MJ: As a start, just so I can get these levels right, do you mind saying and spelling your name? PL: Hi. I'm Paul. My name starts P-A-U-L L-A-N-D-R-Y, Landry. MJ: Do you mind just giving me a thumbnail sketch of your life -- where you're from, what you've done, what you're doing now, kind of what you've been through -- the short version to start. PL: Well, right now, I'm from the Ninth Ward. I was born uptown in the Twelfth Ward My mom and my daddy, my brother had really bought us a home down in the Ninth Ward, and he got us from out the Twelfth Ward. But we still had -- you know, the people still up there in Twelfth Ward. Moving to the Ninth Ward, stayed down there 20 years. I moved to this house in 1989. I've been here since '89. And like I say, I've been going back and forward to the second lines [New Orleans' "second line" parades]. The president [of Landry's second line club] has been trying to get me to get in, get in. I kept telling him, man, I'm coming, I'm coming, I'm coming. When my brother passed away, he said man, this is just what your brother would have told you. Man, what, you scared to have fun? I said no, man, I ain't scared to have fun, it just ain't -- right now, right now, I would worry about things about my shoes. See, I was born with an enlarged left foot. And it gives me problem with shoes. That's the only thing that kept me from joining that club back then. Right now, I probably would have did have about at least maybe 20 years on it right now, maybe 20, 25 years on it, because I'm 51 years old right now. I know I'd have had some time in. But then when he passed away and then they got me at this parade, we had a function that they gave up there in Orleans Park. And that day, that did it. When he told me, I say I'm going to join, all right? And I joined the club. Then when they parade on the 81 anniversary, 81 years -- this is going to sound crazy but it was a rip. The color that they had, I didn't know their colors. And they came out in their blue, which, I'm going to show you what my little cousin had on, right here. It's on our picture right here. They had blue on, just blue here. And when my sister come, you're going to parade, we're going to parade? Yeah, I said I'm going to parade, I got to dress up and come out there. And when I went out, I came out with a color just like that. And I didn't know it was going to be that color. I said to my brother, and he said I ain't even going to wear the suit. But he said wear the suit that day. I'm going to wear this one. I had on everything that was blue. Blue what they got. I said that did it. I parade with them boys and that club. I'm going to show you -- can I get up for a minute? MJ: Sure. PL: I got one of the pictures that I had that I was parading with. See, this is just me in the parade. That color right there, and that's me. MJ: Then this is your first parade? PL: That's the one, when I came, the 81 anniversary. That's what gave me that decision to get on in and do it. Because I'm dressed-- and I ain't know they was coming out in that color. And I did. MJ: And there you were. PL: And that was the picture. That was starting me out and I joined. This year is going to be a gorgeous one, too. In October we're going to have it. As far as right now with the way my living going, it's hard. MJ: Can you talk a little bit about the work that you're doing now? PL: Yeah. See, I get disability. And the money I do get, it don't cover nothing. I mean, I try to make ends meet for me. I go out and do a little job that I can do where I won't be hurting myself. I don't go do no big old jobs. Just try to stay on every day, every day. I go get, my job might last me one or two, three days. And they help me pay bills around here. That's where I'm at mostly. Then I'm trying to get my wife home, she's stuck out there in Texas. That's why I don't have any furniture here. The money that I have, they give us, it wasn't enough to finish this home. MJ: Was that the so-called Road Home money? PL: Road Home money. And they were supposed to give us some more change, but they tell her we not eligible for it. MJ: Because? PL: I don't know why. We both disabled. I mean we don't have no big income. Then like the insurance company, they're crooked, man. We been paying insurance for at least, like, I have to say before the storm, about five years before the storm. And then our insurance covered $100,000 for flood insurance. And the homeowner insurance, I think it was a $100 [thousand], and they paid us like $97,000 -- that's it. But they say that's enough. And I been hearing people getting $150 [thousand]. They've taken out money that they gave us when we left. $3,500 just the living cost, because we can't come back home and live in our home, and they deduct all that from the money that they're really supposed to give them. So we wind up getting $39,000 plus $12 [thousand] -- I think a few more than that. Any amount up to quite $90,000. Any amount to that insurance covers. So I'm still trying to finish my home. So I take money, go out there and do a little work, save a little money, fix the little things I needed fixed, and I try to get it all. And I'm trying to save up some money to where I can go and get my furniture. My wife got it all in storage, and that's costing her. She can't come home right now because she got caught with tickets. She don't want to get a license and mess around. She got to do community service. They give the woman 137 hours community service, because she skipped court and couldn't do it. So right now, she's stuck out there doing that. She just came now Friday, come spend a little time with me and left Sunday. That Sunday when I saw you, that Sunday. It's kind of hard, man, right now. But I'm not going to let nothing stop me. Even though it's like that right now, but I think it's going to get better. I really do. I think it'll get better. I see that right now, they're fixing up nice stuff around the city, fixing up streets around here now. I did, I went out and saw everybody living just as calmly and peaceful in the other states and towns and stuff. Now they see, people-- I know for myself, and I know a lot of other people that are living in Louisiana never seen nothing like we saw when we went in all these different places that we went. MJ: You said your wife is in Texas