dilluns, de maig 29, 2006

New Orleans, more than 8 months after Katrina (English)

At first blush, life had gotten back to normal at New Orleans International Airport when I arrived there on May 20th. As I walked along the terminal, however, it dawned on me that it was not the usual terminal I would enter. Upon picking up my rental car, I realized that it was the new terminal, and that the one I would normally have arrived in was still closed. The trip into the city from the Airport also afforded little in the way of understanding what had befallen the city. A few buildings were in need of repair here and there, but the highway was busy, crowded, perhaps annoyingly so for a Saturday afternoon. I noticed a rather high number of pick-up trucks with out-of-state licenses: the new inhabitants of the Big Easy, the contractors and their laborers.

Once off I-10, and on to Carrollton Avenue, I did see the tell-tale signs of the hurricane. Abandoned stripmalls and supermarkets dotted the broad boulevard, and the FEMA markings were still spray-painted on the fronts of many homes, as were messages left by the animal rescue teams. Periodically I saw messages of a more personal nature left behind by some ardent loved one desperately seeking a missing family member, along the nature of, "David, where are call mom."

The drive down to St. Charles Avenue, life seemed even more back to normal than at the airport. However there were various things amiss. Here the street cars were no longer running, but had been secunded to the Canal Street line, killing two birds with one stone. The Canal Street cars had been destroyed, and the St. Charles line was damaged after the hurricane by workers removing dead trees; the whole line had to be replaced. There was something more, however. The homes were still their well-manicured selves in Uptown New Orleans, but there was a gentle edge that was missing. There were hardly in flowers in bloom in this sub-tropical paradise. The Old Dame was still there, but she wasn't wearing any make-up, nor any jewels. She was still elegant, but she had lost her luster.

Happily Barbara's home had suffered relatively little damage, and upon my visit and subsequent inspection, I could see no tell-tale signs of the disaster, aside from that same marked lack of shine. I arrived on the night of the big election, and Barbara decided she wanted to show me the devasted areas of the city. As we drove along once buslting thoroughfares, it was plan to see that the good times hadn't been rolling in New Orleans for a very long time. As we drove away from her neighborhood, we entered into various neighborhood that had suffered flooding. Eighty percent of the city had been flooded. We travelled to the Upper 9th ward, which had been totally destroyed. Here, houses and ruins of houses stood in a long "U" shaped patterns where the water had tossed them when the canal levees were breached. Entire blocks were gone. We then travelled to St. Bernard Parish, where once 45,000 people had lived. Now only 7,000 did and all of them were in FEMA trailers. The only regular sign of life there was the omnipresent Family Dollar Store. In any given neighborhood, if nothing else were open, you could county on the Family Dollar Store. Even Walmart was closed in the Parish. The main Walmart, however, had given its parking lot over for the FEMA and local government control center, where sundry trailers placed their for the government sat alongside some that were residences and medical centers. Prized among all the slots at this center was the "Katrina Cottage," a small metal prefab built to withstand winds of 180 mph and designed to look a little like a southern Louisiana cottage.

After the Parish, we travelled back to the city itself, to the area of the 17th Street Canal breech. This neighborhood was one of the newest in the city. While it did not suffer the same sort of damage as the Upper 9th Ward, possibly because the homes were better built, it was still abandoned. I grew up in the Cold War, with the constant threat of nuclear annilation. To me, it seemed like a neighborhood in a city hit by the H-Bomb. The buildings were there, intact, but the people were gone. The plants were still growing, but wild and unkempt. It was a city abandoned.

In the days that followed, I also managed to a trip down into the French Quarter. Here the city had sustained relatively little damage from the storm, but in the wake of the storm it is still suffering. The tourists aren't coming like they used to, of course, and many shops have closed, and still others are contemplating it.

In short, the city is still there, down to an estimated 180,000 people of some 450,000. I believe it will come back, but it will not be the New Orleans we all have known. It will be smaller, and I suspect more yuppified. The ruins of the city were crawling with real estate moguls in BMWs and Mercedes, fighting with contractors' pick-ups and busloads of Mayor Nagin supporters, hauled in for the election for space in the roads.

As for Nagin's reelection, I really have little to say about it, since I do not live there. One thing I will say, is I have never seen an election like it before in this country. On Saturday, hundreds of poeple stood at major intersections and waved placks for their candidates. Others went through the city streets in long caravans of pick-ups waving signs and baners in support of their candidate. This reminded me much more of Mexico or some other Latin American country. Whatever else the future of New Orelans is, I suspect it will speak more Spanish than is does now...

dimarts, de maig 16, 2006

Les idées reçues (French)

je reçois ces idées
mes anciennes idées reçues sont mortes
tuées par la conséquence

ces idées
du feu scientifique
aucun reconfort

quand même un soulagement
à mes soucis
nés de mes cauchemars éveillés

mais je les reçois
avec un sourire
comme je reçois l'auditeur

Il faut, de toute façon, rester poli
en face de la faillite
en face de la chute

nous, nous ne sommes rien
sans nos guises du normal
juste avant la fin qu'on puisse s'ouvrir l'âme

l'âme, imaginée ou réelle
fiction ou partie intégrale
l'âme, source de nos amours et sources de nos peurs

demain, si je respire
je continuerai
comme j'ai continué aujourd'hui

le sciene en m'offrant le peu d'esprit qu'il puisse
le passé en nourrissant mes rêves de l'avenir
et mon présent en restant une torture et un plaisir éphemères

dilluns, de maig 08, 2006

Fy Melltith (English / Welsh / French)

moving ahead
there are days I fear I will be gone soon
and others when I fear I will live far too long
I would miss the spring
the cherry blossoms
the young grass
the poppies
the revelation of hidden flesh
after hibernal repose
and yet I feel the drip drip drip
of the Chinese clock
each little drop and that minute disappears
the minutes collect in great pools behind me now
I have fewer drops before me than I did yesterday
and so it goes
already I will never hold his hand for 70 years
I will never know such love as Millie and Helen
who held each other from puberty to the grave
already my hair turns grey
and my chances of loving innocence
and innocence returning to me such love
grow scarce
so soon I must accept scarred love
if even that will come
the springtime brings such longing
Mae arna i hiraeth am beth ffug
the one dream I have dreamt so long
so eludes me
even when like Puck
it comes to taunt me
with deep brown eyes
soft skin
and sweet lips
come Midsummer
something warns me
I will still hold only ghosts and dreams at night
and so it will be that if I have another 70 years
all the hands I will hold from dawn to dawn
will live only in my mind

(En pensant à C de CP qui m'a tant torturé après m'avoir tant aimé un petit moment d'un soir de printemps)

diumenge, de maig 07, 2006

Dream a Little Dream (English / French)

My little dream of you
for me
about us
it came so quickly to an end
it was rich
though brief

out, out brief candle

its tapestry was replete with tenderness
de longs soupires
des chaleurs du printemps
intense romantic moments to die and live for
now it is finished

it died before it could blossom
like a springtime crocus beheaded by a lawn-mower before flowering
for when the song was over
when the last vibration from the last note screeched into reality
the dream was nothing more than that
an innocent ghost whose soul bears no weight
its substance unquestionnable for its lack of existence

you were not the lover of my dreams
rather I was the fool I always am
and I believed your sweet words
your dark eyes
your earnest lips
your lust

take a little dream and kill it
I'm getting good at it now
I can almost do it in my sleep...