Wednesday, August 31, 2005

I am nothing less than heartbroken by the aftermath of the hurricane. While I am mostly speaking of New Orleans and pining for it because I've spent time there, I speak just as much for the devastation elsewhere.

New Orleans, however, has it the worst right now because of the flooding and the people who are still trapped. I just can't get over the images of streets that I'm familiar with being half filled with water - some so much that canoeing is a better option than anything else. And the fact that the water is so polluted is frightening.

I'm sad that all the places we visited are in such disarray, and am even more sad for the denizens who have nowhere to go and are unsure where their other family members are.

New Orleans, while being one of the poorest cities in the nation, still had so much to offer in beauty, history, character and culture. To think that the guy with the telescope by Cafe DuMonde who took donations for star gazing has probably lost his gear, or that the merchants in the french market have lost all their wares, or the street artist their supplies...hell. I even feel sorry for the annoying mimes. Nobody deserved this. I think about the chance encounters with people we've met briefly on the street and talked to and wonder where they are and if they are ok.

In the three visits we had, we met a lot of nice people - most of them locals. We tended to not hang in the deliberately touristy areas although we did some touristy things. But what I'm getting at is I found many of the people were very nice, laid back, friendly. Everyone from the guy who shuttled us to our car to the bellboys to the bartenders had a story and a dream that they more often than not, freely shared with us.

This isn't something I come across in Chicago, where the pace is faster, people are tired, grumpy and scowling on the bus or train. I know that the major portion of New Orleanians aren't well off, but being not in the greatest shape myself, I can understand. Many of them just seemed to be more down to earth then the stuffy briefcase toting shirts that you wind up next to on the train. I'm quite tired of snobby yuppies, thanks.

That said, I've been watching the looting that is going on, and I have two trains of thought about it. Ok, so you're someone who couldn't leave and decided to ride out the storm. You may or may not have a house. You most likely have a family. You haven't eaten or drank anything for 2 days, and you're in a hot sticky climate surrounded by rising waters.

I can see where these people who are stealing food items, cases of pop, medicine, diapers, even shoes are doing so just to live. Rescues and relief efforts are in place, but going slowly. And for some, there's no telling when the rescuers will get to them. I don't have a problem with people who are stealing to survive. Where are they going to buy supplies? And with what money?

Now, the people who are looting stores and taking shit like plasma TVs, guns, jewelry, electronics, etc. THIS is fucking ridiculous. First of all, they don't need the shit, nor do they have anywhere too put it. Hell, they can't even sell it because who the fuck wants to buy a goddamn TV in the middle of a disaster zone? The guns - that's scary. The fucking looters who shoot at the police- they are the ones that need handcuffs, not the ones walking off with diapers. I cannot understand the mentality of someone who in a situation that is THIS bad decides that there is a need to be destructive. There is no excuse for this kind of greedy, self absorbed crap. All i can figure is they are doing this because they feel in some way entitled - which they aren't and the mere fact that they'd be willing to stoop to such animalistic behavior shows you that even if they had the money and material things they wanted they'd still be assholes.

You don't shoot at the people who are trying to help you, I don't care if you don't trust authority. maybe you've had reason to in the past, but this is a time to pull together, not to rend everything else apart. If you attack the people in charge of rebuilding, then they have every right to take aim at you. It's an entirely selfish kind of thing anyhow - you're slowing down the efforts to clean up and help other people like you who are in need by messing with the authorities.

My friend Patrice actually wrote MSNBC a letter about the fact that every time they show "looters" they are always black. Now, granted, New Orleans has a high african american population, and they unfortunately seem to be the ones who aren't as well off. That doesn't make them all "looters" (negative connotation). If you think there aren't any WHITE "looters", then there's some swampland in Biloxi that I can sell you. Yahoo's captioning of a picture even caused a mess along racial lines.

This is the last thing we need. We already have the lost, the sick, the dying, the starving, the disasterous landscape, the rising oil prices and the shut down of one of our major ports. the last thing we fucking need is racial tension. I thought our country was better than this, honestly.


We're likely going to donate something soon. Mike's talking blood because he's O-. Needles make me squeemish so i'll probably donate some kind of money/food/clothing depending on what's needed. I went back to my site (the original home of the Gothic toybox) which turned into my New Orleans page after our 2001 trip and put up links to disaster relief and have started uploading new and never before seen photos taken on other trips so people have something other than piles of rubble to look at.

Why do I get the feeling that someday when I'm old, I'll be like those people who lived through disasters like the Titanic who can remember every detail of the beauty before the tragedy. Even now, I can remember how the sidewalk on one end of Decatur is worn enough that the bricks are somewhat concave compared to the mortar, and how rainwater collects in the divets. I remember the greasy smell of beignet and the powdery grit of sugar that sticks to your mouth so that you need a sip of milk - and how fugly the pigeons were around Cafe DuMonde. I remember equally the smells of Bourbon Street - a mixture of urine, vomit, horse poop and beer as well as the heavenly odors pouring out of Rita's - which sold us on the food by smell alone. I recall easily the warm rush of humid air that you get going from air conditioning to the hot summer streets and how you can actually feel yourself start to glisten after a few moments outside. I can hear the noise and bustle on the busy streets - Canal, Bourbon, Royal - people working and people traveling. Laughing, trying to dupe the dumber tourists, the singing of the street performers echoing out from the front of the Hurwitz Mintz antique shop across from Hotel Monteleone.

I remember the utter silence in the cemeteries except for the drops of a passing rain on the monuments and the occasional slight breeze. I remember my eyes burning from the sheer brightness of the sun, so much that a nap in a dark place was necessary, and how there was a calm to the evening air after dark.

The moon through a telescope - so close that I can see the sea of tranquility. A tarot reader who got in conversation with us and hadn't heard of the Lord of the Rings Very Secret Diaries. The shuttle driver who wanted to start his own record label. The first few people trcking down Bourbon street in the early morning as I watch from my 6th floor window. The Whirling Dervish playing Under the Milky Way by the Church - a one hit wonder I hadn't heard in years and now a song I associate with a more joyful place and time.

Sometimes when this place gets kind of empty
Sound of their breath fades with the light
I think about the loveless fascination
Under the Milky Way tonight

Lower the curtain down on Memphis
Lower the curtain down all right
I got no time for private consultation
Under the Milky Way tonight

Wish I knew what you were looking for
Might have known what you would find

And it's something quite peculiar
Something shimmering and white
Leads you here despite your destination
Under the Milky Way tonight

Wish I knew what you were looking for
Might have known what you would find
Wish I knew what you were looking for
Might have known what you would find

Under the Milky way tonight..
Under the Milky Way tonight...
Under the Milky Way tonight...


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