Bourbon Street…Sans Hurricane

by

Many times I have visited New Orleans…being that I grew up just an hour away in Biloxi, MS.

Yep…a quick run over to the Big Easy with friends for some tall, cool Hurricanes from Pat O’s…or heading over for a weekend wedding celebration…or driving to see my brother play a high school football game at the Super Dome…I’ve never given it that much thought.

Until the trip I made last weekend.

For the first time…in a long time…I traveled to New Orleans.

Things have changed…and things have stayed the same.

The last time I went to New Orleans was 10 years ago…and that was to see an ex-boyfriend. So, my most recent memories of the Crescent City weren’t so hot. But I still wasn’t prepared for the change wrought by Hurricane Katrina, which hit the Gulf Coast a year ago next month.

This past weekend’s trip was to be a side jaunt, as my family was going to visit Oak Alley Plantation in Vacherie, LA. My brother, Ben, and his fiancee, Hattie, (pictured above in a shot I took while they were walking in the French Quarter) will be getting married there next May, so we all headed over to check things out.

We left Biloxi Saturday morning and hit Interstate 10 West…Mom and Dad in their car and Ben; Hattie; my brother, Cooper; and me in my car. I can’t speak for Mom and Dad…but everyone in my car had a great time…visiting and listening to music (though they wouldn’t let me play any Taylor Hicks…snarl).

But as we got deeper into Louisiana and the scenery changed…our talk quieted.

I have seen most of the damage that Hurricane Katrina wrought on the Mississippi Coast. It is awful…truly awful.

And, as a lifelong resident of Mississippi, I (along with many other Mississippians) have felt frustration with so much of the media attention focused primarily on New Orleans since Katrina. Many times I have thought, “Why? Why doesn’t the rest of the country realize that Mississippi suffered greatly, too? Our entire state shut down after the storm. We lost lives, too. Thousands of our families lost homes and all that they owned. Thousands of our people are in need.”

I, personally, have friends and family who lost most or all of what they own. A childhood friend of mine was killed, along with her mother and aunt, by flood waters that rushed into their home. My entire hometown was devasted…places I lived or worked or went to school are now gone. So many things lost…by so many people.

Here is a video I put together of photos I took in December 2005, four months after the hurricane. My mother drove me down Hwy 90 from Biloxi’s Point Cadet to Hwy 49 in Gulfport and pulled over along the way for me to take these pictures (with the exception of two or three that I snagged from other sites).

This is just a little taste of what Mississippi felt from Katrina.

But seeing the devastation in and around New Orleans changed my perspective somewhat.

Driving along I-10 in Louisiana, I got a sense of the volume of people that were affected in one condensed metro area. And, where homes in Mississippi were mostly flattened and destroyed by wind-driven water (flash flooding) so that people had to rebuild or repair…in New Orleans, I saw home after home that was still standing but that was totally uninhabitable because it had been filled with water for days and weeks. This meant…I surmised from the ghost town atmosphere on a Saturday morning…most people couldn’t even return to their property site because of health hazards.

And seeing this broke my heart for New Orleans. I can no longer fault the city for receiving the lion’s share of the media’s attention. Even though my home was devasted…and parts of my city and state are changed forever…I can see Mississippi making a stronger recovery from Katrina in a shorter time than New Orleans and its surrounding areas. The city is still in need of prayers.

Well, as I was saying, everyone in my car got pretty quiet as we drove down I-10. But spirits were back up by the time we reached Vacherie and piled out of the car to take in the beauty of Oak Alley. After touring the home, Mom, Dad, and Cooper, headed back to Biloxi, but Ben, Hattie, and I had decided to detour through New Orleans for dinner and a quick walk around the French Quarter.

The highlight of being in New Orleans for me was meeting up with my online pal NOLAgirl (see picture below…NOLAgirl on left and Shelley on right). I met NOLAgirl on Gray Charles and she is now a frequent poster here at TALK!

nolashell.jpg

She lives in New Orleans and shares a too-cozy little FEMA trailer with her folks…I think she was more than glad to get out of the “house” to come and meet us for dinner at Crescent City Brewhouse. Ha.