now. Where in Texas? PL: Fort Worth. MJ: Were you guys separated or were you together? PL: No, we're married. We're still married. MJ: No, no, I mean by the storm. PL: No. We all left together. MJ: You left together. PL: I come home to fix our home. Man, this was a shotgun. A straight house. I had owned all of this. My walls stopped -- see the end of this door here? To the inside, my walls stopped right there. I added all that on going into the back. I made my house big, because it was small. If I had company come over, and everybody just sitting on dressers and corner posts and stuff. It wouldn't be comfortable. So I said I'm going to make it better. And that's what I did. Now I'm trying to get her home. She's ready to come home, but she can't bear. I'm trying, I'm trying to do all I can do right now. $500 and something dollars, I get from the social security, two, three hundred dollars on lights. Water bill. I got insurance to pay. I mean it's rough on me, but I'm making it. I mean I'm bad at making it, but I'm making it. I might let a bill go -- skip one and let it add on, then I try to make the money to keep it from getting cut off and stuff. So, my life is coming along. It just is a little raggedy right now. But it's coming. And God is good; He going to work it out. MJ: The rest of the country has kind of had a crisis of its own in the last two years, year and a half or so. And I'm wondering from your experience of living through the post Katrina years, is the experience here in New Orleans just in the kind of daily life of things, is it still mostly about Katrina and recovering from Katrina? Or has the recession been like a second wave in that? PL: It is. It's cut down because at one time when people was getting work, they did have Road Home money. They was down here fixing on their homes and stuff. I guess when the money went away from them, they couldn't finish no more. I mean about three, four, five -- I say three months and a half or so, you couldn't find a better way. If you're going to get some, you're going to have to really know somebody. You gotta know somebody that has contract and doing all kinds -- and got big work and big jobs. I had to make little jobs, little stuff, come put in the door, come put in a window. Or something like that -- something that somebody didn't took their money and didn't finish it. So I had to go back and go over something that somebody else did. That's the way I was making my little cut out of it, of helping me too. And then the city -- man, let me tell you something. The city is so ridiculous, man. I was doing doing this house trying to better this house up here. Do you know they came and stopped me from working on my house? For four months - four months. And when I did go down and talk about it, about why -- they were talking about the permit thing. Well I say, when you all sent us permits, they've called in from online, we was in Texas when we did this. File for a permit to come home and fix your house, I thought the permit would cover anything I do to fix my house. I did start adding on and come doing all things. Here come the inspectors. Came out here and stopped my with my trailer right in front of my house. Man, I'm working, doing my thing, trying to fix this house, trying to beautify, trying to build a neighborhood. Now, you've seen my house. Now it ain't no bad house. I brought value up to my home. Why would you come and stop me? They came and stopped me for four months. The money that I did have, that's the way I lost some of my money. I still had to live. You know what I'm saying. I still had to pay things around here. I still had to eat, and the money that I was using, I had to take the money away from the one that was fixing my house with to do other things. For four months, man - four months. And the work would show up for me. I'd go make a few days on some minor jobs, and I come back and do my house. Then I got down to the last $5,000, man. The last $5,000, I had to take it to the AAC. And that was it. After that, I started having to go back out and make more money on the street. Until they come back and they told me, when I did go down in the counselors and they all sitting in front of you. Why you did it, da-da-da. I thought that the permit that you all gave me to fix this house-- come on home and fix your house-- would cover everything that I did. They all talking about having a six-foot sidewalk. Man, this house was so small, the lot's so small, I stood four-foot off the sidewalk, I did everything that was required to do for adding on to your home. Stood off four-foot of the sidewalk, and they were telling me about one foot in my alley back here. It's supposed to be three-feet; it's two-foot and something. They were whining about that. So I had to get waivers, file for a waiver. And then you know what they told me? Go on and finish the house, put a six-foot fence around, put some trees up. Why you all stop me? MJ: Do you understand it? Did they want more money for different kinds of permits? PL: No money. No money. I got the permit. Pay, what, $100? He's going to say man, go down and get your permit and finish your home. That's all you have to do, but you're going to hold me up, stop me up, telling me that I have to cut back to my house 10-feet? For what? They ain't got no land here. There ain't that much land. You see how far it is from the gate. I ain't had that much land for taking those 10-foot back. 10 from off the sidewalk. Well, man, if you do that, I didn't want it -- all that grass that I had on the side. That was too much grass for me cutting all the time. And like I said, my house was small. I remember we had a lot of functions coming on, a lot of things that -- parties and stuff like that come over. When people come over in the house, man, they're sitting on my bed, the kitchen floor. I said man, when the next time -- I mean, the Katrina thing probably was a blessing to us. A lot of folks, you know. Because a lot of folks did a lot of adding on to their home, too -- this is a small lot. You had plenty of grass. I don't want the grass, I want some land. I want some building in my house. And I did that and they stopped me, man. They hurt me, took my house. I cry after -- that's a hurting thing. When you're doing something, trying to build something, fix something