I Love the U. S. A.

by Dave Schuler on November 10, 2012

In Joe Nocera’s column about the ongoing struggle in New York with the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy consider this passage:

Shipley, who lives in Manhattan, had been going out there every day since last Saturday, volunteering in the hard-hit enclave of Belle Harbor, where a Roman Catholic church, St. Francis de Sales, had essentially been taken over by relief workers. She had expected to help out for a day or two, assuming that the Red Cross, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or state and city workers would quickly take over.

But that hadn’t happened. As one day bled into the next, the volunteers had organized themselves. Leaders emerged who, with no prior experience, figured out how to help people in a disaster. They found restaurants willing to donate hot meals, rented buses to truck in more volunteers and brought in supplies to help residents battle the cold weather.

I would also bet that the volunteers who’ve organized themselves so efficiently are men and women, more than one religion, all ages, an assortment of stations in life, multiple ethnic groups and races. I had feared that this spirit was lost but here it is, alive and well. Technocracy is a sham. Federalization is a sham. What we have is bureaucracy and the bureaucrats are all employed, housed, and well-fed.

See also the historical lessons I drew from in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. If New York is to recover, it will be because New Yorkers wanted it to and worked to make it happen without waiting for guidance from Washington or even City Hall.

We solve the problems. They don’t solve the problems.

{ 25 comments… read them below or add one }

Andy November 10, 2012 at 7:50 am

The ability of humans to self-organize in a crisis never ceases to amaze me.

jan November 10, 2012 at 9:10 am

Andy,

That’s because they usually are united around one goal, generated by a crisis situation, instead of divided by tempting (and oftentimes false rhetoric) generated by politicians, who want power.

TastyBits November 10, 2012 at 1:13 pm

The infusion of money and politics distorted the recovery and rebuilding of New Orleans proper. The recovery and rebuilding from Hurricane Betsy in 1965 was more like your other examples, but only the poorer half of the city was flooded. The other half provided a place to mount the recovery effort.

We also live in a different world than 1965. Mold was not the major concern it is today. Crappy living conditions were a way of life not an issue for political parties.

Many of these communities will be unrecognizable in a few years. This may be a good thing for NYC and NJ, but New Orleans always had a timeless quality. In New Orleans, housing project buildings are afforded historic status. In other cities, they are torn down.

Janis Gore November 10, 2012 at 1:20 pm

There was 95-year-old waiter at O’Brian’s who stayed during Katrina. He said he’s lived a long life, and he would die at home.

He had thimbles on his fingers, and would tap to the music. An act in in his own right.

Southerners are so weird.

TastyBits November 10, 2012 at 1:50 pm

@Janis Gore

The original Johnny White’s and Molly’s stayed open, but there were probably others. Pat’Os encapsulates much of NO. The piano bar has the tourists. The patio bar has the college students. The front bar has the regulars. Three worlds coexisting in the same time and space.

The law and order types are running the city, and now they are enforcing the rules and regulations. Street vendors at second-line parades now need permits.

Janis Gore November 10, 2012 at 2:03 pm

Well, it’s what’s happening. I saw the difference between when I went there the first time in ’93. Ten years later, the French Market was much more commercial.

I bought one of my wedding rings there for $5.00. A simple silver band that fit like a sleeve. I’d had a gold band that fell off at a truck stop between LA and TX. Then, when I was lining the air-conditioning duct,I threw the one from the Market away in paper towels. The sealant is like like bubble gum.

I’d never felt so naked as when I was waiting for my new silver band from the local jeweler. $16.99. I wear a four.

Janis Gore November 10, 2012 at 2:11 pm

Absolutely the best time I ever had in NO was at Lafitte’s Blacksmith’s Shop. The pianist was playing old favorites like Ebb Tide and Stormy Weather, then this cocky Frenchman came in named Gilles Marchand, and he set the place on fire. The man could play.

PD Shaw November 10, 2012 at 2:22 pm

I was back in New Orlenas abour four years ago. Uptown, particularly the lower Garden District looked like it was in better shape since the Hurricane, but it had been invaded by Bobos. The Borders book store being built out of an old mansion’s exterior seemed to represent something that was happening. (Now closed)

The Quarter seemed unaltered.

Heading down from the Quarter into the Upper Ninth, all of the money looked like it had gone into signs offering help with construction. There would be a telephone pole with five identical signs on it with the words “Drywalling” and a phone number. The houses looked abandoned.

Crossing the bridge into the Lower Ninth, it was still devestation. I drove around barely visible grids of streets with almost nothing left. Brad Pitt and new urbanists were building a few futurist versions of creole houses, but it left one feeling open, exposed. I could smell a sea breeze. The place felt like a dangerous place to live.

