Friday, January 20, 2006

Call Me Tina Turner, 'Cause I Live in Thunderdome


First and foremost, I apologize for not writing you all sooner. I promised to keep up with everyone, I seem to generally fail miserably at it. Just know I love you all and think of you often. I lack the time to eat and sleep properly, much less communicate with all my nearest and dearest.

I am alive, and more or less well. Shortly after getting back I got a terrible cold which lingered on for weeks. I am not sure if I caught it because a) my apartment had no heat upon my return or b) because the library also has no heat, or is not heated properly or whatever, but it’s goddamn freezing in here. Not to mention there are the germs of others. Yay germs! I also was assigned to do a sub and cite for my journal, by myself, consisting of 134 footnotes due in four days. For those of you who know not what a sub and cite is, it means you have to go check EVERY source the author uses and make sure they cited the work properly in both form and substance. Clearly, this job blows. And it meant I lived in the library – in the constantly cold, germ factory –so its perfectly understandable why I got sick. So when I wasn’t chained to the library I was in bed with my “Katrina Cough,” and hence have had no time to write.


I know, I know. You’re thinking, but enough about YOU, Texas, we want to know about the city. Well kids, it’s pretty much Shitsville U.S.A. down here. OK, well it’s slightly better than that, but things are pretty grim. I live in the enclave of uptown, near the river and though my street flooded rather badly, my house thankfully sustained minor damage. Every time I think I might forget things, I merely have to walk outside and see the 10 foot hole in the street or the trash in front of every house that seems to never be taken away. FEMA trailers also provide a break in the landscape peppering my neighborhood with their bizarrely gleaming, white bodies.

As far as goods and services, its pretty spotty. There’s just one grocery store that’s open and it has limited hours. We practically threw a party when a Walgreens re-opened in our neighborhood. Restaurants are generally closed by 8pm, so you really have to plan your eating. For gods sake, the one Wendy’s in town their drive through closes at 7pm. You best not get the late night munchies. I tried to go to Walmart the other day – but it closed at 5pm – and it was a Friday! My mom tried to ship me something via UPS, it was returned to her marked “Too hazardous to deliver”. Now that is just fucked up.

Bear in mind, these are the best parts of town.

As to the worst part of town, EZ and I went for a drive in the 9th Ward shortly after our return to NOLA. The devastation is unreal, no news program can adequately depict it.. Houses have floated off their foundation and slammed into one another. There are flooded out cars, overturned boats, and debris everywhere. I have no idea how the streets are passable. There are no residents around, hardly anyone at all in fact, just white tourists like us, driving through with out-of-state plates on their cars. The only residents we see are a couple in bio-hazard-like suits with masks trying to get into their home to retrieve some possessions and they stared at us hollowly as we passed. I can’t imagine how they feel.

I do have friends who lost everything, and its just so unbelievably sad. I have friends trying to fix their house and they can’t get anything done because they can’t find somebody to do the work, so they stay in their FEMA trailer. I don’t know how they get out of bed honestly. I remember reading this story a few years ago by a reporter in Iraq who was describing how there was always a flurry of wedding once the bombings stop. I always wondered how those people were able to carry on, and I’ve since learned that people just do. After a while all this stuff just drifts into the background and you factor it into your daily life. I've instinctively started to eat early, run errands in the morning, and make sure to carry bottled water with me to school so I don’t drink from the fountains. There’s no reason why or how you acclimate, that’s the thing, people just do.


People have made much of Ray Nagin’s “chocolate city” comments, but really, he has a point. Plenty of white people in my part of town would be thrilled if those in exile never returned. These are the same people who hired Israeli commandos to secure their homes (see the series in the New York times on this – I can’t make this shit up). Keep in mind that the 9th ward’s population got big relatively recently. And why is that you might ask? Allow me to summarize one of the events that gave that part of town a population boost.

The North end of my street used to house the black middle class, and was in fact a beautiful part of town. There used to be a huge “neutral ground” in that area or what you call a “median” in another part of the country. Our neutral grounds are quite wide, almost mini-parks, and this neutral ground on my street used to be filled with huge old trees and it was where the African American community met. What happened to it? They built a highway through it, destroying the community, further marginalizing the population. So where did many of those people end up? I’m sure you can guess. Read more here:
http://www.nola.com/unequalopportunity/index.ssf?/tp/frontpage/79550842.html
http://www.gnocdc.org/orleans/4/42/snapshot.html
http://www.gnocdc.org/orleans/8/22/snapshot.html

It’s no accident that the “worst” part of town also happens to be the least protected from ecological disaster. In environmental law we call this an issue of “environmental justice”.

I have to say that my favorite assessment of this whole situation comes from Christian right who’ve been proclaiming that God destroyed New Orleans because he hates fags, buggery, faggotry, et al. Allow me to point out that the French Quarter and the Marigny, aka the gayborhood, are all just fine. God loves fags maybe? Well, Lord knows I do, so he may as well get on my bandwagon.

If I sound angry, you’re right, I am. The State of the Union address didn’t even bother to make inadequate promises. Now that NOLA is no longer in the news everyday, we’re just a blip on the radar, and we got merely a passing nod from the president. I find it unbelievable that the American leadership can make promises to fix Iraq when we lack the attention span to fix this domestic mess. I don’t care which party you belong to, we should all be equally ashamed that this is the best out leadership can do.

A professor of mine recently said, “Democracy doesn’t insure good government, just the opportunity to do something about it if you fight hard enough.” I’m not sure where the fight even begins in this case.

Kiss my grits Federal Government.

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home