Monthly Archives: November 2005

. . . If A Picture Paints A Thousand Words . . .

That’s from the Bread song “If” and it speaks to a girl and how words could never do her justice in describing her with mere words. It’s a romantic little song and unfortunately what brought it to mind today was anything but beautiful. Nevertheless, the words and their soulful lyricism of the song ring true but in a different way.

If I were to “paint” one picture today, it would have to be inspired by Poe or King and their dark vision of what evil things they would have us to believe lurk around us. And the only things I have circulating through my mind this night are memories of the 1970’s TV show “Night Gallery”, a “Twilight Zone”-like series which focused on the horror genre with weekly episodes to make the hair stand up on the back of your neck. Before each show, the host droned his brief intro and to close, the camera focused on a painting representing the name of that week’s scary show. They were always dark and gruesome images inspired to make you look behind you because you “heard” a door opening (only one didn’t) or it might cause you to hear a loathsome whisper from the next room (although no one was home but you). They set the mood for the story you were about to hear.

In my case, the picture before each story I would tell would be the same in most respects and the phrase “the words would never show the you I’ve come to know” eerily wafts in the background without a beautiful woman in sight. Moment by moment and step by step my eyes have only seen the same story over and over on this day. Some of you older ones will remember the nagging phonograph anomaly of a skipping record, hearing the same few seconds of a passage over and over until you bumped the record. You younger ones will just have to ask one of us elders to explain it. But no matter what I did today, the passage repeated itself over and over, not necessarily the same words but not very different at the same time. And a million words couldn’t do justice. You just had to be there because this attempt will fall far short of perceivable reality.

Words, like photographs, can only convey a momentary representation of visualized horror. In this limited two-dimensional communication between the eyes and the brain, we often forget that we must willingly force ourselves to add the “Z” plane to “X-Y” axis to form a realistic image closer to the truth. It’s a two-dimensional limitation of communication we must overcome. However, due to the safeguards of our grand design, the “Z” plane is either willingly or logically “padded” by our subconscious to ease the blow to our senses. So, by design, I believe our perceptions of what we see or experience is not always the complete truth in all of its depth or contour. We are so used to watching TV or a movie and allowing ourselves to fill in the missing “Z” plane with our own estimation of its depth or proximity, a level we know inwardly we can tolerate when we see horrifying things because we inwardly temper the intensity of our reactions to our ability to cope with that fear. And some people do it better than others. But what I have seen over and over today has been seen by millions and my purpose here is to amplify that what you saw is not what you saw. It is much more.

I had the distinct displeasure of touring St. Bernard Parish today—November 5, 2005—while journeying to my sister’s former home in hopes of recovering what little property she had left from Hurricane Katrina. For a frame of reference, Orleans (New Orleans) Parish is sandwiched between Jefferson (West) and St. Bernard (East), both Parishes being less than half the area of the Big Easy. St. Bernard was closer to the hurricane epicenter which made landfall in Mississippi about 60 miles away to the east. And St. Bernard is primarily flat marshland and extends southeast to the Gulf of Mexico on the east side of the Mississippi River. And for discussion purposes, St. Bernard bore the biggest brunt of damage for the Tri-Parish area of eastern Louisiana. And what I saw today cannot be captured in words or film.

It was like . . . like . . . a “Night Gallery” painting only the horror could never be put on canvas or this page. Since St. Bernard is nothing more than a narrow strip only a couple of miles wide (for the most part), I managed to tour a greater part of the upper parish going as far as Paris Road. I did not see one building, home or business that was not damaged in a major sense of the word. Buildings with no roof, strip centers with all windows blown out and contents strewn across the parking lot (or piled out front after cleanup), homes lifted from their foundations, water lines extending 6-7 feet on each building, vehicles stained with a white funk from top to bottom, shopping mall parking lots jammed with trailers of every shape and size and the occasional person carrying arms full of sheet rock or lattice to the six-foot by thirty foot pile of refuse in front of the shell of their home.

Chalmette/Arabi area

It was no better at my sister’s “home.” She lived in a double owned by my aunt near the Arabi Café right at the bend in the road. I used to love to the Cafe go there because they served breakfast 24 hours a day and my favorite was the pork chop and eggs plate with hash browns and grits. It was the best. But not now. Just across the highway is my sister’s street. Turning the corner I could see the three blocks of houses before hers each with its own distinct pile in front mostly consisting of a refrigerator, a washer, a dryer, a sofa, a bed, a pile of crumbled sheet rock and miscellaneous former belongings of anyone who lived in the respective home.

