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Greg and Christy's Storm Blog

"Don't believe any false rumors unless you hear them from me."

 

-- New Orleans Mayor Victor A. Schiro,

during Hurricane Betsy, 1965 (apocryphal)



The blog continues, click here!

Wednesday, October 19
There's no place like home

We're baaaack! After a very long and exhausting drive from Houston we are thankfully in our house and home for good. Our home phone # is the same, we never lost phone service! Go Bellsouth! Right now Greg and I are busy with work, the billable kind! We had a few piece of mail waiting for us in our mail box. We'll have a more detailed post and hopefully photos this weekend.

Monday, October 17
One Last Time

Greg and I drove back to Houston yesterday. Today we bought provisions and ran errands. We'll hang out with our friends, the Powneys, this evening and then hit the road tomorrow back home for good. That is if the storm puttering around in the gulf doesn't come for us. *sigh*

This blog is getting long and I think I may start a second one to document our "adventures" once we get back home. I'll have photos for you soon. But he's what we did when we were home...

Thursday-Greg picked up the debris in the yard and weed whacked the grass to a mowable level. It appears the city has gotten next to nothing rain since Katrina-good for the houses with roof damage, not good for all the dust. I wiped out the fridges; since Greg cleaned the food out his first time back and left the doors open they are fine. The plastic container of stuff for the compost heap was not taken outside. It was closed so it didn't smell but it was swarming with maggots (barf!) The coffee cups and wine glasses we didn't wash out before we evacuated had molded so I gave them a good soak in bleach water. We also visited with our neighbors Mae and Dave for a while. It was great to stand out in front of the house and talk to neighbors again. Mae stayed for the storm and has some stories to tell and took tons of photos. That night we went to Juan's Flyer Burrito for dinner then drinks at Dos Jeffes cigar bar. There were about 30 people there.

Friday-We saw a sign that Rue dela Course was opening so we went to get a cup of coffee and support them. After hanging there for a while we went by the post office to pick up mail. You fill out a form and give it to the person at the counter. It get sent to the back for someone to pull your mail. We stepped out into the lobby with about 50 other people to wait. I was told the carrier for my office was out on route! We chatted with a guy Greg knew, then after 20 minutes heard our name. We had a whopping 4 pieces of mail. We drove around the uptown area for a little bit to see what was open. Then back home. Greg had a business meeting and I had some work I needed to do. Greg mowed the lawn, I did some laundry and more cleaning. We went to Theo's for dinner-it was a mad house-packed and kids running everywhere. The menu was very limited so we got a large pepperoni and banana pepper pizza and took it home to eat. That night we went to, you guess it, Dos Jeffes. Some friends of ours showed up and Sunpie Barnes played and we had a great time. The place was packed!! The funny thing it was all us "old" folks, no college kids!

Saturday-Greg wanted to walk down the street and check out a window he saw and I wanted to check on the community garden. Our neighbor on the corner was out on his porch so we stopped to talk to him. A postal carrier came by delivering mail! We chatted with her and found out we can expect delivery about 2 times a week. We were hungry and hadn't had breakfast so we walked over to Slim Goodie's Diner-the line was out the door. So instead we crossed the street to the A&P and get fixings for breakfast. Time to finish the yard and clean out the shed. One section of the shed's roof got blown off and stuff got blown around. We cleared stuff out so Greg could get his father's pick-up and his car out. They survived fine and started up. It was probably a good thing we moved the cars, especially the truck... One neighbor's SUV was stolen and left by the Convention Center. Another has his pick-up stolen and then returned! Greg took more plywood off the windows. In our back yard, it was like it was a regular Saturday afternoon, except it was very quiet. I wanted to check on my office and see if we got mail. Our office got a foot of water so I'll be working from home for a while. After we drove around to look at the some of the areas that had flooding. It was unbelievable. We are SO lucky. The hurricane didn't ruin the city, it was the levee failure and flooding. A man-made disaster. In some areas people had come back to clean stuff out of their houses and the stench was horrible. I wanted to check out Delgado's campus and it was surrounded with work crews and we couldn't get near it. That was the story with Tulane as well. We went home and watch the rest of the LSU game. That night we had dinner at LA Pizza kitchen. Along the way we passed Vincent's and there was a mob of people outside. Pizza Kitchen had a 30 minute wait. Normally, if a restaurant has a wait, you can go somewhere else. That's not the case right now as people returning outstrip the number of waiters and cooks. And since the grocery stores closed at 6 it was too late to pick up anything for dinner. We stayed in and watched a movie.

Sunday-drove back to Houston, listening to the Saint's game *doh!* Amazingly we we able to keep the AM radio station signal until the end of the game, somewhere past Lake Charles.

Thursday, October 13
Home Sweet Home


After getting breakfast and coffee, we went to the bank, grocery store for a few provisions, filled up the car and hit the road. The traffic on I-10 wasn't bad and we made good time into New Orleans. It is still amazing to see all the destruction still evident a month a half later. We could see huge piles of garbage in front of houses, tons of discarded fridges, over flowing dumpsters, twisted billboards, blue tarps on every other roof. Some traffic lights are still out. No more national guards (thanks guys!), more traffic, signs all over the placing letting you know which business are open. (Quick side note: on the drive from Houston to Baton Rouge we stopped in Orange, TX for gas, forgetting that was where the eye of Rita passed. Amazingly there was a gas station open. It was a wreck, twisted metal everywhere, the McD's and BK trashed and dark. Tall pine trees laong I-10 snapped off about 10 feet up. I've heard people say places the hurricanes came through look like "war zones" and I have to admit, sometime watching the news I wasn't sure if I was looking at photos of Iraq or New Orleans with all the rubble, trash and military.) Anyway, we'll have more details and photos to share soon. We spent the day cleaning stuff up, visiting with neighbors and it's getting dark and time to find dinner-curfew's at midnight! Even though it's too quiet, and there's garbage everywhere, it's still great to be back home.

Tuesday, October 11
Re-entry Phase 1


Tomorrow, Greg and I will leave Houston to make our first of two trips back to New Orleans. Since all our stuff got to Houston in two trips, it will all have to go back in two trips. We'll get the power and everything turned back on, clean up the yard and the house and unload a load of stuff. The kitties will stay behind. Not sure when we'll head back-Greg has a meeting in New Orleans Friday, so we'll stay for that. Then back to Houston for a little while and then back home for good!

The trip to San Antonio was nice. A cold front came through so we had great weather. We of course visited the Alamo and the Riverwalk. Saturday was a side trip to Fredricksberg in the Hill country to visit a WWII museum dedicated to the Pacific battle. Everyone at the reunion was very nice and had a great time.

I'm sure we'll have more to talk about once we get to New Orleans. Wish us luck!

Thursday, October 6 4:40 p.m.
Remember the Alamo!

Greg and I are going to San Antonio this weekend. This trip was planned pre-Katrina. It's a reunion for the 358th Fighter Group Greg's great-uncle Russel Lobdell served with in WWII. A little trip might be nice...

We did get some incredibly good news... the mayor announced today that our part of town has drinkable water now! Greg and I had been talking about going back this upcoming week to scope things out and then decide if we should move back. This might clench it. Every day a little more good news appears: restuarants and bars opening (our Friday night Cigar Bar is open!) grocery stores, mail can be picked up from the post office, emails from neighbors who have return asking "when are you coming home?" We are so lucky to have a house to go back to. I look at all the pictures of people going back to sludge and mold filled houses. I almost wonder if that is worse than having your house totally washed away? I don't know. My friend Kristi's house was in Gentilly, an area that got 7+ feet of flooding. She wrote:

we are going this weekend. Have the respirators and hazmat suits all ready to go (just happened to have them as my dad does mold inspections on occasion.) tho we did have to order me a smaller respirator mask...was only 14 bucks, but if it keeps me healthy I would have paid $100! got our tetnus shots today, ouch, the arm is hurtin! we are looking at salvaging a few boxes of stuff....it is really awful there from reports we are hearing from neighbors and friends that have been by to see it. Our neighbor across the street had water to the top of her curtain rods...no salvaging much of anything, one woman said even her good jewlery was ruined but the toxic mess. might, might, get the christmas tree and ornaments out of the attic...if I walk away with any thing at all I will be surprise. I think it is a total loss, and the house will definitely have to be bulldozed. i think what we have lost is finally starting to sink in. i am currently homeless, unemployed, and would never have thought that I would end up in a situation like this. As it is, we are going to have to break windows and doors to get into the house, I know the house is trashed, but the idea of intentionally damaging it freaks me out! Matt said we are taking the plywood off with a crow bar, i guess i really thought we would use a drill....but no where to plug it in. *sigh*


Imagine having to get a tentus shot and wear hazmat gear to go clean out your house! It's just too much.

