Footprints Only

Our third day in New Orleans and — oddly enough — all our friends just so happen to be here. Even the ones who stayed away from the city after Katrina are back right now, checking in with neighbors and still trying to repair damage. And as sad as it feels here — as strange as it is to see the once lush trees uprooted or salted to death and the yards full of garbage and waterlogged mattresses, this is still a beautiful place.

I have had three “safe houses” in my life; the kind of place you know you can run to whenever any really bad shit goes down or when you find yourself just needing a place to hide. I lost two of these in the last six months and I was sure I had lost the third in the hurricane, but here I am, typing in the kitchen of one of the most loving households I’ve ever been accepted into. Neighbors canoed past this house after the storm, but amazingly, it sustained no water damage.

So a few days ago, we carried in drinking water and flowers, kept our hosts up until about 3 a.m. talking, and then holed up in the back bedroom where we last slept a year ago. The next afternoon, we were given “the devastation tour”. It went from bad, to worse, to “horror movie”. We all knew New Orleans would flood someday, just like we know LA is waiting for the Big One, but the impact of 20 feet of rushing water on trees, cars, houses and the bodies inside…I don’t know…I’m speechless. This storm happened six months ago and some areas look like they were hit yesterday. We went through three bottles of wine when we got home.

In the French Quarter today, it seemed almost normal, except for the lighter than usual, meandering Mardi Gras crowds. We used to know those sidewalks by heart, every crack. Music memories played in my head — ghosts of all the songs from the records I recorded here; University, Limbo and Sky Motel. Not entirely unpleasant, if a little bittersweet.

Billy texted Bernie and Dave Narcizo to tell them we were here since they share so many New Orleans memories with us and Dave wrote back immediately, writing only “Will it recover?”. Billy typed back, “Everyone seems to hope so, but nobody seems to know”.

We took these pictures with our phones but they don’t even come close.


Posted in: words on February 25, 2006