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Lucky August 28, 2011

Posted by The Typist in 504, cryptical envelopment, Federal Flood, Hurricane Katrina, NOLA, The Narrative, Toulouse Street, We Are Not OK.
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Survivor guilt is a peculiar condition. I am one of a small handful of avid New Orleans partisans who lost nothing in 2005 except our minds. Two of us moved home, the third completed his interrupted relocation to New Orleans. To this day I ask myself (as every man who has not served does as he scatters popcorn on the floor watching an old war movie): what if I was there? What would I have done? Would I be equal to the task.

If I knew the answer to the question I would have grabbed Ray by the lapels and slammed him to the wall until I could tell him, and I expect he would have done the same. The third of us died never knowing the answer. I think of Ray gutting house after house in the miserable heat, of Ashley always in the front rank banging his spear against his shield, taunting our enemies. Did Ashley die in part because of that lingering doubt, the drive to prove himself not just the equal but of the first rank? Did they do this because of that survivor guilt, because (as Ray once explained eloquently) we were not at Bastogne?

What did you ever do? I was once asked in anger. Did you gut a house? Did you volunteer for habitat? All you did was write, she said, and that’s true: all I did was write, vaporous words that amount to what? Perhaps that is why I am haunted by this video, why I was heart-broken when the original poster took it down from You Tube (and perhaps some copyright holder will be on my case in the morning, demanding I do the same).

I missed the production of Waiting for Godot in the Gentilly Lakefront in 2006, unable to drag a collection of friends away from drinks in the back yard in time to get in, and I have been disappointed about that every since. What better place to watch Godot than in the Ninth Ward or in the brown fields of broken Gentilly, but perhaps there was a healing in that evening I missed, people too busy lingering as we will over cocktails to be on time. I look back and I understand it was better that way, ending up at the Circle Bar listening to Gal Holiday instead of experiencing the existential angst of Godot on a flooded lot.

On good days Radiohead’s Lucky runs through my head. Those are the good days. I feel my luck could change. Its gonna be a glorious day.

Still, I am haunted by this video. When I was searching for another post on Wet Bank Guide I was reminded it was gone from the Internet, and I went searching, finally finding the entire Beckett on Film version in slices online, finding the complete set on Amazon and spending a hundred dollars I don’t have to order it, spending more money on an online service that let me scrape this off to edit down to what is for me the essential speech, the question I will spend the rest of my life answering.

Was I sleeping while the other ones suffered?

Vaporous words.

In all that what truth will there be?

The air is full of our cries.

Comments»

1. Susanna - August 28, 2011

It seems to me that you have done your share of rebuilding the city, as much or more than the rest of us who survived the experiences and losses of Katrina. But we have all done what we can by surviving, doing our jobs, giving love and carrying on. Nice to see you yesterday… this is for you, sp

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2. Marco - August 28, 2011

The spirit of New Orleans is in the air. It is grounded to the Earth by soul. Synchronicity at work, I just posted Allen Toussaint’s minor-key version of “Tipitina”. At this time of night, the increasing gusts of Goodnite-Irene are still moaning through the electrical wires and slashing the willows like a sythe keeping time with the pulse of eternity.

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3. Ray - August 31, 2011

“All you did was write.”

The staggering smallness of such a statement.

Standing is overrated, and people who wear it as a shield or weild it as a weapon should go back to fuckin’ Jersey or wherever.

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Mark Folse - August 31, 2011

That remark was a long time ago and forgiven, but the sting of it lingers, still comes back to me as a part of this question. Asking the unanswerable is not a healthy activity but it is something I have always done. To finish the thought in the post that follows, the life examined is not worth living unless you do something about it, and what I did was write. When I read David Simon’s remark in the online New York magazine Capitol–“n the course of discovering the real, known-only-to-locals New Orleans he depicts as a co-creator of “Treme”—which is about to finish its first season on the air, and has been picked up by HBO for a second—he cited three locally written blogs as sources of inspiration”–and one of them was Ashley and another was the Wet Bank Guide, I thought I laid this question to rest forever. But then the video comes back to me by accident, and there I go again. (The third was Back of Town).

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