My last entry in this blog was almost five months ago, when I wrote about exotic, mysterious, heart-broken New Orleans. Today, I am watching video of people fleeing again as hurricane Gustav approaches. I see photos of adults with sacks carrying whatever they could stuff into them, waiting for buses, and frightened children clutching their little backpacks. I listen to a woman who owns a car but doesn't know where to go. She has a vague idea of going to Baton Rouge, but the TV commentator interviewing her tells her all the hotels there are full.
Having been to New Orleans and taken it to my heart, I am with these people. I await the storm with dread. I wonder what I would do if I were down there now, with little money, young children or elderly relatives, perhaps, about to leave behind what little I have. I see video of people on a bus. They don't know where it will take them or what they will do when they get there.
Travel. A luxury? In one sense it is, of course. On a physical level, we can survive without it. But on another level, we can't.
New Orleans is no longer an abstraction to me.
As I write this, I'm thinking about the nurse I met there, who sank her life savings into rebuilding her house after Katrina. I'm thinking about the artists I met who seethed with passion and anger after Katrina, and threw it into their work. I'm thinking about the restaurateur whose restaurants never fully recovered after Katrina, but who, five months ago was hopeful, because New Orleans was his home. I'm thinking about the beautiful houses on the Esplanade that last time, were spared. I'm thinking about the Ninth Ward, which wasn't. I'm remembering the jazz musicians marching through the streets and in the clubs, the beignets and coffee, the lacy, wrought iron balconies.
There's nothing to do now but wait.
Some New Orleans people: