Avart-Peretti House, New Orleans, Lousiana, 17 August 2005. Tennessee Williams wrote "A Streetcar Named Desire" while living on the second floor (1946-1947).
Once again, it's time to observe one of the United States' secular holidays: Super Bowl Sunday. As a native Clevelander who lives in New York State by choice, I really shouldn't have any particular feeling toward the Indianapolis Colts or the New Orleans Saints. However, I'm a proud citizen of Who Dat Nation.
I attended the 2005 Annual Meeting of the Society of American Archivists (SAA), which means that I had the good fortune to see New Orleans just before Hurricane Katrina destroyed large portions of the city and other Gulf Coast communities. I loved the city's distinctive meld of French and vernacular Southern architectural styles, its relaxed attitude, and its thriving jazz scene (Nicholas Payton at Snug Harbor -- oh, yeah!). And the food . . . ah, the food. I wasn't blind to New Orleans's problems -- wages in tourism-dependent cities tend to be abysmally low, and I was repeatedly told to stay out of certain neighborhoods and to refrain from exploring the city's famed aboveground cemeteries by myself -- but I was enchanted nonetheless.
I flew out of New Orleans eight days before Katrina's Gulf Coast landfall, and I watched the television coverage of the storm and its aftermath in shock and horror. I saw desperate people -- fellow Americans -- taking water, food, and other essential supplies from a flooded drugstore I had shopped at exactly ten days earlier. I saw others trapped on black tar roofs in blistering heat. I wondered endlessly about the fate of the people I had encountered: the New Orleans archivists who had been such gracious and proud hosts, the cheerful young woman at the Hilton who gave such good restaurant recommendations, the shopkeepers, waitstaff, street artists, casino workers who made us all feel so welcome, and all the people I passed on the street.
I also got very angry at the entrenched social and governmental dysfunction that contributed to the near destruction of a major American city -- and other Gulf Coast communities -- and caused needless death and suffering. Our response to Hurricane Katrina will not be remembered as one of our finest hours.
A little more than four years after Katrina, the Saints have made it to the Super Bowl for the first time. Not surprisingly, New Orleanians, who have been working hard to rebuild their battered city, see the Saints' success as a symbol of its resurgence. They're ecstatic, and anyone who loves New Orleans should be equally jubilant. No disrespect to you Colts fans out there, but I'm with all of the Americans who really want the Saints to march in victoriously tonight. If any city needs and deserves a Super Bowl victory, New Orleans surely does.
Saints linebacker Scott Fujita -- a cool guy who knows something about adoption -- has said that "the Saints are America's adopted team," and I'm happy to welcome the Saints into my heart and my home. GEAUX SAINTS!!!
Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to cook up some red beans and rice before game time.
(By the way, I really want to see SAA's annual meeting return to New Orleans -- and soon. The American Library Association met in New Orleans in 2006 and will meet there in 2011, and I would really like to see SAA help pump a little cash into a still-fragile local economy. Yes, New Orleans in August is hellishly hot, but SAA 's meeting locales are almost always hellishly hot or otherwise weather-challenged. If I have to be hot and miserable, I would prefer to do it in New Orleans!)
Sorry about the continued extra-light blogging: I thought I was beating the cold I mentioned in my last post, but it doubled back and knocked me out for a few days. I'm a lot better now, but I'm going to have to take it easy for the next week or so. However, I will try to put up some short posts.