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Day 576: Nineteen-Month-Delayed Aftershocks

Dead Bamboo

Last night, I exited the grocery store while D animatedly bemoaned our house’s distinct lack of indoor plant life.  “Bring your planter back from work and let’s refresh it with fresh bamboo stalks.  What about palms?  I want more greenery around.”

Barely audible, I replied, “Ever since Katrina and the flood, I’ve refrained from loading up on plants and overfilling the refrigerator.  What if we have to evacuate and stay away for a month or so again this season?  The bare minimum of perishables, please.”

Undaunted, D went on, “Everything dies, Maitri, including humans, plants and pets.  What about your dad’s garden in Kuwait?  It died during the unexpected Iraqi invasion.  I’m not going to let my life be dictated by the odds of another Katrina type event occurring here.  Besides, the chances are higher that we get hit head-on in which case the whole house goes or that nothing happens.  All we’re going to experience this time is another Ivan, if that.”

From his mouth to god’s ears.  “Yeah, everything does die, D.  But, at least the humans and pets don’t die unless they’re left behind like the garden, houseplants and refrigerator.”

That’s when I lost it.  Travelling down beautiful Prytania Avenue, hot, inexplicable tears rolled down my cheeks and my chest heaved and sank, heaved and sank.  The same way it did on August 28th 2005 as we headed to Texas and Katrina prepared to make landfall.  It hasn’t gone away, has it, that acquired fear of premature impermanence?  Now do you know why I seized my independence so vigorously after 1990, mom and dad?  To the rest of the world, now are you aware why most New Orleanians still celebrate Mardi Gras, Jazzfest, the Saints and every recent party like there’s no tomorrow?  Because New Orleans is unusual and it may not have a tomorrow, so we carpe the bloody diem NOW.  Oh, am I wrong?  Do I not have faith?

The failure to build New Orleans-area hurricane levees and levee walls as part of an integrated, well-fortified system doomed the region during Katrina and remains the key finding of a revised report released Monday by an investigation team sponsored by the Army Corps of Engineers.

… The task force still must complete a chapter on risk that will include one set of detailed maps of the New Orleans area that explain the risk faced by residents and businesses once repairs on the levee system are completed. A second set of maps will outline the reliability of the existing levee system: mainly, its ability to withstand future hurricanes.

Bailing is not an option now, but I’m scared, like everyone’s scared.  We have but one life to live, but when that life starts to resemble bits of unrelated movies hastily spliced together, it becomes a hard thing for the mind and heart to reconcile.  It’s not easy to just pick up and move, much less “move the city” as some have suggested.  Not knowing, however, is the hardest part.

9 comments… add one
  • Marco March 27, 2007, 6:46 PM

    “Do the needfull” as the saying goes. Stay the course, defend NOLA. The city needs your soul and spirit. It’s the only way.

  • liprap March 27, 2007, 7:21 PM

    I’m crying a little here, because it’s true, dammit. The Times-Pic runs a series that gives us ten years. The recent revelations concerning the pumps and all make that number seem optimistic.

    All of this is fuckin’ hard. Problem is, I love it all too much to just live like a goddamn zombie someplace else.

    I think I’m gonna bring the rum along with the rum-pecan pound cake to GD III. Sounds like we’re gonna need it.

  • tamasha March 27, 2007, 8:03 PM


  • Cousin Pat from Georgia March 27, 2007, 10:08 PM

    It ain’t an easy thought to live life between June and November wondering if this week is ‘the week’ we have to pack the car in the middle of the night and speed inland. It is bothersome to move all the ‘important documents’ and family photographs into easily transported tupperware containers, and keep them in an easy to reach corner. It is obnoxious to stock up on non-perishable food, batteries and to spend money on radios and flashlights you hope you never have to use. It frays the nerves to watch the Weather Channel at 4 am, hoping the worst doesn’t come here, and mixing the feelings of relief and anguish and guilt when those waves are crashing on someone else.

    That one gets to me the worst.

    It is hard to build and live and laugh in a place that may not be there come Thanksgiving.

    And you’re right, there is no real security. When the illusion of permanence is ripped away violently – like it always is – it puts that extra burden on your heart that never, ever lifts.

    But that is why our lives in places like these are inexhaustible. Once we’re here, we can never get away from it. We know that every moment in places like these is a gift; every beautiful day, every soft night, every string of beads caught. We know that family and friends and times shared are the most important things, no matter how dearly we love everything else.

    That tears at us the most, and gives us the most strength at the same time. We know the double edged knife that comes with the word “home.” This is the awful, awful price we pay for being addicted to living in the most special places in the world.

  • Michael Homan March 28, 2007, 7:38 AM

    Therese and I had a similar discussion about whether or not to get goldfish for our pond. It’s like we’re living in a sand mendala.

  • Editor B March 28, 2007, 9:01 AM

    “It hasn’t gone away.” No, it hasn’t. I expect it never will, entirely. It just tends to get more distant, but it comes roaring back when you least expect it.

  • D March 28, 2007, 2:08 PM

    “so we carpe the bloody diem NOW.”

    Well it’s your lucky day! To me that means that I’ll be picking up some plants this weekend and making another big pot of gumbo so I can freeze some, Again. I take full and sole responsibility for my actions. Hopefully this will assuage your guilt and yet you can still benefit from a lush verdant home and gumbo whenever you want….

  • Sophmom March 28, 2007, 4:58 PM

    Beautiful and moving, both the post and the comments. I’m sorry you have to experience the waves of sudden sadness but I’m glad that you’re there keeping New Orleans alive for the rest of us. Thank you.

  • Loki March 28, 2007, 10:34 PM

    I’m coming over for gumbo. AND I’m going to bring you a plant. Nyah.

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