Buddy, Can You Spare Some Bootstraps? October 21, 2008Posted by Mark Folse in New Orleans, NOLA, Toulouse Street.
Tags: bailout, bank, depression, financial crisis, hurricane, insurance, Louisiana, mortgage, New Orleans, recession, self-reliance
America is worried. What it will be like to lose your home and all your possessions, to see your job shipped off to another town, to be forced to pay out the mortgage on a house no longer yours while you try to make the rent? Will the government help me, or will all those hundreds of billions in aid they voted just evaporate into people’s pockets before it gets reaches the average person?
How, they worry, will they survive such a catastrophe?
I suggest they have a parade. It worked for New Orleans.
In your parade, America, you can celebrate that even in bankruptcy you will not be forced to live for years in a 280 square foot travel trailer, being slowly poisoned by formaldehyde. Moving in with relatives–for a year, or two–will test your virtue and bring your family closer together than you can image. The bankruptcy judge may make you pay out the balance of your mortgage after the auction, but at least you will not be forced to pay the full note plus rent if you won’t live in the trailer, while you fork out trebled prices for materials to build a new home with your own hands.
You can celebrate that your children will still have schools. With books. With any luck, they need not be completely uprooted from the family and friends who give them stability. You will still have things like your wedding and family and children’s pictures, the treasured family items no bankruptcy court would care about but which mean the world to you.
You may have to work two jobs to pay off that bankruptcy judgment under the new rules (while the people who bilked you walk away rich), but it can be done. At least you will not be forced to labor in a squalid flooded house, forced to choose between wearing a Class III respirator in a airless heat index of 120 or breathing in visible black mold.
You can celebrate the inner strengths you never knew you had, the ones most Americans only read about in books like “The Greatest Generation”, the hard resolve you fear you are not equal to. You are. If a bunch of indolent and dependent Orleanians could do more than any bankruptcy judge could ever impose on you, imagine what a lot of resourceful and self-reliant folks like yourself can manage.
If you are like many Americans, the one’s who don’t belong to church or club, the people who famously “bowl alone” as the book says, now is the time to reach out to your neighbors and organize yourselves. Don’t think that an angry vote in this election year will be enough. It won’t. Face up to the hard facts we’ve learned: 90% of “government aid” vanishes before it gets anywhere near you. You might not think you live in that sort of country, but you do.
You will need to organize as people down here did, in neighborhood associations and new groups to fight with the government, your bank, whoever. If you don’t, don’t expect the government or anyone else to reach out and help you. Those days are over. When the houses in your neighborhood are left empty for months or years, you’re going to have to get up and go mow that lawn if you don’t want to look at it (not to mention the snakes and rats).
Your neighbors–you know, the people you just wave to as you drive from home to wherever–will help you more than you can imagine. Tens of thousands of them have come to New Orleans to help people out of no other motive than pure altruism, some deeply Christian and some just plain goodness of heart. Until something happens to you and yours, you’ll probably never realize this. They’re not just your neighbors; they are people who share every aspect of your life, good and bad, and are willing to step up to help you when you’re down.
New Orleans has rehearsed the complete collapse of the American Dream for the last three years, and yet every day you can find us at the neighborhood bar sipping a cold one while discussing the Saints and the venality of politicians, or at that restaurant around the corner getting a po-boy. Life goes on. Come the Fourth of July, you’ll find Going Fourth on the River, a bit choked up as we watch the bright red, white and blue bombs bursting in air. No, we don’t believe in that old American Dream anymore, at least not in the way you still do, America. We have a clear-eyed take on what government has become, what insurance companies (for us) or banks (for the rest of you) are really about.
The campaign to subtly sabotage government in the name of lower taxes and less regulation has left an empty shell that cannot help you, not in the way it helped your grandparents out of the Great Depression, or your parents in the transition from WWII to the prosperous 1950s and 1960s. That government is gone. And the businesses you grew up learning to trust: don’t. With the end of regulation went any sense of civic responsibility. But then, the current criss has taught you that, hasn’t it?
