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Growing Pains: Where did all the water go?

Elizabeth Kukla

Elizabeth Kukla

Since moving away from New Orleans, I realize more and more the things I took for granted about her. One of which is water. I miss water. I grew up 5 blocks from the River, and moving to a place that is not near water has totally thrown me for a loop.

First off, my geographic and directional skills are totally skewed. People trying to tell me how to get to their house use directions like 'east' and 'west'. What is that? I know only 'Riverside' and 'Lakeside', 'uptown' and 'downtown,' and don’t even get me started on roads.

They wind all over the place, no grid, no river to guide them or give a natural layout to the streets. Addresses are seemingly random. Here, I know that the 500 block of a street that runs perpendicular to the river is five blocks from the river, easy. Parallel, it is x blocks from Canal Street. With the absence of a river, lake, or any significant, close body of water, Charlottesville, Virginia has no grounding point of reference or direction besides north, south, east, and west. Nobody has time for that.

In addition to the grounding it gives us directionally, I also took for granted the amazing structures that go with our water.

Last week I was having dinner with a varsity track runner and fellow engineer, Jack, when we got to talking about his internship on the Chesapeake Bay. We discussed bridges and other cool projects he got to witness and work on that involved some really interesting structures, many of which I have driven across and thought nothing of. Then I realized, that was another thing I'd taken for granted.

Our bridges are amazing. The Causeway is the longest continuously-over-open-water bridge in the world. Take a look at the Crescent City Connection. I mean really look at it; it’s a monster. We used to do mile repeats on the levee for running, and you could never get closer to that bridge. No matter how far you ran, it always seemed to be the same distance away, until low and behold you were right underneath it. It’s just so impressive and so massive. Jack made me see that; he made me appreciate it.

I never really thought much of these things until recently. I recall a distant conversation with my cousin, a Nola ex-pat living in Atlanta, where she told me about how weird it was to drive around and never run into a body of water, never cross magnificent bridges. Now, I know what she means.

So the next time you’re driving across one of our awesome bridges, or giving directions that include the river or lake, take a minute to appreciate it. It’s something really special about our home, and you don’t realize how great it is until it’s gone.

Native New Orleanian Elizabeth Kukla is a student at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. She writes about being a NOLA girl from afar in “Growing Pains,” a weekly column at NolaVie.