assistance Corporation). The first was a supplement to a brief about whether or not notice sent to a vacant lot is in compliance with the La. statutes (it's not). The second assignment was to find a couple who had relocated to Oklahoma and had lost contact in spite of a pending hearing date regarding their bankruptcy filing. I found them because a local (Ok.) paper had done a stirring piece on the loss and reunification of them with their dog. After calling the editor and looking on-line some more I was able to get the editor to drop off a note at their house (he didn't have the phone number) and the woman who gave helped "rescue" their dog is calling them with our urgent message (she didn't feel okay giving out their number to a honkey boy in NO who's not even a lawyer yet). My dad was a detective for a while and I hope I made him proud.

On a side note, the dogs and cats of NO: I love pets, some of you know my guinea pig who recently passed and my rat who is not long for this world. I'm glad there are people working hard to find, rescue, and return dogs to their owners because people connect in a very meaningful way with their pets, it's hard for non-pet people to get it really. That being said, when you see the terrible condition of whole neighborhoods that were underwater, doors smashed in to find dead bodies, hundreds of thousands without homes or jobs or hope ... well it puts the pet situation in perspective a little bit. My old dog Coffee (with two milks) meant the world to me as a kid, but if I had to choose between him and the life of a complete stranger I have to say I'd reach my hand out to the person then the pooch. The LSPCA is doing incredible work with too little funding, but there are individuals, cities, fire departments, and organizations working just as hard for the people on NO who are also under funded. Washington has allocated, at most, about $60 million in relief funding. It's not enough for the relief more or less the rebuilding of this town. And it's far short of what it would take to make NO was it was again within a couple decades.

The people who are back are proud to be here, they are early adopters so to speak. Companies and politicians are "waiting for the dust to settle" and may start making "hard decisions" by the end of January. But the people who can afford to return so quickly are generally whiter and richer than the NO population before Katrina. They will have the biggest impact on how the city is rebuilt and it will definitely reflect the interests of a very limited part of the community.

NO is being exposed to more Latino workers than in its past, they are being brought from Texas or moving here for the hard work that can be found (base wages are quite high here, but rent has also doubled). Land lords are trying to evict tenants as fast as possible so that they can open up their often uninhabitable units to huge rent increases. Apartments that were $800/month will now be more like $1500 and in worse condition.

In addition to the increased housing costs there is less access to the things that everyone needs to survive in any city. Pharmacies are closed, stores are boarded up, and electricity is gone from many parts of the city. In some areas the discussion has turned from "how to rebuild" to "whether or not to rebuild". The area around Xavier was smashed by the flood, there's no where for students to live or eat or, importantly in NO of all places, have fun.

Suburban architecture note: Before WWII people knew that the floods would happen occasionally and they build houses to accommodate a couple to a few feet of flood waters. But after that the suburban architecture took over and "ranch houses" (think standard 60's suburban house) became the norm in spite of their low level design. These suburbs were THE spot for the upwardly mobile during the decades after WWII but suburbanites who move from the city are prone to continuing to move to escape threats and achieve ideals (both real and perceived). The old suburbs became the homes of lower-middle class people in NO, service workers, musicians, often minority citizens. These were the homes most devastatingly impacted by the flooding and their residents who were there by conscious design of the city's urban planners were the worst off as a result. NO and the Federal government have long known that a class 4 or 5 hurricane could breach the levy's of NO, our law school Dean Edley was even briefed on it while working for Clinton as far back as 1993. They results were predictable and predicted, but these communities are not the voters that “mattered” for politicians. While Dems and Repugnos alike were seeking the votes of “soccer moms” and NASCAR dads” the people living in places like this in NO were being left to fend for themselves.

The houses and the city itself were designed with these problems in mind. Corporations who sought to maximize profits from the construction of these parts of the city used market forces and assumptions to determine how to build with the bottom line in mind. But they did not need to account for the cost to the home owners, to the communities, to the State for their designs. When the market was left to its own devices the most powerful players maxed out their benefits and those at the bottom had to bear the costs. As they talk about rebuilding “smart” and making “hard decisions” with the proper “political will” it seems that there are many people in power who are willing to let the market control how the rebuild it organized. And while they are correct that markets can be very efficient it becomes more and more clear that the people here see this as a problem that exists at the extremes of the system, the harsh edge of capitalism that social organization through government was meant to dull to a tolerable finish. The question is whether or not these voices will be heard or if the political machines will push their troops into action based on the motive to be re-elected rather than to analyze the issues and provide plans that are likely to succeed. If history is any lesson, the future look mighty muddy for NO.

