29 12 2012Varg in Ent
Beast of the Southern Wild review making the rounds in my social networks…
If this is the case against the film, I’m not sure it’s going to get past the grand jury.
That reviewer admits the cinematography, score, locations and imagery in the film are top notch. Now, those things are huge. I know narrative is most important and I’ll get to that but, let’s not toss out the ethereal aspects of the film simply because the reviewer has an issue with the story. Because they were pretty amazing. They weren’t just good. They excelled. They greatly enhanced the narrative, enriching the story so much that viewers were immediately captivated. This is something that many, many films fail at from the start. Reviewer asks us to “see past the craft.” Fucking why? So we can understand your point better without this huge aspect of the film’s greatness getting in the way?
So, the Narrative. Some things that should be addressed…
- Hushpuppy wants people in the future to remember her but the viewer knows they won’t. She thinks her writing on a cardboard box will be enough. But we, the audience, are supposed to know better. Most of us did and recognized the helplessness of the character. Probably because no one is going to remember us either. This is a universal plight. Mass of men leading lives of quiet desperation and so forth.
- The Titanic stuff, it’s an age old narrative that probably started before the Buddha but was most historically done by him wherein the privileged child casts aside the networks of their society to a simpler, stripped down existence. Buddha did it. Yuppies do it. Gutter Punks do it. People do it. We have fucking reptile brains deep in there. Smooth, unbundled, savage reptile corpus callosums and we like to sometimes get in touch with it.
But hey the accusation was that noodling was depicted as too easy right? What don’t you know in that scene? Had Wink already seen the Catfish before his dialouge? Was it a spot he knew they lurked? It’s not a 65-pounder they pull up. They are out there to catch fish. The man has supposedly done it his whole life. The film is being critiqued because it looked too easy? It was a small aspect of the flick anyway. And why is it supposed to look hard? How would that advance the narrative?
Then we really get to the real heart of why this critic dislikes Beasts and yes, it involves … standing. It’s his premise and ultimately the basis of his critique that:
So, there is no way these white art school kids could possibly have anything meaningful or non-stereotypical to say about these poor people who live in the Bathtub? Even if they could tell this story adeptly (which they do) they really can’t because of who they are. The art isn’t allowed to stand alone because it’s this critic’s prejudice against the artist that gets in the way. The story can be told, but not by them so that gives it its cheesy quality. I guess it is safe to assume real poor folks wouldn’t have glamorized their plight but I live in and among them and I see it glamorized all the time. The notion is they can do it, these art school kids can’t, and that’s a case of standing.
And if the film was such a manipulation of poor hurricane-struck folk in Louisiana, wouldn’t Dwight Henry’s starring role have at least added some credibility to that? A life-long New Orleans resident and 7th Ward baker?
And let’s not forget that the Bathtub is indeed a fucking FANTASY WORLD. Yes, the flick is a fantasy movie. So that’s how you approach it. That is dictated to us by the filmmakers pretty early. And that is the mindset in which the film is to be approached from then on. There is magical realism at work here and this critic never even addresses it. It’s based in reality but, once we are shown that huge boars are floating toward Hushpuppy in melting blocks of ice why quibble about noodling? Maybe in the fantasy world of the bathtub, noodling is easy.
And also not mentioned despite it being a huge testament to the film’s greatness is the fact that these were not even actors in these roles. Both Dwight Henry and Quvenzhané Wallis acted exceptionally and brilliantly. Astounding because THEY HAD NEVER ACTED BEFORE IN THEIR ENTIRE LIVES.
So the film excelled in score, setting, cinematography, imagery and acting. I don’t mind monomyth. I prefer monomyth over the overtold stories in flicks today. The original Star Wars was a monomyth. The latest Star Wars films were so overly-complex no one knew what was going on. I don’t mind a complex story but the framework needs to be simple and the complexities within it.
I don’t mind art students writing about Katrina. The more the better. So long as they get it right and these folks did.
