Saturday, December 23, 2006

If you are looking for a new Christmas CD this year, I highly recommend Putumayo's New Orleans Christmas CD. It's a compilation featuring different artists and a range of New Orleans musical styles. Plus a portion of the sales are donated to the NO area Habitat for Humanity's Muscians' Village. It's a win-win! Give one for a gift.

Friday, December 22, 2006

New Orleans is hanging in there and is making strides. Part of the historic St. Charles Avenue Streetcar line started again this week. The overhead power line get decimated by all those old oak trees on St. Charles Ave falling over during Katrina. The tracks and cars are OK, but the power infrastructure is being completely rebuilt. It's now running between Canal Street (French Quarter) to Lee Circle, about 1/4 the whole length.

New Orleans has also been named "Travel Hot Spot for 2007" - somebody in the tourism marketing department has been doing their job. Here's a fabulous video they put together summer of 2005. It features trumpeter Irvin Mayfield and singer Ingrid Lucia with beautiful shots of the city with funny and moving cameos of everyday locals. The song is called "Do they Play Jazz in Heaven." Check it out, you won't be disappointed.

Everyone is thrilled about the Saints being division leaders and goin' to the play-offs, though the last game against the Redskins was heart breaking, especially after they stomped Dallas just the week before. I'll admit, I'm a fair weather Saints fan. I didn't grow up here, if I had I'd be true blue. But frankly, pro football just doesn't do it for me. But the excitement around the Saints if contagious and I'm happy to jump aboard.

The metro area got slammed yesterday by rain, the same system that dumped snow on the west. There was some pretty deep street flooding in areas. It was the first major rainstorm since Rita.

Greg and I will be driving up to his parents for Christmas. Hopefully the weather won't be too bad or rainy. It's supposed to be cold. You never know if it's going to be in the 70s and humid, or cold Christmas day. I vote for cold. Two years ago - the Christmas before Katrina - it snowed in New Orleans, a rarity indeed. We were in Baton Rouge and it didn't snow there, even though BR is north of NO. Go figure. Merry Christmas everyone!

Tuesday, December 12, 2006


give me a king cake baby
give me a beignet kiss
give me a french quarter morning that looks like this

give me the endymion krewe
give me the times-picayune
give me a drunk and lazy crawfish boil in muggy sticky june

give me a six pack of dixie
give me some assorted abita beers
give me a city where it only snows once every 10 years

give me a green neutral ground
give me a mardi gras ball
give me a medium rare burger at my grand old Port of Call

give me a glittery drag show
give me the streetcar line
give the House of the Rising Sun
give me a Tchoupitoulas sign

give me a shrimp and oyster poboy
give me lovebug season in May
give me my New Orleans-
I will definitely stay.

I little something that landed in my email in box today.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

October 13th marked the one-year anniversary of the first time after hurricane Katrina Greg and I spent the night in our house. We drove from Houston with a load of stuff and to get a good look at things. We had been back but they were very short trips - only a couple of hours. We had managed to accumalate too much stuff to get everything back home in one car trip. So after cleaning up and getting a good look at everything we would drive back to Houston to get the cats, the rest of our stuff and a cooler full of groceries. It's nice to get another "anniversary" out of the way. Oct 19 will mark one-year we "moved" back home for good. Ironically we are out of town, visiting friends in San Francisco at this time. But it's nice to be away from home by choice and to get away from rebuilding. I will say when I was driving home from work Wendesday I was thinking about how much better things are now than they were a year ago. Certainly there is much still to be done, but the debris piles are fewer and smaller, you rarely see a fridge by the curb, at least in our part of town. But now it's time to get back to my vacation!