Community St. in Arabi.

Let’s do the math. Let’s say 10 homes on one side of the block times 2 for the other side of the street is 20. Take that times the three blocks to my sister’s house is 60. She lives mid block so that’s another 10 bringing us to 70 and another two blocks to the end of the street gives us about 120 homes. And everyone with the same problem, identical. None were spared in the least. Now I don’t know exactly how many streets there are in St. Bernard and exactly how many homes are on each block or street, but my sister is about two miles into St. Bernard and it extends another sixty miles down river. It does thin out in homes and population as you go further down but the fact is almost 60,000 peoples’ homes have been taken in one 24 hour period. And every home and business is its own “Night Gallery” painting in St. Bernard: one painting for a mass of lives.

My sister’s moldy living room water-damaged in Arabi

I entered my sister’s home which is raised about four feet off the ground. Furniture and shelving had crumbled and mold had been festering on the walls since August 30th or so. She had asked me to retrieve our mother’s rosary from the hope chest which lay in one corner of the room delaminated from the weeks of moisture. I had to pry it open with a crowbar because the wood had swollen as did all the drawers of any furniture throughout the house. The contents were soaked in aged moisture which had permeated from any crack or cells of the wood. The rosary was tarnished and the rest of the contents—pictures, mementos, trinkets, clothing and other things were hopelessly deteriorated, stained or now irreconcilable. I dared not open the refrigerator which fell backside down because no one in this region after two months of absence should really think it’s worth the effort. In the bedrooms, clothes hanging in the closets were putrid with mold from the water which had wicked up the three feet of internal water into the uppermost parts of the garments. Dressers and nightstands had both crumbled and swollen so drawers had to be busted out to examine the contents. The mattresses had also wicked the floodwaters and I’m sure the box springs were deteriorating from the infiltration also. The tongue-in-groove flooring had also buckled in many places making it hard and dangerous to navigate. Whatever was not on the top shelf of a closet or dresser was a lost cause.

That was just the one house that was closest to my life on this day. And if you’ve completed the math from earlier on you may be able to “touch” the scope and the magnitude of the words I have just described. That’s if you allow yourself the full effect of that “Z” factor I described earlier. But the “damper” effect may not let you.

Formerly Plantation Coffee House, Canal Blvd (previously Liberty Star Grocery)

Later, on the way home I decided to pass through my old neighborhood to assess the damage. For reference, I grew up in New Orleans in the Lakeview section of town which begins about midtown at the end of Canal Street which turns into Canal Blvd. at the Cemeteries. The Boulevard then continues north ending at Lake Pontchartrain. About a mile down Canal Blvd. just at the railroad underpass is the neighborhood I grew up in on the river side by Plantation Coffee House–formerly Liberty Star Grocery in my younger years–and crossing the railroad tracks to the Lake side, I spent my teen years and later my “father-care” years during his prolonged illness. So basically I lived my earlier life within three blocks of the two houses. And today no one lives in either neighborhood or for miles around, for that matter.

Ada Place, one block off Canal Blvd.

Lakeview is bounded by the Lake some 2-3 miles north, by the Marconi Canal to the east and by the 17th Street Canal to the west. And on the early morning hours of August 30, 2005, the levee wall breached forcing the waters of Lake Pontchartrain to equalize its own level in the homes and business of Lakeview and Lake Vista (redundant but actual) across to the Marconi Canal. The other “channel” directed the torrents down the Expressway lanes and sub terrain to Canal Street and into downtown New Orleans. It is also common knowledge that Lakeview is the tax base for the city of New Orleans accounting for about 65% income producing individuals’ homes. That’s not to be discriminatory, but it’s a fact.

