New Orleans

August 31, 2007

New Orleans and the Gulf Coast have been on my mind this week with the two year anniversary of Katrina. I still remember the surreal experience of watching with horror from Japan as the reality of the approaching storm became apparent. The shock, the sadness, the helplessness, the anger, and the worry in the days that followed. I remember waiting to hear news of friends and family. There was a small group of us in Okinawa who had connections and roots in the city. We got together at a restaurant one night soon after Katrina hit. Another surreal experience. A need to be with others who knew the city. New Orleans, even, in her post-Katrina wounded state, is a city with a strong personality. There aren't many places that actually feel like people to me, but New Orleans does. And having that human aspect to her means there is a complexity to her personality...things to love, to hate, to fear, to desire. And being overseas I felt an even stronger need to be with others who knew "her". We reminisced about our personal experiences in the city, we speculated about the future, we fretted about friends and family in the midst of the chaos, and we ate and drank beer.

And a few days later I flew to Louisiana (an already planned trip) and I suddenly went from being a bystander to being immersed as my family's home was hit by Hurricane Rita. Not the trip I had originally planned (to be in New Orleans for an opening of my father's and my grandfather's work), not the trip I had hoped (spending a month on the prairie with Noah and my family, not the trip I wanted (moving, evacuating, cleaning up, being surrounded by loss and panic), but a trip that nonetheless felt right. Instead of being halfway around the world and feeling disconnected and helpless, I was at home.

It made me sad to listen to Eve Troeh's recent piece on NPR. I met Eve last December and I remember how enthusiastic and dedicated she was to being in New Orleans. She also had a very personal and complex relationship with the city. These lines stood out for me
"Which is the real New Orleans? The one that's violent and desperate? Or the one that coos softly, and caresses me? The answer, of course, is both."

You can read or listen to her good-bye to the city here. A good-bye letter to a city because that's the kind of place New Orleans is...a very personal place.

I don't know what will happen to New Orleans, but I suspect that she will continue to be a spicy mix of a place, wounded, lashing out, limping along, seductive, comforting, and rough around the edges.
Anonymous said...

New Orleans has been "our" city for over 22 years. We are only visitors, tourists, observers, but we will continue to return and renew outselves in New Orleans' vibrant past, present, and future. New Orleans will come back - not in my life-time, but hopefully in yours. New Orleans is our favorite city, then, now and forever.
Mary McG
in TN

Ann said...

You guys are always so busy, but you always seem to have a great time.

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