Wednesday, October 3, 2007

I'm going back

I haven't posted this yet - but I'm going back to New Orleans in January! It's through Seattle Works again. Patrick Kelley and I are going to co-lead a group of 12. We'll be volunteering through Hands on New Orleans.

My friend Susanna has already signed up and I'm thrilled to be able to share this experience with her.

It'll be different than the last two times I've been down there. But I'm sure it will create a nice trifecta of an experience. And, as I've said before, it's a situation I've become incredibly passionate about. I can't imagine not going down again.

(but I might try to save up vacation for a non-volunteering vacation after this!)

Sunday, August 26, 2007

What celebrity can look like

Talk about my passions colliding - Green Building and rebuilding New Orleans. I don't get too starstruck, but I think Brad Pitt seems like he genuinely cares about rebuilding New Orleans. So props to him.

Brand Cartoon

Here's a nice little commentary on the state of crime in New Orleans.

Friday, August 17, 2007


Friday was our last day of volunteering. Thanks to a late night out, several of us were really tired, but we managed to finish up some of the trim work we were working on. And we were thankful on again for music.

Rachel had to leave early - but here's the Seattle Works group with the addition of long-term volunteer, Patrick, at the end of our day:


Lest you forget where we're at:


Thanks to Ahsan's desire to experience some culinary excellence, we had dinner last night at Herbsaint. It is recognized on many lists as one of the top 50 restaurants in the nation.

Here is the menu for the night:


All around, the experience was excellent. I started with some sparkling water:


Then for an appetizer, I had my first experience with frog legs. I love trying new things, but I'm not sure frog legs are for me. They were fried with lots of excellent spice - and were reminiscent of chicken wings - it also made me think of a tougher fish.


For my main course, I had the pork belly with a corn risotto and finely sliced pickled peppers. The pork belly was extremely tender. There were bites that melted in my mouth like butter.


For dessert, I had a glass of a 20-year port and a Chocolate Pistachio terrine with a cherry reduction. It was delightful.


After dinner, we headed to a volunteer party. It was put on at this really cool wine bar in a more industrial part of the city. We went through the building itself into a huge backyard, lined with tiki torches and little white lights.


The music was amazing. The experience felt a little bit underground, and very authentic.





Livin' it up, NOLA style... Who dat?

After coming to St. Vincent's and resting for a little bit, we began our evening with a couple rounds at the half moon, and then headed down to the French Quarter to Preservation Hall.


The show started at 8:00, so Ray and a few others saved us a spot. We killed a little time at Boondock Saint before heading into the packed music hall.



My favorite song in the set we heard was St James Infirmary. Such a great song.

After a set (and a lot of sweat in that small space) - we headed to Utopia on Bourbon Street. A lot of dancing ensued.




We all had a lot of fun. I did end up talking to one random guy who didn't believe in rebuilding - specifically the 9th Ward. I've heard some people say this because they think future flooding is inevitable. I prodded further, and he thought that it should be rebuilt new, as a "nicer" neighborhood. Basically, he wants to push the poor out. I got pissed at him.

I mentioned earlier that there is all these projects that aren't open. I snapped a shot of them today. Hundreds of them - just sitting there.


They look like they'd be relatively easy to fix up and they would provide a lot of housing. But - at least under the way things are currently run - this won't happen. Lame.

Six Flags

Since it was a half day yesterday, we decided to tour around a little more to see the damage from the storm. We decided to head out towards St. Bernard Parish and the site of a Six Flags theme park that has been closed since the storm.


The neighborhood we were in was a little more affluent than the lower 9th Ward. It showed that it didn't matter your class prior to the storm - the storm caused damage to everyone. We looked in a house that hadn't been gutted yet. Spencer had met the owner and he was cool with us taking a look inside.


You can see where the water line was across the house.

Mold, like this covered the walls. I don't have a good reference for this, but they've found 39 uniwue types of mold in New Orleans that don't exist anywhere else in the world.





Thursday, August 16, 2007


Painting continued at John Dibert. Jessica, Chris and I decided to take on one of the first floor rooms. It had been started by another group - although not quite to our... umm... desired level of precision. It made for some work to be doubled over, but you can't blame them for trying. Still, maybe not the best task for the impatient.


Since we had already figured out the little mp3 player trick, we listened to a much better variety of music on my shuffle. I made a playlist that crossed a lot of different genres - trying to play a mixture of stuff people listen to and stuff I think people should listen to. Haha.

It was more blue and more trim.


We had a half day today. Towards the end, the principal came out and talked to us for awhile about the state of the school. He got very emotional, talking about the PTSD he sees in the kids. They're working on getting art therapists into the school to work with the kids. People need to let their emotions process and release. So many of the kids don't see past their current state. They're not seeing that school is their ticket out of the poverty cycle - out of the current state of stress. They're distracted and belligerent because they aren't necessarily dealing with it.

He said that while everyone thought last year would be the worst year, with 300 kids signing up daily, this year may be worse. He doesn't want to turn anyone away.

