Greetings From Nolia
Hello. I'm now in New Orleans. Arrived around 1:00 and spent the afternoon driving around the Lakeview and 9th Ward areas of town. I'll post some pics later because writing won't do justice to the devistation.
All of the areas close to water - either the lake or the canals - are pretty much destroyed. There were very few cars driving (but tons wrecked) and very few people, except for a few people working on salvagable houses and a few cops. (I did see a small National Guard convoy too.) The areas not as close to water were more populated but still totally wrecked. The main streets are semi-cleared and have traffic but there's debris stacked up everywhere. If you go off the main streets into the neighborhoods there are some people around but destruction everywhere. Wrecked cars. Gutted houses. FEMA trailers in front of gutted houses. But totally random houses that were either untouched or renovated post Katrina. Very surreal. And sad.
One bright spot was that the Saturn Bar, one of my favorite bars from the time I've spent in NOLA, just reopened last weekend. The original owner passed at the end of last year but his nephew reopened the bar. Spent a couple hours there talking to him and his kids about LSU/UGA/Saints/Falcons footbal and life in New Orleans post-Katrina. One thing that struck me that he mentioned was the insurance situation. No major insurers will write policies for houses and businesses in Orleans, St. Bernard and other parishes, which means that rebuilding will be tough in many areas. He's operating the bar w/o insurance until he can get a policy from an "off brand" carrier. But hopefully at least some of the business and home owners will be able to recover.
Just a few blocks away, on the edge of the French Quarter, things seem more normal. I'm currently in a beer nerd bar called DBA taking advantage of free WIFI and enjoying a nice Belgian Dubbel. There are tons of cars on the street and people walking around getting dinner etc after work. Very much like my hurricane proof hood in Atlanta. I haven't been into the Quarter proper or the CDB yet, but I've heard the situation there is even more normal and ALA ready. But when we're enjoying a nice meal in good company of fellow library folks discussing 2.o or whatnot, remember that not too far away is a scene that I honestly would never have expected to see in America. And remember the people whose lives have been altered beyond normal forever by Katrina.