the gumbo pages

looka, <'lu-k&> dialect, v.
1. The imperative form of the verb "to look", in the spoken vernacular of New Orleans; usually employed when the speaker wishes to call one's attention to something.  

2. --n. Chuck Taggart's weblog, hand-made and updated (almost) daily, focusing on food and drink, music (especially of the roots variety), New Orleans and Louisiana culture, news of the reality-based community, movies, books, sf, public radio, media and culture, travel, Macs, liberal and progressive politics, humor and amusements, reviews, complaints, the author's life and opinions, witty and/or smart-arsed comments and whatever else tickles the author's fancy.

Please feel free to contribute a link if you think I'll find it interesting.   If you don't want to read my opinions, feel free to go elsewhere.

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New Orleans music for disaster relief

Doctors, Professors, Kings and Queens

"Doctors, Professors, Kings and Queens: The Big Ol' Box of New Orleans" is a 4-CD box set celebrating the joy and diversity of the New Orleans music scene, from R&B to jazz to funk to Latin to blues to zydeco to klezmer (!) and more, including a full-size, 80-page book.

Produced, compiled and annotated by Chuck Taggart (hey, that's me!), liner notes by Mary Herczog (author of Frommer's New Orleans) and myself. Now for sale at your favorite independent record stores, or order directly from Shout! Factory Records, where all profits will be donated to New Orleans disaster relief.

The box set was the subject of a 15-minute profile on National Public Radio's "Weekend Edition" on Feb. 6, 2005, and a segment on Wisconsin Public Radio's "To The Best of Our Knowledge" on Apr. 3, 2005. Here are some nice blurbs from the reviews (a tad immodest, I know; I'm not generally one to toot my own horn, but let's face it, I wanna sell some records here.)

*      *      *

"More successfully than any previous compilation, Doctors... captures the sprawling eclecticism, freewheeling fun and constant interplay of tradition and innovation that is at the heart of Crescent City music." -- Keith Spera, New Orleans Times-Picayune.

"... if you DO know someone who's unfortunate enough to have never heard these cuts, press this monumentally adventurous box and its attendant booklet upon them. It's never too late to learn" -- Robert Fontenot, OffBeat magazine, New Orleans

"... the best collection yet of Louisiana music." -- Scott Jordan, The Independent, Lafayette, Louisiana.

"[T]he year's single most awesome package" -- Buddy Blue, San Diego Union-Tribune

"This four-CD box set doesn't miss a Crescent City beat ... For anyone who has enjoyed the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, this is Jazz Fest in a box. ***1/2" -- Dave Hoekstra, Chicago Sun-Times

"... excellently compiled, wonderfully annotated ... New Orleans fans will know much of this by heart, though they may not remember it sounding so good; those who don't know what it's like to miss New Orleans will quickly understand." -- Terry Lawson, Detroit Free Press.

"... a perfect storm when it comes to reissues. This box set is musically exciting, a complete representation of its subject matter, and just plain fun to listen." -- Charlie B. Dahan,

"... one of the best impressions of a city's musical blueprint that you're likely to ever find." -- Zeth Lundy,

"... an unacademic, uncategorized album that suits the city's time-warped party spirit." -- Jon Pareles, The New York Times

A new book featuring the best of food weblogs.

Digital Dish is the first ever compilation volume of the best writing and recipes from food weblogs, and includes essays and recipes contributed by me. Find out more and place an order!

U.S. orders:
My Photos on Flickr

"To announce that there must be no criticism of the president, or that we are to stand by the president right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public."

-- Theodore Roosevelt, 26th President of the United States (1901-1909), speaking in 1918

"There ought to be limits to freedom."

-- George W. Bush, May 21, 1999

"You don't get everything you want. A dictatorship would be a lot easier."

-- George W. Bush, describing what it's like to be governor of Texas, Governing Magazine, July 1998

"If this were a dictatorship, it would be a heck of a lot easier, just so long as I'm the dictator."

-- George W. Bush,, December 18, 2000

"A dictatorship would be a heck of a lot easier, there's no question about it."

-- George W. Bush, Business Week, July 30, 2001

Looka! Archive
(99 and 44/100% link rot)

August 2005
July 2005
June 2005
May 2005
April 2005
March 2005
February 2005
January 2005

2004:   Jan, Feb, Mar, Apr, May, Jun, Jul, Aug, Sep, Oct, Nov, Dec.

2003:   Jan, Feb, Mar, Apr, May, Jun, Jul, Aug, Sep, Oct, Nov, Dec.

2002:   Jan, Feb, Mar, Apr, May, Jun, Jul, Aug, Sep, Oct, Nov, Dec.

2001:   Jan, Feb, Mar, Apr, May, Jun, Jul, Aug, Sep, Oct, Nov, Dec.

2000:   Jan, Feb, Mar, Apr, May, Jun, Jul, Aug, Sep, Oct, Nov, Dec.

1999:   Jul, Aug, Sep, Oct, Nov, Dec.

How to donate to this site:

Your donations help keep this site going. PayPal's the best way -- just click the button below, and thanks!

You can also donate via the Honor System, if you wish (but they deduct a larger fee from your donation and I keep less).

(Also, here's a shameless link to my Amazon Wish List.)

Buy stuff!

You can get Gumbo Pages designs on T-shirts, mugs and mousepads at The Gumbo Pages Swag Shop!

Friends with pages:

mary katherine
michael p.
pat and paul
tracy and david

Talking furniture:

KCSN (Los Angeles)
   Broadcast schedule
   "Down Home" playlist
   Live MP3 audio stream

   Subscribe to the
   "Down Home" weekly
   playlist email service

WWOZ (New Orleans)
   Broadcast schedule
   Live audio stream
   (Comprehensive listings)

Air America Radio
   (Talk radio for the
   rest of us)
Joe Frank
Grateful Dead Radio
   (Streaming complete
KPIG, 107 Oink 5
   (Freedom, CA)
KRVS Radio Acadie
   (Lafayette, LA)
Mike Hodel's "Hour 25"
   (Science fiction radio)
Radio Free New Orleans
Raidió na Gaeltachta
   (Irish language)
RootsWorld's Rootsradio
RTÉ Radio Ceolnet
   (Irish trad. music)
WXDU (Durham, NC)

Cocktail hour:

   The Internet's most comprehensive
   and indispensible database of
   authenticated cocktail recipes,
   ingredients, reseearch and more.
   By Martin Doudoroff & Ted Haigh)

Museum of the American Cocktail
   Founded by Dale DeGroff and many
   other passionate spirits, Jan. 2005.
   Celebrating a true American cultural
   icon: the American Cocktail.

*     *     *
The Sazerac Cocktail
   (The sine qua non of cocktails,
   and the quintessential New Orleans
   cocktail. Learn to make it.)

The Footloose Cocktail
   (An original by Wes;
   "Wonderful!" - Gary Regan.
   "Very elegant, supremely
   sophisticated" - Daniel Reichert.)

The Hoskins Cocktail
   (An original by Chuck;
   "It's nothing short of a
   masterpiece." - Gary Regan)

Chuck & Wes' Cocktail Menu
   (A few things we like to
   drink at home, plus a couple
   we don't, just for fun.)

*     *     *

The Alchemist
   (Paul Harrington)

Alcohol (and how to mix it)
   (David Wondrich)

Ardent Spirits
   (Gary & Mardee Regan)

The Cocktail Chronicles
   (Paul Clarke's weblog)

The Cocktailian Gazette
   (The monthly newsletter of
   The Museum of the
   American Cocktail.)

DrinkBoy and the
   Community for the
   Cultured Cocktail
   (Robert Hess, et al.)

DrinkBoy's Cocktail Weblog

Happy Hours
   (Beverage industry
   news & insider info)

King Cocktail
   (Dale DeGroff)

La Fée Verte
   (All about absinthe
   from Kallisti et al.)
   (Ladies United for the
   Preservation of
   Endangered Cocktails)

Fine Spirits & Cocktails
   (eGullet's forum)

Martini Republic: Drinks
   (featuring posts by Dr. Cocktail!)

The Modern Mixologist
   (Tony Abou-Ganim)

Mr. Lucky's Cocktails
   (Sando, LaDove,
   Swanky et al.)

Nat Decants
   (Natalie MacLean)

Spirits Review
   (Chris Carlsson)
   (Beverage Tasting
   Institute journal)

Vintage Cocktails
   (Daniel Reichert)

Let's eat!

Food-related weblogs:
Chocolate and Zucchini
Honest Cuisine
Il Forno
KIPlog's FOODblog
Mise en Place
Notes from a New Orleans Foodie
Sauté Wednesday
Simmer Stock
Tasting Menu
Waiter Rant

More food!
à la carte
Chef Talk Café
Food Network
The Global Gourmet
A Muse for Cooks
The Online Chef
Pasta, Risotto & You
Slow Food Int'l. Movement
So. Calif. Farmer's Markets
Zagat Guide

In vino veritas.

The Oxford Companion to Wine
Wally's Wine and Spirits
The Wine House
The Wine Spectator
Wine Today
Zinfandel Advocates & Producers

Wine shops in our 'hood:
Colorado Wine Co., Eagle Rock
Silverlake Wine, Silverlake
Chronicle Wine Cellar, Pasadena

Reading this month:

The Devil You Know, by Poppy Z. Brite.

Microcosmic God: The Complete Stories of Theodore Sturgeon, Vol. 2, by Theodore Sturgeon.

Ken and Thelma, by Joel L. Fletcher.

McSweeney's Enchanted Chamber of Astonishing Stories, edited by Michael Chabon.

Listen to music!

Chuck's current album recommendations

Luka Bloom
La Bottine Souriante
Billy Bragg
Cordelia's Dad
Jay Farrar
The Frames
Sonny Landreth
Los Lobos
Christy Moore
Nickel Creek
The Old 97s
Anders Osborne
The Proclaimers
Professor Longhair
Red Meat
The Red Stick Ramblers
The Reivers
Zachary Richard
Paul Sanchez
Marc Savoy
Son Volt
Richard Thompson
Toasted Heretic
Uncle Tupelo

Tom Morgan's Jazz Roots

Miles of Music

New Orleans

New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival

No Depression


Appalachian String Band Music Festival - Clifftop, WV

Long Beach Bayou Festival

Strawberry Music Festival - Yosemite, CA


A Gallery for Fine Photography, New Orleans (Joshua Mann Pailet)
American Museum of Photography
California Museum of Photography, Riverside
International Center of Photography

Ansel Adams
Jonathan Fish
Noah Grey
Greg Guirard
Paul F. R. Hamilton
Clarence John Laughlin
Herman Leonard
Howard Roffman
J. T. Seaton
Jerry Uelsmann
Gareth Watkins
Brett Weston

The Mirror Project
(My pics therein: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.)

Chuck's Photo of the Day Archive


The Amazing Adventures of Bill,
by Bill Roundy

Bloom County / Outland / Opus,
by Berkeley Breathed

Bob the Angry Flower,
by Stephen Notley

The Boondocks,
by Aaron McGruder

Calvin and Hobbes,
by Bill Watterson

by Garry B. Trudeau

Electric Sheep Comix
by Patrick Farley

Get Your War On
by David Rees

by Jonathan Rosenberg

L. A. Cucaracha
by Lalo Alcaraz

by Peter Blegvad

Lil' Abner,
by Al Capp

Lulu Eightball,
by Emily Flake

The Mostly Unfabulous Social Life of Ethan Green,
by Eric Orner

by Walt Kelly

Ted Rall,
by Ted Rall

This Modern World,
by Tom Tomorrow

XQUZYPHYR & Overboard,
by August J. Pollak

Films seen this year:
(with ratings):

Meet the Fockers (***)

Lookin' at da TV:

"The West Wing"
"Battlestar Galactica"
"The Sopranos"
"Six Feet Under"
"Malcolm In The Middle"
"Star Trek: Enterprise"
"One Tree Hill"
"Queer Eye for the Straight Guy"
"The Simpsons"
"Father Ted"
The Food Network


Polly Ticks: (Progressive politics & news)
Daily Kos (My favorite political weblog)
Eschaton (The Mighty Atrios)
Hullaballoo (The Mighty Digby)
Media Matters for America (Debunking right-wing media lies)
Orcinus (David Neiwert)
PostSecret (Secrets sent in via postcards; astonishingly beautiful, funny and sad.)
Talking Points Memo (Josh Marshall)
TAPPED (The American Prospect Online)
TruthOut (William Rivers Pitt & Co.)

Borowitz Report
(Political satire)
The Complete Bushisms (quotationable!)
The Fray (Your stories)
Landover Baptist (Better Christians than YOU!)
Maledicta (The International Journal of Verbal Aggression)
The Morning Fix from SF Gate (Opinions, extreme irreverence)
The New York Review of Science Fiction
The Onion (Scarily funny news/satire)
"Rush, Newspeak and Fascism: An exegesis", by David Neiwert. (Read this.) (Not the actual White House, but it should be)

Weblogs I read:

American Leftist
The BradLands
The Carpetbagger Report
Considered Harmful
Creek Running North
Anil Dash
Ethel the Blog
Follow Me Here
Franklin Avenue
Ghost in the Machine
Hit or Miss
The Hoopla 500
Jesus' General
Mark A. R. Kleiman
The Leaky Cauldron
Letting Loose With the Leptard
Little. Yellow. Different.
Making Light
Martini Republic
Mister Pants
More Like This
Mr. Barrett
Neil Gaiman's Journal
News of the Dead
No More Mr. Nice Guy!
August J. Pollak
Q Daily News
Real Live Preacher
Respectful of Otters
Right Hand Thief
Roger "Not That One" Ailes
Ted Rall
Sadly, No!
This Modern World
Whiskey Bar
What's In Rebecca's Pocket?

Matthew's GLB blog portal

L.A. Blogs

My Darlin' New Orleans:

Gambit Weekly


New Orleans ...
proud to blog it home:

Library Chronicles
Metroblogging N.O.
Right Hand Thief

The Final Frontier:

Astronomy Pic of the Day
ISS Alpha News
NASA Human Spaceflight
Spaceflight Now


Locus Magazine Online
SF Site

Made with Macintosh

Hosted by pair Networks

Déanta:  This page is coded by hand, with BBEdit 4.0.1 on an Apple G4 15" PowerBook running MacOS X 10.3 if I'm at home; occasionally with telnet and Pico on a FreeBSD Unix host running tcsh if I'm updating from work. (I never could get used to all those weblogging tools.)

LOOKA!Bia agus deoch, ceol agus craic.

New Orleans News: / Times-Picayune,
WWL New Orleans, WDSU New Orleans.

New Orleans Music: WWOZ-in-Exile.

  Thursday, September 29, 2005

Chef Austin Leslie, R.I.P.   :-(   Via WWL:

Chef Austin Leslie's cookbook

Austin Leslie, the New Orleans chef whose Chez Helene soul food restaurant inspired the television show "Frank's Place" in the 1980s, has died in Atlanta, where he had evacuated after being rescued from Hurricane Katrina's flood waters, a publicist said.

Until Katrina struck on Aug. 29, Leslie had been working at Pampy's Creole Kitchen, which has shut down in the flood's aftermath. Owner Stan "Pampy" Barre said Leslie died Thursday morning.

"It was an absolute shock," Barre said. "I had spoken to Austin two days ago. He called me and told me he was looking to get back to work."

The cause of death had not been determined said Vincent Sylvain, a publicist for the restaurant. Leslie's age was not immediately available.

Leslie, with his trademark white ship captain's hat, was already well known in New Orleans when producer Hugh Wilson and actor Tim Reid developed "Frank's Place." It was loosely based on Chez Helene, a hideaway that drew people from around the city to the gritty low-income neighborhood for Leslie's fried chicken, stuffed peppers, gumbo and variety of seafood dishes.

The CBS show was critically acclaimed but short-lived, with only 22 episodes made after its 1987 premier.

Leslie, meanwhile, proved to be a better chef than businessman, declaring bankruptcy in the late 1980s and eventually closing Chez Helene in 1994.

Leslie later surfaced at Jacques-Imo's, a popular restaurant in New Orleans' Carrollton neighborhood, where he spent five years.

Sylvain said Leslie and his wife had to be rescued from the roof of their home in New Orleans after Katrina inundated most of the city with flood waters. They were taken first to the Louisiana Superdome, plagued by power outages and damage from the storm, then to Atlanta. Sylvain said it was unclear whether the stress of the evacuation contributed to Leslie's death.

Although I'm glad I've had Chef Austin's cooking, I was always sorry that I never made it to the Chez.

UPDATE: More from the Times-Picayune.

The jazz funeral of Tuba Fats.   I'd posted most of these photos over a year and a half ago, but now that I'm moving pictures over to Flickr I thought I'd repost the set of pictures I took on January 18, 2004 for anyone who might have missed them the first time around.

The carriage driver, taking Tuba to his Closer Walk

Here's my brief description from the previous post:

The jazz funeral of Anthony "Tuba Fats" Lacen, one of New Orleans' most beloved brass band and traditional jazz musicians, took place on Sunday, January 18, 2004. I was lucky enough to be back home at the time, and wouldn't have missed it for the world.

I was planning to join the second line, but wandered into Gallier Hall just as the service was starting. Even though I was quite a bit underdressed (to my chagrin), I was immediately handed a program and ushered into the service, which was just getting started. Family, friends and fans mourned together, the Tremé and Tuxedo Brass Bands played, one of Tuba's young relatives played "St. James Infirmary" on solo trumpet, Deacon John made me cry with a beautiful hymn, the preacher gave a great sermon, telling the congretation that Tuba's life is "to be continued" -- just like an episode of the old Batman and Robin TV show -- in the next life. There were tears, there was laughter, there was great music and a magnificent sendoff to a great musician.

The funeral parade and second line left Gallier Hall, went down St. Charles to Poydras, down to Carondelet, across Canal to Bourbon Street and through the French Quarter down St. Ann St. to Jackson Square, where they stopped in front of the bench were Tuba and his Chosen Few Jazzmen and Brass Bands played for free, then up St. Peter to Preservation Hall, where he was a member of numerous ensembles, then up to N. Rampart and over to St. Louis Cemetery No. 1, where he was laid to rest.

(We still miss you, Tuba.)

Preservationists: "Don't tear down New Orleans."   I really hope people like this can make a difference ... from today's Times-Picayune:

In the aftermath of a natural disaster, the first instinct of local and federal officials is to tear down devastated structures -- an "instinct that is almost always wrong," said the president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, who urged officials at the group's annual symposium here to lobby for the preservation of New Orleans' historic buildings.

"There are new technologies, new building practices that can be brought to bear that were not available even 15 years ago," said Richard Moe, president of the trust, which spearheads preservation efforts in all 50 states. To thunderous applause from the packed auditorium in downtown Portland, he stressed that: "No historical building" in New Orleans "should be torn down without a survey."

The trust's president is attempting to place his organization at the forefront of the debate over whether the low-lying areas of the hurricane-ravaged city should be rebuilt.

[...] According to the trust, there are 20 neighborhoods within New Orleans designated on the National Register of Historic Places, containing 37,000 historic structures.

"There's a lot of talk about mold," Moe said. "But there are measures that can be taken" to mitigate its effect and save the historic core of New Orleans from demolition.

[...] "You can't save New Orleans without rebuilding what's there," Moe said. "It has this unique character.

"No other city in the country or in the world has these layers of cultures, traditions, histories...It's the Creole home, the corner shop, the shotgun structure that makes up the vernacular architecture."

There was a terrific article in the New York Times the other day about 83-year-old New Orleans master plasterer Earl A. Barthé, from a family who for the last 150 years have provided artisanal plaster to homes and buildings, and are among the dwindling number who are part of the city's "architectural soul."

We need people like him now, more than ever. What's more, we need some home folks to come back and be his apprentices.

Corking profits.   Britain's Independent writes of how their country's finest restaurants "massively overcharge for wine."

The situation isn't too different in this country. Sommeliers and restauranteurs may disagree, but I find bottle prices in most fine restaurants to be just out of control. I can rarely afford a bottle of wine in a restaurant, and usually only order by the glass. (Besides, if I'm having multiple courses, one bottle of one type of wine isn't going to necessarily go with all the dishes anyway. I also don't need to get that plastered, either.)

I don't have any problem with restauranteurs marking up a bottle of wine for resale, but c'mon ... four to six times the retail price? That's a bit much.

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Oh frabjous day! Calooh! Callay!   Tom DeLay has been indicted and will step down as House Majority Leader today.

God, it's about feckin' time. Let this be just the beginning. Frist is next.

"Brownie" warned early of shortages.   The Associated Press reports that former FEMA director Michael Brown "was warned weeks before Hurricane Katrina hit that his agency's backlogged computer systems could delay supplies and put personnel at risk during an emergency, according to an audit released Wednesday."

This would seem to contradict his claims during his gorge-buoying testimony yesterday that he was taken unawares by the lack of manpower and resources in his agency. That claim is also contradicted by one of his own statements a year before, to CNN's histrionic Wolf Blitzer, on September 26, 2004:

BROWN CLAIM: FEMA Was Stretched Beyond It Capabilities.

"Mr. Chairman, this event stretched FEMA beyond its capabilities. There's no question about that. It did it in several ways. One is FEMA, over the past several years, has lost a lot of manpower. At one point during my tenure, because of assessments by the Department of Homeland Security, FEMA has lost -- at one point, we were short 500 people in an organization of about 2,500. You do the math. That's pretty significant. FEMA has suffered from the inability to grow to meet the demands."

FACT: Brown Said FEMA Had All The Manpower It Needed.

BLITZER: Are you ready? Is FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, ready to deal with this new hurricane?

BROWN: We absolutely are. We have all the manpower and resources we need. President Bush has been a very great supporter of FEMA. [CNN, 9/26/04]

Some more of Brown's revisionist history:

BROWN CLAIM: "FEMA doesn't evacuate communities."

FACT: Brown Said FEMA Was Engaging In Evacuations During Katrina.

"If there is still floodwaters around there, they shouldn't be trying to evacuate those patients by themselves. The Coast Guard, FEMA, all of those continue to do those rescue missions and we continue to do those evacuations and we'll certainly continue to evacuate all of the hospitals." [CNN, 9/1/05]

BROWN CLAIM: "I can't discuss with you my conversations with the president's chief of staff and the president."

FACT: Brown Spoke to New York Times About Conversations With Chief of Staff.

"Hours after Hurricane Katrina passed New Orleans on Aug. 29, as the scale of the catastrophe became clear, Michael D. Brown recalls, he placed frantic calls to his boss, Michael Chertoff, the secretary of homeland security, and to the office of the White House chief of staff, Andrew H. Card Jr. [...] 'I am having a horrible time,' Mr. Brown said he told Mr. Chertoff and a White House official -- either Mr. Card or his deputy, Joe Hagin -- in a status report that evening. 'I can't get a unified command established.'" [NYT, 9/15/05]

"Completely full of shit" would be, I think, an apt description of this man. He needs to go away quickly, but before he does he needs to give up his boss Chertoff, whom I believe to be nearly as incompetent.

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Gene's from above.   A few weeks ago my friend Michael, a Faubourg Marigny resident, asked me to find the neighborhood around Elysian Fields and St. Claude on the aerial photo maps from Katrina, mostly taken on August 31 - September 2. I mentioned that I was getting good at finding specific streets and houses, and some of his friends were concerned about their roofs. I found it easily enough, and as it turned out their roofs looks pretty good. I deliberately didn't look at the building on the corner, though, because ... well, maybe I just didn't want to see if Gene's had gotten trashed. That's weird, because I looked up Commander's and all kinds of other places. Now that I think about it, maybe it's because I knew that big places like Commander's will be back, and the little po-boy shops are in the greatest danger.

Robert wrote a great post on his great New Orleans food weblog Appetites that elucidated some of the very same fears some of my New Orleans friends and I have had lately:

[...] I heard a piece on NPR about a guy whose home was in the 9th Ward. He had evacuated to Memphis, I believe, and he was asked what he missed most. Fried shrimp po-boys on Fridays, and red beans on Mondays was the first thing he mentioned. He was crying, and the tears were not for the food, but for the city. He was just expressing the loss through something so familiar and something that felt like home.

I think it says something about the importance of food in New Orleans that so many people mention what they eat when they talk about what they miss from the Crescent City. I think it also says something that most of what they miss is not the high-end restaurant food but the kind of stuff you find in New Orleans on any given street corner.

Sure, the gumbo at Commander's Palace is very good, but the best gumbo you'll ever eat is at someone's Mamma's place. Everyone in New Orleans has a favorite place to get a fried shrimp, roast beef, or some other kind of po-boy, and most of those places serve fantastic food at a reasonable price. I love eating at white-tablecloth restaurants, but I'm equally in love with the native street-food of my city, even if I don't give it the attention on this website that I give to fine dining.

The soul of eating in New Orleans is not found at Galatoire's, or Antoine's, or Clancy's. It's the proclivity of really outstanding food at neighborhood joints you wouldn't look at twice if you were a tourist. More than that it's the expectations of average New Orleanians that if we stop into a hole in the wall, we'll get good food. Because it's important.

I wonder if there is any place else in this country where that is the case? I know there is great food to be found all over the US. I think that pound for pound, there are a half dozen cities that have better restaurants than New Orleans. But I wonder if I walked into some dive in any other part of the nation, whether I could get a truly good meal for $5? I doubt it.

There has been a lot written about what's wrong with New Orleans in the last few weeks, and deservedly so. I truly hope that the hurricane has given us an opportunity to do away with some of the things about my city that I don't miss. I could do without the endemic corruption, for example.

But I hope that in rebuilding the city we don't lose the folks who expect a good po-boy at the corner gas station. I hope we don't lose the people who make five pounds of red beans on Monday and invite the neighbors over for lunch. I hope we don't lose the people who really, truly understand how important it is to have good food.

It's something that worries me, because I keep reading about how many of our citizens might not come back. I'm not talking about those of our citizens who committed the kinds of crimes that will forever give my city a black eye. Fuck them. I'm talking about the working men and women of my city; those folks who probably didn't own their homes, or if they did: lost them. We need our citizens back, and we need them dearly if we are ever to have a real New Orleans again. And incidentally, I'm not talking about black folks, or white folks, or asians, or latinos. I'm talking about New Orleanians.

The potential loss of a chunk of our essential population worries us. The potential loss of places like Gene's worries us. The little poor boy shops, the mom and pop places, the holes in the wall. What will become of them?

Yesterday Michael asked in comments:

The flyover pictures can be deceiving, but the pictures I saw did not leave me very optimistic about Gene's. Definitely what looks like some fairly intense roof damage. Chuck, maybe you can clip and post a close-up?

I held my breath and did it. It kills me to say that it doesn't look good.

I'm hoping it's wreckage of the billboard, but some of it looked bizarrely pink.

Jelly Roll and New Orleans jazz.   Via Tom (thanks!), here's a nice feature from the Chiago Tribune on the immortal Ferdinand Morton, subject of a forthcoming box set that I greatly covet.

Jelly Roll Morton was flat broke.

Playing piano in a dive in Washington, D.C., the first composer of jazz -- the New Orleans genius who was writing hits when Louis Armstrong still was learning how to talk -- considered it a great night when he pulled down $10.

But in that desperate year of 1938, three years before his tragic death at age 55, Morton sat at the keys in Coolidge Auditorium at the Library of Congress and rhapsodized on the story of his life, the birth of jazz and the ways in which blacks and whites and Creoles like him lived and died in old New Orleans.

All the while, a pair of crude, battery-operated disc-recording machines captured his precious reminiscences on several dozen acetate plates, his gravelly voice singing tunes that the rest of the world had long since forgotten, his still-dexterous fingers re-creating the piano styles of earlier New Orleans pianists who had faded into oblivion.

In unsparing detail, he recounted the way the music unfolded in brothels and on street corners in Storyville, New Orleans' fabled vice district, the way it erupted in rambunctious parades that often turned into bloodbaths.

As Morton sang and talked and laughed and lamented, he not only mapped out precisely how and why a new American art form had appeared in the city of his birth, he also demonstrated his role as one of its two principal architects (the other being Armstrong). For if Armstrong, who was about 15 years younger, was the first great solo improviser in jazz, Morton was its groundbreaking composer, the first man to publish a jazz tune ("Jelly Roll Blues" in 1915), the first artist who cracked the code of putting to paper this seemingly unruly music.

Until now, the only way to hear those recordings in full was to travel to the Library of Congress in Washington, don a set of headphones and listen to nine hours of Morton's half-sung, half-spoken soliloquies. Though some of this material had been produced as a series of LPs in the late 1940s and again in the '50s, it was severely edited, omitting the often racy song lyrics that Morton recalled from his early days in New Orleans.

On Tuesday, when Rounder Records releases "Jelly Roll Morton: The Complete Library of Congress Recordings by Alan Lomax" (an eight-CD boxed set that lists for $127.98), an international public will begin to discover what some experts have known for years: That the composer-pianist not only penned such jazz masterpieces as "King Porter Stomp" and "Jungle Blues" but, equally important, that he built the intellectual framework for understanding jazz through his Library of Congress recordings.

Specifically, by explaining how the music emerged and detailing its central techniques and practices, Morton in these sessions effectively shaped the way listeners thereafter have perceived the art form.

The very notion, in fact, that jazz -- a music that dared to draw inspiration from both the church and the whorehouse -- could be considered an art form owed a great deal to Morton's breakthroughs as composer in the early part of the 20th Century and his explication of them several decades later, on these recordings.


I've heard excerpts from this, and I can't wait to hear the whole thing.

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  Monday, September 26, 2005

Rumors of N.O. deaths greatly exaggerated.   I hadn't yet gotten a chance to read the Times-Picayune on the web this morning, when this article arrived from uncle Mike in Algiers. Read the entire story, not just the excerpt below.

After five days managing near-riots, medical horrors and unspeakable living conditions inside the Superdome, Louisiana National Guard Col. Thomas Beron prepared to hand over the dead to representatives of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Following days of internationally reported killings, rapes and gang violence inside the Dome, the doctor from FEMA - Beron doesn't remember his name - came prepared for a grisly scene: He brought a refrigerated 18-wheeler and three doctors to process bodies.

"I've got a report of 200 bodies in the Dome," Beron recalls the doctor saying.

The real total was six, Beron said.

Of those, four died of natural causes, one overdosed and another jumped to his death in an apparent suicide, said Beron, who personally oversaw the turning over of bodies from a Dome freezer, where they lay atop melting bags of ice. State health department officials in charge of body recovery put the official death count at the Dome at 10, but Beron said the other four bodies were found in the street near the Dome, not inside it. Both sources said no one had been killed inside.

At the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, just four bodies were recovered, despites reports of corpses piled inside the building. Only one of the dead appeared to have been slain, said health and law enforcement officials.

That the nation's front-line emergency management believed the body count would resemble that of a bloody battle in a war is but one of scores of examples of myths about the Dome and the Convention Center treated as fact by evacuees, the media and even some of New Orleans' top officials, including the mayor and police superintendent. As the fog of warlike conditions in Hurricane Katrina's aftermath has cleared, the vast majority of reported atrocities committed by evacuees have turned out to be false, or at least unsupported by any evidence, according to key military, law enforcement, medical and civilian officials in positions to know.

"I think 99 percent of it is bullshit," said Sgt. 1st Class Jason Lachney, who played a key role in security and humanitarian work inside the Dome. "Don't get me wrong, bad things happened, but I didn't see any killing and raping and cutting of throats or anything. ... Ninety-nine percent of the people in the Dome were very well-behaved."

Dr. Louis Cataldie, the state Health and Human Services Department administrator overseeing the body recovery operation, said his teams were inundated with false reports about the Dome and Convention Center.

"We swept both buildings several times, because we kept getting reports of more bodies there," Cataldie said. "But it just wasn't the case."

[...] As floodwaters forced tens of thousands of evacuees into the Dome and Convention Center, news of unspeakable acts poured out of the nation's media: evacuees firing at helicopters trying to save them; women, children and even babies raped with abandon; people killed for food and water; a 7-year-old raped and killed at the Convention Center. Police, according to their chief, Eddie Compass, found themselves in multiple shootouts inside both shelters, and were forced to race toward muzzle flashes through the dark to disarm the criminals; snipers supposedly fired at doctors and soldiers from downtown high-rises.

In interviews with Oprah Winfrey, Compass reported rapes of "babies," and Mayor Ray Nagin spoke of "hundreds of armed gang members" killing and raping people inside the Dome. Unidentified evacuees told of children stepping over so many bodies, "we couldn't count."

The picture that emerged was one of the impoverished, masses of flood victims resorting to utter depravity, randomly attacking each other, as well as the police trying to protect them and the rescue workers trying to save them. Nagin told Winfrey the crowd has descended to an "almost animalistic state."

Four weeks after the storm, few of the widely reported atrocities have been backed with evidence. The piles of bodies never materialized, and soldiers, police officers and rescue personnel on the front lines say that although anarchy reigned at times and people suffered unimaginable indignities, most of the worst crimes reported at the time never happened.

[...] Rumors of rampant violence at the Convention Center prompted Louisiana National Guard Lt. Col. Jacques Thibodeaux put together a 1,000-man force of soldiers and police in full battle gear to secure the center Sept. 2 at about noon.

It took only 20 minutes to take control, and soldiers met no resistance, Thibodeaux said. What the soldiers found - elderly people and infants near death without food, water and medicine; crowds living in filth - shocked them more than anything they'd seen in combat zones overseas. But they found no evidence, witnesses or victims of any killings, rapes or beatings, Thibodeaux said.

Another commander at the scene, Lt. Col. John Edwards of the Arkansas National Guard, said the crowd welcomed the soldiers. "It reminded me of the liberation of France in World War II. There were people cheering; one boy even saluted," he said. "We never - never once - encountered any hostility."

One widely circulated tale, told to The Times-Picayune by a slew of evacuees and two Arkansas National Guardsmen, held that "30 or 40 bodies" were stored in a Convention Center freezer. But a formal Arkansas Guard review of the matter later found that no soldier had actually seen the corpses, and that the information came from rumors in the food line for military, police and rescue workers in front of Harrah's New Orleans Casino, said Edwards, who conducted the review.

[...] As the Dome cleared out Sept. 3, Beron, the National Guard commander, fashioned a plan to deal with the dead. He knew of the six bodies in the freezer, but expected far more. He and an Ohio National Guard commander sent 450 Ohio troops to search every nook of the Dome, top to bottom. They told them to mark locations of bodies on a map of the Dome, to rope off suspected crime scenes, and leave a chemical light sticks next to each one so they could be retrieved later.

"I fully expected to find more bodies, both homicides and natural causes," he said.

They found nothing.

It's imperative that the national media repeat THIS story as well, not just the the ones that are being debunked, the ones that sell more papers.

Hackberry blues.   New Orleans may have squeaked through Rita (with the crushingly sad exception of the Lower Ninth Ward), but the same can't be said for a huge swath of the land of Cajuns and Creoles in southwest Louisiana.

Cameron Parish saw destruction saw destruction almost at the level of Hurricane Audrey in 1957, although thankfully with none of the loss of life. The population of Hackberry is currently zero, where "all 750 homes were damanged, and most were destroyed." Holly Beach, the "Cajun Riviera", was levelled. "Officials who flew over in helicopters said they would have no reason to think that a town had ever been there if it hadn't been for a few telephone poles jutting out of the water."

I hope all the good people of Cameron, Calcasieu, Vermilion and all the other affected parishes can get back on their feet and rebuild their lives as well. It's going to be a long road for all of us.

Good news for the Holy Cross Tigers.   My heart broke watching footage of water cascading back into the Lower Ninth Ward, and I kept thinking about my high school's 126-year-old campus, how it got 5-8 feet of water from Katrina and was about to be deluged again.

I was relieved to read this report on the school's temporary website from Charlie DiGange, our old chemistry teacher and senior class adviser, and now the Headmaster of the school:

Based on an eyewitness report, the buildings on campus did not receive additional flooding from hurricane Rita. The floodwaters did not go past Dauphine Street that was good news to hear. We will meet on campus this Wednesday with the insurance adjustor and have the recovery team begin work shortly there after. The plan is to have our main campus open by January 1, 2006, if not before.

Roll-off! (Digga-digga-dum! Digga-digga-dum! Digga-digga-digga-digga-DUM!)

Cheer, cheer for old Holy Cross,
Cheer her in victory, cheer her in loss!
Send a volley cheer on high,
Shake down the thunder from the sky!
What though the odds be great or be small,
Old Holy Cross will win over all,
While her loyal sons go marching
Onward to victory!

(That's the Fight Song, as if you couldn't tell. And yeah, I know, it's just like the Notre Dame Fight song. Sue us.)

I found a series of articles in Newsday by fellow HC alumnus Alex Martin (whom I didn't know but who I think I remember, slightly). One of them talks of a post-Katrina visit back to campus with Charlie DiGange:

Charles DiGange, who tried to teach me chemistry in the 11th grade, stared in wonder at the more than 100-year-old gazebo shaded by majestic oaks at the heart of Holy Cross School's 13-acre campus.

Dried mud crunched underfoot. A twisted piece of copper roof lay five feet away. Broken oak limbs sat atop a breezeway just behind him. Only minutes before, he had seen what 5-1/2 feet of floodwater, howling winds and stinging rain from Hurricane Katrina had done to the 110-year-old administration building to his right.

