Saturday, May 28, 2011

What it feels like . . .

So Esquire magazine (one of my faves) has a regular feature called "What it feels like." I enjoy it.

Here's one Orleanian's partial perspective on what it feels like to live in this amazing city at an amazing time:

After complaining (along with other, better bloggers) so long that America, or at least the American government, didn't get it, didn't understand that "We are not OK," I sort of feel as though America did end up getting it. They (and yes, they are a "they," because the last 5 years have made it clear that we are not they) do understand that New Orleans is a special place. They understand that America would be forever less if this city were to go under water permanently, or if we were to become crippled as a city.

However, while I feel Americans' understanding of why New Orleans matters, I doubt our (humanity's) ability to do anything about disappearing wetlands, global climate change, and rising sea levels. Yes, people care. No, people aren't willing to turn this problem into some kind of Manhattan Project or Stranded Chilean Miners' Project. In the end, the threat of "six feet of water in the streets of Evangeline" hasn't seemed to inspire anything extraordinary. The Army Corps of Engineers has done a lot of scrambling around and spending and PR stuff, but does anybody REALLY think we are OK now? I don't. We're better off, but I don't think we are OK.

And I don't see anything promising on the horizon. The uncontained oil gusher didn't inspire serious change either. (However, it did inspire the spectacle of free-market Republicans criticizing a Democratic president for not being big government enough. Amazing.)

As I said the other day, the New Orleans Bingo! Show's song "Memory Parade" pretty much has it right, until further notice.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The People Who Know What They're Talking About Know We Are Not OK

Here's Loyola New Orleans Professor David White, after a recent flyover of the wetlands:

“Flying over the coast and the Mississippi Delta, it is a terrifying and powerful image because of what is no longer there and it proves to me that the city is more vulnerable to another significant storm surge than I previously imagined. If every citizen of Louisiana had this kind of flight opportunity, we’d be moving much quicker and with far more attention to protecting and restoring our coast.”

Over many years, Dr. White, his colleague Dr. Don Hauber, and intrepid Loyola science students have been studying the wetlands of the Mississippi Delta.

Their basic research is crucial to addressing this national security issue. And loss of these wetlands is a national security issue, to be sure.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

As Things Stand, NOBS Could Well Be Right

In the many months since my blogging activity trailed off, I've become a devotee of the New Orleans Bingo! Show. In my more enthralled moments, I don't think of them as the best artists working in New Orleans; I think of them as the ONLY artists working in New Orleans. Yes, that's ridiculously untrue and unfair to the carnival of brilliance in which we live, but the Bingo gang just knows how to stir me.

I've been to multiple shows over the past few years, the first of which was at Voodoo Fest in the fall of 2009, when I wandered into their show while I was chaperoning my then 17-year-old (who needed some chaperoning). Until recently, at the 4 or 5 shows I had seen, Bingo! opened every time with "New Orleans," a graphic and rousing description of our city streets at their disgusting best. It always got the crowd off to a great, drink swaying start.

AT their 2011 Jazz Fest show, however, Bingo! started with a new song from their newest album. It's "Memory Parade," a slow, wistful-sounding song. Hearing it live, I didn't really get what it was about. During the show, Clint Maedgen, the lead singer, talked about our disappearing wetlands and yelled out to the crowd, "New Orleans! Get it while you can, y'all!!"

I'm embarrassed that it wasn't until this morning that I listened carefully to the song "Memory Parade." It's an amazing bookend song to "New Orleans," as the latter song really captures what the streets of the city have been like since the early 1990s. "Memory Parade," however, looks beyond the streets to notice that the whole city is under threat. We all seem to know it, and nobody seems sure exactly what to do about it, given the short-sighted politics and economics of our city, state, and nation in these times.

"It's understood,
It's understood,
All of this is gonna wash away."

For some, this might be a fatalistic and depressing song. For me, it's a placemarker, a line being drawn here, a motivator.

I hope this day and my finally listening to that song is the start of something good for me.