Story Time- Katrinaversary Blues: Of Resilience Tours, Carpetbloggers & Disaster Tourists

Image by Laura Bergerol.

This week, one of most read and commented upon posts, I’ve ever written at First Draft. It was written in anticipation of the 10th Katrinaversary. Tomorrow will be the 17th as well as the first Idaversary. Damn that looks like adversarial. That’s somehow fitting.

It’s not exactly a story post but that’s what I’ve been calling my Sunday blasts from the past since I started this feature. Oh well, what the hell.

The featured image is by the late Laura Bergerol. She was someone I met through social media and blogging. She was an excellent photographer and an even better human being. She was near the top of the list of people I wished I knew better. That’s no longer possible: Laura was a slow-motion victim of Hurricane Ida and died last year. This post is dedicated to her.

Repeat after me: Fuck Resilience.

Let’s set the Wayback Machine to August 24, 2015:

The hype behind the 10th anniversary of Katrina and the subsequent flood reminds me of a flock of turkey buzzards circling the city in search of carrion. I, for one, have no desire to be roadkill and plan to hide under the bed on Saturday 8/29. There are too many people with too many agendas who have seized that day, transforming it into a metaphor. All most of us have ever wanted is to get back to what passes for normality in New Orleans. I’d even take Gamaliel-style “normalcy” once I stop cringing…

After the water receded, there was a second inundation of people flooding into the city. Some were do-gooders, some were hipsters seeking the next trend, still others were here to make a buck. Very few of them understood the essence of New Orleans and what makes the city and its inhabitants tick. Many of them, especially on social media, have come up with an orthodoxy of what it means to be a New Orleanian. That has come to be known as copping a NOLAier than thou attitude, a swell phrase that was coined by Karen Dalton Beninato.  Some of the NOLAier than thou set seem to have spent way too much time watching Treme. Instead of a Cabaret, life is apparently a second line, old chum.

I mention the NOLAier than thou crowd because they, the local media, the boosterazzi, and the Landrieu administration seem to be the only New Orleanians who are intent on commemorating the Katrinaversary. The Mayor and other boosters are plugging the new, improved New Orleans, as opposed to the old and lousy version, I guess. Others think the City has gone to hell in a designer handbag since the storm. I’m somewhere in the middle BUT the fact that the Katrinaversary has its own logo and slogan is either deeply silly or obscene. I’m not quite sure which.

Katrina 10 logo

That’s what happens when your city is turned over to Yuppie gentrifiers, flacks, developers, and urban planners. Style long ago overtook substance in our recovery. City Hall is planning “resilience” tours by land, sea, and air. Hand to God, I am not making this up. I’m not sure who will take them except for the odd disaster tourist or carpetblogger. Welcome to Dizneylandrieu.

Here’s what some internet smart ass had to say about it on Twitter:

Now that I’ve robustly mocked the resilience tours, I must admit that we’ve come a long way from the flooded neighborhoods and rotting refrigerators of 2005.

Cajun Tomb, 2005.
Cajun Tomb, 2005. Photo by Dr. A.

I have a recurring dream about walking the streets when they were lined with dead fridges full of rotting food, surrounded by swarms of maggots. The stench was overwhelming. The mere thought of it still churns my stomach and I do not have a delicate digestive system. What I have is another Richard Thompson earworm:

I am dreading the influx of disaster tourists who will surely be showing up in town this week. Some of them will be sincerely motivated and others will be of the “I volunteered once with Habitat for Humanity after Katrina, so I know what it was like” variety. No, you don’t.

You don’t know what it’s like to be barred from your home for 6 weeks and have to sneak in like Dr. A and I did.

You don’t know what it’s like to have a bad case of survivor’s guilt because you didn’t fare as badly as other people in town.

You don’t know what it’s like to have to re-tell your “Katrina story” over and over again.

You don’t know what it’s like to be having dinner and have do-gooders burst in to save your pets because you didn’t, or couldn’t, wash the marks off your front door. Actually, neither do I but it happened to some friends of mine. It gives a whole new meaning to the phrase putting on the dog…

The aftermath of the storm was a very painful period in the lives of New Orleanians. We’ve lived it day-in and day-out for 10 years at varying levels of intensity. That’s why I’m not enthusiastic about rehashing those days regardless of whether it’s done by resilience tour types or the krewe of “we’ve gone to hell in a designer handbag.” I wish they’d all piss off and leave me alone. I’m not the only one who feels this way.

People have been in a very tetchy mood here all month. It’s made worse by all the disaster tourist journalists and carpetbloggers popping into town, taking our temperature, and putting their own spin on our story. That makes it their story, not ours. Once again, we live it every day, they’re just drive-by Katrina experts. Go bug somebody else and leave us alone.

The vile mood has spread to social media, especially NOLA Twitter. There have been a series of ugly flame wars where people question other people’s right to say anything about the storm. A woman of my online acquaintance was called an opportunist, ho, and, even worse, a newbie arriviste by some misogynist creep. Wrong. Her family came here with Bienville, as we like to say about the fine old families of New Orleans, and she rode out the storm at Tulane Hospital with a sick relative.

I don’t understand the impulse to put people down when you don’t know jack shit about them. Unless, that is, they’re running for office because that’s what I do. Of course, that’s kicking up. There’s a lot of kicking down going on right now. Those folks should be kicked in the balls and serenaded by the late Harry Nilsson:

Shorter Adrastos. I will do my damnedest to stop thinking about the impending visit of the Texas Napoleon to his Waterloo and all the activities that will draw disaster tourists, carpetbloggers,  looky-loos, and NOLAier than thou wannabes to town. I may have to stop mainlining Social Media, so I won’t spend the week in a state of constant aggravation. This will, hopefully, be my last word on Katrina 10. I plan to skip the resilience tours as well even though the flyover sounds kind of cool.

I originally planned to use this Winwood-Capaldi classic in the post title, but I didn’t want anyone to think I’m opposed to the NOLA smoking ban. It’s only smoke-free air but I like it. Put that in your pipe and smoke it: