I am very sad for New Orleans, and for all the communities destroyed by the hurricane. But New Orleans in particular is a painful loss because the city is very special to me. The news coverage has been extensive and predictably racist. When black people steal, it’s looting. When white people steal, it’s because emergency workers are slow to act and they must feed their families. I look at the familiar streets now awash with flood water and it seems unfathomable. Residents complain about the weather there, revealing its harshness, its unrelenting force, but I don’t think anyone could have anticipated this.
I have spent a good deal of time in New Orleans, particularly in the stylish and historic French Quarter. It’s amazing to look at, of course, with the wrought iron balconies, the candy heart colored houses that line the street, the tangle of vine and trellis everywhere. To call it haunted would be an understatement. Every dark street and alley holds its own moldy secret. The mythology of the town, steeped in the spiritual legacy of slavery and hundreds of years of racial unrest add to its chaotic charm. The sweet smell of decay blowing up from the river across Charles Street always symbolized the decadence of New Orleans, like rotting magnolias, putrefying in the rigor mortis grasp of a dead debutante. Beautiful and horrible. At once sacred and profane, and likely the only place in America that can be described as such.
The city is fickle as the heart of a Southern belle. It will welcome you with open arms, girls gone wild and fair weather, then it will mug you, blow all your windows in and make you throw up Mardi Gras beads. I have always been lucky, the city likes me, as far as I can tell, but that was due to my own efforts. I’ve spent late nights knocking three times at the door of Marie Laveau’s crypt, carefully carving my initials in the dusty cemetery rock, asking permission to live on the quiet end of Bourbon Street. I never did find a place to live there, but I always thought I still might, until now.
I see a lost and fearful looking Doberman on a rooftop, and I wish I had a giant ark, and I could sail down into the city and save him. Then I would pick up all the other animals and people that needed help, two by two. Two trannies here, two hookers there. A pair of wet and miserable Goths, with black Manic Panic hair dye running into their red, unbelieving eyes. I want to save them all.
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