i went to the lower 9th ward today. interviewed some teenage girls. i tried to interview some teenage boys and some adults but they didnt wanna talk. theyve talked enough. theyve been talking for a year.
i drove around for hours taking pictures. it didnt make me cry until i got back to the hotel. the whole time i felt like an uninvited funeral crasher.
normally i can go up and talk to anyone. i know im not up to anything bad. i know that i have people’s best interests at heart. plus im not afraid. ive always wanted to be a reporter. not a writer so much as a reporter. a long time ago i heard that the definition of a reporter is to go somewhere that most people cant go to and tell them what happened. but today i went to new orleans and i understood why i never became a reporter.
i never got that job because a professional, a real pro, the pro i want to be, goes that extra mile. even though she wasnt a pro, yet, when kerri strug hit that vault landing in the olympics with a broken leg, and stuck it, breaking the leg worse, she was being that pro who i yearn to be. today i just didnt have what it took to ask that one extra question, or to ask that one extra person, or take that extra picture.
which isnt to say that i wont do it tomorrow, but today i allowed the circumstances to hinder my job.
but i will tell you what i saw. in a way thats reporting.
what i saw were blocks and blocks and blocks of abandonded and destroyed homes. its hard to say what the condition of some of these homes were before katrina since the 9th isn’t the most affluent neighborhood in new orleans, but we can assume that most of the houses were inhabited. now only a fraction were liveable.
the ladies who would talk to me told me that the worst of the devistation happened over the bridge, so i went there. for some reason i wasnt scared. not even when i stopped my car when i saw a car following me, who then rolled down his window while his partner got out and asked me how much i wanted. i began driving again. mostly because i wanted all he had.
i saw a lot of the FEMA trailers which are little trailer homes given to some by the government. some houses had a trailer in the front yard or in the drive way. a few locations had make-shift trailer communities where there were dozens and dozens of trailers.
although television tells us that the 9th ward is Black and Poor i saw a few neighborhoods that were upper middle class and white or upper middle class and Black. i saw whites in so-called black sections and i saw construction guys and old people and stray cats and lots of rubble everywhere.
on one street every telephone pole had an ad stapled to it for construction or deconstruction. there were insurance ads asking people if they were unhappy with their settlement. there were ads for people who wanted to sell their home. people were trying to rent their home. people offered to gut people’s home.
i saw lots of spraypaint messages on houses telling you how many people were dead inside, when it was checked, and what was done with their pets if they found any.
if there were ever an opportunity for someone to make some money it would be to teach people how to be contractors and builders and real estate people and developers because this part of the south will rise again, its just a question of time, and the person who buys low (it couldnt be much lower than it is now) and sells high will be the winner.
in the meantime there are people all over this town who are hearty and stubborn and bruised but not broken. these are the people who were kicked out by mother nature and the government and came back and stayed here. if ever there was a group of people who you’d want on your team to make this city stronger, they’re right here and theyre beautiful and theyre bright and they’ve already been to the edge and looked down. everyone here got wet. everyone here was baptised. everyone here are now truly saints. you will stand in awe in their presence.
i came back to my hotel room feeling so unworthy. i felt like such a whiner. oh theres bugs in my hotel room oh the drain goes down too slowly oh not enough chicks half my age show me their boobs. whaaaaaa. these people have lost their friends their neighbors their classmates their coworkers and theyd love to drive around the country, theyd love to stay where im at right now. theyd love to have the food i ate in the 9th ward, theyd love to be able to drive to texas tomorrow because they get to not because they have to. and yet those people dont rush the mic to complain, they shy away because there isnt anything to say. look around stranger. thats your story.
i saw several national guard jeeps i saw fewer cops i heard very few hammers.
i did see a newly built home standing next to a ruined shell of a shack. i wasnt sure if it meant progress, racism, classism, or hope. i just clicked a few pictures and moved on because a block away there would be something else that would blow my mind and make me question everything and sure enough i found it. a virgin mary holding a baby jesus across the street from a diner named Happy Days, and Mary had her head ripped off.