Here I sit taking advantage of my beloved and much-missed cable modem a little over a month after Hurricane Katrina. We have been here exactly a week and it's amazing to see how quickly things have changed since last Sunday. My neighbors who stayed for the storm and the hellish violence and chaos violence that followed it don't jump every time they hear a new voice or car engine. The radio stations that banded together as one to provide commercial-free news and hope to New Orleans are beginning to disband, play music and advertise; the radio stations that forsook the city and have been silent for over a month are returning to air canned sappy messages about rebuilding a better city. They're boring me silly with constant repetitions of the words "aftermath" and "wake" and the "wrath of Katrina." Hurricane Katrina was neither a boat nor an angry woman; could we please lose the tired cliches?
Last night there were lights in some of the buildings in the downtown skyline. More and more stores and gas stations are opening, although they run out of supplies quickly and close by dark. Restaurants are lagging a bit, though. The only open place we could find was an overpriced seafood restaurant. Last time we ate there we were the only diners. On Friday the place had a line out the door, an hour wait for food and the harried bartender walked out in the middle of her obviously miserable shift. The bar was packed five people deep, and she was the only bartender serving a large restaurant full of thirsty people, and yet customers were still ordering pink drinks in martini glasses and complaining. Serves them right that she left. I got my beer just fine, thank you very much. Remove cap and serve. Actually, my second one came with the cap still one it, but who was I to complain? It was Abita and it was cold.
"Cold" has suddenly become a very marketable concept in this city where even the people with power have decided that their refrigerators look a lot better sitting in their front yards, taped shut to keep the smell and flies inside. I heard reports of a Baskin Robbins store being open and people waiting more than half an hour in line for mediocre ice cream, bad service and nowhere to sit and enjoy their cones; last night we went on a desperate and futile quest to locate it. Daquiri shops have 20-car lines (if I have to explain that the lines are for the drive-through window, you're obviously not from here) and their parking lots brim over onto the street and other businesses. Like many other supplies, the only ice you can acquire is free, distributed by t-shirt wearing troops wielding mean-looking weapons.
I would love to be in the sign-making business right now as quickly-produced signs stuck in to median strips have become the main method of communicating around here. They advertise everything from restaurants and fast food places that are actually open to hastily-established roofing and restoration businesses, to job openings and official city information. It looks like election day around here, except that it's mainly restaurants running for office, instead of corrupt and inept policitians.