I can't say this experience has made me any more patient. I'm sure Greg is tired of hearing me say "I want to go home NOW." It has taught me to live with the uncertain and that we take a lot for granted.

Monday October 3, 8:45 PM

They're trying to wash us away

 

I’m going to tell you about my greatest Jazz Fest moment (performace is and another catagory). Of all the times I’ve been and all the artist I’ve seen, this is the one I’ll take over all the others. Randy Newman, yes, the "I Love LA" and "Short People" Randy Newman, put out the album Good Ole Boys in 1974. It included a song about Huey Long, and even had a send up of the Kingfish’s political anthem “Everyman a King”. But “Louisiana 1927” was the most memorable tune, at least down round these parts:

 

What has happened down here is the wind have changed
Clouds roll in from the north and it started to rain
Rained real hard and rained for a real long time
Six feet of water in the streets of Evangeline

The river rose all day
The river rose all night
Some people got lost in the flood
Some people got away alright
The river have busted through clear down to Plaquemines
Six feet of water in the streets of Evangeline

Louisiana, Louisiana
They're tyrin' to wash us away
They're tryin' to wash us away
Louisiana, Louisiana
They're tryin' to wash us away
They're tryin' to wash us away

President Coolidge came down in a railroad train
With a little
fat man with a note-pad in his hand
The President say, "Little fat man isn't it a shame

what the river has done to this poor crackers land."

 

Well, Randy was playing Jazz Fest, and I was looking forward to his set. Several good sources had said he was fantastic live, and Jazz Fest crowds have been known to get some of the best out of an artist. As the day progressed, thunderstorms were lurking in the area. While walking over to the stage, the sky began growing dark. By the time he took the stage, the towering mass of a thunderhead loomed up on both sides of the fairgrounds. And I mean they were towering, and black. If you don’t know it, we get monster clouds in this part of the country. As he started playing, the wind picked up and a few drops of rain were in the air. He got through one or two songs, and then began Louisiana 1927. He made it to the chorus, and the skies opened just like the levees that were blown in that terrible year. It couldn’t have been choreographed better. The set ended, of course, as electrical storms and amplified instruments don’t mix well, and after a torrential downpour the fest got back going in a little over an hour. It made the Times-Picayune top Jazz Fest moments that year.

  

Although, I certainly am not the first to see the poignancy of Randy Newman’s 1970’s song about the great floods of 1926-27 which devastated Louisiana, as well six other states.

 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Mississippi_Flood_of_1927 

 

The great flood proved to be a mirror of many of the things we saw in 2005: the utter devastation of those who had the least, open and naked examples of racism born out of fear, the grandstanding of politicians, the choices government’s idly make that can preserve or destroy the lives of hundreds of thousands of people, the failure of government response, a little fat man with a note-pad in his hand. And we also find a man of presidential ambition who promised reform and reconstruction for the destitute black populations and reneged, changing the political landscape to this day. Some people got lost in the flood, some people got away alright.

 

But that is not the only thing that remains unchanged. There was the inevitable response of “conservatives” who argue that; flood protection was a local issue, voting against a comprehensive federal levee system, and, of course, that the poor deserve their fate for being lazy and poor, and so on. Little fat man isn't it a shame what the storm has done to this poor welfare state.

 

The other day I overheard a nice upper middleclass man with all the answers to everyone’s problems describing it like this “people get hurt and all they say is what’s the government going to do for me?” Apparently, the thought that occasionally we like to consider ours a civilized society never occurred to him. But then, when people waived for help from their rooftops, or among the ruins of their homes, I don’t remember them specifying where it should come from.

 

I’m positively haunted by this, which came out several days after the storm on CNN’s web site:

CNN's Drew Griffin in New Orleans, Louisiana

I am stunned by an interview I conducted with New Orleans Detective Lawrence Dupree. He told me they were trying to rescue people with a helicopter and the people were so poor they were afraid it would cost too much to get a ride and they had no money for a "ticket." Dupree was shaken telling us the story. He just couldn't believe these people were afraid they'd be charged for a rescue.

After the downpour, Jazz Fest went on, and we'll all get on with life, but some people will got lost in the flood, some people will get away alright.

 

GJH

Friday September 30, 5:30

Kermit

 

Last night Christy and I caught Kermit Ruffin’s and the Barbecue Swingers at his now regular Thursday night gig at Sammy’s in Houston. I had seen his show two weeks ago when I was here looking for a place for us to crash. There are four photos from that show up on nola.com. This show looked just the same.

http://www.nola.com/katrinaphotos/tp/gallery.ssf?cgi-bin/view_gallery.cgi/nola/view_gallery.ata?g_id=3949

 

For those unfortunate to have never seen him, all I can say is no other city on earth could have produced him. You can check him out on his record label website http://www.basinstreetrecords.com/  including a bio, the BBQ connection and sound clips.

 

We have, as Christy described, just past the one month mark since we locked the front door, and set off down the river road for Baton Rouge. We were both looking for a little distraction and sympathetic company. All our friends here are great, but they just don’t know, they aren’t “us”. Baton Rouge was better, everyone there has been affected. But there is something about having actually been through this that leaves you different, and it is in much the same way for everyone who has. I feel a bit more empathy for war veterans these days; that need for others who have been through what you have, that understand, even if you don't really know them. You don't have to explain, you don't have to answer the questions people have when they try to imagine themselves in the same situation. The funny thing is when we are together, we're pretty optimistic about things, it's when we're not that a certain numbness sets in. I’m sure one day there will be a small divide in New Orleans of those who went through this and those who didn’t. There will be a certain nod, or glance exchanged between those who have, those who know.

 

We arrived before Kermit started and crowd was a bit thin. We sat down by a couple who had to be from New Orleans, even without the Saints shirt the guy had on. Idly they asked us where we were from. “Uptown” was my reply. They knew. Their house was in Gentilly; an area that is on a slightly higher ridge in the bowl of New Orleans, but not high enough. There house was raised, so their living space stayed dry, and they only lost what they had stored on the ground floor. It could well be completely salvageable, but they have no idea when they will be able to get back.

 

Kermit opened with Louis Armstrong’s signature “When It’s Sleepytime Down South.” One of the things that can prove a speed bump to those trying to get into New Orleans music is that much of canon seems, at first, to be enormously un-cool. Most of those bred on typical teen angst rock just don’t get it. Those more musically inclined will tolerate a band tossing in an old standard on a rocking album for the oddity of it. But New Orleans bands can easily have set list that your Grandmother would recognize the better part of. What the musicians do with it is, of course, important, but it is also that these songs are a shared culture, and speak to everyone. And if they don’t speak to you yet, just listen a little more and they soon will. Really, the first time you see the typical teenage rap fan getting down to the same music as an 80 year old women is liberating, and you know you’ve got something that can’t be manufactured. A corny old song can turn a club in a distant city into home, at least for a while. I don’t think anything by Coldplay will ever be able to do that.

 

Anyway, Kermit played a great show, flipping from swing to funk to jazz on a dime, or playing all at that same time. He’s is a fantastic horn player, wonderfully understated, and lets his band members cut loose. The crowd quickly grew and seemed about half New Orleans, at least among those up by the stage. Our neighbor showed up, and filled us in the latest news. The couple on the corner have moved back into New Orleans, and another, around the corner, were on the verge, provided their internet connection worked. It may not be too long before we are back at home. We know it will be a very different place for a while, but we both want to be there as the city recovers. Many of the business owners in our neighborhood are vowing to reopen, and we’d like to be there as they do, with the rest of our nieghbors. It may be a while before the overpriced women’s boutiques reopen, but give me Rue De La Course, http://www.bestofneworleans.com/cuis/restreviews/ruedelacourse.html

and I will be happy, and the owner has vowed to reopen soon. If we get Dos Jeffes Cigar Bar, then we’re really on to something.

September 28 @ 2:15 p.m.
One month mark


Today marks one month since we evacuated our house for Katrina. I (Christy) had a small melt down yesterday when I looked at the calendar and realized how much time has passed. I'm trying to stay positive, look forward, take it one day at time, thankful we have a house to go home to. But being away from home for a month against your will gets old and we want to go back. Good news! We got an email this morning from a neighbor who said power had been restored to our neighborhood yesterday! Businesses are slowly reopening, but there are no groceries or gas stations. The water is not potable yet, but at least with power and gas restored you can boil it. Current estimates say 2-3 weeks for water. We've been making due here in Houston. We are staying near an area called "The Village" (I am not a number!) and it's a compact shopping area with a good variety of shops and restaurants though no grocery stores. Last night after dinner we went to the Scottish pub for a few pints. Yesterday the back passenger side window decided to not want to go up anymore. Simon and Greg duct taped it closed but in today's 98+ degree heat, the tape was no match. We took it to a mechanic in the Village and we are waiting his call as to the remedy. We walked to Kahn's deli nearby and had one of the best Rubin and hot pastrami sandwiches we've ever had this side of the Mason-Dixon line. Then we popped into the French bakery for a baguette, to go with some cheese we bought, before walking back to the house. We don't mind walking, it's tres European, good exercise, though more shade trees would be nice. One of the things we love about our New Orleans neighborhood is that we can walk to restaurants, groceries, stores, etc. We also have a great neighborhood organization; about 50 of us have been keeping in regular email contact and there is already talk of the next pot-luck meeting! Tomorrow night Kermit Ruffins (a New Orleans musician) will be playing his temporary Thursday night gig here in Houston (no BBQ though) and we plan on being there. One of our neighbors should be there as well as a host of other displaced New Orleanians. We'll dance with our eyes closed and pretend we are at Vaughn's. Until out next up date. Be seein' you.

