As I was packing to leave for New Orleans last night, Mr. Clio called to say that he was in touch with someone who needed help getting her things out of the house she had been renting. This nice woman, who had been an art teacher at McDonogh 35, was in jovial spirits. Chris Rose has written of the bizarre things that make people laugh around New Orleans these days. As an artist, it was imperative that she make her garbage pretty and create art with the knickknacks and remnants of things that were once wonderful and beautiful. We decorated a tree with a box of moldy ribbons, made a doll out of some leftover lace, and built a tableaux out of old furniture and electronic devices that were also decorated in ribbon. She has been ill and was dressed to the nines for a house cleansing. As the day finally ended, she wanted to take pictures to show all her friends that she was, in fact, doing something with her house and her stuff. It was then that I actually got to see her face.
Not until the ride home did the entire situation hit me. We sat there and threw all the objets d'art and personal items and books and furniture that she had collected her entire life into the streeet to be collected by Waste Management and discarded forever. That is so weird. And I know that so many people are going through it that I can't imagine the sadness and anger. How this woman maintained an upbeat demeanor I will never know. It was moving in a sad, frustratingly infuriating way. Laughter, albeit nervous, can help you get through those tough times.
I did not distribute water to anyone. My new friend said that I should buy food and sandwiches and bring them where they are needed most. She did not need anything - she was staying with friends and all was good enough for her.
Tomorrow, we take to the levee. And we rally. And we demand that it be stronger, faster, and better than it was. (Actually, I have other thoughts about the drainage system in New Orleans that I want to air, but this may not be the proper post. I mean, they are sea level canals with nothing to stop the water coming back up them. Manmade bayous...)
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