I saw very little different in Lakeview than I did in St. Bernard earlier this day with the exception that many more of the structures along Canal Blvd. were standing but the guts were strewn about nonetheless. And oh so very few people could be seen working this day, some two months after the deluge. I would describe the scene but I’ve already done it once for you. And you already know how to do the math. Maybe I’m a little prejudiced since this area has been a part of my intimate life, but my eyes do not deceive me because my “Z” plane couldn’t be damped. I was there, formerly and presently. I was scared. Even worse than staring intently at a “Night Gallery” painting or reading through a Poe short story. And now it’s almost as if I wish that “Z” plane which makes the depth and coherence of reality so pleasurable when we allow ourselves to be entertained by the fear of the movie or the imagination of the written word, was just a theory. Only this time I didn’t look for entertainment–just information–on what happened just a few short weeks ago to the place of my birth and the realm of youth.

My “teen” home–waterline just below windows

I remember reading Edgar Allen Poe’s short story “The Sphinx” in my younger years. It’s an excellent study on the relativity of perception and how it affects our emotions and decisions. You really should read it.

DURING the dread reign of the Cholera in New York, I had accepted the invitation of a relative to spend a fortnight with him in the retirement of his cottage one on the banks of the Hudson. We had here around us all the ordinary means of summer amusement; and what with rambling in the woods, sketching, boating, fishing, bathing, music, and books, we should have passed the time pleasantly enough, but for the fearful intelligence which reached us every morning from the populous city. Not a day elapsed which did not bring us news of the decease of some acquaintance. Then as the fatality increased, we learned to expect daily the loss of some friend. At length we trembled at the approach of every messenger. The very air from the South seemed to us redolent with death. That palsying thought, indeed, took entire possession of my soul. I could neither speak, think, nor dream of any thing else. My host was of a less excitable temperament, and, although greatly depressed in spirits, exerted himself to sustain my own. His richly philosophical intellect was not at any time affected by unrealities. To the substances of terror he was sufficiently alive, but of its shadows he had no apprehension.

His endeavors to arouse me from the condition of abnormal gloom into which I had fallen, were frustrated, in great measure, by certain volumes which I had found in his library. These were of a character to force into germination whatever seeds of hereditary superstition lay latent in my bosom. I had been reading these books without his knowledge, and thus he was often at a loss to account for the forcible impressions which had been made upon my fancy.

A favorite topic with me was the popular belief in omens- a belief which, at this one epoch of my life, I was almost seriously disposed to defend. On this subject we had long and animated discussions- he maintaining the utter groundlessness of faith in such matters,- I contending that a popular sentiment arising with absolute spontaneity- that is to say, without apparent traces of suggestion- had in itself the unmistakable elements of truth, and was entitled to as much respect as that intuition which is the idiosyncrasy of the individual man of genius.

The fact is, that soon after my arrival at the cottage there had occurred to myself an incident so entirely inexplicable, and which had in it so much of the portentous character, that I might well have been excused for regarding it as an omen. It appalled, and at the same time so confounded and bewildered me, that many days elapsed before I could make up my mind to communicate the circumstances to my friend.

Near the close of exceedingly warm day, I was sitting, book in hand, at an open window, commanding, through a long vista of the river banks, a view of a distant hill, the face of which nearest my position had been denuded by what is termed a land-slide, of the principal portion of its trees. My thoughts had been long wandering from the volume before me to the gloom and desolation of the neighboring city. Uplifting my eyes from the page, they fell upon the naked face of the bill, and upon an object- upon some living monster of hideous conformation, which very rapidly made its way from the summit to the bottom, disappearing finally in the dense forest below. As this creature first came in sight, I doubted my own sanity- or at least the evidence of my own eyes; and many minutes passed before I succeeded in convincing myself that I was neither mad nor in a dream. Yet when I described the monster (which I distinctly saw, and calmly surveyed through the whole period of its progress), my readers, I fear, will feel more difficulty in being convinced of these points than even I did myself.