"Good God," he had said.

It wasn't pretty, but, for this moment, the school's headmaster, his pants tucked into black rubber boots and his hands covered in orange rubber gloves, chose to focus on the graceful gazebo that has been its symbol.

"Look at the gazebo, just standing there, nothing touched," Charlie said. "Isn't that something? Never moved. Not a shingle missing. Just stood there. Standing in the middle of the devastation, standing like a beacon of hope."

The gazebo, at Holy Cross School, Lower Ninth Ward, New Orleans

When I was a student there, the gazebo was in the back of campus, back by the levee (the campus is right on the Mississippi River where it joins the Industrial Canal). A while after I graduated it was moved to the center of campus, a more visible and appropriate spot, as the gazebo has indeed become the symbol of the campus and school.

I love the "tried to teach me chemistry" line, by the way. There was not much more success in trying to teach me chemistry at HC either; I recall a straight "C" average, and they were likely being generous.

Gene's.   I've been uploading more stuff to my Flickr photostream as I sort them -- recent digital pics, old prints as I scan them, etc. I just wanted to share a favorite landmark with an uncertain future, a place that looked shocking pink on the outside, like a dump on the inside, and where one could get one of New Orleans' greatest gustatory experiences: the hot sausage and cheese po-boy at Gene's, on Elysian Fields at St. Claude.

Artsy-fartsy close-up of the sign.

The counter - no frills, and no need for frills.

A work of art - Gene's hot sausage and cheese po-boy

I wish I had taken a better shot of the poor boy.

CONTROL Agent 86, Maxwell Smart, RIP.   Comic actor Don Adams has died, at age 82.

I grew up with "Get Smart", and I loved it. I once got in trouble in kindergarten for annoying my fellow kindergarteners by talking into my shoe. (I was a very imaginitive child.)

I second Wes' suggestion, who invites us to spend a respectful moment in the Cone of Silence.

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  Saturday, September 24, 2005

Black sheets of rain.   Whew.

So far so good. The depressing state of the Ninth Ward and St. Bernard notwithstanding, it looks like we lucked out for now. Now we've just gotta hope that the levees hold while the water in the lake is still high.

The family's all fine, but I'm worried about friends with houses in Bayou St. John and the Marigny, who think they had roof damage from katrina and never had a chance to patch it before Rita blew in. Marie said they didn't get all that much rain in New Orleans, and the wind was blowing a lot of it sideways rather than dumping it straight down, so maybe it won't be too bad.

I still haven't heard or read anything about whether or not they got more water in the East. If so, I hope it wasn't more than a couple of feet in the street, or it'll likely delay my trip back home

Hey Mother N., no more hurricanes in the Gulf this season, please? Pretty please?

Pitchas.   I went ahead and bought a Flickr Pro account, primarily for its hosting and its "unlimited bandwidth", so I can post photos on here without racking up huge bandwidth charges. I had wanted to start posting photos more often, especially of food and of my collection from antediluvian New Orleans.

I'll have a new thingy in the right-hand sidebar, and you can find my photos here.

Here are a couple from my last meal at Liuzza's (which I hope won't be my last meal at Liuzza's), to go along with the photos I posted of pre-flood and post-flood Liuzza's.

Mmmmm, deep-fried pickles ...
(Deep-fried pickles!)

Fried catfish and Oysters Rockefeller casserole
(Fried catfish filets with Oysters Rockefeller casserole)

Man, was it good.

This is going to hurt you a lot more than it's going to hurt me.   This piece, by Tim Grieve from Salon's War Room, needs to be read in its entirety:

As Think Progress notes today, the $200 billion the federal government may need to pay for Hurricane Katrina could be covered entirely -- and then some -- by simply rolling back the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts for the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans.

As we reported yesterday, House Republicans have another way to come up with the money: They want to carve $500 billion in spending out of the federal budget. How would they do it? Their "Operation Offset" plan is available online now and it's full of brave talk about the "tough choices" that will be required in these "tough times." We'll acknowledge that some of the choices listed therein are, in fact, pretty tough: If you don't want to roll back tax cuts for millionaires, you're going to have to tell Republican Rep. Don Young why he can't have his $200 million bridge to nowhere and America's seniors why they need to wait an additional year for help with their prescriptions.

But somehow, we get the idea that the House Republicans' plan isn't quite as painful -- for them, at least -- as they'd like to make it out to be. Like the Heritage Foundation, the House Republicans apparently see in Katrina an opportunity to advance some of their favorite policy goals and make some cuts that won't exactly bring tears to the eyes of the religious right or the corporate interests who support them. Some examples:

The Republicans would freeze funding for the Peace Corps, the Global AIDS Initiative, U.N. peacekeeping operations and a wide variety of third-world development programs; eliminate the EnergyStar program, eliminate grants to states and local communities for energy conservation, reduce federal subsidies for Amtrak, eliminate funding for new light-rail programs and cancel the president's hydrogen fuel initiative; eliminate state grants for safe and drug-free schools because "studies show that schools are among the safest places in the country and relatively drug free"; and eliminate the teen funding portion of Title X, which provides "free and reduced-price contraceptives, including the IUD, the injection drug Depo-Provera, and the morning-after pill" to poor teenagers.

Along the way, they'd find a way to punish -- or simply eliminate -- some of their enemies, real and imagined. They'd cut funding for the District of Columbia, eliminate funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, eliminate subsidized student loans for graduate students, terminate the Legal Services Corporation, eliminate funding for the National Endowment for the Arts and kill the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Of course, you can't balance the budget on the backs of PBS viewers, grad students and other outside-the-mainstream liberals alone. So the Republican plan also calls for "rational reforms to Defense and Homeland Security." Does this mean cutting weapons systems at the expense of big defense corporations? Well, no. But it does mean closing schools for the children of soldiers, cutting grants for local responders and offering National Guard members the "option" to purchase a less comprehensive healthcare plan.

We've all got to do our part. Or at least 99 percent of us do.

My feelings for the politicians of that party are nothing less than a great and terrible loathing.

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  Friday, September 23, 2005

The Ninth Ward is flooding again.   I'd be sinking into despair at the moment, but part of me asks, how can you destroy something that's already been destroyed? One Ninth Ward resident, watching the live coverage from shelter in Lafayette, said "It's like looking at a murder. The first time is bad. After that, you numb up."

Then there's my poor old high school, which is in the Lower Ninth Ward and got 3-5 feet of water the first time around, and will probably get it again. We can only hope that the parts of the city that stayed dry last time stay dry this time too, but I've heard reports of leaks on the west side of the Industrial Canal levee. If that goes, then the lower Bywater, Marigny and the Quarter are going to get inundated.

Efuckingnough, already.

Too much loss.   The sad news never stops. I read this on Poppy's journal today:

I heard yesterday that Mrs. Mary Hansen had died. Sixty-six years ago, Mrs. Mary opened Hansen's Sno-Bliz, which is featured in Liquor. She concocted the syrups daily from fresh ingredients and her husband, Mr. Ernest, invented the Sno-Bliz machine that shaved ice more finely than any other snowball machine in town. The family evacuated to Thibodeaux and I guess she just lost heart. She was in her nineties and Mr. Ernest was by her side when she died.

Mrs. Mary and Mr. Ernest

The above photo was sent in by Edward Newman (thanks a million), who sent along the following reminiscence:

[This is how] I like to remember Hansen's and the Hansens, taken in an unimaginably remote time, August, 2001 when life was so much simpler.

The key to success at Hansen's was to have Ernest working the ice and Mary on the syrup. Of course, in the past few years most of the work has been taken over by the apple of all of Uptown's eye, granddaughter Ashley Hansen, who has risen to the task (and who, when she heard I was moving from New Orleans this past December offered to open the shop up just for me for one last Sno-Bliz!! Now that's customer service!)

I also got a kick out of see Mary and Ernest's son and Ashley's Dad Judge Hansen working with Ashley. I remembered him as a criminal magistrate judge when I did criminal defense work, and loved seeing him on spring and summer Saturday morning's at the Magazine street greenmarket, where I'd promise him "see you later" and I always would. Mmm, half lemonade, half sno-bliz; or half cream of coffee, half cream of chocolate. Heaven on earth.

My condolences to the Hansens.

I remember the Hansens well, although it wasn't my usual sno-ball stand (other than the little ones in the neighborhood where I grew up, I usually went to Plum Street, Uptown). And of course, it was Mr. Ernest who invented the Sno-Bliz machine, which shaved ice more finely than any other ice shaving or crushing machine.

I hadn't realized this last Sunday, when I was making makeshift sno-balls. Every September Wes' church (where I go occasionally too, and where I pretty much know everyone) throws a Fall Festival, and Wes helps out with the "sno-cone" concession. Over the years I've insinuated myself into the making of the cones, doing my best to make them more like New Orleans sno-balls (although we still haven't been able to get the ice as finely shaved as it needs to be). This year I made up a batch of nectar syrup, and served the sno-cones with condensed milk on top, as they should be. (The L.A. crowd, who'd never heard of such a thing, went wild over that.) Nectar sno-balls with condensed milk is pretty much close to heaven, and was such a uniquely New Orleans experience that it made me feel much better last Sunday. It would have been far more bittersweet if I had known about Mrs. Mary.

To make a pretty decent batch of passable New Orleans nectar syrup, take one bottle of Torani vanilla syrup, one bottle of Torani almond syrup, mix them together in a large pitcher, add 2 teaspoons of red food coloring, mix and rebottle.

Although I had no pictures of my own of either Hansen's Sno-Bliz or Williams' Plum Street Sno-balls handy, I did manage to dig up a few recent sno-ball-related pictures (taken five months ago), as a tribute to Mrs. Mary:

In order, there's Tee-Eva's on Magazine Street, where you can get soul food and sno-balls; Pandora's Sno-Balls on Carrollton; Pandora's menu; Wes and me with our half-dozen Manuel's Hot Tamales and an orchid cream vanilla sno-ball, respectively; a closeup of the orchid cream vanilla sno-ball, a classic sno-ball flavor and one of those only in New Orleans things; and a picture of Nettie, me, Mary and Wes, looking a little motley and semi-threatening for some reason, in front of the barbershop next door to Pandora's.

I want a sno-ball. A proper one. Shaved as fine as real snow, with nectar and condensed milk, in a Chinese food container. Now.

Not from The Onion.   In fact, from the CBS-TV affiliate in San Francisco, and with an even more jaw-dropping video. In a perfect example of why I don't watch local news (except in New Orleans, for some reason; Dennis and Angela are still classy), here's KPIX with "Interview with the Chaplain", "The Vampire Chertoff", "FEMA of the Damned", and other stories that never came out of 1239 First Street:

The presence of the supernatural and the influence of voodoo long have been synonymous with New Orleans.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, members of the U.S. military are saying that there's something spooky going on and it's not just images of death and destruction that's haunting them.

By all accounts, the Sophie B. Wright Middle School in New Orleans sits empty and evacuated except for military personnel who have taken over the campus as a staging site for missions around the battered city.

But the men in uniform have the feeling that they're not alone. It prompted a chaplain to utter this directive: "In the name of Jesus Chris, I command you Satan to leave the dark areas of this building."

Said Sgt. Robin Hairston of the California National Guard: "I was in my sleeping bag and I opened by eyes and in the doorway was a little girl," . "It wasn't my imagination."

Hairston wasn't the only one seeing things. Spc. Rosales Leanor had her own close encounter.

"I was using the restroom and I just saw a little shadow," Leanor said, "kind of looming in front of me."

Another member of the Guard unit said that she saw and heard a little girl laughing when she opened a closet that contained cleaning supplies.

At a Baton Rouge marina, boats were strewn like trash, but not a shred of paper could be found. Except for the pages of a Bible, which was found by a soldier. It was open to the Book of Revelations.

At a nearby church, nearly destroyed, another Bible was found, showing the exact same passage from Revelations.

Like the power of nature, there is a power at work in New Orleans that defies explanation.

Yeah, I'd say it's the power of a lot of freaked-out National Guards troops in the middle of America's worst natural disaster who are under a lot of stress. That, plus that fucking idiot of a chaplain. "New Orleans is also very ingrained in voodoo, cannibalism, witchcraft ... this is indeed a dark city, and we're bringing the light. You know, wherever the soldiers go, there goes the word of God."

Yeah, you know, you can't drive anywhere in the city without running into a group of those goddamned cannibals ...

If anyone from the Voodoo Shop is reading this, put a mojo on his ass, willya?

Recipe of the day: Mirliton Soup.   This was in the September issue of New Orleans Magazine, which arrived a few weeks ago. I thought it might be the last one for a while, but they've got a temporary setup in Baton Rouge, and plan a special October/November issue examining the possibility of an urban renaissance in New Orleans post-Katrina.

In the meantime, I'm devouring the September issue. Food writer Dale Curry offers an appreciation of mirlitons, the mild pale green squash that's known elsewhere as "chayote" but grows like crazy all through New Orleans. Most popular is the stuffed variety, but there are mirliton casseroles (easier than doing the stuffed ones, but basically the same ingredients) and myriad other preparations; the mild flavor lends itself to almost anything.

Naturally, the lowly mirliton stands up to scrutiny on the best of restaurant tables. A mirliton-shrimp Napoleon is one of the signature dishes at Cuvée, and a shrimp-mirliton soup has been served as a special at Emeril's. Cobalt's new chef, David English, stuffs them with bacon, apple, crawfish and crab and serves them on a plate with salmon.

I've also halved, seeded and julienned raw mirlitons and mixed them into a rémoulade with shrimp, kind of a shrimp and mirliton slaw, that works really well. Then there's the magazine's recipe for this tasty-looking soup:

Mirliton Soup

  • 4 mirlitons
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped andouille
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon Creole seasoning, or to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon Tabasco
  • 1 cup heavy cream
Boil mirlitons in a large pot of water until tender. Cool, slice in half, discard seeds and peel off the thin, rough skin. Roughly chop the pulp and set aside.

Make a light roux of butter and flour, add onion and andouille, and sauté until soft. Add chicken stock, seasonings and mirliton pulp and cook over low heat for 30 minutes. Place the mixture, 2 cups at a time, in a blender and purée. Return to pot. Add cream and heat and adjust seasonings. Remove from heat before it comes to a boil, and serve.

YIELD: 6-8 servings


[ Link to today's entries ]

  Thursday, September 22, 2005

If you don't like what the Big Chief say, you say jock-a-mo-fee-na-hey ...   New Orleans' black Indians, the "Mardi Gras Indians", are spread to the four winds. But no matter -- they're keeping in touch, sticking together and getting ready for Mardi Gras. "Yeah, every year at Carnival time, we make a new suit ..."

(There's video, too.)

Tipitina's works to keep NOLA music alive.   From the Times-Picayune: "Tip's has a big vision, of being an incubator for New Orleans music - providing practice and recording facilities and caring for the human needs of musicians. The company's charitable foundation is stepping out now to take care of our scattered music community and keep the music alive."

Until the recent devastation of hurricane Katrina, the Tipitina's Foundation, a 501c3 nonprofit organization dedicated to the advancement of New Orleans music as a cultural, economic and educational resource, has devoted its efforts to uplifting the New Orleans music community through its Music Co-Ops, Instruments A-Comin' benefit concerts and the Tipitina's Internship Program. That mission has changed, as we now fight to save and rebuild that very community. We are currently finding musicians housing, gigs and instruments while we raise funds through donations and nationwide benefit concerts to meet the challenges facing us in the coming weeks and months. Tipitina's Uptown, 501 Napoleon Avenue, will reopen as soon as we can return as a Musical Community Center and Music Co-Op as we all come together to preserve the spirit of New Orleans.

Meanwhile, we are actively seeking donations to provide our music community in exile with whatever resources they need to survive, including clothes, gigs, instruments and options for resettlement. Donations can be made on line at or can be mailed to our temporary address in Baton Rouge.

In the upcoming weeks and months, Tipitina's will be hosting a series of nationwide benefit concerts to raise money for the foundation. Since opening its doors in 1977, the music club Tipitina's has provided New Orleans artists with a place to call home. Now we are saving our home that is New Orleans.

We appreciate any assistance and interest in helping our voices and mission be heard beyond our city's borders.

For further information please view our websites at and Or contact Tipitina's Foundation Coordinator - Dean Howard -

ReNew Orleans

There's also Renew Orleans, cosponsored by Rope-a-Dope Records and Preservation Hall through the New Orleans Musicians' Hurricane Relief Fund. Buy a t-shirt and a sticker and support the cause.

I know there are a zillion charities that need us right now, from the Red Cross to Habitat for Humanity and more. Our musicians need our help too, though, if the city and its culture are to rise again.

The Times-Picayune's amazing coverage.   Keith Thevenot, a reporter for the T-P, tells of his paper's astonishing coverage of Katrina from the streets of his city, in a superb article in American Journalism Review.

Survivor stories.   Amazing first-hand accounts from people who were trapped in the New Orleans area during and after the strike of Hurricane Katrina. (Thanks, Susan!)

Pat Robertson cashes in on Katrina.   From The Nation:

Every cloud has a silver lining. Hurricane Katrina has devastated New Orleans, leaving thousands dead and hundreds of thousands homeless, and plunging the entire city into chaos. In the hurricane's wake, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and its director, Michael Brown, forced out of his former job at the International Arabian Horse Association, with no credentials in disaster relief, have become targets of withering criticism. Yet FEMA's relief efforts have brought considerable assistance to at least one man who stands to benefit from Hurricane Katrina perhaps more than any other individual: Pat Robertson.

With the Bush Administration's approval, Robertson's $66 million relief organization, Operation Blessing, has been prominently featured on FEMA's list of charitable groups accepting donations for hurricane relief. Dozens of media outlets, including the New York Times, CNN and the Associated Press, duly reprinted FEMA's list, unwittingly acting as agents soliciting cash for Robertson. "How in the heck did that happen?" Richard Walden, president of the disaster-relief group Operation USA, asked of Operation Blessing's inclusion on FEMA's list. "That gives Pat Robertson millions of extra dollars."

Though Operation USA has conducted disaster relief for more than twenty-five years on five continents, like scores of other secular relief groups currently helping victims of Hurricane Katrina, it was omitted from FEMA's list. In fact, only two non-"faith-based" organizations were included. (One of them, the American Red Cross, is being blocked from entering New Orleans by FEMA's parent agency, the Department of Homeland Security.) FEMA, meanwhile, has reportedly turned away Wal-Mart trucks carrying food and water to the stricken city, teams of firemen from Maryland and Texas, volunteer morticians and a convoy of 1,000 boat owners offering to help rescue stranded flood victims. While relief efforts falter in the face of colossal bureaucratic incompetence, the Bush Administration's promotion of Operation Blessing has ensured that the floodwaters swallowing New Orleans will be a rising tide lifting Robertson's boat.

[...]Far from the media's gaze, Robertson has used the tax-exempt, nonprofit Operation Blessing as a front for his shadowy financial schemes, while exerting his influence within the GOP to cover his tracks. In 1994 he made an emotional plea on The 700 Club for cash donations to Operation Blessing to support airlifts of refugees from the Rwandan civil war to Zaire (now Congo). Reporter Bill Sizemore of The Virginian Pilot later discovered that Operation Blessing's planes were transporting diamond-mining equipment for the African Development Corporation, a Robertson-owned venture initiated with the cooperation of Zaire's then-dictator Mobutu Sese Seko.

Robertson's scheming hasn't abated one bit. He is accused of violating his ministry's tax-exempt, nonprofit status by using it to market a diet shake he licensed this August to the health chain General Nutrition Corp. (Robertson continues to advertise the shake on his personal website.) [Link to Robertson's site removed; I refuse to link to him. -- CT] He has withstood criticism from fellow evangelicals for investing $520,000 in a racehorse named Mr. Pat, violating biblical admonitions against gambling. He was even accused of "Jim Crow-style racial discrimination" by black employees who successfully sued his Christian Coalition in 2001 for forcing them enter its offices through a back door and eat in a segregated area (Robertson has since resigned).

The Bush Administration has studiously overlooked Robertson's misdeeds. In October 2002, just months after he denounced the White House's faith-based initiative as "a real Pandora's box"--and one month before midterm elections--Robertson pocketed $500,000 in government grants to Operation Blessing. Since then, with the sole exception of his criticism of the US intervention in Liberia, Robertson has served as a willing surrogate for the Administration. His Regent University gave John Ashcroft a cushy professorship to cool his heels after his contentious tenure as US Attorney General. And Robertson's legal foundation, the American Center for Law and Justice, is spearheading the effort to rally right-wing Christian support for Judge John G. Roberts Jr.'s confirmation as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.

Now, as fallout from the President's handling of Hurricane Katrina threatens to derail the GOP's long-term agenda, Robertson is back at the plate for Bush, echoing the White House's line that state and local authorities--and even the disaster victims themselves--are to blame for the tragedy engulfing New Orleans.

There's more; it gets worse.

If there's anyone who epitomizes biblical descriptions of a false prophet, and who's the perfect example of who Christ was referring to when he condemned hypocrites, it's this bastard.

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  Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Um. Greatest weblog ever?   I must be unconscious, or lazy, or too pickled on Sazeracs and Mothers-In-Law, or something, never to have found this astonishing weblog, which as been around for almost a year. (The excuse I've settled on: "Well goddammit, I can't know about everything.) Home of the Groove is an audioblog (posts plus MP3s) by a fellow in Lafayette named Dan Phillips. Dan loves New Orleans music, and that's what his weblog is about. In his own words, it's "based on the premise that the true Home of the Groove, at least on the North American landmass, is New Orleans, Louisiana (aka NOLA, The City That Care Forgot, Da Big Greasy, Jump City, Sugar Town...). To that end, we fleetingly blog selected rare, hard to find New Orelans-related R&B and funk tracks with some semi-pithy commentary and other barely constrained verbosity for the delectation of hardcore jaded groove junkies, the virginal uninitiated, and everybody in between."

Yeah you rite, bra.

New evaluations of the levee failure.   Via the Washington Post:

Louisiana's top hurricane experts have rejected the official explanations for the floodwall collapses that inundated much of New Orleans, concluding that Hurricane Katrina's storm surges were much smaller than authorities have suggested and that the city's flood- protection system should have kept most of the city dry.

The Army Corps of Engineers has said that Katrina was just too massive for a system that was not intended to protect the city from a storm greater than a Category 3 hurricane, and that the floodwall failures near Lake Pontchartrain were caused by extraordinary surges that overtopped the walls.

But with the help of complex computer models and stark visual evidence, scientists and engineers at Louisiana State University's Hurricane Center have concluded that Katrina's surges did not come close to overtopping those barriers. That would make faulty design, inadequate construction or some combination of the two the likely cause of the breaching of the floodwalls along the 17th Street and London Avenue canals -- and the flooding of most of New Orleans.

More from the New York Times as well.

Higher Ground.   The five-hour hurricane benefit concert from last Saturday, featuring Wynton Marsalis and a host of other musicians, is available for listening at for those of y'all who missed it (which would include me).

The music will be great, no doubt, but I've heard that it didn't make good radio listening because there was too much talking. Well, when you're streaming you can skip the boring parts, I guess.

Could humans tackle hurricanes?   From New Scientist: "Tackling hurricanes before they make landfall by calming them down or steering them off course may be a good way to prevent a storm striking a city. Experts are working on numerous ways to do this but it may take some time -- and it has never been done before."

Quote of the day.   I wish they had televised this one too.

"There's so much music in New Orleans, you can hold a trumpet above your head and it will play itself.

-- Tom Waits, at hurricane relief benefit, Radio City Music Hall, Sept. 20, 2005, quoted in Rolling Stone News.

Um ... didn't Martha go to jail for less?   But remember, IOKIYAR.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, a potential presidential candidate in 2008, sold all his stock in his family's hospital corporation about two weeks before it issued a disappointing earnings report and the price fell nearly 15 percent.

Frist held an undisclosed amount of stock in Hospital Corporation of America, based in Nashville, Tenn., the nation's largest for-profit hospital chain. On June 13, he instructed the trustee managing the assets to sell his HCA shares and those of his wife and children, said Amy Call, a spokeswoman for Frist.

[...]To keep the trust blind, Frist was not allowed to know how much HCA stock he owned, Call said, but he was allowed to ask for all of it to be sold.

Frist, a surgeon first elected to the Senate in 1994, had been criticized for maintaining the holdings while dealing with legislation affecting the medical industry and managed care. Call said the Senate Ethics Committee has found nothing wrong with Frist's holdings in the company in a blind trust.

"To avoid any appearance of a conflict of interest Senator Frist went beyond what ethics requires and sold the stock," Call said. Asked why he had never done so before, she said, "I don't know that he's been worried about it in the past."

Smell any fish?

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  Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Comfort.   On Saturday, September 3, I needed to do something to make me (and several of those closest to me) feel better. I spent some time in the kitchen that day; on the next day we ate the result, and it made us feel good.

Eatin' red beans

Here's the slideshow of all the pictures of the comfort process. (The non-slideshow photoset is here.)

(I meant to do this days ago.)

Thoughts from WWOZ in Exile.   David Freedman, general manager of WWOZ, New Orleans' jazz and heritage station and the greatest radio station on the planet, writes the latest installment in the excellent blog he's been keeping since the hurricane struck. The stories he tells are truly exciting; first inspection of the studio facilities, saving the priceless record library, and now the nail-biter of whether or not their antenna and transmitter survived, as they make their way to inspect it for the first time after the storm.

As he makes his way to the transmitter site, he muses about the city's cultural history, what it's made of, and how it'll survive if its buildings aren't rebuilt with care, and if it's true spirit -- in its people -- don't come back:

It seems to me this business of housing is going to loom large in the coming days. For instance, we have been told that water is still standing in 60% of the city. The forecast has recently been revised down from 80 days to 30 days for completion of the .unwatering. process. While the West Bank, Uptown, Bywater and the French Quarter will remain to remind us visually of New Orleans' rich heritage, perhaps as many as half the houses standing in water for two weeks (according to the mayor) that ss 30% of the houses in New Orleans would have to be torn down due to structural weakness.

What will they be replaced with?

There are at least two megacorp friends of the President's friend Joseph Albaugh, receiving multi-billion reconstruction contracts: Halliburton and the Shaw Group. To even begin to match the artistry and craftsmanship, much less find the quality of building materials, with which these old houses were built, would add a considerable surcharge to the estimated $200 billion that Katrina restoration will cost (say $50 billion for replacing New Orleans' housing???). I doubt that any of the businesses getting these mega-contracts will have a column in their ledger for charm.

There will be every business incentive to cookie-cut standardized framing and sheetrock construction along with the usual suburban plastic franchises plopped onto freshly unfurled asphalt. The whiteflight visuals of Jefferson Parish may well advance to the western edge of Claiborne Avenue! And, one wonders, what kind of housing will be built? For home-owners or renters? Is there really going to be a substantial replacement of housing for the 200,000 souls that were bussed out of town to points unknown (to the bussees) all over the country? How many of THEM do you think will want to come back? Be able to come back? Have a home and job to come back to?

Our music, culture, and personality don't come from CD's, or even radio stations. They are only registers of the spirit of our people. Without our people, we will be no different than Atlanta or Houston. In fact, I hear that there is a developing c olony of musicians from New Orleans in Houston. It may well be that as the zone extending from the Bywater through Baton Rouge to Lafayette and Houston becomes more flavored with our spirit, the spirit of our people, the city of New Orleans may be diluted, osmotically turning into a place that might more appropriately be called New Orleansiana, or Copelandia -- land of the fast food franchise king, Al Copeland, inventor of Popeye's Chicken.

The battle lines will be drawn.those who care about restoring the charm of New Orleans as well as the physical infrastructure, and those who only see the bottom line. Who will get to decide? I understand that the national chapter of the American Institute of Architects met yesterday to address the issue. I have heard directly from the Urban Conservancy, and indirectly from the Historic National Trust. The mayor has just announced that he is appointing a commission of 8 blacks and 8 whites to determine the direction of the reconstruction effort in New Orleans. Who would he appoint? Would the suits make the city over in their own image? Or would free spirits still prevail? Someone wrote me that he had read a quote from a doctor in, who's been doing emergency work in the city and feeding his elderly neighbors who aren't evacuating. When asked if he shouldn't go to Houston at least to get a tetanus shot, he replied, "I'd rather get lockjaw than live in Houston."

Ever since 1803, since the French sold Louisiana to the United States, New Orleans has found a way to not embrace American culture. The city has often been called the northern capital of the Caribbean. But in the past 20 or so years, there have already been serious incursions of national culture into the city.s unique style. The change has been gradual but steady from locally owned-and-operated to non-indigenous and non-descript (read franchises, chain businesses and Los Vegas-based casinos). So many local icons a thing of the past: Schwegmann.s, D.H. Holmes, Katz & Besthoff, Krauss. Imagine Starbucks coming to the land of Morning Call and Caf? du Monde. Imagine Clear Channel owning 7 or 8 of the most powerful radio signals in a city where radio was known for its great personalities: Groovy Gus, Doctor Daddy-o, Poppa Stoppa. National (or multi-national), franchise, commodity vs. local, mom-and-pop, personal and authentic. New Orleans might have been the last largest bastion of incipient, instinctive resistance.

I will hope and work with all my might to make sure it will still be that.

Cocktail of the day: The Mother-In-Law Cocktail.   It's time for a drink. No, it's past time for a drink.

I originally published this story two years ago this month, and it's time for an anniversary retelling. It's some obscure New Orleans cocktail history, and if you make this drink you'll be helping keep some of New Orleans culture alive (and getting very yummily liquored up to boot).

Two years ago I got an email regarding a "mysterious New Orleans cocktail".

It led to our discovery of the most intriguing -- as well as one of the best -- New Orleans cocktails I have ever tasted. I'll retell the whole story to date, offer you the original recipe as well as the one we've slightly tweaked for the Twenty-First Century. Thanks to the family history of Brooks Baldwin, the incredible scholarship of Ted "Dr. Cocktail" Haigh and my own humble job as the guy who got the email and forwarded it to the right people (then mixed it, tasted it, got excited and served it to more of the right people), we have resurrected a lost, pre-Prohibition classic cocktail from New Orleans and bestowed upon it a new name. First, some history ...

In late August of 2003 I received an email from a gentleman by the name of Brooks Baldwin, who said:

As a man who knows his way around Crescent City cocktails, I wonder if you'd mind looking over the ingredients in this very old, unnamed recipe from pre-Prohibition New Orleans. Does it resemble any cocktail you've come across in your stumblings? I'd love to give it a name.

My grandmother, Mrs. Monte M. Lemann (born in New Orleans in 1895), inherited the recipe from her mother-in-law, Mrs. Lucien E. Lyons, shortly before the beginning of the First World War. As specified in the original recipe, my grandmother concocted this libation by the quart and stored it in an antique lead crystal decanter. Informed that science had linked lead crystal with lead poisoning, my grandmother said: "It's a pretty bottle, so hush."

"The Mysterious New Orleans Cocktail"
Original version

2-1/2 teaspoons Peychaud's Bitters
2-1/2 teaspoons Angostura Bitters
2-1/2 teaspoons Amer Picon
1 jigger Orange Curaçao
1 jigger Simple Syrup
1 jigger Maraschino Syrup

Mix the first six ingredients, then add Bourbon to make one quart.
Shake with cracked ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

I'm all for using Luxardo Maraschino in place of maraschino syrup (thank you for turning me on to a great product!) and adding extra simple syrup if necessary. Torani brand Amer could pinch hit for the Amer Picon. I'm pretty sure I read that Torani Amer more closely resembles the original Amer Picon than the Amer Picon available today. Do you know anything about this? Apparently, the original formula got messed with a while back -- the flavor changed slightly, and the proof dropped from 78 to 39. In any case, Torani Amer is easier to find.

I responded enthusiastically -- this drink sounded fantastic -- and assured Brooks that I'd be mixing up a batch as soon as possible. I'd test it out on Wes and myself, plus a few other friends. He replied, "I'm stunned that you've taken up the gauntlet on behalf of the venerable mystery cocktail. My beloved grandmother, if only she were still among us, would be pink and giggling with delight." We were more than happy to do our part to make a nice departed lady giggle, particularly if it involved drinking liquor.

I've seen sweet, red maraschino syrup still for sale, usually from the dreaded Reese brand (just about everything I I've tried of theirs tastes terrible, including the worst maraschino cherries I've ever had) and I thought this drink cried out to be drier. We used maraschino liqueur, still with a nice touch of sweetness but not too much. Luxardo is the standard, or use the Croatian brand Maraska if you'd like it a touch drier (the bottle's not as pretty, but it's much less expensive).

Similarly, we decided to use the drier Cointreau (a true triple sec, with the French word "sec" meaning "dry") rather than the typically über-sweet curaçaos that are out there. Use curaçao if you like 'em sweet (try to find Marie Brizard orange curaçao and avoid all of those bottom-shelf brands), but I highly recommend a drier cocktail. You get enough sweetness from the simple syrup and Maraschino. Go for Cointreau or the excellent new Mexican triple sec called Citrónge.

Brooks was indeed correct about Amer Picon; not only is it nearly impossible to find anymore, but the makers have changed the formula so much that it bears little resemblance to the original. Torani brand Amer is a wonderful product, and one that's been thoroughly embraced by the Basque-Americans who use it in their signature national drink, Picon Punch.

Still curious and in need of a cocktail historian's view on this, I forwarded the email and recipe to Dr. Cocktail, who replied:

My feeling is, this was a home-made cocktail, not a bar cocktail. No bartender would use such measurements -- I mean, the proportions are fine and it sounds delicious, but no barkeep would speak in terms of quarts, teaspoons, etc. I'd say this was a glorious product of the "My home is my castle" aficionado class prevalent at the turn of the century. And of course NOLA had more free-thinkers than most places...

I mixed up a batch that weekend. Wes and I tried it, plus had the opportunity to serve it to a couple of guests who had impeccable cocktail chops. Their verdict? "Superb" ... "exquisite" ... "wonderful." I agree. Now our job entailed spreading this cocktail far and wide.

Doc said it'd be very cool to name it after Brooks' grandmother, but when I pointed out that she herself had gotten the recipe from her mother-in-law, he immediately (temporarily) dubbed it ... "The Mother-In-Law Cocktail." That's got a great additional New Orleans connection, given that that's also the title of one of our classic R&B songs, as performed by Ernie K-Doe, Emperor of the Universe.

Doc did some more digging. He believed that he had not only identified the source (or rather, the inspiration) for Brooks' grandmother's cocktail, but came up with recipes as well:

Now, I haven't found the exact recipe, but there were two versions given and here are the ingredients in the first one: Amer Picon, Peychaud's and orange bitters, whiskey, sugar. Get this: Glass coated with absinthe. OK, now here are the ingredients in the 2nd one: sweet vermouth, Angostura, Amer Picon, Curaçao, rye whiskey, glass coated with absinthe.

Boom. It looks like Granny's recipe is an amalgam of the two. It's name?

Y'know, I've seen other recipes for this drink now that I've pinpointed it. It seems like one of those drinks for which no two recipes match. If I'm right... it's a Zazarac.

Interesting! I had always assumed that that cocktail name, when I've seen it listed in old books, was simply a misspelling or a phonetic spelling of "Sazerac". Doc surmised that it might have been some people's way to get around what was apparently the Sazerac Coffee House's "infamous tendency in the past" to litigate over the Sazerac name. It might also have been "someone's guess as to the contents of the then possibly still secret recipe of the Sazerac... iffy, but possible." More:

Now, the versions of the Zazarac I've encountered are persuasively close but not right on the money. It should also be noted that the long-lost sister cocktail to the Manhattan and the Bronx (The Brooklyn) bears an unmistakable resemblance as well, and it is the only of the recipes to match the use of maraschino. Here is the Brooklyn cocktail recipe:

Brooklyn Cocktail

1-1/2 oz rye or Bourbon
1/2 oz dry vermouth
1/4 oz Amer Picon
1/4 oz maraschino liqueur

Stir in mixing glass with ice & strain into a cocktail glass.

Again, there are other variations of the Zaz which are so dissimilar as to not have previously raised a red flag, which is why it hadn't occurred to me sooner, and the Brooklyn was just so thoroughly uncommon. Point is, ALL cocktail recipes are essentially variations of one another anyway AND unrelated cocktails CAN end up being remarkably similar due to a finite set of cocktail ingredients. Therefore especially since (a) the recipes don't match exactly and manipulations to MAKE them match requires both combining and omitting and even them we must add in that which neither contained, and (b) Granny's recipe was untitled, we have ample argument for giving her drink its own name.

Our speculation -- Brooks' grandmother's mother-in-law had seen and tried recipes for the Zazarac, didn't quite care for them, and started tinkering. We think the recipe is quite probably her own.

Brooks ran the naming choices by various members of his family, and the consensus was, since it was Gran's drink that she got from her mother-in-law ... the Mother-in-Law Cocktail it is! Here's that recipe.

