Friday, January 13, 2006

Life after an apocalypse

When I woke up this morning, my house was shaking.

Bulldozers in dirt flashed behind my closed eyes before I looked out the kitchen window later and saw them clearing the dirt lot that used to be the house two doors back.

They say the houses in this lower garden district shook during the storm. The houses that are a hundred years old, the houses that sustained very little damage - aside from those that burned to the embers now being cleared away.

I'm looking at a painting on the wall of one of these houses, four blocks away. Its owner is telling me it was swaying back and forth, back and forth, the whole time.

There's a hole in the weakest part of my kitchen floor, under the stove.

I'm afraid whatever is scratching away the wood at the base of the sink is going to come through there, teeth first. I find the second pile of wood chips today. I will tell my apartment manager, who will become annoyed with me, just as her husband did yesterday when I called to inform them that the drunken, aggro roofers downstairs, who I have confronted ("Stop") twice to some effect (shock, staying away from me, cleaning up the raw meat they've left to fester in the pouring rain), have now left a gas grill running unattended outside, flames shooting up the side of the house.

I realize house burning is a sensitive issue for this wife and husband, given that their own house immolated in the same fire whose ashes are currently being cleared, but one would think they'd be interested in averting another, rather than sounding annoyed that I've interrupted Sunday supper.

To me, they are a part of the old guard and the old guard let this city down, let this city drown, in the form of fear and its corresponding silence, in the form of hiding in their houses while the criminals clamped down, earning St. Andrew the nickname "Heroin Alley," said to be referenced by Perry Farrell in the song "Jane Says," in the form of never standing up, but lying down instead, hoping it would just go away when nothing ever does - unless it's told to, repeatedly.

The process of facing these problems seems to be too painful for them - which is why they should step down, why Tom Benson should take his business, but not our New Orleans Saints, elsewhere.

I see Mrs. V. walking down St. Mary one Wednesday, carrying two heavy bags from Walgreen's, and I double back around the block to give her a lift home.

"I get back and the owner's decided to kick me out and move his family in; he was hoping I wouldn't come back. So now I'm staying three doors down."

The 40 FEMA trailers that occupy what used to be the park on Laurel by Cat and Bruce's new place stand unused. Entergy still has to activate the electricity and this involves a series of permits and hurdles for people with broken spirits to clear.

As always, our homeless have to wait.

Written January 9, 2006.


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