and make a value to your home, look decent enough and they come stop you. Stop me for four months. And then after all that, you still let me do it. After I lost half of my money trying to live for four months. That did it. That hurt me to my heart, man. And now I'm still doing my little -- side little work and stuff like that. That's all I got. All I can do is go make side money. My check that I do get go toward my bills. Whatever I make on the side, it helps me get through. That's the way it's balling out to-- Man, I want to get my wife home, man, my furniture here. See, my meeting going to be coming up in July. So I'm trying to save, save, save so I can get enough so I can go rent a truck and go get that stuff and come on home. Maybe about time July gets here, she should be finished with all her community service, she can come on home, too. Man, she cried when she had to leave Sunday. I don't want to leave. Every time I come down here, I don't want to leave, I don't want to leave. Well, I say, you got that to do up there. Why don't you go on, finish it up and get it over with? I said, see now. I said, see what that sign say when you come toward Texas. They say, "Don't mess with Texas," and that sign is for anything you do in Texas right now, man, them people are just hurting. And some people that's up in here from New Orleans, they're really messing with them right now, yeah. If you don't have a Texas ID or a license plate on your car, they're pulling you over, stopping you and everything. They really think we all criminals. We all not criminals, no. Somehow life was just that way -- just that way. We went out some, and they had criminals that did went out. You know what I'm saying. But you don't do it to everybody that was out there. They getting, a lot of us getting it that don't do nothing. That ain't had no problem like that. Some say they're trying to run you from up there now. Now they don't want you in Texas. You don't got all our money though. They don't got all the money from you -- now you got to go. MJ: Now you can go, right. PL: You know what I'm saying? That's the way I'm looking, that's the way I feel. MJ: How much time did you spend in Fort Worth? PL: I had almost two years up there. Almost two years, but I left. Soon, the storm came. I'd say about a year so. I stood there that year 2006 and when I had some trucks, and like two trucks in front of my door. And my nephew came and called me on the phone, he said oh. He said, man, I see one of your trucks down here in this junk yard. I said, what you mean in a junk yard, it's supposed to be in front of my door? Yeah, I went and got my tools out of it. And it was working, too. I said, what? Come on, yeah, your truck is in the junk yard. I went there and got my tools, plugged it up and they work. Same as the stuff he lent me before the storm came. That drill was a Rotozip. And I knew where I was parked there -- I was parked kind of high -- but when we came, I knew it was under water, too. Because my house had water up to that-- see, up to the tip top of that piece of wood there. MJ: Like about six feet. PL: Yep. All under water. It settled right there. That's where it settled. MJ: We're in the seventh ward right now? PL: Yeah. It settled at six feet. It had eight feet of water in here, but it settled at six. I can't see no other line, the whole line. I kicked my door open. I couldn't get in, so I had to jam and jam and jam. So I had to kick it -- BOOM! I kicked the door and walked in, seeing my house, it was tore up, man. Tore up. Everything was everywhere. Everywhere I went I cried, cried. Even my pictures that I had from my daughters -- all that's gone. All the memories that I have of her right now is in my head. A lot of memories was lost in this house. My mamma, my daddy, my brother that passed way before the storm. It's gone. Pictures of my grandmother, I don't have none of that. My pictures, me and my wife pictures, wedding pictures -- gone. That's starting all over again. So every picture we get now we're making collages and stuff like that, putting them all together. I got two, three of them up there in Texas. I know she told me she put them all in storage. And I'm collecting more pictures right now, just doing things that I'm doing right now. My grandchildren, they're in the east. I'm doing things with them now, just trying to get my life back. It's rough. If I let it worry me, man -- I mean some of my friends, man, young, young were passing away. Worry. How you gonna get home? Is your house gonna be all right? This last little guy, man, his name was Vebeche. He about 30, 35, and we used to hang, hang, hang, hang good. That boy died. Worry about how you gonna get back home. A lot of pressure. He was under -- you know, pressure, just worrying and stress -- stress was taking a lot of us. But we never through nothing like this, not like -- and no, we never lived away from our home that long. We didn't know nothing about no Texas. Didn't know Texas was there. Ain't nobody want to live out in that state a long period of time. If you gonna go somewhere, you go visiting, you're coming back home. This is home. I'm not going nowhere. Next storm come around I ain't going nowhere. I don't care what they say. MJ: Did you leave the day before, or when did you leave the city? PL: That day. I didn't want to leave then because my brother had just died in the hospital, and we couldn't find his body. Eight, nine months later, that's when we found his body. Nine months later, and we don't know if that's him. We don't know if that's him. My brother—[sound of a car passing. Landry notes that it's a police car] I don't know why the police passing like that, something's going on. They normally don't do that around here. I'm glad. It's just showing that they're doing their job. And I know the next man's -- Landry's going to do what he got to do, because he came up, and I came up, I came up under his daddy. And Mayor Skiro. Them people, they were doing a lot of things for Louisiana, man, but they was still crooked. They was still crooked, but they was doing something for the city. We didn't have no problem with -- we ain't have no problem about too many things, man. Right now, you got a problem over there? A lot of people don't -- I mean if they really do something, say they'll fix the streets