Thursday, March 08, 2007

Reflections from the Grave

"I may be going to hell in a bucket, baby, but at least I'm enjoying the ride, at least I'm enjoying the ride." - John Perry Barlow

Every once and a while I'm prone to a hoaky, self-reflective rant....this is one, so read no further if you were expecting something of substance.

I've had a fury of posts in the past week (and to think I was going to take time off from blogging). However, it has caused me to reflect on the nature of this blog and the path it's taken.

I started this blog with the intention of just writing random thoughts about life in post-K New Orleans, as I find blogging to be rather therapeutic. I never intended it to become a sounding board for corruption within city government....but it took on a life of it's own and my inner journalist got tapped. So I ran with it and it is what it is. I have no regrets...I only wish I had more resources and time to put into it. But as I've said's a blog, not the New York Times.

It's also important to note that if you have chosen to live in New Olreans in it's current can't help but be engaged in this city's problems. If you're going to live here, you can't afford not to be involved. We are facing insurmountable odds....just to exist. This is not a habitat for the weak of heart or the complacent.

The flip side of that coin is that those of us who have chosen to stay have become very passionate about our community and more importantly, very active.

There is a Chinese proverb which states "May you live in interesting times." We not only live in interesting times...we live in the most interesting place in the country in these interesting times.

The Times Picayune recently posted an amazing report on the reality of coastal erosion in Southern Louisiana and hence the reality of New Olreans' sustainability.

Ten years....that's the amount of time they claim we have to implement the largest terraforming project ever undertaken by man and POSSIBLY restore our eroded wetlands along the Mississippi and Atchafalaya River Basins in order to ensure New Orleans existence.

I, for one, am not optimistic. I believe this city has about 60 to 100 years left...if we're lucky...and that's the part of the city that's above sea level or the "sliver by the river". I believe we will get hit by another storm...the levees will break and the city will flood again....I think it's inevitable. Eventually, New Orleanians will have to face the reality that we can't hold back the sea. I think the city will soon become a grander version of Grand Isle...the low lying areas will be sparsely populated with camps on stilts and our economy will become even more seasonal than it is now. And one day, the terra firma we stand on will become part of the Gulf altogether. That's just my opinion, I'm not a geologist...maybe a pessimist.

Having said that...I also believe that this will be the coolest place to live on the planet for the remainder of it's existence and I plan on sailing with this ship straight to hell if need be. I've seen the rest of's a Carnival Cruise Boat filled with fat tourists headed to Cozumel for a six hour tour...New Orleans is an 18th century barque flying the Skull and Crossbones with no particular destination...we live for the ride, the rum, and the revelations. This is the only ship I want to sail on.

However, if we're going to make this city work for the time we have left...we're all going to have to get involved. We have many holes in our boat: egregious violent crime, what was the worst public shool system in the country, entrenched racism, and yes...rampant government corruption. I might add that I believe all of these issues are intertwined, and have fed off each other. We have much work to do, but we're more aware of it now than we ever have been.

Is it possible to patch these holes in our ship and overcome these problems? I don't know.

Why struggle for a city which is destined for extinction? I don't know that either, but it feels good and it feels right.

New Orleans is the frontline in a battle with mother nature. We will most likely be the first casualty of many, not just in America, but worldwide. I think it's important for everyone of us to understand this...this is our reality, it is our fate, and most importantly it is our responsibility.

I've heard a lot of New Orleanians talk about secession recently (a rather absurd notion, but fun to think about). If this country chooses to abandon us and not help us make an attempt to restore the be it. It will reflect the current values of America, but it doesn't reflect the values of New Orleanians. We won't abandon our city, and we shouldn't abandon our country, even if they choose to abandon us (and even if we could collapse the entire infrastructure of the east coast ~ a devlish grin). We should lead, not secede. We gave this country a soul...I believe we can help them find it again. We do that through character and integrity...mixed with jazz, Voodoo, and file' of course.

The rest of the country may wonder why we choose to stay in a city with a finite future...economically and physically. They may wonder why we choose to live in a city with so many problems, from crime to education. It may not seem logical to them. They may think we're fools and maybe we are....but they will keep watching us...and keep wondering....and that's good enough for me.

About 7 years ago, on a Mardi Gras day, I was walking down St. Charles, with one of my dearest friends, complaining about something with Carnival...I don't even remember what it was now. He stopped me and looked me dead in the eye, "Hey man...think about this. Everywhere else in America, it's just Tuesday." I think I would ammend that thought now, "Everywhere else is just America....this is New Orleans."

All right...I got that out of me....feel better.


Anonymous said...

i have been tossing this around too, also as all my family owns is in orleans and lafourche parishes, do i fight to save coastal louisiana, my family, my self? i work in 'sustainable construction.' why work so hard to do something so right against so many daily odds? like you said it feels right, and i love my people, but lately i have been disheartened and even depressed. you could call lil'oya battle fatigued. the change of season is helping but the struggles continue. i remember when i was a child in the back seat of my daddy's speeding thunderbird, looking at the oak trees passing by and looking at my viens in my arms, my arms themselves, and understanding how the trees and i are close relatives. on the gulf in a little boat i feel awake and with peace with my subconcious. i don't feel that way other places, never have. for the 5 years we lived away, i only ever longed to come home. now i'm thinking through the logistics of trucking my shotgun to terra firma by 2012. (raise it or haul it- its the new reality show- you decide!) i allow myself to fantasize about what it must be like to live in a place where your kids go to school every day and they're ok. i also think constantly about Palestine, Afghanistan, Lebanon, and Iraq, and i can't imagine struggling for water and antibiotics and having bombs dropped, cars exploding, and armed militias foreign and domestic storming your house at any moment to kill your family. that breaks my heart and that is happening every day and we are realitively buffered from that. Our hardships do not compare to that, and yet 65?% of us are in distress. I certainly am. It is only because I see things starting to happen that i'm back in for the ride.

please pass the rum Sir

Jason Brad Berry said...

only one thing I can say:


Anonymous said...

beautiful post D. I've been grappling with getting back to New Orleans permanently of late. I'm here for a few days on business.

