Wednesday, March 07, 2007

new orleans, 18 months later

It was just a weekend getaway; I'd wanted to see New Orleans again ever since Katrina. And not in some voyeuristic way, although it certainly felt like that first, but like every American should want to see what progress has been made and help out as best as a tourist could -- with money. (Tourism was the city's #2 industry, not sure what it's ranked now). Then there was the guilt for only going as tourist, not as a volunteer. Fortunately, it's not that long of a flight from NY, so by the time we landed, I was ready.

What I wasn't ready for was the destruction that flanked the highway into the city. "Eighteen months later?" was the refrain in my head. It was never too muted, even during nice dinners in the French Quarter or smothered under fabulous beignets. Those sorts of indulgences can make you forget the whole thing ever happened. The downtown is just as it was five years ago when my parents took me. Except this time I'm allowed to go into the bars on Bourbon.

But I thought some of you might want to see the photos I took from my journey outside of downtown and maybe it'll motivate a trip down to N.O. Everyone we met wanted us to go home and tell our friends to come visit; the city, the people, they needed tourists to return and spend away (and if there's one thing we Americans do well...).

But folks were divided on the story we should tell. Yes, you could spend a weekend downtown, down a few Hurricanes (it's a potent drink) and maybe earn a few beads, just like always -- tell that story: things are great!

Or, tell them to get out and see the devastation for themselves, entire derelict neighborhoods -- even middle class neighborhoods -- with no power, no one coming home from work or going to school anymore. They ought to see that part, too, so they don't forget that eighteen months later hospitals are still closed and so many families are still living in doublewides. The scandal that this could be happening in this country, that part will never be on the postcards, but Americans need to know -- tell that story: things aren't so great.

So I thought I'd tell both. You can take my word on all the vices and delights of the downtown (they're all still there, I just wasn't foolish enough to upload any photos of me indulging in them). Here are some photos if you want to see proof of the rest.


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