Everyone has their voice. It’s always there. It’s processed through five senses into your mind and then assembled into ideas and then deposited out through those same five senses. Think of conveyor belts bringing goods into the factory of your mind through your hands, eyes ears, nose and mouth and a different set of belts bringing repackaged goods out wrapped up as ideas. Sometimes improvements have been made on the ideas. Sometimes they have been completely reassembled into something new. Sometime simply a sticker has been put on them that says “approved for redistribution.” Sometimes they are tossed into the furnace.
It is not only the so-called “brilliant” minds that run these factories, it is us all. And when the factory really starts going, it begins producing enough products that it needs to find methods of distributing them. And lucky for us all, in this day and age, there are plenty of those. So everyone’s idea factory is exporting at high levels and their products are global commerce.
Some aren’t very good. But somewhere in there, more ideas HAS to eventually mean better ones.
The conveyor belts coming into the factory are filling it up very fast. The furnace fires are burning bright. The smoke is billowing out of the smokestacks. And it’s not just the useless, repetitive ideas they are burning up in there anymore. Now it’s the stuff they just can’t even get to. The warehouses are filling up and there just isn’t time to get to it and more stuff is coming in and what’s the CEO to do? He has to just run at maximum capacity and throw the other stuff in the furnace.
And you don’t want that stuff piling up in there. Some of the packages are hazardous materials. Some contain rare bugs that need to be dealt with and, if ignored, the bugs will get out and eat up the walls of the factory. Some have containers of poisonous gasses that can break and harm the factory workers.
So the factory has to be run well just to keep all this stuff in order. The conveyor belts that export the repackaged and hopefully improved upon goods have to be flowing and the smokestacks need to be billowing. That way the factory can pass all it’s safety inspections and keep producing.
For a long time The Chicory was a great method of distribution for my factory. After the Flood, it helped me sort out and package and record and redistribute the packages that were coming in. Most of the best products from The Chicory came from the “Commentary” category where the more carefully prepared posts were placed. “On The Second Anniversary of Hurricane Katrina” was perhaps the clearest example of this time. The ideas were coming in through many other local bloggers (and the steadily churning factories of their minds) and were used to build other ideas in my own. Like global commerce, these other factories were essential building materials needed to make my own product.
Business at the factory was booming. It was a time when many factories were working overtime. Three shifts. A 24-hour operation. The voices were strong and The Chicory was an excellent method of distribution for all the packages I was shipping and the ones I was redistributing. All our voices were strong. Research and Development could barely keep up with what we were putting out.
But then there began to be other methods of distribution. The smaller, less complex packages began being distributed through Twitter. And the less profane, more middle of the road stuff through Facebook.
And then slowly the old Chicory “super highway” of distribution began to slowly trickle down. And not without good reason. The Chicory is a time consumer. Blogging is a time consumer. I am already over the estimated amount of time I mentally budgeted on THIS post. So resources to process the ideas are being used up. Linking, fact-checking, spell-checking, making-sure-nothing-you-said-is-stupid, it all takes time.
And also, the recovery of New Orleans after the Federal Flood (which fueled the factory) is set in motion. It isn’t complete but, there is certainly a notion that it doesn’t need to BECOME something now that it IS something. For better or worse it’s under way in its current form. And there is nothing The Chicory is going to do now that it didn’t do in the past in hopefully some small way.
So while the ideas are certainly not in any sort of era of austerity, the usefulness of The Chicory isn’t the same as it used to be. This conveyor belt is being refitted.
I used to have a strict “all New Orleans,” rule here. I didn’t think anyone cared about the personal mind farts of my life and I didn’t blog about that. If I did, I made sure I showed that it tied into some bigger picture somehow. At least I tried to. The Chicory was essentially a “recovery blog.” One of many and they were all fucking beautiful. Amazing factories churning out and distributing exquisite ideas about exactly what New Orleans needed to be after the storm. And I am glad the answer was, “as close to what it was before as possible.”
I think it’s safe to expand now. What R&D has come up with is to process products from the factory that deal with humanity. Humanity right now. How a factory can process its ideas. What those are. How being “spiritual” should really mean being “human.” Not the idealized human but the real human. How we fit in here.
I am going to try and make some art that fits the theme of blog posts as sort of a visual component as well.
And if anyone has ever heard me speak, it’s will unfortunately be profane. I fit into the Universe by being the son of a sailor and a social worker. Both of who in other lives were a mechanic and a waitress. So I’m never going to be able to shake that necessity to take things right down to their filthy base. Where sometimes they belong. We do come from the dirt you know. The flowers in the Spring come from the dead.
As a lover of the absurd nature of The Universe I promise not to take myself to seriously. Though, I certainly will at times.
So The Chicory is going to be about being human. And more importantly, human in New Orleans.
Dear Mayor Landrieu and Councilmember Palmer,
Please allow me to applaud you on your recent efforts to address the growing health and safety issues on Jackson Square. Our city’s “old square” is a rich symbol of its cultural identity and deserves the critical attention being given to it by city officials. It is as relevant now as it was when it was literally the center of the city.
However, I can not overstate how filthy the Square is most weekend mornings. Puke, feces, urine, fights, drunks, people passed out, assaults, trash, yelling, drug use – it goes on and on. Sunday mornings in particular. Artists trying to set up have been beaten several times. One was in the hospital for weeks with a brain injury. Another went to the emergency room earlier this year. The past few weeks have seen a rise in these incidents. Action on this has been sorely needed for some time.
So, thank you for addressing this. The proposal to close the Square between the hours of 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. is a step in the right direction. Though I have concerns that it is heavy-handed. It’s a quick fix. Sure. But it may end up causing more issues than it solves.
One thing that almost immediately occurs to me is the experience a visitor to New Orleans may miss out on by being prohibited from the Square during those hours. For many years, profits and incomes ballooned as the city was portrayed as a raucous, say-anything, do-anything, drink-anything party destination. But as well all know, we are so much more than that. There is more to New Orleans than “Huge Ass Beers.”
Jackson Square in particular is an area where people can sit in an open space without being in a bar. With the Square (and the Moonwalk) being closed in the early morning, and with very few restaurants or cafes open at that time, the message seems to be, “Be in a bar drinking or go back to your hotel.” I understand that’s not what the message is but, with no open spaces, where else are people to go?
Other issues would be the enforcement of any law based on the interpretation of the term loitering. Would a Jackson Square Artist setting up for the day be considered loitering? Someone texting on smartphone? A tarot card reader telling fortunes? Hopefully these will be addressed before any vote.
I of course am very anxious to hear if this will affect the Jackson Square Artists, an integral part of the culture on the Square since the 1950s and a group with their own representative group, the Jackson Square Artist Association of which I am a member. We provide straight-from-the artist art pieces and contribute a bohemian atmosphere to the Square on weekends. People get to meet the artist they are purchasing a piece from and speak about the art and often even pose for pictures with the artist. At any given moment, hundreds of conversations about art are taking place. Thousands of visitors to New Orleans take home original art from this group each year and quite a few locals do as well.
We too have been affected by the depiction of New Orleans as a party destination and are on the front lines of the fallout every morning on the Square. Because competition for spots is great, artists will often be setting up for the day during the proposed hours of shut down. Where do we stand in this? We are primarily being victimized by the belligerence and the filth and are concerned that we will be victimized by the solution as well.
A proposal to consider would be one in November 2010 by the Jackson Square Task force convened by Councilmember Palmer. The wording in the proposal was:
“Security – there should be dedicated security to patrol the Square at all hours. Such a person(s) could ensure that cars are not illegally parked; that vagrants are not causing health problems; that tarot card readers are abiding by existing or proposed rules; that any music is not amplified; that garbage is being addressed; that mules are being properly managed; and that all other regulations are being enforced. Such a person would not only be an enforcement mechanism, but would also serve as a deterrent to other illegal or nuisance activities.”
