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A Life and Death Situation

October 11, 2012

“Crickets. Do you know what I remember most about right after the storm? How quiet it was. No cars. No buzz from those power lines. No birds. Not even crickets. It was quiet as death. So know when I hear those buts rubbing their legs together like they do, I feel fortunate, Delmond.”

New Orleans, 2007. Life. Everywhere life. In hotel rooms fancy and nasty, in the back seat of cars, singing in the trees. Life and death, rolling side by side like running partners because here in New Orleans we’re all running away from and toward death and when you come to a corner and you don’t know where to turn, there’s a bar. There’s a jukebox. Out in front, a crepe myrtle blooms.

New Orleans, 2007. Life.

Death. Albert facing about the doctor. “It’s about how you stand.” I think I know where Delmond stands, or where I would like to see him, following the Wild Man out on Carnival Day. We all know how Albert stands. Won’t bow. Don’t know how. The juxtaposition of the senseless death of Jay Cardella and Albert’s diagnosis, neither fatality ever to appear on an Official List of Victims of Katrina. Cardella would wind up on the signboard outside St. Anna’s Episcopal Church. Albert’s obituary may not mention the flood at all. A friend of my mother’s died in 2007, elderly, displaced, traumatized. She will never appear on the Official List but her headstone reads “A Victim of Katrina” and she was. Neither of the characters can claim that horrible distinction but each was lead to death by the city they love. “There’s two things that make life worth living, and one of them is fried food,” Albert tells Delmond with a mock leer and truer words were never spoken. Cardella and his real life analogue found happiness in this city’s famous tolerance for what my current anthropology reading calls “transgressive behavior.” Death was incidental. Joy was intentional. I lived in Washington, D.C. for most of a decade and in the late ’80s and early ’90s death was ever-present. In my frontier neighborhood in North East I could see it walk the streets at night with a tell-tale swag, hear it in the slow, crickety buildup of a gun battle somewhere to the north while sitting in my backyard. There was something fatally attractive about D.C. but it was different from New Orleans. The attraction was power, the Hierophant (V), nothing worth dying for whether on a corner up by Gallaudet or on the sands of Iraq. The troubles of New Orleans may be about power but the city is not. It is about mystery, exploration, a distracted carelessness, an ancient arcana. Its card is The Fool (0). In New Orleans is a reason to live not found elsewhere, and a place worth dying in, preferably of old age and muleish pig-headedness. [Insert obligatory half-step snare-snap trombone parasol wall oven reference here].

I think I said something about this already, once upon a time in the 2007 time-frame of Season 3, and we’ll leave it at that. “If history and the city consumes us all one-by-one but the city lives on, that perhaps was what was always intended, why we were all lured home.”

8 Comments
  1. October 11, 2012 10:57 am

    Love the Tarot references.

  2. samjasper permalink
    October 11, 2012 1:30 pm

    “She will never appear on the Official List but her headstone reads “A Victim of Katrina” and she was. ”

    Exactly. One of our great commenters said on my last post, that they had seen a theme that everyone in NOLA knew someone who was murdered. I came here planning on writing a reply to that comment saying, “While not everyone here knew someone who was murdered, many did. What I can say is that everyone here knew someone who died during that time, often more than one person, whether it was suicide or death by stress, all of us did know someone who died during that time.”

    Heart attack rates sky rocketed, as did suicides, as did murders. I remember that unearthly quiet Albert talked about and still shudder at it. It was like living in a tomb, but once the corpses were reanimated, some found it too difficult to reassemble their lives. I truly believe that if a long term study is ever done on the mortality rates of those who experienced that time, the researchers will find that death rates even years after the Flood, are significantly higher than for other populations.

  3. October 12, 2012 11:10 am

    “… the troubles of New Orleans may be about power but the city is not. It is about mystery, ”

    That can be the only explanation, right?

    As long as the sorts such as Jindal are able to continue their destruction of it all with impunity the city is in dire jeopardy. By “all,” is meant all of Louisiana, of which New Orleans is the lodestar (whether or not all of Louisiana admits or like that — well, maybe not Shreveport.) The wanton destruction of everything from the wetlands and the Gulf waters to the public school system — which was already in bad shape, but Jindal and his cronies and runners want it destroyed all together.

    Yet, there seems nothing can be done to stop it, with that huge boulder of racism in the middle of it all, that legacy of being a slave economy.

  4. October 12, 2012 11:12 am

    [ " “While not everyone here knew someone who was murdered, many did. What I can say is that everyone here knew someone who died during that time, often more than one person, whether it was suicide or death by stress, all of us did know someone who died during that time.” ]

    And over here we know both, those who were victims of the Failure, and those who were murdered. And some, even both victim of the Failure and murdered. Far too many of both.

  5. October 12, 2012 1:15 pm

    It is not only Jindal and the state’s almost entirely Republican delegation in Washington who could care if the city lives or dies, but even our own Democratic mayor, whose only genuine contact (excluding photo ops) with the cultural community, as Sam Jasper has pointed out elsewhere, appears to occur only at fundraisers where the right sort of artists and musicians dutifully appear. Once we get all the artists and musicians properly permitted (the ones who leave because they can’t afford a $1,000 Special Event Permit to serve wine at their little gallery), maybe we can move onto permitting handgun and AK-47s, a weapon notoriously inaccurate and valued for its durability and high rate of fire (you’re only chance of hitting something you couldn’t bash with the butt end),.

  6. doctorj2u permalink
    October 12, 2012 11:42 pm

    Mark, Thanks for the beautiful post. I so loved it. I cannot compete with the prose of the earlier posters, but I just wanted you to know that this native New Orleanian appreciated your writing. It was so well done. Kudos! I have been holding off posting because we are now getting into the time where the abandonment is coming from the city’s government. It is as it ever was. I thought a Katrina might bring them out of it and it didn’t. In fact it might have made them worse. How could they! I will never understand.

  7. October 13, 2012 7:41 am

    Doc, it’s not a competition. You’re among friends.

    I am interested in how people are reacting to this seasons. I re-read a lot of my own Katrina blog Wet Bank Guide from the 2007 period, probably the most prolific and painful period of all, so much promise smothered in despair. What I love about the first piece I linked back to is its insistence on the triumph of life over death and despair. We are as insistent as deep see worms living at a thermal vent to exist in all of our defiant color amidst the darkness in a place some say life should not exist at all.

  8. October 13, 2012 9:37 am

    Mark — Is there some so far undiscovered toxin in the air that turns Dems into pillagers of their own when they get into office? It just boggles, except the heart has already broken from the collision of outrage and sorrow.

    Love, C.

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