A sad feeling of familiarity washed over me as I read a great story in today's edition of the Los Angeles Times (read it here) about New Orleans' precarious and slow recovery from Hurricane Katrina.
The fact is scenes like this one above, which I photographed six months ago, still fill the city. Clearly not much has changed since I left New Orleans in late March for a new life in southern California.
Nearly everyone here thinks that life is largely back to normal in New Orleans and the rest of south Louisiana. And I suppose that's the same for most people in other parts of the country.
I know better, of course. There are still piles of garbage along the streets and huge clusters of flooded cars under elevated highways. The electricity still goes off periodically. The mail isn't yet reliable. Grocery stores and dry cleaners haven't reopened. As the L.A. Times says, the "new normal" in New Orleans is quite different from the normal the rest of us know.
Like many other friends of mine there, Tommy in the Bywater is trying to make the best of things. He's working like crazy to repair his flooded rental house and to deal with the fallout from a crooked contractor. In a recent email, he noted that his other rental property in an unflooded area of the city has risen in value. Despite all of the continuing problems - including the return of crime - neighbors are joining together in ways they never did before the storm to resurrect their communities. And some people who left are coming back because no other place feels like home.
"Everything isn't bad if you look at it honestly," Tommy wrote. "There is a lot of good life left in this city, but you have to look at it and acknowledge its presence."
I hope there are plenty more people like Tommy still out there.