Tuesday, September 27 10:00 a.m.
Back to normal, sort of


Things are starting to return to normal here in Houston. A few businesses opened Sunday. We found a pizza joint near us where we had lunch. After lunch a couple of gas stations near by had gotten a delivery so we filled up our tank. Yesterday more places were open and we were finally were able to get done things that needed to be done - bank, filled prescriptions, opened a temporary PO Box. As an evacuee, we are eligible for a free PO address for 90 days. So if you want to send us anything here it is:
PO Box 7700004
Houston, TX 77277-7700
If you send anything specifically to me (Christy), address it to Margaret. Our cell phone seems to be working reliably again which is good.
Today our goal is to get set up so we are able to get some work done.

Saturday, September 14, 9:00 a.m.
The lights are on


Just wanted to let everyone we are OK. It's still gray here in Houston and every few minutes or so we get gusts of wind. Not much rain. And the power is still on. Yeah! With the winds still gusting it could still go out though. So we drink our coffee and watch the news. It looks like New Orleans fared well. The lower 9th ward where the levee was breached and flooded had already been decimated by Katrina. So here we wait.

Friday September 23, 2:15 PM
Storm Fatigue


Imagine you just stumbled out of bed with a hangover. You're in from out of town for a wedding or whatever the day before, the party ran late, and you indulged a little too much. You really didn't need that last drink, but, hey, they broke out the good bourbon, and you just couldn't say no. Okay, so now you just want a good cup of coffee and something to eat, and you'll be functional enough to get through the day. You notice a lot of noise coming through your door, and you remember the big pack of high school kids on some senior trip or something you saw when you were checking in, and imagine they are getting ready to head off to Wally World or some museum or something. You get dressed and set out, but what you find is not some museum trip, but packs of high school kids running the halls with magnums of booze, six packs and even kegs. It seems they discovered and unlocked, unguarded liquor storage room and the chaperones are nowhere to be seen. With a sigh, you realize that this drunken teenage bacchanalia is going to last all night, complete with hours of wooing, the requisite number of kids getting sick in the halls, and so on, and it's not even lunch time. You've got no car, so you're stuck for the duration. You just hope you can get a decent breakfast.

Well, that's about the best way I can describe what it's been like to be in Houston the last few days. With Hurricane Rita more than five days out, you would have thought it was going to be a direct hit the next day. Of course, the mainstream media is churning up as big a hurricane of fear as they can, complete with the "we just want you to know what could happen" tag line and all the flashy graphics depicting something just shy of the apocalypse. "Do you think the Angel of Death will strike down the firstborn in every Houston household, Bob?" "Well, I can't say that for sure, Sally, but we want everyone to be prepared for the worst."

Okay, I was channeling the Rude Pundit a bit on that one, but I greatly toned it down for the children. But really...We are, as you can probably imagine, a bit punch drunk with this sort of thing. Watching people who live on what we consider high ground in a near state of panic, is really painful to watch. I really have no doubt people actually stocked up on supplies AND left town.

I really find the coverage of this interesting, and there are a few things I'd like to note. Houston decided to try that contra-flow thingy on the fly with the vast parking lots that were once part of the Interstate highway system. Despite this, it is taking, and this is not an exaggeration, over an hour to cover one mile. Breakdowns, overheating cars, heat exhaustion, cars running out of gas, have littered the highways with cars. All the powers that be can say is how this is evacuation is "unprecedented" and they're doing all they can, which they really are, but there is a real fear that people might still be on the road as the storm moves in. The latest reports say the traffic is easing up outside of Houston, so lets hope all those people on the road find a safe place. It has also been reported that nearly 90% of Galveston, population 57 thousand, has evacuated and that this is a smashing success. A school has been opened as a shelter for those who are remaining, failed to leave, or can't leave, with a stockpile of food and water for a few days. Am I being unfair to point out that contra flow is actually a very complicated, and unpredictable thing to actually pull off, as Texas is beginning to understand? Of course it is something Louisiana, including the current Governor, City and Parish officials, had devoted a lot of resources, as well as the benefits of a couple of actual evacuations, to perfect. And somehow the fact that 80% of the New Orleans area, as well as some of the coastal Parishes, was evacuated safely in less than 48 hours just isn't worth mentioning. Of course, evacuating 90% of Galveston is an incredible success, while evacuating 80% of New Orleans, is "criminal negligence". And would that declaration of success still hold if it took four of five days for food and water to reach Galveston, and the shelter ran out? Apparently, though, Galveston used some school busses to get people out (how many broke down in the traffic is unknown) but that seems to change everything. Of course, there were no plans to use them at all until very recently, and all those images of New Orleans may have motivated a lot of those people to leave. But it just makes you wonder.

GJH

Wednesday, September 22 @ 2:00 p.m.
Texas Two-step

Nothing like getting ready for a second hurricane in a month. Things are super quiet here in Houston. We went over to our friends' house (Simon and Suzanne) last night for dinner. Suzanne was pretty worried; they have a youngster so it's understandable. She sent us an email last night at 1 a.m. saying they were going to drive to northern Mississippi to stay with her grandmother. Watching the news this a.m. they showed footage of the interstate at a virtual stand still and said it was like that all night long! We got a call from Suzanne around 11 a.m. and she said they had turned around and were back home.

We are far enough inland that storm surge is not an issue. High winds, probably depending on where the storm makes land fall - and that keeps changing every update. Street flooding is a possibility if we get a lot v of rain. But we have lots of food, water, booze, flash lights, ice, reading material and we are in a 2 story house with an attic so I think we'll be fine. We walked a few block to see if there was any place open for lunch and everything was closed. Gas stations are out of gas. So we walked back and heated up some leftovers. There's a good chance we'll lose power so might as well eat it so it doesn't have to be thrown out. We walked bacause we want to conserve the gas we do have in the car. So that's the latest from us.

 

Wednesday, September 21
Out of the frying pan into the fire?

We arrived in Houston yesterday afternoon. After packing the car and wrestling the cats into their carriers, we got on I-10 and made good time to Houston. Traffic was very light. We are staying with friends of friend's parents. The have a house near Rice University and they live in the upstairs apartment and we have the whole downstairs to ourselves. Fully furnished and we can stay as long as we like. How long that will be remains to be seen. We don't want to be the pioneers who go back to New Orleans without power, potable water, hospitals, etc. But Jefferson Parish and the Westbank are getting up to speed as far as services and hopefully Uptown will be livable in a month or so. Provided no more storms hit...

Mass hysteria has struck Houston as hurricane Rita chugs this way. #@$% not again! Today, Greg and I ran a few errands and every gas station has lines, shelves are picked over, C and D batteries are no where to be found. Thankfully our hosts have a stocked pantry (and liquor cabinet) and functioning flashlights should the power go out. We got the last battery powered radio at Radio Shack. It's only a headset, but that's OK since it takes AAA batteries and those are the only ones to be found.

Currently, I have my computer hooked up so we can do email via dial-up. The house we are in is old and doesn't have many 3-prong outlets and none of the phone jacks downstairs work, but we do have a phone that taps into our host's phone line. I'm set up in the kitchen on a card table with a 15' phone cord from the hallway, and I had to unplug the washer to plug the computer in. Not ideal working conditions so both of us will need to find other places to work. Right now, our main concern is to get through this storm. Hopefully we won't lose power, but we are prepared incase we do. So don't be surprise if you see no new postings for a few days.

We have a number of friends here in the area and look forward to seeing some of our fellow displaced New Orleanians. We just take it day by day, rolling with the punches. Thanks again for all your t-shirt/bumper sticker purchases and emails! We both enjoy reading everyone's emails even though we can't reply personally to them all we try to answer everyone's questions via this blog.

