Sunday, August 27, 2006

Elks Place Pt. II

So, when last we left off, I was standing in front of the newly reopened Walgreen's, looking at the boarded windows of the commercial buildings across the way and waiting for the light to change so I could check out the library, epicenter of my visit to the CBD. Here's a shot of the still-boarded windows to get you in the mood.
With me now? Okay, good.

Among the many questions concerning the hurricane that have echoed endlessly during the past year (why didn't the levees hold? why didn't everyone evacuate? does George Bush really not like black people?), none has been more prominent than the sometimes desperate, sometimes angry strains of "Where was FEMA?" Well, apparently this is one question we can stop asking. FEMA is alive and well and working at the library, along with the mysteriously delinquent Small Business Administration. The library, of course! That's just where I used to hang out in high school when I didn't feel like working. I'd sequester myself somewhere in the stacks and skim through giant volumes on world geography. I also managed to learn hypnosis, juggling, and and the basics of internal combustion engines. I hope that FEMA and the SBA have found their time in the library as enlightening.

But it was good, after all, to see something happening at the library. The main branch now has wi-fi, and it's starting to extend its hours. They're also offering a disaster relief smorgasbord: along with FEMA and SBA, they have an IRS office, the Blue Roof program (bit late for that, eh?), Vets Affairs, Medicaid, insurance mitigation, and coping assistance (there's a bar in the library, too? man, they thought of everything).

New Orleans' public libraries, running on a shoestring before the storm, were on the verge of extinction afterward. They've received some amazing nationwide support (they had to stop accepting book donations after they found they couldn't keep up with the cataloguing). Also, the American Library Association had its annual meeting here--the first major convention to come back after the storm, as far as I know, so take that you lilly-livered surgeons!. Oh, and according to several reliable French Quarter bartenders, the librarians tear it up like nobody's business--voted wildest of the conventioneers, and that's quite a feat. And apparently librarians are very generous, as well. My local branch reopened this summer, thanks in part to their efforts. Fearless boozers who love New Orleans and get to hang around with books all day, definitely my kind of people.

While I was scribbling down the various services available at the main branch, the security guard came over and glowered at me through the glass doors, so I figured it was time to move along. Since I was so close to Poydras, I decided to meet the wife and a good pal for dinner and to complete the final portion of my task at a nearby restaurant. Dinner was sushi, drink was Sapporo. Oh, and this is what happens when Komei Horimoto gets playful, the Rocking Dragon.
And it tastes even better than that, really. Actually, it's a bit of a crime to order rolls in that place; I feel that every piece of fish there should come with a resume, or at least a brief bio.

From the restaurant, we went to the Circle Bar to hear McMurray perform. He was in a foul mood at the start, which made for a brilliant show. He did cheer up enough that he managed not to wrap his guitar around the neck of the dude who requested "She Talks to Angels." Shame, that. Oh, and McMurray has a new song about post-K N.O.: "You gotta be crazy." Not my favorite of his, but far and away the best Katrina-related song I've heard to far. Ay-yi-yi, what miserable maudlin pap it all be, my dear temporizing triumverate. WWOZ has been relentless with the stuff over the past few days. And the anniversary is bearing down: NYT has a new page 1 on it every day, and now that silly paper with all the color graphics is joining in with stories about the important work of football running backs in the recovery effort, and everyone in the national media was just salivating at the thought that Ernesto, that headless puta, would help us mark the anniversary with a little reenactment. Christ. I think I'll reenact instead one of my favorite scenes from Walker Percy and crawl up in a tower overlooking a forest somewhwere, a bottle of Bourbon tucked in my jacket pocket. There may need to be a priest on hand, if this is to be truly faithful to Dr. Percy. Yeah, I think that's how I'll spend the anniversary. To hell with Thanatos.


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