Alana and I are in New Orleans again! Alana is here for work, I'm on vacation. Actually, Alana is here for something special. In order to help give health insurance coverage to the thousands of uninsured children living in post-Katrina New Orleans, the State of Louisiana is doing a blitz in the city, informing people about their LaCHIP children's health insurance plan. Medicaid people from all over the state are here. In fact, while I was out today I saw group of them in a Walgreen's.
We drove down to Alana's parents' place around 1 p.m. yesterday. They live in Pineville, LA. We then drove from there to Baton Rouge. We hit the best game store in the state (and one of the best I've been in, period), we went to supper at T.J.'s Ribs, and then we stayed at the Crossland's hotel. Okay, two out of three was a good idea... The Crossland's was cheap, at least. No internet access. No hair dryer in the room. Hell, no shampoo! It didn't matter much, as we simply crashed when we got into the room. Oh, the first room they put us in had a double bed which the woman downstairs insisted was a queen, because it said so in the system. We switched rooms and informed her that the second room had a larger bed. She seemed unimpressed. The pillows were flat, and there were only two of them, so neither of us slept great.
Today we're in New Orleans. We got down here at 11 a.m. and were able to check in here at the Doubletree on Canal right away. The only thing I could complain about is the fact that they don't have free internet acces. The don't have wireless internet at all. I'm typing this because, apparently, Alana decided to go ahead and pay for internet access tonight. Don't be surprised if you don't hear from me until we get home after tonight's posting.
Alana isn't going to get back until about 7 p.m., so I'm doing a blog entry.
I spent the day traipsing through the Garden District. I eventually wound up at Lafayette Cemetery No. 1. The cemetery itself is, I believe, the first in the city, founded in 1833. It's one of the first if not the first, anyway. It's the quintessential New Orleans cemetery with its above-ground mausoleums closely packed together.
I didn't see any damage I knew for certain was from Katrina. This cemetery was never submerged in the flooding, though I could see some fairly recent cracks in the walls. (Other cracks were old, having been whitewashed in the past rather than fixed.)
There is a lot of damage to the cemetery. Some of it happened years before Katrina, but I'm assuming some of it was from the storm.
I'm kicking myself for not changing the ISO setting on the digital camera, so the pics are grainier than I wished. If I have the chance, I may go back tomorrow and shoot some more pictures. I will eventually post the pics to my web site, too, but in the meantime below are a sampling of pictures.
Click on the picture for a bigger view.
This next one is interesting. It's the grave of Confederate Major General Harry T. Hays. Hays started the war as the Colonel of the 7th Louisiana regiment. Later he took over the command of the Louisiana Tigers brigade. (Technically he was a Brigadier General, as his promotion to major general was never officially approved by Confederate president Jefferson Davis.
One of the more interesting graves, for the Jefferson Parish firemen.
This one is for the guys in our gaming group. I'm going to have to edit our write-ups from our Delta Green game set in New Orleans to take this into account, but this is where the ghouls popped up! The inscription is "New Orleans Home for Incurables". You can't really see it, but there's a spot near the back of the plot that looks like something was dug up, the hole filled in, and then the void settled a bit...
My impression of the Garden District is that it's mostly up and running, and what isn't is being renovated. There are a few places that are empty with "for rent" signs in the window. I couldn't tell if the New Orleans Culinary School was still operating, but a portion of the lower floor beside the school's restaurant had big rental signs on it. Copeland's Cheesecake Bistro is shut. I peered in the window and I can see they are renovating. Apparently so is the hotel the restaurant is attached to. One of our favourite restaurants (admittedly, after a single visit) is gone. The Garlic Clove is now Igor's Bar-B-Q Mama. "Igor" owns a number of restaurants in New Orleans, including Igor's Lounge & Game Room right next door. I believe he owned The Garlic Clove. I'm guessing they had to change menus due to a change in chefs.
The Garden District looks pretty good. The stately homes in the area are all well kept up, with quite a few sporting new paint. There is evidence of new construction, too, as you can see in this next picture. Of course none of this is "affordable" housing. With the sun out, the place looked very pretty. There was a ton of traffic, too. With a veritable lack of litter, people driving and walking about, and the sun shining brightly, it almost looks like the place is back to normal. Almost.
On the downside, I saw a lot of homeless people. Well, not Toronto level of homeless people, but at least a dozen, probably more. There were half a dozen hanging around the base of the Robert E. Lee statue in Lee's Circle. They were on the mound on which the statue is perched. One of them tried to accost me as I was walking up to it (I thought he was a worker having lunch) but he didn't come near me. I suspect he was looking for a handout. Most of the homeless I saw were middle aged, and probably unemployable. In New Orleans right now, where they'll hire anyone with a pulse, you have to be in pretty bad shape — or not interested — to not have a job.
Finally, the St. Charles streetcar line is still not up and running. I have no idea when it will be running, if ever. I assume they'll get it going once there's enough money to repair the trolleys damaged and destroyed in the storm. They will also have to fix the rail lines. In the 20 months since Katrina, the lines are now overgrown. I guess this next picture is as symbolic of the Garden District as you'll find: bright, sunny, cars on the road, but overgrown trolley lines.
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