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View Diary: New Orleans, An Outsider's Perspective (23 comments)

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  •  I just got back yesterday (none)
    I was in NOLA from Saturday to Thursday. It was an eventful trip. I wanted to post a diary before I left to hookup with Kossacks making the trip, but I had enough on my plate as it was.

    A friend of mine moved there in September, to help clean up. I badly wanted to go but couldn't (and won't ever forgive myself for it). He's a guitarist living in the Fontainebleau neighboorhood, and we'd talked for a while about me going down there with my recording gear and getting some takes. So I couple friends and I hopped in the car. We managed to get out of a speeding ticket outside Texarkana (that was pretty cool).

    We started noticing fields of dead trees, shorn of all branches. A big hotel off I-10 that was half-repaired. We got off 10 at Carrollton. Admittedly, it was after midnight, but it was the Saturday before Mardi Gras. Most streets were deserted. Most of the stoplights weren't working. The roads suck; repaving streets hasn't been high on the list of priorities. We arrived at the Baker St. Bar which was very cool. It was weird driving through this eerieness and then arriving among lights and loud music and drinks.

    After we left the bar and went to my friend's place, he wanted me to go a few extra blocks and see this VW bug parked in the driveway of a house that was trying to collapse but had not yet done so. After not being able to find it for a while, he realized that the house we were looking for had in fact collapsed--blocking half the street--we'd just driven past it. From what we could tell, the car didn't actually seem to be in the driveway, so apparently the thing was towed, causing the house to fall. Bizarre.

    Over the next few days, I put over 100 miles on my car driving from friend's place to friend's place, from bar to bar, and so on. We drove along the levee in Algiers, and even got out on one of the small docks there to look at the goddamn enormous Mississippi river. Now I am from St. Louis, so I know about this river, but it was something to behold that close to the sea. Out there, with the isolation and distance from the hustle of the city, the view felt much different from the way it looks at Jackson Square (which is fucking beautiful too).

    The number of houses with tarps still on their roofs is astonishing. There is essentially no police presence in several New Orleans neighborhoods (and no, not at all like your local wrong-side-of-the-tracks elsewhere). Rescue teams in the immediate aftermath of the drowning of the city adopted a particular method for marking a house: they would spray-paint a large X on the front of the house. In the top quadrant, they would write the date. 9-12 was one I saw frequently. I think 9-08 was the earliest I saw, and 9-30 the latest. The left quadrant would have the name of the search team. The bottom quadrant listed simply a number: bodies found. The right quadrant listed the number and type of pets found,  dead and alive. The markings were very eerie and it was difficult to feel like I was even in the same country sometimes, especially when we would walk from a damaged neighborhood into the Quarter, or downtown or the Garden District.

    I've been down to MG before, but I stayed in a hotel downtown, only for a couple days, and didn't get to see a great deal of the rest of the city. Most of what we did was either on Bourbon St. or it was in Jackson Square.

    I got pickpocketed on Monday night. Shit. That's what I get for being drunk off my ass in a crowd of people looking upwards at breasts.

    I still don't understand the people who said there shouldn't be a Mardi Gras this year. Why? It's a city holiday. Even the courts shut down. (Don't get arrested cause you can't get out until Ash Wednesday.) Was Christmas cancelled? New Years?

    It got a whole bunch of people down there to see it in person. And believe me, even if all you did was stay in the Quarter the whole time, you couldn't have missed the fact that something was wrong. So many businesses and bars and galleries and restaurants had closed--even in the Quarter--that there's no way you couldn't have been aware. There sure seemed to be an awful lot of locals participating, so it meant something to somebody. And from what I understand, life in that city has been so miserable for so many for so long that the whole thing is a defiant, rebellious gesture in the first place. Everything from nature to the politicians.

    Speaking of which, the angry mockeries of Nagin, Blanco, Bush, Brown, Chertoff, and the rest were everywhere, unmistakable, and cheered when they appeared in the parades. Blanco and Nagin must have been gritting their teeth from the reviewing stand with some of the floats.

    I agree with your comments about New York. I have no idea why there hasn't been some kind of national hero-making out of Katrina survivors, and lots of blame-the-victim kind of stuff. San Francisco was rebuilt pretty rapidly after that earthquake in 89, wasn't it? It seems odd that life in mighty America hasn't returned to normal, six months later.

    Be ye ever so high, the law is above you

    by nota bene on Fri Mar 03, 2006 at 10:36:16 PM PST

    •  '06 more apt (none)
      The 1906 San Fran earthquake is more on the scale of Katrina. '89 was small, historically speaking, and also a good distance from the city.

      But the city was rebuilt after 1906.

      I hate to keep harping on the negative, but I just don't see NOLA coming back. A good chunk of the city was on its last legs before the storm, and that half plus some more basically seems to have packed up and left. A lot of musicians are gone, because there's simply not enough work.

      And looming over everything is the upcoming hurricane season.

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