Rebuilding New Orleans one [insert t-shirt ready phrase here]


I was grabbing some lunch from one of the many Mexican food joints to pop up around the city in the last two years. There seems to be a supporting crew of small, mobile business owners that follow devastation. Just weeks behind the morbid gypsy workers that watch th news for death and destruction in order to figure out where they’re going to live for the next few years. I’m not being judgmental about it, I just think its interesting.

Anyway, this was a little place on the West Bank Expressway. It was probably a snowball stand before the storm or something like that. It’s just a walk up place with no tables or anything. You can’t even go in the building. you order at the window and presumably go eat on the tailgate of your truck or something. They even import coca-cola, which I really thought was odd at first. Came in a nice glass bottle the likes of which I haven’t seen since I was little. I was surprised to find that it really did taste significantly different. One of my co-workers noted that it really tasted like Pepsi. I just thought it tasted like it was made with actual sugar instead of whatever carcinogen sweetener the U.S. bottling plants use.

So about this picture, I was standing around in the sun, waiting for them to slaughter a pig and grow some lettuce when I notice this little motel next door. I don’t know if anyone has ever noticed this but there are a lot of little “crackhouse” looking motels on West Bank Expressway – at least as many as out by the airport. They’re all basically empty (except for squatters) now and I have a hard time believing anyone will bother to try and restore them to their former pitifulness. They sort of remind me of those little road-side motels in the desert out west. Then again, they also remind me of the setting of more than one slasher flick. I guess it’s a matter of perspective.

Having a little trouble focusing today so bear with me…..

This particular hotel was named the “Gas Lite Motel”. Charming to be sure. I was standing there and I noticed this little garden in the picture. Presumably the old caretaker – think Scooby Doo – still lives there and decided to do some renovating and put a garden where the swimming pool used to be. How do I know this? Well, the caretaker didn’t take out the swimming pool ladder which is plainly visible in the above photo. Just concreted around it.

Now, I’m not one to criticize…lol…but it seems to me this was more the result of laziness than just an oversight. Not only that but it would have been more work to trowel and float around the poles than to just take the damn thing out. So it got me thinking about the renovation process; thinking about how much thought energy I exert planning and considering pros and cons; how I could do things this way or that way; balancing cost, effort and aesthetics, etc.

There’s a lesson to be had here people! I’ve been using this picture as a reminder to do things right even if it takes a little longer and costs a little more. I’ve been fighting with the foundation of the shanty for months now. I’ve replaced a dozen piers, poured half a dozen footers, replaced a sill and a floor joist and I’m not even done yet. It is terribly frustrating, mostly due to the fact that I’m working alone and some of that shit is big and heavy. But in the end I hope my attention to detail pays off. Many times I could have taken a shortcut or not bothered but I try desperately not to do that. I sat nearly in frustrated tears yesterday afternoon at the realization that yet another 25-30 hours have been spent working this week and as I start another week, it still isn’t done. I find more and more of my time is being consumed with correcting previous, half-assed work that, had it been done correctly, would not be an issue in what I’m doing now. I curse the people who did the previous work and do my best to make sure the people that come after me don’t curse me.

I guess, secretly, I wonder if I’m wasting my time with all this. New Orleans is not a city not known for it’s skill in planning or it’s hard working attention to detail. It is known for drinking, partying and “cultural treasures” like is shown above, which in my opinion generally don’t amount to much more than poor workmanship, laziness, lack of skill. The only standard missing from the picture is the usual a poor understanding of appropriate color combinations. Maybe I should just hang paneling instead of drywall, put one outlet in each room and paint the whole thing in a mismatch of whatever paint is on sale that way I can have the whole house done in about a week. I wouldn’t want to live there, but I guess that too is a matter of perspective.

***I’ve been trying to find specific Orleans Parish Building code online (or even the state) but have been unsuccessful. If anyone has a link I would sure appreciate it.

18 Comments so far

  1. jack (unregistered) on April 30th, 2007 @ 12:30 pm

    I have not worked in New Orleans for about 8 years, but I was an architect there and am still up in Chicago. In most cities (and from memory I am pretty sure NO is the same) you have to buy the building code from the city. Look around on the city site and somewhere in the building and permits it should tell you how to go about buying it.

  2. Chris (unregistered) on April 30th, 2007 @ 3:57 pm

    I guess, secretly, I wonder if I’m wasting my time with all this.

    The answer is yes.

    I prefer the term “thinking outside the box” to “cutting corners.”

    Personally I would recommend that instead of replacing those piers, you just stack some old wheels under the house with tires on them. If the floor gets uneven, then you just inflate the tires a little more whereever it’s necessary. and if the city floods, well then maybe your house will float up and not get wet.