I think a dedicated police presence in the Square would greatly improve the conditions there and wouldn’t force the City to throw the good people out with the bad or, put police officers in a position where they would have to selectively enforce a law and thus lead to potential litigation down the road.
Thank you both.
I am posting this letter and your response on my blog, TheChicory.com
Lance “Varg” Vargas
By the magnificent Katie Lease!
02 11 2012Varg in Meanderings
My night could have gone either way before stepping into Marigny Brassierre on Oct. 31, 2012. After stepping out, there was no saving it. I couldn’t wash the feel of it from my being.
We are all aware of the increasing commodification of Frenchmen Street and the Marigny neighborhood. I loathe what it is becoming. I loathe the cheap plastic “sexy” costumes on Halloween night. I loathe the obnoxious rolling Red Bull boom box that parks in the street and blasts non-local dance music by Black Eyed Peas and Adele onto the sacred street of Frenchmen. I wish the techno robot didn’t have to compete with this crap. I wish kids could still get nitrous baloons for a few bucks a pop. I wish it was still more of a bar-to-bar night through Frenchmen and Lower Decatur but, as Robert Frost said, “Nothing gold can stay.”
Marigny Brassierre in particular seemed to be the epicenter of the ecotone this night. With seiging tourism onslaught in full force, they were going all in. But it was taking its toll. The staff was a surly bunch. Seemingly fed up with the bullshit. Bar service could not have been any worse. Bartender was ill-tempered and virtually encouraging dust-ups with customers by being antagonistic. She was clearly over her head on a busy night and lacked perhaps the most critical ingedient any bartender needs, grace under pressure. She could not keep track of who was at the bar first and just went up to groups of people waiting for drinks and asked, “Who was here first?” This encourages people to jump in line and cause arguments / worse among patrons. She also did not wait for customers ordering several drinks at once (making her job easier by grouping transactions and shortening lines) and just walked away after one drink was ordered without acknowledging receipt of order. When taking an order you wait for the person to finish and in some way, either by repeating it back to them or saying “got it” or whatever, you acknowledge that you received it. It’s not an entitlement, it’s just the simplest way to transact.
I was keenly aware of this because I got all caught up in it. She asked me what I wanted and walked away after “Abita Amber” and never heard the two cocktails I also mentioned. Then, another bartender came up after, asked “who was here first,” took my order, listened to the entire order, indicated that she had received the entire order and began making the drinks. By then the first bartender returned with the Amber and seeing that I ordered from another bartender literally yelled, “I ALREADY MADE YOUR DRINK! DON’T ORDER MORE THAN ONCE!” When I told her that there was more to the order than what she bothered to listen to she yelled, “HERE’S YOUR ORDER!” and pointed at the one drink she had placed on the bar. Then she screamed, “DOUCHEBAG!” right at me in front of my wife and her friend and the entire bar full of patrons. I seethed and, sensing the developing hostilities, the other bartender stepped in to finish the transaction and called me “baby” as a sort of peace offering. I gathered that there may have been some dissention in the ranks but that’s only speculation.
And hey, there WERE a lot of douchebags out on this night. It’s creeping from Bourbon Street onto Frenchmen. We all know this and no one knows what to do. Most likely nothing can be done. I am sure this bartender perhaps encountered a few of them this night. I wasn’t one of them. She created the entire situation. She was fulfilling the generalization that the entire bar were douchebags and needed to be treated as such. It was one of those long middle-of-the-week Halloweens so there is a good chance she had been dealing with it for a while. I understand but it’s a hardship of the job and a short part of the narrative in a longer arc. Shit happens. It’s part of the job.
Having tended drinks to scores of obnoxious drunks myself over the years I understand each new face is something different than the last. More than anything else, each one has to be gauged and not painted with a broad brush. Some may be suffering same as you. I have yelled at my fair share as well. I never incited it. Being a bartender requires this sort of sense.
