A House Not Meant to Stand

Yesterday a house collapsed onto another house in Central City.

So far, no one knows what caused the collapse or if anyone was living in the house at the time.

It takes a minute to absorb the fact that no one knows if anyone was living in the house, because I am now back in a midwestern town where each home is accountable to the home next to it. That has not been the case in Central City for a long time. It is what Tennessee Williams called "A House Not Meant to Stand."

Dinerral Shavers' funeral is today in Central City. One of his myspace messages from a 16-year-old is: "R.I.P shavers dude u was da coolest teacher at da skool man gone but not forgotten." The photo is either a gun or a sophisticated can opener, I hope it's the latter.

There is such a need for hope right now, you can almost hear the sucking sound of it leaving with each murder of 2007. The New Orleans Musicians Relief Fund talked with police about our sponsoring Dinerral's second line, but they were so concerned about potential violence we decided to use the money for more musicians' grants.

There were more than a dozen murders in the last week, six on Thursday.

Dinerral's second line will take place anyway because you can't wash away culture ingrained that deeply. It's his well-deserved last gig. But it's where gangs sometimes try to settle a grudge among the chaos.

The role of a spy boy was originally to look up the street for rival gangs. Big Chief Tootie Montana helped bring peace to the tradition of Mardi Gras Indians. He changed the competition into who had the prettiest suit, and Big Chief always won. He died in City Hall protesting arrests of Indians on Super Sunday, their springtime march.

Dinerral was caught in the crossfire of a teen allegedly aiming for his stepson. He probably saved his family's life, driving away from the shooter and toward safety as he died.

It took an hour for the ambulance to come as he lay in the street.

Dirges are played at the beginning of a second line, but at the end you sing "Didn't He Ramble" to give the departed a joyous sendoff. We are singing the dirge this week. "Didn't He Ramble" is a long way off.

Chief of Chiefs Tootie Montana said it all with his last words on this earth at the New Orleans City Council.

"This has got to stop."

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