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.
Posted by clayton cubitt at 4:13 AM