Side note II: lady taking over at JCC Disaster Relief Center was from a larger firm in NO. I asked if she thought things could have been handled better and she said people disagree about that and that she wouldn’t say how she thought one way or another. Not being one to take a hint I pressed her a little and she basically said that things are looking great, the economy is good nationally, the country is strong, people in NO are buying things, houses are being rebuild, it’s getting better. As she said this we looked out over a crown of people desperate for their FEMA funding and emergency aid from the Army Corps of Engineers to just get blue tarps over their roofs (a great free service). She had been there for the past week and must have seen thousands of people cycle through the Disaster Relief Center but to her the President said the country was strong and NO would be rebuilt … and maybe there was a silver lining in the flood, maybe now NO would be better, the people would be better, it would be “right again, like it used to be.” It sounded a lot like the people who moved to the suburbs to escape the problems of the city … they wanted less crime, more people who were like themselves financially and racially. Moving to the suburbs was the only way to make that a reality before, but it seems that to some this catastrophe was just a new way of getting rid of the poor and minorities who had taken over “their city.” This was the most depressing part of my day, but hey, Republicans can do that.

Side note III: went out later tonight with the other students, the clubs are getting a little more full as New Years approaches ... only one lady removed her top and it was commonly agreed that a Cold War containment approach was in fact superior to her more modern "Shock and Awe" strategy. Ugg. Then someone threw a red drink (probably a Hurricane) from a balcony onto a fellow volunteer as we walked home. Perfect ending.

Tomorrow we will visit a Disaster Relief Center in the 9th ward, one of the worst effected areas where houses were actually covered in water even above the roof level. Pictures when I return home on the 7th of January.

New Orleans - Day 4 - Nothing is bizarre anymore

Just to confirm that I'm here for a good reason, I've got to say that I was actually able to be productive over the past few days. I've completed the two assignments from NOLAC (New Orleans Legal Assistance Corporation). The first was a supplement to a brief about whether or not notice sent to a vacant lot is in compliance with the La. statutes (it's not). The second assignment was to find a couple who had relocated to Oklahoma and had lost contact in spite of a pending hearing date regarding their bankruptcy filing. I found them because a local (Ok.) paper had done a stirring piece on the loss and reunification of them with their dog. After calling the editor and looking on-line some more I was able to get the editor to drop off a note at their house (he didn't have the phone number) and the woman who gave helped "rescue" their dog is calling them with our urgent message (she didn't feel okay giving out their number to a honkey boy in NO who's not even a lawyer yet). My dad was a detective for a while and I hope I made him proud.

On a side note, the dogs and cats of NO: I love pets, some of you know my guinea pig who recently passed and my rat who is not long for this world. I'm glad there are people working hard to find, rescue, and return dogs to their owners because people connect in a very meaningful way with their pets, it's hard for non-pet people to get it really. That being said, when you see the terrible condition of whole neighborhoods that were underwater, doors smashed in to find dead bodies, hundreds of thousands without homes or jobs or hope ... well it puts the pet situation in perspective a little bit. My old dog Coffee (with two milks) meant the world to me as a kid, but if I had to choose between him and the life of a complete stranger I have to say I'd reach my hand out to the person then the pooch. The LSPCA is doing incredible work with too little funding, but there are individuals, cities, fire departments, and organizations working just as hard for the people on NO who are also under funded. Washington has allocated, at most, about $60 million in relief funding. It's not enough for the relief more or less the rebuilding of this town. And it's far short of what it would take to make NO was it was again within a couple decades.

The people who are back are proud to be here, they are early adopters so to speak. Companies and politicians are "waiting for the dust to settle" and may start making "hard decisions" by the end of January. But the people who can afford to return so quickly are generally whiter and richer than the NO population before Katrina. They will have the biggest impact on how the city is rebuilt and it will definitely reflect the interests of a very limited part of the community.

NO is being exposed to more Latino workers than in its past, they are being brought from Texas or moving here for the hard work that can be found (base wages are quite high here, but rent has also doubled). Land lords are trying to evict tenants as fast as possible so that they can open up their often uninhabitable units to huge rent increases. Apartments that were $800/month will now be more like $1500 and in worse condition.

