Today marks the one year anniversary since Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast. There's still a lot of craziness going on in New Orleans. I've only been over there a few times since last year, being confused, to this day about how the City is doing. The area around the French Quarter, while not yet thriving, seems to be doing better. Still, I got the strange feeling, even while walking along sunny streets, amongst the tourists, as though Nola (New Orleans, LA),the Great Southern Belle, as I like to call 'her', was not at home. A lot of her things were there. The Natchez Riverboat, all white and red and shiny sitting out on the River, a few scattered artists with their brightly colored ware in full display, the sounds of that distinctive Naw'lins music could be heard wafting around street corners here and there, the flower-adorned donkeys standing in the heat, parked in front of Jackson Square, ever patient, waiting to take customers for a carriage ride, and the luscious smells of warm pecan pralines being made. A lot of her things were there; she had company who had come to visit, but it just felt like she wasn't home. It's as though we are still waiting for the intangible, yet somehow almost tangible 'Nola' to show up.
I remember the night I felt she had died. Cappy, the dogs and I were driving back from NYS, having gone to let things kind of settle around here,after Hurricane Katrina, and waiting til the next storm, Hurricane Rita, took her turn at pummeling our area. A terrible tag-team for Southern Louisiana and the surrounding states. We were driving home in a hoard of traffic, which was also headed back to the New Olreans area, having been told that it was alright to do so. Other than the headlights and tail lights of the vehicles, ("diamond necklaces and ruby necklaces") everything was pitch black outside. It had been extremely dark since ...where?Alabama along the coast? (We were exhausted, having driven all day.) Suddenly I sat bolt upright in my seat. Have you ever known something in your 'knower', when there's no way you could possibley know the thing? I have on several occasions, and especially just then. There was this feeling of something Evil out the window towards the left sky. (don't let me lose you now) I tried to shake it, but my skin was crawling, my hair standing on end and the invisible whatever out there felt too familiar. The only way I can describe it was it seemed like an HUGE invisible 'octopus', or 'squid'...something terrible with tentacles had grabbed the surrounding area and utterly squeezed the life out of it, for which it seemed delighted. (Did I actually write this all 'out loud'??) I turned to Cappy, who also seemed on edge, and not slumbering. I asked him,"Do you feel that??" He said, "Yeah, I wonder where we are." Just then we noticed trees; whole acres of them broken off like snapped matchsticks. That was just the beginning of the tree damage. It went on for what seemed like forever. I wondered if the other people in the traffic stream could feel what we did. They certainly could see the storm damage. That night we saw all kinds of devastation and destruction. We had to cross a bridge that is about 22 miles long across the Lake. I don't know what the smell was, but the stench in the air was so horrible, I put the turtleneck sweater I was wearing up over my nose the whole way. Something like that can really cause your imagination to run amuck. So many people died, were misplaced, mistreated, heartbroken during that time last year, and many of the survivors are still suffering , trying to survive and create a new life in this world. The television stations are covering the local memorial services, wall-to-wall. It's sad to say, but even in the midst of trying to "Re-New Orleans", there are still folks who are standing in the rubble of the City, throwing mud at one another. And listen...ya'll really don't want me to drag out my soapbox and go to preachin' about what I think about the politics of the whole thing. Lemme get back to my point, here. (Where'd I put it...?)Since that night last Fall, and until now, I've felt as though Nola is away. It's as though she's a dear relative who is in a coma somewhere, who could at anytime rise up, hug her guests and begin serving them tea, asking where they are from, and how they've been, "Sha".