Pix from NOLA

Utility Room

I’ve posted a bunch of pictures from the trip Michael and I made to New Orleans a few days ago. I’ve put ‘em all in this set.

Xy in the Trash

Mostly I took pictures of my home and possessions, for insurance purposes, but I did take a few pix of more general interest around town.

Molly's at the Market

I didn’t take nearly as many pictures as I might have, because I was busy shooting video which should appear in a future episode of ROX.

Michael has posted a lot more pictures.

Common Ground

He put the best ones in a small set but if you want to see them all try looking at the photos he’s tagged “katrina.”

Evacuation Note

Of course you might also do some tag-surfing to look at the many Katrina-related photos posted to Flickr — take this cluster of photos for example. Or the most interesting photos tagged with “katrina.”

Complete Beauty

NOLA Status by ZIP

There’s a new report on nola.com from the City of New Orleans, breaking down the status of sections of the city by ZIP code. My neighborhood’s in 70119. Here’s the rundown:

Sewer: East Bank sewer system is inoperative
Water: Water for fire protection only — not potable
Electricity: Assessment 75% complete
Gas: Assessment 100% complete
Debris: Phase 1 Completed
Medical: E. J, Ochsner and W. Jefferson Hospitals open; Touro E.R. in progress; Kindred open for immunizations and some emergency care.
Transportation: Roads passable; signals inoperative; no temp signage yet in place. No bus service; no gas stations open
Fire: No water pressure
911: fully operational Sept. 30
Housing & Building Inspection: In Progress
Food: State Health Department must evaluate before re-opening for food service (3-4 days). Two 10-person teams available next week.

Unfinished Business

As we head north on I-55, I’m thinking of all the stuff I still need to do with my house in New Orleans:

Need to clean out the back room downstairs, which we called the craft room. It’s a terrible mess. We had to break the door just to get in. I didn’t have the stamina to clean it up.

Need to at least put a tarp on the hole in the roof. Hope it doesn’t rain much.

Need to deal with the refrigerator. Frozen salmon and bratwurst, no electricity, one month… Urgh.

But these things will have to wait. I’m headed back to Bloomington now to rest up and plot my next move.

Cleaning Up

We got back into Mid-City again today and spent the morning cleaning up my house. Michael doesn’t want to clean up his house before the adjuster gets a look at it.

First we hauled stuff out to the curb — a sodden, smelly, moldy, gross mess. Then we hosed the tile floor down. Then I sprayed bleach solution all over using a pump sprayer, to retard the growth of mold. (Thanks to Mike Leonard for that suggestion.) I wish I could turn on the AC units or the whole-house fan to further ventilate and dry the place out, but of course there’s no electricity.

Tough work. Now my back hurts such that I can’t stand fully erect.

There’s no way I could have done this without Michael Homan’s help. I might not even have made this trip without the impetus he provided. Thanks, Michael.

Michael’s father-in-law is an adjuster with claims in New Orleans. Yesterday he was trying to get into the city, and I talked to him on the phone. He said he was blocked at the checkpoints coming from Jeff Parish. The policeman told him no one’s allowed in but emergency workers. When he mentioned that his son-in-law was in the city checking on his home, the policeman said, “Give me his address and I’ll arrest him and throw his ass in jail.”

We’ll probably head back to the Midwest tomorrow.

Bone Tired

I am exhausted — mentally, emotionally, physically.

Michael and I got to our homes. We took pictures and tried to assess the damage and retrieved some belongings. We rescued Oot, Michael’s daughter’s sugar glider.

All before noon.

Then we drove around the city and checked things out. We took pictures of friends’ houses: MaPó, PJ, Todd Stanislav and Gerald Boodoo. We’ll post those pictures as soon as possible, but it may be a few days, as our internet connectivity is somewhat limited at present.

After that we made our way to Molly’s in the Quarter and had a couple beers.

So: What about our house? I’m not sure what to say. I was braced for the worst. It was not the worst. The house is still standing. It appears to be intact structurally — but who knows. The upstairs is dry and relatively undamaged, though there’s a nice big whole in the roof where the attic fan used to be.

As for the lower floor… Almost a total loss. It appeared to have taken on five feet of water. Everything was slimy and moldy and gross. The only items salvageable might be a few things on high shelves.

We were lucky to be able to get to our homes at all. My insurance adjuster drove all the way from Mobile only to be refused entry at the checkpoint.

I didn’t do any cleanup to speak of. The task is so huge it boggles the mind. But the longer it’s delayed the worse it will be.

We will probably hang around one more day waiting for Michael’s adjuster, who is incommunicado, and head back to the Midwest on Tuesday.

Mid-City

I am in Mid-City as I write this. We took the Crescent City Connection from Algiers about 7:30 this morning. We got across the river without challenge and made it to the Claiborne Ave East exit. There was a blockade that would have prevented us from going any further on the highway, but once we were on the streets we made into Mid-City quite easily.

It is smelly and spooky here.

I’ll write more later. There’s things that need to be done.

Algiers

We made it into Orleans Parish without any challenge by the authorities. We are now comfortably ensconced at Howie’s house in Algiers.

We delivered our van-full of supplies to Malik’s place, which is serving as a community supply and distribution center, and we delivered our medical supplies to the Common Ground medical clinic.

Then we went out for a drink. There’s very little open here — it is like a ghost town — but we found a little cocktail lounge just around the corner, serving mostly cops and firefighters.

Katrina damage is evident everywhere here: bent roadsigns, toppled brick walls, trees snapped in two. Algiers had been somewhat repopulated and signs of cleanup are evident too, but Rita put all that on hold and emptied the place out again.

Tomorrow we get up early and attempt to cross the river and get into Mid-City to our homes. This may be difficult.

