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Katrina In Your Pocket 

The best quotes from a memorable year

Many local novelty shops carry the little blue Da Mayor In Your Pocket, a cell-phone-sized device that squawks six of hizzoner's most memorable quotes from the height of Katrina's mess. At the touch of a button, you can hear an exasperated C. Ray say, "You've got to be kidding me," as many times as you like.

Judging by the Best of New Orleans® balloting, many Gambit Weekly readers already have Nagin in their pockets, or just echoing in their heads. Five of their favorite Nagin quotes are immortalized on the device for ready usage, though "Chocolate City" is not one of them. Steve Winn, creator of the In Your Pocket series (Cajun, Mr. T., Triumph "The insult comic dog" and others), may be interested in doing a little market research based on our ballots, because Gambit readers found Nagin to be particularly quotable all year long. From false promises to rebuilding slogans, a whole new local lingo is part of our vernacular. Some lines will live in infamy, along the lines of Bush's "heckuva job, Brownie," while other words will linger on T-shirts or on bumper stickers that we'll be tailgating to read in Contra-Flow evacuations to come.

Da Mayor in Your Pocket preserves Nagin at his candid best, when he served the nation a wake-up call about how dire the situation in New Orleans was. Voters apparently remembered the more commanding and direct Nagin for saying, "Excuse my French, everybody in America, but I am pissed." Nagin exhorted the rest of the nation, "Now let's fix the biggest goddamn crisis in the history of this country," and then explained, "Get off your asses and send us some help." It would be nice to see a sequel, perhaps a "Da Mayor Runs for Re-election in Your Pocket" novelty, complete with chocolate mojo and bizarre analogies about how red beans taste in a depopulated city.

Heckuva Job in Your Pocket would also be a popular item. Besides honoring former FEMA Director Michael Brown, it could feature George Bush's unforgettable, "I don't think anyone could have anticipated the levees breaking." Homeland Security Director Michael Chertoff could contribute his, "We didn't know there were people at the Convention Center." Then there were dubious assurances, such as, "The cavalry is on the way," "Help is on the way," and the even more soothing, "I think the worst is over." For a big finish, though, it's off to Jackson Square for Bush's promise, "We will restore the levees to pre-Katrina levels." It's hard to say whether that should be considered reassuring, however.

Other leaders impressed our balloters, but they didn't make it to the top of the pile because they said too much. One voter nominated everything former Police Chief Eddie Compass said. Another wanted to vote for Jefferson Parish President Aaron Broussard but didn't seem to think tears qualified as a quote. Gov. Blanco's advice to pack some peanut butter and jelly sandwiches inspired someone, at least in this category if not as a good evacuation plan. In the end, mixed messages are not fit for merchandising, so no Pocket contenders here.

FEMA was also an endless topic of conversation, but with so much to account for, no single quote made it out of the pack. Generally though, the agency let its inactions speak for themselves. One voter treasured the observation, "Even Chopsley moves faster than FEMA," referring to Morgus' sidekick. The agency even made it onto a T-shirt that changes the acronym to mean, "Fix Everything My Ass."

For some readers, explanations of why certain things happened made for the most memorable quotes during Katrina's aftermath. Here are some of the one-hit wonders from near and far:

• Celine Dion helped Larry King with, "Maybe they never had a big screen TV. What's wrong?"

• Kanye West's nationally televised assessment, "George Bush does not care about black people."

• From anonymous: "I lost my sobriety."

T-shirts and bumper stickers provided fodder as well. While the ever-incisive "Make levees, not war" continues to inspire, there are other memorable slogans. "You loot, we shoot" was popular with a few voters. As was "New Orleans: Proud to swim home."

Some voters remembered solutions, such as the Krewe du Vieux plea, "Buy us back, Chirac." Another suggestion that registered was, "I'm seceding from the Union and starting Jeffersonia." Still another decided that the best solution is to mess with Texas, "Houston, we have evacuees."

But in the end, there was hope -- of sorts. Many turned to former New Orleans Councilwoman Renee Gill Pratt for these words of encouragement: "Sometimes God puts things in place for a reason."

Okay, the original context was not exactly encouraging (she was explaining how she came to be driving a Dodge Durango that she "donated" to a nonprofit that subsequently hired her and assigned her the vehicle) -- but then again, if it's truly memorable, why not share it?

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