Wednesday, March 21, 2012

"Jungleland": This Sunday's New York Times Magazine cover story

Posted By on Wed, Mar 21, 2012 at 10:36 AM

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This Sunday's New York Times Magazine has a cover story by Nathaniel Rich on the progress, or lack thereof, in cleaning up New Orleans' Lower Ninth Ward. It's titled "Jungleland" (insert your own cringe here).

Part of the story is about all the new fauna living in the abandoned houses and overgrown lots in the Ninth Ward (a topic we covered last year in our own cover story), part of it is about the Sisyphean task of keeping the neighborhoods clean and the growth cut back ("In the Lower Ninth, a property remains cleared for only three to six months. A Chinese tallow tree, for instance, will grow from seed to two-foot-high sapling in a summer and six feet within a year.") ... and part of it focuses on the ongoing "Katrina tours" of the Ninth Ward, which remain a sore subject with people who are just trying to live their lives.

A moment from one of those tours is under the cut ...

Because the motor coach is too large to negotiate the broken residential streets, it drives in a rectangle around the most devastated section of the Lower Ninth, sticking to the major thoroughfares. During a tour in October, it drove alongside the Industrial Canal, pausing so that the passengers could see the area where the levee breached. As it slowly passed through the Make It Right houses, a teenage boy ran to the curb, and the driver — whose own house is still gutted from Katrina — pulled over. The door opened and the boy stepped on. The bus filled with the kind of silence that follows a popped balloon. The boy held a carton of homemade pralines.

“Three for $10,” he said. “Buy one for a good cause.”

The 42 members of the tour group sat stiffly in their seats, staring forward in silence.

“Like to donate a dollar? Anyone?”

Nobody moved.

“Going once, going twice . . . Sold! To the guy in the black jacket!”

The man in the black jacket flinched violently.

“No? O.K., then. Going once, going twice . . . Sold! To this woman here in the front row!”

No one offered the boy any money. After another excruciatingly long pause, he stepped out onto the street. The motor coach scuttled back to the French Quarter.

It's a sprawling story, and one well worth reading.

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