Homecoming — Part 2

Community Organizing Ideas and Issues Personal Writings

New Orleans     In life sometimes we end up with answers to propositions that others did not even realize were questions. For example, we now know that the distance between Aguascalientes and New Orleans is twenty-four hours. The other thing we know is that when you are coming home… really and finally, coming home, it really doesn’t seem like much of a drive at all. Pulling in around 9 PM by the time we had the washing machine running and the truck unloaded, more windows opened to drive out the last vestiges of painting aroma, it was after 11 PM. It felt good to finally close your eyes under your own roof, even if it was hard to recognize the place now.

Let’s take a moment for the hardcore readers, and look at some of what is new and different in the city, or perhaps is just the same ol’ still at the four month mark since Katrina.

  • There is still a nice heavy fog in late December that comes off the River and hangs on each temperature change, and, frankly, it was good to be back in it.
  • The city was still dark. Yes, there were some street lights on for a couple of blocks between the Interstate and the Lake it seemed, but mainly, it was just still dark without electricity or people.
  • The refrigerators — white goods, as the garbage guys call them — are mostly all gone from the Bywater now. There are one or two small colonies, but for the most part, this can start to be a memory at least in some neighborhoods.
  • There is still debris, mountains of debris, everywhere.
  • There have been more fires. This is both new and troubling. Some undoubtedly are arson. Some seem a product of decreased fire protection, no phones to make the calls, and the declining infrastructure of the city. On my three mile course I counted half-dozen properties that have burned, when normally one a year is more average. This is not good.
  • More “for sale” signs are everywhere. These seems less of the profiteering that came with the schemers right after Katrina, and more to be the flight of the dreamers who found they couldn’t make it now. A sign is now up at a house nearby where the young family split on the eve of the hurricane. He and the child were coming back, but not now. The signs are staying though. Property is not moving. The city is smaller now.
  • The dreamers are now going as well. Projects that were on the edge seem to have now gone over the edge. A fire has gutted the building where the neighborhood cleaners operated. I lost a couple of pre-K shirts in flames. Next door someone had applied for a restaurant permit. One bets that the loan came due and the rest went up in smoke. The old Frey Hot Dog plant seems vacant again. Settlers had been there for the last year with big plans to make the property into condos or apartments. Seems like no more.
  • The streets are crumbling under our feet. The impact of the heavy handling of big tractors and trucks in the wake of the storm is breaking the streets in a thousand places. If this is another FEMA fight, who knows what the size of these potholes will become.

But, hey, home is where the heart is, and we made it safe and sound to close the year under our own roof, rough and ready, so we’re ready to go another couple of rounds.

December 31, 2005