Here’s what you do. You pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and start going again. It will be hard. There will be tears, and there will be anger. Just remember that your spouse and kids didn’t do this to you. Neither did your best friend since grade school. There will be blank days when nothing much gets done, work or personal. You won’t remember what you did or why. And there will be days and nights when perhaps a bit too much drink is taken. The next day, pick up the empties, make yourself a big pot of very dark, strong coffee, and start over starting over. It’s the only way to make it.
You can and will get through this, even if it plays out in the worst way you can image, but you are going to have to help yourselves. Forget all that nonsense you’ve heard about New Orleans. They people who are home (and we are far more than the 200,000 I often wrote of in the past) did it themselves, with the help of friends and sometimes complete strangers, out of their own pockets.
The way the economy plays out may be the last straw for some–the ones with empty 401ks and maxed out credit cards and a house still not finished, but not for most. We’ve been tested and in spite of all the lies you’ve heard about shiftless Orleanians waiting for their government handout, it’s all bullshit: they’ve done it on their own. There is nobody in America alive today under the age of 80 who understands hard times better than New Orleans.
If you want a lesson on how to survive the next few years, I suggest you hop on a plane or gas up the car and come on down to New Orleans–before someone cuts up those credit-cards–and we’ll show you how it’s done, and throw in a good time to boot.
Hell, you might even decide to stay. We have lots of cheap, fixer-upper houses down here, if you don’t mind a little hard work. And as we’ve been reminded again and again and again since the levees failed, you’re all about hard work and self-reliance, America. At least that’s what you keep telling us. And we understand. Been there, done that, got the t-shirt.
Well, here’s your chance. Show us Orleanians aren’t the only ones who can pull themselves up by their own bootstraps.
(Hat tip to Veda for this idea)
Help Haiti September 7, 2008Posted by Mark Folse in Toulouse Street.
Tags: flooding, Haiti, hurricane, Hurricane Gustav, Hurricane Hanna, Hurricane Ike, Louisiana, New Orleans, poverty
UPDATE: This post about the 2008 hurricane is getting a lot of hits after the earthquake of January 2010. I encourage you to visit this new Help Haiti post where I will add additional information on how to help Haiti.
While we on the Hurricane Coast have suffered, imagine life in hurricane ravaged Haiti. For all of the ridiculous failures of the central government to aid the people of coastal Louisiana, our resources are enormous compared to those of either the people or government of Haiti.
Red Weather September 7, 2008Posted by Mark Folse in Toulouse Street.
Tags: hurricane, Hurricane Gustav, Hurricane Ike, New Orleans, NOLA, Poetry, red weather, The Disillusionment of 10 O'Clock, Wallace Stevens
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“Only, here and there, an old sailor,
Drunk and asleep in his boots,
In red weather.”
–Disillusionment of 10 O’Clock
By Wallace Stevens
The houses are not haunted, as the opening of Steven’s poem says. Our’s is not the haunting of an ancient house or a lonely crossroads. The haunting is not out there somewhere in the dark. It is somewhere in here, in the dark, inside of us.
In August and September of 2005, something died deep inside of everyone who lived in or cared about New Orleans. It was an uneasy passing, like the troubled death of a suicide or a tragic young death. Some call this Post Traumatic Stress Disorder but it is not. There is no “post”, no after. We watch the pictures from Terrebonne and Lafourche Parish. We hear the stories of people abandoned, of promised aid gone awry. We see the houses collapsed or washed by the flood and we remember. The ghosts we keep trying to put away wake up and grab us by the heart.
I heard those ghosts, a low sound like a tone of voice, when the evacuees spoke of their grueling journey to safety, when they called this “their last hurricane”. I hear it in the voices of my friends in the NOLA Blogger community and my older cohort of Orleanians, the people I grew up with who sat out Betsy and sweated Camille. The rest of the country has moved on once the dramatic pictures of the floodwalls overwashed were replaced by something new. New Orleans, America thinks, has once again dodged the bullet: the city did not flood.
