I’ve written so often that New Orleans is like a lost love I can’t bear to see again that it’s become a cliche, party of one. I haven’t been back since 2002, you see, and this year once again I couldn’t do it.
But that’s not really true. I visit my exes all the time (and not just because the Internet has made drive-bys a lot easier; you can do them on Facebook instead of having to have a car and be in the same town). I have to see for myself that they’re OK.If they aren’t, I just can’t handle it.
I had made tentative plans to go to New Orleans this year, though, and then the Deepwater Horizon well blew and oil saturated my beloved Gulf and I thought about a New Orleans with another haze of depression, tragedy, pain hovering over it, the threat of hurricane season not just possibly breaching levees that still, five years on, are not up to snuff, but pouring crude oil all over the city, coating still-devastated areas in toxic sludge far worse than the swampy cocktail that soaked into the city in August and September, 2005. Continue reading →
Five years ago, give or take a couple of months, I was in Denver at a concert on the Plea for Peace tour. I was a rock and film writer just cutting her teeth on her first political column, and it was 2004—the year when rock’n'roll banded together to try to get rid of Bush.
We failed. But you know that story. That night, though, Saul Williams performed, and he said something that has stuck with me for those five years, echoing in my head over and over again. Continue reading →
Four years. It’s a presidential term; it’s the length of a high school or college education.
It’s also the amount of time that has passed now since Hurricane Katrina swept across the Gulf Coast and devastated the city of New Orleans, driving thousands of citizens from their homes. Many still have not been able to return.
I spent four years of my life in New Orleans. They were four years that shaped me into the person that I am today. I learned about racism and I learned about jazz. I learned about poverty and class divisions, and I learned about real friendship. I learned what it was like to really fear your home being wiped out by a hurricane, and I learned what it was like to struggle to pay rent. I haven’t been back, but the city remains in my heart.
After the storm, many Americans opened their hearts (and in some cases, their homes) to New Orleans. We have a new president now, perhaps partly because Katrina exposed George W. Bush’s basic incompetence and lack of empathy. Those of us who have been paying attention have gotten quite an education from the government’s handling of Katrina, watching the initial fumble grow into four years of neglect.
By most accounts Hurricane Gustav was not nearly as bad as it could have been, and New Orleans appears to have been spared—though it was only after the winds and rains of Katrina had died down and we were celebrating the avoidance of a direct hit in 2005 that the levees sprung leaks and the city filled up like a bathtub.
Houma, Louisiana, a small city of around 195,000 people, 78% of them white, seems to have taken the most direct hit, and it says something about what we expected after Katrina that the man in the shelter in Shreveport, complaining of the lack of running water and cramped conditions, sounds like he’s whining. After all, he’s got a cot and bottled water, and that’s far more than anyone had in the Superdome or the Convention Center, right? Continue reading →