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Word Play 

The written word has a natural durability about it. Especially when put next to the flow of electronic information that never stops. As early as 1948, E.B. White was observing "Like radio, television hangs on the questionable theory that whatever happens anywhere should be sensed everywhere."

The written word is different. It has a rarity, a selectivity, about it. Only problem is from time to time its durability must be disposed of. Here, at the end of 2005, is one of those times, so henceforth here goes all the written words I have been accumulating in my notebook since Katrina.

• Everyone "tops" everyone else's tale of woe, e.g. "That's nothing. I'll see you two houses, three cars and a grandpa ..." I must go north, to Minnesota, to get the sympathy to which I am legally entitled.

• On the other hand, you can milk the considerable guilt of those who suffered no loss and/or stayed away the longest. Give 'em that tight little non-committal smile when they apologize for having lost nothing ...

• What happened to all the doctors?

• Did any animals die? All I hear of is stories of lost or abandoned pets that survived 34 days without food or water. But where are they now? This may be one of the key demographic shifts since the storm. ...

• If there are no criminal records available, then why do we have a district attorney's staff? Or a jailhouse, for that matter?

• It's good to see the old New Orleans myth-making machine still kicking: I heard a woman telling someone she had talked to many people and they all told her their angels -- ceramic, canvas, candle -- had survived without breakage.

• OK, where are these "mold experts" in July? And did anybody care? Now these crypto-fascists have veto power over three-quarters of the town and why? Haven't we been breathing this swill for a couple of centuries now? This is how it all starts: Give credibility to people who don't deserve it and the next thing you know, you have bottled water and espresso coffee houses.

• I haven't bought a bottle of wine since Larry and Katz closed, so this isn't a personal loss and many will see it as frivolous, but I'm not one of them. Antoine's, where my great-grandma Augusta once worked, lost some of its wine stash after the electrical failure made temperature control impossible; some ancient vintages that can't be replaced.

• Oh, how we do love to mask! At the Wal-Mart on Tchoupitoulas, with cop cars out front, looters used the side door. At least three of them didn't want to risk recognition, so they donned costumes pilfered from inside. Two skeletons and a pirate.

• Speaking of getting people back to town, how come the parking meter maids are back before electricity?

• Looters broke into the UNO library. Not one book was taken off the shelves.

• A Coast Guard helicopter delivered water and MREs to about 10 people who refused to evacuate. The commander realized that these were Ursuline nuns and that they would refuse to leave because of their order's long connection with New Orleans and Our Lady of Prompt Succor. So he sent them a note saying he would continue to feed them, but they were causing others not to be rescued because of the time devoted to them. The next day when the copter returned, there were 10 nuns with their bags packed, waiting. ...

Unsubstantiated rumor I. Someone from rural Washington Parish complaining that New Orleans gets all the publicity and that there were plenty of rural disasters, like whole herds of milk cows going un-milked because the milk machines lacked electricity.

Unsubstantiated rumor II. One old lady living near the levee break on London Avenue died sitting at her dining room table. Her body was so packed in mud, she became mummified.

Unsubstantiated rumor III. The folks on Audubon Boulevard hired Israeli commandos to check looters.

Unsubstantiated rumor IV. Looters broke into a boat store on Oak Street, pushed a yacht into the driveway of their rented home, set up George Foreman stoves on deck and grilled away. ...

Some items have the overtones of rumor even when they have been verified, e.g. the elderly man in the Dome who stood up from his domino game and announced "I've had enough of this," walked to a railing and jumped. Now that is the way tales unfold in the apocryphal mold: Wry unexpectedness, memorable images.

The old guy just saw things too clearly. ...

So the end of the written word -- or at least this batch. I bid them farewell as if I had my mouth next to your ear as we danced around the darkened living room, and I was whispering how much I loved you. ...

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