Janis Gore November 10, 2012 at 2:31 pm

i was there a couple of years ago. It was a little sickening.

I have my husband’s ashes at my right hand. He wants his ashes tossed into the river, and for his family and friends to toast him as he passes New Orleans.

The river has been very low. I don’t think he’d imagined he’d wind up on the bank of the river at Monterrey, LA. Though Bonnie and Clyde did hole up there at one time. They were killed there.

TastyBits November 10, 2012 at 2:33 pm

@Janis Gore

The oil boom of the 70′s and bust of the 80′s changed a lot of the city, but the older neighborhoods, bars, restaurants, and stores were largely unchanged. Tourism is another factor, but the real New Orleans is usually too seedy looking to outsiders.

Years ago, I was in the UK on business with a guy from Omaha, NE, and the inn was about 400 years old. The entire experience was a jolt for him, but he never understood why anybody would protect a tree. He was even more astonished that I fully understood.

Janis Gore November 10, 2012 at 2:40 pm

I’ve been to Molly’s. The silliest little waitress waited on us. She had a stuffed Teddy bear in an inside pocket of her coat.

I’ve been to Napoleon’s. My favorite for an early Bloody Mary is the Chart House Room. Made from scratch. And a wild local crowd. Had a lovely bartendress there one day who came from Nova Scotia — a true Acadian.

TastyBits November 10, 2012 at 2:40 pm

I would guess that a lot of the NY and NJ residents feel the same way about their communities, but this will provide an opportunity for busybodies to clean-up certain areas. Coincidentally, these areas are always where the lower income folks reside. This is one way money will affect their communities.

Janis Gore November 10, 2012 at 2:43 pm

Sure they do. I am so sorry. I’ve hung out in more than one dive in NYC, too.

Janis Gore November 10, 2012 at 2:46 pm

And New Haven. Never went to Newport. Those people couldn’t countenance my likes.

Janis Gore November 10, 2012 at 2:55 pm

Westchester, I know. I lived there for a few weeks one year with an old boyfriend’s family. His mother was a beautiful blonde woman who taught figure skating and rode motorcycles in 1975. Had six kids. Real problems with housecats. His father was a, what? All I know is that I shot for microfilm images of Congolese poetry he had translated into English.

Princetonians.

Janis Gore November 10, 2012 at 2:58 pm

Scott never failed to remind me that I was not as good as the other effete girl he truly loved.

But I got along his parents fine.

TastyBits November 10, 2012 at 3:04 pm

@PD Shaw

I cannot go into a lot of areas anymore. It is too depressing. Brad Pitt is fighting a losing battle. Too much of the population is gone, and what is left cannot support the infrastructure. It is a similar dynamic in areas hard hit by the mortgage mess.

Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie are actually trying to help the causes they endorse. You rarely hear about the work they do as opposed to other famous people. When Angelina adopts a baby, she does not bring a camera crew.

Janis Gore November 10, 2012 at 3:31 pm

What can you say? These are also my people.

TastyBits November 10, 2012 at 3:49 pm

@Janis Gore

Humans can be divided into two groups. Those who think the girl makes the boots, and those who think the boots make the girl. You seem to be the first, and Scott’s effete girl is probably the second.

The second group includes those who really do not understand the importance of boots, and this sounds like Scott.

Janis Gore November 11, 2012 at 8:14 am

He learned that those boots are made for walking. Hard to say why I put up with him for a year. Young, I guess.

I saw the Queen of England in New Haven during that northern sojourn. It was ’76. That’s when I was in NYC for July 4th, tall ships and all that.

Janis Gore November 11, 2012 at 9:41 am

Occupy Wall St. has morphed into Occupy Sandy:

https://www.facebook.com/OccupySandyReliefNyc

Reports are they’re doing very good work providing relief to Staten Island and Rockaway.

Janis Gore November 11, 2012 at 9:42 am

I really have to preview better.

Janis Gore November 11, 2012 at 11:07 am

Dave, do you ever do fruit compotes as dessert?

I’m back at work on the Christmas luncheon menu. So far I have a Greek salad and stuffed red potatoes with mint.

A nice lamb chop would be good, but I sure do hate to cook lamb the way my MIL likes it.

Janis Gore November 11, 2012 at 11:08 am

I should be calling you Mr. Dave since you’re my senior.

Janis Gore November 11, 2012 at 8:07 pm

In my defense re: Scott, he had wonderful taste in music: Ry Cooder, JJ Cale, Buffalo Springfield, etc.

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