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Less than 2 weeks apart are two monumental days - 8/29 Katrina and 9/11. I was reading an article from the LA Times “Anxiety Lingers in New York.” Replace “Twin Towers” with levees and “9/11” with Katrina and there you have it. That’s New Orleanians now and in 5 years I’m sure. This paragraph especially:

Well-intentioned outsiders have frequently urged New Yorkers to "move beyond" the trauma and "get on with their lives." But moving on is difficult when reminders of the event that caused such chaos are still a key part of city life. Indeed, the attack did not simply happen and then end; it has become a fixture in the city's physical and mental landscape. The debate over how to rebuild ground zero and construct a memorial is a daily story; New Yorkers are bombarded with images of the immense hole in the ground that once housed the towers.

It’s been 5 years and people in NYC still feel they can’t move on. The site - one NY city block - has not been rebuilt. And some people wonder why things here are still a mess, a mere one-year later? A whole city. A small city but a whole city nontheless. I do hope in 4 years there is a newspaper article that reads “New Orleans has made a stirring recovery” as this article says of NYC. Heck, I just hope there’s any articles about NOLA’s recovery in 4 years period.

G and I picked up the DVD collection of “The Lone Gunmen,” a TV series that was a spin off of “The X-Files.” My mind was blown while watching the series primier. In it, two of the characters board a flight out of Boston airport because the think there is a bomb on it. (Not very smart but it’s TV) As it turns out there is no bomb but the “bad guys” had some how managed to gain remote control of the plane’s autopilot and set the plane on a course to crash into the WTC. (Thanks to expert computer hacking the "gunmen" were able to disengage the autopilot, but it was a close call.)
“No body could have imagined using planes as missles” sounds just like
“No body could image the levees failing and flooding New Orleans” doesn’t it?
It took me a few days to shake that TV episode off.

Keith Olberman of MSNBC said it on on his 9/11 Special Comment. He's mad and he has every right to be.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Where's Waldo?

The T-P and NOLA bloggers have all been riding Mayor Nagin for his constant travel around the country and now there's a website devoted to tracking his movement The big hoopla is his 100-day initiative he announced when re-elected - the hoopla over the questions: when is day 100, what where the goals and what has he done. This morning there was a open house meeting with the Mayor, members of his administration with the people of my district, District B. The turn out was good even on a Saturday morning. City Council Rep. Stacy Head started the meeting off and then turned things over to Nagin. I'd like to note Stacy was received with hardy clapping and whistling - not so for da mayor; he got more of a polite "golf clap" but people did refrain from booing. The mayor worked the room, he does best in these intimate settings, relaxed and confident, inviting straight-forwardness; he said subtlety is lost on him, be direct. People took him up on it.

It was a well organized meeting - there were handouts with information at the door, people collected handwritten questions from the audience, sorted them and directed them to correct person to answer it. And there was quite the spread of food. The mayor let his people answer the questions, stepping in from time to time. We stayed for 2 hours; topics covered included Entergy, NORD parks and pools, crime, the judicial system, the break down of the juvenile justice system, rental property, debris, schools, levees and Corps, FEMA and Road home money (or lack of)... I have no idea how long it lasted because it was still going when we left. I was wondering why this now, to a small portion of the city. It was excellent information, info all citizens would benefit from not just Dist. B. Why hadn't the mayor's office distributed this info before? When we got home I finished reading the paper and say that on Tuesday the Mayor is finally going to be talk, addressing the 100 day initiative. Maybe this was just to test the waters, see how people react? Today's paper had an abridged recap of the meeting.

Today's paper also had an article by Chris Rose criticizing the mayor. He's been generally supportive of the mayor up to now - I think this is telling how fed up people are. We are tired of waiting. Nagin said the money isn't flowing to the city or to the people. Several people in his administration talked about the FEMA worksheets they have filled out and the bottlenecks. Then Stephanie Grace wrote about that same thing today in regards to city park. OK now I'm depressed. I guess I'll go update the cat blog. That always cheers me up.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

You don't have to be crazy to live here, but it helps.

