A way of life . . .

Walking through the city of New Orleans, it is all anyone can hear. Whether tourist or native, everyone speaks of the oily creep washing ashore across the Gulf, the unnatural disaster unfolding across a city that has barely begun to emerge from the devastation of Katrina and a similar alarming, horizonless impotence. "No oil in here" says a sign across the entrance to a largely empty French Quarter bar.

"It's pretty much all anyone talks about," says Susan Love, a New Orleans bar tender, who declines with a coy smile to defend the authenticity of her NewOrleansian surname, after another loud discussion of the city's increasingly tenuous future subsides at the bar. Everybody's scared here, she says. "It's affecting so many people; it's affecting a way of life. You know it's not just the fishermen." It's seafood wholesalers and truckers and area contractors and waiters and waitresses, the entire Southern Louisiana economy is teetering on the edge of the Deep Horizon debacle. What part of the local economy that doesn't depend on the Gulf Mexico depends on tourism and that is all sinking into the murk.

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"People are not coming here," says Susan Love. "They're afraid. They're afraid of breathing the oil and they're afraid of breathing all the dispersant agents on the oil.

"I'm afraid to breathe it, too," she adds, cracking open an Abita beer. "But you can't be too afraid," she says, turning from her cash register. "Life happens; deal with it."

Kevin Clarke

 

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