By nature, I'm a cut-my-losses-and-get-out kind of person; when something reaches the point where it's not worth the bother anymore, I'd just as soon abandon it and go on to something else.
But then I saw this:
These are places that routinely flood, year after year. And given the vagaries of flood insurance, Uncle Sam usually ends up paying the steep reconstruction costs, with quite a bit of controversy surrounding such bailouts (no pun intended). After all, these people may get renovated homes, but they're still living in a flood plain, doomed to suffer misfortune again.
And despite the manifest logic of this position, I hated it. Hated it.
I mean, we're not talking about a bad relationship, a failed business deal, a treaty turned topsy-turvy. We're talking about a city of half a million people, the hub of a metropolitan area of a million and a half, a city with nearly three hundred years of history to show for itself, a dream destination for thousands every year.
New Orleans is there, not because of some accident of fate that plopped it down in a suboptimal location, but because, over the years, millions of people have wanted it there. And one of the great privileges of living in this land is being able to live just about anywhere you want.
Not that everyone actually appreciates this privilege, even in faraway Minnesota:
There are vast townhouse projects cropping up on every ridge, spilling along the highway. Not ugly ones, either. None of those "ticky-tacky" houses that so offended the sneering sensibilities of ungrateful Boomer brats forced to do childhood in the godless potato fields of Long Island, dreaming of the day when they could move to the city, live on the fourth floor, read Kerouac by a candle stuck in a fiasco, and wake to the sound of beer bottles dumped out when the bar closed. Real life. True life. What do you have in the burbs but starlight and silence? What's real about that?
Reality is where you find it, in a cozy inner-ring suburb, in a McMansion that sits in the corner of an old truck farm, in a second-floor walkup on the Lower East Side or down by the Mississippi delta, sweating in God's own atmospheric gumbo.
No, I don't think we ought to be rewarding people with endless largesse from the Treasury for wanting to live in places that prove problematic. (Homeowners in Louisiana already pay the second-highest insurance premiums in the nation, trailing only Texas.) But I'm damned if I'm going to tell them they can't live there.
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Copyright © 2005 by Charles G. Hill