The title is a play on Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s classic 1985 novel Love in the Time of Cholera. I read it not long after its English language publication in 1988. It’s one of those books that stays with you. I never expected to be living it myself but here we are.
Garcia Marquez wrote in a style called magic realism, which is a literary cousin to Surrealism. I’m going to indulge in a bit of that style here: weaving in and out of topics in an almost feverish fashion. That’s my excuse if this makes less sense than usual.
As of this writing, New Orleans is one of the hottest COVID-19 hot spots. And it’s going to get worse before it gets better. We have a good hospital infrastructure, but it’s likely to be overwhelmed in the near future. It’s a frustrating situation because there’s little most of us can do to help other than hunker, hunker, hunker.
One person who *is* helping is my friend and fellow Bayou Brief writer, Troy Gilbert. Troy and food writer/lawyer Robert Peyton are trying to help the beleaguered New Orleans restaurant industry hang on and feed first responders during the pandemic by forming the Chef’s Brigade.
After that humanitarian message, we return to our regularly scheduled programming.
Those of us who lived through Hurricane Katrina and the Federal Flood are particularly on edge. The pandemic has punched all our buttons and flashbacks to those traumatic days are increasingly common. My mind is bouncing back and forth between then and now. I’m starting to feel like a character in one of Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s magical realist novels. A boring character, I’m afraid. Obeying the stay at home order is dull but it’s something we all must do. The life you save may be your own. Repeat after me: Better Bored Than Dead.
I started blogging a few months after the levees broke. I didn’t expect to still be writing on the internet 15 years later, but I found my voice. I’m glad that I’m still at it: It’s therapeutic and reduces my anxiety level during this unprecedented crisis. I’d hate to be reduced to venting on social media like some other OG NOLA bloggers. I wish more of them would resume writing. Consider that an invitation, y’all. If you do, I’ll spread the word hither and yon.
My Katrina experience was a relatively mild one. We evacuated and spent six long weeks in exile in Bossier City, Dallas, and Baton Rouge. We were on edge for much of that time. It was alternately tedious and terrifying, which was why we didn’t stay in one place too long.
In those days before social media, we were cut off from the world because our cell phones didn’t work for several weeks. We were reliant on the MSM, which often got things wrong: for example, any part of Uptown New Orleans with large houses was automatically called the Garden District. The lack of information was maddening but we eventually learned that our house had not flooded. That, in turn, led to a bad case of survivor’s guilt. A feeling that will become increasingly common as the current pandemic continues.
Our Katrina exile in Texas is on my mind. We stayed with my favorite cousin who died not long ago. Please indulge me as I engage in some self-quotation:
My cousin was 75 and finally lost a 25 year battle with cancer. Her son moved her to a facility closer to his home to make it easier to visit. Then came the nursing home lockdown. In her bleaker moments, my cousin said the only reason she wanted to live was to see her family. I believe she gave up because of the lockdown. Many elderly New Orleanians died in the first year after Hurricane Katrina and the Federal Flood. Like my cousin, they lost the will to live.”
Unfortunately, there are some who think that the stay home orders should be rescinded and the elderly should “sacrifice” themselves for the economy. It makes me glad that Governors are in charge of managing the crisis. And it makes me gladder still that Eddie Rispone is not our Governor: he might listen to Texas Lt. Governor Dan Patrick and his ilk. John Bel Edwards would never do such a thing.
As you can see, another thing the current crisis has in common with Katrina and the Federal Flood are the insane ideas coming at us from the right as well as ineptitude by the Federal government. George W. Bush at least admitted that he fucked up and tried to make it right albeit belatedly and feebly. The Impeached Insult Comedian never will, and he seems poised to “re-open” the economy, which could kill millions. Heckuva job, Trumpy.
One thing that differentiates the pandemic from the post-Katrina experience is that, by necessity, it’s impossible to have the espirit de corps we had back then; something that I’ve called The Spirit of ’05. Self-isolation is by definition isolating and, much as I hate to contradict the late Warren Zevon, it’s not splendid:
Both Lamar and I have mentioned the late, great Ashley Morris more than once here. Warren Zevon’s music was a passion that Ashley and I shared. As I write this, I’ve been thinking of Ashley’s classic 2005 post Fuck you, you fucking fucks. I’m glad his blog is still online. We need his spirit now more than ever. I wish he were here to cuss out President* Pennywise for not listening to Dr. Fauci and other medical experts. FYYFF.
My original eponymous blog, Adrastos, is no longer fully online. Most of it resides on my hard drive only. I’ve dabbled at restoring it on Word Press, but it’s woefully incomplete. The good news is that I’ve posted some of my best Katrina/Federal Flood related posts at First Draft. Instead of self-quoting, I’m self-linking:
- My account of the day Dr. A and I snuck into New Orleans to check on our house began life as an email to friends, family, and neighbors. It was re-published in 2015 as The Adrastos Wayback Machine; Re-Entry Blues.
- One of my favorite posts involved Dr. A and my attempt to find our friend and handyman, Michel, after the levees broke. It was re-published in 2009 as Letter From New Orleans: Michel.
- In 2006, I wrote a meditation on the state of New Orleans’ recovery using imagery from Charles Dickens and Pink Floyd. It was re-published in 2009 as Letter From New Orleans: Comfortably Numb.
- In anticipatory dread of the 10th Katrinaversary, I wrote one of my most read and commented upon posts ever, Katrinaversary Blues: Of Resilience Tours, Carpetbloggers, & Disaster Tourists.
- On the 13th Katrinaversary, I wrote a piece celebrating The Spirit Of ’05.
I should be sore after patting myself on the back so vigorously. But I am not alone in linking the two greatest disasters of my life as a New Orleanian, so that waltz down memory lane was not strictly an exercise in narcissism. At least I hope not, there’s enough of that coming from the White House. Besides, we all have plenty of time on our hands, so I thought some extra reading material was in order.
The pandemic just hit closer to home: a friend has tested positive for COVID-19. She’d dragged along with what she thought was just the Mardi Gras crud and was not tested until last week. She did the right thing and self-isolated long before she was tested; an example that we should all follow should we catch the 21st Century plague. Thanks, Carolyn. Glad you’re feeling better. She’s living proof that one can survive the virus. Doug MacCash has the details at the Picvocate.
I hope that everyone is taking care of themselves and following the guidelines set forth by Gov. Edwards and Mayor Cantrell. I’ve been critical of both in the past but they’re proving to be good in a crisis, especially the Governor.