My friend Tim and I went to New Orleans last week. I had never been there, so I didn’t have any memories to which to compare the city today. But the city was basically empy outside of the French Quarter, and there was a conspciuous lack of, how do you say it… black people. It is certainly not the chocolate city of Mayor Nagin’s dreams, and I could understand his calls for a black majority after seeing the current state of the city.
When I came back to New York people asked me if I went to see or help fix the destruction. No, I replied, I didn’t. I went to the Jazz Fest. I believe this was a good thing to do, as Tim and I pumped our meager funds into the bankrupt city’s economy by buying tons of un-kosher food (including 10 lbs of crawfish) and listening some good music.
Although we didn’t make it to the 9th ward, there were signs of Katrina’s aftermath everywhere. The Times-Picayune and the nightly news talked of almost nothing but the rebuilding efforts and money problems. Empty houses were marked as such, and citizens angry about the lack of federal support graffitied their frutration everywhere.
My favorite sign: an announcement about the upcoming Shabbat sermon at Temple Sinai on St. Charles Ave: “I Love My FEMA Trailer – NOT”
I came away feeling the way many newcomers to the city feel — I loved it. I loved the food, the people, the music, the trees, the heavy air. It was so refreshingly un-Northeastern. And it was sad; people know how unique and important their city is, and many feel abandoned by a federal government that, as they see it, would rather fight a war than care for its own. Leaving the city, I couldn’t help but feel embittered too, and I worry about the city’s future if private developers are the ones to put it back together again.