Sunday, January 28, 2007

Slow comebacks

I worked in New Orleans East the other day. Took the Downman Rd exit. That highway used to be congested with bustling businesses and traffic. Not anymore. It is a devastated area with at least a couple of miles of boarded up and half-destroyed buildings; debris in front of some of them. I hadn't been down that way since Hurricane Katrina hit us over a year ago. It was a shock to me. What's it going to look like in another year of neglect? Not a pretty picture.

Then I took a left onto Haynes blvd. Neighborhoods like this above. The picture doesn't do it justice, but it's one of the better ones I got from my car. Every now and then, I'd see a trailer in the front, but mostly it was houses that were boarded up, or in various states of decay. Many had spray-painted writings near the doors - probably from the people who did search and rescues.

Oddly, the casino around that area is a gorgeous-looking establishment with pristine parking and colorful facing. I don't know if it is operational, though.

I overheard conversations between people reconnecting in the grocery (I often do) exchanging stories about where they've been since "the storm", and what they are going through to try to get back to normal, or some semblance of it. The things I have overheard...

Some of the stories are of how many residences they've had in the past since H.K. Some have been of horrendous, or stupendous, life changes they've experienced since. We are an adaptable race. Some of the changes are definitely for the better.

I have seen resiliency in couples who've lost everything, but still had each other and the memories of going through such trials. They say it isn't the good times, but the bad that make a family.

One couple I met when I waited tables got married after living through the experience of clinging to a tree in Lake Catherine for three days; She said she didn't know her house floated into the lake, though she felt it tip over - previously being on tall pilings. Actually, the lake wasn't that large before. At one point during her tree-clinging days, she was eye-to-eye with a 6 foot alligator. Their story made the newspaper. I guess you are ruined to be with anybody else once you share that kind of experience with another.

I don't like the Downman Road exit. It steeply goes down and then curves under another bridge and then banks and curves bringing you up a little and then down again to a traffic signal. It is a roller coaster for cars. Not fun in the rain. I dated a guy when I was a young lass (really young - about 20). He didn't have a car and I had to pick him up at his house off Downman Rd. I did that maybe twice.


Kim Ayres said...

You really capture the sense of emptiness in those photos

Jupiter's Girl said...

There was another hairy bridge that I had to cross to get to N.O. East. It's called "The High Rise". I have to talk myself over it every time I travel it. The drop is way down to the Mississippi River. It features in my reoccurring dreams of driving up a steep incline that never seems to have a top. Didn't get anything worth showing for my holding up the camera and shooting without taking my wide-eyes off the road ahead and one white-knuckled hand on the wheel.

I should try to capture what Downman Road looks like. It reminds me of a scene from "The Terminator" - a shell of a war-torn city - inhabited by vermin; the human and animal kind.

Rob said...

You know that Downman ramp is right next to where I work every day? It's still pretty bleak out here. Business is slow to come back and residents are even slower. The future is not all that bright out here.

Jupiter's Girl said...

You work down there? Is the exit any better coming from the Slidell direction? What kind of business do you have? Is there plenty of time for computer games and reading spam?

I shouldn't have written that comment about human vermin on Downman Road. They may not be there. Yet!! If they are, and they read my blog, I meant no harm. Nothing personal. Obviously, from working at that Sav-A-Center alongside New Orleanians who inhabit the area, there are many more nice, decent citizens, than any other element in that community. I wish them all the resources they need for rebuilding.

Rob said...

There is no Downman Road exit from the east, only the west. You'd get off at Chef coming from Slidell. It's before the hi-rise. If you were going to Sav-A-Center, you should have gotten off at Franklin Ave and just gone all the way to the lake.

Jupiter's Girl said...

I'll be going there again within the next two weeks. I'll have to remember directions. I took a different way out of there - came up Elysian Fields. After working at that N.O. East store, I visited my friend, Cathy, at Liuzza's on Bienville. Have you ever eaten there? Step back in time - except for the prices. Good food. Cathy tends bar there, and they have the biggest, frostiest mugs ever.