The Mother-In-Law Cocktail
A pre-prohibition lost New Orleans classic, now found

2-1/2 teaspoons Peychaud's Bitters
2-1/2 teaspoons Angostura Bitters
2-1/2 teaspoons Torani Amer (or vintage 78-proof Amer Picon)
1-1/2 ounces Maraschino liqueur (Luxardo or Maraska)
1-1/2 ounces Cointreau or high-quality orange Curaçao
1-1/2 ounces simple syrup
One 750ml bottle Maker's Mark Bourbon (or your favorite Bourbon)

Combine ingredients thoroughly and pour into a clean one-quart bottle.
To serve, pour three ounces into a cocktail shaker with cracked ice.
Stir for no less than thirty seconds, then strain into a cocktail glass.
Garnish with a stemless cherry.

We prefer the Maraska maraschino from Croatia, as it's drier. We also prefer Cointreau to cheap triple sec or curaçao, but Marie Brizard makes an excellent orange curaçao which is worth seeking out.

It really is worth keeping a bottle of this concoction around -- you don't have to mix, just pour! Easy peasy! However, if you don't want a whole quart of it and would like to mix just one, I've worked out a single-cocktail version. The proportions aren't exact, but they're fairly close; it won't be exactly like the full-batch Mother-in-Law, though.

The Mother-in-Law Cocktail
Single-cocktail version

2-1/2 ounces Bourbon whiskey
1 teaspoon Cointreau or high-quality orange Curaçao
1 teaspoon Maraschino liqueur (Luxardo or Maraska)
1 teaspoon simple syrup
2 dashes Peychaud's bitters
2 dashes Angostura bitters
2 dashes Torani Amer (or vintage Amer Picon)

Combine with cracked ice and stir for no less than thirty seconds.
Strain into a cocktail glass and garnish with a stemless cherry.
For a sweeter and less strong cocktail, use the juice from a jar of
Maraschino cherries instead of the Maraschino liqueur, and curaçao
instead of Cointreau.

We ended up serving this cocktail to Dale DeGroff when he was visiting Los Angeles a few months after we came up with all this, and he fell in love with it. He ended up consulting on the menu at Jonathan Downey's Match Bars in London, and folks in Merrie Olde Englande ended up quaffing this cocktail over a century after and four thousand miles away from its inception. Doc ended up getting the publication scoop in his book, Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails, for which (as a truly lost and forgotten cocktail) it was perfect; the book has been very popular, and we can only imagine that people all over everywhere are now making the Mother-in-Law Cocktail. I guess we did a fairly good job in helping spread it far and wide.

Mix up a batch, and have one (or three) tonight.

Does Chang know Harvey?   Apparently Jeb Bush has an invisible imaginary friend.

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  Monday, September 19, 2005

Oh dear.   My web host has informed me that for the first time since I've been hosting The Gumbo Pages with them, I will overshoot my bandwidth allowance for the month by at least 22GB. It seems that Looka! has become quite popular with the approach and aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, to the point where so far this month I've got about three times the number of hits to this page as I usually get in an entire month, and we've still got ten days to go in September.

The projection is that this will serve to more than triple my server bill for this month.

I'm going to start rolling off content into the archive on a weekly basis, if not more often. I'll probably also remove most of the right-hand sidebar. I've got to get this bandwidth usage down.

UPDATE, 2:53pm: Half a dozen truly wonderful people just kicked in enough to take care of my server overage charges for September. Thank y'all, from the bottom of my pork-fat covered little heart.

I'm going home.   October 8, looks like. Tickets and rental car booked.

I've never dreaded a trip home so much in my entire life.

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Sunday, September 18, 2005

Bravo, Brigtsen's!   This was just forwarded to me by Mary Katherine:

Hello all,

I just wanted to let you know that Marna and I intend to re-open Brigtsen's Restaurant in New Orleans as soon as the city recovers enough infrastructure to support a somewhat normal life. How long that will be is hard to say - probably a couple of months. We evacuated to Shreveport and will remain here with family members until the city recovers sufficiently for us to return. Our main priority after the storm was to stabilize our family and staff. Everyone is OK, and our nieces and nephew are enrolled in high school here in Shreveport. The reports of us opening a restaurant here are false, a product of misunderstandings being published in major newspapers.

In the days after the storm, we did not know what the future held. Over time, Marna and I decided that we simply must re-open Brigtsen's - for our wonderful staff, our community, and our city. The restaurant (and our homes) made it through with no flooding and no structural damage. We are very blessed and lucky. We wish everyone well in this difficult time and look forward to seeing you soon.

Best wishes,
Frank Brigtsen

This is great news.

I'm the train they call the City of New Orleans.   A message from Arlo Guthrie:

When I think of New Orleans, I think of music. I also think of food, but that's another story. The City of New Orleans is America's first music city. New Orleans is the city that truly began America's contribution to the history of music world-wide. Without it, there'd be no popular music as we know it today.

When I wonder what they might need in New Orleans to get back on their feet, the stuff that gets ruined under water, I think of all the sound boards, the cables, the lighting, the microphones, the instruments; I think of the stuff you need in the hundreds of little clubs and bars that bring the music to the street - the street that brings the people to the city. And I think of the many thousands of people who depend on those people for their livelihoods.

I am determined to help restore all of those little places and bring the music back as soon as possible. I am contacting Amtrak to help us take the train "The City of New Orleans" from Chicago all the way down to New Orleans. We'll take two weeks beginning in early December and stop along the way at depots or high schools or performance centers of all shapes and sizes. And we'll contact the manufacturers of the very stuff we're talking about and arrange to bring a Christmas present to all the small venues within the city - we'll purchase the gear as close to cost as we can, many will undoubtedly make substantial contributions.

Will you help me bring the music back? Working together with our friends in manufacturing, retail, transportation, the venues, the promoters, the press, the agents and managers and the artists - we can help deliver the stuff that helps make New Orleans sing it's own uniquely American song. I'm going anyway - with or without waiting to see who's onboard. Join us on the train, at the depot, from your office or home, but join us.

For info call my office: Rising Son Records, 10741 US Highway 1, Sebastian, FL 32958. (772) 589 1774 or eMail

Love as always,
Arlo Guthrie

Halfway home, we'll be there by mornin', through the Mississippi darkness rollin' down to the sea.

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Friday, September 16, 2005

Hell and our guilt.   Romanian-born poet and New Orleans resident Andrei Codrescu, who is now and for a long time has been one of our own, offers this poetry and commentary, the former of which I received in email this morning, the latter of which was heard on NPR the other evening.

by Andrei Codrescu

Each day has its own pictures:

bumper to bumper traffic two states long
a frenzied mob in a domed prison
rising water
the hungry pushing carts out of looted stores
rooftops in a lake as vast as the eye can see
dead city silent city
the survivors the tribes stadiums filled with refugees
helicopters over a dead unlit city
a ragged parade of decadents spitting defiance
television cameras as numerous as marchers
a can of tuna and a strand of beads
take that you former shithead king
dead pets rotting away behind locked doors
the smell of putrefaction visible
muck darkness heat an eviscerated pigeon
two dogs shot by a hired executioner
a sea of horrible stories rising like swamp fever
from the foul mouths of dear ones from exile

by Andrei Codrescu

We are all working in this pit of sorrow to unfreeze time.

I think what people in other cities find hard to understand is just how much New Orleanians love their city. I'm not saying that folks in Houston or Cleveland don't love their cities. I know it for a fact that my friend Marty loves living in Shaker Heights, which is in Cleveland. New Orleans is different, I think, if only because the locals have had a long time to elaborate a style of living and a modus vivendi that couldn't be mistaken for anything else.

Everybody in New Orleans loves the food, the music, and our sense of time (slow time) that's peculiar to us and to us only. There is a velvety sensuality here at the mouth of the Mississippi that you won.t find anywhere else. Tell me what the air feels like at 3 a.m. on a Thursday night in late August in Shaker Heights and I bet that you won.t be able to say because nobody stays up that late. But in New Orleans, I.ll tell you, it.s like ink and honey passed through silver moonlight. Accuse me of poetry, go ahead. But prove that it isn't so. You can't because New Orleans is made of a tissue of poetries that wove each other together over time.

Take food, for instance, and what they think New Orleans food is in New York or in Seattle, and whatever it is they think it is has already come back to New Orleans and been absorbed into our food. In other words, New Orleans is itself but also all the reflecttions of what others project on to us. Same goes about the music and about all the places the music made world-famous. What is the House of the Rising Sun? Or where was it? Listen to the mule carriage drivers that used to go past my house ferrying tourists from one fairy tale to another and you won.t know what that Rising Sun house is, or how it's spelled, or what street it was on. But after you leave and return to your home which is not in New Orleans, you will be certain that you, and only you know the secret location and nature of it, and maybe you even feel that been there. New Orleans is an essence, something that if bottled would be so pungent you'd think that a perfumed boil on the Devil's forehead burst open.

That's how we are, but right now we feel every feeling, anger and sadness, sorrow and terror, and guilt. Especially guilt. The same sweet laissez-faire that makes our life so enjoyable may be at the root of that civic complacency that turned a blind eye on corruption and gave no thought to tomorrow. Louisiana isn't called "the dream state" for nothing: Katrina found us dreaming. If our voluptuaries had been on guard we might have saved the city. We could have been preparing for this for all the years that we knew it was going to happen. New Orleans should have been re-engineered since the flood of 1927. Instead, like the citizens of Pompeii, we made libations to the gods of chaos. Carpe diem! Our politicians, like our citizens, lived in the moment, a beautiful, fragrant, delicious, sexy moment. The hard work, mañana.

And yet, our guilt should be no greater than that of the coutry as a whole. We all live in the moment, in a consumer stupor that ignores and denies tomorrow. All of the USA is the land of shopping mall credit card dreamy dreams, beginning with our capo, GW and his Imperial Guard. His Homeland Security turned out to be a fairy tale. This administration's answer to everything is: throw money at it. Whose money, pray? Tomorrow's money may not matter to us, but tomorrow is where our children live. For us, Americans of today, horrible can last only three days max. Any longer and a terrible depression sets in, unrelieved by the drone of the media or the apportioning of blame or the inevitable investigations. But we are in for it now.

The American dream came unmoored in New Orleans.

And they certainly do say they're going to throw money at it. Wonder where they're going to get it, while they're spending over $200 billion "rebuilding" Iraq. Someone on dKos mentioned a Cato Institute study that said that in order to get the money for reconstructing New Orleans and the Gulf Coast they'd actually have to cut the budget that the Army Corps of Engineers needs to strengthen the levees. Patently absurd, but as this administration has demonstrated, you never know.

Bush screwing Louisiana already; his promises (and Blanco's too, although she seems ignored and helpless so far) already empty. After Bush promised untold billions in aid and reconstruction for the Gulf Coast, and after pledging that local people, workers, businesses and firms would be given priority in the rebuilding, and after hearing Gov. Blanco deliver the same speech to the Louisiana legislature, I heard this report on "Marketplace" today, telling us that so far Bush's promises are bullshit.

Gov. Kathleen Blanco: "We must first put Louisiana people and Louisiana firms to work rebuilding Louisiana."

Noble words worthy of applause, says Louisiana's AFL-CIO president Sybil Holt. The only thing missing is actions to back them up. "Within five days, corporations contracted for support included the Shaw Group, Fluor Corp., Bechtel National Inc. out of San Francisco, CH2M Hill out of Denver, Dewberry Technology out of Fairfax ... Fluor Corporation is out of California."

While local workers and business owners were stil dealing with the devastation of their flooded homes and trying to relocate their families, insider deals in Washington had already laid the foundation for the entire rebuilding effort.

Holt: "Had we had national lobbyists in Washington, I bet some other people would have gotten some contracts, but they don't have that wherewithal, so therefore they have been left out. Now, some people will say, that's just the way the cookie crumbles. And I'm just saying, who wants to eat a crumbled cookie?"

Holt says there's still time to make sure Louisiana workers and businesses play a significant role, but so far it's not happening. On the same day as Gov. Blanco's speech, a hundred displaced truck drivers in Baton Rouge showed up for a job hauling trailers, only to find the jobs had been given to out-of-state drivers.

[...] The no-bid contracts awarded by FEMA last week totaled hundreds of millions of dollars; several of the winning companies have donated heavily to the Bush administration. [Albert Jefferson, a local building contractor who specializes in New Orleans' unique architecture] fears these political ties will set the precedent for the entire rebuilding effort, throwing up roadblocks for [local] independent contractors like himself.

Adding insult to injury (actually, more likely adding injury to injury), Karl Rove has been put in charge of the rebuilding effort? Jesus Christ on a rocket-powered crutch. This man's career has been built in lies, deceptions and smears. I'm not sure it'd be worse for New Orleans if another hurricane hit us next week than to have this swine in charge of our reconstruction.

As usual, The Onion has put it most succinctly, with some of the most biting satire I've ever read:

Halliburton Gets Contract To Pry Gold Fillings From New Orleans Corpses' Teeth

September 14, 2005 | Issue 41.37

HOUSTON -- On Tuesday, Halliburton received a $110 million no-bid government contract to pry the gold fillings from the mouths of deceased disaster victims in the New Orleans-Gulf Coast area. "We are proud to serve the government in this time of crisis by recovering valuable resources from the wreckage of this deadly storm," said David J. Lesar, Halliburton's president. "The gold we recover from the human rubble of Katrina can be used to make fighter-jet electronics, supercomputer chips, inflation-proof A-grade investments, and luxury yachting watches."

If this keeps up, the reality of the situation will only slightly be on the other side of that line.

Lights go on in N.O. ... just for Bush.   Brian Williams, anchor of the "NBC Evening News", reports:

I am duty-bound to report the talk of the New Orleans warehouse district last night: there was rejoicing (well, there would have been without the curfew, but the few people I saw on the streets were excited) when the power came back on for blocks on end. Kevin Tibbles was positively jubilant on the live update edition of Nightly News that we fed to the West Coast. The mini-mart, long ago cleaned out by looters, was nonetheless bathed in light, including the empty, roped-off gas pumps. The motorcade route through the district was partially lit no more than 30 minutes before POTUS drove through. And yet last night, no more than an hour after the President departed, the lights went out. The entire area was plunged into total darkness again, to audible groans. It's enough to make some of the folks here who witnessed it... jump to certain conclusions.

As Van Halen would say, go ahead and jump.

Only until further notice.   An excellent, heartening article in this past week's Los Angeles Times Food Section, about how New Orleans restauranteurs vow to rebuild and reopen.

Other cities have specialties, a hoagie here or a chimichanga there. New Orleans has a cuisine, a rich, vibrant, fully evolved style of cooking from centuries in a pivotal location. There the melting pot actually lived up to the great American concept, blending African, West Indian, French, Spanish, Italian, Cajun and recently Vietnamese into one exuberant good-times roll.

It's a city where an out-of-town couple eating at the bar at Nola the night before Thanksgiving would get invited to potluck turkey at the cook's home, with resistance not an option. Or where a restaurant owner would buy the whole house drinks just because he's feeling good. Though other places have sold their souls to tourism, New Orleans has always shared.

According to a number of the city's prominent chefs and restaurateurs, that heartfelt tradition still remains, despite the nightmare still playing out. They all echo what Susan Spicer of Bayona and Herbsaint insisted from her brother's house in Jackson, Miss.: Nothing can kill the music or the food.

The Saturday before the storm, Spicer closed Herbsaint but stayed open at Bayona because she had 180 seats reserved. About 100 people turned up, and she gave away food and cracked open Champagne before packing up her family to get out of town at 1:30 a.m.

[...] The French Quarter, home to many landmark restaurants, was largely spared flooding and suffered only sporadic looting. Chef Paul Prudhomme says he went to City Hall several days ago to apply for permission to reopen his K Paul's Louisiana Kitchen in order to feed relief workers, the military and police, but "the city official said no. It's dangerous there. You can't let one restaurant operate, whether they're giving the food away or not, and tell others they can't operate." Instead, Prudhomme and his staff are feeding people from his spice company's offices in nearby Harahan.

Amazingly, Alex Patout's Louisiana Restaurant never closed during the storm and its aftermath, offering water and rations to passing police, reporters and Quarter holdouts.

John Besh, chef at Restaurant August, one of the city's newer and best regarded restaurants, is "cooking red beans for cops," according to Brett Anderson, restaurant critic for the New Orleans Times-Picayune. Anderson has been out in the swampy streets working as a reporter since the hurricane.

The chefs who have not been able to get back to their restaurants, however, which is most of them, are relying mostly on second-hand reports and satellite photos.

For now, as co-owner Mary Sonnier of Gabrielle in the Mid-City neighborhood of Faubourg Saint John put it, purveyors have no food to sell, and restaurateurs have no patrons. "My business is gone," she says.

Holed up in a motel in Memphis, Tenn., with her chef-husband, Greg, she's seen a photo recently that holds out hope that damage to their restaurant is not as bad as they initially feared.

[...] Despite initial reports that Commander's Palace, the Garden District landmark, suffered severe wind damage, what appeared to be a blown-out wall was actually just some pre-storm construction work. A peek inside the restaurant reveals napkins fanned out atop each table setting, as if awaiting the usual Saturday night crowd. Alex Martin Brennan, a member of the extended family that runs Commander's, says they have no doubts about reopening; he hopes to get into the restaurant this week to see whether anyone broke in. "We had what I would term some mild wind damage to the roof and a couple of windows."

A few miles down St. Charles Avenue, Emeril's Delmonico is boarded up and appears to have dodged any damage. In the French Quarter, a south-facing brick wall atop Antoine's crumbled, exposing timbers and the old building's attic to the elements. Over the weekend, soldiers for the 82nd Airborne tarped the gap, and it appeared the restaurant did not face significant damage otherwise.

Like the Brennans of Commander's Palace and JoAnn Clevenger of the Upperline in Uptown, Gabrielle's Sonnier says she's determined to start over. "I don't know if we'll be back in the same building," says Sonnier. "We'll still have great food, but we might do something different."

"Everyone needs to take a deep breath and know it's going to be a while," says Spicer. "New Orleans has such a strong culture. People are not that easily deterred."

I just saw Evelyn and Gunter Preuss of Broussard's on CNN yesterday, and they want to be open again by October 1. Chef Preuss said he wasn't sure of what's become of his seafood purveyors (showing that the day before they closed they had fresh pompano, among other local seafood delights) and said with sadness and a bit of embarrassment, that they might have to resort to serving frozen fish for a while.

Chef Preuss, I'll be there the first week of October, with, I hope, my family in tow, and we couldn't be more thrilled at the prospect of eating previously frozen fish in your restaurant.

Hi y'all! Can we have some fish now?!   In one of the more amazing stories I've read in the aftermath of the hurricane, all eight of the dolphins who were swept to sea from their smashed tank at the Marine Life Oceanarium in Gulfport have been found, together, several hundred yards out in the Gulf.

They all just hung out together, and when their frantically worried trainers found them, the dolphins were overwhelmed with joy. They had lost their innate hunting skills, either through years of captivity or having been born at the Oceanarium, so they were pretty hungry and happily gobbled vitamin- and medicine-laced sardines.


The man we elected president.   No, not him.

It was not the federal government, it was not FEMA, but it was Al Gore who coordinated the evacuation of Charity Hospital in New Orleans, with the help of FasterCures.

This didn't get much press coverage, mostly just in the Knoxville, TN paper as patients were arriving there. Mr. Gore said he wasn't talking to the press about it and wasn't doing interviews during the evacuation because he "did not want this to become politicized."

I weep for what we could have been if not for the fraud.

False prophet.   Chicago Sun-Times religion reporter Cathleen Falsani looks at a self-described minister of the Southern Baptist variety named Wiley Bennett in Tyler, Texas, who, not long after several thousand evacuees from New Orleans, most of whom had probably lost everything, erected a huge sign in front of his church saying, "THE BIG EASY IS THE MODERN DAY SODOM AND GOMORRAH"

"It is the kind of thing," Catherine wrote, "some people do in the name of Christ that ... makes Jesus want to drink gin out of a cat dish."

Now, it would have been easier -- and arguably more satisfying -- to begin yelping at Bennett about how his moral wake-up call was ill-conceived and cruelly timed. I could have chalked him up as nothing more than a redneck fundamentalist who is best ignored.

But I really wanted to know why he would do this. His picture on the church Web site shows that he has a kindly face. He couldn't have meant to hurt people, especially people who had suffered so much, could he?

He could. Bennett reveals himself to be exactly the kind of hypocrite that Christ condemned; he had it out for hypocrites more strongly than just about anyone else. Cathleen was right the first time. He's a redneck fundamentalist who's best ignored.

I'll tell you, though ... if any self-styled religious person says anything like this in front of me, they'd better have good running shoes, or if not then a goalie's mask, because I'm likely to give them ample opportunity to turn the other cheek.

Armed mercenaries in New Orleans.   Via AlterNet: Blackwater mercenaries are some of the most feared professional killers in the world. What are they doing prowling the streets of NOLA?

Heavily armed paramilitary mercenaries from the Blackwater private security firm, infamous for its work in Iraq, are openly patrolling the streets of New Orleans. Some of the mercenaries say they have been "deputized" by the Louisiana governor; indeed some are wearing gold Louisiana state law enforcement badges on their chests and Blackwater photo identification cards on their arms. They say they are on contract with the Department of Homeland Security and have been given the authority to use lethal force. Several mercenaries we spoke with said they had served in Iraq on the personal security details of the former head of the U.S. occupation, L. Paul Bremer and the former U.S. ambassador to Iraq, John Negroponte.

"This is a totally new thing to have guys like us working CONUS (Continental United States)," a heavily armed Blackwater mercenary told us as we stood on Bourbon Street in the French Quarter. "We're much better equipped to deal with the situation in Iraq."

Blackwater mercenaries are some of the most feared professional killers in the world and they are accustomed to operating without worry of legal consequences. Their presence on the streets of New Orleans should be a cause for serious concern for the remaining residents of the city and raises alarming questions about why the government would allow men trained to kill with impunity in places like Iraq and Afghanistan to operate here. Some of the men now patrolling the streets of New Orleans returned from Iraq as recently as two weeks ago.

What is most disturbing is the claim of several Blackwater mercenaries we spoke with that they are here under contract from the federal government and the state of Louisiana. Blackwater is one of the leading private security firms servicing the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan. It has several U.S. government contracts and has provided security for many senior U.S. diplomats, foreign dignitaries and corporations. The company rose to international prominence after four of its men were killed in Fallujah and two of their charred bodies were hung from a bridge in March 2004. Those killings sparked the massive U.S. retaliation against the civilian population of Fallujah that resulted in scores of deaths and tens of thousands of refugees.

Y'know ... I'm not made to feel safe by this. In a few weeks I hope to go back with my dad to see if anything can be salvaged from the house. These motherfuckers are the last people I want to run into.

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Thursday, September 15, 2005

Well I wish I was in New Orleans, I can see it in my dreams.

Arm in arm down Burgundy,
A bottle and my friends and me.

Hoist up a few tall cold ones,
Play some pool and listen
To that tenor saxophone
Calling me home.

And I can hear the band begin
"When The Saints Go Marching In".
By the whiskers on my chin
New Orleans, I'll be there.

I'll drink you under the table,
Get red-nosed, go for walks,
The old haunts, what I wants is
Red beans and rice.

And wear the dress I like so well,
Meet me at the old saloon.
Make sure there's a Dixie moon,
New Orleans, I'll be there.

And deal the cards, roll the dice,
If it ain't that ol' Chuck E. Weiss,
And Claiborne Avenue, me and you,
Sam Jones and all.

Well I wish I was in New Orleans,
I can see it in my dreams.
Arm in arm down Burgundy,
A bottle and my friends and me,
New Orleans, I'll be there.

Tom Waits' great gift to New Orleans, which made me cry even before all this shit.

Join me on "Down Home" tonight. 7:00 to 9:00pm Pacific time at 88.5 FM, or around the world at

Jobs for evacuated N.O. restaurant workers.   Via Christine (thanks for sending this!): yesterday NPR's "Day to Day" did a story on job search assistance for evacuated New Orleans restaurant employees. StarChefs also has a jobs available/wanted site.

I know these folks have to work now and have an income, but I hope they also have the means to come back home and help our restaurant industry get back on its feet again. They'll need cooks and wait staff if they're going to open again.

Relief for musicians.   I want to remind everyone of two sources of disaster relief for New Orleans musicians: there's the New Orleans Musicians Hurricane Relief Fund administered by Preservation Hall, plus Artists' Relief via Tipitina's Foundation. They're helping to provide money, housing and instruments for the myriad New Orleans musicians who lost everything.

More on the bus evac situation in N.O.   I was wondering myself why more buses weren't used to get the poor out of the city; Mayor Nagin said on "Meet the Press" this past Sunday that there were no drivers; they had all bugged out. That would certainly cause a problem.

The right-wing has been jumping on this in a big way, trying to exonerate their demigod and lay all the blame on local officials, typically without any balanced facts to back up their accusations.

I found this on a dKos diary, from a correspondence with Times-Picayune reporter Mark Schleifstein that might shed some light on the situation:

Date: 2005/09/04 Sun PM 07:19:42 EDT
To: Mark Schleifstein

There's been considerable discussion on right wing forums accusing Mayor Nagin of having failed to use the New Orleans school system's busses to evacuate people. This is part of what appears to be a general right wing attempt to shift the blame to local officials and divert attention from the Bush administration.

I've read that the busses were owned by the Laidlaw Corporation, which bugged out early and took the keys, but I can't find any verification of this. Do you have any information? Most of the cover-your-ass talking points are surprisingly easy to refute, but this one is proving difficult to track down.

Many thanks for any help you might be able to offer, and my heartfelt compliments and best wishes to you and your associates at the Times-Picayune for your literally heroic work covering this disaster.

Mark replied:

I don't, but deeply, deeply doubt that's what happened. The logistics of using buses for more than moving people inside the city to refuge locations was just impossible. How do you guarantee the bus drivers will be there?

Everyone recognized that, and discussed it at length at the Hurricane Pam exercise in 2004. They were trying to find other alternatives, like Amtrak, National Guard trucks, guaranteed private bus service, etc. But nothing had jelled by the time of this storm, so they returned to the plan they've always had: refuge of last resort.

The mayor made announcements urging people to go to collection points and be taken to the Superdome. If the dome had filled, they would have opened more buildings.

Not enough people took them up on the offer.

You also have to understand that the school system is a completely separate government agency from the city and the mayor has no authority to order school employees to do anything.

The school system also is bankrupt and being taken over, school by school, by the state. The state emergency preparedness department was aware of this problem, as was FEMA, Homeland Security, the Red Cross, the Salvation Army, the corps of engineers, on and on and on. Nobody did anything. Placing the blame solely on a mayor is ridiculous.

Mark Schleifstein
Environment writer
The Times-Picayune

MediaMatters has more facts about the bus situation, and counters the falsehoods and smears spread by the likes of Hannity, Gingrich, and even George Stephanopoulos.

Chef Pete's packin'.   Via Poppy, to whom we send all our love and best wishes, Chef Pete of Marisol is at home in Algiers, craving fresh vegetables, and he's strapped. Watch yourselves.

He's also working with the Red Cross to set Marisol up as a food distribution center. Go, Chef Pete!

Times-Picayune open letter to the president, no. 2   Oddly enough, I couldn't find this on their website (as great as their coverage is right now, I have to say that their website has always pretty much sucked, navigation-wise), although it appeared on Monday in Editor and Publisher:

Dear Mr. President,

Welcome to our wounded city. This is your third visit since Hurricane Katrina devastated metropolitan New Orleans and the Mississippi Gulf Coast two weeks ago. You will see that the obituaries for the Crescent City were premature. You can detect a pulse, albeit a faint one. New Orleanians, who are known for resilience and love of their hometown, are clamoring to return and rebuild. Commerce is stirring in the French Quarter, in the Central Business District, in Jefferson, St. Tammany, St. Charles and St. John the Baptist parishes. Substantial numbers of federal troops finally arrived to restore law and order. Much too late, but they are welcome nonetheless.

But don't kid yourself, Mr. President. This is only the beginning of what must become a gargantuan and sustained effort by you and your administration. A vast stretch of our homeland, your homeland, has been wrecked, submerged, washed away, contaminated, gutted. A huge diaspora of Americans has been scattered across the land. New Orleans, a crown jewel among American cities, is deeply stricken. What you are seeing today, Mr. President, is the aftermath of the worst, the most widespread disaster to befall an American city and its surroundings in the history of our country.

Such a catastrophe, Mr. President, calls for a commensurate response from you. It is not enough to have sent a massive deployment of troops. It is not enough to have visited three times. And, though we appreciate your intention, it is not enough to have removed the ineffectual head of FEMA from the scene.

Now comes the real test of your intention to make New Orleans work once again.

Mr. President, we're well aware that we cannot rely on government alone, that we must help ourselves. Already our people have begun to do so: rescuing, sheltering and raising money for the most desperate victims. But faced with a disaster like this hurricane, no community can fend for itself.

Many of us cannot return to our homes because they were flooded, due to inadequate levees and an inadequate effort to restore the coastline of Louisiana. These are problems that successive administrations, including yours, have ignored. All of us deserve a chance to return to decent homes.

New Orleanians also deserve to know that our federal government has made an all-out effort to ensure that a disaster like Katrina cannot happen again. Such an effort should include concrete and dirt, creative thinking, and a commitment that will last for years.

It also means a promise to do whatever it takes, whatever it costs, to restore Louisiana's coast. New Orleans cannot exist as a coastal city surrounded by levees so high they cast a shadow over our dwellings. It was once an inland river port, and it must be one once again.

The waters will recede, and the death toll may fall below earlier estimates. It will become easy -- with no evacuees on roofs, no starving, clamoring people at the Superdome and Convention Center -- to decide that you have fulfilled your commitment to New Orleans.

That would be a huge mistake, Mr. President. The New Orleans that we and the nation deserve will be protected by thriving marshlands, walled off for floods, rebuilt even for its poorest citizens. It will be endowed with the schools, roads and new infrastructure that will allow it once again to be a viable urban center, a vital port, a cultural treasure to America and the world.

I actually dread the speech tonight.

Jay Farrar in OffBeat.   Good God, a "normal" post?!

OffBeat, the New Orleans music magazine, is down but not out. Their website says their building and staff are safe, and no doubt they'll be publishing again soon. In the meantime, I wanted to point out a neat interview they did with former (brief) New Orleans resident Jay Farrar of Son Volt and formerly of Uncle Tupelo.

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Wednesday, September 14, 2005

St. Bernard Parish. (1788-2005)   It's gone, pretty much. The Isleños arrived from the Canary Islands, and settled in Delacroix, Yscloskey, Hope Beach, Reggio and Shell Beach. People migrated from New Orleans to "da Parish", to Chalmette and Arabi, Violet, Podyras and Meraux. The thick Nint' Ward accent got even thicker in Chalmette and Arabi. Local food, especially of the Creole-Italian and fried seafood variety, flourished there. It has a rich history as well, being the site of the legendary Battle of New Orleans in 1814; Chalmette National Battlefield was always a de rigueur field trip for elementary schools across New Orleans. When I was in school I had a lot of friends from there, and I spent a fair amount of time in da Parish. We'd ditch early and get poor boys at Arabi Food store, and find sympathetic local barmen who'd serve us a beer even though they knew we weren't 18.

New Orleanians poked fun at St. Bernard; at the Championship Wrestling matches live from the St. Bernard Civic Auditorium (but we grew up watching them on TV every weekend); at the stereotype of the "Chalmette girl", who got substituted into lots of "blonde" jokes, bless their hearts, but whom we always enjoyed seeing at Rocky and Carlo's and everywhere in da parish; retelling stories of the night hundreds of people including myself got tear-gassed by a non-student thug at a football game at Chalmette High School in 1974 (a source of deep shame and embarrassment to the good people who went to Chalmette High, to this day). We called people from Chalmette "Chalmations", and people from neighboring Arabi, which bordered New Orleans' Lower Ninth Ward, were "Arabians". That was then.

And now it's gone. And I miss them all so much already.

St. Bernard, washed away.

It's going to stay gone for a long, long time, too. Parish officials have said that virtually all of the parish's 27,600 houses are unsalvageable and will have to be bulldozed.

St. Bernard Parish officials could offer nothing but painful news to the 3,000 evacuees who crowded the state Capitol on Monday to hear about the fate of their homes and community.

Virtually all of the 27,600 homes in the parish are flooded, and nearly all of them will have to be razed. Even those who still have homes are looking at a six-month exile. That's a bitter draught for St. Bernard residents who clung to friends and neighbors they found in the throng in Baton Rouge.

Parish President Henry "Junior" Rodriguez said he would not sugarcoat the situation, and he certainly didn't. "I hope all of you remember St. Bernard, because when you go back, you aren't going to recognize it," he said.

That's a grim diagnosis, but now that it's been delivered, St. Bernard's leaders need to offer their dispossessed and dislocated constituents more than just brutal honesty and the solace of memory. People want to know, and need to know, the exact condition of their own property.

Parish officials should strive to provide detailed assessments and make the information readily available. But St. Bernard evacuees also need to see for themselves what they have left and what was lost to the wall of water that Katrina sent into St. Bernard. These people don't have homes, neighborhoods, houses of worship, schools or, in many cases, places of employment. They shouldn't be expected to do without solid, specific information, too. In fact, they can't begin to put their lives back together and plan for the future without it.

People from Arabi and some parts of Chalmette might be able to return in two to three weeks to take stock of their damage; the rest will be allowed in on a staggered basis. Obviously, the sooner that can happen, the better. Working out a rapid plan to allow residents back for a survey should be a priority for parish government.

People are going to be shocked and dismayed by what they'll find, but waiting and wondering is its own form of torture. That, at least, is something these Katrina victims shouldn't have to endure a moment longer than necessary.

Most of this was ignored by the national media, who focused on New Orleans, Gulfport and Biloxi. For days upon end, there was no mention of St. Bernard, and only within the last couple of days have we been hearing reports about the parish, almost exclusively due to the horrid, gruesome discoveries at St. Rita's Nursing Home, where 34 residents drowned. And I'm sorry, but it pisses me off every single time I hear Paula Zahn and any number of other anchors refer to it as "St. Bernard's Parish". It's not "St. Bernard's." It's "St. Bernard." Da Parish. Goddammit.

I miss them and I want them back. I'd give anything to hear the girl behind the counter at Rocky and Carlo's ask her customer, "How ya want dat cooked: fried 'r deep-fried?", and I want to know if her mamma's all right too. I want them to have their homes and culture and parish back. I want them to all be lining up outside the door of Rocky and Carlo's for roast beef poor boys, macaroni and cheese with gravy, Wop salad and braciole, and I want to be in line with them, and goddammit I'll have a stuffed pepper, too. But it's not going to happen anytime soon.

Right now, the only way I know to pay tribute to St. Bernard, their casualties and their displaced, is to post some photographs from my last visit to Da Parish, Sunday, May 1, 2005:

The late, lamented Rocky and Carlo's.

Wes outside da jernt.

By da cash regista.

Da steam tables.

Wop salad, macaroni and cheese with red gravy, braciole.

An outstanding shrimp poor boy (half).

God bless St. Bernard Parish and everyone in it.

And the reason St. Bernard, New Orleans East and the Ninth Ward flooded?   Not the levee break (although it didn't help). Not a storm surge from the lake. Goddammit ... without reading any articles, without looking at any computer models, my dad said that he'd bet any money it was a Gulf surge pushing up through the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet. "That's what flooded us, and St. Bernard. I'd bet anything on it."

Looks like he was right.

On May 19, Hassan Mashriqui addressed a roomful of emergency planners and warned of a "critical and fundamental flaw" in the coastal defenses for New Orleans. Mashriqui, a computer modeler at Louisiana State University's Hurricane Center, singled out the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet, a 40-year-old shipping canal aimed at the city's gut.

For years, local residents had decried the little-used canal as a "hurricane highway" that would deliver massive storm surges into their neighborhoods.

But now Mashriqui was offering proof. His hydrodynamic modeling showed that a "funnel" created by the Gulf Outlet and a nearby waterway would amplify storm surges by 20 to 40 percent. He described the funnel as "Crescent City's Trojan Horse," carrying the Gulf of Mexico's waters into the city.

"I showed how dangerous that outlet was -- there was no ambiguity," says Mashriqui, who came to the United States after a tropical cyclone devastated his native Bangladesh. "And now it's all come true."

Authorities have not yet concluded what caused the drowning of New Orleans, and most attention has focused on two breached floodwalls near Lake Pontchartrain, to the city's north. But now experts believe that the initial flooding that overwhelmed St. Bernard Parish and the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans came from the Gulf Outlet, a channel that was an ecological and economic disappointment long before Hurricane Katrina.

Satellite images show that levees along the outlet were severely damaged by storm surges. Flyovers by the Army Corps of Engineers have revealed a path of destruction consistent with Mashriqui's theory that the Outlet provided a pathway for storm surges from the Gulf and neighboring Lake Borgne.


Fill in that goddamned canal. Maybe they could start with the debris from 160,000 demolished homes.

Brownie was just the fall guy.   Figured as much.

The federal official with the power to mobilize a massive federal response to Hurricane Katrina was Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, not the former FEMA chief who was relieved of his duties and resigned earlier this week, federal documents reviewed by Knight Ridder show.

Even before the storm struck the Gulf Coast, Chertoff could have ordered federal agencies into action without any request from state or local officials. Federal Emergency Management Agency chief Michael Brown had only limited authority to do so until about 36 hours after the storm hit, when Chertoff designated him as the "principal federal official" in charge of the storm.

