03 January 2009

From grief, an expression of beauty

Although this isn't road- or computer-related, one of the wonderful things about having your own blog is that you get to bend the rules from time to time.

Case in point:

Times-Picayune - Mother's colorful memorial to her son has both fans and critics

Everyone will lose a loved one in their lifetime. It's the most human act of all... people die. Some of them, though, are taken from us in a violent manner, and the people left behind react differently. Some swear revenge, only adding to the cycle of violence. Some withdraw until they become casualties themselves, lost to the grief.

Then there are those who choose to do something about it, in a positive way. They choose to fight the cycle of violence their own way, by not falling into it themselves.

On July 19, 2001, a man named David Ayo was murdered just steps from his door. His mother, Susan "Willow" Schroeder heard the gunshot, then went outside and held David in her arms as his life slipped away. The murderer was never caught. It's a tragic, yet sadly common story in New Orleans as long as I've been alive.

So Willow started to paint. The morning after the murder, she painted an angel over the bloodstain near his door. Even then, for a while, it seemed Willow would become another casualty herself. She became a recluse. Even then, she continued to paint. She turned her yard into a beautiful memorial, a positive expression of art over such a negative event. Eventually Hurricane Katrina hit the area, forcing her to venture out.

While many of her neighbors are understanding of this, some are not, most notably JoAnn Taylor. She's called the city over one part of the artistic expression, a painted sidewalk in front of the house in question. She's also been researching ways to get rid of the memorial entirely, looking to see if some city code prohibits the artwork covering Willow's house. She calls it graffiti.

Myself, I call it a refreshing change of pace, something befitting the very culture of New Orleans. Lest we forget, some of the more notable figures in the city include voodoo queen Marie Laveau, as well as music greats Louis Armstrong and Mahalia Jackson. New Orleans is a city of eccentricity and unbridled artistic expression... not some soulless cookie-cutter suburb, showcasing little more than 1,000 drab shades of grey. It's the city of jazz and Mardi Gras, for crying out loud. There's more soul in a square block of New Orleans than in the entirety of some suburbian areas.

While there are tragedies in the city, there are also celebrations. Some say that New Orleanians can and do party at the drop of a hat, and this is what I see when I see photos of "David's House" - from tragedy, an explosive celebration of artwork and life.

Celebration. Life. Culture. Art. These are the things that New Orleans is.

Conformity. Bigotry. Corruption. Violence. These are the things that New Orleans should not be.

Finally, the last thing that amazes me in all this is that the city can't fix the damned sidewalks, but they can complain about a splash of paint over one of the few stretches not in disrepair.

People, let's get our priorities straight already.

(More on this can be found here: http://davidshouse.wordpress.com/2008/09/16/letter-from-robert-mendozza/)

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