Saturday, April 3, 2021

Dystopian Shreveport: What are the Answers to Survival?

Living in Shreveport these days is turning into some kind of twisted, dystopian experience. It is no exaggeration to note that shootings occur every single day in this city, sometimes multiple times, and often with injuries or fatalities. It is tragic anytime a life is lost to this senseless violence but it seems even more so when an innocent life, or a beautiful child, is lost.

And we accept this. 

On March 20, 2021, five-year old Mya Patel was killed when she was hit by a stray bullet.

Wednesday, March 24, social media reflected multiple audio recordings of shots fired early in the evening, shots I heard clearly while reading in my bedroom.

March 30, a woman a few blocks from me was shot in the hip; luckily she is okay.

March 31, Xavier Griffin, 19 years old, shot and killed in the Queensborogh neighborhood. Nineteen years old.

Last night, April 2, one was killed and others injured in multiple shootings.

It is literally every single day or night - doesn't matter what time -- and we are doing nothing about this. You can check the Caddo 911 Active Emergency Events page and almost every single time you'll see a shots fired or a shootings call, and those don't include the ones that never make it to the page or are "holding," waiting for available officers. 

We are doing nothing about it.

"But, what can we do?!"  I hear you. I don't have those answers. My layman's opinion would be to first work through the local elections process to elect leaders tough on crime, willing to enforce penalties on criminals. From the mayor, to the District Attorney, to the city council and the parish commission, we need support. 

We need police officers and the money to pay them. Shreveport ranks woefully low in police pay and our officers do not stay. We need the best and the brightest, willing to work hard for good pay.

We need jobs. We need businesses to come here to grow the tax base and to provide employment. We need all levels of jobs, from the trades to the administrative. We can't continue to depend simply on service industry jobs as our main employers. 

Businesses won't come without decent infrastructure. Our streets are literally crumbling, our water system is collapsing (not to mention their mismanaged billing practices), and the city is covered in trash, litter, and empty buildings. 

We need a vibrant downtown. The downtown area is trying: there are some places to eat, a few renovated buildings for apartments, you can see a movie, look at buildings. Many people avoid downtown due to safety issues. Maybe we need bicycle or mounted units there. Maybe we need more options for our large homeless population on the streets there. 

We need so many things. Old time Shreveporters often speak of the "good ol' days" when we had sports teams like The Shreveport Captains, where families could go enjoy a game on a pretty afternoon or evening. Now, our baseball stadium is empty, crumbling, and filled with bats and toxic guano.

Neil Johnson postcard photo.

For the most part, unless you want to drink or gamble, there is not much for families to do here. There are a few things...SciPort is downtown, and the Aquarium. What else? Someone help me. I know I'm forgetting something -- my kids are grown.

Before anything else happens, safety has got to be addressed. Perhaps I am alone in my concern. Perhaps I am in the minority when I balk at going to Betty Virginia Park to walk or spend an afternoon outside. Maybe I'm the only one who is constantly on guard when I walk my neighborhood.  Maybe nobody else has started taking their dogs out at night earlier, or in the backyard rather than the front yard. Maybe nobody else has installed surveillance cameras around their home. Maybe I'm the only one much more cautious about locking their car at night. Maybe nobody else has had packages stolen off their front porch. 

Maybe all this is just my perception.

I long to see a thriving Shreveport with businesses like when we had Western Electric, General Motors, Kast Metals, Libby Glass, Poulan WeedEater, to name a few. The Captains played baseball in their new stadium and people sat in the beer garden eating hot dogs and sipping nickel beer. New malls and shopping centers dotted the city, and parks were growing. People ate at local restaurants, like Sansone's, Brocato's, Abe's, Monsour's, The Centenary Oyster House, George's, and Fertitta's, to name a few. Downtown was bustling with department stores like Selber's, Hearne's, Rubensteins, and Palais Royal. You could grab lunch at a nice, fancy place downtown or a quick, inexpensive burger place. You felt safe. You could park in the Selber's parking garage and not worry about your car or about getting panhandled or mugged. Shreve Square was hopping on weekend nights: great bands in multiple clubs, people walking between them, great restaurants, good times.

Have you seen the building where The Sportspage or Humphrees used to be?

Humpfrees, 2021. 


We could reminisce about the glory days forever, and everybody knows times change and nothing stays the same, but the truth is, other cities adapt better than we have. When you travel, when you leave the city and see other places, even places within say a three hour radius, it is stunning to see the difference. 

It's possible to have a clean city with happy people. But Shreveport feels like a city with a cloud of gloom over it. We can talk it up and pretend to be positive. I know people will jump on me and say that it's the negative people like me that keeps it down. "If you hate it here so much, why don't you leave!?" I've heard it. 

The answer is I'd like to be part of a solution, not stick my head in the sand and pretend like it's great. It's not great. Listen to that gunfire every night and tell me how great that is.

