I didn't even want to post anything about the hurricane. I usually stick to three topics in here: knitting, photography, and weird shit that happens to me. I suppose you can file what follows in that third category.
Last night around midnight I went to bed as usual, having worked more of the Rhinebeck sweater. I was drifting off mostly with mental images of what I'm going to do with the chest band of the sweater floating about in my head and out of the blue I started crying.
My first partner had a theory about how useful denial (a process he was deeply in touch with) can be, saying it was a protective mechanism in the brain. Denial, he believed, kept things from overwhelming a person, keeping them functional until such time as the brain would be able to deal with whatever it was denying.
I guess last night my brain was finally able to confront the fact that New Orleans as we knew it is gone.
Mind you, I don't have roots there, or relations, or friends. I was there exactly once in my life, for five days. One hesitates to make a tragedy happening to others many, many miles away into a three-act drama starring oneself, and that's not at all what I mean to do.
This is just a personal tribute, that's all.
From childhood, there were only three American cities I really ever cared to visit. The first was New York, the second San Francisco, the third New Orleans. Of the three, New Orleans was the most alluring. I knew it mostly from pictures, both modern ones of the sort that show up in the newspaper travel section, and very old ones like Bellocq's photos of prostitutes. It all built up to an image that was very much the stereotype of the place, with all the attendant cliché words–magical, mysterious, and so forth.
Of my personal Big Three, New Orleans was the last I visited. Not so many years ago - two, I believe - my employer sent me down there for a conference. Out of my own pocket, I paid for a few extra days in the hotel so I could do some sightseeing. Of course, at that point I'd grown up enough to realize that few places ever live up to their publicized images. I was expecting to have fun, but not to find the city I'd dreamed about.
Imagine my surprise. It was wonderful. It really was as it was supposed to be, from the easy hospitality of the citizenry to the graceful, fragile architecture and the sultry atmosphere. (It can't really be gone, can it? Not all gone? Not really? Please?)
I love cities that Are Very Much What They Are, that have managed in the face of conformity and standarization to hang on to their own points of view and ways of doing things. New Orleans was exactly that. Outside the French Quarter, of course, it was no series of postcard views. The effects of long-term economic depression had done dreadful things to the Central Business District. It was hardly a dreamy Neverland. Storefronts were preserved along Canal Street, but the ones that were occupied usually had dingy chain outlets and dodgy electronics shops in them.
But...the people. Oh, the people.
Friendly to a fault. Mellow. Welcoming.
I was down there accompanied. I was in the first stages of what proved to be a very short-lived long distance thing with a guy who, for a couple months, put stars in my eyes. He was extremely shy and even semi-closeted (note: bad idea). But down there, in New Orleans, for the first and only time, he loosened up.
We were walking over to the French Market for beignets and feeling terribly lovey-dovey but of course not holding hands in public, when suddenly this fellow who was sitting on a bench near the river walk shouted good-naturedly, "Go ahead and hold hands, boys! Down here we don't give a shit!"
I thought my whateveryouwannacallhim was going to drop dead from a mixture of fright and embarrassment, but no. Instead, he reached over and grabbed my hand. I nearly dropped dead of surprise.
After three days in New Orleans, he'd gotten to a point where he spontaneously kissed me in front of the cathedral and the bells went off. I'm sure it was pure coincidence, but it didn't feel like it at the time.
It was the only time I ever saw my poor ex-whateveryouwannacallhim happy with himself and the world. After the trip, he went back north to a Very Cold City where he resumed being semi-closeted and utterly guilt-ridden, living a very buttoned-down life in a more typical American setting.
Alas, wouldn't you know that by not shooting us dead for loving each other, the people of the city of New Orleans sealed their doom? Yes, it's true. I read all about it online. You can read it for yourself here.
According to a group of fundamentalist Christians, Katrina wasn't a natural phenomenon. It is direct evidence of God's wrath against a city that welcomed wickedness. They see the demolition of New Orleans–a unique and beautiful city, home to millions and cradle of so much American culture–as not all bad. It is, in their opinion, more of the silver lining in the cloud.
An exact quote:
"Although the loss of lives is deeply saddening, this act of God destroyed a wicked city," said Repent America director Michael Marcavage on the organization's Web site.You know, that's true, when you think about it. Lots and lots of dead people, destroyed lives and businesses, lost history and art, illness, financial disaster, and displacement is not so bad when you consider that it wiped out a place where men were known to kiss in the street. When you look at it that way, it's a sort of mini-Rapture. Pretty cool.
I'm sure Michael Marcavage will sleep more soundly tonight, knowing New Orleans has been punished and that he himself is utterly pure in the sight of God. (One presumes he must think the same of his city or town, or he'd have moved out to avoid the inevitable.)
Isn't that right, Michael Marcavage? That you're perfect in the sight of God?
Is it right that God, who can see to the bottom of your soul and the depths of your heart, will find there only perfection, purity, not even a single thought or action that you wouldn't be happy to display to the entire world?
This had better be so, because as you've pointed out, God hates people with loose morals and kills them off. I'm sure you can support this with lots of Biblical evidence, too, like that story about the time your Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ beat that fallen woman to death with a brick, and the time He and the Pharisees burned down the house of that tax collector.
No? Oh, I see...you were thinking of Sodom and Gomorrah. Check your text again, Mr. Marcavage. Better still, consult a reputable scholar or historian who has read the source texts and seen beyond several centuries of accrued mistranslation. The sin of Sodom? It wasn't ass fucking. It was a lack of hospitality. A lack of compassion for displaced persons.
Sleep well tonight, Mr. Marcavage. I'm sure you're perfectly safe.