I can’t seem to think of a subtitle for this post.
I think it’s because this day may have been the most important day of my trip. This is the day that NOLA got into my heart and I’m pretty sure she’s there for good. This was the day when the giddy flirtation and newness became more serious. She showed me what she looks like without make-up on and I didn’t mind her morning breath.
Since we had our pricey breakfast the day before, I was tasked with checking out the free continental breakfast provided at the hotel. I had dreamt of having cornflakes with 2% milk for breakfast. Guess what was on the first table in the room that held the continental breakfast? I cannot express how many little things like that happened in New Orleans. This is a city that aims to please and is usually right on target. I grabbed some cereal and pastries and went back to the room.
It was decided that we would start the day off with Po Boys. But from where? I think you could easily spend a week in New Orleans and only eat Po Boys from the places that were considered “best” and never eat the same thing at the same place. I had seen Anthony Bourdain visit Domilise’s. Countless people had mentioned Parasol, but there had been some recent ownership changes, etc…that deterred me from going there. President Obama had gone to a place called “Parkway Bakery and Tavern” immediately after landing in New Orleans AND they had a surf and turf Po Boy—-so they were the winner. We went right at lunch time, which seemed both stupid and great. The restaurant is new Bayou St. John, in a neighborhood that has probably seen better days, yet also seems to have better days ahead with all of the new construction. We parked underneath a section of bead trees….yeah, the trees in New Orleans grow BEADS! Don’t believe me…..check out these pics!
I wish I could tell you exactly what to do when you walk into Parkway so you don’t wander like we did. But the wandering all worked out and we got a table right by the front window so we could watch the neighborhood go by. Apparently in the bar is the only place you get table service and we had a delightful and cute bartender take care of us. We ordered our Barqs and set off to make our sandwich decisions. I knew that I wanted the Surf n Turf (slow cooked roast beef topped with golden fried shrimp and roast beef gravy) But my mom wasn’t sure. She saw the grilled ham option on the menu, and as she is known to do, wondered if it would compare to the long lost B&L Inn in Niles, Mi. She decided to take a chance. We got both of our sandwiches “dressed” (lettuce tomato mayo and pickles) and settled in. Look how happy my mom is 🙂
I didn’t take any pictures of our food. We kinda tore into it too quick for me to think about it. If you had been in our place….you would have done the same! I don’t recall being handed a sandwich wrapped in white paper that had such heft! When I unrolled this culinary gift, I understood why! The roast beef was falling out bringing piles of fried shrimp with it. I squeezed the fresh french bread to make it more manageable and lost some more shrimp. There were just SO MANY SHRIMP! The meat was as tender as Sunday Dinner at Mom’s. The shrimp were fresh and fried to perfection. The sweet potato fries we shared were crunchy and sweet and salty, as they should be. My mom’s sandwich wasn’t quite a B&L, but it was damn good. I don’t believe that either of us finished our sandwich…and we got the regular size! I saw folks with the large ones that were twice as big and figured that they must have planned on having the remains for dinner that night, possibly breakfast the next day.
Our next stop was the Lower Ninth Ward. I knew the general direction we needed to go, but decided to look up where Brad Pitt and his Make It Right Foundation were building homes. I typed a street name into Betty and we were off. Going to an area like this, I had to wonder how much of the dilapidated sights we were going to see were Katrina related and how many were poverty related. I will never know….but there are some sights that are 100% Katrina…and I will never forget.
I thought I took a lot more pictures in the Lower Ninth then I actually did. I guess I just have some very vivid memories of what we saw. Apparently they just got official street signs in the last year. Perhaps in Katrina’s world, the fifth anniversary gift is street signs. The roads are still horrible. I would assume they weren’t the best maintained roads in the area before the storm, but now, they are barely roads at all. Three weeks under water does crazy things to city streets. Makes them a LOT like country roads. I wish I knew how densely populated the are had been. It seems like it was probably pretty dense, but so many of the lots are so overgrown that you can hardly believe that houses were ever there. Then there are the lots where you can see evidence of foundations. Then there are the houses. The photo below is a good example of many of the houses still there:
This could be a great ad for the Dish Network, if there had been any chance that there was TV service during or after the storm…..but at least the dish held on. This double shotgun house doesn’t look like it would take much to finish it off. I wonder who used to live there? Was it one of the many houses in the Lower Ninth that had been passed down through families and no paperwork existed to say who owned it when the storm hit? I wish I could do the CSI photo zoom and see if there had been anyone found in this house….but that piece of information has been hidden by the “house numbers” painted over the rescue crew “x”—-I suppose that helps the pizza guy? Do they have pizza guys in the Ninth Ward these days? They do have people living there. Living in homes that have been fixed up after the storm. There is no way to think they got through unscathed as it is all one elevation in the Lower Ninth and that elevation is all below the levee wall. Yet, you see people living in homes. Next to homes where people died. Next to empty, forgotten lots.Next to homes that look like they will fall over with the slightest breeze. The saddest thing I saw was a little brick house. You could tell that they had tried to clean away the rescue team “x” but it was still very much there. How horrible must it be to walk in your house and see that every day? Then again, maybe they are just glad they can walk back into their home? Maybe they decided that the mark should act as a reminder that these people persevere, but never forget. There was a fella checking his mail as we drove by his house and I wanted to scream “I am so sorry this happened! This should never occur. We should have taken better care of our own people!” But I didn’t. I smiled at him and he smiled back and hopefully that makes us both feel a bit better about things…if only for a bit.
Now…don’t get me wrong…there are some great things happening in the Lower Ninth. The Make It Right folks are not just going in and throwing up cookie cutter houses. They are building architecturally amazing structures that are all eco friendly and able to withstand stronger storms then mean ol’ Katrina. They are DELIGHTFUL! All are very colorful. They are little boxes of hope growing from the rough ground around them. They are just like the funky places yuppies build when they come in and takeover a neighborhood. However, you have to have lived in the Lower Ninth when the storm hit to get these houses. You also have to help build them, not necessarily yours, but somebody’s.
How flippin’ cute are those?!?!?!?!?!
They’ve built around 20 so far and have 20 more in the works. There are plans to do at least 150 total. The Lower Ninth is where more then half of the people killed by Katrina in the state of Louisiana died. Currently only 19% of the population has returned, some 5.5 years later. But there is a current of vitality in the area. They haven’t given up and if they haven’t given up at this point….I doubt they ever will.
Next up: Why you shouldn’t wear black to Cafe Du Monde.