 

Thursday, September 15
Do you know what it means to miss New Orleans

And miss it each night and day
I know I’m not wrong... this feeling’s gettin’ stronger
The longer, I stay away
Miss them moss covered vines...the tall sugar pines
Where mockin’ birds used to sing
And I’d like to see that lazy mississippi...hurryin’ into spring

The moonlight on the bayou.......a creole tune.... that fills the air
I dream... about magnolias in bloom......and I’m wishin’ I was there

Do you know what it means to miss new orleans
When that’s where you left your heart
And there’s one thing more...I miss the one I care for
More than I miss new orleans

-Louis "Sachamo" Armstrong

Got an email from Greg this afternoon. He said he tried to call but the lines were all busy. He looked at several rentals yesterday, and had checked out some of the larger apt. complexes with no luck. There's a small house in the Montrose area that the owner will let us rent for only 3 months. I know I'd have glowing recommendations from my past landlords if I only knew where they were. It will be nice to have some place we can put our feet up, unpack my duffle bag and "matching luggage" a la Target plastic shopping bags. Looking on-line at photos of people in shelters, coming back to homes destroyed by flood water (and now covered in icky mold) and finding out they aren't getting squat from their insurance companies (sidenote: our friend Guy said he's going to write Allstate a nasty letter and send them a photo of his perfectly intact house they wouldn't cover because it was "old"), my heart goes out to them and I know we are very lucky. But I miss Greg and want to get "settled" somewhere for more than a week or two. Did have another good piece of news today, Mayor Nagin said Uptown business owners can come into town this weekend--that's me!! Hot dog! Residents in our zip code can go back Wednesday. And we got a check from our insurance company and FEMA that will cover our rent.

Some people have emailed me to say they purchased t-shirts or bumper stickers - THANK YOU!! Other people have asked me who to donate to. The Red Cross is obvious, but they are also getting tons o' donations. To help New Orleans come back, our cultural organizations will need help. Like:

  • WWOZ http://www.wwoz.org/ - the Jazz and Heritage Station that does so much for New Orleans musicians.

  • Tipitina's Foundation also helps NOLA musicians - http://www.tipsevents.com/foundation/default.asp

  • Preservation Resource Center preserving our buildings - http://www.prcno.org/

  • Louisiana Landmarks Society http://louisianalandmarks.org/ - preserving the city's landmarks

  • New Orleans Center for Creative Arts (NOCCA) http://www.nocca.com/ many of our famous musicians attended (Approximately 50% of NOCCA students come from families living below the poverty line.)

  • Neighborhood Housing Services, New Orleans AIDS Task Force, Covenant House New Orleans, Big Brothers/Big Sisters... To many to name. If you go here, there's a list of non-profits: http://www.lano.org/dynaweb/1000316/ei.cfm?M=110&SM=&SC=cat100122&W=M&P=N&S=1000316&U=1&SS=1&&ver=0

So if you don't hear from us here for a few days, that's probably because we are in the middle of going into New Orleans to retrieve things and getting settled in Houston. As soon as we have an address and phone number we'll let you know.

Wednesday, September 14, noonish
"Walkin' to New Orleans..."

Greg left Monday to go to Houston to find us an apt. Hopefully he'll find us something soon. I'm still in Baton Rouge, staying at our friend Kristen's. Not only is she giving me and our 3 cats shelter and providing chauffeuring services, she's also been able to hook me up with the web development company she works for and I've been working on a few projects for them. THANK YOU KRISTEN!

N.O. Mayor Ray Nagin said last night at a press conference, that residents and business owners from parts of Uptown, Downtown, French Quarter and other non-flooded parts may be able to come back as soon as next Monday!!! Power is starting to be restored, water is available in parts (but must be boiled to drink). I just want to comment again that I think our Mayor is doing a great job. I love his comment: during the press conference, you'd hear sirens and helicopters and the speaker would pause. At one point, the Mayor said: "I'm tired of hearing these helicopters. I want to hear some jazz."

Nagin conceded the return of residents could create some confusion and perhaps complicate the sprawling relief effort to restore power and drinkable water to the city's east bank. He plans to enforce a dusk-to-dawn curfew. But a return to the normal rhythms of city life is preferable to the current ghost town, he said.

Nagin, wearing a New Orleans Hornets polo shirt and in a generally ebullient mood, predicted a big comeback for the ravaged city. "I know New Orleanians, and once the beignets are in the oven, once the gumbo is in the pot, and red beans and rice are being served on Mondays, they'll come back," he said.

Read more on http://www.nola.com - THE best source of information on New Orleans - once again I say DON'T WATCH FOX NEWS! CNN and MSNBC aren't much better.

Should we rent an apartment in Houston? It's going to be a while before stores, restaurants, etc. will be open. Will there be power and internet connections for us to be able to work? WIll the phone work better? Just don't know. We just take it one day at a time. We are very fortunate to have a house and neighborhood to go back to. I keep sane by communicating with people via various mail lists/groups. I also designed some t-shirts, most of you probably got my email.

While sitting around, wondering when we can move back and missing New Orleans, I put together 2 designs which are now available on t-shirts and bumper stickers. I'll get $5 for every item sold. Instead of donating part of the money to the huge Red Cross, I'd rather give it to smaller, local organizations that are important to me and the city. $1 LASPCA for their pet rescue efforts and to continue operating. $1 to Faubourg Delachaise Neighborhood Association. $1 AIGA New Orleans Chapter. The last $2 I'll keep to rebuild my business Creative Zumo. We do a lot of work for non-profits and community based organizations, usually a reduced price or pro-bono and I think when we get back, they will need our help, but won't have money to pay us.

http://www.cafepress.com/creativezumo

http://www.cafepress.com/creativezumo2

I think I'm going to also have to include $1 to Neighbors United, the neighborhood group Gaby lives in and that our office is in. For you non-New Orleanians here's some more info on the designs. "Laissez les bons temps rouler..." is a popular saying that means "Let the good times roll." The fleur de lis is a popular symbol of the city, and the colors, gold, green and purple are the colors of Mardi Gras. The other one "New Orleans c'est moi." translates to "New Orleans it is me." It was between that and "Je suis New Orleans" -- "I am New Orleans." Tough call.

Sunday September 11, 9:00 PM
The Big Trip part 5
 
I am off to Houston to locate a place to crash for a couple of months so Christy will have to take over the blogging duties for a few days. This is the final installment of the Big Trip. I spoke to Lyle a few minuets ago, and she was able to return with a Times-Picayune employee and rescue her mother's cat. She noted that the atmosphere had changed dramatically in the city. Since we went in, the forced evacuation plan has been scrapped and the patrols we saw confronting people have stopped. They are now leaving people where they are, and the mood is a lot less stressful. Anyway, here is the rest...
 

 

The port facilities along Tchoupitoulas looked like they held up well. Some damage to roofs, and a couple of large doors blown in, but nothing too bad. I noticed a few Harbor police positioned in key places, and one or two passed us along the way. The warehouses and building on the other side had a range of conditions. A lot of metal siding and roofing had been ripped off by the wind. One or two older building, which had not been in good shape to begin with, had taken heavy damage. There was a little traffic along here, which was reassuring.

 

We came up on the Wal-Mart. I was told it had been heavily looted, but it was now another military and police base. It was almost as big as the one in Audubon Park, at least the encampment outside the store. The troops were from all over the country. Lyle saw a contingent from New York. I looked for New Jersey, but didn’t see any.

 

The Saulet apartments still stood. Considering the cheap crackerbox construction of this middleclass housing project, that was a real surprise. I mean, they had to go in and brace the collapsing porches long before the storm ever came along. I am told the roof damage was bad, and that one or two units out of maybe over a hundred had been looted (bad luck for those people), and cars in the parking garage had been siphoned.

 

The ramp to the bridge was clear. We drove up and crossed over with about six or seven other cars. The window damage to some of the high rises was visible, but as with most things, the newer building, built with more stringent code requirements, faired well. We approached the Westbank, getting one last panoramic view of the ghost city.

 

We sped down the nearly empty Westbank expressway surveying the damage. There were the twisted piles of what were formerly billboards lining the route. Wind had ripped off awnings and metal siding from many of the commercial buildings, but it was the older and less well maintained that suffered the most. Most newer structures were virtually intact. The further down we went more and more traffic began to appear.

 

It struck me that this was going to be the life support system that New Orleans would need to get back on its feet. With the Westbank and parts of Metairie up and running, which did not look like it would be too difficult, the French Quarter and Uptown could be inhabited again. Here were the stores and restaurants that will allow people to return home. Lowes and Home Depot are set to do some bang up business. Then they could provide the supplies and food service to the basic Uptown stores and restaurants as they reopen. As often as we make fun of the Westbank and Metairie we need them more than ever, and they need New Orleans. Hopefully, some of the inter-parish squabbling that does nothing but keep the whole area down will abate. We really are in this together, unfortunately there will always be a lot of people who can’t see that, but I think the tide has finally turned.

