Saturday, June 02, 2007

Adios, America

Tomorrow I return from America to New Orleans. Blogger American Zombie can explain that for you eloquently if you're not a regular reader who knows my views. Even my wife remarked on it after her year-and-a-half in New Orleans: Destin is just like everywhere else, she said was we drove down the main drag to dinner one night. The implication coming from one of the newest Orleanians was clear to me: New Orleans is not.

Long gone from the Florida panhandle are the aqua motels and family beach cottages I remember from long ago, replaced by the march of monolithic condos down the beachfront. All of the usual chains stores and restaurants are conveniently located just blocks off the beach along the highway. It is in one sense a warning of what New Orleans could become if we are not vigilent, a mostly soulless tourist destination.

It is in many ways Miramar Beach is precisely the sort of place built on a spit of sand senators from the interior have in mind when they complain of coastal communities built in harms way. Still, you would have to have some terrible aversion to the ocean not to be thankful someone built here after even a short visit.

Frankly, its been damned relaxing. Everyone in New Orleans needs to go someplace pleasant for a while, somewhere the drugstore is up the block and not half-a-city away, where there are not constant reminders of disaster and challenge. Forget the expanses of hurricane-hardened concrete behind you and turn to the sea and the sun and just tune out.

While my week at the beach has not been without reminders of what I left behind (it amazes me to see incredibly valuable beach-front property still boarded up from Hurricane Ivan in 2004), I plan to turn off of I-10 somewhere in Mississippi and drive past Wal-Mart and the Olive Garden until I get to Highway 90 and drive through the heart of Katrina.

I want to see for myself the rapid recovery I hear all those extra recovery millions sent to the faithful GOP voters should have bought. I already know what I will find: a barren landscape not unlike the bulldozed Ninth Ward. I have a clear mental picture of Waveland before. I had an aunt and uncle and cousins on the coast.

I know all that is gone. I need to remind myself (just as the boarded beach houses of Destin remind me) that we in New Orleans are not alone on the Hurricane Coast. I need to see or hear something that might rekindle my dwindling connection to the rest of America.

I need that because I increasingly share the view Ashley leaves in the comments under the post I linked to before. Perhaps it is time for our own Conch Republic moment, something dramatic so the nation to the north understands how little of the money they think was sent has reached us, will understand our feeling of abandonment by the central government, will hear why with every passing day I am less an American and more an Orleanian.

A final thought to add: I tried to grab the video of church volunteer Connie Uddo, but only got this audio. You can view the entire hearing here. Uddo's remarks occur between 1:13 and 1:17.

Ed.'S Note: apologies for typos but posting by Blackberry is a pain.

Updated Ed. Note: I cleaned up the typos, and added a bit here and there. I want to note that along Highway 90, there are signs of life along the road on the Bay Saint Louis end that I would compare to the commercial progress in Mid-City. After cruising the Pass Christian coast road, I decided to take my tired family home and didn't drive along the coast in Bay St. Louis and Waveland. I though Pass Christian offered enough in the way of barren slabs, tumbled walls and newly streched Tyvek for one Saturday afternoon.

Great post. In a related subject, I watched the senate hearings on the Road Home and the testimony of Connie Uddo of Lakeview really struck me. She told the story of a 9 year old volunteer asking her mother "When can we go home to America?" After hesitating to control her emotions, she asked the senators the same question. "When can we come home to America? We want to come home." I got the video link from Senator Landrieu's office. It is the whole hearing.
Her testimony occurs between 1:13 and 1:17. They said you needed Real Media player to download (found at Is there a way to isolate that clip and post it?
Good post. I can't wait for my NM trip next month.

I'm feeling like a traitor lately....just so very tired of hearing/reading the same ole stuff. I find myself drifting away from it and toward outside interests just to feel normal. I've stopped reading many of the Nola blogs...feel bad about that too. There's a post here somewhere but, ya know, I don't want to write it.
My 81 year old mom lives a block from the beach in Pass Christian. Every time I visit her I miss the road to get to her house because there are no landmarks anymore. It takes me an average of three drives up and down the beach to find her road. I get furious every time I hear how great Mississippi's recovery is doing so great. I am glad you got to see it with your own eyes.
Thank you for the You Tube audio! Now I can post this link when I comment on blogs from outside the city. Maybe if they hear a real voice they will understand that we are not a political "situation" but actually Americans that are hurt, abandoned and just plain worn out from the struggle. Thanks again
Sorry for the multiple posts, but my Katrina brain is on empty and I too will have to take a break very soon. I thought you might be interested in this NPR segment about the economic impact of Katrina on small southern towns like Pass Christian. Just click listen under the heading "Katrina Still Bad for Business in Pass Christian".
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"And when we speak we are afraid our words will not be heard nor welcome, but when we are silent we are still afraid. So it is better to speak remembering we were never meant to survive." -- Audie Lorde

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