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a special issue of observations and opinions about new orleans summer 2010


F W R Photographs Š 2010 Jackson Hill


- P A U L S I M O N , T H E O N LY L I V I N G B O Y I N N E W Y O R K

“ Riding in the car is so boring.” That’s my five-year-old son, as we ride in the car, so bored. If I’m not mistaken, I think our route’s even g o i



We’re on the Interstate, making our way from Atlanta, where we evacuated to before Katrina, to Portland, Oregon,

Objects In The Mirror Sept. 13, 2005

Now as we w i n d into Eastern Oregon, things get exciting . The l a n d s c a p e changes, and It’s like we’re on the surface of Mars. A temperate, yellow Mars with an o x y g e n a t e d

My wife checks the fuel gauge— low —and we remind each other that you’re not allowed to “Don’t pump your own gas,” we repeat aloud. “Don’t pump your own gas. Don’t pump your own gas. We sound like the tourists you hear flying into New Orleans, practicing how to pronounce the Anyway, don’t pump your own gas. At the Best Western in Baker City, they offer us a generously We call it “the Katrina rate.” Tonight, they’re even making After dinner, we head to the historic downtown for dessert. Two Metairie men on the surface of Mars?

to take us through a town called B





where we plan to make a new home. small leathery mountains r i s e u p beside the road. atmosphere. It is fantastic. pump your own gas in Oregon. It’s the law, and every station has its own attendant to take care of it for you.

. . . .” name of the city. “N’Awlinz—no, Nee Awlinz.” “Well, I heard it was New Aw-lee-inz.”“Actually, I say New Or-leenz.” discounted rate when they see our Louisiana licenses. This is our sixth and final hotel of the journey and nearly every one has given us this kindness discount. an exception to their pet policy and letting our dog stay free. The local newspaper at the soda bar has a front-page story about a Metairie man who returned to his native Baker City after Katrina hit. What are the odds of that? Distracted with thoughts of looking him up in the phone book, I pull into Albertson’s for a fill up. I pop the cap, hop out the car, and grab the pump.

“Sir, I’ll be right there to get that for you.”

What? Who said that? Oh, no. So much for trying to look like a native. by John Carr

who currently resides in Portland, Oregon with his family

Five years of recovery, one Super Bowl victory and several episodes of “Treme” later we pause, breathlessly pondering our own awesomeness. We look up at night and see the stars moving in arcs n e ll o b y N ic k M a ri

across the sky. A billion of them staring down vying for a peek into our backyard and the eccentricity we call home.

It all started after Katrina, when the

steady current of volunteers and contract workers began coursing through the city, sifting through the detritus of local culture, and it wasn’t long before they were shouting “Who Dat!” in the bars of Grand Rapides and Dayton.

And now all across America, on a

million flat-screen TVs tuned to HBO, the hi-def images of New Orleans flicker in prismatic pulses, set to jazz and brass bands, mapping out the local DNA.

What happened to the quaint little

outpost on the frontier of almost nowhere, when almost no one from outside the city understood what was going on inside it? Now, the kind of out-of-towners who once hung out on Bourbon Street and swapped beads for breasts are trading stories about their evenings in Bywater or at the Circle Bar.

Just last night, at a gathering uptown,

a group of young nomadic recovery workers discussed the extent to which one can and cannot compare the fried chicken from McHardy’s to that of Willie Mae’s. None had been in town more than two years, but the talk was deeply local, and so was the food. Wearing an official NFL-branded Saints shirt, the dude from San Jose had spent the afternoon making a pot of gumbo—the recipe for which, like any New Orleanian, he was

Photographs © 2010 Tom Varisco

inexplicably unable to share.

Illustrations Š 2010 Mark Andresen

R I S I N G WAT E R B y J o h n B i g u e n et

ACT II SCENE 1 Rising Water

(The dark roof of the house in moonlight. The sound of water sloshing. CAMILLE begins to emerge from the attic through the hole where the vent had been.)