So, I may hazard to guess that much of the douchebaggery coming across the bar toward the bartenders may have been a result of a symbiosis with the entire staff of Marigny Brassiere. They may have been responsible for it themselves. I noticed that the service area of the bar was very crowded but the area around where people would mingle was very empty. So after they got their drinks, people were getting the hell out of there even though the streets were packed and a madhouse. They weren’t enjoying the “fun casual atmosphere” described on the Web site. I am sure people would have loved to have had a seat at a window in a spot with a bathroom close by but they were leaving because the energy was so bad I presume. In the short time I was there, twice I experienced the staff rudely yelling at patrons.
And about the bathrooms, I’m not sure of the legality of this but I do know it damages the reputation of your restaurant to transform it into a “pay-to-pee” spot. If a hundred people paid $5 to pee that night that’s $500 bucks and that helps with the rent right? And what’s a little negativity among the patrons for that kind of cash? I am sure that girl the manager screamed at for trying to sneak through copped a squat somewhere in the neighborhood because she looked about to burst as she was being loudly shamed for trying to get by. That’s for some Marigny renter or homeowner to deal with right?
Marigny Brassiere, if you are going to play ball with the encroachment of tourism on Frenchmen street, please verse your employees in how to be kind to the very beast that’s paying the rent. Or, just close the doors on busy nights like Halloween. I noticed a few spots that opted-out. Staying open in misery, allowing a grossly out-of-control, chip-shouldered bartender to damage your reputation, and transforming your brassiere into a beer garden and pay-to-piss business doesn’t seem like a recipe for long term success for your business and increases the burden your neighbors are experiencing as their blocks increasing become entertainment zones.
I knew as soon as I saw the ladies with ostrich feathers on their heads along side two Mardi Gras Indians that I was about to witness some cultural commodification…
My wife’s Chili recipe up in here, up in HERE…
Add the beans to a large, heavy bottomed pot with enough water to cover by 3”. Adde bay leaves. Bring to a boil, cover, then turn flame down to medium and cook until tender. May be done ahead of time. Reserve cooking liquid.
Drain all but 2-3 TBSP of fat from pan and add onions. Cook until they soften. Add garlic, peppers, tomato paste, spices, coffee, salt and pepper. Continue cooking until tomato paste starts to brown a bit. Add whole tomatoes and their liquid, break apart with hands or spoon. Stir.
Add chocolate and stir until dissolved. Add beans and their cooking liquid. Give a big stir to combine, give a big stir and let simmer for at least two hours, stirring occasionally.
Add corn meal and stir well. If it’s too watery, let simmer for several minutes uncovered until thick and hearty. Remove from heat, check for seasoning. Add more salt, if needed and let stand, covered, for 20 minutes before serving. Better if cooled, refrigerated, reheated and served the next day. Serve with garnishes on the side and enjoy.
24 09 2012Varg in Tide
UPDATE: Jason Berry has uploaded the Culture or Commodity video which greatly helps put this post in context. The phrase used was “find a way.” I wonder how many artists get lost while “finding a way?” Also, while everyone did a very good job on the panel I want to single out Deb Cotton and Brian Boyles for their insight. /UPDATE
Full disclosure: I help organize the Rising Tide Conference. I have more of a role in the presentation of the conference as a whole and a smaller voice in the nuances of programming.
In hopes of continuing the conversation in reference to the Community or Culture panel of the past weekend’s Rising Tide Conference, I seemed to be left wanting a lot more. More along the lines of contrasting New Orleans versus a pandemic of cities throughout America that are destroying their culture and providing paltry assistance to the arts. Here in New Orleans, we have one that is showing some interest in it as a viable and sustaining part of its future and that’s being poo-pooed by folks because they don’t want their sensibilities in regards to that culture tarnished.
I get it. Commodification of the culture is bad. All bad? How bad? Any good?
Where is the line? What’s the difference between investing in the arts and commodifying them? I don’t have the answer. The lines haven’t been drawn. But, like pornography, you know it when you see it.
