Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Powerful blog post/National Geographic Feature

First, I want to draw your attention to some text from a NOLA blogger.
FEMA decided to tell people that their trailers were toxic two years after they issued them. Then, the folks at Peopleshurricane.org started issuing flyers about the Red Cross hiding money and damn near started a riot. Then, the Road Home program started rushing people to apply for assistance after saying it was out of money. Then, the Corps of Engineers said they were not rebuilding the levees for Category 5. Then, the murder rate is climbing and the DA and police department can’t get their act together. Then, there is a teacher and classroom shortage. Then, every week another house on my block is demolished. Then, we have all this stuff to fix with no money to fix it and no time table on when it will be fixed. Then all of our political leaders are crooked or like freaks. That’s when I realized that I am not living in the past. I am living in the present.

Second, a feature article in the National Geographic. Honestly, I haven't read the entire article in depth yet, but I plan to. It was recommended reading from my friend Jaxon, who was on the Biloxi trip with me. It takes a look at the bleak future of New Orleans. According to the article, there are 50-50 odds that another hurricane the size of Katrina could hit the Gulf Coast.

Is it a futile attempt? To go down there and try to make a difference? Is it really any different than living near Mt Rainier, or on a fault line? Or in any area stricken with tornadoes?

I'm going. I think it's a good thing to do. But I still can't help but wonder about the future of New Orleans. What's in store for the Big Easy?

Thursday, July 19, 2007

And now, a toast to rebuiling the Gulf Coast...

So I got this via buzzfeed.

Limited edition vodka to benefit Gulf Coast rebuilding, LA

NEW ORLEANS (AP) _ What's the real taste of New Orleans? The sweet rum punch called a Hurricane? Bourbon with touches of cayenne and absinthe?

For the company that makes Absolut vodka, it's mango with a black pepper kick.

Absolut New Orleans vodka will be introduced Wednesday afternoon at Tales of the Cocktail, an annual New Orleans gathering of more than 10,000 cocktail drinkers, mixers and manufacturers.

The vodka is a limited run of 35,000 cases _ 3½ times the company's total U.S. sales in 1979. That was Absolut's first year in a market which grew $6.4 billion in the last four years to hit $15.7 billion last year.

"The way we're describing it is a fruity vodka with a spicy kick, which is a way you could describe the city of New Orleans," said Tim Murphy, vice president of marketing for Absolut Spirits Co., the U.S. arm of Swedish manufacturer Vin & Sprit AB.

The company tried other fruits, and tried cayenne. But they didn't taste as good, Murphy said. Another important factor was how the vodka is likely to be used in New Orleans, he said.

"It can also give a unique twist to the Hurricane recipe," Murphy said.

Going on sale in August for about $19 a bottle at retailers nationwide, it's expected to raise $2 million for five Gulf Coast charities, which the company says will get all the profits to help rebuild from Hurricane Katrina. Flavored vodka is a fast-growing segment of the adult beverage market.

Company president and chief executive Kevin Fennessey said he doesn't know of comparable charitable products except those produced by Newman's Own, the company created by actor Paul Newman specifically to raise money for charity.

"I'm not aware of anything in the spirits business," he said. "There have been programs where for a certain time they donate so much per case. In this line, all of our profits will go for charity."

The Tipitina's Foundation will use its share on a concert series featuring local musicians, a musicians' co-op in the Lower 9th Ward, and buying instruments for musicians who lost them to Hurricane Katrina, which hit in August 2005, music director Adam Shipley said.

The timing couldn't be better, said Diana Brinson, spokeswoman for Volunteer Mobile Inc. in Alabama. "As time has passed, funding is beginning to dry up. The rebuilding is going to continue for many years," she said.

Hands On Gulf Coast, in Mississippi, the Louisiana Restaurant Association Education Foundation and New Orleans Area Habitat for Humanity also will share in the first of what the company plans as an annual series of limited edition flavors inspired by and giving back to cities.

Flavored vodkas made up 12.4 percent of all U.S. vodka sales last year, according to the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States. That was three-tenths of a percentage point down from the previous year, and the first drop in their share since 2000, when they made up 6.2 percent of the market.

"We wanted to kind of innovate within the flavored vodka category," Murphy said. The company is also playing on the famous "cities" advertising campaign that started in 1981 with the words Absolut Los Angeles over a bottle-shaped swimming pool.

The New Orleans ad showed the center section of a silver trumpet with bottle-shaped valves. The new bottle has the city's name in red, and bears the image of a red-and-silver harmonica engraved "L.O. Smith Trio" _ a wink and a nod to Lars Olsson Smith, whose distillation process more than a century ago led to the brand's creation in 1879.

Murphy said future city vodkas "will definitely have a charitable aspect," but he wouldn't say whether all their proceeds would go to charity.

Tales of the Cocktail started five years ago to celebrate the first anniversary of a New Orleans "cocktail tour" created by Ann Rogers. From two events and about 200 people it has grown to 75 events; about 12,000 people are expected this year for the convention, which starts Wednesday.

On Friday, Absolut _ a major sponsor of this year's Tales of the Cocktail _ has reserved three hours in the Tasting Room, a new feature at the convention. Attendees can meet company experts, learn about products and _ somtimes _ get samples. Absolut is bringing Jennifer Rubell, author of "Real Life Entertaining," and mixologist Andrea Bearbower to talk about pairing food and cocktails.

I'm not completely sure what to think of it. Does this mean I should try to get my hands on this and have it be my vodka of choice in an effort to support NO? Is it just a marketing gimmick? Will it bring more attention to the rebuilding efforts?