CAMILLE (with only her head out, surveying the scene in wonder) Oh, Sugar, you won’t believe the way it looks out here. Silence. Boost me up. (She climbs out of hole and onto roof.) Silence. The water stretches off to the horizon. There’s nothing but roofs and treetops left. Silence. They look like boats floating on the water, the roofs. Like some wrecked fleet of ships, all upside down, adrift in the middle of the ocean. SUGAR (unseen) Anyone else made it to a roof? CAMILLE No one I can see from here. And not a single light, as far as I can tell. Even with the moon out, I’ve never seen a place as dark as this. SUGAR (unseen) Shout and see anyone answers back. CAMILLE (shouting) Anyone there? Silence. Anybody hear my voice? Silence. SUGAR (unseen) Someone answer? CAMILLE No one. It’s deadly quiet out here, Sugar. Nothing but the sound of water lapping at the roof. Silence. No dogs, no motors, no human voices. Nothing. SUGAR (unseen) Try again. CAMILLE (shouting) Hello? Hello? Silence. Anybody there? Silence. Miss Jeanfreau? Anybody? Silence. SUGAR (unseen) Any luck? CAMILLE

N ot a sound. No wind. No birds. Nobody knocking. Nothing but the sloshing of the water. SUGAR (unseen) Everyone’s probably still sitting in their attics, waiting for dawn before they get up on their roofs. CAMILLE The ones made it to their attics, maybe. But how many people you think already drowned in all this water? Silence. Sugar, come up here. I’m frightened to be alone the way it is. Silence. It’s all so still, so dark, so quiet. As if it’s me alone survived what’s happened. SUGAR (sticking his head through vent hole) You’re not alone. I’m right here beside you. (Pausing as he looks around.) Jesus God. Silence. CAMILLE Come up here on the roof with me. SUGAR (only his head visible) This hole is smaller than I thought it was. (Struggling to squeeze through.) I don’t know if I can squeeze my body through. (Still struggling.) It’s tight, this opening. (Winces.) And sharp. CAMILLE Come on, Sugar. If I could do it, you can, too. SUGAR (trying to squeeze through) No, the hole’s too small for me. CAMILLE You’ll fit. Just squeeze your shoulders like I did. SUGAR (apparently stuck) I tell you it won’t work, Camille. CAMILLE Then make the hole wider. SUGAR (with just head and one arm visible) With what? All I’ve got me are those toy tools of Frankie’s. CAMILLE I’m not staying out here by myself, Sugar.

You got to find a way to get up here.

We’ll just keep talking, you and me,

until help comes.

SUGAR  (with just head and one arm visible) Hang on a minute. Let me see what I can find to widen this. (He descends back into the attic.) CAMILLE (shouting down the hole) You need some help? I’ll come back in. SUGAR (his head emerging through the hole) No, you stay up here, no matter what. A boat comes by, and there isn’t one of us to flag it down, we’ll miss our chance. We’ll just keep talking, you and me, until help comes. They must be on their way by now, the rescue boats and helicopters. CAMILLE I’d like it better you were here with me up on the roof. SUGAR (laughing with only his head visible) I’m here with you—just not all of me. (Pausing as he looks around.) My God, it’s beautiful though. CAMILLE What is? SUGAR (only his head visible) The moonlight on the water. CAMILLE And so, so still. I haven’t heard another sound—no breeze, no animals, no baby crying in the dark. It frightens me for it to be so quiet. SUGAR The people, they’ll come out when there’s some light. They’re huddled in their attics now. The roofs are just too thick for us to hear them there. CAMILLE That must be it. We’re surely not the only ones who made it through all this. Silence. SUGAR I’d forgotten what it’s like before the sun comes up. How calm, how peaceful everything can seem. CAMILLE (sitting) I don’t know you and I ever watched a dawn together. SUGAR Not that I remember—but that can’t be. How can two people spend so many years together and never see the sun come up? CAMILLE When I was a little girl, I always thought the rising sun would look like the golden sail of some big ship coming to carry me away, swelling bigger and bigger the nearer it got. SUGAR Well, you stay up here and keep a lookout for that boat with a golden sail—and anything else floats by. Something comes this way, you start shouting for help, y’understand? I’m going to see what I can find to cut myself out of here. (He disappears down hole.) CAMILLE It’s just so dark and silent here tonight, it feels as if there’s no one else alive. Like being marooned alone on some small island or—I don’t know—the sole survivor of a sunken ship, drifting in a lifeboat all night long. Wouldn’t that be awful, Sug? To be the sole survivor when your ship goes down. With no one else alive but you. Just you and all that water. Silence. It makes me nervous—waiting all alone up here for you. Silence. I’m talking to you, Sugar. Did you hear what I just said? SUGAR (unseen) I heard it, every word, Camille. Don’t worry, I won’t be long in here. There must be something in the attic would do the job. (His arm and then head emerging through the hole.) And, look, you sure there’s nothing we can eat up here? Hard candy, maybe? That would do me fine for now. CAMILLE You could stand to go a whole night without food for once, you know, and maybe lose a little of that weight. You didn’t stuff yourself on silver bells and goldbricks all the time, this hole ‘d be big enough for you the way it is. SUGAR Yeah, well, it’s not just me I’m worried about when it comes to starving. CAMILLE Who you think you foolin’, Sug? I’m not the one keeps a stash of jelly beans beside the bed.