    Building code, building schmode.

  3. Hannah (unregistered) on April 30th, 2007 @ 9:48 pm

    Just remember, “killing time again.” It is all in how you look at it. You have never been a Johnny-Cut-Corners, no need to start now.

    Although Chris’ house does sound interesting …

  4. Jack Ware (unregistered) on May 1st, 2007 @ 9:16 am

    eh, I’ve lost interest in rebuilding the damn thing. I’m just going to learn to be happy living like those guys in Fight Club. I do seem to be missing a Helena Bonham Carter to, uh, do stuff to. There should be a word for it if you’re a squatter in your own house. I mean, a word other than pitiful.

  5. Jim (unregistered) on May 1st, 2007 @ 2:30 pm

    Always remember something…..nothing GOOD comes quickly!!! Take the time and DO IT RIGHT!!! If you wouldn’t want to live there, why would anyone else!!! As a person viewing your blog for the first time, I found it very interesting!!! I am very proud of you!!! I know for sure, that when your house is done, it’s going to look as beautiful as it does currently in your head!!! Keep up the GREAT work!!! LOVE YA!!!!!!

  6. Deana (unregistered) on May 1st, 2007 @ 4:26 pm

    Did I not do your resume in Cincinnati? Have I lost my mind, is that really you Jack Ware? Looks like you have found a home!

  7. Jack Ware (unregistered) on May 1st, 2007 @ 4:44 pm

    Yes Deana, that would be me. As you can see, your assistance with my resume was wildly successful.


  8. Carmen (unregistered) on May 2nd, 2007 @ 12:54 am
  9. Carmen (unregistered) on May 2nd, 2007 @ 1:02 am

    Nope, Jack’s right. Chapter 26 says: “The original building code, the ordinance by which it was adopted and all ordinances amending that Code are on file in the office of the clerk of the council. The building code is published in loose-leaf form and may be obtained from the department of safety and permits.”

    I wonder if there are restrictions on yard structures. I’d love to make an English style walled garden, but I need a wall higher than 7 feet.

  10. termite. (unregistered) on May 2nd, 2007 @ 7:18 am

    i spoke with my builder (brother in law) last night and he gave me the same link as Carmen. he also said to try the Public Library, they have all that information for the city and state regarding building codes.

    hope that helps monkeybutt.

  11. tbk (unregistered) on May 2nd, 2007 @ 1:57 pm

    quote: hope that helps monkeybutt.

    Posted by: termite. at May 2, 2007 07:18 AM

    I used to call my kids monkeybutts

    God I hope that doesn’t male me Jack’s Mom… I ain’t THAT Old

  12. tbk (unregistered) on May 2nd, 2007 @ 1:57 pm

    quote: hope that helps monkeybutt.

    Posted by: termite. at May 2, 2007 07:18 AM

    I used to call my kids monkeybutts

    God I hope that doesn’t make me Jack’s Mom… I ain’t THAT Old

  13. Jim (unregistered) on May 2nd, 2007 @ 2:41 pm

    Jack’s Mom isn’t OLD, Just short!! :)

  14. Jack Ware (unregistered) on May 2nd, 2007 @ 2:53 pm

    You just don’t want my mom to be old because it makes you old my dear uncle Jim.

  15. Jim (unregistered) on May 2nd, 2007 @ 6:28 pm

    So you figured it out!!! :) I have been having a blast roaming around. You really have a great talent!! Meant it when I said I was proud. Can’t wait to see your house, have heard great things!! Get my numbers from “shorty” and email. If your able to view the one I added thru here, I don’t have access to all the time, she’ll give you my work email. And to let you know, you have inspired me to open my own blog! Write or call me!! Love ya!!! J

  16. Jim (unregistered) on May 2nd, 2007 @ 6:30 pm

    FYI……your only a few years younger!!! Why ya playin!!!

  17. Cat (unregistered) on May 3rd, 2007 @ 12:24 pm

    Hey People
    I’m not old or short–vertically challenged–maybe, but I love the site. You are soooo talented. Keep up the great work.

  18. Brian Davis (unregistered) on May 6th, 2007 @ 1:29 pm

    We are interested in purcahsing vacant homes in the Greater New Orleans Area.

    cash for houses – cash in 4 weeks or less for your house

    New Orleans East – Broadmoor – Uptown – Chalmette

    $1000 referral fee

    Brian Davis


Terms of use | Privacy Policy | Content: Creative Commons | Site and Design © 2009 | Metroblogging ® and Metblogs ® are registered trademarks of Bode Media, Inc.