Thursday, September 29, 2005

More sad news

Chef Austin Leslie has passed away. I remember poking in the kitchen Jacques-Imo's to see if he was cooking on the nights I'd be dining there. He will be missed.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Ain't dere no more

Who knew that Benny Grunch was omniscient? Read Angus Lind's latest esoteric look into NOLA cultcha.

Alabama hates sinners

You know what I would say to something like this? Go to hell. Oh wait, that's where they're telling me I'm going to go. Oops, my mistake. But from the looks of the Gulf Coast, I think we're all going down together.

Molly's on the Market now closing at a more civilized hour: 2 am

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

NOPD Superintendent Resigns

New Orleans Police Department Superintendent Eddie Compass resigns today. No word as to who will replace him and when he will leave. More as the story develops.

Brownie speaks

"My biggest mistake was not recognizing by Saturday that Louisiana was dysfunctional," said former FEMA head Michael Brown.


Nice to know he's not one of those self-hating people who accepts responsibility.

Monday, September 26, 2005

More news from Chris Rose


A ghost town gets more ghostly

It's hard to imagine that it could have felt any lonelier in New Orleans than it has for the past three weeks. But Friday, everything just disappeared.

What little life there was seemed to dissipate into the not-so-thin air of a colossal barometer drop. The Furies, it seems, are aroused.

The wind buffeted cars and put the heavy hand on already weakened trees. Magazine Street boutique signs - most hanging askew by only one chain after Katrina - spun in place like pinwheels. Loose power lines whipped and flapped across Uptown and Lakeview streets like fly fishing rods.

The rain came, misting one minute, blinding the next. Outside of the CBD emergency operations center, anywhere you drove, you saw . . . nobody.

The folks who had been trickling into town for the past week or so, checking on homes and businesses, simply ghosted. Police on the outskirts of town blocked all entry. The big National Guard camps in Audubon Park disappeared overnight without a sign that they were ever there.

So much for the repopulation plan. A TV station reported that there were only 500 civilians left in the city as Hurricane Rita set aim on the Cajun Riviera, all those miles away to the West, and you were hard pressed to find any of them.

A passing truck stopped me, and the guys inside asked for directions to the Nashville Wharf and it was good just to talk to someone.

The isolation can be maddening. The car radio just tells you bad things. You just want to find someone, anyone, and say: "How 'bout dem Saints?"

You know those classic New Orleans characters - the cab drivers, bartenders and bitter poets - who buttonhole you and natter on and on forever about tedious and mundane topics that date back to Mayor Schiro's term and when the Pelicans played out on Tulane Avenue? Usually when you're in a hurry somewhere?

I'd give anything to run into one of those guys right now. Go ahead and tell me about the fishing in Crown Point; I'll listen to just about anything you have to say.

I went to Walgreen's on Tchoupitoulas, which had been open most of the week, figuring there would be life there, but it had shuttered at noon. There was a sign on the door that said: "Now Hiring" and that's funny.

I guess.

The day before, the store's public address system was stuck in a time warp, a perky female voice reminding shoppers (both of them): "Don't let Halloween sneak up on you; stock up on candy early. You'll find great savings now . . . at Walgreen's!"

Truth is, there sure was a hell of a lot of candy there. Trick or treat.

As I drove around, the gray sheets of rain pushed around all the stuff in the street and, trust me, there's a lot of stuff in the street. For as far as you looked up and down every avenue, the same blank vistas.

Across town, the water was rising. Again. I suppose there were people there, trying to save our city again, though the cynical might ask: What's to save?

On dry land, the only place I found people gathered was at the fire station on Magazine Street in the Garden District. I went by to drop off some copies of the newspaper for the local guys and found about 60 firefighters from all over the country hanging out in a rec room watching TV and frying burgers.

That was perhaps the strangest sight of all, these guys just sitting around. Stranger in some ways than the desolation.

Because for once, with all this rain soaking the downed trees and rooftops, and nobody around to do something stupid like start a fire, they had nothing to do.

Just sit and watch TV in a haunted city.

Chris Rose can be reached at

"I have this feeling in the pit of my stomach that if I start crying, the crying will kill me"

Go to the complete archive and find episodes 9/9 and 9/16. It's amazing to hear these oral histories of what happened to people who were left in NOLA after Katrina.

Thanks to La Coquette whose blog reminded me to look at "This American Life."

Sunday, September 25, 2005

lemon ice and cooler nights

Mom and Dad are safe and "on the same page" - something that has become a common refrain as of late. I was very happy to hear about the beauty of the stars in Arkansas, but I'm glad they'll be having their evening glasses of wine in Shreveport, Louisiana with friends tomorrow night. Soon, they will be in New York with me. I can't wait to hug them. I might not let go. The weather turned in the Northeast this weekend. I need to knit new scarves for my parents and wrap them up in them upon their arrival.

I found a new NOLA website today. I haven't read too extensively, but it's by a man who writes an independent zine/comic in NOLA. The site is Antigravity. I loved this picture which he posted of the sign for Angelo Broccato's on Carrollton Avenue.

I hope that they open up again soon and bring their delicious lemon ice back to the city.

Friday, September 23, 2005

here we go again

Another broken levee. More flooding in New Orleans.

Who knew 2005 would be the year my house would be destroyed not once, but twice? Words escape me. Mom and Dad are safe in Arkansas. They just called and I could hardly understand them. The reception was so bad and we got cut off.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

On the road again

My parents are evacuating (again). This time to Arkansas.

I'm too tired to write more. An evening of high heels and fretting about my parents. I know they are fine, but I'm wondering when anything will seem honestly real again.

And what does "real" mean anymore anyway?

Horror notes from evacuationland

This is not a joke. It is actually New Orleans author Poppy Z. Brite's livejournal.

Wanna know what it's like to be a frustrated evacuee? Well, read her journal.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Sharon Olds' letter to Laura Bush

A little non-hurricane Katrina related reading for you. Here is Sharon Olds' letter to Laura Bush, declining invitations to partake in the National Book Festival in Washington, D.C. as well as several meals with the former drunk teenage killer, oh wait, I mean to say the First Lady.

