Just as Katrina brought out the worst in many people, it also brought out the best in some. Times-Picayune columnist Chris Rose may be the most notable example of the latter. Before the storm, the paper's most gifted writer wiled away his days and nights chasing society airheads and flavor-of-the-month pop culture figures. To say his enormous talent was, well, not invested wisely is the understatement of the decade.
But when the storm hit, the Pulitzer-worthy columnist inside Rose burst forth like shrapnel, going in many directions at once and hitting his target every time. His post-Katrina columns took on a life of their own as readers emailed them around the globe. People couldn't wait to see what he discovered next beneath the blanket of gray that covered his beloved New Orleans.
From Aug. 29 to New Year's Day, Rose became a living example of the old joke that writing is easy -- you just sit in front of a typewriter and open a vein. He poured himself, all of himself, into every offering, observing with equal measures of passion and eloquence matters large and small, and always with brutal honesty.
Now, Rose has woven his post-K columns into a haunting tapestry of a book, 1 dead in attic, which he is self-publishing with the blessing of his employer. The title comes from his most popular Katrina column, the one about Thomas Coleman, who was found dead in the attic of his 8th Ward home. Rose didn't know Coleman's name at the time -- just the cold, bureaucratic epitaph spray-painted on his front porch wall -- but he took the trouble to find out later. That reflects the grit, hope and spirit that pervade all of Rose's post-K works.
Proceeds from every sale of 1 dead in attic will be shared with ARTDOCS (a local charity that provides medical care for musicians and artists) and the Tipitina's Foundation, which helps keep the music alive. As Rose noted in his final column of 2005, "We are the music. We are the food. We are the dance. We are the tolerance. We are the spirit. And one day, they'll get it."
Let's hope so.
- Chris Rose has woven his post-Katrina columns into a haunting tapestry of a book.