up, fix the neighborhood up, where people could live in something decent. If you keep letting houses be blight like this, you're going to have one or two people standing in the blight yards. Then all the criminals are going to come in that area and start doing their little crooking this, crooking up. And then they know, hey, it's alright to come around here, man -- we can hang out around here. That's how stuff is going right now with some people. I feel like there's the rest to do, fix the streets, and do their thing with the houses, it should be all right. I mean we should be able to live down here. And there shouldn't be no killing. I mean the killing needs to stop, too. Get the police and get them to do what they're supposed to do, instead of trying us. If you tell on somebody, if you went and tell them in your head, that's how you fool around and get your head blowed off. And it was like that. MJ: I couldn't tell when I came here. It was just dark enough that I couldn't really see the neighborhood all that much. Have most of the people returned to this neighborhood. PL: In my block on, the lady that's across the street, she passed away, her and her husband. Everybody that was here before the storm, back in here. We got maybe a few new ones in that block. About one or two around this corner. But I don't go around that corner. The churches are back up around here. Only church thing that ain't gone up yet right here is this church here. Most everybody that was in this area that I know, they're back. A few new faces in here, but some people can't finish some of their home to do something. I don't know, like my neighbor next door. They give them a few dollars. I think it was EPA contract of $15,000 to start his house off. That's all they did. And he couldn't finish it off his house. Couldn't finish it off. He's still waiting on money to get from Road to Home right now. I don't think they're going to get it. I'm praying for him to get some, because we -- The lot next door just gone. Sills on it. Just sills hanging on the bricks. Grass growing all around and everything. It's going to have to do something because it draws a lot of rats and roaches. What they'll do is they'll come to your house, live over there and come tear you up. I try to keep it down for him. He back home now. He knows that I'm trying to keep it down. He's trying to do a little something with himself. He said he's trying to save some money up to start on it. He says, if I save $7,000, man, would you help me? I said, man, I'm your neighbor. Get it and let's get it started. That's what he's working on, and I'm waiting for him to do what he's got to do with that. I'm going to help him out with that. MJ: How does the Road Home, how does that money-- is it something that you have to apply for? Is it a set amount-- PL: It's a set amount that they give you. MJ: And that's it. PL: And that's it. They put it in your account, and that's it. They give you a portion of it, then they say-- like when they were fussing about everybody in Mississippi got $150,000 off the bat, they were given some their money. Telling us that we were supposed to get the rest of that. We never seen it. Now if you pay me $9,000, where's the rest of it? That was it. That was it. I never seen that. I guess they say if you don't complain about it, fuss -- we're still filing for it. We're filing for that trailer stuff, that had formaldehyde in it. And I live in a trailer almost three years. Still waiting. You can't beat em, you can't fight the government, man. But all over in that little Iraq thing, man, they're over there fighting wars over there, building their country up. Sending billions and billions and billions of dollars over there, and you can't even give us $150,000 to finish things down here. If you gonna give it to us, you're gonna wonder. What we doing with it? Give us some receipts. For what, man? If it's mine, give it to me, let me do what I want it. If I lose my land and you gave me the money, that's on me. Take the land. Sell that, and let somebody else get it. That's for them. You don't do people that way. I don't think it should be done that way. If you're supposed to give us $150,000, give it to us. They didn't give it. So last time I had, when they last sent us, they sent us $12,000. They say that's the rest of the money they're supposed to give me from $30,000. The rest of it was put into the money that they give us for Road Home. I mean Road Home had put $10,000 out for me to elevate my home. But I was going, what I got to elevate for? So I went on and did a little elevation to my home. And then they send the other little $12,000. I say, how are you gonna say -- if you put $10,000 and send me $12, I end up with $22,000. Where the rest of the $8,000? Crooked. Crooked. It's a trip, man, but can't do nothing but go on. I said don't worry about it, baby. We own our home now. We own it. That insurance company want us to get out our insurance money. They took the money and made us board up. And then they tell you that's part of the Road to Home. The insurance company-- it's crazy, man. If you had to go through it, you wouldn't understand what I'm talking about today. They add money, they give you money. And all the money they were giving us, $2,000 or $10,000 -- We never received $10,000 out there in Texas. All we got $2,000 out there, $3,500. Something like that. Then we needed to buy furniture to live in this apartment I was in. I was eligible for the good apartment. My wife, she wasn't on disability just yet. And now both of us are on disability. Right now. And if me and her was to be living together right now, they would cut my check down. They don't want us to have but $1,100 a month combined. $1,100. I'm getting $500-something right now. She's getting $600 because she's been working a little more than me. I always was getting disability. That's too much they say. They wouldn't cut her but they cut me. They did it, all right. They did it. They cut me. I was getting like $5, $4-something at the time. $200 on this one. $235 on this one -- $201 or something like that. Cut me down big time. If the budget, like they're saying about this budget thing, for insurance stuff. If the budget is at $100 billion, they expand the budget up another $100 billion. You know what I'm saying? And then let