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Cold Beer Solution for New Orleans?

    On the radio this morning Ray Nagin was saying he was tired of hearing choppers in the air: "I want to hear some jazz." You can sense that, for all the predictions that New Orleans will be shut down and out of commission for months or years, the folks there aren't going to be that patient. Recovery, like everything else in this situation, isn't going to be equitable and fair. Much of downtown and all of the French Quarter is dry. Some parts of the city aren't expected to be dry  until October 2, and others not until October 8. You've got hundreds of thousands of people dispersed around the country, but meanwhile there are people still in New Orleans, on high ground, ready to open their businesses. In a terrific piece inside the Post A-section today, Manuel Roig-Franzia explores the question of how New Orleans will reopen and rebuild. He quotes Bill Hines, a big-shot New Orleans lawyer, saying, "You want to get the area from the French Quarter all through Uptown open as soon as possible. If that's done, it sends a great message."

     This raises a delicate matter that might be called the Cold Beer Solution. I know my brother, Kevin, is surely ready to drive to New Orleans and do his part to bring life back to that city, barstool by barstool. Morning, noon, night: He will be there, and he will be strong, and he will not waver. He is not trained to rescue people or rebuild houses or pump out floodwaters or do anything else in the way of infrastructural repair or humanitarian assistance, but he handles a beer mug the way Yo Yo Ma handles the cello. He knows all the brands, the microbrews, the level of hoppiness, the source of the barley, the correct serving temperature, etc. In our family we call him The Beer Genius.

    Obviously there are appropriateness issues. Can Bourbon Street re-open when thousands remain homeless? How would it look for New Orleans to start pumping out the blackened redfish and crawfish etouffe even before it has managed to re-open the schools? When do we start using the T-word (tourists)? Tricky stuff. But desperate times require desperate measures. If necessary, we can bring the beer already iced down, in jumbo coolers.

   [To read the Roig-Franzia story, click here. To learn more about the rebuilding of the culture along the Gulf Coast in Mississippi, check out the story by Evelyn Nieves.]

By Joel Achenbach  |  September 14, 2005; 9:32 AM ET
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