Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Two Year Anniversary of Katrina

This is one of the public housing "ghettos" that I pass almost on a daily basis and every time it makes me reflect. It reminds me of the empty Warsaw ghettos from the 1940s. It makes me question what the observers of those ghettos thought about where its previous inhabitants had gone.

The inhabitants of this ghetto have not been sent to such a horrific fate but they have still been shipped away. When I talked to a NOPD cop a few months back he said that when the army was brought in, the way they treated people reminded him of Poland in the 1940s.

This ghetto reminds me that there are 90,000 New Orleanians now resident in Houston. This ghetto reminds me that there are people who called this place home for generations and had never left it until Katrina forced them out. I look at the empty gaping windows and wonder who lived there and what they brought to the city they belonged to. There were no doubt criminals and drug lords in this ghetto and whether it was a pleasant or unpleasant place to live is a whole other discussion on American public housing, but there must have been plenty of people who were not those things, who were trying to scrape by, trying to make ends meet anyway they could. There must have been some people who helped create the chants of the Mardi Gras Indians, who encouraged their kids to learn the brass band music of generations and who cooked red beans and rice on a Monday. Where are these New Orleanians now and how to they feel today?

I always wonder how these people coped after what happened to them at the superdome and the convention center. I wonder what they thought as they couldn't get out and faced surviving that huge storm. These are the people this country abandoned, the people who were not important enough to get water to in five days. I always wonder if these people have been offered the chance to return home to this city or not. I wonder if their hearts have been broken living in the total other universe outside of New Orleans.

Monday, August 27, 2007


This Wednesday is the 2nd year anniversary of Katrina. I hope the world takes time to reflect on what happened, is happening and has still to happen here.

I will be posting a series of photos that say something of what is missing here.

Meanwhile please read the Time articles here.

Bush Go Home You are NOT Welcome!!

Bush is going to dare to come to New Orleans this Wednesday on the 2nd anniversary of the federal flood and failure of Katrina. How DARE he!!! I hope everyone turns their back on this man. He disgusts me.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Go to Rising Tide 2!!!!!!

I wish I could but I have work..... so if you are in New Orleans this weekend and not working you should go in my sted - go to Rising Tide 2 and find out what is really going on with the rebuilding of this unique city!!!

Monday, August 20, 2007

Pump Engineer

I had an unusual encounter yesterday. I met two engineers who designed the pumps that are installed in New Orleans to help prevent another federal flood. They were in the grocery store picking up some cheese cake for the hungry workers testing the pumps.

One of the men was the actual engineer who designed the pumps. He described them as "his" pumps. Having read so much about failing pumps and the city (or state or feds - can't remember who, so don't quote me!) buying faulty pumps from a dodgy Bush family connection in Florida, I took the opportunity to ask these gentlemen some questions. I asked about the dodgy pumps and I touched a nerve. The primary engineer told me that those pumps were agricultural pumps, for farmers and never designed to be relied upon (a farmer with a broken pump can wait a day to get it fixed but not a city in the midst of a hurricane!!). He was quite angry about it - which pleased me!! He then told me that his pumps could pump over a million gallons of water in a minute!!! I thought that sounded very impressive.

I am not mechanically minded and explanations of the kind normally tie my little brain in knots. However from what he was explaining, the engineers have designed the flood walls and pumps in such a way that should a storm surge happen (perish the thought...) then they can ensure that the volume of water in the canals can be controlled and prevent pressure building up on the canal flood walls. The result should be that a flood wall should never break under too much pressure as it did in Katrina. I hope this engineer is right. I need him to be right. This city needs him to be right. He was a really nice guy and extremely proud of his job and his pumps. It made me feel a little safer having met him.

The Hurricane Made me into a Bad Person!!

Dean is looking like he wants some serious shots of Tequila in Mexico and will leave Louisiana and Texas alone. Good news for us but bad news for Mexico. One of the most disturbing things about hurricanes and living with the threat of one, is that as soon as one pops up you wish it to go anywhere but where you are. So I find myself wishing harm on my friends (one of my best friends lives in Corpus Christi, Texas) and other human beings (Mexico). I don't like the fact that hurricane season turns me into a less caring individual.....

