When the Witch of September Comes Early.

I wish I could second DaveJ’s optimism regarding New Orleans, but I can’t. And everyone of my aquaintance knows I am the perpetual ray of sunshine in the midst of any disaster. When Ivan hit here, for example, there was destruction of a magnitude I’ve never imagined being a part of. But there were plenty of things still standing. Plenty of foundations to build on. Plenty of roofs torn up, but fixable. The views of New Orleans don’t hold that same ‘we’ll go from here’ promise. When a wall comes down, a roof flies off or, God forbid, your house is wiped from it’s slab, you can put up a new one. Your neighbor may well still have his house, his roof, something standing around you. Even in Grand Lagoon, the complete devastation held out hope. But miles and miles of houses underwater. Damn. A roof goes, you put it back on. Your house floods to the eaves, it has to come completely down. Your roof goes, your neighbor still has his. Your house floods to the eaves, so does your neighbor’s. And his neighbor’s, and so on, for miles. All those roofs peeking above the waters are houses that may as well have been flattened. They are just as gone, even though standing. All those MILES of houses.
The looters in the city will shortly be turning that city into an island of savages. The city administration has said to every resident ‘get out’. EVERY resident. Well, they can’t. And shortly, as you try on your new Nikes, you’ll realize that the 46 inch TV you just stole can’t be eaten. But your neighbor hit the Robert’s supermarket. He has food and something to drink. And you’ll be going to get it. God Almighty, I can’t imagine it. Two weeks to get just the water out. Before anything can even start go in. The human toll will be beyond imagining.
Essential to the human condition is hope. I know that. I know there’s hope that New Orleans will rise from this. The skyscrapers still stand. The new stuff. But the Bywater, the Marigny and the little ratty parts of the city I love are irrevocably tied to those ramshackle houses; now, those roofs lined up like stepping stones across a brook. You can rebuild…something there. But you can’t replace it. Or the people who opened their arms to us.

6 Responses to “When the Witch of September Comes Early.”

  1. Lisa says:

    I know, ths. I’ve been obsessively clicking on hundreds of pictures all day, and all I can think of is “Where is the water going to go?”
    When Andrew hit, there was dry land. Nothing ON it, mind you, but it was land and they could put new things there, i.e., refugee camps, Red Cross stations, insurance claims stations, etc. Even in Biloxi and Gulf Shores, there’s still LAND.
    But in New Orleans, nothing. No place for the Red Cross, no place for the military, nothing. I can’t imagine what they’re going to do.

  2. Buddy of mine lives and has a little photography studio down on Desire, hope his stuff is up in the rafters of his “shotgun” house. Maybe those old Cypress-wood doors will hold-up. Otherwise at least with old-time photo-tech it’s basic: you need darkness which comes nightly, and basins of fluids to soak the paper in.

  3. Dave J says:

    Optimism, me? Usually, yes, but now I don’t know. I said I thought New Orleans would bounce back eventually, somehow. But I also said I think it’s going to get MUCH worse before there’s ever a chance of it getting better. I just don’t know what to say anymore.

  4. My heart is sinking as I watch the coverage, I checked a map where my college buddy had his house it’s a district called Faurbourg Marigny right next to the French Quarter and it’s surely just one of those rooftops – four blocks from the Mississippi and about twelve from the intercoastal waterway.
    Maybe all this water can wash-away all the old-time corruption and civic misdeeds.

  5. I hope you hear good news. Aw Keith ~ we know the Marigny well and love it. Our favorite restaurant is on Decatur; always dinner there our first night in town. It, along with the Bywater district next door, is a wonderful, old, moldy, eclectic place. Run down enough that’s it’s full of artists, writers and tres peculiar individuals because it’s still accessible housing. Well, was. We’ve always felt incredibly lucky that our first experiences with the city were in the historic outskirts, not the French Quarter tourista thing. Makes all the difference in the world. That’s the New Orleans I posted about.
    The picture in Bingley’s post below was taken just east of the Bywater looking back at downtown in the distance and broke our hearts. We know almost every block there by the braille method.

  6. I went there first for Mardi Gras – another guy and me made a break from UCSC during mid-terms in ’79 – one hella long bus-trip down California and all the way across. That’s another story, sleeping in flop-houses and doing day-labor. More recently at a conference that my wife’s work paid for (me to come along with her). Chris was doing ok for a low-key guy in a funky poor neighborhood shootin’ pictures – costs were low so he could afford to set up the studio on Desire. We knew each other from photography besides, and I shot some of the pictures for his website. He had a beat-up old POS Bronco-II with a busted door. Regular guy, pretty much a survivor. I expect he’ll bounce-back – hard not to when you lose everything but it wasn’t worth all much to start with.

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