things go from there. Let it go to $100, let it be $2 billion. And you're spending, making money, all these -- making millions and billions of dollars. Well, how they getting that money? You have to make it. Make some more money so everybody else can live down. Let everybody live peaceful, man. There's stuff, people are going through things right now. Gonna rob and kill and steal right now. Because there ain't no money enough for them to do nothing with. And it's almost in the poor area. Seems like the rich getting richer, the poor stay poor. Has been going on for years. Ain't no change to it, ain't even seem like it don't want to change. I feel like this, if you give me a card -- the world should be like this. Put so much in the person's account every year. Like you put $20,000, $10,000 a year. Let that be their money for that year. Then the next year come around, let it be that, put another one in there. People won't be killing nobody because they be having money all the time. If you mess up your money there, you get no money until the following year come in. I be saying all kinds of things, but it ain't gonna never be that way, you know. The government could make millions and millions of dollars, and politicians, they're doing their thing. You helping the next one, you could give him $350,000 to go do election thing and help. He be making millions just for him to parade for election, talk about election thing. They get money. How do you get all that money? How you can give somebody else -- you've got $350 billion dollars. $300 million dollars, and give it to him to help him to be elected? Right off the bat. And they do that and they doing it. I don't know. Like what you think? What you think our life should be right now? MJ: Well, I agree with you. PL: It should be a little different. They're making money. You know, they makes money. They makes money. And they're worrying about a budget. Set a budget at another stage, and build people income up by -- you know what I'm trying to say. I can't get the word out right now. The wage is falling. Let the wages be a little higher where people can say, hey, I'm making a good bit of money. MJ: They can do something, right. PL: Then we could do something. I bet you 10 to 1 there won't be too much killing, there won't be no robbing. They won't be doing all this stupid stuff. Because if they get a job, they'd be making money. Somebody won't make like $500, $600, $700 a week. What's wrong with letting them make that much money? Then your budget probably to up a little more higher with things going on in life. If you can't do like -- if you're making $250 every two weeks, you might get like $400 out. For them two weeks, you got rent to pay, you don't know who you borrowed money from to help you get through the week with, and when you do get your check, it's gone. It's gone. So some say I'm going to go sell me some weed. I'm gonna go sell some crack. Then when they go do it and get powerful with the crack and the weed stuff, then they go robbing somebody, robbing them trying to get money just to get around and get on their feet. The world it's a circle that shouldn't be. It should be a little different. I think it should be. I mean there's a lot of change today. They want to make a change-- And Barack hopped in, they're not even giving him a chance yet. MJ: Let's talk about that. I see the picture of Obama on your wall. Can you talk a little bit about what his election meant to you, and also maybe how you've experienced the first year of his presidency. PL: For one I congratulating him from being the first black president. He's in that and he talk real good, he's saying real things, and he's trying to do real things. But if you're trying to keep -- I mean some are trying to knock him from doing what he's doing. Like he went in there with a budget that was so ridiculous, and he accomplished it. Look at what he just did, accomplished something right now. And I think that's good. That's going to reflect good on him because this insurance thing, I mean insurance, there's Medicare and other stuff been going on for years and they couldn't get nothing going for it. Look, they made a turn around with that, just did like that. He ain't been, a year or something now? About, say, what, close to a year now? MJ: Little over a year. PL: Yeah. Just over a year. And where he's working, I'm saying to myself to him, OK, you're doing good with that, Barack. We're really going to try to get this job thing going. Now if you could start getting this job thing going, people start going back to work, bring that deficit down from the unemployment. Get people back going to work. It's going to be marvelous. Man will go down in history. And I think that's a good thing. Thank God, he must be a God-sent man. People saying he's doing what he have to do for the help of others. Politicians deal with making the money. They was taking more money than what they were giving to others. Just everything was crooked. You see right now today how a lot of them politicians getting caught from all this crookedness, and I'm glad. I'm glad they're seeing who's doing all the real stuff. And things might start changing. I'm praying for it. I'm praying for it. I would like to be able to see life better than what it is. But you know this is the Bible is being fulfilled for a lot of things. It's being fulfilled, man. And I hope Barack be all right and nobody going to try to kill him or something like that. That wouldn't be good. God knows if something happens, I don't know what his brothers might do behind that. Because it's a lot of stuff being happening. MJ: You were talking about the way people knock him [Someone enters the room; side conversation]. I mean, certainly the opposition he's met has been powerful. [SIDE CONVERSATION] Have you been surprised in this first year of his administration by any of the resistance that he's met? PL: I've been surprised. Man, everything he do they're trying to knock him. You know what? They're not even giving it a chance, man. I mean the Republican, I mean he trying to do something with the care, the health care and everything. Even though if they didn't like one of them, he'd go back and he'd say OK, we're gonna cut this down and bring this back. So, he go do that and talk about-- But the thing of it is when