Monday, January 16, 2006

Gawker Stalker

During my two weeks here cleaning out my vile house, it was not uncommon for some shiny car from some outlying area to roll by, full of people gawking out the windows, staring at the houses, staring at my house, staring at me. And as I stood there in my front yard, arms full of soggy trash, sucking on a respirator, and smelling literally like shit, something like the following would run through my head: "Fuck you you fucking high and dry motherfuckers with your shiny fucking car and your cameras and your above-sea-level homes and your hygienic, mold-free lifestyle and fuck, fuck, fuckity-fuck...", etc. (then, because our near-empty city had the intimacy of a small town, we would wave at each other).

Later, when we had permanently returned to the city, and the immediacy of our own crisis had receded, I gawked too, driving around far flung parts of town: Lakeview, Gentilly, the Lower Ninth Ward. I drove past the breaches and saw destruction that made my neighborhood look like a cake walk, houses tossed around like Monopoly pieces, houses on cars, cars on houses, swathes of nothingness that had once been city blocks. And I saw plenty of other people hauling their soggy lives out to the curb, just like I had done weeks earlier.

This role reversal makes me uneasy. There is always something unseemly when private sorrow becomes public spectacle. But I've learned to live with it. Locals need to see what happened to their city, not just their individual homes or neighborhoods. And out-of-towners need to see it as well. Newspapers and TV simply cannot convey it. And the more people who understand this thing, the more likely it is that our city will once again be whole.


  1. Yes, D. We need to keep tralking and showing.

    You know, I was talking to someone from Mid-City and we were discussing the, um, etiquette of trash picking. She was really disturbed one day as she saw someone picking through her pile of tossed belongings, some of which were salvagable but that she was throwing out due to the purging process that so many of us have gone through in the past months. Another friend who was with us said, "But if someone found a use for something that you have cast off, when you have deemed it trash, then shouldn't they be able to take it? After much dicussion, it was settled upon that one shouldn't pick trash in front of the original owners, (duh, yeah?)but if no one is home, then recycle a perfectly salvagle item, for sure.

    I posted this because it reminds me of the reversal that you wrote of, because both sides are understandable.

  2. I think you're very right on. I finally downloaded my photos of my house and showed them to friends. It breaks my heart all over again to see my friends' reactions. They're all so sad and horrified. It reminds me that as much as I am putting on a brave face, this was my home and it would have been fine had the levees held.

    But the bottom line is that we should be upset and that others should, too, not just those who were affected. This is everyone's problem - not just a problem for the gulf coast and NOLA. Keep talking. Keep posting pictures. Maintain the dialogue.