08/25/2011 11:55 pm ET | Updated Oct 24, 2011

New in New Orleans: No Matter How Many Skies Have Fallen

"Ours is essentially a tragic age, so we refuse to take it tragically. The cataclysm has happened, we are among the ruins, we start to build up new little habitats, to have new little hopes. It is rather hard work: there is now no smooth road into the future: but we go round, or scramble over the obstacles. We've got to live, no matter how many skies have fallen."

- D.H. Lawrence

With Hurricane Irene barreling up the East Coast on the eve of next week's Hurricane Katrina Anniversary, there clearly will not be the media focus on New Orleans that there was during the 5 year commemoration. Last year we hadn't moved home yet, and in a way I'm glad to have missed it by days. Over the years, the anniversary has become a time to reflect on friends we lost in the flood, and friends who never made it home.

There have been no easy decisions since the levees failed, but I wouldn't have traded the last few years with my father for anything on earth. And I've made peace with the fact that there's a good chance I will miss the end of my mother's long goodbye.


We have got to live. No matter how many skies have fallen.

At this point in time, there's much more to New Orleans than an ongoing levee infrastructure disaster. As of Sunday there will be the brand new New Orleans Healing Center, including Maple Street Book Shop. Our Bayou St. John Branch opening is next month.

2011-08-26-IMG_0206.jpgMy usual haunt, Maple Street Used and Rare, is covered in photos of author Walker Percy. Walker reading. Walker on a porch swing. Walker taking a walk. Many of the photos are from the era when he first started to champion John Kennedy Toole's Confederacy of Dunces. The manuscript had been shopped around by Toole's mother, and was published posthumously thanks in large part to Percy tirelessly promoting the book. The author of Love in the Ruins apparently knew a good post-apocalyptic comedy when he saw it.

The great white whale of New Orleans rare books is the copy of Confederacy of Dunces signed at a Maple Street Book Shop event by Toole's mother, with the introduction signed by Percy who wrote it. An artist's soul had been waiting for his work to come to life. And Percy dove in because he had no choice.

What should not be lost in the reflection of six years post Katrina is how many souls are guiding us when we let them. We still scramble. We go round. Nothing will bring back the loved ones we lost. Nothing was worth the losing of them. But we're still here, in this unlikeliest of cities, finishing something.

2011-08-26-P1220150.JPGNew Orleans Healing Center Grand Opening 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday, August 28, at 2372 St. Claude Avenue, New Orleans. Guests John Boutte, Henry Butler, The Treme Brass Band, Mardi Gras Indians, Chuck Perkins, Voices of the Big Easy, Sean Johnson & the Wild Lotus Band. Second Line parade beginning at Rampart and Canal Streets.


"So we see that even when Fortuna spins us downward, the wheel sometimes halts for a moment and we find ourselves in a good, small cycle within a larger bad cycle. The universe, of course, is based upon the principle of the circle within the circle. At the moment, I am in an inner circle. Of course, smaller circles within this circle are also possible."
- John Kennedy Toole


"The search is what anyone would undertake if he were not sunk in the everydayness of his own life. To become aware of the possibility of the search is to be onto something. Not to be onto something is to be in despair."
- Walker Percy


Photos by Jeff Beninato