he came on TV with him, they had him on TV, they showed us right then and there, who stopping who? They don't want to see him do the things that need to be done to get it going. Like I said, why won't they bring that budget up another step higher? You know what I'm saying. Let that budget go. I mean kill all that right now, start off right now. Let that be non-resistant pay. You don't have to pay that bill -- let's start from here and let's work it out. Why wouldn't they want to do something like that? I think that that would work. I think something would happen good from this part here. Because he done did a little something right now. Making it work, making it happen. I think he's going to do a lot more, if they let him. If they let him. And I don't think he's getting that. He's getting stopped, cut little bitty things that he do now. I think it'll be all right if they just go on and let this man go do what he has to do. Let him try to do the best thing that he can do for the country. He ain't doing it for himself, and he ain't doing it for just blacks, he's doing it for everybody. That budget, say, with that insurance, it would cover $300 million, and their budget was covering what? $30,000? -- something like that they were saying. I can't even remember. I listen there at the end there, I stays on the news a little bit, trying to see what's going on with life now. I try to listen in some of the things, but when I come home, I go do my little work come in, I see a little TV and walk. MJ: How long are your work days now? PL: I leave out in the morning from like 7:30. I'm building this little bar front. The bar top and everything. I've about got it done. That's, we need still a little longer. I had to rip and run and go get material out there in Eastwood, by this lumber place. It's nice, man, do what I'm doing. I'm going to start taking pictures of some of the stuff that I do. But I know when I get through with it, I should be through with it by tomorrow, tomorrow evening, and then I'd have to wait it out. Until if they find something else for me to do. So I'm going to probably be off a couple more days. That will be good, because I need a little rest, to get off my foot a little while. But I ain't going to let it stop me from doing this. I'm going to do that. I'm praying, I hope I can go in a couple of years. The way my foot's and stuff right now, I'm scared of it. MJ: These second line parades, how far do you actually end up walking on a day like that? PL: Oh, a while, man, a while. A good ways. That was a long route. We had this -- I made it though. When I started coming back in on Tchoupitoulas from Washington Avenue, that's when I -- and we was going in. This old lady right here was giving out on me, man. But I really kept walking, kept walking, kept walking. I made it. When I got in there, I sit down. I told all you all -- I say I love all you all, I'm going home. I'm going home. And I went and stayed home and came and hung my stuff up on the wall. I'm gonna have to do something. I'll take it and break it down. I'm going to take the cover off and put an umbrella. I've got that blue one right there. That blue one's going to be with my other second line this year. Second line this year, it's gonna be nice. I can't tell you the color. MJ: I'll have to be there. PL: It's going to be beautiful. You think this was sharp. Oh, I wish I could say some more. MJ: You said earlier, you said that you had a lot of faith that things were going to get better. PL: I think so. MJ: Have you always been that way in your outlook? PL: Yeah. I don't try to look down. I try to look up on life. Because I know if I think about it down, down in that way, it gonna make me feel that way. I don't want to feel that. I want to feel like I know it's-- Even if I just get up and go make a day's work, I accomplished something. I knew I got a pay coming in that could help me pay for something that I really needed. I don't have to go out there and beg nobody, ask nobody for nothing. I don't do it. I mean I had this in my life and I say -- when I was disabled like this with my bad leg and stuff, I wanted to be like the next person, I wanted to get up and move up, right? And that's been in me, instilled in me as a child. Because I used to watch guys play football, I used to watch them play basketball, swimming, and all this type of things and I couldn't do none of that right then and there. And it kept me feeling bad. So one day I told myself I'm going to play. I started playing football, it didn't bother me or nothing. I said OK, that's going to be my way of life from this point on. I ain't gonna to let this leg stop me from doing nothing. And after this one was bad, then I broke this ankle over here. Now I got screws and pins in there. I was messed up, but I'm not gonna let it stop me. No. I feel bad if I let this -- because I know I'm gonna go down and I ain't gonna feel right. I will be depressed. And I don't want to be depressed. I want to live. I want to keep living till the Lord says, it's time for you to come home, son. And then that will be that day. I really want to finish this until the day I die. But I don't know. I might be a couple of years with it, because my foot is -- I went to the doctor yesterday. I had to go take an MRI. I gotta get the results. I'm going to have to call and find out the results on it. Shooting dye with the coloring in my leg. Trying to find out why it's damaged, what's going on with it. So I guess about a couple of weeks, I'll be getting some information on it. I know it's bad. As I get older, it's getting worse. And the older I get, the more -- the bone structure in my foot is gone. Chipping away. I think about 15 years, maybe 20 years ago, I had some pictures of it, of my foot, and I saw it and I've seen how the chipping, chipping, chipping, chipping on the heel bone, the side of my foot. The bottom of my foot, there ain't no bone. You know what I'm saying? It don't look like a regular bone foot, but it's just chipped up and breaking up. And that's what's going on. About a week ago -- no, it was in October. Right after we paraded. I had an infection. The infection was in my leg so bad I couldn't walk. Leg's full of it. People say your bone, your whole bone structure in your foot's infected. So I had to do treatment for six