Nine Lives: Mystery, Magic, Death, and Life in New Orleans

Nine Lives: Mystery, Magic, Death, and Life in New Orleans

Dan Baum

Language: English

Pages: 368

ISBN: 0385523203

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


Nines Lives is a multivoiced biography of a dazzling, surreal, and imperiled city, told through the lives of nine unforgettable characters and bracketed by two epic storms: Hurricane Betsy, which transformed New Orleans in the 1960s, and Hurricane Katrina, which nearly destroyed it. Dan Baum brings this kaleidoscopic portrait to life, showing us what was lost in the storm and what remains to be saved.

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tell her own story. Margaret and I moved to New Orleans in January 2007, stopping en route in Denton, Texas, for an all-day interview—seventeen thousand words—with Tim Bruneau. Over the next four months, Ronald, JoAnn, Frank, Billy, Anthony, Joyce, Wilbert, and Belinda each sat, every week or so, for interviews that often lasted half a day. I conduct interviews with my laptop in my hands, and can type as fast as most people can talk. So I ended up with what amounted to transcripts of our

ricocheted off this rib, here, and ended up in the bladder.” Edgar pointed to the bladder. “Now, a fourth bullet …” “Wait a minute,” Frank said. “How many times was he shot?” “Near as we can tell, eleven.” “Eleven!” “It’s going to take us most of the night, because of the way these bullets tumble. Hit you here and come out here,” he said, touching his shoulder and his kidney. “It’s the AK-47, man,” Edgar whispered. “We knew those motherfuckers in Nam. Tear you up.” “This is my fourth this

killings, which seemed to be coming about one a day. Rashad had been right; he did have a museum. A name had come to Ronald in his sleep one night: the House of Dance and Feathers. With the help of a lawyer friend, Ronald had filled out the paperwork, and the IRS had just bestowed upon the museum something called 501 (c)(3) status, which meant Ronald could raise money for it without paying taxes. Mostly, though, people didn’t donate money; they donated things—parading shoes they’d had up under

three-hundred-foot length of fence tore free from the earth and went spinning into the blackness like a length of old typewriter ribbon. A steel trash barrel flew past, no more substantial than a balloon. “Frank!” Nancy tugged at his arm. One of the oaks that shaded the driveway listed and fell over with a crash. Another followed, smashing the split-rail fence. Frank’s big black bull and donkey walked calmly up the road together through the driving rain. He realized that they were evacuating,

we’re okay.” They had no electricity at 2525, so Alston couldn’t see on television what was happening elsewhere in the city. Maybe it was just as well. Billy tried to keep his voice calm so as not to frighten her. He casually mentioned that his shotguns were leaning against his study wall, in leather cases. Alston said they already had them out and loaded. As casually as he could, Billy mentioned his real terror—the television was suggesting there might be nine feet of water on St. Charles

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