Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Extremes

Over the weekend, to pass my time alone at the plant, I read a lot. I took in everything from Edgar Lee Masters' Spoon River Anthology to the first two volumes of the Cowboy Bebop manga. I am a big fan of neither poetry (unless it rhymes) nor anime, but in both cases I was gratified to find a host of well-developed characters, which is one of the major requirements of any literature I take the time to read. I really like floppy Ed and the data dog Ein, and self-righteous Mrs. Kessler on page sixty-six speaking "from the dust" about her friends' and neighbors' dirty laundry, both figurative and non.

And while we're talking secrets, I'll tell you one of mine: the deep south scares me. (Almost as much as Africa does, all ancient, bloody rituals and roiling jungles incubating black scourges.) I don't trust superstition and I don't much care for spicy food. But I love Jazz and I have the pin and trophy of the Louis Armstrong Award to prove it, and a tattoo of a bass clef on my left shoulder. And if I mourn for New Orleans it's because I never got to play on the street corner, never got to make them jealous because I "sure know how to make a bass trombone sing."

But Atlanta's Jeff Francouer makes me want to watch baseball all the time.

Katrina hits home, finally, dispersing my carefree, dismissive bravado, attacking my remorselessly misanthropic facade (and I'm not the only one to be thus exposed). Bekah's older brother Matt, whose favorite shirt I tore during a childhood game of tag, and his wife Camielle are displaced, salvaging clothing and vehicles and little else, save hope. I am not so worried about resourceful Matt, because I know his family, and they are remarkable, loving, giving people. Matt and Camielle will be okay, even moreso when the baby comes and they have fresh proof that the most precious things are the people we love. The people I hurt for are those who have no one. The elderly, especially (make no mistake, my grandmother was the envy of the nursing home until May 3rd), also the orphaned, and the lost.

The suggestion was reportedly made at an office lunch table, by someone who spent extensive time in the region before Katrina arrived, that she was God's way of cleansing a very afflicted city. I read accounts by volunteers that fled the place, appalled by the attitudes of the refugees and afraid for their own safety. I appreciate the term "social breakdown." It proves to the rest of the world that we Americans are nothing more than human, and, as individuals, less deserving of their jealousy and resentfulness than they may assume. "If you prick us, do we not bleed?"

My sister overheard a coworker who used to live in Louisiana being teased about why there were only black people being interviewed about their experiences of the hurricane. Aren't there any white people living down there? "Yes. But the white people all got out when they were warned," he replied. It's hard to be openminded here. I don't know what to think, so I don't. I am not racist. I am indifferent. But also slightly amused.

I once heard a pleasing tale that rainbows were a covenant between God and man that He would never send another flood. Now I can't decide.

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