Thursday, June 26, 2008

Big Chief standin on Magnolia Bridge

Both Bob and I have visited New Orleans plenty in the past. I had the good fortune to have a great old friend who ended up in a series of mansions in the Garden District, so I used to stay with her, and learned about neighborhoods outside of the Vieux Carre - Riverbend, Mid-City, and the Garden District. Later, my boss had a house in Bywater, and I worked with a guy who went to Loyola. I got my New Orleans history and geography little by little. It didn't hurt that one of the best implementations of an online photo archive was that of the Historic New Orleans Collection, and I used to visit it often to poach ideas (sorry, Chuck!). Doesn't appear to be online now, though.

When Katrina hit, I scoured the web for information about streets and neighborhoods that I knew. So much was unrecognizable.

I am happy to say that many of the neighborhoods that I knew and loved look great. They've been rebuilt. Some businesses, like Mandina's Restaurant, were closed for 18 months and still managed to come back. There are beautiful stories everywhere. I commented on the excellent local radio station we were listening to last night and was told that none of its music library had been digital, and all their music was destroyed in the flood. The station solicited donations from listeners, and was able to rebuild the collection from donations of music.

But many neighborhoods, huge swaths of residential New Orleans, are still wrecked. It is apparent all over town that there is no concerted will on the part of the federal government to rebuilt these communities. And Bob's cousin, who lives in Algiers and works for one of the last remaining hospitals in town, told me that Congress has just declined to pay the bill for the care the hospitals extended to city residents during and after the flood.

But we are here to eat and walk around and take pictures. We have managed to find us a muffaletta, some red beans and rice, two different kinds of gumbo, an awful lot of fried stuff for the children, and the best sushi in town. And this morning we introduced the kids to beignets. I'm glad I got pictures of that!