|August 29, 2011 | Philosophy, Stuffs
I was going through some stuff the other day and I found this can, dated August 2005, which might be the only souvenir I have of Hurricane Katrina. Even though I carried a camera with me the whole time I was evacuated, everything was so crazy that it didn’t occur to me to take any pictures. There are a couple of shots from when we snuck back into the city in early September, but they don’t bear any resemblance to what things actually looked like, and they certainly don’t convey the utter surreality of the situation. We were driving around, got stopped a couple of times by the National Guard ( who were actually pretty nice ), and we heard that Molly’s was open, so we went to take a look. There was no power, but they were getting ice from the military and they had cold beer. There was us, a couple of helicopter pilots, and a couple of doctors in scrubs. I took a photo, which looks like some people in a bar.
Cel phones didn’t have cameras in them yet, let alone video, so there isn’t the flood ( zing! ) of images that there would have been if the storm had hit a few years later. I guess a lot of the technology that’s ubiquitous now was starting to appear around that time, but to us, the evacuation is a very clear dividing line between the old and the new : voice service was down, but we discovered that we could text, something most people hadn’t tried before. Social networking, too, was just a curiosity until it became the only way for much of the New Orleans diaspora to find each other. We stopped at libraries to go on MySpace, or we used wi-fi for the first time. ” Where’s Louie? Oh man, he was on his girlfriend’s roof in Mississippi and they got choppered out – I think he’s in Memphis. The wind picked up a church and dropped it on his car! ” ” Did you see Splinter’s van on the news? Across from that fire on Camp and St.Andrew that they kept showing for days? ” ” Yeah. Guess who I heard started the fire? ”
Now that everybody has a movie-camera-GPS-Twitter-feed-etc-etc device on them at all times, if the shit was really going to hit the fan in Hurricane Irene, I thought, things were going to be really different.
My mementos of the storm are inside me. I know what MREs taste like ( better than you’d expect, and the tiny bottles of Tabasco are nice ), I know how to use a chainsaw, how to clean a gun, how power and sewer hookups work. My things aren’t as important to me as they used to be. I know how easily and thoroughly law and order can break down, and I know what it’s like when nobody’s in charge. That’s actual, real anarchy, and it’s not nice. I really liked New Orleans before Katrina, and I truly loved it for a while afterwards, when it was a wild west town where nothing worked and there wasn’t really much going on, but where we celebrated wildly as friends trickled back. We were in this together, now. Nobody visited for years, and people were convinced that the city was totally destroyed, or that gunmen were roaming the streets, and I liked that. Our own planet, poles apart from yours. Ragged, dark. Less rules. It’s different now, six years later. It’s a little more like a place in America, and I love it a little less.