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The Periphery

Guy Fawkes was a genius.

Updated: 2017-07-29T04:29:08.168-05:00


Reviving The Periphery


It is time, I think, to revive this blog.

And I have, at a new site. The address is here:

Bear with me, as it will be a work in progress for quite some time.

I will be in Amman, Jordan, for a year or so. If anything, I have moved from the periphery of world events to the center, in many respects. Amman is the first capital city I've inhabited for a long time.

I'll still write about the things that usually interest me: outdoor education, literature and the environment, higher education (especially in Louisiana), music, occasional politics and sports.

It's been a while since I posted here, so I don't know how many of you will follow me over to wordpress, but if you do: welcome!

Or, maybe better:  Ahlan wa Sahlan

An Article About Katrina


Let's begin as I began long ago: with a story I wrote about my Katrina experiences. Keep in mind that I wrote this for my old newspaper in Atlanta (The Fulton County Daily Report) while I was a grad student at LSU.I was volunteering at the River Center as a halfassed medic, taking second year PHD classes, and "conducting" a graduate-level seminar for my professor Jeff Humphies, who was having trouble returning from his evacuation in Pineville.Jeff was a brilliant poet, theorist, and translator, and his course was on "New Orleans and the Arts." I mention it in the piece. Jeff died late last year, and I miss him.My father, too. He said would rather die in New Orleans than stay in Houston one more day. He died in 2009, in his home in New Orleans, his family around him.There's a lot I loved about that city that is gone now.I also must mention that I was writing while all of this was going on, and my information was spotty, and colored by reports from people who had access to media (I had little). We know now that, far from preying on each other, survivors actually banded together for mutual aid. I've left the article as I wrote it, however. It was originally published in Sept. 2005.I donated my pay for this piece to the relief efforts in Baton Rouge. It won an award for feature writing.Like all of us who lived through this event, I'm exhausted by talking about it, and shaken by some of the memories. But I would feel irresponsible to let the day go by without marking this time in some way.RICHMOND EUSTISSpecial to the Daily ReportBATON ROUGE, La.-Every New Orleanian grows up steeped in water. It saturates the air on the city's driest days. It laps at the shores of Lake Pontchartrain, where I sailed as a boy with my grandfather, father and uncles. And there is the Mississippi, the reason for the city, repository of American power and myth, carrying enormous freighter ships that pass level with the second story of my parents' house two blocks away.Water is our medium, our background music.It is the backdrop against which most of our significant memories unfold: endless dinners of boiled seafood and Dixie beer at the lakefront, soggy Carnivals, stolen kisses on the levee with the river golden and scarlet in the fall evening, road trips to Pass Christian or Bay St. Louis to bathe in the Gulf and bask in the sun, football games in torrential afternoon thunderstorms. And always-always, always-the threat of The Hurricane. The one that would return our home to the waters. The one we always seemed to dodge.To borrow a phrase from Norman Maclean's novel “A River Runs Through It”: those who make their home in New Orleans are “haunted by waters.” The waters always lay in wait to claim their own. We knew it, and we laughed in their face, held parties in the shadow of fragile levees, named drinks after the natural disaster that would sink us one day.My Last VisitThe last time I visited my home in New Orleans-two weeks ago-I barely spared it a glance. I was in a rush-in transit between a summer spent as a guide in the Wyoming backcountry and a fall semester at LSU that started far too soon. I stopped to spend the night at my parents' house and eat a long breakfast with plenty of sweet rolls and chicory coffee. Then I raced west and north, cursing the heat and humidity. Why, I asked myself, hadn't I just stayed in Jackson Hole?On the Friday before the storm, I bypassed the city altogether as I made my way to east Tennessee to kayak the Ocoee River with friends. I assumed Katrina was another piddling Category 1 storm-the kind that always seems to knock out power in Mobile for six months but just affords my neighbors an opportunity for a hurricane party. After letting our frightened dog in for the night, my dad and brother would pour their usual tumblers of bourbon, light cigars and sit on our porch to watch the storm pass.Thirty-three years of hurricane threats I had seen. Not one of them had ever landed a real blow. Of course, any riverboat gambler, any French Quarter casino sharpie, anyone who spent any t[...]