Saxophonist John Doheny was born in Seattle Washington in 1953 but has spent much of his adult life in Canada, primarily in Vancouver and Toronto. After early experiences accompanying strippers in bars and cabarets he became a professional R&B sideman in the late 1970s, touring and recording with artists both prominent and obscure. In 1991 he returned to Vancouver and began a program of intense musical study, both in academe (Vancouver Community College, the University of British Columbia) and in the more informal area of performance. He asserts that "all human intercourse is either an opportunity to learn or to teach. Everything that I know about jazz performance (to the extent that I know anything at all) I owe to those players, teachers and students who have suffered to share the bandstand and the teaching studio with me." Since 2003, Mr. Doheny has been a permanent resident of New Orleans, Louisiana, but makes every effort to spend summers in Canada because "it's too damn hot down here then."

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Abundance Street

Today Darlene and I had to take care of some nonsense up at Cox Cable (3131 Elysian Fields) which necessitated a drive up to the Gentilly neighborhood. Since moving out of the 'Isle of Denial," the Uptown-French-Quarter-Garden-District-Bywater area which didn't flood, my daily route to work takes me through some severely damaged neighborhoods. I take Hagan Avenue to Orleans Street, drive down Orleans through block after block of ruined houses with maybe two houses per block inhabited (one has a sign that says "survived Betsy but Katrina was a bitch," another has a clock, a picture of Bush playing guitar while New Orleans drowns, and a sign that says "Time To Impeach"). I take a right at the corner of Orleans and Broad, right by the Zulu Social Aid and Pleasure Club and Lillie's Lounge (both up and running) and Ruth's Chris Steak House (boarded up, head office moved to Florida, not coming back) and cruise Broad through miles of rubble, the wreckage of Irma Thomas' Lion's Den club, the massive, multi-block complex of the Orleans Parish Prison, and turn onto Napoleon Avenue into Broadmoor for more ruined houses,past the Memorial Medical Center (locally known as 'Baptist') scene of much death and horror and still not re-opened, right on Freret past the chicken coops that were once Dunbar's resaurant and Wagner's supermarket and finally, at about Jefferson and Freret, enter the Zone of Normality that surrounds Tulane and Loyola universities.

Depressing a daily routine as this is, it had in no way prepared me for Gentilly first thing in the morning. While Darlene took care of business I took a little walk around. From the looks of the floodlines, the area around 3131 Elysian Fields took about 4 feet of water. You can almost call the demographics in on a dime by the amount of trailers you see on a block. Several blocks I walked past had half a dozen or more, which means the folks in them had suffient insurance and other resources to come back and start repairs. Further on, there are no trailers, but that doesn't mean there are no people in the houses. Lots of folks are literally camping out in their own houses, without water or power, because they have nowhere else to go, and because they want to protect what little they have left from looters. A man I meet at the corner of Abundance Street and Mandeville Avenue says this is what he is doing. He tells me his name is Edwin, and that the National Guard, who patrol these neighborhoods, sometimes come by and check his i.d., to make sure it's okay for him to be in his own house. He does not resent this, is in fact glad of their presence because before he came, looters often stole things from him the minute he left his house to fetch food or water. As we talk a pickup truck full of Mexicans, burnt almost black from the sun, stop and ask us if there's any work. "Get outta here," says Edwin. "You see any work round here?," he says, staring at the ruined street with pop eyes.

"Looter" in this context by the way, rarely refers to ghetto-dwelling smash and grab artists. The most commonly pilfered items are architectural detailing (like the gingerbread filigree and newell-post detailing on many of these older houses) and plumbing and kitchen fixtures. Many of the "looters" are actually contractors who will sell this stuff to clients on other jobs, and freelance thieves who sell to antique dealers and 'heritage' house restoration specialists. In other words, the great architectural heritage of New Orleans will soon be coming to the homes of rich yuppie fucks near you.

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