In addition to the increased housing costs there is less access to the things that everyone needs to survive in any city. Pharmacies are closed, stores are boarded up, and electricity is gone from many parts of the city. In some areas the discussion has turned from "how to rebuild" to "whether or not to rebuild". The area around Xavier was smashed by the flood, there's no where for students to live or eat or, importantly in NO of all places, have fun.

Suburban architecture note: Before WWII people knew that the floods would happen occasionally and they build houses to accommodate a couple to a few feet of flood waters. But after that the suburban architecture took over and "ranch houses" (think standard 60's suburban house) became the norm in spite of their low level design. These suburbs were THE spot for the upwardly mobile during the decades after WWII but suburbanites who move from the city are prone to continuing to move to escape threats and achieve ideals (both real and perceived). The old suburbs became the homes of lower-middle class people in NO, service workers, musicians, often minority citizens. These were the homes most devastatingly impacted by the flooding and their residents who were there by conscious design of the city's urban planners were the worst off as a result. NO and the Federal government have long known that a class 4 or 5 hurricane could breach the levy's of NO, our law school Dean Edley was even briefed on it while working for Clinton as far back as 1993. They results were predictable and predicted, but these communities are not the voters that mattered for politicians. While Dems and Repugnos alike were seeking the votes of soccer moms and NASCAR dads the people living in places like this in NO were being left to fend for themselves.

The houses and the city itself were designed with these problems in mind. Corporations who sought to maximize profits from the construction of these parts of the city used market forces and assumptions to determine how to build with the bottom line in mind. But they did not need to account for the cost to the home owners, to the communities, to the State for their designs. When the market was left to its own devices the most powerful players maxed out their benefits and those at the bottom had to bear the costs. As they talk about rebuilding smart and making hard decisions with the proper political will it seems that there are many people in power who are willing to let the market control how the rebuild it organized. And while they are correct that markets can be very efficient it becomes more and more clear that the people here see this as a problem that exists at the extremes of the system, the harsh edge of capitalism that social organization through government was meant to dull to a tolerable finish. The question is whether or not these voices will be heard or if the political machines will push their troops into action based on the motive to be re-elected rather than to analyze the issues and provide plans that are likely to succeed. If history is any lesson, the future look mighty muddy for NO.

Side note II: lady taking over at JCC Disaster Relief Center was from a larger firm in NO. I asked if she thought things could have been handled better and she said people disagree about that and that she wouldnt say how she thought one way or another. Not being one to take a hint I pressed her a little and she basically said that things are looking great, the economy is good nationally, the country is strong, people in NO are buying things, houses are being rebuild, its getting better. As she said this we looked out over a crown of people desperate for their FEMA funding and emergency aid from the Army Corps of Engineers to just get blue tarps over their roofs (a great free service). She had been there for the past week and must have seen thousands of people cycle through the Disaster Relief Center but to her the President said the country was strong and NO would be rebuilt and maybe there was a silver lining in the flood, maybe now NO would be better, the people would be better, it would be right again, like it used to be. It sounded a lot like the people who moved to the suburbs to escape the problems of the city they wanted less crime, more people who were like themselves financially and racially. Moving to the suburbs was the only way to make that a reality before, but it seems that to some this catastrophe was just a new way of getting rid of the poor and minorities who had taken over their city. This was the most depressing part of my day, but hey, Republicans can do that.

Side note III: went out later tonight with the other students, the clubs are getting a little more full as New Years approaches ... only one lady removed her top and it was commonly agreed that a Cold War containment approach was in fact superior to her more modern "Shock and Awe" strategy. Ugg. Then someone threw a red drink (probably a Hurricane) from a balcony onto a fellow volunteer as we walked home. Perfect ending.

Tomorrow we will visit a Disaster Relief Center in the 9th ward, one of the worst effected areas where houses were actually covered in water even above the roof level. Pictures when I return home on the 7th of January.

