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John Howell Column

John Howell Sr.

Ferry across river promotes safety for bridge traffic

Last week was spent in New Orleans, a respite from the weekly routine. Steamy, rainy but a respite.

Somewhere in the midst of watching U. S. Open tennis matches on television, we tired of losing balls in the upper 20 percent of the old set’s screen. For some reason the image had become distorted with lines and reflections that didn’t belong there.

We went shopping for  a new TV with high-definition visions dancing in our heads. The sole criteria for our selection was that it fit in the small cabinet in our small living room. It seems our cabinet was built with analog specifications in mind. It took us three ferry trips across the Mississippi River to a big box electronics store on the West Bank before our purchases were finalized.

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From the front page of a recent Times-Picayune — I love the New Orleans daily newspaper — readers were greeted with the smiling face of Connie Davis.

Connie’s husband, according to the TP story, ‘fessed up to cheating on her in an incident that had occurred 15 years ago. He must have assumed that the statute of limitations had run out. No so.

Connie picked up a revolver, a model known as “The Judge,” which is chambered for .410 gauge shotgun shells. She popped off five rounds at the rapidly retreating backside of “Mr.-Come-Clean-After-All-These-Years.” He was treated at a hospital later for a small amount of birdshot lodged in his nether regions.

The smiling photo of Connie was her mug shot, made as she was logged into the St. Tammany Parrish Jail on a charge of attempted murder. Her bond is $75,000.

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Elsewhere in recent news reports, New Orleans Police Superintendent Warren Riley  announced that people who might be illegal immigrants will not be questioned about their residency status when they come forward to report crimes.

Riley’s statement articulated this city’s attitude toward immigrants, especially those who flocked here after Katrina. But for them this city would not have been rebuilt following the devastating 2005 hurricane, so the city police policy acknowledges the ongoing contribution of its immigrants — legal and illegal.

Immigrants have been reluctant to report when they are victims of crime perpetuated by the native thugs so abundant in New Orleans. They get robbed in street muggings and in home invasions. They get cheated by contractors who hire them to work and then refuse to pay.

The New Orleans police policy is that people who have been reluctant to report crimes or to appear as witnesses because of fear of having their residency status questioned need fear it no longer.

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The Gretna ferry leaves New Orleans’ East Bank at the foot of Jackson Avenue and crosses the Mississippi River to Olde Towne Gretna next to the Jefferson Parish Courthouse. It is our preferred conveyance to the West Bank. Second choice is the Crescent City Connection — the bridge.

As the ferry eases into its landing, two crew members snug boat and dock together using thick ropes wrapped around cleats. Ramps are lowered, off-bound vehicular traffic exits, on-bound traffic boards. That goes on every 30 minutes with the crisscrossing ferry always in a delicate, aquatic waltz, maneuvering around the upstream/downstream traffic — ships, barges and their tows.

Crossing the Crescent City Connection requires the riveted attention of the driver to the road. Or at least the riveted attention of this driver who tends to stray off into the direction he’s looking, potentially creating a severe impediment to vehicular navigation in the narrow bridge lanes.

But once on the ferry, I can cut the engine, get out of the car and take in the river sights at river level.