About 6 years ago in New Jersey I had a friend who had come down to New Orleans on a drinking binge with her friends. Upon her return she told me what a great city it was and that I should visit it someday. I doubt she ever ventured much farther than Bourbon Street. During the weeks following Katrina, like the rest of the nation I had a dull sickness in my gut. Sick from the idea that a city in the most developed nation of the world would be reduced to what we were watching on TV. Sickness from the fact that I never would get a chance to visit the same great place I had heard about.
Last summer in NJ my buddy Waffle kept telling me of this great city inhabited by artists of all sorts. People who were friendly and likable. An atmosphere of generosity and optimism. Being from NJ, I doubted any place like that was real, let alone the one from the news footage. "New Orleans? Is that still there?" It was as if he was speaking of the lost city of Atlantis. "Fuck it, I have to get out of Jersey or I'll start to go Travis Bickle on my passengers." From the moment I rolled into town, I have been welcomed, inspired and filled with hope.
Everyone here has a story worthy of a novel. Some who didn't leave or returned soon after to help rebuild are suffering from Post Traumatic Stress. Entire neighborhoods are still scarred and damaged, but most are thriving. One of my first jobs down here was as a laborer at a strip mall being rebuilt in St. Bernard Parish. As far as the eye could see, abandoned housing with a few large boats still just sitting in vacant lots where they had been deposited.
One of the first places I stayed was in the Broadmoor section. About head level a water line was still visible on the outside of the structure. The door still had an X spray painted on it. The X was a sign that it had been searched for bodies in the days after the storm. One could state that it's not the infrastructure that makes up a city, it's the residents. New Orleans then would be one of the strongest and most resilient cities in the world. It's strength is not in it's levees, but the hearts.
I’m gonna buy me a ticket as far as I can,
I ain't never comin' back
I’m gonna take me that south-bound,
All the way to Georgia now,
‘Till the train it run out of track
Can't you see, oh, can't you see,
What that woman, she been doin' to me