BOSSIER CITY, LA — Last week I was able to return to New Orleans for a few days. It was a surreal experience. I tried writing about my time there in narrative form, but it didn’t quite work out. So, I’m going with bullet points.
* For the first time since I moved, I felt like a tourist. This was not a city I had been to before. I took dozens of pictures that I will post when I have access to a scanner.
* One of the first things I learned is that there is no longer such a thing as a one way street in New Orleans. I would turn onto at an intersection and have a near head-on collision with an armored personel carrier.
* The military pressence is astounding. Almost every corner has armed troops. I never expected to see batallions march up Magazine Street and tanks roll down Decatur Street.
* The lack of citizens was creepy. Not seeing downtown as its usual bustling self was shocking. Nothing but military and media.
* Cash was useless. There was nothing to buy. The city has reverted back to a system of bartering and trading favors. The three most prized commodities are alcohol, gas and ice. We had two of the three and we’re able to secure the third and get much help from the military and civil servants. By the way, if you want to put a smile on the face of those working to secure the city, they like beer. Even more than that though, they like clean clothes. Some of these men and women hadn’t changed clothes in eight days.
* I did get some of the experience of living in New Orleans during these horrific conditions. I never realized that my entire life I had taken for granted cold water. Some of the New York firemen provided us with ice cold H2O. It felt so good going down. They also hooked us up with some MREs. They were suprisingly good. I recomend the ribs, poundcake and apple cider. We were staying in a fourth floor apartment. It was unbarebly hot. I decided to sleep on the roof. That was eerie. After the sun went down, the French Quarter and CBD were completely dark. The only lights you saw were from the passing police cars. It was also dead silent. The only noise you heard was from the helicopters, which fill the sky all hours of the day and night. Speaking of helicopters, I got to see Dick Cheney touch down.
* I was interviewed by several members of the international media. If you were watching the news in Europe last week good chance you saw me with some interpreter twisting my words around.
* The city was not America. It is being run by the military and there is only one radio station.
* After the thrid of fourth time swerving around downed power lines, I realized I could just drive over them. But the coolest driving expereince is when we had to abort our exit plan because I-10 was still flooded. We then turned around and drove down the wrong side of the interstate at high rates of speed.
* There were police and firemen from all around the nation. I counted at least 20 different states represented. It put a smile on my face to see these folks still being tourists. Walking around the French Quarter checking out the sights and posing for pictures just like all the other jackass tourists.
* Never in your life do you want to have to clean out a seafood resturant that hasn’t had power for two weeks. I vomited well over half a dozen times.
* There were signs of progress though. Some parts of town already had running water. And the clean-up had begun. Trash and debrit were being removed. Some blocks of the French Quarter were the cleanest I had ever seen them.
I can’t wait to return. I want to help rebuild that city and make it great again. I can’t imagine a world without New Orleans and all of the good times and great art it has brought everyone. I’ll be back, and so will that city.
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