” Presbyterians all. They did not believe in degrading the body . . .”
the total of it all is awesome, and it is industrial—
I am not sure about any of the rest. I only meant I was
surprised New Orleans wasn’t more damaged by the
storm, as its hype made me think it would be a fine mess
even six years later. I cross the street, walk towards Canal,
the discount camera stores, the Palace Café, everyone’s mouth
open on the street—everyone speaking to wife or cellphone,
smell of rain in the air and tourists waddle around like rats
unsure of who will reach down once the cage is opened.
the Catholics can make you believe in their saints, these
people blessed do if nothing else carry thunder and their
robes don’t lack for fancy. I walk into the camera store and
then right back out. the difference here, New Orleans vs.
Charleston or Savannah, the difference is how the streets
are full. as if some movie director kept saying ”more extras!
it needs to look real, like a real city!” and it does, look in fact
like a real city.
the Catholics didn’t believe in degrading the body, either: see
how the tombs in the graveyards here are grand affairs, above
the ground and water, people say they’re cities of the dead, but
from the air I mistook one for a large lot filled with those readymade
storage sheds Sears sells, not so much a city but more as if someone
needed an absurd amount of room for their paint cans and lawn tractors.
then on the ground, you see the iron fence, the broken bricks, tribute of
marks of chalk on the marble, and yeah it’s the city of the dead.
—a real city, if you please.
one nice thing (of many): I don’t worry about where to get food
at nearly midnight because nothing’s stopped or even slowed, I
look good—this by a good-looking boy I am told, and talk with him for
about half an hour before I think of even what time it is: Canal Street
still, it’s easy not to leave. back in 1993 there was a uniform store here
but another bar now and the sailors have to go out who knows
where to buy their blue shirts and the insignia of deck or engine department.
this boy came with a friend from Mobile for the weekend and his friend, she’s
back at their hotel with a headache: ”she said she drank too much, but see,
she gets a wicked headache back home even after church
or on the phone with her sister anyways”.
”New Orleans is what it is not because it’s old, but because
there’s not much else between here and Houston”, I’m told.
I have pictures somewhere I tell him, of the city before Katrina.
he says he’d like to see that. he was here in 2003 and '04 too,
but he failed to see the city the way it may have looked to someone else.
I don’t have the photos with me, they’re of course color prints
and back home in a box somewhere, their negatives stacked right on top of them.
I remember when we had a camera store five times the size of this one here,
and half of it was dedicated to film and paper, chemicals and enlargers.
no more. we walk back through the warren of underbuilt streets
to my hotel, rising like something as overdone as the streets
below it had come up short. from an upper window, it’s all
dense, struck with geometrical boxiness, lines of streets and
lights of cars and signs placed as high up as their tenant buildings will allow.