Wednesday, August 29, 2007

POST #100

As some of you may know my wife and I evacuated New Orleans 2 years ago today at 4 a.m. with a small trailer full of miscellaneous possessions bound for Austin Texas prior to the landfall of hurricane Katrina. I wrote about it and posted pictures on last years anniversary here. We went back 5 weeks after the storm to collect our belongings, and we haven't been back since. Part of me wants to go back and see my favorite city in the world, but another part of me is afraid it will hurt too much. I've gotten to spend a total of 3 years of my adult life in New Orleans, maybe that's all I get. But I know that no place will ever hold a bigger piece of my heart.

New Orleans in character is not an American city, it is a city colonized by the Americans.

New Orleans is more than drinking, parades and tits. For me it was bootcamp for the soul. I learned about music, culture, diversity, racism, poverty, suffering, beauty, history, strange insect species (stinging caterpillars and flying termites), corrupt politics, inept local government, crooked police, avoiding drunken tourists, street smarts, good food, commercialism, exploitation, humanity, laissez faire, old money, high society, drive thru daquiri stands, counterculture, subversive behavior, spiritual discovery, jazz funerals, hustling and how to drink all night without having a hangover the next morning. You can learn these lessons anywhere I suppose, but not in the concentrated fashion New Orleans can offer.

For those who have never lived there it's hard to understand the culture, the Society, and the geography of the city. It's easy to have an opinion, but it takes more effort to have an educated opinion. Effort that some Americans are not willing to put forth due to the commercially driven media blitz newschannel culture beamed into their brains every night. It's easier to react emotionally than think logically and unfortunately it seems that a lot of us are prone to take the path of least resistance in our lives and our thinking.

I've suffered through a lot of ignorant opinions over the past 2 years when the issue of Katrina comes up.

heres a few of my favorites, (mind these things were said AFTER I told them I was an evacuee)

"they need to just fill that place up with concrete, so it's above sea level"

"It's been over 6 months, theres nothing on the news about it anymore so everything is allright, right?"

"I lived in Florida all my life, hurricanes are part of life, those people need to get over it"

"The Blacks will do anything to play the race card"

"President Bush is just doing his best"

" Why didn't the people stuck on the bridge just walk to high ground"

Of course these are all ludicrous statements and questions but the people that made them didn't think so and that says a lot to me.

The lessons of Katrina are not over. Regardless of your politics or who you want to blame for mismanagement of the relief efforts, the essence of the issue remains:
The people of New Orleans were abandoned for a week and it was televised.
Most of the Louisiana national guard was off fighting an unpopular war in Iraq.
The president was on vacation for the first two days of the tragedy.
The levees didn't work.
The levees won't work if this happens again.
What does this all say about our culture and our society? What does it say about our value system? What does it say about you or I.

My wife and I were very fortunate through all this, we were able to salvage roughly half of our belongings, and we had a supportive network of family and friends that helped us emotionally and financially in our time of need. The red cross proved to be a vital resource to us, as was Fema. We were also blessed by the kindness of strangers over and over again........For this I am extremely grateful, and I will do my best to payback Karma.

there is more I'd like to write but I got some deadlines to meet and i type painfully slow.

I'd love to answer any questions and discuss this in the comment section so please comment away.


Marion said...

I'm really sorry and speechless reading all this.
Must have been a nightmare for you and your wife.
Half of Holland is also below sea level, but fortunately we don't live in the hurricane-zone....:-)

Brett W. Thompson said...


Excellent post!

Danielle. said...

Man, thanks. Seriously. People are the most ignorant assholes about the storm, its preceedings, and the aftermath. I don't think enough people say enough things about it. We got Spike Lee, a year ago, releasing his documentary to HBO... that's one thing. CNN this weekend, has done commemorative documentation on NOLA "today", but still, the scope is much, much wider than anyone can fathom, because ao many other people like you and Tamara are out there, but not necessarily capable of forcing people to just understand. People have the capacity to observe what happened, but not so much the capacity to listen or understand and that's what still, to this day, pisses me off the most. It's not you. It's the majority of Americans just simply do not carry within them the humanity or capacity to grasp something bigger than themselves. Some people will argue with me on that-- but all I gotta ask is what the fuck did you do in 2006 to help Katrina victims? I'll likely be met with confusion. Blah.

Anyway. Yeah, I know we SORT of discussed this before. NOLA was a part of my growing up, where I was from. It's still like a weird scab, although I can't claim it as my own, not having lived within the city proper, or any of its parishes. All the same, my home state was mowed over by the storm and the government's ineptitude, so a wee bit of solidarity is found here, whether I was physically there or not on August 29th, 2005.

Me! said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Me! said...

i JUST watched 1/2 of spike lee's documentary. it blew me away, i had NO idea. I mean im sort of cut off from a lot, having rejected television, i NEVER watch the news. I remember up here in toronto we had a lot of food/clothing/money drives to send support. My best friend also adopted a rescue dog from new orleaans, her name is blue, and she has serious seperation anxiety, but she was just a puppy when that whole thing went down.
You have an amazing story to share, i think you should make an illustrated book / zine about it.

Elgin Subwaysurfer Bolling said...

You're strong.

Mark M. said...

We drew each other at the San Diego C4

I also have strong feelings about NO, not as much as you because you lived there for 3 years, but seeing the city first hand and walking around is incredible to see how much damage has been done. I was a volunteer last March and I went again for the annversary. It's a great city thats slowly recovering.

I also met a caricaturist, Andrew, at Jackson Square who said he knew you.

I'd like to talk to you more about NOLA hopefully at the Reno Convention.

Here's a thought
Having the next NCN convention in New Orleans. It would sure help its revenue and other caricaturists can see how great the city is.