Frankly, I do not think I could stomach being in that woman's presence. I couldn't do the photo-op or shake her hand even if it meant something positive for me or my cause. After all, any association with this administration is tainted by one thing or another. Why debase yourself like that?

I mean, this is a woman who called Hurricane Katrina, "Hurricane Corinna" on more than one occasion.

You're the First Lady. Put down the meds and get it straight. The biggest natural disaster in the country's history and you can't even remember the name? Wow, you just made your husband look smart.

Oh, well, I guess I can't avoid Katrina after all. But do support Sharon Olds. If you don't know her, please consider buying a book or at least checking it out of the library and share a poem with a friend. I'd lend you my signed copy of The Living and the Dead, but it's covered in Toxic Ooze in New Orleans.

disconnect and the inability to reconcile memory with reality

My neighbor says that everything is black and white thanks to the mud and the rain. You forget that the world is actually in color because everything is washed in gray. It's only when you look up to see the leaves on the trees that you see any kind of actual color.

Muted. It's like the world is muted in a mudslide. I guess that is what happens when Lake Pontchartrain bathes your home with its dredges.

The windows didn't break, evidently. It makes me wonder what the inside of the house is like and how the water and muck came in if the roof didn't break and the windows are intact.

I mean, I'm not kidding myself. I know it's all trashed.

But there is an incredible disconnect between factually knowing something and emotionally knowing something. I think about the human inability to accept the deaths of those we love due to the reality of our own existence. As if to say that people are alive because we are alive. When someone is so much a part of your life, it seems unlikely that they could be gone when you are still breathing and functioning.

That is how this feels. I find it hard to emotionally register the loss of New Orleans because I am still alive. New Orleans is in me. I think every New Orleanian would say that. New Orleans exists when you talk about your mom, when you talk about a good meal, when you sit around drinking with friends, when you stroll instead of rush, when you make time for coffee and the horoscope, when you run into nursery school friends on the street.

I went to a party in Tribeca tonight for work and the entire place was decorated with gardenias. I had to be uncouth and bend over to inhale their heady perfume. Gardenias remind me of one of my neighbors. She passed away in July 2004, but throughout my youth, she would call my mom at ten o'clock at night so that my brother, mom and I could see her night blooming cereuses. I remember running through the yards underneath the Oak trees, not caring whether or not my Chinese pajamas got muddy from the grass. We stopped short when we got to her house and crept towards the back yard as if we were visiting a wild baby animal. We stooped over the exotic blooms, closed our eyes and breathed in. Nights like that, the sky hung like bolts of black velvet, free to hang like drapery in the sky.

It's hard to believe this space of such sensory delight and exhibition has been reduced to the raw stench of sewage, toxic sludge and lake water. The mud hasn't even caked over yet and the next hurricane is on its way.

How can I reconcile these realities?

Monday, September 19, 2005

what we once called a home

I stepped off the subway and missed her call. Sudha called and after making my way from the underground to Flatbush Avenue, I listened to her voice mail. She was standing in front of what was my house. My pemanent address. The place I could return to in my sleep. From the place where I would sit on the porch and talk late into the night with my brother.

She said she couldn't bear to even talk about it on voice mail.

I can only imagine what she was seeing and I was grateful it was the voice mail and not me who caught the call.

Everyday I look online at the photographs of the disaster and I know that I'll be another person, sorting through the mud and the water logged remnants of what was once our home. Throwing away things that were once so precious. The programs from memorial services, old photographs, yearbooks, diplomas, dolls, clothing, artwork, all the years of cribblings, my journals, my masters thesis, the bad poetry.

It's all going to be Katrina's aftermath. But I'll be able to look at my mother's face, my father's eyes and my brother's laughter and realize that - honestly - these people are my home. Some of the closest moments we ever shared took place within the confines of a car, late at night, looking for a hotel on the road. We always traveled without reservations. Why is now any different?

Planned Parenthood opens up in Baton Rouge


Good to know that Planned Parenthood is setting up shop in Baton Rouge. I doubt the Magazine Street location is up and running. How long until the evangelicals go and protest. I mean, hurricane relief gets old fast. Might as well go back to routine protesting against reproductive rights.


Planned Parenthood open in B.R.

Planned Parenthood of Louisiana and the Mississippi Delta (PPLAMD) announced that the Baton Rouge Health Center is open and providing family planning services for Hurricane Katrina evacuees. Men and women can visit the Baton Rouge Health Center for birth control, emergency contraception, condoms and other family planning services.

"We want the people of Baton Rouge and all the men and women displaced by Hurricane Katrina to know that Planned Parenthood is here to serve them in their time of need," said Keetha Buster, Interim CEO of PPLAMD. "Many people fled their homes with only the clothes on their backs and we want to make sure that they remain healthy and avoid an STD or an unintended pregnancy."

The Baton Rouge health center is located at 3955 Government Street, Suite 2. Men and women can call 225-387-1167 for more information and an appointment.

Who dat?

The Saints are playing the Giants tonight. NYC residents, Go out to your local bar and yell louder than the Giants fans. You know you can do it. Monday Night Football: let's make it to 2-0 in style.

Higher Ground

Here is the NPR broadcast of Higher Ground, Wynton Marsalis' benefit concert at Jazz @ Lincoln Center. If you're having trouble concentrating at work, this will help.

I heard a lot of shout outs to the Ninth Ward... How about Lakeview? Hah. That would be a first.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Gaining strength

Well, I can finally get through to my parents on their cell phones. Yesterday it took 8 tries in a row, but I got through. Today it just took two tries.

It's progress.

My parents amaze me. Their optimism and forward thinking keep me afloat. We've learned that the water has finally gone down on our street and all that is left is a thick layer of ooze on the street and probably in our homes. A neighbor's son works for the city and used his badge to make his way into the neighborhood. He saw that the water reached the mailboxes high up on our porches. So I guess the World Books on the top shelf of the living room and my porcelain Disney figurines from childhood are safe and everything else is gone.

