Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Excuses Cease to Cage Us

A note: I started this most nearly a month a ago, wrote half of it and put it down for the night. Then we heard there was a hurricane heading our way. The storm was not so bad but we lost power which meant no internet. And we were supposed to be renting a truck and moving to California. We still had no electricity as we packed the truck, drove three days across the Western US, arrived, moved into new house and now, just yesterday, did we get internet service back. Also, you may have noticed I have been moving around a lot. Finally though, I feel unjumbled enough to write a little about these photos.
Straight up optimism is hard to find in New Orleans. Optimism implies an acknowledgement of facts and New Orleans is heavily into denial. Troubles, what troubles? Here baby, have a drink. Though Hurricane Katrina hit 7 years ago, this sign still mentioned class registration until recently. Now, someone optimistically declares that we are better than this. Getting past our own troubles which look like excuses to others. Of course, a few days after I took this photo there was a warning for a hurricane heading our way, seven years later to the date and I, along with other friends, felt anxious for reasons that didn't line up with reality. What was I really scared of? I couldn't tell you exactly. And the knowledge that it wasn't going to be the same thing all over wasn't comforting enough. We made plans, gathered friends, called people we hadn't talked to in months. We reassured family, ourselves, each other, with reasonable sounding plans that didn't brush off the possibility of the worst. We packed a bag, brought food and water to a friend's house and waited. We made it through with friends, and board games, WWOZ playing the same 3 songs over and over, (one of them being "Let the Good Times Roll"). Our new roommate in California texted about our new house and we tried to explain that it would be a few days before we could get to the bank to send him a deposit. It is hard to convey how the city willingly shuts down, without electricity or during celebrations. Everybody loves a day off. We played boardgames wearing headlamps, sweated in our sleep and listened to wind peel siding off the house, possibly more because of its construction than the force of the storm. The storm passed and we came out, walked to the neighbor's, who was making pancakes and shrimp and grits. And we ate together like we should. New Orleans got some rain and wind, but southern parishes had it worse, and flooding closed the highway between New Orleans and Baton Rouge.
New Orleans is a lot of ups and downs, a lot of contradictions. It easily overwhelms the senses. Decay and excessiveness, dancing at funerals, hurricane parties. It might seem shallow, like we don't know what is going on. We do. Which is why at breakfast we listened to Scott talk about coastal erosion, hugged everyone upon arrival and leaving, and, after going home to pack more boxes, we came back to mid city to walk to the river with our friends' brass band. The next day, or maybe even the day after, friends helped us pack the truck, met us for one last drink and in the morning we left, our neighborhood still without electricity and cranky without air conditioning or ice, but still going.