The carefree citizens of New Orleans...
Will that description ever again be apropos? Two years after the horror of Katrina, the mood is more resignation than not caring. New Orleans is in an identity crisis.
The first day I arrived in New Orleans thirty-six years ago, I was dazzled by the jazz in the Quarter, by the Wednesday afternoon crowd on Bourbon Street, by the architecture and the sense of joy in life there. A Bloody Mary at Lafite's in Exile brought exactly the right flavor. I had arrived at just the place my life at 23 needed to grow. It was fertile soil.
Now it is time to return, once again, if just for a visit. To look for the qualities that made my life there in the 1970s so rich: rich not materially or monetarily, but in genuine experience. I learned how to be gay in New Orleans and took a lover who, like me, loved art, and who was himself learning how to come out. Little did I know what a great role he would play in the future growth of the New Orleans art community.
My first year in New Orleans and at Tulane University was a revelation. A week with Allen Ginsberg gave me an understanding of Beat values that is with me still. The friends I made there helped shape my best humanistic ideals.
Working at a sidewalk cafe known for its Po-Boys, I met the widow of a horse racing jockey. What stories she shared with me over the roast beef. But the words that came back two years ago she had repeated often:
"The wind and rain erase it all, Jack."
Materially, that may be true. But spiritually, I'm hoping there is a rebirth possible, however long it takes.
This morning (Monday) I heard a wonderful commentary by Chris Rose on NPR. Listen Up!
'We Fight to Save New Orleans'
Morning Edition, August 27, 2007 · Life is difficult in post-Katrina New Orleans. But those who are rebuilding the city now know that the most important four-letter word is not "love," but "home."
Chris Rose is a columinst for The Times-Picayune in New Orleans.
Let the good times roll again...