Thursday, October 06, 2005

Under The Crescent Moonrise


Philip Turner, 62. Alva McKay, 44. New Orleans.

I took my girl for a walk along the Mississippi River, where it snakes around the Quarter, bending the city into its crescent shape. It was under a pink setting sun and a rising crescent moon, and a cool breeze blew the stink out of our noses, and the mosquitoes off our arms, and then we met Philip and Alva.

They were half on their way to drunk, watching the River drift past Algiers. As we walked past, Philip shouted "Hey, I saw y'all on TV last night!" Only, we weren't on TV last night. But we stopped and talked to him, and that was the point. Philip's a street performer in the Quarter, and that's the line he uses to stop people. To stand out from the crowd. Philip dances with a broom for tourists. Whenever I would raise my camera, he would laugh and burst into song. He lives in the Ninth Ward. Rather, he used to live in the Ninth Ward, before Katrina, and the flooding. He survived in his attic, and said he swam like fucking Johnny Weissmuller to get out. At the moment this picture was taken, Philip's earthly possessions consisted of a large lady's bike he called his Cadillac, a small bag of clothing, a nine iron, and a half-gone twelve-pack of beer.

Alva was helping him finish the beer. She was also from the Ninth Ward. She was separated from her entire family, and her husband. She was distraught, and despite Philip's heroically drunken efforts to make her laugh, she often slipped into quiet tears. She asked me if I remembered that big wave that happened last year. It happened on Christmas, she said. She said she cried when that happened, and she knew in her bones that New Orleans was next. She said she was no Bible thumper, but that God was so powerful he just flicked his hand and her family was gone. And when she said this she made a flicking gesture, like dusting off her arm. She said God's so powerful, and tears started. So powerful, she said softly. She asked, Do you believe? No, do you believe?

I don't even know what I'm saying anymore, these days. What am I saying? Like Alva, I'm no Bible thumper. I don't even believe. But I'm saying, when you look at the faces of my people, I'm saying you need to know, really know, that "There But for the Grace of God go I." We're all one really bad day from oblivion. I'm saying, live with that in mind every day, and you'll understand the power and love and soul of New Orleans, and my family.

28 comments:

Definible Blog said...

Great, great blog!
-Caperucita

ViOlette said...

i've not yet read all the blog, but i think i'd like it.
See ya :)

Ultra Toast Mosha God said...

Horrible as it is, my girlfriend and I were discussing the possibility that it might be the earths way of cleansing itself.

The asian tsunami/earthquakes/natural disasters could all be the planets way of retaliating against the human population boom.

You can see the pock marks of mankinds abuse on this delicate orb from space.

It doesn't change the horror of these peoples suffering. I hope Alva find her family.

Click here to see hurricane pics said...

Your pictures are VERY good. You have a real gift. You have caught the suffering and hurt in their faces.

I would like to see you capture the strength of hope in their faces that you articulate in your words.

Keep using your gifts!

There is help near by for your mom...
http://mcchurricanerelief.org/

Ruben said...

I agree with another bloggers comment on your post. I think nature is rebelling against the way we are butchering the environment.

R2K said...

Some crazy faces! :)

R2000

nembula said...

Dear Clayton;

I just spent the last three hours scrolling through the September pictures and reading the comments. I got the impresssion the people hitting the paypal button and buying your prints were people not far removed from your mom's financial strata. With donations of $10, $25, $50, and $100 trickling in and the occasional slightly larger donation. It makes my skin crawl thinking about this but there are people out there who could replace your Mom's trailer out of their pocket change. So, out of the sickness of my curiosity, have any of those people showed up to donate? You could offer them some "Publicity" and it might troll them in...........

al justice said...

What a blog!

al justice said...

What a blog!

al justice said...

What a blog!

Kate said...

The Earth retaliates, takes revenge? That is the silliest thing I've read yet, ultra toast. Please.

Clayton, your blog is beautiful and heartbreaking. Thank you for sharing your stories with us.

Take care --

Jen said...

Our community in Northwest Iowa is raising funds to help a community hit by Katrina (we don't want to give it to a big relief organization). We'd like to find one that is similar in size, around 3,500 population. Also, it would be nice to find one with similar interests in high school sports (especially football), and heritage (we tout our Irish heritage, although not everyone is Irish--only about 15% claim an Irish heritage).

Please email me if you can help to find a community to "adopt" for Katrina relief. My email is indigolake@gmail.com. Thanks!

Can you help us find a community to help?

Anonymous said...

"I think nature is rebelling against the way we are butchering the environment."

