Sunday, May 20, 2007

Reliving Katrina

I'm watching Spike Lee's documentary, When the Levees Broke, right now. It's almost like reliving the month after the storm all over again.

There's a scene in the documentary where a St. Bernard Parish man tells a story about a fellow walking into the refinery and asking what he can do to help. When asked who he was, the guy says, "We're the Canadian Mounted Police from Vancouver." It breaks my heart. (Bush plus Katrina make Mischa crazy. God damn Homeland Security and its mismanagement of FEMA.)

On the second disc, there's another scene of a man and his mom going through her house for the first time after the flood. It happened to me, taking my grandmother through her house, with furniture moved across rooms and the artifacts of a lifetime rotting and moldy- like a ghost of a memory overlaid on everything you see.

It's so good to hear familiar accents and see a few familiar faces in the documentary, including the hard-to-define quality of familiar kinds of faces.

A few new folks have moved to Austin and are now attending game nights. Consequently, they don't know I'm from New Orleans. After last night's gaming, we talked a little about how I wouldn't be still in Austin after a few months and why. One of the established guys didn't understand why I want to go back. "Austin has a future," he said. "New Orleans is a city with a past." I still don't know how to best respond- Every city has a future. My official position on Austin remains that my attitude would be different if we moved here on purpose and by choice.

[Edit: Allow comments. Not sure how my default Blogger settings got goofed up.]


arsagano said...

The "New Orleans is a city with a past" is a bit harsh really. I think a better way to describe it is that it is a city with a history. Some people can love it for that.

Personally, though, regardless of one's perspective of New Orleans, I can't see anyone willingly going back to Louisiana. Of course, aside from the food and music, there has never been much in that state that I valued. But that's just me.

BigGuns said...

The subtext of "New Orleans is a city with a past" seems to be "All I know about New Orleans I learned from watching the news in the weeks after Katrina."

I can appreciate that some folks are bitter or angry or scared or frustrated and never want to return to New Orleans, but there are plenty of New Orleanians who cannot be anything but a New Orleanian. I am one of them. Every place is flawed, every city has scars and screwed-up-ness. But if it's home, it's home.

To say that New Orleans has no future is reactionary and short-sighted. There may have been some who thought the same about Chicago after the fire, about San Francisco after the '06 earthquake, about London and Berlin after the bombings of WWII, but those cities came back, and New Orleans will too. It may be a bit different than it was before, but that's okay.

Katrina will simply become part of the continuing history of New Orleans - a city with a past, present, and future.

arsagano said...

I can agree with a couple of your points bigguns. I still think most people that want to go back are conveniently ignoring a larger issue, though. Even as much as one may love the city, the state of Louisiana is in poor shape and no place that anyone should be wanting to return. To me, those that do must greatly overvalue how much the city means to them because ultimately they still have to reside in Louisiana, which may never improve regardless of the progress made with the city of New Orleans.