Friday, June 16, 2006

This is the condition

Here I am, quoting Chris Rose verbatem. Sometimes I feels he goes over the top, but this, I felt, was dead on. Maybe people care, but they definitely don't know what's going on. How can we bridge this disconnect? What is it about humans that we can't ask questions; we make assumptions that somehow twist into facts. I am as culpable of such behavior as anyone, but especially since Katrina, I have tried my best to approach issues with a serious attempt to uncover all angles of the equation. I'm glad someone is publishing these feelings. And again, I have to ask: this is the man who covered Britney Spears' gun-toting papa?

For now at least, being an insider in New Orleans means feeling like an outsider everywhere else
Friday, June 16, 2006
By Chris Rose

I was in Washington, D.C., recently, talking to a very educated man who was making reference to another man he knows who does restaurant consulting work in New Orleans.

The man, a school administrator, said to me: "I don't know what he thinks he's doing there. There are no restaurants in New Orleans anymore."

Cue the ominous sound effect between scenes in "Law & Order."

I was recently working with an out-of-town TV news producer who was looking to set up a shot of neighborhood desolation and he asked me if I thought it would be hard to find any concentration of damaged and abandoned houses in New Orleans.

Cue the ominous sound effect between scenes in "Law & Order."

I was in Portland, Ore., this week and I heard a guy in a bar hold court with stories about New Orleans. He said: "The police on Bourbon Street, they come around at night with a big cart -- like a hot dog cart -- and they pile up all the drunk and passed-out people on it and wheel them off to jail."

Cue the buzzer, the gong, the cowbell.

A hot dog cart?

Obviously, the range of opinions and "knowledge" about New Orleans out in the Great Elsewhere is staggering. Said a documentary filmmaker from Indianapolis to me the other day: "Speaking for central Indiana, it's not that people don't care about New Orleans. It's more that they're oblivious to what happened. They just don't know."

And so some folks think New Orleans is a fine and peachy place, where finding footage of wrecked houses would be a challenge all these months later. And some folks think there are no restaurants open.

And some folks, it seems, got so pie-eyed when they visited Bourbon Street that they hallucinated some bizarre vision that married the cops and the Lucky Dog guys into a harmoniously cartoonish image of civic peace keeping.

I've been traveling a lot lately. "How is New Orleans doing?" people ask all along the way, and they do care -- really, really care -- you can tell. But how do you answer that question?

Unless they have two days to listen to you talk about the unraveling of the social fabric, the menace of crime, the absence of leadership, the palpable fear of another hurricane and the fact that 15 of your closest friends are making plans to move away -- joining the other 15 of your closest friends who already have moved away -- then what do you tell them?

My wife and I recently made the circuit of journalism awards banquets in the Northeast, and I watched my media colleagues and peers fall into easy shop talk at these events but somehow Kelly and I always stood off to the side, wondering who all these people were and what they were talking about.

We were guests at many of these events and -- in some cases -- honorees, as I have had the privilege of picking up several awards that The Times-Picayune has won for its coverage of this unholy mess.

And people are warm and gracious and concerned but -- at each event -- I asked my wife: "Did you ever go to a wedding where you didn't know the bride or the groom?"

That's kind of what it's like to be from New Orleans as you travel around the country these days. You just can't find the rhythm of the outside. Of the other.

I am on a plane bound for Salt Lake City as I write this and I look around and realize how disconnected my life is from the folks who sit around me.

Not that they don't have troubles and sorrows and issues, too, but they don't necessarily look lost in a fog of war. I look around at the sleepy faces and the faces buried in books and newspapers and the bobbing heads of folks plugged into iPods and I wonder when I'll ever get back to the place where they are.

. . . . . . .

Columnist Chris Rose can be reached at; or at (504) 352-2535 or (504) 826-3309. To reach past columns, visit


Anonymous rachel said...


G-d, he's so good.

Fri Jun 16, 02:40:00 PM  

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