Sunday, July 23, 2006

More from N'Awlins...

The tourist areas are fine. Some restaurants and hotels have not reopened, and many of the bigger stores in the Quarter (like Saks Fifth Ave) were looted (and torched) and have not re-opened yet. There are only 200,000 people in the city now, so it seems empty--like a Saturday or a holiday, but on a weekday. There are billboards everywhere advertising lawyers to sue insurance companies (my favorite said "Wind or Rain...Attorney Bob Jones can help YOU." Bob Jones is helping himself obviously, because by the time he gets a settlement from insurance and takes his third, there will be nothing left for anyone to rebuild with). I saw a lot of signs in store windows that said things like "CNA Insurance SUCKS!" or "AllState only paid us $10,000."

I drove through one of the worst neighborhoods on my way to the airport (not the infamous 9th ward, but an area just north of uptown where many of the rappers are from originally) and it's devastated. It needs to be razed and rebuilt, but because of the proximity to downtown, I know it won't be rebuilt for poor people, so I am reluctant to suggest demolition. The shotgun houses are destroyed, and have that curious coded graffiti all over the front that we saw on CNN ("one dead" or "dog inside", etc), yet still have people living in them, like squatters would live (but in their own homes). I saw one house with no front door, no windows, and a blue tarp on the roof to cover a gaping hole, with 3 young kids sitting inside what would have been the living room. It was over 100 degrees outside.

The mosquitos are intense at dawn and dusk, and the smell in certain areas is like a fish market (or worse--that's the nearest smell I can relate it to). No one should have to live like this. I half expected to see Sally Struthers come walking out from behind a house the way she does on the Feed The Children commercials from Africa. That this can be happening in the US is unbelievable and unacceptable. With the wealth that exists in this country, it is hard to believe we have poverty anywhere in the world, let alone in the US. New Orleans just reconfirms the disparity and lack of caring by the have's for the have not's.

Friday, July 21, 2006

So, here I sit in New Orleans in a law office, waiting for my flight to go home. I was brought down here to testify in a deposition for UNLV against Cash Money. UNLV sued Cash Money because they allege they were not ever paid properly--ya know, same experience as EVERY artist (and me) who has fucked with those brothers. Juve sued, they settled (I thought he was nuts to settle for 25% of what he was owed), he didn't get paid and had to sue again. BG sued, settled this past May, and didn't get paid and is about to sue again. UNLV sued and they settled today...let's see if they get paid... you already know what I think.

Anyway, the law firm called me to testify back in May as an "expert witness" in the UNLV case, regarding what royalties they SHOULD have been paid since I've broken down royalty calculations so many times for so many artists and indie labels.

I sat down at the deposition-- my butt BARELY was in the chair, when Cash Money decided to settle the case. Classic! I guess no one on their side wanted to hear what I had to say... the UNLV side was ANXIOUS for what I had to say to become part of public record (meaning every other artist who wanted to sue could use that info for their own benefit).

So, here I sit in N'Awlins, waiting for my flight home.

I've been back twice since Katrina--and by the way, that's how locals refer to time here, as pre-Katrina or post-Katrina. It's so sad, but their resilience is so outstanding. As we sat at lunch at the Loews Hotel celebrating, I was able to hear at all the tables around us, that people repairing their homes is THE topic of conversation. The owner of the restaurant recognized the attorney who was with us (Rick), and immediately came over to chat. After the initial pleasantries, the hello, how are yous, the topic switched to how's your house coming along... Rick is demolishing his home and rebuilding, and has had trouble scheduling the demolition--a good contractor is a prized possession in this town the way a great dentist or a good barber is, elsewhere.

I had a chance to chat with the court reporter, and she had evacuated days before the flood. She said her home in Metairie had minimal damage--just water and mold damage. Hell, that's enough!! But I guess when such a large portion of people lost everything, one feels grateful for just water and mold damage.

Rick explained that there are only 200,000 people in New Orleans right now, a far cry from its pre-Katrina size. Folks are optimistic and resilient. This morning I saw a homeless woman sleeping on the corner of St Charles and canal. I imagine that's a common site here, and the reduced number of people of color is obvious to me. Certainly different from pre-K. I was excited to see cars rolling by with 22s (rims) because to me that is a sign of the pre-K New Orleans.

I didn't go over to the ninth ward. I didn't think I could stand it. I have a tendency to see things that need fixing and try to fix them, and this one I can't fix. I'm at capacity trying to fix a small section of the urban music business. But I did buy a shirt that says "New Orleans Matters." And it does. So do UNLV.