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  • Submerged: Part 10

      Shortly after I arrive at the party in New Orleans, a woman hears that I'm leaving town. "So why are YOU moving?" she asks, narrowing her eyes. Her meaning is clear. Why am I not pulling on my gloves and strapping on my facemask and pitching in to help clean things up on Magazine Street, or at City Park, or anywhere else? Why am I not steeling myself for battles ranging from mold to schools to the levees? How could I—someone who actually could have a job, a house and even a good public school—now cash it in?
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  • Submerged: Part 9

      My wife spent yesterday in New Orleans, getting the house ready to put on the market. She woke up at 5 a.m. to drive in with a friend. She cleaned the kids' rooms, hung the pictures back on the walls, stacked the Saturday, Aug. 28, issue of The Times-Picayune—the one with the "Katrina Takes Aim" headline—on the pile with the other papers.
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  • Submerged: Part 8

      A few slabs of brick wall are all that remains of the De la Ronde mansion. Pieces of rusted iron fence are broken and lying on the ground. A bent sign along the St. Bernard Highway announces this as a site of the 1815 Battle of New Orleans. The major conflict here is nearly two centuries old. Somehow, that fact makes De la Ronde seem like an oasis.
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  • Submerged: Part 7

      My friend sits out on his back deck, where he would normally be grilling the hamburgers. The tiny pool is ready for our kids. The fence is propped up with two-by-fours. The house is clean, the toys are on the shelves, ready for an onslaught of little hands. But our kids aren't there. Not only our kids—any kids. Usually, his street is filled with them.
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  • Submerged: Part 6

      New Orleans is no longer a militarized wasteland—at least, not all of it. You learn to cross off areas in your mental map: the Lower Ninth Ward, the housing projects, parts of Mid-City, New Orleans East, Lakeview, Chalmette, St. Bernard. But Uptown, there are blocks and blocks of standing houses. A man jogs in Audubon Park. A neighbor is out walking her Yorkshire terrier past my still-boarded house. It's all getting so normal.
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  • Submerged: Part 5

    Toxic Art
      I love New Orleans. But after anchoring myself there for half my life, I still don’t understand it all that well. If this city has a soul, I think I've only caught fleeting glimpses of it. One of these glimpses occurred in 1993, when I had the chance to interview musician Danny Barker. He was 84. I was 30 and on assignment for a local magazine. I knew that Barker had played with Cab Calloway and wrote songs like "Don’t You Feel My Leg," for his wife, Blue Lu Barker, to sing.
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  • Submerged: Part 4

    The New New Orleans
      "Why is this our problem?" I say this to Cindy. My family and I have been in her home in Carencro, La., about 150 miles west of New Orleans, for a month now. I say this to her when she brings up the matter of the various children in our evacuee household, trying to plan out the next day and just who was going to care for whom. I say this to her on the night of my 42nd birthday, a few hours after my wife, Tami, received the news that she’s a top candidate for a job in another city. A job that might mean that we’ve already spent our last night together in New Orleans, the Friday before the storm.
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  • Submerged: Part 3

    An evacuee's journal: Just a little while to stay here
      Skip, a lanky and good-humored volunteer from Michigan, ambles up. He sees me through an airport-style metal detector, asks what I brought with me. Nothing, I say. He takes long strides through the concrete corridors that circle the Cajundome. Clusters of cots are everywhere. Cardboard boxes of torn paperbacks and old children's toys. Walls are papered with typed or handwritten job offers for mechanics and manicurists. Every morning, a bus of day laborers leaves to clean up in New Orleans, for $9 an hour. Other signs state, "Report all child abuse to sheriff."
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