New Orleans gears up for Super Bowl, but we still have lots of work to do

Editor’s Note: Surprise, surprise. After a long hiatus, Geaux Therefore is back – just in
time for the Super Bowl!

By GaNewOrleansSignry D. Myers

It’s game time.

In the days leading up to the Super Bowl in the Mercedes-Benz Super Dome Feb. 3, New Orleans may be the world’s largest construction zone. Construction is nothing new for the Crescent City. This place has been under construction constantly since Hurricane Katrina left her battered and wounded, down but not out.

Aided by the massive reshaping and rebuilding, the city came back with passion and spice. And when New Orleans was announced as the host city for the 2013 Super Bowl, NOLA ordered up yet another round of updates and improvements. The Super Bowl is a chance for the city shine and I believe she will look good for her close-up.

For over a year the touristy sections of town have been reduced to a maze of traffic cones, barriers and orange construction netting. Street and sidewalk work in the French Quarter, a new streetcar line on Loyola Avenue, and a $300 million airport makeover. And the work continues. On Jan. 23, Mayor Mitch Landrieu declared the city Super Bowl ready. Mission accomplished … almost. I suspect the work will continue right up until people begin to arrive for the big game. Maybe we should change the welcome signs to read, “Welcome to New Orleans: Careful, The Paint is Still Wet.”

This Super Bowl is important for our city. We’ve survived Katrina, the BP oil spill, a cantankerous little storm named Isaac and the corruption trials of countless civil “servants.” The game brings an influx of cash. It means major exposure. People will visit and want to come back. You just can’t help falling in love with New Orleans.

New Orleans has already hosted nine Super Bowls. But this tenth one, though very important, isn’t our most important Super Bowl. That came in 2010. We didn’t host it, but the Saints won it. Rarely has sport been so transcendent. The win was so much more that a reason to brag about a game. Players and coaches alike wanted to win it for the city. They wanted to make a statement. The win said our city was back from the brink. It gave a measure of hope just when we needed it.

I will always treasure my memories of the victory parade that follow that Super Bowl win. We saw Drew, Reggie, Pierre, Sean and the team. That was cool. But the best part was sharing the night with 800,000 other Saints fans – people of all walks of life.  We shared something special together as a city and a region. We experienced community. My love for the city and its people grew that evening.

But a championship can only do so much. It provided some hope, but it didn’t solve all our problems. Our educational system is improving, but it is what it should be. We still have a ridiculous murder rate holding us back. Still we have a lot going for us – food, history, music, art, architecture, passion, etc. All this good needs to be matched with good schools, safe streets and opportunity – in a word, hope – real and lasting hope.

This Super Bowl won’t solve our lingering problems either. We will look good for the camera. I won’t discount the importance of that, but we need to be good. We need to be good for the children of this city. We need to foster their potential to rise above the status quo.

It is game time, but the paint is still wet. Solutions to our problems still can be found. The solution rests with you and me – everyday New Orleanians. It won’t be easy … in fact it often seems like fourth and long. It’s game time. Will you get in the game?

From City of NO to City of Yes

By Gary D. Myers

The City of No – that sure doesn’t sound like a happening place. It doesn’t sound like a city on the move . Sounds more like a place with very little opportunity.  Sounds like a place where needs go unmet and dreams go unfulfilled.

Until 2010, http://www.cityofno.com was the official web address for the New Orleans city government. Mayor Mitch Landrieu quickly changed the web address to http://www.nola.gov soon after he was elected to office. He referenced this fact in his recent State of the City speech.

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Pregnant and Camping: A Winning Combination

A tent and a lantern overlooking the Gulf of Mexico at Buccaneer State Park in Waveland, Miss.

By Frank Michael McCormack

Jennifer and I went camping last weekend at Buccaneer State Park in Waveland, Miss. That means we were pitching our tent on the shore of the Gulf of Mexico about 7 weeks away from Jennifer’s due date.

We’re expecting our first baby sometime around December 5.

Camping at Buccaneer State Park has a special place in the story of our pregnancy. Little did we know at the time, but when we camped there in March, Jennifer was newly pregnant. And as we approach time for her to give birth, we wanted to “bookend” the pregnancy with a second trip.