But my parents are treating this like a new adventure. They have the same spirit my friend Julie's five-year old has: a burning desire to concentrate on where this takes us instead of focusing on what we've lost.

I can tell I'm gaining strength and concentration again. Perhaps I'll finally be to write outside this blog and begin to commit in concrete words my feelings about this disaster, but also my endless love affair with New Orleans. No matter what happens and where this takes my friends and family, New Orleans is home. It's in my blood and it's apparent in the way I read and engage with the world. I can't mourn the city. How can I when it's alive in me and I'll be dammned to let it die. This is only the beginning of a new period of culture and history. We have the power to shape this. We must participate.

"they look good when they file their latest report from Hell."


CHRIS ROSE: A city stirs from its slumber

Glimpses of normalcy provide a glimmer or hope

By Chris Rose

Amid the devastation, you have to look for hope. Forward progress of any kind.
Even the smallest incidents of routine and normalcy become reassuring. For instance, I was driving down Prytania and at the corner of Felicity, the light turned red.

Out of nowhere, in total desolation, there was a working stoplight. I would have been less surprised to find a Blockbuster Video on Mars.

And the funny thing is, I stopped. I waited for it to turn green and then drove slowly on my way, even though there were no other cars anywhere and the likelihood of getting a ticket for running the only traffic signal in town seems very unlikely right now.


Also on Prytania, there was a gardener watering the plants on the porch of Nicolas Cage's mansion and I guess that's a good sign. Life goes on. In very small ways.

The toilets flush now and I never thought that would be a sound of reassurance. An even better sound was finding out that WWOZ is broadcasting on the Web - radio in exile - laying out their great New Orleans music.

That's important. I have no idea from where they're operating or which deejays are spinning the discs but I can tell you this: The first time I ever hear Billy Dell's "Records from the Crypt" on the radio again, I will kiss the dirty ground beneath my feet.

Guys with brooms have started cleaning Canal Street and Convention Center Boulevard; until recently, any tidying up required either a back hoe, a crane or a Bobcat.

God only knows where they're going to put all this garbage, all this rubble, all these trees, but they're gathering it up all the same.

The streets of the French Quarter, absent the rubble of the CBD, basically looks and smells like the day after Mardi Gras, except with no broken strands of beads in the gutter.

OK, maybe it was a real windy Mardi Gras, but you get the point.

It just needs a little face lift, a little sweeping up and a good hard rain to wash away . . . all the bad stuff.

A counterpoint to that scene would be Broadway Avenue Uptown - Fraternity Row - where the street is actually CLEANER than usual and that's because the fine young men and women of our universities had not yet settled into their early semester routines of dragging living room furniture out onto their front yards and drinking Red Bull and vodka to while away their youth.

I wonder where all of them are? When this is over, who will go there and who will teach there?

What will happen to us?

One thing's for sure, our story is being told.

The satellite trucks stretch for eight blocks on Canal Street and call to mind an event like the Super Bowl or the Republican Convention.

It's a strange place. Then again, anywhere that more than 10 news reporters gather becomes a strange place by default.

I saw Anderson Cooper interviewing Dr. Phil. And while Cooper's CNN camera crew filmed Dr. Phil, Dr. Phil's camera crew filmed Cooper and about five or six other camera crews from other shows and networks stood to the side and filmed all of that.

By reporting this scene, I have become the media covering the media covering the media.

It all has the surrealistic air of a Big Event, what with Koppel and Geraldo and all those guys wandering around in their Eddie Bauer hunting vests and impossibly tall and thin anchor women from around the region powdering their faces and teasing their hair so they look good when they file their latest report from Hell.

"And today in New Orleans . . . blah blah blah."

Today in New Orleans, a traffic light worked. Someone watered flowers. And anyone with the means to get online could have heard Dr. John's voice wafting in the dry wind, a sound of grace, comfort and familiarity here in the saddest and loneliest place in the world.

It's a start.

Columnist Chris Rose can be reached at

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

sometimes i feel like i can't even sing

When I was thirteen, I went to summer camp for the first time. It was really "geek" camp of sorts. Really, it was called "Creative Scholars." I'd taken some test for creativity and scored incredibly on it so I got a scholarship to go to this camp in Natchitoches, Louisiana. It was the first time I'd been away from New Orleans for over a week without my parents. I was there about two weeks in the dorms on Northwestern University's campus. For those who are not in the know, Natchitoches is where "Steel Magnolias" was filmed. Go ahead and quote away if you are also a native Louisianian woman. Otherwise, be my guest and mock me, but I will still love you more than I love my luggage. I loved camp. I ate nothing but tinned peaches and rolls; the food was so bad. But I ran wild and giggled incessantly, distracted by boys, but mostly in love with my roommate (who was an equally happy yet serious girl) and our incredible friendship. I joined musical theater on a whim and realized I had a good voice. I wrote endless stories, braided hair, flirtingly teased the boys, walked on fences and went to Burger King in order to get the paper crown and wear it upside down.

I came home tan, lean, incredibly happy and with an address book full of new friends. At camp, I discovered my (now characteristic) love for meeting new people and embracing new situations.

The residential advisors at this quirky camp decided entertain themselves by making a radio show out of the intercoms. I still don't understand how they managed to do this, but they did. You could write in requests and leave them at the info desk at the front of the dorm by lights out the night before the morning show.

One morning, my roommate Missy and I were shocked to hear that a boy dedicated a song to me. He said he was too shy to tell me how much he liked me, but this song summed it up. The song was REM's "You are the everything." I stood in front of the intercom with a slack jaw for the duration of the song. Curly redheaded Missy looked on in the kind of shock and shared joy that only unkissed 13 year old girls can appreciate and enjoy for one another.

I never found out who dedicated the song to me. Was it the really cute blonde residential advisor about to be a freshman at Trinity College who would always talk with me and later danced with me to "Hotel California" (I've forgotten his name and that along with the photographs of him are six feet or more underwater in my house in New Orleans) at the final night dance? Was it the cute boy who was the same height (5') as me? Was it the suave guy from Baton Rouge? I'll never know, but that song always reminds me of the exquisite perfection of unrequited affection at an age when everything was an unknown pleasure waiting in the balance.