After dinner and some beers…well, only one beer for me…most of you know I’m a lightweight when it comes to alcohol, NOLAgirl led us around the French Quarter. We were a block from Bourbon Street when NOLAgirl suggested we “drunk dial” our dear friend Quossum (another Gray Charles refugee). Q was a good sport…even though I know she wanted to be there drinking and having fun with us. (Sorry, Q.)

Though the crowds were a little low for what I was accustom to seeing on a Saturday night in the Quarter, things were hoppin’. Plus the Quarter and the rest of the city’s business district looked great. The only thing about the Quarter that made me think of Katrina was a small protest near Cafe Du Monde regarding the treatment of city evacuees.

Ultimately…it was a wonderful trip and I’m so glad I went. Not only was my heart broken by the city’s devastation…I was made joyful again to meet up with NOLAgirl and to see the city on the mend.

Let’s just all hope and pray that the only Hurricanes seen by New Orleans this year and for many years to come will be the ones served at Pat O’Brien’s.

Cheers.

TALK! Podcast: In the week following Hurricane Katrina, I was without power and car and contact to much of the outside world. To pass the time I read, did small home repairs…and recorded a 36-minute podcast on my laptop about what I experienced and learned from the aftermath of Katrina.

Actually, this podcast is the reason why my blog is titled TALK!…this weblog was originally created in September 2005 to post my podcasts. However, my very limited knowledge of how to actually publish my podcasts…coupled with the overwhelming feeling of goofiness I felt talking into my computer put the kibosh on my desire to continue (other than one other lame recording…which dealt with the commercialism of songs from the 80s…it is terribly bad and will never be heard by another living soul).

TALK! sat dormant until two weeks ago when I decided to try my hand at good old-fashioned blogging…again, thanks to Gray Charles for inspiring me and encouraging me.

However, when it came time to do this post on visiting New Orleans, I went back and listened to this very first recording of mine…other than the crazy cheesy intro and outro I created in Garage Band…I liked it and thought it was time to share it.

So, enjoy this one and only publicly posted podcast of TALK!…and beware…this is one big ass file (34MB).

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39 Responses to “Bourbon Street…Sans Hurricane”

  1. NOLAgirl Says:

    Hey hey hey! That’s me, that’s me! Like I already told you, I am SO glad we got to meet up!

    I enjoyed your photo montage. I often felt the same frustration about Mississippi, but you know how the media is … follow the biggest story. And (unfortunately) our oh-so-imcompetent politicians added to the already insane media frenzy.

    You know what’s sad? You really didn’t see the devastation. Lakeview, Lower 9th Ward and St. Bernard Parish (the latter is the only one I still haven’t seen first hand)still elicit “My God,” “Holy shit” or just a plain “Wow” from me. Like I was telling y’all over dinner, when Dwain was down here I took him to see the Lower 9th Ward. As we were driving around slowly and cautiously, we both laid eyes on it at the same time: “1 BODY INSIDE” painted on what was left of a home. Goosebumps. Tears welling up. Damn, that hits ya hard. That’s when you realize how blessed you are to be in the ‘burbs (YES, even in a damn FEMA trailer on the front lawn!) with a house getting close to repair, in a neighborhood full of residents, stores and gas stations open, many carrying on like the good ol’ days. Sadly, the good ol’ days will never be the same. We are all changed, forever. But that’s OK. We’re alive, we’re together … and after all, Pat O’s is still kickin’ – I’ll take that.

    Here is one of my fave pics that a co-worker of mine took in St. Bernard Parish. It’s sadly beautiful.
    http://usera.imagecave.com/kmacal1/Katrinacrossresized.BMP.jpg

  2. TALK! Says:

    NOLAgirl…thanks so much for sharing the photo link! Great picture.

    I made it into a hotlink here.

    I knew driving down I-10 that I was only getting a very small look at what your city underwent…actually that even made the realization of the severity of this tragedy sink in even deeper.

    I’m so sorry for all you faced and am so happy things are getting better.

    And I’m glad you shared about the similar frustration you felt about Mississippi. I hadn’t even considered that New Orleanians would have those feelings toward Mississippi…it truly is all about perspective (and media spin….ha).

    I, too, enjoyed meeting you. You are such a gracious and lovely young woman and I hope we are able to spend more time with one another in the years to come.

    Thanks for letting me share your photo and your predicament on this site. 😉

  3. double d Says:

    Well, girls…I can tell you that I’ve been through devastated Bayou La Batre, AL; the MS Coast AND New Orleans…and it’s all heart-breaking.

