The picture above was taken on the Orleans Avenue neutral ground in December 2005, that first awful winter after Katrina, when spray paint on plywood or the side panels of a flood-ruined car were about the most efficient way to spread neighborhood news.

Electricity was scarce even among the slim ranks of residents who were back in their houses at that time, and there wasn't a whole lot of emailing going around about holiday plans.

But someone who evidently was back home made the decision that the bonfire would be back too and wanted to spread the word. He or she even added the reminder in spray paint that the fire is for Christmas trees only and would not be used as an incinerator for the copious piles of reeking debris most of us then still had before our homes.

Most of the good things happening in Mid-City that season were driven by individuals, and in that spirit of do-it-yourself-by-default recovery the grassroots nature of the bonfire tradition seemed in sync and mighty appealing.

But that was then. Now, ending the tradition has become a public safety priority for some city officials, who will host a meeting on the topic tonight at Grace Episcopal Church (3700 Orleans Ave., starting at 6:30 p.m.). Whether and where the bonfire goes off this year, I'm predicting fireworks tonight.

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