Sunday, August 20, 2006

Where are we now?

The Anniversary. It's just around the corner, and frankly, I'm just not ready. I thought I had toughened up a bit over the post-K year, thought I would be ready to face the barrage of images, the swell of remembrances. But then I read an online diary, one person's experience losing a parent following the storm, and I nearly lost it. Then I hear Chris Rose on NPR, reading a piece I've already read, the "New Orleans Girl" essay from One Dead in Attic, and he starts to choke up at the end, and his interviewer starts to choke up at the end, and then I do lose it. Right there in my car, somewhere just past the 6-10 split. This is not a good sign.

I'm not stable enough for the rehash yet, thank you. I'm still working on the hash. And it ain't going down easy, pal. I'm furious daily for no reason--well, for every reason, I imagine, but my fury is usually disproportionate to the proximate cause. And because of this anger, I liked the Spike Lee Katrina documentary more than I expected: it resonated with the anger that people here have been feeling for a year now, anger and helplessness and more anger. And it also made clear that this was not a natural disaster. Without the engineering failure that was and is our levee system, New Orleans would have experienced a lot of "wet ankle syndrome." (I heard an engineer not in uniform use that term on t.v., and I had to repeat it.) Bottom line, we didn't get the worst of the storm itself (look east, dear reader, for the true force of nature; Mississippi was levelled). No, what we got was a forty-year-long political, bureaucratic, administrative, and technical failure courtesy of the wonderful folks at the Corps of Engineers, the New Orleans Levee Board, and assorted politicians at local, state, and federal levels. And that doesn't even begin to touch on the failed response after the gingerbread-house levees melted away.

So, I'm angry, and I got to share that with Spike Lee, the Rev. Al Sharpton, C-Murder (how'd he get the ankle bracelet off?), and 6,000 of my fellow citizens in the New Orleans Arena last week. And then there were the things I didn't like so much about that movie--like the floated claim that the levees were intentionally demolished during Katrina and Betsy as they were in the flood of 1927. Bollocks, that. How many independent studies of the levee failure have taken place so far? Spike should know, he interviewed members of two of the three studies. So, why didn't he ask them why their multi-million-dollar studies failed to find any evidence of sabotage? Oh, and the Trump-like "land grab" for the Lower 9th Ward we hear about, a claim that goes as essentially unchallenged as the dynamite story? The property values were just skyrocketing in the L9 before the storm, I'm sure. Why, just look at all those high-priced sales recorded there in the past year. Oh, what's that you say? Well, then, of course there have already been massive buyouts in the L9 since the storm, huge developers buying up acres and acres for pennies, right? It's all there in the real estate transactions of the Times Picayune, isn't it? Well, I guess we don't really need evidence for such claims in the end, because after all these are the things the white establishment would do, so why can't we assume that they did do them? The film succumbed to Michael Moore syndrome, wherein valuable and salient points are muddied and undermined by more specious claims.

Did I mention I'm angry yet? Yeah, better double that. I'm angry that nothing--nothing--is happening in the devastated parts of town. That nothing--nothing--seems to have been gained by the much-touted chance at a new beginning. I'm angry that my favorite bar was robbed Saturday night. I'm angry that we need National Guard patrols in my city. I'm angry that without those patrols the murder rate had leapt up to the pre-K rate, which means the per capita rate would have doubled from the bloodbath we'd already become accustomed to. And I'm tired, tired to death of being a victim. The Corps didn't meet its own standards; it lied to the city about the protection it was afforded. But is waiting for the federal bail-out and bitching some more the very best that this great and infinitely creative city can do?

At any rate, I've decided to start a new feature here as a way of
  1. Getting this blog restarted.
  2. Sublimating some of my anger.
  3. Making some headway toward answering for myself the question for which there is no good answer: So, how are things down there?
This is the plan: I pick a spot in New Orleans--each week a new spot and, say, 4 square blocks around it--and I see what's going on there, what has opened and what's still closed, what needs to be done, what the feel of that little postage stamp of earth is like. And then, my three dear readers, I will report my findings back to you here.

Work for you?

I'm calling the feature: "Where are we now?" And I've already chosen my first spot. Go to Google Maps and type in "New Orleans, LA." A specific place shows up, the corner of Tulane Ave. and Elks Pl. I'm assuming this is the post office, but I can't quite picture it tonight. So, let's say Wednesday afternoon, I intend to treck over there and to check out the area. I'm thinking I'll start at Armstrong Park and make my way down there. Which reminds me of another arbitrary rule I've set for this experience: I'll only travel sans car. If there is public transportation, I'll take it. Or I'll walk it if necessary. Or, if it's too far to walk and there's no public transport, I'll bike it. That way I'll see more of the city on the way. Promise I'll note anything interesting here, too.

And then the following week I'll need to think of a suitably random way to generate the next pinpoint on the map. If you're out there, my precious trio suffering through my blubbering, send along some ideas for how to randomize. I'd like to divide all of Orleans Parish into a 52-square grid and randomly pick one square per week.

Oh, and last arbitrary rule: if there is a bar within the four-square blocks, I will have a drink there. If shopping and seeing Broadway plays was GWB's recovery plan for September 11, then this will be mine for N.O.


Blogger Maggie said...

Love the bar-visit idea, looking forward to reading what you'll be seeing, and hoping to come down and finally see it myself sometime soon.

7:51 AM  

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