Friday, March 07, 2008

It's fairly cold this morning, only in the 60s, but we walked to the New Orleans Museum of Art near us in City Park, passing these beautiful old mansions with Spanish iron grillwork on windows and doors. The sidewalks remind me of Katrina, like some gigantic hand tipped the concrete up and down, even in City Park with its open expanses of land. As a temporary visitor to New Orleans, I notice the sidewalks. Many houses have been rehabbed or boarded up. Streets have been patched, though driving requires vigilance to avoid the deeper potholes. But the sidewalks remain a low priority (understandably), so let the walker beware!

We saw the work of George Rodrigue, creator of the Blue Dog, in a grand and inspirational retrospective. This Cajun artist began by painting the bayou, then portraits, then spun out into his very colorful and now famous Blue Dog phase. Currently living in New Orleans, he comments during the exhibit that he was unable to paint for a year after Katrina. I can understand why. The scope of the storm damage, even after two years and a half, still remains in the imprint on a garage door of the flood line, two feet off the ground in our little neighborhood.

Much has been done, but it may be generations before New Orleans fully returns. I'm sure the French Quarter still hops at night. It always does. The heart of the city remains in warm southern hospitality, Mardi Gras beads everywhere, and truly great music. I can report that beignets and cafe au lait at the Cafe du Monde are still incredibly delicious. Street musicians (and an electric violinist) around Jackson Square play their hearts out.

We see demolition and reconstruction going on, in every neighborhood. In some neighborhoods, more is needed. We pass mini-shopping malls, boarded up, not ready to return. I'm feeling a little sad, as I'm not quite strong enough to pull moldy sheetrock out of houses, but I still feel we haven't done enough, that more is needed, and that the people of New Orleans are coming through a tragedy almost beyond comprehension. What's needed here are electricians and plumbers and construction workers.

So I'll remember the Blue Dog, and we'll go volunteer with Friends of the Library book sales here on Weds and Saturday, as the libraries are not quite back, and with limited hours and limited facilities. With something like 100,000 volunteers in town, and the indomitable spirit that has brought so many this far, the healing continues. New Orleans is back.

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