Thursday, November 17, 2005


My fingers are frozen stiff as I try to tap out this post. The thermostat needle bottomed out just below 50 degrees, so I don't really know how cold it is inside the house. I girded myself against the colder weather when I went to bed last night by bundling up in flannel pj's, sweatshirt, and socks. My coffee lost its heat almost immediately and became tepid. It goes without saying that I'll be taking a pass on the cold shower this morning. I'm looking forward to getting into my truck to turn the heater on, and getting to the office.

It's just a narrative - I'm not complaining about not having gas, because my situation in New Orleans is INFINITELY better than the vast majority of the rest of the city. I know, because several weeks ago, as I waited to find out if I still had a job, wondered in what condition I would find my house, little by little, the pieces fell into place for me. I went back to work, the electricity was turned on, and I moved right back into my house. I didn't have to attack the creeping colonies of mold and gut my house - no, but there but for the grace of god ... just a block away, the water was high enough that homes there were inundated. I almost feel guilty - no, I do feel guilty that I was spared when the world has been turned topsy turvy for hundreds of thousands of other New Orleans area residents whose homes and workplaces flooded. That's the advantage between living in a raised house on Freret Street at the edge of the alluvial ridge that straddles the Mississippi River - the ridge that falls off right behind my property line - and living below the ridge of natural elevation.

In the paper this morning, I read one of the multitudes of thousands of complaints by people who are now - ten weeks after Hurricane Katrina - suffering what I experienced for only a few grueling, stressful weeks. A writer - (he has a name: Charles Barzon, Jr.) complained in his letter to the Times-Picayune that he and his family remained prisoners in a South Carolina hotel waiting in agony for the opportunity to return home - waiting in excruciating frustration at the incompetence of local, state, and federal recovery efforts:

My wife and I are part of the middle-class tax base the city needs to recover. We can't get the long-awaited trailer because of the incompetents who don't know how to fast-track the system to get the electric service restored to the residents who want to return.

His suggestion to provide temporary electricity of the type on boards used by contractors will also probably fall on the ears of incompetents. Nobody seems to understand that this is not business as usual. The permitting process is a shameful waste of time. If the city is going to demand permits, then it should be recruiting an army of people to do the job. Otherwise, warn people of the dangers, and let them figure out how to do it themselves - temporarily to be sure - but we're all adults. People are enormously resourceful - as I can attest by relating a personal account ...

While I waited for my electricity to be turned on, waited for Entergy to inspect, wondering whether a permit would be required, getting no straight answers from anyone despite repeated attempts, my neighbors learned that they could turn on their electricity themselves. Entergy came around and put little "condoms" on the contacts behind the face of the meter. A very nice contractor who happened to be in the neighborhood, appreciating the fact that the electric grid in the neighborhood was powered, and carefully verifying that the circuit-breaker box was never under water, explained as he removed the faceplate and hidden contact condoms that Entergy would never know because "all sorts of weird things are happening." So, on their first day back, rather than having to wait weeks to get electricity, my neighbors only had to wait a couple of hours. Understandably, most people are not so lucky - their circuit boxes probably did go under water - but, as the writer above noted, there are clever and simple solutions that citizens themselves could implement if allowed.

As I write this, with hundreds of thousands of my fellow New Orleanians scattered throughout the Katrina diaspora, The Times-Picayune is reporting that, principally for lack of housing:
Hurricane Katrina struck the New Orleans economy so hard that the number of people with jobs in the region will fall to 337,000 next year, less than half the pre-storm level, according to a report released Wednesday by a team of economists at Louisiana State University.

The impact will drop the area's employment to a level not seen since 1965.

People are hurting. Their families are suffering. They don't know what's going to happen, but there willing to risk returning and rebuilding their lives - even with the uncertainty of having a levee system that can't protect them - that they might become victims again when hurricane season comes around again next year. Yet, day after day, people are deciding that it just isn't worth the aggravation - or decide that they can't afford the aggravation, and will never come back to New Orleans.

Again, as loud as I can scream on this forum and anywhere else - I do get emotional when I talk about this - IT'S TIME FOR PEOPLE TO GET OFF THEIR ASSES AND DO SOMETHING!!!


At 11/17/2005 06:13:00 PM, Blogger oyster said...

I pledge to you I will get off my ass and do something.

At 11/18/2005 06:56:00 AM, Blogger Schroeder said...

I would guess that most of us aren't sitting on our asses. I'm addressing the people in the mayor's office, the people on the city council, the people in the state legislature, our congressional delegation, the White House.

I'm fed up with the lot of them. I'm ready for them to go. It's time to start over.


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