Sunday, January 22, 2006

Living in New Orleans...5 months later

A lot of you have asked me what life is like in New Orleans now compared to when I first arrived in mid- October so I decided to write about that and the latest other breaking news in the city.

There are many ways the city has changed, some for the better, some for the worst and some in just very different ways- not better or worse. The population has increased since the college students are back- Loyola, Tulane, UNO, etc.. and also some of the families have moved back since the holidays as they were waiting for the semester break to move their families back. However, the amount of places open for business- especially the restaurants-- have not. Waits in restaurants are longer- anywhere between 45 min and 2 hours. You have to be mentally prepared to go to the grocery store to fight for a parking space and then rush inside, only to wait a half hour to check out. And don't go right after work (when the rest of everyone who is back is going) because it will take much longer. One of the main drags Uptown-- Magazine Street-- is bumper to bumper traffic anytime of the day, much like St. Charles Avenue. Just about everywhere you have to be prepared to wait in lines.

So in addition to the waiting and long lines, there are still hummers cruising the streets- although much less than when I got here in October, where every other car was a military vehicle. FEMA has started laying the pipes and groundwork to put many trailer parks where there were once playgrounds and pretty green parks. The spanish population has doubled, or tripled even. Trash continues to pile up on curbs and medians and when you go to the really devastaed areas of Lakeview, the 9th ward and NO East... it still looks untouched and the area uninhabitable-- although you have your die-hards living in trailers on their space or even on the 2nd stories of their houses with full-on generators to give them power.

The past couple of weekends, I've been living in the French Quarter with some visitors playing "tourist". I've eating at some restaurants, got my coffee and beignets, took a carriage ride through the Quarter, went shopping in the market, listened to music, etc.. and I would have to say the in some respects it just seemed like a normal day in the quarter. As a matter of fact, there were times you just got lost in the moment and forgot that a hurricane passed through the area-- until you started to walk a little farther and see business doors closed for good or overheard someone's conversation about how their FEMA adjuster never showed up. Then reality started to sink back in.

Its really sad to see that there has not been as much progress that we would all have hoped to see by now. Crime has come back and I am sure I don't have to write it here, but there were 3 shooting at the parade last Sunday in mid-city, etc... Mayor Nagin just screwed up royally in his speech on MLK day that was covered by all national media saying that New Orleans is a 'chocolate' city and that God hates New Orleans. (See here: http://www.nola.com/news/t-p/frontpage/index.ssf?/news/t-p/stories/011706_nagin_transcript.html) I just don't know what to think of the Mayor and it is really sad that thsoe couple of comments might have ruined his chance for re-election. Needless to say, New Orleans hasn't gotten much good press these last 3 days.... and we so desperately need good news or just something positive to happen to make us feel like the city really is going to come back.

I've posted some new hurricane pictures on my account. You can see pics from my first visit to New Orleans until just recently- and I don't think you will be able ot tell much has changed.
http://www.flickr.com/photos/rizanola/sets/

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