Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Submerged: An Evacuee's Journal

...by Michael Tisserand. Part 6 -- "Normal", 10/10/2005:
New Orleans is no longer a militarized wasteland -- at least, not all of it. You learn to cross off areas in your mental map: the Lower Ninth Ward, the housing projects, parts of Mid-City, New Orleans East, Lakeview, Chalmette, St. Bernard. But Uptown, there are blocks and blocks of standing houses. A man jogs in Audubon Park. A neighbor is out walking her Yorkshire terrier past my still-boarded house. It's all getting so normal.

We linger in Vincent's. When we finally make our way out, we pass Hank Staples, the owner of the Maple Leaf Bar, one of the city's best music clubs. He's starting to have live bands every night. He makes a joke about other club owners, says they can kiss his ass. As for him, he's opening up. By Saturday, the Leaf will be as crowded as it is on any good weekend night during Jazz Fest.

A few bar stools away from Hank, a well-dressed woman drinks a bottle of beer and sobs to herself. Nobody pays her much attention. The thing is, everybody's messed up. We all know this. It's normal. [...]

I also walked through a new park of trailer homes north of Baton Rouge. Planners say that people will be living there for the next 18 months. Tiny, wheeled homes on blocks stretch out over a gravel field in all directions. New occupants are walking around trying in vain to distinguish one home from the other.

I turned to a housing advocate who is organizing residents. "I'm trying to imagine living here for a year and a half," I say. "So are they," she says.

On Sunday, Oct. 9, the city of New Orleans had its first of what is sure to be many jazz funerals. A second-line honored Chef Austin Leslie, who died of a heart attack in Atlanta during the evacuation. The Hot 8 Brass Band played, and a few members of the Black Men of Labor danced. But they were outnumbered by journalists from The New Yorker, The New York Times, CNN, CBS, the Associated Press and others in search of a symbol of regeneration. As the band passed, workers in Hazmat suits stood on the sidewalk and stared.
To start at the beginning, see Part 1 ("Getting Out"). AltWeeklies.com adds: "Michael Tisserand was editor of Gambit Weekly, a New Orleans alternative newsweekly that temporarily suspended publication after Hurricane Katrina. He can be reached at michaeltisserand@yahoo.com."


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