New Orleans, 4 Months Later

Jan 12, 2006 by

Let me start with a huge Thank You to the citizens of Dobbs Ferry, NY who are joining us. (Their local newspaper called us up to do a followup interview and it hits the stands today) Your kindness and hospitality got us through the chaos and fear of the first two months after the storm. From my dear old friends Sean and Jo Hastings taking us into their home on Main St, to Anthony at Ricci’s Deli across the street whose generosity helped make the trip home possible we saw the best humanity can offer while in exile. Molly and Cynthia Rodriguez, Jim Mc Que, Angelo Tisi, Christy, Louis, Mike, George The Brit and many others- we cannot thank you enough.

So you want to know what its like down here now? Well, as I listen to the sound of yet another Coast Guard helicopter flying overhead I try to think of what to describe. Its simultaneously bleak and hopeful here, but then New Orleans now is a city of paradoxes and contrasts. My neighborhood, just outside the Garden District, escaped almost completely from the storms yet a few mere blocks away it becomes no mans land. Fourteen blocks from here my friend Dudley is the one lit house in an island of darkness that stretches to within three blocks of my front door. Being over there is almost like being on an island.

Since the phone interview with the Enterprise we have had another upsurge of business openings as well as more schools and shops. A block away on St Charles Avenue schoolgirls from Academy of the Sacred Heart play soccer on their campus. As UNO opens doors and Tulane prepares to do the same students have begun to flow into the city. The slow but determined trudge towards normality takes a few more steps.

We have been battered by these events. Beaten up physically, emotionally, financially, and taken a good solid uppercut to our idealism. Where the local, state and federal goverments fail to move ahead we just get on with it. Volunteer groups like the Katrina Krewe take to the streets cleaning the rubble that continues sit throughout the city (visit that link for some great before and after shots). Groups like Common Ground were, for quite some time, the only medical option while our people waited for the calvary to arrive. Good thing New Orleanians are tough, pragmatic when they need to be, and ready for a good stiff drink afterwards.

Now today Bush was here in my own neighborhood, adding yet more insult to injury as this quote from WWL TV (our local station) shows:

“Some of the president’s language in New Orleans recalled the more pilloried statements from his first stop in the region four days after Katrina struck.

On that visit, he laughingly lauded the increasingly desperate city as great because it was where he used to “enjoy myself – occasionally too much.” On Thursday, he said the New Orleans of today “is reminding me of the city I used to come to visit.”

Bush also called the city “a heckuva place to bring your family” – a reminder of his endorsement of Michael Brown, then chief of the Federal Emergency Management Agency. “Brownie, you’re doing a heckuva job,” Bush said then to the man who was seen by many as the face of the clumsy and who eventually gave up his post amid the criticism.”

– Click Here for the Full Article on WWLTV.Com

And you can read the perspective of a source closer to Dobbs Ferry by checking out the New York Times article about his visit. Needless to say there is little to no faith in federal promises amongst those I have spoken with. We have serious abandonment issues.

Party affiliation has nothing to with it. Read Schoolgirls in life jackets tell president city needs rescue

, it’s about a very unique rally trying to get him to live up to his bold words of the first visit. The schoolgirl who was quoted as saying “40% of my friends lost their home,” speaks for all of us.

As I write I know it sounds bleak, and in many ways it is. At the same time there is a dogged determination and enthusiasm to rebuild. Most places that are open are humming with business. Restaurants, bars, coffeshops, department stores all have long and constant lines. Evryone is new at their job and everyplace is shorthanded. Its a worker’s market here and most of the wages are showing it. Of course many of the prices are going up as well, especially rents.

We are so lucky to have a landlord who is an honorable man. Not only did he look after the place until we could return, but he also did not increase the rent. Right now , as far as I know , he is one of the only ones. Places half the size of our Carriage House are going for twice that in the Post-K game of real estate. Interesting note: our landlord knows Dobbs Ferry well. He grew up across the Hudson in New Jersey and used to spend a good bit of time there.

If you want to keep up with what is happening here please stop by this site, and be sure to leave a comment. Moral support is something we can always use these days. Which reminds me, that is one of the most important reasons that we WILL have Mardi Gras this year. After the past four months we all need to let off a little steam, New Orleans style. (Ask Big Mike at Ricci’s Deli on Main St., he’s flying in to join us this year. Hope he can keep up…)

May the New Year be good to us all. Stay in touch and don’t forget us.

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