Fucked New Orleans (Post-Mardi Gras Edition):
Fat Tuesday's long past now. The shown tits have been tucked back into t-shirts. The remaining beads have been washed from the streets or hang from the trees, like rotting Christmas ornaments. The floats are dry docked, ready to be broken down and remade, a process that starts almost immediately at places like Blaine Kern. The French Quarter smells less conspicuously of vomit without the tourists flooding it with the viscous stuff.
To live in New Orleans is to await each coming event as a distraction, or perhaps to read it as a sign of better days to come. Yes, the Saints almost reached the Superbowl. Yes, Mardi Gras went off with only a few murders in the crime-ridden ruins of the city, even if the routes of some of the parades were changed so that they didn't lurch past the endless ruins of Mid-City, or, as Chief of Police Warren Riley put it, "The Mid-City area, with the blight, with those abandoned houses, makes it much tougher for us to control what's going on. So, we certainly wouldn’t want to see some kid pulled into some abandoned building." Next up is the Jazz Fest, and, per usual with these events, the announcement of how it represents the comeback of New Orleans. But, of course, these are facades, pretty wrapping paper on a box that's got a broken toy in it.
Here's Mayor Ray Nagin yesterday at a Congressional hearing held in New Orleans on the issue of public housing: "We have patched it up, but it is with bubble gum and tape that the system is put together right now." Nagin was referring to New Orleans in general and the extraordinarily tentative state in which the city remains. Nagin wants to take over the New Orleans portion of that massive boondoggle of government outsourcing known as the "Road Home" program, which is supposed to provide grants to homeowners to rebuild. As Nagin put it, "Why in America would we be struggling 18 months later? All the dollars you have been talking about, $110 billion, almost none of it has gotten to the local level."
Mostly, the meeting was a venting point for public housing advocates and those who used to live in the projects of New Orleans, with much arguing about whether or not to just level the places and build anew, or to rebuild with what's there.
Of course, even if one rebuilds, there's so goddamn much to face. The Army Corps of Engineers needs triple the money it was given to fix the pumps and other flood control infrastructure. Not to mention the crime. Not to mention the oil and chemical spill that may have gotten into the New Orleans drainage system.
The street cleaners may have gotten rid of the bums, the dirt, the passed-out frat guys, but New Orleans is fucked, as sure as you're reading this, for so many reasons that even if it does rebuild, it will never recover.