New Orleans will come back because the debris of homes and lives will eventually be cleared away from the streets, and the people in the taxis and buses, and especially those in limousines, will look out the window and forget what had been. – Ernest Gaines, August 2006
For all of us who pass by the streets of our city, in the taxis, buses and especially limousines, I call on the citizens of New Orleans to walk a few blocks in the neighborhoods that were destroyed 10 years ago. I call on New Orleanians to seek the reminders of that time.
Let’s call it a scavenger hunt.
First, find one of those spray-painted x’s that adorned (almost) every house in the aftermath of the flood. There were many months, after that storm, when I would suggest looking into the empty houses, to see if the number in the lower quadrant (the mortality count) was correct – but that time has passed.
Second, find a blue tarp on a roof. Hint: if you find one, it will not be very blue anymore. Search for a gray, tattered thing barely hanging on a dilapidated home. I saw one recently, driving on I-10, looking down on … no, I can’t tell you where. That would be cheating.
Third, find a FEMA trailer parked in a driveway or a front yard. If this proves impossible, simply purchase some formaldehyde and breathe in deeply. As you do so, see if you can thank the federal government for their concern.
Four, find a president. There will be more presidents in town this week than were anywhere near the ground of New Orleans 10 years ago. Count ‘em – three! There’ll be a Clinton, a Bush and an Obama. If getting a glimpse of one proves too difficult, simply look up at any random plane flying by.
Five, find a stranger with a Katrina tattoo. Not merely a NOLA tattoo, but a Katrina tat.
Extra Points: When you find that tat, ask the person how long he or she has lived in New Orleans. If they have lived here for less than ten years … extra points!
If that newbie has a “NOLA 4 LIFE” tattoo, double-extra points!
Six, find a good example of post-Katrina gentrification. Hint: follow the newbie.
Seven, find a good bookstore and purchase a copy of Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans? Then read the “lagniappe” story at the end of the book. Shameless self-promotion seems to be an appropriate topic after the gentrification.
Eight, visit the site of a restaurant or home or store that we lost due to the flood or due to any of the post-disaster problems. Bring a drink of your choice, and sit where you can see that location, regardless of what may be there now. Contemplate the loss.
Congratulations! You have completed the Katrina Scavenger Hunt!
I’d like to hear from you. Where did you find your items? Which one was the most difficult?
Thanks, and happy anniversary!