Sunday, January 15, 2006

Crescent City Crime Scene

Author and record producer Nik Cohn goes back to his beloved New Orleans, and finds, four months on, a city drawn and quartered. While uptown is almost back to normal, the older, poorer neighborhoods are ghost towns of indifference:

Music was everywhere - gospel in the wooden churches, old soul records playing on front porches, rap blasting out of the gangstas' cars. Today, the silence is so profound I can hear a scrap of rag flapping in a thorn bush. In the streets closest to the levee, the ones that took the first brunt of the flood, many houses have vanished entirely.

A giant barge, left (unforgivably) in the canal as Katrina approached, now rests a hundred yards inland, prow upturned like a giant snout. The roadways, littered with drowned cars, are covered in mud, baked almost white by the sun; children's toys cling to the branches of the few trees that survive. Here and there, I come upon a wedding photo or some strands of Mardi Gras beads. Amid the ruins of one home, a marble shrine to the Virgin Mary stands almost undamaged.

Here's my proposal. Leave New Orleans unrestored. Don't touch the detritus, the destruction. Leave it as a ruin. Then require once a year that every elected official in America spend a hot August week in the ruins.


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