Archive for September, 2005

Simple things

All of us who have had to bail from New Orleans, no matter what we’ve left behind or how much we have to go back to, just miss the Being There. Even if we were There, we might be nodding off on the porch or absorbed iin some TV show. But we’d Be There, y’know?

I pulled out my zydeco tonight and played it for a bit. I made sure to bring it with me, but this was the first time I’d actually strapped it on to play since the storm arried. And by “play,” I mean to kinda plink and moan around on it in my own poor, bleating style for about 20 minutes. I will never be confused with Bruce Daigrepont.

To simply stand on the back porch and play some made-up Cajun tunes provided some tremendous relief. I am sure the neighbors were wondering WTF they were hearing, but it was enough. I also sat down at the piano for the first time in over 20 years and tried to bang out “Yellow Rose of Texas” and a song from the Methodist Hymnal. Poor renditions, but I have no plans to quit my day job to pair with Dr. John or Henry Butler.

Found a place with a good crawfish bisque and Abita Amber for lunch. First time we’ve gone New Orleans to eat since we left. A good touch.

From what I can tell, Dallas has been very accepting and encouraging to its new arrivals. More and more are finding places to live and working their way into the daily goings-on. But I looked at the restaurant/hotel job listings in the paper today. They made up about three columns, as opposed to the full two pages in the Times-Picayune on your average day. Gonna be tough for folks who could easily find service industry work in a tourist town. This ain’t exactly Vacation City USA.

It’s gonna be tough on a lot of folks.

Marc who?

I happen to be of the opinion that the City of New Orleans needs Marc Morial to head the “official” rebuilding effort about as much as we need an erupting volcano at the corner of Canal and Rampart.

Sure, it’d help keep the money (and the graft) local–maybe. I certainly don’t want Halliburton building shotgun doubles up and down Orleans Ave. A volcano might raise the city up above sea level once and for all. Just don’t expect to get lava insurance.

Just because we recognize a person’s last name doesn’t mean that they necessarily have the skills to fill any given position.
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The Paper Chase Part II

Spent about three hours at the Dallas Convention Center today, filling out all the SBA stuff for my business. Since the house is okay, we (rightfully) don’t qualify for any FEMA help. But, since my Mid-City business remains highly skanky, I’m in line for low-cost loans to cover income lost (business interruption) and possibly some lost equipment depending on damage. It might be another few weeks before I can actually go see the damage, however.

You kinda apply in the dark, telling what you know and leaving some spaces blank. So far, it appears most of the damage came from rising water and I did not have flood insurance. This was a gamble I took knowingly and, at least in this case, it appears I lose. Or at least in one way. It also appears my loss may be less than what would have been the flood insurance premium in that part of town. At any rate, it also appears much of the equipment will be salvagable, given what I know about the water depth in the building. It’s among the many gambles you take when you go into business for yourself.

What I don’t understand is all the whining from homeowners who are griping they’re not covered for a flood. This is spelled out pretty clearly in the list of exclusions you get when you receive your policy. I have sympathy for their situation but, on the other hand, it’s pretty much a standard deal.

Now it’s just a case of waiting to see when the SBA makes a decision on this loan, and it might be a while. We’re also in somewhat of a holding pattern here in Dallas, given the cancer diagnosis for my mother. She’s facing surgery and chemo and the rest of that and we’ll not be going back to New Orleans for a little while yet. What seemed to be such big priorities a week ago don’t seem so big anymore — particularly after spending much of today around a lost of folks who are in really desperate situations.

Cash is dwindling, given I can’t restart my business yet and temporary help we’ve applied for hasn’t yet come through. This means it’s time to go to work, so I’m hoping to find a job to gain some hands-on experience in stuff that’s going to help once we get a chance to go back.

Dubya is yammering on the TV behind me, live from Jackson Square. Some of it sounds pretty good, including the generalities about helping entrepreneurs like me. But, frankly, I’ll believe it when I see it. I learned a long time ago that politicians are big on saying “I love you” when all they want is for you to get screwed. What would impress me is if he put on some boots and got his hands (arms, feet, etc) dirty.

Hell — that’s all I want to do. But we’ll get there.

Ah, calamity

I was just looking at a website that I helped put together last month. It’s for a venture into the downtown condo market that is, how you say, on hold for now. Had they gotten approval from the city in the past couple weeks, they were slated to start pre-selling condos today. It’s comical how much things can change in two and a half weeks.

