Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Mardi Gras 2006 write-up

Flew with Frodo back to New Orleans, but even Gandalf's wand couldn't fix all that ails my hometown.

The lower 9th ward has a few signs of life, but the destruction is still over powering

lower 9th ward - February 2006

There are signs of folks adapting of course - enterprising tourist bus operators are now offering destruction tours showing the barge, which is now being deconstructed.
(100' from the barge)

It's still a bit nervous driving around the city when you're not in the "sliver by the river" because there are so few gas stations open: fortunately Arabi now has one. The owner showed us a photo of water up to the rafters taken after the levees broke by some government employee from across the street. Said he had to battle FEMA's bureaucracy and the gas company since they were hesitant to supply him again.

What's incredible is how folks are still willing to come back - saw a fair number of folks rebuilding in Chalmette east of Paris Avenue, and a handful in the lower 9th ward as well. Still given how few have returned, I can't see how St. Bernard can be anything but a ghost town for years.

(chalmette east of paris road)

A side point, but one oddity of New Orleans is that no other section is known by its ward number. No one says "I live in the 5th ward" and have never heard anyone mention the upper 9th ward. Is it just because Jackson Barracks resides in the lower section? Can't believe that the demographics are that different from the "upper" side of the industrial canal versus the "lower".

Drove through New Orleans East, and once again, a good number of FEMA trailers there and along the lakefront (actually you can find them in all sections of town including uptown). Since there are enough houses still occupied near the lakefront it will return.
(henry's old house - gutted inside, so presumably the owners plan to rebuild & return).

Overall, the city's infrastructure has returned far more than I thought back in Thanksgiving. Stop lights and street lights far more numerous than just 3 months ago. Of course, it is still spooky trying to cut from Claiborne to Galvez as both sides of Claiborne around the muse streets are largely uninhabited with no street lights or stop lights.

To close on a positive note, the crowds for Bacchus were as claustrophobic as usual, and it was nearly impossible to park in either the French Quarter or Faubourg Marigny. The famous restaurants (Galatoire's, Antoine's, Arnaud's, Emeril's, NOLA) have mostly re-opened. The only unopened restaurant that I miss is Camellia Grill.

Oh, finally did see Frodo, and as expected, he was on a Bacchus float along with Samwise Gamgee and Willie Nelson trailing behind King Michael Keaton who launched Bacchus to large crowd approval - made it seem that some sense of normality had returned to New Orleans at last.

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