perhaps not

Ann Rice’s op ed in the NYT was an exercise in perfectly controlled anger and despair – which is not something we can reproduce at LI, where we are at the mercy of the portals of the senses and those rumors of the heart that we can’t quell with antacids.

“But to my country I want to say this: During this crisis you failed us. You looked down on us; you dismissed our victims; you dismissed us. You want our Jazz Fest, you want our Mardi Gras, you want our cooking and our music. Then when you saw us in real trouble, when you saw a tiny minority preying on the weak among us, you called us "Sin City," and turned your backs.

Well, we are a lot more than all that. And though we may seem the most exotic, the most atmospheric and, at times, the most downtrodden part of this land, we are still part of it. We are Americans. We are you.”

I don’t know about the “Sin City” part – the worst people in the world, who are the great honchos of American politics and media, advocated shooting people who loot directly, while conniving at the great lynching of the city, and I don’t think it was Sin City they were thinking of as much as getting the Soweto massacre right this time. These people are the true descendents of the slave traders, in them runs the blood of everything treacherous and vile, they sweated through exotic fevers in jungle just to massacre Indians and strip them of their bangles, they scalphunted, union-busted, Red-scared and peculated because they are built that way, they are instinct with every trick that will produce a bogus product and a quick buck, and they keep weighing us down with their failures and they will until the country buckles. We are ruled by thugs, whose actions are then praised by other thugs, who call themselves journalists. That is how the system works – the bad Cesars are here.

But I do like the almost childish promise in the last graf. There is always life stirring among the catacombs. Because the more I read about it, the more I think that NOLA is not down for the count. The more I think that this disaster is as much about the government, all levels of it, operating to stifle the one thing that could have saved thousands this week – the self-organized population, the one that could have had boats and buses at the Civic Center five days ago, the one that almost managed an armada out of New Orleans for 45 dollars a seat from the Monteleone Hotel.

They will screw up pumping out the water. They will screw up getting clean water to drink. They will screw up re-building. They will screw up the levies again. They will screw up relief for the refugees. They will screw up the gas. They will screw up and screw up, but I am beginning to think that the belief that the city is gone is their belief, their triumph, and – like all of their triumphs – a lie.


Roger--I have been very moved by your posts on New Orleans, possibly more than any others after I read most of them last night. Your 'piss and tears' post made me finally realize what a broken man I myself feel, having spent the entire week compulsively concentrating 'only on the technical', as Didion's unreliable narrator says in 'The Last Thing He Wanted.' I'd been back for the first
time in 35 years this past March, thinking New Orleans was the one place I could seriously want to move to if I end up not being able to take New York anymore, as it is slowly carved up. Well, the answer was yes. Since I am from Alabama, that week in New Orleans was the only week I ever got 'my South' as obviously it's the single place in the South that has not been ruined by religious filth; and it's the single place that puts the lie to a lot of what W.J. Cash says in 'The Mind of the South'. I read 'Mosquitoes,' I read the 'New Orleans Sketches,' I went to Antoine's for lunch alone (I've never done this at a top restaurant), where the waiter even threw the rum onto the tablecloth and lit that up as well as the cerises jubilee. I walked all over town, the crepe myrtles in City Park I was allowed to actually enjoy for the first time I could enjoy crepe myrtles in my life completely. A funny black girl told me my po'Boy was upside down, after I got back I called the Marigny Flea Market store and said that I wanted those 2 cranberry goblets in the store--and I have never been a shopper; I said I'd never find them searching New York shops, the place was full of festival glass. I stayed in the slave quarters' basement at a B&B on Royal in the Marigny. Everybody was fantastic, and could finally have that part of me that was Southern without feeling shitty about it. There was Angie's 'Amazing Potato Salad' at the Funky Butt Club and beautiful young men playing effortless jazz they had to pass the hat for.

Thank you for the link about the bussing to the center of town instead of out. The Category 5 storm they were expecting would have surely been convenient if it had arrived--they had to have known what this would have meant, and they weren't thinking about the 'mere catastrophe' that would kill plenty, but leave others alive to tell all the stories, all the stories on them.

I am glad to hear you say that you think it may come back. The only 2 other American cities I love are LA and New York, but there is nothing like New Orleans--that anything could exist like it in America is nothing short of incredible. It's full of danger and full of heart, and that one definition of 'soul' that is the only one some of us are able to countenance anymore.
roger said…
Patrick, thanks for that comment -- it was just right. Just what I wanted to read, right now, at least.

I have to cool my anger at the moment and get on with my life, but this week has done something bad to me -- a microscopic badness in the whole swarming crowd of it, but a distinct badness nevertheless. I've sat and thought how I could help (beyond the money I'll give, and trying to get some organization to let me help in the coming weeks taking care of refugees), and it came down to writing things here just because I refuse to give in to the infamy that governs us -- starting with refusing to be demoralized by letting that infamy set the terms for my imagination. That refusal might not have the value of a widow's last fart, but it is what I have to give.
Patrick J. Mullins said…
Roger--my guess is that what we'll most likely see will be roughly parallel to what happened to Durrell's Alexandria after the hundreds of thousands of Greeks and Jews were gone. With a small part of old New Orleans left, the buildings of the Quarter and Garden District still mostly there, there will be something. But since the place had had to become so tourist-driven, the destruction of all that supportive surrounding city will mean it can't feel the same--and there wouldn't even be any sense in trying to 'return it to its original state,' which would be worse than leaving it bare (which they also won't do, needless to say.)
roger said…
Patrick, it is so hard to predict things at this point. I would guess that Baton Rouge will be Louisiana's biggest city ten years from now. Both Baton Rouge and New Orleans will be, as we know, on a spit of very small land, or simply islands, in a century's time, as the Mississippi changes course and we can't hold it back from the Atchafalaya any more. Although wierdly enough that might save Louisiana from falling into the Gulf entirely. But in my lifetime, at least, I think there will be more to the resurrection of NOLA than you might think.