This Could Have Been Beautiful

words by Rachel Ford (@rachel4d), photos by Kyle Ford (@kyle4d)

We’re not underwater, but we haven’t forgotten. We all have our own stories, ones we can’t tell without using the words “before” and “after.” It may seem like twelve years have healed our wounds, but they’re still there. If you look closely, you might see a waterline high up on the side of a house, or an “x” molded into wrought iron, or a vacant lot where one should not be – all reminders of “before” and “after.” Perhaps, it’s good to remember what we’ve been through. The human spirit is resilient, and this is a city built – and rebuilt – by resilient people. No rest for us; every road goes somewhere.

If you drive out east, just off Interstate 10, there’s a road that used to lead to somewhere. When it opened as Jazzland in 2000, with its replicas of Creole cottages and American townhouses, all gussied up, peddling ice cream and corndogs, it was as if somebody had moved the French Quarter out east. Kids with sticky fingers rejoiced, riding on The Jester, Gator Bait, and the Bayou Blaster until they succumbed to vertigo and a nap. Some say you could hear the peals of laughter all the way to the Irish Bayou, but it eventually softened to a mere giggle. They came along and saved it in 2003, but then... It was built on a swamp, they said. It was bound to happen, they said. “Temporarily out of service,” they said. Now there’s just 140 acres nearly frozen in time since 2005.

The sign’s logo may have faded with the elements, but in big, block marquee letters it still reads “Closed for storm.” Yes ma’am, that storm. We’re not underwater, but it once was – a swell of salty sea and river rising nearly ten feet high for one month’s time. Rumor has it, beyond the fences and barricades, its weathered bones remain in disarray. They say it’s been overtaken by wildlife: gators, snakes and boars. They say the windows of those Creole cottages have been busted and all that pretty paint has been covered with graffiti.

Rumor has it that if you were to venture beyond the gates and shut your eyes real tight, you can still hear the laughter of children and carnival music. But open eyes reveal the harsh truth: a dirty plush bunny, abandoned on the pavement next to a heap of bumper cars. No, the only real sound, they say, is quiet. Eerie, creepy quiet – for the only motion is that of cotton floating through the air. Too bad they forgot about it, and what could have been.

This could have been beautiful.