Wrapping up on St. Roch

It's not even dark yet, but fireworks are already cracking and sizzling away here near the oak-lined boulevard.  2010, it seems, is about to go out with a bang.

Earlier, as I was attending to my car tire, I shook the hand of a neighbor who stopped by as another neighbor arrived to talk about the need to get the streetlights back in working order after an unnerving murder just two blocks from my house.  A giant explosion went off as we clasped hands, far louder than the firecracker and sparkler sounds that punctuated the afternoon, and we both stopped and stared, wondering. 

But it was just another double-edged, celebratory round here on this particular frontier in New Orleans.  St. Roch is a place that's still just a little too inexcusably lightless at night, even more than five years after the storm.  The sense of change is palpable, though, despite the violence that rears its head in the neighborhood - buildings are being restored here and there, more porch lights are beaming out defiantly each night.  Even if the outlook for the neighborhoods below the French Quarter calls for beautiful with a light chance of scary, you can feel the revitalization building - building by building.

2010 has been quite a year.  Law school ended in a whirlwind, the finish line suddenly arrived out of the hurried haze, and then - zip - I was past it.  But the downtick in RPMs was barely perceptible.  Amidst incredible stock market volatility, the opening demolitions in New Orleans' Lower Mid-City, and too many jobless, graduating classmates, The Bar loomed on the horizon.  Fortunately, that too has passed.  And been passed. 

I began to catch my breath on a rambling road trip through the American West.  I played some tennis.  I've even had a chance to read some great books.

Weaving throughout the year, though, was a project that compelled me to walk the streets of a New Orleans neighborhood hundreds and hundreds of times, camera in hand.  Independently at first, and then in an official role at points, I went Inside the Footprint, down to Lower Mid-City, a historic neighborhood that has been largely destroyed with the consent and urging of the federal, state, and city governments.  Katrina couldn't snuff the place out.  But others did.

I will not hesitate to say that my attempt to capture a sense of the neighborhood, its architecture, its people, and its wanton destruction came very close to consuming me at times.  It certainly diverted, as you may have noticed, a good portion of my blogging energies.  But rarely have I witnessed a massive public issue play out from such close range.  And never before have I seen the full ruin that the government, its bureaucracies, and its financial heft might rain down upon individuals when it sets its hive mind on a bad idea.  It's been a heartless and trying affair that harkens back, in my opinion, to the very abuses that sparked the launch of the United States.  Anyway, I do feel that my involvement helped to make things marginally better at some junctures - and it might serve, if nothing else, as a warning for those in power down the road.

The Tea Party surge this year seemed to target a number of the things that manifested themselves in the LSU/VA hospitals project in Lower Mid-City.  Yet I remain intrigued to find out just how the new arrangement in Congress plays out.  A little divided government should do us good, but I hope there's a new engine and not just a new paint job.  And don't forget - we're still at war.

In the end, 2010 was about the people who rode along - the fascinating and friendly visitors to S. Liberty and St. Roch, the roommates who heard my 8,020th idea, those who stopped by the Editor in Chief office, the family members who encouraged me along the way, and those who've worked tirelessly beside me to try to make and keep New Orleans an amazing, incomparable American city.

It's been a year of sound personal growth, and, as I said to a good friend after finishing the second day of the bar exam: "That was one wild ride."