Archive for September, 2005

Outside looking in

The Times-Picayune site (www.nola.com) has some tremendous pics of all the folks going back and beginning the cleanup Uptown and everyone else. Looks like the Sav-A Center on Tchoup and the Tchoup Stop and other places are getting back to business. That’s great, knowing things are ginning back up toward a semblance of normal, however long it’s going to take. Even the Magazine St. Sammich Shop (First and Magazine) says it’s opening back up today with a limited menu. We can walk to food, once we get back.

We’re jealous and frustrated, at least in some ways, feeling like there’s all this activity we can’t take part in for now. But, on the other hand, we’re not yet prepared to go in and do it right. Family needs us here in Dallas for a bit longer and we’ve got to assemble cleanup stuff (boots, masks etc) before we go tackle what I’m sure is a Major Mess at the business in Mid-City.

My one concern is possible mold at the house, even though it remained dry. We lost only the one small window upstairs, but I cut off the main power switch as we left Sept. 9th. I’m hoping we can get someone back in there to at least cut on a fan pretty soon. That said — our worries are so much less than those who will have to completely gut their houses. Thank God we emptied the fridge of all but the condiments in the door.

And another thing…

brownie

Remember former FEMA fat cat Michael Brown ranting to legislators earlier this week? Remember how he claimed that FEMA’s post-Katrina efforts went smoothly in Mississippi but tanked in Louisiana because of the state’s “dysfunction”? Well, not only does Brown conveniently overlook the fact many Mississippians expressed anger at FEMA in the days following the storm, but Brown’s critique also fails to take into account the fact that the two states suffered in very different ways.

It’s like comparing mangoes and papayas: Mississippi, like parts of St. Tammany and Tangipahoa Parishes in Louisiana, saw storm surge, which receded fairly quickly. New Orleans, however, experienced floodwaters that took weeks to pump out, forcing evacuations that otherwise might have been unnecessary. Clearly, neither FEMA nor the city nor the state were ready for that. For Brown to say that his minimal efforts should have worked under the extreme conditions in New Orleans when they barely worked in Mississippi and on the Northshore is disingenuous to the point of absurdity.

Instead of comparing states, Brown should be comparing situations. FEMA seems to rank in the C to C+ range for its response in most parts of the region, but he gets a D- or an F for New Orleans. Not that Nagin and Blanco don’t share some of the blame, mind you, but for Brownie to lay it entirely at their feet is ridiculous.

Beyond Superdome

I have been in New Orleans since Tuesday, and yeah, it’s like a Mad Max movie here. In a good way. For those who are planning to return uptown tomorrow- here’s some advice.

First of all, don’t come back if you have kids. It’s just not safe, it’s traumatic, and there is really not much to do right now. Don’t come back if you’re not fond of camping, because you’re basically going to be camping, even if your house has electricity.

I’ve talked to lots of people who have been here the whole time, and they have been bathing and washing hands in the water. They say it’s okay to do so. I’ve done it as well, and haven’t died yet. Drinking the water is another thing. Ice is unattainable. There are no grocery stores, Walgreens on Tchoupitoulas was open but yesterday they had no ice at all. And you can’t make ice unless you use bottled water- after cleaning out your fridge, of course, after which you may decide that you need a new fridge before you can make ice, because quite frankly, no amount of bleach is going to get the stink out of some of these fridges. Get Vicks Vapo-Rub and put it under your nostrils before attempting to clean out your fridge.

It will probably be two more weeks before any shred of convenience returns to Orleans parish. Despite the lack of all that was familiar before, I can’t tell you how good it feels to be back here. It’s strange, sure. Driving around my neighborhood I almost got lost because nothing looks the same. There is no place you can stand in the entire city without witnessing some form of destruction. A large, large porition of the houses that weren’t badly damaged still lost shingles on their roofs. There are shingles everywhere. The neighborhoods that got flooded are just plain surreal. It’s pretty incredible.

I am trying to find a small apartment so I can move back here. I’m thinking about living in the French Quarter, it seems like a romantic thing to do for a little while. If anyone has any leads on housing, I’m interested. My house is not a pretty sight.

