Walking to New Orleans 10.15.2005
". . . . . Gonna need two pair of shoes. . . .when I get through walking me blues
when I get back to New Orleans."
Fats Domino lived in the Lower Ninth Ward. His family thought he had perished in the rising water, but one of his daughters or nieces happened to see footage of a rescue on the news. It was Fats Domino. When David and I heard that he was okay we jumped up and down we were so happy. He's a musical legend and a New Orleans fixture. Today the local news accompanied him back to his home in the Lower Ninth where he's lived pretty much all of his life. Fifty years of mementos and his white piano covered in sludge. He's going to rebuild. He's going to stay. He's not the only one in that area who's made that decision. Meanwhile the developers are chomping at the bit to get the land in that area. We are hoping that the residents have more of a say than they seem to have right now.
Driving through New Orleans is another thing altogether. With power restored only in limited areas, traffic lights are sometimes working, sometimes not. When we first arrived it was traffic anarchy. Not a lot of traffic other than military vehicles, lots of debris, no power at all, power lines draping across mountains of brick and a roof that landed in the middle of the street. This was all over town. One way signs meant nothing. You got where you needed to go however you could get there. Now with power returning and traffic lights on in some areas, we're having a hard time adjusting! Still in some areas the lights are on but no one's home. What I mean is a traffic light may be on, but that doesn't mean it's actually working. We just treat every intersection like a four way stop unless we actually see the light change. David came across one that was lit red AND green! Civilization is returning slowly and we're having to learn to adapt back to it.
Heard at the grocery store: "I just got a job. I will be the first female waitperson ever hired at Galatoire's." That's really something. Don't know the woman but hurray for her, hurray for Galatoire's, and hurray for New Orleans that the grand old historic restaurant will be back.
Still need a new tire. Will have to drive a ways to get it fixed. None of the local WalMarts are open yet. The one in Gretna MIGHT open November 1. Heard that one in Marrerro is open but it's a long wait to get a tire done so we'll probably have to drive to Boutte where the scuttlebutt is that the lines are shorter.
In the window of a store on Bourbon called Alternatives: Up on the left, a tiny shelf with three Ken dolls dressed in drag. Above them a sign reading: "Let the Queens in, the rest will follow." Beneath the drag Kens are three skeleton sculptures, one female with two males. One male carrying a mop, the other a broom. Maybe paper mache, certainly gorgeously creative. Behind them a sign: "Miss Refugee was crowned Miss Evacuee. She was sponsored by "In This Together, Inc.", her platform is "We'll be clean by Halloween!" Her backup boys are Mop Boy and Whisk Boy." Fabulous! Loved it. Will try to get a pic of it for you.
Two days ago we heard about a Red Cross Financial Aid station open in Kenner by the airport. ::::::::sigh::::::::Okay, we say, we'll try it. People were sleeping out in their cars all night in order to get dealt with there. We braved it the afternoon before yesterday. Incredibly they handed us a form that asked our names and addresses and asked for ID. That's it. No other questions. This, btw, is all being done like a drive thru. Lines and lines of cars in lanes with Red Cross Volunteers gathering the papers, checking them, sending you on your way saying "Check should be in the mail." WHAT? No kidding? Why couldn't they have done this weeks ago. So many have given up, including us until we were urged to try this. But what about the people who can't GET to Kenner? It's a long way. You really do need a car. If you don't have one, I don't see how you'd get there. We'll see if the check's really in the mail.