We would harass our residential advisor, Doris, to tell us stories about the boys she liked. We were too young for our own stories so we craved those of older girls. Doris told us about the guy who danced like Michael Stipe and didn't know she existed. We were all rapt at her stories at how he loved literature and flung his arms around while dancing as if there was no greater joy in the world than a good book and the abandon of dancing.

Four years later, I watched Doris get married to this very man in a chapel on Louisiana State University's campus. Now she lives in Kansas with him and their two kids. We're still in touch. Now I have stories to tell her as well.

(Thank you to whomever sent me REM: "Green" off my wish list. It revived this delicious memory that needs no photographs or clothing to remind me of that wonderful moment of youth and exhilaration.)

"all i did was what he gave me the will power to do"

You cannot hear Charmaine Neville's words without crying. No one should have gone through this. The government left these people out to die. There's a special place in hell for the Bush family. I would like to show this to Barbara Bush and ask her if people wanted to go through this in order to find another way to live.

Go to this Baton Rouge TV website and look for the videos. You will find an interview with Charmaine Neville as she speaks with a priest.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Sailing. . . driving. . . even if it's in my mind

This story is full of street names all too familiar to me. I keep waiting for someone to mention my street, but they haven't yet.

Whenever I was homesick in graduate school, afterwards and even now, I would imagine myself driving from home to the Times-Picayune or to a friend's house uptown or to any PJ's location. The gentle memory and the beauty of the drive combined with the sound of the oldies station, Tulane station and WWOZ just made life seem perfect. Everything moved more slowly and with greater care in New Orleans. Lord, we knew it was all on the verge of falling apart, but God, I cried everytime I left the city and I still want to cry for it.

This really isn't getting any easier.

Lakefront seafood is another memory

From --- We took Tim to Brunings for his 26th birthday. Sweetheart, I'm glad we got to look at the sunset over Lake Pontchartrain and eat a great dinner together with mom and dad.

The end of West End

3:51 p.m.

By Michelle Hunter
Staff writer

The West End, for decades a New Orleans dining and drinking playground, might now be the worst end.

Bruning’s historic bar, where generations downed raw oysters, and the porch at Jaeger’s, where crawfish and cold beer accompanied sunsets over Lake Pontchartrain, exist now only as rotting wood piled 20 feet high on the opposite side of the 17th Street Canal near the site of Sid-Mar’s of Bucktown, also laid to waste by Hurricane Katrina. Pilings that once supported restaurants and bars serve as nothing more than seagull perches.

“The old Bruning’s house had been there for a hundred years, and now it’s gone,” said Louis Cochran, 72, who bicycled over to Bucktown with friend Mark Adolph, 49, to check on their boats in the nearby marinas.

The only way into West End for civilians these days is by foot or by bike, across the pedestrian bridge over the canal. Even that can be precarious, for Katrina’s wind and storm surge peeled away some of the bridge’s hand railings.

Cochran and Adolph carefully navigated the dinner plates, flatware and broken wine glasses in the West End parking lot, coated by cracking mud. At nearby Coconut Beach, the once-pristine white sand of the 17-net volleyball complex is now a muddy gray minefield of twisted metal siding, glass and roof material.

The Municipal Marina Yacht Harbor and the boathouses that line its waters fared better, but not by much. Boats and cars are lodged against the oak trees along North Roadway. Cinderblocks and red bricks from the public bathroom near the fishing dock are sprinkled across the roadway along with crab traps that washed ashore from the lake, their prisoners still baking in the sun.

Mike and Gloria Branford, both 50, have visited the area several times since the middle of last week, checking on Boathouse No. 84, their home for almost two years.

None of the boathouses escaped damage, but some are worse off than others. Owners who made recent renovations will have less to repair, Mike Branford said.

But the destruction everywhere is awesome. Many of the structures have collapsed, or their walls are blown away. At the living room of a friend’s home, Gloria Branford pointed out where the floor dropped away, creating a pool of insulation and broken boards.

“On the first day, I was emotionally destroyed,” she said. “I couldn’t talk without crying.”

Remarkably the bars inside many of the boathouses seem intact, their liquor bottles unbroken. Passersby know this without trespassing, for there are no exterior walls.

“There’s something about liquor that doesn’t knock over that easy,” Mike Branford said.

At the Branfords’ boathouse on Breakwater Drive, water swept through the downstairs area, taking with it the wallboards and some personal belongings. But the damage seemed minimal compared to the houses on either side, each seemingly smashed by a wrecking ball.

Mike Branford, a former carpenter turned auto-body mechanic, said he designed his house with storms in mind. Still, the devastation around the marina, the West End and elsewhere in New Orleans is not lost on the couple.

They remember the West End when New Orleans residents flocked to restaurants and clubs such as The Bounty, The Port Hole and Augie’s Delago. The area stagnated for a while, but it seemed to begun a mini-renaissance in recent years with the arrival of The Dock, a restaurant and bar that was using live music to attract a hipper crowd.

Just as the Branfords have gradually become more adamant in the past two weeks about rebuilding their home, they also have begun to hope that life will return throughout the West End. They envision an alternative to the French Quarter, with boardwalks, hotels and other attractions that play up the beauty of the lake.

“This could be a blessing. It has potential,” Mike Branford said.

He stood on the front deck of his boathouse, gazing out onto the lake as if willing the destruction around him to fade away.

“You just can’t look sideways or look back,” he said.

words from Valerie Martin

Here is an essay from Valerie Martin. Question: why are all the Southern female novelists writing about NOLA in the UK press?

"we're better on the road anyway"

The Saints are 1-0!

It's true. The Saints actually did the people of NOLA a favor and won the damn season opener. People are talking about the playoffs already. Good to know the people of NOLA are still CRAZY no matter where they ended up. Geaux Saints!

Sunday, September 11, 2005

I've said it before and I will say it again; at the end of the world, I want Harry Lee on my side


Jefferson Parish Sheriff Harry Lee commandeers Sam's Wal-Mart stores
Sunday, 10:30 a.m.

