I made my permanent return to New Orleans today. The trip in was not as hectic as expeted. I waited in no lines and went through no checkpoints. However, it did take me about two hours to get through Baton Rouge, and this was mi-day. That city is completely overwhelmed with the population growth.
My apartment was much worse than my intial assesment. The water damage was much more extensive than I had noticed three weeks ago. And the mold, holy cow the mold. I may have to rework my FEMA application because I now have a dependent living in my apartment. We should have plenty of good times though because he’s a really fungi (I couldn’t resist). I had to toss all of my rugs, all of the furniture that was on the rugs, and anything on the floor on, or within six inches of, the rugs. The fridge clean-up was relatively painless though. And people always made fun of me for never having food at my house. My phone worked and my water flowed. However, I still have no electricity, so I am living at work for the time being. Far from an ideal situation. We’ve got a few other folks in a similar boat as me crashing here. It’s our own little evacuee shelter. The worst part is, that I am basically on the clock 24 hours a day while I am here (did I mention that I don’t get paid hourly, or a salary, actually I don’t get paid at all). It’s nice to have a roof over my head, but I am paying for it with untold hours of free labor.
The city has made amazing progress since my last visit. The number of downed trees and power lines was grealty reduced, but still unavoidable on basically every block. Most of the large amounts of trash had been removed as well. And the area surrounding the convention center was, dare I say, pristine.
When I traveled down to the French Quarter for work I was stunned. Bourbon Street was alive and bustling (none of the other streets though). Resturants, bars and yes, even tacky over-priced souvenier stores were open for business. The neon flashed, the music blared and the tourists wore beads. It was if nobody told them what happened a month ago.
The biggest thing I took away from today is that despite the claims of many, the city is not ready. Working traffic lights are sporatic at best. Every intersection is a four-way stop. So, you ain’t getting no where fast when you have to come to a complete stop every block. Many of the street signs are gone and have not been replaced. Not just signs letting you know what street you are on or crossing, but ones that give you traffic instructions. The water is till not drinkable, can be used for showering only in certain neighborhoods and is good just for flushing toilets in many areas. There is no where to shop in the city. You can’t buy groceries, cleaning supplies, medicine… or well anything. A trip to Jefferson Parrish is required for all essential purchases. But make sure you are home before six, the whole damn city is grounded. Except the French Quarter, where bars stayed open til the wee hours of the morning. New Orleans be New Orleans.
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