by Karl Demolay
This is for the city that care forgot...
the city that forgot to care.
This city, carelessly forgotten,
party time's behind us now, sensual drums in the dank and virile heat.
City of culinary delights, musical giants, simple pleasures, squalid
A city of dust, now shrouded in mold, forever succumbing to entropic bliss on pause.
city of history, a living archive of revelry and regret. The past and
the future collide in slow motion. This is the city that must be
remembered and rebuilt, this bastion of visceral pleasures and historic
decadence. All to our collective delight and nagging melancholia.
This is for the ones that evacuated...
people who left it all behind. The ones that lost almost everything, or
maybe just the one thing they cared about most of all. The ones
marooned on highways for far too long, no way home, even as the storm
unleashed its initial fury. Those left deserted, no place to rest their
heads, thoughts still heavy with guilt or fear or resignation.
This is for the people that won't go back, can't go back, afraid of possibility and all of its attendant pitfalls.
This is for those that have nothing to return to at all, not one single thing.
This is for the ones that relocated, expatriates forced into strange lands with odd customs.
This is for the terminally restless,
the suddenly homeless,
the penniless brave.
This is for the ones that stayed...
the insane, the stranded, the curious tribes, erstwhile survivors and civic warriors alike.
Those souls who stayed calm and true despite the chaos, or lost their minds to apocalyptic fancy.
Battened down and hunkered low, sipping bottled water with hushed first
glances, suspicious demeanors and flashlights at the ready.
Proud and defiant holders of the line, sometimes criminal in intent, quick movement on the perimeters, shoot to kill orders...
For all those who were trapped in makeshift shelters, replete with suicides, murders, and rapes: victimization rank and feral.
For the bitter end of salvation, acrid tastes on parched tongues dry, even as bids for escape were made.
This is for the politicians...
State and Local, at once inept and indispensable, some more than
others, caught unprepared, unconcerned, unshaven---Playing cat and mouse
in a city of smoldering ruins, screams from the darkness of urgent
plight, atavism gone awry. Ignorance and obviousness, the slow motion
train wreck broadcast for all to see and discuss, obfuscate and ignore.
Declarations of me and mine, you and yours, pitted squarely against they
and them. This is for too little, too late, the same old song played at
precisely the wrong time, over and over. Nagin, Blanco, Brown, Bush,
please report center stage to assume the mantle of scorn and blame,
everyone gets their turn.
This is for the ones that try to rewrite history or deny it outright, we wish we could deny it all so easily.
This is for the ones that died...
the loved ones, the foolish ones, the forgotten and cumbersome alike.
For the elderly, the infirmed, Vera in her cobblestone grave, the
unidentified ones that received no such memorials.
And our beloved household pets, loyal until the end.
parks and neighborhood greens, flora and fauna turned to a sepia-tone
static gray. The houses, once renowned for their architecture, are
reborn as new testaments to the destructive coupling of Mother nature
and Human Folly. To the spray-painted X's, harsh and unrelenting,
omnipresent in their emergency orange hue: 1 dog dead, 1 person saved.
is for the newest necropolis to rise, our once proud city, our
interrupted way of life, breaks in the line of comfortable static. For
the evidence of our empire, washed away in the eye of the storm and the
turgid, toxic waters that followed.
This is for the ones that rescued...
Firefighters, EMT's, Police Officers, National Guard. For the people
from far and near that just appeared out of nowhere, just wanting to
help any way they could, using anything waterborne. And for the locals
brave and true, risking life and limb to save just one more person, over
and over and over. For all of the endless, tireless, selfless
sacrifices and tear jerking humanity. For their shining light of
salvation into the boundless dark, onto rooftops, inside of hacked-out
attics, out of harms way to higher ground. For beaming from all
directions, these beacons of hope, springing eternal and true.
is for all those who lent a hand, however small or large. Our gratitude,
more than could ever be conveyed, is all we have to offer in return.
This is for the media...
good, the bad, the ugly, for the rescuers and the soothsayers, the
shelterers and the kind words, for the dispassionate, the doubters, the
cynical and the apathetic.
The pundits and pontificators, their
talking points and bad haircuts, feigning interest at all the scripted
moments. For the smiles as the makeup is applied, the vacant suppression
of harsh, unforgiving reality in plentiful evidence. The ones that
control the present controlling the past controlled the future; as
always, blissfully unaware of the consequences...
For the sidebars
and scrutiny, the breaking news and tight focus close-ups, hands and
mouths reacting in opposite directions, in equal amounts, all from the
outside looking in. This is for updates at every quarter of the hour.
This is for the hospitals...
nursing homes and hospices unprotected and ignored. Piling the dead or
leaving them where they lay, morgues and freezers packed tight. This is
for the generators that failed too quickly. No sleep or food or water or
sanity or safety or hope. For our doctors and nurses, in hellish
conditions, against impossible odds, this is for the ultimate and
undying respect they deserve. This is for the thugs storming the gates
for drugs and evil kicks on top of everything else happening, brash and
ignorant of their crime...
