Sunday, November 27, 2005

Post-Katrina trip home

When you're uptown having a macchiato at PJ's, you'd barely know that any tragedy had struck the city. The stumps being used as stools out front seemed to be a style statement, and the Magazine bus (which might be the only public transportation still functioning) still cruises up-and-down the narrow streets. All along the strip between St. Charles and the river, the city looked much as it ever was. Driving down Decatur and up Royal gives the same impression - the charming city that care forgot - but you don't have to go far past St. Charles to see the carnage the city experienced.

On Broadway's neutral ground, there's still a car with a missing wheel and the spring/strut sticking out from the fender. The last functioning gas station along Carrollton is Spur near the sewerage canal (thought it should have posted an interstate sign "last gas until Metairie"). The planted signs "house gutting" & "debris removal" signs along Carrollton are so numerous that it's easy to run a stop sign - no functioning stop lights past Claiborne.

Of course that's the day time. At night time, once you exit on to West End Blvd from the freeway, the drive to Robert E. Lee is just eerie - blocks on end without lights. Then you reach the jewel streets, which are a bit of an island with functioning water and electricity and a rent-a-cop driving through the neighborhood. Even saw a house incongruously decorated for Christmas with tons of lights and a Santa in the yard.

These following images are from Pratt Drive (right by the London Avenue canal breech), but they don't fully convey how un-liveable the area south of Lake Terrace is.

My sister-in-law teased me that there are plenty of folks like me driving around taking photos and we should all be charged. She was right - we saw two vans coming across the bridge at Fillmore Avenue snapping shots just while we drove down Pratt Drive.

Lakeview is the same of course. Tons of houses with red spray paint from search-and-rescue on the house fronts stating: date, group, number of dead humans, number of life pets. My brother had sanded the red paint off the front of his house, but there are thousands of houses with the paint still prominent (truly a heroic effort going house to house).

house on Bel Air Drive across from the 17th st. canal

The drive back from the lake front at night is strange as well. No functioning stop lights on Canal Blvd; none on Canal Street until you reach the CBD. The drive up St. Charles seems normal until you realize that there are no street cars. I asked how long before they return? "1 to 2 years" according to my mother - a combination of lack of electricity and damaged cars. I hope that's wrong since they are so much part of the character of my hometown: I can understand not restarting the Canal Street or City Park lines or even the red cars along the river, but if there's a need for the Magazine bus, then surely there's a need for the signature street cars as well.

Best to end with the important updates:

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