Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Let's just bring back Congo Square, OK?

Colleen Kane over at the don't-miss
Abandoned Baton Rouge blog posted a link to my video about . . . the abandoned -- and/or decrepit -- parts of Baton Rouge. (Thanks, Colleen!)

Of course, this brought out another Louisianian for Dysfunctionality to defend the state's state of entropy. Merriam-Webster defines "entropy" as I use it thus:

2 a: the degradation of the matter and energy in the universe to an ultimate state of inert uniformity b: a process of degradation or running down or a trend to disorder


MORE SUCCINCTLY, the native Louisiana term for this -- basically the verbal equivalent of a Gallic shrug -- is "Well, dat's Loosiana for you!"

I saw
the following comment in the ABR combox, and I just couldn't let it slide. Believe me, I'd like to, but. . . .

See, I know that all the funny, colorful and exotic Louisiana stories with which I can dazzle, horrify and entrance your average Midwesterner usually have come at a terrible cost . . . to somebody. Somehow.

Here's the comment:

Well, to be honest, most of the areas you document were run down and creepy even 25 years ago. The Broadmoor Theatre, which provoked so much nostalgia in your comments, was a notorious s***hole by the mid 80's at least. I saw "Time Bandits" there and believe me it did not have a good reputation even then.

Louisiana is closer to the Caribbean in spirit than any other American state. It's poor, run down, hopelessly stratified, and half of the s*** there is broken. But then again, that's where its spirit also lies. I lived in Louisiana most of my life and it's impossible for me to imagine it without some form of decay.

I see no point in being rueful about it. There is more effortless, genuine weirdness on some streets in Louisiana than in the entire state of California. Take it from me. A clean, organized, well-maintained Louisiana wouldn't have given us Jazz, the Blues, the plays of Tennessee Williams, or much of anything.

Decay and casual insanity are too much of our character.

Posted by: Teeray in L.A. December 08, 2008 at 11:27 PM
HERE'S THE RESPONSE I left on the Abandoned Baton Rouge post. I thought I'd share it here as well:
I certainly hope Teeray in L.A. isn't seriously serious here. If you carry his argument to its logical conclusion, we're going to end up reinstituting chattel slavery and importing us some fresh African captives so they can make merry one day a week in a reconstituted Congo Square in New Orleans.

Gawd knows what wunnerful new "original American artform" we might get out of that.

In essence, some Louisianians' twisted justification for the state's inability to govern itself for the benefit of the governed comes down to arguing that because God is capable of writing straight with crooked lines, we therefore ought to be as crooked as possible.

That's the *unvarnished* version of these apologists' argument. Viewed as such, it's patently nuts.

If you said as much about the 'hood -- "Let's keep the ghetto as f***ed up as possible so suburban white boys can have some good rap and hip-hop to jam to while cruising in daddy's SUV" -- you'd rightly be denounced as an exploitative racist bastard.

"Louisiana is closer to the Caribbean in spirit than any other American state," Teeray writes. "It's poor, run down, hopelessly stratified, and half of the s*** there is broken. But then again, that's where its spirit also lies."

That's a flat-out paean to cultural parasitism -- exploiting others' suffering to get ones' aesthetic jollies. And there are real people suffering amid Louisiana's trendy "Caribbean spirit."

And they don't have the luxury of hopping a 727 to Los Angeles and marveling at how quaint it all is as they sip their vodka on the rocks.
I WISH Nina Simone were still alive. She could look one state to the west and write a rip-roaring sequel to her 1960s masterpiece about Mississippi.

"Louisiana Goddam," she could call it.

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