Returned last night from Louisiana. The city is really a husk now. About a third of the population remains, and you can feel it when you walk around. Restaurants and stores close early. I tried to go to Mandina's, one of the restaurants I remember from when I was younger, but it was nowhere to be seen. There are few cars on the street and we passed a number of houses with the telltale markings on them, including one with "DEAD DOG" scrawled in red paint. When some family friends returned to their street after the storm last year, they said there were dead dogs hanging in the trees.
On Friday night we drove around for a while and ended up in the French Quarter. For a time we were on Bourbon Street and for a time we were on other, darker streets. Bourbon Street at night is a surreal place now, more surreal than before. The street itself is bright and noisy and relatively populous, but when you are there you can feel the darkness surrounding you on all sides. One street over in any direction it is dark and empty. I thought of images from The Martian Chronicles when we were there--the towns of human settlers with their noise and carnival lights surrounded by the huge sad darkness of the dead civilization. The "ancient bone-chess cities...the old canals."
Later that night and for the entirety of the night before, we hung out with the cast of Last Resort in Covington (about forty minutes outside of New Orleans, across Lake Pontchartrain). The guy at whose invitation we were there, Danny Franzese, is not only an excellent and hilarious actor but a genuinely nice person. I'm talking above and beyond: the guy is just really fucking cool.
It was (quite characteristically) generous of my godfather Jon to put Ned and I up for two nights, and it was great to see him after so many years. We spent some time with him on Thursday after we arrived, then on Friday he had to go to Florida. Ideally I'll go back to Louisiana in a couple months and we'll meet up again.
Last night I spent five hours on a plane back. I enjoy flying at night. When you descend and are close enough to see not just the streetlights but the soft pools of glow below them, it looks like the earth is leaking eerie green from its center. I slept a bit but mostly I was awake.