So. What's the solution. What do we do, Shreveport? What are the answers?



Thursday, January 28, 2021

The Covid Club

Supplies
Well, it was really just a matter of time, but here we are with Covid.

Last week my husband felt really fatigued and felt "sinusy." It didn't get any better so he went down for a Covid test; in twenty-four hours his negative results came back. Thinking he just had a cold, and that the incessant rain and damp weather might be part of the problem, he went on about his routine.

Tuesday, this week, I was at school when I noticed a dry, non-productive cough come up. I was tired. No fever. I decided to take Wednesday off and rest; but then fever started. I went to Urgent Care and got a rapid test. 

Positive.

I've got to say, the fella at Oschner Urgent Care was wonderful; his enthusiasm for his job was great! He was so pleasant and he asked if it was my first Covid test. 

"Yes..." I said. He could sense my panic as he held this very long swab in his gloved hand.

He explained exactly what would happen; I said okay and he did the test. 

He sent me back out to my car and said he'd call in ten minutes.

In five he called.  "You are POSITIVE for Covid-19!" like I'd won the lottery. 

"You're kidding..." I said.

"I would NOT kid about something like that!" He gave me the stay at home directions, told me Oschner would be reaching out to check on me, and that was it.

Once my positive results came back, Steve went to Urgent Care and did a rapid test; Positive.

So, here we are.

I feel like he should be on the tail end of his Covid because we both feel like he was positive last week but just tested too soon. An article in the Washington Post explains:

Early in an infection, the virus may not have reproduced enough to be detectable. The false negative rate of PCR tests on the day of exposure is 100 percent, but falls to about 38 percent five days later as symptoms usually set in, according to an analysis published in the Annals of Internal Medicine. The rate decreases further, to about 20 percent, after three more days.

His PCR test last week may have been too soon.

So far our symptoms have been manageable. I feel like I have a mild cold although there is a tightness or light pressure in my chest, and behind my ribs in the back. It's weird. We are both fatigued. I have low fever in the evening, around 99. No cough right now. I have headache but that's not all that uncommon for me.

We made notifications to our close contacts.

Neither one of us knows where we got this. I assume I got it from Steve, which is crazy because I was always so certain I would get it from my classroom. My classes are full and we are only two feet apart. I am very grateful that my students were probably not exposed. Monday and Tuesday they were working on Chromebooks writing narratives and I was able to monitor and assist from my own computer through Google classroom. I was not within six feet of any of them and I stay masked all the time.

Going forward in our quarantine, I'm trying to take it easy and let my body fight the virus. It is so hard for me to sit still, so I have to make myself leave the laundry alone, not clean out a closet or drawer, not do yardwork. It's a perfect time to write, I suppose. I'm trying to stay in touch with my students through Google Classroom. We have one of those oxygen meter things and our numbers are good.

If you're a praying sort, we will certainly be grateful for your prayers for a mild bout and a quick return to good health! 

Stay safe and wash your hands!




Saturday, January 16, 2021

Curious: Is Anyone Reading Medium?


As usual, I am a little late to the party, but this week I decided to start writing on Medium

Medium is basically a blogging platform, but it seems to be a decent place to post from time to time because of the built in audience.  Launched in August 2012 by Evan Williams, one of the co-founders of Twitter, Medium has a pretty solid following. It's not clear how many subscribers have signed up for the $5 monthly subscription fee, but estimates range from 200,000 to 400,000. 

While one can read for free on Medium, some articles are behind a paywall. You can read three free articles a month on the site, but if you pony up the $5 a month, you're supporting independent journalism because the writers get paid. We don't get paid for the three free articles. 

I kind of stumbled on Medium this spring when this article by Tomas Pueyo went viral and was popping up all over the place. I thought the article was a really well done piece and if that was any indicator of what kind of work was on Medium, I wanted to know more. I've been reading there ever since, and at some point I subscribed. 

On Medium you can tailor your home screen to the types of articles you want to see by simply following categories. I've set mine to coronavirus articles, culture, history, humor, environment...that kind of thing. I like a mix of things. There's a category for writing, too, but I'm getting a lot of articles about how to write on Medium that are weighing my feed down. I might take that one off.

The site hosts professional and amateur writers and so again, pick and choose. Authors seem to be paid by views and engagement: how long someone spends on your article, claps (which is similar to the "like" button), and shares. It's all about exposure and building a following. 

I have concerns about spreading myself too thin: I blog here, at Datechguy blog, and now on Medium as well as working on my second book. But, I'm curious to see if I can spark up a following on Medium which would then develop into a little extra cash in my pocket, which is always a good thing. As my retirement date draws closer, I know that I will have more free time for writing, and so for the moment, I think I can handle three blogging platforms. My posts at each will be quite different because the audience for each is different.

We shall see.

I'm curious if any of you are Medium readers? If not, check the site out and let me know honestly what you think about it. Like I said, you get three free articles per month. Give it a shot and get back to me.