Down In The Flood

As the cities of the Gulf Coast struggle to recover from Hurricane Katrina, it’s worth a few moments to think of the literary legacies now floating in the floodwaters.

In New Orleans, Stanley Kowalski, Stella Kowalski and Blance DuBois are all in the same boat, but Blanche’s paper lanterns don’t stand a chance. They may or may not run into John Kennedy Toole’s Ignatius Reilly, who is most likely huddling with his mom in the SuperDome, complaining about the confederacy of dunces.

Way out on the outskirts of town, there’s no telling what’s going on at Jack Kerouac’s strange farm where Old Bull Lee holds court on his porch, dreaming of a dry spot in faraway Tangier.

Our thoughts are with the survivors of the hurricane and the flood, who are now certainly depending on the kindness of strangers.

4 Responses

  1. from FloridaEvery year we go
    from Florida

    Every year we go through this lousy cycle of wondering if we will get hit this time, or will it be someone else. I’ve been lucky so far. Last year our power was out for six days and a big tree limb fell on my truck, but the house is still standing and we were not literally under water, so I have no right to complain. Not after the havoc in Louisiana and other places.

    Here is a quote from one of my favorite children’s books, Minn of the Mississippi by Holling Clancy Holling:

    “New Orleans is a cooking pan, a laughing face – and a rhythm. A soft humming runs down its levees like rain-trickles of sound. It comes from houses, mansions, shops and skyscrapers; from dark alleys and day-bright boulevards; from people working and people at play; from feet hissing on dance floors, from hands beating, from singing mouths; and the rhythm is cradled in crooning strings, a moaning of the trumpets, drums sobbing … And some of the rhythm has jungle in it; it tells of other rivers, crocodiles, long cats and shadows of elephants…And as Minn went by, drums talked this New Orleans rhythm into the river night …”

  2. The VampireWhen I think of
    The Vampire

    When I think of contemporary literary New Orleans I think of Anne Rice…the devestation makes me so sad. I visited New Orleans well over 30 times while an airline employee in the 90’s and was always charmed by its terminal uniqueness- while so many large American cities are indistinguishable and bland- the Big Easy has always had a special charm. The added tragedy of Katrina’s strike is the already abject poverty that permeates the region- there are many, many uninsured and every aspect of their lives lay in the balance…

  3. AlgiersI thought about Bull

    I thought about Bull Lee’s farm in Algiers as well and how Sal Paradise made pancakes there in On the Road.

    That neighborhood is gone now, from what I can tell. New Orleans pretty much does not exist any more.

    This devastation is huge and will effect all of us for a long time, no matter how far away we are.

    The storm didn’t do it, but the levee broke.

    It’s unbelievable and incomprehensible.

  4. Tulane StreetOn “Sixty
    Tulane Street

    On “Sixty Minutes” folks escaped from New Orleans,
    After “Katrina’s” disaster, meanwhile bloated
    Bodies are tied to lampposts in the real world…
    Airboats float by like in the everglades,
    Streets flooded by breached flood walls-
    “We love you Mayor Nagin, & Governor Blanco!”
    “But, the truth is that the worst is yet to come…”
    Folks have to pick up the dead after the streets are
    Drained out… about 15,000 unaccounted for…
    Help is on the way…
    My sister is down in Baton Rouge, LA, as we
    Type this poem-Working with a Red Cross Relief Team…

    There are worries about looters, west nile virus,
    Amoebic dysentery, dengue fever and other tropical
    Diseases like malaria coming out the the snake barrel
    That pitiful New Orleans has become…
    Into the relief shelters may come diseases
    We haven’t seen in a hundred years,
    Like Spanish flu…I hear Cajun ghosts whispering…
    Decades away from my long visits
    Boomers? Gen. X? Milleniums?
    We’ve all taken a hit.

    3000 evacuees arrive in Chattanooga, TN
    Time to get back to conserving fuel, eating
    Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches,
    Sleeping on cots & second hand mattresses,
    Living in “temporary” shelters, houses on stilts,
    Planning for living on higher ground-
    Thank you Lord for deliverance,
    For precious lives…

    Yes, yes, I got Tulane Street Blues
    For “Deep Bellem”…
    Catapulted from the “collective soul”
    Displaced from their homes…
    Cajun ghosts whisper to me…
    After Hurricane Katrina dropped a “natural bomb”
    On the Gulf Coast… We are a bundle of sticks.
    When “the Saints come marchin’ in”…
    “One is the loneliest number”, as we float on “golden splinters”
    While just a short distance away,
    Bourbon Street is dry and rises again.

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