Sunday, August 3, 2014

Louisiana Lit: Katrina in a Nutshell

Titling a post "Katrina in a Nutshell" may sound grandiose.

But when I read the first chapter in James Lee Burke's book, Tin Roof Blowdown, I thought it might be one of the most powerful pieces of literature I'd ever read. When I say "powerful," I mean that in the sense of receiving a punch full in the face.

An excerpt from that chapter:

In the dream I [Dave Robicheaux] lie on a poncho liner [in Vietnam], dehydrated with blood expander, my upper thigh and side torn by wounds that could have been put there by wolves. I am convinced I will die .... Next to me lies a Negro corporal, wearing only his trousers and boots, .... his torso split open like a gaping red zipper from his armpit down to his groin, the damage to his body so grievous, traumatic, and terrible to see or touch he doesn't understand what has happened to him. 

"I got the spins, Loot. How I look?" he says. 

"We've got the million-dollar ticket, Doo-doo. We're Freedom Bird bound," I reply.  ... 

The Jolly Green [helicopter] loads up and lifts off, with Doo-doo and twelve other wounded on board. I stare upward at its strange rectangular shape, its blades whirling against a lavender sky, and secretly I resent the fact that I and others are left behind to wait on the slick and the chance that serious numbers of NVA are coming through the grass. Then I witness the most bizarre and cruel and seemingly unfair event of my entire life. 

As the Jolly Green climbs above the river and turns toward the China Sea, a solitary RPG streaks at a forty-five-degree angle from the canopy below and explodes inside the bay. The ship shudders once and cracks in half, its fuel tanks blooming into an enormous orange fireball. The wounded on board are coated with flame as they plummet downward toward the water. 

Their lives are taken incrementally - by flying shrapnel and bullets, by liquid flame on their skin, and by drowning in a river. In effect, they are forced to die three times. A medieval torturer could not have devised a more diabolic fate. 

..... When I wake from the dream, ...assure myself that the dream is only a dream, that if it were real I would have heard sounds and not simply seen images that are the stuff of history now and are not considered of interest by those who are determined to re-create them. 

... When I go back to sleep, I once again tell myself I will never again have to witness the wide-scale suffering of innocent civilians, nor the betrayal and abandonment of our countrymen when they need us most.  

But that was before Katrina. That was before a storm with greater impact than the bomb blast that struck Hiroshima peeled the face off southern Louisiana. That was before one of the most beautiful cities in the Western Hemisphere was killed three times, and not just by the forces of nature. 

 There's nothing I can add to that.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Louisiana: We Still Stop for Carcasses

Dead bluejay, Franklin, Louisiana

In December 2012, when I was in New Mexico, my mother came to visit. I wrote this post: We Stop for Carcasses.

Still do, and the number of photos has increased to the point of warranting a slide show:


Not sure why I mark these remains of what used to be life. Perhaps it's that taking a photo and sharing that photo is a conscious noticing of them.

The original post: 

"We Stop for Carcasses."

My mother, Carol, who is visiting me from Missouri, and I were driving at a speedy clip down Highway 117, I think, when I saw chicken-sized ravens making merry on the remains of a large mammal. I wondered if I should stop to take a look, but passed on.

I commented to Carol, "Did you see that animal the ravens were eating"?
"No," she said. 
I asked, "Do you want me to turn around"? 
"Yes. We stop for carcasses," she replied.

So I turned around.

Dead elk, Highway 117, New Mexico

Earlier in Carol's visit, we'd stopped for this fallen elk on Highway 70 between Tularosa and Mescalero.

Dead elk, Highway 70, New Mexico

As Carol was framing her shot, a car pulled up behind us. A man emerged and walked toward us. What? Ah, he was a tourist from Nebraska. He had his camera out, too.

A few years ago, on another trip to New Mexico with my mother, I stopped for a wilderpee along Highway 152, only to almost stumble on this dead dog.

Dead dog, Highway 152, New Mexico

Speaking of almost stumbling on carrion while finding a good place to relieve oneself, here's a shot of a dead deer in Carson National Forest, also in New Mexico, on yet another past trip.  I got all artistic on this shot.  

Dead deer, Carson National Forest, New Mexico

 There has been no lack of carrion in Missouri, either:

Dead armadillo, Highway 21, Missouri

Dead frog, Missouri

Dead snake, Missouri

Dead something, Highway 21, Missouri

Then there was the horse in Nazret, Ethiopia:

Dead horse, Nazret, Ethiopia

... and the one in Monument Valley:

Dead horse, Monument Valley

This poor bird got caught in some branches in Arkansas:

Dead duck, Arkansas

Remains of dove killed by hawk, which later return for leftovers. Alamogordo, NM

 We stop for carcasses.