2008.12.04 I put on for my city (by Talyor Ballinger)

Written by David Green.

Guest column by TAYLOR BALLINGER

As a high school teacher, I get the opportunity to listen to genres of music that I normally wouldn’t take note of. If a song or an album will inspire my students or give them something to connect to, then I’ll play it.

The rap artist Young Jeezy recently released a hit single titled “Put On,” wherein he says “I put on for my city, on on for my city.” I’m not exactly sure what this means (no real surprise there), but I think Young Jeezy is saying he has pride for the city he lives in.

Coming from a small town in Kentucky, I found a lot of reasons to not be proud of where I was from. “Everyone’s too country!” I’d complain. Let’s face it, when the most common statement you hear is “Kentucky? They have indoor plumbing now?” it doesn’t exactly invoke a sense of pride in where you’re from.

Since moving away from home, however, I have developed a strong love for my home region. My friends often mock me saying, “Hi, my name is Taylor and I love two things in this world: Kentucky, and Rozee. You figure out the order.”

I guess I’ve developed that love for a place that only comes with time spent away. Love for things like hiking trails, fall colors, and Sunday afternoons at home with the family.

 When I moved to New Orleans a year and a half ago, something strange happened. With Kentucky, it took leaving home to find my pride. But with New Orleans, I fell in love the day I moved in. I don’t always recognize my connection with this city.

The first time I really noticed it was when Rozee and I were re-entering the city following our evacuation for Hurricane Gustav. When I saw that sign that said “Welcome to Louisiana,” I almost cried with joy. “Almost home,” I thought.

During Thanksgiving week, my love for this city became apparent to me once more. Rozee and I played the roles of tour guides in our own city, something I’d recommend for anyone looking for a reason to find the beauty and greatness in where you live.

For nine straight days we had visitors, and so for nine straight days we went places that we normally don’t go.

We went to the zoo, the aquarium, two art museums, and to the French Quarter about once a day. We took Colleen, David, and Maddie to the Bayou Classic Battle of the Bands, a “battle” of marching bands from two famous HBCU’s (Historically Black College or University) in Louisiana—Southern and Grambling. We walked around parks and we saw the world famous blues man Big Al Carson.

It wasn’t until we drove the Leddy-Greens around the areas most affected by Hurricane Katrina, though, that I really felt that cosmic connection with the city again. In the Lower Ninth Ward there are still acres of green lots with nothing more than foundations where homes once stood, but that’s a sign of progress.

When Rozee and I first came down here, there was still some debris and houses waiting to be gutted or bulldozed. In Lakeview, homes are being re-built in large numbers. City Park, which was the last area to be drained of floodwaters, is green and is transforming its old golf course into walking trails and a fishing pond.

The city is bouncing back, and that makes me proud. Maybe I’m proud because I feel like I’m a small part of the revitalization of this place. I don’t do much, really. I teach a small number of kids who were displaced by Katrina. I go to Saints football games and Hornets basketball games, teams that give back to the community and provide a rallying point for its citizens.

Rozee is involved in helping some of the most-devastated communities get prepared for the next storm. And we’re both dedicated to telling people that New Orleans is a city rich with culture and a resiliency that should make every American proud.

We eat good food, listen to good music, and find any reason imaginable to throw a party. We’ll keep fighting to preserve Louisiana’s wetlands (natural “speed-bumps” to hurricane storm surges), and we’ll gladly have you down for Mardi Gras or Jazz Fest or Voodoo Fest.

If you need more convincing of why I love this place so much, just ask someone who’s been here. Or come on down. I think Colleen and David were worried that I was tired of visitors last week. Nothing could be further from the truth. I’ll “put on” for this city any day of the week.

  • Cecil
    THE MAYOR—Cecil Schoonover poses with a collection of garden gnomes that mysteriously arrive and disappear from his property. Along with the gnomes, someone created the sign stating that he is the Mayor of Gnomesville. He hasn’t yet tracked down the people involved in the prank, but he’s having a good time with the mystery.
  • Front.rest
    TAKE A BREAK—Last Wednesday’s session of Stair District Library’s Summer Reading Program ended with a quiet period in a class presented by yoga instructor Melany Gladieux of Toledo. Children learned a variety of yoga poses in the main room at the library, then finished off the session relaxing. Additional photos are on page 7. Area children are invited to visit the library today when the Michigan Science Center presents a flight program at 11 a.m. and roller coasters at 1 p.m.
  • Front.batter
    THE DERBY—Tyler “Smallpox” Flakne of Minnesota’s Home Run League All-Stars goes for the fence Friday night during the National Wiffle League Association’s home run derby in Morenci. This year the wiffleball national tournament moved from Dublin, Ohio, to Morenci’s Wakefield Park. During the derby, competitors had two minutes to hit as many home runs as possible. The winner this year finished with 21. See page 6 and 7 for additional photos.
  • Front.green Screen
    OUT OF THIS WORLD—Elizabeth McFadden and Elise Christle pose in front of the green screen as VolunTeen Noah Gilson makes them appear as though they are standing on the Moon. More photos from the Stair District Library’s NASA @ My Library program are on page 12.
  • Front.snake
    Lannis Smith of the Leslie Science and Nature Center in Ann Arbor shows off a python last week at Stair District Library's Summer Reading Program.
  • Front.fireworks
    FIREWORKS erupt Saturday night over Morenci’s Wakefield Park during the waning hours of the Town and Country Festival. Additional festival photos are inside.
  • Pipeline Spread
    LINED UP—Lengths of pipe were put in place last week along the route of the Rover natural gas pipeline that will stretch from Defiance, Ohio, to Ontario, Canada. Topsoil was removed before the pipes were laid out. The 42-inch diameter pipeline is scheduled for completion in November.
  • Front.rock Study
    ROCKHOUNDS—From the left, Joseph McCullough, Sean Pagett and Jonathan McCullough peer through hand lenses to study rocks. The project is part of Morenci Elementary School’s summer camp that continues into August.

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