As thousands of hurricane victims went without food, water and shelter in the days after Katrina's early morning Aug. 29 landfall, critics assailed Brown for being responsible for delays that might have cost hundreds of lives.

But Chertoff - not Brown - was in charge of managing the national response to a catastrophic disaster, according to the National Response Plan, the federal government's blueprint for how agencies will handle major natural disasters or terrorist incidents. An order issued by President Bush in 2003 also assigned that responsibility to the homeland security director.

But according to a memo obtained by Knight Ridder, Chertoff didn't shift that power to Brown until late afternoon or evening on Aug. 30, about 36 hours after Katrina hit Louisiana and Mississippi. That same memo suggests that Chertoff may have been confused about his lead role in disaster response and that of his department.

Upsetting, and appalling. He's next.

More on Chertoff From Josh Marshall (posted in the comments by Vidiot and promoted):

Last night we noted the new Knight-Ridder article which shows DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff waiting some 36 hours to make the determination that Katrina was an 'Incident of National Significance'. Before that, Chertoff, not Michael Brown was in charge. And before Chertoff did that, Brown -- who's taken the big drubbing -- actually had little power to act.

This 'incident' finding is part of the new National Response Plan, which is supposed to govern federal responses to domestic disasters. Yet the plan appears to have been largely disregarded with Katrina.

But a TPM Reader pointed something out to me that suggests that Knight-Ridder might have gotten one detail wrong (or at least missed one) -- one which if anything makes the administration seem even more disorganized.

If you click here you can see a copy of the Chertoff memo which invoked the 'incident' finding.

But the reader points out that on page 7 of the Plan, it says quite clearly that "while all Presidentially declared disasters and emergencies under the Stafford Act are considered Incidents of National Significance, not all Incidents of National Significance necessarily result in disaster or emergency declarations under the Stafford Act."

And if you go back to August 27th, this is just what President Bush did. He declared a state of emergency in the state of Louisiana under Title V of the Stafford Act.

Ergo, Katrina became an Incident of National Significance on August 27th -- two days before the storm. But Chertoff apparently didn't realize this and waited till a day after to make the determination on his own, one that according to the flow chart had already been made.

Lawyers and DHSers will know more about whether I've construed these sections correctly. (I certainly haven't read all 400+ pages of the document.) But they at least seem pretty clear.

I want resignation number 2.

Son of a bitch.   Well, I hope they finally nail this fucking crook. ("Allegedly!" as Kathy Griffin would say.) Via Michael at The Interdictor:

Amid Katrina Chaos, Congressman Used National Guard to Visit Home
Two Heavy Trucks, Helicopter Were Involved in Lawmaker's Trip at Height of Crisis

Amid the chaos and confusion that engulfed New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina struck, a congressman used National Guard troops to check on his property and rescue his personal belongings -- even while New Orleans residents were trying to get rescued from rooftops, ABC News has learned.

On Sept. 2 -- five days after Katrina hit the Gulf Coast -- Rep. William Jefferson, D-La., who represents New Orleans and is a senior member of the powerful Ways and Means Committee, was allowed through the military blockades set up around the city to reach the Superdome, where thousands of evacuees had been taken.

Military sources tells ABC News that Jefferson, an eight-term Democratic congressman, asked the National Guard that night to take him on a tour of the flooded portions of his congressional district. A five-ton military truck and a half dozen military police were dispatched.

Lt. Col. Pete Schneider of the Louisiana National Guard tells ABC News that during the tour, Jefferson asked that the truck take him to his home on Marengo Street, in the affluent uptown neighborhood in his congressional district. According to Schneider, this was not part of Jefferson's initial request.

[...] The water reached to the third step of Jefferson's house, a military source familiar with the incident told ABC News, and the vehicle pulled up onto Jefferson's front lawn so he wouldn't have to walk in the water. Jefferson went into the house alone, the source says, while the soldiers waited on the porch for about an hour.


An hour, one must point out, is an eternity to a person who's in danger of drowning, or trapped on his or her roof, or on the verge of death by dehydration or insulin shock.

I'll bet he thought that the hurricane was going to distratct everyone from the fact that he just had his offices and home raided by the FBI a few weeks ago. I don't think we're distracted anymore.

For what it's worth.   Via Josh Marshall:

The shoe drop behind the responsibility moment?

Back on September 7th, Rep. John Conyers wrote to the Congressional Research Service (one of the few parts of the government that can legitimately be called non-partisan) and asked them to review the record to see whether Gov. Blanco of Louisiana took the necessary steps in a timely fashion to secure federal assistance in the face of hurricane Katrina.

The report came back yesterday. Yes, she did. Read it yourself.

I have no brief for Gov. Blanco and none of the president's critics should either. I'm not saying dump on her. But let the chips fall where they may. My friends in Louisiana tell me that on the ground Nagin is coming off better than she is, to the extent that public opinion can be gauged under such circumstances. But the White House has been hitting her for weeks now claiming that in various ways she dropped the ball. And that seems quite simply to be false.

There have been a lot of smears flying about her, including in this weblog's comments section, which are patently false, and this seems to back her up.

There were indeed failures at every level of government, but I call bullshit on the White House trying to lay most or all of the "blame game" on local officials, no matter how many shifty, conditional, disingenuous acceptances of "responsibility" without really doing anything about it.

Quotes of the day.   Via Salon's War Room:

From Roger Simon's column in U.S. News & World Report:

"If you want to know what went wrong with the federal response to Hurricane Katrina, just examine the following statement by Dick Cheney. When asked by a reporter why he did not return from his vacation earlier than last Thursday, three days after the hurricane hit, the vice president replied: 'I came back four days early.'"

Well, thanks, you magnanimous bastard. That's our vice president, folks! About as cuddly as a Tasmanian devil.

Via Newsweek:

"These are single-family residences, and that's what they were intended for."

-- Audrey Andrews, vice president of the Majestic Oaks homeowners' association in Ocala, Fla., after the group sent a letter reminding residents that they were prohibited from taking hurricane refugees into their homes and encouraging them to donate to charity instead.

Audrey Andrews gets my nomination for today's Worst Person In The World Award. Don't feel too singled out, Audrey, you horrid toad. The award is given out daily.

Feeding frenzy in Baton Rouge.   The Times-Picayune (who deserve a dozen Pulitzers by the time the immediate crisis is over) reported today of the feeding frenzy at stores in Baton Rouge, now dealing with a doubled population.

My folks were exhausted after an hours-long shopping attempt at the Super Wal-Mart in Baton Rouge, and ended up getting a fraction of what they went there for. (I shipped them a microwave oven, crockpot and toaster from Amazon that very night.) It's bad at stores, pharmacies, post offices, everywhere. I hope we can get them out of Baton Rouge as soon as possible.

Update on the clothing drive that I worked on last weekend at Third Street Elementary in Hancock Park, from their amazing organizer Ben Zoldan:

We had over 60 volunteers work at the Drive at 3rd St Elementary School on Sunday.

We had over 500 individuals drop off clothes.

The 60+ volunteers opened up every bag/box, then sorted, re-categorized, and then filled over 1,500 boxes.

Although we set up 2 shifts for the volunteers, we had several people work over 10 hrs on Sunday. [I'm sorry to say that I pretty much dropped dead after 7 hours work, after getting 0 hours of sleep the night before. I never felt so 43 in my entire life. -- Chuck]

By 6:00pm, we loaded two 53 ft semi-trucks (each to capacity).

Everything that was donated ended up on those two trucks -- it was quite a site seeing that parking lot cleared at the end of the day!.

Truck #1 already unloaded at the Salvation Army Bell Shelter, which is currently setting up for 1,000 evacuees to arrive beginning next week. We were given a tour of the facility; they are converting a 40,000 sq ft warehouse to provide shelter for incoming evacuees, starting next Tuesday. They have set up an entire infrastructure, including cubicles for families that have cots, dressers, tables, etc. They are setting up a barber shop, laundry mats, kitchens, computer rooms, play rooms for children, class rooms for school (employing LAUSD teachers), TV rooms, etc. Our donation was the first large scale clothing donation they received. The Executive Director met us at the drop-off on Monday and expressed his personal appreciation to all people who volunteered and/or donated. He was blown away when he began to open boxes and saw how organized & sorted everything was. He went on to say that without that, it would have been virtually impossible to accept that quantity of clothing. "This will enable us to put those clothes on people's backs by end of next week", he said. "They will be arriving here with NOTHING". We video taped his comments, which will be distributed to all the volunteers.

Truck #2 is on the road as I write this email. It is meeting me and Danny Foruzesh in Dallas, TX Thursday morning at the local Society of St. Vincent DePaul organization. They are distributing clothing items to the victims directly (I am here in Dallas now). This organization also has the infrastructure set up to distribute the clothes to evacuees. We will be unloading half of Truck #2 at this site in Dallas Thursday morning, and then we take the second half of the truck directly to Austin (200 miles from Dallas) for the remainder of the load. I believe Dallas has over 100,000 evacuees. SVDP committed to having our entire delivery distributed to evacuees within 2 weeks. I spoke to the CEO of St. Vincent DePaul directly. He said some cities are overwhelmed with clothing, while others don't have enough. He determined that his Dallas and his Austin, TX locations "need clothes desperately" (his quote). We will document and video the delivery of Truck #2 as well.

Our goal last Tuesday was simple: "We are going to collect, transport and then distribute clothing to the victims affected by the Hurricane as quickly as possible."

I wish everyone on this email could have shared in the experience of seeing the delivery of the items - it would have both broken & brought warmth to your hearts. The conditions these victims are dealing with are horrific, yet there are hundreds of them touched by your efforts. I don't think we should stop what we've begun.

You wouldn't believe how difficult and time-consuming it was to sort all those clothes, but it was so worth it. As Ben said, the shelters wouldn't have been able to do anything if the clothing hadn't been so meticulously sorted and boxed according to what they were.

I can't thank Ben, Tia, Danny, Gil, Doug and all the other organizers and volunteers enough for their amazing effort for the New Orleans evacuees.

I'll have more updates from the L.A. Help Group as they come in.

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Tuesday, September 13, 2005

BREAKING, 11am: Nagin says New Orleans might reopen within a week.   They're reporting on CNN that if the EPA water testing comes in as well as the preliminary quality report has turned out, New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin will reopen parts the city to residents and businesses as of Monday.

The East, upper and lower 9th Ward and Lakeview probably excepted for now, unfortunately. I didn't hear his voice, I heard the secondhand description from the reporter, but apparently he mentioned the Quarter, CBD and Uptown ... I'm hoping that'll mean the Marigny too.

This is great news. More as we get it.

Nettie's back from the Astrodome and some other Houston-area shelters where she was helping out. Here's her latest:

Well, all I'm back in California and I have mixed feelings about being back. I'm happy to be home with my family and my friends (who I never appreciated more) but when there's so much to do and so many who need so much it's hard to be away.

I'm just going to sort'a write this stream of consciousness so don't expect it have much order.

The giant Dome is filled with people on cots laid side by side by side. Families usually had all their cots together some even used other cots to make a sort of fence around their little area. It's the only little bit of space that they could call their own. The lights are always on and bright bright, we hear they turn them down, not off, at around 11:00 p.m. We usually left by 10:00 p.m.

There's so much noise and activity all the time. The damn loud speaker never stops. There seems to be a bit of a hierarchy within the various shelters, the dome being the most shoddy; it's old and hasn't been used in years. The bathroom and shower facilities were not that great, although they did work. No privacy in the showers. They did segregate men showers from women's though.

The Reliant Center was bigger, not with people but in area; brighter, newer just a very different feel. Better bathroom and shower facilities. I heard that the Convention Center downtown was really nice much more plush. The Convention Center had air mattresses, linens, rooms to watch TV. The Dome was opened first, and the other facilities were opened as more beds were needed. No matter how they tried to make it bearable IT IS A SHELTER NOT A HOME. Despite what Barbara Bush thinks, this is not that "nice".

They tried to anticipate peoples needs. Food, water, clothes, sundries, blankets, etc. There were volunteers every where. Computers at all locations to help with family searches, signing up for assistance, phones free of charge to call.

People are resilient but everyone looks shell-shocked. There's a look in their eyes that's haunting. Some confused, some sad, some just dazed, some despondent and most all determined to get on. The older folks haunt me the most the ones I talked to who are 70, 80+ who have no one and don't know what they're going to do and where they can go. So many told me they didn't want to live with others they wanted to live on their own that's what they were used to. They want to hold on to something of their life and their dignity. The kids at all ages are good as long as their with family parents, grandparents etc. The ones who have been separated from family are heart breaking.

People everywhere are trying to lead them to help. The two biggest issues is family reuniting with family and housing. And for all of you in California and NY, the news is people are not that interested in going that far from home unless they have family in the area. So while you may get a few people it's not going to be too many. People in the area Houston, Baton Rouge, Lafayette etc. who are reaching out with homes, apartments etc. are doing a great thing and it's is needed.

For me it's like there were 2 disasters. Most certainly and most immediate is the toll on the people. The deaths, the loss of home, everything that is important. It's beyond words.

But then I ache for New Orleans, the city that Dave and I chose for our adopted home, the place we wanted to and still will retire to. The neighborhoods, the music, the restaurants just the feel of the City and the people in that City. From the very first time over 14 years ago when we went there it was like we came home. Every visit after that was like going home and then finally we decided it would be our home. It's where we met some of the most important people in our lives: Diana, Steve, Mary, Robin, John, Fiona, we didn't meet Chuck and Wes there but it's where we got to know Chuck best and then thankfully met Wes. Interestingly we met our now dearest friends from California in New Orleans (go figure). Our dear friends from Britain and New York.

It's so painful to think of the City humbled by a hurricane and then the water but really let down by a government who doesn't care. It's like Steve M. said, "The City That Care Forgot met the administration the forgot to Care." But what I really want to say is I know NEW ORLEANS WILL BE BACK. THERE'S NO WAY THIS CITY WILL NOT BE BACK. I believe that with all my heart.

I don't want to forget the music and the musicians who make life worth living. Without them our lives would be much less joyous. The chefs, and cooks in the restaurants all over who contribute making life worth living. I LOVE NEW ORLEANS AND ALWAYS WILL. NEW ORLEANS WILL BE BACK and we'll all be there.

Have I mentioned how much we love Nettie? (And Dave and Mary and Steve and Robin and Diana and John and Fiona and our whole New Orleans/L.A. crowd? And everyone else we know?)

Ein Alligator in der Kirche.   A hair-raising picture of an alligator inside a ruined church in Gulfport

The article is from the German magazine Stern, and although it's auf Deutsch and I don't read or speak German, I can certainly read the headline. From the bad Babelfish translation it seemed that even though the reporters identified themselves as German journalists, they got hassled by the cops.

As the Babelfish translation was as useless as usual, Dave got a German-speaking cow-orker to give him the gist of it:

The dead alligator is in the First Presbyterian Church in Gulfport -- shot by the National Guard since it posed a danger. The "Get the fuck out of here" is what police told the Stern reporters when they ventured into a flooded neighborhood. The gist of the story is a description of the hideous conditions in the city (the stench, the dead bodies, etc.). One reporter/photographer pair ended up assisting with rescue efforts and talked about the people they helped. The account ends with a nice jab at Laura Bush as she tries to find a good photo-op at the Cajundome.

It's all photo-ops with these fucking people, isn't it? That, and being hard at work thanking people, like her husband was doing yesterday.

Wonkette = (super) genius.   We had a power failure yesterday. Some numbnuts worker at the DWP cut a cable (the wrong cable, apparently) and threw a huge swath of the city into darkness, including traffic signals. Took me a little longer to get back from lunch, and some people got stuck in elevators. At home I think we were without power for about a half an hour at the most, but all was well when we got back to the house.

I nearly sprayed a mouthful of Coke Zero all over my monitor when Audrey emailed and said to just go to, who was describing the hysterical coverage on CNN:

LA Lights Out

Well, Los Angeles has gone "dark" (it is still daylight there). We have no idea if this is a big deal, but "The Situation Room" has devoted all six flatscreens to it so we're pretty much freaking the fuck out. ALL SIX SCREENS, PEOPLE!

Has the White House called in any horse association officials yet?

Large Portion of Los Angeles Loses Power [AP]

Related: CNN makes history with 6-way split screen [Romenesko]

UPDATE: SitRoom alerts us to breaking news: Disneyland is okay.

Just cut to Anderson Cooper and let him roll his eyeballs, then let him keep doing his coverage from New Orleans.

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Monday, September 12, 2005

Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown, 1924-2005.   Although his health was failing anyway, I still consider him a casualty of the storm.

Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown, the guitarist, fiddler, vocalist and composer who wove threads of blues, big band swing, Cajun and country into his own unique, self-described tapestry of "American music," died Saturday. He was 81.

Mr. Brown had been in declining health for months, as he battled emphysema, heart disease and lung cancer. As Hurricane Katrina approached, he fled from his home on a Slidell bayou to Orange, Texas, the town where he grew up. His Slidell house was subsequently destroyed by the storm.

"Goin' back to Louisiana / to the girl I left behind ..."

Gretna cops held hurricane survivors back at gunpoint.   I didn't want to believe this story when I first heard it last week.

So much rumormongering, so inflammatory, so harmful to the image of what's left of our city and its surrounding communities. I first got this story in email, and I was horrified. There have been horrible stories that ended up being debunked. I thought it irresponsible to post such a story unless I found more sources to confirm it.

Sources have emerged, from the left and the right, from the San Francisco Chronicle and the New York Times to the Washington Times, and started showing up in numerous weblogs as well.

The story is that a group of nearly 500 hurricane survivors were taking care of each other in and around the Quarter and the CBD. At their own expense they chartered buses to evacuate them, but they were commandeered. They were told by police that they could not stay around the police command center at the foot of Canal Street, and that they should leave the city on foot, via the Pontchartrain Expressway, and walk over the Crescent City Connection to the West Bank, where there as no flooding and comparatively minimal storm damage.

The fleeing survivors were met on the bridge by an armed phalanx of Gretna police, who told them that the West Bank was not going to become New Orleans, and there would be no Superdomes in their city. The police then fired over the heads of the survivors, panicking and dispersing them, and later on when the survivors huddled together in a camp on the Pontchartrain Expressway, they were attacked by Gretna police, who chased them away and took their food and water.

The first-hand account, written by two San Francisco paramedics where were in town for a convention of EMTs, stranded by the hurricane and experienced these events, is here.

If this is true (and, God help us, it's looking like it is), then the police who perpetrated this outrage should be arrested and jailed. Specifically, Gretna police chief Arthur Lawson, who gave the orders and who, astonishingly, confirmed this accouint himself, should be the first to be arrested. In an interview with UPI/The Washington Times, he actually said "If we had opened the bridge, our city would have looked like New Orleans does now: looted, burned and pillaged."

This is criminal.

Welcome, Slate readers!   Well, any of y'all that meandered down here to the basement (a little flooded at the moment) where we keep the weblog. Sara Dickerman wrote a lovely article in Slate today called "A Confederacy of Lunches". (I groan and chuckle, condemning and praising her for how delightfully vile that pun was; I have a complex love/hate relationship with puns, but employ them frequently, I'm sorry to say. But I digress.)

She talks about New Orleans' best meals and how to make them -- gumbo, jambalaya, red beans, turtle soup, étouffée, ersta loaves ... and was kind enough to link to five recipes on my site, including two of my very own. At first I thought what, no link to my fabulous gumbo recipe? Ah, but they link to Leah Chase's (she of Dooky Chase's fame) Creole Gumbo recipe, and I must smile, step back and genuflect in her direction.

Of course, you should all be eating Creole food right now, so read the above article, then head to my recipe section and get busy.

Mayor Nagin speaks out.   From Saturday's Times-Picayune:

In a stark reminder of how drastically Hurricane Katrina has impacted the lives of New Orleanians, Mayor Ray Nagin has purchased a home for his family in Dallas and enrolled his young daughter in school there. Nagin, who spoke with The Times-Picayune by telephone from Dallas, where he has been since Wednesday, said he planned to return to New Orleans on Saturday. He said he will remain in the Crescent City while his family lives for the next six months in Dallas, making occasional visits to his family when possible.

It's not clear where Nagin will be living: His home along Bayou St. John suffered massive flooding, the mayor said, although he has not inspected it.

In a brief but wide-ranging interview, the mayor reflected on the tragedies of the past two weeks, acknowledging that he may have made some mistakes but said that he hopes others in positions of authority -- including President George W. Bush and Gov. Kathleen Blanco -- are scrutinized as closely as he and his staff have been.

"I'm not pointing any fingers at anyone," Nagin said. "But I was in the fire. I was down there. Where were they? I.m confident the truth is gonna come out. But I want everybody's record analyzed just as hard as mine.

"Listen, this was unprecedented. Nothing has ever happened like this. For people to sit back and say, "You should have done this, you should have done that... it's Monday morning quarterbacking. They can shoot if they want, but I was there, and I will have the facts."

The important thing is that there needs to be accountability at every level. Nagin made mistakes locally as the hurricane approached, and did the best job he could with what little he had afterwards. At least he admits he screwed up; I'm keen to hear his explanation about the fiasco with the buses. Blanco ... well, I don't know where she was other than on TV, but BushCo keep spreading the misinformation that she didn't even bother to declare a state of emergency, when she in fact did it on August 26th, two days before the storm struck and while George Bush still had five days left on his vacation. Also, Blanco requested additional National Guard personnel before the storm hit, and the likes of O'Reilly are lying about that too. If there's blame to go around at the state level, why are the feds and their sycophants starting off by lying about it?

BREAKING, 12 NOON: Michael Brown resigns.   I heard this quite literally as I was finishing and posting the post below this one. Well, thanks "Brownie"; it's the only thing you've done right so far.

Mayor Nagin said the resignation won't solve the problem. "I think it's bigger than any one person ... if you think that's going to fix it, it's not. It might make people feel better. It doesn't make me feel better."

Glenn points out in the comments, "Even in resignation he's got it all wrong. He resigned 'in the best interest of the agency and best interest of the president.'" Uh, what about in the best interest of the dead? The homeless? The displaced? The American people?

If they think that this one fall guy is going to be enough, they're dead wrong. We're only just getting started. In haste I said earlier, "Let's forget this guy ever existed, move on and get the people the help they need." Nuh-uh. Let's hold him accountable, and his superiors too.

And what did the President have to say about Brown's resignation? Well, let's find out. Here are his remarks today, to the travel pool at 28th Street Elementary School in what's left of Gulfport, Mississippi:

Q: Can you tell us, have you accepted the resignation of Michael Brown, or have you heard about it?

THE PRESIDENT: I haven't -- no, I have not talked to Michael Brown -- or Mike Chertoff; that's who I'd talk to. As you know, I've been working. And when I get on Air Force One, I will call back to Washington. But I've been on the move.

Q: Our understanding is he has resigned, he's made a statement. Would that be appropriate --

THE PRESIDENT: I haven't talked to Mike Chertoff yet, and that's what I intend to do when I get on the plane. You know, I -- you probably -- maybe you know something I don't know, but as you know, we've been working, and I haven't had a chance to get on the phone.

I just came from an extraordinary event. When I say I've been working, what I've been doing is thanking people. We just came from a church that's feeding people in need, that need help, and there were people from all over the country there. It was unbelievable. And so I was spending time thanking them and lifting their spirits. So I can't comment on something that you may know more about than I do. So don't ask me again about a subject that --

Q: Can you say -- we're you disappointed in the job that he did?

THE PRESIDENT: We went through this this morning, as you know, and I've said this -- so I haven't changed my mind since you asked that question -- or somebody asked the question about it --

Q: This is a little bit different -- we're asking specifically about him.

THE PRESIDENT: It's the same spirit, and that is, is that there will be plenty of time to figure out what went right and what went wrong. And the reason why it's important for us to figure that out at a national level is that, if a major event were to come -- another major event -- we want to make sure that there's an appropriate relationship between the state and the local government. And so it's appropriate that we step back and take a look.

Here in Mississippi and in Louisiana, people want to move forward. They understand there's time to try to blame somebody. But they want to get their lives back together. And that's the spirit I see, and that's what --

Um ...

I'm so glad he's been busy thanking people. That's what we really need in New Orleans now -- thanking.

UPDATE: Bush has chosen three-year FEMA employee David Paulison to replace Brown. Paulison is said to have 30 years of fire rescue experience, but is also the guy who told Americans to stock up on plastic sheeting and duct tape "because they might be helpful after a biological, chemical or radiological attack." Will he be duct-taping the levee breaches?

Michael Brown: "Oh, poor you."   I can hear Nancy Marchand's voice as she portrayed Livia Soprano, dripping with contempt and scorn. Seems that Brownie is whining in an email to friends (a copy of which was obtained by the Rocky Mountain News) that despite the deaths of thousands and the homelessness of hundreds of thousands and the displacement of millions, he's a victim.

I don't mind the negative press (well, actually, I do, but I try to ignore it) but it is really wearing out the family. No wonder people don't go into public service. This country is devouring itself, the 24-hour news cycle is numbing our ability to think for ourselves.

You took a job out of Republican and Bush-pal cronyism, a job for which you knew you were grossly unqualified. When the time came for you to do that job, you had no idea what to do and, of course, fucked it up so royally that even your we-can-do-and-admit-no-wrong bosses pulled your sorry ass off the field job and back to your desk.

If you were worried about your family you should have kept your Arabian horse association job, but apparently they didn't want you either. I'm sorry for your family, actually, but they're suffering for your poor decisions and those who put you in the place you are.

For those who complain that Brown is a scapegoat ... that's actually an incorrect usage. The origin of the scapegoat is biblical; it's an innocent goat, who has all the sins of the people put upon it by the high priest, and it is then driven away. The goat must be innocent; the high priest must be pure. Neither of those conditions exists in this case. Atrios reminds us that it's not entirely Brown's fault, though; it's also the fault of the man who hired him, and the senators who didn't do his job when he was presiding over Brown's confirmation, and those who promoted him into a position where he rose to his level of incompetence; it's a classic example of the Peter Principle in action!

Kevin Drum, however, says that this tidbit is too good to pass up:

In 2002, a pair of FBI agents showed up at a small, well-known law firm near Oklahoma City, asking questions about Mike Brown, a former employee being considered for a job at the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

There, Stephen Jones, a lawyer best known for defending bomber Timothy McVeigh, recalled how he hired Brown fresh from law school two decades earlier. He'd been impressed by Brown's stint on a nearby city council.

But just a few years later, Jones and the other four partners decided to split the firm. To minimize job loss, they unanimously agreed to keep 35 of their 37 employees. Brown was not one of them.

"He did not develop the way we wanted," Jones said this week. "He was average. Maybe that's the best way to put it."

Brown was pleasant enough, if a bit opportunistic, Jones said, but he did not put enough time and energy into his job. "He would have been better suited to be a small city or county lawyer," he said. Jones was surprised Brown was being considered for job at FEMA but figured it wasn't impossible he could have risen high enough in local and state government to be considered for a job directing FEMA operations in Oklahoma.

The agents quickly corrected him. This was a national post in Washington, deputy director of FEMA, the arm of the federal government that prepares for and responds to disasters around the United States.

Jones looked at the agents, "You're surely kidding?"

In light of the update above this post ... well, it's all history now, anyway, right Brownie?

Lies, lies, lies.   Via AmericaBlog:

George W. Bush said he was "relaxed".

When he was asked if he had been "misinformed" by his advisors before he said that "no one had anticipated that the levees would be breached", he said:

What I was referring to is this: When that storm came by, a lot of people said we dodged a bullet. When that storm came through at first, people said, Whew. There was a sense of relaxation. And that.s what I was referring to.

And I myself thought we had dodged a bullet. You know why? Because I was listening to people probably over the airwaves say, The bullet has been dodged. And that was what I was referring to.

Of course, there were plans in case the levee had been breached. There was a sense of relaxation at a critical moment.


President Bush's story doesn't hold up.

As our timeline shows, Bush learned of the serious potential that the levees could be topped as early as Sunday, well before the storm hit, during a briefing with the National Hurricane Center director. More importantly, water was flowing over the levees before Katrina hit land at 6:30 a.m. (By late Sunday night, waves were crashing over the levee walkway. By 3 a.m. on Monday, they had failed.)

So Bush's "sense of relaxation" came long after the levees had been breached.

Actually, from what I've read, scans of media headlines around the country revealed that nobody ever said that New Orleans "dodged a bullet"; what they were saying, as of Tuesday, August 30, before Bush cut his vacation short, was this:

This is, of course, a president who proudly says he never reads the papers anyway.

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Saturday, September 10, 2005
Jazzfest will go on.   Reported by the Times-Picayune:

The 2006 New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival will go on.

"There will be a Jazzfest. We are committed to putting on the 2006 Jazz and Heritage Festival, whatever that may take," said Quint Davis, producer/director of the springtime musical extravaganza and president of Festival Productions Inc.-New Orleans, which produces the festival with AEG Live, the nation's second highest-grossing concert promoter.

Details are sketchy at this point.

"We don't know when, we don't know where, we don't know what format," Davis said. "There will be a Jazzfest in 2006. It will be in Louisiana. It will be as close to New Orleans as we can get it."

The producers would like to hold the event at its customary site at the Fair Grounds Race Course, but if that's not possible they are committed to holding it in Louisiana. "We'll be starting from the Fair Grounds and working our way out" in determining a location, Davis said.

This commitment comes from all of the major stakeholders in the festival, Davis said.

Davis and Jazzfest founder George Wein have met with AEG Live Chief Executive Officer Randy Phillips and other top AEG Live officials. AEG will continue to bankroll the festival, as it did in 2005.

The plan to go forward with the 2006 festival has the support of members of the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Foundation, which owns the festival. Davis and Phillips have have been in contact with foundation Executive Director Don Marshall, who has been in contact with board members.

The producers and the foundation also have committed to contribute to a fund to support festival staff, many of whom have been dislocated by Hurricane Katrina. Jazzfest planning typically begins in September.

This will be a huge boost to New Orleans, if they can pull it off (I know they can) and if they can find places for everyone to stay (the hard part).

Nettie reports from the Astrodome.   Our beloved friend Nettie, a public health official here in southern California, took a team from her office to the Astrodome to help anout and do medical evaluations on evacuees from New Orleans. Here's her first report, live and direct from the Astrodome in Houston, dictated to mary over the phone:

It's like nothing you've ever seen in your life. I can't even explain what it's like.

The Red Cross is here, and being heroes. They are amazing, what they are able to do. There are thousands of volunteers.

Two CVS vans are set up, dispensing meds for free; as soon as you get triaged, diagnosed and your prescription, you just go right to them. They are open 24 hours and are giving the drugs away.

Something called Play Center set up a two huge play areas for the kids, toys, games, arcades, and lots of playground equipment, basketball hoops, slides, and all of it brand new! And so it says to the kids "you are worth it, you deserve something new." You should see the kids, they are having such a ball. They are so resilient.

Tons of food, hot meals, cokes, drinks from the biggest companies, people are bringing those in. Tons of Pedialite for the kids, to make sure they stay hydrated. Everywhere you go there are big containers of water or other drinks and juice. You just reach out, or turn a corner and it's here. They have not made it hard for people.

Continental offered everyone who wanted it a free one way ticket to anywhere they wanted to go. So you could fly to family or friends anywhere in the US.

It seems like everyone got their debit card, except for one guy who didn't have ID, and I'm going to help him get that tomorrow, take him to the Post Office. You can get everything as long as you ask, but a lot of people won't ask, either too proud or they don't understand how things work, so you have to reach out and say "Can I help you?" and even push it a little, but once you get them to tell you what they need, you can help them get it right away.

There are Find Your Family computers and that is heartbeaking.

I've heard all kinds of stories -- tragic, funny, terrible.

People here are helping each other; one guy is set up on one of the ramps, cutting everyone's hair, another lady is doing people's hair. (Mary notes: I think she meant these are refugees helping each other, but maybe not. Nettie did tell several refugee stories about people helping each other, wading through miles of water to get to shelters, being abandoned by sheriff's cars which made them walk another mile to a shelter, trying to carry kids through the water and protect them from seeing the bodies floating in it, sleeping out on the I-10 "Never thought I'd sleep on the I-10!" I asked her about some of the extreme stories we've heard, and she says she's not heard anything like those, so let's hope they are exaggerations.)

It's a huge massive effort and it's really coming together. There is still some red tape, which is dumb, some things they could do better but it is what it is. But overall, everyone is doing their best to get through it all.

There are only 2500 people left in the Dome. Over in the building next door, there are 5000, and in the Convention Center there are 2000, and various shelters around the city.

All the places around here, hotels, fast food places, all have on their signs "Welcome, People from New Orleans! We love you!" And they are all offering huge discounts for refugees.

And while there are a lot of people who say they are never going back, there are many more who say "I'm going back. Even if I have nothing. That's my home."

I really appreciate all the emails -- they really keep me going.

I love you all. I'm thinking of you all the time. You are in my heart. It's like nothing you've ever seen in your life. I can't even explain what its like. I'm so glad I did this.

We love you, Nettie! You are beyond amazing.

Charmaine Neville: "My soul is New Orleans."   She's moved on from the church shelter in Donaldsonville, and is safe with friends and family in Baton Rouge. The Baton Rouge Advocate helps her tell her story.

Quote of the day.   Oh no, he didn't really say that, did he?

"We finally cleaned up public housing in New Orleans. We couldn't do it, but God did."

-- U.S. Rep. Richard H. Baker, (R-Baton Rouge)

Oh, apparnently he did. Of course, he backtracked and said that "we had been trying for decades to clean up publc housing in New Orlenas to provide decent housing for residents, and now it looks like God is finally making us do it." Could we please ask for these people to engage their brains before they speak? And while we're at it, Lord, would you please strike Rick Santorum mute? (See above article as well.)

Continuing musicians' update.   I'm going to try to keep this post near the top, so it's easier to find.

Here's a list so far of New Orleans musicians that have been confirmed as safe (via email advisories, message boards, Mary Katherine's contacts, etc.; boldface indicates musicians that others were particularly worried about). Check WWOZ's list for the latest updates; I'm being really careful before I update this again:

Fats Domino rescued

Pete Alba, Jeff Albert, Jeffrey "Jellybean" Alexander, Steve Allen, Kevin Allman, Brint Anderson, Mark Anderson, Theresa Andersson, James "Satchmo of the Ghetto" Andrews, Troy "Trombone Shorty" Andrews, Johnny Angel, Steve Armstrong, Astral Project, Victor Atkins.

Christine Balfa, Marcia Ball, Lucien Barbarin, Bruce "Sunpie" Barnes, Mike Barras, Rebecca Barry, Dave Bartholomew, Harold Battiste, Jamal Battiste, Russell Batiste, Suzette Becker, Al Belletto (and Linda), Doug Belote, Tab Benoit, Better Than Ezra, Terrance Blanchard, Eddie Bo (plus sister Veronica and his band), Isaac Bolden (Soulin' Records; in Atlanta), Bonerama, Big Chief Monk Boudreaux, John Boutté (Florida), Lillian Boutté (England; her N.O. family is safe), Tanya Boutté, Tricia "Sista Teedy" Boutté, Alonzo Bowens, Jesse Boyd, Hal Braden, Mark Braud, Jerry Brock (at the Salvation Army shelter in Pasadena, TX), Juanita Brooks, Mark Brooks, Russ Broussard, Anthony Brown, larence "Gatemouth" Brown, Jody Brown, Maurice Brown (in Chicago), Wendell Brunious, George and Nina Buck, Johann & Bethany Bultman, Henry Butler (in Monroe).

Grayson Capps, Big Al Carson, Ricki Castrillo, Brian "Breeze" Cayole, Topsy Chapman, Lean Chase and family, Alex Chilton, Evan Christopher, Jon Cleary, Annie Clements, Harry Connick Jr. (as seen on TV!), Earl Conway, Brian Coogan, Juanita Tolbert Cooper, Country Fried, Cowboy Mouth, Susan Cowsill, Davell Crawford, Jack Cruz.

Tony Dagradi, Dash Rip Rock, Jeremy Davenport, Theryl "Houseman" DeClouet, Allen Dejan, Nora Dejoie, Roger Dickerson (in San Antone, then New Mexico), Dirty Dozen Brass Band, The Dixie Cups (alive but lost everything), Big Chief Bo Dollis and the Wild Magnolias, Michael Domenici, Fats Domino, Dwayne Dopsie and band, Michael Doucet and all of BeauSoleil, Dr. John.

Snooks Eaglin (and family of 12, now homeless), Lars Edegran, Gary Edwards, Nancy Edwards, Joe Espino & New Orleans Brass Potholes Band (all members).

Charlie Fardela, Lionel Ferbos, The Fessters (all memebers), Jack Fine (of the Palmetto Bug Stompers), Rob Florence and family, Pat Flory, John Fohl, Frankie Ford (reported safe by his niece!) Andy Forrest, Gina Forsyth, Pete Fountain, Derrick Freeman, Jonathan Freilich (N.O. Klezmer All-Stars), Bob French, George French, Gerald French, Peter Fuller, funky Meters.

