We who love New Orleans have been given a wonderful gift over the past year or so: a concrete ability to imagine what our own lives and the lives of our nation and world would be like without our city. Like few others, we know what it is to imagine our city simply gone. We know how bad off we, the nation, and the world would be without this city.
With Christmas thanks and apologies to this website, I offer the following ham-fisted allegory:
Like George Bailey, let's use that sense of loss and restoration to inspire us every day. Merry Christmas!* * *
CLARENCE'S VOICE: You sent for me, sir?
FRANKLIN'S VOICE: Yes, Clarence. A city down on earth needs our help.
CLARENCE'S VOICE: Splendid! Is it sick?
FRANKLIN'S VOICE: No, worse. It's discouraged. At exactly ten-forty-five p.m. tonight, Earth time, people in that city will be thinking seriously of throwing away God'sgreatest gift.
CLARENCE'S VOICE: Oh, dear, dear! Its civic life! They're all going to move away! To Houston and Atlanta! Then I've only got an hour to dress. What are they wearing now?
* * *
FRANKLIN'S VOICE: What's that book you've got there?
CLARENCE'S VOICE: The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.
FRANKLIN'S VOICE: Oh, of coures, the book by that writer who was inspired by his time on the Mississippi and in New Orleans. Clarence, you do a good job with New Orleans, and you'll get your wings.
CLARENCE'S VOICE: Oh, thank you, sir. Thank you.
* * *
BOYS (ad lib): Come on, Harry! Attaboy, Harry!
MEDIUM SHOT –– Harry takes a last drag on a joint, then gets in his used Camaro. His friends are holding stopwatches as they watch Harry try to break a speed record late at night on an icy boulevard in suburban Chicago. Three blocks into his run, he crashes into a light post.
CLOSE SHOT –– George.
GEORGE: I'm coming, Harry!
MEDIUM SHOT –– George runs to the car and grabs Harry. As he starts to pull him out he yells:
GEORGE: We're taking this boy to New Orleans, gang! We've got to get him out of this empy living! MEDIUM SHOT–– The young men boarding a plane for New Orleans at O'Hare Airport.
VOICE: George saved his brother's life that day. But at the Thoth parade, he caught a bad cold which infected his left ear. Cost him his hearing in that ear. It was weeks before he could return to his job at old man Gower's drugstore.
* * *
CLOSE SHOT –– a tombstone. Upon it is engraved a name, Harry Bailey. Feverishly George scrapes awaythe snow covering the rest of the inscription,and we read:IN MEMORY OF OUR BELOVED SON –– HARRY BAILEY –– 1960-1977.
CLOSE SHOT –– George and Clarence.
CLARENCE: Your brother, Harry Bailey, overdosed on heroin, so distraught he was over his empy life in the Midwest.
GEORGE: That's a lie! Harry Bailey went to war in Iraq! He got the Congressional Medal of Honor! He saved the lives of every man on that transport.
CLARENCE (sadly): Every man on that transport died. Harry wasn't there to save them because New Orleans wasn't there to save Harry when you took him for Mardi Gras and reminded him of how sweet life could be.
And that transport? It never existed. The American military was never the same after the D-Day failure in World War II. Andrew Jackson Higgins and the city of New Orleans weren't around to invent the Higgins boats used at Normandy. Thousands of American soldiers died needlessly that day, and the War dragged on for two more years. America was a second-rate power for the rest of the century.
You see, George, you really had a wonderful life. Don't you see what a mistake it would be to throw New Orleans away?