My Incredibly Unremarkable Life
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Yesterday I had occasion to go to a home in the eastern part of New Orleans, near the lakefront. The subdivision did not flood, but the owners had a tree through the roof that let in rain.

As I drove up Canal Boulevard, past the interstate overpasses, I could see that there had been a lot of cleanup--but there were many many houses that were empty. Completely empty, as in gutted down to the studs. Some of the yards of these houses had been tended, but others were filled with tall weeds. This area, near Harrison Avenue, got a LOT of water. The Episcopal Church had about six feet. The Beth Israel synagogue (where we had attended a friend's son's Bar Mitzvah) flooded badly, damaging their Torah. (One of the first items on their "repair" list was to bury the cantaminated holy book.)

I saw few workmen.

When I returned home I took "regular" roads and picked up the interstate at Read Road. This took me past the University of New Orleans. But before I got to the college, I passed over a canal. That's where a lot of work was going on. The levee walls have been raised and strengthened. It's clear, based on the equipment there, that there's still a lot of work yet to be done.

UNO, on the lake side of the road, looked sort of okay. On the other side, Katrina did a very thorough job on the WWII Navy housing, which had become apartments for students quite a while ago. Some of the buildings have bright new siding. Some buildings are no longer there.

Past the university there are some very nice houses, most of which look more than a little empty now. A little further on, by the UNO arena, the houses showed even more devastation. The only bright spot was a small shopping center where the Sav-a-Lot food store was doing a very healthy business.

I was too busy watching the traffic to get much of a look at the Industrial Canal as I crossed the bridge. I continued on the road adjacent to the levee holding lake waters back. Some of the traffic lights were out. I haven't been down that road for a while, and I crossed my fingers that I would remember which street was the one I wanted--street signs are a low priority.

There are so many empty houses. Maybe a third have a FEMA trailer in front, which means they the owners are back.

Basically, it was a depressing drive.

I guess because I drive the same route into Newcomb the "empties" on that route don't surprise me. And I can see the bit by bit recovery on a 3 days a week basis. For instance--most of the buildings have had their "bathtub rings" cleaned off.

Katrina was over 14 months ago. It's not laziness that is slowing down the repairs--it's labor. That's a relatively finite quantity. I strongly suspect that any INS agent who wanted to see papers of men working on people's houses would get lynched or run out of town on a rail. Those houses along Canal Boulevard belong to people who would have had insurance, not to mention other substantial reserves, such as an IRA. (Katrina early withdrawals from IRAs have no penalty.) It's not money so that's slowing things down--it's labor.

Little by little. But it's fall and every weekend sees the return of annual fall festivals--and that's good.

So now I have a new route on which to observe Katrina recovery progress. It can't be fixed overnight.

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