Friday, June 29, 2012
Tribute to Chuck Palahniuk
To Chuck Palahniuk:
And IB muttered, "This city..."
"I came back for the soil," DB said. She returned shortly after the flood waters that followed Hurricane Katrina finally receded. Most of St. Bernard Parish has been a sugar plantations for centuries up until very recently. It's rich, sweet soil for gardening.
"It's home," said OH. "There's a lot of history in this area. New Orleans is the fulcrum of the country... The city has to be here."
"You'll meet the nicest people you'll ever know in this city," JH said. "Everywhere you go, there'll be someone with food."
"My cousin was by the levee in the woods when it happened," DB said. "He said he heard a sound like a bomb going off and then everything went quiet. And then he saw deer, squirrels, birds, all these animals, every animal in the forest started running past him. The entire forest was in a stampede to get out of there."
VG: "The first time the fire department realized something was wrong, a friend of mine was in the room with the New Orleans chief. He got a call from some guys who said, -- There are all these fires on the north shore. -- Well, why aren't you putting them out? -- We can't get to them. -- Why can't you get to them? -- Because of all the water in the streets. And then the chief yelled, 'Fuck! The levees broke! It's the only explanation...'"
"You know, I wouldn't be surprised if they blew up the levees for Betsy," said LD. "But for Katrina the whole city was destroyed. Nobody got anything out of that."
"I have a friend in the National Guard," said JWB, a St. Bernard Parish resident, "And he told me, swear to god, that the year before Katrina he was ordered to go out to the levees and bury dynamite. They didn't blow it up then. But they did for Katrina."
"No matter what you heard, saw, or read about Katrina, it was much worse than that," KM said.
DB has gardened is her life. From seeds, scraps, and branches DB has coaxed out an entire perennial paradise. All of the plants have a purpose, though -- "Butterflies like pizzas and hummingbirds like ice cream cones," DB says, explaining the shapes of the flowers in her garden.
Behind his gutted, rotting house, JY keeps chickens. He and his wife bring their kids out to see chickens several times a week, to feed and water them. It turns out, he discovered, that the city has a limit on how many animals a person can have on the property: four. He culled the flock down from a dozen to the city's prescribed limit.
VG: (paraphrased) Actually, CNN was one of the first news agencies to report the levees breaking. X was in a community center with her cameraman. Suddenly the councilwoman from the Ninth Ward rushed inside and yelled, 'Please, come quick! People are dying!' So X and her camera man followed the councilwoman up to the Claiborne bridge, I think. All the electricity in the city was out so it was pitch black and they couldn't get any visual footage, but they could hear it. Standing on the bridge, surrounded by a pitch black, muggy night the reporters and councilwoman could hear the sound of rushing water, a deluge, and the screams of thousands.
"I was at a bar the other night and this guy sitting next to me asked me where I was from," AO said, "And when I said I was here for a year with AmeriCorps he said, 'Get out now. Because if you don't, you'll never leave.'"
"This town doesn't like to drink," JC said, "it likes to be drunk." But, "All the things that are great about this city are starting to go away. I mean, some policemen are starting to bust you for drinking on the streets... They're getting after bars because their bands for being too loud."
"I don't like New Orleans, actually," admits JY. JY received a great deal of money from Road Home, but could only use it to elevate the house. There are specialized services in New Orleans for elevating houses. JY told the contractor to raise the house as far as he could with the tens of thousands of dollars he received from Road Home. This turned out to be nine feet. None of the money could be used to build anything else, even a staircase. The only way to get into the gutted house, now, is with a ladder.
JY laughed and explained that he tells his friends they can store things in his house if they want to. No one can get in it, not without a ladder. It's the safest place to store things.
Author of Showdown in Desire, Orissa Arend, spoke at Fair Grinds Coffee. She described a shootout between the New Orleans Police department and the local chapter of the Black Panthers. It appears, from witness reports, that the police issued no warning and, without provocation, shot at the house for a half hour before the Black Panthers inside were allowed to surrender and leave the building. Miraculously, no one was hurt or killed. One Panther said he spoke to a black officer at the scene. They echoed one another's words, "Sorry, but I'm on this side." And then the started talking about the Saints.
"... I don't think I've ever been in a place full of happier people than when Drew Brees paraded as king of Bacchus one week after the Saints won the Super Bowl," said SD. "The happiness of the crowds that night was unbelievable, and I'm so glad I was able to be a part of such a great celebration--even if I didn't get one of the mini footballs Drew was throwing from the float."
"I get the impression that people came here to have a parade and a city got in their way," NF said.
"The great thing about this place is you can be anything. You can do anything," JC said. "I could decide to be an astronaut tomorrow and I could do it. I've never wanted to, but I could."