NOLA Impressions

I’ve been having a bit of a difficult time finding my inner voice speaking on anything definitive to say about New Orleans my third time down since the storm. So I’ve decided to just write some impressions. Of course I am coming at this from the outside and I welcome anyone from NOLA raising their voice to this.

When I come here to New Orleans, I try to see and hopefully feel what has changed and not changed from the previous 6 months. I plan to do this every 6 months for as long as this takes and I guess that would be until oh say I pass from this earth and take my little space in whatever circle of hell will be reserved for the heathen bloggers.

There is progress and that needs to be said. I have seen construction in Lakeview occurring and some homes completely rebuilt. But certainly not large numbers. In the 9th ward progress weirdly enough is largely measured in destruction so far. At 6 months I saw huge piles of debris and broken shells of homes. At 12 months much of the debris was removed and homes still remained. This times many homes have been bulldozed and what remains are cement steps and empty grown over lots. Of course many destroyed homes still remain. And yes there are still large areas of other neighborhoods that are simply empty gutted homes. There is so terribly much to be done.

There are many more businesses open from when I first visited a year ago. It feels as though there are more people and also tourists in the French Quarter. When I flew in this time, the plane was packed and many were tourists. On the first trip down there were possibly 25 people and it felt terribly grim on board that plane. This trip felt sort of normal.

I’m compelled to take a stab at this because it was so striking a year ago and that is that when I got here that first time about a year ago, in just a matter of a few hours, I was struck by the Uncertainty. It seemed everywhere, encompassing everything. It was appalling from a psychological standpoint and I wondered…no worried…how can people live with that day in and day out. I wondered if that had changed. This time and ok I may sound like Don Rumsfeld in trying to explain this impression but… I don’t think that there is any less Uncertainty. Some things may be known now such as where your children attend school this year. I heard someone at the blogger party say, Remember last year we were all wondering and talkng about FEMA maps and who’s thinking about that now…not (m)any. One thing may drop off a bit but there’s always something else like say defective pumps. It’s a new one to add to the Uncertainty heap. What feels different is that I don’t think there is less Uncertainty but that people are Certain about the Uncertainity. It just seems here to stay like someone who has parked their fat ass on your couch and won’t leave the party at the end of the night. Only this is no party, it’s everday life. And I don’t know if it better or worse but my point is it feels different. Certain Uncertainty.

What progress there is, it must be said, comes from the hard work of individuals and small groups. Anyone who thinks the people living in this city are sitting around waiting for a handout and someone to do it all for them is really just plain bat shit crazy. People are working hard at recovery and keeping their lives going. It is amazing when you talk with people to hear of all the things on their plate of life. Oh hell Plates. It reminds me of those plate spinners one would see on the Ed Sullivan show. (boy did I just date myself) There is work, kids, spouse, friends, destroyed home, home in various stages of repair, insurance company problems, SBA loans, lawsuits, finding or waiting for a good contractor, paperwork, levees, pumps, the approaching hurricane season, planning meetings, the seemingly abandoned car nudging your driveway, shootings. It just goes on and on. Yet people keep on. It’s hard work and anyone thinking otherwise can suck it in my opinion.

I often see and hear comments saying New Orleans is screwed or fucked or some variation of hopelessly gone and dead. I don’t believe that and if you were here neither would you. This didn’t have to be so damn hard. It didn’t have to be so frustratingly slow. But man don’t blame the people living here on this ground. The people here are fighting. It is one hell of a fight but things are happening here even if ever so slowly. Just don’t be so deluded as to think it is your government leading the way. No it is the People. They need help and it is Not OK here. Not by a long shot. Just don’t forget these Americans.


8 thoughts on “NOLA Impressions

  1. Great post–and re: Certain Uncertainity, Donald Rumsfeld can’t hold a candle to you and the positive things you’ve done.
    Actually–and I gave this some thought before referencing–it sounds more like Heisenberg. And while his ethics are still being discussed, there’s no doubt as to his brilliance.
    I also felt somewhat ok to cite him because it was Tony Kushner–yes, the playwright–who first mentioned Heisenberg and the Uncertainty Principle to me (Tony was actually a middle school/high school teacher of mine…long story, won’t bore you with the details).
    Also–I sent an email to you this morning per your comment.

  2. Thanks, Scout! Your second-to-last large paragraph nails it. It is hard work, but work that needs doing for New Orleans, for an American city, for ourselves.

  3. Scout, my friend, you’ve got it right. Here’s what I said in the comments to my own post on our trip:
    “But we need to do more, much more. Dammit! They’re citizens of this country and they deserve better than they’re getting. Which city in the country will be written off next?”
    No one is sitting around waiting for handouts. The folks are living their every day lives, coping with family, jobs, plus a staggering number of complications and roadblocks as they strive to recover.

  4. Thanks Scout, and thanks First Draft. We’re so appreciative of your steadfast efforts here in New Orleans.
    Let’s both “Press On” together.

  5. if i had the ability, i would love to help. sadly, i have not the ability or the $.
    i may have my sorrow, but i at least can say, it cold be worse. i could be from new orleans. and i just hate georgie and dickie more.
    i sure hope if a democrat wins in 09′, this is actually delt with.
    a pox on the bushevics. A POX I SAY.

  6. I’m a former New Orleanian – Gentily – I live on the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain now. I thank you for your kind reminder to remember us.
    I do not, however, believe that the people of this nation are in much of a remembering mood at present. Even president Bush (though this is hardly surprising) called New Orleans “that part of the world” as if he had forgotten that is really “that part of the U.S.A.”.
    I was evacuated to Portland, OR and lived there for one year. Portland is a wonderful, forward thinking city, but even there I ran into the “Why did you build your city in a swamp? (We didn’t) and “Why should I help rebuild your city in a swamp?” mentality; Even though these questions are born out of pure and often willful ignorance, I must admit, they are still questions I find hard to argue with at times.
    Unfortunately, my strongest impression is that if another hurricane strikes here during this season or next, the majority of the country will demand that this old city be abandoned and allowed to drift off into the sea.
    I hope I’m wrong – this place is unique in all the world.

  7. Your voice seems fine Scout, just fine. It’s ridiculous that more is not being done.
    I think that your blogging, your reporting, dammit, is creating a baseline for future action to be taken, nay, demanded, by the American People, if they can just get the picture into focus. That’s what you are doing, and it’s really important that we can somehow paint that picture for a larger audience. You’ve got your video’s and photo albums and a whole slew of posts on Katrina, maybe you need to distill it into a multi-media production of some sort, a movie or an “Inconvenient Truth-New Orleans” presentation.
    Something that puts it all together, hell maybe you could use it as a fundraiser, maybe the Dems could latch onto it, for a decent price for your time and effort, and use it to beat Bush and Lott and the rest of the miserable GOP over the head with.
    Just thinking, you’ve done a lot of work, you’ve gotten a lot of experiences, and you’ve developed a pretty impressive network, we need to figure out the next step here, is what I’m thinking.

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