    NOLA and I have talked about the sheer sadness for SO many people. Being from Louisiana and a “hurricane child”, I have been somewhat de-sensitized to fear of the weather. Don’t know if it’s age or reality finally hitting, but it’s now just horrifying to contemplate another storm.

    Many of my friends and co-workers from Alabama to Lake Charles lost most of their possessions, if not everything. We housed many from St. Bernard Parish here in Mobile and got some sense of “helping” by just being a shoulder to cry on. But, I must say, they are a hardy lot. They’re moving on, trying to re-build or re-locate…it will get better, but will take time.

    As for New Orleans, what they need is visitors. They need people to visit and spend money there. It’s what will speed up the recovery and provide funds for the citizens.

    And NOLA, we’ll make plans for the 18th…

    BTW, Take a listen to the Livin’ in the City video from MJ’s…Taylor does a little shout out to Pascagoula, MS…very cool. Uh, and I think you’ll really like the “Find the groove”….

  4. TALK! Says:

    Double D said, “But, I must say, they are a hardy lot. They’re moving on, trying to re-build or re-locate…it will get better, but will take time.”

    DD, you are SO right on the money about everything…especially this.

    You know, it’s so humbling to drive down ravaged streets and see people out there working like any Saturday…cleaning up their yards…but instead of raking leaves or mowing grass…they are shoveling up debris and rebuilding homes. The fortitude of folks in this entire hurricane-striken area is absolutely amazing.

    Now…about Taylor’s video on MJ’s Blog…you’re killin’ me.

    I’m trying my best to stay away from any spoilers or videos or pictures or sound clips from the concert so that I will be totally surprised come Aug. 8 in Birmingham.

    Now you tell me that Taylor gives a shout out to some place in Mississippi and my head is on fire. Just the idea that that magnificent bastard has BEEN in my state…let alone on the Mississippi Gulf Coast…sets my little heart all a twitter.

    Must…fight…urge….to go to…MJ’s.

    Must…be…strong.

    GAH!

    Damn you, DD! 😉

  5. double d Says:

    Taylor never does the song the same way twice, so you won’t be “spoiled”. Besides, you KNOW he’s going to sing Livin’ in the City….

    ::softly calling on the breeze, from MJ’s:: Shelley, baby, come and see me….Livin’ in the City….

  6. TALK! Says:

    ROFL!

    DD…I love ya, gal.

    Okay, I’ll check it out. 😉

  7. double d Says:

    Give me your review, once you do….I’m interested to see your reaction.

  8. TALK! Says:

    HOLY CRAP!!!

    the hips…the tamborine…the scrunched up nose…the circle dance…the taking me to church…

    I absolutely cannot function for the rest of the day.

    DAM-MIT!!!!!!!!!!

    And I thought I was getting over my crush on Taylor Hicks.

    Who am I kidding….i LOVE taylor hicks.

    For those with strong hearts (trust me, you’ll need this to view this video)…
    click here.

    DD…thank you for sharing. That didn’t spoil anything..it made me want Aug. 8 to get here like NOW! 😉

  9. double d Says:

    Consider yourself “taken to church”

  10. Banda Says:

    Nolagirl, here in dry Santa Fe, you are in my thoughts! You too, Shel.

  11. NOLAgirl Says:

    Ha! Shelley, you cracked! (good work, DD!) Umm, yeah, the “find the groove” and the Pascagoula thing were delish. Can’t even imagine what he’d throw out there when in the Big Easy.

    Shelley, it’s funny you mentioned about people working out in their yards. My mother, bless her heart, is hellbent on making sure our trailer doesn’t look, well, like trailer trash! LOL She actually gets down ON ALL FOURS underneath the trailer and clips the grass with a handheld grass clipper thingy. She then marvels at how much nicer *our* trailer looks than the others on the block. Hey, it’s the simple things that do it for ya these days!

    DD: Hell yeah on the 18th. I am SO there it’s not even funny! We have lots to talk about! 🙂

    Banda: Thank you! That means a lot. We’re hangin in there – like DD said, we are a strong bunch down here!

  12. Quossum Says:

    Tsk, tsk, tsk.

