Katrina Anniversary a Burden for the Crescent City
STEVE INSKEEP, host:
One voice we've heard often in the aftermath of the storm is Chris Rose. He's a columnist for the Times Picayune of New Orleans.
Mr. CHRIS ROSE (Columnist, Times-Picayune New Orleans): I've been suffering from anniversary dread - memorials, remembrances, vigils, services, eulogies, protests, rallies. I think I speak for most everyone in New Orleans when I say let's get this over with.
We always seem to be waiting around here. We've been waiting for the anniversary, a word that seems all wrong, but we haven't come up with a better one. Waiting for the next hurricane, for the city's master plan, for the insurance adjuster and the contractor. Waiting for someone to pickup the garbage and fix the roads. And most importantly, waiting in line at the pharmacy. Waiting for the changes that just never seem to come.
Ah, but the sepia landscape that has been so prevalent here, the color of everything that marinated in Katrina stew last fall is finally yielding to the pastels of crepe myrtles, lantana and wild ginger. Grass is finally green across the city. This took almost a year, and the most of it is two feet high because there's no one paid to cut it anymore. We'll take too much grass over dead grass any day.
Night-blooming jasmine is soaking our evenings in sweet southern dew. If nothing else, New Orleans is beginning to smell like New Orleans again. At the corner of St. Ann and Charter Streets the other night, I saw a guy on a bicycle serenading strollers a cappella, his baritone love song Up on the Roof splitting the unnatural quiet of the old Quarter - a cardboard box taped to his handle bars for tips. No way for a sensible man to make a living, but who ever accused us of making any sense down here?
Nearby, thick drops of water cascaded to the sidewalk from a balcony overgrown with ferns and foliage, drenching anyone caught unawares - a well-known hazard to locals who know the best time to over water is at night. A pack of tourists clutching red drinks in wax cups made their way into the street around this temporary waterfall, craning for a look at the source of this strange rain. But the waterer was long gone inside the French doors.
The tourists were on a ghost tour. Some nights, New Orleans feels like New Orleans again - wet, thirsty, musical, mysterious and sexy. We have so far to go to rebuild this city that it boggles the mind to say nothing of the national treasury. But we've waited this long and we'll wait some more, clutching the smallest gestures that comprise our way back, our journey home to where New Orleans is New Orleans again - or something very much like it.
INSKEEP: Commentary from Chris Rose, author of One Dead in Attic, a collection of his Katrina columns for the Times-Picayune of New Orleans.
Several Gulf Coast residents envision what the region might look like 50 years from now in a series of brief essays at npr.org.
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