Saturday, September 17, 2005

"they look good when they file their latest report from Hell."


CHRIS ROSE: A city stirs from its slumber

Glimpses of normalcy provide a glimmer or hope

By Chris Rose

Amid the devastation, you have to look for hope. Forward progress of any kind.
Even the smallest incidents of routine and normalcy become reassuring. For instance, I was driving down Prytania and at the corner of Felicity, the light turned red.

Out of nowhere, in total desolation, there was a working stoplight. I would have been less surprised to find a Blockbuster Video on Mars.

And the funny thing is, I stopped. I waited for it to turn green and then drove slowly on my way, even though there were no other cars anywhere and the likelihood of getting a ticket for running the only traffic signal in town seems very unlikely right now.


Also on Prytania, there was a gardener watering the plants on the porch of Nicolas Cage's mansion and I guess that's a good sign. Life goes on. In very small ways.

The toilets flush now and I never thought that would be a sound of reassurance. An even better sound was finding out that WWOZ is broadcasting on the Web - radio in exile - laying out their great New Orleans music.

That's important. I have no idea from where they're operating or which deejays are spinning the discs but I can tell you this: The first time I ever hear Billy Dell's "Records from the Crypt" on the radio again, I will kiss the dirty ground beneath my feet.

Guys with brooms have started cleaning Canal Street and Convention Center Boulevard; until recently, any tidying up required either a back hoe, a crane or a Bobcat.

God only knows where they're going to put all this garbage, all this rubble, all these trees, but they're gathering it up all the same.

The streets of the French Quarter, absent the rubble of the CBD, basically looks and smells like the day after Mardi Gras, except with no broken strands of beads in the gutter.

OK, maybe it was a real windy Mardi Gras, but you get the point.

It just needs a little face lift, a little sweeping up and a good hard rain to wash away . . . all the bad stuff.

A counterpoint to that scene would be Broadway Avenue Uptown - Fraternity Row - where the street is actually CLEANER than usual and that's because the fine young men and women of our universities had not yet settled into their early semester routines of dragging living room furniture out onto their front yards and drinking Red Bull and vodka to while away their youth.

I wonder where all of them are? When this is over, who will go there and who will teach there?

What will happen to us?

One thing's for sure, our story is being told.

The satellite trucks stretch for eight blocks on Canal Street and call to mind an event like the Super Bowl or the Republican Convention.

It's a strange place. Then again, anywhere that more than 10 news reporters gather becomes a strange place by default.

I saw Anderson Cooper interviewing Dr. Phil. And while Cooper's CNN camera crew filmed Dr. Phil, Dr. Phil's camera crew filmed Cooper and about five or six other camera crews from other shows and networks stood to the side and filmed all of that.

By reporting this scene, I have become the media covering the media covering the media.

It all has the surrealistic air of a Big Event, what with Koppel and Geraldo and all those guys wandering around in their Eddie Bauer hunting vests and impossibly tall and thin anchor women from around the region powdering their faces and teasing their hair so they look good when they file their latest report from Hell.

"And today in New Orleans . . . blah blah blah."

Today in New Orleans, a traffic light worked. Someone watered flowers. And anyone with the means to get online could have heard Dr. John's voice wafting in the dry wind, a sound of grace, comfort and familiarity here in the saddest and loneliest place in the world.

It's a start.

Columnist Chris Rose can be reached at


Blogger R J Keefe said...

How eloquent!

Sat Sep 17, 05:20:00 PM  

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