I mentioned the potential trip to a few friends, all of whom gave me looks of disbelief or words of caution. Sleeping in a tent isn’t what you do when you’re pregnant, they said. No one believed me when I said Jennifer wanted to go just as much (or more) than me.

Really, I’m telling the truth. I don’t think anyone believes me even now.

After a little deliberating Saturday morning, we decided to go for it. Zero chance for rain, blue skies, moderate temperature, cool evenings = camping goodness.

(And to be honest, we try to make a habit of disregarding “no, you can’t” comments.)

We arrived at the park around 4 p.m. Saturday and pitched the tent in no time. This time around, we made a few key camping innovations, like securing the tent with heavy duty stakes for stability. The wind blows on the shore, and our lil tent needs all the help it can get to avoid blowing away.

With the tent in place and secured, we picked up a few supplies and headed to the seedy seafood restaurant we discovered last time. I guess it was seedier than we thought, because it had gone out of business. We opted for Mexican.

We returned to camp for dessert. Last time we made smores, but this time we popped popcorn over the camp stove. We’ll go with smores next time.

We crawled into the tent for the night pretty early. Then around 11, I was roused by a feeling no camper wants to experience. Icy darts of rain were hitting me in the face.

I scrambled out of the tent and put the rain cover on just in time for the rain to stop. The wind was still blowing as it always does there, and the rain flap wasn’t helping the tent’s aerodynamics, so I decided to stuff it back in the car.

I dozed for awhile, then the wind picked up and the rain returned. And this time, it was heavier. I consulted Weather.com while Jennifer and I threw our weight against the sea-side of the tent as we struggled to prevent the tent from collapsing. On the radar, I saw a rain squall coming off the Gulf, moving to the northwest right over us. Fortunately, the rain was coming in more-or-less sideways, so we were able to zip up the sea-side window and block most of the rain.

In about 20 minutes, the storm passed, the rain stopped, and the wind kept blowing. I guess you can’t have everything. We settled back down for sleep.

In no time, Jennifer was asleep again, but I laid there wide awake. I was really worried that our tent wouldn’t be able to withstand the wind the whole night. So there I was wide awake, whispering to myself “peace, be still” and praying that God would calm the winds much like Jesus did on the Sea of Galilee.

If you’re not familiar with the story, Mark 4:35-41 tells of when Jesus and his disciples were in a boat crossing the Sea of Galilee. As they crossed, Jesus slept soundly in the stern while the disciples captained the boat. During the night, a storm blew in and brought with it some rough seas. Mark 4 says, “the waves were breaking over the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped.” The disciples woke Jesus, saying, “Don’t you care that we’re going to die?” Jesus got up, rebuked the storm, and said, “Silence! Be still!” The wind died down and the lake returned to calm. He asked the disciples, “Why are you fearful? Do you still have no faith?”

Most times when I think of this story, I focus on the “peace, be still” part where Jesus speaks and the wind calms. It’s a demonstration of Jesus power and authority over the elements and a testament to his divinity.

But like all good stories, the story of Jesus calming the storm has another side, and that other side of the story is captured in his question, “Do you still have no faith?” In a very real sense, the storm was a test of the disciples’ faith. I wonder what would have happened if they would have had faith and not cried out to Jesus for help. Would the boat have held up through the storm, with Jesus commending them for their faith? There’s no way to know. As it is, the disciples actually kind of blame Jesus for the tense situation (“Don’t you care…?”).

That got me to thinking of the times I’ve responded to adversity in my life with that same kind of blaming, faithless outburst directed toward Jesus. “Don’t you care?” or “Can’t you see?” or “Why this and why now?” And if I’m honest, more often than not Jesus puts out the fire or calms the winds, spares me from serious consequences, then turns and asks “Do you still have no faith?”

And yes, I was thinking over this as I laid there on an air mattress on the shore of the Gulf of Mexico in a tent shuddering in the wind last Saturday night.

After thinking through that, falling asleep in the wind-blown tent wasn’t so hard after all. Oh, and it took the edge off having a baby too.

That is, until we went to that birthing class the following Monday.