I'm sure some body has said this of living in New Orleans, even before Katrina. It helps to be a little nutty to live here and have a good sense of humor. New Orleans is filled with characters. And excellent example of this is a web site my friend Kristen sent me Arabi Wrecking Krewe. It's a group of people who help musicians gut their houses. It's full of photos of people in ventelators and haz-mat suits hamming it up for the camera. Just go look at the web site, it will make you smile and will help explain the unusal mind-set of people who live down here in southern Louisiana.

The other day I was listening to WWOZ - the world's greated radio station - and a haunting song came on, about the black water line left on the city. I get goosebumps just typing this. I wondered who is this? Well, today on the cover of the Living section of our newspaper is an article "Songs in the key of K" and at the top of the page is a photo with the caption: Spencer Bohren waxes rhapsodic about "The Long Black Line" that failed-levee floodwaters left wrapped around New Orleans. My question has been answered. Here's the list of songs, click the link to hear the song. Enjoy.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Annoying Telemarketer calls from Sprint/Nextel

My cell phone (yes, I now have a cell phone) is with Sprint. A week ago I started to get a phone call, every day around the same time from 866-463-3020. I would hit ignore, but after it went on for a week I was getting annoyed. So I typed the number into Google and discovered this great web site WhoCalledUs.

People post comments about the calls. I learned that it was a sales call from Sprint/Nextel. I also learned how to block calls! The site said:
  1. to block incoming cell calls do this: send text message.
  2. in the TO: (type the number or email address you want blocked)
  3. in the Message: type the letter b then a space then the number or text address you want blocked (example) b 8885551212
  4. then send. your phone should you verification that you want to block. click yes. Number is now blocked.
I didn't get a verification option but the next day no phone call! It worked! However, only to start getting calls from a different number: 866-463-3020. Once again I typed it into Google and yep, it's Sprint/Nextel again. Other people have reported that the same thing happened to them. The answer they get from Sprint is they apologize and "are looking into it." We'll see what happens once I block this number. Someone had posted this:

I've written a complaint to Sprint/Nextel public affairs and encourage anyone who reads this to do the same. Her reply was.

"Thank you for your message. The 800 number you referenced is a number that Sprint had been using for some outreach to customers and we are eliminating the number in the course of improving our processes. We are sorry for any inconvenience this may have caused and appreciate your input.

Jennifer Walsh
Jennifer Walsh Kiefer

Sprint Nextel Public Affairs

6200 Sprint Parkway
KSOPHF0102 - 1B400

Overland Park, KS 66251
Tel: 913-794-2950

PCS: 816-305-7795


So I sent Ms. Walsh an email expressing my displeasure. I got an auto response she is out of the office but to call her PCS... it's tempting, to bug her on her Labor Day holiday. If I block the second number and still get phone calls then I'll do.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

I finally scanned this photo of us. It was taken February 27, 2006 - Lundi Gras day, the day before Mardi Gras, and also my birthday. We were sitting on Greg's cousin, Lyle's, balcony waiting for the parades to start. Pre-Katrina we would usually take advantage of the holiday to get out of town and avoid the throngs of people. This year was different. We don't need any more beads or doubloons but we were just glad to be back home, taking part of one of the many things that makes New Orleans special. The crowds were smaller this year and mostly locals. Uptown, where we live, is usually more subdue than the French Quarter. Uptown is families with kids who set up camp in the same spot their family has for generations. The Quarter is where all the drunk obnoxious tourists who feel compelled to drink until they puke and lift their shirts go.

Yesterday, I kept thinking about what we were doing this time last year - boarding up the house, looking for a gas station that still had gas, getting cash, packing our things, gathering important papers then finally getting on the road. At this exact time last year, we were at Greg's parents, watching the fury of the storm whip trees around, over 100 miles north of New Orleans. It was fascinating and frightening. You couldn't not watch the storm. We didn't know about the levees breaking yet. It was a long day.