29 December 2005

New Orleans - Day 3 - Gyros and the finding out why we're here

Starting with a hearty breakfast at Gyro’s the team got everything between grits (good, I'm told) and pancakes (bad). Our "office" is two blocks from our hotel (unplanned, but very fortunate). Our morning training divided us into four groups.
(1) Two will travel to Covington across the lake.
(2) Two will work bankruptcy,
(3) Two on DV cases (helping get divorces that were in the process when the hurricane struck, etc),
(4) One on the phones,
(5) Two will be on Predatory Lending (I was here until I was given a new assignment:)
(6) I’m working on a memo for a brief that Mark (our absentee director) is submitting on Jan 4 (supposed to return on Jan 3rd).

All the attorney’s are fantastic in completely different ways. David (in charge of predatory lending) is just what I envision when I think of a social justice, down to business (literally), advocate: skinny, fashionable glasses, salt and (more) pepper hair, and a vegetarian streak.
Bernadette (DV, misc) seems in control and happy, a rare combo in the legal profession so far as I’ve seen. She has two kids, one entering Tulane as a 1L and another in grad school in LA.
Jay (bankruptcy) is enthralling, he is a smallish NO native with some kinda thick accent (Cajun?) and a screeching laugh when he thinks something is really funny. He's going to make the trip a lot better all by himself.
Mark is the director currently in Tawian but returning soon.

The issue of who's returning and who's staying away is really the big issue for those who've come back. There were about 500,000 people in NO parish before Katrina and I''ve hear estimates between 60,000-120,000 have returned. One lawyer working on voter registration (we met at a bar, see tomorrow's post) said we won't really know until the election how many people are really back, and even then it's just a minimum to get a better estimate.

More students arriving today, 3L's with a rented Kia. More car means more traveling about, we went out to eat in the Garden District which is like a little Noe Valley just outside of downtown NO. I got a little bummed talking with everyone about defense side firm work at dinner, I understand people have their priorities, I just worry if law school and firm salaries have changed those priorities and if I can make it through the same process. They get defensive of their choices and I feel the tug of my loans too, maybe that's what makes me keep bringing the subject up even if I never get any answers I like.

After dinner we returned to the French Quarter to find a bar/commedy club owned by Judge Harry from Night Court. He runs a community meeting every Wednesday night where returned residents have their say about what should be done, what was done right or wrong, who's to blame, and what to do next. Our supervisor Jay was there handing out papers on what he thought should be done next. We got a few PBRs and took it all in, met the Judge, got invited to see "Chris's" vintage shop where only one anti-semetic comment was made and we got invited to a "secret" New Years party. Some of us walked home (the Kia would probably struggle to fit 8 people, myself counting as perhaps and extra half body) with the hope of Cafe Du Monde which was, bummer, closed (no longer 24 hour, 6am-10pm now).

Anyway, later that night the beans and rice with sausage disagreed with me and I had to stay home for the next morning (Dec. 29th), ugg.

New Orleans - Day 3 - Gyros and the finding out why we're here

Starting with a hearty breakfast at Gyros the team got everything between grits (good, I'm told) and pancakes (bad). Our "office" is two blocks from our hotel (unplanned, but very fortunate). Our morning training divided us into four groups.
(1) Two will travel to Covington across the lake.
(2) Two will work bankruptcy,
(3) Two on DV cases (helping get divorces that were in the process when the hurricane struck, etc),
(4) One on the phones,
(5) Two will be on Predatory Lending (I was here until I was given a new assignment:)
(6) Im working on a memo for a brief that Mark (our absentee director) is submitting on Jan 4 (supposed to return on Jan 3rd).

All the attorneys are fantastic in completely different ways. David (in charge of predatory lending) is just what I envision when I think of a social justice, down to business (literally), advocate: skinny, fashionable glasses, salt and (more) pepper hair, and a vegetarian streak.
Bernadette (DV, misc) seems in control and happy, a rare combo in the legal profession so far as Ive seen. She has two kids, one entering Tulane as a 1L and another in grad school in LA.
Jay (bankruptcy) is enthralling, he is a smallish NO native with some kinda thick accent (Cajun?) and a screeching laugh when he thinks something is really funny. He's going to make the trip a lot better all by himself.
Mark is the director currently in Tawian but returning soon.

The issue of who's returning and who's staying away is really the big issue for those who've come back. There were about 500,000 people in NO parish before Katrina and I''ve hear estimates between 60,000-120,000 have returned. One lawyer working on voter registration (we met at a bar, see tomorrow's post) said we won't really know until the election how many people are really back, and even then it's just a minimum to get a better estimate.

