Friday, December 16, 2005

Empty and Overcrowded

When I came back to New Orleans I was very unsure of what I would find. The media, who have been models of hysteria since this whole thing started, had waxed apocalyptic about how never in American history had a major city been virtually abandoned overnight, yada, yada. Even allowing for exaggeration, that's pretty much what I was expecting.

I was not expecting the place to be so damn crowded! The traffic is so congested it takes half again as long to get about as before the storm. It's not just all the street repairs and construction, though those do throw an added randomness factor into your commute. Even the restaurants are stuffed, and reservations hard to come by, and they're not fixing potholes inside Felix's Oyster Bar.

The reason is obvious. New Orleans currently has about a sixth of the population it had before Katrina, both natives and out-of-town workers in construction and cleanup. But it has considerably less than a sixth of its land space unflooded and undamaged, available for living on a daily basis. Much of what still goes on here is being squeezed into a much smaller space, and that has its effect.

And it's not going to change any time soon. I'm going to have to find a whole new set of shortcuts.

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