Galactic, Lauren Gaudin (New Orleans Magazine), Katrina Geenen (WWOZ DJ), Cheryl Gerber & Marc McGrain (local music photographers), Banu Gibson, Victor Goines, Steve Goodson, Tim Green, John "Papa" Gros (and the whole Papa Grows Funk band), Roland Guerin.

James Hall, Tony Hall, Carol Hammer, Jeff Hannusch ("Almost Slim", OffBeat music journalist), Ben Harris, Corey Harris, Grant Harris, Leigh "Little Queenie" Harris, Donald Harrison Jr., Bill Hart, Paul Hayes, Jeff Hebert, Duke Heitger, Clarence "Frogman" Henry, Corey Henry, Ryan Hiller, Andi Hoffman, Peter Holsapple, The Hot Club of New Orleans, Bill Huntington.

Mike Ieya, The Iguanas, Burke Ingraffia, I Tell You What (Adam Crochet, Quinlan Kircher, Bill Richards).

David James, Jeff & Vida (Jeff Burke & Vida Wakeman), Bunchy Johnson, Pat Jolly, Benny Jones Sr., Connie Jones, Leroy Jones, Kidd Jordan and family, Marlon Jordan, Kirk Joseph, Jerry Jumonville and Beth Lasky.

Antoinette K-Doe (in a Red Cross shelter in Ga.), Luther Kent, Kid Red, Little Freddie King, Chris Thomas King, Craig Klein, Erik Klerks, Jean Knight (in Tampa), Chris Kohn, Ronnie Kole (Dukes of Dixieland), Lew Kreinberg, Joe Krown.

Julia LaShea, Joseph Lastie, Tim Laughlin, Washboard Chaz Leary, Herman Lebeaux, Matt Leder, Bryan Lee, Matt Lemmler, David Leonard & Roselyn Lionheart (David & Roselyn), Herman Leonard, Lil' Rascals Brass Band, Lil' Stooges Brass Band, Eric Lindell, A.J. Loria, Simon Lott, Ingrid Lucia, Jeremy Lyons.

Thomas MacDonald, Ronnie Magri & his N.O. Jazz Band, Ronald Markham, Ellis Marsalis, Delfeayo Marsalis, Dolores Marsalis, Jason Marsalis, Wynton Marsalis, Steve Masakowski, Irvin Mayfield, Scott & Ursula McCraw, Tom McDermott, Alberto Medina, Phil Melancon, Humberto "Pupi" Menez (and aunt Caridad Delatorre), Charlie Miller, David Mooney, Charles Louie Moore, Deacon John Moore (although band members unknown), Bill Morgan, Tom Morgan, Chris Mule.

Kenny Neal, The Neville Brothers (Aaron, Art, Charles, Cyril), Charmaine Neville, Ivan Neville, Danny Nick, Carlo Nuccio (post-storm okay, post-flood unknown).

Pat O'Conor, Kevin O'Day, Nancy Ochsenschlager, Anders Osborne.

Stevenson Palfi, Earl Palmer, Panorama Jazz Band, Jason Patterson Joshua Paxton, Michael Pearce, Derwin "Big D" Perkins, Spike Perkins, Ed Petersen, Loren Pickford & finacée Sheila Bauer, Dave Pirner, Renard Poche, Pocketfoxx, George Porter Jr., Dirk Powell, Shannon Powell and family, Preservation Hall (high and dry, and most musicians and staff have checked in).

Wardell Quezergue, Quintron & Miss Pussycat.

The Radiators, Omar Ramirez, Jan V. Ramsey & most of OffBeat Magazine staff), Rebirth Brass Band (all members), Trevor Richards, Herlin Riley, Sammy Rimington, Marcus Roberts, Coco Robicheaux, Rockin' Dopsie Jr. and the Zydeco Twisters, John Rodli (N.O. Jazz Vipers), Rooster & the Chickenhawks, Biff Rose, Brent Rose, George Rossi, Wanda Rouzan, Dixie Rubin, Kermit Ruffins, Dorian Rush.

Saaraba (everyone in band), Scott Saltzman, Lehman Sammons, Mark Samuels (Pres., Basin Street Records), Will Samuels (Basin Street Records), Ben Sandmel, Jumpin' Johnny Sansone, Marc and Ann Savoy and family, Alexandra Scott, Marshall Sehorn, Brian Seeger, Mem Shannon and the Membership, Derek Shezbie, Larry Sieberth, Celia Sinclair, James Singleton, Johnny Sketch, Michael Skinkus, Barry Smith & Linda (Louisiana Music Factory; in Mississippi), Jon Smith, Leslie Smith, Robert Snow (N.O. Jazz Vipers), Soul Rebels, Nick Spitzer & family, Dylan James Stansbury, Cornell Williams, Steamboat Willie, Sally Stevens, Armand St. Martin, Brian Stoltz, Marc Stone, the subdudes, Bill Summers, Supagroup, Ken Swartz.

Irma Thomas, Tom Thompson, Michael Tisserand (editor of the Gambit and zydeco historian) and family, David Torkanowsky, Allen Toussaint, Tremé Brass Band (all members safe, including Uncle Lionel!), Rick Trolsen, Willie Turbinton.

Don Vappie (Milly too, presumably), Johnny Vidacovich, Milton Villarrubia.

Rob Wagner, Mark Walton (Continental Drifters), Walter "Wolfman" Washington", Raymond Webber, Melissa Weber, Kim Weiser, Mike West, Where New Orleans Magazine and its entire staff, Catherine White, Matthew White, Dr. Michael White, Cornell Williams, Desmond "Milkman" Williams, Jamelle Williams, Big Sammy Williams, Marva Wright.

June Yamagishi.

Linnzi Zaorski.

I have temporarily removed Frankie Ford's name from the found list until we get confirmation that he's safe, from a reliable source, and where he is. I feel terrible; someone passed his name along to me and I can't find/don't remember who it was, and now his niece is writing in, very concerned and worried, wanting to know where he is. If anyone has any information on Frankie Ford's whereabouts, please post or email. Thank you.

UPDATE: Uncle Lionel Batiste confirmed safe! WWOZ got an email that he's alive, well and safe in Arkansas. All other members of the Tremé Brass Band are fine. Here's a grainy picture I took of Uncle Lionel on stage at Satchmofest '05:

Uncle Lionel Batiste

UPDATE: Via Ben Sandmel: "Antoinette K-Doe is in a Red Cross shelter in Edenton, Georgia. A friend of hers from North Carolina is en route to pick her up. Previously: "Not 100% confirmed but heard that [Antoinette K-Doe]'s in the lounge, guarding it with a gun, was offered a ride out in a boat but declined. She has lots of food and drink so I guess she's OK, relatively. More ASAP... "

UPDATE: Via Craigslist:
New Orleans own Blues Guitarist, Blind Snooks Eaglin, needs a home for him and his family who have lost their homes to Hurricane Katrina. We are 12 in all, please help. You may contact us at

MISSING: Melissa G. sends in, "My friends are street musicians in a band called Mountain Sprout. I have not been able to locate them - they have no phone. They are a hillbilly band who played in front of the A&P in the Quarter every day at 11:00am. They owned a house in the Tremé close to Louis Armstrong Park. Their names are Grayson and Coydog. If you have heard anything about Mountain Sprout please let me know!" Post in this topic.

If you hear or read any news about any of the local musicians and whether they're safe, please post in a comment on this topic.

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Friday, September 9, 2005

One of 200,000 heartbreaks.   I can taste that Frenchuletta, those fried pickles, that Oysters Rockefeller casserole, the fried catfish, the Galbaroni pasta, that fabulous occasional Friday seafood special, that seafood lasagne with white sauce, fresh spinach, crabmeat, shrimp and crawfish ... (Oh bayybee ... da numbah one!)

Liuzza's, August 6, 2005
(Liuzza's on Bienville, 8/6/2005, with my parents and grandmother)

Liuzza's, September 8, 2005
(Liuzza's on Bienville, 9/8/2005, under water)

As you can see from the window to the left of the door, the water in the second picture would be over their heads.

I'm so glad I went there my last trip home, one month and three days ago. It was so good.

Galatoire's in Baton Rouge?   Via Mary Katherine: This hasn't been confirmed, but apparently "a very well-connected source" says that the entire staff of Galatoire's will take over a Baton Rouge restaurant temporarily, serving the exact same menu. This, if true, is a great idea, since there are probably a couple hundred thousand New Orleanians in Baton Rouge right now, and this way they can keep their staff together. I'll post confirmation as soon as I hear.

Man, if this is true, and they can do this within five weeks, I'm takin' my momma there for her birthday.

Louisiana Music Factory.   I had emailed Barry Smith, owner of the Louisiana Music Factory, last week to see how he, his family and the staff/store were doing. I managed to get word from a third party that two of the staffers were holed up on the store's 2nd floor, keeping an eye on the place. In my email I told him that as soon as he was able, ready and willing, I was prepared to help them out and inject some money back into the New Orleans economy by buying a shitload of records from him.

Today I heard from his wife Linda, who updated the status of the store, the web site and what's been happening:

hello chuck - thanks for the support.

barry is in mississippi with family but does not have electricity - i am in lafayette with a very kind family.

everyone at the store got out safe. the store is not flooded but we are worried about looting.

so many good folk like yourself wants to help by ordering product. our website is still running. people are ordering there even without knowing a mailing date. we are not charging credit cards until we mail out the orders. it does our heart good to see the many orders even though we cannot do anything at the moment. this is the only thing that will save the store.

the minute we get back we will process everything and send it all out.

thanks again for the love and concern - it is greatly appreciated.

linda & barry

So, here's an idea. Mary says, "For Christmas shopping this year, I suggest ordering a LOT of CDs from the Music Factory, with an emphasis on current New Orleans musicians on the various indie labels... and there will certainly be something for everyone! Parents and older folks would probably LOVE the Tom McDermot/Evan Christopher stuff, for example.... and it would filter money directly to the New Orleans music world as well as spread the music itself."

If you want to give jewelry or decorative arts from New Orleans instead, try local designer Mignon Faget. All her stores are currently closed, but as with Barry and Linda the website is open and taking orders which will ship as soon as they're able. Get the idea? (I want me a pair of those fleur-de-lis cufflinks, which I wish I had gotten before but am now glad I can get now because it helps them more.)

Patronize New Orleans businesses with online presences as much as you can for your holiday gift-giving. Start Googling.

As it happened.   (Thanks to Barry for posting this.) Alvaro, an employee of the Château Sonesta Hotel in New Orleans and a resident of the French Quarter, took an astonishing series of 197 photographs of the disaster of the hurricane unfolding around him. Getting ready, boarding up, the initial winds, the aftermath of the winds, the thought we had gotten by relatively okay, the tentative celebration ... and then the waters began to rise.

KRVS Live Broadcast of "Band Together" Hurricane Katrina Relief Concert.   From KRVS Radio Acadie, the public radio station in Lafayette:

This Saturday, Sept. 10th, starting at 7:30pm (CT), KRVS will broadcast LIVE a Hurricane Katrina Relief benefit concert from downtown Lafayette.

For the concert, "Band Together", Zachary Richard, Michael Doucet and Sonny Landreth are set to make special appearances with Roddie Romero & The Hub City All-Stars at Parc International in downtown Lafayette, La. The newly announced special guest artists Jimmy Breaux, David Torkanowsky, Nathan Williams Jr. and others will also join the band onstage at 8 p.m. and the Acadiana Symphony String Quartet will open the evening with a performance when the gates open at 7:30 p.m. Admission is a $5 suggested minimum donation; all admission and concession proceeds will go directly to the American Red Cross.

If you can't make it to downtown Lafayette Saturday night, tune in to the concert on-air at 88.7 fm or on-line at; and, if you would, please pass the word on to friends to listen in as "Band Togther" raises funds and spirits.

With much gratitude from south Louisiana,

Judith Meriwether, Development Director
and all the staff of KRVS Public Radio

I'll be listening.

Project HEAL to assist artists impacted by Hurricane Katrina.   Forwarded by Michael Doucet:

Media Contact:
Matthew Goldman, Project HEAL Director
(337) 233-7060

Project HEAL

Sept. 9, 2005, Lafayette, La. - The Acadiana Arts Council announces the creation of Project HEAL to assist artists impacted by Hurricane Katrina. Project HEAL (Helping Employ Artists Locally) offers displaced artists employment opportunities in local communities. Artists working in a wide range of disciplines including dance, design arts, folklife, literature, media, music, theatre and visual arts are now being recruited for programs designed in partnership with local arts organizations and venues. Seamlessly integrating artists impacted by Hurricane Katrina into existing Acadiana Arts Council programs will quickly and directly assist those artists in immediate need of financial assistance.

"Though homes, businesses and lives have been lost and profoundly damaged, our culture and many of its bearers are still intact," says Buddy Palmer, Executive Director of the Acadiana Arts Council. "Our artistic community has deep ties to New Orleans and with our partners we are expanding job opportunities regionally to offer our guests the ability to contribute to our communities in creative and meaningful ways."

Project HEAL will be announced locally at 8 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 10 at "Band Together," a all-star multi-artist benefit concert in downtown Lafayette coinciding with similar events in New York, Los Angeles, Atlanta and Nashville. Fans of Cajun music ambassadors BeauSoleil have provided a cornerstone gift to launch Project HEAL, and the organizers of Louisiana's premiere celebration of Cajun culture, Festivals Acadiens, will lend their support to Project HEAL onsite in Lafayette's Girard Park on Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 17-18.

This innovative new effort will be led by Project HEAL Director Matthew Goldman, a New Orleans resident currently displaced by the hurricane. "The Acadiana Arts Council immediately identified the pressing need to assist artists impacted by the hurricane and we wanted to extend the benefits to not just the artists, but the entire Acadiana region," Goldman says. "Employing artists in schools, workshops and temporary shelters will benefit the artists while enriching our community."

Project HEAL partners include Louisiana Crossroads, Louisiana Folk Roots, Festival International de Louisiane, Performing Arts Society of Acadiana, Lafayette Convention and Visitors Commission and Lafayette Economic Development Authority.

To make a tax-deductible donation to Project HEAL, register as an artist or inquire about volunteer opportunities, please contact:

Acadiana Arts Council
P.O. Box 53762
Lafayette, LA 70505
(337) 233-7060, (337) 233-7062 fax
A 501(c)3 Non-profit organization
EIN: 51-0138288
Visa, MasterCard and Discover accepted

Thank you for your support of this vital community project.

Thank you, Acadiana.

"Brownie" out.   I wish I could say that they fired the fucker, but they've only "replaced" him and recalled him to Washington:

Coast Guard Vice Adm. Thad Allen will replace Michael Brown, the embattled FEMA director, as the on-site head of hurricane relief operations in the Gulf Coast, a senior administration official told CNN.

I'm not terribly fond of cliché, but thoughts of closing barn doors and previously-fled horses come to mind.

Of course, they can't say they "fired" him, they can't actually stand guards by his office while they clean out his desk and escort him from the building (and preferably into jail), they're just shuffling him around, because to actually fire him, which would be the just, right, proper and human thing to do, would mean that Bush would have to admit that he made a mistake, would have to say that he was wrong about something. Don't hold your breath.

Steve added, "Chertoff just had a press conference with Brown at his side... tried to make it seem like it was just a routine shift to allow Brown to get back to readying FEMA for future needs, etc.

"They apparently think we are all idiots."

Probably. But we're not going to let them get away with it anymore.

I think Brown should be sent back to New Orleans, actually. He should be assigned to a longboat, under the command of a National Guard sergeant, and he should spend the next several weeks collecting bodies. Nagin and Blanco should probably tag along.

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Thursday, September 8, 2005

"Down Home" tonight.   Listen with me tonight, 88.5 FM in Los Angeles, at the above link via the Internet. 7:00pm Pacific Time, 0300 GMT. All New Orleans music, in solidarity with WWOZ-in-Exile.

Guardians of the Groove, unite!

L.A. area Hurricane Relief Clothing Drive!   For everyone in the Los Angeles area:

Sunday, Sept 11th at Third St Elementary School

One of the frustrations that have been shared by all in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina has been the inability to donate excess resources, such as clothing, directly to the victims. Organizations such as the Red Cross, Salvation Army, etc, are all accepting cash donations (with good cause), but getting clothing to those in immediate need, has proven nearly impossible.

We will be conducting an emergency Clothing Drive this Sunday, September 11th at Third Street Elementary School. We are asking you to participate/contribute.

Our goal is simple: we are going to collect, transport and then distribute clothing to the victims affected by the Hurricane as quickly as possible.

You can help by donating: Clothing, your time, and/or cash!

This is not affiliated with any outside agency - this is a group of us who want to help now! Your clothes/cash donations will be in someone's hands next week, period! We have organized moving trucks for pick up Sunday at Third Street School, and are organizing destinations in and around the affected areas for delivery & distribution. The trucks will be loaded with boxes of non-food items this Sunday afternoon and will hit-the-road Monday.

Items to donate:

Used items: Shirts, shoes, jackets, pants, blankets (please wash clothes before they are packed).

If you chose to purchase items, such as socks, underwear, etc, that would also be great.

Donate your time: We need volunteers for the drive on Sunday Cash donations. This will go directly to supporting this effort and additional moneys will go directly to victims.

Location/Date/Time: Third Street Elementary School faculty parking lot: 201 South June Street (corner of 3rd & June St)
Sunday, September 11, 2005, 10am to 2pm.

If you would like to learn more, volunteer your time and/or donate money, please call Ben & Tia Zoldan at (323) 630-9629. Email:

My garage and closet will be a lot cleaner by this Sunday. How about yours?

New Orleans flood map.   Michael sent me this amazing map the combines myriad technologies and data with a Google Maps interface to provide an interactive map of floodwater depths in New Orleans.

Zoom in and click on any location, and it'll tell you how deep the water is at that location (technically, around a 100'x100' area around that point, on average). explanation and FAQ here.

It currently shows my folks' house as being under 4.5 feet of water. If that's accurate, then some of the items in the house might be salvageable. Then again, there's no way of telling how high the water actually got in the initial storm surge.

I wish to Christ I could just take a helicopter in and drop down in an airboat.

UPDATE: The map data has been updated just within the last couple of hours with the estimated maximum water depth, as well as the current water depth. My folks' house came in at 7.5 feet max. Shit.

N.Y. Times on the future of N.O. musicians.   It gladdens me that they haven't lost hope, perilous as the situation is.

Now the future for brass bands and Mardi Gras Indians, to cite two examples, looks particularly bleak if their neighborhoods are destroyed by flooding, and bleaker still with the prospect of no new tourists coming to town soon to infuse their traditions with new money. Although the full extent of damage is still unknown, there is little doubt that it has been severe - to families, to instruments, to historical records, to clubs, to costumes. "Who knows if there exists a Mardi Gras Indian costume anymore in New Orleans?" wondered Don Marshall, director of the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival Foundation.

"A lot of the great musicians came right out of the Treme neighborhood and the Lower Ninth Ward," said the trumpeter Kermit Ruffins, temporarily speaking in the past tense, by phone from Houston yesterday. Mr. Ruffins, one of the most popular jazz musicians in New Orleans, made his name there partly through his regular Thursday-night gig over the last 12 years at Vaughan's, a bar in the Bywater neighborhood, where red beans and rice were served at midnight. Now Vaughn's may be destroyed, and so may his new house, which is not too far from the bar.

Vaughn's is not destroyed. I (virtually) saw it night before last, from the air. We've been through this! I'll post a picture later to show you. Continuing ...

The next morning [Ruffins] fled to Baton Rouge with his family, and now he is in Houston, about to settle into apartments, along with more than 30 relatives. He is being offered plenty of work in Houston, and is already thinking ahead to what he calls "the new New Orleans."

"I think the city is going to wind up being a smaller area," he said. "They'll have to build some super levees.

"I think this will never happen again once they get finished," Mr. Ruffins added. "We're going to get those musicians back, the brass bands, the jazz funerals, everything."

Brass bands function through the year - not only through the annual Jazzfest, where many outsiders see them, and jazz funerals, but at the approximately 55 social aid and pleasure clubs, each of which holds a parade once a year. It is an intensely local culture, and has been thriving in recent years. Brass-band music, funky and hard-hitting, can easily be transformed from the neighborhood social to a club gig; brass bands like Rebirth, Dirty Dozen and the Soul Rebels have done well by touring as commercial entities. Members of Stooges Brass Band have ended up in Atlanta, and of Li'l Rascals in Houston; there could be a significant brass-band diaspora before musicians find a way to get home to New Orleans. (Rebirth's Web site,, has been keeping a count of brass-band musicians who have been heard from.)

The Mardi Gras Indian tradition is more fragile. Monk Boudreaux is chief of the Golden Eagles, one of the 40 or so secretive Mardi Gras tribes, who are known not just for their flamboyant feathered costumes but for their competitive parades through neighborhoods at Mardi Gras time. (Mardi Gras Indians are not American Indians but New Orleanians from the city's working-class black neighborhoods.) Mr. Boudreaux, now safe with his daughter in Mesquite, Tex., stayed put through the storm at his house in the Uptown neighborhood; when he left last week, he said, the water was waist-high. He chuckled when asked if the Mardi Gras Indian tradition could survive in exile. "I don't know of any other Mardi Gras outside of New Orleans," he said.

[...] Louis Edwards, a New Orleans novelist and an associate producer of the Jazz and Heritage Festival, said, "No other city is so equipped to deal with this." A French Quarter resident, Mr. Edwards was taking refuge last week at his mother's house in Lake Charles, La.

"Think of the jazz funeral," he said. "In New Orleans we respond to the concept of following tragedy with joy. That's a powerful philosophy to have as the underpinning of your culture."

In the meantime, Mr. Boudreaux, chief of the Golden Eagles, has a feeling his own Mardi Gras Indian costume is intact. He was careful to put it in a dry place before he left home. "I just need to get home and get that Indian suit from on top of that closet," he said.

Big Chief don't bow, Big Chief don't kneel. He's the Big Chief of the Nation, the wild, wild creation ... he down bow down, down on the ground, oh how I love to hear him call my Indian reeee-eeeee-ed ... (Jock-a-mo-fee-no-hondo-hondo, hondo-hondo-hondo ...)

Charmaine Neville's story.   Kermit, Monk, Greg Davis, all those people in the article and lots of folks got out of the city before the hurricane struck. They were safe and sound and didn't directly experience its fury and horror. Charmaine Neville didn't get out.

She survived, and she's taking refuge in a church in Donaldsonville. There's video of her describing her experiences when the hurricane struck her neighborhood in the 9th Ward, how her house began to collapse, how the water rose and rose, how she rescued many of her neighbors, how bodies floated by, how nobody stopped to help them, how the helicopters just flew by. It's one of the most awful, heartrending things I've ever seen, and you must watch it. Here's an alternate source.

Every time I ever saw her perform, she was so full of life, full of joy, full of sass. How does anyone ever recover from something like this?

Hers is just one story. Just one. There are thousands.

I just want to crawl in a hole.

Astonishing, jaw-dropping quote of the day.   Steve saw the tape of House Minority Leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) telling of this little bit for a meeting with Bush, also reported here:

Pelosi recounted a conversation with Bush, during which she called for the resignation of Michael Brown, head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency who had been under fire since the outset.

"He said, 'Why would I do that?'" Pelosi said. "I said, 'Because of all that went wrong, of all that didn't go right last week.'

"And he said, 'What didn't go right?'

"Oblivious, in denial, dangerous," she said.

My God.

Rage. Screaming, weepy, shrieking rage.

Astonishing, jaw-dropping quote of the day, part deux.   As seen last night on "The Daily Show", presented by Jon Stewart as "your moment of Zen", from a clip that was originally broadcast on MSNBC during their hurricane coverage; the images behind the talking head of the alleged human speaking was of a flooded New Orleans with a house on fire from a gas leak:

"I understand there are 10,000 people dead -- it's terrible, it's tragic, but in a democracy of 300 million people, over years and years and years, these things happen."

-- Jack Burkman, GOP Strategist, speaking on MSNBC

Is this a human being?

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Wednesday, September 7, 2005

New Orleans Musicians' Hurricane Relief Fund.   This fund has been established by Preservation Hall to provide musicians with financial support during this tragic time. 100% of the money raised through this fund will go to New Orleans musicians.

Click here to donate. And thank you.

Save New Orleans Cocktail Hour!   Via The Museum of the American Cocktail, which up until last week was in New Orleans (and, we hope, will be again):

On Monday, September 12th, between the hours of 5:00pm and 7:00pm, bar customers across the nation will raise their glasses for a "Save New Orleans Cocktail Hour" as bar and restaurant owners shake up New Orleans' classic cocktails to directly benefit New Orleans food and beverage industry workers who are out of work and sorely in need of funds for rebuilding their lives. During this special event New Orleans classics will be offered at participating bars for $10 per drink. Receipts from the "Save New Orleans Cocktail Hour" will be donated to a special tax-deductible relief fund established by the Museum of the American Cocktail.

Here is a list of participating restaurants and bars in Aspen, Boston, Cleveland, Las Vegas, New Jersey, New York, Seattle and Washington DC (though sadly none in the Los Angeles area; if Cinnabar were still open they'd be all over this), along with the official press release and a list of recommended New Orleans cocktails.

Robert Hess told me that having the benefit allows him to think that he's actively doing something to help out, even if they don't generate that much money. Robert, Dale, and everyone associated with this, thank you so much. Every dollar will help at this point. Y'all'll do great.

(Parenthetically, in an oddly-timed email last week I got an invitation to join the Board of Advisors of the Museum of the American Cocktail. I'm surprised, given that their advisors know so much more than I, but perhaps my energy and enthusiasm and desire to pull in more cocktail knowledge as if I were a rye whiskey-soaked black hole helps make up for that. I think I'm gonna say yes.)

Our hero, no. 2!   My sister Marie, nursing in New Orleans practically around the clock, is Hero No. 1. Our second is our dear friend Nettie, one of the legendary "Fat Pack", co-owner of a New Orleans home off Bayou St. John, and a public health official in the city of Long Beach. She emailed this yesterday:

I just got some GREAT news. It looks like I will be able to go with a team from UCLA's Disaster/Emergency Response Training Center to Houston tomorrow. We will be dispatched to the Astrodome to do health assessments on the evacuees. It's not new Orleans but we're still trying for that, and that may happen in a couple of weeks or sooner. Things are breaking quickly now.

She started working on this immediately after the storm hit, cutting through the red tape, and now it's happening. She's amazing, we love her very much, we're so proud of her and we wish we could go too. (I'd be pretty useless; the one way to get me to faint is to start an IV on someone. I'd be better off doing the cooking.)

We hope to have journal entries and photos from the New Orleanian survivors in the Astrodome as her time allows.

New Orleans rising.   Rob Patterson writes in about the awful toll that the hurricane has taken on the city's musical community and heritage, but offers us a ray of hope for the future. (If you're not a subscriber, just watch the commercial to get through to the article; it's superb and really worth it.)

The flood drenched homes where creative souls lived in what more than one Crescent City musician in the last few days referred to as a "paradise." It also flowed into and over clubs and studios, as well as the means of income for a music community that was a magnet for visitors and one of the most piquant exports in a city rich with delicacies. It washed over musical instruments and equipment as well as the music itself, both recorded and written, soaking, soiling and damaging but, thank God, not fully destroying one of America's most vital, important and soulful cultural traditions.

The muddy waters roiled by Katrina have no doubt flooded some legendary musical locales and wiped out irreplaceable artifacts of New Orleans music. Among the hardest-hit areas were the poverty-stricken African-American neighborhoods, where the New Orleans musical traditions are all but woven into the tattered but colorful fabric of everyday life. But neither the music of Crescent City nor the people who create it -- nor the spirit, soul, originality, independence and distinctive locality of that art and the musicians who create it -- can be washed away, no matter what the category hurricane or depth of flood. "It's going to take some time, but it will come back," says Art Neville of the city's legendary R&B band the Neville Brothers. "We've got to put it back because it's so involved with the local economy and the United States."

"The spirit did not drown," declares New Orleans resident Allen Toussaint, the producer, songwriter and artist whose work all but defined the New Orleans R&B sound. He is confident the Big Easy will continue to bless the world with its musical magic. "In fact, I am eager to get back to rebuild it. New Orleans music for me is life itself, it's my reason for moving in the morning when I wake up."

The good news in the tragedy is that it appears that every significant New Orleans musician feared missing is safe and sound -- something of a miracle as the death toll mounts. Then again, New Orleans music itself is a miracle. It is the place where the truest and most deeply rooted strains of indigenous American music -- blues, jazz, rhythm and blues -- flowed down the proverbial waters of the Mississippi, took root and sprouted into the sounds of Cajun, zydeco and swamp pop. New Orleans is Louis Armstrong, Fats Domino and Irma Thomas. It's also the Radiators, Cowboy Mouth, and the Continental Drifters. "It's all the musicians that made their living playing Jackson Square. And now there's no Jackson Square to play," notes Marc Allan, manager of the Dirty Dozen Brass Band.

People keep saying things like this. There is a Jackson Square. It's dry. It lost a couple of big historic oak trees, and they nearly smashed the statue of Jesus in front of the Cathedral, but He only broke a couple of fingers. Look at the top of this picture, just to left of center. That's Jackson Square, taken late last week after the worst of the flooding. There, baby. Empty, but there.

Funny ... the version of the article I read last night said,

David Hirshland is executive vice president of Bug Music in Los Angeles, which administers song publishing for scores of New Orleans musicians, and a former co-owner of the ... bed and breakfast Chateau Marigny. "In the middle of August, you saw some of the best music you've ever seen in your life, like Kermit Ruffins and Henry Butler trading licks like crazy at Vaughn's [in the Bywater section]. And now that place Im sure is under 8 to 10 feet of water."

Balderdash, said I. I knew for a fact that the Bywater was high and dry below St. Claude, and I went to the trusty NOAA aerial photo maps to prove it. Here's the shot that shows that part of the Bywater. That's my family's old neighborhood, we were constantly at my grandparents' old house and corner grocery store at Mazant and Royal. Center of the picture, look for the three Navy Support buildings inside the triangle formed by the river, the Industrial Canal and the railroad track (which is the hypotenuse). Just above the three buildings is an L-shaped street corner. That's the corner of Poland and Chartres. Count one street up from Poland. That's Lesseps. Count two streets over from Chartres to the right. That's Dauphine. Vaughn's is on the (sort-of) northeast-looking corner; you can see the awning. They don't even appear to have taken any roof damange. I don't know how much water they may or may not have gotten during the initial storm surge, but at the moment, I think it's safe to say that Vaughn's is not only not under 8 to 10 feet of water, the street outside the club is dry. So let's cross our collective fingers, murmur a quick prayer and hope.

I emailed this to Rob and to the editors of Salon, and they actually edited out that above-quoted paragraph. Heh. Good for y'all!

Here's the thing, y'all, and Peter Holsapple said it best. He lost everything, in a house in Arabi that's under 20 feet of water. Car, musical instruments, recording gear, and 30 years of song notebooks and master tapes. He said,

"My guitar tech said yesterday, and I keep repeating it like a mantra: love people, use things. I lost things, but I didn't lose the biggest things, like my wife and family and friends."

That's what's most important. And if we all do everything we can to help, we can make sure that New Orleans doesn't lose its music, either.

Commander's Palace and the local restaurant scene.   We read a depressing article in the Las Vegas Review-Journal saying that Commander's Palace was gone. We had some serious quibbles, however, with the way the article was written (by one of their gossip columnists, no less), who took Brad Brennan's statement of "we hear there has been looting" and transformed that into this:

Left in ruin by Hurricane Katrina and gutted by looters, Commander's Palace is gone with the rest of New Orleans.

For Brad Brennan, disbelief is being washed away by the reality that the crown jewel of his family's 12-restaurant empire is no more. "Part of the building has washed away, and part of the roof is missing," said Brennan, general manager of the Las Vegas Commander's Palace at the Aladdin. "We hear there has been looting."

[...] Submerged and unsalvageable is the 18,000-bottle wine cellar at Commander's Palace, including a 1928 bottle of Cháteau Cos d'Estournel worth $4,000.

"I'm going to be saintly and not say anything about the looters, but I would like to think that wine sustained someone's life," Brennan said.

Only half of the 1,800 employees who worked at the family's restaurants in New Orleans were accounted for by week's end. Brennan said the family is doing everything it can to get relief funds and payroll checks to them.

Mary is in touch with Ti Martin, one of the owners of Commander's Palace, and she told us that it had indeed taken some roof damage and damage to the facade, but nothing that didn't sound as if it could be repaired. We're going to call or text her today too.

Here's the aerial view too, and while you can see the roof damage, there's not the kind of flooding in that neighborhood (none at all, in fact) that would lead you to say it's "gone".

Aerial view of Commander's Palace, between Aug. 31 and Sep. 2

Also, Nettie heard on NPR yesterday a story by a reporter who "was standing in front of Commander's saying it looked like people tried to take off the boards but didn't get in. In fact, the reporter said there was damage to the facade but you could see insisde and the tables were set as if waiting for customers.

Then we get this article (highly annoying registration required) from the New York Times News Service, that says this:

Most of the city's best-known restaurants are in the French Quarter, Uptown and in the Garden District, which remained relatively dry. But there were still reports of fires, looting and other damage. Restaurants in the Central Business District and in the Bucktown section were flooded and more seriously damaged. Some restaurateurs are vowing to continue.

"We have been instructed by the matriarchs that we will rebuild," Brad Brennan, of the family that owns the famed Commander's Palace and eight other restaurants, said from his office at Commander's Palace Las Vegas. "There was no hesitation."

The matriarchs are Brennan's aunt, Ella Brennan, and his mother, Dottie Brennan, who was evacuated to Houston, where the family also has a restaurant.

Brennan said it was too soon to know the extent of the damage, but all of the 800 employees of the Brennan restaurants were accounted for.

Hmm. Conflicting stories. How not atypical of stories coming out of New Orleans these days. Well, given that the latter story comes from a more trustworthy source for me, I call bullshit on the Vegas gossip columnist's story. We hope to have more direct news from an actual Brennan soon.

Sad note from the above story; Brigtsen's is gone.   Some of my friends were spitting venom over this; I was just sad:

Other chefs abandoned their homes and restaurants entirely. Frank Brigtsen of Brigtsen's Restaurant has lived his entire life in New Orleans, but has decided to settle in Shreveport, almost 300 miles to the northwest.

"We won't have a livelihood, because the city won't be able to support it," Brigtsen said. "There's a chance it might resurrect itself, but there's not going to be tourism for many years."

One friend read this and said, "He's dead to me. I never liked his restaurant anyway." Others chimed in a similar manner.

I loved his restaurant, actually, and it made me so sad that he's giving up on the city. His Pannéed Rabbit Tenderloin on a Tasso-Parmesan Grits Cake, with Sautéed Spinach and Creole Mustard Sauce was one of the best dishes in the city, and I loved his Backyard Crawfish Boil Soup too, along with pretty much every other dish I ever had there, in the cozy confines of his converted uptown home.

We can't judge people for making decisions like this; he doesn't have a restaurant empire like the Brennans or Emeril Lagasse. He has one restaurant, and it won't have any customers for at least six months. The man needs to make a living.

I hope he opens a restaurant in Shreveport and is very successful, and the people of Shreveport will be luckky to have him. But I hope he changes his mind. I hope he sees the progressive rebirth of New Orleans, starts getting a little homesick and jealous, and ends up wanting to come back. I'll welcome him with open arms, especially if he gives me a plate of that rabbit.

UPDATE: Brigtsen's is reopening! See September 18th post.

A home for the brave.   From the Los Angeles Times, who are doing excellent coverage of New Orleans: A police couple open their house to displaced officers who are still on the job but struggling like everyone else.

In a deserted subdivision, past mobile homes blown inside out and power poles snapped in two, there is an unassuming home with a two-car garage, porcelain ducks on the dining table and a swing set in the backyard.

The 26 men and women inside sleep next to their guns, scrounge for food, rely on handouts for things like toilet paper, and steal cars.

Then they get up in the morning and try to save the city.

This is what it's come to for the New Orleans Police Department, where authorities estimated Tuesday that 70% of the city's 1,700 officers are homeless.

The department has been decimated by Hurricane Katrina. Two officers have put their guns in their mouths and killed themselves. More than 200 have quit. About 500 are unaccounted for. The rest have fought with looters, run out of ammunition, fended off criticism of their response to the storm and been knocked off rescue boats into the fetid stew that covers more than half the city.

For more than a week, they have dealt with personal tragedies no different from anyone else's here -- apartments that are underwater, parents who are missing, children who are being shuttled from one shelter to the next.

Two dozen of them found their way to the home of Lt. David M. Benelli, 55, commander of the city's sex crimes unit, and the woman he calls his child bride, Sgt. Becky Benelli, 42, assistant commander of the crime lab. The Benellis are cops to the core; they met at a traffic fatality and fell in love.

The officers at "Camp Benelli" in the Algiers area of New Orleans reflect the diversity of the department: 21 men and five women, black and white, 33-year veterans and patrol cops with six months under their belts. They have more than 300 years of combined service on the force.

And every morning, they find the strength to go to work.

The rowdiest Mardi Gras wasn't a billionth as hard as what these people are having to do now. Keep going, NOPD. Save our city.

