Thursday, August 30, 2012

Living in Louisiana

And here we are again, four years after Gustav took down 25% of the canopy in Baton Rouge and seven years after Katrina flooded New Orleans and killed almost 2,000 people, here we are again with that helpless feeling again of hearing sirens in the distance of fire trucks racing down streets nearby and watching wind and rain out of windows and sliding patio doors, the trees bending unnaturally and limbs flying off and the thump of them hitting the ground and leaves swirling and littering the streets and yards like it is winter and time to rake into piles not brown but green with recent life.
Unlike other recent hurricanes and with winds not quite as high, Isaac is so slow moving that the destruction may be worse in some areas, the winds and flooding water grinding south Louisiana down by its stationary persistence.
In this age of instant communication (before many lose power) there are Facebook posts on supplies gathered, the inevitable lists of alcohol purchased to last for the duration of closed stores, discussions of the impact of cancelled football games (for many hurricanes seem to hit the last week of August), posts from people who once lived here and now expressing concerns from states far away, and one post from a woman in New Jersey who once lived in and still calls New Orleans home, her post letting everyone know that her friend was tired of the woman’s post about her concerns for family and could not understand why people still lived in this part of the country, that friend showing her ignorance by not stopping to think that all parts of the country experience disasters, natural and man-made. Why would anyone want to live in Manhattan, someone responded, when planes sometimes crash into tall buildings?
The woman in New Jersey vented in a long post exactly why south Louisiana—New Orleans in particular—is so special, and, finally, halfway down in her Facebook rant about her friend’s utter lack of understanding and compassion, she hit upon exactly why people stay and endure whatever comes in this part of the country: it is home.
     No matter if there are hurricanes spinning off deadly tornados or straight-line summer thunderstorms that knock trees down quickly, no matter what forces align and threaten the house occupied, there are pets buried in the backyard and relatives in the cemetery down the road. It is football on the weekends and tailgate parties with good friends that take place near the stadium or in the back yard. It is also a heritage of place given voice by Louisiana writers imparting a sense of family and history—whether that history is ground blood-soaked or merely littered with storm debris.  It is simply home, the place of growing up and learning the hard truths of living anywhere. 

Sunday, August 5, 2012


Amanda knew at an early age that she would kill herself. It wasn’t a thought that particularly concerned her but one of quiet recognition that the day would come. She lived her life with that quiet knowledge, growing up loved enough and bright enough for good grades in school and getting a college degree with easy grace she knew she would never use because of how it would all end, the year and manner to be determined. What did surprise her though as she lay on the bed with the gun beside her and naked with makeup on and hair brushed and shiny was not that she was only a good and competent dancer (she had long ago realized that), that she couldn’t have a career doing it, not the months and two years of traveling the West waiting tables and dancing in burlesque and strip clubs to make ends meet, the surprise now that the end was near at age 24 was not any of that but one of location. Not so much Albuquerque, the city for the first few years humming with possibility since there were so many dance clubs with fun people learning the steps or perfecting routines of blues dancing, the swing, Latin jazz, always parties at the clubs or rented spaces, the dancers in costumes and body paint with wild abandon like Mardi Gras in New Orleans, strings of white Christmas lights in loops along the walls, draped over the piano, the lights sweeping the dance floor and the thumping music as partners also, the surprise now for Amanda not so much the city straddling the Rio Grande but the end coming in her small Komfort Travel Trailer parked to the side of Billy’s driveway, an extension cord from her friend’s house snaking through tall trash-strewn grass and weeds.