Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Report from Cafe du Monde

The place was packed this morning, with cameras and reporters covering the scene from all angles. I met my boss/neighbor Anne Gisleson and her husband Brad there, and we had a couple of plates of beighnets and coffee. The price has gone up about 30 cents an order, but all else is unchanged.

Jackie Clarkson came by, and after Anne introduced me I made the mistake of saying "I was at that meeting the other night..."

To which she replied, after a bit of a pause, "That was nasty."

Doughnuts of all kinds

There is no internet service in New Orleans, so I've been dashing in and out of cafes all day to use the cable wireless signal that some of them managed to retain. (Currently I'm sitting outside a closed bicycle shop on Frenchmen, using their signal. Across the street is the building that used to be the Spotted Cat, but is no more.)

Last night, after my last stop at Sound Cafe on Chartres, I hopped into my car and discovered that one of the brand new front tires was completely flat. The spare was rusted to the bottom of the car, so I walked down to NOCCA, where the National Gurad is stationed. They were great...pulled the car into the compound. (They continually referred to my van as "the rig") and changed the tire for me and searched for clues as to what happened. So now I've got a little doughnut wheel on the front left side.

Meanwhile, this morning Cafe du Monde opens its doors for the first time. So I'm going to load up on some beighnets and head to the nearest Firestone branch since the tire is only a week old.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Is this the upper or the lower?

People are driving like maniacs around town--because there are no traffic cops, few stop lights and seemingly little traffic. And, most of the jerks driving are from out of state driving brand new cars that don't even have licences--so there's no way to report them. One way streets are two way now, apparently. It is driving me nuts.

On St. Claude this morning I was nearly run off the road by a white pick up going 80 miles an hour. I followed it as best as I could, across the canal into Arabi, where they were welcomed at an official check point.

Later in the morning, an SUV of suburban housewives stopped in front of my house--going the wrong way-- and asked "Is this upper or lower?" What they meant was is this upper or lower 9th Ward. I pretended I had no idea what they were talking about and then told them the lower was across the canal. "And this is a one way street going the other way," I said. They were obviously looking for some good destruction and my area wasn't good enough. They were followed by a sheriff's car with out of town cops inside. "What's the deal with people driving where ever they want to?" I asked. "We'll get them," they said.

Good to know they're cracking down on housewives.

Monday, October 17, 2005

...and still it is good to be home.

I just got out of a Marigny association meeting with Councilwoman Jackie Clarkson (aka the mother of actress Patricia Clarkson). The place was packed with residents of the neighborhood, many of whom were out for Jackie's blood. "If you have a problem with it, elect someone else," she said several times during her talk, in which she detailed the work she's been doing the past two months and why some neighborhoods are recovering faster than others. A lot of it, of course, is just plan luck. And another part of it is just the total chaos and staff shortages that have followed. City Hall had no phone or email access until two weeks ago, when one of her staff was finally able to retreive 1400 emails that people believed she had ignored.

Finally, after 30 minutes of minor complaints, a woman stood up and screamed: "I'm so embarrassed, after all that has happened, that my neighbors are sitting here complaining that they don't have cable service restored!"

Much applause followed.

Yet, for those of you who might not have a sense of what it is like to live here:
There is no garbage collection.
Bellsouth estimates that phone and internet will be restored by the end of the year.
There is no gas--and Entergy is asking for residents to pay for their own gas line inspections and certifications, even when there is no sense of when it might actually be restored.

The biggest jawdropper was this: Next week the Red Cross will open its first two service centers in the city. And this is only after two months of begging.

And yet, the weather is gorgeous, the people are great, and I have absolutely no regrets about returning.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Watching houses burn in the distance

Last night was the post-poned birthday party at Andy's place in the French Quarter. There were forty or fifty people there and tons of amazing food, including the lamb. Around ten o'clock everyone gathered at the window and watched an enormous plume of smoke grow in the distance. Then there were flames and an enormous explosion. Then the guessing at what it might be. After a while there seemed to be very little point in trying to decide what it was, and the party continued.

This is the way things are here. Slow motion.

In the Quarter places are beggging for bartenders and cooks. All of the smaller places are opening up with limited menus, and they are packed with people. But when you walk outside the streets are empty. The larger restaurants, owned by people who could afford to open and lose some money in the process, remain stubbornly closed.

Occassionally in the cafes the military stand patiently in line with their machine guns.

And one the way home from the party, as we walked down the stairs, a woman paused on the landing and pointed through a window to the roof, where a dozen violins were laid out to dry.