Archive for October, 2005

Hurricanes keep coming & FEMA keeps humming

Hurricane Wilma slammed South Florida today.  It was a Category 3 when it hit the coast near Fort Myers.  Here in New Orleans it was a crisp cool day and the sky was perfectly blue, no clouds in sight.  These days whenever I look up into the sky I fully expect to see the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.  Or perhaps an incoming swarm of locusts.

Today was the first day that our law firm’s New Orleans office was open.  At lunch we talked about hurricanes.  Every conversation in New Orleans eventually revolves around some Katrina-related issue.  Several people can be huddled together at a restaurant table when a cellphone will ring. "Hmmm, I can’t tell who this is," says the person staring at the tiny screen.  "But I better take the call because it may be my insurance adjuster.  I’ve been trying to reach him for weeks."  You don’t want to miss your appointment with the insurance adjuster, that’s for sure.

My insurance adjuster is coming this Friday.  Most of the roof work has been done already, but I have some pictures to show him in case he needs verification of my damage.  I wonder if I should create a nice Powerpoint presentation too?  I want to make a nice impression, you know.

Last week the FEMA representative came.  I wasn’t able to meet her but my friend Vincent was there to meet Chloe, who it turns out is a refugee from Nigeria.  I found this out when I called her to give her my insurance information.  Chloe said that a bad day in her home was finding out that the village well had run dry.  A really bad day would be when neighboring warlords would attack the village and force everyone to flee.  Needless to say, there is nothing like FEMA in Nigeria.  And there is no ‘invasion insurance’ either.

I asked Chloe how she liked it in New Orleans and she said it was nicer than where she was from, but it was still depressing to see so much devastation.  But, she said, the work is interesting and rewarding. Plus I’m sure it’s a comfort to know that her FEMA village is well protected.

Quoth My Mother

“I really liked the pictures of the decorated refrigerators. It occurred to me that the city should encourage that as street art the way some cities do with cows, pandas, etc. This could be a way to create interest and buzz for the city, what do ya think? The Refrigerators of New Orleans. I’m thinking coffee table book.”

Hurrication

A dear, sweet friend (Jess) of mine has coined a word that I very much enjoy: Hurrication. It�s a combination of Hurricane and Vacation. It seems a good fit since the stories people are telling are similar to vacation stories, er, only, not. I ran into her last night after leaving Craig�s still able to drive safely the few blocks back toward my house. I then commenced to get all �Dean Martin Drunk� � you know what I mean, where you get to drunk that you stumble around and slur your words but no matter what, there�s going to be some singing. I was trolling for ugly, promiscuous girls with self esteem issues. You�d think with less people in town, my odds would go up � but that isn�t the case at all. It’s like I got to the party late and everyone’s already all hooked up. At any rate, it isn�t like pity is going to work in my favor either. When it was all said and done I�d walked home at 5am singing �Day-O� collapsed in a heap in my bed. I�d made some new friends, caught up with some old friends, and managed not to throw up after the 1am shot of Jagermeister. Tonight I anticipate more of the same, with any luck. Only tonight I�m looking for cute, emaciated girls with body issues.

**The curfew in my area is 2am, but I figured, how could anyone bother me while I�m singing such a cool song � It�s not like I�m a 64 year old retired school teacher. Some National Guard guys came by and asked if everything was alright. I tried to get them to join me for the chorus but they politely declined. But noting my excellent singing voice spoke with me a moment and left. I told them I had every intention of drinking until morning but the bastards I was hanging out with couldn�t hang and the party was at their house. They seemed somewhat amused.

I’ll be at the Milan all afternoon and The Half Moon this evening so come on out – I should be easy to spot: I’ll be talking to the crying skrawny chic. heh heh.

Just What The Soul Needed

Yep — that worked.

We parked the BBQ trailer on the corner and basically invited the entire ‘hood and most of them were there at one time or another. Thank you fellow Metrobloggers Mark, Chris and Jack for lending your humor, laughter and stories. It’s great to see the faces behind the names.

