Friday, November 11, 2005

Harry Shearer's New Orleans series

At the Huffington Post, Harry Shearer (The Simpsons, etc., etc.) writes, in Goin' Back to New Orleans, Part Six:
I've spent the greater part of this week taking you along on my first visit back to my adopted hometown since Katrina, telling you what I saw and heard, smelled and felt--though some of you who commented didn't seem to quite grasp the concept. Now, back out of the zip code where the magic words are 'FEMA check' and the most important guy is the insurance adjuster, it's time to tell you what I think.

First, one final observation: on the rental car shuttle bus to the airport terminal, two men, one white and one black, were discussing The Situation (not Tucker Carlson's show on MSNBC by that name). One of the men said that the law of unintended consequences was being fully enforced in Mississippi, where the Red Cross was now giving everyone a substantial check, whether or not they showed any particular need. The result, he said: a lot of people weren't showing up for work, and local businesses were taking another hit. I have no idea if any of this is true or not, but it illustrates one widespread freeling that a lot of people in New Orleans seems to share: More than two months after Katrina hit and the floodwalls breached, this situation remains out of control. People are dealing with their own problems--the roof, the fridge, the adjuster, the city--but they seem to have a vague or not-so-vague unease about where this is all heading. No one is doing a credible leadership act.
See also parts 1, 2, 3, 3.5, 4, 4.5, and 5. From Part 1:
When we made our approach, everyone craned to get a look out the windows, and the first visual that telegraphed the story to come was the sea of blue roofs, house after house on both sides of the lake that had received a blue tarp from somebody--FEMA?--to cover the damaged, or destroyed, roof.

It wss quiet in the airport, too, just because there aren’t a lot of folks flying in and out of town...yet. The display boards you see as you exit the terminal, the ones that always have ads for new drugs or new technical devices (aimed at the attendees to the never-ending flow of conventions), now bear no news of exciting or bewildering new products, just “public service” notices for the Red Cross and other agencies. And then, a reassuring sound in the main concourse: the airport, which always features New Orleans music on its sound system, was playing “You Got the Right Key, but the Wrong Keyhole” by the wonderfully wry Danny Barker.
The woman at the Hertz counter seemed almost overjoyed to see me, and when I asked what happened to the electronic board outside that used to display the location of your car, she uttered the word for the first time on my visit: “It was damaged during the...disaster,” she said softly.

Along the airport road to Interstate 10, the billboards that used to tout the conventions, the restaurants and the gentlemen’s clubs were blank, but there was reassurance on the car radio: WWOZ, the radio home of all great New Orleans music, was back on the air, and so, over on the AM dial, was Tom Fitzmorris, who normally fills three weekday hours talking about food. The callers were interested in chatting about restaurants and recipes, but they seemed equally interested in telling the host how glad they were that this little bit of normal life had returned. At last, somebody was on the radio not talking about FEMA.


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