Jefferson Parish Sheriff Harry Lee said he has "commandered" the Sam's and Wal-Mart stores in the parish and ordered them to open as soon as possible.

Lee said he took the action after he learned that a Wal-Mart store wanted to open recently but was told by FEMA officials that it could not.

"I am upset with FEMA and some of their regulations," Lee said.

After talking about the situation concerning the Wal-Mart on Thursday, Lee said he briefly talked to Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-New Orleans on Friday. He asked her to check on the situation and find out if there was a legitimate reason to keep the store closed.

But because of communication difficulties, he did not hear back and took the situation in his own hands.

Lee said he gave handwritten notes to Wal-Mart stores in Harvey and Kenner saying they were ordered to open as soon as possible. Lee said Parish President Aaron Broussard agreed with the decision.

Lee said anyone from FEMA who tries to close either store will be arrested by deputies.

"We're encouraging the businesses to get up and going."

On other topics, Lee said he had 40 deputies who didn't report for duty for the storm. One who tried to return was told not to waste his time.

"As far as I am concerned (he) will never get a job in law enforcement again," Lee said.

Rest in Peace


'Gatemouth' Brown dies Sunday
Sunday, 11:55 a.m.

Clarence ‘Gatemouth’ Brown, a Louisiana-born musician whose versatile style blended blues, country, jazz and Cajun music, died Sunday in Orange, Tex., after evacuating there from Slidell to escape Hurricane Katrina. He was 81.

Brown, whose Slidell home was destroyed by the storm, had been battling emphysema, lung cancer and heart disease.

Brown was born in southwest Louisiana and raised in southeast Texas. He got his start as a drummer and made a name for himself as a guitarist, playing in Houston nightclubs.

A multi-talented performer, he played at least six different instruments and had recorded with a number of well-known artists over his lifetime, including Eric Clapton, Ry Cooder and Bonnie Raitt.

Over the course of his more than 50-year career, he made more than 30 recordings, showcasing his adaptable style, and went on to win a Grammy award in 1982.

Despite failing health, Brown made a final appearance at Jazzfest in April.

His survivors include three daughters and a son.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Words from Chris Rose

From, one of my former colleagues writes a personal essay:

In city of melted clocks, scribes paint Dali scenes
By Chris Rose

You hear the word “surreal” in every report from this city now. There is no better word for it.

If Salvador Dali showed up here, he wouldn’t be able to make heads or tails of it. Nobody could paint this.

He did that famous painting of the melting clock and our clocks melted at 6:45 the morning of Aug. 29. That’s what the clocks in the French Quarter still say. That’s when time stood still.

The Quarter survived all this; you’ve probably heard that much. Most of what remains unscathed – and I’m using a very relative term here - is a swath of dry land from the Riverbend through Audubon Park, down St. Charles and Tchoupitoulas to the Quarter and into the Bywater.

It’s like a land mass the size of Bermuda, maybe, but with not so many golf courses.

There are other dry outposts in the great beyond – little Key Wests across the city – but I haven’t seen them.

The weather is beautiful, I don’t mind telling you. But if I wrote you a post card, it wouldn’t say Wish You Were Here.

There are still hearty rose bushes blooming on front porches and there are still birds singing in the park. But the park is a huge National Guard encampment.

There are men and women from other towns living there in tents and who have left their families to come help us and they are in the park clearing out the fallen timber. My fellow Americans.

Every damn one of them tells you they’re happy to be here (despite what you’ve heard, it still beats the hell out of Fallujah) and every time I try to thank them – on behalf of all of us - I just lose it. I absolutely melt down.

There is nothing quite as ignominious as weeping in front of a soldier.

This is no environment for a wuss like me. We reporters go to other places to cover wars and disasters and pestilence and famine. There’s no manual to tell you how to do this when it’s your own city.

And I’m telling you: It’s hard.

It’s hard not to get crispy around the edges. It’s hard not to cry. It’s hard not to be very, very afraid.

My colleagues who are down here are warriors. There are a half-dozen of us living in a small house on a side street Uptown. Everyone else has been cleared out.

We have a generator and water and military C-rations and Doritos and smokes and booze. After deadline, the call goes out: “Anyone for some warm brown liquor?” and we sit on the porch in the very, very still of the night and we try to laugh.

Some of these guys lost their houses – everything in them. But they’re here, telling our city’s story.

And they stink. We all stink. We stink together.

We have a bunch of guns but it’s not clear to me if anyone in this “news bureau” knows how to use them.

The California National Guard came by a wanted an accounting of every weapon in the building and they wrote the serial numbers down and apparently our guns are pretty rad because they were all cooing over the .38s.

I guess that’s good to know.

The Guard wanted to know exactly what we had so they would be able to identify – apparently by sound – what guns were in whose hands if anything “went down” after dark here at this house.

That’s not so good to know.

They took all our information and bid us a good day and then sauntered off to retrieve a dead guy on a front porch down the street.

Then the California Highway Patrol – the CHiPs! – came and demanded we turn over our weapons.

What are you going to do? We were certainly outnumbered so we turned over the guns. Then, an hour later, they brought them back. With no explanation.

Whatev. So here we are. Just another day at the office.

Maybe you’ve seen that Times-Picayune advertising slogan before: “News, Sports and More.”

More indeed. You’re getting your money’s worth today.

Chris Rose can be reached at

Friday, September 09, 2005

you knew this was gonna happen no matter what


Jazz Fest will go on
8:12 p.m., Friday

The 2006 New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival will go on.

�There will be a Jazzfest. We are committed to putting on the 2006 Jazz and Heritage Festival, whatever that may take,� said Quint Davis, producer/director of the springtime musical extravaganza and president of Festival Productions Inc.-New Orleans, which produces the festival with AEG Live, the nation�s second highest-grossing concert promoter.

Details are sketchy at this point.

�We don�t know when, we don�t know where, we don�t know what format,� Davis said. �There will be a Jazzfest in 2006. It will be in Louisiana. It will be as close to New Orleans as we can get it.�

The producers would like to hold the event at its customary site at the Fair Grounds Race Course, but if that�s not possible they are committed to holding it in Louisiana. �We�ll be starting from the Fair Grounds and working our way out� in determining a location, Davis said.

