I wanted to wish everyone a happy 2008 and give one last update for 2007. I just returned yesterday from a wedding reception in Louisiana. My trip took me for the first time into the states of Mississippi and Louisiana, which brings the number of states I have visited to 36. It also brings the number of states in which I have ridden an inter-city (Amtrak) train to 18, or 50%.
The trip allowed me to see some friends of mine who will be getting married shortly. I haven't seen them in quite a while, and the reunion was great. My time in Louisiana was limited, but I did get to make a brief visit to Baton Rouge and caught the train at New Orleans very early one morning. The trip also marked my first crossing of the Mississippi River in anything other than an airplane. In this case it was Louisiana's Sunshine Bridge by automobile.
The Mississippi, or simply the River, is very large. At Baton Rouge it is a mile wide, but somehow I always imagined it being even bigger. Still, it is a breathtaking sight. I think the best part of Louisiana, though, is the food. Every meal I had, from pasta to jambalaya, was to die for. Because my visit to New Orleans was so brief, I definitely intend to pay a return visit, but it is probably best if I give it a little time to rebuild.
Even after more than two years, my train ride revealed many homes that appeared abandoned, damaged, or partially repaired. Perhaps my opinions are biased because I saw the city early on a Sunday morning, but it seemed quiet even for 7:30. Many of the neighborhoods visible from the Crescent looked as if most of their population was gone more or less permanently.
The question of rebuilding still seems very much applicable. Personally, I hope that the city is rebuilt, but certainly not as it was before. The entire area is sinking, and the levies are essential to the town's survival even when storms are not raging, but I don't think we should abandon New Orleans. Katrina seems to have given us an opportunity to redevelop a major American city in a more sustainable and equitable manner, we shouldn't squander that opportunity. Much American history is present in this coastal city, and to think of abandoning it is as much a tragedy as the hurricane was. Still, the arguments for resettlement hold water. After all, flooding is an increasing danger there and even improved floodwalls won't stave off the inevitable forever. I still find it hard, however, to contemplate losing a gem like New Orleans.
I hope that 2008 is as big a year of discovery for me as 2007 was.
Happy New Year!