This past week I have been writing Thunk Different from New Orleans, otherwise known as the Crescent City, The Big Easy, and now America’s Forgotten City.
You be like this cat. Or…
…you can go out an do something like Charlie here.
i didn’t have time to write from there, not really wanting to bring it to ThunkDifferent, but feel i should, its important, it is the biggest disaster an American city has ever faced, and as a citizen of this country am compelled to reach those that i can. So please continue…
This birthplace of Jazz music was once seen as a majestic feast of sweeping parks, palisades, stately mansions, and so much good music, art, and food… it was a hard to leave and impossible to not think about your return. For those that haven’t ever had the pleasure; its a bit of three cities for me: a warm weather San Fransisco, a way warmer Montreal, a bigger Savanna, Georgia, bayou, crawfish, jazz and a whole lot of its own. It was built to be a great city and has been until storms pounded it a few years ago. It isn’t going to be what it was, and if we don’t help as a nation to continually rebuild it until it is complete, New’ Orleans will sink to the back of our minds and disappear beneath the breakwaters of the gulf just as Atlantis has all but vanished from maps and thoughts.
It is a mistake to think that Katrina did this to the city, it was us not fixing the damns, it is was human error.
“ApocalyptoOrleans” is a word that crossed my mind during a 10 mile ride over a rusty Mongoose trail bike through the ghettos of New Orleans. It is not a word i search for either. Here is how it came about… When i first arrived for a little over a week of volunteering, i drove up from central Florida with no sidetracks but an overnight stay in Pensacola and a visit to the hometown of a famous local Cajun from Kiln, Mississippi. So the trip was otherwise uneventful… that is until i pulled off the freeway after the bridges that bring you to New Orleans. It was enough to make me ill and worried about my choice of coming here to help out, it did not look like the people in this area would accept help, it did not look like their was anything left to save. You see, all the power lines and the earth loam beneath the powerlines has made them unstable and slump to the side, motionless only with their lines blown by Louisiana winds. The fact that they look like crosses leading to town is unmistakable, and the “X” put on every residents’ homes feels unmistakably biblical. It is evident just by smelling the air and the blurring of your eyes when you think about what kind of place this is, that something bad has happened here.
However, unlike the Financial Tsunami of Downtown Detroit, and other Midwestern cities whose atolls have washed over by commercial relocation of family roots, New Orleans will grow back. Smaller perhaps, more dangerous perhaps, but it will grow back in the next 20 to 50 years if we care to do anything about other citizens such as make sure the federal government repairs the levies and replenishes the wetlands commercial shipping has eroded. It is really the loss of wetlands that let storms gather so much strength, New Orleans used to be much further from the sea. The canals that make shipping easier re-route all the Mississippi mud, sediment, and the eco-system straight into the ocean where it washes away. i saw an IMAX about it at the Aquarium of the Americas. Its right along the river walk, not too far from the quarter, and where Esplanade Ave ends. Hopefully it will be there if I go back, hopefully the people will go back. However, unlike a city torn by war in a country that is not our own, we have the space and freedom to leave New Orleans. We also have the room and power to build it back up again, visit Jazzfest, Mardi gras, or take a three-day vacation along Magazine, the NOLA art center, and Esplanade in the quarter. It is a beautiful city, its just that the lower 9th ward is gone. If we don’t give them the physical means to improve their lives, at least give our citizens the economic ones with a boost to their local economy, they need it.
So remember this. The specter of assistance and solutions in not there yet. No one has ever really came to rescue the citizens yet, many houses have scrawled, “Help, Help” but are abandoned. Half the city is gone, locals cite 52%. So lets all give a hand, or at least spread the awareness. Philanthropists, government, and people like you and me, let’s help build the re-birth of cool and renew Orleans.