To answer Ken Sumka’s question from a few days ago, I told Tessa the day Katrina hit that every paper would have this headline. Two days later, only the Brits had thought of it, so it appears that we are getting older and nobody remembers our little novelty songs anymore.
This has to be one of the worst weeks in the news in recent history: to wit, 1000 people were trampled to death in Baghdad, and Hurricane Katrina is turning out to be the most devastating natural disaster we’ve ever known, soon to trump the 1906 earthquake in San Francisco.
This is a perfectly dreadful time to get political, and while Bush has no control over the weather, all I really wanted him to do was act Presidential. In fact, I’m desperate for him to do so, but instead, we got this picture yesterday:
And that’s not all. I mean, I know this is going to enrage the conservatives who frequent this blog, and I can hear the chorus of “you’ll blame the Republicans for anything” and all that shit, but the facts show that Bush systematically railroaded and under-funded every attempt to fix the system of dykes and levees around New Orleans. They cut New Orleans flood-control funding 44% to pay for Iraq, and the National Guard is busy getting blown up in the Middle East, thus there weren’t enough troops to stop the looting and help find survivors.
Shit, why do I even bother finding those links? It’s all too unbelievably sad. I lived through September 11th with my girlfriend-now-wife Tessa in downtown Manhattan, and I’m here to tell you that this is way worse. In the final tally, almost as many people will have died, and the blow to America’s history – and culture – is incalculable.
God loves to kill poor people, and this disaster was no exception. The two neighborhoods I lived in for a short while – the French Quarter and the upper Garden District – were largely spared, but the poor parts of the Ninth Ward – pronounced “nite woid” if you met someone from there – are under water.
[Quick digression… the true Cajun accent sounds exactly like a very ugly Brooklyn dialect. The Acadians – refugees from France and then Nova Scotia – settled in two places during the 18th century, around New York City, and in the bayous of the Gulf Coast (some of them stayed in Maine, hence “Acadian National Park”). “Acadian” became “Cajun” down south, and the two peoples evolved very differently, but the accent remained the same. My old girlfriend from Bay St. Louis, Mississippi sounded exactly like a cab driver from Flatbush.]
With all the people dead, homeless and suffering, it seems hopelessly self-involved to bemoan your own loss, but New Orleans was truly a place where I first felt freedom in all its guises, where anything could happen, and later on, when I had some money, it usually did. God, the architecture was so beautiful – you could wander down the wrong street and yes, you might get your ass kicked, but the shotgun houses lining the roads were so heartbreakingly cool. Even the ones in disrepair just made you want to spend a year there fixing them. Now those blocks are gone.
at Audubon Park last year – I have no idea what is there now
We should have been more prepared than this. If this is any indication how America will respond to large disasters, man-made or from nature, then we’re going to have to get really good at kissing certain towns goodbye. What the hell have we been doing for the last four years?
Now comes the big questions on whether or not to rebuild – some people think the entire city should be abandoned forever. Even if you do fix it, who would insure a city lying so far below sea level? I say that’s bullshit. If we can grow babies in petri dishes and record quasars from the Big Bang, we can sure as fuck rebuild New Orleans and devise a pump system that can withstand a Category 5 storm. A category 6 storm even, god dammit.
I’m in absolute mourning, and I’m done blogging for the week. Why did a storm have to take away such a wonderful place? How is New Orleans under water and yet Dallas sits pretty? Up the East Coast, in Atlanta and Charlotte, rumors of “America is out of gas” is causing panic, with cars snaking around the block. Since 9/11, we have always waited for the other shoe to drop, but perhaps it is a huge shoe that gently drops for years. I was reminded of the brilliant line from Marlowe, when Dr. Faustus asks the Devil how he got out of hell. “Why, this is hell,” the Devil replies, “nor am I out of it.”
Michael Jordan hits gamewinner against Georgetown, New Orleans Superdome, 1982
me and Tessa at Saints game in the Superdome ten months ago
refugees in the Superdome yesterday
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