Rising Water

We decided to go further than Jackson MS. We have taken refuge in Mandeville LA, at the home of Xavier prof Jonathan Rotondo-McCord. Mandeville is on the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain. Outside the water is slowly rising, spreading through the streets of this subdivision and into yards and homes. We don’t expect it will reach this house, and we still have power so far. It’s actually quite comfy here with Jonathan’s family and friends who are also taking shelter.

Tomorrow we hope to make it into the city to Howie’s house in New Orleans, on the West Bank. It’s a short drive over the causeway bridge but we don’t think they’ll be letting people across, so we’re gonna try sneaking around the long back way.

Southbound

Michael and I left Bloomington just before 6AM. Got a press pass from WFHB and a video camera from CATS and a van packed to the roof with relief supplies. We’ll probably only get as far as Jackson, MS tonight but we’ll play it by ear. Here’s hoping Rita doesn’t dump too much rain on New Orleans.

Plans

The Mid-City neighborhood in New Orleans remains offically closed, but people are getting in every day and posting reports and pictures to blogs and message boards. I read all this sitting here 800 miles away.

So I’m heading back to New Orleans later this week with Michael. We hope to be able to sneak to our homes, salvage a few possessions and survey the damage. I’ll take pix for insurance purposes and shoot some video for ROX.

I’m prepared for the worst. Our house could be falling in upon itself. It could be burglarized. It could have burned down. The lower level, which was flooded, is undoubtably covered in mold. Reports have indicated people can’t breathe in some of these houses even with respirator masks. I’ll open the windows to air the place out. I wish I had some kind of rig that could spray vast amounts of fungicide, but probably there’s very little clean-up that I can do without electricity, a clean water supply, lots of time, professional help, and a hardware stores.

Hell, I may not even be able to get to the house. But I’ve got to try. And as long as we’re driving a van down there, we hope to bring some supplies to a free medical clinic set up by some grassroots activists in Algiers, the neighborhood right across the river from the Quarter. (They were there well before the Red Cross arrived, and they’re looking to set up another clinic in the 9th Ward, and they’re also looking eastward to Mississippi.) They need things like glucometers, oxygen tanks, allergy medicine, etc. Also more banal stuff like power strips and extension cords. And Malik Rahim has requested canned goods and personal hygiene items which he’s distributing to people who need them.

To that end, I’ve begun collecting supplies from the local community here in Bloomington. The response so far has been heart-warming.

Michael arrives tomorrow (Wednesday) evening. We’ll spend Thursday collecting more supplies, and we’ll drive down Friday. I think we’ll stay at Howie’s house.

Of course, Hurricane Rita could throw a wrench in these plans — but I don’t think so.

Hope

Just read an article gives me hope that maybe our home is salvageable.

Figures liberally quoted in the national press would suggest that much of the city will have to be rebuilt. This is not the case. Having worked as an architect in New Orleans for over 30 years, I know that the vast majority of the now submerged buildings will be useable after the water is drained and should be cleaned, not destroyed. They will bend but not break – like the displaced citizenry.

From Architect’s thoughts on rebuilding New Orleans by Errol Barron

I’ve been operating under the assumption that our house is probably a complete loss. Ah, the uncertainty.

News from the West Bank

A friend and co-worker sent this via e-mail. Hope she doesn’t mind me posting it here.

I journeyed into Algiers this weekend to work on my home and visit the area. As I’m sure you are aware, some areas of the city are opening up this week. Astoundingly, the Westbank and Algiers is bustling. As Susan and I worked in our yard on Saturday clearing branches and cutting bushes (the gardenias are history), the Salvation Army stopped by with lunch, the Army Airborne (didn’t catch the division) dropped off cases of water and MREs, and the FBI stopped to inquire as why “BIOHAZARD” was spray-painted on the side of my freezer. I laughingly invited him to open the top and investigate for himself. He said that wasn’t necessary: He could smell the contents from the street.

The sounds of chain saws were everywhere. Traffic on the main roads (DeGaulle, MacArthur, and Meyer) was constant. People’s voices could be heard calling to one another. But all of this stopped at 8pm when curfew began. Then the streets became deserted except for an occasional NOPD car or Army Humvee patrolling. My neighbors sat with Susan and I on our driveway burning cedar from a nearby fallen tree in our firepit. We drank frozen White Russians from the single daiquiri shop open in the entire city (on Clearview Parkway near the Huey) and told hurricane stories.

Good for the Soul

About a week before Katrina hit, I turned on WWOZ and heard some super heavy jazz organ. I thought it was pretty cool, and paid special attention to the DJ when he announced it was Robert Walter.

The Friday before Katrina hit, the entertainment section of the Times-Picayune revealed that Robert Walter had recently moved to New Orleans and would be playing at Tipitina’s the following Thursday. I made a mental note and thought I might go to check him out with my friend David Bryan.

Then Katrina hit. But — surprise — last night I saw Robert Walter play right here in Bloomington at a club called Uncle Fester’s.

I bluffed my way in: “I hear people from New Orleans get in free.” And I presented my drivers license to the bouncer. It worked! Xy and I both got in free.

What a great show.

We also went to Second Story and saw Brando. They rocked.

Funeral for a Friend

Johnny McKay died a couple of weeks ago. He was 32. I didn’t know him that well, but we had some mutual friends, and Xy & I crashed on a futon at his house on the west side of Bloomington, once upon a time.

We just went to his memorial service. It was pretty cool. There was a reading from the Tao Te Ching, and they played some recordings by Skeeter, a band he and his wife Abby were in together.

Afterwards, a bunch of attendees drifted over to a nearby amphitheater and burned a couple joints in Johnny’s memory. I’m sure he would have approved.

I didn’t partake, myself. But it was one of those memorable Bloomington moments.