Emptiness and Pills.

New Orleans Travel Blog

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I know, it's been a while since I last posted an update, but I had a few busy days. Where the first week in New Orleans was dedicated to preparatives, this last one was the real thing, interviews, photos and all.

I won't talk about work this time though, but will comment instead on two aspects of my American trip that have rang a bell last night.

The first one is represented by the decay in which New Orleans is still lying, even if two years have passed since Katrina hit in 2005.

As some of you may know, I've put together a set of pictures that try to highlight the 'gray side' of the city; it's not its darkest, as I am sure there are so many other shocking realities in which I didn't venture, but it's also miles away from the touristic image of the Big Easy as capital of fun, booze, music, and resilience.

The distance of this gray side from, say, the French Quarter is only metaphorical, with the areas I photographed on Canal St being just a few blocks away from the action of Bourbon St.

And yet, two worlds apart.

Various parts of the city are in a state of carelessness, their residents tired of battling, or simply too broke to do anything about it. Several buildings, both commercial and residential, lie empty and sad in what used to prime locations before the hurricane. Houses and shops are on sale at every corner. Authorities seem absent.

In a way I liked this aspect of New Orleans. It may not be what lots of people expect from it, but you know how the saying goes: "If you're at the lowest point, you can only go up."

Now, I don't know if this true here, meaning that NOLA is definitely not at its lowest point, so there is still room to sink further, but decay, I believe, carries creativity and enthusiasm with it. Inspiration and the will to seize the moment.

Make sure you check the related photo album on my Facebook profile page.

The second issue refers to a different kind of decay, somehow more specific, but also generalised and widespread to country level; the American love of - and dependence from - pharmaceuticals.

I don't always spend my time working, but sometimes I relax and watch a film in the hostel's common room. I had watched a few so far, and every time I've noticed two things: first, how many bloody commercials they have, one every ten minute of film! (am not joking)

Secondly, how many, out of these commercials, are advertising all sorts of pharmaceuticals. Pills for everything: if you can't sleep, if you sleep too much; if you can't eat properly or if you don't digest what you've eaten; male, female, and couple problems. All sorts.

It seems to be too difficult to live as a normal human being, and the general scare for life's itches must be really big and widespread.

© Alex Masi, 2005. Courtesy of the author.

The funny part is that these pills are not mere vitamin integrators or natural remedies, and at the end of every ad, punctually, comes a list of warnings - often spoken and integrated in the ad's script, so not trying to be cheeky here, but still...

These side effects are numerous, crude, and often very telling of the pill's dubious benefits. My favourite are the ones that highlight how a healthy diet is what is needed, but since Americans can do without their fast food, drop a pill, as it will reduce the impact that said food will have on your body. Hurray, I can keep stuffing myself!

I am sure you can watch lots of these commercials on youtube if you want to have a taste of what I'm talking about.

Check this link for a short but good introduction to the issue:

Stay Tuned.
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