There’s something in the air


I can smell it. At least I thought I could.

I spent most of yesterday in Baton Rouge, and when I returned to New Orleans and opened my car door, something was definitely wrong.

We have a lot of unusual scents in my neighborhood — most of them good. Like the smell of coffee wafting over from the roasting facilities by the levee. Or the scent of Hubig’s pies being pulled from the oven.

This was different. It was soft, but vaguely acrid. Man-made. Bad. Not as strong as the chemical leak we had in Hahnville last year, but noticeable. Even to someone not gifted with le nez.

My first thought, of course, was the oil spill. But that couldn’t have been it — could it? At the time, the slick was still miles and miles off the shore of Grand Isle, and New Orleans is miles and miles from Grand Isle. (At least 90 as the crow flies, I think.) Surely I was just being paranoid.

But others reported smelling something, too — so many that it made the evening news. No one seemed to know where it was coming from. So far as I know, they still don’t.

The scent isn’t there today, but then, the weather’s changed. This morning is humid, stuffy, a wall of suspended water; I can barely smell the banana I’m eating.  That’s a far cry from the crisp, dry air of yesterday that might’ve — might’ve — carried anxious molecules of petroleum up over the mouth of the Mississippi River, across breeding grounds for terns, turtles, and tuna, all the way to my little corner of the precious, precarious Faubourg Marigny. So really, who’s to say?

Equally weird and disconcerting? The tone of the nonstop news coverage. “It’s coming in!” “Where’s it going to hit?” “How bad’s it going to be?” That’s not the sort of language anyone wants to hear just as we’re heading into hurricane season.

Even so, the two events are related: today’s oil spill will mangle the marshlands that would ordinarily reduce the force of tomorrow’s hurricanes.

Hooray for irony.

2 thoughts on “There’s something in the air

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