Friday, September 16, 2005

Disconnect Everywhere...


The lack of understanding that even exiled New Orleanians have about what's happening down here is, I guess par for the course, and I shouldn't be surprised by the comments, cell conversations, emails and copies of chat room conversations that I have either received or witnessed.

Let me try to give a first hand account, again, to New Orleanians straight off... everybody remembering that I have lost a 4th generation family home in the still standing waters of Lakeview.

All is not lost you dumbasses. New Orleans STAND UP!

We have lost a lot, hard core, but much - MUCH - isn't even grazed.

Remember, that without the levee breaches, Orleans Parish would be moderately ok.

We would still have the destruction and loss of New Orleans East, the entire parishes of St. Bernard, Plaquemines, and the southeastern portions of St. Tammany. Gross devastation.

Trust me, I am with all who have lost... but my allegiance lies not with a single piece of property or neighborhood or single individual, but with this city, with its people and its culture. In total.

I get, as much as much as I can, the heavy loss that has happened here. I get it. I know it, personally. I get that we have a heck of a lot of work before us, a heck of a lot of crying... When I paddled up to my only Godchild's window -- I couldn't even look in. It killed me. My sister had painted the walls of that room with catwillows and happy grasshoppers, the room where my father grew up; my sister had painted this herself... NEVERTHELESS!

There are MANY parts of this city that will be habitable VERY shortly. Yes, there are enormous swaths of this city which are probably totaled, but there are also large neighborhoods which are excatly the way that you left them - minus a few shingles and some downed trees. The city is rapidly putting utilities back online.

I spoke with a good friend today who was all frustrated and ancy about getting into his house next week -- he lives in a zip code that is opening up. Frantic, he's like - yeah we're going to cruise in and grab some stuff and head back out.

I asked him, why would you not stay in your own home, when you have power, water and the city is the safest it's ever been? He was actually kind of stymied.

Seriously, to all residents of Orleans and Jefferson Parishes whose zip codes have been selected... You are really not going to notice a difference from when you evacuated... other than no crime, roadblocks, soldiers with machine guns walking around, and having to go to the Convention Center (Orleans Parish only) for maybe a week until the Winn-Dixie's are open; everything physically is almost normal. The only thing we're missing is people, the community.

Seriously again, large parts of Jeff Parish are already back online. The streets are clean, the neighborhoods safe and everything is under control. Heck you can even go buy a car now if you want. Orleans is NOT far behind.

Moreover, despite the losses, there are still some MAJOR misconceptions about what has happened down here. I drove throughout Uptown and the Garden District again today, and then I ventured my furthest downriver to date. I hit the CBD, Marigny and the French Quarter. In all areas, yet again I was shocked by the lack of damage and looting. I expected rampant lawlessness and trashing of buildings. The L.A. riots were probably much worse. The real looting happened on Canal St. and at several bars - seeking cash from the video poker machines. I can't say it enough, it is not what I understood as portrayed by the national media.

As someone who has witnessed first hand what the national media hawks on, and then experienced the truth and reality for myself... I can only now question what must happen in other newsworthy events... everywhere. This is quite sad, because the coverage by the national media scared the hell out of me some nights - nights where I did not sleep at all; sitting in the home where I grew up in, ready to defend it with my life... Waiting to defend it with my life.

The local media is also to blame. Dave Cohen in particular, I have found his coverage to be incredibly sensationalistic throughout - although he has calmed down somewhat recently. Heck, my initial blogging was this way too... but after I got to investigating - first on my bike and then by car... I started to get it. YES, this is a major disaster that has happened to the Gulf Coast. Is New Orleans destroyed, NO. Is it about 50% destroyed... that's probably pretty close. Will it survive -- HELL YES. Will it be changed -- HELL YES. Will it be the same -- HELL YES.

I get that this is contradictary. But that's the truth. The spirit of this city and people can not and will not be quenched. I saw it today as I drove down Frenchmen St. There were no cars parked on the street, the bars and restaurants were closed, but hell there was Rebirth Brass Band cranked up and playing from an upstairs apartment! REBIRTH BRASS BAND. I pulled over and listened as a few tatooed locals walked by, going about their business - some local eccentrics cruised by on their bikes.


Now, speaking to the rest of the country.

Thank you for your obvious support. All I know is that we WILL be throwing y'all a huge party every year right before Lent. I have seen and met people from every inch of this great nation of ours throughout my Katrina experience... Surfers from California to cowboys from Oklahoma. Yankees from Massachusetts to Pharmacists from Orlando. Even Texans... lol.

Thank you. I know that I can speak for all of us. Thank you.

Two days into this, we knew that our survival would NEVER happen without you. Everything is finally coming together, I think, and the situation is stable.

