His name is J. Michael, and he only just returned to Faubourg Marigny this week. For those of you who don't know much about New Orleans, that's the neighborhood immediately downriver from the French Quarter.
J. Michael had fled town when Hurricane Katrina hit to the icy environs of New York (the state). He's a community activist type, the kind of person who spends equal amounts of time writing and calling on lawmakers to encourage things to happen, and then volunteers his labor in the neighborhood to make things happen for real.
His emails from New York were both sentimental and humorously sad, but this one I got today sums it up pretty good. He writes:
I have now returned to my apartment in New Orleans. To assist the Corps with building Cat 5 levees, I brought the five cats, although they don't show any signs of being willing to work.
My neighborhood is OK, but the city is hurting. "We're all in it together," has given way to the old, "Every man for himself," as the NIMBYism over FEMA trailer siting shows. Developers are champing at the bit to build condos for the rich to use a couple times a year, but almost nobody is interested in affordable housing.
Adam Smith's 'invisible hand' has abolished the minimum wage, but there are still way too few workers, mostly because of the lack of housing. Relief workers are literally living in tents in City Park, but New Orleneans aren't allowed.
The Red Cross ERV still shows up on my corner once a day with free food. My local market and drugstore are still closed, so you need a car to get supplies.
I could make a very good living in the salvage business just cruising the streets. Americans don't repair, they throw away and buy new. This is what keeps Chinese workers employed.
Still, there is good food, great music, including new hurricane songs, and all the good feelings that make me love this city.
Welcome home, J. Michael. We need you and many more like you!