So, I just spent the better part of my spare and stolen moments, for the last several days, glued to news, watching Hurricane Isaac steal upon the Gulf Coast and do his stormy thang. Nothing drives me battier than watching storms like that roll up on my favored part of the United terrain, when I’m too far away to do anything about it. Do what? I dunno. Batten hatches with the rest of the population and ride it out, or cram my stuff into the car with the rest of the population and ride away? Wait days for Entergy to restore power? Clean up downed limbs? I dunno.
But I have to say, watching Isaac from way out here did, indeed, drive me batty. J and I were of a similar mind, it turned out. Our thoughts were divided into two distinct thoughts: “Man, we could have been there,” and, “Man, we could have been there.” One, a sense of relief paired with the deep-thought pondering of how life seems to work out the right way sometimes. As in, we had to come back to CO, so we were not there. The other, a sense of Dammit, as that would have been our first one, and we would have had the experience along with, I’m sure, a hurricane party or two under our belts. Part of the population.
Emotionally, we swayed more in the direction of the second. I mean, that sort of thing will be a part of our lives. It already was, when I was a kid. So now or later would not make a difference. Nevertheless, I felt helpless from out here. It was the date. The Katrina date. That’s what made me feel like I was sitting bare-arsed on a mountain of frozen eggshells. Because, although I will never ever EVER be pretentious enough to think I know what folks went through after the Katrina Levee Failure, I DID feel helpless back then, sitting ever-constant in front of the news, devastatedly watching my city drown and thrash…and then, very eventually, begin to re-emerge. From way out here.
That’s what I hate. Way Out Here.
At any rate, the bad drunken friend named Isaac finally sobered up and got off the coast’s couch after lingering for a little too long. From what I can discern, for New Orleans at least, the storm was just that, a storm. From what I can tell, folks are still waiting for power, doing that limb-tidying thing, the usual. No drowning and thrashing, though. No extremes. My heart goes out to folks in Plaquemines Parish though, and other places that direly flooded. It’s a piece of that 7-year-old nightmare, just in a different place, a little bit down the road. Grim stuff, indeed.
At any rate, I’m off on that Digress Train again. What it boils down to is that all of this…if this is even possible…has made me even more “homesick” than I was before. I didn’t think it was possible. Turns out it is. Hugely so. So I figured, in an effort to tug myself out of this low-energy-non-writing slump, I would pick it back up on a French Quarter Friday.
The Quarter is an interesting place in that, depending upon one’s proclivities, in can be all kinds of different places, all bundled up, cozy-like, into one small grid of blocks. There’s the nekkid debauchery of much of Bourbon St. The classy arting and antiquing on Royal. The various alternative lifestyles on other parts of Bourbon, and on Decatur. The nooks and crannies where the veil between here and history grows thin, scattered all in between. I could go on. There is a lot of diversity in that grid.
And then, there is Backstage. The hidden places. People DO live there. All those hidey holes where lives take place! The images shared in this entry are all taken from our Pirate buddy’s own hidey hole. I got camera happy because it felt to me that, after stepping through the residential gate, the view changed. Somehow. It became part of that experience we had on Memorial Day, when we felt that we’d suddenly finally breached the barrier between Visitor and Resident. That feeling has not gone away, even after (shockingly because I just realized it) being in CO now again for a couple of months.
I am always a sucker for visual detail down there. Being Backstage made that even more the case, as I could just Stop Moving for a while and notice textures and cracks and blemishes and grit and beauty and neat little hangy things and all sorts of stuff.
I love texture and grit and cracks and blemishes and hangy things! I love seeing both the beautiful and the corrupt at the same time, with an acceptance and admiration of each. Quite often, they are the same thing. I love being backstage, behind the wall.
Watching the storms over the years, from Way Out Here, and then being there and getting behind that wall and barely cracking the surface of learning the people, I have always come back to the same thing when I ponder just Why? Why is this place so compelling to me? What is it that makes me wish to be nowhere else on earth? The reasons are many-fold. But given what I’ve been observing lately, it is the endurance. The endurance of the place over centuries, no matter what seems to get thrown on it, or at it, or over it. Endurance of the people who live there who, for the most part, catch those things that get thrown and more often than not, lift their head up and toss it right back. The spirit. True spirit. (Oh, and you can get Saint’s games down there. Have I mentioned yet how annoyed I am that I can’t see the Saints’ first game of the season from Way Out Here?!)
But yes, endurance. Pick Up, Keep Going. I have learned, over the years watching from afar and, more recently, from being there myself. Which is why this year may be turbulent, and there may be rough patches along the way, and sometimes I just want to gripe and moan and complain and Stop. But I don’t. Because I have NOLA in my gut and soul. Because I am enduring.
I can’t wait to get back behind the walls.
TWO MONTHS, THREE DAYS.