Sunday, October 09, 2005

A weekend in New Orleans

There's one thing I can say about life in New Orleans without any reservation: it's exhausting.
I'm stunned at how much there is to do even though my house largely escaped serious damage from Hurricane Katrina.

Still, the chores seem endless.

Our first task Saturday morning was getting our smelly refrigerator out of the house. That was no small job. Because of its size, we had to remove the doors and expose us and the house to the rotting stench still inside. We managed to get it onto the front porch, where it will sit until later today when we figure out how to get it down the narrow front stairs to the street.

Then we spent a few hours unpacking much of the clothes and personal items that we took on our evacuation. Though we made a big dent, several bags and plastic containers remain filled.

We spent some time cleaning and bleaching the kitchen and bathroom. Then took a break around mid-afternoon to drive across the Mississippi River to the West Bank.

We ate lunch at one of our favorite restaurants, a Vietnamese place called Nine Roses.

Amazingly, Nine Roses was serving its full menu. It was like eating at Galatoire's. Anna, the woman who owns the restaurant with her husband, told us she had assembled a partial restaurant crew from her old staff and from people who work at other Vietnamese and Chinese restaurants in the area that either have been destroyed or still haven't reopened.

She said that the close-knit nature of the Asian-American communities helped her overcome the severe labor shortage problems that have paralyzed so many other businesses in the area.
We went to Lowes to look at refrigerators and freezers. None are available on the floor. Orders must be placed and they arrive in two weeks. Delivery service is available but there is a one-and-a-half-month wait.

We looked at models on the computer there and decided to take measurements in the kitchen before placing an order.

Returning to the city from the West Bank was a relief. The suburbs are pretty miserable, much like Baton Rouge. They're crowded with traffic. The stores are filled with people. Everything closes by 5 p.m. or 6 p.m.

We spent the rest of the day helping a couple of neighbors turn on their natural gas, powering up our hot water heater and transferring about five bags of putrid, rotten refrigerator garbage piled near the front of our house into heavy-duty, contractor strength black garbage bags.

I saw things in that garbage that I've never seen before. It took everything I had not to throw up. I wore plastic gloves for the job, but by the time I finished I reeked from head to toe.

Today, we plan to start clearing the trees that fell in the back garden and cleaning out the downstairs. Now that we've had time to check things more closely, it's clear that we got about half a foot of water in the back half of the downstairs floor, which we use for storage. We think the water came from rain flooding in the backs of the houses.

I'm felt more exhausted than I have since before the storm. Certainly, it's partly because I'm doing more physical work. But I think it's also because I'm feeling more relaxed now that I'm home. The adrenaline has finally subsided and my body is finally starting to rest.

I can't imagine how hard the work must be for people who suffered major damage to their homes.

We're up to six neighbors who have moved back to our block. All of them, including two renters, say they're staying. That's great news!

Soldiers drive down our block on a regular basis day and night. I've never felt safer in the city.
I saw a parrot fly over the house late yesterday afternoon. I'm so happy they are still here. A load of green parrots escaped from the airport about 15 years ago, and they have slowly populated the city since.

A flock began appearing a couple of years in our neighborhood, and it had grown to about 30 birds by this summer. I've been hoping they would come back.

No comments: