Thoughts for New OrleansWritten by Keith Bergman | | firstname.lastname@example.org
“Does this damn bridge ever end?” one of my bandmates said, as we rolled past Lake Ponchartrain, our long-suffering van trundling through the sopping heat as we made our way to New Orleans. It was 2003, we were on the first leg of a disastrous tour, and we’d been driving for five hours. But we were excited — none of us had ever seen The Big Easy, and we were looking forward to soaking up a little of the Creole-flavored debauchery.
We pulled up to the Dixie Taverne, a rancid, sinister little dive. The walls were seemingly held together by staples from past gig flyers, the bathrooms were Third- World cesspools and some mean and ugly rock ’n’ roll throbbed out of the jukebox. We loaded in our gear and walked outside, beers legally in hand, to wander the streets and see a little bit.
You could chew the humidity like asphalt bubble gum. People lurking on street corners and sitting on stoops had a malevolent, yet apathetic, air to them — they’d as soon shiv you as look at you, but it was just too damn hot, O.K.? There was a crackling sense of danger, intrigue and gothic Southern melodrama that was intoxicating to us wide-eyed Yankees.
After our gig, a friend took us down to the French Quarter for a quick walking tour. While we didn’t partake in the hedonism, it was an astonishing sight, a nihilistic carnival that never stopped, and I often thought about it when we were back home and once again ensconced in our workaday routine. Even if I couldn’t be there, it was nice to know that at any given moment, it was five o’clock somewhere, and that the door to the party that never stopped was always open.
As I write these words now, it is early Monday morning, and the party is over.
I cannot stop watching Hurricane Katrina make its way straight for the Crescent City. On a map, the hurricane seems so small and eminently stoppable. We know this is not true — the storm is bearing down on the shoreline like a runaway train. But we’re human, so we keep hoping for some kind of miracle. I want to tell my grandchildren about the time the biggest, meanest hurricane ever got right up to the doorstep of that beautiful, ratty old city, and then somehow bounced off like a pinball and sputtered itself out over the Gulf of Mexico.
But I don’t know what’s going to happen, here in the middle of the night. You have an advantage over me, reading these words. It’s now Wednesday or later, and you know what went down. Although given the likely outcome, I might be in the better position right now.
Because I’m not sure I want to know.
Please, if you haven’t already, donate to the Red Cross today. They’re going to be in the area for years, helping people put their lives back together.