New Orleans! Ms. B arrived at our house around 12:30 yesterday, and I flew her through the 1st time babysitter ritual: Here's the food, here's the phone numbers, keep 'em alive, see you tommorow! Then we were off.
There is no way to talk about a visit to New Orleans post Katrina without addressing the bitch herself. The drive was sobering. We live about 2 hours north east of NOLA, and our town was damaged by Katrina, but obviously not as badly as NOLA or the MS Gulf Coast. As we drove down the interstate, it felt like we were gradually moving backwards in time. The damage alongside the road, and to the towns we passed got progressively worse. I'd think," I remember when our town looked like that", and then we'd drive a little farther, and I'd remember a little farther back, and so on.
Once we got near NOLA, it was eerie. The surrounding suburbs are abandoned. Large shopping malls are boarded up, and the streets are empty. Mile after mile, neighborhood after neighborhood. Many houses are still standing, most look perfectly livable from the outside, but what the interiors are like, I hate to think.
The storm affected LA much differently than MS. When we went to the MS Gulf Coast after the storm, it was shocking how many of the houses were simply gone. It was as if entire neighborhoods had been put in a huge blender, pureed then poured back on the ground. New Orleans was different, more buildings standing, but everthing was empty. People had to leave and so many haven't or simply can't return.
We arrived in the French Quarter around 3:00. The Quarter is the highest point in NO and most of it wasn't flooded. Jazzfest, which is the second largest event in the city (Mardi Gras is the largest of course!), was this weekend. Now, in the past, just about any nice weekend in the Spring would be a good reason to go to the Big Easy. It would be difficult to find parking, there would be lots of folks walking around the Quarter, and there would be all kinds of street performers and characters everywhere. The weekend of Jazzfest would be even more crowded, all kinds of things going on, people everwhere all day, and all night.
We returned to a changed city. The closest thing I can compare it to is a week or so after Mardi Gras. The huge celebration is over, and the city is pretty beat up, and somewhat deserted, but there are always some people having fun. That's how it was this weekend. There was lots of parking, no huge crowds in the streets, lots of businesses were closed. It was disconcerting. We checked into our hotel, put our things in the room and went out for a walk.
All I really cared about was getting to the Quarterstitch. It was opened and the very helpful Michelle lured me into buying some beautiful mohair/silk blend: Douceur et Soie, Knit one Crochet Too. It's silvery blue and destined to be a webby wrap for me. I also bought 2 hanks of Koigu KPPPM to make myself some socks with. Hey, when it comes to the good stuff, it's all about me.
We were supposed to meet some other folks for dinner and drinks around 4:30. We were on time and they were not. Around 4:50 our waiter asked us if we wanted to order, because the kitchen was closing at 5:00. Another casualty of Katrina. We ordered an appetizer and when everyone arrived we changed our plans. We caught dinner elsewhere then went to the House of Blues where we saw Keb Mo' and The Subdudes. Keb Mo' is a youngish blues man, more melodic than gravelly, and the Subdudes are a kinda Blues/Zydeco band. A great time was had by all. I was worn out and talked hubby into taking me back to the hotel around 10:00. I'm so old.
Slept until 5:59 am. Five Fifty Nine AM! No kids, no responsibilities, what's wrong with me? (See last statement of previous paragraph). I realized I wasn't getting any more sleep, so I got up and waited for it to lighten up outside. It was rainy, gray and dark. Hubby slept until 7:00, and once he was up, we decided to wait out the rain and have breakfast at the hotel. Fantastic breakfast, fantastic view. The sun came out and we went for another stroll.
This time I just wanted a cafe au lait and to take a look around. Yes, there fewer locals and tourists. Yes, many of the shops were closed, and there was repair work being done on every street. But everywhere I looked I saw not only the destruction of the storm, but the toughness and humor of the people of New Orleans. There was no shortage of Katrina T'shirts with obscene sayings, like "Katrina gave me a blow job I'll never forget". There were lots of other ones I can't remember, but the basic ideas were: Katrina was a bitch, FEMA is Fucked Up (their words), The president, governor, mayor and police force aren't worth a damn. The T'shirts were much cleverer than I, but you get it. Every bar had a Katrina drink guaranteed to knock you down. The general message: she was one tough gal, but we're tougher, and ain't nothing getting in the way of our good time!
What a great city!