I wanted to pick up that book to read for about the 98th time this weekend, but I knew it would make me sad. Of course, I would have laughed a lot, too. People always think of that book as such a rollicking comedy masterpiece, and it is, but it's also bittersweet. As such, it's the perfect New Orleans novel. The spirit of New Orleans has always been joy wrapped up with misery, decadence with death. I was thinking last night that New Orleans is like life squared. Just about anything to want to think of, you can find to the extreme in New Orleans: great music, food, art, and hedonism of all sorts, as well as shocking poverty, misery, crime, and death. And out of that you get this energy that's like no other in the world: that feeling that everything is just about to bubble over.
Well, everything finally did bubble over, and it's a fucking shame. I don't know if it could have been prevented, but it sure doesn't look like they did much to prevent it. I've been hearing for twenty years that New Orleans would eventually sink even without this sort of flooding, and I heard very little about any sort of prevention. I dunno. It sucks.
And I just don't know how it's ever going to come back. Those buildings are FUCKED. Those people are DOUBLE FUCKED. And I hear people talk about the spirit of the city, which has always been pretty formidable. But I haven't heard much of that from the people I've seen on the news in the last week--not that I can blame them. The people I've heard have said they're not going back. What would they go back to? And even if money pours in and the city is rebuilt, what's it going to be like--Creole Disney? Motherfuck that. I don't know--it just seems like that spirit is broken. After 9/11, we saw New York and the nation pull together. You had all that support of the firefighters and police. It's totally different this time. Whatever trust remained between the citizens and the authorities seems to be gone, and both sides are to blame.
Almost a year ago, I said I didn't want to live in a world with no New Orleans. Well, now it looks like we all might have to. Rats.
And yes, I'm aware that I'm mourning a city when there are thousands of actual individuals to think about--those dead, dying, and displaced. And believe me, I'm thinking about them too. The loss of the city just happens to be what I'm trying to wrap my brain around at this point. And that doesn't even get into the rest of the gulf coast, which also affects me pretty deeply and which has been largely forgotten since New Orleans flooded. There's no shortage of things to focus on. Blearrgghh. It's all so unfathomable.
Anyway. Bless all you folks who are helping out, from giving money to buying clothing to volunteering at shelters to whatever else you can do. That is one thing that definitely gives me hope.
Oh hey, check out my good friend dangerpest's Ignatius cartoon. Thumbs up, my man.
As the ambulance passed, Ignatius hunched over and saw "Charity Hospital" printed on its door. The rotating red light atop the ambulance splashed over the Renault for a brief moment as the vehicles passed each other. Ignatius felt insulted. He had expected a massive barred truck. They had underestimated him in sending out an old, well-used Cadillac ambulance. He would easily have been able to smash all of those windows. Then the glowing Cadillac fins were two blocks behind them and Myrna was turning onto St. Charles Avenue.
Now that Fortuna had saved him from one cycle, where would she spin him now? The new cycle would be so different from anything he had ever known.
Myrna prodded and shifted the Renault through the city traffic masterfully, weaving in and out of impossibly narrow lanes until they were clear of the last twinkling streetlight of the last swampy suburb. Then they were in darkness in the center of the salt marshes. Ignatius looked out at the highway marker that reflected their headlights. U.S. 11. The marker flew past. He rolled down the window an inch or two and breathed the salt air blowing in over the marshes from the Gulf.
As if the air were a purgative, his valve opened. He breathed again, this time more deeply. The dull headache was lifting.
He stared gratefully at the back of Myrna's head, at the pigtail that swung innocently at his knee. Gratefully. How ironic, Ignatius thought. Taking the pigtail in one of his paws, he pressed it warmly to his wet moustache.