Re: NBC: New Orleans
- From: LuvTheBoss@xxxxxxx
- Date: 2 Sep 2005 01:21:23 -0700
But I'm just feeling more than a little sad and angry...and feel like
shouting myself tonight....that or crying. <
Here Billy, you'll like this, from today's Washington Post, maybe
This Isn't the Last Dance
By Rick Bragg
Friday, September 2, 2005; Page A29
It has always had my heart in a box.
In the clip-joint souvenir shops in the gaudiest blocks of the Quarter,
with canned Cajun music drilling rock-concert-loud into my ears, I
could never resist opening the toy wooden coffins to see what was
inside. I knew it would be just a cut-rate voodoo doll -- a wad of
rags, cheap plastic beads and blind, button eyes. But every time, it
made me smile. What a place, what a city, that can make you laugh at
coffins and believe in magic -- all the way to the cash register.
What a place, where old women sit beside you on outbound planes
complaining about their diabetes while eating caramel-covered popcorn a
fistful at a time. "It's hard, so hard, sweet baby," they will say of
their disease, then go home and slick an iron skillet with bacon
grease, because what good is there in a life without hot cornbread?
What a place, where in the poorest cemeteries the poorest men and women
build tin-foil monuments to lost children in a potter's field, while
just a few blocks over, the better-off lay out oyster po' boys and cold
root beer and dine in the shade of the family crypt, doing lunch with
their ancestors and the cement angels in cities of the dead.
What a place, so at ease here at the elbow of death, where I once
marched and was almost compelled to dance in a jazz funeral for a
street-corner conjurer named Chicken Man, who was carried to his
resting place by a hot-stepping brass band and a procession of mourners
who drank long-neck beers and laughed out loud as his hearse rolled
past doorways filled with men and women who clapped in time.
Now, for those of us who borrowed that spirit and used that love and
then moved away, these past few awful days have seemed like a hospital
death watch -- and, in fact, for so many people it has been. And we
stare deep into the television screen, at the water that had always
seemed like just one more witch, one more story to scare ourselves into
a warmer, deeper sleep, and we wonder if there is just too much water
and too much death this time.
Ever since I was barely in my twenties, I have loved the way some men
love women, if that means unreasonably. I fell in love with the city
and a Louisiana State University sophomore on the same night, eating
shrimp cooked seven ways in the Quarter, riding the ferry across the
black, black river where fireworks burned the air at Algiers Point. I
drank so much rum I could sleep standing up against a wall. The
sophomore left me, smiling, but the city never did.
There is no way to explain to someone who has never lived here why
every day seemed like parole. Every time I would swing my legs from
under the quilt and ease my toes onto the pine floors of my shotgun
double, I would think, I am getting away with something here.
How long now before the streetcar rattles down St. Charles Avenue and
beads swing into the 200-year-old trees? How long before Dunbar's puts
the chicken and stewed cabbage on the stove, or the overworked ladies
at Domilisie's dress a po' boy on Annunciation Street, or the midday
drinkers find their way back to Frankie and Johnny's on Arabella
Street? Does my old house still stand on Joseph? It was high, high
ground, on the lip of the bowl, and you could hit the Mississippi River
with a silver dollar if you threw it twice.
I cannot stand the idea that it is broken, unfixable. I look at the men
using axes to hack their way into 100-year-old houses to save people
trapped there by the suffocating water. I know there is life and death
to be fought out for a long, long time. But I can't help but wonder
what will come, later.
My wife, as wives do, voiced what most of us are afraid to say.
"I'm glad you took me there," she said. "Before."
We went there on our honeymoon.
Just a few weeks ago, I spent a week there, walking along Magazine,
walking the Quarter, not minding the heat because that is what the
devil sends, heat and water, to make you appreciate the smell of
crushed cherries and whiskey on the balcony at the Columns Hotel, to
make you savor the barbecued shrimp, to make you hear, really hear, the
sound of a 12-year-old boy blowing his own heart out into a battered
trumpet by a ragged cardboard box full of pocket change.
How long, before that city reforms. Some people say it never will.
But I have seen these people dance, laughing, to the edge of a grave.
I believe that, now, they will dance back from it.
Rick Bragg is an author and journalist.
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