[I have a friend who is an amazing writer but he tends to abandon his writing projects often. I wanted to save his writings for posterity and make them more widely available. The MonkeyPope Archives contain his collected works.]
Friday, November 11, 2005
On my way to Colorado, I stopped in New Orleans to visit my folks who are there aiding in the relief effort. I could only afford to spare one night there, but after three weeks of deprivation, a night of family, good Cajun food, and a little wine is well worth driving out of my way for.
Driving into the outskirts of New Orleans, I understand how Charton Heston must have felt in Omega Man (but I’m usually in a state of commiseration with one of the many Charlton Heston cinematic incarnations). The damage to suburbia, visible from Highway 10, over two months since Katrina tore through, was more than extensive, it was absurd. What was the point of the mayor saying it’s safe to return to your homes? The roads are still so littered with hurricane detritus that these suburban homes aren’t even accessible. And those that were, lacked so much of themselves that there was very little to return to. It seemed most had abandoned their homes, wait for the demolition team to come through, finish the work Katrina began and start over anew. What little I’ve seen of downtown New Orleans, mostly the French Quarter, fared much better, appearing mostly still structurally sound.
This is my first visit to the city and wow, what a place. Sitting at Cafe Du Monde, munching on beignets and sipping hot chocolate (they ran out of coffee!) while listening to an amazing violinist and guitarist duo, I fell in love. A city that values food and music above all else? How could it not secure a place in my heart? And the post-Katrina relief effort atmosphere is one so communal, friendly. Walking the streets and hearing residents greet street musicians who had returned after long absences…it’s a magical town and a bit of a magical time. While police are rampant, there is a sense of anything goes here. People park their cars on the medians, ride dune buggies on the sidewalks, light up on the riverfront, but there isn’t a sense of lawlessness or danger.
I’m only there for a day, but it’s a wonderful day. A day that shocked me with lingering signs of destruction and lack of government assistance (official agencies seemed much more interested in policing the populace than rebuilding suburbia), that nauseated me with the sewage-esque stink of the city (Katrina Cough now a documented condition arising from the mold and spores left behind after the flooding), that relaxed me with hot chocolate and beignets, that entertained me with talented buskers, that re-settled me with a visit to my folks, that reminded me of myself as it is a city on the brink of re-invention while retaining most of its qualities that make it so distinctly New Orleans. It is in a state of re-awakening. As am I.
I really hope I have the opportunity to visit again in the future. It seems to be one of the few cities left in America with a unique sense of self, not yet terminally sick with the carcinogenic likes of Wal-Mart and McDonalds (not to say they can’t be found there; it’s just not defined by such establishments).
I’m in Fort Carson now, a post set gloriously in the backdrop of the Cheyenne Mountains and Pike’s Peak. I couldn’t be happier with the location and amenities of this post. I’m still in-processing with the post and have yet to be introduced to my future unit, its soldiers and its deployment timetable. What comes next? I have no idea but wow, I can’t wait to find out.