The floodwalls of concrete and steel held, but others did not. The chaos of evacuation, our leaders panicking on TV the night before many left; the pictures of water driven to the very top of the walls while ships and barges tore loose again in the canal; and now the chaos of the return, the stories from the towns at the end of the roads along the coast, the relief supplies promised but never delivered: all of this has breached through the scar tissue, the slow rebuilding we have all gone through deep inside. Down there, where the ghosts live, we are awash.
Homecoming should be a relief but it is not. There is too much residual anger at the politicians (we can’t call them leaders) in City Hall, in Baton Rouge and in Washington for their continuing ineptitude. There is too much damage to the east and south, and we must watch our neighbors painful re-enactment of the old story daily, perhaps for the months it will take just to restore them to some semblance of normal life. And now the weather forecasters tell us another storm is pointed at New Orleans.
We cannot know precisely what the poet meant by “red weather”. It is a perfect example of poetic language, something perfectly appropriate to the sound or stanza and to the image, and yet it is not like common language. That phrase is not a brick in the construction of a mundane paragraph. Instead those words are a door into the poem: we must find ourselves what precisely is meant by red weather to gain entry into the poetic moment.
The old saying goes both ways: red sky at night, sailor’s delight; red sky at morning, sailor’s take warning. Because the sailor “Catches Tigers in red weather”, I have always taken it to stand for both danger and excitement. Now that I live beneath the red and black hurricane flags, this poem and the phrase “red weather” comes back to me. I thought of it sitting on my porch in the calm of the evening, contemplating another storm, another evacuation. And for me, at least, it became clear.
Here on the hurricane coast, when the storms stir up the ghosts of the flood, we live in red weather.
Memphis August 31, 2008Posted by Mark Folse in Toulouse Street.
Tags: contraflow, evacuation, hurricane, Memphis, Mississippi Delta, New Orleans, NOLA, Plaquemines Parish, Stella Plantation, When The Levee Breaks
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Twelve hours to Memphis. Mrs. doesn’t do highways well, much less endless bumper to bumper, so I was way over on hours behind the wheel, just cruising on coffee and trail mix from 4 am to 4 pm. Been in frantic Twitter with peeps plus watching weather sites for last couple of hours.
The 10 pm central National Hurricane Center forecast looks good for NOLA Blogger embeds. tomorrow I will roll up anything I get from them via Twitter, email or from posts of their own if they can keep power and Internet.
What didn’t look good were the storm surge forecasts for East Plaquemines. I’ve put off taking the kids down to see Stella Plantation, which a member of my family once owned as a working plantation in the early 20th century. Not sure there will be anything left.
For those who can’t, here’s some music courtesy of Kansas Joe and Memphis Minnie. Remember, this was a song about long ago, about 1927 and the Delta lands I skirted all day on I-55.
On The Road Again August 31, 2008Posted by Mark Folse in Toulouse Street.
Tags: contraflow, evacuation, Gustav, hurricane, New Orleans, NOLA
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If I don’t see you no more in this world, I’ll see you in the next one. Don’t be late.
Shhhhh! August 30, 2008Posted by Mark Folse in Toulouse Street.
Tags: contraflow, evacuation, Gustav, Hanna, hurricane, New Orleans, NOLA
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Don’t mention the war.
Requiem for 8-29 August 28, 2008Posted by Mark Folse in Toulouse Street.
Tags: convention center, Eliza Gilkyson, Federal Flood, floodwall, hurricane, Katrina, levee, New Orleans, Requiem, Superdome, survivors
The survivors request anger in lieu of tears
Five Years August 21, 2008Posted by Mark Folse in cryptic envelopment, Dancing Bear, New Orleans, NOLA, Toulouse Street, We Are Not OK.