At one point, roughly ten of us had circled up in chairs in front of the house, drinking, talking way too loud and waving to the passing Utah National Guard guys in Humvees. The party, as most do here in New Orleans, sometimes extended out into the street and into nearby houses as well. It was cathartic for all of us, and definitely bolstered the unity of our little part of the Irish Channel.

The happy was balanced by the sad earlier in the day, with the arrival of across-the-street neighbors who had evacuated to the Houston area. They returned with a U-Haul to take much of their furniture out of their damaged home, as they’ve now happily established themselves in Texas. We were thrilled to see them but we’re sorry to see them go. They were kinda the neighborhood institution, with generation after generation in the same house. But, in their evacuation, they found much better schools for their kids and many more job opportunities. Maybe one day they’ll return, but it’s going to be a while.

That’s the way things are these days in this town. There’s a constant head count of who’s back, who’s back temporarily and who’s simply not coming back. The texture of the city is changing and it’s not yet clear how. But for at least one night, it was good to put all that on the shelf and just laugh a while.

Thank you.

Sightseeing Tips For Tourists

The city wants to get the tourist dollars flowing again in the city, but many of the favorite tourist attractions remain closed. So here are some alternate attractions for visitors:

West End:
Get off I-10 at West End Blvd. and drive up to the West End Marina. On the way, you’ll see some serious mountains of debris, I’m talking mountains of trash, seemingly ten stories high. When you get out to the lake, get out and walk around. Study the burned yacht club building, the collapsed lighthouse, the heavily damaged Joe’s Crab Shack (thank you, mother nature), and the piles of huge boats everywhere. They’re starting to clean this place up, so get there soon. Take Pontchartrain Blvd. back toward the interstate. Turn right on 38th street and park your car. Get out and walk toward the west. This is where the 17th street canal levee broke. Destruction is unimaginable, looks like Mt. St. Helens or Hiroshima photographs.

Bywater:
Check out the warehouse that exploded on Chartres St. near Clouet St. Somewhere in that rubble is a former pickup truck. Lots of great anti-looter graffiti in this area.

Uptown:
Up until a few days ago, there was still garbage everywhere around the uptown Wal-Mart, left behind by throngs of looters as they scurried away. That is now gone, but there is a large pile of free milk crates there on Tchoupitoulas for anyone who’s interested. Claiborne Avenue is a pretty good drive, start from Carrollton Ave, head downtown. Study giant upside-down root beer mug on street, flipped over truck on neutral ground, lots of other random destruction. Finish journey by inspecting roof of Superdome, now with dozens of mexican laborers walking around on it trying to patch the holes. They look tiny up there. From there:

Mid-City
Turn left on Tulane Ave from Claiborne. Tulane Ave contains absurd destruction. Study Tom Benson car dealership with empty showroom and every single plate glass window broken. Billboards, signs, buildings destroyed everywhere. Police evidence laboratory flooded. Once grand Budweiser billboard at Broad St. & I-10 is heavily contorted. Once great Blue Plate Mayonnaise sign missing the “Mayonnaise.” Awesome Crystal Preserves sign on Tulane Ave has seen better days. Venezia Pizza and Angelo Brocato signs now removed.

Lower 9th Wd & St. Bernard Parish:
Stay away from here for now.

That’s all I can think of for now. Tomorrow I hope to go exploring that vast wild kingdom known as New Orleans East. Will report back with findings & hopefully photos as well.

Tote that Barge

Today was the first day of many that will be spent in heavy cleanup mode. While the house is fine, the business in Mid-City is not. Water depth averaged three feet and it’s quite impressive to see all the various colors of mold that can erupt in the same small space. Ah, the wonders of nature.

It’s interesting to note some of the odd things that take place when a building has 3-4 feet of water in it for a couple of weeks. To start with, many things floated about and came to rest in new places. Some “waterproof” containers actually were not, while others drifted merrily from one side of the office to the other. The skanky water actually did a marvelous job of removing some greasy grunge from the lower half of the commercial smokers. One of the commercial refrigerators apparently works fine, while the other sputters on and off like some misfiring neon sign. But it’s hard to tell for sure, since I was working with a generator and not steady power.