Estimating the size of the creature by comparison with the diameter of the large trees near which it passed- the few giants of the forest which had escaped the fury of the land-slide- I concluded it to be far larger than any ship of the line in existence. I say ship of the line, because the shape of the monster suggested the idea- the hull of one of our seventy-four might convey a very tolerable conception of the general outline. The mouth of the animal was situated at the extremity of a proboscis some sixty or seventy feet in length, and about as thick as the body of an ordinary elephant. Near the root of this trunk was an immense quantity of black shaggy hair- more than could have been supplied by the coats of a score of buffaloes; and projecting from this hair downwardly and laterally, sprang two gleaming tusks not unlike those of the wild boar, but of infinitely greater dimensions. Extending forward, parallel with the proboscis, and on each side of it, was a gigantic staff, thirty or forty feet in length, formed seemingly of pure crystal and in shape a perfect prism,- it reflected in the most gorgeous manner the rays of the declining sun. The trunk was fashioned like a wedge with the apex to the earth. From it there were outspread two pairs of wings- each wing nearly one hundred yards in length- one pair being placed above the other, and all thickly covered with metal scales; each scale apparently some ten or twelve feet in diameter. I observed that the upper and lower tiers of wings were connected by a strong chain. But the chief peculiarity of this horrible thing was the representation of a Death’s Head, which covered nearly the whole surface of its breast, and which was as accurately traced in glaring white, upon the dark ground of the body, as if it had been there carefully designed by an artist. While I regarded the terrific animal, and more especially the appearance on its breast, with a feeling or horror and awe- with a sentiment of forthcoming evil, which I found it impossible to quell by any effort of the reason, I perceived the huge jaws at the extremity of the proboscis suddenly expand themselves, and from them there proceeded a sound so loud and so expressive of wo, that it struck upon my nerves like a knell and as the monster disappeared at the foot of the hill, I fell at once, fainting, to the floor.

Upon recovering, my first impulse, of course, was to inform my friend of what I had seen and heard- and I can scarcely explain what feeling of repugnance it was which, in the end, operated to prevent me.

At length, one evening, some three or four days after the occurrence, we were sitting together in the room in which I had seen the apparition- I occupying the same seat at the same window, and he lounging on a sofa near at hand. The association of the place and time impelled me to give him an account of the phenomenon. He heard me to the end- at first laughed heartily- and then lapsed into an excessively grave demeanor, as if my insanity was a thing beyond suspicion. At this instant I again had a distinct view of the monster- to which, with a shout of absolute terror, I now directed his attention. He looked eagerly- but maintained that he saw nothing- although I designated minutely the course of the creature, as it made its way down the naked face of the hill.

I was now immeasurably alarmed, for I considered the vision either as an omen of my death, or, worse, as the fore-runner of an attack of mania. I threw myself passionately back in my chair, and for some moments buried my face in my hands. When I uncovered my eyes, the apparition was no longer apparent.

My host, however, had in some degree resumed the calmness of his demeanor, and questioned me very rigorously in respect to the conformation of the visionary creature. When I had fully satisfied him on this head, he sighed deeply, as if relieved of some intolerable burden, and went on to talk, with what I thought a cruel calmness, of various points of speculative philosophy, which had heretofore formed subject of discussion between us. I remember his insisting very especially (among other things) upon the idea that the principle source of error in all human investigations lay in the liability of the understanding to under-rate or to over-value the importance of an object, through mere mis-admeasurement of its propinquity. “To estimate properly, for example,” he said, “the influence to be exercised on mankind at large by the thorough diffusion of Democracy, the distance of the epoch at which such diffusion may possibly be accomplished should not fail to form an item in the estimate. Yet can you tell me one writer on the subject of government who has ever thought this particular branch of the subject worthy of discussion at all?”

He here paused for a moment, stepped to a book-case, and brought forth one of the ordinary synopses of Natural History. Requesting me then to exchange seats with him, that he might the better distinguish the fine print of the volume, he took my armchair at the window, and, opening the book, resumed his discourse very much in the same tone as before.

“But for your exceeding minuteness,” he said, “in describing the monster, I might never have had it in my power to demonstrate to you what it was. In the first place, let me read to you a schoolboy account of the genus Sphinx, of the family Crepuscularia of the order Lepidoptera, of the class of Insecta- or insects. The account runs thus: “‘Four membranous wings covered with little colored scales of metallic appearance; mouth forming a rolled proboscis, produced by an elongation of the jaws, upon the sides of which are found the rudiments of mandibles and downy palpi; the inferior wings retained to the superior by a stiff hair; antennae in the form of an elongated club, prismatic; abdomen pointed, The Death’s- headed Sphinx has occasioned much terror among the vulgar, at times, by the melancholy kind of cry which it utters, and the insignia of death which it wears upon its corslet.'”

He here closed the book and leaned forward in the chair, placing himself accurately in the position which I had occupied at the moment of beholding “the monster.”