Tags: 504ever, apocalypse, blight, Bowie, Crime, Five Years, Flood, floodwall, genesis, hurricane, levee, New Orleans, NOLA, Rebirth, Recovery, We Are Not OK
Three years August and the storms are being named like epic ships, a doom upon our shore, and I think of the levees still leaking and of the flood-walls patched with paper mache, our Potemkin defenses are not ready and we are not ready and the Big One is out there, invisible, a mighty wind, waiting for us. Someone empties a pistol into the night and I think of Jessica and Chanel and Helen and Dinerral as I watch the MPs in their Humvees roll by like armored ghosts. I think of the streets running into blocks running into miles of houses houses houses houses houses empty eyed with plywood doors and ragged lawns. And I think I’ll have another drink and light another cigarette and then another drink and then–I stop thinking. That is when this song comes into my head. It is a compulsion, like bitting ones nails until they smart and bleed, this thought that what we blog may not be our Genesis but an Apocalypse, the history of the end. And yet we stay because to live here is to walk through wrack and ruin counting the flowers in the weeds and discover you are not alone, everywhere there are people smiling, people with crumpled souls and rough stomachs, suffering what you are suffering, worse than you are suffering, suffering beyond your imagining and all for the sake of this place, because they see this city as you do, because they are the figures in the frame that make the landscape. A terrible beauty spills out of their eyes like tears and bathes the city in light.
Which Lucky Child? Epco answers June 22, 2008Posted by Mark Folse in New Orleans, NOLA, Toulouse Street, We Are Not OK.
Tags: construction, contest, contractor, Epco, Flood, hurricane, Katrina, New Orleans, NOLA, rebuilding, Which Lucky Child
David from Epco left this long comment on my earlier post Which Lucky Child, and in fairness I’m giving him his own rebuttal post. It’s probably not fair to get to far into a back-and-forth in a rebuttal. I’m still angry at the concept. Every child deserves a house. However, there is a difference between a bad choice of phrase and bad intent, and I don’t think Epco’s intent is bad. I was struck by his remarks about dishonest contractors, a story we have all heard time and again. Thanks, David, for taking the time to reply.
I want to introduce myself. I am David one of the owners of Epco. In fact I am president of general construction. First I would like to say this is a project that is very near and dear to our hearts. We have completed over 400 projects and have more work then we know what to do with. The essay contest and helping families is our hobby. We have been blessed so from our point of view we are obligated to give back.
I believe all of the children deserve a home but we can’t do it all by ourselves. So we create a spark. We at Epco will find it very difficult to pick only one. In fact we will be using the letters to show what these kids think and feel by way of an essay. And I believe we can do more and recruit companies help with this endeavor.
I will share what we have noticed by way of the essays. Most of the letters “around 70%” describe a contractor running out on them and their families with large amounts of money and without a completed home. I could not believe that there were so many contractors hurting these families. When we announce the winner we also shed light on some bad contractors. And just maybe we can get the attention of some people and originations that might be willing to help.
I propose this question. Is it worst to have an essay contest to build not only a home but help restore the quality of life or even restore a little faith in humanity. Or by reading most of your comments you would prefer Epco not give back because the children can’t handle not winning a contest. You are hurting the kids with your closed minded thinking.
Let me clue you in on a few things about these children. These kids have been through so much and they don’t need anymore false hope. Epco can provide for one child and their family. This is the way we make a difference with no apologies. After reading the some of the letters I believe the children are stronger then we give them credit for. I would hope responsible adults would take the time to find out about company that has only good intensions and maybe get on board. Don’t promote the company promote the idea.
Good Morning, America, How Are You June 19, 2008Posted by Mark Folse in 504, 8-29, Corps of Engineers, Federal Flood, Flood, flooding, home, levee, New Orleans, NOLA, Toulouse Street, We Are Not OK.
Tags: Corps of Engineers, Federal Flood, FEMA, Flood, hurricane, Iowa, levee, New Orleans
GULFPORT, Ill. – Juli Parks didn’t worry when water began creeping up the levee that shields this town of about 750 from the Mississippi River — not even when volunteers began piling on sandbags. ..
