Thursday, December 01, 2005

light and dark

The electricity comes and goes, two or three times a week for 12 hours or more each time. But I'm still so grateful to have electricity. The other night I had to drive to Metairie so I tried to take the least painful route there. I chose Canal Street to Metairie Road, but it was not a painless route. There's a long section of Canal Street without power and it choked me up. I almost turned around and went home. It was a little party I was going to, which seems so incongruous right now. As it turned out, almost everyone at the party had lost their houses altogether (lived in Lakeview and off Canal Street and by City Park). As happens lately every time a few New Orleanians get together, we talked about how much crying is going on. And drinking. I went home the same way but when I got to the dark part I sped, even through stop signs. There were no cars to stop for anyway. I don't like going outside my neighborhood at night. There is no route out that does not put me in darkness's way. From the interstate at night you can see how dark the city really is. Oh, and there's still a boat at the Elysian Fields exit ramp.
I don't see too many National Guardsmen around anymore. A few weeks ago someone got murdered in the next block on my street. Last night someone stole the new tire off my bicycle, which was locked at the corner. The Red Cross comes by most days around noon, honking a horn and over a bullhorn offering hot meals and water. I ate one once. It was a chicken patty sandwich. It was pretty good, too.
Last Saturday there was a second line from Sweet Loraine's on St. Claude Avenue, through several neighborhoods, and which ended at the river for a concert. Spike Lee took the walk with us. We stopped at the usual places -- a few bars (including Ernie K-Does Mother-In-Law Lounge), Blandin's, Preservation Hall -- but we also stopped to serenade some OPP inmates. The sheriff in charge of watching them took pictures of us. We did the dirge and we did the dance. The thing I detected among us was an innocence, a hope that New Orleans would be okay and that this would lead toward that. But as I think on it, the great thing about the second line was that it was New Orleans itself, and that it didn't have anything to do with how New Orleans would BE, but that New Orleans IS. The concert lasted 'til sunset. We had, I'd say, a hunger to be together. Even after Kermit had packed up his trumpet and the dark settled in, people lingered, loathe I think to be alone again.
I've been having strange nights filled with something like a dream, but not exactly a dream, and in this something like a dream there are two things in my mind trying to reconcile with each other. Then the other night, a third thing came into it. The middle thing, like a screen, showed life as normal. One of the side screens depicted destruction and the other depicted plants growing wrong, like they'd been contaminated with radiation.
And last but not least, there's the school system. I was hearing nothing, nothing was on any of the web sites, nothing was on the news, about how teachers should proceed. I kept hearing about schools trying to open but no one knew how to get in to get interviewed. So I found an email address for the big cheese with the takeover firm hired last year to fix us, and he very kindly emailed me back with an address for his employee in charge of the Algiers Charter Schools. Anyway, the process has been that we fill out an application and deliver it and our resume to their office in Algiers. Then Tuesday and Wednesday we suited up and went for a "screening." This involved answering a few questions in writing, writing a little essay about teaching, and answering five math questions. I could not remember how many ounces are in a gallon, so I probably got that wrong. Then someone picked up the thing we wrote and we got assigned to a principal (they were just hired last week) who asked some generic questions. The feeling I got was that the manning of the schools has already been done and this was just a way to appease us, to make us think they were interested in us. My screener asked me questions and then, I could feel it, didn't listen to my answers. He didn't take any notes, didn't read what I'd written, didn't have my application or resume with him. Didn't know anything at all about me. And didn't listen to me. It was insulting. The deal is that of the many many teachers who came for the screening (I heard there were 2500), 200 will be called in for a second interview, and then on Sunday the 60 chosen teachers will be notified, and school will start Tuesday. Yesterday's screening gave me a bad vibe and now I don't want to teach with that organization.
And then yesterday, on the New Orleans Public Schools website, a press release was posted, announcing that as of 1/31/06 all school personnel will be officially fired. Each school is given a date for teachers to come "pack up your shit and go. You're fired!" (that's what one of the clowns last year did to me, came into my room, looked at some papers, and told me that the office had sent him up to give me that message.)
I can't believe I won't be returning to Room 219.


Blogger Carol said...

I just found your blog. I'll be returning. Your posts are well written and very interesting. Good luck to you! I'm adding you to my blogroll.

6:18 AM  
Anonymous bev marshall said...

Melanie, I'm glad you went to the party and joined the second line. That's why our city will come back; we're second liners, bead catchers, Friday lunchers. And we're big on hugging . . . drunk or sober. As for the teaching job, it enrages me that teachers like you are being treated as you described. Hang in, babe. They need you whether they know it yet or not. We're going over to the Tennessee Williams Festival Board's Christmas party and I'm scared to go, haven't been back since Katrina, and I know I'm going to cry through the whole night when I see all of my homeless friends. I'm watching the hawks for you.

9:23 AM  
Anonymous Cassandra said...

What is the difference between your status now as a teacher in Orlean's Parish Schools and being officially fired? You have mentioned before that they aren't paying you right now, yet you are somehow still on the payroll (meaning still hired).

Hired - fired --- what is the difference? No children, so no schools - and few business, so no taxes and income. It sounds like a matter of terminology/ paperwork here that makes the difference between reality and the logistics.

I believe that by offically firing their teachers that they are giving up hope of what they have left. Many teachers are gone and so many teachers want to come in, yet by firing what they have because they need to seal off the deal of reality is utter foolishness... This makes me believe that not all of New Orleans believes in itself and in its future.

What about the rumors of schools opening in N.O. in January? They want to hire a whole new staff?? Why... they have a staff of willing and hopefully and motivated teachers beating down the doors of the closed schools.

You will find a position. You are too incredible to not be hired, however that might also scare people off --- because you are so fabulous! Meanwhile, the rest of the country is doing the best they can taking care of your kids for you until it is safe for them to return/ preparing them for a return if they so desire/ and or helping them live instead of just survive.

3:19 PM  
Blogger Rebecca Riisness said...

Dearest of Pleshies, just very glad you are alive. surviving the 'canes is just as wretched as weathering one.i found that smaller things became vessels of's smile, a wave, an oak tree, the color of twilight. Katrina bitch of a 'cane, but she did some good for our family.
You are an amazing teacher. Your work will not be lost.The finger prints showing where you've been will find their way back home or to a student who needs to be taught by you. i recognize you!

I salute you! rebecca

5:50 PM  

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