4 years ago today, something called Katrina happened to the city that I love. We all know what happened. As so often is the case with us fickle Americans, I believe that many have already begun to forget.
While things have continued to improve since the initial flood waters receded, you still see homes like this...
and once bustling streets lined with homes, still look like this...
I'm using this anniversary to urge you to contact your representatives in Washington D.C. and demand they shore up the levies and re-do the bayou.
I traveled to New Orleans about 7 months after Katrina, and while there I picked up a great book called "1 dead in attic" by Chris Rose. This is a compilation of articles that Rose published in the The Times-Picayune between August 29, 2005 and New Years Day 2006. Some make you laugh. Some just break your heart. Here is one of my favorites, entitled "God and Strippers"...
"Even at the End of the Days, there will be lap dancing.
Over the weekend, while a desolate, desperate city plunged into darkness and the waters rose again in the Rita Aftermath, and while a population spread across the nation watched new horrors with churning guts on TV, a strip club opened on Bourbon Street.
The symbolism of this even can hardly be overstated.
No college hoops. No movie theaters, no Swamp Fest, no Voodoo Fest. No horses running at the Fairgrounds. No line for Friday lunch at Galatoire's.
But there are topless women hanging upside down from brass poles at a place called Deja Vu. Gaudiness, flesh, neon and bad recorded music have returned to one small outpost on the Boulevard of Broken Dreams, and if that's not one small step toward normalcy--at least as that term is defined in the Big Uneasy--then I don't know what is.
There were about 100 guys in there Saturday night, all of them with very, very short hair, which is basically what everyone around here who's not a journalist has these days.
Exactly how a posse of exotic dancers were smuggled into town during the most severe lockdown in this city since the hurricane crises began, well, I don't know.
Inexplicable things seem to be the norm around here these days.
When I walk down the street one day and some rumpled grifter tells me he knows where I got my shoes, then I guess I'll know we're fully on our way home. (Of course, I could be cynical and tasteless and tell the guy: I got them at Wal-Mart on Tchoupitoulas like everyone else, but that would be cynical and tasteless.)
And speaking of tasteless: This is not a topic I want to delve too deeply into, but someone has to call out the demagogic ministers who have used Katrina's destruction to preach the message that God was tired of this city's libertine ways and decided to clean house.
Let me roll at you some snippets of wisdom that have been widely distributed on the Internet from Rev. Bill Shanks, pastor of New Covenant Fellowship in Metarie: 'New Orleans now is Mardi Gras free. New Orleans now is free of Southern Decadence and the sodomites, the witchcraft workers, false religion--it's free of all of those things now. God simply, I believe, in His mercy purged all of that stuff out of there--and now we're going to start over again.'
Well, almost. It's an interesting interpretation, to be sure, and Shanks is not the only man of the cloth to make such claims. No doubt, it's a good message for the evangelical business.
Of course, try telling some poor sap down in St. Bernard Parish who has never heard of Southern Decadence and who goes to Bible study every Wednesday night that he lost his house and his job and his grandmother died in a flooded nursing home because God was angry at a bunch of bearded guys in dresses over on Dumaine Street.
Collateral damage, I guess. The question that arises, of course is that if Shanks' prophecy is true, how come Plaquemines, St. Bernard, the East and Lakeview are gone, but the French Quarter is still standing?
I'd suggest that there are those who have confused meteorology with mythology, global warming with just plain hot air, but that might be cynical and tasteless. Might be crass and gaudy.
And I'll try to leave the stuff where it belongs--in the French Quarter, where the craziest patchwork of people ever gathered on this planet are cobbling back together a strange and mind-boggling Twilight Zone of what it once was.
File that one under: Only in New Orleans."