weeks. Six weeks of treatment. That scared me too, they were talking about cutting it off. I knew it was going. It went. It just went. I said not right now. Not right now. Let's see what your antibiotics gonna do because I've been like this all my life. I figure if I can work antibiotics on me, I could see what's going on with my life, and it worked a little bit. But I'll have these couple of days off. I don't work every day. I don't do things every day. I do things like a week. A week after I start working, I lay down in my bed, rest my foot. MJ: How do you afford the health care that you need for that? Do you have insurance? PL: Yeah. I get Medicaid and Medicare. MJ: Okay that's good. Because that shit's expensive. PL: Yeah, the medicine they give me is high, man. So that's why I say, they're trying to work on Medicaid, Medicare for people to get insurance and stuff like that. Why you want to tell somebody you're going to cut his leg off? Let's see how it work out. If it don't work out, maybe you can cut it. If you're going to put in a bill, then yougo back and discuss it and try to see what else you can do with that bill to make it work another week. I mean they've been helping me. They've been helping me. I go to any hospital I want - any one of them. But I'm choosing, you know what I'm saying? Right there at the Tulane. And I have Charity over there. We had Charity. Charity had the best hospital than any hospital you can have. That was the best hospital around. MJ: Was that closed by Katrina or did it close-- PL: It closed but they won't fix it. Only damage they had down there in Charity is in the basement. And the basement is like a -- the basement is that's where the morgue and all this other stuff. That's where you do cancer treatment. Maybe that's probably why they had to do a lot of rearranging and stuff down there. But they probably can do that. You can take people to the moon, you think they can't fix nothing like that. I mean I know it could be done, they just don't want to put Charity back up. Charity was a black folks' neighborhood. And people all over -- there's Louisiana, everybody came from wherever they were staying to Charity hospital. Houston, Dallas -- I mean, right now it's pretty good, talking about Monroe, Baton Rouge, Lafeyette, Slidell, everybody was coming from there to go to Charity. Charity, LSU, and Tulane had the best doctors. They had-- [PHONE RINGING] That's probably my wife. I can always get the number and call them back. [SIDE CONVERSATION] See, they got these people, you know how they call, the collection people. Now, I don't owe nobody no money. Before we bought this house, I paid up all my debts. Now they've been calling me telling me I owe them $1,070. Ma'am, if you don't stop calling me, I don't say things -- I told them, please don't call me and ask me for some money. I'm going to say sue me. You can't get nothing what you going to get. You ain't getting my house, because you can't get that for that. You could put me in the credit bureau or whatever it is that they're going to do. Somebody probably used my name, I don't know. You get your social security number, everybody-- a lot of people get messed around with some things like that. I don't owe nobody no money. I paid my -- everything I do. I don't like debts. I don't like bills, so that's why I try to get them out of the way. I try to get them out of the way. I don't like bills. I never did. Every time I -- well you owe bills. They're gonna be here. I said, yeah, I know they're gonna be here, fool. But whose name that stuff is on? Whose name is being messed up if you don't pay that bill? I don't need that problem. I don't need that. I don't get enough money. I don't feel like going out there and killing myself, that's what I'd be doing, I've been killing, hurt -- killing and hurting myself trying to get money to keep bills going. Trying to hustle right now to get her home. You know, you don't want me to go out there and work, I'll stay at home. I'll let the check take care of all my bills for me. If I get behind, we'll make one, two days of work, help pay the one bill, whatever I need to pay. I got cable, telephone, cell phone. Stuff like that. All that stuff. That costs. That's way over my check. Two cars I got for insurance. I got that one. I got one in the shop. I gotta get my insurance put back on there. It's in the shop. I was supposed to be having it last week, but the guy -- you know how they do with your car and stuff, they hesitate with you. That's what I'm waiting on, get my little van out. I need my little extra ride because I can't be riding in my truck, truck full of tools. That's my little moneymaker there. It just -- car got back -- it just got back running. I know I'm going to keep it over there, by my neighbor house. I mean life, I will say, it ain't too cool right now for me. I'm just praying and praying and asking things to go better for me. It ain't too bad -- I ain't bad as some. Some still living on-- some can't do what I'm doing right now. Thank God for a skill. My brother taught me to do his carpenter work, and I learned. I worked with him for like 13 years -- no, about 10 years. And when he said, Paul, he say, you know enough now. You can go -- and from that point on, I've been doing carpenter work for myself for 30-something years by myself. I might get a little help now and then, but everything else I'm by myself. That's how I've been getting by. I ain't gonna lie, say about a month ago. I haven't been working doing nothing, nothing, nothing, nothing. Then my bill would come, people talk about turning my lights off. They send me two disconnect notice. Came to the gate, the gate was locked. Stuck a card into the door. Disconnect, we'll be back tomorrow. And do you know, that day before 5:30, I had a job that came to me just from me praying, I said Lord, please help me, I don't want my light turned off. Pray and pray and pray. Then about 4, 5 o'clock that next day, I had that bill paid. Prayers. Prayers are good. Believing in God -- God guide me up ever since then. Believe me. Prayer. Just by praying for it, asking him, asking him. Some days he's sit me out. I don't get nothing. But me being a -- I don't spend money too much. I have save -- have a little saving. That little saving helped me, but when I got down to the end