Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Final Blow Three Years Later

They finally demolished my family’s house in the Lower Ninth Ward. Someone broke the news to me last night. I am surprised at how melancholy I have been since I found out. I was going to ride over there and take a picture of the empty but I thought to myself that it would look just like all the other empty lots where homes used to be. People from the Lower Nine have a lot of pride and since Katrina we tend to speak in a romantic tone about our old neighborhood. My old house was no state of the art facility. It was old and battle tested. It was probably in need of a renovation in 1979 when we moved into it. Like most shotgun doubles in New Orleans it had no privacy. When we got ready to iron clothes or do laundry we had to cut off a few other electrical things to keep the fuses from blowing out. We lived on the avenue across the street from one of the most popular neighborhood bar rooms. To this day I can’t sleep without some kind of noise because I am so used to the sound of music, people talking, and city buses passing all night.

You might read all of that and think to yourself why someone would be upset about not having that anymore. Since Katrina I have seen my mayor and other local leaders, try and tell me how we should be excited about this new bigger and better city. All of those rallying cries are shallow because they are only talking about structures and it has nothing to do with the actual things that made the community what it is. As far as I’m concerned I would take the bus passing and making the room shake, the power going out if you turn the dryer on and didn’t let the button go fast enough and the occasional police siren outside my door if you brought the people back.

Don’t think I am tripping. I have accepted that change is a part of life and you have to adapt to it in order to keep moving. I have been doing that every day. I have to admit though. After 26 years of knowing I could always turn that key and feel secure, three years is not a sufficient amount of time for me not be pissed off about this whole situation. Now that the house is gone I won’t be talking about it anymore. Katrina and the government apathy that followed won that battle. I guess I just miss the rest of my family.

8 comments:

Schroeder said...

Powerful stuff man. You could have kept it personal, but thanks for sharing your thoughts.

Another Conflict Theorist said...

Peace Cliff,

That's the thing that folks don't understand about New Orleanians, or anyone else who was forced to leave after Katrina. I hear people asking why "we" should spend so much time and energy rebuilding New Orleans when another Katrina could come along and do the same thing. Why don't "these people" just leave? What they don't get is that people want to return to what they know as home.

Excellent post.

Pistolette said...

My childhood home in Meraux was razed to the slab, and when i went there I stood on a few bathroom tiles that were embedded in the concrete - the only evidence that we'd lived there. I cried, then never went back.

The home my father was literally born in in the Lower 9th is also gone, but no slab even remains, just the front steps. He often drives past it...

I lament that I will never be able to show my children the places I knew as a child. Not a single one remains. No schools, churches, playgrounds, homes, friend's homes - just grassy areas with strips of concrete in the middle, and handwritten signs to let you know you're on a street, and that you should recognize it... but you never do.

Leigh C. said...

I am so, so sorry.

Thanks for sharing.

Maitri said...

Having lost a home but never having gone back to see its remains or even the city where it once stood, I sympathize and understand in a way. But, at least you have New Orleans, the city of your birth, the only home you have every truly known, for what that's worth.

Julie G said...

You write so well. Thanks for this blog.

Anonymous said...

WE MISS U 2 CLIFF, DONT WORRY BOUT IT...I WAS BORN AND RAISED IN THAT HOUSE, I FEEL THA SAME WAY U FEEL, BUT JUST LIKE ALL THA OTHER THINGS WE DONT HAVE ANYMORE...THEY LIVE FOREVER IN OUR MEMORIES...


LOVE U ALWAYS, WALT...

Tim said...

Cliff, I am so sorry for your loss. But as I think you know, it's not the house you mourn. It's not the wood and windows and walls and ceilings that you lost when the flood water came in three years ago and the wrecking crew finished the job last month. What you lost was the relationships, the family gathering place, the connections to people that make our lives better. We're all solo fliers through life, but we need a safe place to land and get a refill. It's not easy knowing that place is gone because now it's official: the connections you had with the people who used to be there are gone, too.

But here is the triumph of the human spirit. We make new connections. As old traditions are set aside, we make new traditions. As old photographs wash away with time, we take new photos to document the new happy moments. I love the past as much as anyone, but I think you know that no one can live in the past.

Remember, but do not regret. Memorialize, but do not mourn. Laugh often, and long.

Thank you for posting this blog and helping us understand your life as we try to understand our own.

Peace,

Tim