Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Blown to Smitherenes

The title of this post describes parts of Carrollton, (my neighborhood), Gentilly, and Westwego, a suburb on the West Bank of our neighbor, Jefferson Parish..

I've always had a belief, founded in nothing but wishful thinking and my naive idealism, that tornadoes were not *allowed* to strike within ... oh.... lets say 15 miles of tall buildings in a city center. Then, on February 2nd of last year, tornadoes ripped through the New Orleans area, taking out (among other places) most of Iris Ave., the location of the PocheĀ“ family home where Renard has been living since Katrina kicked the roof in on his Uptown apartment. His house and cars were badly damaged, as was his aunt's house next door.

It had only been 12 days since the kids and I returned from our forced Virginian exile. I was still in shock at the condition of the city, and this event blew my circuits. But I consoled myself by saying it was a just a fluke.

The night before last, when I heard we would be under a tornado watch, I called Renard to tell him about it. He joked that if what happened last year happened again, I'd be visiting him in some other city thereafter. "Oh, sure," I tell him, thinking, what are the chances of that? Having bouts of severe weather with the occasional accompanying tornado watch isn't uncommon in this area. Having tornadoes actually strike in the metro area is. I felt sure that it would be the usual thunderstorm thing and nothing more.

And then, some time after 3:00AM the night before last, just as in the wee house of February 2, 2006, tornadoes ripped through the area once again. And this time, the tornado cut a swath right through my neighborhood, just a mile as-the-crow-flies from Renard's house. He hasn't decided if this counts as the last straw or not.

This tornado started its reign of terror on the West Bank where it destroyed several homes and businesses before crossing the river near the Army Corps of Engineers facility. This is unnervingly close to the house of my former spouse, where my son was spending the night alone while his dad was out of town. Alex slept through it until he got a text message from a friend a few blocks away whose windows had been blown in. He and his dad's house were oka but I don't think he really understood what happened. He called me in the morning saying the bus to his school was late and there was a lot of tree debris in the street. At that point, I had no idea that a tornado hit the city. Had he not called me, I might have packed Rachel up and headed for her school.

Tornado Damage

The tornado's path from the river took it up through Black Pearl (a Riverbend neighborhood), missing Rachel's school by just a couple of blocks. You don't hear much about what the tornado did to houses in Black Pearl, but I saw some rather impressive damage there when I drove Rachel to school this morning.

From Black Pearl, the tornado crossed St. Charles Ave and dregged it's feet through the Carrollton/University area (or is it just called East Carrollton?) near where Ashley lives. He, his family and their home were fine, but nearby neighbors weren't so fortunate.

Click image to enlarge.
For reference, the blocks in my part of Carrollton are about 300 feet long, according to the G-Map Pedometer.

The tornado ripped through the trees along Carrollton Ave. taking, among other things, part of the front of McNair Elementary with it before it crossed over to my side, (West Carrollton). From there, it continued to grab chunks of roofs and trees on its northward roll along Dublin Street. It crossed Claiborne and dropped its spinning drill bit of wind on the neighborhood of Northwest Carrollton, ripping parts of it to shreds. Karen's house is okay, but her car suffered some damage.

Tornado Damage

I was busy taking care of things that needed to be dealt with here at Mom's and couldn't get to my house right away to see how things were in my neighborhood. I finally made it there in the early afternoon and found no new damage to my house, but lots of debris in my yard. I found specimens from at least 4 different roofs strewn around. A sheet of pink foam insulation from under my house was up in the next-door neighbor's tree. There were pieces of corrugated metal roofing here and there. One of my next-door neighbor's windows had blown out and up the street, about 5 houses away, there was significant roof damage and tree debris. The Saints fan's house featured in a recent post was missing the entire back wall of its second floor. This house is, at a straight-shot, about 800 feet from my house (calculated via G-Map Pedometer), a fact I mention in order to acknowledge how lucky I feel to have been spared. This sucka was close, and not just to me.

Tornado Damage

From Carrollton , the twister moved into Gentilly, where it damaged more homes and took the life of an 86 year old woman who had been living in her FEMA trailer, just days away from her moving back into her repaired home following The Storm.

When I walked through my neighborhood yesterday, I had to really fight the tears. I can't even fathom how the victims of this tornado feel. My heart goes goes out to them all.

Please check out the pictures here (mine).
and these, too

More here.
(Times Picayune narrated slide show. (Some great pictures.)

Monday, February 12, 2007

What Would America Be Like Without New Orleans?

PBS's American Experience seeks to answer that question in its program airing tonight. In New Orleans, the show runs from 8:00 PM to 10:00PM on our local PBS affiliate, WYES. Check your local PBS listings if you live elsewhere.

Whether you love New Orleans or hate it, whether you dream of coming here, you've always lived here or are a recent transplant or replant, whether you will stay and fight or are planning your escape, watch this program.

And if you think we're all just a bunch of deadbeats living in a below-sea-level garbage dump that the world would be better off without, it is absolutely crucial that you watch this program.