For the hotels and hostels, kicking guest
out to fend for themselves in our city gone mad. Inundation and tragedy,
fragility and breakdown, the worst vacation, convention, honeymoon
This is for the looters...
for the desperate, the
prescient, the survivalist hordes. Scavenging and pilfering, salvaging
and hoarding anything and everything of use in seemingly useless times.
is for the business owners, opening their doors wide to allow retrieval
of water, food, diapers and formula, keeping their cool and doing the
right thing. And for the pharmacies, their good intentions torn asunder
by destructive addicts and wasteful ignorance like so many store display
This is for the home invasions, the armed intrusions, for making a bad situation worse, for spreading the fear...
This is for the ones that made it easier even while others made it ever harder by the minute.
This is for the children...
lost or outright abandoned, the marginalized or used, for the
separation anxiety, trauma and tears on long hot nights that just got
worse and worse.
The unfamiliar and the dangerous, the abusive and
profane, forsaking even common sense, for the lack of decency, for the
bad examples and poor supervision. This is for the countless orphaned
souls, forced to bear an adults pain with no advance warning, no
preparation or guidance...
This is for the countless smiles, the
innocence and playfulness, the ability to make it all disappear, if only
for a moment at a time. And for their will, unbreakable and resolute in
its purest form and function. This is for what we owe them, first and
foremost; their satisfaction will be our compensation over time.
This is for the survivors...
of us, if any of us, also still, the huge debt owed to those who
didn't. This is for all of us in our sad, sad group, no matter where we
are at the moment, home or abroad. For the hopes and dreams, reborn from
the ashes of the ones previous, for our Phoenix on the bayou. For the
nightmares and shock and ennui, the blank stares and paranoia deep into
the night. And the helplessness, constricting, paralyzing, numbing...
is for finding a way to get out of bed in the morning to go to work,
gut your houses and reassemble your lives. This is for those that mourn
their dead, their missing, their damaged. This is for all of us that are
left to find their way back to some semblance of normalcy and well
being in these dark times.
This is for the rest of the country...
to our plight, shelters in the storm, final arbiters of our collective
destiny. This is for all of the numerous benefits and donations, the
concerns and the heartfelt sorrow. The letters and emails, the long
talks on the phone into those September nights and beyond, the shoulders
to cry on and beds to sleep in. As well as the showers and food, simple
things like ice and clean clothes. For the religious intolerance, the
thought that somehow, we deserved this,
that this was God's doing...
is for the stupidity and hypocrisy, for throwing the first stone when
we were down and out. This is for their fatigue, their need to move on,
not towards a better understanding, but only to the next sad refrain.
For helping us stand, then forcing us to walk away stronger and more
assured. This is for those that are rebuilding with us, as well as for
the ones that make us want to now more than ever.
This is for the world...
the governments and their citizens, for the superpowers and third-world nations alike.
their offers and advice, their engineers and city planners, the visits
of rebuilding and improved protection. This is for the feeling that we
weren't alone, that this has happened before elsewhere, only much worse,
that it does get better with hard work and cooperation. For the lessons
learned and experience shared; the first real promises of something
good in uncertain times. This is for the most that we can share, our
lessons, our triumphs and defeats, our heartbreaks and celebrations.
This is for an open welcome to the grand rebuilding, our glorious
comeback and their involvement in all that promises.
This is for the past...
how not to repeat it. This is for shoddy levees and interrupted
communications, driverless buses and improper shelters. For the wild
ride to here, the respite in its warming memories, stories and legends
yet to be told.
The anecdotes and folktales, the ghost stories and
the pirates' songs, for history and the curious wisdom it imparts. For
the good times, the bad times, the in-between times, we all had them
here in this place we called home, no matter if you're local or not.
This is for why we still call it home today, even if we won't, or can't
be here now. This is for the sacrifices, the sweat and blood, the
personal tales of reward and loss. This is for the chance to finally get
it right, to learn form our mistakes one more time, to teach others the
same as well; it's that precious and rare.
This is for the future...
and the promise that it holds.
the chances in abundance, the endless, limitless boundaries presented.
This is for the process of starting over, no matter how long or tough it
turns out to be.
For the ways to see beauty in the ugliness, to
fashion something new and exciting out of something broken and in a
state of disrepair.
This is for our city, its legacy, our neighborhoods and families, friends and foes alike.
our scenes and cliques, parishes and wards, businesses and hangouts,
for the determination to rebuild them all, damn the engines.
wishes for a better way are here and now, ready and waiting, the concept
of building better, stronger, and more secure. All we have to do is
make it happen.
This is for the here and the here from now on.
this is for you, in your own private way. For peace, contentment,
steadfast resolve in trying times. For dignity and patience, reassuring
calm after the storm. This is for the knowledge that you are not alone,
no matter how lonely it may seem right now. For your hopeful return to
the place we call home, if not now,
then in due time...
For the knowledge that she will wait for you, she always has,
she always will...
This is for our fair lady,
our New Orleans,
Past, Present and Future...