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January 1, 2009

The New Endymion

Filed under: Pop Life — Tags: — Alex Rawls @ 8:01 am

 

[Updates below]

At 20 minutes to midnight, I left the Mid-City bonfire, which – unless things changed drastically at midnight – was no longer the event it was. Part of the beauty of the bonfire celebration as it was prior to this year was its democratic, participatory nature. Everybody helped make it happen in their own way, whether by adding trees to the pile, racing around the fire, setting off fireworks, drumming, or spinning techno music on their porch. It was also decentralized. The event focused on one block, but there was no stage or single place where everything happened. Fireworks could go off right next to you or 10 feet away. And as I’ve written before, it was an event that hadn’t required much supervision – a fire truck to monitor the fire and protect houses did the trick for years, but all it ever did was put the fire out after a half-hour or so, which brought the bonfire evening to a reasonable ending.

Last night was all about security. Five or six squad cars patrolled Orleans Avenue, one with an officer who breathed heavily and disturbingly into his loudspeaker as he circled the blocks in question. More police cars shut down Orleans Avenue at some point. A SWAT truck was there. The fire department had its Hazmat/WMD unit there in case Osama decided to strike insidiously. Next to the bonfire enclosure where another six or seven police and fire department cars, and officers patrolled on foot.

With no fireworks, the event was entirely passive as people waited for NOFD to provide some entertainment for them. With the designated firepit safely barricaded away from people, real estate along the barricade was valuable property so people claimed it. Not only would there be no running around the fire, but there would be no running around the barricade around the fire.

I suspect that people who live in Mid-City and particularly those who lived nearby loved it because it became another Mardi Gras block party, with houses in the neighborhood hosting parties. And I suspect the many people there who’d never been to the bonfire before, it was a great event. The crowd was bigger than ever, and for many this looked like a less labor-intensive alternative to going to the Quarter on New Year’s Eve. But it isn’t what it was, and something beautiful was lost in the process of saving the fire. Now the city controls and directs something we once made for ourselves, and Dr. Bob’s “Be nice or leave” is an actual rule. Very sad.

[Update: 2:50 p.m.: Seriously, was there no media coverage of the bonfire? The Times-Picayune thought the controversy was worthy of coverage, but not the outcome? The television networks thought it was worth covering at 5 p.m. when nothing had happened, but as of a few moments ago, I couldn't find a story on it at Nola.com or any of the television stations' Web sites. In a story that was all about what would happen after the NOPD and NOFD took control of the event, skipping the last chapter of the story is really shamefully bad news judgment.]

[Update: 10:35 p.m.: Tonight WWL-TV had a short piece on the bonfire during its newscast. It was pretty puffy with pictures of smiling faces, a short interview with Virginia Blanque, and footage of two guys who jumped the barricade to throw a tree in the fire (and were arrested) and a woman who was arrested for obscenity (she jumped the barricade and ran naked around the fire).]

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1 Comment »

  1. Mid-City has become much too self-important anyway. It’s time their “traditions” be exposed for the New England carpet-bagger farces they are in actuality. Drunken frat boy “cultural” gatherings should be confined to Broadway near the Tulane campus. Exposing vanilla as vanilla is a good thing in this instance.

    Comment by 9th Ward Cheeto Rig — January 2, 2009 @ 8:51 am

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