April 2, 2007
Sitting on the stoop at the house we’re staying in in New Orleans, we noticed some graffiti we’d spotted earlier while getting lost near the Superdome … seemed to be tagged on the front of every house in this neighborhood too. Our eyes picked up on it because it looks so much like the old Hard Times Bike Club (now Black Label) logo — an “X” with the letters written in all four spaces.
Here, the “X”es have a more elaborate code than just “HTBC” or “BLBC”: it turns out they represent which of the rescue crews checked the residence after Hurricane Katrina, and whether or not there were any trapped people or dead bodies, and how many. On the street where we’re staying, the bottom space of the X on all the houses directly around us (the dead body space) is blissfully empty … but we’ve heard when we go to drive around the Lower 9th Ward sometime soon, right where the levee broke, we’ll see 7s and 8s and 9s in that slot as often as we’ll see nothing.
Also, a Yat local at the bar last night told us the reason the levee wall broke was that some folks working on a barge parked there just panicked, and got out of town and left the barge — and during a big swell in the water, the barge knocked the wall in.
That’s how it happened. Either that, or, as other locals swear, the levee was blown. Huge BOOM at 4:30am. That’s when the water went rushing into the Lower 9th like a tsunami in a bad Japanese sci-fi and drowned housefuls of people before they even had a chance to think about whether or not they could swim.
Talk about shirking responsibility in the name of self-preservation. Surely there’s some other (good) reason they didn’t move the ship, but still … if that’s a true story, we’d be surprised if those barge workers haven’t offed themselves by now.
This town is not the same. It’s going to survive, and flourish again, of course, but there are little nuances of apocalypse prevalent in the Quarter / Marigny. Many street lights are broken; street signs are gone.
And there are no more grocery stores in the Quarter — if you’d like crunchy California stuff like we’re used to eating, like kombucha and granola and N-Acetyl Cysteine pills (for hearing loss, liver cleanse, blood sugar regulation, radioactivity, and heavy metal poisoning — a catch-all supplement for our kind, we’d say) you’ve got to go uptown to the Wholefoods.
Interestingly, housing prices spiked after Katrina, since a good percentage of domiciles in the heart of NOLA are uninhabitable, thanks to black mold and foundations rotting and whatnot. Prices have leveled out some, and we have at least one friend who’s trying to get a loan — with no credit, no credit history, and only a paying job to his name — to buy a house down here and flip it. It can be done. Otter did it already.
It’s blazing hot here, and hurricane season hasn’t started yet. Otherwise we’d think about it. There’s something about being surrounded by the spectre of death that makes life more vivid. That’s cliche as hell, true — but this is what the air feels like in New Orleans.
(Don’t tell anybody we thought it was Bike Club graffiti, OK)
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