“Ah, here it is,” he presently exclaimed- “it is reascending the face of the hill, and a very remarkable looking creature I admit it to be. Still, it is by no means so large or so distant as you imagined it,- for the fact is that, as it wriggles its way up this thread, which some spider has wrought along the window-sash, I find it to be about the sixteenth of an inch in its extreme length, and also about the sixteenth of an inch distant from the pupil of my eye.”
  – – THE END

It depends on your “focus” as to what you perceive.

Canal Blvd. Note water-line one-third up windows

I know what I saw today and it wasn’t a moth. It was closer to representing the dashed lives of hundreds of thousands of people in this region. You—on the outside with the benefit of objectivity—may only see the moth. But that may only be because your “Z” plane perception is protecting you from the depth of despair because the “moth” is not on your window pane. And talk about faulty logic! That same beast is currently walking across window panes that seldom exist anymore in the houses I speak about today. I guess . . . you just had to be there.

“. . . then you and I could simply fly way . . .”

But fantasy and romanticism are only fabrications in the “Z” plane . . .

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Posted by on November 6, 2005 in Katrina


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Putting It Into Perspective

Here are some relative thoughts about the condition of New Orleans and how it got there. Previously, I worked in the retail/wholesale marine industry for about twenty years and the brackish saltwater environment of the Gulf South added an adequate amount of job security to those years. I sold millions of dollars of material over the years relating to the preservation and restoration of metallic objects from the tiniest electronic component to massive paint systems designed to ward off the inevitable destruction of entire hulls of ships. Saltwater does not need gaping holes to destroy. Just the hint of it in the air can infiltrate the most secure environments: electrical switches, electronics, etc. In fact, millions are spent each year on anodes that is, less noble metals such as magnesium for aluminum and zinc for steel of the sacrificial nature which are attached to the hulls and engines and are designed to sacrifice themselves instead eating away at the more expensive aluminum or steel hull structure themselves. You see, electricity always attacks the path of the least resistance, thus the anodes go first and if you don’t replace them before the hull starts to go, the ship literally sinks. On a more insidious level, just the smallest particle of salt/water molecules in the form of humidity will find its way into any small pathway aboard any boat or structure any where near the water in Gulf Coast regions. About 80% of the replacement steering cables, for instance, are sold once every two to three years to the Southern region; if you live in Wisconsin, your steering cable typically lasts 10-15 years. Saltwater is corrosive and I thank it for my former career’s sake.

It’s bad enough that New Orleans’ surrounding environment consists on almost all sides of this corrosive material. But when that environment leaks into the homes and businesses of the region and stays resident for just about a month, things cannot be good in its aftermath. Add to that millions of gallons of additional chemicals like battery acid, gasoline, cleaning solvents, toxic chemicals, bacterial agents, etc., and you have a very unattractive soup to soak in for a month. The green foliage that contacted this soup is predominantly brown currently. Vehicles submerged partially or in total are now locked into place by brake, transmission and engine components, welded together by iron or aluminum oxides which interacted with sodium chloride or worse during this period. Internal contents of vehicles or homes consisting of more fibrous-like natures are now infested by molds or mildews which have permeated the most inner cores of the material even at the molecular levels.

It has often been said that a picture is worth a thousand words. But the molecular degeneration of homes and contents from this alien intrusion cannot be captured by a mere lens. The more recent returnees of this region are likewise–plus more–in awe of the resulting damage viewed on the networks for so long. It’s like a bad joke when you have to say “Well, you had to be there to appreciate it because no one feels like laughing these days. It’s almost as if this minor passage of time would magically transform what once was into what it will be in just a few long years from this present day. Those of us who have been back now for a time have absorbed this initial shock and have moved on with our pessimistic/optimistic perceptions while anxiously reabsorbing our more recent returnees emotions as if their dismay were something new and unique. To tell them to get over it–like we are in the advanced process of doing–serves little purpose but to ignite already fragile emotions. We are all walking a precarious FEMA tightrope which redirects our anger from the ravages of Mother Nature toward an agency too overburdened to please almost anyone.

The violent counter clockwise twist of hurricane winds almost pales in comparison to the inefficacy of any government agency struggling to formulate a policy to get things right for the affected million or so. The difference between today’s FEMA policy and 100’s of other gossip-like reports of what is actually occurring (or not!) is almost as damaging as the demonic cocktail of late August. An official report I heard about SBA loan applications makes one wonder if anything substantive will ever occur. I don’t remember the actual numbers, but out of thousands of applications for loans, not grants, only 86 have been granted! And these were the first ones filed in early September immediately after the storm!