Here are pictures I’ve taken so far: http://www.flickr.com/photos/chris_martel/sets/1039778

It’s been a whole MONTH already???

How time flies when you’re having fun….

Talked to some long-time friends today from Waveland. They’re not going back.

Talked this evening to a wheelchair-bound woman from Lake Charles. “Baby — build me a ramp across all dat mud an’ I’ll be back come Sattiday.”

…and all sorts of opinions in between over the past 30 days.

Dodie’s in Dallas is the closest thing to Parasol’s there is, without actually being there. Aside from the Leidenheimer bread, their roast beef po’boys are puuuuh-fect. And a kickass shrimp bisque. Thank you Charlie for helping the misplaced feel at home.

Now CNN’s talking about how some of the reports about rape, death and pillage in the Superdome and Convention Center might have been overblown by the media and by local officials. Excuse me, but, um…..
Can we stop looking back? For a day or so? This is best discussed at the next convention of the Radio/Television News Directors Association. Or the National League of Cities. Or someplace. Else. Thank you.

Thank you, Tom DeLay, for being indicted. For a brief time, it moved hurricanes off center stage. Until they started discussing overreaction to reports of rape, death and pillage in the Superdome and Convention Center.

The area code game. Your cell phone rings and it’s a call from some area code you’ve never called in your life. But you answer it because you know it’s some neighbor or friend who has found themselves in some Godforsaken place until they can go back. “How ARE yeeeew????…….”

….or your (985 or 504 area code) cell phone goes for days without ringing at all. Finally someone DOES get through and says they’ve been calling for days but “all circuits were busy.”

Nearly getting tears in your eyes to see Marcia Ball and The Radiators on the same marquee. Not sure if we can go but hell — we CAN if it’ll work. Just like being home.

It’s been too far and too long and too deep over the past 30 days. But it ain’t too much to be, since we’ll be going back soon as we can. In the meantime, those of you who get back ahead of us please raise a glass and have a swallow for us.

City Expands Re-Entry Plan

At last, a plan for (most of) us!

Mayor C. Ray Nagin announced today that the City of New Orleans is streamlining access into targeted areas of Orleans Parish while continuing to safeguard previously flooded areas. The City will begin allowing re-entry in the targeted zip codes of 70112, 70113, 70114, 70115, 70116, 70118, 70130 and 70131. Those areas include Algiers, the Central Business District, the French Quarter and Uptown.

Business owners in these zip codes may re-enter beginning tomorrow, Thursday, September 29, 2005. On Friday, September 30, 2005, residents in those eight zip codes will be allowed back in New Orleans.

On Wednesday, October 5, 2005, residents and business owners in the rest of New Orleans, with the exception of the Lower 9th Ward, can return.

from the City of New Orleans’ latest press release

Armed and dangerous

It may be the oddest tale to emerge from the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Armed dolphins, trained by the US military to shoot terrorists and pinpoint spies underwater, may be missing in the Gulf of Mexico.

Experts who have studied the US navy’s cetacean training exercises claim the 36 mammals could be carrying ‘toxic dart’ guns. Divers and surfers risk attack, they claim, from a species considered to be among the planet’s smartest. The US navy admits it has been training dolphins for military purposes, but has refused to confirm that any are missing.

The Observer

Props to Steven at Chicago Metblogs for passing the link.

Heartening….

…to see Kappa and the crew at Slim Goodie’s back serving food best they can on Magazine. And even to see some video of an Entergy crew working on Jackson, about two blocks from the house. They said power would be back this week and, dammit, looks like they’re true to their word so far. Once we’re back in town, I’ll clean the BBQ trailer and we’ll also be dishing up food for the pioneers trying to clean up.

Word on the Mid-City business is not as encouraging. I knew it would be a mess, but word from the landlord is that much of the roof also collapsed. It’s good from an insurance standpoint, in that I am sure there is much damage from water coming down. But that’s an argument for another day.

I love seeing all this activity cranking up, since it’s a testament to the spirit of the city. But our own circumstances will prevent our own return as quickly as we’d like. Gotta wait out my mom’s surgery and recovery for another couple of weeks here in Dallas, so we’ll sit tight for now.

