New Orleans

Past as Prologue
September 26, 2005

My street was deserted Sunday, when a couple of friends and I checked on it. A few military types were cutting away at the trees blocking a major intersection nearby, and, at one point, two guys who live around the block stopped by because they saw our cars outside. Beyond that, the neighborhood was a ghost town, just like most of the rest of New Orleans. The people who lived here until two or three weeks ago have gobbled up real estate in Baton Rouge. Or they're holed up with relatives.

After Shock
September 26, 2005

Before a storm sank New Orleans and a pair of Boeing 767s gored the Twin Towers, officials at the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) drew up a list. It escaped notice in the months of second-guessing after the September 11 attacks but took on an air of prophecy within hours of Hurricane Katrina's landfall. There were three disasters, fema managers concluded at an August 2001 training session, that Americans should beware above all others: a terrorist attack on New York City, a hurricane in New Orleans, and an earthquake near San Francisco.

Return to Paradise
September 19, 2005

At night, the waterfront road at Patong, the most famous beach on the island of Phuket in southern Thailand, resembles a slightly seedy Riviera. All along the strip, paunchy foreign men toss down beers at open-air bars or wander into back alleys with male and female Thai prostitutes. Neon-lit fast-food joints and massage parlors throb with Thai and foreign customers.

Poverty Line
September 19, 2005

It took a few days after New Orleans flooded for the press to breach the mental levee blocking comments on the victims' race and class. But, once that levee finally broke, it washed away pretty quickly. In a furious rant on Thursday, CNN's Jack Cafferty lashed out at journalists' unwillingness to take on the "elephant in the room" and complained that "almost every person we've seen, from the families stranded on their rooftops ...

Gulf Stream
September 19, 2005

On Monday morning in Baton Rouge, Josephine Bell was trying to tidy her family's living area. "Help me sweep up now!" she yelled at one of her sons, handing him a broom and pointing to a pile of spilled cereal beneath a cot. "I want this area clean!" Bell, her husband, and her two sons had arrived in Baton Rouge eight days earlier, when, heeding the call to evacuate New Orleans as Hurricane Katrina approached, they left their home in the city's Uptown neighborhood and headed, on a special bus, 80 miles west on I-10.

After the Flood
September 12, 2005

You might have called the very existence of New Orleans, my hometown, a triumph of hope over nature. But nature had the last say. Nestled between the Mississippi River and Lake Pontchartrain (which spills into the Gulf of Mexico), the city's founders saw it as the perfect place for a port town. There was only one problem: The land between the river and the gulf wasn't so much land as swamp. They drained it as best they could and began to build, but it has meant a Sisyphean, 300-year death match between engineers and the elements.

Final Curtain
April 11, 2005

Easter Sunday at St. Peter's Square ought to be one of those perfect collisions of time and place, like Mardi Gras in New Orleans or Thanksgiving in New England. But this year, I happen to be living in Rome during the strangest Easter in memory, when the Pope's mysterious illness completely overshadows even the elaborate pageantry of Holy Week. And so, on Easter Sunday morning, I found myself anxiously standing in front of St.

Whose Loss?
March 22, 2004

JOHN EDWARDS MAY have been the first to recognize the potency of job loss as an issue in the 2004 election cycle, but John Kerry has now firmly made it his own. "Dick Cheney went on TV and said, 'If we had John Kerry's tax policies, we wouldn't have had the job growth we've had in the country right now,'" Kerry told a crowd in New Orleans last Friday, amid news that January had brought a mere 21,000 new jobs, far fewer than the 125,000 jobs economists had expected. "I came here to say today, 'You're darn right, Mister Vice President.

Freedoms and Feelings
April 07, 2003

I. The Passions of Andrew Jackson by Andrew Burstein (Alfred A. Knopf, 292 pp., $25) Early in 1834, at the height of his war with the Second Bank of the United States, President Andrew Jackson received at the White House several deputations of businessmen, who pleaded with him to change course. Believing that the Bank was an unrepublican, unaccountable monopoly, Jackson had vetoed its federal recharter and ordered the government's deposits in it removed.

Flawed Perfection
November 05, 2001

 Savage Beauty: The Life of Edna St. Vincent Millay by Nancy Milford (Random House, 553 pp., $29.95) What Lips My Lips Have Kissed: The Loves and Love Poems of Edna St.

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