Tuesday, January 6, 2009

What Should People Know?

It's more than three years after Katrina, and one of the underlying questions remains how we talk about the state of the city to the rest of the world. Are we half-empty or half-full? Me - I'm the half-empty type, because people can't and won't help if they think things are fine. Of course, civic leaders and tourist organizations want the world to think we're fine in most significant ways because they figure that will encourage people to come here, which has value as well. Tourist money is good for a city that has made tourism its economic engine.

When I take people to the Lower Ninth Ward these days, I point to the Upper Ninth Ward first so people can appreciate what they see when they get there. Immediately after the storm, the destruction was obvious - houses that had floated off their moorings and smashed into trees or came to rest on pickup trucks. Acres upon acres of houses contorted by the violently surging floodwaters. Now, much of it looks like a pasture because most of the irreparable houses have been demolished, leaving blocks of green space with weeds obscuring the foundations and pipes. Without a visual reference as to how dense the neighborhood once was, there's no way to gauge it anymore.

Tonight PBS' Frontline returns to the Lower Ninth Ward with 82-year-old Herbert Gettridge for a documentary on rebuilding titled The Old Man and the Storm. We didn't get a screener of it, but here are previews from Salon.com and The Times-Picayune.

... and if you see a rerun of Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations, we're not all as despondent and wounded as local columnist Chris Rose, who Bourdain talks to in Domilese's po-boy shop. I'm not convinced Rose is even as damaged as he seemed, and if so, he's the one who's out of step with the city right now.

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