This commitment comes from all of the major stakeholders in the festival, Davis said.


Why I love Sacred Heart girls. We have never been known for underplaying things. We like to speak our minds, loudly. Here's a sample from the Sacred Heart message board.

Isabel Marturi - Friend of ASH Rosary 6th grader - September 07, 2005

HEY GUYS!!!!! i miss everybody so much and i cant wait to see all of yall!! im in austin and im going to a great school called regents with ny cousins. and guess what! THERE ARE BOYS!!! EWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW! well you can call me @ -XXXXX.Oh yeah and i laughed at your s=message susannah!! call me if anybody want and tell me if your in austin or in texas somewhere! i miss all of you guys and say saf for me! ok? well catch ya lata!! much love isabel

"ain't gonna let no other flag fly over this state"

More writing

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Donna Tartt's words

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Philadelphia Inquirer reports

The Philadelphia Inquirer is doing a great job of Katrina coverage. How do I know? Because lots of those folks are former Times-Picayune reporters. Also, one of my very best friends - Natalie - writes for them. Check this stuff out.

Here's an essay from Phila Inquirer Craig LaBan who used to work at The Times-Picayune.

Here is a personal essay published in the Phila Inquirer from my friend Natalie.

Another story from Natalie.

Thank God someone is angry

This is from Gawker as of a couple days ago, but it is worth reposting. I have to say that Mary Landrieu has been a sight for these sore eyes. I'm grateful I've yet to see Senator Vitter. But still, Mary Landrieu didn't need to thank the president. I realize it's quid pro quo or whatever, but damn, woman, you are a New Orleans native. Get angry. It's your right. Anderson Cooper is pissed off and I appreciate his fury... even though I'd rather him yell at the president.

He Wants You to Go to Your Window, Open It, Stick Your Head Out, and Yell
Was it possible for us to love Anderson Cooper more than we already did? Yes, it turns it out, it was possible. Our love grew at about 7:30 last night, in the middle of 360°, when Coop, who’s been in New Orleans for days, finally, well, flipped out. Mad as hell, you say? Madder. He was talking to Sen. Mary Landrieu, Democrat of Louisiana, and we can bet she’s not going on his show again soon. Round one:

COOPER: Does the federal government bear responsibility for what is happening now? Should they apologize for what is happening now?

LANDRIEU: Anderson, there will be plenty of time to discuss all of those issues, about why, and how, and what, and if. … Let me just say a few things. Thank President Clinton and former President Bush for their strong statements of support and comfort today. … I want to thank Senator Frist and Senator Reid for their extraordinary efforts.

Anderson, tonight, I don’t know if you’ve heard — maybe you all have announced it — but Congress is going to an unprecedented session to pass a $10 billion supplemental bill tonight to keep FEMA and the Red Cross up and operating.

COOPER: … I haven’t heard that, because, for the last four days, I’ve been seeing dead bodies in the streets here in Mississippi. And to listen to politicians thanking each other and complimenting each other, you know, I got to tell you, there are a lot of people here who are very upset, and very angry, and very frustrated.

And when they hear politicians slap — you know, thanking one another, it just, you know, it kind of cuts them the wrong way right now. Because literally there was a body on the streets of this town yesterday being eaten by rats, because this woman had been laying in the street for 48 hours. And there’s not enough facilities to take her up.

Do you get the anger that is out here?
Does she get the anger? Does she? (And will she thank another politician? Of course she will.) After the jump, Anderson whups some more senatorial ass — and we finally start feeling just a touch less embarrassed to be citizens of this banana republic.

LANDRIEU: Anderson, I have the anger inside of me. Most of the homes in my family have been destroyed. Our homes have been destroyed. I understand what you’re saying, and I know all of those details. And the president of the United States knows those details.

COOPER: Well, who are you angry at?

LANDRIEU: I’m not angry at anyone. I’m just expressing that it is so important for everyone in this nation to pull together, for all military assets and all assets to be brought to bear in this situation.

And I have every confidence that this country is as great and as strong as we can be do to that. And that effort is under way.
COOPER: Well, I mean, there are a lot of people here who are kind of ashamed of what is happening in this country right now, what is — ashamed of what is happening in your state, certainly.

And that’s not to blame the people who are there. It’s a desperate situation. But I guess, you know, who can — I mean, no one seems to be taking responsibility.

I mean, I know you say there’s a time and a place for, kind of, you know, looking back, but this seems to be the time and the place. I mean, there are people who want answers, and there are people who want someone to stand up and say, “You know what? We should have done more. Are all the assets being brought to bear?”

LANDRIEU: Anderson, Anderson…

COOPER: I mean, today, for the first time, I’m seeing National Guard troops in this town.

LANDRIEU: Anderson, I know. And I know where you are. And I know what you’re seeing. Believe me, we know it. And we understand, and there will be a time to talk about all of that. Trust me.

I know what the people are suffering. The governor knows. The president knows. The military officials know. And they’re trying to do the very best they can to stabilize the situation.

Senator Vitter, our congressional delegation, all of us understand what is happening. We are doing our very, very best to get the situation under control.

But I want to thank the president. He will be here tomorrow, we think. And the military is sending assets as we speak.

So, please, I understand. You might say I’m a politician, but I grew up in New Orleans. My father was the mayor of that city. I’ve represented that city my whole life, and it’s just not New Orleans. It’s St. Bernard, and St. Tammany, and Plaquemines Parish that have been completely underwater.

Our levee system has failed. We need a lot of help. And the Congress has been wonderful to help us, and we need more help.

Nobody’s perfect, Anderson. Everybody has to stand up here. And I know you understand. So thank you so much for everything you’re doing.

COOPER: Well, I appreciate you joining us on the program tonight. I can only imagine how busy you are. Thank you very much, Senator Landrieu.

LANDRIEU: Thank you, Anderson. Thank you so much. Thank you.

