02/25/2008 03:22 pm ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

I'm Still Not There

Harry Shearer does a good job of discussing the strange Washington Post story on Katrina evacuees, and how it covers the effects of rats and stale air more than massive levee failure.

Any roundup article on New Orleans residents not back yet is challenging because each journey took its own unique turn over the years. We're like snowflakes that way. Angry, homesick snowflakes.

I remember when text messages were coming in from friends scattered across the country. You couldn't get a call out yet, but slowly everyone figured out that texting worked. Some sent advice on how to get out of the city, as neighboring Gretna was holding evacuees at bay with guns and helicopters when they tried to walk over the bridge to safety.

When it comes to guns and helicopters, New Orleans' Mayor Ray Nagin has jumped the shark this month, but I heard his WWL interview on the radio while the city was still flooded and we were driving away. It could help explain the post traumatic stress disorder. Nagin was talking to Garland Robinette, responding to the perception that a proper request for federal help had not been filed, and he said:

Well, did the tsunami victims request? Did it go through a formal process to request? You know, did the Iraqi people request that we go in there? Did they ask us to go in there? What is more important? . . . Now, you mean to tell me that a place where most of your oil is coming through, a place that is so unique when you mention New Orleans anywhere around the world, everybody's eyes light up -- you mean to tell me that a place where you probably have thousands of people that have died and thousands more that are dying every day, that we can't figure out a way to authorize the resources that we need? Come on, man. . . . I don't want to see anybody do anymore goddamn press conferences. Put a moratorium on press conferences. Don't do another press conference until the resources are in this city.

2008-02-25-windfarm.pngThese were the moments that made your own story feel so small. Driving cross country for months, we finally settled near family and my husband founded the grass roots nonprofit, New Orleans Musicians Relief Fund. I stayed away the first two years to be with my father as his mind slipped away. Out of solidarity, my mother is now mad as a hatter.

But thanks to the kindness of a friend who has let extended visits almost turn into living in his house, I return all the time. In New Orleans, you hear three refrains when old friends meet: "How did you make out;" "Did you get water," and "Whenya coming back."

It's like a mantra, and contrary to the Washington Post, I'm not kept away by stale air, giant rats or even nutria (orange toothed rodents who eat wetlands almost as much as oil companies).

I'm in the Midwest for my mother, while she still knows who I am. But here's the refrain I can hear whistling through the wind farms on snowy days:

Whenya coming back, whenya coming back whenya coming back, when