Friday, May 19, 2006

"Do you, do you, do you know life's a bitch?"
I said, "Yeah, but I love that girl."
-Nora Wixted

Big headline in the Times-Picayune today about over 1, 500 evacuees having died as of today. Chaperone Mom told it like it was. More people should be listening all over this country and keeping an eye on these folks in their midst...because there but for the grace of God...

Know who else ought to be paying some attention? Our illustrious local candidates, running for all positions in local government. Especially the mayoral candidates. I'm registered to vote in the runoff tomorrow, and I'm not entirely sure which candidate is the lesser evil. I even hate to put it that way, but in the end, that seems to be Louisiana politics as usual. Not so long ago, it was Edwin Edwards versus David Duke for governor in this state. That election was the Crook versus the Racist. Some car bumpers around and about still sport a "Vote for the Crook: It's Important" sticker dating from those days.

What does the New Orleans mayoral election come down to? Incumbent vs. Local Political Legacy By Association, In Part. Progress vs Progress in Another Direction, Supposedly. Clean Up or Shut Up vs Clean Up and Shut Up. Baldness versus Hair Plugs.

It ain't about race too much, much as political pundits may want everyone to believe. Polls show Mitch Landrieu getting just as much support from blacks, if not more, than Ray Nagin. It all pivots on putting this city back together, and on a decision that can only be made in the voting booth : Who can do it better? Based on the past nine months, I'm still not sure.

Hearing Nagin kvetch about it, one would think historian and local resident Douglas Brinkley has the outcome of the election in the palm of his hand...or between the covers of his brand new book, The Great Deluge, about the week just after Katrina. Brinkley claims his publisher was the one responsible for the timing of the release. Who knows? The reason why Nagin is in a snit, though, is that Brinkley writes about the failures of all levels of government to respond as quickly and effectively as they could have...and our mayor is not excepted from this assessment. Brinkley is writing about what everyone already knows, which is no surprise. What will boost the sales of this book, however, will be protestations such as Nagin's.

Granted, I have a copy of the book, but have not read it yet. I joked with Edie today, as we were walking our dogs around Audubon Park, that it was on my summer reading list along with Michael Eric Dyson's Come Hell Or High Water, a book about Hurricane Camille called Category 5 , and some other choice New Orleans and Gulf Coast related literature. About the only spin Brinkley seems to have put on the governmental failure stories, however, is the juxtaposition of stories of heroism and courage by ordinary folks in the face of all this with the politicos and appointees as life-endangering yutzes. Not all politicos are yutzes, though, and not all the ordinary folks were out to be saviors and heroes. Time will tell as to whether or not the book will continue to stand out as an essential treatise on these times in which we now live.

Recently, though, a cutesy 60-second interview with both mayoral candidates appeared in the Times-Pic, and one question, or should I say the candidates' answers to that question, proved to be revealing. When asked what essential item each candidate would grab first in the event of an evacuation, if it had to be just one thing, Landrieu said, "My kids." Nagin said, "I don't IPod..." Does it all come down to that one thing? Maybe it does...

Tomorrow is also important, on a personal level, because five years ago, we got married here in New Orleans. A lot happens in five years. Five years ago, maybe I would have taken something as pithy as an IPod with me in the event of an evacuation. I wouldn't have believed that something as catastrophic as a near-direct hit by a hurricane and levee breaches would have kept me from coming back. Nowadays, it would most definitely be my immediate family packed into the car, pets included. I married the perfect fellow for me, and there ain't no way I'd leave him behind. Happy 5th, Dan! I love you, honey.

Of course, the next important date on the calendar also has personal and local significance: my brother's high school graduation up north, and hurricane season's beginnings down here. The way people down here are anticipating June 1st, you'd think you could set your clocks and watches to the coming of the apocalypse. After all, people have gotten a big taste of what could happen already, and understandably, they are scared and are working to be prepared. I prefer to think and hope that the future will be a little brighter, for my brother's sake...but hey, it doesn't mean I won't get enough food, bottled water and supplies for a few days amid deep water. Hope, but don't hope all the way into dumb.

That's about the best lesson my brother can take into the wide world, I guess.

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