Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Just noticing

In the last two years, Easton, PA, has seen the Delaware River overflow her banks three times. The flooding this time will be the worst since 1955 (though Hurricane Ivan in 2004 was the worst since, and then April of 05 was even worse). I was heading into NYC on August 14, 2003 when the power went out. I was actually coming over an overpass in New Jersey to the approach for the Holland Tunnel when everything went out (including stop lights that I saw short out). Then in August of last year I was in New Orleans and then Jackson, MS, when Hurricane Katrina happened.

I am heading to Montreal and Quebec City on Friday. Should I warn the Canadian authorities?

Monday, June 26, 2006

DC Floods

Not just with emails but with 7(!) inches of rain. There have been some boat rescues, too. See, lawmakers, it sucks living in a flood plain. Now we will cancel your insurance (at least increase your premiums), knock out power to every neighborhood, and reduce city services. Then we can debate whether we should rebuild in a "that part of the world."

Monday, June 19, 2006

Thinking out loud

As always, I have been thinking about home. Here are some of the things I think about:

1) 5 murdered teens in Central City. Is this a sign that things are back to normal? This does not seem like the normal we want or need. First reports indicate that it was probably drug related.

2) It seems to me that the anger and outrage at the pace of recovery has abated to some extent and has become replaced with apathy at the way things are. Of course the ACOE is behind on their fixing of the levees. Of course FEMA is removing the volunteer camps. Of course drug related murders are back. Of course things are going to end up the way they were. As I have said before, if you were given a clean slate to start all over again, would you keep doing the things that did NOT work?
We must break free of the old way of thinking. No more! No more drug dealing, no more failing public schools, no more corruption, no more cronyism, no more accepting the status quo. We must move forward and not regress into the comfortability of the way things were. No more officers looking the other way, no more fear, no more stealing, no more sub-standard hurrincane protection. No more!

3) Fires everywhere in New Orleans. I was talking to my friend George down there. I was recalling the anecdote about the people somewhere uptown (Broadmoor maybe?) who were standing outside their expensive flooded home knowing that the flood insurance could not cover the amount of damage the house and its contents had suffered. As they stood there mulling their loss, the roof collapsed. They laughed and cried and hugged each other because now insurance would cover the entire house (or so they thought - no idea how this story ended). This led us into a discussion about insurance. If your house was worth $200,000 preKatrina, you were paying premiums on a $200,000 home. Once your house is flooded, and the property is worth only $100,000, does your insurance premium become reduced? What is the value of the home once it has been repaired? So my question was this - the house is flooded; you got your NFIP check. Then your house burns down to the ground. Does your home owner's insurance cover this? To what extent?

4) The AFL-CIO wants to spend a lot of money to build a Jazz Park. Why? Is this what is needed?

5) Some hurricane victims were here in Easton. The story in the local paper said that they were given a free place to stay. They rented rooms out (despite the fact that they were living rent free), wrote bad checks, forged checks, stole furniture and appliances, left hundreds of dollars of unpaid utility bills, damaged severely the property they were using, and were dealing (or at the very least using) drugs. Is this how you thank someone for their generosity and kind spirit? This makes me angry and upset. I was going to go find these fellow New Orleanians. I am glad I didn't.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Why New Orleans Means so Much

I was talking to a friend at work today. She is somewhat older than I, African-American and as nice and thoughtful as a person can be. As usual, I was talking about New Orleans. Her husband is a well-known and respected artist and musician who has been trying for years to analyze and come up with a philosophy on what it means to be black. I think he does a very good job. He is interesting and thoughtful and intelligent. He spends a lot of time thinking and finding ways to express those thoughts. According to his wife, it's all about legacy. I miss New Orleans. It is my home. Neither my mother or father are from New Orleans, albeit Louisiana, but I am. The culture of that place is what I know best. It has shaped my being and my outlook. I have celebrated and mourned there, laughed and cried, fallen in love and grown despondent, etc. This is to be expected in your home.
However, there is something more powerful and profound. It is called legacy. Legacy is not just your home. It is not just family. It is an amalgamation of your home (and its culture), your friends, your family and its history. It is not just somewhere you rest your head. It is somewhere nearly everyone you know rests their heads. And your parents, and their parents, and their parents, etc. That is something you are given. It is a gift that your family bestows on you because you are part of the family. And in New Orleans this is a very powerful agent. Our New Orleans society relies heavily on legacy (in parades and Mardi Gras Indians and clubs and schools (good or bad) and restaurants and neighborhoods and so on) in very many visible ways.
Five years ago, to some extent, I left New Orleans by choice. I desperately want to return. But I can make a choice. My house was not flooded, my memories not destroyed, and my belongings not left out to be hauled away to the landfill of the week. There are people who can't make it home, who have lost everything that they ever worked for, whose familial legacies are in danger of being broken forever and new legacies started somewhere else.
My friend said that this power, the power of your personal legacy, defies time and place. Her family has many ministers and religious people in it. (I reflected on my own family - teachers - weird how many there are...) The familial lines will continue, but the vibrant and visible pageantry and familiarity of the rich legacy that existed so willfully and obviously in New Orleans could be gone - erased by Katrina, ignored by FEMA, and forgotten.