Laughing off hard truths in New Orleans
BRHS isn't in very good shape, but it's not the Alamo Motel, at least not yet. While I'm not going to blindly root for the home team, so to speak, the truth is that the entire EBRP School System has been in a state of flux for a long time--you can mix and match all sorts of things, good, bad, and ugly (mostly bad and ugly): the 40 year fight over desegregation (about half the life of building itself), a general lack of emphasis on education here in the Gret Stet (why bother with book learnin' when you can make $30 an hour on oil rigs?), etc. etc.--oh, and the mid-late 1980s were a bit of an economic catastrophe, if I recall. In fact, while I never went to BRHS, I did take my SAT there, and I remember an old but fully functional facility. I also recall the surrounding neighborhood being solidly middle class--not particularly well off, but not impoverished. That's not really the case anymore: the Mid-City area around the school is a little rough...But still it's nowhere close to the poverty in and around the area where the Alamo is located. Ouch. I'll drive around there on occasion, and even take some of the side streets (being interested in urban renewal, I have a mild obsession with, well, urban decay)--but I'll tell you: it's most definitely a place where you wouldn't want to break down after dark...(not even on Florida Blvd. in that part of town, even though Florida is a major artery).
Hey, Oyster! Thanks for linking to my post on Baton Rouge High.I have to strongly disagree with Michael, though. While I can't speak to the condition of the Alamo Plaza first hand (I go by the photos on the site of 225 magazine), I CAN speak to the condition of BRMHS as of late September.I was there. I took several rolls of pictures. There are large chunks of plaster missing from the walls of various classrooms.Every part of the building is peeling paint -- some of it, I am sure, is lead-based, because the peeling is down to bare plaster in spots -- and there are loose tiles and water damage in various spots on ceilings.The plaster is cracked even on interior walls, well away from the officially blamed "moisture intrusion."Terra cotta is cracked all over the exterior of the building. Some of it is ready to fall. In at least one third-story classroom window, there is a missing pane with nothing covering the opening up.And then there is the gymnasium, which is un-air-conditioned, and thus the problems can't be blamed on "trapped moisture" in a building that doesn't "breathe."The boys' locker room has to be seen in person to be believed. And even then . . . .Every wall is shedding paint like a husky sheds its coat. Lockers are so rusted, I would assume tetanus is a real concern.And those are the lockers that can still be used -- in other words, not completely destroyed.The gym restrooms smell of rust and stale urine . . . overpoweringly so. In the public women's room (I had a lady running interference for me), there is a bird nest in the exhaust fan.And that's not nearly so disgusting as the rest of the lavatory. Largely, the entire gym is unfit for human occupancy. If it were used for an animal shelter, there would be hell to pay.But in Louisiana, people obviously don't think even that much of their own kids.Tell me, have you ever seen a wooden gym floor with large "potholes" in it? *I have now.*Leaky roof. Never fixed over a span of a decade or two. A coach told me that, in the past, they've complained about the roof to the system office, only to have a crew "fix" it with duct tape.A piece of the basketball court sits on the table next to me as a reminder. I am a 46-year-old man, and by the time I was done shooting photos in that gym, I was almost ready to start bawling.I graduated from Baton Rouge High in 1979, and I love that school. I grew up exceedingly blue-collar, and I can't ever repay what it (and the teachers there then) gave me -- the whole, big world.And when I was a student there three decades ago, it wasn't a dump. It wasn't the Taj Mahal (which is what schools here in Omaha are, compared with those in BR), but it was by far the nicest public school I ever attended growing up in Baton Rouge.After seeing what I saw, on behalf of myself and the kids who go to BRMHS now, I walked out of there after several hours feeling absolutely violated.A civilized people don't do this to ANYBODY'S children.I was born and raised in BR, and knowing what I know, I have to admit that I swing back and forth between thinking Louisiana has a slim-but-real chance at longterm survival and then succumbing to utter despair for the place.Again, I am someone whose roots there go back to the 1780s.So if I feel that way, what the hell do you think the feds and the rest of the U.S. think? The bastards think you're not only done for, but that y'all need to be more-or-less politically and civically euthanized.Because we're that kind of country now.That's why Baton Rouge High matters. Places like Baton Rouge High are your only hope, because it IS *sinn fein*, baby.Ourselves alone.And look what the f*ck (pardon my French) Louisiana has done -- is doing -- to its last best hope, because BRMHS ain't alone in its decrepitude.God help you all.P.S.: Just follow all the links on the post you linked to, and you'll get more than an eyeful. Also check out the website of the BRHS Alumni Association -- http://www.brhsalumniassoc.org/Click on "Pictures you need to see."
Post a Comment