 

We soon were swallowed up into the mass of traffic heading for Boutte to reconnect with I-10, and things slowed to a crawl. My traumatized cat wined, but eventually settled down. As we drove fleets of ambulances, police cars, power trucks, humvees, etc. flowed past us on the shoulders, the same whipped past us in the other direction heading towards the city. I’d never seen so many in my life, but it was nothing to what we would see later. We realized we hadn’t eaten anything since we left. Nothing was open, so we survived on packets of cheese and cracker Lyle had “looted” from her apartment, and we had several bottles of water. A bottle of water is something that I don't think I will look at quite the same way again.

 

The traffic crawled again when we approached I-10. Everything funneled down to one lane, and the fleets continued to pass, weaving their way through the mass of vehicles. Finally we made the sweep onto the interstate, and soon traffic was moving along at a reasonable clip. Passing through the swamps, I saw a ribbon of flashing lights approaching from behind. There seemed to be no end to it. A convoy of easily over 50 ambulances with assorted vehicles passed us by. Count a line of cars sometime to get an idea how long this is. They hailed from everywhere, in nearly every color scheme you can imagine. A few minuets later another, even larger convoy came past. Smaller groups of ten to twenty assorted vehicles also passed. As the sun began to set, the flashing red and blue lights blended into a soft glow. The final notable group we saw was a large convoy of animal rescue vehicles, some just SUV’s, other professional animal control vehicles. A number, we noticed, were from Oregon, but LASPCA and other local groups were well represented.

 

At about Gonzales, the convoys abated and a spectacular sunset lay ahead of us. We sped on at a normal interstate clip and made it back about twelve hours after we left. I finally got to enjoy a little of that wiskey I had liberated, but I was exhausted and was soon heading for bed. Later that night Hana emerged demanding attention, and has since returned almost completely to her normal self.

 

 
 

Sunday September 11, 9:45 AM

The Big Trip part 4 - The house

 

We pulled up in front of the house, past a pile of branches that was defiantly not there before the storm. Our other neighbors’ houses faired well, no signs of any significant damage. Although the aluminum awnings on the house across the street were now abstract sculptures. A New Orleans police SUV passed us, but did not stop. We waited for them to get out of site, before we got out. We were not eager to get stopped again.

 

The area was dead quiet, and the complete absence of any human activity was a little unnerving. We have had word, or at least are convinced, that most of our neighbors were safe. But I wondered about some of the people who I did not have word on and may never know the fate of: the crossing Guard on Louisiana, who waves to and knows everyone’s car in the neighborhood, the family that lived in the now vacant house next door. They were nice people, and intact African American family working hard to get by. All the families and children Brother Martin from the Baptist center down the street worked with. Their run down playground was always full of kids.

 

I took out the screw holding the screen doors shut, unlocked the door and went in. It was, due to my very anal boarding up of the house, very dark inside. But surprisingly, not that hot. I set Lyle up with trash bags to get the refrigerators cleaned out, and grabbed a large box for the things I needed. Then I set about catching the cat. For those who don’t know, Hana was a stray, and retains that wild survival instinct. After a few days alone, she gets even more wily. The food was gone, and only a small amount of water remained. I checked her hiding places, small bowl of tuna in hand, and found her under the bed. She wasn’t going in for the coaxing, although the tuna peaked her interest. I flushed her out to a somewhat more accessible place and eventually managed to pet her head a little bit. She was not coming out. Okay, I’ve got one shot. I positioned the cat carrier and grabbed her and held on. She made a great attempt to get away, finally rolling around face up scratching my hands and even digging into my chest. But I was able to just pop her into carrier. Mission accomplished, so far.

 

I had made a list, but the dark, the need to move quickly, and the uncertainty of what we would find, and just the chaos of the situation sort of blew away any semblance of organization. But I think it was the deserted feel of the area that had the most impact. It was downright creepy. Just to have another friendly face, someone to wave to, would have been a real comfort. I just ran back and forth collecting things. Anyone who knows me knows how out of character this is. But I did manage to get all the important things and a few extras.

 

I began gathering some clothes, a few files and minor items. A nearly full bottle of Bunnahabhain Single Malt Whiskey made it in the box. I was going to need this later. Lyle moved on to packing some of Christy’s clothes in bags. I filled a laundry hamper with clothes and shoes. We staged everything by the front door. A couple of times patrols and even a bobcat, probably part of the clean up crew, drove by, but inside we were out of site.

 

When I was sure the street was clear. I walked around the house to check for damage, and assess the status and the access to my father’s pickup truck in my shed at the back. Unfortunately, the heavy roofing off the shed next door had pealed off and landed in my yard. I could not move it myself and it was studded with roofing nails. The truck was fine, but it would have to stay for now. I didn’t think for a minuet that the shed with its rusting sheetmetal roof could survive a storm like that. I was convinced that it would be peeled like an onion. To my surprise it had not been damaged badly. A large hole in the center of the roof was the worst of it, and it actually let daylight in to some of our plants we had secured there. Who knows, something might survive. A secondary post had been knocked down at one end, but it could be fixed. Then I took stock of the roof of the house. The ridge tiles did not hold up so well, and a number were scattered in the grass where they fell, but the roof looked basically fine.

 

The hardest part for me was not doing something. I just had to leave it there; all the branches, all the debris. I caught myself picking up a roof tile, inspecting it to make sure it was from the run down house next door and not mine, and looking for a place to start a pile. I shut off the gas, but forgot to shut off the main power. If it comes on with the refrigerators propped open, the motors could just burn up. A small concern, but exactly the kind of thing that hangs like a weight around your neck when you don’t have the normal daily grind to keep your attention.

 

I looked for the two stray cats, Hana’s relatives, who we had been feeding, but there was no sign of them. Another cat I had never seen before was sleeping in my lumber rack (a choice spot for a cat). It took off when I walked by. I put out the little bit of outside cat food we had left and the open can of tuna. Something would eat it.

 

We loaded up; neglecting to take the laundry basket of clothes. That was about par for the course at this point. But, most importantly, one traumatized cat was about to have her first car trip longer than the three of four blocks it takes to get to the vet. We set off again. I looped around and got onto Tchoupitoulas heading for the bridge.

 

 

Saturday ,September 10 10:00 AM

The Big Trip part 3

 

Lyles Place:

 

We got into Lyles building and up to her apartment with no problem. The upper sashes on her front windows had been broken and her carpet was wet and beginning to take on a musty aroma. While she gathered up what she needed, I cleaned out her fridge, which was smelling pretty ripe. After that I went outside and tried to find the gas meters. How easy is it to hide a meter? Apparently easier than you think. I did shut off a large water heater, and the main power feed. I came back in and began helping Lyle shuffle her clothes from the musty front room to her living room in the back, which was dry.

 

The “crackdown” on those staying was clearly visible. While we were inside, some people we had past sitting on the porch of houses a block before were approached by a group of Gaurdsman. The conversations lasted at least five to ten minuets. They left without incident and continued on towards us. While pulling up to Lyles we had noticed a man on a bike, meandering down the street. While we were moving the clothes, he was stopped right outside. A second group of guardsman approached. I tried to keep a low profile, and take peeks at what was going on. The second group seemed not involved with the stop, but merely stood by while the first group talked to the man. At some point we were spotted, and I believe I saw one pointing in our direction. The first unit of about six men of what I assumed was a military police unit came in the front door loudly asking if anyone was there. We yelled back and both met them in the hall downstairs.

 

They verified my cousins ID and that she lived there, took down our names and dates of birth. We assured them we were not staying and repeated that we were checking for a person who might have stayed. The overall mood was cautious, and not overly confrontational. I tried to keep things amiable by joking about the length of my last name which didn’t fit on one line of the small pad the MP was writing on. Once they were convince we were not hold outs ourselves, they were more interested that verifying the building was empty than with anything we were doing. The obvious leader of the team told us that after Thursday, anyone seen in any house or building would be considered a looter. I have not heard this from any official source yet.

 

Lyle had a stock of bottled water, and we had planned to give to anyone we saw. Considering the number of Gaurdsman around and the fact that they were working so hard to discourage people from staying we decided to leave it. On the way out, Lyle stopped to get a painting that belonged to her mother. She set it in the hall, but we both walked out without it. The encounter had unnerved us a bit, and we both just wanted to move on and get in and out of my house quickly.

 

Getting into the car, the second group of Gaurdsman, now identifiable as Michigan National Guard, waved to us. I thought to myself that this is the most troops this city has seen since the Northern Occupation. They were young mostly, with one or two older non-coms. Lyle thanked them for being there and I waved in agreement. These guys are the absolute best. Despite M-16’s and body armor, never once did I feel intimidated, they controlled things with dignity, smiles and unwavering professionalism. It made me proud.