    You girls are weak! Am I the only one of us who’s going to be a virgin when we finally get to see the concert?

    Uh, a Taylor virgin, I mean. No, no, I mean a Taylor *concert* virgin. Oh, crap, you know what I mean! Keep your paws offa me, you damn dirty vids!

    –Q

  13. TALK! Says:

    Pfftt…virgin…whatever…I know you’ve read spoilers and seen song set lists.

    😉

  14. NOLAgirl Says:

    ^^^ Shelley, this is true. So, Q, technically you’re heading toward 3rd base. You might as well go all the way, hon. I mean, it’s just Taylor and all. (people don’t actually use “the bases” anymore do they? Please tell me no.)

    And, just to keep it on topic ….

    My friend gave me a mix CD that she makes every year to coordinate with her big b-day party, and the last song on it is called “F*ck Katrina.” It is totally ghetto rap, but it had me laughing. It won me over when it threw in “that skanky ho Rita.”

  15. Quossum Says:

    ^^^ You guys are so wrong. I’m going to go all the way, but only when the time is right.

    Then I’ll be one dirty little girl!!!!

    –Q

  16. bamaborntxbred Says:

    Okay-I’m a few days late for this topic, still…

    Being here in Dallas, I met so many Katrina “vets”. We were overwhelmed with folks that needed so much….my heart ached for days and days. I hope that my teeny efforts put a ripple of good-will out there and might’ve made at least one person more comfortable at such a horrific time.

    P.S. You and Nola are beautiful ladies! I’m so jealous that you got to visit with each other!

  17. TALK! Says:

    bamaborntxbred…thanks for posting.

    I assure you…ANY effort made after the storm…be it prayer or donation or volunteering or just listening…was so needed and appreciated.

    And, hey, don’t be jealous…just come over and see us! 😉

  18. nolagirl Says:

    hey bamaborntxbred – I am *certain* that your efforts meant a lot to somebody, and that’s all that matter! (and I suspect your efforts probably weren’t “teeny” at all).

    Oh, and I just thought of this. Since my picture has outed me, I feel weird that people still only refer to me as NOLA (btw, I have seen another NOLA posting elsewhere and I hope people aren’t thinking it’s me!). So if anyone is squirming with anticipation, the name’s Katie. 🙂 NOLA is a cute name for a dog though. LOL

  19. bamaborntxbred Says:

    Nice to meet you Katie! Evie, here.

  20. nolagirl Says:

    Hey Evie! Very cute name! Much less of a mouthful than bamaborntxbred, that’s for sure!.

    So, to keep with the New Orleans theme, do you come down here very often?

  21. bamaborntxbred Says:

    I’ve never been to New Orleans…but always wanted to! (Weird considering I’ve been everywhere else in the South).

    I’ll have to come now so I can meet you and maybe Shell too!

  22. TALK! Says:

    bama…if you come to N’awlins, I’ll drive down from Jackson so we can all meet up! 🙂

    Just let me know when.

  23. bamaborntxbred Says:

    So cool! I’ll have to plan something!

  24. nolagirl Says:

    *gasp* Never been here! Honey, we need to change that … STAT!

    I know it’s a long way off, but a DEFINITE trip has to be for JazzFest 07. The line-ups are always increbile. Plus, I am hoping and praying for a Taylor visit at next year’s.

    But if you ever want to take a weekend trip, let me know! It sounds like Shelley would be on board too – yay!

  25. bamaborntxbred Says:

    JazzFest sounds like a blast (I just googled). I would definitely be down with that! (Please Taylor! Please!)

    Also, I’m sure I’d love to take a lil weekend jaunt down in the meantime!

  26. TALK! Says:

    bamaborntxbred…a weekend jaunt will be perfect…let’s plan for the fall (cooler temps)

    also…i must say i’m flattered that you typed out to taylor here on my little blog…but you might want to save your little fingers…i doubt the boy has ever even been here…:(

    whoa is me…i’m going to go eat some worms.

    taylor can you hear me? (sung to papa can you hear me)

  27. bamaborntxbred Says:

    6 degrees remember? Except, I think it’s only 1 degree now: Gray visits here occasionally. Gray has dinner w/Tay….You never know….

    I mean, it’s a stretch to think Gray might mention this site, but what if they had some weird convo about “The Hoff” and GC says, “You should read this blog, it’s so funny, blah, blah, blah.”

