New Orleans . . . beginning to recover, but only beginning
November 20, 2006, 9:26 am
Filed under: uncategorized

I did a quick trip to New Orleans over the weekend.  Landed at 2:30 Friday afternoon, and flew out 7:15 Sunday morning.  I was at a conference doing some recruiting (again), but got to drive around town just a little bit.  Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to get to Chalmette, where I was able to spend Spring Break with our college students earlier this year.  Still, the parts of town I went through were significantly under water and significantly damaged by Katrina.  New Orleans continues to be in shambles.  But one definite difference I noticed was that as opposed to 6 months after the fact, there are now lots and lots of the FEMA trailers sitting in front of peoples’ houses, indicating that they’re back on their property and at least in a process toward rebuilding.  More grocery stores are open and looking normal, more restaurants around town are in business, more cars on the roads.

I booked my hotel the cheapskate way, through Priceline, so I didn’t pick the location, but I ended up downtown, one block away from the west end of Bourbon Street.  On my previous trip, I spent zero time there, so I walked down there to look around on Friday night.  Gross.  Now, I’m not being a moralistic, pious, judgemental guy when I say that – I’m just saying that it was a big big turnoff.  I guess drunk people who think they’re either hot, funny, tough, or horny just don’t impress me all that much.  Honestly, that place made me think of how very classy Las Vegas is by comparison.  I only walked about three blocks in, and turned around – it really reminded me of the party scene in Tijuana, where I spent a little time in high school.

It was weird, though, because on Saturday night, when I stepped out to grab a sandwich for dinner, I began walking the opposite direction from Bourbon Street, but was drawn back that way by the sounds of a brass band.  There, on the corner of Canal and Bourbon, were a couple trumpets, a couple trombones, a tuba, a tenor sax, and some drums, being played like there’s no tomorrow – really fun stuff, with a ton of gusto.  After watching that, I walked back down the street and found a little cafe to buy a PoBoy, and they, too, had a little band – dixie style this time.  It was much earlier in the evening than I had been on the street the night before, so people weren’t quite sloppy drunk yet.  My impression of the scene was improved a little.  Still wouldn’t go there for anything I’d call fun, but at least I didn’t come back home with only negative memories of it all.

After having been to New Orleans twice this year now, I still have mixed feelings about the whole scene there.  There are still incredibly tangible racial tensions around town, still so much devastation everywhere you look, so much of life built around feeding the vices of tourists.  But there are still people who love their hometown, and the community they’ve been a part of, and they’re still fighting for dignity with courage.  Those people know how to survive, even when they’ve been abandoned (or maybe because they’ve been abandoned).  I wish them well.

When I returned to the quiet of my hotel room, I flipped on the TV, and found the HBO Comic Relief show, taking place (in part) live, from the very street I was just on minutes prior.

I’m glad to be back home – the only travel I’ve got left this year is actually with Michelle (imagine that).


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