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.