The little Mount Trashmores continue to grow on every block. We certainly contributed our share today, dragging out bag after bag, along with a full pre-hurricane trash can we didn’t bother to even unseal. There are also three residential-type fridges that I’m simply going to seal with duct tape and kick to the curb.

We took some time at lunch and wandered down to the French Quarter, hoping Maspero’s had reopened. But it has not, so we found ourselves at the Chart House on Chartres. We were actually thrilled to see some tourists wandering about, so thank you Mr. and Mrs. Fannypack for spending your dollars in a city that really, really needs them right now.

Friends we used to greet with handshakes now get hugs. Folks we used to hug now elicit tears. We saw an elderly man on the levee in the French Quarter. He was carrying a handful of Mardi Gras beads, he said, “so’s I kin just gib ’em to de tourists to tank ’em fo’ bein’ here.”

God, I love this town.

Pictures Don’t Lie…

…and we all know that’s just a saying.

We’ve all seen the pictures of devastated homes and businesses. And we’ve all seen the panoramic overviews of wrecked neighborhoods. But the camera only shows what’s in its frame and has no depth perception. Without seeing things in 3-D and unless you can see the full 360-degree view, it’s impossible to know the scope of damage in certain parts of this city until you are actually here.

All kinds of non-resident, armchair ningnongs have expressed their opinions here about what should be done about New Orleans, usually grounded in some political theory or something they’ve cherry-picked from TV or the Internet. I challenge any of them to drive up Canal from the CBD to the Lakeview area and take a look at the scope of the damage. I wanna hear again how the whole area needs to be raised or razed, depending on the viewpoint. And, as bad as the damage is in these areas, there’s still New Orleans East and the Ninth Ward. “Incredible” is the only word I can come up with right now.

This is now a city of individuals who are at first staggered, then briefly depressed, then busy picking things up one room and then one home or business at a time. We saw a handmade sign tacked to a highway sign on Highway 90 yesterday, saying, “God Bless South Louisiana.”

Indeed. This is going to take a while.

That said, we’re planning a BBQ this Saturday. All day — on the street in front of the house. Sometimes they ain’t no better way to handle it than with laughter. And there’s no shortage of that here.

Halloween in New Orleans

If you’ve ever met me, you know I’m not the circuit party type. All that jet-setting and gyrating and gym time: I’ve just never had it in me. Never had it, never will. Well, probably never.

Still, I have to admit that among the many encouraging signs of New Orleans’ rebirth, the fact that the annual, ultragay Halloween party is still happening (albeit on a smaller scale) somehow makes me happiest of all. Ordinarily, it wouldn’t be my cup of tea–or GHB, for that matter–but this year…. I mean, I’m not making any promises, my current kum-by-ya state of mind may have faded by then, but at the moment, the ladies can count me in.

Hell, at the very least, it’s a nice, cheap date, right?

Home

The surrounding roofs are mostly blue. The long weeds have overtaken any space of open ground. Half the houses in the neighborhood are still boarded up. Rubble from some fallen brick walls remains spilled, World War II-like, in the streets. The few surrounding neighbors greet us with particle masks dangling from their necks or while holding debris-filled bags. The corrugated tin roof of an adjacent shed remains in our courtyard. Too much to really take in at first glance.

Lots to do.

But, goddammit, we’re just glad to be home.

Are you @*$#^&!% kidding me?!?

�WWWIIIILLLLMMMMAAAAA!!!� : Fred Flintstone

In about the last 24 hours Wilma has gone from a Tropical Storm to a Category 5 hurricane. Amazing. She�s rolling past the little arrows on the lane in God�s Bowling Alley and looks like she�s headed for Florida. But c�mon, no one really knows at this point where she�ll end up. Though, God does seem to be a left-hander as his shots tend to curve to the right as the swing into the pocket: Brooklyn Style. The fact of the matter is that once in the Gulf, two things are likely to happen: She�ll get stronger; and she�ll ruin someone�s day.

Pay attention people. Remember, at one point, Katrina was supposed to go up the East Coast. I�ll be back in town on Friday. I�m not changing my plans, but I�m certainly going to keep my eye on this bitch.

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