Saturday, January 07, 2006

Need a church?

I was browsing the real estate listings in the New Orleans Times-Picayune and came across the following advertisment:

NEED A CHURCH? Church for rent in Algiers near Gen. Meyer. $800 per mo.

So, does anyone have use for a church?

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Die happy

I can now either die happy, or leave New Orleans fulfilled. I have officially won first place in a costume contest. As usual, I went way overboard and wore an itchy nightmare of a costume. (For those of you interested, I dressed as a Christmas tree. I think I sealed my win when I plugged in my tree lights). The best thing about New Orleans is that everybody goes too far every year: they spend too much money, too much time planning, and often cross lines of taste and politeness. Surprisingly, I didn't see one person dressed as a maggot-filled refrigerator, but hey, it's not even Halloween yet.

Thursday, October 27, 2005


The strange thing about living in a ruined city is that it quickly becomes normal. Humvees, armed men in camouflage, and military helicopters no longer draw stares and discussion because they look in place. The concepts of FEMA and "heads up their asses" have become synonymous to all. "How'd you make out" now means, did you lose everything in the world you had and/or any relatives? Nowadays that question is either met with a guilty "Oh I did fine; part of my roof blew off and I still don't have electricity but no big deal," or "well, I lived in [insert name of neighborhood or parish that no longer exists]." And, honest to God, a sympathetic "oh" and a small sorry takes care of your end of that conversation most times and you move on becaues it's old hat.

The city has become so normal in some ways that going out to eat is a regular option. It has become habit to call first to see if that restaurant is open, and to plan to wait a couple hours for a table, and to order from hastily-printed paper menus with limited options and jacked-up prices from waiters living in trailers in the parking lot.

Thursday, October 20, 2005


My job in a hotel's "team member assistance center" now does not now primarily consist of telling people they have been laid off. I am now spending my days trying to help (or pressuring, depending who you ask) the 250 hotel employees residing there to find more suitable and permanent abodes. I have two main obstacles facing me:
1. Greed. Landlords have decided that the tight rental market in New Orleans justifies charging four times the normal rate for apartments. People are advertisting houses in my neighborhood for over $5000 a month.
2. Ignorance. We're supposed to be "teaching people how to fish," in the words of one of my overly optimistic and slightly naive bosses. And no, the fish reference has nothing to do with the smell of the apartments after tenants left rotting food in their warm refrigerators for a month. Instead, she means we should be pointing people towards resources and letting them do the rest. Our employees take that to mean that we're finding them all apartments and taking care of all the details.
Yesterday I tried to engage in the spirit of teaching to fish. Instead of responding to an ad by e-mail for an employee I gamely suggested she type it herself. When she looked at me blankly I even suggested the format for the e-mail (like, hey, leave your number). When she insisted that she didn't know how to use "this stuff" I said, no problem, just type it and I'll hit send. I looked down from a conversation a minute late to see she had gotten out three words - but no spaces between them, because she didn't know about space bars. Sorry to abuse the fish metaphor, but I let the poor girl off the hook and felt pretty silly about the whole fiasco.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

In the Wake of the Aftermath of the Wrath of Katrina

Here I sit taking advantage of my beloved and much-missed cable modem a little over a month after Hurricane Katrina. We have been here exactly a week and it's amazing to see how quickly things have changed since last Sunday. My neighbors who stayed for the storm and the hellish violence and chaos violence that followed it don't jump every time they hear a new voice or car engine. The radio stations that banded together as one to provide commercial-free news and hope to New Orleans are beginning to disband, play music and advertise; the radio stations that forsook the city and have been silent for over a month are returning to air canned sappy messages about rebuilding a better city. They're boring me silly with constant repetitions of the words "aftermath" and "wake" and the "wrath of Katrina." Hurricane Katrina was neither a boat nor an angry woman; could we please lose the tired cliches?

Last night there were lights in some of the buildings in the downtown skyline. More and more stores and gas stations are opening, although they run out of supplies quickly and close by dark. Restaurants are lagging a bit, though. The only open place we could find was an overpriced seafood restaurant. Last time we ate there we were the only diners. On Friday the place had a line out the door, an hour wait for food and the harried bartender walked out in the middle of her obviously miserable shift. The bar was packed five people deep, and she was the only bartender serving a large restaurant full of thirsty people, and yet customers were still ordering pink drinks in martini glasses and complaining. Serves them right that she left. I got my beer just fine, thank you very much. Remove cap and serve. Actually, my second one came with the cap still one it, but who was I to complain? It was Abita and it was cold.

"Cold" has suddenly become a very marketable concept in this city where even the people with power have decided that their refrigerators look a lot better sitting in their front yards, taped shut to keep the smell and flies inside. I heard reports of a Baskin Robbins store being open and people waiting more than half an hour in line for mediocre ice cream, bad service and nowhere to sit and enjoy their cones; last night we went on a desperate and futile quest to locate it. Daquiri shops have 20-car lines (if I have to explain that the lines are for the drive-through window, you're obviously not from here) and their parking lots brim over onto the street and other businesses. Like many other supplies, the only ice you can acquire is free, distributed by t-shirt wearing troops wielding mean-looking weapons.

I would love to be in the sign-making business right now as quickly-produced signs stuck in to median strips have become the main method of communicating around here. They advertise everything from restaurants and fast food places that are actually open to hastily-established roofing and restoration businesses, to job openings and official city information. It looks like election day around here, except that it's mainly restaurants running for office, instead of corrupt and inept policitians.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Regards to Katrina from Michigan

I don't know what to say at all...we're still in shock after waking up this morning to the arial views of New Orleans underwater. I think our neighborhood's still mostly dry and somewhat intact - at least as of yesterday afternoon. I have on idea if we have a life or job or city or friends to go back to. If anyone's checking, as of right now John and Rudy and I are safe in Michigan with his parents. My library computer time is almost up so I guess I have nothing more to say. I just hope everyone is safe.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

T-shirts spotted at a Gospel convention:

"Spoiled by God"
"God was showing off when he created me"
"Jesus is my homeboy"