 

We continued down Prytania towards Louisiana Ave. We saw the white house with part of its front façade gone, the contents of a room visible like dolls house. Photos of it have been circulating. It is about the worst damage to any older house we saw. The Touro area looked okay. I am sure they took on some water, but they always take on water in hard rain. Turning onto Louisiana, the first thing that struck me was that the area had not been cleared as well others; power lines were down everywhere, but the trees were intact. The scene was actually better than I expected. The area seemed deserted, and there were none of the signs of life we had seen further Uptown. We crossed Magazine into our neighborhood. I was tempted to turn towards downtown and take a look at the commercial area of Magazine, but continued on. I just wanted to get on with this and get out of there. As I had heard the music store was intact with no sign of looting.

 

The last leg of Louisiana was the same, with the trees looking pretty good. No visible damage to the houses that I could see. But I had to be much more careful while driving to avoid debris and power lines, so my attention was not as focused on the houses. The large play field behind out house was deserted. I had wondered if it would be put into use by the National Guard as so many other places had, but it had not. Then, there is nothing past it except the port. Our neighbor’s house at the corner of our street seemed okay. I was worried as they had not boarded up, and their house was two stories. I didn’t see any windows out, but I did not get to examine it closely.

 

We rounded the corner onto my street and pulled up to the house.

Friday, September 9th 9:30 AM

The Big Trip part 2

 

The Office

 

We crossed the railroad tracks and turned up Leake St./River road. The first stop was my office, just a few blocks along the river from the checkpoint. A lot of work had been done clearing the streets. Trees were crudely cut back, and most of the debris that could damage a tire had been cleared off the roads. Again, a blizzard of bits of fence, roofing, siding, branches and leaves covered everything. The oak tree next to Mat and Naties was now in Mat and Naties. A couple of older buildings that had been in poor condition to start were heavily damaged, but still, in general things looked okay. The house Byron Mouton was building on Lowerline looked pretty good. The area was fairly deserted. We passed a humvee with two troopers, who simply stepped out of the way and let us pass.

 

We reached my office, by Uptown Square and went in. The building has not been maintained very well by the landlord, but it was in good shape. We used the bathroom. After almost five hours in the car it was a definite must. The water was on and flowing. I packed the items I came for and we left. Next stop, Lyles apartment. We got on Broadway and headed for Magazine Street. I noticed an older couple on their porch. The first hold outs we had seen.

 

Magazine Street

 

We headed up Magazine Street to Audubon park. The shuttered Anderson-Dibella market collapsed, which is no surprise. It’s been close to it for a while. There is damage to a lot of the trees, but I think a many will survive if taken care of. What is most striking is the encampment of National Guard, in the shade of the surviving trees, and the watchful eyes of the giraffes at Audubon Zoo. I am sure the hear the monkeys howling at night. This was the first of the large military contingents we saw and they were everywhere. The field where the old pool was had set up as a helicopter landing area. Two Blackhawks sat there, as well as a line of humvees. I have heard that wealthy New Orleanians have been able to land private helicopters here and access their homes and businesses. It would not surprise me. I know of at least one law firm that flew in several people. At least they are letting some of the more ordinary types in.

 

I’ve compared notes with a few other people who made it in. As I mentioned before the official people allowed are doctors, contractors, rescue workers, military, etc. None of us had the official documents to get in, but managed to get in anyway with a plausible story, or actual task. Some have gotten in under the guise of recovering items from their business, or a reed thin connection to an official contractor. One friend simply went in in his “Amazing” windows pick-up truck from his business. Overall they seem to be lenient and sympathetic, and I expect they will continue to be until access to Jefferson Parish is ended today.

 

We continued on to the line of shops and restaurants. The plywood on the door to Reginelli’s had been converted to a “Neighborhood Information” board complete with the FEMA phone number. Taqueria Corona, my favorite and frequent lunch destination was intact, as was the Art supply store. Lyle commented that it looked like you could have just walked in and bough a tube of paint like any normal day. Whole Foods looked okay. They may have lost a bit of roof, as the level of daylight seemed more than usual, but the glass front was intact. The CC’s café had obviously been broken into, likely for the stock of bottled water, but the windows of Adam and Michelle’s office on the floor above all seemed intact.

 

The damage was not catastrophic, nor was the looting. These are the stores reported to have been “cleaned out” but in reality had not been touched. Nearly everyone was neatly boarded up. The husband of a women I work with owns one of these stores and confirmed that several out of about two dozen shops had been hit with a few smash and grabs. It is questionable what was even taken. His was fine except for water damage from the roof. Some stores reported looted may have only had windows broken by debris. The Perlis, with its broken window, has been shown repeatedly in the news as and example of looting, but their security gates were in place at the door and at the back of the display window. Yes, they put them at the back so breaking one of the large plate glass windows would not give you access to the store; anyone who was looking closely could have seen it.

 

Prytania Street

 

We turned up Jefferson towards Prytania. There was a lot of tree damage, consistent with what we had seen before, one or two porches had collapsed. One or two houses had been damaged by falling trees. We passed a couple loading an SUV from what was their house. I waved, but they didn’t wave back. We rounded the corner onto Prytania. The Prytania theater looked fine. As with the art store it looked like you could just walk up and buy a ticket; Brothers Grim was playing at an imaginary matinee. We continued. The shopping center and shops by Crepe Nanou were all in good condition. The Ibeia Bank branch I worked on was perfect, and most importantly Kyoto Sushi appeared intact. Interestingly, the CVS pharmacy looked completely untouched, with no sign of looting.

 

At Napoleon Ave. the school building on the corner was now completely occupied and was obviously being used as a headquarters. Its pre-air conditioning architecture included operable windows and they were all open. I was told Napoleon and St Charles is the main round up area and evacuation point, and that seems true given the military presence. We crossed Napoleon. Most of the trees on this stretch seemed to have survived. On the other side, a couple of hold outs sitting on their porch waved as we passed. We reached Lyles building.

 

Many locals know this house; the one with the big turret at Marengo. The new slate roof was in good shape, but several of the old glass windows, which were not boarded up, were smashed. Bits of glass were all around and pieces of slate were stuck straight up in the ground. Most of the houses along here are quite tall, and I could see several of the older roofs on the surrounding houses had lost some sections of roofing, stripped to the roof boards by the wind. We went in to get her things.

Thursday, September 8th 5:00 PM

The Big Trip, part 1

 

I am going to recount my entry in New Orleans yesterday in several parts. Forgive me if they are a little long, but I think a lot of people will appreciate some of the details, and I wanted to write some of this down.

 

I had not happy about leaving my cat. For a few days, she was okay, but we were now looking at weeks since we had left. I worried about food, and particularly water. I was looking for a way into the city. My cousin Lyle was in the same boat, having left her cat, and her mother’s cat as well. She wanted to go in, right away, Thursday or Friday after the storm, but there was no way I would try it until things settled down. That they were going to allow people into Jefferson Parish, gave me some hope. Some areas would be secure, and routes clear, at least to get to the city. A friend of Lyle’s, a doctor, was going in the coming Monday and we both gave him keys, and a net. He was able to catch Lyles cat and get her out, but did not have time for anything more. He said he got through the checkpoint by waving his stethoscope, and said he had little problem getting around. Tuesday, Lyle suggested we go in, and we planned to leave Wednesday morning.

 

I had been checking the boards at nola.com for news and the status on uptown, and how we might get in. I began feeling pretty comfortable with making a dash into Uptown. Several people had described getting in, and I knew there were probably more who had but had stayed quiet about it. I borrowed my father’s Tahoe and pistol, for some bulk and security, in exchange for a promise to try to get his pick up truck out. I had borrowed the truck a week or so before the storm, and he really wanted it back for his own clean up. I had had reports that they were waving people through the checkpoint into Jefferson Parish the day before; so the hard part seemed like it would be getting into New Orleans proper. Lyle wanted to retrieve her mother’s cat from her home on St Claude Ave. past the French Quarter. I weighed the possibility and had to veto the idea. I could find no information on the area, which is not the best part of town on a good day. I knew Uptown had had some trees cleared, the roads open and was being heavily patrolled. No word on St. Claude. We did not know how much water remained in the area, and the thought of negotiating the military presence in downtown was really not appealing. I broke it to her before we left and told her she could back out if she wanted, but she wanted to go ahead.

 

The drive in was uneventful, just long. All Traffic was diverted to Airline Hwy 61 on into Jefferson Parish. It crawled through Reserve and La Place, and slowed again as we approached the Jefferson Parish line. It took over four and a half hours to reach Jefferson parish. Lyle rehearsed for the checkpoint. We passed into Jefferson and could see the airport. National Guard and Police manned the intersections, but there was no checkpoint. Step one complete. We cut over to river road in Kenner and headed for the city. My plan was to get in at the river road crossing, by Oak street. Almost all the people reporting they had gotten in had said they had gotten in this way. In better times, this is known and used mostly by uptown locals. It should not be clogged like the major roads and also seemed the best bet for a sympathetic guard.