Then on Tuesday, the worst happened: The levee burst and Gulfport was submerged in 10 feet of water. Only 28 property owners were insured against the damage…
It is unclear what, if anything, the uninsured Parks would get in government disaster relief. “We’re hoping to rebuild, but it depends what FEMA says and how much we get,” said Parks, who is staying with her husband in a horse trailer…
The rest is here.
A horse trailer: that is where Juli Parks and her husband are staying.
What will it be like to live in a horse trailer for a year. Or two. Or three? Better perhaps than to live in a FEMA trailer and learn too late you have been poisoned, that your children will suffer the rest of their lives.
What our brothers and sisters in Iowa are discovering is the hard truth learned in New Orleans. The levees will not protect you. The government will not save you. What you have still to learn I will get to in a moment. For now, know this: you are on your own.
I blame George Bush.
Wait, stop, don’t hit that comment button yet. Bush didn’t dynamite the levees or destroy their homes. Still, he is the top man in the political establishment that spun the story of New Orleans into a myth with no basis in reality, the ugly story on cable news and AM radio that said what happened in New Orleans couldn’t happen to real Americans. It was “those people” and their corrupt ways that flooded New Orleans. It was the stupidity of people who would choose to live in the shadow of a levee and feel safe.
What happened in New Orleans had nothing to do with you, they were told. Move on. Listen, we have a war to win and we can’t get bin Laden unless you go shopping. Who knows how many more blond high school girls might disappear in suspicious circumstances if you don’t convert to digital cable and get that iPhone. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.
It was all a lie.
And now the people who, almost three years after the Federal Flood, chose to live in the shadow of a Federal levee without flood insurance are learning the truth the hard way. You will lose everything, and the government will give you little or nothing. Maybe you will get your own Road Home program that offers half the replacement cost of a house. Perhaps the mortgage holder will lie to you and insist you have to sign that money over (you don’t really have to but they will lie to you as they lied to us, just as your insurance company lied to you when it said you were covered.) You will be left with a piece of land you can’t afford to build on.
When you try to rebuild you anyway will find the cost of construction materials has doubled and tripled since 8-29. Your insurance will increase five-fold. You will have to bear alone the full cost of rebuilding every thing around you. Your grocery bill will double to pay for the new store. Your utility company will gouge you to pay for what they lost in the flood. They will sell off the current power contracts while the power’s out and when it comes back on, the rates will have tripled. Your children’s schools will go without books for a year, if they have schools at all.
You will be told you will be better off if you move away from your home and leave it behind, to go somewhere else. Perhaps it won’t matter. The last place I lived people changed houses like they bought shoes. People cheerfully uprooted themselves to follow careers or just for a change. America has become a rootless people. Perhaps you won’t care.
Or are you more like us? Did you grandfather or great grandfather first break that earth? Did he found a town, its first bank or oldest church? Do you feel an irresistible compulsion to stay? My family has lived in Louisiana for almost 300 years. I am not going anywhere. If you follow in our footsteps, you need to forget everything you’ve heard about New Orleans, and look hard at us, at the real story of what happened here 8-29- and all the days since, because ours is the life ahead of you.
You will have to max out your credit cards, empty your savings accounts and 401ks, and still it will not be enough. You will have to cram your family into a tiny travel trailer and live there for years, even if it is slowly poisoning you. You will need to go to work all day, and come home and rebuild you house yourself all night. If you hire contractors, many will be the same predators who descended on us. They will take what money you have, and disappear. You will go back into your trailer, and you will weep in front of your children.
And still I think many of you will rebuild.
I think those of you who live in the houses or on the farms your parents or grandparents built, in the towns founded by your families generations ago, will insist on rebuilding just as we have. Somehow you will survive it all. I have a tremendous respect for the American people. They have come in the tens of thousands and still come to give of their time and effort to help us rebuild. Many of you who flooded are of that stock, are perhaps people who came to Chalmette or the Ninth Ward to guy homes or hammer up drywall.
