I haven't blogged since the devastation in the Gulf States of the U.S. When I began blogging, I thought I would keep it light and frothy, amusing, entertaining. In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, I just couldn't do it. It didn't seem right to be so trivial.
On a plane home from a work trip to Melbourne yesterday, I travelled with a friend who also has a blog. We discussed this question. She encouraged me to write about my reactions. A blog is about life, and life isn't all amusing or frothy. There is the dark among the light. So I've been thinking about the words, and here goes.
You might be wondering why a girl from Sydney is so upset about it. It is a long way away, after all. But I am very upset. A couple of nights ago I went to bed, and burst into tears. "What's wrong" asked Michael anxiously. Earlier, we had been discussing our visit to New Orleans in June, 2004. We talked about things we had seen, such as the Aquarium, the Cabildo, Jackson Square. "That whole city" I sobbed. All those people, the buildings, inundated and ruined. I continued to cry remembering visits past.
My first visit to New Orleans was with my mother and my sister, way back in 1965. My mother's sister, my Aunt Jane, lived in Hammond, north of NO, and we were going to meet her, Uncle Bill, and our cousins for the first time. How exotic the US was for us Sydney teenagers. Louisiana was a strange place of misty Spanish moss, heat and humidity, and the city a fascinating mix. Coming from white Australia, the black faces around us were new and intriguing. We had our portraits done by a street artist in Jackson Square - I still have mine. We ate beignets and gumbo, we explored the attractions of the city. We drove across Lake Ponchartrain to Hammond, like driving across the ocean. We ate thin-sliced catfish at a stop along the way.
I visited again several times, always enjoying my relatives' company. In 1971 my sister and I again visited Hammond, Louisiana. Gwen had been living in London, I had visited her (you saw me in a previous post, wearing my fur coat during that vist). We travelled together from London to Hammond. We still have pictures of ourselves in the local newspaper. We were exotic to them too. There we were, on the verandah of the big old wooden house, wearing the latest in hot pants from Harrods, long flowing hair, dark smoky eyeliner.
I returned to Australia, Gwen stayed in the US and met her husband. She spent some time living in New Orleans, and still lives in hurricane-prone Florida.
Several more times over the years I've visited Aunt Jane and the family, so I've gotten to know the place. And last year's visit with Michael was to introduce him to that world. We stayed with Aunt and Cousin Jane near Baton Rouge, we met the next generation. We explored New Orleans and ate at Mona's Middle Eastern with Cousin Susan and other family members. We drove across Lake Ponchartrain. We drove around the city, down St. Charles Street, with its beautiful fretworked wooden mansions and the fabulous fern-covered arches of the oak trees.
So you can see my memories are strong, and they are fresh. I've made anxious phone calls and everyone is OK, the New Orleans contingent having evacuated. They don't know how their houses are.
I spend time on Google Earth, hovering anxiously over their addresses, trying to see what detail I can. I've sent the grainy pictures to them - the miracle of technology.
I've needed to write this, so I can go back to being (hopefully) amusing. My thoughts are still there, with them all.