I was originally going to use the title “I can’t take any more” but my brain followed it up with “My God, I can’t take any more of this. First, you dump me for Eddie. Then you cast him off like an old overcoat for Rocky. You’re like a sponge … you just take, take, take and drain others of their love and emotion. Well, I’ve had enough. You’ve got to choose between me and Rocky, so named for the rocks in his head.” (The next line in the film is the title of this entry.)
At which point I wondered exactly how many times I’d seen The Rocky Horror Picture Show, back in the day. Damn. I can’t remember whether “datalogging” is supposed to be one word when we use it in documentation at the office, but I have total recall of the trivial.
But then I remembered Sena Mall Theater in New Orleans (where Rocky Horror played for many years) and even though it’s a wine cellar now, it still reminded me of what’s going on there right now. Of what’s being predicted for the city in the next 24 hours when Hurricane Katrina comes to town.
My family is okay … as okay as they get, anyway. Some are in Lafayette, one is in Baton Rouge, and a bunch of them are in Alabama. My sister is not happy about being stuck on I-10 all day in the car with a restless five-year-old and is only too thankful for the portable DVD player. Sis is also cranky about having to sleep on a lumpy sofa tonight, but she’ll get over it.
My grandparents actually left their home to drive to Alabama to escape the incoming hurricane. This is a major event. You have no idea how difficult it is to get them to leave the house even in good weather. Usually they are proud to say that they survived Camille and Betsy and no little piddling upstart hurricane is going to drive them out of New Orleans. This time, though, they evacuated. It is an event akin to Ignatius Reilly leaving New Orleans. We’re not sure exactly where my grandparents are right now, although it is not a Scenicruiser headed for the heart of darkness, so I guess we shouldn’t worry.
So all the family members are safe and that’s the important thing, right? Material goods aren’t critical, whatever happens to the houses and the trees and the city (and suburbs) are trivial. Everyone has insurance, anyway.
Except … it’s not. I grew up near New Orleans, and despite the fact that I have vowed never to live there again, I retain a certain emotional attachment to the area.
I keep thinking of the smaller potential lossesfamily photographs and memorabilia, furniture my dad painstakingly refinished by hand, my grandparents’ house which may be gloomy now but my mom grew up there. The house my brother and his wife just bought that they recently started renovating (I hope they didn’t do the bottom floor yet). Personal family stuff, small but important.
But what really saddens me is the possibility of New Orleans as a whole being destroyed. We learned about this in science class in grade school: one teacher in particular enjoyed a peculiar glee in telling us that it was quite possible the Mississippi River bed might shift one day and completely wipe New Orleans from the face of the earth, covering it with water and claiming it as part of the river. We learned how important the spillways and the levees were, and that New Orleans was in a pretty fragile position.
For the past two years, during hurricane season, some people seem to delight in sharing their theories about what a direct hit from a major hurricane could do to the city of New Orleans. There’s the bowl theory and the lake theory and the suggestion to build very high walls around the French Quarter. I really hate hearing these theories when a hurricane is in danger of hitting the city and I still have relatives in the vicinity.
But even with no relatives in the vicinity, even if every single person could be magically spirited away from the area, I don’t want to see New Orleans crushed and destroyed, or flooded beyond belief, or otherwise devastated. Of course it’s not the glamorous, romantic city that so many authors would have you believe, with vampires and detectives and wonderfully smoky bars on every corner. (Okay, the bar thing might be true, but some of them are real dives.)
But even though New Orleans can be a real rathole of a city (see The Simpsons episode “A Streetcar Named Marge” for a song with a very apt description of the town), I can’t stand the idea of the beautiful old buildings and parks and St. Charles Avenue and dozens of other places, many of them restaurants, wiped out. The world needs more shrimp po-boys, not fewer.
On the other hand, as I keep reminding myself today, you can’t kill New Orleans. Maybe the Mississippi River could wipe it out but it would be a tough job. Many buildings survived Camille and other hurricanes, but the city also has survived plagues, yellow fever epidemics, major fires, civil war, a world’s fair, and other disasters. New Orleanians are a hard-headed lot.
I figure even if the whole city is underwater, everyone will just move inland a hundred miles or so and create another New Orleans, providing an opportunity for even more tacky souvenir shops and maybe an exact replica of the French Quarter made out of hurricane-resistant and vomit-resistant materials. Plus, swamp tours of Old New Orleans! Naturally, someone will invent a drink around the disaster to sell to unsuspecting tourists.
In the past, New Orleans seemed to have some sort of hurricane-deflecting charm. Every time it looks like the city will sustain a direct hit, the hurricane magically changes course at the last minute. I like to think it’s protected by a bubble of sin. I’m sitting here waiting, hoping, wondering if the charm is going to kick in this time.
Oh, we just found my grandparents, who are currently in Meridien, Mississippi and trying to find a hotel. We don’t know where they’ll be able to sleep, but at least they’re out of harm’s way. I wish I could say the same for the whole New Orleans area.