...and I don't feel fine. Not in the least.
I know, I know. Late again. The idea of daily updates SEEMS so easy, and then a week flies by. Or um, two. My bad. And much as I'd love to talk about the signings of Michael Finley and Nick Van Exel by the defending champs (a move which may not be as amazingly good as everyone thinks), that'll have to wait. For now, I'd like to talk about New Orleans.
Yes, I'm late. What else is new? But I've seen the images on TV, in the newspaper and online. I've read the stories, heard Kanye West (I think if he'd replaced "black" with "poor," he would have been dead-on), and it's been nothing short of horrifying.
I was only in New Orleans once, down a year or three back to do a piece on Baron Davis. It was the first season the Hornets were in the Big Easy, sometime in April, the weather was pleasant and the streets were quiet. It was a short trip, but I tried to get in a little bit of everything—Bourbon Street, a shrimp po' boy, gumbo in a dark, old tavern. But there were still dark sides. I remember going into a bar on Bourbon one afternoon, and asking the bartender if I needed to go all the way back down Bourbon and over to get back to my hotel, rather than just cutting straight across and back. "No," she said, "unless you want to get shot." Massive projects, aboveground cemeteries, shaky business districts. Even back then, New Orleans was a city tottering on the edge of some great apocalypse.
But surely some of that is 20/20 hindsight. I saw a great show there—Coheed & Cambria opening for Hot Water Music. HWM was (and is) one of my favorite bands, and their show in NYC had sold out before I got around to trying to get tickets. There, the show happened to be on my free night, and I just stood in line the night of the show to get tickets. I wound up hanging out with some college-age kids I'd never met before, drinking cheap beer and having a great time. I also went into a massive sporting goods store that time forgot—I forget the name now—picking up some Air Jordan stuff from years back. It was a dangerous town in a lot of ways, but it was also at times quaint, spooky and delghtful.
And now it's gone. Possibly not forever, but for months at least, New Orleans will be a town of ghosts and looters, water and death. As survivors still straggle out and projected death tolls increase exponentially, it becomes increasingly amazing that such an event could happen in America.
Because this wasn't a terrorist attack, or some fluke geological incident, or a rogue meteorite. This was a HURRICANE, something people with little to no formal weather training had seen coming for days. This was a flood that respected scientists had warned against for over a decade. This was something that could have been prevented, or at least had its impact severely lessened, but wasn't.
Homeland security? Where? While millions are spent checking airline baggage (and frisking three-year-olds) and inspecting bags in subway stations, no one prepares properly for a hurricane? While billions are funneled to a war in Iraq that may never be won, funds are stripped away from a centuries-old city that lies below sea level and in the path of hurricanes? And our President, who should be setting an example, takes untold vacation days, cycling with Lance Armstrong and cutting brush while soldiers continue to die in the Middle East and the Gulf Coast endures third-world conditions.
And the gap between the haves and the have-nots grows bigger. People who could leave, did, and the people who couldn't were left behind. What happened to "no children left behind"? I realize it's just a slogan for schools, but aren't human lives far more important than any education program? Shouldn't buses have been sent to New Orleans the SECOND they decided to evacuate so everyone would have an equal chance to get out, no matter how rich or poor? It's hard to be pro-American at a time like this—especially after seeing what happened at the Superdome and the Convention Center. How many ways can the system fail?
What scares me the most, as a resident of New York City, is the incredible incompetence when it came to the evacuations and rescue effort. This was an event that was forewarned. This was an area that was declared a disaster area BEFORE the hurricane hit. And there will still be 10,000 dead, countless more injured and scarred. What will happen if a major terrorist strike DOES happen in New York, or some other city? What if there is no warning? Will the reaction be any better? Any more organized? That's what truly haunts me. What, exactly, have FEMA and the Department Of Homeland Security done?