I, personally, could not have lasted as long as I have without help from generous neighbors, strangers via the internet, that damn cat that scratched me the first time in a rescue, a kind family, who has a brother who's a badass, SWAT, from Livingston Parish (he's short, but you know not to mess with the short ones), my friends, and my family.

We have a long road ahead of us and I'm dying to get a photograph of one of the two big new fire trucks that Louisianians sent up as gifts to New York City after 9/11, which are both now back down here in Louisiana driving around, showing everyone, demonstrating to everyone that what we do for others, will in fact come back to help yourself.


I'm drunk now. I can't fix this writing any more. Excuse me.

Below: Frenchmen Street... Same as it ever was - not a broken pane of glass.

Below: Looted Video Poker Machines leaving Polynesian Joe's.

Below: About to exit the 1 of only 4 true entrances to Orleans Parish onto Jefferson Hwy.


Anonymous HOZ said...

God Bless you TAG. Hang in there, your neighbors will start returning. YOU ARE NOT ALONE!

7:16 AM, September 16, 2005  
Anonymous merryb said...

I'm just a NorthEast US tourist who loves NOLA, the people, the fantastic history, the food, the weather, the architecture and the character of this town, and I have followed this blog from the beginning. I've sent money everywhere-it's all I can do from here, I have a business to run-but I'll be on that plane and heading down to a small hotel on St.Ann's as soon as it's opened.

Just put one step in front of the other and keep walking til you get to the end.

7:40 AM, September 16, 2005  
Blogger Patrick Armstrong said...

TAG, keep in mind that some of the folks displaced and dispersed around the country are only seeing what the sensationalist newsmedia is bringing them. Thier spirits are so low right now because (unless they come to this site or talk to folks actually on the ground) they think what happened in the 9th Ward and the other truly devastated areas are what happened to everyone and every part of their city. I know several who can't even believe the pictures you're posting, from what they've come to expect after listening to pundits, cable news and politicians. It is hard for them to hear that kind of thing every morning, noon and night from TV and radio. Its hard for them to read it in the New York Times that their city is dead, and keep from thinking they've lost everything, as so many have. Hell, they aren't even expecting to have homes to come home to.

Once people get back into the zip codes they're opening up, they'll realize what is left. The task of rebuilding will be enormous, but the nation as a whole has and will continue to pitch in. That task will be made easier by seeing how much is still there, how much can be repaired and how much was not lost. They'll be able to take an accounting of all they had and they will start coming back in droves. Like you said, the music is already playing, and all of us out here who love New Orleans and the spirit you embody are with you.

That's why what you are doing is so important. All of us readers may be throwing you a party next time we're in town.

9:34 AM, September 16, 2005  
Blogger Innes said...

I agree with Patrick, we'll be throwing you a party!

Hang in there, we're rooting for ya.

10:00 AM, September 16, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Suggested read about wwoz:

WWOZ Update 4: We Begin To Emerge

In This fourth and possibly his final post, WWOZ General Manager David Freedman makes his way back into New Orleans, puts FEMA on his speed dial, inspects his transmitter (it's OK!) and starts to make sense of how to put his broken station and scattered staff back together again. Along the way, he wonders about the future of the "northern capital of the Caribbean."

From an old sailor in the islands.

B. Nelson
Turks and Caicos Islands

10:36 AM, September 16, 2005  
Anonymous Sheri in Arizona said...

Thanks so much for your blog and reporting and the pics are wonderful to see what is happening in your part of NOLA.

Thanks for helping the animals.

Your story and blogging are a great counter story to what I've seen on TV.

10:58 AM, September 16, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Police Run Background Checks On Hurricane Victims Staying In Wis.
2 People Denied Entrance To Shelter After Refusing To Give Identification

POSTED: 10:23 am CDT September 16, 2005
UPDATED: 11:11 am CDT September 16, 2005

WEST ALLIS, Wis. -- The Milwaukee chapter of the NAACP is angry that Hurricane Katrina evacuees are undergoing criminal background checks at State Fair Park.

Police and county officials say the criminal checks were done on about 200 evacuees to ensure everyone's safety. The majority of the evacuees are black.

Local NAACP president Jerry Ann Hamilton said the evacuees have already gone through enough. Milwaukee County Executive spokesman Rod McWilliams said it was a very cursory check to identify anyone with an outstanding felony warrant.

McWilliams said they were also looking for registered sex offenders, so they could be housed separately.

Two evacuees who objected to giving their name and date of birth were denied entrance to the Red Cross shelter at State Fair Park.

Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press.

11:57 AM, September 16, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

^-- Why would those two evacuees not give their names and dates of birth? What do they have to hide?