COOPER: And good luck to you and all the people working to solve this problem. Because, at this point, it is very hard to try to figure our how this problem is going to get solved.

in the running for most insenstive woman ever?

"What I'm hearing, which is sort of scary, is they all want to stay in Texas. Everyone is so overwhelmed by the hospitality," she said during a radio interview with the American Public Media program "Marketplace." "And so many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway, so this is working very well for them."

Yeah, nothing like losing loved ones, being separated from your family, getting evacuated from your roof or being subjected to the horrors in the Superdome, being left behind by the government for days amdist looters, dead bodies and misery, being shipped out like cattle to Houston of all miserable places to make your life just a little bit better --- because you were underprivileged anyway.

What a bitch.

Words from Wynton Marsalis

Wynton Marsalis, Artistic Director of Jazz at Lincoln Center, makes a statement about the devastation in his hometown of New Orleans from Hurricane Katrina You can purchase tickets for the September 17th benefit concert for Hurricane Katrina at Jazz at Lincoln Center.

New Orleans is the most unique of American cities because it is the only city in the world that created its own full culture – architecture, music and festive ceremonies. It's of singular importance to the United States of America because it was the original melting pot with a mixture of Spanish, French, British, West African and American people living in the same city. The collision of these cultures created jazz and jazz is important because it's the only art form that embodies the fundamental principals of American democracy. That's why it swept the country and the world representing the best of the United States.

New Orleanians are blues people. We are resilient, so we are sure that our city will come back. This tragedy, however, provides an opportunity for the American people to demonstrate to ourselves and to the world that we are one nation determined to overcome our legacies of injustices based on race and class. At this time all New Orleanians need the nation to unite in a deafening crescendo of affirmation to silence that desperate cry that is this disaster.

We need people with their prayers, their pocketbooks, and above all their sense of purpose to show the world just who the modern American is and then we'll put our city back together in even greater fashion. This is gut check time for all of us as Americans.

In a country with the most incredible resources in the world we need the ingenuity of our best engineers to put the cultural heart of our nation back together. To put it together with 2005 technical expertise and with 2005 social consciousness, which means without accommodating the ignorance of racism, the deplorable poverty, and lack of education that have been allowed to fester in many great American cities since slavery.

We're only as civilized as our level of hospitality. Let's demonstrate to the world that what actually makes America the most powerful nation on earth is not guns, pornography and material wealth but transcendent and abiding soul, something perhaps we have lost a grip on, and this catastrophe gives us a great opportunity to handle up on.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Wish list

Hi everyone,

As you know almost everything I own was in NOLA. Due to the request of friends, I have made a wish list for myself on This gave me something to do today. Most of the stuff are things that are now totally submerged in water. The newer things are items that I had on VHS and things that I would definitely make my day to have at a time like this. Some of the items are children's books. Some are albums full of memories. If you would like to get me something, it would make me a bit more sane. I understand this is a bit me-centric, but if you can even imagine what it's like to lose just about everything (including yr parents' wedding pictures, all of your childhood and baby pictures, all your high school and college pictures, most of your clothes and almost all of your artwork and sentimental items, not to mention furniture), a book or cd would mean a lot.

Thanks so much.

Times-Picayune editorial

Editorial: Not Acceptable
The Times-Picayune Editorial Board

A day after a normally easy-going Mayor Ray Nagin blasted federal officials' seeming indifference to the plight of New Orleanians who are stranded and dying, President Bush stood on the lawn of the White House and conceded the point: The federal government did not move quickly enough or forcefully enough to help those people hit hardest by Hurricane Katrina. "The results are not acceptable," the president said before boarding a helicopter to go survey the storm's damage.

It's good to hear the president admit his administration's shortcomings, and it's even better to hear his promise to help all of us who are in need. But the sad truth remains that the federal government's slow start has already proved fatal to some of the most vulnerable people in the New Orleans area. Water has killed hundreds, if not thousands, of people. A lack of water to drink is exacting its toll on others.
"I don't want to see anybody do anymore goddamn press conferences," the mayor said during a WWL radio interview Thursday. "Put a moratorium on press conferences. Don't do another press conference until the resources are in this city."

The mayor had obviously become fed up with federal bureaucrats' use of future tense verbs. "Don't tell me 40,000 people are coming here," he said. "They're not here. It's too doggone late. Now get off your asses and do something, and let's fix the biggest goddamn crisis in the history of this country."

We applaud the mayor for giving voice to an entire city's frustration. How could the most powerful and technologically advanced nation in the history of the world have responded so feebly to this crisis?

The president's admission of his administration's mistakes will mean nothing unless the promised help is deployed immediately. Each life is precious, and there isn't a second chance to save a single one of them. No more talk of what's going to happen. We only want to hear what is being done. The lives of our people depend on it.

relief and fear

My friend Leslie Williams (a reporter for The Times-Picayune) has been found. He had been missing since August 28th. I am overjoyed to hear this news, but troubled to learn that a longtime member of the Sacred Heart family, Shirley Sensley is missing. Please say a prayer for her. She is one of the most open-hearted people I know.

how do I understand NOLA in light of Bryn Mawr and how is this important

Bryn Mawr College (my alma mater) wrote this basic letter about establishing support and fundraising for NOLA. I wrote back to ask about my diploma (now underwater) and about their efforts. After an initial response from them asking about my parents and ideas for what they could do, I wrote back this letter. I have a complicated relationship to Bryn Mawr as I do with New Orleans. Attending Bryn Mawr made me run back to NOLA for a good 15 months after college and before graduate school. Bryn Mawr shattered my illusions about an enlightened North. I used to think ignorance was largely housed in the South. What a naive perspective. What a dream of a better country. I ran back to the South, hypocracy and all, because at least there, I could celebrate culture and the passionate pursuit of living.

That said, I adored Bryn Mawr for challenging me and helping me sharpen the tools with which I made my mark on the world. Bryn Mawr introduced me to far more wonderful folks than narrow-minded ones and I became a better person because of the experience of being a Southerner in a decidedly Yankee atmosphere. I love living inbetween worlds and now more than ever feel that way.