More students arriving today, 3L's with a rented Kia. More car means more traveling about, we went out to eat in the Garden District which is like a little Noe Valley just outside of downtown NO. I got a little bummed talking with everyone about defense side firm work at dinner, I understand people have their priorities, I just worry if law school and firm salaries have changed those priorities and if I can make it through the same process. They get defensive of their choices and I feel the tug of my loans too, maybe that's what makes me keep bringing the subject up even if I never get any answers I like.

After dinner we returned to the French Quarter to find a bar/commedy club owned by Judge Harry from Night Court. He runs a community meeting every Wednesday night where returned residents have their say about what should be done, what was done right or wrong, who's to blame, and what to do next. Our supervisor Jay was there handing out papers on what he thought should be done next. We got a few PBRs and took it all in, met the Judge, got invited to see "Chris's" vintage shop where only one anti-semetic comment was made and we got invited to a "secret" New Years party. Some of us walked home (the Kia would probably struggle to fit 8 people, myself counting as perhaps and extra half body) with the hope of Cafe Du Monde which was, bummer, closed (no longer 24 hour, 6am-10pm now).

Anyway, later that night the beans and rice with sausage disagreed with me and I had to stay home for the next morning (Dec. 29th), ugg.

27 December 2005

New Orleans - Day's 1 and 2 - the flight, blue roofs, boat off the express way.

I'm safely in New Orleans now, though unsettled after a red-eye flight (do you think people mind when I snore on airplanes? Me neither). I here with 8-10 other Boalt students to do some free legal work for New Orleans Legal Aid or Southeastern Louisanna Legal Services (I find out tomorrow).
Our layover was in Atlanta where we watched CNN show a guy getting shot by 20 cops in NO, they had to use lethal force because the guy had a knife and was flailing around for a few minutes ... tasers would have just been too risky in the 20 cops with guns vs. 1 guy with knife fight. Did I mention that the guy was black and the cops were white?
NO weather is perfect today (and is supposed to stay that way for a little while). It is about 70 with some pleasant humidity, really great, like it is during the summer at night with a cool breeze. Reminds me of nighttime Cuernavaca, including the over-long stares at my female travel partners. They call this "winter" for some reason, about 3 months of perfect weather followed by 9 months of crazy heat, hurricanes, and thunderstorms.
Flying in you see blue tarps everywhere, even over the Burlington Coat Factory (having a clearance sale of course). Our hotel (kindly paid for by my law school, Boalt) is one block from Canal st. at Bourbon st between Popeyes (open again) and McDonalds (not open). Theres trash bins full to the brim every block and refrigerators seem to outnumber cars along the sidewalks. Think about it ... people were told not to come back for about 6 weeks, some for longer ... refrigerators with no power and plenty of food get pretty nasty. There's a whole lot of people writing prophetic statements on them, but mostly just tags ... though I did see one with a warning about chemtrails!
Bourbon st. is alive, so testify the frat boys proud to be supporting the economy through booze and lapdances. The hot new drink is the hurricane, Ill try one later. There are almost as many police and security guards as there are tourists. At 10pm most resturaunts close and the noise level rises. We ate at some tourist trap which was fortunately low priced for okay food. The waiter was happy to taunt us for one member who asked for lemon in her water and for a vegetarian entre. Probably one-third of bourbon st. is back in action, lots of t-shirts making fun of Katrina, FEMA, Nagin, and the NO Police Department (which apparently has some serious problems).
How do we pay for this trip? The schools picking up the tab, as for food we get $25 per person per day which were tyring to stretch by making it $20/day to accomidate some late comers who are not part of our budget.
Naps between eating, an 11:00pm meeting, some fun reading with Rumpole , then time for sleep. Its 1:30, roommates say lights out. More tomorrow.

30 August 2005

Puppies and EBCLC

Matt got a puppy today!  It's a Westy, aka West Highland White Terrier:

Yes, it has already shit on the couch and floor and Matt's pants.  That being said, it's pretty freakin' cute ... in that "at least it's not a baby human" kinda way.

His name is Sam (a Spike Lee inspiration to be sure).