Anyway, TAG, you made my cry with this one. You made me proud to be an American, because I see embodied in you our national spirit of optimism, determination, and strength.

May God bless and keep and preserve you, New Orleans, and the rest of this country.

12:20 PM, September 16, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You are doing great work. Both in helping the rescue and clean up, and getting information out. I sent a donation to the Iberia Humane Society, solely because of your writing about what they are doing.

Now to the news reports. I seldom take news at face value, so the stories of looting and shooting, I chalked up to sensationalism. But what I love, personally, is how some of the reporters are talking about "looting" in very matter of fact ways. As in, what the hell did you think people were going to do? It was called staying alive, and not dying of dehydration or starvation. And there are widespread reports about the lack of any support in those first couple of days, so the so-called looting and lawlessness is pretty much a non issue. I was especially pleased to see Anderson Cooper interview a doctor, who spent 2 days at the Convention Center, with "a stethescope and a bag of looted medicine". Exactly.

I am counting on the resiliant spirit of NOLA to rebound, and the residents to get back in there and rebuild before the idiots with "better" ideas get there first.

1:48 PM, September 16, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A poll released today indicated fewer than half of New Orleaneans plan to return to live in New Orleans.


I wish they'd all read your blog and get that great New Orleans' spirit back. A couple of friends of mine who are medical professionals in Houston are thinking of moving to the NOLA area. They've never lived in Louisiana, but they think it would be exciting to be a part of the rebuilding process. They don't want to change anything, they say, they just want to help the city get back on its feet.

And I know there's a love-hate relationship with "those damned tourists" but you guys need to get them back spending money ASAP. There's no way around it: you NEED their money. As someone who lives in a "tourist town" I understand the love-hate relationship (lol), but without their $$$ you'll surely die. The French Quarter and surrounding hotels must get up and running first. And it appears the city is trying to do just that.

I hope in the upcoming weeks people will calm down and start to think more positively and begin to get excited about the rebuilding of New Orleans. And hopefully many will decide they want to return after all. Where's that resilient spirit we outsiders keep hearing you New Orleaneans have? C'mon people, dig it out. Be a part of the solution, be a part of the future!

One thing I want to add: Besides helping out the wonderful animal groups (I've sent money to them) I suggest that after the search and recovery effort is finished, people get involved with Habitat For Humanity in helping build homes in New Orleans. They are a wonderful organization and help people get on their feet. The homes are given to people who demonstrate a willingness to get ahead and support themselves and their families (but who are unable to get a conventional mortgage). With HFH, they get an interest-free mortgage and there is absolutely no profit made from the home. HFH gives these people a jumpstart. Because of the scope of Katrina, many of these homes will be partially built elsewhere and shipped to Louisiana, Mississippi and Alababama. (Actually that's not the best description of their plans; read more about it at HFH's website.) At their website, you can donate money and sign up to volunteer your time. You need NO experience with anything.

It sounds cliche, but people, make a difference! Just do SOMETHING.


3:03 PM, September 16, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your recent post about the dumbasses wallowing in sadness contained the happiest news about N.O. I've read in a while. You made me laugh!

3:43 PM, September 16, 2005  
Blogger Vee said...

I am seriously considering moving into the city from the Westbank when I return. I don't know what lit that fire under my ass, but I have an intense desire to do so. I love New Orleans and it's KILLING me that I had to evacuate and can't be there assisting in rescues and helping out.

Your blog is awesome and I thank you for all the hard work you've done rescuing pets and keeping us updated. People like you are what make New Orleans great.

4:26 PM, September 16, 2005  
Anonymous Barry said...

Wake county arrested a women posing as a refugee to fleece money from the Red Cross. this explains background checks in the far flung shelters across the country. tell the NAACP to shove it where the sun don't shine if they cannot curb their usual rhetoric during a major crisis. so what if a few feelings get hurt to make sure the money goes to legitimate victims.

8:17 PM, September 16, 2005  
Blogger Susi said...

TAG, What wonderful work you have done and are doing daily. You are a lifeline to your fellows! Now that you've seen how the MSM distorts reality, you know how our soldiers overseas feel when they come home and read reporting in the areas they know personally. It's an 'Alice in Wonderland' type feeling! Remember this. Search out the true stories on our new sources: The Blogs! Thanks to others like you we can now search for Reality and Ground Truth. Once there are several views of an event, the true occurances are clearer. Thank You!

10:58 AM, September 17, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Dumbasses wallowing in sadness?"

What, like all the people in the Ninth Ward, Lakeview, St. Bernard and New Orleans East who lost their homes?

5:22 PM, September 19, 2005  

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