 

The part of Kenner near the river had faired well. Every billboard was a twisted pile of debris, but the buildings generally sustained only minor damage. River Ridge was almost completely intact. There was junk everywhere: fences, bits of siding and roofing, and a blizzard of branches and leaves. Police from as far off as New York were highly visible at some intersections and at other locations. We passed the Rivershack, which looked fine, Ochner Hospital and approached the Orleans line. A small levee, more of a berm, separates the Parishes at this point. There are a couple of gaps besides the main crossing to Oak Street. Someone had reported that at least one of these was unguarded (non-local forces) and had bypassed the checkpoint. We headed that way. No dice, it was guarded and had been barred with a telephone pole. National Guard catches up with the locals. The second was flooded with “normal” New Orleans Street flooding.

 

We approached the checkpoint from the side, with about two cars ahead of us. Both got in after a short conversation with the guardsman. We approached and Lyle gave her speech. Not a good liar, she described her landlady, who had stayed through the storm, but left afterwards, omitting the leaving part. Lyle had worn scrubs to look a bit more convincing. She said she lived in the same building and took care of her, and she had agreed to leave if we came and got her. I added that we had a place to take her, and she did not want to be evacuated to god knows where. He gave us the list of those allowed in: doctors, contractors, rescue workers, military, etc. Notably, press was NOT on the list. He asked for some official ID that fit one of the categories, which we did not have. He said we could talk to the Lieutenant, a blond woman across the street. Lyle had done well so far.

 

The Lieutenant approach and Lyle repeated her story. Lyle claimed she was private health worker, and did not have any official ID. The Lieutenant asked us how long we would be in the city, which we said an hour or two. She asked where she worked. Lyle told her the university she teaches at and said she was a professor. At this point I think she had doubts about the story, but it was not unbelievable, and were obviously not there to cause trouble. The Lieutenant replied to Lyle “so you are a doctor”, which is true, just of philosophy and not medicine, and advised Lyle to just say she was Dr so-and-so from there on out, and stick to the story. We were in. Everyone had been calm and professional about the whole thing. I am sure they had a good bit of sympathy for all of us.

Wednesday, September 7, 6:03 pm
Covert kitty rescue mission

Best news I've had in ages! Greg and his cousin Lyle went back to New Orleans to rescue kitties and get some possessions. You can't officially get back into the city but they had a plan... Lyle bought some scrubs and she and Greg claimed they had talked to an elderly patient who said she would evecuate only if they came and took her and her cat. It worked! Greg can give you the full details tomorrow but he did say that the looting on Magazine was grossly exaggerated he saw nothing broken into except for groceries stores and such. He also said there was military/guardsmen everywhere.

Wednesday, September 7, 10:26 am

Reading through the headlines on NOLA.com... The mayor has ordered a manditory evecuation, in which the national guard can use force to remove people. I was reading accounts of search crews finding people who refuse to leave. I was looking for more inormation about the reported "fire in the garden district..." the location was technically in the lower garden district; our house is above the garden district on the edge of the Irish Channel.

Tuesday, September 6

As you can see our blogging has slowed down a bit. No new news to tell. We’re still been avoiding TV coverage, preferring to get our info from the web. Yesterday had a touch of normalcy... we did some laundry and went to the grocery store (makin’ groceries). Not to get all philosophical (too late) but it’s amazing how these simple activities that normally are a pain but need to be done, now make us feel human and in control of our lives. LSU started classes today, pretty much all power has been restored and gas stations and stores are getting shipments, and traffic is a nightmare. We ran a few errands today and we sat in the car more than we drove. However, one thing that took our breath away... we passed a caravan of 20-30 fire trucks from all over, definitely Peoria, IL and many other towns. I guess there were moving them to a staging area to be sent to parts unknown. Why? I don’t know. But to see so many fire trucks and firemen, so far from home, to know somewhere are towns that are sharing resources that protect them with us, it moved us deeply.

We continue to try to get in touch with friends and hear from several new people a day. Phone service is slightly better but it still is hard to get a call out, though Greg’s cousin Lyle has been able to call our cell phone which is promising. People have asked our plans... we take thing one day at a time, but the plan du jour is to go to Houston once we can get back to our house and get some things (especially our cat Hana) and yes, we are going back to New Orleans. 95% of the people we’ve talked to are also planning on going back.

Lastly, a spirit lifter for me, Florida State beat U of Miami. I almost didn’t watch since we’ve lost to them over last few years, but we held our lead to the end and sacked their quarterback with no mercy. - Go ‘Noles!!!

CBH

Sunday, Sept 4

Hi all. Greg and I have moved into our friend Kristen's apartment today. We're curtailed our TV watching today and yesterday which has helped our moods. Been practicing a bit of escapism by catching up on movie watching. We've read some reports of people having gotten back into Orleans Parish (Louisiana has parishes instead of counties), but then others that people are being turned away and some not being allowed to leave. Tomorrow, people can return to Jefferson Parish to check their houses, grab what they can a leave. Keep your fingers crossed it goes well so maybe Uptown residents are next. Greg emailed a pet rescue operation today in hopes they can get Hana. Once again, keep thoses fingers crossed. We've had confirmation from our neighbor and have also viewed satillight (sp) images that our house does indeed still stand, and is dry. Pshew. A friend forward me an email from someone who went through Andrew, offing theit support and input. I may share that with you. However, Scott is here and it's dinner time. So until tomorrow, keep those emails coming!

CBH

Saturday, Sept 3, 10:25 pm

We are still in Baton Rouge, staying with Greg's brother, Scott. However, the power has finally been restored to our friend Kristen's apartmemt-she is out of town and has offered her place for us to stay. We may "move in" tomorrow. I must say, it's so frustrating, we feel so helpless. We can't sleep. I'm dying to run away--fill up the gas tank (yikes!$$$) and drive out west and visit our friends, then head across the north and then down the east coast, stopping at friends/families for a visit. Also, stop to visit our New Orleans friends who are now spread throughout.

But Greg is determined to get back into the city, rescue our kitty, Hana, and get more things from our house, so we stay in Baton Rouge. Everyone knew what happened was a reality, but the reality is worse than the imagined. Every morning, I woke up and some else bad happened... first levees broke, worse flooding, looting, fires, gun shots, people who survived dying, the administration sitting on thier asses and now the media is in a feeding frenzy. It's insanity. We are very fortunate and I tell myself that over and over to try to keep a perspective on things. There are people so much worse off than us but the future is very uncertain, so I just try and focus on today. Please keep the emails coming, we may not get to reply to each individually, but hearing from everyone is very comforting. Week one will be over soon - this time a week ago, we were boarding up our house, filling our gas tank, etc. It's good to see people stuck in the city FINALLY getting rescued and receiving food/water/medicine. The question of "IF" our city well be rebuilt is rebutted by "us locals" who say WHEN it will be rebuilt. We love New Orleans, it is a special place, with all it's pros and cons, but it is home.

CBH


Friday, September 2, 9:29 PM
Christy's 2 cents


After reading Greg's entry below, I agree and don't have much to add-I voted for our Mayor and think he has done an excellent job. I feel extremly lucky that we could get out on our own, there is a good chance we may have an intact house to one day go home to, we have savings and insurance and have skills to earn money. We also have wonderful, generous family and friends who have offered to let us stay with them, money and "anything we need." Thank you.

We've also been hearing from friends we were worried about. They are all over the country. Hannah and Neil are in Florida, Wendy and Kendall are in Texas and Gaby and Greggy are in New Jersey. Others are in D.C., TN, NC, ID, usually where ever they have family. When we will see our friends again we don't know, but thank goodness for email. The phone lines are jammed and no on can get through.


Friday, September 2, 6:48 PM
Uptown Update


Hi everyone,
With all the crazy news being reported about NOLA, I wanted to share this with you all. -Christy

Daisycat Uptown Update

My brother, Drew, is still in his home at Napoleon and Annunciation (he's got plenty of food and water). He's got a fully functioning land line, so I've been in frequent contact with him (I'm in St. Louis). Yesterday I posted his observations upon walking through uptown. Here's today's report:

Drew went to help evacuate some hospice patients at St. Charles General Hospital this afternoon (after he learned of a call for volunteers), so he didn’t have time to do an extensive walkabout today (plus it rained lightly for a few hours). But he did get around a bit: he went Magazine from Napoleon to Amelia St. up to Prytania and Prytania back to Napoleon. As he reported yesterday, there is no significant damage (only one building on Prytania had significant damage). Water has receded from St. Charles several blocks towards Claiborne (it never got south of St. Charles), and they’re still evacuating people at St. Charles and Napoleon ? there are lots of buses.

During his walk he saw no looted buildings anywhere. No evidence of vandals or roving gangs. Increased presence of National Guard and police. Uptown seems quiet and peaceful.