EBCLC

So I spent 10 hours at my "clinic" today, the clinic is a law school based program called EBCLC--the East Bay Community Law Center--where I volunteer but also get units for school.  We have a few departments at EBCLC which deal with basically the issues intersecting the law and poverty (housing, run-ins with the man, policies that keep the poor poor and the rich rich, HIV/AIDS, and others).  I work in a program called DeCOPP (though they're changing the name to DCP because some how someone got the idea that DeCOPP is anti-police, weird I know).  We help people "expunge" their criminal records amoung other things.  I was there for 10 hours today, longer than I expected since I had to have some time to create a meeting agenda and signup for the little soul selling event called "OCIP" where law students interview with mostly corporate defense law firms for jobs that pay $2400/week over the summer (and over your first year out of school if you are offered a position with them ... that's $125,000 right out of school which is pretty tempting for most because we all owe somewhere in the $60k-120k range in loans).  I'm applying to some plaintiff side firms but I really don't expect much; these firms are kinda sought after because they are frankly less evil, some are even pretty good at helping the folks that most law students wanted to help when they applied to school.  It give you an idea of my profound thoughts on the subject I first decided which firm to look into based on their support for KQED's "Fresh Air" ... yeah, Lieff Cabrazer =)  They are quite compeditive though because they have top lawyers and some great causes along with the standard (i.e. INCREDIBLE!) starting pay--really a rare combo in the legal universe.

Now I have about 3 hours of homework to do (who's glad they're back in school!)

PS - the count of people and animals currently living in our two bedroom: Jason (the new guy), Matt (dog owner/Alabaman), Megan, Abe, Osito (the pig), and Ratty (the, yes, rat).  Officially only Jason and I are here so don't spread any rumors on the internet(s)!

21 August 2005

Lady on a taunt piece of elsatic!

Lady on a taunt piece of elsatic!

That's all for today, I have to pretend to dread the return of school tomorrow but really I'm just sad about not having my final apartment situation established yet. 

Then again, life is still good over all ... at least I got a new backpack =)

17 August 2005

The highest scoring word in scrabble is ...

MUZJIKS
If you were wondering what words are in the scrabble dictionary or just want to waste 15 minutes, check out Scrabble Word Lists.

Where can you see pictures of the world beard championships? HERE!


Back to apartment hunting.

Apartment hunting continued!

Well yesterday we looked at two great places and our applications are in. Our favorite is on Harmon/65th st on the Oakland/Berkeley boarder, it's a 3 bedroom, 1 bath (with unique shower panels, you'll have to come see them if we end up there) for $1395/month. The kitchen and rooms are big, there's a backyard that I think is shared, but better than the yard is the view from the back porch, looking out over the Berkeley/Emeryville flatlands toward the Bay Bridge. The house is old enough to be "cool" in the "it's not just a stucco and plywood rectangle" sense, but most everything seems to be in great working order (there's even a mechanical door release lever at the top of the stairs, one of my favorite parts). We talked with the owner for a while and he seemed very together; long time Berkeley type and actually interested in talking with tenants to find a good match ... and he can have his pick from amoung many since there have been 4 or 5 groups of people looking at his place each time we stop by (going again today to drop of more info and tomorrow with Matt).
Matt's coming back today and we're taking him to the next open house, I'm sure he's going to love it though. He should be over Taipae right now and arriving in SF at 7:20 tonight. He should have some pretty good stories about Nepal so stay tuned.
We looked at a few other places yesterday, one was pretty good but there were so many other people there it's hard for me to stay optimistic. It was a nice place with parking, but really I think Megan would prefer the Harmon st. house (I bet Matt would too).

Dated gift: my dad found a mailed gift for me from my brother John from about 8 months ago (x-mas is John's favorite holiday) ... inside was a 2005 Dilbert calendar. Since I missed the last 8 months they will be my nighttime reading material tonight ... certainly better than the reading that is coming up (school starts on August 22, I hope we manage to get this apartment before then or soon thereafter).

Thanks to everyone who has been offering us their space, I'd hate to call on you guys (or move my stuff twice) but I do appreciate it.