~nature is rebelling? to rebel, one must have a will and probably enough cognitive processing to evaluate the object of rebellion... nature is and has many things, but it, in and of itself, does not possess volition

GALO said...

Where was SuperBush to save you??

He can "save" Irak but nothing to do with his own country...

GREAT PICTURES.

Neo said...

Clayton - My God!

I looked through your pictures and stories. If anything could describe this it wouldn't be in modern english, nor any other language of this earth.

Our thoughts and prayers are with you and your family, as well as the other families that have greatly suffered and are suffering.

We've given everything we can, and continue to give. Our money, supplies, time, thoughts, and prayers.

I'm sorry to say, that we gave it to the wrong people before we realized that this wasn't making it to the people who needed it the most.

Hang on. The American public is seeing this now, and we're moving to get this straight. We won't be depending on FEMA or the Government to get this done. We have to do it ourselves. Don't worry we will!!!

I know these words aren't helping anyone right now. But our actions will.

America has not forgotten you.

Please don't give up!

Jenn said...

What frustrates me the most about this is that people will forget... just like they've forgotten about the bombings in oklahoma, or the apathy and frustration and how we roll our eyes and are sick of hearing about 9-11. We're ok with "answering the call," although it might not be IMMEDIATE, which was really demonstrated in the last few months... but now we're flipping overloading everything... it's just crazy.... but how will it be in a few months? will people care?

Your post entitled "The contents of my mom's life" really got to me. I'm glad you made this site. I especially love the portrait of your mother, brother, and yourself (the mohawk one). Your other shots are captivating as well.

All the best at this time.

elijah snow said...

what a powerful blog! Do nae give up hope! I'm sending ye all my good wishes and charms, my prayers and spells are always with ye survivors, for ye did survive, eh? May the Lord always be with ye.

ken said...

Hey,

You should try and contact a publicist and get an editor and make a book.

Sell the book take 50% for yourself and your family and donate the rest if you wish. Your family has endured enough and for sharing your talent with your own personal tragedy you deserve all the best.

If this happens and you want someone to do an interesting layout for it. contact darren@liquidorb.net. Thats my partner.

Good luck with everything.

Anonymous said...

thanks for posting these images.

http://humidbeings.com

Anonymous said...

Your words and images are so heartfelt and powerful. You communicate the human element of this tragedy in a way no one else has, by giving a voice and a face to these people. You deserve an award for your work, using your talents to serve the victims of Katrina. People talk about sending money, volunteering, government agencies helping, etc, but work like yours, the art, is equally essential, if not more so.

Nikky Egland said...

This is such a terrible tragedy. I agree in a way with the fact that the hurricane is a result of pollution and other human mistakes, but I think saying that nature is "rebelling" is going a little overboard. It makes it sound like some Lord of the Rings ripoff where the trees are going to start battling humans or some crap. My prayers are with you and your family and friends at this time.

Jim said...

As someone else said here, you have to find a publisher and write a book, replete with your incredible photography. I'm blown away by your talent. I've read your blog from beginning to end and it is so damn powerful.
Thank you for sharing. Incredible.

ExBF said...

I've been completely enthralled with everything you've posted here; simply amazing work. Kudos & best wishes to you....and keep posting!

Mr. Matthies said...

I agree with what Jim said. You have a gift for writing and photography that should be published. People should see and feel what is happening past the big headlines. Hopefully new ways of dealing with these massive problems wil emerge.
Thanks for the good work.

Anonymous said...

"We're all one really bad day from oblivion." Follow Clayton's words of wisdom and appreciate good fortune while it's there. Earthquakes, mudslides, hurricanes. We're like ants on the sidewalk. The vast impersonal forces of nature crush us without any notice at all. New Orleans always seemed to be one of those places that raised its middle finger to these forces to say, you may get me tomorrow but screw you, I'm having fun today!

Daisy said...

Hi. I just had to respond to some of these amazing photos. They're stunning. I'm going to look thru the rest, but this blog with the pictures and the stories has really made an impact. Best wishes.

Velu said...

Hey Great blog.

Seeing a photo of philip was definitely Deja Vu. I met philip in Jan of this year when I was joining my ship at LOOP.

I wvwn took a picture of him doing his stuff. Those were happier times & its tragic how things turned out.

Still he is alive & that is important.

Regds
velu
anujvelu.blogspot.com

Chaclit_Thai said...

Wow! definately one of the more profound and insightful blogs i've come across in my short time blogging! my prayers are and have been with your family as well as the other hurricane survivors. keep using ur photography and writing skills to keep us all aware and informed! Jah Blessings Always.................
NeWbIe blogger (~_*)