Drew cannot stress highly enough how on his walk through major and side streets he has not seen any looting or suspicious activity. Perhaps if somebody left a 12-pack of cold beer on their front steps, it would go missing, but other than that, there has been no looting of residences that he has observed. Drew expects that looting is probably happening in some places, but it is grossly exaggerated by the media. Most people in Uptown are simply not that desperate.

Both of us hope everyone reading this is safe. Our hearts goes out to those who are still waiting for rescue, food and water. I wish I could bring it to you myself.

Erin (with Drew)


Friday, September 2, 5:30 PM
His Honer, Mayor Ray Nagan

My feelings for the absolute failure to deal with this tragedy are almost indescribable. I honestly cannot believe what is happening, I just can't. I have read and heard the feeling of others on this matter. I've seen the outpouring of help and support from individuals, churches, chapters of my Fraternity. But the ugly side is rearing it's head, as well. The comment that struck me the most was one I read that pointed out a photo of a yard of flooded school busses in New Orleans, busses the writer claimed proved the Mayor “criminally negligent” for not filling those buses and getting all the people out the way of the Hurricane.

I left my house on Sunday. It still stands, but I have no idea when I will see it again. It’s in a city, known for its crime and incredible culture, a culture that has spread through every pore of this country in a way no other has. It may be gone, for good. I had a car, a reliable one, and money for gas. I had family to stay with; there were no hotel rooms available as far east as Tallahassee, or as far west as San Antonio, on Sunday, but I still could have found the money. I am young, and had the strength to work myself to exhaustion Saturday screwing plywood over the windows of my house, and I had the money and fore though to buy and keep a small supply in my shed. I am able to sit in the air conditioning, and type this while outside the heat index tops 100.

I do not rely on a cumbersome bus system for transportation, or a train system that ceased all operations Saturday. My only family are not on the other side of the country. I am not elderly. I don’t work in the kitchen of a hotel that required me to report for work on Sunday (they have guests, you know). I am not poor, I have options. Many of my neighbors (and I mean neighbors) do not.

This city is a poor city. It has great problems, on levels only places such as Detroit and Newark can really understand. The school system is bankrupt, barely able to maintain or afford the gas for the busses you see. I suspect the drivers might have had some concerns for their families as well. It has a mayor I happily voted for, as did nearly all the republicans. A businessman, he promised to make the city better, and he did. He may be the best we’ve ever had. He immediately began weeding out the corruption that tarred this city. He received standing ovations at restaurants. He hired bright people and gave them what limited resources he could to make things better. Check and see what software your city uses to run its web site, I might have been a licensed version of the one his programs developed. Things were starting to look up.

I’ve heard outrage that a member of the Congressional Black Caucus refused to rule out racism as a factor in the tragedy that continues to unfold. You want racism? How many of your cities would have accepted the contents of some of the worst crime ridden housing projects last Sunday? Don’t even begin to explain, you know the answer. You know the answer. How many would have taken the elderly, many worn and brittle after a life of hardship and toil we cannot imagine. How many could set up the necessary equipment for their care in time? Where would you have put them? That is of course if some great American gee-whiz magic could have produced all these people from the four corners of the city, on time, lined up like perfect school kids.

Would you have even cared? I mean, lets get real. We sweated out Dennis, as did the whole gulf coast. Remember Dennis? We evacuated for Ivan. Did you even know? We evacuated for Georges. Do you even remember the name? How many of your cities stepped up then? Would any of them have even listened?

You want to know how this works…when the contra-flow (both sides of the interstate running outbound) plan was first being set up to evacuate the city, Mississippi refused to allow it to extend past their border citing manpower shortages. And you know what? It was true. They did not have the resources to deal with their own evacuating populations, and Louisiana. Mississippi, you see is pretty poor too.

Now it seems the mayor who fought for funds for coastal restoration, the funds needed to complete the levee system as designed was “criminally negligent” as are those who remained in the city. It’s been made clear to me now, the crime was poverty. And there is no greater crime.

GJH


Thursday, September 1, 12:48 PM
Looking for...


There are a number of people we have not heard from. Hannah and Neil Kohlman, Kendal and Wendy Lamar, Gaby and Greg, my office, etc... If you have any news, please let us know.


Thursday, September 1, 12:23 PM
Greg's media rant

I am in the thick of it here, have had contact with people still in, or recently leaving the city and I have to say DO NOT rely on CNN or Fox for your news of this event. Fox coverage is appalling and CNN is only slightly better. The only coverage that is not either sensationalizing the flimsiest of rumor, actually hampering the efforts of relief agencies and law enforcement, or both has been the local Baton Rouge news outlets. They continue to do an outstanding job, bolstered by refugees from their New Orleans affiliates. The best source is http://www.nola.com/, run in part by the New Orleans daily paper, the Times Picayune. But please, please try to keep their bandwith open. This is the only reliable lifeline we have had to the city. The media feeding frenzy, with their attempts to push political agendas, stir up racial, class, and political divisions, has been one of the lowest points in the history of American “journalism” and I speak for a lot of people when I say we are extremely angry about it. Please let people know.

That being said, there has been some shocking behavior, of the worst sort. There has been a complete breakdown of all, and I mean all, civic infrastructure, institutions, communication and support, which has left things in a bad state. People are in a real life and death situation, and desperation is understandable. They have no food or water; there is no civic water supply at all. There is no water to boil. People are being herded like cattle out of hellish shelters, to other states. They have no way to contact loved ones, perform basic hygiene or have any idea when they will be able to. Many of them are elderly, and they are effectively prisoners. The area is lawless, dangerous and deadly, but it looks like things have hit bottom and will begin to improve.

The good news for us is we received word that our house has survived intact. We are hoping that we might be able to return to our part of the city sooner than the month cited in some of the blanket statements by official.

There are still a number of people we have been unable to get in touch with. Baton Rouge has doubled in population, and the phone systems just can’t handle the traffic. We have had trouble both calling and receiving. If you have been trying to reach us, that is why. Email is still the best option.

That's all for now.

GJH

Wednesday, August 31, 2:00 PM
Location Update

Christy and I are now in Baton Rouge with my brother. We rode the storm out at my folks, and came into town yesterday afternoon. Other than several trees down and the power going out, (power pole was splintered) and the rode blocked by a few trees, there was nothing a few chainsaws and my Uncle Wilmer’s tractor couldn't fix. We will wait hear until we get some kind of word on the condition of our house, etc. Our area, Annunciation at Louisiana is pretty high for the city, but I believe all bets are off with this one, and God only knows what happened in the storm. Our neighbor rode the storm out downtown, but we have been unable to make contact. We may be off to Houston in a few days, depending on what happens.

Officially a refugee

GJH

Monday, August 29, 9:15 AM
Stormy Monday

Friends, family, and other interested parties,

Just to let you all know, Christy and I have successfully boarded up the house and vacated the city Of New Orleans for my parents place north of Baton Rouge. It is stormy and several trees are down, but the ol' plantation is just fine, and the power is still on so far.

At the time of this email, the storm has tracked to the east of the city, heading towards the LA/MS state line, which is a very good thing. The doomsday track of slightly to the west which would have dumped the contents of Lake Pontchartrain into the "bowl" of the city to the top of the levees has not come to pass, however the city is still taking a big hit. Most of the web cams on around the city are still online, but there is not much to see.

I'll keep you posted on the aftermath, when I am able.

GJH

To make things easier, we are going to post our news and information here. Check back often, as we will, hopefully, be posting regularly.

Friend and professional photographer, Jackson Hill, sent me a link to photos he took around town. He said he'll be adding more to it.

Article by author Anne Rice: "Do You Know What It Means to Lose New Orleans?"

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WWOZ is up and streaming again out of New Jersey!http://www.wwoz.org/ 

Times-Picayune Wednesday, September 07, 2005 Returning to the remnants of home By Chris Rose Columnist Read this great story about uptown.

Here is a photo from satellight of our area of town take Aug 31. Scroll all the way down to the bottom for our neighborhood; our house is to the left of the big, open park area with the empty pool.

Why do we love New Orleans? Here is an on-line guide I put together a little while ago. I guess when we go back, I'll have to update it...

This is from my friend Kristi (also a graphic designer from Florida :-) blog, written by her friend who works in a New Orleans hospital and could not evacuate. He's at ground zero and his commentary is funny, sad, angry - that mix of emotions we are all feeling. And those reports of alligators is true!

Know how someone from the Bush administration (I forget who) said they couldn't have possibly know that the levee breaking, flooding etc. could happen? Big fat lie. In 2002 the Times-Picayune did a story on this topic in 2002. Just like people in LA know they are at risk of an earthquake, we all knew the risk of taking a hit from a major hurricane.

email Greg at ggre "at" earthlink "dot" net