10 August 2005

Apartment hunting and backpacks

So I may or may not be apartment hunting because of my (and my roommates' and the co-op's) stupid timing error.
Here's how to look for an apartment in Berkeley:
(1) Craigslist.org is your friend. It has actually put other listing services out of business (mostly the other free/cheap ones) but others remain (mainly ehousing.com - $35/month). Craigslist will be the easiest and cheapest route. I focused my search by looking for only 2 bedrooms, max price $1500 and searching for street names where I'd like to live. This requires a map ...
(2) Google maps is also your friend ... if only there were a way of combinding google maps and craigslist .... like at ...
(3) Housingmaps.com gives you a geopraphic view of craigslist housing ads and has additional filters.
If the above sites don't get you the apartment you're looking for then try some more common Berkeley apartment rental broker types:
www.kands.com (actually called K & S)
www.premiumpd.com
I'm not ready to jump the Fenwick ship, but these sites gave me the best idea of what the real market is for Elmwood area apartments.

Second
: BACKPACKS
I am a complusive shopper, and being Jewish I'm good at it. I bought my last pack about 3 years ago and it has served me well ... but the bottom is ready to fall out and I don't think it's ready for any more legal texts (neither am I for that matter ... school starts 8-22, so much beer, so little drunk).
So I began applying all my powers of Jew to the finicky filly we call the backpack market. Basically I just wanted another backpack like the one I had but, if possible cheaper and comfier.
I decided that I'd go with Jansport again. This is mostly a time saving meassure. I considered North Face, but, well, it's too Berkeley yuppie for me. Jansport has this crazy gellyrubbergoofilled strap "technology" (otherwise know as rubber) that's pretty nice when carrying 3000 pages of soon to be forgoten BS plus a laptop (an IBM T42, the "black because its owners want to pretend to be executives, it's better than Dell, penal substitute of laptops," highly recommended if your work/school cannot deal with Apple ... a sure sign of how law school pushs students to become corporate whores if there ever was one).
There are two ways to go from here: (1) eBay which has some of last years' models (no difference really, but can be cheaper though more time comsuming) and (2) eBags which often has closeouts and "coupon codes" to reduce the price by about 20nd ship for free (coupons cna be found at www.fatwallet.com under "hot deals"). eBags has user reviews, loads of pictures from different angles, and standard prices to compare the eBay prices with. Go there to find what you want--then go to eBay to find a better price.
Searching eBay for "Jansport Air" (air is in the name of most the bags with the crazy goo straps) gave me some prety affordable options. It certainly beat the $43 prices of eBags. I'm going with the Jansport Air Zone Ultra, Equinox, Skyrim, Airlift, or Air Juice depending on which has the lowest auction price. Use hammertap auction stealer to "snipe" auctions (bid at the last second).


Finally, here's my daily list of joys and worries:
Meg is bummed about the prospect of moving and a bummed Megan leads to a bummed Abe. I crawled all over Berkeley to find about 20 moving boxed I hope never to use (thanks Berkeley strangers on Craigslist!) and took pictures of apartments on Southside and in Elmwood ... most were too expensive (the ones I could contemplate living in), already rented out, or 1 rather than 2 bedrooms. Then I wasted time reading about how to succeed during my first year at law school (1 year too late). My older brother Marc sent me an invite to his post wedding party in Forrestvile which should be fun (Marc is a lawyer too, provides free legal aid to those accused of violating their parole in what are called Morrisey hearings). Doug has a giant beanbag couch thing, that's awesome. Megan's dad is coming home from the hospital (he had stomach cancer, he had it removed sugrically, now he's on the recovery trip and relaxing on the mattress Megan and I picked up for at Costco ... great mattress btw, or as Veljko would say ... actually, that is probably too graphic for the holy 0's and 1's we call the internet). Tomorrow I am going to look at an apartment I have little desire to rent at 11 then I have to get some tart to do her gardening workshift and then I've got an appointment with "Career services" to help me plot an attack against a lawyerly/corporate future. I just finished putting some bolts onto Megan's Corolla that hold an important looking crossmember in place (wonder what's been holding it here for the past XX years, sure weren't any bolts to be seen). Before that I spent 45 minutes trying to break into my friend Misti's apartment (the bottom lock, a relic from Berkeley in the 60's, was busted but somehow locked in place) to feed her cats ... both of whom hate me (cats don't often seem to like me ... you know how some cats are friendly and they like everyone but others only like maybe 1 in 50 people, well I'm always one of the left over 49, I'm just not a cat person I guess). And I started using my blog as a diary sort of thing, probably just so Ronnie can read about my troubles without acutally having to interact with me since he's left me for the muggy streets of NY City.

PS - anyone looking for a husband (e.g. women of UC Davis) look no further:
Mailorderhusbands.net