Stardate: Oil catastrophe Mayday, BP oil spill, 2010…
New Orleans is America’s groin. Not the “asshole of America” nor “America’s taint,” mind you, because this place is far too sacred to be dismissive like that. Sure, yes, we literally sit at the bottom of the drainage basin for the nation’s spine — the Mississippi River — and Louisiana’s marshes catch a lot of the trash that flows down from Minnesota and points in between.
The nation’s pesticides and chemical spills all go South in the rain, sticking in our dirt. The driftwood decorating our yards in the Lower Ninth Ward, pulled up from the levee shores of the Industrial Canal, used to be trees at one point up in there in the heartland.
Ghosts flow down the River and stay here. Murders happen here, so many murders — the City has a soul, and she demands sacrifices — and the victims stick around after death, maybe even because they find New Orleans more interesting than the afterlife afterparty elsewhere. They say water serves as a better conductor for the spirit world than air does, and the Deep South’s humidity contributes to a generally agreed-upon hurricane of ectoplasmic activity.
Those of us who never fully admitted to the existence of such things, we moved to New Orleans and we learned to never argue with juju again. We built altars to Yemaya, Our Lady Star of the Sea, in the special sacred spots in our houses.
And today, we light candles on those altars and pray. We try not to worry, because worry is negative prayer. We try to supplement prayer with action, but at the same time, we stopped arguing long ago whether or not prayer actually does anything. It does. Period.
Anyway. So yes, there’s the asshole here at the bottom of the spine, but there’s also the private parts. New Orleans bumps and grinds as the earth element to America’s art scene. And the art scene of a people is reflective of that people’s emotional state and connection with the divine. Whether salaciously priapic or fire-in-the-belly meditative, the creative juices in which NOLA stews are always swampy, gritty, frothy, and full of spice.
Look at the paintings from New Orleans; observe the architecture; taste the food; listen to the music. There’s languid pleasure in the landscapes, Caribbean cheer in the paint palates, self-sufficient decadence in the cuisine, and urgent/lugubrious/celebratory sexuality in the music.
Cajuns, Creoles, ex-slaves, and poor white trash alike have always eaten what’s around, catchable, and cheap. Louisiana is — was — the Sportsman’s Paradise. But ain’t no more swimmy things on the menu.
Crawfish by the boatload… gone. Speckled trout with pickled mirlitons… gone. Crabcakes… gone. Oyster po-boys… gone. Ever tasted a Louisiana wild-caught shrimp up against a tiny farm-raised Vietnamese shrimp? No comparison. Alas, now all you’ll get for the next decade is tiny rubbery shrimp from NOT AMERICA.
Chinese medicine says that a body’s energy center is located in the nether region, in the lower dantian. Well, if New Orleans is the lower dantian, and the gateways and marshes to the Gulf are the colon, then… America’s got colon cancer.
That doesn’t mean the colon will get cut out and wiped away and everything will be fine. That means America, if we don’t get treatment, is going to die. Our marshes — our only protection against hurricanes — are already as good as dead.
Sigh. Just when we thought the Saints victory, Mardi Gras, and the “Treme” series would show the world that New Orleans, and the Gulf Coast, were allllmost back in business… we get ankled by another man-made engineering shortcut with monstrous environmental repercussions.
We may still drive a car when we have to, but we have officially stopped preparing for a world where peak oil crashes because we’re afraid it will happen. Now we’re preparing for a world where peak oil crashes because we want to. Taxpayers must demand their representatives call for spending all that “drill, baby, drill” money on alternative energy instead. Biodiesel is the answer, et cetera. But this is shit you already know.
And the Lower Ninth Ward Village and BWB were about to raise enough money for the computer lab and the kids’ summer program, so the good-hearted teens in our neighborhood would stop opting to become forgotten criminals who think it’s normal to go out and shoot each other … Things were looking up.
Did you know there are still no public schools in the Lower Ninth Ward? Only one charter school? Other kids in elementary through high school have to be bussed an hour each way to go try to learn something, even though their world consists of washed-away houses and spread-to-the-winds family non-units. They literally have nothing to do, no reason not to drop out, no hope of better days, no glamorous or successful people to emulate except the Bad Guys.
Oh yeah, we were talking about the oil spill. But before the oil spill we were trying to join in on the fixin’ of this neighborhood. Which, five years after the post-Katrina levee blowout, is a long way away from being fixed, and hard work. Really, really hard work. How can we beg for funding now, when the Artery of Doom has ruptured on the ocean’s floor?
So if you ever wanted to come help in Louisiana, either on the coast or in the Crescent City, this is it. We will personally find a way to facilitate your getting here and staying here. This is our generation’s Great War… or Great Cancer. The time is now.
What to do? Besides send golden laser beams of interstellar miraculous recovery to the nation’s naughty bits, we mean? Stand by. We’re gonna holler at Burners Without Borders and see if we can be of assistance anywhere. And fix that flat in the bicycle tire, and light another candle.
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