"I don't wanna write about that. I'm tired of thinking about it," said one of the Rude Pundit's New Orleans friends when he asked the woman to post on this here blog about the tenth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, the storm that caused the levees in New Orleans to break, allowing cataclysmic, murderous floods to ravage that place and many others. "Why does it matter that it's been ten years? Every day is another anniversary." Her family had lost three or four houses between all the members. She lived a damn nightmare.
He reached out to another buddy, an old friend, a writer and photographer, who responded, "I'm just keeping my head low and not following it at all. It makes me crazy." He meant that it depressed the hell out of him, and it was hard to blame him. He had been chased out of his home by the storm and came back to help rebuild the town.
The Rude Pundit tried several times this week to write something, but he found that he couldn't articulate what he was feeling. New Orleans isn't back to its old self. That doesn't exist anymore. What does exist is, to a large extent, "New Orleans," a pretty authentic imitation of the place, but just off enough that, if you knew it before, you know it's far, far different. The town is still one of his favorite places in the whole country, the whole world, so maybe when you love something so truly, so tragically, it becomes hard to catalog the good and bad ways it has healed after a near-death experience.
He's going to try again to come up with something worth saying, something about remembering how a Republican administration let the city drown and rot, about how it ripped the bandage of race relations off and we're dealing with the bleeding to this day, about how it demonstrated that neglect of infrastructure is a crime, about how the culture is still amazing but missing so many elements that made it whole, about how the school "miracle" is, to a large extent, smoke and mirrors, about how poverty has become far worse while property values skyrocket. Maybe he'll be able to articulate something. Or maybe he'll just pass on this one.
Or perhaps he'll wait until he returns to New Orleans in December, as he generally does, as he did December 2005, when the Rude Pundit and the Rude Brother took a drive through the circles of Hell, from the North Shore of Lake Pontchartrain through St. Bernard Parish and into the Lower Ninth Ward, to see the destruction first hand.
You can read those posts here: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, and Part 5. There are many, many photos, interviews, and on-the-ground reporting, including a view of the barge that ended up beached in the middle of the Lower Ninth.
Back then, he wrote, "The resurrection of New Orleans seems as if it's calculated to create a Disneyfied version of itself, where only the parts that matter to outsiders are developed, those that can be made into simulacra of the real thing." For a great deal of the city, that is true. And for many, certainly for outsiders, that is good enough. It might be time to let the old city go and grapple with what comes next.