Just when you thought it couldn't get any more unbelievable ...   I offer this story from the Salt Lake Tribune without comment. Don't just read the (rather large) excerpt below. Follow the link and read the whole thing.

Frustrated: Fire crews to hand out fliers for FEMA

Not long after some 1,000 firefighters sat down for eight hours of training, the whispering began: "What are we doing here?"

As New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin pleaded on national television for firefighters - his own are exhausted after working around the clock for a week - a battalion of highly trained men and women sat idle Sunday in a muggy Sheraton Hotel conference room in Atlanta.

Many of the firefighters, assembled from Utah and throughout the United States by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, thought they were going to be deployed as emergency workers.

Instead, they have learned they are going to be community-relations officers for FEMA, shuffled throughout the Gulf Coast region to disseminate fliers and a phone number: 1-800-621-FEMA.

On Monday, some firefighters stuck in the staging area at the Sheraton peeled off their FEMA-issued shirts and stuffed them in backpacks, saying they refuse to represent the federal agency.

Federal officials are unapologetic.

"I would go back and ask the firefighter to revisit his commitment to FEMA, to firefighting and to the citizens of this country," said FEMA spokeswoman Mary Hudak.

(I said I wasn't going to comment, but ... Jesus Christ, the monstrous arrogance of that. That vile, stupid idiot.) Back to the article:

The firefighters - or at least the fire chiefs who assigned them to come to Atlanta - knew what the assignment would be, Hudak said.

"The initial call to action very specifically says we're looking for two-person fire teams to do community relations," she said. "So if there is a breakdown [in communication], it was likely in their own departments."

[...] "They've got people here who are search-and-rescue certified, paramedics, haz-mat certified," said a Texas firefighter. "We're sitting in here having a sexual-harassment class while there are still [victims] in Louisiana who haven't been contacted yet."

The firefighter, who has encouraged his superiors back home not to send any more volunteers for now, declined to give his name because FEMA has warned them not to talk to reporters.

[...] While FEMA's community-relations job may be an important one - displaced hurricane victims need basic services and a variety of resources - it may be a job best suited for someone else, say firefighters assembled at the Sheraton.

"It's a misallocation of resources. Completely," said the Texas firefighter.

"It's just an under-utilization of very talented people," said South Salt Lake Fire Chief Steve Foote, who sent a team of firefighters to Atlanta. "I was hoping once they saw the level of people ... they would shift gears a little bit."

Foote said his crews would be better used doing the jobs they are trained to do.

But Louis H. Botta, a coordinating officer for FEMA, said sending out firefighters on community relations makes sense. They already have had background checks and meet the qualifications to be sworn as a federal employee. [(*boggle*) - Ed.] They have medical training that will prove invaluable as they come across hurricane victims in the field.

A firefighter from California said he feels ill prepared to even carry out the job FEMA has assigned him. In the field, Hurricane Katrina victims will approach him with questions about everything from insurance claims to financial assistance.

"My only answer to them is, '1-800-621-FEMA,'" he said. "I'm not used to not being in the know."

[...] "There are all of these guys with all of this training and we're sending them out to hand out a phone number," an Oregon firefighter said. "They [the hurricane victims] are screaming for help and this day [of FEMA training] was a waste."

Firefighters say they want to brave the heat, the debris-littered roads, the poisonous cottonmouth snakes and fire ants and travel into pockets of Louisiana where many people have yet to receive emergency aid.

But as specific orders began arriving to the firefighters in Atlanta, a team of 50 Monday morning quickly was ushered onto a flight headed for Louisiana. The crew's first assignment: to stand beside President Bush as he tours devastated areas.

Wasted firefighters

As they said in today ... We've said this before lately, and we'll say it again: We're not making this up.

We're only sayin'.

Meanwhile, The Times-Picayune reports:

Fires not abating
Wednesday, 4:40 p.m.

The New Orleans Fire Department reported they had fought 15 fires in the city on Wednesday, three that were accessible only by helicopter. There were 111 gas leaks reported in the city. Since Hurricane Katrina, the fire department had fought 57 major fires in the city. Hundreds of firefighters from Illinois and New York city have arrived in New Orleans to help fight the blazes.

We could probably use hundreds more, as could Jefferson and St. Bernard Parishes, except they're all passing out fliers.

Red-taping people to death.   It's enough to make you cry, without being able to stop.

Offers of Aid Immediate, but U.S. Approval Delayed for Days

Offers of foreign aid worth tens of millions of dollars -- including a Swedish water purification system, a German cellular telephone network and two Canadian rescue ships -- have been delayed for days awaiting review by backlogged federal agencies, according to European diplomats and information collected by the State Department.

Since Hurricane Katrina, more than 90 countries and international organizations offered to assist in recovery efforts for the flood-stricken region, but nearly all endeavors remained mired yesterday in bureaucratic entanglements, in most cases, at the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

In Germany, a massive telecommunication system and two technicians await the green light to fly to Louisiana, after its donors spent four days searching for someone willing to accept the gift.

"FEMA? That was a lost case," said Mirit Hemy, an executive with the Netherlands-based New Skies Satellite who made the phone calls. "We got zero help, and we lost one week trying to get hold of them."

In Sweden, a transport plane loaded with a water purification system and a cellular network has been ready to take off for four days, while Swedish officials wait for flight clearance. Nearly a week after they were offered, four Canadian rescue vessels and two helicopters have been accepted but probably won't arrive from Halifax, Nova Scotia, until Saturday. The Canadians' offer of search-and-rescue divers has so far gone begging.

It goes on. It gets worse. Bastards. Bastards.

To the world, we thank you. You're being wonderful. We're sorry that FEMA and the rest of our government are such incompetent fuckheads.

Editorial cartoon of the day.   Pat Oliphant.

Just some links.   No commentary, just some links.

FEMA Chief Waited Until After Storm Hit
The government's disaster chief waited until hours after Hurricane Katrina had already struck the Gulf Coast before asking his boss to dispatch 1,000 Homeland Security employees to the region -- and gave them two days to arrive, according to internal documents...

FEMA: No pictures, please.
From the "Where Have We Heard This Before?" Department: The Federal Emergency Management Agency does not want the news media taking photographs of the dead in New Orleans. According to a Reuters report, FEMA has rejected journalists' request to join rescue boats searching for bodies. "We have requested that no photographs of the deceased be made by the media," a FEMA spokeswoman said in an e-mail message to Reuters.

Barbara Bush: It's Good Enough for the Poor
On the heels of the president's "What, me worry?" response to the death, destruction and dislocation that followed upon Hurricane Katrina comes the news of his mother's Labor Day visit with hurricane evacuees at the Astrodome in Houston.

Commenting on the facilities that have been set up for the evacuees -- cots crammed side-by-side in a huge stadium where the lights never go out and the sound of sobbing children never completely ceases -- former First Lady Barbara Bush concluded that the poor people of New Orleans had lucked out.

"Everyone is so overwhelmed by the hospitality. And so many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway, so this, this is working very well for them," Mrs. Bush told American Public Media's "Marketplace" program, before returning to her multi-million dollar Houston home.

On the tape of the interview, Mrs. Bush chuckles audibly as she observes just how great things are going for families that are separated from loved ones, people who have been forced to abandon their homes and the only community where they have ever lived, and parents who are explaining to children that their pets, their toys and in some cases their friends may be lost forever. Perhaps the former first lady was amusing herself with the notion that evacuees without bread could eat cake.

At the very least, she was expressing a measure of empathy commensurate with that evidenced by her son during his fly-ins for disaster-zone photo opportunities.

That's enough links for now. Reading any more ... that way lies madness. Mental and emotional exhaustion.

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Tuesday, September 6, 2005

Milestone.   I talked to my sister Marie last night. We both got to a milestone yesterday; it was the first time we had gotten through a full day without crying.

My own experience, of course, is nothing compared to hers. She is a nurse, and returned to her hospital in the New Orleans metro area, one of only three that are currently functioning. She's been there three days. She's been working 12-18 hour overnight shifts. She is my hero.

Here's a satellite image of (what's left of) my folks' house in New Orleans East. It's indicated by the badly-drawn yellow arrow.

So much for the house...

I can't really tell how far up the side of the house the water is, and of course we have no way of knowing how high it got when the initial storm surge hit. I can't really tell about the roof damage. There are two huge oak trees in the front yard, and the one on the right is partially obscuring the right front corner of the house. We're actually kind of hoping it caved in part of the roof, which will put them in a better insurance position. Apparently if all the damage is from floodwaters, the conventional homeowners' insurance doesn't pay jack shit. Only the flood insurance will kick in, and it's got a high deductible and doesn't provide for things like living expenses, as the homeowners' does if, for instance, the house had burned down.

I can only imagine that for a long time the eastern part of the city, perhaps everything east of the Industrial Canal, might be a total writeoff. As in, that part of the city won't exist for a long time. It's always been the lowest, and unless flood walls and strong levees can be built that can withstand a hurricane, that area will probably be the swamp that it was in 1878, as it is in the reproduction of the 1878 civil engineering map of New Orleans that hangs over my desk as I type.

I still can't believe it.

Debunking rumor?   From the front page of today's Times-Picayune:

The mayor said the city had the authority to force residents to evacuate but didn't say if it was taking that step. He denied reports that the city will no longer hand out water to people who refuse to leave.

The leader of troops patrolling New Orleans declared the city largely free of the lawlessness that plagued it in the days following the hurricane. He lashed out at suggestions that search-and-rescue operations were being stymied by random gunfire and lawlessness.

"Go on the streets of New Orleans -- it's secure," Army Lt. Gen. Russel Honore said to a reporter. "Have you been to New Orleans? Did anybody accost you?"

It may be more gut-instinctual than rational, but I trust Gen. Honore. I don't see him as a bullshitter.

Help needed transcribing emergency audio feeds.   The good folks at the NOLA Intel Wiki site are desperately seeking help transcribing audio feeds from FEMA, the National Guard, the Astrodome, etc., so that they can filter out essential information and breaking news and post it on their site. If you're able to help, please contact them via the above link. Thanks!

The latest from the Quarter.   Joshua Mann Pailet, owner of A Gallery for Fine Photography on Chartrest Street in the French Quarter, checks in today:

Tuesday, September 6, 2005
Dear Friends 



Immediate and very direct help, go to - Type in New Orleans address and click Katrina link

New Orleans is my home and birthplace.  I remained in downtown New Orleans 
during the difficult first five days. In the French Quarter, downtown, and 
along the Mississippi River, I witnessed the SURVIVORS of this powerful 
storm struggle to maintain dignity and life.

Along this narrow unique corridor of the original city boundaries, there 
was NO FLOODING.  All around us, the waters rose and the struggle roared 
louder than the hurricane winds of that historic storm.

During this time, communication was non-existent.  Rumors ruled the 
street. The outlaws were bad, but a tiny percentage.

The community worked together to have the stamina to remain calm and 
alive. NO water or food was delivered into these historic quarters until 
late Friday afternoon.

NO evidence was seen of Authority or control.  

We were not destroyed through looting or shooting.
In fact, I witnessed a far more remarkable scene than TV or radio was able 
to report.

The other less famous, but EQUALLY IMPORTANT neighborhoods of this 
remarkable City, were deluged with water, fear, anger, bullies, and HEROES.

Our policeman, fireman, and individual citizens used their wits and 
struggled to rescue many thousands of stranded friends and families while 
their own lives had been shattered.

The historic French Quarter and Riverfront community up St. Charles Avenue 
and along the Mississippi River survived intact and can be ready for your 
return soon after the electricity and running water is restored.

We are eager to see the misery calmed and life and vitality restored.  
Despite the visual images you are seeing, you will be surprised in the 
upcoming weeks. As we unite, together we can move forward to bring us 
together again.

The Daily Challenges are being addressed in a manner that requires 
everyone to remain flexible, cooperative, resourceful, inventive and 
respectful.  ALL displaced CITIZENS must have the Opportunity to return to 
their original neighborhoods.  These unique neighborhoods must be rebuilt.

The complex and multi-dimensional problems of this event are going to be 
solved, step-by-step, day by day, brick by brick.  THE PEOPLE who are the 
heart and soul of this great city will be back. It is essential to bring 
ALL home to let the magic that you love about New Orleans blossom in the 

The great gumbo of New Orleans requires that ALL our friends and families 
have a chance to return to their roots. The unique qualities that we love 
will shine if we continue to act with true dignity and bring back to EVERY 
NEIGHBORHOOD the artists, cooks, workers, musicians, professionals, 
carpenters, and more.  This is TRUTH for NEW ORLEANS and EVERY community 
that surrounds it for miles and miles and miles.  

Tonight, we are scattered and battered.

Each day, the outpouring of concern has kept us going forward.  We will 
clean it up and want everyone back to their neighborhoods and homes.
For some of us, this will be soon.

For the vast majority, it will be much longer.

WE NEED YOUR HELP and the fantastic response from around the world and 
especially across the USA must continue.

THE LOVE for New Orleans is evident.
WE sincerely THANK YOU.
We know the stress is spreading and touching all of you.
EVERYONE in the entire region has been affected.  I am presently in Baton 
Rouge organizing and helping people find a place to live, work, and send 
their children to schools.  Baton Rouge has taken in over 350,00 people 
and nearly doubled in size.

Some of us are in hotels, friends' homes, strangers' homes, shelters, 
churches, temples, arenas, gymnasiums, vehicles, tents, and every 
available resource you can imagine.

The generosity and kindness of the great people of Baton Rouge, Houston, 
and every town and state for hundreds of miles is remarkable to witness.  
They are nurturing my fellow CITIZENS of New Orleans, Mississippi, and 
Alabama.  It will continue.
Many of you have asked to HELP.
We need your resources and immediate attention to a multitude of tasks.

We must continue rescuing, protecting, housing, and restoring health all 
at once. This test and challenge will require stamina and willpower, 
infrastructure, money, and planning.  Timing is truly critical.
Everywhere I look, the efforts and overtime are phenomenal.  Imagine.

My fellow survivors continue to inspire others.  No doubt major mistakes 
have been made.  This can be debated at a later date. 

I ask all of you to continue focusing on NEW ORLEANS and the entire GULF 
COAST and pushing this effort forward.  Each of you have a role to play as 
this situation stabilizes.

Tonight, I feel that the children need our most immediate attention.  In 
Baton Rouge alone, there are over 35,000 new children of kindergarten to 
high school age who are in dire need of stability and EDUCATION.

This TRUTH is repeated in numerous communities all over Louisiana, 
Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Florida, Texas, Arkansas, Oklahoma, 
Arizona, New Mexico, and many more.

Tomorrow should be a school day for these beautiful children.   We must 
begin to provide and prepare them for the future. NOW!

Schools, teachers, personnel, and supplies need to come together quickly.
An Education Relief Task Force is organizing this effort. I strongly urge 
you to continue supporting ALL charitable efforts with your donations.

I believe that the Baton Rouge Area Foundation ( is the 
proper place to direct your financial contributions at this very moment. 
The EDUCATIONAL CRISIS is critical.  The New Orleans School System is 
wiped out and bankrupt. 

As you think about this, if we can get our children on a positive track, 
then parents will begin to rest easier and thus able to solve all the 
problems we need to address. From this will spring forth all the other 
great projects needed.

At times this emotional roller coaster we are all on, causes us to briefly 
stop.  It is paramount that we work together diligently for a very long 
time to achieve this GOAL for our CHILDREN.  

It can and must be done. With this will follow the jobs and the dignity we 
all need to rebuild.

Send your donations to BRAC.ORG
My dear friend Marc Sternberg, a Baton Rouge native, 
( is a vital part of this effort.  
Bring your energy, ideas, and donations NOW.

Throughout all of this, I have heard my mother's words echo in my sky.
"Pick up the pieces and get on with it."

Thank you for your prayers, positive thoughts, and energy. You keep me and 
many others moving forward on this path to recovery.  Every moment of 
everyday we encounter a changing reality.

FOCUS on the FUTURE by immediately providing the resources needed to get 
these NEW SCHOOLS up and running.  The CHILDREN need you more than ever.
It will take more than 150 million dollars for this effort in Baton Rouge 
alone. All the communities of the great Gulf Coast and Deep South region 
have the same challenge. 

I will continue to be here to help.



[You may have read my] eyewitness account sent earlier to many of you. 

I know it only applies to this tiny historic piece of land I was blessed 
to be in at the moment this storm arrived.   

I am keenly aware that other neighborhoods in New Orleans and all around 
the GULF COAST experienced a nightmare of biblical proportions that seems 
to grow daily.

I am the luckiest man in New Orleans and this planet.

Joshua is amazing. I wish him and all Quarter denizens the very best, and that they can go back home as soon as possible.

Watch and listen.   Keith Olbermann spoke with intelligent, articulate, eloquent rage last night. It was astonishing. I want to hug him.

Watch the video here. Read the transcript below. (Emphases mine.)

Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff said it all, starting his news briefing Saturday afternoon: "Louisiana is a city that is largely underwater..."

Well there's your problem right there.

If ever a slip-of-the-tongue defined a government's response to a crisis, this was it.

The seeming definition of our time and our leaders had been their insistence on slashing federal budgets for projects that might've saved New Orleans. The seeming characterization of our government that it was on vacation when the city was lost, and could barely tear itself away from commemorating V.J. Day and watching Monty Python's Flying Circus, to at least pretend to get back to work. The seeming identification of these hapless bureaucrats: their pathetic use of the future tense in terms of relief they could've brought last Monday and Tuesday -- like the President, whose statements have looked like they're being transmitted to us by some kind of four-day tape-delay.

But no. The incompetence and the ludicrous prioritization will forever be symbolized by one gaffe by of the head of what is ironically called "The Department of Homeland Security": "Louisiana is a city."

Politician after politician -- Republican and Democrat alike -- has paraded before us, unwilling or unable to shut off the "I-Me" switch in their heads, condescendingly telling us about how moved they were or how devastated they were -- congenitally incapable of telling the difference between the destruction of a city and the opening of a supermarket.

And as that sorry recital of self-absorption dragged on, I have resisted editorial comment. The focus needed to be on the efforts to save the stranded -- even the internet's meager powers were correctly devoted to telling the stories of the twin disasters, natural... and government-made.

But now, at least, it is has stopped getting exponentially worse in Mississippi and Alabama and New Orleans and Louisiana (the state, not the city). And, having given our leaders what we know now is the week or so they need to get their act together, that period of editorial silence I mentioned, should come to an end.

No one is suggesting that mayors or governors in the afflicted areas, nor the federal government, should be able to stop hurricanes. Lord knows, no one is suggesting that we should ever prioritize levee improvement for a below-sea-level city, ahead of $454 million worth of trophy bridges for the politicians of Alaska.

But, nationally, these are leaders who won re-election last year largely by portraying their opponents as incapable of keeping the country safe. These are leaders who regularly pressure the news media in this country to report the reopening of a school or a power station in Iraq, and defies its citizens not to stand up and cheer. Yet they couldn't even keep one school or power station from being devastated by infrastructure collapse in New Orleans -- even though the government had heard all the "chatter" from the scientists and city planners and hurricane centers and some group whose purposes the government couldn't quite discern... a group called The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

And most chillingly of all, this is the Law and Order and Terror government. It promised protection -- or at least amelioration -- against all threats: conventional, radiological, or biological.

It has just proved that it cannot save its citizens from a biological weapon called standing water.

Mr. Bush has now twice insisted that, "we are not satisfied," with the response to the manifold tragedies along the Gulf Coast. I wonder which "we" he thinks he's speaking for on this point. Perhaps it's the administration, although we still don't know where some of them are. Anybody seen the Vice President lately? The man whose message this time last year was, 'I'll Protect You, The Other Guy Will Let You Die'?

I don't know which 'we' Mr. Bush meant.

For many of this country's citizens, the mantra has been -- as we were taught in Social Studies it should always be -- whether or not I voted for this President -- he is still my President. I suspect anybody who had to give him that benefit of the doubt stopped doing so last week. I suspect a lot of his supporters, looking ahead to '08, are wondering how they can distance themselves from the two words which will define his government -- our government -- "New Orleans."

For him, it is a shame -- in all senses of the word. A few changes of pronouns in there, and he might not have looked so much like a 21st Century Marie Antoinette. All that was needed was just a quick "I'm not satisfied with my government's response." Instead of hiding behind phrases like "no one could have forseen," had he only remembered Winston Churchill's quote from the 1930's. "The responsibility," of government, Churchill told the British Parliament "for the public safety is absolute and requires no mandate. It is in fact, the prime object for which governments come into existence."

In forgetting that, the current administration did not merely damage itself -- it damaged our confidence in our ability to rely on whoever is in the White House.

As we emphasized to you here all last week, the realities of the region are such that New Orleans is going to be largely uninhabitable for a lot longer than anybody is yet willing to recognize. Lord knows when the last body will be found, or the last artifact of the levee break, dug up. Could be next March. Could be 2100. By then, in the muck and toxic mire of New Orleans, they may even find our government's credibility.

Somewhere, in the City of Louisiana.


Tom Benson: Please don't move the Saints.   The Times-Picayune reported on Saturday that New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson "is leaning strongly toward moving the Saints permanently to San Antonio following the devastation to the city and the Superdome." WDSU reported that "the Saints will play all home games in San Antonio and will not refund ticket holders, according to a high-ranking official with the team."

(What the ...)

"We may lose them permanently ... This is like pouring salt into the wound," said State Sen. Mike Michot, (R-Lafayette).

Today, the Times-Picayune spoke:

The people of the New Orleans area "battered, grieving and homeless" are in desperate need of something to hold onto. Something to ease their broken hearts and nourish their spirits.

Saints owner Tom Benson can give them that something. He can choose, and we fervently hope he will, to play this fall's home games at LSU's Tiger Stadium.

Saints fans are among the most loyal in the NFL. For 38 years, they have embraced this team whether it won or lost, and the losses almost always outnumbered the wins. Mr. Benson owns this team, and it is his business. But this is our team, too, at least in spirit. What other fans would pack the Superdome year after year despite lackluster win/loss records? Don't these devoted people deserve that sort of dedication in return?

This metro area has suffered the worst natural catastrophe in the nation's history. People who were helpless to get out of the way of the storm died in our beloved Superdome. The Dome is wrecked, and it is a place known for misery right now. But it can be refurbished. Its rebuilding can be a hopeful sign to the hundreds of thousands of residents who have been scattered across the region by Hurricane Katrina - people who have lost not only loved ones and homes, but their entire community.

The Saints have been a source of that sense of community since the day they first walked on the field. They bring us together in a way nothing else does.

The NFL doesn't want the Saints to leave. As after the Sept. 11 attacks, when the New York Giants chose to stay in their ravaged city, the league sees the Saints as a balm for wounded souls.

Surely the players don't want to leave. Receiver Joe Horn spent three hours touring the Astrodome on Saturday, signing autographs for children and giving the 15,000 displaced storm survivors something to smile about.

And it is difficult to believe Mr. Benson would want to leave, despite reports to the contrary. He has talked in recent months about how much he loves New Orleans, about his desire to stay here, and we take him at his word.

Before Katrina, Saints fans wanted their team to stay. Now they need it to stay.

We've worn the bags over our heads. We've called 'em "The Aints." We've booed. We've said they suck. But we still love them, and we still keep going to the games. We need them now more than ever, and I don't even give a shit about football or team sports of any kind. Please, Mr. Benson, don't move the Saints to Texas permanently. Bring 'em home.

UPDATE: Tuesday, 3:37pm CDT. A statement from Tom Benson:

The entire New Orleans Saints organization would like to extend its prayers and best wishes to all of our fans throughout Louisiana and the Gulf South region. We are currently working with the NFL and expect to be in a position shortly to announce the sites for our remaining 2005 home schedule. I have expressed my desire to the NFL to play games in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, to the extent circumstances allow.

Saints ticket holders unable to attend home games, wherever played, should also be assured that they will be permitted to request refunds. Specifics of the refund policy will be publicized in the upcoming days.

The New Orleans Saints look forward to the start of the NFL regular season this Sunday and to having the Club be a source of pride and joy in these difficult days. As we move forward together, the Saints look forward to serving as a leader in the rebuilding and revitalization of our great community. Towards this effort, the Saints have established the "New Orleans Saints Hurricane Katrina Relief Fund." Further information for those individuals/companies interested in contributing will be announced shortly.

This is very reassuring.

Culpability and decency: When the spin becomes a lie.   From

Karl Rove has dispatched George W. Bush back to Louisiana and Mississippi this morning, presumably with marching orders to show the sort of respect and compassion he failed to muster his first time around last week. Meanwhile, all the president' s men -- and the president himself -- are trying to shift the blame for the Katrina response from the White House to state and local officials.

As usual, however, the White House spin game is a little less than honest. The Washington Post reported on Sunday morning that a "senior Bush official" had complained that, as of Saturday, the governor of Louisiana -- who just happens to be a Democrat -- had not yet declared a state of emergency. Kathleen Blanco, meet Cindy Sheehan. Or Joseph Wilson. Or Paul O'Neill. Or John McCain.

Only this time, the media is on to the game, at least belatedly. As Scott Rosenberg notes, Gov. Blanco did, in fact, declare a state of emergency. She did it on Aug. 26, when George W. Bush was on vacation. The Post has posted a correction.

More from the New York Times:

In many ways, the unfolding public relations campaign reflects the style Mr. Rove has brought to the political campaigns he has run for Mr. Bush. For example, administration officials who went on television on Sunday were instructed to avoid getting drawn into exchanges about the problems of the past week, and to turn the discussion to what the government is doing now.

"We will have time to go back and do an after-action report, but the time right now is to look at what the enormous tasks ahead are," Michael Chertoff, the secretary of Homeland Security, said on "Meet the Press" on NBC.

One Republican with knowledge of the effort said that Mr. Rove had told administration officials not to respond to Democratic attacks on Mr. Bush's handling of the hurricane in the belief that the president was in a weak moment and that the administration should not appear to be seen now as being blatantly political. As with others in the party, this Republican would discuss the deliberations only on condition of anonymity because of keen White House sensitivity about how the administration and its strategy would be perceived.

In a reflection of what has long been a hallmark of Mr. Rove's tough political style, the administration is also working to shift the blame away from the White House and toward officials of New Orleans and Louisiana who, as it happens, are Democrats.

"The way that emergency operations act under the law is the responsibility and the power, the authority, to order an evacuation rests with state and local officials," Mr. Chertoff said in his television interview. "The federal government comes in and supports those officials."

That line of argument was echoed throughout the day, in harsher language, by Republicans reflecting the White House line.

In interviews, these Republicans said that the normally nimble White House political operation had fallen short in part because the president and his aides were scattered outside Washington on vacation, leaving no one obviously in charge at a time of great disruption. Mr. Rove and Mr. Bush were in Texas, while Vice President Dick Cheney was at his Wyoming ranch.

Mr. Bush's communications director, Nicolle Devenish, was married this weekend in Greece, and a number of Mr. Bush's political advisers - including Ken Mehlman, the Republican National Committee chairman - attended the wedding.

Ms. Rice did not return to Washington until Thursday, after she was spotted at a Broadway show and shopping for shoes, an image that Republicans said buttressed the notion of a White House unconcerned with tragedy.

These officials said that Mr. Bush and his political aides rapidly changed course in what they acknowledged was a belated realization of the situation's political ramifications. As is common when this White House confronts a serious problem, management was quickly taken over by Mr. Rove and a group of associates including Mr. Bartlett. Neither man responded to requests for comment.

I never really knew what "outrage overload" was like until this week.

I'm a geek. Y'all probably know that by now.

Wes and I were talking with friends night before last, and he voiced something that I had been thinking. "If this were the Starship Enterprise," he said, "and there were a catastropic disaster situation looming, the first thing that Captain Jean-Luc Picard would have said would have been, 'Senior staff, to my Ready Room immediately!'"

Not only was a catastrophic disaster looming, a catastrophic disaster occurred. The destruction of New Orleans was, in fact, the worst natural disaster in the history of these United States. No one will know the true death toll for weeks, if not months. There are more Americans who are displaced now than at any time since the Civil War, 140 years ago.

Let's ask the question again. Where were President Bush and his senior staff? In the ready room, called immediately to the bridge, or let us say in a nonfictional manner, the White House Situation Room?


George W. Bush was on vacation (as usual). As the disaster loomed, he stayed on vacation, but maganimously cut his vacation short by two days. He returned on Wednesday. Two days after the disaster struck. With a Superdome full of desperate refugees, 80-90% of a major American city flooded, and destruction and loss of life almost beyond imagining. He is, God help us, the President of the United States.

Dick Cheney was, and apparently still is, on a fishin' vacation. On Wednesday, August 31, two days after the disaster struck, he was still reelin' in dem bass. Mmm-mmmm. I love bass. I sure hope they were tasty. Then again, he probably didn't even eat them. And where is he still? Apparently no one's seen the malignant bastard all week. Why, in one of those cosmic ironies, that seems to be because he's been busy buying a multi-million dollar waterfront vacation home for himself. He is, God help us, the Vice-President of the United States.

Condoleezza Rice was in New York, havin' herself a grand ol' time. She went to see "Spamalot" on Broadway (lucky so-and-so, I've so been wanting to see that play, but that week I was busy freaking out about my family being homeless.) She also went shopping, and reportedly bought several thousand dollars worth of shoes at Ferragamo. This was on September 2nd and 3rd, as more and more people in New Orleans died of drowning and dehydration. Was she doing her job, contacting other nations to help coordinate their offers of help? She is, God help us, the Secretary of State of the United States.

Michael Chertoff, as the Los Angeles Times said, "displayed an appalling combination of ignorance and arrogance." He dismissed reports of thousands upon thousands of refugees "trapped at the New Orleans Convention Center for days with out sustenence. He called the reports, in so many words, 'rumors and anecdotes.' Informed that an NPR reporter had been on the scene, he sniffed, 'I can't argue with you about what your reporter tells you.'" In another endless, useless news conference, he replied to questions as to why the hurricane survivors in New Orleans went days on end without help and protection from the National Guard by saying that it was difficult to move the Guard and regular military troops into position. "He said that they can't move that quickly even for overseas deployment, 'except for a grave national crisis.'" I heard him say that with my own ears. Exactly what the fuck is this, sir, if not a grave national crisis. He is, God help us, the Secretary of Homeland Security.

Dennis Hastert ... well, we all know what that fucker said this week, and what he did; i.e., nothing. A special session of Congress was not convened until Thursday evening, at the end of the fourth day of this disaster. They all rushed back from their vacations within 24 hours to sign the Terri Schiavo bill. Where was Hastert this week? Was he even at the tardy special session, where there was a vote to provide emergency hurricane relief funding? No. He was attending a political fund-raiser. He is, God help us, the Speaker of the House of Representatives of the United States, and third in line in constitutional presidenteial succession.

I could go on and on.

Does this sound like people who care? This is what the leaders of this country were doing while the worst disaster in the history of this nation was unfolding, while a major American city was being destroyed on their watch. Not being where they needed to be, or making excuses for not being where they needed to be, and now, apparently, making shit up to control the spin for a nation and a world that's outraged that they're weren't where they needed to be and didn't do what needed to be done.

And while they're trying to blame Gov. Blanco for their omissions, unfairly trying to claim that she didn't even bother to declare a state of emergency, I really haven't heard a whole hell of a lot from her either, and don't have a hell of a lot of confidence. The ones who seem to be doing the most ass-kicking are Mayor Nagin (not perfect by any means, but doing the best he can) and General Honore (we need ten more of him). The military (once they actually got sent down there) and the New Orleans Police and Fire Departments (the ones that stayed) have been doing great jobs; I can rest much easier knowing that my sister and the other medical and nursing personnel at the hospital finally have some protection. The ordinary people of New Orleans who stayed, survived and did everything they could to help their fellow New Orleanians are the biggest heroes of all.

One of my oldest friends wrote and opined that Blanco should be recalled, and Nagin should run for governor ... but then again, why would anybody with any sense run for political office, "when there's a horde of jackals waiting at any moment to cut you down and tear you to shreds?" And in any case, all this political bloodsucking only diverts from the dire humanitarian problems that exist now and need taking care of now.

I don't know. I'm just about all ranted out. The record (such as it isn't obscured or obliterated by the spin) speaks for itself. You decide.

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Monday, September 5, 2005

Photos from New Orleans.   A must-see. Via the amazing folks at Interdictdor: The Survival of New Orleans blog.

N.O. Musicians' Clinic regroups, temporarily relocates.   The New Orleans Musicians Clinic is a great organization that provides free medical care to local musicians and their families, and helps them in need as well.

The clinic has relocated its administrative offices to Lafayette, La. The clinic recommends that their musicianas/clients relocate to Austin, Tx. where they are coordinatioong with an existing clinic in the city.

Please forward this email to other musicians and jazz/blues societies who may have contact information; the clinic says many of their clients are missing, and there's a need for the word to be passed far and wide to other musicians who may know or hear from others in Louisiana who have been and are still in need.

To reach the clinic administrator Michelle Gegenheimer you can call (504) 415-3514 or email her at music_mich2020 (at) yahoo (dot) com. Replace (at) with @ and the (dot) with a . with no spaces (I don't want her getting any spam.)

Tales of humanity from the Quarter.   Via Salon:

In the absence of information and outside assistance, groups of rich and poor banded together in the French Quarter, forming "tribes" and dividing up the labor.

As some went down to the river to do the wash, others remained behind to protect property. In a bar, a bartender put near-perfect stitches into the torn ear of a robbery victim.

While mold and contagion grew in the muck that engulfed most of the city, something else sprouted in this most decadent of American neighborhoods -- humanity.

"Some people became animals," Vasilioas Tryphonas said Sunday morning as he sipped a hot beer in Johnny White's Sports Bar on Bourbon Street. "We became more civilized."


There are many stories like this: New Orleanians banding together to help. We heard a story of some people who took refuge under a breezeway at the RIverwalk. Set up a nice little camp, took turns guarding their food, washing clothes, found two buckets and set up separate latrines, washing them out with bleach. Some (unarmed) looters walked by and said hello, then broke into the Riverwalk and began to look for food and water. When they emerged, they offered some food do the breezeway folks, then moved on.

Then there's the tiny minority with the looted guns, who are now taking pot shots at levee repair contractors. The cops took them out.

The new New Orleans.   From David Koen in Salon: "We need our city back. It will cost billions, and we should pay for it -- and here's why.

[...] Dennis Hastert has already said it, and I worry it's on the minds of many. Let's bulldoze it. I have already called his office to curse him out. But I wonder ...

The word "diaspora" has already been tripping off too many tongues way too often. The assumption is, apparently, that those who left with only the shirt on their back have nothing to return to. They will be forced to accept meager jobs and then locked into Shreveport, Houston or Salt Lake City because even if you put together their wages, the payday loan and the Social Security check, it still won't be enough for a down payment on a house back home, even in the no man's land of the lower Ninth Ward. There is talk that it's not worth rebuilding because the next time a Category 4 comes along, well, see ya later, alligator, as the old swamp popper Bobby Charles said.

Let's stop this talk right now. No one has a crazier love for their city than New Orleanians. In Phoenix, where I moved from, you're lucky to live a lifetime and learn the name of your next-door neighbor. In New Orleans, I sit on my stoop when the sun goes down, and friends and strangers come and go mumbling "Good night." Tanya from around the corner tells me she's cooking fried catfish and shrimp stew on Saturday for five bucks. The buckmoth caterpillars are smashed on the sidewalk, and the palmetto bugs skitter from the porch to the curb and back again.

And there are little scenes like this going on all over my city, my baby, oh goddamn, it's making me cry.

It was important for everyone to get out, a job the government failed at miserably. We tried for years to get those levees built up, and every time, we were shot down. For a few measly million dollars, we could've saved a few thousand lives and the futures of untold more. For this, heads will roll, and I will be the first at the guillotine. I will nominate myself as head of the newly created Department of Recriminations.

When that is over, though, everyone needs to get back home. You don't take someone whose family's been in New Orleans practically since Cro-Magnon times and plop him in Houston with a hundred bucks and directions to the job center. Even if they did tell him where north, south, east, and west is, maybe he wouldn't know what you were talking about. In New Orleans, it's uptown, downtown, toward the lake, and toward the river. A shrimp taco may be tasty, but where's the red beans and rice? Where's the kids in go-karts busting through stop signs? Where's the casino? Where's the zydeco washboard pumping out of the T-shirt shop on Decatur even though it's jazz down here, not zydeco? Where's the big chief? And if you don't know what the big chief is, then you don't know the ugly pain we're going through.

If it's ever going to be healed, if there isn't to be a permanent hole the size of Lake Pontchartrain in our hearts, we need our city back, from the toniest mansion on St. Charles to the sorriest, most sagging roof on Desire. And we need to be protected this time. We need billions, and we need more billions. We don't just need it because you felt guilty that the Superdome turned into the hold of a slave ship. We need it because we love where we live.

I said the "d" word myself, in the Los Angeles Times today, but thte context in which I said it was that I do not want the culture to exist that way, and that's it's important for us to get as much help rebuilding and protecting our city, and even more so for New Orleanians, if at all humanly possible.

My mom and I were talking last night, and we had both been thinking the same thing. New Orleans will return. It will be rebuilt, it will live again ... but as a smaller city, centered around the Quarter and Downtown, the Marigny and the Bywater, the Garden District and Uptown. There is no Lakeview right now, almost no Gentilly, no New Orleans East, almost nothing east of the Industrial Canal. All those homes are ruined.