Meanwhile back at FEMA: We got the flag off our application for having duplicate apps. Okay, cool. We were to check both the applications, make the changes that needed to be made and fax them to FEMA 1-800-827-8112. I know the number by heart. We started faxing them Oct 6. We gave up Oct 11 after being unable to get through the busy signal on their fax machine day or night. We went to the Post Office--a post office is a very cool thing at this point!--and sent it Express Mail with return receipt. I made copies before we sent it. Post Office says Express Mail doesn't mean overnight anymore. Maybe two days. Okay we say. Hell it's better than trying to fax it. Yesterday a FEMA inspector comes. Now remember, we've been at this since Sept 10. "Everybody in the disaster impacted area will get $2000," so said the press conference. We did everything we were supposed to do. The inspector says, "No problem. My being here will probably move it along faster." Today David found out that we don't qualify. Our case was closed upon receipt of the inspector's report. "Not enough damage." Well, you shoulda seen what this neighborhood looked like when we got here. No power, trees everywhere, shingles everywhere. Looked like a hurricane hit it. Wait, a hurricane DID hit it. Granted it was nothing compared to the Lower Ninth Ward and some of the other areas, but there was an enormous amount of damage here. Perhaps the inspector should have gotten here in a shorter time than 40 days. A lot has been cleaned up. Guess we should have just left everything rather than cleaning up around here. David is outraged after 7 weeks of jumping through their hoops. Gotta admit that I'm pretty angry too. We can appeal and we're trying to decide whether to do it or not. Our feeling is that we should but our energy level with regard to jumping through anymore hoops is pretty low. Thing is that we are so NOT the only ones that this is happening to. There are thousands whose cases were just stamped "CLOSED." Some people got their help right away, others are in the same boat as we are, and it's NOT just New Orleans. We'll let you know if we decide to appeal and what happens with that. Our neighbors, an elderly couple who stayed through the storm, don't qualify at all because FEMA somehow can't find Mr. Mitchell's social security number and keeps telling him that he's not him! He gave up weeks ago.
Curfew was extended to 8PM then to 12AM. No one was really paying that much attention to it. One young woman in the neighborhood works a 6-2AM shift in the Quarter. No problem getting home. In the last three days since the cops beat that old man up in the Quarter, the police have been running through the Quarter at 11:30PM warning about the curfew even though many of the places around have 24 hr permits and the street is just starting to pick up again in terms of business. We actually saw tourists yesterday. It was a wonderful thing. Tonight the bars and businesses on Bourbon are going to do an organized civil disobedience and ignore the curfew talk. They're just gonna plain stay open. They're trying to get their businesses up and running again and are refusing to let the police shut them down. We'll see what happens there.
I have also learned about Vampire Internet and found a new definition of "unlimited." Our broadband comes up for a few hours here and there, mostly during the night. I called Cox and got several different answers, none of them definitive, although Cox was great and credited everyone for the month of September. But getting online is difficult these days as my modem driver apparently didn't LIKE dial up any more than I did and now I'm having issues with that. Which brings me to the new definition of "unlimited." I have long distance service with AT&T. Have had for years and just left it that way. Plus they had an unlimited plan which was a great help. Three days ago I tried to make a call with an area code. Got a busy signal. Couldn't get there from here. Figured it was a glitch. It continued. So I called AT&T this morning. Was informed that I had "exceeded my unlimited plan", probably by using the dial up through New Mexico since the NOLA lines weren't working. I was confused. I asked, "But I have the UNLIMITED plan." "Yes, but you exceeded it." "Well, if it's unlimited then it's unlimited. How can I have exceeded unlimited?" "Ma'am, I'm sorry but we blocked many numbers in Louisiana for exceeding their unlimited plans." "But unlimited means WITHOUT LIMITS right?" "Well, no, there are limits." "Okay, WHAT is the limit?" "Ma'am, I'll have it unblocked in the next two hours." So no answer, no new definition of unlimited, but she was a woman of her word and it got unblocked. I'm getting very good at sitting on hold. And David is convinced that we've gone WAY beyond Catch 22 and are now getting to Catch 77.
I won't start on FEMA and housing and the 11 million a day hotel bills! I'll save that one!
"I'm leaving here today
I'm going back home to stay.
I'm walking to New Orleans."
That's what some of the folks in shelters waiting for FEMA temp housing are probably singing.
Love and Light,
Bec and David