Saturday, October 15, 2005

New Orleans, gutted

The canyons of moldy sheetrock, soggy furniture, stinky appliances, and other destroyed possessions which were piled high in my Uptown neighborhood near Freret and Jefferson are now being reduced. Where all that junk is going concerns me. I've heard that New Orleans had 80 landfill sites for Katrina garbage, and they're all full now.

The first photos show a few of the artifacts excavated from the pile of garbage in my yard. The cleanup around my house revealed every possible assortment of human waste. The water, six feet at Claiborne Avenue, diminished to three and a half feet on reaching the natural ridge of deposited Mississippi silt that falls off behind my house. Objects floated in and settled in the yard. Among hundreds of artifacts were tires, diapers, bottles of medicine, shoe polish, jars of pickled food, bags of cookies, liquor bottles, plastic soda bottles, full garbage bags and cans, tree branches, roof shingles, siding, shoes, clothes, and one insulin syringe. It was an urban archaeologist's dream.

Poison: Bug Death Spray.

Contents of a nylon Newport cigarettes wallet. This was an interesting find because it provided some indication of how far the item had traveled.

Torn corner of a photo printed on a desktop printer.

Aside from the loss of life, and the destruction of homes, I think most people would agree that the loss of family memorabilia is the worst. I'm sure some people will mourn the loss of family memorabilia far worse than the physical loss of their homes.

In my walk around the neighborhood, I found myself paying a lot of attention to the small personal possessions that ended up in the garbage piles. Here are a few examples.

One of the last Gambit Weekly editions before Katrina, focusing on the struggles and accomplishments of the employee-owned Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra, and their now cancelled season.

35 mm negatives. You can always restore your prints if you have the negatives, but the images on these were completely dissolved.

A crawfish boiler. Note the brown plants in the background. A lot of plants were killed by the brackish waters that came in from the Gulf via Lake Pontchartrain, laced with sewage and chemicals, and heavy metals.

Broken record: Summer '73.

Doubloon: Krewe of Mid City.

On the road.

This is actually a small pile. Just looking at the photo, I can smell the mold mixed in with rotting food from peoples' refrigerators. You don't even have to be standing next to a pile. Just a little breeze can carry a gut-churning whiff your way. I can't recall ever experiencing biting flies in New Orleans. They're now a problem, and the mosquitos are ruthless.

In the last photo, I was trying to capture the title of the books scattered in the pile: Another World is Possible. The homeowner must have had some role in its publishing, or was using it as a text for a class.

A photo album and cassette tape, and a cup which I thought on first glance might be a Mardi Gras throw.

Uh oh Pee Wee!

Tulane University year book, 1971.

An oyster shucker. I wonder how many parties this little guy might have shepherded.

Finally, there are a number of amusing hand-written signs people have posted on their property, or on things they've thrown away. Here are a couple of examples.

Oriental Rugs, lower St. Charles Avenue.

So much for "Faith." Saints owner Tom Benson is not a particularly popular guy around town, especially now that there isn't much stopping him from moving the team out of New Orleans. Neither was local sportcaster Buddy D. a great fan of the Saints and Tom Benson, at least according to this home owner.

Taking a moment at the end of the day to relax in the patio and to appreciate the warm autumn light on bare branches and buds against a crystal clear blue sky.


At 10/16/2005 05:55:00 AM, Anonymous shawn said...

Thanks for the picture of the rug store signs. I drove past that the other day, and wished I had time to stop and take a picture.

At 10/16/2005 09:21:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a surreal world you're living in right now. The Pee Wee doll being a prime example of that!

Are you planning to stay for the long haul? Because it sure looks like it going to be a long, long time before anything returns to any kind of normal there.


At 10/16/2005 08:33:00 PM, Blogger Maverick said...

Those are some really wonderful pictures. Captures what there is to see there. I like how you called it an"urban archaeologist's dream." I also find it fascinating.

Spitting in a Wishing Well

At 10/17/2005 08:15:00 PM, Blogger PRB said...

The Pee Wee doll gave me a bit of a start. On closer examination, however, I can't help but pity him, seeing as how he lacks the means to touch himself in a movie theater...


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