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My New Orleans by Peter M. Wolf [Excerpt]

My New Orleans by Peter M. Wolf [Excerpt]

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Published by OpenRoadMedia
In this poignant and vivid memoir, Peter M. Wolf, a member of one of New Orleans’s oldest Jewish families, provides an insider’s look at his fabled city and the wider world beyond that he comes to inhabit.

Written with humor and telling detail, My New Orleans contains rare insight about the social structure of New Orleans; student life at Exeter, Tulane and Yale; the thrill of original scholarship; around the world travel before jets; medical school trauma; ingrained southern racism, and anti-Semitism; and American students’ role in anti-Vietnam uprisings in Paris. In the background, he traces the rags to riches rise and fall of his city’s and his family’s engagement in the cotton, sugar and retail trades.

After a year of medical school at Columbia, Wolf returns to New Orleans to work in his father’s cotton brokerage and simultaneously earns a master’s degree at Tulane. Wolf later returns to the Northeast, completes doctoral studies at NYU, and becomes an architectural historian.

Reflecting the yearnings and anxieties of a generation that came of age after World War II, this is the journey of a restless man who leaves the hometown he loves to discover the world, and in so doing, to find himself. My New Orleans offers a penetrating and memorable account of a fading period of America’s evolution, turbulence and possibilities, as unique as the city of Wolf’s memory.

In this poignant and vivid memoir, Peter M. Wolf, a member of one of New Orleans’s oldest Jewish families, provides an insider’s look at his fabled city and the wider world beyond that he comes to inhabit.

Written with humor and telling detail, My New Orleans contains rare insight about the social structure of New Orleans; student life at Exeter, Tulane and Yale; the thrill of original scholarship; around the world travel before jets; medical school trauma; ingrained southern racism, and anti-Semitism; and American students’ role in anti-Vietnam uprisings in Paris. In the background, he traces the rags to riches rise and fall of his city’s and his family’s engagement in the cotton, sugar and retail trades.

After a year of medical school at Columbia, Wolf returns to New Orleans to work in his father’s cotton brokerage and simultaneously earns a master’s degree at Tulane. Wolf later returns to the Northeast, completes doctoral studies at NYU, and becomes an architectural historian.

Reflecting the yearnings and anxieties of a generation that came of age after World War II, this is the journey of a restless man who leaves the hometown he loves to discover the world, and in so doing, to find himself. My New Orleans offers a penetrating and memorable account of a fading period of America’s evolution, turbulence and possibilities, as unique as the city of Wolf’s memory.

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Published by: OpenRoadMedia on Jun 24, 2013
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02/07/2014

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Peter M. Wolf 
MY NEW ORLEANS, GONE AWAY 
Preface
 Sunday evening, August 28, 2005, East Hampton, NewYork.
Hurricane Katrina moves steadily across the Gulf of Mexico toward New Orleans, pushing an eighteen-foot stormsurge.“Peter, we’re scared.”It’s Gail calling again. “Our house is locked; no one isthere. Do you think we should try to get back to New Orleans? We’re in North Carolina.”“Don’t,” I caution. “The governor has issued evacuationorders.”I’d been watching news and on the phone all day, talkingto relatives and friends in and out of the city about theapproaching storm. It had swerved decisively toward New Orleans. More than a hundred thousand people were fleeing.Roads were jammed. Shelters were being hastily prepared. Morethan a quarter of the population had no means of escape.“We want to go back,” my sister continued. “Maybe wecould save our house.”“You have to stay away, Gail,” I said. “It’s too dangerous. You couldn’t even get through the National Guard securitcordon.”“I’ll check with you in the morning,” she said, sad anddistraught.That afternoon I’d hosted croquet and a barbecue for my two children, their spouses, and my four young grandchildren. Afterward I’d hoped to enjoy the magical light cast by a longsummer sunset. Instead, I was on edge. What would become of 
 
Peter M. Wolf 
MY NEW ORLEANS, GONE AWAY 
the city I’d left forty-two years before, had returned to so often,and still called home?
 Early Monday morning.
Katrina slams New Orleans. With sustained winds of seventy-five miles per hour, she’s aserious but not ferocious hurricane. The levees appear to hold: water, wind, and rain damage is relatively light.
 Monday night.
Everything changes. Due to catastrophicstructural failure, weak sections of the 350-mile-long leveesystem cave along the Industrial Canal, the Seventeenth StreetCanal, and the London Avenue Canal. Water pours into the 80percent of the city below sea level. The city’s pumps, inundated,fail. “The bowl” fills up. First two feet, then higher and higher—in some areas water reaches above mantelpieces; in extremecases it rises as high as fourteen feet. Fetid water mixed with oil,trash, and sewage stagnates; the air above turns rancid.
Tuesday.
The rank, water-filled city is isolated: electricity,phone, and cable lines are out. No medical service is available.People die, at least a thousand. Others chop through roofs andawait rescue. Entire parts of town are now destroyed. Mold begins to flourish. A third of the population becomes homeless.The storm’s aftermath will be recognized as the worst civilengineering disaster in U.S. history.
 Days pass.
Along with people all over the world, I am evermore saddened by the area-wide human hardship, the physicalchaos, the manifest government ineptitude. For six generationsmy family has been at home in New Orleans. At peril suddenly are relatives, friends, cherished neighborhoods, a unique blendof cultures, a landscape that I love, and a long family history inone place. Parts of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast that shaped

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