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, August 28, 2008

Stay or Go.

As of twelve noon tomorrow, Tulane university will be closed, as will it's dormitories. Those students unable to leave town on their own will be bused to Jackson Mississippi on Saturday. I've heard, from two sources (one of whom claims to be tight with someone high up in the Nagin administration) that tomorrow (friday) at noon the mayor's office will order a mandatory, city-wide hurricane evac.

My opinion (and it's one shared by many native New Orleanians) is that this is nuts. At this point Gustav has not even entered the gulf and is technically still a Tropical Storm. The storm track and cone of probability (oh my gawd! We're in the cone!) show a possibility of landfall anywhere between Galveston Texas and Jacksonville Florida, and the little red hurricane symbols notwithstanding (the ones that always make it look like the damn thing is headed right down the mouth of the Mississippi) the statistical probability of Gustav making landfall at New Orleans is no greater than that of it making landfall anywhere else on those 700-plus miles of coastline.

Still, you never know, right? Better safe than sorry. And since the storm is currently travelling at a breakneck speed of 7m.p.h. (reminiscent of that scene in "A Fish Called Wanda" where Michael Palin is attempting to kill Kevin Kline with a painfully slow-moving steamroller) it really does beg the question, so often posed by right wing pundits after Katrina, "how can you be too stupid to get out of the way of a hurricane?" Because, in neoconservative-land, everything is simple. Up, down. Right, left. Black, white...especially black, white. Here in the real world of course, things are messy and complicated. I'd like to offer up a couple of personal anecdotes to illustrate.

I have a co-worker whose father is dying of bone cancer. He's at home (here in the Land of the Uninsured a hospice is of course out of the question, unless you're lucky enough to be John McCain and get free healthcare) and is actually more or less able to take care of himself, with a little help from my co-worker and her husband. However, if the 'Cane hits and we lose power, he could go downhill pretty fast. On the other hand, a 22 hour stop-and-go drive in a hurricane evac could kill him. If they leave today, before the evac is called, they might miss most of that traffic from hell. But both she and her husband have work commitments that will keep them here through friday...at which point the evac will have produced the Traffic Jam From Hell.

Their solution? Wait. And pray. The truth of the matter is, no hurricane track prediction really means very much until the storm is about 18 hours out, which will likely be monday afternoon. Thirty six hours before landfall just east of New Orleans, Katrina was predicted to hit Florida.

Darlene and I are in a slightly different pickle. We have a standing offer of a place to stay from our friend Candace in Dallas (I bunked with Candace for a week after Katrina, and Darlene and I both stayed with her on the evac from no-show Ivan in '04). We also have an advisory from Mr. Donald, our mechanic, to avoid long trips in our on-its-last-legs 17 year old car. If we leave now, we could maybe avoid the traffic jam that turned a two-hour drive to Baton Rouge in '05 into a 14 hour stop-and-go nightmare. But, we both have work commitments that keep us here at least till friday night, and in Darlene's case possibly until saturday. When, you guessed it, traffic may very well kill our car. My friend and mentor, Tulane jazz history professor John Joyce Jr., who has lived in New Orleans nearly all of his 68 years and never left for any hurricane, including Katrina, says, "the worst place to be during a storm, worse than up to your chest in water in the 6th ward, is broke down by the side of the road."

So there it is. My feeling is in the end it'll be a big to-do over not much. But the story is much too juicy and literally writes itself; "Mayor Calls City-Wide Hurricane Evacuation on the Eve of Third Katrina Anniversary." You can practically hear the print reporters and cable-news gas-bags licking their chops. And gee, just think what a black eye it'll give the republicans if there's another Katrina on the first day of their convention.

You'll of course forgive us if we're less than anxious to take one for the team.

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