Right after Katrina, while I was displaced in Houston, I had a lot
of crazy ideas. First, I thought that the City of New Orleans could
use this epic catastrophe to re-invent iteslf, to fix foundational
problems that could previously only be chipped away at. Crime,
education, a flagging economic base. These were all things that could
be addressed. Or so I thought.
But I wasn’t alone.
Other people from New Orleans had some crazy ideas too. When the
Bring Back New Orleans group unveiled its plan they talked about having
a light rail system to tie together the downtown with the airport to
make it easier for conventioneers. Our tourism industry was doing well before Katrina, but in our zeal for reform we were proposing to make good things better too.
Then one day I heard that Tom Benson wanted to move the Saints to
San Antonio. I’d been a huge Saints fan before Katrina, but you have
to let some things go. I shrugged off the Saints and assumed they’d
leave. We could barely support an NFL franchise before Katrina.
Besides, we had a lot of important problems to address.
I got back to the city after it ‘officially reopened’ and found a
quiet place with bewildered residents. The military was patrolling the
streets and there was a 2 am curfew that was strictly enforced. Well, at
least the crime problem had been solved. No murders, no purse
snatchings, no armed robberies, nothing. A friend of mine visited
right before the first post-Katrina Christmas and was struck by the
absence of any sirens.These days, there are lots of sirens. The criminals are back in
full force killing, attacking, stealing and creating a mantle of fear.
I haven’t heard much gunfire where I live, but I have seen some major
traffic accidents, many due to the fact that the street lights work
More than once, as I sat in my house, I’ve heard the
shearing of metal, preceded by a loud smash. Once it was a car that
veered off and plowed into a building, where it sat for a couple of
months covered in vegetation until some unseen municipal entity finally
hauled it away. More recently, after hearing the familiar crashing sound, I went
outside and saw a police officer running in the street with his gun drawn, chasing a punk who’d just wrecked a stolen car after a high speed chase. There was
another high speed chase in my ‘hood a few weeks after that when
someone robbed the nearby Whitney Bank. Somehow, I wasn’t around for
Life in New Orleans is not what I imagined it would be back when I was in Houston, having
all those crazy ideas. I try harder these days to control my
thoughts. I go to yoga a few times a week, and that helps a lot. I
can’t fix the city, and I can’t stand to watch it recede into chaos,
but I can keep myself healthy and try to relax.
As I went to yoga the other day I noticed that the stoplight was out at
the major intersection where my studio is. I ignored it and reminded
myself to focus on my yoga practice. I worked hard during class (I do
the hot yoga, Bikram style, where the room is heated to 105 degrees)
and at the end was enjoying ‘shavasana,’ which is the part where you
lie on your back and basically enter a meditative trance. The trance
is the most soul-enriching part of my yoga class. So there I was
melting into a nice calm state when I heard screeching followed by a
large crashing sound.
Clearly it was another car accident. Maybe it was a high-speed chase. Did someone rob the bank across the street? These were the thoughts that invaded my bliss. I got up slowly and as I left the class I saw it was just a routine
car accident. Routine, even though it wouldn’t have happened if the
street lights were working. But at least there were no cops
brandishing firearms, or criminals fleeing on foot.
I’ve suppressed most of my crazy ideas, but there is this one last
thing that I can’t let go of. And it’s not even one that I had when I was in Houston.
I keep hearing people talk about how the
Saints might go to the Superbowl. They have been saying this kind of
thing for years, every time the Saints start winnning. But now, it
seems, that even people outside New Orleans are saying it too. I want
to believe in something positive about New Orleans. I want to believe in something that involves people coming together and acting with discipline, and actually doing something, instead of just talking about it. And, since my local
government has utterly failed in this regard, I
find myself believing in a football team. I find myself believing in the New Orleans Saints.
I love the players, people like Drew Brees, Reggie Bush, Duece
McAllister, Scott Shanley, Marcus Colston and Joe Horn. I admire and completely respect Sean Payton. He prepares his team with methodical planning.
More importantly, Payton gets the players to execute the plans he
creates. The Saints are so much the opposite of everything else in New
Orleans. A couple of days ago thousands of people marched on City Hall
to protest the crime wave, and they expressed their complete lack of
faith in our municipal government. "You have let us down," one marcher
told Mayor Nagin.
Today, thousands of people will march to the Superdome to cheer the
Saints when they play the Eagles in an important playoff game. "You
have given us hope," we will say in ear-piercing cheers. We hope that the Saints will go to
the Superbowl, even though that’s a crazy idea. But, no matter what
happens as far as winning or losing, we just hope that they play
well and execute a well thought-out game plan.
When the game starts the area surrounding the Dome will become quiet.
There will be no gunshots, and no screeching of tires. People here
will be bound together in a moment of spiritual kinship. It’s crazy, I
know, but here in New Orleans football matters.
More than anyone who doesn’t live here can