Tuesday, May 20, 2008

New Orleans Journal: The New Yorker

Found this after it ended: New Orleans Journal: The New Yorker, by Dan Baum. From the last post, "What It Means" (June 1, 2007):
The final New Orleans experience I will record in this journal is, fittingly, one of exile. I’m on the outskirts of Houston, stuck in a sterile motel room and pining for the rich, convoluted streets of the Crescent City. The soaring expanses of freeway disorient me; my eyes haven’t focussed on anything farther away than a few blocks in a long time. And, instead of looking at peeling multicolored shotgun houses with oddly dressed people sitting on their porches and others walking dogs in the street, my eye falls on the featureless beige wall of a Best Buy and the acres of parking around Sam’s Club.

But, most of all, I’m lonely. I was in Beaumont, Texas, having vegetarian fajitas at an outpost of the Acapulco Mexican Grill chain, when I noticed a woman at the next table looking at my food. “That looks good,” I heard her whisper to her mother. I kept expecting one of them to lean over and shout, “Hey, babe, what’s that you’re eatin’?,” and for all of us to end up at the same table. But they kept to themselves.

“Do You Know What It Means To Miss New Orleans?” an old song asks; another reminds us, “You don’t know what you got ’til it’s gone.” Since Katrina, I’ve often been asked (though never by someone in New Orleans) why the country should bother rebuilding it. Is it really worth the billions it would take to protect this small, poor, economically inessential city, which is sinking into the delta muck as global warming raises the sea around it? But the question of “whether” has been settled—New Orleans is rebuilding itself, albeit slowly, fitfully, and imperfectly. Now it’s only a matter of how and how long. That is better news than perhaps the rest of America fully understands.
Baum's ongoing web site, which he shares with his spouse and fellow freelance writer Margaret Knox, is at http://www.knoxandbaum.com/

Katrina video on Real News Network