Like everyone else, I've looked for word on my own address, and found the simple message that "4007 St. Charles is DRY." I got chills of joy. Why exactly that cheered me up, I don't know, because even if I got very little wind or flood damage, the situation in New Orleans is so fucked up at the moment that (living on a major thoroughfare as I do) I've got to almost assume that by the time we can go back there in a few months, my building will have been ransacked by the looting thug mobs that have taken control of the city. As far as my stuff is concerned, it's not important, I think we've all kind of written off all of our property -- you can't count on it being there intact, and even if it is, what does it matter in the face of what everyone else has lost? That's not what bothers me. What bothers me, and what's killing the living, breathing thing that was New Orleans, is the loss of order, the dissolution of the social contract, and the descent of modern Americans into complete bloody savagery.
It's beyond comprehension. The danger is immense. They looted and burned a shopping mall and shot at the firemen who tried to put it out. They've shot so many New Orleans Police that the police that are left are turning in their badges by the hundreds. I'm sorry, but these are savages; if they're so content in a land without law, they don't deserve trials and juries. Anyone seen committing a crime should be shot on sight, or better yet, left there in the water for the next few months to die slow deaths from cholera and malaria and toxoplasmosis.
I had to turn off the television just now because I can't stand listening to the director of FEMA spewing forth about how good a job the federal government is doing responding to this disaster, while we've got the radio tuned into the one New Orleans station still broadcasting, WWL 870 AM, and hearing our elected officials, now helpless and in tears, describe the situation as "the worst type of hell on earth," pleading for troops and humanitarian aid for the starving dying masses of people at the superdome and the convention center, and saying that FEMA, the Red Cross, and federal law enforcement are almost completely absent throughout the city and Jefferson Parish despite what they claim in press conferences. They sound like something out of Black Hawk Down or some other war movie, infantry lieutenants pinned down with their squads under heavy enemy fire, desperately radioing for backup and being told that it's "on the way" -- but it never comes. Forget the most devastating hurricane ever, the federal government's botched response to this is looking like a bureaucratic cluster fuck of biblical proportions. So much for Homeland Security.
We're all still in shock, several days later, but reality is setting in. Talk inevitably turns to the uncertainties and difficulties of the future -- will there be a city to go back to? How long will it be before we can? Will we have jobs if there is? Where do we go next?
As this first week of our hellish odyssey comes to an end, everyone is trying to figure out their long-term plans. Most of the people I've spoken to here, as well as friends I've been in contact with by e-mail, can't afford to stay in hotels much longer and are moving on for extended visits with family or friends in other parts. We won't be let back into our city for several months, and even then probably won't have jobs to go back to -- so those of us without extravagant savings have to start finding places to live and work. It looks as if I'll be heading to DC or Chicago, where my generous friends have offered me room and board for as long as it takes to get on my feet again. I'll make it work; not much choice, is there?
There's so much loss I can't talk about it all, I can't understand all the implications, I can't wrap my head around just how bad things are for my city and the wonderful people who gave it spirit and heart and made it the living thing that it was. It is still alive, critically injured, but alive, and mark my words, we will rebuild New Orleans. It will come back, because there are too many of us who love it and need it to be there. New Orleans will be back, better than it was. And I'll be there when it's time to bring it back.