A Southern Journey from the Summer 2018 issue.
I am again driving through the moon-flecked summer night, the hot dead bugs against my windshield summer night, the benzene-sulfur-streaked chemical stacks streaming into the gleaming Gulf summer night. It is so damn hot down here, so sultry, but I don’t want to turn the air-conditioning on in my little red fuel-efficient rental vehicle; I want to breathe in the heat, bathe in the heat, dance with it! And I happen to find a watering hole where I can do just that, in the belly of the belly of the belly of the beast. The Neon Moon Saloon, a cement-floor biker bar in industrial Houston. There’s a lively game at the billiard table, rough red-faced men at the wooden bar, a glowing neon cabinet of booze. It is an end-of-the-world type of place, and this is the end of the world.
On the morning of August 28, 2005, I evacuated New Orleans with my parents, less than twenty-four hours before Katrina came ashore, driving fourteen-foot storm tides ahead of it. We spent hours on the five-mile bridge over Lake Pontchartrain, watching Lawrence of Arabia in the back seat while waterspouts spun beyond our windows. When I woke up the next morning in Nashville, a newscaster in a dry poncho was standing near the Superdome; she talked only of wind damage.
During those few months immediately following the storm, when there was much concern about the city’s diminished population, any critical mass of people felt strangely victorious, a desperate grab at a handful of social fabric. O’Neil’s memorial was a loaded moment of many loaded moments in the new New Orleans, a place and time when everything you did carried meaning.
There’s a strong breeze from the South and petals are flying off flowering trees. We can smell the briny Gulf of Mexico. Dozens of new seedlings have been planted and braced so they can set roots. Audubon Park used to get the attention, but City Park’s spruced up and all promise. Covering thirteen hundred acres in Mid City, this has become everyone’s park.
The Country Club is a pale yellow, classic nineteenth-century Creole mansion with a grand front porch. Inside are fifteen-foot ceilings, polished hardwood floors, and palms in pots. People dine in the house’s rooms, and there’s a bar in the back near the pool where Anne, on her way to the bathroom, saw a naked woman ordering a drink.
An interview with filmmaker Holly Hardman.
Good People Go To Hell, Saved People Go To Heaven is not an uncritical film, but it’s also not a polemic. The story unfolds as a delicately probed and fairly portrayed panorama of people and belief that is both touching, at times, and terrifying.