And it shall be, whosoever shall go out of the doors of thy house into the street, his blood shall be upon his head, and we will be guiltless: and whosoever shall be with thee in the house, his blood shall be on our head, if any hand be upon him. -- Joshua, chapter 2

The shotgun I lived in on Willow near the Carrollton Cemetery, which always seemed to have kids flying kites from it when I lived there, is probably flooded. The house on Prytania might actually be flooded up to the roof, hard as that is for me to even conceptualize. The house on Audubon is on higher ground. The Tulane Library, where I worked on a project in which a group processed the purchase of a couple million dollars worth of books, is no doubt flooded down in the basement. The Tulane site is down. Apparently, the students and faculty have been evacuated, many of the students to Jackson Mississippi.

I’ve seen one dead city on the Gulf: Galveston, Texas. Galveston gave up the ghost after a terrific storm in about 1911. The place still boasts 50 000 people, but its opportunities shriveled after that storm. Houston became Texas’ big port. Galveston became a fief of the Moody’s, the insurance clan. Walk down the streets of Galveston and marvel at the architecture, the like of which has no parallel in Texas. But it is like a royal robe on a shivering leper.

I’m in shock, awe, anger, disbelief. In the Cleveland airport, I drank beer and watched CNN with the subtitles rolling across it. I nearly sobbed, but didn’t – I’ve learned enough about the world to know that sobbing over disasters that are too big for you simply leaves you raw and confused. A new legend was born, I’ve noticed: Nero fiddled while Rome burned, and Bush strummed a guitar while New Orleans sank. Bush is a lesson in the servile reflex: I instinctively expect him to operate like a leader. He instinctively operates like a class clown dumped on the island in the Lord of the Flies. He’s good for me, insofar as he has destroyed the remnant of my respect for leadership itself. America is not special; the stupid Caesars are definitely upon us.

I fell in love a dozen times in New Orleans; I learned politics there, and I learned to distrust the cops. I learned how to listen to opera, and how to snort coke. My first experience with acid was with my friend A. and her maniac Chilean boyfriend, who inhabited a shadowy room in a demi-whorehouse in the quarter. I can still feel the lack of vitamin C as I stumbled down Magazine street in the morning after, passing by a poster advertising a Kung Fu movie in Spanish. The poster sometimes still pops up in my dreams.

If I were living in NOLA – and six years ago, when I moved back South, that was my plan – I’d be in the Civic Center or the Superdome. Evacuation at a moment’s notice is not in my economic cards – I have no car, I have no cell phone, and I have no desire to leave my possessions (a computer, a tv, a stereo) to the winds, or to a passing looter. Although I very much understand taking bacon and beer (which, by the way, is a good thing to drink when the water becomes polluted – that is, after all, why beer was invented). I very much don’t understand evacuating New Orleans without any regard for the stuff left in the stores, especially the weapons. I don’t understand not impounding that stuff the first day. This is New Orleans, after all, where every native has a funny story about some naïf tourist venturing out to some area which is not to be visited without an armed escort. We toyed with these stories, when I was there, because there was a certain resentment of tourists, who were in search of easy vices but hadn’t earned the right to them – didn’t even understand that vices come in bundles, and some of them you might not like at one in the morning. New Orleans isn’t just like a banana republic, it is one. There is no real police force in New Orleans. There is a praetorian guard that protects the garden district, and Jefferson Parish middle class folk, and enforces the rule of the jungle on the Ninth ward. Over the decades, both sides of this equation were educated to believe in a very direct view of the regulation of social relations. When I hear calls to shoot to kill the looters, that is the Garden District expressing what it has always thought. I once saw a policeman beat the shit out of man in the French Quarter. I wasn’t stupid enough to interfere.

I know it’s gone, I know it’s gone, I know it’s gone…

I first saw New Orleans a long time ago. I was taken there by my Uncle Harry. And I resolved to go there after high school, which I endured in suburban Atlanta. I went to Tulane the year the Meters played for the incoming freshman party. Back in the day, it was really a party – the university sprang for the kegs. That has probably fallen victim to our current Puritanism. My first year there, I worked on the Figaro, which was run by James Glassman. Glassman went on to become a crackpot conservative (author of Dow 1 million two hundred and ten), but back then he was cool. One of my duties at the Figaro was to keep him from dealing with the assorted weirdos from the sex industry that would come in and bug us – pin striped escort service guys, weeping fat ticketsellers at various adult theaters, etc., etc. They advertised with us, they were hit by the cops, they came to us. My immediate boss was more interested in being a dance instructor. The writers (this was back when Bunny Matthews worked for the paper) lounged around in the back in their pyjamas. I’ve seen the bohos, or the last of em…

It’s gone, it’s gone, it’s gone…

For a long time I’ve felt extinct myself. And it didn’t take a genius to know that New Orleans time was limited. I wrote a piece in 2000 about this, which I’ll publish in my next post. This post is just a puddle of piss and tears. And I don’t give a shit.


Anonymous said…
the lack of vitamin C as I stumbled down Magazine street in the morning after, passing by a poster advertising a Kung Fu movie in Spanish