Monday, August 29, 2005

katrina's wake

The internet is running like a slug today, inching its soft body so slowly as to make one wonder if it's moving at all, yet leaving a thin trail of slime as evidence that yes, indeed, it most definitely has moved from here to there. Power's out in New Orleans and Biloxi, making me wonder if the center of the internet universe lies not in Los Angeles or New York, or in some exotic foreign locale, but in Mississippi.

I'd been hoping New Orleans wouldn't be washed away before I got a chance to see it. It still remains to be seen if Lake Pontchartrain will burst through its sea wall and flood the lower lying areas. I thought about my old friend who used to live near Canal Street and refused to leave the city when Hurricane Camille came barreling in. He and his landlord covered their windows with plywood, stockpiled food and water, and rode out the storm. I'm sure he would have done the same thing this time but I don't know that he's still on Canal Street, or even in Louisiana, though I suspect he may be if he isn't dead. Our sporadic communications, which had spanned more than ten years, stopped after the many months of not seeing an oh-so-typical tourist postcard with that familiar postmark suddenly became a year. I telephoned to check on him and found the number out of service. A note sent to his address was returned and no forwarding address was to be had. I'd like to think someday I'll get a postcard from Alexandria, or Lafayette, where he'd be in his element, saying he's doing fine.

A few months back I read A Confederacy of Dunces, a story at once comical, dark and strangely prophetic. It was written in the middle or late sixties, before New Orleans gained a major league football team, when it was teetering precariously between modernization and a Streetcar Named Desire. The protagonist of this story, Ignatius Reilly, is so repulsive I think I only kept reading to find out if he would get his come-uppance. I think Ignatius distressed me because absurd as he is, he is lifelike. He is manifest in myself and in people I see every day and that is truly disturbing.

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