If I sound discouraging I do not mean to. I just want you to open your eyes and see what the people of New Orleans have lived. I want everyone in American who sympathizes with you today to understand the truth. What happened in New Orleans can happen to you, and any suggestion that what happened here was unique or the fault of the victims is a lie. Not an exaggeration, or a distortion, or “spin”: a lie. It can happen to you. Perhaps because it has happened to the good people of Iowa and the other Mississippi River states people in America will wake up.
I hope that now they will realize that the country is full of levees that could fail at any moment, bridges like the one in Minnesota that could collapse. They need to know that the government the ruling political classes have worked at gutting and making ineffective for the last 30 years cannot help you, not in its current form or with its current leadership (not just one party or the other: Reaganomics and Clinton Bubblenomics have both gutted our ability to do anything as a nation). Everyone in this nation needs to know that tomorrow it could happen to them if something is not done, and what it will mean to them when it happens.
I have hope for New Orleans. For a long time, I had lost hope for America. I wrote these words many times in the last several years: the American experiment is over, and the results are in. It failed. Part of me does not want to believe that in spite of all of the hard evidence around me living in a city still half a ruin three years later. I want to find the fire that made me take a job that paid nothing as a journalist, the spirit that left me in awe when I walked the halls of Congress because I worked there. I want to remember what it was like to believe in a perfectible world, in something as big as a continent worth fighting for. I believe in New Orleans, and will fight for it, but I don’t know if it is enough.
I want to believe that the people of Iowa and Illinois will make common cause with the people of Louisiana and Mississippi, will insist that things change, will demand that the United States once again be about its people, will be a nation and not just an economy: of the people, by the people, for the people, never to perish from the earth.
People in the Midwest with flooded out lives have no time to think of this right now, but the eyes of the nation are upon them. Those of us who have walked that path must tell this story, must demand on their behalf and for all of us–even as we reach out to help our brothers and sisters in the baptism of the flood–that the levees must not fail again somewhere else, that the slow motion, disaster-without-end lived in New Orleans and the whole hurricane coast from Cameron to Gulfport should not be repeated there or anywhere.
And if it floods, why do they need water? June 5, 2008Posted by Mark Folse in Toulouse Street.
Tags: disaster, Federal Flood, FEMA, hurricane, ice
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Courtesy of Scout Prime of the always excellent First Draft: FEMA: No More Ice during Hurricanes
Suspect Device:” Ice, Mr. Paulinson, is what we put the bodies on.”
Let us never forget this excellent suggestion regarding FEMA: We should armor the levees with their skulls.
And Because It Is My Heart May 29, 2008Posted by Mark Folse in Dancing Bear, New Orleans, NOLA, Toulouse Street, We Are Not OK.
Tags: Because It Is My Heart, Gulf Coast, How Long Lord, hurricane, Katrina, Mississippi, New Orleans, NOLA, Psalms, Recovery, Sinn Fein, Stephen Crane, We Are Not OK
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In the desert
I saw a creature, naked, bestial,
Who, squatting upon the ground,
Held his heart in his hands,
And ate of it.
I said: “Is it good, friend?”
“It is bitter-bitter,” he answered;
“But I like it
Because it is bitter,
And because it is my heart.”
— Stephen Crane
It is not the date itself, the largely symbolic start of hurricane season; the idea that the winds have changed after June 1, that somewhere between North Africa and the convergence zone in the North Atlantic something ominous begins to turn. It is the compulsion of the media at this cusp to flood us with stories like this one from National Public Radio, the tale of a a hardworking family (he in security at a local casino, she a waitress as Waffle House) living with five children in two motel rooms. In less than a week, on June 5, they will find themselves homeless, more than 1,000 days after Katrina struck the richest nation in America.
Steve and Lindsay Huckabee and their five children lost their home when the storm itself swept across the Mississippi Gulf Coast and reduced it to its natural state, a flat expanse of scrub-tree sand looking out on the Mississippi sound. They were driven out of their FEMA-supplied trailer by the formaldehyde which made their children sick. On June 5, FEMA will stop paying for their two motel rooms. There are no places for them to rent suitable for their family. Rents have doubled. They don’t know when they might get a Katrina Cottage, 300 square feet of formaldehyde-free manufactured home to put on their vacant lot.
