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Miss O and Kid Twist

November 2005

Miss O:

The first warning of the hurricane felt like a nuisance, a media event, an inconvenience. That was three nights before the storm. Kid and I had evacuated the year before when Ivan was supposed to hit, and after a 14-hour drive to Houston (5 hours normally), it passed right by. Not even a drop of rain. This time, there were warning signs that things weren’t right, that perhaps things were more serious. Every local hermit weirdo was wandering the streets, and the crack dealers on our block were lined up like never before, ¬¬as though people were stocking up just in case. We had been planning on going on tour for the past three months, and the risk of the car getting flood damage was worth the three-day excursion, even if we were just being paranoid. In the end, we decided we had more to lose by staying than leaving. We planned to go to Houston and come back for our instruments in a couple of days and start the tour out west. We ended up taking six people. Each had one small bag and some stuff to keep us busy for the next couple of days.

Kid Twist:

We went to my mom’s house and the day after the storm hit we woke to the news that everything looked mostly OK at home, except some low-key, unconfirmed reports of a levee breach…or two. As we began to pack the news grew more grim, along with the pictures on TV. When we realized we weren’t going anywhere near New Orleans anytime soon, I got on the phone with the insurance company. I had purchased musical instrument insurance two weeks before the storm in anticipation of the tour. A friend of mine pestered me until I did it, and we couldn’t have been luckier in retrospect. They paid out almost immediately based solely on the extensive citywide damage and the immediacy of our tour and we scrambled to replace our sentimentally precious friends/instruments and make 150 new CD’s by hand (we left behind our previous stock when we evacuated). We packed up the van with our new equipment, our friend Walt, with whom we perform in another band called Crooks and Nannies, and headed for our first show in Austin, TX. We played at The Carousel to a dream audience (for me, at any rate). All of my friends and family from Austin came, plus all of my recently evacuated friends from New Orleans, plus a healthy dose of people who know us from Myspace or whatever. Our songs are full of images related to water, drowning, catastrophe and loss, and they felt more relevant than ever. The Carousel let us drag on a little late and people outside were sitting on the curb, drinking and smoking like Austin’s notoriously strident liquor and drug laws never existed. We left the next day for Phoenix and points further west, having revamped our press emails to include the fact that we were essentially, and quite likely literally, homeless. Throughout the tour this gave us the kind of publicity and support a first-time-out-west touring band rarely receives.

We played with bands like Reindeer/Tiger Team in Phoenix that gave us all the show money, plus whatever they made from merchandise. We played in a little restaurant called Café Adrift in Anacortes, Washington (the best food on the west coast, no shit) that not only paid us, but turned the show into a benefit, gave us the door money, and donated the profits from the food sold to the relief organization of our choice. But more than all of this, audiences sincerely and emotionally absorbed our music, often drunkenly dancing and even more drunkenly mourning with us.

We came back to New Orleans one month after the hurricane. We walked in the door to find our house largely undamaged. It was truly unbelievable. We were surprised by each sentimental object we realized we would get to keep after having mentally accepted them all as completely lost. But we have also come to realize that even though our own personal asses were spared, the soul of our city was wiped out. Gone. 250+ years of tradition effectively evaporated. There’s so little that reminds me of the town I love.

While we wait for things to return to normal we’re planning a tour back to New York and the east coast in March, and we’re writing a new record, hoping to draw on what difficult beauty we find in the twisted version of home we’re living in now. We got some money from FEMA and some money from other places and we’re making a new studio in the house. We’re gonna record our new record and a new record with our other band “Crooks and Nannies” sometime before summer. As far as live music goes, the scene is a bit fractured and audiences are full of the unfamiliar faces of relief workers and hippy helpers. It’s not much like before, but it’s not bad either. We’re staying in practice with pick-up shows at the Abbey on Decatur, but until we get the Dragon’s Den back, we won’t be truly excited to play here.

Miss O:

The question I get from people most often is “was your house okay?” Before I came home it seemed important, but the more time I spend in New Orleans, it seems to matter less and less. Sometimes I think it might even have been easier to lose everything and be forced to start over. The way things are though, there is façade of normalcy, that at times has been comforting, but most times, in comparison to the rest of the city is devastating. As though we are living inside of one mausoleum in a massive graveyard. On our tour, Walt, Jay and I would sadly joke about every city we passed through, “Nope, this isn’t the city, I could never live here.” The truth is, the last remaining threads of our lives in New Orleans seem to be better than any other home we could imagine in the states. But in the near future I think we’ll think about New Orleans as a base to travel from, instead of home. And the feeling that we are homeless, in constant search of the city we adored passionately, I think will continue for years to come, if not for the rest of our lives. Despite all of this, there is a shred of hope in my heart that things won’t turn out as bad as our minds imagine.
After all, the world is a crazy place.

January 2006

Kid Twist:

I’m up early a couple of months after we wrote all that other stuff. The city is growing, but people are hesitant to believe things are really gonna be okay. Our governor’s in the Netherlands looking at new flood control ideas (and getting a much needed vacation), and people come back on the weekends to work on their houses with the hope of someday returning from Atlanta, Houston, Dallas, Memphis, or wherever they’re staying right now. I’m listening to James Booker’s beautiful version of “That’s Life” as the sun rises and the trucks rev up their engines.

New Orleans today really is the stuff of life. Yesterday was the first ‘second line’ (look it up) I’ve ever been to where the mood was as peaceful as it was exultant. Where the crowd was almost evenly black and white. Where the thug mentality and posturing were noticeably nonexistent. Where people seemed sure that New Orleans would return and we would be able to effectively police ourselves. Joyful songs and chants like “We ain’t coming back! We back!” rang through the freeway underpasses. Children and old people and everyone in between were singing and three brass bands were wailing and weed smoking in the streets and all the things I moved to New Orleans for in the first place. Family. And then damn if some fools didn’t fuck it up. About 3 blocks before it ended…“Pop! Pop, pop, pop!” Three people, including the 18-year-old niece of one of my best friends, shot and headed for the hospital. Thankfully they’re all ok, mostly. But the first thing out of people’s mouths was something along the lines of “I knew this town would never change! I ain’t never coming back!” Finally, a much-needed dose of the kind of joy that is only found here. And in the same second, all of it jeopardized by the kind of rivalry and revenge that residents had hoped was washed away with the storm.

That’s life.
That’s what all the people say.
You ridin’ high in April.
And you shot down in May.
And each time I found myself flat out on my face,
I just pick myself up,
And get back in the race.

Take it or leave it. This is our town. And it may be fucked up, but it’s still better than anywhere else. ..


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