You'll always remember the city that care forgot.
One of the many nicknames for New Orleans. How eerily apropos now. My heart goes out to all of the victims of hurricane katrina. And I realize it's not just New Orleans that was affected. But I am going to focus on The Crescent City. The news channels and internet are inundated with all of the horrifying and heartbreaking images of the aftermath. And, like most people, I was certainly affected. Yet, distantly so. As with anything, it is hard to identify with something that is far away. On 9/11, I understood how hard it was for non-New Yorkers to grasp the gravity of what had happened to those of us who live in New York City. So, while very concerned, it still wasn't that personal. I was trying to think of whom I might know that lived down that way and if they were okay. It didn't really hit me until I arrived at work yesterday. One of the waitresses grew up there. I had not even thought about her because she is here. We talked for a moment. And it became personal. Very real for me. She said how her family's home was lost, her cat, her personal belongings, her art, etc. And, most importantly, she still had not heard from a very close relative. To see and hear the desperation and helplessness in her voice was heart wrenching. She expressed how she wished she was there for it. She could have prepared and helped her family and saved precious heirlooms. I told her that I was glad she was hear because she is safe and out of harm's way. Yet, I understood her plight. It was what they call survivor's guilt. Many of us had it after 9/11. People in plane or car accidents that survive always question why. What they could have done to change things. She left work early to go home and continue trying to find family members and friends. She was just there a month ago.
Then, I remembered another friend had been in and out of town. Also from the New Orleans area, she had moved back down there from New York City. I knew she was back and forth between both cities, but hadn't spoken to her in a couple of months. So, I was unsure as to her whereabouts. I assumed she was here in the city, but wanted to be sure. I called. It became even more real. She was down there and had been safely evacuated to Mississippi. She used to work with us at the Moroccan lounge where I am a bar manager. She said she was desperately trying to make her way back up to New York City. Practically begging for a place to stay and a place to work. I assured her that she could work with us again and that she could stay with me if necessary. She said she was fine, but could not get a hold of a close relative. Once again, I could hear how forsaken she felt. Her voice crackled with abandon. And suddenly I started to feel helpless.
I had spoken to 2 people in the span of 15 minutes that made the situation so lucid. So real. I got home later and saw a friend on line and we began chatting. She too was very concerned. Her family is from there and she said her mother is pretty torn up about it. Her uncle was not evacuated. Her family lived right near the first levee that broke. She is trying to be the rock of the family since her mother is so upset. She said how much her mother was trying to fix things and felt so helpless. Such a common thread. Helplessness.
While other cities were affected, New Orleans is over 80% underwater. I heard a girl talking on MSNBC this morning and calmly discussing how the city and everything she knew is gone. New Orleans residents had lost their homes, cars, jobs, hangouts, friends, personal effects, etc. The city had lost it's economy, culture, tourism, history, etc. I hadn't thought of it that way. I was just thinking of all of the people. But, the city itself is gone for awhile. I have heard estimates of years for it to come back to what it was. All of this tragedy is inundated on television and the internet. And I certainly have just discussed some of my friend's personal misfortunes. However, I would like to talk about the city itself and my personal experience with it.
I had the opportunity to go to New Orleans back in the fall of '95. I was on a national tour with the musical, ALADDIN and we had a week off. Our tour manager convinced the company to let us have that week off in New Orleans since we were so nearby. It was an awesome week! We did the touristy stuff and went to some of the famous restaurants/bars and stuff. Did some riverboat gambling and I actually won $200! The cast hit the french quarter in search of authentic New Orleans fare and fun! I had my first taste of jambalaya, well, REAL jambalaya. I love Cajun and Creole cookin! It started my love for that. We found some great jazz. Took a very touristy and cheesy "haunted" walking tour of the area. Basically, explaining unexplained moments in New Orleans history and showing us the places where it all happened. We searched for some voodoo shops and bought some black magic items. Nothing too crazy or illegal. Although, my ex-girlfriend said her back was hurting after I bought that voodoo doll. We also found some of the more "behind the scenes" type places. I remember one of the girls, yes girls, in the cast saw a sign that said: LIVE SEX SHOW. She wanted to go, so we did. It was pretty lame and we were disappointed. I swear there was a pregnant girl stripping. We swiftly departed and found some more good eats. We made the most of that week and stuffed ourselves with as much of the New Orleans lifestyle as we could. I always thought I would head back some day. I never wanted to go for Mardi Gras, because I heard it was just too crazy. Of course, now I wish I could have gone just once.
Hopefully, the city will rebuild and come back. It has such a rich history. I found a great site that tells all about the origin and culture of New Orleans. Check it out: New Orleans History.
Yeah, not much with the funny today in the blog. I'll bring it back tomorrow. I just felt like I had to discuss current events and give some tribute to such a great city. Go eat some Cajun. Some Creole. Listen to some good New Orleans jazz. Read an Anne Rice novel. Remember it well. Live on. Love on.
I'll be rootin' for ya, Big Easy. Hopefully, those Saints will come marching in sooner rather than later.