Wednesday, August 15, 2007


Dean is lurking hoping to be classified a grown up hurricane tomorrow. His timing is close to that baytch storm that caused the federal flood. New Orleans in her fragile recovery lie uncertain in the cone of predictions.

I would be lying if I said I wasn't worried. I would be lying if I didn't say that most of the people in this city are worried. Not that everyone is talking about it. Its eerily quiet. I think we all hope Dean will just go on his merry way to somewhere else. Just the thought of a hurricane is difficult in this city. I am Scottish and have no hurricane experience but considering our over preparations for Ernesto last year, have no fear we will be high tailing it out of here. I have read enough about the state of the levees and the failures of the feds to help secure our safety. I cannot bring myself to think too much about it, let alone blog about it. But rest assured our fear is warranted.

Its scary because I love this place. Our lives are beginning to go well. Its like when you send a loved one off on a journey you pray that no harm comes to them and they arrive back to you in one piece. I am praying right now that New Orleans journey with Dean is a safe one, hopefully observing from the sidelines. God Bless New Orleans!!

Monday, August 06, 2007

Pontchartrain Winery

Dazza and I took a trip to the Pontchartrain winery in Tammany Parish last week. We spent a good four hours there talking to John, the owner and wine grower, and, of course, sampling wine! You may think, like I did, that wine made in Louisiana cannot possibly be good. I was wrong!! The wine is actually really good. John makes it with a lot of passion and care, and he truly loves his product.

My favourites were the whites - Le Trolley (made from Blanc du Bois grapes and crisp and dry - very nice), Roux Saint Louis (made from the same grapes but stopped in the fermentation process to preserve some sweetness - it is sweeter that the Trolley but not too sweet - perfect to go with strawberries on a picnic!) and Louis D'Or (a woody white with Voignier grapes and Blanc du Bois - it was quite a shock after the other two but after a couple of sips it was quite addictive - unusual woody nutty taste that was crying out for some chicken etouffe).

Before the reds was a rose called "Zydeco Rosato" which was the most unusual colour - salmon pink. It is about as far away from a Zinfandel as possible (thank goodness) and was a real blend of the red and white grapes. It was on the dry side and I think was asking for a little spicy cajun food to accompany it.
His red that he makes from his own grapes (he grows only two - the Blanc du Bois and a red Norton - the Norton was damaged by Katrina - he hopes next year to get a harvest he can use) is made into "Rouge Militaire". The one we tried was the 2002 vintage and it was one of the most unusual wines I've ever tried. It had a nose that promised that it was port in the glass not wine but the wine, although with a lot of port qualities, was not port. It is a dry earthy, nutty flavour that doesn't apologise for its ruggedness. It take a few sips to get into it and understand its complexities but we came to love it (hence taking a bottle home). John said he had a girl come up to him at a tasting and tell him that she loved this wine because it reminded her so much of growing up in Louisiana. This is what John is passionate about, creating wines that reflect the region in Louisiana.

The other reds he has he makes from grapes that he buys from California. They are 'Le Grand Louis' a syrah and his cabernet sauvignon 'Criolla Rosso'. We also tried his port which is a real treat and its called 'Port of New Orleans'!!!

We had a great day, learnt lots, and I truly hope that John's little winery continues to grow and develop because they are producing good quality, original wines that are well worth drinking. I would highly recommend a trip up to see the place and taste the wine.

Things you see on the way home....

Thursday, August 02, 2007

The Swamp Takeover

This is New Orleans. This is a swampy place. This is a place that, it could be argued , they should have thought twice about creating in this location. Not because of sea levels of the above and below variety, not because of the odd hurricane that whips through from time to time but just because the swamp will never agree to lie down and die.

Everything grows and grows and grows here, whether you want it to or not. The vegetation is one step beyond "luscious" to ferocious! The sidewalks are forever being reshaped into mountainous terrain by the large Oaks. The pavement sprouts weeds from concrete. The road develops more and more potholes and sinkholes overnight as the swamp continues its insurgency against us humans trying to live in its domain.

The pinnacle of this enterprise I found was when we lifted the blind in the back room of our half double shotgun (its OK we rent it!) and found that now the swamp and its vegetation are on the offensive and are determined to devour us in our sleep. I think we are at serious risk of having our own private little shop of horrors!!