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Gulf Coast – Day One

Gulf Coast – Day One

For the next few days, I’ll be blogging live from the Gulf Coast of Louisiana, to bring a first-hand perspective from a Louisiana journalist. If you have specific questions, feel free to e-mail them to: me@michaeldevault.com. I’ll try to update this blog at least twice a day.

Day One: New Orleans, the sites, and Oyster Fest.

New Orleans is a resilient city. She’s had to be. After all, over her almost three hundred years, she’s seen hurricanes, yellow fever, tuberculosis, and multiple fires. Perhaps though, nothing has threatened the heart of this city’s culture as much as this most recent disaster. The oil hemorrhaging from more than 5,000 feet below the waters of the Gulf of Mexico ¬†(see the video feed, right) is poison to oysters, shrimp and myriad fish upon which depend New Orleans, Louisiana and much of the nation’s sea food industry.

Today was the final day of the inaugural Oyster Fest, an annual celebration of all things gulf oyster. Ironically, this may be the last time gulf oysters are suitable for human consumption for quite some time, though the organizers have hopefully referred to it as “an annual festival.”

About fifteen blocks up, just outside the Vieux Carre is the Marigny, an area known for its “locals” bars and restaurants. We joined an old high school friend of mine at The R-Bar. Inside, everyone is crowded around the bar and is waiting patiently for something, though it isn’t readily apparent for what they wait. Very soon, though, the entire place erupts into cheers. The HBO original series Treme has begun. It’s set in New Orleans, 2006, immediately post-Katrina and in this bar, a locals bar, the locals are piled in like they’re watching the Saints play.

The similarities between the two disasters are almost as striking as the dissimilarities. Both have possible unseen and far-reaching effects, the costs of which may be decades in the calculating. Both will displace large portions of the cultural base of a region rich in history and heritage. In some cases, three, four or even five generations of families are coming to grips with the possibility that their livelihoods will vanish, taking with them more than a century of institutional knowledge that, once lost, will be lost forever. But that’s where the similarities end.

This isn’t a natural disaster, the wrath of God reaching down out of the heavens. Instead, it is one of our own creation. And if Ted Nugent is to be believed, we cannot point fingers at “the company man” on the rig or the engineers who okayed the blowout preventer on the Deepwater Horizon or even the government regulators who okayed unsafe working conditions on one of the deepest wells ever attempted. The blame, according to Nugent, lies at the feet of a Nation addicted to cheap gas, cheap energy and a cheap economy.

Looking up the street from where I sit at the neon lights and listening to the sounds of a city vibrant and alive, I cannot help but agree.