Where it all began.
This place. One time.
This isn’t just any field. Any forest. This is someone’s front lawn. There was a house here. Once. This is the Lower 9th Ward. Yeah, yeah. Sure. Some of it has been restored. Generally the middle part where Brad Pitt’s Make It Right Homes have been built. Those were built fairly early in the restoration of New Orleans. They look a little faded. The look a little worn. They were and are and good idea. But, Southeast Louisiana weather seems to be getting the better of them.
That’s another story.
The story is that this place is a food desert. A desert that stretches from well within the border of St Bernard Parish to the middle of The French Quarter where there is a small Rouses. That’s a regional grocery company who expanded after the storm. Yeah. there are a few “food stores” here and there. Stores like Chicken Mart, or Brothers, which is really a gas station. Prices are high and the selection? Well, let’s say it ain’t great. There is also a small family store deep within the Lower 9th. A one man operation. He’s a local hero. But, his prices are high and his selection ain’t great. Getting credit lines from big grocery suppliers is hard. Harder still if your business is out here.
A friend of mine started this conversation in a comments section. I forget if it was here or on his blog. Doesn’t matter. He said the city should do something. Maybe condemn the abandoned properties and sell it so that maybe a store could be built. That won’t work. Ownership titles are muddy. Ancestor succession is even harder to prove, or not prove. And, if the city can auction a piece of land it is likely they can’t do the same for contiguous land parcels. Trust me. I own land out there. I’ve tried.
Look at this picture. Lots of overgrowth. Lots of return to nature. But, right there in the middle. What do you see? Mowed grass. Somebody owns this land. Somebody who has hope. Somebody who thinks that he might return sometime. Someday. Even if I could buy that land, do you think I want to be the guy who takes away that glimmer of hope?
The truth about the 9th ward is simple. The neighborhood is below sea level. It really isn’t a safe place to rebuild. It would be better off as it was when people started living there. Truck farms. The farmers produced food for the French Quarter restaurants. The secret to this land is simple. Anything grows there. Without much help. Some people are trying to do that now. Small farms dot some of the land. But, they are small. I think most of them try to feed the small group of returning residents.
My friend sort of threw his hands up and said, maybe the whole thing should be plowed under. Maybe. Probably not. The answer is long and arduous. Many have tried. I know a legal assistant who spent almost a year trying to track down the descendents of landowners in hopes of clearing titles. After a year of traveling around the South, she and her firm gave up. I suppose the city could declare eminent domain and start clearing everything. Besides the 50 million lawsuits that would be filed, that costs a lot of money. Money that the city doesn’t have. And, won’t have. It’s already stretched to the breaking point trying to rebuild the police department, fixing the streets and rebuilding the water drainage system.
So. Here we are.
Like so much of our country.
The picture. I guess that I’m feeling better. I wrote a lot. And, it came pretty easily. That happens when you really have something to say. I suppose that’s a big point. I read a lot of writer’s blogs. Most of them are either exchanging tips about writing, or seem to have a kind of writer’s block.
I’ve always think two things about that.
One, stop blogging and talking about writing and just get to it. It’s a discipline. Stephen King — as famous and well-known as he is — gets up every morning, reviews what he wrote the day before and writes for four hours. He’s done for the day. That’s discipline.
Two. I already discussed it above. Sort of. Write. Keep writing. Don’t edit yourself. Just put the words down. Every day. For a specific period of daily time. Then walk away. Until the next day. No blogging. No semi-marketing. That comes after you’ve written your book.
There’s also a lot of conversation about research and traveling to the place that you are writing about. That’s all good. Do it BEFORE you sit down to write. Let what you’ve learned and seen roll around in your head where it really becomes part of the story.
I do sort of the reverse when I work. Pictures are different from words. Doh! If I’m going to travel to work then I read. I read fiction about the place I’m going to. I read history. And sometimes look at old maps. But, I never look at other photographer’s work. I don’t ever want to intentionally copy them. I don’t want them to influence me. I keep reading that you should look at pictures, find the location and go to it and take the same picture. If find these comments in those things like “ten tips that will make you a great photographer in an hour.” Why? That’s already been done. Probably to death. There used to be an old joke. “If you want to make your picture stay away from tripod holes.”
This picture? I just saw the scene. All the green was pretty to me so I stopped. I’m not sure I could find the exact location again. I know it’s in the Lower 9th Ward, but that’s about it. I did a little post on it, mostly to make it look old. The post work muted the colors. I brought them back because that was the whole point of the picture.