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Thursday, August 10, 2006

Visiting Professor Arrives

Somewhere on I-59 south of Hattiesburg, you notice a couple of things, like freeway signs that are missing pieces or, in one case over on the northbound side, the sign is bent over at a funny angle.  My wife asked me on the cell phone if the trees were blown over, and maybe they were, but I couldn't tell.  The thing that struck me when I crossed the state line into Louisiana was that the grass in the median was freshly mown.

I-59 becomes I-10 West and it sneaks up on you, but all the sudden you are on a causeway crossing Lake Pontchartrain.  I'm from Michigan, so I'm used to being on and around lakes, but on boats.  This is the sensation of being on a boat out in, say Grand Traverse Bay, seeing the Leelanau shoreline several miles on one side of you and the Lower Peninsula mainland several miles on the other, but you are driving your car.

When Alene and I came down to visit in April, we arrived late at night and took a cab directly to the hotel in the Garden District.  For two delightful days (70 degrees and no humidity in NOLA) we walked the length and breadth of Uptown, the Garden District, the CBD, and the French Quarter.  Depending on where we were, the signs of Katrina were lesser or greater.  Tulane runs north and south in a narrow wedge of the crescent; at the time, the areas toward the north end of the campus, like the baseball stadium, were still wrecked.  Calhoun Street borders Tulane to the east, and north of Freret Street, almost all the houses were being repaired.  But, by and large, it didn't seem all that bad.  Joggers were out running on the street car tracks on St. Charles (the street car wasn't running); there was a big girls' soccer field day on the levee in Audubon Park; people were sitting in coffee shops and going to restaurants.  There was a lot of construction going on (blue tarps on the roofs) in the Uptown areas that did not flood, but it looked a lot like our old neighborhood outside Detroit (Birmingham, Michigan) where there seemed to be no limit to high and tight you could build in a fifty foot frontage on a quaint street.  When we left, the cab took us through some neighborhoods north of Claiborne Avenue, and the driver pointed out the water marks four or five feet up the doorways.

All of this is to say that you have to come into New Orleans from the east on I-10 to appreciate what happened.  But anything I say about it would be trite.

I am sitting comfortably in my office, books unpacked and shelved, pictures hung in the couple spots where the former tenant left the hooks, tschotchkes arranged (my great philosopher finger puppets, the dancing rabbi, Fearless Leader from Rocky and Bullwinkle, Kung Fu Chipmunk, and the Wake Forest dartboard set on which I inscribed "Lipshaw's Handy Grading System").  Patrick from IT has been down and we seem to be all set.  I have my faculty handbook to read, and lists of the forty souls in Secured Transactions and fifty-three in Business Enterprises who have, by what fate, been entrusted to my teaching.  At Tulane, the faculty is spread into office suites throughout the building, interspersed with the classrooms.  I have just paced it off, and it is about twelve paces from my desk to the room where I will teach Secured Transactions.   For some reason, that seems  cozy.

Perhaps the sensation is the result of having driven a long way in two days, or the discombobulation of a person who likes his routines (give me a Starbucks, a gym, and access to broadband, and I'm a happy camper), but New Orleans was an exotic place before Katrina, and is more so now.   There is an additional sensation, and the best comparison I have is to the close proximity of war and normality that you experience in Israel.  A friend's son is starting medical school in Tel Aviv and, while he was evacuted from his Ulpan (intense language study) in Haifa, he reports life pretty much goes on as normal to the south.  I visited Israel during the Intifada, and was driven back from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv on the freeway that cuts just south of Ramallah.  Life went on in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, but at an intersection along the freeway, you could see Ramallah several miles away.  Life seems normal here, but it's only a couple miles to the still wrecked and still deserted upscale mall, the streets and streets of boarded and abandoned houses, and the neighborhoods with the white FEMA trailers in the front yards.

Posted by Jeff Lipshaw on August 10, 2006 at 06:28 PM in Life of Law Schools, Lipshaw | Permalink


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What a wonderfully sensitive and evocative travelogue. Thanks for sharing your observations.

Posted by: Belle Lettre | Aug 11, 2006 2:54:45 AM

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