New Orleans ended on an up note. I got to visit with a couple of good friends from my previous conference adventures and appreciate the architecture, and enjoy a gorgeous walk in Audubon Park with egrets and turtles, and eat some fantastic gumbo and oysters (and I don’t even like those creepy little bottom-feeders).
I also got to see the community garden that I helped plant last summer. Things are growing like gangbusters, and I hear that the project will nearly pay for itself in the first year. $1000 of manure seems to be on track to generate $800 in produce, about 1/3 of which was given away to neighbors, the Latino community, and some of the many homeless people that visit the various shelters and soup kitchens along O.C. Haley Blvd. Unfortunately, there is significant tension with the neighbors, which is closely related to a huge demographic shift that has happened in this town; many of the long-time African American residents resent the newcomers taking their jobs and the “Find Every Mexican Available” (FEMA, get it?) T-shirts for sale on Bourbon St. aren’t helping anything.
I should also mention a few other New Orleans co-ops, both new and old. Of course there are credit unions, ranging from Shell New Orleans to the Hope Community Credit Union. Tipitina’s Music Office Co-op provides business services for musicians. C4 Tech & Design is a worker-owned tech firm. St. Margaret’s nursing home is devleoping a worker-owned home care business that I would have visited if I weren’t coming down with a cold (bad manners to expose old folks to disease). And of course, the New Orleans Food Co-op is still plugging along despite more and greater setbacks than I think I’ve ever seen a planning group survive. I first met with that crew back during my first visit, when most of their group was still in exile and they wanted to start a mobile co-op like that tried by People’s Grocery in Oakland, CA. Keep goin’ y’all. More lagniappe!
And of course, there is the marvel that this city is here at all. Not long ago there was serious debate about whether we should just let it sink into the sea like every other delta the Mississippi has ever built. It’s a really messed up place, which was underlined by yesterday’s sudden resignation of the Inspector General. But it’s not going down that easily. Maybe it is mostly below sea level and sinking while the sea level rises, but it’s New Orleans, for crying out loud. And it is utterly gorgeous in January, even if I could see my breath this morning, sipping tea in my friend’s century-old, poorly heated and non-insulated shotgun.
It was yet another stop in an utterly fascinating and inspiring trip, in which Even so, I’m burnt out on being cut off from my own community and family. And I have a cold. I am ready to be home. Only two more stops to go…
Of course, I’m already starting to work on at least three future trips, including Portland April 1, Pittsburgh around Aug 1, and Cincinnati at the end of October on my way home from a study trip to the Basque Country. I’ll probably use all of those as excuses for additional tours.
Also in the “Andrew doesn’t learn” file, I have two long train trips in my near future, and I am going to use them to resume work on a book that I was writing a few years back, before Holy Cooperation! jumped the line. It is tentatively called Sharing America and I think what I’m going to do is make another page on this here blog, and start posting draft chapters. Anyone who wants to read these and give me feedback, please be my guest. I’m also going to set up an email account for anyone who wants to send detailed feedback, off-the-record comments, or fan mail.
Or just try to talk me out of it.