Thursday, December 14, 2006

Christmas is no laughing matter...

... that our Lord took on flesh and dwelt among us for us men and for our salvation is a great mystery that is anything but funny - especially when one considers the cross he would bear some 33 years later.

However, it is good and fitting that we should laugh at ourselves - for we should not take ourselves seriously. A sense of humor about ourselves and our culture is a gift from God. As much as New Orleanians may lack in flood protection and coastal wetlands, we don't want for a sense of humor. Maybe it grows out of our French joie de vivre. Maybe it's a form of "gallows humor." Whatever the reason, we enjoy a good laugh at our own expense. Our own unique culture begs for jokes and laughter.

A local comedian/musician named Benny "Grunch" Antin has created a Christmas tradition of humorous music for the Christmas season. His CD entitled The 12 Yats of Christmas has been rereleased with new material this year. A "Yat" is a New Orleanian. It is a reference to the colloquialism: "Where y'at?" (translation: "Where are you?") that can be heard in the Big Easy.

If you've never been here, the local manner of speaking is an enigma. It mostly sounds like a harsh Brooklyn accent, though peppered with a slight Mississippi drawl, some black dialect, and a pinch of Cajun French syntax and pronunciation. It's just hawd ta duhscribe, dawlin'. Our local expressions, mannerisms, Christmas traditions, and post-Katrina realities are spoofed in 12 Yats.

One of the things we have come to accept as normal since the "late unpleasantness" of Summer 2005 is the ubiquity of RVs and FEMA trailers in our neighborhoods, parked on front lawns. There are still thousands of people whose homes are not yet fit for habitation, or are undergoing restoration - and people have been living in the notoriously flimsy and shoddy (and overpriced for taxpayers) FEMA trailers. In a way, it is a testimony to the love of home these people have. The easy way out would be to move to Memphis, or Houston, or Atlanta, or Dallas, or, well, just about anywhere. The hard thing is to tough it out and cram an entire family into a tiny trailer for a year, two years, or God knows how long.

By the same token, folks are terribly grateful to have even a FEMA trailer to live in. As Benny Grunch says in the CD's liner notes: "If ya wanna know - I'm in my neighborhood, in my trailer, in my driveway. Which, I guess, is a whole lot better than bein' in my neighborhood in my driveway."

But that's just how people are here. They can imagine living nowhere else. And so they live in the cramped trailers and take it a day at a time. We're really struggling with a spike in violent crime, a huge influx of illegal aliens, and spiralling insurance rates (my own annual homeowner's premium is going from less than $800 a year to $4,000 a year - and homeowners in Plaquemines Parish are looking at $10,000 annual premiums!). Prices for goods and services are terribly inflated - especially anything involving building materials or construction labor. We have a long, hard road ahead. But a sense of humor and a winning Saints team (Who dat?) goes a long way to keep the spirits up. And, Carnival (and thus Mardi Gras) are just around the corner.

So, in tribute to the indefatigable people of the Gulf Coast who are a new breed of pioneer, and in spoof of the popular Christmas croon "White Christmas," here are the words to...

"I'm Dreaming of a White Trailer."

"Hey everybody, we're the entertainment here tonight at the Blue Roof VIP lounge."
I'm dreaming of a white trailer,
Just like the neighbors got next door
With a smell that's mighty formaldehydee,
It emanates from the walls and floor.

I'm scrunched up in a white bathtub,
That's made of plastic PVC.
With a handheld sprayer that'll reach all away up
And down, round your extremities.

I'm worried 'bout those white drainpipes,
Like could they someday all explode?
We'd evacuate up to Idaho-ho-ho-ho,
But I heard there's lots of room in Mexico.

"Looks like we've got some National Guard guys here tonight,
I guess we better be nice. Ho!..."
I dreamt Santa landed on my trailer,
And left me everything I asked.
He shoulda took off easy, but the reindeers got breezy
And the whole thing blew over in the grass

"OK, we passed out kazoos. Ya got 'em?..."
(Kazoo big band joins in)
Yeah! With every small mosquito bite,
May your window screens snug down nice and tight,
And may Entergy turn on your gas and lights.

"Well, I hope they turn on my lights.
Those looters are hard to see in the dark.
Let's hear it for the looters in the back, stand up fellas!
MRE buffet all day tomorrow!..."

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