Then there's the Tremé, the Lower Ninth Ward, the back part of the Bywater up by the Industrial Canal. Those people are generally all desperately poor, and are going to need all the help we can muster.

Chalmette and Arabi needs us too. Forty thousand homes in St. Bernard must come back, as must Rocky and Carlo's.

We need the desire to do it. We need the money to do it. And we need the will of our government to do it. It's only that third point about which I'm distrustful and frightened.

A story from Austin.   My friend Ray, a New Orleans native who lives in Texas' greatest music city, passes along an ancdote about an eyewitness to the levee break in Lakeview:

Liam [and I] got to talking and they pointed to their friend and said, "This is our refugee."

I said to him, "From New Orleans? I grew up in Algiers!"

He says, "Algiers? You're dry, bra!"

"What neighborhood you from?"




And I hugged him, and he hugged back, hard, and then he didn't want to let go, and I almost started to tear up, and we just stood there in the middle of the bar, two grown men, total strangers, hugging each other like lost brothers.

His name was Jonathan, he lived on Spencer Avenue, 600 yards from the Hammond breach. I asked him when the breach happened, because everybody is still saying on the news it broke Tuesday, but I blogged about it Monday afternoon here, and I know I was hearing rumors about it before that. He said, "Tuesday is bullshit, bra. Nine AM Monday morning, there was this huge BOOM and instantly five feet of water in my house, violent rolling water, and rising fast." He ran upstairs and was trying to save his vinyl collection, stacking it on his bed, til he passed out and woke up five hours later.

When he was rescued, he could hear neighbors all around, in their attics, knocking knocking knocking trying to get somebody's attention. The firefighters who pulled him out said three things, "Are you over 18? Are you healthy? Do you have military experience?" He said yes, yes, yes, and they handed him an axe and said "you're hereby deputized". He spent the rest of the day chopping through people's roofs and pulling them from their attics.

It was an intense story. He likes Austin. He's thinking about staying.

Ray says, "My brother in Baton Rouge said that FEMA came in on Thursday and rented 75% of the available real estate to house their own personnel. Baton Rouge is totally overrun." (Gee, ya think they could have left a few for some New Orleans refugees like, say, for instance, my mother, my father, my grandmother, my aunt, my uncle, my new little cousin, all of whom need accommodations in Baton Rouge? Fortunately, their accommodations in B.R. were already taken care of by Thursday.)

Ray added, "Oh yeah, one more thing he told me. I was saying that we are definitely going to the first Mardi Gras when they manage to have parades, maybe notn 2006, but definitely 2007, and he said, 'No bra, 2006. We have to do it.'"

Our traditions help keep us alive.

L.A. Times: "A strong, soulful, wicked, frail city.   After disaster recedes, the rebuilding will begin. Artists and others will wonder: What will become of the culture?

Even the devastating fallout from Katrina won't be enough to keep them from coming back, some artists promise. After all, the city's air of defiant bravado in the face of impending disaster has always been part of its allure. "The culture survives," says Quint Davis, producer and director of the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. "It's survived slavery. It's survived everything so far... I don't think you can stop the dance. I don't think you can drown the dance. We dance at funerals, and now we have to dance at our own funeral."

Others fear that the soulful old city of homey cafes serving warm beignets, and crammed like a giant curiosity shop with faded relics of the world the slaves made, will be swept aside by new development. That fear seems particularly acute among African Americans, who make up the overwhelming majority of the city.

"My grandmother lived on Conti Street in an old, falling-down neighborhood, and I'm worried that they are going to gentrify it, that they not only are going to rebuild New Orleans but they are going to reinvent New Orleans," says Jervey Tervalon, an L.A. writer who set two of his novels in his native city.

Chuck Taggart, a DJ and music programmer who grew up in New Orleans and hosts a radio show at Cal State Northridge, says he doesn't want New Orleans culture in the future "to exist solely as a diaspora." "All of this is so soul-crushing," he says. "I can't bear to watch it; I can't bear not to. I still feel like I have lost a family member. I'm in mourning." Overnight, it seems, the national anthem has become Louis Armstrong, the city's most famous son, crooning: "Do you know what it means to miss New Orleans / And miss it each night and day?"

I'm already in touch with an architect who wants to help rebuild homes in the historic areas of the city (and that's the poor neighborhoods especially; the Tremé, the Lower Ninth Ward, et.) Our idea is to gather architects, architectural historians and others who are experts in New Orleans' unique styles of architecture to help those who rebuild homes in New Orleans make those homes look like New Orleans houses -- Creole cottages, shogtun duplexes, camelbacks, etc. Spread the word about this; I think we should make it happen.

That was a pretty good Times article, but I did have one quibble: "hosts a radio show at Cal State Northridge"? Could they not have said "hosts a radio show at KCSN 88.5 FM"? That way people might actually be able to find the station more easily. Oh well.

Quotes of the day.   We're mad as hell, and we're not going to take this shit anymore.

"Every day she called him and said, "Are you coming, son? Is somebody coming?' And he said, 'Yeah, Mama, somebody's coming to get you.' Somebody's coming to get you on Tuesday. Somebody's coming to get you on Wednesday. Somebody's coming to get you on Thursday. Somebody's coming to get you on Friday. And she drowned Friday night. She drowned Friday night."

-- Jefferson Parish President Aaron Broussard, sobbing while telling of one of his officials receiving phone calls from his mother who, trapped in a nursing home, pleaded day after day for rescue; assured by federal officials, he promised her repeatedly that help was on the way.

"Would the president please stop taking photo-ops? We are never going to get this fixed if he does not send us help now. [...] If one more person criticizes [local officials] or says one more thing, including the president of the United States, he will hear from me. One more word about it after this show airs and I might likely have top punch him. Literally."

-- Sen. Mary Landrieu, (D-La.), outraged by having Bush visit the region, accompanied by TV cameras, rather than sending any help, and objecting to criticism by federal officials about local responses.

Hope the Secret Service doesn't get her. I think there are probably countless people out there who feel the same way, though.

The last time America lost a city.   Via DailyKos, a poster compares the government reaction this past week to the government reaction the last time an American city was destroyed -- San Francisco, April 18, 1906. That was eight months shy of 100 years ago.

The earthquake struck at 5:13 AM.

By 7 AM federal troops had reported to the mayor.

By 8 AM they were patrolling the entire downtown area and searching for survivors.

The second quake struck at 8:14 AM.

By 10:05 AM the USS Chicago was on its way from San Diego to San Francisco; by 10:30 the USS Preble had landed a medical team and set up an emergency hospital.

By 11 AM large parts of the city were on fire; troops continued to arrive throughout the day, evacuating people from the areas threatened by fire to emergency shelters and Golden Gate Park.

St. Mary's hospital was destroyed by the fire at 1 PM, with no loss of life, the staff and patients having already been evacuated across the bay to Oakland.

By 3 PM troops had shot several looters, and dynamited buildings to make a firebreak; by five they had buried dozens of corpses, the morgue and the police pistol range being unable to hold any more.

At 8:40 PM General Funston requested emergency housing - tents and shelters - from the War Department in Washington; all of the tents in the U.S. Army were on their way to San Francisco by 4:55 AM the next morning.

Prisoners were evacuated to Alcatraz, and by April 20 (two days after the earthquake) the USS Chicago had reached San Francisco, where it evacuated 20,000 refugees.

(Of course, the technology of the day was fairly primitive, and the U.S. was a much poorer country. No doubt we could move more quickly today.)

I'm thinking maybe we should revert to century-old methods. Seems to have worked well enough for them.

Why FEMA was missing in action.   Most of the agency's preparedness budget and focus are related to terrorism, not disasters ... even though the organization was created primarily to help in natural disasters. From the Los Angeles Times:

While the federal government has spent much of the last quarter-century trimming the safety nets it provides Americans, it has dramatically expanded its promise of protection in one area -- disaster.

Since the 1970s, Washington has emerged as the insurer of last resort against floods, fires, earthquakes and -- after 2001 -- terrorist attacks.

But the government's stumbling response to the storm that devastated the nation's Gulf Coast reveals that the federal agency singularly most responsible for making good on Washington's expanded promise has been hobbled by cutbacks and a bureaucratic downgrading.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency once speedily delivered food, water, shelter and medical care to disaster areas, and paid to quickly rebuild damaged roads and schools and get businesses and people back on their feet. Like a commercial insurance firm setting safety standards to prevent future problems, it also underwrote efforts to get cities and states to reduce risks ahead of time and plan for what they would do if calamity struck.

But in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks, FEMA lost its Cabinet-level status as it was folded into the giant new Department of Homeland Security. And in recent years it has suffered budget cuts, the elimination or reduction of key programs and an exodus of experienced staffers.

The agency's core budget, which includes disaster preparedness and mitigation, has been cut each year since it was absorbed by the Homeland Security Department in 2003. Depending on what the final numbers end up being for next fiscal year, the cuts will have been between about 2% and 18%.

The agency's staff has been reduced by 500 positions to 4,735. Among the results, FEMA has had to cut one of its three emergency management teams, which are charged with overseeing relief efforts in a disaster. Where it once had "red," "white" and "blue" teams, it now has only red and white.

Disaster, shmisaster. We need those funds for terra, terra, terra.

Sen. Landrieu is preparing a bill for Congress which would strip FEMA from the Homeland Security department and make it a separate, cabinet-level position.

So basically, he couldn't run a horse show.   Boston Herald: Brown pushed from last job; Horse group: FEMA chief had to be 'asked to resign'

The federal official in charge of the bungled New Orleans rescue was fired from his last private-sector job overseeing horse shows.

And before joining the Federal Emergency Management Agency as a deputy director in 2001, GOP activist Mike Brown had no significant experience that would have qualified him for the position.

The Oklahoman got the job through an old college friend who at the time was heading up FEMA. The agency, run by Brown since 2003, is now at the center of a growing fury over the handling of the New Orleans disaster.

"I look at FEMA and I shake my head," said a furious Gov. Mitt Romney yesterday, calling the response "an embarrassment."

President Bush, after touring the Big Easy, said he was "not satisfied" with the emergency response to Hurricane Katrina's devastation.

And U.S. Rep. Stephen Lynch predicted there would be hearings on Capitol Hill over the mishandled operation.

Brown -- formerly an estates and family lawyer -- this week has has made several shocking public admissions, including interviews where he suggested FEMA was unaware of the misery and desperation of refugees stranded at the New Orleans convention center.

Before joining the Bush administration in 2001, Brown spent 11 years as the commissioner of judges and stewards for the International Arabian Horse Association, a breeders' and horse-show organization based in Colorado.

"We do disciplinary actions, certification of (show trial) judges. We hold classes to train people to become judges and stewards. And we keep records," explained a spokeswoman for the IAHA commissioner's office. "This was his full-time job ... for 11 years," she added.

Brown was forced out of the position after a spate of lawsuits over alleged supervision failures.

"He was asked to resign," Bill Pennington, president of the IAHA at the time, confirmed last night.

Soon after, Brown was invited to join the administration by his old Oklahoma college roommate Joseph Allbaugh, the previous head of FEMA until he quit in 2003 to work for the president's re-election campaign.

What. The. FUCK?!

Seeking Patrick Sloan.   This in from Amanda Howard, a Looka! reader:

I'm looking for my friend Patrick Sloan. He lived on Chartres St. between Esplanade and Frenchman. I've already posted in the usual places - Red Cross, Craig's List, etc., etc. - but Patrick is a man who tries to stay off public records.

Since you seem to have some readers in the Quarter, I'm wondering if one of them has seen him since the hurricane. I've attached a photo.

Thanks to everyone for any help they can give.

Please post any information here, and I'll pass it on

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Sunday, September 4, 2005

Get ready for another storm.   Rehnquist is dead.

I'm sorry for the man, but ... good Christ, this is going to be awful.

Quote of the day.   It ain't just me.

"I'm afraid I would have assaulted him."

-- Former president Bill Clinton, describing what his reaction would have been had House Speaker Dennis Hastert made his remarks regarding bulldozing New Orleans and it not making sense to rebuild it in Mr. Clinton's presence.

Yeah you rite, Bill.

Bush visit halts food delivery.   WTF??!! From the Times-Picayune:

Three tons of food ready for delivery by air to refugees in St. Bernard Parish and on Algiers Point sat on the Crescent City Connection bridge Friday afternoon as air traffic was halted because of President Bush's visit to New Orleans, officials said.

The provisions, secured by U.S. Rep. Charlie Melancon, D-Napoleonville, and state Agriculture Commissioner Bob Odom, baked in the afternoon sun as Bush surveyed damage across southeast Louisiana five days after Katrina made landfall as a Category 4 storm, said Melancon's chief of staff, Casey O'Shea.

"We had arrangements to airlift food by helicopter to these folks, and now the food is sitting in trucks because they won't let helicopters fly," O'Shea said Friday afternoon.

The food was expected to be in the hands of storm survivors after the president left the devastated region Friday night, he said.

I'm sure those starving survivors didn't mind waiting, right?

Times-Picayune: An open letter to the president.   Dear Mr. President:

We heard you loud and clear Friday when you visited our devastated city and the Gulf Coast and said, "What is not working, we're going to make it right." Please forgive us if we wait to see proof of your promise before believing you. But we have good reason for our skepticism.

Bienville built New Orleans where he built it for one main reason: It's accessible. The city between the Mississippi River and Lake Pontchartrain was easy to reach in 1718.

How much easier it is to access in 2005 now that there are interstates and bridges, airports and helipads, cruise ships, barges, buses and diesel-powered trucks.

Despite the city's multiple points of entry, our nation's bureaucrats spent days after last week's hurricane wringing their hands, lamenting the fact that they could neither rescue the city's stranded victims nor bring them food, water and medical supplies.

Meanwhile there were journalists, including some who work for the Times-Picayune, going in and out of the city via the Crescent City Connection. On Thursday morning, that crew saw a caravan of 13 Wal-Mart tractor trailers headed into town to bring food, water and supplies to a dying city.

Television reporters were doing live reports from downtown New Orleans streets. Harry Connick Jr. brought in some aid Thursday, and his efforts were the focus of a "Today" show story Friday morning.

Yet, the people trained to protect our nation, the people whose job it is to quickly bring in aid, were absent. Those who should have been deploying troops were singing a sad song about how our city was impossible to reach.

We're angry, Mr. President, and we'll be angry long after our beloved city and surrounding parishes have been pumped dry. Our people deserved rescuing. Many who could have been were not. That's to the government's shame.

Mayor Ray Nagin did the right thing Sunday when he allowed those with no other alternative to seek shelter from the storm inside the Louisiana Superdome. We still don't know what the death toll is, but one thing is certain: Had the Superdome not been opened, the city's death toll would have been higher. The toll may even have been exponentially higher.

It was clear to us by late morning Monday that many people inside the Superdome would not be returning home. It should have been clear to our government, Mr. President. So why weren't they evacuated out of the city immediately? We learned seven years ago, when Hurricane Georges threatened, that the Dome isn't suitable as a long-term shelter. So what did state and national officials think would happen to tens of thousands of people trapped inside with no air conditioning, overflowing toilets and dwindling amounts of food, water and other essentials?

State Rep. Karen Carter was right Friday when she said the city didn't have but two urgent needs: "Buses! And gas!" Every official at the Federal Emergency Management Agency should be fired, Director Michael Brown especially.

In a nationally televised interview Thursday night, he said his agency hadn't known until that day that thousands of storm victims were stranded at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center. He gave another nationally televised interview the next morning and said, "We've provided food to the people at the Convention Center so that they've gotten at least one, if not two meals, every single day."

Lies don't get more bald-faced than that, Mr. President.

Yet, when you met with Mr. Brown Friday morning, you told him, "You're doing a heck of a job."

That's unbelievable.

There were thousands of people at the Convention Center because the riverfront is high ground. The fact that so many people had reached there on foot is proof that rescue vehicles could have gotten there, too.

We, who are from New Orleans, are no less American than those who live on the Great Plains or along the Atlantic Seaboard. We're no less important than those from the Pacific Northwest or Appalachia. Our people deserved to be rescued.

No expense should have been spared. No excuses should have been voiced. Especially not one as preposterous as the claim that New Orleans couldn't be reached.

Mr. President, we sincerely hope you fulfill your promise to make our beloved communities work right once again.

When you do, we will be the first to applaud.

Brown, fired? That's a laugh. Bush will probably promote the bastard. It would be true to his longtime form.

Bush Administration attempting to shift blame to local officials.   From the Washington Post, via MSNBC:

[...] About 42,000 people had been evacuated from the city by Saturday afternoon, with roughly the same number remaining, city officials said. Search-and-rescue efforts continued in flooded areas of the city, where an unknown number of people wait in makeshift shelters. Hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced by the flooding -- 250,000 have been absorbed by Texas alone, and local radio reported that Baton Rouge will have doubled in population by Monday. Federal officials said they have begun to collect corpses but could not guess the total toll.

Behind the scenes, a power struggle emerged, as federal officials tried to wrest authority from Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco (D). Shortly before midnight Friday, the Bush administration sent her a proposed legal memorandum asking her to request a federal takeover of the evacuation of New Orleans, a source within the state's emergency operations center said Saturday.

May I point out the the greatest natural disaster in United States history had been underway for four days by the time this memo was sent to Gov. Blanco? May I point out that Mayor Nagin was in New Orleans on Thursday, begging the federal government for help?

The administration had sought control over National Guard units, normally under control of the governor. Louisiana officials rejected the request, noting that such a move would be comparable to a federal declaration of martial law. State authorities suspected a political motive behind the request. "Quite frankly, if they'd been able to pull off taking it away from the locals, they then could have blamed everything on the locals," said the source, who is an adviser and does not have the authority to speak publicly.

This is appalling, but sadly, not surprising.

"Do You Know What It Means To Lose New Orleans?"   by Anne Rice.

She makes some interesting points about why New Orleanians behave and feel the way they do. Oh, and she's pissed.

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Saturday, September 3, 2005

WWOZ back on the air!!!   Well, technically not on the air, but on the web is "WWOZ-in-exile", and they're streaming from the facilities of WFMU in East Orange, N.J. (Ken Freedman, their general manager whom I remember well from his brief stint at KCRW in 1992, is a heaven-sent hero for doing this).

This is such great news for New Orleans culture. Listen now!!!!

BREAKING: Jeff. Parish residents may return Monday.   This via WDSU's website:

Jefferson Parish emergency management leaders announced a plan to allow residents to go back to their homes on Monday.

People will be allowed back starting at 6 a.m. Monday and continuing indefinitely. However there are strict conditions:

Nobody will be allowed to use Interstate 10 east of Laplace on the East Bank. In addition, nobody will be allowed to use the elevated West Bank Expressway routes. Those highways are reserved for the Louisiana State Police and the National Guard for emergency evacuations.

The driver of any car entering Jefferson Parish must show identification proving residence. Drivers without proper identification will not be allowed in and will be turned away.


Commander's Palace: Relief fund being set up.   From the Commander's website:

We will have a fund up in the next day or two but people can start to write checks to New Orleans Hospitality Workers Disaster Relief Fund now and send to us or go to our managing fund. This will be coordinated by the Greater Houston Community Foundation which is well established.

All restaurants or any entity that wants to contribute can use this as a place to send money. Anyone who talks to the press can use this. Money will be distributed by the fund to New Orleans Hospitality workers after making application. We will have all info on how to do this tomorrow.

There is also an online message board for restaurants affected by the hurricane.

Brennans, thank you. We love you.

News from the Quarter!   This just in via email from Joshua Mann Pailet, owner of A Gallery for Fine Photography on Chartres St.:

THANKS - Too much to say right now.

I got a few things out and have them in Baton Rouge.

Just got out last night. I could have stayed, my supplies would have lasted for seven more days.

But, the fires have started.

The reports of looting downtown are exaggerated. Yes, they broke into the grocery stores, drugstores, gas stations, for food, etc. Canal Street had a few hours of thugs doing sports shops, but all other shops and the ENTIRE French Quarter is safe and untouched. The storm did glass and roof damage and trees UPTOWN. Just needs to be swept. Looks LESS dirty than a typical Mardi Gras day.

THE FLOOD did NOT get into the French Quarter, and along the river to AUDUBON PARK.

I stayed and helped and photographed and bicycled these areas every day.

NO shooters, some idiots, but everyone doing the best to get along and survive. Other flooded areas, it is very desperate and there are some battles going on, but very isolated.

From Monday to late yesterday there were NO military, Red Cross, FEMA, or anyone with supplies DOWNTOWN.

Even the N.O. Police and Fire Dept were largely absent.

I stayed in the Qtr at A Gallery. The building and contents is presently fine. I will be going back soon to help the other people.

The amazing people of New Orleans will survive and rebuild.

The media stayed on Canal Street and are missing the real story.

Unfortunately, the "looting" story is all they had downtown and its repetitous playing of that footage has setback recovery. IT FALSELY scared off the rescuers, I guess.

Too many rumors reported without eyewitness verification.

Bad business, needs to change.

Please spread the word.

Bush and his people have been bad to us. Every hour matters to the remaining people.

The surrrounding region is overwhelmed with recovery. Baton Rouge has 200,000 people to help,

LSU is a triage center.

EVERYONE is pitching in.

The entire situation is complex and difficult for everyone. Many shortages, gasoline especially.

By the way, since early Tuesday, access into New Orleans via the downtown Miss. River Bridge has been clear to Baton Rouge. Everyone else got in that way, why not the military?

Four hours away by CAR is Fort Polk, one of the largest bases around.

Bring the boys home, especially the National Guard.

New Orleans needs your love and positive thoughts.

Email and spread the word. Contact your leadership in Washington and keep the pressure on.

Especially today and tomorrow.

Remember that these people are the heart and soul of the New Orleans everyone loves.

See you soon

Thank God for Josh.

Recent aerial photos from space.   Via Greg (thanks, bra): astonishingly detailed hi-res satellite aerial photos from NOAA of the stricken areas in New Orleans, taken mostly on Thursday and Friday.

Click on the black boxes to find what you're looking for. It takes a little hunting, but once you spot a landmark you can easily pick out individual homes.

UPDATE: Rafe Colburn corrected this in the comments; they're aerial photos, not satellite. The rows of boxes are the flight paths. Unfortunately, the flight path just missed my parents' neighborhood. :-(

From Rafe's site, here's a more thorough list of satellite/aerial imaging sites:

Red Cross: "We're not being allowed into New Orleans".   Promoted from the comments, via Mac, via Making Light: The Red Cross has been ordered not to enter New Orleans with relief.

Hurricane Katrina: Why is the Red Cross not in New Orleans?

* Access to New Orleans is controlled by the National Guard and local authorities and while we are in constant contact with them, we simply cannot enter New Orleans against their orders.

* The State Homeland Security department has requested -- and continues to request -- that the American Red Cross not come back into New Orleans following the hurricane. Our presence would keep people from evacuating and encourage others to come into the city.

"Our presence would keep people from evacuating and encourage others to come into the city."


(I can't think. I can't speak. I ... here's Patrick:)

See, and here you thought that tens of thousands of people spent the last few days trapped in the Superdome or the Convention Center without food, water, medical care, electric power, or basic sanitation, in constant fear of violence, surrounded by the unburied corpses of their fellow victims, because they couldn't evacuate. But all this time, they've been there by choice. If they had a Red Cross station distributing fresh water and sandwiches, they'd choose to stay in their fetid, corpse-riddled, life-threatening, lawless swamp of a city indefinitely. You know what those people are like, always sitting around waiting for a handout. Humanitarian aid just encourages them.

Yes, clearly, it's far better to evacuate Katrina's victims than to leave them in place in New Orleans. But when you can't get them all out right away -- and they haven't even been able to finish evacuating the hospitals, much less the lower-priority evacuees -- you need to provide aid in place. Immediately, not five days later. To willfully withhold basic life support from tens of thousands of desperate people because you think it will discourage evacuation is-- actually, I have no words strong enough for what it is. Unconscionable. Morally depraved. A crime against humanity. Nothing seems strong enough.

I quite literally cannot believe that they have not evacuated the hospitals yet. My sister has been in touch with West Jefferson Hospital, where she works as an ICU nurse. Here's what she said:

(Tuesday): I was able to finally get in touch with the ICU unit at 2am. There is no running water, no electricity (except to run ventilators and iv pumps), no AC. The nurses are on their 5th shift in a row (except for sleep in between). They are having to piss and crap in red biohazard bags and throw them in the trash, which is building up.

(Wednesday): I got word that WJ is not evacuating. So, despite Melissa and Shannon protesting, I am going back, at least to relieve some people. The longest I am going to be gone is one month. I am so tired, I'll give you the details later...

(Thursday): We can go hwy 90. I called the hospital at 4a this morning. The staff is exhausted. The hospital does have power... real power, not emergency power. They are the only ones anywhere. I knew that they must have had a promise from entergy because otherwise they would have evacuated.

(Friday): I am not going today. There are national guard people who are coming today and I will make a decision day by day.

As far as I can tell, West Jefferson Hospital is "beyond capacity" and still has no relief.

I was so worried about her, but I completely understand. In fact, I want to go back now. If I could afford it, I'd quit my job and go back and do whatever I can. But I can't. I feel so helpless, and I feel even more helpless every time I look at the TV, at that useless fuck Mike Brown, at Chertoff spewing bullshit at another goddamn press conference as I write ...

Marisol Restaurant needs YOUR help to feed rescuers & refugees!   Just received late last night from Janis Vasquez, wife of Marisol chef/owner Pete Vasquez:

Chef Pete is still in New Orleans. Marisol is undamaged. Please help us to help others.

We can feed the hungry with your help.

Massive clean-up and rescue efforts are finally underway and all of those rescuers and remaining displaced New Orleanians are very hungry.

Chef Pete is co-ordinating with one of our specialty produce suppliers, who is now in exile in Texas. The two of them believe that they will be able to round up enough supplies to feed many people for many days & weeks, but only with your help.

To those of you who are members of the press, or who already work with government agencies, or who simply have friends in high places; here is our question: How can we contact someone in charge at FEMA who can assist us with funding this work and spreading the news among those most affected?

Chef Pete's home phone still works! You can call him at 504 263-5112 or you can call me in West Virginia at 304 242-6610 or you can e-mail me at

If you are sitting on a stockpile of bottled water and disposable and continues to requestplates and utensils, that would be great too.

If any of you are chefs or kitchen workers, your help will be most appreciated also. Please contact Chef Pete or me ASAP.

I can't update the website and continues to requestfrom here, but you can visit it anyway!

Thanks so much for reading this note. We hope to hear from you real soon!

I'm so relieved to hear from Janis and Chef Pete. I had a spectacular meal at Marisol when I was home a few weeks ago, and with all the effort to track down local musicians I nearly forgot about local restauranteurs, chefs and cooks. We need to start working on finding those folks too. (I forget if I reported this earliler, but all the Brennans are okay, and I heard an unconfirmed report that Dickie Brennan was also working on a plan to convert all of the Brennan restaurants to feed the hungry as soon as feasible.)

The United States of Shame.   Maureen Dowd:

Stuff happens.

And when you combine limited government with incompetent government, lethal stuff happens.

America is once more plunged into a snake pit of anarchy, death, looting, raping, marauding thugs, suffering innocents, a shattered infrastructure, a gutted police force, insufficient troop levels and criminally negligent government planning. But this time it's happening in America.

W. drove his budget-cutting Chevy to the levee, and it wasn't dry. Bye, bye, American lives. "I don't think anyone anticipated the breach of the levees," he told Diane Sawyer.

Shirt-sleeves rolled up, W. finally landed in Hell yesterday and chuckled about his wild boozing days in "the great city" of N'Awlins. He was clearly moved. "You know, I'm going to fly out of here in a minute," he said on the runway at the New Orleans International Airport, "but I want you to know that I'm not going to forget what I've seen." Out of the cameras' range, and avoided by W., was a convoy of thousands of sick and dying people, some sprawled on the floor or dumped on baggage carousels at a makeshift M*A*S*H unit inside the terminal.

Why does this self-styled "can do" president always lapse into such lame "who could have known?" excuses.

Who on earth could have known that Osama bin Laden wanted to attack us by flying planes into buildings? Any official who bothered to read the trellis of pre-9/11 intelligence briefs.

Who on earth could have known that an American invasion of Iraq would spawn a brutal insurgency, terrorist recruiting boom and possible civil war? Any official who bothered to read the C.I.A.'s prewar reports.

Who on earth could have known that New Orleans's sinking levees were at risk from a strong hurricane? Anybody who bothered to read the endless warnings over the years about the Big Easy's uneasy fishbowl.

In June 2004, Walter Maestri, emergency management chief for Jefferson Parish, fretted to The Times-Picayune in New Orleans: "It appears that the money has been moved in the president's budget to handle homeland security and the war in Iraq, and I suppose that's the price we pay. Nobody locally is happy that the levees can't be finished, and we are doing everything we can to make the case that this is a security issue for us."

Not only was the money depleted by the Bush folly in Iraq; 30 percent of the National Guard and about half its equipment are in Iraq.

Ron Fournier of The Associated Press reported that the Army Corps of Engineers asked for $105 million for hurricane and flood programs in New Orleans last year. The White House carved it to about $40 million. But President Bush and Congress agreed to a $286.4 billion pork-filled highway bill with 6,000 pet projects, including a $231 million bridge for a small, uninhabited Alaskan island.

Just last year, Federal Emergency Management Agency officials practiced how they would respond to a fake hurricane that caused floods and stranded New Orleans residents. Imagine the feeble FEMA's response to Katrina if they had not prepared.

Michael Brown, the blithering idiot in charge of FEMA - a job he trained for by running something called the International Arabian Horse Association - admitted he didn't know until Thursday that there were 15,000 desperate, dehydrated, hungry, angry, dying victims of Katrina in the New Orleans Convention Center.

Was he sacked instantly? No, our tone-deaf president hailed him in Mobile, Ala., yesterday: "Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job."

It would be one thing if President Bush and his inner circle - Dick Cheney was vacationing in Wyoming; Condi Rice was shoe shopping at Ferragamo's on Fifth Avenue and attended "Spamalot" before bloggers chased her back to Washington; and Andy Card was off in Maine - lacked empathy but could get the job done. But it is a chilling lack of empathy combined with a stunning lack of efficiency that could make this administration implode.

When the president and vice president rashly shook off our allies and our respect for international law to pursue a war built on lies, when they sanctioned torture, they shook the faith of the world in American ideals.

When they were deaf for so long to the horrific misery and cries for help of the victims in New Orleans - most of them poor and black, like those stuck at the back of the evacuation line yesterday while 700 guests and employees of the Hyatt Hotel were bused out first - they shook the faith of all Americans in American ideals. And made us ashamed.

Who are we if we can't take care of our own?

"Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job"?! Jesus wept.

"A Colossal Failure of Leadership."   Scathing commentary from Newsweek.

"Doctors, Professors, Kings and Queens" disaster relief.   Here's today's official press release from Shout! Factory Records about the fundraising effort with the sales of my New Orleans box set:


LOS ANGELES, CA -- Today, Los Angeles-based entertainment company Shout! Factory announced a donation of the profits from website sales of their 4-CD deluxe boxed set "Doctors, Professors, Kings & Queens: The Big Ol Box Of New Orleans through the end of 2005. In order to aid victims of Hurricane Katrina, profits will be calculated from purchases made via and donated to the American Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund.

Our Shout! Factory employees feel a special connection to New Orleans having worked with many New Orleans-based musicians and the very unique and wonderful music originating from that area of the country, commented Shout! Factory president, Garson Foos. We unanimously decided donating the profits to our boxed set was a modest yet fitting gesture toward the relief efforts.

The "Doctors, Professors, Kings & Queens: The Big Ol Box Of New Orleans" deluxe 4-CD box set includes five hours of music including rock, jazz, soul, funk, R&B, Cajun, blues and Klezmer. It includes greats like Fats Domino, Dr. John, Rebirth Brass Band, BeauSoleil, Buckwheat Zydeco, Earl King, The Meters, The Neville Brothers and Louis Armstrong.

If you procrastinated and farted around and waited to buy the box set ... I'm really, really glad. Now is the time. Enjoy all this great New Orleans music I put together, and the book Mary and I wrote, including lots of my photographs, and help New Orleans disaster relief at the same time. Buy now!

Connecting disconnected people.   This in from Air America Radio:

Air America Public Voicemail

Call the toll-free number above, enter your everyday phone number, and then record a message. Other people who know your everyday phone number (even if it doesn't work anymore) can call Emergency Voicemail, enter the phone number they associate with you, and hear your message.

You can also search for messages left by people whose phone numbers you know. Air America Radio will leave Public Voicemail in service for as long as this crisis continues. You can call it whenever you are trying to locate someone, or if you are trying to be found.

Obviously, for this to work, people need to know about it so please forward the number to as many people as you can. You can find out more about Katrina and the affected areas at

You can also go to the Red Cross website, click on the "Family Links Regsitry" and register yourself, a missing loved one or view the existing found list.

Levee repairs: Army twiddles, locals start getting it done.   Apparently the Army Corps of Engineers couldn't figure out how to fix the breach in the levee at the 17th Street Canal and sat there twiddling their thumbs for three days, "lamenting" that the canal area was inaccessible, until a fed-up local contractor (yeah bra, everybody in New Orleans knows Boh Bros.!) went in on their own and made it happen.

UPDATE - AmericaBlog: "Bush faked levee repair for photo op yesterday"

Promoted from the comments. Laura says, "Here's a story that might undermine [the above story] ... what's the real story on the 17th Street Canal levee?"

From a press release by Louisiana senior Senator Mary Landrieu:

... perhaps the greatest disappointment stands at the breached 17th Street levee. Touring this critical site yesterday with the President, I saw what I believed to be a real and significant effort to get a handle on a major cause of this catastrophe. Flying over this critical spot again this morning, less than 24 hours later, it became apparent that yesterday we witnessed a hastily prepared stage set for a Presidential photo opportunity; and the desperately needed resources we saw were this morning reduced to a single, lonely piece of equipment. The good and decent people of southeast Louisiana and the Gulf Coast - black and white, rich and poor, young annd old - deserve far better from their national government.

If this is true, I want confirmation ASAP.

Something funny.   Mary and Steve handled phones during my show the other night. One of my regular listeners/callers, Dennis, called in at least four times (he usually calls every week, but only once. Mary talked to him, and one particularly delightful conversation that I was sorry I missed, after I played a couple of Earl King songs:

Dennis: I'm worried that Earl King got out.

Mary: (wondering if the caller is just being silly.) Oh, no. I'm sure the place where he is is quite secure.

D: But he's safe, right? He's okay?

M: Well, apart from being, you know, dead.

D: ...


M: As a matter of fact, yes. He's buried in Ernie K. Doe's tomb.


M: Er, yes. King about a year or so ago, and K-Doe about four years ago.

D: Wow. I guess I'm not keeping up.

M: No, not so much.

Hee. Bless you, Dennis.

Amid the horror, a lament for New Orleans' musical heritage.   Here's an article from the Houston Chronicle about the blow to and future of the New Orleans music scene. (On a tiny, insignificant note, they quoted me babbling about something.)

I'm also supposed to be on a syndicated public radio program called "Weekend America" today. There was me and an author named Maxine ... um, something (*embarrassed*) talking about what it's like growing up and living in a potential disaster area. Somehow amidst all that I managed to get in a plug for Poppy's New Orleans restaurant novels, and also got to rip Dennis Hastert a new asshole. (Um, they'll probably have to do a bit of tape editing there, I expect.)

Dennis-fucking-Hastert backtracks.   Via Salon:

Republican House Speaker Dennis Hastert said Wednesday that it "doesn't make sense" to rebuild New Orleans. "It looks like a lot of that place could be bulldozed," he said. Hastert's office backtracked Thursday. It put out a statement in which Hastert said he was "not advocating that the city be abandoned or relocated," and a spokesman said the speaker was only "asking the questions everyone is asking."

As long as Hastert is asking questions, there are a couple we'd like to see him ponder. First, why did Hastert, as the speaker of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, preside over massive budget cuts for the New Orleans district of the Army Corps of Engineers? Second, if Hastert is so concerned about dumping taxpayer money into rebuilding a U.S. city ravaged by a hurricane, why is he so sanguine about dumping money into rebuilding a foreign country ravaged by war?

On a fundraising trip in California last month, Hastert said that the American people "understand that if you pull out [of Iraq] now it sends a terrible signal around the world and we need to finish a job that we started." Hastert will convene the House of Representatives in an hour to approve $10.5 billion in aid for the Gulf Coast. one-twentieth of what the U.S. has spent on the war so far. And while construction work can be dangerous, we're betting that 1,885 Americans won't die while rebuilding New Orleans.

Salon adds:

We assumed, as we were writing earlier today, that Republican House Speaker Dennis Hastert would be in Washington as the House took up George W. Bush's request for $10.5 billion in emergency relief funding for the victims of Hurricane Katrina.

We were wrong. Hastert, who questioned earlier this week whether it would "make sense" for the federal government to spend money rebuilding New Orleans, was back in his home district today, where he announced that the federal government is going to provide $1.84 million to build a road extension in the village of Annawan, Ill. "Illinois," he said, "is finally getting their fair share."

