Patti and I almost missed our plane to New York because we spent about an hour sitting in traffic on the Pontchartrain bridge. They were working on the bridge, of course, given that about a year and half ago it was just a little snack for big, bad Katrina. I've been living in this reality where things happen differently now all this time, but somehow I forgot. Last year I did a much better job of planning my trip to the airport. Last year I knew things were bad and not getting better. This year I forgot. I've had so much normal life force itself upon me lately that I forgot we still can't force Katrina's aftermath into any kind of normal routine.
Then we got past the bridge and skirted the city to make our way to the airport. I knew that things were in shambles. I'd spent a lot of time looking at the shambles. Still, the plowing up of one person's shambles while someone else's still just sits there empty and irreparable is almost too hard a thing to take in. Even Walmart is abandoned. Walmart. I don't know why that bothers me so much, but you have to know that if Walmart can't bounce back the little guy doesn't stand a chance.
I had only recently returned from a conference in Biloxi where it was the absence of a beachfront Waffle House that irked me. Don't ask me why. I'm just weird that way. I've always been drawn to the things that were a little out of place to begin with, and I loved that Waffle House that looked out at the water in one direction and the antebellum homes in the other.
People like to talk about the sense of place in the South, and I can tell you that when absolutely every familiar landmark is gone or changed or damaged, it physically disrupts every fiber of your identity, every ounce of being in you that understands who you are. I no longer have an accurate map in my head of entire towns I've known my whole life. It feels like amnesia.
I was glad to meet Daisy in New York. I very much appreciated her discussion of Katrina and the New Orleans bloggers--the way the blogs filled in where the mainstream media failed, the way people have continued to blog as a means of healing and of activism.
It's so easy to forget. If you even drive a few miles away where things are better, you can forget just how far New Orleans and many other coastal towns have to go. It's far easier to forget than to remember, but we can't afford to forget. Next year CCCC will be in New Orleans, but it will be in an area that will appear to be okay, mostly. "The Isle of Denial," people are calling it. Don't let it fool you. Don't come and go from New Orleans without getting out to see the real story. It will, even a year from now, be far from over.