Our Lady of the Driveway

She was standing at the entrance of somebody’s driveway, as we drove past looking for the spot where the levees broke and the water came rushing past. Scout would know the precise name of it, the name of the street: we drove around today for two hours looking at places she’d been and I’d never imagined. Mary, full of grace, with her head cracked off and put back on, and all the broken places showing.

What you don’t want, what you aggressively don’t want, when you’re going through something, is some comfortably situated loudmouth telling you they know exactly what you’re going through. Misery hates company. Misery hates shallowness more. Misery hates, above all, being lectured at. We came to put our hands to use places where they could be used. I came, having been here as a child only once and only briefly (there was a doll shop, and a doll with a purple hat with ostrich feathers, and the raised graves concerned me, is all I remember). The light is different and the streets are narrow and everything smells sweet, like something baking, and this is what we saw, around the city, today.

People communicated through markings on houses, a code: who was here, when, what they found and what they left. A dog is trapped, in black spraypaint. No pets, in green. One body, marked in red. People painted their own street signs, because nobody else did it and it had to be done. In the Lower 9th Ward, there are electrical cables lying across the road ways. There is a house sitting on a car.

There were tourists on the plane, necks wrapped with beads, drunk and silly and out for a good time. The plane was full, the Quarter crowded. A five minute drive away and it’s a ghost town. Two men sitting on a blue porch on a street called Forstall (which makes me think fore·stall [fohr-stawl, fawr-] verb, to prevent, hinder, or thwart by action in advance; to act beforehand with or get ahead of; anticipate) wave at us as we drive past. They once lived on a block of houses. They’re all alone now, other houses in the 9th having been torn down. Weeds creep up past the level of the stoops that still stand there, ivy reclaiming the debris.

The school’s fence is crushed like a giant stepped on it. The house behind Mary, the windows were blown out, broken glass everywhere. The Lord is with thee. She’s standing watch, blessed among women, her and the kid with the visor and stop sign warning us that there’s road work ahead and to turn back.

More tomorrow, or later tonight.


18 thoughts on “Our Lady of the Driveway

  1. Children of Men of New Orleans

    While canvassing with Common Ground last month, I wandered briefly through Joseph A. Hardin Elementary in the Lower 9th Ward. It was a sad and lonely place, untouched since the storm. Then last week, while watching Children of Men for…

  2. Children of Men of New Orleans

    While canvassing with Common Ground last month, I wandered briefly through Joseph A. Hardin Elementary in the Lower 9th Ward. It was a sad and lonely place, untouched since the storm. Then last week, while watching Children of Men for…

  3. Have you heard. According to Google, none of this has happened! They’ve pulled the new imagery of New Orleans and gone back to the pre-Katrina stuff. Maybe they’ll put back the World Trade Center too.

  4. many years ago, i sold a very old book about love to a NOLA person. i wonder about the book and what it went through(special book as it was from my all time favorite estate sale) and i just got my 2nd NOLA bid. on a vintage crumber my grandma hoarded. bidder said she had lots of crumbs. i want to ask more.
    i did try and convey…hope. i hope.
    and cheer.

  5. It still looks like that because it’s being “fixed” by ordinary folks on their own dime, or, more likely, volunteers, college kids on breaks who wish to serve. It still looks like that because Bush won’t lift the Stafford Act to set free the flow of relief dollars. It looks like that because, while most of us can imagine how bad it is, there is no way to imagine how vast it is, without seeing it go on and on and on and on and on.

  6. Your words are plain yet poetic. Beautiful.
    Looking forward to meeting ya’all Saturday night.
    Thanks for coming down.

  7. Why does it still look like this?
    19+ months later, in the richest country in the world, and the Gulf Coast still languishes, New Orleans still looks the same as it did after the waters withdrew (large parts of it, anyway).
    It’s not just the President who sucks. This is a democracy. This is the responsibility of the people.
    God bless you for being there, for helping. To even say “I would if I could” is shameful. You are there for me, in some way. You are there because I should be.
    As Jon Stewart said last night: imagine if all that money we’d spent on the military had gone to other things, like, say, levees? Once we understood the value of people in parts of the country not in California or the BosWash. May we come to understand their value again.
    God be with you. Whether you believe in it, or not, you are doing God’s work. I am glad to know you all, even if only in this limited, virtual way.

  8. Profound.
    The second picture? I can’t think of a better representation of what the United States has become in the past 6 years.

  9. Looking forward to seeing all of y’all, myself. Anyone who’s doing what you are doing is gonna need a night among friends, with good food and drink.
    Like Ms Sophmom says, see ya Saturday at Dangerblond’s.

  10. The shame of it is that school has a kitchen in it that could feed thousands of volunteers or workers, and in two to five years of not being maintained, it’ll be declared unsalvagable and razed.
    Our president sucks.
    He just plain sucks.

  11. I went down there last April to film the lower 9th as part of a work assignment; when I finally got into the ward, after driving along an avenue that was like a crescendo of wreckage as you got closer to the lower 9th, I froze for a good ten minutes. Couldn’t even pick up my camera.
    If you haven’t been there, you don’t know what it’s like – surrounded by damage, 360 degree devastation.

  12. I wandered around inside that school last month while doing some canvassing with Common Ground. It’s very heartbreaking. A lot of the Back To School decorations from August 2005 are still hanging up on the walls. Waterlogged and fading and rotting, but still there, untouched since the Friday before the storm.

  13. Beautifully said. I’m glad y’all had a safe trip and that you’re there to tell the story. See ya Saturday at Dangerblond’s.

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