Let me put the scenario in perspective for you lest you forget the depth of this disaster and falsely perceive this to be a minor inconvenience in the scope of things. An entire city was vacated, drenched in water for almost a month, with roof and buildings en masse destroyed by wind and/or tiny tornadoes. Regular tornadoes generate 200+ mile an hour winds for a relatively brief but destructive amount of time. Katrina battered the Mississippi Gulf Coast the worst and New Orleans a little bit less with approximately 150 mph winds (N.O. may have been under 100) for a minimum of 8 hours. Add to that the weakening of structures from water erosion, the breakage of windows in major buildings from flying debris and the induction of that rain water into middle floor rooms and the final blow in N.O. of a deluge that poured from three or more breeched levees which left the city inundated for about a month and you have the formula for one unbelievable, over exaggerated Hollywood blockbuster. The only difference is, it wasn’t a movie. Geraldo got close with his emotional appeals but could only scratch the human surface of the few that remained with no way to address the million that were able to leave. Yes, the rescue effort was a travesty with lackluster governmental parcipitation, but the resulting loss of a normal life for a million people is just now rearing an ugly head which cannot be adequately dealt with.

Presently, New Orleans needs to return to normal with business. About 70% is considered small business which accounts for a majority of jobs in the metropolitan area. But small businesses are being denied or delayed the rescuing capital it will take to keep even a modicum of existence in place. There are very few dwellings intact in the entire city and the hotels in the CBD are currently inhabited by outsiders contracted to clean and rebuild during the initial stages of recovery.

So here’s the dilemma. Business owners need employees. Employees need a place to stay. There are none. If business cannot return because it has no available employees and employees cannot return because they have no job, where does this cycle end? And if you don’t sell stuff to the guy across the street because he has no money because he has no employees then the guy right next door to him can’t either.

If you look at a mythical economic map of current populated areas, commerce and occupied buildings representing the functioning part of New Orleans as it exists today, you would swear you were looking at a map of the city created by Jean Baptiste La Moyne, Sieur de Bienville, in 1718. That’s pretty much what’s left intact and functional except for a few isolated pockets throughout the city. And those pockets are about as plentiful as unretrieved doubloons on Bourbon Street late on Mardi Gras night. They may be there but you really have to look for them hard. And I guarantee everyone who has returned to this city has met the same fate of searching through the Mardi Gras debris for just one glimmering eyeful of a shiny anodized treasure buried beneath a carpet of sludge and debris. But that could be considered as the half empty glass of the popular saying.

There is also something going on beneath the surface you do not see on national TV. You see, the waters of Katrina indiscriminately washed away this entire city along with most of her problems, infested plagues which always yearned for absolution but never afforded the cure for one reason or another. And however you deem to classify this scourge, it is an unmistakable fact that in the darkest moments of this city’s history many were taken away and now few return. That’s not my judgment but it is a fact. And I have no idea who in those darkest moments of this city’s history chose to willfully destroy what little remained viable in this town. I don’t want to know who did it; I just want them to stay wherever they are now as long as it’s not in this city.

There is a specific reason I say this. The reason is because I now see a present population focused on one task, a rebuilding of what was taken either by nature or by willful degenerates. I can’t point my finger at anyone because I was not here as thousands of others were not here. But those of us who have returned did not do so out of obligation, reward or force but because what we are returning to is the home we have appreciated and loved whatever the foibles for years. Our choice was not to abandon the city but our plans were to return to it in some semblance of appreciation of our heritage and specific charm. And now what we have returned to has been damaged by Mother Nature. And that we must live with. She is uncontrollable. Water scum can be cleaned away but destructive vermin who remained behind to purposely ravage the lives of evacuated people of this city should be forced to drink the cleansing solutions and odor treatments we returnees have had to be breath and ingest on our own return as we attempt to put civilization back into the morass of human degradation which ruled the city for a few days in early September. And if this offends you, either you don’t live here or you were in places you were not welcomed while others were away.

