Thursday, July 2, 2009

New Orleans, Louisiana

The afternoon sky goes dark and ominous. Lightning hits somewhere close and I start to count. One one thousand, Two...and the thunder explodes. I can see the rain coming, a gray wall approaching fast; dust and street trash blowing out in front of it.

In a moment, the storm swallows everything, and it feels like Judgment Day itself.

I try to imagine four summers back, when the world came to an untidy end here. The raw fear to watch the monster coming and be swept up in its furious power. Katrina lumbered in off the gulf and drowned this graceful old city.

Many words have been spilled about what followed, and I'm in no place to add to the tally. Driving in, though, the scars are everywhere to see. Boarded up shopping malls, stripped and gutted houses, an emptiness still hangs in the air. But life goes on, if only for lack of any options.

I drive out along the levees as the storm ebbs and find myself out among the refineries. I spot a cemetery crucifix in the cracking towers' shadow. They call this Cancer Alley. A dull roar fills the air, as steam and gas flares rise from the stacks. A cracked marble Christ hangs from the cross, head bowed. It's a easy metaphor, and I'm not the first to find it. Life is hard out on the delta.

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