It's a beautiful time of year to be in this city - everything's in bloom and it feels great to be out on the street. I'm writing this at Rue 2 tonight and there are kids dancing on the sidewalks to live music next door @ the new wine bar Sip. this area is humming with people everywhere - drinking, talking, laughing - i've never seen a more social place in my life. and it's all different kinds of people - the diversity here is inspiring and refreshing after living in a couple other (nice, functional) cities since katrina.

the fact is everyone is having a great time on this gorgeous spring evening in new orleans. and i have to believe part of the reason is because they're in New Orleans. there are no less than 5 bands i would love to see that are playing tonight. I struggled to narrow down where i was going to eat tonight because I had a dozen amazing options.

while i'm here in town working, i'm also digging around - asking friends that have moved back to give me their take on things. it's weird, because I keep getting the same answer, no matter who i ask. it pretty much goes like this:

"deciding to move back and live in new orleans is not a rational decision. it's like getting back with a crazy ex-girlfriend who threw you out (way out) back in Aug 2005. she was (and still is) abusive, extremely messy, and for the most part pretty nuts. however, she's also an amazing gourmet cook, a diverse, extremely talented musician and soul-stirring artist, and with all that, underneath the abuse and craziness is this incredibly beautiful thing - something that doesn't exist anywhere else in the world. she's the only one that's got it. and it's real. authentic.

and that's why you come back. because you make a choice that life with her, no matter how irrational it may be, is L I F E. it's a real feeling of truly being alive - scary at times, nervewracking, and frustrating, but pure and beautiful as well."

this city, post-k especially, is not for everyone. but those who do get it - really get it. i'm still fighting myself about coming back for good - but I think that's because i haven't been here long enough to throw my rationale to the wind and just enjoy the ride.

i'm getting there though. with each trip i make, i'm getting there.

thanks for the post, and for letting me rant as well.

oyster said...

Yes, Pass the rum, brothers.

No matter what day it is, it's always New Orleans in New Orleans.

Jason Brad Berry said...

that may need to be on Dirty Coast T-shirt, O.

Anonymous said...

As depressing as the situation can be, I feel the same as you...there's no other boat I'd rather spend my life in. I'm not a native New Orlenian, but a transplant from a suburbian town surrounded by the very government that failed us. And even though I'm not a native, it doesn't change the fact that it is my home. I have grown to embrace it as it has embraced me.

I agree that the odds are against us. Many people, especially my family, questions why I would want to move back. My feeling is, why not ? After all, it is my is where my life began...where my children are born...where I have developed lifetime friends. It is where I would rather be.

It's true what they say: most people from New Orleans never leave it and if they do, they always come back. As bad as the situation is, I look forward on my journey to start over and rebuild. People may think I'm crazy but that's ok.

I'm glad that you have continued on with your blog, Dambala. Reading your post has certainly motivated me and inspired me to support our great city. The great thing about what you have created is that, I think, it has inspired others as well. "Knowing is half the battle"; the power of knowledge and what you have brought into this, has brought your fellow bloggers and others who reads it, information that may not have been discovered. But most of all, you say what most people won't. I admire the honesty you express and the passion that you exert to fight the internal war that is happening in this city.

I thank you, really. I look forward on reading your posts...till next time...

mominem said...

I hope we have more than fifty or sixty more "Tuesdays".

Great post

Anonymous said...

Beautiful, powerful, post, Ashe. Thank you.

Anonymous said...


heard a kid learning the trombone outside, the dying cow with melody, noise, then a little while later, 4 different neighbor's voices:
'good evening'
'how you doing'

Professor Zero said...

I favor staying. I hear all the glaciers in Glacier National Park will be melted in 10 years, too.

Pass the rum. I like your post.

Anonymous said...

I fully understand what you're saying because I teeter back and forth with the same emotions. However, like you, nothing will make me love New Orleans less.

But when you say... "I believe we will get hit by another storm...the levees will break and the city will flood again....I think it's inevitable. Eventually, New Orleanians will have to face the reality that we can't hold back the sea." I can't help but think you're being overly cynical and even melodramatic. Many countries around the world hold back the sea every day. They just make it a priority. If it does happen again, it will be our fault, not nature's. Plus, why would anyone want to do all this work for a city that will be dead in 60 years? Hell with that. I plan to fight, I plan to win, and I plan to see my city a thriving port metropolis. Too optimistic? Perhaps. But I really can't get it up to do much if I think it's all gonna be at the bottom of the swamp in a few decades.

Jason Brad Berry said...

mitraillette ,

I hope i am being pessimistic. And I'm not tyring to bum my fellow New Orleanians out...It's just that I've personally accepted it as reality. I wrote the post for other people who may be under the same realization I am and grappling with their future.

- But I really can't get it up to do much if I think it's all gonna be at the bottom of the swamp in a few decades._

I understand that. But I don't look at the city like that anymore. I'm not so much concerned with the corporeal fate of the city anymore as I am what we do with the time we have left. Even if the city is 6 feet under...figuratively and literally....I will still be a New Orleanian.

I guess it's kind of the same attitude one could take towards life in general....I think every breathing moment the city has is a gift. I've come to accept it and apprecitate it.