Browsing Archives for November 2010

Our Visit to the Lower Ninth Ward

November 19th, 2010

On our last day in New Orleans we took a drive down to the Lower Ninth Ward, a neighborhood that was devestated by Hurricane Katrina.

From what I understand, The Ninth Ward is surrounded by levees on three sides, so when the levees broke (in several places) this neighborhood filled up with water like a bathtub.

We are standing on top of one of the levees in the Ninth Ward looking out on the Mississippi River.  Imagine this pouring into your backyard.

Prior to the Hurricane, the Ninth Ward was a vibrant neighborhood of working class families who owned their own homes.  The neighborhood contained two houses that were on the historic register (they are pictured later in this post) and was also home to Holy Cross, a well reputed private school for boys.

It has been five years since Hurricane Katrina.

And this neighborhood is slowly coming back.

Houses throughout the area are being fixed up.

And painted in all the various shades of joy, pride, and determination.

Then you get to these two houses.

Sitting kitty corner from each other, these two historic landmark houses were built in 1905 and 1913 by a steamboat captain Milton P. Doullot and his wife who was also a steamboat captain for their two children, a son and daughter.

As you can see the homes were inspired by steamboats, plantation homes and believe it or not,  the Japanese garden teahouse at the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair.

I think I need a string of wooden pearls on my porch.

A block from the steamboat houses, Brad Pitt is spearheading a project to build modern, flood proof, sustainable, homes.
I got out of the car to snap a few shots of theses houses and to read the sign that describes the project, when a man came out of a little brick house across the street and began to talk to me.

He introduced himself as Sawool and he wanted to know why I was taking a photo of the sign.

“I don’t know” I said.

I was a little wary because I didn’t know if I had somehow offended him and also because he was clutching a paper wrapped bottle of booze in his hand.

We chatted for a bit and Sawool seemed to decide that I was alright and he asked if he could play me a song.

“What?”

“Can I play you a song?”

“Uh…. well… sure.”

“Okay”, he said, “I am going to go into my house and get my guitar. Will you still be here when I come back out?”

“Yes,  I will still be here.”

“Okay… you are sure that you will still be here?”

“I am not going anywhere.  I will be right here.”

So Sawool walked back to his house and I am thinking – what in hell have I gotten myself into?  The CD is sitting in the car watching all of this unfold and I motioned him over.

“We are going to listen to Sawool play a song.”

“What?” he said.

“Sawool…  He wants to play a song for us.”

“Oh… uh… Okay.”

Sawool took his own sweet time getting his guitar and I started to wonder if maybe we should just bolt, but he finally came out of his house dragging an electric guitar, an amplifier, and a couple of chairs. He motioned for me to come over and sit down. Sawool took the other chair. The Country Doctor had to stand in the grass. Sawool was not in a hurry and he fiddled with his guitar, smoked a cigarette and then took a nip of his booze before going back to tuning his guitar.

A friend of Sawool dropped by while he was tuning his guitar. His name was D.J. and he was a DJ. Sawool asked D.J. the DJ to stay and listen to his song too, so now Sawool had an audience of three.

And then a neighborhood kid on a bike stopped by to see what was going on – so now there are four of us and finally the audience was impressively large enough for Sawool to start his song.

The song was about me.

Yes – that’s right.

Sawool made up a song about me on the spot.  It basically said that I was beautiful and kind and a good person and that my husband better take care of me and appreciate me and love me…except it was much more soulful than that – because Sawool is a GREAT songwriter and really knows how to write amazingly TRUE SONGS!

It was easily the best song I have ever heard in my life.

After that Sawool tried to play a Jimi Hendrix song, but he couldn’t remember all the words or the chords and we all agreed that the Rechelle song was way better anyway. Then while Sawool was still trying to figure out Jim Hendrix, I  tapped him on the shoulder and said, “We have to go now Sawool. Thank you so much!”

And Sawool waved us off and went back to playing his guitar.

And we drove around the rest of the lower ninth ward.

Kids were playing.

The houses were painted in bright, cheerful colors.

The neighborhood still lacks local businesses like a grocery store or a gas station and there are still broken down houses and vacant lots.

I was only a casual observer (with a song written about her by one of the residents) but it truly seemed to me like the neighborhood was coming back.

Which is good, because it seems like a really nice place to live.

Frenchmen Street Poet

November 19th, 2010

On our last night in New Orleans we walked up and down Frenchman Street stopping to watch the bands that were playing in the bars all along the way, eating dinner at Adolphos and drinking lots and lots of Abita beer. We HAD to! It was a one drink minimum to get in the bars and watch the bands! At one point we passed this street poet pictured above…

‘What’s the deal?” I asked her.

‘Give me a topic and I will write you a poem.” she said.

“Kansas!” I said. “Write a poem about Kansas!”

“Uh… I don’t know much about Kansas.” she replied.  But then she started to type.

She wrote a nice little poem too. I have no idea where it is right now, but she used good Kansasy, farmy words – like milk and breeze and straw.   I told her it was very nice and then the CD gave her six bucks for it because all he had left was a five, a one and a twenty and he sure as hell wasn’t going to give her the twenty.

For anyone with time on their hands this morning, Christopher Hitchens author of God is Not Great will be debating William Dembski – a researcher for the Discovery Institute at a private Christian high-school in Texas. I wish I could see it, but hopefully it will be stashed on the internet somewhere. The debate starts at 8:30 am. You can find it here.

In other news…

I was unable to watch the Pioneer Woman/Bobby Flay Throwdown last night. I hope to catch it later as there is nothing I love better than to watch Ree Drummond spin that city girl/ranch wife story into gold. Your comments are probably better than actually being there so don’t hesitate to spoil it for me! Feel free to dish.