SUGAR I wish I’d thought to bring them up the stairs with me tonight. CAMILLE It’s no mystery how you come by your name, I’ll tell you. SUGAR How many times Mama told you they called me Sugar ‘cause everybody said I was the sweetest baby New Orleans ever saw? Pause. CAMILLE Was there ever a baby born into a world like this? I don’t recognize a thing about it. SUGAR Old world or new, I still need to eat. CAMILLE I promise you there’s not a scrap of food in there. Not with all the roaches we would have. Go just find a saw or something you can use to get yourself out here. What if a boat comes by and you’re still stuck in there? SUGAR (disappearing again) All right, let me look and get this done. Silence. CAMILLE You know, what you said before, I’m beginning to think you might be right. In this moonlight, everything looks so strange, so fresh. Maybe it’s not the end of the world, this rising water. SUGAR (unseen) I can’t hear you. Somebody coming? CAMILLE (louder) No, no sign of anyone. (Softer.) I was just saying, though, maybe you were right before. It looks so different up here now. Maybe you and me, we could go back and start again. Silence. I mean, with everything disappearing—our house, our things—like you said, our past is being washed away. It’s left us sort of standing on a mountaintop up here, like Noah’s Ark coming to rest after all that rain. Silence.

Oh, Sugar,

you really think it’s possible?

You really think two people—

the two of us—

we could begin again?

All rights reserved. For the full script and performance rights, please contact Ron Gwiazda, Abrams Artists Agency, 275 Seventh Avenue / 26 th Floor, New York, NY 10001, 646-461-9325 (tel),

I was visiting my family in New Orleans when Hurricane Katrina grew in the Gulf of Mexico and headed toward my hometown. Like thousands of others, I evacuated the city with my family. Soon afterwards I returned to my home in Amsterdam.

It wasn’t long before I was flying back to New Orleans to see how I could help. As the plane approached the airport, I saw roofs covered with blue tarps everywhere; when I got uptown, refrigerators with cryptic messages


lined the streets. I knew then that words alone would not adequately capture the devastation wrought to the city, so the day after I arrived I bought a new digital camera.

Little did I know that purchase would re-ignite my passion for art, and that I’d develop

a new love interest —photography.

In the year afteR Katrina, I traveled from Amsterdam to New Orleans six times, each time documenting what I saw. Indeed, photographing the devastation became an obsession—I felt compelled to capture nearly every affront I saw. In the beginning I used a wide-angle lens, shooting the debris against the bluest of skies, which had a haunting, beautiful quality. Later I became more interested in capturing macro shots of the destruction or in singling in on one item, which in some way began to represent the whole awful thing to me. Looking back at my images of this time, I have noticed the recurring element of reflections. That interest in close-up photography continues, but now I’m photographing exotic flowers and using a variety of techniques to give them a painterly and abstract quality. I am also using reflections in water to create my imagery, although my focus has once again turned to the use of vibrant colors and the “joie de vivre” that we New Orleanians are known for.

by eliza be th k lein v el d from t h e b ook b e f o r e d u r i n g a f t e r : L o u i si an a Ph ot ograph ers Respon d t o Kat ri n a

Photographs © 2010 Elizabeth Kleinveld

greater new orleans pump stations: 350 MILES LONG. 2.3 MILES OF NEW FLOODWALLS. 22.7 MILES OF NEW LEVEES. 195.3 MILES OF SCOUR REPAIR. 3 interim gated closure structures. grass, geo-textile, stone and paved armoring. more than 250 billion gallons of unwatered from the city of new orleans. london pump station set for completion in 2011. fully funded, $14.45 Billion. – information provided by u.s. army corps of engineers

Photographs Š 2010 Jackson Hill


20, 2010

CREDITS Publisher: Tom Varisco Designs Contributing Editor: Whitney Stewart Art Direction, Design: Tom Varisco Design/Production: Gregory Good, Uyen Vu Printing: Garrity Printing Paper Stock: Accent Opague Type Face: Trade Gothic

Front Cover Photograph Š 2010 Tom Varisco

Desire is the registered trade name of Desire, L.L.C. Š 2010 Desire, L.L.C. 608 Baronne Street New Orleans, LA 70113 e-mail:

Desire #30 Summer 2010  

Observing the Five Year Anniversary of Katrina

Desire #30 Summer 2010  

Observing the Five Year Anniversary of Katrina