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."

Monday, September 01, 2008

Doheny's Magic 8 Ball.

Before Katrina even hit I had a major revelation of it's long term consequences, a sort of historiological version of having your life flash before your eyes at the moment of death. I was stuck in traffic on my way to Baton Rouge for 14 hours (normally a 2 hour drive). The car was getting buffeted by the outer wind and rain bands from the storm, my average speed was around five miles an hour (considerably slower than Katrina) and I didn't stop for anything, not even a piss call. I had a bottle of water and a big bag of carrots I'd snagged from the fridge before I left, and I drove and ate carrots and listened to the doomsday prognosticators on the radio and cried. And as I did that, the post-Katrina landscape unrolled before my eyes; first the outpouring of sympathy and charity for the victims (nothing pumps up Americans sense of themselves as a righteous people more than a little "faith based" charity) but, very quickly, the ugly face of a curious phenomenen in America, a vicious hatred of the poor. The political spin would start almost immediately (as indeed it did) and blaming the victims would be the order of the day (as indeed it was).

I was planning on riding this one out, mostly because I didn't trust our 17 year old car to make it through another evac. But she came through with flying colors and we're now camped out in Vicksburg Mississippi for the duration. We are of course glued to the TV coverage of the event, which ranges from comprehensive and well researched (mostly local) to awesomely stupid (CNN). Just minutes ago I barely restrained myself from kicking in the tv screen after watching screaming diva Anderson Cooper cut away from an Army Corps of Engineers representative commenting on a major breaking story (what looks like overtopping of the floodwalls on the Industrial Canal, which seperates the upper and lower 9th Wards) to a tight shot of his little gamine head blabbering away about nothing in the French Quarter. The man really is an embarrassment.

In the days leading up to this there's been a lot of speculation about how this is going to play out politically. The general consensus seemed to be that the storm's confluence with the opening day of the Republican National Convention would reflect badly on the GOP. Some people who really should know better said some stupid and hurtful things (yes, I'm talking to you Mr. Michael "this storm shows there is a god" Moore). What I'm seeing here on the teevee seems to be spinning exactly the other way, with John McSame acting as pro-tem president ("behold my awesome leadership capabilities!") and Bush in the unlikely role of paper pushing bureaucrat back in Texas at the hurricane center. The fact that he's now too "busy" to show up in Minneapolis and stink up the place with the rotting corpse of his credibility is the best gift the Republican party could possibly have hoped for. And of course the state of Louisiana conveniently has a new Republican governor (Bobby "the Exorcist" Jindal). I think, if things continue to go well, we may even see a slight rehabilitation of Mayor Ray Nagin's tattered rep, with emphasis on his Republican backround (Nagin switched parties for his mayoral bid, because New Orleans wouldn't vote Republican for dogcatcher).

The nailbiter now for New Orleans is the floodwall system. If there are major breeches and the city floods again, it's probably game over as far as rebuilding goes. In the days before the storm, as I drove around the city laying in supplies (gas for the generator, batteries for the radio, water, food, etc.) I kept thinking, "this storm really needs to go somewhere else." I've watched too many people work like mules at two or three jobs, investing their heart, soul and live savings in rebuilding their homes and businesses. To see it all blown or flooded away again would be heartbreaking.

We're keeping our fingers crossed on those levees. Since the Army Corps of Engineers (the same bunch that screwed up the old ones) have been charged with the task of strengthening and repairing them, we're obviously very concerned. But maybe, just maybe, they'll hold.

We'll know by tomorrow for sure.

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