Oh, for the halcyon days of just a few weeks ago when such an inquiry was meant to establish whether you had gotten your COVID-19 vaccinations.
Now it means just as much: Did you get shot?
If there is any sign that New Orleans is back to being New Orleans – grappling for a post-COVID life – it’s the shooting. The new new normal is upon us. Young men are shooting up the streets of the city again in the usual places – Central City, Bourbon and Canal streets, on the interstate, the East, anywhere folks gather since we’ve been told it’s kind of, sort of, maybe safe to go out again.
But the authorities were referring to COVID. Not thugs with guns with murder in their heart.
Think: Who actually says to themselves at night before they go out, “I think I’m gonna shoot somebody tonight?” Aside from your run-of the-mill rogue cop, not many folks. Except here in New Orleans. There’s always an old score to settle, a bone to pick, a revenge to be borne out, respect to be regained.
It’s insanity, the way shootings in New Orleans are spiking off the charts as folks come out of their homes and circulate again. Bourbon Street this past weekend looked like Bourbon Street of old, packed to the gills, untamed, ungoverned, unsafe.
Bunches of people were gunned down at Ground Zero, Bourbon and Canal over the weekend. Most of them innocents, because New Orleans gun-toters learned how to shoot guns by watching gangsta movies and videos and they hold their guns sideways and just fire away. Their intended target is rarely hit. The people and children and babies in the background take the strays and the grazes. An infant in the East Monday night, apparently not the intended victim. Psychological wounds they will carry with them for the rest of their lives.
The shooters, at least they are practicing social distancing, firing from across the street so they can make a hasty getaway. And since half the population is dressed out like bank robbers from old cartoons and Westerns, it’s hard to tell who is a the good guy and who the bad. Bandannas over faces. Identities hidden.
Shots are fired in the street. On street corners. Administered in parking lots. Makes me want to get my own shots of Johnny Walker to make it all go away.
The dissimilarities between COVID and Katrina far outnumber the similarities. It’s just that the similarities are starker.
Anyone who stayed through the storm or came back relatively early – say, the fall of 2005 – returned to a landscape and lifestyle thoroughly changed.
It may all seem like a fever dream now, but there was a span of several months after the flood during which gunfire was not part of the aural landscape as folks settled into bed each night. There was a span of several months during which there were NO recorded murders in New Orleans.
No murders in New Orleans. That’s a joke, right?
And things got quiet at the beginning of the COVID lock down. The simple explanation for this is that, like Katrina, there were fewer people in the streets to shoot. And as the violence ratchets up and our headlines are dominated once again by murder and death tolls – by gunshot, not COVID – and general lawlessness, we understand that the new new normal is upon us. Again.
It seems we are constitutionally averse to not shooting each other. I guess a lot of guys got restless during the lock down, what with no one to settle scores with until everyone dipped their toes in the water to see if it was safe to go outside. And when the authorities said it was: Bang, Bang.
Me, I still think the safest place to be right now is home. Because it’s wild in the streets. Again. And there must be something on Netflix I haven’t seen yet, though I can’t imagine what it could be.