New Orleans has never been an easy place to understand without having had more than a casual experience of the city. And when you do understand it, it's never easy to put into words. From Dave Walker's Times Picayune article on the two-hour program, filmmaker Stephen Ives says:
One of our jokes in the office was that we should have a subtitle for the film: 'New Orleans: A Complicated History,' " Ives said. "It's the most complicated subject I've ever encountered, and I've done the American West, which is fiendishly complex. In New Orleans, everything is more nuanced and multifaceted than it first appears. There are shades of gray and brown and black and white and everything in between. As soon as you think you've got it figured out, it moves.
Please watch this program --and I'm primarily talking to my non-New Orleanian readers, who don't know this place like the rest of us do. I really want you to know us better. And I especially want the nay-sayers to understand the value that is here, so please spread the word to these folks too, and to everyone else.

It's important.

This city is important.

Watch it tonight on PBS.

Please spread the word.


(Thanks to Mark for the heads-up.)
UPDATE: Well, I had the impression that this program was going to put the economic and cultural value of New Orleans in its proper national perspective but now I'm not quite sure that this was ever the film's aim. I do think it was well done as a historical documentary. I'm not really a *history* kinda person, and as such, I can say that I really learned a lot from watching it. But I don't necessarily believe that the people who think "we're all just a bunch of deadbeats living in a below-sea-level garbage dump that the world would be better off without" will have their minds changed by this program. I hope I'm wrong.

I'd love to hear what others thought about it.

Friday, February 09, 2007

How Do You People Do It?

I'm talking about all you prolific bloggers out there who manage to post every day, often more than one post or on more than one blog? I can barely get the time to read my e-mail these days, much less respond to it. Forget going through my blog-roll daily and posting much of anything. I have lots I would post, though.

How do you guys do it? Really. I want to know.

I'm curious.... am I the only single mother among us?

Between taking care of my kids, taking care of my mom, doing my job, and taking care of all the personal and house-related business, I can hardly squeeze in more than a few hours sleep a night. Last night I didn't turn the lights out until after 4:30 but I was up at 7:00 AM. This is typical. I try to catch up on weekends, though. (By the way, Mom's not feeble, but she needs looking after in lots of other ways. She's going through her own share of house repairs and I've been dealing with these, too, because 70-something year old women are especially ripe for the contractor pickin' without someone watching their backs.)

Truly, I am awed by all the stuff my NOLA blogger friends are doing in service to this community. If you're on the NOLA Bloggers listserve, you know what I mean. If not, just start rolling through the links of NOLA bloggers on the left. I love and admire you guys for the way you are walking the talk and trying to do something about all the problems, the many problems here. I wish I could figure out a way to do it all or to at least do more. Feel free to tell me your secrets.

To all of you on the blog roll, not just the NOLA folks, I want to say thanks again. You wonderful people have been a big part of what makes it possible for me to keep trudging through this messy world.

Monday, February 05, 2007

It's Carnival Time (And Everybody's Havin' Fun)

Krewe Du Vieux, 2007Now that Krewe Du Vieux has made its mark on the season, it's official. Mardi Gras is just 15 days away and the fun's started.

I can't remember the last time I've been out, much less twice in one weekend. Renard and I usually end up renting a movie and holing up at his place, which is fine with me, but this weekend was pleasantly busy.

On Friday night, Renard played at Tipitina's with Fred Wesley, former trombonist with James Brown, among other things, in a tribute to the Godfather of Soul. Saturday night was the Krewe Du Vieux parade and ball and Renard played for that, as well, this time as part of Zigaboo Modaliste's ( The Meters) band.

Krewe Du Vieux, 2007I was really looking forward to Saturday night, for many reasons. Aside from the music, KDV is my favorite parade and a bunch of my NOLA blogger friends were participating in this year. The first person I saw from their ranks was Humid Haney (Blake), who rubbed his massive breasts in my face on the parade route. I would be treated to this pleasure twice by the time the night ended, as would Ashley, who I saw next followed by Mighty Adrastos and the lovely Dr. A. Inside the State Palace Theater, (which Adrastos once properly referred to as the State Dump Theater), I encountered Mark, (Wet Bank Guide, Toulouse Street), and met Slate for the first time. I heard Loki and Alexis lurked about but never managed to find them. Dr. A. and I spent quite a long time looking for Dangerblond and Maitri, to no avail. There a lot of non-blogger friends around too. (Note to (Zatuni-David: I saw our former Zuzu Wagon drummer, Robinson Mills. Picture here, not that you'd recognize him from it.) Some of us had the pleasure of meeting Jason Berry as well.

Bodacious BlakeThere are lots of pictures popping up, including the "penisy" ones, as Adrastos would say. Don't miss this priceless shot of our mayor-in-effigy. He clearly isn't Master of His Domain.

Check out more here:

My KDV Photos
The Adrastos Photos
Maitri's Photos
Dangerblond's Photos
Karen's Photos (These are not part of a Flickr set, so after this date, you may have to dig a little.)