Saturday, August 28, 2010

Whatever Gets You Through the Night

I wrote the following in August 2006 when New Orleans was still abandoned, the citizens still relocated, the housing still debris one year after Katrina rolled through and the levees were breached. 

Now approaching the five-year anniversary, it's still difficult to gauge what has been lost forever.

In my visits to New Orleans, what impressed me most was the unique vibrancy that was completely a creation of the culture fusion of its people.

It was the 80's - my job was the victim of the Reagan-era mergermania of corporate interests, but I was offered a transfer to the new headquarters, located directly across from the Superdome.  After several trips, and tours of the neighborhoods and investigation of options for my family, I declined and parachuted out to California.  Later, when I thought of thousands trapped in the Superdome, it gave me shivers.

In those subsequent trips to train my replacements, I tasted turtle soup, imbibed jazz and other elixirs in the French Quarter, sat by the Mississippi eating beignets and drinking dark chicory-blended coffee.   I tried to understand the locals who sometimes sounded like they were from Brooklyn, heard the French influence in the Cajun dialects, ate po' boys at local delis.  I bought books to better understand the city's history, for it always seemed exotic and European...but ultimately the blend represented a very American ideal.

Until the people are able to return, are able to find affordable housing, are able to rebuild, I sense the loss remains great.  It would be a shame if New Orleans is rebuilt as a gentrified tourist destination.  It was always so much more than that.

From my Yahoo blog - August 2006

N'Awlins, darlin'....
Whatever gets you through the night
Diaspora of residents - the Flood Bowl,
Not the Dust Bowl this time
Exodus from the Superdome to Astrodome and beyond

Come back, Little Sheba.
Come back, Big Daddy
Come back, Little Sheba
"To what?"
"Does that streetcar named Desire still run the track?"

I'm thinking of you tonight, New Orleans
Of stale beer memories in French Quarter gutters
The morning after - The night before - The year before
The year before the music died

The road to home is littered with Presidential Photo Ops
Finger Pointers,
Glad Handers and
Feet Shufflers
"Heckuva job "
Relocation fatigue eviscerates the Heart Of The City
Jazz used to be Queen; off with her head
The drummer planned the coup d'etat
Washington fiddled;
Bush diddled
The Blues are now ascendant and wailing in the night
Regards - Cris !

Earworm then and now:  "Whatever gets you through your life, It's all right, it's all right...John Lennon rocker.  Enjoy and as they say "Laissez les bons temps rouler..."


  1. new orleans is the people-----there is no city without her people---there is no culture quite like that of new orleans and it cannot be copied it must be lived---the ninth ward the seventh --the boats the docks ----rebuilt buildings are not the soul of the city---everyone must remember that it is and always has been about the people


  2. I bow to your concise wisdom, Nada. There was the stench of beer in the gutter the morning after and then there was the stench of comparison. Indeed, when the Ninth Ward is no longer the picture on the FEMA poster and when folk are no longer living in FEMA trailers, then perhaps we can say "heckuva job."

    The charm of the locals I met was indelible and, as I said, unique. A town with that much music and that many characters and lore has much to reclaim when those characters are forced out. Moving to Houston must have been culture shock deluxe.

  3. Never made it to New Orleans pre-Katrina - planned to, wanted to do a Blues/Zydeco/Jazz Tour with son Dillon in tow. It was during his boy-crush on B.B.King and Buddy Guy and this guy on a Zydeco CD someone gave him, name I can't remember, but we never got there. Did a detour to Spain and before we could plan the trip, Katrina wiped out the city. Now Dillon is grown and making his own plans and I hope he gets there someday. I hope I get there someday. I liked the comment above - "always has been about the people" ...I have a feeling that's very true. Monuments and mementos can disappear but the people - the imprint they leave, the energy while they're there - is palpable. Gotta get there, that's all I gotta say.

  4. ~ fantastic blog/s, Cris ~ again, just the thought that we can't possibly know what's going to happen ~ two or five years down the track ~ reflecting on this moreso on your writings here ~ Lea