Orange Beach It’s hard to beat the white sands and rolling dunes of the “Redneck Riveria” in southern Alabama. It’s Alabama, but once you cross the bridge at the Pass to the East you are only 2 or 3 miles from the small sign that says “Florida” at the western tip of the Panhandle. The Alabama state park system has done a good thing through this gorgeous stretch and taken control of miles of beach and acres of sand between the South Beach Wannabe Condo developments sprouting in between.
50 degrees feels colder than it should along the water, but the sun was bright and the waves rolling, so a walk on the beach was mandatory early Sunday morning. Walking along it was surprising in the quiet to see something that looked like stick figure humans east towards the Pass.
Coming closer it turned out to be 8 or 9 men in chartreuse vests and one woman in a Tyvek suit with 4 WD buggies including a tractor pulling two porta-potties . All of them were waving long necked nets towards the water’s edge. I asked them what was up.
The foreman said they were picking up tar balls washing up from the British Petroleum oil spill that went on endlessly during the summer. I had to take off my sunglasses. It wasn’t easy to spot them. Their nets were hardly 1/3rd filled as they poked the water in a desultory fashion.
How long will you be out here on the state park beach? “As long as it takes until we get it all,” he replied in a matter of fact tone.
“It looks pretty good at this point,” I offered, “so you must be making progress.”
He replied, “It’s better than it was.”
Months ago and months to go, the cleanup is off of the headlines, but here on Orange Beach far to the east of the spill, every day is still filled with the workaday tasks of the picking tar balls out of the Gulf at the water’s edge.
New Orleans My darling and brilliant niece’s husband, an Australian bloke who we dearly love, was working this summer running a high end, specialty bar at the W Hotel on Poydras Avenue in New Orleans during the time of the terrible British Petroleum Gulf Oil Spill. My daughter, Dine,’ now a mainstay of the Local 100 United Labor Unions organizing staff in New Orleans and ever alert to both injustice and opportunities started telling me a couple of weeks ago about huge, wild settlements going to bartenders in the French Quarter, CBD, and even in our Bywater neighborhood. The amounts were amazing: $7000 to one, $17000 to another, and so on! I was skeptical. She cited Will Miller as an impeccable source, so I was moved, but wanted to know more. Maybe this was just a benefit being sought and received by a secret society of New Orleans bartenders, rather than part of the Kenneth Feinberg compensation and damages program, official called the Gulf Coast Claims Facility?
With the deadline hard on us for emergency claims to be submitted (Close of business on Tuesday 11/23!), I didn’t’ want to start an irresponsible gold rush, if this was nothing more than rumor fueled by alcohol coming from the hands of the same bartenders. I know not to trust the hometown paper as the ultimate authority on these matters, but all of their storylines had focused on oil workers, fishermen, and others barely staying afloat with graphic photos from the beautiful and damaged bayou country south of the city. Why were we not seeing pictures of lines trailing out into the streets here in broke ass New Orleans, if money was falling from BP trees, especially in the always hospitality hard luck and humidity summer season?
My daughter – the organizer – felt the issue was that not enough people knew this was possible and were going to apply and get the compensation. Pressed this week for more information, she confirmed that other conversations with hospitality workers in her haunts, I mean after more outreach and research, she had turned up servers and other “line” workers who had applied and gotten payments also ranging in the thousands of dollars. Ok, I’m there!