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A City Killed 

The city of New Orleans came under attack by military helicopters, armed river craft and super-soldiers. I nearly had a heart attack when four unmarked choppers came flying low over the river while I was walking with Tristan and having a conversation about world peace, selfishness, spiritual progress, riding horses in the snow, and the outrageous prices of airplane tickets -- the usual father and son subjects. The choppers flew low enough to look like they were going to take out the Huey P. Long bridge, then vanished just like that, poof. Later that evening they were back, rattling the old buildings in the French Quarter. A neighbor told me that plaster flew off her ceiling. Next morning I read in the paper that there were only "a few complaints" about what turned up to be a major military exercise on how to fight urban guerilla war. And why were we chosen? Because the brass in the Pentagon think that New Orleans is the closest to a foreign city we have here in the U.S., that in fact New Orleans resembles Beirut or Tehran a lot more than it does Cleveland or Phoenix. Good choice, boys. The only trouble is that our buildings are old and fragile and bound to collapse from just the vibrations of war machines. My friend James Nolan is very sensitive to these things: he used to live in San Francisco where the peace of the citizenry is shattered every year by overflights of the Blue Angel jets. "The jets set off all the car alarms, and then all the crazy homeless people start screaming," he explained. I'm convinced that all of us were screaming when we were being used for target practice, but the newspaper only heard "a few complaints." Well, duh. When people are screaming, they aren't writing letters to public officials. That comes later. Like now. Jimmy and I saw each other on a tour of artist studios in the city's hip new art area, the Bywater. Some of the artists were Haitian, like the painter Vidho Lorville, or Hispanic like Jose Torres Tama, or Irish like Herbert Kearney. They adopted New Orleans precisely because it isn't either as mercenary or as boring as most places. Come to think of it, the large number of foreign artists who live here may partly account for the army's display of might. Maybe it wasn't really an exercise, but actual urban warfare, and maybe we are all dead. Lately also, New Orleans has been invaded by Hollywood and the city is being turned into the biggest stage set east of the Rockies. There are movie stars everywhere you look, most of them still upset that Bush won. Just think about the kind of high-value target we have suddenly become. Rumsfeld's army can kill two (enemy) birds with one stone: alien artists and Hollywood actors. I'm sure that we are dead.


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