If I didn't know better, I'd say nothing has changed in New Orleans.
I'm sitting in Coop's, my favorite neighborhood bar/restaurant/dive on Decatur St. in the French Quarter feeling more like myself than I have in five weeks.
Coop's isn't yet serving my favorite dish - rabbit, shrimp, crawfish and sausage jambalaya. But I just finished a pretty decent cheddar cheese burger with tomato (no lettuce deliveries yet) served on a blue and white Dixie paper plate with plastic silverware, and an ice cold Barqs root beer.
There's air conditioning, music, a WiFi connection (whoopee!) and plenty of loud conversation and second-hand smoke.
Out on the sidewalk, a thin but steady flow of people pass. In many ways, they look just as they did before the storm. Some people carry cameras. Others are totting beer in a see-through plastic cup. There even was a young couple pushing carriage with toddler inside.
The crowd inside Coop's has steadily grown all afternoon, from about 10 when I walked in around 3 p.m. to about 25 now (5:30 p.m.) It's quite a scene. Every time a regular walks in, there's a new round of hugs and kisses that go around the bar.
I can't believe I'm about to write this, but this part of the French Quarter actually FEELS like the French Quarter.
I spent the morning and afternoon at the NASA plant in eastern New Orleans. My original plan was to file my story at The Times-Picayune New Orleans bureau (that's right, who ever thought we would be reduced to a bureau in our own city) located on the 40-somethingish floor of the Sheraton Hotel, but my photographer said the room is a zoo in the afternoon.
I had heard that Coop's was open. I was hungry, thirsty and figured there was a chance I could get an Internet link here. Needless to say, I hit the jackpot.
Went home this morning again. All is well, but still no electricity. Though power is now on only four blocks away.
But the best news of the day came from our publisher who announced at our temporary digs in Baton Rouge that we will close that office this weekend and re-occupy our main building in New Orleans Monday.
That's great news for people like me who probably will be able to re-occupy our homes simultaneously, but not so good for people who are homeless and now will have to find new places to stay in the city.
Well, gotta run to make the 6 p.m. curfew. I'm staying the night in the city for the first time since the week of the storm.
Hopefully, I'll be sleeping in my own bed by Saturday!