Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Katrina vs. Silly Season

The weekend before last, I drove down to New Orleans for a night to check out the state of the city almost a year after Katrina.. it is, in a word, still devastated. I stayed in the French Quarter, which is remarkably unchanged since the last time Eddie, James, and I made our triumphant arrival back Freshman year in college.. hurricanes, daiquiris, open containers, Krystal... although Larry Flynt does seem to have a couple more establishments.

After an evening in the quarter - I drove over to the Lower Ninth Ward, a neighborhood comprised of mainly of black home owners - and one of the areas hit hardest by the hurricane and now almost completely abandoned. It's block after block of ruined, empty homes, abandoned cars, and rubble. It's reminiscent of a modern day ghost town, with the occiasional "FEMA trailer" parked in a front yard. The areas surrounding the Ninth Ward are also in bad shape - most of the shops and restaurants (including fast food joints) are largely destroyed and untended. I drove into St. Bernard's Perish as well, which is just to the east of the Ninth Ward. It too is largely devastated, but a lot more people have come back and are living in the FEMA trailers.

After visiting those two areas, I drove up to Lakeview, north of the French Quarter. Lakeview is more affluent than the other two areas, but is still in pretty bad shape. On my way there, I stopped at a local diner, and ended up spending a couple hours hanging out with a few construction workers and drinking $1.49 double deuces of Red Dog. They had come in from Dallas and North Carolina just for the work. They spent their days gutting houses and drifting from job to job. The hispanic population in NO is also growing quickly, as workers migrate in to help do cleanup.

All in all, the state of New Orleans borders on surreal. The city is still devastated, there is almost no organized cleanup, and large swathes are basically abandoned, with a few people trickling back in here and there. The National Guard was called in the weekend I was there after five teenagers were killed. In the meantime, it's silly season in Washington - with Congress concentrating on such pressing issues as gay marriage, flag burning, the estate tax, and symbolic votes on Iraq.. at least we know where their priorities are.

My pictures can be found here. Another set of photos (better than mine) can be found here.


  1. Thanks for the post... I wanted to steal your thunder and post one of the pics after you uploaded them. It's hard to imagine what the desolation would feel like, but these pictures help.

    When talking about rebuilding after a disaster like this I'm reminded of other parts of the country and past disasters. I guess I'm thinking of South Florida and parts of North Carolina where years later remnants of the disaster are still visible.

    Katrina is in another world as far as disasters go, and it'll be interesting to see how it recovers... I'm sure we'll be hearing about policy and development decisions (good and bad) and their outcomes with regards to N.O. for a long time.

    I don't know why I never linked to this but Kyle over at the went down to Pass Christian Mississippi with a bunch of Students from the University of Akron to help the rebuilding effort. You can check out his post here which also contains a link to his flickr set.

  2. Damn, I still remember the only time I ever went to the Big Easy. By about noon on the day of our arrival, Erin and I were swapping stories and cigarrettes with a war-veteren/alchoholic while sitting on the sidewalk in the French Quarter, all three of us wasted. We gave him some change so that he could go to rehab, but he probably just bought another 40. Ahh the French Quarter, good to hear it is still going strong.