Thursday, September 01, 2005

More Thoughts on New Orleans

I haven't stopped thinking about the place since I heard the hurricane was coming - since I heard that it was going to be bad. And there's two people that share my fondness for the place, Chuck and Karen. Since the storm hit we have been writing back and forth, sharing bits of information and thoughts about the I knew we would. Today Karen sent an excerpt from a novel by Valerie Martin - and I wanted to post it here:

"It is an odd sensation to recognize in oneself the need to be in a particular physical environment, when one longs for the home ground no matter how terrible the memories it holds, no matter how great the efforts to leave it behind. So I have left this city again and again and thought myself lucky to escape its allure, for it's the attraction of decay, of vicious, florid, natural cycles that roll over the senses with their lushness. Where else could I find these hateful, humid, murderously hot afternoons when I know that the past was a series of great mistakes, the greatest being the inability to live anywhere besides this swamp? I can't do without those little surges of joy at the sight of a chameleon, of a line of dark clouds moving beneath the burning blue of the sky. I am comforted by the threatening encumbrance of moss on trees, the thick, sticky plantain trees than can grow from their chopped roots twenty feet in three months, the green scum that spreads over the lagoons and bayous, the colorful conversation of the lazy, suspicious, pleasure-loving populous. I don't think I will leave the city again.
The plague continues, neither in nor out of control, but we have been promised a vaccine that will solve all our problems. We go on without it, and life is not intolerable. Our city is an island, physically and psychologically; we are tied to the rest of the country only by our own endeavor. The river from which we drink drains a continent; it has to be purified for days before we can stomach it. We smile to ourselves when people from more fashionable centers find us provincial, for if we are free of one thing, it's fashion. The future holds a simple promise. We are well below sea level, and inundation is inevitable. We are content, now, to have our heads above water."


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Shortly after September 11, a friend from outside of New York sent me three lines from one of the early Cantos of the Inferno. Virgil and Dante are standing on the side of a hill overlooking the Styx ferry crossing, and Dante looks down upon the scene: "And I saw a flag below, and behind the flag came such a long procession of the dead that I could not have believed that death had undone so many."

Maybe some of us contributed to this horror by confirming the image of New Orleans as a magic, charmed and protected place. If so, now is the time to atone, both materially and mentally.

2:04 AM  
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