The Honda Element is the unofficial evacuationmobile of New Orleans. They started popping up all over the place in October, when people began replacing their flooded cars with new ones and people who'd never even had a car before realized that maybe it was time to give in. "Oh, you got one of those Tupperware cars," Skip said when I acquired mine in May. And they are kind of like Tupperware. Everything folds, snaps and removes. You can hose the thing down inside. But I got it because I could imagine living in it if I had to.
Mine is in Kiwi. I figured I'd be able to find it that way. Not just in a parking lot, but just outside on the street, where there are several other Elements within a block. Kiwi is new, and they will only be using it this year. One of the first things I did in it was pick up a neighbor at the airport. Now Elizabeth has a Kiwi Element too.
Intersection | New Orleans
Anne Gisleson and Brad Benischek have one of the early post-K Elements in the neighborhood. Before the storm, their Saab was on its last legs. Before the storm, I called them one day and said, "Have you ever thought of just starting a little publishing company?" "We were just talking about that this morning." Press Street, named after the division between the Bywater and Marigny neighborhoods, was born. Anne, a writer, and Brad, and artist, had an idea for our first publication: pair 25 New Orleans writers with 25 New Orleans visual artists. Assign everyone an intersection somewhere in the city and see what happens. The result is the just completed book Intersection | New Orleans. Proceeds from sales of the book will fund a literacy project.
In addition to the book, Press Street has been keeping itself busy hosting events throughout the city in conjunction with other publishers and organizations. In December we celebrated Tom Piazza's book Why New Orleans Matters by opening Preservation Hall for one night only, with proceeds going to the Musicians Relief Fund. More recently, we also reopened the Saturn Bar with a reading and potluck with contributors to Chin Music Press's Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans (proceeds went to Rebuilding Together).
The Pit Bulls of Katrina
Over five thousand pit bulls were rescued from the flood waters of Katrina last year. No one was mauled during this rescue effort. In fact, I don't even know of anyone who was seriously bitten. Yet the threat of breed specific legislation looms increasingly over the heads of family pets around the country. In Clinton, Mississippi, a new law was passed banning American Pit Bull Terriers, Staffordshire Terriers, American Staffordshire Terriers and Rottweilers. But it doesn't stop there. Like most breed specific laws, this one includes any animal that is mixed with these breeds or appears to be mixed with these breeds. In other words, any animal that looks "funny." In Denver, they've already started house to house searches to remove pets that have "the look." In Paris, there is talk of "sterilizing twelve races" of dogs. The problem is that none of this addresses any of the real problem: irresponsible, criminal owners. And this seems to be typical of the way our governments address difficult problems: create something on paper, avoid actual interaction with the source of evil. If I lived in Clinton, or Denver, or several other cities in our country, I'd be given a choice: move, or have all three of my dogs killed by the city.
I know, this is a grim close to my week here at Powells.com. But on the other hand, it kind of artfully brings us back to those French news stories I was translating on Monday.
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Ken Foster, a writer and teacher, is the author of the bestseller The Dogs Who Found Me; its sequel, Dogs I Have Met; and the new book I'm a Good Dog. His collection of short stories, The Kind I'm Likely to Get, was a New York Times Notable Book. His work has been featured in Salon, Time Out New York, the New York Times Book Review, and other publications. He lives in New Orleans with his dogs Brando, Douglas, and Bananas.
Books mentioned in this post
Ken Foster is the author of I'm a Good Dog: Pit Bulls, America's Most Beautiful (and Misunderstood) Pet