I haven’t written anything about the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, mostly because I’ve been reading about it, sitting in front of my computer, stunned by it all. It destroys me to spend too much time thinking about it. I’ve donated to the Red Cross and had the great people at DealMac.com match my donation. I’ve signed on to contribute something to a charity RPG project to raise money to help with disaster relief in New Orleans. But there’s just not enough I can do.
I’m angry about this, absolutely frustrated, and I want to scream at the people who made this situation so much worse than it had to be. (Who could have predicted this? Scores of scientists and experts over a dozen years or more. Hell, I’ve known of the threat myself for years, and I live thousands of miles away.) But that’s not what this note is about.
I’ve been to New Orleans four times. The first time, I spent a sunny afternoon there on my way back from Mexico, after driving down there from Ann Arbor on spring break. I sat there in Jackson Square with my best friend and two young ladies, one of whom later became my wife.
The last time I was there, I watched from the rafters of the Superdome as Chris Webber called a time-out the Wolverines didn’t have in the last seconds of the NCAA basketball final against Duke.
Most people have probably forgotten this, but GAMA held two trade shows in New Orleans after getting kicked out of Las Vegas in the early ’90s. I had a great time at those shows. Unforgettable times. Legendary times.
There’s the “Naked Room Service” story, which is too long to go into at the moment, as is the explanation for how I ended up dancing a tango down Bourbon Street with a woman I’d never met before, as she used her lips to take a long-stemmed rose from between my teeth.
Let’s just say I miss the place more than I can say, and the thought of how devastated it is right now is painful. And when I say “it,” I don’t mean the buildings, the bars, the restaurants, or even the whole of the French Quarter, the whole city, or the swath of the Gulf Coast that got flooded out. It’s the people who lived there who made the place what it is, what it was, what it may someday be again. My thoughts are with those people who have had their homes—families, friends, memories, communities—torn from beneath them like a cheap magician’s rug.
Though the Big Easy is reeling from a knockout punch, though, it’s a long way from out. New Orleans is more than a collection of buildings that can be washed away. It’s a living, breathing culture, and it’s long since infused the world with itself. Cajun cooking. Zydeco music. Dixieland jazz. Beignets. Abita Beer. Even if the French Quarter is bulldozed (as one prominent congressman has suggested might be best), it can’t ever be destroyed entirely. It’s always going to be there, in my heart and in the hearts of everyone ever touched by that fabulous, fantastic place, whether they ever walked its streets or not.
At least in our hearts—and hopefully again soon on our maps—we’ll always have New Orleans. Always.