Makes me wonder if Donald Trump is having buyer’s remorse right now.

One of the things this blog hasn’t been doing much of is linking to other blogs, so here we go.

http://www.gulfsails.blogspot.com/ is a good one with pictures, and it echos Richard’s (and all of ours) anti-Codrescu sentiment.

http://corknola.blogspot.com/ and http://www.corknola.com/katrina.htm have been good focal points for us mid-city denizens throughout this.

There’s http://blogs.chron.com/exile/ and http://blogs.salon.com/0002967/categories/allNewOrleansAllTheTime/ and my boy Art Boonparn is doing his thing here: http://www.livejournal.com/users/justlike_a_cat/. There’s just too many for me to list, but I encourage everyone to put a link to their favorite katrina blogs in the comments section of this post. There’s a lot of info out there and it’s not well organized. Since metblogs is #2 in google for “New Orleans Blog” (woohoo!!!) this seems like a good place to get people better connected.

Updates and random notes

Chicago Metroblog has a hell of a political debate going on right now regarding the responsiveness after the hurricane. It’s a real donnybrook. So some of you more politically charged members of our readership may want to check out the pot Nikkos is stirring up over there.

In other news, I spoke with some friends who�ve returned to Algiers�s Point to an un-looted house with running water (though, not potable), electricity and internet. The only think missing is Cable TV. They�re cleaning up the neighborhood and trying to get that little community back on its feet. Makes me proud.

The Roommate got his cats out � they were unharmed and had been rescued by friends around September 6th. They, apparently, loved the 3 pound turkey I left them. The house was neither looted, nor burned down. All tenants with the exception of me and The Roommate are leaving the city. I can�t blame them at all. The housing situation in New Orleans is going to be an interesting one for the next few years I suspect.

I�ve spoken to several people who�ve registered with fema online and have already received the emergency funds. It�s nice to see that part of the plan working well. I know it�s not the same kind of need as food and water, but for people to start getting their lives back together, it is a real need.

At least one Huston resident has voiced disappointment in the behavior of the evacuees in Houston; from how they�re choosing to spend the help money to a lack of gratitude. It sort of begs the question: How upset do people have a right to be if they perceive the aid money is being mis-spent by the recipients on things like jewelry? The Houston metroblog is being more prosaic about the situation. They’ve even started some discussions about the beneficial economic impact of businesses relocating to Houston as well as the potential impact to the already respected art/music scene in Austin.

System Failure

The new Time magazine has an excellent analysis of what and how things went wrong. Sorry, but I’m on this slow-speed laptop and my links aren’t working right.

The cover story is called “System Failure.”

Definitely worth looking at.

A little fun for a good cause.

Tonight at Skky Bar in the Bricktown area of Oklahoma City there�s a Katrina Relief Party. I was thinking that this sort of thing must be going on all over the place. So share the Hurricane activities that are going on in your area (past or future)? What kind of innovative things are people coming up with? Need help coming up with an idea, just ask and maybe we can all come up with something.

I�ll post a comment here about tonight�s fun and dancing tomorrow or when my hangover goes away, which ever comes second

An open letter to Andrei Codrescu

Dear Andrei:

May I call you Andrei?

Let me start by telling you how much I enjoy your work. You’re extraordinarily articulate, and your critical eye is keen–which is more than I can say of most other kids from the former Soviet Bloc. Granted, your prose sometimes waxes a bit poetic for my tastes, and your writing can become unnecessarily dense, but all-in-all, you’re a-okay in my book. We New Orleanians have been lucky to count you in our number.

However, I take some issue with your recent comments in the New York Times about our city’s “doomed” future. Specifically, you claim that New Orleans’ “great period” has come to an end as a result of the hurricane, but I have to tell you, Andrei: our “great period” was over long before you or I were born. Since before the collapse of Storyville, New Orleans has been riding on its past glories. The city has tried to grow and prosper, but we’ve been outpaced by upstart burgs like Cleveland and San Diego and–goddess forbid–Dallas. We can’t compete with the corporate communities of those cities because our educational system, not to mention our geography, have put us at a disadvantage. Even our cultural communities are average, at best. Apart from our music and culinary industries–both of which are formidable–New Orleans is no real stand-out.

In case you’re wondering, yes, I’m going somewhere with this.