“It’s not just the people who are on welfare and getting food stamps … it touches every class of person,” she says. “It’s not that easy. It’s not limited to just the super poor people who can’t find a place to live. It’s everybody, pretty much.”
Developers are rebuilding high-dollar homes and condos, but Huckabee says average Mississippi residents can’t afford to live in them.
Glad to see that Mississippi is doing a so much better job than poor, benighted and corrupt Louisiana. The link back to Wet Bank Guide is from September, 2006. So long ago and so little changed. And then we have to reconcile this sort of Pravda/Isvestia happy talk nonsense from USA Today with stories like this by the Washington Post. The only sure truth is that we are lied to.
If you wonder why I would write something as bitter as my post from last Memorial Day, why I consider the United States of America a failed state with which I feel no bond other than the chains they have laid around our necks like those placed around the ghost Marley, consider the season: it is time to be reminded again and again by the professional doom criers how we have been failed and forgotten, treated like some inconvenient third-world ally whose usefulness is passed. The central government have their oil and the port open. They don’t need us.
I am so dumb-struck this morning after hearing that story, sitting in my car with a bitter cigarette in the parking lot waiting for the piece to end with some glimmer of hope, of a happy ending, that I have a hard time finding words that are not sour in my mouth. So instead I go back a year and a half to a Wet Bank Guide post called “How Long, Lord?”, a question that bears repeating.
For how many will it be the last bitter insult in a long train since Federal levees failed us and our city was flooded? I have to wonder if here in the New South, people still take counsel from Psalms, or are we become just another part of a society that taps its foot impatiently to wait for a hamburger or a cup of coffee at the fast food restaurant. Are we ready for this marathon? I recall from my trip down from North Dakota that as close as Jackson, Mississippi the big and little box national retailers gleam clean in the morning sun along a ribbon of interstate highway, calling to people living in small trailers in ruined neighborhoods. How much longer will they resist that call from other cities?
How long, Lord, how long? “. . . Thou feedest them with the bread of tears; and givest them tears to drink in great measure. Thou makest us a strife unto our neighbours: and our enemies laugh among themselves . . .” the Psalmist laments in number 80. Unlike the children of Israel, release for the [returnees to the hurricane coast] is as close as the nearest tank of gas and entrance to the interstate. A conversation with a friend a few weeks back, a couple that came home early and rebuilt and who threw themselves into the endless parade of rebuilding meetings, turned to him talking wistfully of what life would be like in Memphis, and I wonder, how long?
Much comes down to what we can accomplish on our own. The question I have asked here again and again, is this: are we still the nation that weathered the great depression, or who turned back the seemingly invincible Japanese advance into the Pacific? Are we the country that, flush with those victories, erected a home for every soldier and the highways that tied them together, the nation that sent men to the moon.
Those who held the reins of power when Katrina wiped the Gulf Coast clean and the Federal levees failed measure greatness by prowess of arms. They were amply rewarded for their failure in Iraq with a serious thrubbing at the polls this past Fall. I think a greater test is whether this nation can rebuild New Orleans and the hurricane coast. As the blogger Ashley likes to remind us all, they rebuilt Hiroshima. For that matter, they also rebuilt post-war Europe, a fact I am reminded of when I think of the European foundation established to repay that largess which is helping to rebuild the gymnasium at my son’s school.
One thousand days and counting: why do we stay, and why do more come home each day? They come and stay because it is home, and because in the civics class, film-strip America we were all raised to believe in the government does not tell you where to live. We will do it alone if we must, Sinn Fein. It may at times be bitter-bitter, but in the end it is our heart.
P.S. Thank you, Tim, our eternal optimist and resident engineer who knows a thing or two about poldars and dikes and such.