Anyway, today we are breathing a sign of relief that Ernesto isn't coming this way and that it keeps getting downgraded, for my friends and relatives in Florida. They don't need any hurricanes either. All the Katrina stuff is overwhelming, there really is no ignoring it. I think we will commemorate the one-year anniversary with a quiet dinner at home, thankful that we are in our home unlike so many others who are still scattered across the country, or living in trailers.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Tuesday is the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. Emotions are high and every sort of imaginable memorial service, concert, seminar, art exhibit, etc. will be going on. The threat of hurricane Ernesto doesn't help. In today's paper, along with the "looking back" articles are the "make sure you are prepared" articles. I had stocked our pantry at the beginning of hurricane season, but picked up a few more things and extra batteries this morning. If a Cat 2 or higher comes our way we will evacuate to Baton Rouge as we always do. I will post something here if that is the case. However, even if the storm heads west of us, we can still get a lot of rain and wind so it's good to be prepared. When we got home from the store, G pulled up the hurricane center's web site and Ernesto's path is now expected to swing around and hit Florida's east coast. But it is still too early to tell for sure.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Pictures and comments from my most recent hiking trip to New Mexico in July can be seen here. It was so nice to get out of town and away from work, rebuilding, humidity.

Speaking of rebuilding, Spike Lee did a four hour documentary "When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts" about New Orleans. You have to have HBO, which we don't, but Greg's brother does and is taping it for us. Acts I and II premiere Monday, August 21 at 9pm (ET/PT), followed by Acts III and IV on Tuesday, August 22 at 9pm. All four acts will be seen Tuesday, Aug. 29 (8:00 p.m.-midnight), the first anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. Visit the HBO website for details. I have friend who went to the premier and said it was very good. You even laugh at some points (New Orleans is full of characters who speak their minds.) It's probabaly going to be a media zoo here next week as every one rushes to cover the anniversary. Good.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Well I've certainly been a slacker on this blog. But I've been good updating the "Gonzo for Cats" blog. I've also updated our house renovation web site. It's only been more than a year...

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

My friend Tanya came for a visit the end of May. As I picked her up from the airport I told her "I feel it's my duty as a New Orleanian to drive you through some of the devastated parts of the city. Is that OK?" She admitted she was curious and wanted to see. (See an excellent animated graphic of the time line of the city flooding and a map outlining the different parts of the city. For a huge array of Katrina and post-K photos go here.) I headed first to Lakeview where the 17th Street levee broke. I wrote about visiting Lakeview New Years day in Part 2 of our Katrina blog. We went back when my father came for a visit in February. We took him through Lakeview on the way to the airport. He was shocked. And he said seeing it first hand really made him understand the situation better. Which is why I wanted to do that with Tanya first. I've never taken photos: the devastation goes on and on for miles and miles and it just seems impossible to capture the magnitude with photos. Tanya did take photos and she sent them to me. Click on any photo to see a larger version. All of these photos were take May 26 - almost 9 months to the day Katrina hit. This is what things STILL look like 60% of the city.

Lakeview, near the 17th street canal break.

You see a lot of homes and FEMA trailers with messages. This house looks freshly painted... If you look carefully, just below the banner, you can see a water line. This isn't the high water mark, but where the water finally came to rest once they plugged the breach. The house to the right wasn't as well built it seems. The breach was just to the left-you can see the retaining wall the Corps has built.

This time, more stuff had been gutted and cleaned up, not so many trash piles and a number of white FEMA trailers. People who have 2 story houses gut the first floor and would live on the second. The plus to doing this is you can protect your house from looters. Yes, unscrupulous people (many from other parts of the country!) break into houses that had been flooded and steal what ever was left, even parts off the house itself. This was one of the reasons the National Guard (God Bless them) was called back in - so they could patrol the uninhabited parts of the city allowing the police to focus on the more populated areas. The criminal element is back.