The way I see it, what makes New Orleans great is its atmosphere. And I mean that in the most intangible sense possible. Tourists come to New Orleans thinking they want to taste the food and hear the music and drink the booze, but ultimately, what they walk away with is something grander and far more indescribable. And whatever that is, it’s bound up in the people. And the people will be back–maybe not the same people, maybe not your friends, but people. And they’ll be people who want to be there, who love the city’s charm and romance and je ne sais quoi and plan to keep it rolling. I mean, there’s a reason that a successful 2006 Carnival season is at the top of our city leaders’ wish-lists right now: the krewes are the city, and by ensuring that they’re alive and well, we’re ensuring that the city is alive, too.

I guess my biggest problem with what you’ve said–both here and elsewhere–is that you’re clearly a slave to nostalgia, and lemme tell you Andrei, there’s nothing I hate more than nostalgia. It’s selfish. It’s static. It’s a dead-end. You want nostalgia? Visit someplace like Savannah or Charleston: nothing but the Geritol crowd taking old-home tours for as far as the eye can see. New Orleans, however, is not nostalgic. Our city’s romance is alive because we live it every day. So while the specifics of “your city”–your friends, your hangouts, your “great period”–may be damaged or gone forever, don’t assume it’s ruined for the rest of us.

In closing, I’d like to reiterate what everyone else in the country has been saying for the past week or more: San Francisco bounced back after the Big One in 1906. New York bounced back after September the 11th. Hell, even Atlanta bounced back after being burned to the goddamn ground. And to the inhabitants of those cities, each of those tragedies looked just as insurmountable as New Orleans does right now to you and me. Luckily, our capacity for memory–fresh, vivid, blood-red memory–is very short indeed. Even now, the floodwaters are receding from the streets, New Orleans is receding from the front pages, and soon we’ll be getting on with the humdrum business of our lives. So keep writing it all down, Andrei, because in five years, you might not be able to recall how you’re feeling now. We’ll check in then, perhaps.

Thanks so much for your time, and I hope to see you soon.

Your fan,
Richard

Onward, through the blog….

Week 1 was the disaster, Week 2 was for standing around slackjawed and catching breath and now Week 3 is for consolidating and looking ahead. And for wondering just when the hell they’re going to get enough going for us to get back to town and join with everyone in the rebuilding.

I’ve talked to about all the people we pay bills to and have at least made them aware of our situation. We’ve registered with all hte various agencies who can help and I have to say I’m floored by the generosity, kind faces and the selfless enthusiasm of nearly everyone. Thank you more than we can ever repay, except possibly to return all these great favors when/if they face their own disaster.

I wish I could say I was surprised by some of the negative, hateful and obnoxious responses to the blogging here and elsewhere. But I learned a long time ago that there’s no Asshole Vaccine, so none of it is taken personally (as much as they’d like it to be).

Part of me wants so badly to just go back, despite the lack of services and everything. I know lots of people have remained in place this entire time and, so you’ll know, I respect and admire your perserverence. We’ll be joining you as soon as some personal things are taken care of here in the Dallas area. I’m trying to keep up with any business recovery efforts in Orleans Parish, so please pass along any numbers or e-mail addresses you can find.

Businesses won’t come back until the customers do. But customers won’t come back until they know they can find basics like gasoline, food and safety. It’ll have to be a mutual thing, though business owners like me are going to have to be willing to take the lead and bite a few bullets. I’m still waiting to talk to the SBA and I have to see what kind of damage my place has suffered before I’m sure what I can do, but it won’t be long before Mid-City water levels subside enough to provide more information.

For now, it’s just a case of waiting and getting as much information as possible. Folks keep asking what our “plans” are and, frankly, we have none. It’s not a case of apathy — it’s just a case of not knowing what our status might be tomorrow. We’re glad there are some family thing to take care of here, since it helps retain focus. And at least we know we have a place to go back to — and that’s more than a lot of others can say these days.

Mardi Gras hangs on…

Mardi Gras hangs on.jpeg

If you look closely you can see the Mardi Gras beads still hanging from this large branch. The branch was 6-8 inches in diameter at the break. The picture was taken the Monday afternoon right after the storm on the streetcar tracks on St. Charles Ave between Louisiana and Napoleon facing the city.

There was just something about the sight of those happy colored beads in the middle of all that destruction that made me smile and think everything was going to be alright – it wasn’t until nearly 24 hours later that I learned of the breach in the levee.

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