Thursday, October 23, 2008

There's nothing like being on page 20 of a book, and having to put it down for the 4th time because you can't stop balling...and the lady next to you keeps offering tissues, and you're trying to explain to her between sobs why you're crying and why you swear you're okay...because you're on an airplane.
If you're from New Orleans, DO NOT read this one in public. If you're not from New Orleans, I can't attest to how it will affect you in public. Either way, READ THIS BOOK.

Cannonball Read, Book 2

A Season of Night - Ian McNulty

Ian is a regular at the pub I frequent. I've spoken to him few times, but he was nice enough to let me pay for his book in layaway installments, so I'm all about supporting friends of friends.

Hurricane Katrina was 3 years ago. I remember saying over and over again for the first 2 years that I just wanted to go through one day, just one day, where I didn't think about it. No one would bring it up in conversation and nothing would remind me of it. Then one day it happened. Or rather, didn't happen. These days are few and far between, but they exist nonetheless, and whenever I realize they happened, there's another sigh of relief.
When Ike happened the first week of September, it made everyone realize that we still felt the loss and the stress of Katrina completely...most of us just covered it up with day-to-day routines. Before we started evacuating, some friends and I sat at Finn McCool's crying, talking about how we couldn't do it again. It was heartbreaking all over again.
The thing that most people don't realize is the part that actually affects us. We all either stayed in New Orleans to watch the city fall apart, or we watched it on televisions spread across the country. What most people don't realize is this isn't really where the pain comes from. Most of us were in shock...just as those who weren't from New Orleans, but I didn't even cry until a week later. I remember it completely, the first time I cried. Stephen Patterson, one of the owners of Finn's sent a text message (our only means of communicating with any of our friends) to Paul and I that talked about Finn's being underwater. That was the moment it hit me and I started crying...until I eventually cried myself to sleep. I'm babbling, I know this, but I have a point...

People have written books and memoirs about 'Katrina, the hurricane'. This is the first book that I've been aware of wherein 'Katrina, the aftermath' is the focus. It tells the story of Ian's love for New Orleans, his need to come home to it, and an attempted return to normalcy that none of us have completely reached. For me, it touched me so deeply because although I barely know Ian, after reading this book I'm actually embarrassed that he's told me so much of him and he knows so little of me. That's not quite true, though, because my Katrina story is written in between every line in his book. In reading the book, I found myself remembering every time I came back to New Orleans (before finally moving back the first week of January), every time I missed it.
The smell, oh god, the smell. Ian tries in many different ways to explain it, but I don't think there are words that can do it justice. After I returned from my Ike evacation, I came to my parents house to find their garage flooded. When I walked into it, the overwhelming "Katrina" smell, just hit me and I fell to the floor in tears.
And the trash...I remember the West End median being stacked with garbage, towering over the houses (or lack thereof) that lined the streets.

ANYWAY, I realize this is long, and in no way a review. Since I read the book yesterday, I've just been overwhelmed with all these memories and emotions, and I suppose I just needed to release them somehow. And what better way to do that than writing to an invisible someone on a blog no one reads, right? Right.

IN CONCLUSION, the city is not finished. When I woke up this morning in Seattle, it occured to me that I could keep sleeping as long as I wanted. There was no hammering or drilling or sawing outside. It was just quiet. It took me waking up to that to realize that we still hear it all the time. So all of you may have forgotten...hell it's been a couple of years, but it's still very much a part of our everyday life.

...And if another goddamn parent asks me about it while recruiting, I swear I'm gonna just punch...grrr...


Lainey said...

I don't know if I could read that book, Jamiepants. Just reading this made me cry. You're right - those of us not directly affected, forget that it's still going on EVERY DAY for all of you.

I may try to give it a read, but don't be surprised if you get bawling, sappy messages from me while I'm reading it.

Ian McNulty said...

Dear Jamie,

Thanks so much for buying, reading and now writing about my book.

This was my first book, and I was nauseatingly anxious about how it would be received, especially by New Orleans people who had lived through the same experience. The response has been so rewarding and encouraging, and I'm very grateful to hear the story is making an impact on people. I've heard about tears, but also laughter from readers, which makes sense because if we could not wring some humor, even gallows humor, from that time it might have crushed us.

Long live Finn McCool's, which is better than ever. Mid-City is vibrant once more. I'm so glad I've been given the chance to document and share that bizarre, twisted chapter of our beautiful city's history, and I'm very glad it is history.

Thanks again for writing, and I do still owe you a candle,

Pajibagirl said...

Jamie, reading your review gave me chills. I'm a Yankee who has never been to New Orleans, although I have always wanted to go, and I cannot imagine what it was like and still is like for you and your fellow citizens. I remember watching CNN for days and sitting on my couch, just crying and crying at the images and people on my screen. I still cry about it.

I don't know what I would do if something catastrophic were to happen to Philadelphia, because I love my city and it is so much a part of who I am. What I do know is that you have made me want to go out and buy this book, immediately.