Friday, August 25, 2006
Permanent Bathtub Ring Around NOLA
The result is that I'm impulsively posting my stories in no particular order. I'm not writing these offline; I'm just jamming on what catches my fleeting attention and running it out here. So excuse me if this has the air of loose and jangled nerves.
The picture above is one of the first I took in New Orleans. My sister showed me this lion sculpture that had been removed from the front of the house and put in the back yard. The enlargement is of a waterline on the chest of the lion. This was the first waterline I had seen in NOLA, the highwater marks left by the floods. I was strangely excited by this remnant, like I had found the secret signs of the now-hidden disaster. I had no idea yet what sights awaited.
This picture was taken on Tulane Ave. the day before I left NOLA. Yes, that line on the building is another waterline. For some reason these reminders struck me harder than all the photos of floodwaters in the weeks after the hurricanes. Perhaps it was because the water also hid what was below it. The STOP signs poking above the water and half submerged buildings were eerie and horrible but this line of demarcation was everywhere around the city. In some neighborhoods you had to look carefully. Repairs, scrubbing and paint had almost erased it but if you were observant, it wasn't difficult to see it on fences or on door jambs.
Here's a quote is from Chris Rose's 1 dead in attic: "Consider the sights, sounds and smells you encounter on a daily basis as you drive around a town that has a permanent bathtub ring around it. I mean, could somebody please erase that brown line?" I'm not sure whether people not native to NOLA get as much out of this book as I did. I know almost every location he mentions. I shopped at the stores he names. Most of it isn't the NOLA tourists know; it's the NOLA of people living there, of the daily round of everyday life.
As we come up on the anniversary of Katrina and Rita next Tuesday, I'm beginning to hear the insipid recaps of the events on the news. I doubt we'll hear much about a plan that could rebuild the delta marshes and provide a buffer against future hurricanes. This is called Coast 2050: Toward a Sustainable Coastal Louisiana. Pre-Katrina, its price tag of $14 billion seemed very large. It seems like a bargain now, the equivalent of about five weeks of the cost of the Iraq war and the "War on Terror". Certainly much less than the $110 billion spent on recovery of the area.
But we won't hear about that probably. We'll be given misdirection and blame and the amount of money spent and the number of FEMA trailers and statistics and footage of plucky Republican Rocky Vaccarella of New Orleans meeting with Prez. Bush. We'll hear about band-aids and reaction rather than proactive solutions to the loss of 1 million acres of wetlands in Louisiana over the last 100 years.
I think I'll go watch TV.