Thursday, February 7, 2008

Trash Talk

For the first time since Hurricane Katrina, city officials reported that the size of trash collections has returned to pre-storm levels. Officially, the city will not release the gross tonnage figures, because, they say, it encourages revelers to "trash" the city. But this is very significant. More trash means more sales of disposable products, which directly relates to sales tax collections and is a barometer for economic progress. I must admit, I did not personally add to the refuse on the streets, but I am a local. I tend to use a trashcan.
Interestingly enough, the local owner of the trash collection service tabbed by the city to clean up the formerly disgusting and dirty French Quarter has become something of a local poster boy himself. Sidney D. Torres IV, 31, the owner of SDT Waste and Debris Services, has become such a local celebrity that he recently rode on a special float with the Krewe of Orpheus on Lundi Gras. Torres, rode with his young son on the float, each delighting in the unusual honor afforded them by the krewe. Torres is a hard worker, often rising each morning by 4:30 a.m. to ride along with his crews as they begin the arduous task of picking up the trash left over by revelers and residents from the night before. Torres has only been in the trash business since shortly after Katrina passed through the city. He reportedly found a need for trash pickup at local hotels he owned, but found the services priced beyond reason. So, he met that need by buying his own truck and dumpsters and providing his own service. The good-looking Torres with shoulder-length hair askew looks like a college kid one might hire as an intern. But don't let his youthful looks give you the impression that he's not an astute businessman. He has shot several likeable TV commercials with a jazz tinge to enhance his company's public persona. Along the way, he became a local star too. A former personal assistant to musician Lenny Kravitz, Torres hired the rocker who now calls New Orleans home for a gritty local TV spot touting the fact that the city is bouncing back and that SDT Waste and Debris Services is pitching in to help. Another recent popular spot showed a male Carnival reveler attempting to use a building on a side street for a urinal. With the sounds of the parade in the background and while his back is turned to the camera, an SDT truck with a pressure washer comes up behind him and douses him with a torrent of water and, one hopes, enlightenment. Torres is a dynamo, but if he doesn't watch out he may become a casualty of his own success and get elected to public office. Yeow!
Meanwhile, with the lack of a clear-cut winner on Super Tuesday, Louisiana has become a state in play. Saturday is the date for the Democratic and Republican primaries and the struggle to snatch delegates has the candidates going to the mattresses. Even Barack Obama was here this morning for a free speech at Tulane University. It's nice to be remembered during the campaign. I just hope they'll remember us after it's all over.
Inspirational thought of the day:
"Even in the grimmest times I have seen man's goodness as the flame that can never be extinguished." - Nelson Mandela, former jailed political activist for 27 years, 1993 Nobel Peace Prize recipient, and president of South Africa (1994-1999), who is expected to celebrate his 90th birthday on July 18.

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