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Baton Rouge report

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Got cell phone report from East Baton Rouge (Highland Road area) from my brother Billy's Crackberry:

"Windy as a MF! Ronnie is down 4 trees and part of his fence. Good news is we are on a generator and are earning an "A" in beer management. Sitting on his porch watching the scrum."

Not sure if the scrum is the storm or the big pile of kids they've got there, but they're on high ground in well-built and well-supplied structures, and this is as bad as the wind will get for them judging from where the eye is now.

Ronnie has some big-ass trees on his property, though, so that's a shame.

New Orleans visit #4


DYK on sale at the airport

Last weekend got off to a great start when I managed to get a picture of the DYK anthology on display in the airport bookstore. Right below Rising Tide, right next to River Road Recipes, and if you look closely at those blue books on the top shelf, that's A Confederacy of Dunces. Fine, fine company I keep now.

Chin Music's Voices blog has a summary of the book signing at the Barnes & Noble in Baton Rouge, here. (With pictures of myself and Jette.)

And they talk about the Tennessee Williams festival events, here. (More pictures.)

The rest of the weekend, I ran around looking at real estate, only half seriously. And looking at schools, slightly more seriously. And being taken on a tour of every Irish pub in the Quarter, with complete and utter seriousness and focus, by the charming Maitri, who knows every bartender and chef in the neighborhood, and who scored us some amazing cajun curried duck thing at Asian Cajun (goofy name, unbelievably good food) on Decatur Street, and then took us to Dante's Kitchen on Sunday night where I had escargot, and black drum on a bed of truffle grits in a something-something brown butter sauce. I came. Twice, in fact.

Duck po-boy at Crabby Jack's

Most of my other meals were all of the sandwich variety. You could eat nothing but sandwiches for a month in New Orleans and never get bored. Had a smothered duck po-boy at Crabby Jack's, a muffaletta at Napoleon House, a roast beef & horseradish po-boy and a Barq's at Domilise's. Wuz good, I miss it all.

Spending my entire weekend on the Sliver and in the Quarter, it was almost possible to forget about Katrina. Til Monday, I did some driving around through Broadmoor, Gert Town, and Gentilly. Seven months later, and these once dense and thriving neighborhoods are ghost towns, piled with debris. Broadmoor residents are clearly fighting the good fight, but it looks like it will be years before it will be the kind of neighborhood you want to bring your kids to. Same in Gentilly. It's just overwhelming, still, seven months later. Progress, where it exists, is moving at a crawl.

Random hurricane stuff

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Brother Bill reports that the bayou in his neighborhood in Prairieville was flowing backwards yesterday as the last of the rain bands passed over head. After Katrina he needed some roof repair. After Rita, he now needs a completely new roof. No power, but his best friend is a building contractor so he's set up with generators and is reasonably comfortable.

"Dude, Baton Rouge just sucks right now."

Poppy seems to have no patience for people who don't want to move back. I don't know, seems to me that the experiences of somebody who makes her living sitting in her house writing books and whose loved ones are all accounted for might not give her the perspective to judge a person who drives a bus, or works part time at Popeyes, or collects welfare, and who has dead family members who they haven't even been allowed to bury yet.

Some people are going to land on their feet, some people are not. And for somebody whose biggest problem in exile has been "where can I recharge my laptop" and "oh dear, I lost 13% of my cats" to pass judgment on other folks who are in MUCH worse shape and who are choosing survival of their families over some kind of New Orleans culture fetish...I don't know, I just expected a little bit more compassion.

New Orleans will be rebuilt. I applaud the people who will do it. I hope to help rebuild it myself somehow. But demanding a loyalty oath out of people whose families are in tatters shows a lack of class which rivals that of those who think New Orleans should be abandoned.

Eh. I'll still buy her books, though.

Finally, Austinite Larry Archer has some pictures in Flickr of Dick Cheney's visit to the Austin Katrina shelter. I like this one here, at the public computers where we volunteered, of Dick Cheney feigning interest while a volunteer explains to him that FEMA's web site is a pile of shit.

Excellent blog from a Baton Rouge shelter worker

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Sam Flory blogs from the shelter. Updated frequently, really gives you a good view into what goes on.

Thanks to Melanie for the link.

UPDATE: They're all fine!

WWL TV, Baton Rouge real estate bubble


I'm at work this morning and I can get streaming video from WWL TV pretty easily now.

You have no idea how comforting it is to hear real New Orleans accents, real New Orleans voices.

I don't know if it's just better connectivity today, or if my powerbook just wasn't dealing as well as my XP box at work, I don't know, but the quality is good and there's real information there, if not any new news.

And even as I speak, WWL lost all lights in their studio. Still on the air. I heard a guy on ESPN Radio this morning (the only station in Austin with any Katrina news during my commute) say that every single person at WWL TV has lost their home. And they stay at their jobs.

They. Fucking. Rock.

The big issue with my family now is the real estate situation in Baton Rouge. There is a panic/bubble going on there right now, people buying and renting houses and office space way above market price, sight unseen. Corporations are buying up huge blocks of housing for their employees. We're trying to sort out something for Mark but having trouble reaching him, since his cell phone is a New Orleans number and thus useless, so we're playing constant phone tag on the hotel voice mail in Houston.

Governor is holding a prayer service on TV right now.

Baton Rouge update and family status

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Finally heard from brother Bill in Baton Rouge. They lost a tree, lost some roof tiles, have no power, but the house is OK, no water damage or anything. They're hanging out at mom-in-law's condo; she's on the same part of the power grid as Our Lady of the Lake hospital, so power has been restored in that area.

Apparently the Mall of Louisiana is open for business, with power and AC and all, so a few of his friends with no power are packing their SUVs with food and lawn chairs and and going to camp at the mall and let the kids run around Sears all day to keep them entertained. That mall is gonna be a zoo, let me tell you.

Rumors going around in Baton Rouge about the Ninth Ward in New Orleans are pretty grim, so I'm not gonna repeat them here...but they're pretty grim.

Brother Mark's family in Houston has no word on their house in Metairie, but they talked to somebody who rode out the storm Uptown and apparently the power is back on Uptown, with lots of trees down but no real serious flooding. I don't know where exactly in Uptown that would be,'s a pretty broad area. Mark's house is in Old Metairie near the railroad tracks, but we can't find out anything about that neighborhood at all.

They're going to come to Austin tomorrow for a few days, then Dallas for a few days, then take stock on Sunday to figure out what to do. Clearly my nephews aren't going to be starting back to school any time soon, so do they get an apartment here and try to enroll them in a school in Texas? So many questions about the mundane aspects of life.

Even after the cleanup, New Orleans is going to be hurting. This city lives off its tourism money, and right when they're trying to rebuild, the tourism industry is going to take a huge hit. The practical aspects of day-to-day life are going to be affected for years.

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