My letter seems rather slight now, but read it anyway. I have a lot to write and this is only the beginning.

Dear XXX,

Thank you for your concern. My parents are safe in
central Louisiana, living with my aunt and uncle at
the moment. They evacuated last Sunday. I haven't had
the heart to look at the satelite photos of our
neighborhood, as I'm certain, given our proximity to
the lake, that it's underwater. My neighbors and
friends are all displaced, and safe. Some have moved
to Texas, New York, and DC among other locations. I am
waiting to hear from a friend who is a reporter from
The Times-Picayune who was in Mississippi, covering
the hurricane. No one has heard from him since last
weekend. We're hoping it's just a communication

I was thinking of writing something about New Orleans
and my experiences at Bryn Mawr for the alumnae
magazine. There are very few Bryn Mawr students and
alumnae from New Orleans, but if you could track them
down, it would be great to hear their perspectives.
You might have a better chance finding folks who
attended Tulane for graduate school, but I think their
experiences would be radically different from those of
students who grew up in New Orleans and Mississippi
who attended Bryn Mawr straight from the South.

Lakeview is destroyed, but so are areas like Bywater
and the Lower Ninth Ward. It's questionable the state
of areas like Uptown, Mid-City, the Garden District
and the French Quarter. While some may be dry at the
moment, who knows what their foundations are like now.
Also, what will they do in order to reconstruct the
city? Will they have to level the city in order to,
afterwards, raise the level of the city above sea
level? I remember Bryn Mawr friends who took CITIES
courses with Gary MacDonough coming to me at dinner
and callously saying, "Oh, your city will be
underwater one day." People knew that the city was
endangered, but they didn't know why it was such an
incredible place to call home.

Beyond raising money, I think that it would be equally
good for CITIES courses to examine what went wrong and
why there was hesitation to construct the barriers
recommended by environmentalists and urban studies
experts. I also think that, in terms of long term
support, Bryn Mawr should consider organizing relief
efforts. I don't know what kind of needs the city will
have after the water has been drained, but clearly the
need for housing is immediate. I am sure that Habitat
for Humanity will organize to serve this need, but for
students interested in public health (which I have
realized is a field many Bryn Mawr alumnae have
entered in recent years) this will be an incredible
opportunity to help others in a very direct way and
contribute to their education.

I loved Bryn Mawr, but I also felt that people were
more interested, at times, to explore the world
outside the United States than to truly understand the
incredible diversity within the United States. New
Orleans' culture and legacy should not be forgotten.
This is an opportunity to examine issues of race,
class, culture, society. I would hope that courses
would reflect the questions raised in the past week.

I'm sorry if this is hardly answering your question,
but I've had a lot to consider over the past week
aside from realizing all my photographs from college,
my hoop and diploma are currently underwater. Thank
you for writing. I would be happy to help in any way
possible and it warms my heart that Bryn Mawr is
organizing. Thank you for your time.

I went on down to the Audubon Zoo and they all axed for you

YAY! Good news about the zoo.... I volunteered and worked at the Audubon Zoo from age 12 til my Sophomore year in college. This place was a second home to me throughout my teenage years. So glad to hear it is largely okay. I am still waiting to hear news about Academy of the Sacred Heart. Does anyone know?

Audubon Zoo survives
By Michael J. Montalbano
and Jeff Duncan
Staff writers
Like Noah at the helm of the Arc, a weary but determined Dan Maloney stood at the gates of the Audubon Zoo on Friday and shook his head as he described the journey he and his skeleton crew of animal caretakers endured while guiding the facility's collection of 1,400 animals through Hurricane Katrina.
Amazingly, only two animals were killed by the Category 4 storm, which devastated the Gulf Coast on Monday, said Maloney, the zoo's vice
president and general curator. One other animal was killed in the aftermath.
Maloney said the 58-acre zoo suffered little structural damage from the storm, which he called "the worst natural situation to hit" the 120-year-old institution. The biggest damage was to the trees and
Maloney and a team of about a dozen, including two security guards, are caring for and maintaining the zoo's population of more than 350 species. The zoo's normal operation numbers 30 to 40 staffers daily, he said.
"We feel very fortunate," Maloney said. "We're hanging in there. We did our homework. We're doing the best we can."

Saturday, September 03, 2005

do you know what it means to miss new orleans?

tonight i sat around with 10 friends, drank Abita Purple Haze, ate a mess of boiled shrimp and listened to NOLA music. it almost felt like home.

then the guests trickled home and we cleared the dishes. i scraped the coffee grinds into the trash and dried off the remaining bottles of beer. after placing them back in the fridge, i went outside to pourthe melted ice from the cooler into the garden.

in the quiet of a settled kitchen and sleepy house, i talked to my parents and then my brother. i gave my mom sudha's number so that maybe they could meet up sometime next week. i was happy to think of su visiting my folks. i sure wish i could.

i need to redirect my bills, figure out what to do with my now useless JetBlue ticket to NOLA for October. I already filed my FEMA claim. What else is there to do but wait for the water to drain?

I'm okay until I so much as focus on this. There is too much to consider at once and it quickly becomes overwhelming. I really want to go on and buy a ton of stuff. All the cds and dvds I lost, books about NOLA architecture and culture.

I want crazy our lady of guadaloupe candles from Wal-Mart. I want religious medals. I want everything I lost in my house. I loved going home for many reasons, but one quiet reason was because I could immediately revisit so many memories by just being there. Now I have nothing to go back to. Do you know how that feels? How hard it is to even look back. Just thinking of anything -- a birthday party, a drive, dinner, baseball game, trip to the grocery -- makes me choke up. I always thought I would have to say goodbye to certain unique places that might get lost in the general homogenization of the country, but an entire city erased? And moreover, so many people in my exquisite city are dead, homeless and most of all hopeless. What will the dispossessed do? How will the city ever rise again?

I need a mournful trumpet. Give me my jazz funeral. Fats Domino is safe, but where is Irma Thomas?

Cue up "It's raining" on the turntable and call me. I've got the white hankerchief. It's of good use these days.