Anyway, back to our driving tour. After Lakeview we drove through Gentilly. It was eerie how few people were around. Hardly any traffic. Houses standing empty or still boarded up. Businesses still in shambles. There would be the occasional building that had been repaired, some how, and it would stand out like a shiny new penny.

You find boats in random places through out the city. Most likely they were used to rescue people. Here one sits in Gentilly among the gutted houses. You can see the contents of someone's home next to the curb. Zero traffic and people. And those signs for roofers and contractors all tacked to almost every telephone pole.

We drove around NO East and Chalmette. They were like ghost towns with FEMA trailer and debris crews. I had never been to the lower 9th ward before. We were both shocked-it looked like nothing had been done to it, other than clear the streets.

This house "wandered" on to the street and up against the house next to it. The house on the left didn't fare so well. You can see the spray painted marking where rescue teams visited this house many times.

The blue house used to be attached to the porch to the far right - this was a few blocks from the Industrial Canal breach. Water from the breach pushed this house away. Note the steps to the left - what house belongs to them?

Houses on top of cars/trucks is not an uncommon site. You would even see cars stuck on top of houses and in trees!

This was such a small part of what we saw. We drove around for hours. Is New Orleans OK? No. Not yet. People are trying to come back and rebuild. It is a very VERY slow process.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

I wish I had better noted the day-to-day events and changes in the Post-K world. It would read something like: Monday - "traffic light out at Napoleon and Freret." Thursday - "Traffic light at Nap and Freret working again- yeah!" Monday "ARGH! Traffic light at Nap and Freret blinking again"

Our big news today - are you ready? After dinner G comes to get me - "The street light is working again!" I reply "What?!? No way!" and rush to the front of the house to see it for my own eyes. Yep. Sometime in November, I think, the street light stopped working. I thought I should call someone but who and why? The city is broke and we need the streets and water mains fixed first. But we have light once again. We are the lucky one. Parts of the city suffer black outs or STILL do not have power. And water pressure is always hit or miss. Still only weekly garbage pick-up. No recycling. We still only have 3 or 4 hospitasl in operation within the city limits. Mail is much better but still a lot goes missing. We are receiving magazines but it usually requires several phone calls to get them to start mailing again. Oh, and the FEMA "trailer park" behind our house? People finally moved in some time in March. People get trailers ($80,000 per trailer to buy and install) for 18 months AFTER THE DISASTER-not 18 month since they finally got to move into the dang thing. So "supposedly" February 2007 all these trailers will be gone. Like Cinderella and the pumpkin at midnight? FEMA can't get their act together and I'm sure they will extended the deadline like they always do.

What else... oh yeah Jazz Fest was spectacular! Hope you come for next year.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

I decided to start up a new blog. I'm sure many of you remember our post-Katrina blogs Part 1 and Part 2. As life continued on and we made it through Mardi Gras we stopped posting and sending out our emails o' rant. We've both been very fortunate to have plenty of work to keep us busy. I was concern that my company, Creative Zumo, wouldn't have any clients... I'm happy to say we still have our existing clients and have added several more. It seems many people, after Katrina, have decided to pursue the career path they always wanted to try but were afraid and are now starting their own businesses. G is now 100% self employed and having to turn work down. Several firms have approached him with jobs offers but he's quite content being his own boss. If you know any out-of-work architects, tell them to come to New Orleans. The majority of the rebuilding has yet to start as people continue to haggle with insurance companies, FEMA and the SBA. The rebuilding planning process drags on. Houses have stood gutted for months while the owners wait to get money and find out "will my neighbors come back and rebuild?" "Do I have to raise my house." The one-year anniversary of Katrina is less than 2 months away.

Hopefully we won't need to use this to communicate with people again while we sit in exile somewhere other than our home. Which is where the "Casa Verde" comes from, "Green House" 'cause our house is painted, well, green. Instead I hope to continue to comment on the rebuilding of New Orleans, our house, our cats and so on. So thanks for stopping by!