of it, I needed to go out and get some more and make some more. I didn't know what was coming up. Nothing was happening. The time was hard. And the time come, He get me when I needed some money. When I need it, I find work. But I be resting myself -- I think that has to be done, put me on the side, resting my legs. I gotta do something with my life. Because nobody been helping me. I don't know. Paid every bit. I paid my dues. Paid my dues. I just go out there and just hustle. And I'm getting sore, I'm getting tired. Tired of working, really working. Back, bad back, bad knees, bad foot. It's rough. It's rough but I'm not going to give up. I'm not giving up. I tell my wife, she was a big back bone to me, too. She used to do things for me, helping me around here. When she's not here, I gotta do it all by myself. She's been gone away from here-- ain't been here for three years. Just coming back and forth, back and forth. It ain't good. So, that's where I'm at with my life. MJ: Is there anything that we haven't talked about that you wished we had? PL: No, I think I shared enough. I mean I really poured out to you. I wish I can get some help or something like that -- keep me from doing things. But I'm just hoping things like this will get to someone, you could talk to them and see what kind of discussion, some ways people could get help down here in Louisiana, because people really do need help. Some don't cry out for it as others. Some just try to get by by just getting by. You know, they make a little bit, help out -- that's the way things, a little bit right now, going to some people. You gotta go out and do a little work somewhere to make a little ends, and try and make that end meet. And that's paying the money that they give us. All that. That's gone. That's gone. So I'm looking for more and I ain't getting it. $7,500 supposed to be coming to me for shutters and stuff like that. I ain't seen a check. It ain't help me jack up my AC unit, ain't seen a check. My hot water heater. I mean I file for it. They call you and tell you it's coming. And I need it now. Wherever it's at, I need that done now. You know what I'm saying? Summer time is coming around now, I hope it could come around here where you could do a lot of things. You know, you do a lot of things in the summer. I don't like doing no work in the winter. Be too cold for me. I have thin blood. I was a sickle cell. I'm anemic, you know. I can't take no cold weather too much. You could put this ceiling fan on right now, with the air coming at me, I'm going to freeze. My hands will freeze off. But thank God for these people up here. Like I said, thank God for you people that got me doing a little bit of work. Not too much heavy stuff. Something I like to do. And it's little work, it ain't no big work. Building a bar, just a bar. You ought to see, it looked good. It looked good too. My skills, I mean to say, they say, Paul, your skills, say, I wouldn't go get nobody else. Because I know they're going to charge them, charge them an arm and a leg just to do it. I say, man, look, just give me what I ask you for. And I'm going to help you. I'm going to get your bar right. All they do is help me pay my bills. I know the city, if they give me a check, big checks and stuff like that, I can't -- they give me a little check, but I can't get no more than $3,000 a month. A year, I meant to say. That's how much I can make if I do make a little job. If I get $3,000 they'll talk about cutting me off. You can work. I can't work every day. I can't stay on my foot every day. I normally knock off at 2:30 when I'm doing a little job. But when I'm something, not getting paid much for it, while I play with it. Cause they go, do as much as you can. The next day you come back and there you'll have less and less you have to do. Tomorrow I should be having a quick thing. Then I can take my little break. I do need a break. Yeah. I do need one. Because I've been on it -- my foot ain't been hurting me like this for a while. And that's when I started working on it for too long. Can't work on it too long. I don't know if when you pulled up, I don't know if you've seen me out limping there. Just trying to get in and wind that window up and come on inside. You want to come sit here and talk to me, about these private things. I've been trying to help people through the other ways. Just come on over -- come on and talk to me. Almost like, he's a little younger than me, but he's a good preacher man. He preaches stuff too. Yeah he preach. We talk and share things with each other. He got my dog a shot just now, because she was not picking up weight. And we're thinking might have worms, heartworms. And I raised that little dog from a puppy, man. I raised it like a little child, fed it like a baby and everything else. And I'd feel bad if something happened to it and I can't do nothing about it. MJ: Well, thank you for your time. It's been very generous of you to-- PL: I mean was it something that's really interesting? If not, if I can find something else to talk about. MJ: No, absolutely. I mean for those of us who don't live in New Orleans, we need to hear these stories. PL: It's like that, man. For a young black man like me, man I mean who would want to try to get someone? You can't really get help from them. You know what I'm saying? If they got help, they gonna question you about it. What's you doing. And by me having -- I'm going to have to say, by me having a little felony charge on me, man, that'll stop me from getting anything that people want to give me. And guess how long ago at that? Almost 30 years ago. Almost 30 years since the felony. And anything that I went to jail for. And it wasn't much. It was something I had to do -- I did. I went and did a year for it. And that hold me back from getting anything from anybody. If I want to go get a job, I can't get the right job I want to get. I'm not gonna lie. They're going to look at my past. And I say, well, what's in the past should stay in the past. I mean it's the future, let's move on. I don't know, people just don't think that way I guess. How are you want somebody to get somewhere if you don't give him a chance? Give him a chance. Just like Barack. Give him a chance. You never know what life might come about for me. You don't know till you give him a chance.