Monday, August 27, 2007

So many hurricane recovery summits, so little time...

As I drove to school this morning, I listened to local columnist Chris Rose on NPR. It was a nice enough piece. I liked that he was defiantly explaining why we stay. He said that here, one is necessarily living a meaningful life, and I think he's right; this recovery makes everything you do, say, hear, think, and feel "mean more," somehow.

I worry, though, that the rest of the country tires of hearing romantic tributes to our home--especially because those romantic tributes rely not just on what New Orleans is, but on what the rest of the country is not. How long can we tell the rest of the country that "You just don't get it" before the rest of the country says, "You're right! And not only don't we get it, but we also don't want to hear no mo' about how you think you DO!"?

I worry that they tire of our stories, of our musings on food and culture and whatnot. It's like how we down here tire of listening to New Yorkers go on and on about New York. (Actually, I kind of think everyone tires of New York-nationalism, no?)

Anyways, the inability to explain "Why New Orleans" is an ongoing theme in many-a-writer's coffer down here. Strangely (or perhaps not so), it was an outsider who did it best for me: Dan Baum for The New Yorker. Read it. It's good.

In some ways, the way New Orleans was before is dead not because of the loss of housing or culture or even the loss of life, but because the meaning that is attached to everything has altered our ability to Just Live. Now, there is the national attention. Now, there's recovery summit after recovery summit after recovery summit . There's march after march after march. There are media events (I like how the city's media schedule brief has "Celebrity Holds" scheduled.) To commemorate the Katrina, two years later, there are vigils, memorials, bell-ringing ceremonies, and even a "hands around the Superdome" event. There is so much darn meaning being made that it's hard to make sense of it all. And anyway, do all these meaning-makers, summit-havers, and celebrity so-and-so's know what it all means anymore than we do? I doubt it. I doubt it...

So, today at UNO, Hillary Clinton, John Edwards, Mary Landrieu, and others are discussing our recovery right this very minute. I wish I could go. I hope there are some disgruntled residents who will raise a stink. A streaker would be nice.

Me, I'm here, blogging, teaching. My students are student-ing. The city is being. Meaning? Meaning, meaning...

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