Saturday, February 11, 2006

The State of Real Estate

The price-gauging running rampant in post-apocalypse New Orleans ensures that residents who lost their homes - due to the human error that produced one big joke of a levee system - not only have no homes, but can't find new ones. Apartments, for example, are now being rented for double to triple the pre-apocalypse market rate.

It's a disaster area, stupid.

And a poor city - now more than ever.

And who is profiting off its destruction?
Out-of-state and/or non-native contractors, roofers, fat cats, et al.

So, when I hear my property manager lauding the four to eight roofers now living downstairs and engaging in such noble activities as hissing, leering and wolf-whistling at me and my female visitors on a regular basis, congregating at the edge of my stairs, the only access to and from my apartment, throwing garbage, including uncooked meat packages, all over the place, shouting at and scaring my cat when we're out on the front porch, loudly discussing the 17-year-old they're "sharing," smashing bottles in the back alley, slamming doors, blasting music non-stop, posing a nuisance and, worse, a vivid threat to my and others' safety and well-being, I wonder if I've somehow bypassed reality via nightmare hallucination.

That all of the above have occurred in a disaster area, where these men are generating good, steady incomes, while a large number of natives remain unemployed, and not on Bourbon St., but on Every St. New Orleans, makes it even more offensive.

In talking to other women, all of whom have been spoken to by some contractor or another in a despicable manner, I can't help but wonder where all this male hostility comes from - just as I don't really get all the "Gasp! Ray Nagin is a racist!" ballyhooing from white people, some of whom I've heard touting "Vanilla City" buttons.

Another thing I can't stand is the question "Are they Mexican?" in reference to my neighbors when what they really mean is "Latino." The not-my-kind-of-Caucasians pose this question in response to any mention of the many, and diverse, shenanigans going on here, as if we can expect nothing more from these men, "Are they Mexican?", than jackal behavior. They have brown skin; clearly, they're incapable of human behavior.

When I was attending grad school in Los Angeles, I lived in a Mexican-American neighborhood and guess what? In the two years I spent as a renter there, I was heckled twice. In the two months I've been back in New Orleans, I've been heckled every day by all sorts of scumbags, the majority of whom are not from here, as they clearly demonstrate the "She lives in New Orleans - she must flash for beads/be a whore" mentality. This wouldn't bother me so much if it weren't literally right outside my front door.

And if my property manager, whose last psychotic male tenant routinely exposed his genitals to me and wound up in court as a result of it, yet wasn't evicted 'till the '05 apocalypse came along, could even pretend to give a damn.

Instead, she questioned every statement I made, trying to explain away the hissing, leering and ever-closer-to-my-person congregation (please give me a reason to use my pepper spray) as a "cultural difference," unmasking another racist face. I've written and sent two certified letters to the effect that, as a woman who lives alone and finds herself a regular target of sexual harassment, I don't feel very safe or at ease. What I am trying to prevent is an escalation to physical violence, as I made plain to her during my latest telephone call.

"Well, have you been attacked?" she asked in response, voice dripping with condescension.

Today, four days after her latest denial head trip, I heard her telling the aforementioned gentlemen how my second letter took her "by surprise" and how grateful she is that people "like them" are helping to "resurrect this city" - though, ah, hissing is not acceptable in "American culture."

As someone who's lived in numerous American cities and lived through several physical assaults, I've become very astute at reading the signs of violence, a la Gavin De Becker, criminal expert and author of The Gift of Fear. These men exhibit them all. And here she is announcing the identity of the complainant and casting doubt on her, letting them know that they, in fact, are heroes to her. Like a 35-year-old woman in one of the composition classes I taught at UNO, she probably doesn't know what "misogynist" means.

She's too busy being one.


Anonymous Sarah Borufka said...

awesome entry- i really like your writing style. i don't like your cellphone, though... tried calling you numerous times but couldn't get through. see ya?

6:58 PM  
Anonymous sadmaddog said...

hey...saw this originally on the C3 list and was hoping you'd let us 'reprint' it on
call or email:, 281.734.5678

6:19 PM  

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