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Monday, February 19, 2007

Hello from NOLA

posted by on February 19 at 9:34 AM

Alongside bumper stickers that read “New Orleans: Proud to Crawl Home” are “New Orleans: Proud to Swim Home” and “FEMA Evacuation Plan: Run, Motherfucker, Run.”

Many homes still bear the red spray-painted X and body count next to the front door; a few have spray-painted large red and pink hearts over the top like a bad-tattoo cover-up. I expected to see the droves of FEMA trailers, but not the hundreds of For Rent and For Sale signs.

It’s my impression that residents who want to stay are hanging on by their teeth; jobs are still scarce and rents in the undamaged areas are up twofold. We met a thirtysomething couple who are selling their townhouse and moving to Sonoma for a fresh start. The innkeepers where we’re staying can no longer employ a staff and are dipping into their retirement to keep the lights on; they’re determined to hold out through summer and then are going to have to make a tough decision. Thousands of tourists are here for Mardi Gras, but the hotels aren’t full, and most of the people standing next to us at the parades are exuberantly welcoming locals, emphatic that their grand old dame of a city will rise again. Much of the damage has been bulldozed into tidy rubble piles, carpenters and painters are at work everywhere, but real economic recovery is going to take decades.

Still, the spirit of Mardi Gras is robust and the party is in full swing: Half a dozen parades roll through the neighborhoods every day, houses grand and modest are decked out in gold, green, and purple bunting, and pedestrians are festooned with feathered hats, boas, and neckfulls of beads.

Raise a toast to the corpse bride New Orleans and to her stouthearted natives tomorrow.

Confidential to Brian: Cafe Brazil welcomed us with Abitas and the brassy funk of the Soul Rebels, and said to say “Where y’at?”

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thanks Amy. i have nothing but good memories of Cafe Brazil and Frenchman street in general, except for the time my car got broken into parked outside the PJ's there. i still can't find a replacement copy of the Moodyman CD i had in there and it sells on Ebay now for major dollars.

glad you're having fun there. go to Parasol's off Magazine for a classic New Orleans experience and eat a Po-Boy for me. they have the infamous vegetarian po-boy there...French Fries on French Bread!

Let the good times roll

Posted by brian | February 19, 2007 10:23 AM

if Rebirth is playing at the Maple Leaf, you should head up there and catch that show. the street car should take you to Carrolton Ave and the Maple Leaf is a short walk from there. Magazine street near Jefferson is nice too. get yer hippie food at the Whole Foods up by the bus barn. take it to the "Fly" (Mississipi River banks in Audobon Park) and watch the barges pass.

Posted by brian | February 19, 2007 11:03 AM

NOLA is dead. NOLA is the dirty version of Colonial Williamsburg. The middle and upper classes have decamped for Baton Rouge or beyond, and the poor that could escape are discovering that life in Houston isn't that bad, what with textbooks for their children printed after 1981, fewer cops who'll shoot them, and jobs in the formal economy.

Sixty thousand will remain, entirely dependent on the Carnival season, which they'll subtly and slowly extend, spacing out the parades until they're as regular as the Main Street Electrical Parade was at Disneyland. No more "show your tits" though. That will offend the grotesquely obese Midwestern tourists that the residents will be dependent on.

Posted by Gitai | February 19, 2007 4:24 PM

i was thinking NOLA was going to be something more similar to Detroit. a depressed city with lots of crime and very little to do. i'm sure it's going to recover in full gambling/casino mode though. there were a few casinos before, but i'm predicting a huge influx of new gambling spots.

Posted by brian | February 19, 2007 5:31 PM

Detroit hasn't been the victim of a major natural disaster and will decline, but only in a slow bleed kind of way. NOLA had half its population swept away virtually overnight.

Posted by Gitai | February 20, 2007 1:34 PM

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