I have seen the results of looting first hand. Stores were stripped of all valuables in attempts to increase one’s personal fortune, not for survival but for greed. That’s almost acceptable when one considers the evidence that most looted establishments suffered more loss from the utter destruction of the non-valuable components like showcases, lighting fixtures, office records, and such. In one store I witnessed the utter destruction of the infrastructure of an entire business with obvious attacks on the elements which had no value to anyone except the satiation of some macabre primeval force to destroy property because it was there. Useless paperwork strewn from one end of the building to the other with glass cabinets smashed and valuable crystal contents left in place but utterly demolished out of spite for some imagined injustice. Lighting fixtures yanked from the ceiling and crushed on the floor without conscience, not a hapless disengagement due to elemental forces but a hate-filled disregard for sovereignty when the dignity of the perpetrator is forever absent from their own psyche.

It wasn’t a temporary craze but a lustful rape of a city, somewhat like the distasteful accosting of an elderly lady once her family has left the city. And if this rape were isolated, it would be more palatable. But point in any direction and your finger will be indicating the proximity of bile-like bitterness upon innocent property. It was rampant in those early days of the desertion and it’s not any less at this present time. Subtract the life-dependent urges amidst a chaotic storm environ and you are left with predatory animals who have no desire to invest in anything other than personal glory and property acquisition, not that they have worked long and hard hours to earn the distinction but more or less a conceit that what is left is abandoned and therefore free to have with a little lock shimmy or window bash. And what they don’t take or want, they destroy. At least vermin may selfishly destroy walls, doors and minor obstructions to gain their prize which mainly consists of food and such, but I hereby offer my apologies to the actual rodents for using their description in the same paragraph as this human sludge I speak about.

In a previous conversation with others, I used the term “purge” to describe the dispersal of all strata of this community we once shared in New Orleans and quickly brought grief upon myself when following up with a comment addition I made later in reference to the much heralded Decadence Festival, one of the first “normal” articles written about in our local newspaper. I explained I may had been premature in using the term “purge” only to highlight how even with such massive destruction, our city desk chose to highlight the extreme rather than focus on the rebuilding and repopulation efforts which would benefit our city most. Both homophobic (the pictured individual in the article was a well-known transvestite) and racist accusations (the city is predominantly Black) were thrown in my direction because the individual jumped to the conclusion that my meaning was that the “purge” had been incomplete by some Theistic judgment meted out by the Almighty and more of the job needed to be done. That is not what I meant.

What we currently have here in New Orleans is empty space. It was not a voluntary vacation of the premises. It was forced by nature and what ever force you chose to believe is responsible. And with the proliferation of terminology like “biblical in proportion” bandied about by many people and officials who were interviewed, I felt it only appropriate to borrow the implications and segue into that spirit because New Orleans was purged by any definition or source. It was purged of rich and poor alike, white and black and any other color and subsequently left with a beige pallor to a normally year-round green city. Sure, many that were left were either poor or employed in the search and rescue operations. And many of the poor were upstanding, decent people while some of the authority figures who stayed behind were poor in character. One police officer I met weeks earlier in my refuge city and who had been dispatched for a week to help with the rescue effort in New Orleans confided in me that the first five New Orleans Police officers he saw in the field were engaged in the looting themselves! As of this week some fifty plus N.O.P.D. officers–including the Chief–himself have resigned, have been fired or have been arrested and more investigations into misconduct continue. In one major incident, numerous officers were tracked down in far reaching cities as far away as the Carolinas with commandeered vehicles belonging to one local dealership who reportedly had over 50 vehicles absconded during the ordeal. Preliminary reports from police spokesmen described the actions as using the vehicles for patrols but in South Carolina, Baton Rouge, Houston and Dallas?

Houston and some other gracious cities in the region who were kind enough to house and feed thousands of fleeing New Orleanians have now begun to release statistics showing rising crime rates. There have been no murders reported since late August in the city of New Orleans. Drug running activities have ceased to exist. With all due respect to the kind cities so selflessly involved in our citizens’ comfort in the past few months, you may keep these purgees because we sure don’t need that kind of person back. And if that offends anyone, send me your home address and I will gladly list your residence as a shelter for these criminals. New Orleans will welcome back well-meaning individuals of any income level or color who wish to rebuild her. But if you mean to destroy, no amount of whining or shouts of inequality will change this city’s resolve. Things have changed.  I hope . . . I pray . . .

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Posted by on November 2, 2005 in Random Thoughts


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