He showed tremendous appreciation of our efforts, but said that what New Orleans really needs now is awareness that it hasn't folded up into nothing. It s still a vibrant city full of character and culture. Come down to play, if you don't want to make the commitment to work. Come down to tour and eat and drink!


Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Painting continues at John Dibert

Today was more painting at the elementary school. It was a lot of the same stuff. Nini (one of the teachers) discovered that you could plug an mp3 player into the speakers of the computer monitors. I love music - so this made today go by quickly. I spent a fair amount of time crawling up and down a ladder doing some finishing touches to higher parts of room 206:





It's amazing what a fresh paint job can do.

Ahsan, Barclay and Tara also finished up their room across the hall:




Chris kept plugging along in the stairwell:


Brooke continued to rock out on door frames:


And Rachel finished up her two-toned bookshelf:


It's been satisfying to stick with one school this long and take some ownership of what we're working on.


If you haven't noticed yet, I love food. I've been attempting to capture good moments in food this trip.

Last night, we ate at Juan's Flying Burrito in Uptown. I had some Abita Wheat and the Shrimp Juaha Roll: sautéed gulf shrimp, avocado, leaf spinach, salsa, jack, cheddar and cream cheeses all rolled in a spinach tortilla sliced and served sushi-style. Some may have found it average, but it combined some of my favorite things - avocado, spinach and cheese. It was a nice portion and it paired well with the beer.


Not the best picture, but it was tasty.

Afterwards, we went back to the Half Moon and played some pool. Jessica and I beat Ahsan and Chris at pool. Some of the Katrina Corps folks met up, including KC the dog. (KC=Katrina Corps).




I also haven't said much about Mojo's - my daily addiction. Mojo's is a sweet little neighborhood cafe, with a surprisingly broad menu of coffee and tea drinks. They're cash only and serve fair-trade brew. The first morning I had an English Breakfast iced tea, and the last two mornings I've had large iced Yerba Mate. Yummy. It totally gives me the best start to my day. And you gotta love their tip jar:


I'll be totally honest - as grateful as I am for the lunches we are given daily - I have certain "healthy eating habits" that I try to stick to. One of the things I avoid is high-fructose-corn-syrup. I'm sure it's in things I eat and I don't know it all the time - but my commitment is to avoid it if I know it is in the food I eat.

I don't care if other people eat it, but I think it is bad. Here are a few articles to ponder:

The list could go on and on. Anyway - in trying to live up to my commitment, I ended up having a slice of American cheese and a few slices of processed ham dipped in mayo and mustard (I normally wouldn't eat foods quite this heavily processed either, but when you're hungry, you're hungry)

I digress. My point is that I've been very excited about dinner every night!

Tonight we ventured into Uptown - on Magazine. We ate at the Nile Cafe. (Unfortunately, they do not have a website) Barclay and Jessica both had shrimp kabobs - excellent presentation.


Two baskets of pita came out right away, served warm. We ordered hummus and baba ganoush - both were some of the best I've ever had. We also had falafel and fried eggplant. For my entree, I had Kibby - which reminded me a lot of a meat stuffed falafel.


Seriously - I wasn't expecting to be this impresses with Mediterranean food in New Orleans. But it was damn good!

After that we went to the Balcony Bar.


I discovered that Abita has a light beer! The bar had a very cool vibe to it. It was a solid two floors - with three distinct spaces. The bottom had pool tables and loud music. Upstairs was air-conditioned and started our sparse, but by the time we left was hopping. Then there was a huge wrap-around deck. A few of us agreed that a deck like that would be awesome in Seattle - although might not get used year-round.


(A little blurry, but I like this picture)

Finally, a little bathroom graffiti:


The 9th Ward

After volunteering yesterday, we took a tour of the 9th Ward. I had been there in January, but it still is one of the most significant ways to try to fathom the devastation of the storm. Once we all get our pictures together, you'll have a more well rounded impression of the 9th Ward.

We had some pretty good discussion on the way about the fine line between telling the story of the victims of Katrina - and exploiting them. By taking pictures of people's homes and putting them on a blog - my goal is to show you what it's like down here. And I can't emphasize enough that this is just a sampling. And this is two years later.

At the same time, it is so important to remember that these are people's lives. They're people's homes - often several generations deep.


This is one woman's possessions. While some Katrina Corps volunteers were gutting the house next door, she came home to find her life laid out on her rotting front porch.

Volunteers offered to clean it up for her. But she didn't want it. It was too painful - the memories of her life.



This is the inside of her gutted house.


Her bathroom.



Since I had been there in January, one thing I noticed was the weeds had grown tall.

When the grass grows, the city often comes and threatens to put a lien on the piece of property unless you mow it. But since many of the residents aren't around to see these notices - they end up losing their houses. Some have friends or family come to mow it for them.

At one point we stopped at a church that has been left as a sort of memorial to how the entire area looked after the water had drained.


On the pews was a dried, cracked version of this. Katrina sludge.







We saw where the two places where levee actually broke.


We saw the Habitat for Humanity project, Musician's Village.


Lots of colorful new homes. After seeing so much devastation still there, it was nice to see some real, concrete evidence of rebuilding.



A memorial: