Friday, June 08, 2007

The Rest of the Story

So when you wake up on your first morning--make that your first afternoon--in the French Quarter, and you're hankering for some good old bacon 'n' eggs, what do you do? Well, you get in the car and drive to the suburbs, of course. This is the restaurant we found. Don't ask me where we were. At least there were people actually living in the homes in this neighborhood.

A sign of the times, n'est-ce pas? In case you can't read it, that's the stamp of approval post-Katrina, allowing this restaurant to re-open.

Okay, back to the French Quarter. Ann and I decided to take a stroll and we ducked into a bar to use their restroom. Lucky they gave us directions on how to operate the toilet, huh? Polite, too.

Ah, a typical site in the French Quarter! The patio at Pat O'Brien's. We sat inside and were thoroughly entertained by two lady pianists/songstresses. Gotta get me a copy of that song about missing New Orleans.

The most popular T-shirts for sale?

"I drove my Chevy to the levee, but the levee was gone"
"I stuck it out through Hurricane Katrina, and all I got was this lousy T-shirt, a Cadillac, and a Plasma Screen TV"
"Make levees, not war"

On travel day, at the airport: note the suitcase lying on the tarmac during the thunderstorm. With the naked eye, we could tell the color was green, thus enabling us to relax and laugh at the poor sap it belonged to.

Closing thoughts...

After spending hours glued to CNN during Hurricane Katrina, and having watched some of the updates thereafter, I was glad to take my tourist $ to the Gulf. Plus, I wanted to form my own opinion of what's going on there. Sadly, five days doesn't constitute enough research time to put confidence in my conclusions. But here they are, for what they're worth.

The gulf area got the brunt of "the storm" (as they call it there). That's where you see misshapen palms with their heads torn off, structures half there/half gone, and the ABSENCE of stuff--meaning, if you haven't been there before, someone has to tell you what's missing. This is also where I saw the most FEMA trailers--although, in truth I didn't see that many. Maybe they're further inland.

On one home, I saw the following scrawled: "People living here! Looters will be shot!" Guess that's one of the hazards of occupying a home in an otherwise empty neighborhood. You have to make your presence known.

In speaking with the locals, not once did I hear complaints about the Feds or anyone else. I don't know whether to attribute this to an inherent politeness, or the actual sentiment. I CAN say that reconstruction is going on. Entire condominium complexes are already built and up for sale. Hotels have re-opened, and those that haven't are about to. Maybe the tourists haven't quite come back yet, but they will.

I had to keep reminding myself that for these people, it's been nearly two years. Two long years. So what I was seeing didn't happen over night.

New Orleans/French Quarter
After we crossed the bridge over Lake Ponchatrain on our way into New Orleans, I noticed an eerie site. From the elevated highway, I could look down into miles and miles of everyday neighborhoods passing by. Nothing too unusual...until I realized they were empty. Unoccupied. I'm not sure where we were exactly, but it doesn't matter. I gather a lot of the outskirts of New Orleans look this way. Seemingly undisturbed, but uninhabitable. Then I realized that in many, motorhomes stood in the driveways. It's just the weirdest sensation, though. I kept thinking about how the destruction caused by an L.A. earthquake LOOKS so different from the destruction caused by a flood.

Billboards for debris and mold removal lined the highway.

Once we got into downtown, I didn't recognize the New Orleans I'd seen on the news two years ago. There sat the Superdome, so innocent. Nothing like the beacon of doom I expected. We took Canal street down to the river, and aside from what looked like any other major American city downtown rennovation--mostly street repair and some empty buildings--nothing struck me as odd or different.

I already knew the French Quarter had survived "the storm" largely intact. Maybe there were fewer tourists than my last visit (which, coincidentally, occurred at the same time of year), but they're returning in larger numbers every day. One night we engaged our waiter in quite a lengthy conversation. About 25-years old, he evacuated with his wife, mom, asthmatic grandma and assorted others to Tennessee for 9 months, and was surprised to discover how much he missed his hometown. When asked at what point they'd gotten out, he told us that because of the fragile family members, they always evacuated as soon as the threat became known.

Smart people.

Although he expressed little love for either the Mayor of New Orleans or Louisianna's governor, he also said something I haven't forgotten: "New Orleans is BETTER than it was before the storm."

When I asked in what way, he said: "There's less corruption. We're under a microscope now; everyone's watching."

Hm. Food for thought from a hard-working young waiter.

Oh, shoot! Almost forgot one last story!!! One last MUY IMPORTANTO PHOTO! Okay, so it's not--as Ann and Marty would put it--life altering...still, it PAID FOR THE TRIP!!

If you squint, can you see?? I wasn't even gonna gamble that night...but a progressive video poker slot called my name...suddenly, a sign flashed in the middle of the screen: CALL ATTENDANT! CALL ATTENDANT!

Had I broken the damn thing? Had I done something wrong??

Then I noticed the royal flush.


Not a bad haul for a trip to the Gulf.

**Updated: Thanks to niece Mindy for calling to my attention the fact that although I masked off my address...uh...I left my social security number and driver's license visible. HELLO! Calling all identity thieves!!!!

1 comment:

John said...

You are giving casinos a good name. Just think of all the people who have to go there and lose to cover for you.

Is that a smile?