Tuesday, March 27, 2007

American Apocalypse

I went to a small coastal town on the west side of New Orleans yesterday. The 5 hour drive from Montgomery Alabama was awesome. I listened to NPR on different affiliate station as I maneuvered my way along the Gulf Coast from I-65 south to I-10 West crossing the Pearl River into Louisiana and then to I-12 West towards my destination. The roads were fairly clear and patrolled heavily by troopers. I only hit light congestion outside of Slidell. After finding my destination and completing my task (Ok, a job interview) I figured that a quick stop off in New Orleans for a couple of hot Beignets and a cup of coffee complete with chicory would be great. I would not get either.

I went on my honeymoon in the Big Easy in 1994. New Orleans was vibrant and multicultural with its French décor, wrought iron fences and people with their thick Cajun accents. The smell of boiled crawfish and Creole spice was everywhere. The sound of Jazz filled the humid autumn air as my new wife and I walked down Canal Street making a right on Bourbon Street. We were both transfixed by this wonderful city. There were sidewalk cafés with chalkboards filled with the day’s special in colorful chalk. Their alfresco tables were adorned with white linen tablecloths, silverware and napkins as waiters weaved their way between customers filling empty water glasses. I fell in love with this place called New Orleans. However I would only visit it one other time and that was yesterday.

On my way into New Orleans I couldn’t help notice street after street of boarded up buildings, destroyed homes, and my personal complete sense of loss. There were buildings with marks that showed where the water level was after the levees broke. There were large trucks hauling debris up and down the roadways. There was a military presence. Listening to the radio (between the conciliatory ads from Allstate Insurance Company and the numerous calls for volunteers for the recovery effort) I realized that New Orleans was now the murder capital of the U.S. That fact alone did not scare me. The fact that rats were everywhere did not scare me. The fact that this disastrous event that scattered a population of people, deluged a city by a Biblical flood and showed that we were not ready and could never be ready for something on the scale of Hurricane Katrina…scared me senseless. (There are no pictures that could actually show the complete destruction or recovery, be mindful this is almost two years later) Once I got my eyeful of sadness and with my belly growling I exited the city and headed back to Montgomery Alabama.


1 comment:

Sheila said...

After seeing what you did, are you still interested in the job? Thanks for sharing the experience. I, too, love New Orleans or maybe the old New Orleans. My son and daughter-in-law were there a few months ago for a conference and found the French Quarter restaurants and hotels up and running where they enjoyed their visit. I know it must have been terribly sad to see a city you love in such a fix.