I am still amazed as I drive to UNO how many homes remain abandoned nearly 5 years after the storm. From Lakeview to Gentilly, you can still see the signs that many have not returned, for one reason or another. There is still so much work that needs to be done, and the oil spill only adds to it. As much as I am enjoying my time here with Cece and friends, Katrina still haunts my visits….
Cece began her internship on Monday with Blake Haney (of Dirty Coast t-shirts and the gallery Canary on Julia Street). As I drop her off at Canary, I get a chance to visit with two of my most favorite people in the whole world—Blake Haney and Zack Smith. Zack is a great photographer—he recently organized a show at Canary that showcased some of his work. He inspires me to make better photos. Blake is just a superhuman entrepreneur. Everything he touches turns to gold. Blake inspires me more than he realizes. I admire how he can do so many things well and still be a “normal” (in a New Orleans way) and wonderful person.
Cece is very excited about this opportunity, and apparently her first tasks include interviewing New Orleanians about their post-Katrina experiences in rebuilding their lives and the city. Blake intends to put these interviews up on the web as part of his Five-Year Katrina Anniversary rememberance. I am looking forward to being interviewed for this by Cece. I am sure she has heard it all before, of how we basically landed on our feet once I got the job in Texas. No doubt—Killeen has been good to us, and I have seen my responsibilities grow up there. I don’t think I would be a Dean if I had stayed at UNO after the storm. Hell, I probably would be looking for a job again this year if I stayed at UNO. But our hearts are still in New Orleans, and it amazes me when I tell people that basically we’ve been coming home every three or four months since the storm. There is no other place I want to be. I just “work” in Killeen.
I spent much of the day “working.” I am trying to work at least 4 hours a day from the internet. I can’t fall behind with work, and I find that I can keep up with it from the computer. I found myself answering email, phone calls, and grading papers from the convenience of various coffee shops in town.
This “work” reminded me of the last time I really did this—during the Fall Semester 2005 at UNO. UNO was the only university still holding classes after the storm. They were all online. I ended up teaching an Intro to Sociology course with 250 students in it—all ONLINE. I had taught online before, but THIS course really tested my organization and online course delivery skills. During that time, I would find myself like I did today at Café Envie in the Quarter downloading papers and grading them. Managing a course of over 200 students, no matter how the course is delivered, is no easy task. But a good cup of coffee and the sounds of New Orleans street-life does help.
Cece got out of work early on Monday—a rather “normal” phenomenon here in New Orleans. We work when we need to, and stop when we’re done. There is no such thing as clock-time in New Orleans. That is what frustrates outsiders the most. For some outsiders, it is so confusing that they end up leaving the city or never coming back. To a certain extent, that’s ok. New Orleans takes a certain kind of unique person to live here.
We ended up back in the Quarter. There is so much to do and catch up with there. We started to do the things that were so much of how we spent summers in New Orleans before. Walk down the Moonwalk. Take the elevator to the top of the W Hotel. Gaze at the city from the wide great window in the W Lobby. Avoid getting drenched by the afternoon rain. Give directions to tourists. Enjoy being truly ourselves.
I eventually find myself at Louisiana Music Factory. Cece goes down the street to Beckham Books. I am looking for a few things, of which I find two—Trombone Shorty’s new recording “Backatown,” and Stanton Moore’s “Groove Alchemy.” I’ll be spinning these later this week on WWOZ. I also pick up the documentary “Fauberg Treme” which I’ve heard so much about. I can’t find Christian Scott’s new album, but I’ll keep looking. Cece enjoys browsing through Beckham Books—she’s collecting old books now. She is the smart one in the family—much smarter than me. Only us nerds love to read and collect books these days. I find a book about Jewish Pirates in the Caribbean and I just might get it later to give to my son David who has now joined the Navy.
Today seems once again very normal. We are merely ambling through the Quarter—not as tourists but as residents. I tell Cece about the various architectural styles throughout the Quarter and how they reflect the various changes in colonial governments, recoveries from fires, and rebuilding after years of neglect and decay. I am still struck at how “odd” the houses on Barracks Street between Royal and Bourbon look when compared to the rest of the block. They are classic bungalow houses and though they are very beautiful they are uniquely out of place in a block anchored by old Spanish Style buildings.
After some rest back home, we begin our journey into the night to see some friends. First on the agenda is Mr. Bob French. He’s playing tonight at Irvin Mayfield’s club in the Royal Sonesta Hotel. His band tonight includes the excellent trumpeter Mario Abney. One of my favorite jazz pianists, Mr. Fred Saunders, is also part of the band. I freely admit—I love Bob like my father. I know his best and worst attributes, and though many people talk about his, I still love him as my father. He is floored by how much Cece has grown up. Though Susan and I visit the city every three or four months, Cece rarely comes with us. Her teen social and school schedule is such that it is difficult to bring her along on our trips. The last time I was able to spend a good few days with Cece in New Orleans was late December 2008. We were able to see Bob then during his Friday show at WWOZ (which he no longer hosts). I am sure Bob does not remember seeing Cece then.
Between sets, Cece gets a chance to spend some time with Bob. She’s hoping to interview him for her project as well. I tell Bob that I will cook him dinner some time while I’m in town. I believe he’ll take me up on this, or perhaps we’ll all go out for breakfast at Lil Dizzy’s later. I know I’ll see him again on this visit, and we let Bob get back to the bandstand.
Our next stop is a few blocks down the Quarter to see Lynn Drury perform at the Kerry Irish Pub (on Decatur Street). Lynn hasn’t started yet (she’s a bit “late”), so we get to see her perform one set as well. Lynn is one of my dearest friends in this city, and she too is amazed how much Cece has grown up. Lynn has not seen Cece since before the storm—Cece was 10 years old then. Five years makes a significant difference in both looks and maturity, and I am proud of how mature Cece has become. Lynn is working on a new album right now and the new cuts she performs sound great. Cece is taking lots of pictures of this performance, and she gets Lynn to easily agree to be part of Cece’s project as well. Lynn is living in the Marigny these days, not too far from where Cece and I are staying. I will catch up with her again during this trip too. It’s going to be nice to visit with everyone again.
We get back home before midnight—not a bad Monday night in New Orleans. My plans for Tuesday include another day at UNO to interview some of my former students to be online adjuncts for us at TAMU-CT. I will grade more papers too at a coffee shop of my choice. And there’s one more friend to visit with today—Mr. John Sinclair is in town, and he’ll be doing a reading from his new book about Sun Ra at the Louisiana Music Factory at 6pm tonight. I am sure I will also see many friends at this event. I can hardly wait for the smiles and hugs.