Louis Armstrong International Airport

1000 Days of Theory

Louis Armstrong International Airport

(a post-Katrina meditation)

The sun unfurls its noon fury in the Creole heat of late summer. One walks slowly over bare tarmac with the wavy mirage traces of jet fuel evaporating from the baked runway. Your eyes must squint to distinguish actual form from hallucination in the gaseous blur. The mugginess is palpable and steams up from the bayou to create a state of perpetual humidity, you strain to wipe away the sweat dripping from your brow on the balmy Louisiana day.

a city under pressure of heat and moisture,

Steam condenses on your tongue as you try to speak, but because you are walking quickly you think again and feel better in the short term just to shield your nose and hold your breath as the stench of rotting waste reaches you. That which was cast off by mortal flesh, and that once consumed by human mutely decay, lay in steaming piles and reek in the clammy gulf coast breeze; the waste having not been removed for over two weeks.

a city under pressure of decomposition,

The concourse which once facilitated the bustle of life in the hyper-modernist fast lane was used during the last fortnight as a triage for sorting out the ill and as a morgue for the dead. Sprawling on strands of cots strung out along the terminal’s vast expanse of grimy marble floor and close cropped carpet lay the injured and poor black folk of the 9th ward and St Bernard’s Parish, making themselves as comfortable as they could in front of the vacant ticket counters, gated newspaper stands, empty coffee joints and miscellaneous jazz paraphernalia.

Transformed from a place which housed mere travelers into a hall of the wholly dispossessed is Louis Armstrong International Airport; but what else would one expect? The child of a New Orleans prostitute, Satchmo was already abandoned and then arrested at the age of six.

What else would one expect from history in the deep South, only now being staged within the facade of an international airport? The airport, that bastion of globalization which makes planetary culture possible now houses the distraught and dispossessed, the discontented and dying of America’s 3rd world; hermetically sealed within its own environs.

a city under pressure of history,

But there are no commercial flights taking off today, just Blackhawk helicopters and C-130s involved in rescue and reconstruction. The flow of commerce has been halted, preempted by 120 mph winds and the flood. The forces of the market which once built this airport reduced to a trickle, this port city and hub of world commerce now just the glean in the eye of Haliburton or the Shaw Group contemplating the future potential of capital ventures and returns at more than twenty percent.

a city at the mercy of military industrial carpetbaggers,

One walks on to meet the air traffic control manager whose disheveled tower is now in disarray and overflowing with controllers sleeping on air mattresses in front of sophisticated radar arrays and advanced navigation systems. The technology which made this airport possible is temporarily out of service and gathering dust. The wide cherry table tops of conference rooms where local procedures for approach control and the divvying up of airspace were once decided now served as the platform to place k rations stale coffee and half eaten donuts.

ratiocination and technology at the mercy of a southern tempest,

All the technology in the world could not put a bandage on the damage done by the storm and flood to get operations back to normal sooner. The warm gulf currents which fed Katrina were only heated further by the carbon waste spewed from oil refineries and industry along the coast. Already no match for a category four hurricane, the dredging of swamps by oil companies allowed salt water to seep back into the once fertile wetlands which now yield up more than 100 acres a day to the sea. The levees of the mighty river denied needed silt to restore the earth under this grand old city which allowed it to nestle safely between the Mississippi and Pontchartrain.

ratiocination and technology at the mercy of blow-back,

Those bound in the cyclic of history of domination, of the eternal recurrence of the underclass, are those most effected, but what else would one expect, here in the deep South? where burnt crosses still smolder in the charcoal heart of Dixie, and can suddenly violently alight in an inferno; into which we begin our descent from the French Quarter. This is a city which could just as easily burn while being martyred for the sins of a nation, but this is the city in the time of flood.

Here now reside those forced to the fringes of our society, those who live below sea level, the ones who do not partake of the prosperity of this Port economy; of mid-western grain harvest barges, trans-oceanic container ships, and Gulf oil rigs. These folks are too far removed from the mainstream to be concerned with the storm’s effect on falling world markets sparked by the rising price of gasoline, because they had no vehicles to evacuate the area in the first place. They do however, still need food, and the shopkeepers have all left for higher ground.

Already the 200 billion dollar reconstruction being planned has passed legislation and funnels funds through the lobbyist and technocrat directly into the coffers of the good ol’ boys and multi-nationals. Yet, the same legislation eliminated the Davis-Bacon Act and the minimum wage of the construction laborer. But what else would one expect in a state next to the president’s own? To be rebuilt yet again, but now upon the backs of descendent’s of slaves of the Americas both North and South. But now a tax cut and a debit card with a two thousand dollar limit will have to serve in place of forty acres and a mule.

carpetbaggers conspiring with technology,

Those who own the technology and resources to begin construction, who are the masters of calculating the market forces, who have the ear of the vice president will come out ahead in this disaster. Old low lying neighborhoods will be bulldozed and then gentrified, those shining glass and steel structures will gleam for a new class of entrepreneurs who will profit from the Reconstruction. New infra-structure will replace the rotting old wooden front porches of houses built during the Depression. Law and order will be haphazardly restored. The airport will have its waste removed, the concourses cleared of patients, the military will depart its taxiways, it will be retooled and its technology will reanimate the bayou economy to once again fuel the oil gluttony of the global village, even as the corps of engineers still struggle to halt the progress of the encroaching wetlands.

technology along with equality and justice sinking slowly in the ratiocination of Cajun swamp land

Richard Carlson is a writer/musician and the president of Pacific Weather Inc, a firm which monitors meteorological information at airports throughout the United States. His interests include all matters related to CTheory, Jazz, Poetry, Integral Yoga, and Global Climate Change. He holds a Master of Arts degree from Antioch University and currently resides with family on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State.