Well, I had an interview in uptown new Orleans today, and it gave me a chance to cruise about the city a bit without having to justify to myself the expending of that magic $3 a gallon mixture that makes my car move from point to point without me having to push it.
New Orleans is rebounding a bit, but it is obvious that it is still YEARS before the city truly recovers. Notable facts:
Still no streetcars on St. Charles avenue.
Still no such thing as fast food.
It's Jazz Fest weekend, and there were hardly any tourists in the French quarter.
While most of the city now has at least some rudimentary power, it also looks disturbingly like a giant trailer park in most neighborhoods.
Hurricane season 2006 is a month away.
Someone invariably reminds me of the above fact at least once daily.
I also took the time to look up some old friends from my former job the New Orleans Steamboat Company, one of whom made the unfathomable decision to ride out hurricane Katrina in his apartment. For those of you who know him, I am speaking of the now "unsinkable" Mack Benson.
Of all the friends I had before the storm, Mack was the one that worried me the most. (His apartment was across the street from the heavily looted and burned Oakwood shopping center.) He had holed up in an apartment with some neighbors and all the supplies they could scavenge to wait for the opportunity to leave. "When I saw the mall on fire," he said to me, "I took it as a sign that I needed to leave then and there." He's been doing what everyone since the storm has been: trying to carve himself a niche in the post-katrina New Orleans. He's currently working as a combination deckhand/bartender/food server/ticket sales person aboard the John James Audubon as they try to get their new "katrina tour" off the ground. After the storm, he was thrown out of his apartment complex, and was forced to relocate somewhere in Harvey. His former landlord's reasoning was that the apartment complex as a whole was uninhabitable because of all the structural damage, as well as the rotting refrigerators left from those residents that simply never returned. He was in good spirits, though... A testament I think, to his strength of character. Mack was always one to roll with the punches.
The saddest thing to me is that I also hear stories like his daily. There is little doubt in my mind that the landlords of these affordable-before-katrina complexes will raise the rents significantly when looking for their next wave of tenants. I fully intend on sending my landlord a nice fruit basket for not pulling any of that sort of thing.
There were also some signs of the light at the end of the tunnel on my drive. Among them:
The students on their way to classes at Tulane and Loyola universities.
The amount of traffic.
The lack of debris on the main thoroughfares.
The children playing in Audubon park on a pretty April afternoon.
Enough to make me forget about my own problems for a while... Until the next person I spoke to reminded me that the next storm is probably only a month away. I'm stocking up on MRE's tomorrow. Where does one buy them, anyway?