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Good news!

I just found out that bringing a laptop will be fine for this trip. I'm excited to travel for the first time with my macbook!

I also learned that there will be wifi available in the dorms we're staying in - and there will also be free wifi at a coffee shop across the street called Mojo's. I'm sure you'll see a handful of blog posts made from there! :-)

I also found out that we will not be flying any red-eyes. We leave Seattle at 7:00 am on the 12th, and return around 11:30 pm on the 18th. In January we were all pretty affected by the lack of sleep coming into the trip. That may have actually helped us fall asleep in unfamiliar sleeping arrangements... but I think being well rested will be nice.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Take Action

From my inbox today:

Dear Noelle,

Two years after the devastation brought on by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, the Gulf Coast is still hurting. Tens of thousands still live in temporary housing. Schools are closed. Businesses are struggling.

A lot of people made a lot of promises as the flood waters drained, but these days, the worst disaster in recent US history is barely mentioned by the media or politicians. Continued neglect threatens to leave people more poor and more at risk. With our leaders suffering from Katrina amnesia, the current presidential campaign is our best chance to bring Gulf Coast recovery back into the spotlight.

Tell the presidential candidates to keep America’s promise to rebuild the Gulf Coast.

Oxfam America and a broad coalition of groups are calling on all the presidential candidates, from both parties, to make Gulf Coast recovery a top priority of their campaigns.

We’ll need thousands of people to take action. With your help, we can make sure the new leadership in the White House recognizes that, even though the issue isn’t on the front pages anymore, the recovery is NOT over—and we can’t yet close this chapter of our history.

Click here to tell the presidential candidates to keep America’s promise to rebuild the Gulf Coast.

Thank you for supporting the people of the Gulf Coast.

Tim Fullerton
Oxfam America

Falling in love with New Orleans all over again

In preparation for our trip, I'm exploring the internet for nuggets of beauty and all things NOLA. The following poem is all over the place. I can't find an author to credit it to - but it sums up many of the amazing idiosyncrasies of New Orleans:

give me a king cake smear
give me a beignet kiss
give me a french quarter morning that looks just like this

give me the endymion krewe
give me the times-picayune
give me a drunk and lazy crawfish boil in muggy sticky june

give me a six pack of dixie
give me some assorted abita beers
give me a city where it only snows once every 10 years

give me a green neutral ground
give me a mardi gras ball
give me a medium rare burger at my grand old Port of Call

give me a glittery drag show
give me the streetcar line
give me the House of the Rising Sun
give me a Tchoupitoulas sign

give me a shrimp and oyster poboy
give me lovebug season in May
give me my New Orleans-
I will definitely stay.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Last week, I received one of the best things I subscribe to - the Seattle Works weekly email. I know, sounds a little cheesy. But it is one of the few emails I get on a regular basis that I read all the way through. I enjoy seeing what's going on. Sometimes it leads me to action. Sometimes I'm just amused by the witty themes Tara incorporates.

This last week, it helped me make a decision.

Since going to Biloxi last January, I've had the Gulf Coast on my mind. Not in a pressing, I-need-to-quit-my-job-and-serve-down-there-full-time way. But still, in a very prevalent way.

I've also been wanting to "get away." That itch we all get to take a break from our routines and have an adventure. But not another weekend in SF or LV. Both fun cities, but I want something a little more substantial. I've even done some research for programs similar to the Hands on Gulf Coast experience.

Then I read this:

** We're going back to the Gulf Coast **

Sunday 8/12 to Saturday 8/18

You wanted another chance to volunteer in the Gulf Coast with us? You got it!

Why are you needed? Before Katrina, there were 128 public schools open in New Orleans. Two years later, there are only 22 public schools open with class sizes reaching 70 students per class. The City Council is expecting thousands of New Orleans to return this summer and we would like the kids to have a school to return to come fall.

Why is this a unique opportunity? During our stay we will be hosted by locals that will do everything with us, from volunteering at the schools to going out to dinner. During the day we will volunteer in the schools, which have still been left devastated after Hurricane Katrina. In the evenings we will experience true Louisiana culture and learn why it’s so important to revive the city. We will be staying 2 miles from the French Quarter and close to great food, music, architecture, and entertainment. Plus, you will be going with other Seattle Works volunteers!

What will we be doing? Helping the New Orleans Recovery School District open 25 more schools by the coming school year - everything from landscaping to painting to setting up classrooms and libraries. Our trip will be hosted by Katrina Corps.

How much will it cost?: $600/person. This includes:
Airfare, Registration, Dorm room for 6 nights (Sunday through Friday night), Breakfast, Brown bag lunch at job site, Two dinners donated by Loyola University, Outing at a local music venue, Transportation to and from the Airport, transportation to and from the job site and Transportation for group outings.

In a manner similar to my reaction last fall when I read about the Biloxi trip for the first time - I immediately sent an email, and followed up with a phone call - credit card in hand.

I know this experience will be very different than my Biloxi trip. I'm excited about that. It will round out my personal sense of the state of the Gulf Coast. It will round out the stories I can share. It will be new people, and new places. Different types of tasks. I could never recreate my last trip, and I would never want to try. This will be its own experience - and I'm open to however this experience plays itself out.

One thing that I do hope to carry over from my last experience is regular blog posting. It helps me process the experience and share it with anyone interested. I'll see about internet access - but I should be able to post pictures and short videos in realtime - now that I have my macbook. I'm not sure whether I should bring it, but I probably will.