While current second line issues and bar permits are certainly making the natural spontaneity of our culture quite viscous, I’m not entirely sure how that really reflects on the corporate commodification of the culture. The culture’s being fucked with, sure. But how it is being fucked with in regards to profiteering is not clear to me. Does it exist?
Now, Ho-Zone? Yes, that smelled like corporate commodification.
But the very real issue of having a robust community of viable artists who can pay their bills and are free to pursue their craft full time and are equitably rewarded for that is just left out there on the vine. And when given a chance to address it, a panelist on the Culture vs. Commodity panel said artists will make do like they always have done.
To be honest, making do, or getting by, or whatever the usage was during the panel, is quite suggestive of not having anything left after the bills are paid each month. And that’s not exactly good enough. We have to have an underfunded musician’s clinic here in New Orleans because getting by isn’t good enough. The “day job” exists because getting by isn’t good enough.
I understand that no one wants some corporate Disneyland representation of our culture depicted by insensitive companies throughout the city. But, letting the artists eat cake sucks too. Artists die, get on drugs, lose all their money and so on.
Take playing guitar as just one example of many. Playing just standard guitar in a band takes skill and practice. Maybe not a lot but, at least as much as, say typing or tailoring. More than bartending. But even the best guitarist, the ones who are naturally talented and then have added years of practice and skill and mentoring to their skills are still doing as they have always done and just getting by.
Of course, there is always the joy of it right? But what does that commodify? Happiness. If something you do sucks, you get paid more. If you enjoy it, you get paid less. Somewhere in there a truly sinister commodification exists. If you suffer for us, we will pay you for it. Minimum wage.
And how about I get a little personal?
My wife is an amazing jazz singer and songwriter. She is also a very good Standardized Patient Coordinator for Tulane Medical School. But while a number of people could be brought up to speed and trained in her job at the school, far fewer could provide her vocals and songwriting to the New Orleans music scene.
She is also a homeowner here in Algiers. Our house is in better shape now than when we moved in. She has the sensibilities to buy a nice old house and to care for it. She’s a very good cook who frequently forgoes Wal-Mart for Rouses and the Gretna family-owned supermarket Casey Jones and while at these places, buys all manner of local products like beer, canned goods, hot sauce and so on and so forth.
So she is a great New Orleanian. She’s not a native, but she’s contributing across the board to many of the best parts of our culture because she is an artist herself and can discern the organic stuff from the corporate shit. And that helps the rest of us, a lot.
However, rather than having the comfort level and security to use her voice to make her way here in New Orleans and contribute to its ongoing cultural legacy, she too, even with a day job and her night gigs, is “getting by,” “making do,” “finding a way.”
So, while the selling of our culture by corporate entities is indeed dirty and whorish. The main ingredient in the argument must always be the continued viability of those who contribute to it. And not just getting by like they always have but actually prospering, having health benefits, raising children, buying homes, getting resources, tools, supplies to better contribute and perhaps even inspire?
While locals do their best and certainly supplement a lot of incomes, corporate, tourist and civic dollars help tremendously. Musicians may bemoan corporate gigs, but they take them and sometimes, they even have a good time there. And most of the time the corporate gigs pay far more than the local establishments like, oh I don’t know, Balcony Music Club for example.
My wife was taught early by a local trumpet player that $50 makes “a gig.” You may show up and put a tip jar out and get a percentage of the bar but if you make under $50, it wasn’t “a gig.” Corporate gigs are always “a gig.” Now understand, we are talking about $50 fucking dollars for a night’s work by what we like to call the best musicians in the country.
Sometime’s my wife comes home and shakkes her head and says, “It wasn’t a gig.”
So is an artist supposed to forgoe health care and a mortgage and “get by” simply so someone’s sensitivities to what they think the culture should be won’t be offended?
The thinnest line in this battle was brought up after the panel on Saturday. Certainly a Mardi Gras Indian with a tip bucket in front of him in Jackson Square feels wrong. There was a notion that these Indians are rogues who got their hands on a suit of some sort. There was a notion that the Big Chief of these tribes would put a stop to this if he only knew. How the Big Chief is supposed to have missed someone in his feathers in the busiest square in town with picture after picture being taken of him for a few years now was left out.
But if this isn’t some rogue element, and it’s real Mardi Gras Indians out there, then that means that members of some tribes are also simply trying to get by as well.
Even though the shameless national media and the garish exaggerations of Weather Channel reporters had many folks’ friends and families across the nation terrified and convinced Hurricane Isaac was indeed a “Katrina Redux,” for a great many of us, it wasn’t.
Though for some, it was, but across the region, not so much. Lives were lost. Homes flooded. Sorrow. Despair. But not with the vastness of Katrina. It was its own solitary tragedy.
There were though some comparissions to be be made. Not the comparisons a statistician, engineer or meterologist might make but, ones those people may make independent of their positions, ones just an average person may make. Comparisons made in the senses and psyches of those of us who have been victims before. Ethereal ghosts.
Like the smells.
The most pungent aroma is the rotting refrigerator. A few short days after power goes out, the quickly decaying proteins and carbs sealed tight in the festering, humid and dank environments inside the darkened Frigidaires and Whirlpools begin to putrefy. Sometimes still in their plastic wrappers but other times in loose cellophaned styrofoam. What was to be a comforting Sunday dinner took a turn in the multiverse and become a corroded chunk of cow corpse, the juices leaking out onto the linoleum.
No matter what the neighbors say, the smell will never leave the fridge. Some days you won’t smell it at all, and others there will be that slight scent of spoilage. But the apparition will remain. You’ll remember this storm and with it your decision not to replace this refrigerator. You will have yourself and Mother Nature to blame.
I haven’t noticed the tombstones of refrigerators outside of houses this year as much as after Katrina but I have tried to stay hunkered down. I actually prefer hunkering down. I support hunkering down even if a storm isn’t passing overhead. Hunker down as much as possible. Never get out of the boat.
There is also, outside, a more generalized smell of dank, dead leaves and foliage. A billion leaves must have perished in Isaac. It’s an Earthy smell, something a worm would love. They are always down there you know. Waiting for us all. Waiting for our return. Ashes to ashes and dirt to dirt.
And of course there is the auditory sense. The generators are brave R2 units in the battle against power outages. With them comes the cacophony of models and wattages producing different sounds but all of them together sounding like we came from another past where the combustion gas engine became the preferred power source.
This hum was around after Katrina too. More sparse as not so many people were back. But some people were in such a hurry to get back and start their lives after being marooned in real America for weeks or months with no direction, they rushed home with or without power. Jack O’ Lanterned houses would buzz with generators.
The light is similar to Post-Katrina. The sun is in the same spot in the sky as it was back then with its late Summer slanting. The trees have lost a lot of foliage and certain degrees of sunlight slip through the weather beaten plumage just like in 2005 and 2008 after Gustav. Painters who work with color will say the light is everything. It changes how things essentially appear. Less shadow now. More light and more heat.
The computer models we constantly check and the National Weather Service’s 5-day forecast maps are pretty standard and haven’t changed much since Katrina. They are visual ghosts. My wife gets anxious when she sees the ugly green and blue forecast graphic on my computer screen. The “spaghetti” models with their slight disagreements appear sometimes abstract. An optimist and a pessimist can read the same models in different ways. One sees the storm trending away, another coming right for us.
And then finally there is the anxiety, that fear in people’s psyches as the same words and phrases are said: “Cat 3,” “storm surge,” “11 p.m. update,” “northeast quadrant” and more. These are the technical phrases those haunted by the ghosts of hurricanes understand.
So for most, but not all, Isaac wasn’t a Katrina redux. For the rest of the country, there was nothing to see here. But to us here on the Gulf Coast, living victims haunted in our heads by hurricanes like Betsy, Camille, Ivan, Katrina, Rita, Gustav and Ike. Their ghosts linger within us on our skin and in our souls just the same.