    I’m not delusional or anything, but stranger things have happened in this crazy world.

    P.S. Nawlins in the Fall sounds deeevine.

  28. nolagirl Says:

    Fall? What’s that?? LOL We are sweatin’ it out til November here!

    For real though, we *do* get some nice days starting in October. Maybe there will be a cool band to see around then (well there are usually cool bands playing here actually!) …. or maybe the Piano Bar at Pat O’s .. now *that* is a good time!

  29. TALK! Says:

    you’re right, bama…just one degree between me and taylor…dreamy dreaminess.

    nola…sitting at the piano bar or the courtyard while the crisp (or stifling) fall weather swirls around us…drinking hurricanes and hard liquor…singing songs and talking shit…ahhhh….sounds wonderful.

  30. bamaborntxbred Says:

    Hey, coming from TX where we get 2 seasons a year…Summer (Apr-Nov) and not summer…I’d fit right in.

    Yeah, drinking hurricanes…not weathering them.

  31. nolagirl Says:

    Good point, Evie – TX is another state unfortunate in the weather department.

    Little story: My mom and I decided to do a “girls weekend” in the Quarter the end of August last year. We had heard about this big storm brewing on our way to the Quarter that afternoon after a long work week. It wasn’t coming to us though. So there we were. Me and my mother, drinking away at Pat O’s on Friday night, me dancing in my seat and singing along to all the songs by the Piano Bar guys, my mom nodding along, not knowing a damn song (she is a music retard) but enjoying herself nonetheless.

    Saturday morning, in a dark hotel room, where we were soaking up the opportunity to sleep in a bit, the phone rings. It’s my grandmother, our very own perpetual worrier. “Did you know about the storm? It’s coming here they say!” Say what?! Jumping out of bed, instantly shaking any hangover that may have wanted to plague me that day, we flipped on the TV. That was the start of many, many hours of sitting in front of a TV … but we had no idea that was coming.

    We were admittedely a tad bummed b/c we had planned to spend Saturday shopping around in the Quarter. Determined to at least try, we started out that morning, but many shops were closing up. “Are y’all leaving?” we’d ask. Some said yes, some no. Things were clearing out fast. After a few purchases, we started to feel a bit of panic, so we left. The rest of the day/night was spent packing and planning, coordinating with other family members. Damn, that sucker was looking pretty huge on the TV. Shit.

    Sunday morning we headed out (Taylor, you could have bummed a right with me, buddy!), our night at Pat O’s seeming so far away already. We would go even farther away .. and for longer. Three weeks til we came back home.

    So Pat O’s has an extra special place in my heart. It was a night of laughter and fun right before our world changed.

  32. TALK! Says:

    Great story, NOLA.

    And to think Taylor probably passed you in his taxi cab on the way out of town gives me chills.

  33. bamaborntxbred Says:

    Oooh, that gave me chill bumps Nola! The calm before the storm AND the fact that you were breathing the same air as Taylor.

  34. nolagirl Says:

    I know, I know! To hear him say he was wondering around the Quarter looking for a way out of town … well, that’s just crazy talk! Bella (my dog) and I would have let him hunker down in my rockin’ ’98 Accord. 🙂

    Oh, and I forgot to throw this part in! We first evacuated to West Monroe. Yep, same place Taylor’s cab dropped him off. Freaky …

  35. TALK! Says:

    That is freaky? Cool…but freaky. 😉

  36. bamaborntxbred Says:

    Just think, in some alternate universe, you guys could already be married!

  37. TALK! Says:

    NO…I would be married to Taylor.

    NOLA’s got a man.

    I give you my harsh pirate face… ;( Arghhhh!

  38. bamaborntxbred Says:

    Ummm…okay I think there are enough alternate universes for us all to be married to Taylor one way or another! Luckily, I get this universe…cause I call dibs!

  39. NOLAgirl Says:

    Man, Shelley didn’t waste any time in ruling me out, did she?! LOL

    But yeah, she’s right. I do have me a man. Even if I didn’t, it would never work out: Taylor is a Bama AND Auburn fan. LSU’s in my “heart and soul.”

    (who am I kidding? If I was single and he threw a “Ayyyy! Wooooo!” my way, I’d be toast.)

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