I tried to watch Michael Brown’s congressional testimony this morning, but quickly got bored with his finger-pointing and all the video of stuff that took place three weeks ago. There is way too much to look forward to and, as Bob Seger put it, “too many people looking back.”

It is also fair time in Dallas, as the two-week State Fair of Texas cranks up this weekend. I haven’t been in about 25 years and, amazingly, it will actually cool off a bit later in the week. Hopefully, by the time we get to head south again, some of the questions about our return will be settled and cooler weather will be in for the season. That should make the cleanup a bit easier to bear.

For now, I’ll begin the search for a huge pot for making red beans and rice and/or gumbo on the trailer when we return. That’s the kind of looking forward I like.

At lease we don’t have to worry about land mines, I suppose…

My favorite part of the mayor’s new Safety and Security Re-Entry Information bulletin? The opening sentence: “On behalf of Mayor C. Ray Nagin and the City of New Orleans, Welcome Home!”

What’s so good about that, you ask? Well, grammatical eccentricities aside (I mean, what communications director in his right mind would capitalize “Welcome Home” like that?), this oh-so-cheery opener is followed by no less than 17 skull-and-crossbones-style warnings to returning citizens. To paraphrase: Welcome back! You could die here!

My least favorite part? Item #9, which contains contact info for something called “Remains Management” (225 763 5480 or 225 763 5760, if you’re interested). What the hell is that? Is it for dead pets? Dead people? Is that supposed to serve our funerary needs until Bultman is back up and running? I could call and find out, but do I really want to know?

Headed Back

We got our tetanus and hepatitis vaccinations today. Went to Home Depot and dropped $60 on contractor bags, a respirator, bleach, and a sprayer. It gave me an idea of how costly this whole cleanup and rebuilding effort is going to be.. Got some Vicks Vapo-Rub for under the nose too. A friend told me there’s a dead dog in the alley next to our house, so that’s gonna be nasty.

Mainly we’re just going to scope out the situation, take photos, retrieve some important things, and get the hell back to Memphis. The mid south fair is going on here and they’ve got deep fried Twinkies. Sure beats contaminated tap water and 6pm curfews. Whenever Mid-City is allowed back in, and nobody seems to know when that’ll be, then I’ll go back for good. I’ll probably stay Uptown while we get the house back to livable condition.

Anyone know about bringing guns back into the city? Will they be confiscated? Although Nagin is saying the city is secure, we’ve heard quite a few things that suggest otherwise, and would like to be able to defend ourselves if necessary.

Ras le bol

It’s funny how nearly every post on the New Orleans Metroblog for the past four weeks has generated comments that devolve into accusations of racism. And frankly, I think most of us are sick of it.

First of all, that’s exactly the sort of binary thinking that caused so many of New Orleans’ problems in the first place. You saw it most often at the Orleans Parish School Board, where the gut reaction of the predominantly black board was to oppose any mandates or even recommendations handed down from the state level (read: whitey). In public meetings, the white members of the board and the black members were constantly at odds over which direction was best for the school system; their inability to find some middle ground has resulted in a generation of public school students that can barely read and write.

Secondly, the banter about racism in the Metroblog comments seems often to come from folks who aren’t from New Orleans at all and who have no understanding of the city’s highly complex racial system. If you fit that bill, here’s a quick history lesson: prior to the Civil War, New Orleans had a vibrant, affluent community of free people of color. Some were slaves who had been freed by their former masters, others had bought their freedom (an option unique to Louisiana thanks to the Napoleonic Code), and still others had never been slaves at all. This community–much of which was considered Creole–was enlarged via the system of placage, by which wealthy, predominantly white landowners from the countryside would take Creole mistresses in New Orleans, set them up in homes, and have children by them. These children were considered free, too.

After the Civil War, Reconstructionists tried to reduce things back to black and white, but even to this day, the distinctions between black, white, and Creole remain. And although those distinctions appear to be drawn along lines of skin color, it’s really about class, kids. It should be no surprise that when Katrina hit, the Honores, the Glapions, the Morials–they were sitting high and dry in vacation homes, condos, and relatives’ spare rooms while the poor were being plucked from rooftops.

So, basically, for all of you who think this whole thing boils down to facile issues of race: you’re completely, utterly wrong. Now knock it off.

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