Poor, Brown and Dead May 15, 2008Posted by Mark Folse in Federal Flood, Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans, NOLA, Remember, Toulouse Street, We Are Not OK.
Tags: Cyclone Nargis, emergency preparedness, Federal Flood, FEMA, hurricane, Katrina, Myanmar, New Orleans, NOLA
But Americans get lots of warning when a storm threatens, can use their own cars or public transit to escape on efficient, paved evacuation routes, have sturdy homes or tall buildings to protect them from a flood and plenty of food and medical care in the aftermath, said emergency management experts at a hurricane conference in Fort Lauderdale.
Emphasis in this excerpt from a Reuters story on Yahoo is mine. I would like to know who that particular quote is attributable to. Americans, he says. Remind me again why I would want to be part of the same country as this unnamed idiot?
I would personally like to take this asshole and chain him to a roof down here for five days in August. After that, we’ll take him as far out into Mississippi Sound as we can go and have him in water, say, no deeper than his chest. Then we’ll leave him there to wade back to shore. Hopefully he has some sort of medical problem requiring medication, so we can make sure that we can make sure he has to go without it for a few days.
While he’s up there starving and dehydrating, we can discuss the relative impact on disasters of color and poverty versus having a corrupt and incorrupt government. The differences between Myanmar and New Orleans are differences of scale (vast differences but still of scale) and not of kind. I’m sure I could get him to agree regardless of his political views if I offered him a bottle of water on the second or third day.
“Disasters happen, but the underlying poverty makes everything worse,” said Florida emergency management director Craig Fugate.
You got that right, as we say down here. Again, the difference between there and here is one of scale, not kind. New Orleans was The Other, a place culturally and racially alien to the sort of people most likely to be sitting on a panel discussing disaster relief. Maybe they should have asked some folks from the Ninth Ward about those differences. As I wrote a long time ago (Sept. 2, 2005 and yes this is lazy but apt):
…that otherness became our downfall. The poverty left tens of thousands unprepared for the storm’s aftermath. It also made us seem, at first, unimportant to those who could save us. At the end, it left the Northern bureaucrats who arrived on scene so confused and frightened that they recoiled from helping us, as if we were the last leper colony on the planet
They closed the city off, and left the people there to their fate, awaiting troops who could suppress this alien populace, and make it safe for real Americans. They didn’t care why the people of New Orleans were in their situation, any more than they care about the ultimate fate of any other benighted third world country.
We were a people apart, to be treated as they would the angry, hungry people of Port au Prince or Tikrit, should they threaten the supply of oil or the price of coffee–pacified by force if need be, until they could bring us the bottled water of civilization.
The Reuters story quoted above also mention’s Katrina’s death toll of “about 1,500″. Lazy bastards. Let me help you out. There’s this thing called the Internet which has made doing your job much easier than it was back in the day when I had to go to the library to look up stuff like this. Try here to start. I’m sure those couple of thousands of families you excluded aren’t offended at being forgotten. I’m sure you’ll be just as careful in Myanmar to exclude people whose death can’t be clearly proven to have occurred directly as a result of the storm, so as not to be sensational.
Here on Toulouse Street, we’re never going to let the world forget what happened down here.
Remember. 1,723 people died in Katrina. Over 4,000 died as a result of the storm, the flood or the evacuation. Some died in the storm. Most died as the result of the direct neglect or negligence of the central government.
Laura Bush Riled At Inept Hurricane Response May 6, 2008Posted by Mark Folse in New Orleans, NOLA, Toulouse Street, We Are Not OK.
Tags: cyclone, hurricane, Laura Bush, Myanmar
First Lady Laura Bush took to the White House press podium to criticize the military junta which rules Myanmar (formerly Burma) over their failed response to a tropical cyclone believed to have killed 10,000. According to a Reuter’s report, Bush said:
Asked by a reporter whether she was accusing the junta of having “blood on their hands,” [Bush] said it was clear they are “very inept“
You tell ‘em, Laura. Heck of a job.
I don’t know whether to laugh or cry.