Was he helping in New Orleans and along the Gulf Coast? No, he was passing out pork in his home district. I think the people of Annawan would have been happy to wait, if that $1.84 million could have helped get some buses and troops to New Orleans to keep people from dying, and to help keep a handful of vicious criminals from attacking survivors and burning down what's left of the city.

It has been reported that Hastert refused to call a special session of Congress as late as Wednesday, August 31. Congress leapt from a recess vacation and came to Washington within 24 hours to pass emergency legislation to prevent Michael Schiavo from carrying out the wishes of his wife Terri.

People of the Illinois 14th Congressional District ... please do not vote for that man again. Ever.

Kanye West: "George Bush doesn't care about black people."   Here's a clip of an, ah, unscripted moment during the telethon for hurricane victims. Check out the look on Mike Myers' when Kanye makes his comment, and note how quickly they cut away.

The big disconnect.   Here's an excellent CNN piece on the oblivious government and conflicting viewpoints, featuring that incompetent fucknuckle Michael Brown, the head of FEMA (soon-to-be-former head, let's hope)

Speaking of whom ... wanna know what ?lifetime experience and credentials Brown had to be the head of the emergency management and disaster relief organization for the United States of America before he joined the bush administration? He was "Judges and Stewards Commissioner" for the International Arabian Horses Association, a job which he allegedly fucked up so badly he was forced to resign.

That's just great. So why did he get the job again? I'll bet he gave lots of money to the Republican party.

Scott McClellan: Evasive prick.   I just keep getting angrier and angrier. Via the Washington Post:

The Bush administration, struggling to master the chaos of New Orleans, seems to have a logistical problem closer to home: getting the White House on the same page with the Homeland Security Department.

White House press secretary Scott McClellan arrived 25 minutes late for his noon briefing yesterday, then told reporters that if they had specific questions about Hurricane Katrina, they should save them for Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff at his 1:30 briefing.

Thirteen times, on such basics as damage estimates, displaced people, looting, violence and foreign aid, McClellan's answer was the same: "Those are questions you might want to direct to the Department of Homeland Security."

But when McClellan finished and reporters raced up Massachusetts Avenue for Chertoff's briefing, they were turned back. "Too late," one DHS official said. "You had to be here by 12:45." A White House aide tried to intervene with the department but reported back: "They won't open the door." Finally, DHS relented, but the Wackenhut private security guards at the gate overruled everybody.

"Guards!" one of the Wackenhuts called. "Take them out!"

Thus was the true hierarchy within the federal government revealed: DHS outranks the White House, and Wackenhut trumps them all. "If the White House and Homeland Security can't coordinate the press briefings," wondered Victoria Jones of Talk Radio News Service, "then how much coordinating can we expect in the biggest natural disaster ever to face the United States?"


Will the people of the United States have to physically drag these people from office and throw them into the streets so that we can be saved from them?

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Friday, September 2, 2005

Mayor Nagin screams in rage on WWL.   You absolutely, positively must listen to this. Longtime WWL journalist Garland Robinette interviewed New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin last night, and it's hair-raising. Here's the complete transcript below; read it, but you must listen as well. If you can't get through to WWL, Here's the CNN link.

Ray Nagin: [beginning truncated] -- give me executive powers, to authorize me to dictate and to manage military resources down here, and I'll fix this for you. You call him right now, and you call the governor, and you tell them to delegate the powers that they have to the Mayor of New Orleans and we'll get this damn thing fixed.

It's politics, man, and they're playing games, and they're spinning. They're out there spinning for the cameras.

Garland Robinette: But can't they just-- if nothing else, look at 25% of their energy, coming from this state, is not flowing through the pipeline. We're on the verge of anarchy; can't they understand that if nothing else they're going to be hurt politically?

Ray Nagin: I don't know what they're doing ... I mean, their air conditioning must be good, because I haven't had any in five days. And maybe it's 'cause, maybe there's some smoke coming out of the air conditioning units, clogging some folks' vision.

GR: Have you talked with the president?

RN: I talked directly with the president.

GR: (incredulous) What did he say?

RN: I talked to the head of Homeland Security, I talked to everybody to everybody under the sun. I've been out there man, I flew in these helicopters, I talked to these people who are crying and don't know where their relatives are. I've done it all, man. And I'll tell you, Garland, we keep hearing that "it's coming." This is coming and that is coming, and my answer to that today is, B.S. Where is the beef? Because there is no beef in this city. There's no beef anywhere in southeast Louisiana, and these goddamn ships that are coming? I don't see 'em. (disgusted)

GR: What did you say to the president of the United States, and what did he say to you?

Ray Nagin: I basically told him we had an incredible crisis here, and that his flying over in Air Force One does not do it justice. And that I have been all around this city, and I am very frustrated because we are not able to marshall resources, and we're outmanned in just about every respect.

You know the reason why the looters got out of control? Because we had most of our resources saving people, thousands of people, that were stuck in attics, man... old ladies... when you pull off the doggone ventilator vent, and you look down there, and they're standing there in water up to their fricking neck...!

And they don't have a clue what's going on down there. They flew down here one time, two days after the doggone event was over, with TV cameras, AP reporters, all kinds of goddamn -- excuse my French, everybody in America, but I am pissed.

Garland Robinette: Did you say to the President of the United States, "I need the military in here?"

RN: I said I need everything. I will tell you this, I'll give the President some credit on this: he sent one John Wayne dude that can get some stuff done, and his name is [Lieutenant] General [Russel] Honore. And he came off the doggone chopper, and he started cussing and people started moving. And he's getting some stuff done. They ought to give that guy -- if they don't want to give it to me, give him full authority, to get the job done and we can save some people.

GR: What do you need right now to get control of this situation?

RN: I need reinforcements. I need troops, man. I need 500 buses. Man, they were talking about... you know, one of the briefings we had, they were talking about getting public school bus drivers to come down here ... I'm like, you've got to be kidding me! This is a national disaster! Get every doggone Greyhound busline in the country, and get their asses moving to New Orleans. That's them thinking small, man.... this is a major major major deal!

And I can't emphasize this enough, man -- this is crazy! I've got 15,000-20,000 people over at the Convention Center, it's bursting at the seams. The poor people in Plaquemines parish... they're air-evac'ing people over here in New Orleans... we don't have anything and we're sharing with our brothers in Plaquemines parish. It's awful down here, man.

GR: Do you believe that the President is serious, holding a news conference on it, but can't do anything until [Louisiana Governor] Katherine Blanco requests him to do it, and do you know whether or not she's made that request?

RN: I have no idea what they're doing, but I'll tell you this. You know, God is looking down on all this... and if they're not doing everything in their power to save people, they are going to pay the price. Because every day that we delay, people are dying... and they're dying by the hundreds, I'm willing to bet you.

We're getting reports and calls that are breaking my heart, from people saying, 'I'm in my attic...I can't take it any more. The water's up to my neck. I don't think I can hold out.' And that's happening as we speak.

And you know what really upsets me, Garland? We told everybody the importance of the 17th Street Canal issue. We said, please, please take care of this, we don't care what you do, figure it out.

GR: Who did you say that to?

RN: Everybody -- the governor, Homeland Security, FEMA... you name it, we said it.

They allowed that pumping station, next to Pumping Station 6, to go underwater. Our Sewerage and Water Board people, Marcia St. Martin, stayed there and endangered their lives. And what happened when that pumping station went down, the water started flowing again in the city, and started getting to levels that probably killed more people.

In addition to that, we had water flowing through the pipes in the city, that's a power station over there. So there's no water flowing on the east bank of Orleans Parish, so critical water supply was destroyed because of lack of action.

GR: Why couldn't they drop the 3,000-pound sandbags or the containers that they were talking about earlier? Was it an engineering feat that could not be done?

RN: They said it was some pulleys that they had to manufacture but you know, in a state of emergency, man, you are creative, you figure out ways to get stuff done. Then they told me that they went overnight, they built 17 concrete structures, and they had the pulleys on them and were going to drop them.

I flew over that thing yesterday [Wednesday] and it's in the same shape as it was after the storm hit. There's nothing happening. And they're feeding the public a line of bull. And they're spinning and people are dying down here.

GR: If some of the public called, and they're right, that there's a law that the president, that the federal government, can't do anything without local or state request, would you request martial law?

RN: I've already called for martial law in the city of New Orleans. We did that few days ago.

GR: Did the governor do that, too?

RN: I don't know. I don't think so. We called for martial law when we realized that the looting was getting out of control and we redirected all of our police officers back to patrolling the streets. They were dead tired from saving people. They worked all night because we thought this thing was going to blow wide open last night, and so we redirected all of our resources and we held it under check. I'm not sure we can do that another night, with the current resources.

And I'm telling you right now, they're showing all these reports of looting, people doing all that weird stuff, and they are doing that. But people are desperate. They're trying to find food and water. The majority of them.

You have some knuckleheads out there, taking advantage of the lawlessness, this situation where, you know, we can't really control it, and they're doing some awful, awful things. But that's a small [minority] of the people. Most people are looking to try and survive.

Nobody's talked about this: drugs flowed in and out of New Orleans and the surrounding metropolitan area so freely it was scaring me. That's what we have an escalation in murders. People don't want to talk about this, but I'm going to talk about it. You have drug addicts that are now walking around this city, looking for a fix. That's the reason why they were breaking into hospitals and drug stores. They're looking for something to take the edge off of their jones, if you will. And right now they don't have anything to take the edge off, and they've finally probably found guns. So what you see is drug-starving, crazy addicts, drug addicts, that are wreaking havoc. And we don't have the manpower to adequately deal with it. We can only target certain sections of the city, and form a perimeter around them, and hope to God that we're not overrun.

GR: You and I must be in the minority, because apparently there's a section of our citizenry out there that thinks because of a law that says the federal government can't come in unless requested by the proper people, that everything that's been going on to this point has been as good as it can possibly be.

RN: Really?

GR: I know you don't feel that way.

RN: Well... did the tsunami victims request? Did they go through a formal process to request? Did Iraq -- did the Iraqi people request that we go in there? Did they ask us to go in there?

What is more important? I tell ya man, I'm probably going to be in a whole bunch of trouble, I'm probably going to be in so much trouble it ain't even funny. You probably won't even want to deal with me after this interview is over.

GR: You and I will be in the funny place together.

RN: But -- we authorized $8 billion to go to Iraq, lickety-quick. After 9/11, we gave the president unprecedented powers -- lickety-quick -- to take care of New York and other places. Now you mean to tell me that a place where most of the oil is coming through... a place that is so unique, when you mention New Orleans anywhere around the world, everybody's eyes light up... you mean to tell me that a place where you probably have thousands people that have died, and thousands more that are dying every day, that we can't figure out a way to authorize the resources that we need? Come on, man.

You know I'm not one of those drug addicts, I am thinking very clearly. And I don't know whose problem it is. I don't know whether it's the governor's problem, I don't know whether it's the president's problem. But somebody needs to get their ass on a plane, and sit down, the two of them, and figure this out right now."

GR: What can we do here?

RN: Keep talking about it.

GR: Okay, we'll do that What else can we do?

RN: Organize people to write letters, make calls to their congressmen --

GR: Emails...

RN: -- to the president, to the governor. Fill their doggone offices with requests to do something. This is ridiculous.

I don't want to see anybody do any more goddamn press conferences. Put a moratorium on press conferences. Don't do another press conference until the resources are in this city, and they come down to this city, and stand with us, with their military trucks and troops that we can't even count. Don't tell me there are 40,000 people coming here, they're not here! It's too goddamn late!

Get off your asses and let's do something. Let's fix the biggest goddamn crisis in the history of this country!

GR: I'll tell you, right now, you're the only politician that's called, and called for arms like this. And whatever it takes, the governor, the president... whatever law precedent it takes, whatever it takes... I bet that the people listening to you are on your side.

RN: Well, I hope so, Garland. I am just... I'm at the point now, where it don't matter. People are dying. They don't have homes. They don't have jobs. The City of New Orleans will never be the same. And it's time.

(Then there's silence. Background studio noise comes up as the microphones self-adjust to pick something up. You hear sniffling... Nagin's in tears. Interviewer Robinette too.)

GR: We're both pretty speechless here.

RN: I don't know what to say. I've got to go. Okay? Keep in touch.

Make that three of us speechless.

Thanks, y'all.   Last night's radio show started out being very, very difficult, but what got me into the studio was hearing from everyone who encouraged me to do it. I realized that I needed it as much as everyone else. Mary and Steve came with me and helped with emotional support and with the phones ... and it was all extraordinary. In 17 years of doing radio, I've never had an evening like last night, and I'm not likely to again. Thank you.

WWOZ signed off last Saturday at midnight and left the air indefinitely. Now that the Guardians of the Groove are silent, I feel the need to do my part to help take their place, to try to put my tiny feet in their enormous shoes. "Down Home" is now a Guardian of the Groove, and this program will concentrate almost exclusively upon New Orleans and Louisiana music until further notice. Let the music keep your spirits high.

Yeah you rite.

They call him The Fat Man.   As you may have already seen on CNN last night, Fats Domino was rescued by boat from his flooded Lower Ninth Ward home on Monday. No one's sure of his whereabouts since then, but at least we know he got out of the house.

Also, last night I got an email forwarded to me that Irma Thomas had sent to Jef Jaisun:

Hello Jef,

I am doing as well as expected under the conditions. I am in Gonzales, LA with my husband's Aunt. You may send some money to help my daughter who lost everything. She is out here with my sister-in-law untill she can get fare to go to California, until we can get back into New Orleans.

I am doing okay for now but I don't know how long it will be before I can get help from FEMA. Thanks for being concerned.

You may send help to:

P.O. Box 1274
Gonzales, LA 70707-1274

Tell all of my Fans I thank them.


We love you, dawlin'.

The Big Ol' Box is helping out!!   I heard from Julee at Shout! Factory Records that for the rest of the year the net profits from the web site sales of the New Orleans box set I produced, will be donated to New Orleans disaster relief.

What a great idea, and they beat me to it. I was going to suggest that very thing (although, I must confess, I wasn't going to suggest only web sales be the source, but we takes what we can gets, and I'm thrilled that they're doing it.


Buy it here!

Quote of the day, part deux.   I swear to God, I cringe every single time the man opens his mouth and draws a breath to speak.

THE PRESIDENT: We've got a lot of rebuilding to do. First, we're going to save lives and stabilize the situation. And then we're going to help these communities rebuild. The good news is -- and it's hard for some to see it now -- that out of this chaos is going to come a fantastic Gulf Coast, like it was before. Out of the rubbles of Trent Lott's house -- he's lost his entire house -- there's going to be a fantastic house. And I'm looking forward to sitting on the porch. (Laughter.)

So ... is this his way of personalizing? Call me lacking in compassion if you will, but with the images of the tens of thousands of poor people in New Orleans who have lost their homes and who are not insured and who will not be able to have them easily rebuilt, I must confess that I really don't give a rat's ass about Trent Lott's fucking house.

The last word on looters.   Dan Wasserman, in the Boston Globe:

I knew that a day or two later I'd be ashamed of saying "How about in a body bag, after putting a round through their heads? Just an idea." My sense of humor can get rather morbid when I'm upset. I hope I clarified that I don't believe in shooting people for going after food and water and diapers and clothes and shoes, still boggled that people would steal televisions and basketball goals when they had no homes to put them into, was terrified when a few friends and family fled their undamaged homes because of the gunfire and home looting in their neighborhoods, and nearly lost my mind at the idea of armed gangs committing murder, rape, and actually fucking shooting at hospitals and rescue helicopters.

I realize, fully understand and am enraged by the way the city and state and federal governments just ignore the poor, and especially how they ignored the poor in New Orleans (many of whom are responsible for a huge part of our cultural life). "Stick 'em in the Dome" is not a plan. There was no plan for them. Buses that could have been used to evacuate them sat idle and then flooded.

There's always been desperate poverty in New Orleans, exacerbated by any number of things -- the destruction of great swaths of the Tremé neighborhood in the 1960s for the constriction of the I-10 overpass over N. Claiborne; the concentration of the poor in quickly crumbling, poorly maintained public housing projects; the frustration caused by the juxtaposition of very wealthy and desperately poor neighborhoods within a few blocks of each other; the general lack of desire to help these people ... the list goes on and on.

Poverty can drive people mad, or leave them on the brink, to be pushed into madness by a mind-numbing catastrophe of this magnitude. But the vast majority of the poor, tens of thousands of them, who remained in New Orleans not by their choice, are law-abiding citizens who want nothing more than to survive, to have something to eat and especially water for their small children and elderly parents who are dying of dehydration in front of their eyes. Amidst all this is a small minorty, maybe only a few hundred, awful people who took up arms against their fellow survivors, who assaulted them, stole from them, raped and killed them, and spread out with their looted weapons to commit mayhem. As if the city didn't have enough problems.

For the predators, for those vampires, sorry as I may have been for their circumstances before the disaster struck, I still maintain that for the safety of everyone else, the vast, vast majority, the survivors and their rescuers, they've got to get the military in there, and those people have to be taken off the streets by whatever means are feasible. It's a harsh reality, but when it comes to life or death situations like this, one must defend oneself and others, and must do what needs to be done.

The Man-Made Disaster.   A new editorial in today's New York Times:

The situation in New Orleans, which had seemed as bad as it could get, became considerably worse yesterday with reports of what seemed like a total breakdown of organized society. Americans who had been humbled by failures in Iraq saw that the authorities could not quickly cope with a natural disaster at home. People died for lack of water, medical care or timely rescues - particularly the old and the young - and victims were almost invariably poor and black. The city's police chief spoke of rapes, beatings and marauding mobs. The pictures were equally heartbreaking and maddening. Disaster planners were well aware that New Orleans could be flooded by the combined effects of a hurricane and broken levees, yet somehow the government was unable to immediately rise to the occasion.

Watching helplessly from afar, many citizens wondered whether rescue operations were hampered because almost one-third of the men and women of the Louisiana National Guard, and an even higher percentage of the Mississippi National Guard, were 7,000 miles away, fighting in Iraq. That's an even bigger loss than the raw numbers suggest because many of these part-time soldiers had to leave behind their full-time jobs in police and fire departments or their jobs as paramedics. Regardless of whether they wear public safety uniforms in civilian life, the guardsmen in Iraq are a crucial resource sorely missed during these early days, when hours have literally meant the difference between evacuation and inundation, between civic order and chaos, between life and death.

The gap is now belatedly being filled by units from other states, though without the local knowledge and training those Mississippi and Louisiana units could supply. The Pentagon is sending thousands of active-duty sailors and soldiers, including a fully staffed aircraft carrier, a hospital ship and some 3,000 Army troops for security and crowd control (even though federal law bars regular Army forces from domestic law enforcement, normally the province of the National Guard).

But it's already a very costly game of catch-up. The situation might have been considerably less dire if all of Louisiana's and Mississippi's National Guard had been mobilized before the storm so they could organize, enforce and aid in the evacuation of vulnerable low-lying areas. Plans should have been drawn up for doing so, with sufficient trained forces available to carry them out.

It's too late for that now. But the hard lessons of this week must be learned and incorporated into the nation's plans for future emergencies, whether these come in the form of natural disasters or terrorist attacks. Every state must now update its plans for quick emergency responses and must be assured by the Pentagon that it will be able to keep enough National Guard soldiers on hand to carry out these plans on very short notice.

Things would have been even worse if a comparable domestic disaster had struck last year, when an even greater percentage of National Guard units were deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan. Some states had more than two-thirds of their Guard forces overseas. After several governors protested, the Pentagon agreed to adjust its force rotations so no state would be stripped of more than half of its guardsmen at any one time. That promise has been kept so far. But honoring it in the months ahead will be extremely difficult with active-duty forces so badly overstretched in Iraq, and prospects for any significant early withdrawals looking bleak.

One lasting lesson that has to be drawn from the Gulf Coast's misery is that from now on, the National Guard must be treated as America's most essential homeland security force, not as some kind of military piggy bank for the Pentagon to raid for long-term overseas missions. America clearly needs a larger active-duty Army. It just as clearly needs a homeland-based National Guard that's fully prepared and ready for any domestic emergency.

There's been a considerable amount of anger, disgust and ranting at our government amongst my New Orleans people of late. Did any of y'all see Anderson Cooper's interview with Sen. Mary Landrieu, who we usually really like, this afternoon on CNN? Landrieu was talking about how great it was that Congress and the White House and members of both parties were working so well together to deal with things and Cooper, who had spent all day in an obliterated Mississippi coastal town with people who's entire lives were gone, and who had watched his colleagues' footage of people dying of dehydration and neglect on the streets of New Orleans where rats dined on corpses in the streets, interrupted her and berated her that "the last thing these people need is to hear politicians congratulating each other about how wonderful they are", or words to that effect. It was a great moment and much needed. I've been impressed with Cooper's coverage.

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Thursday, September 1, 2005

Live updates (for now) from the CBD.   A guy named Michael is providing posts from his refuge in a highrise in the CBD. He has diesel-fueled generators and, amazingly enough, Internet connectivity.

I'm going to keep a close eye on his site. Here's the latest, from 1:28pm New Orleans time:

The word is that in Jefferson Parish and Orleans, FEMA has "bugged out." They haven't brought supplies in.

THE REAL MILITARY IS NOW FLOWING IN. National Guard is being replaced before our eyes. Watch the feed.

Word is that the Marines are at 1515 Poydras where our OC4s are. I think we're coming back online in force shortly.

Also some good news from my sister, who's a nurse at West Jeff in Marrero. She couldn't stand to hear about the conditions there and was planning to go back to day. She's wonderful for wanting to do that, but we were begging her not to, because it's simply not safe. Once she heard about FEMA bugging out, she is at least going to wait and not go today. I'll feel better when she has several thousand soldiers around there.

Quote of the day.   The great Allen Toussaint has been contacted -- he rode the storm out in a hotel and then managed to get a bus to New York! There'll be more details later, but regarding the city itself and its music scene, he said this:

It's on intermission, but it will never leave. Just come back after the break.

Yeah you rite.

Hastert Questions Rebuilding New Orleans.   The anger could never overpass my grief, but it's swelling.

It makes no sense to spend billions of dollars to rebuild a city that's seven feet under sea level, House Speaker Dennis Hastert said of federal assistance for hurricane-devastated New Orleans.

"It looks like a lot of that place could be bulldozed," the Illinois Republican said in an interview Wednesday with The Daily Herald of Arlington, Ill.

Hastert, in a transcript supplied by the newspaper, said there was no question that the people of New Orleans would rebuild their city, but noted that federal insurance and other federal aid was involved. "We ought to take a second look at it. But you know we build Los Angeles and San Francisco on top of earthquake fissures and they rebuild too. Stubbornness."

Say that to my face, motherfucker.

People are dying right this minute.   The authorities seem to have abandoned New Orleans.

There are tens of thousands of people stranded at the Convention Center and elsewhere who paid attention to what the civil authorities have said. They are law-abiding citizens, desperate for food and water. They have been left behind. There are no police. Live reports coming from New Orleans as I watch, 10:13am PDT, show no cops, no troops, no water to drink.

They're now reporting that FEMA has abandoned rescue efforts because of the dangerous situation on the streets. There are armed people, but they number in the hundreds and could be contained if they'd send someone there to contain them. There's no one.

They can't go into the stores to retrieve food and bottled water, because it's all gone.

Tens of thousands of survivors need help right now. Where the fuck is everyone? Where is the help? Elderly people and infants are dying of dehydration in front of the eyes of appalled reporters.


Listen to "Down Home" with me tonight.   I have to go into KCSN tonight and do a radio show that consists primarily of New Orleans music. It's what I do every week, but for the last few days I wondered if I was going to be able to do it. I was particularly worried about having to something overly strenuous, such as actually talking on the air without breaking down.

But I think I really need to do this. I'll have some New Orleans friends with me, and that'll be a comfort. And it'll be additionally comforting to know that some of my friends out there are listening too. Tune in at 7pm Pacific Time, locally at 88.5 FM or via the webcast at

We'll let Kermit do the talking, all about "what is New Orleans"; we'll listen to Jack Fine and his Palmetto Bug Stompers; we'll listen to Louis singing about knowing what it means to miss New Orleans. Let's do it together.

More bad news.   Shit.

Blues veteran R.L. Burnside, who experienced a late career renaissance after being rediscovered by Fat Possum Records in the 1990s, died today in a Memphis hospital. He was 78.


Do you have a spare room? is organizing an emergency housing drive for Katrina refugees:

Tens of thousands of newly homeless families are being bused to a stadium in Houston, where they may wait for weeks or months. At least 80,000 are competing for area shelters, and countless more are in motels, cars, or wherever they can stay out of the elements. The Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Red Cross are scrambling to find shelter for the displaced.

This morning, we've launched an emergency national housing drive to connect your empty beds with hurricane victims who desperately need a place to wait out the storm. You can post your offer of housing (a spare room, extra bed, even a decent couch) and search for available housing online at:

Housing is most urgently needed within reasonable driving distance (about 300 miles) of the affected areas in the Southeast, especially New Orleans.

Please forward this message to anyone you know in the region who might be able to help.

But no matter where you live, your housing could still make a world of difference to a person or family in need, so please offer what you can.

The hurricane exit strategy.   The Rude Pundit makes a point:

At some point here, some wise, ambitious, and none-too-cynical member of Congress, perhaps Chuck Hagel, perhaps Russ Feingold, needs to say the obvious: Hurricane Katrina offers the ultimate exit strategy from Iraq. What other excuse need there be to pull vast numbers of troops and billions of dollars out of our overseas failure? The patently absurd waste of billions of dollars will be brought to light by the suffering along the Gulf Coast. A couple of months from now, whenever some worthless, stupid right-wing fuck puppet declares that the U.S. has built schools in Basra, it'll simply be a reminder of how much faster things could have been done in Biloxi if all those funds and all that personnel were readily available.


John at AmericaBlog reports "an extraordinary story" from Editor & Publisher which says, bottom line, that "[e]xperts knew this was coming, and all the preparations ground to a halt because Bush stole New Orleans' disaster preparation money so he could use it for his Iraq debacle."

New Orleans had long known it was highly vulnerable to flooding and a direct hit from a hurricane. In fact, the federal government has been working with state and local officials in the region since the late 1960s on major hurricane and flood relief efforts. When flooding from a massive rainstorm in May 1995 killed six people, Congress authorized the Southeast Louisiana Urban Flood Control Project, or SELA.

...after 2003, the flow of federal dollars toward SELA dropped to a trickle. The Corps never tried to hide the fact that the spending pressures of the war in Iraq, as well as homeland security -- coming at the same time as federal tax cuts -- was the reason for the strain. At least nine articles in the Times-Picayune from 2004 and 2005 specifically cite the cost of Iraq as a reason for the lack of hurricane- and flood-control dollars.

Newhouse News Service, in an article posted late Tuesday night at The Times-Picayune web site, reported: "No one can say they didn't see it coming... Now in the wake of one of the worst storms ever, serious questions are being asked about the lack of preparation."

In early 2004, as the cost of the conflict in Iraq soared, President Bush proposed spending less than 20 percent of what the Corps said was needed for Lake Pontchartrain, according to a Feb. 16, 2004, article, in New Orleans CityBusiness.

On June 8, 2004, Walter Maestri, emergency management chief for Jefferson Parish, Louisiana; told the Times-Picayune: "It appears that the money has been moved in the president's budget to handle homeland security and the war in Iraq, and I suppose that's the price we pay. Nobody locally is happy that the levees can't be finished, and we are doing everything we can to make the case that this is a security issue for us."

Also that June, with the 2004 hurricane season starting, the Corps' project manager Al Naomi went before a local agency, the East Jefferson Levee Authority, and essentially begged for $2 million for urgent work that Washington was now unable to pay for. From the June 18, 2004 Times-Picayune:

"The system is in great shape, but the levees are sinking. Everything is sinking, and if we don't get the money fast enough to raise them, then we can't stay ahead of the settlement," he said. "The problem that we have isn't that the levee is low, but that the federal funds have dried up so that we can't raise them."...

About $300,000 in federal money was proposed for the 2005 fiscal-year budget, and the state had agreed to match that amount. But the cost of the Iraq war forced the Bush administration to order the New Orleans district office not to begin any new studies, and the 2005 budget no longer includes the needed money, he said."

The Senate was seeking to restore some of the SELA funding cuts for 2006. But now it's too late.



Finding people.   WWL-TV has set up forums to help people find each other in the New Orleans metro area.

Are you searching for someone? Post here.

Are you okay? Post here.

Oh no.   My friend Mary Katherine is manning a phone tree trying to find out what happened to many of our beloved musicians in New Orleans, our living treasures. She reported a couple of days ago that Henry Butler's house is underwater, and he's lost two family members, but no word on Henry himself.

I just hope to God this isn't true, that they're all right and just haven't been able to get ahold of anyone, and that this is just Fox "news" rumor and hysterical reporting:

UPDATE, 12:14pm PDT: Our friend Ben Sandmel, a New Orleans musicians, wrote in to say he has "heard that" Fats made it to the Superdome and is okay, but we're trying to confirm. Of course, no one at the Superdome is really okay ...

UPDATE, 2:43pm PDT: According to Fats' longtime manager, he has not been heard from since Sunday.

From the BBC: Domino's niece, Checquoline Davis, reportedly posted a message on an online bulletin board on Thursday pleading for information.

She reportedly wrote that Domino, his wife, their children and grandchildren "didn't get out" of the second floor of his house.

[Domino's manager Al] Embry, who has worked with Domino for 28 years, said: "I hope somebody turns him up, but as of right now, we haven't got anybody that knows where he's at."

(Steve, Ben and Harry are still scouring their contacts for any confirmation to the rumor that Fats was seen.)

UPDATE, 5:32pm PDT ... YESSSSSSS!!!! From Mary Katherine: "Just heard that CNN was showing a picture of Fats being helped out of a boat. Yeah!"

'Fats' Domino Missing in New Orleans

Before NBC, MTV, or anyone else puts on a telethon to help victims of Hurricane Katrina, they might want to explore some ancillary issues. To wit: New Orleans is a city famous for its famous musicians, but many of them are missing. Missing with a capital M.

To begin with, one of the city's most important legends, Antoine "Fats" Domino, has not been heard from since Monday afternoon. Domino's rollicking boogie-woogie piano and deep soul voice are not only part of the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame but responsible for dozens of hits like "Blue Monday," "Ain't That a Shame," "Blueberry Hill" and "I'm Walking (Yes, Indeed, I'm Talking)."

Domino, 76, lives with his wife Rosemary and daughter in a three story pink-roofed house in New Orleans' 9th ward, which is now underwater. On Monday afternoon, Domino told his manager, Al Embry of Nashville, that he would "ride out the storm" at home. Embry is now frantic.

Calls have been made to Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco's office and to various police officials and though there's lots of sympathetic response, the whereabouts of Domino and his family remain a mystery.

In the meantime, another important Louisiana musician who probably hasn't been asked to be in any telethons is the also legendary Allen Toussaint. Another Rock Hall member, Toussaint wrote Patti Labelle's hit "Lady Marmalade" and Dr. John's "Right Place, Wrong Time." His arrangements and orchestrations for hundreds of hit records, including his own instrumentals "Whipped Cream" and "Java" are American staples. (He also arranged Paul Simon's hit, "Kodachrome.")

Last night, Toussaint was one of the 25,000 people holed up at the New Orleans Superdome hoping to get on a bus for Houston's Astrodome. I know this because he got a message out to his daughter, who relayed to it through friends.

Also not heard from by friends through last night: New Orleans's "Queen of Soul," Irma Thomas, who was the original singer of what became the Rolling Stones' hit, "Time is On My Side."

Let's hope and pray it is, because while the Stones roll through the U.S. on their $450-a-ticket tour, Thomas is missing in action. Her club, The Lion's Den is underwater, as are all the famous music hot spots of the city.

Similarly, friends are looking for Antoinette K-Doe, widow of New Orleans wild performer Ernie K-Doe. The K-Does have a famous nightspot of their own on N. Claiborne Avenue, called the Mother-in-Law Lounge, in honor of Ernie's immortal hit, "The Mother-in-Law Song." Ernie K-Doe, who received a 1998 Pioneer Award from the Rhythm and Blues Foundation, died in 2001 atage 65.

Dry and safe, but in not much better shape, is the famous Neville family of New Orleans. Aaron Neville and many members of the family evacuated on Monday to Memphis, where they are now staying in a hotel. But most of the Nevilles' homes are destroyed, reports their niece and my colleague at "A Current Affair," Arthel Neville. She went down to her hometown yesterday and called me from a boat that was trying to get near town.

"This isn't like having two feet of water in your basement," she said, holding back tears. "Everything is destroyed. I am just so lucky to have been born here and to have had the experience of New Orleans."

She confirmed that there had been rumors of dead bodies floating around her Uncle Aaron's house yesterday. So far the Nevilles are unannounced to participate in Friday's TV show.

Once I get my head clear I'm going to start looking into ways to benefit our musicians. Mary had suggested talking to Shout! Factory about donating profits from my New Orleans box set. It's worth suggesting ...

If you hear or read any news about any of the local musicians and whether they're safe, please post in a comment on this topic.

Speechless.   Reported this morning in

Sometimes, it's hard to keep up.

We reported last night on the cause of Hurricane Katrina -- at least in the eyes of an antiabortion group called Columbia Christians for Life. The storm, the group says, is God's way of punishing Louisiana for having 10 abortion clinics.

Well, at least that's what the Columbia Christians for Life were saying yesterday. We've just received another e-mail from the group, and now it seems to be saying that God sent Katrina after Louisiana to prevent Southern Decadence, an annual gay-themed bash that was scheduled for Labor Day weekend in New Orleans.

The Columbia Christians for Life forwarded to us a press release from a Philadelphia-based outfit called Repent America. In it, Repent America director Michael Marcavage explains: "Although the loss of lives is deeply saddening, this act of God destroyed a wicked city. From 'Girls Gone Wild' to 'Southern Decadence,' New Orleans was a city that had its doors wide open to the public celebration of sin. May it never be the same."


(Jesus wept.)

Those horrid, despicable people have absolutely nothing to do with Christ.

I don't want to say anything that'll get me arrested, but if that goddamned son of a bitch or his ilk ever say anything like that in front of me, they'd better be armed.

Adding insult to injury.   Mr. President, what did you do on Tuesday while New Orleans (plus the Mississippi/Alabama Gulf coast) was suffering the single greatest natural disaster in the 229-year history of the United States? Why wasn't your ass in your office and the Situation Room? Why were you in San Diego, delivering another political speech to prop up plummeting support for your awful war, and fucking around with some country musician? Where is the decisive leadership?

At least The Great Vacationer finally cut short his latest vacation. Big of the bastard.

New York Times: Waiting for a Leader:

George W. Bush gave one of the worst speeches of his life yesterday, especially given the level of national distress and the need for words of consolation and wisdom. In what seems to be a ritual in this administration, the president appeared a day later than he was needed. He then read an address of a quality more appropriate for an Arbor Day celebration: a long laundry list of pounds of ice, generators and blankets delivered to the stricken Gulf Coast. He advised the public that anybody who wanted to help should send cash, grinned, and promised that everything would work out in the end...

Sacrifices may be necessary to make sure that all these things happen in an orderly, efficient way. But this administration has never been one to counsel sacrifice. And nothing about the president's demeanor yesterday - which seemed casual to the point of carelessness - suggested that he understood the depth of the current crisis.

While our attention must now be on the Gulf Coast's most immediate needs, the nation will soon ask why New Orleans's levees remained so inadequate. Publications from the local newspaper to National Geographic have fulminated about the bad state of flood protection in this beloved city, which is below sea level. Why were developers permitted to destroy wetlands and barrier islands that could have held back the hurricane's surge? Why was Congress, before it wandered off to vacation, engaged in slashing the budget for correcting some of the gaping holes in the area's flood protection?

It would be some comfort to think that, as Mr. Bush cheerily announced, America "will be a stronger place" for enduring this crisis. Complacency will no longer suffice, especially if experts are right in warning that global warming may increase the intensity of future hurricanes. But since this administration won't acknowledge that global warming exists, the chances of leadership seem minimal.

Via MeFi: Biloxi newspaper slams relief effort, asks for help:

The coastal communities of South Mississippi are desperately in need of an unprecedented relief effort.

We understand that New Orleans also was devastated by Hurricane Katrina, but surely this nation has the resources to rescue both that metropolitan and ours.

Whatever plans that were in place to deal with such a natural disaster have proven inadequate. Perhaps destruction on this scale could not have been adequately prepared for.

But now that it has taken place, no effort should be spared to mitigate the hurricane's impact.

The essentials -- ice, gasoline, medicine -- simply are not getting here fast enough.

We are not calling on the nation and the state to make life more comfortable in South Mississippi, we are calling on the nation and the state to make life here possible.

We would bolster our argument with the number of Katrina casualties confirmed thus far, but if there is such a confirmed number, no one is releasing it to the public. This lack of faith in the public's ability to handle the truth is not sparing anyone's feelings, it is instead fueling terrifying rumors.

While the flow of information is frustratingly difficult, our reporters have yet to find evidence of a coordinated approach to relieve pain and hunger or to secure property and maintain order.

People are hurting and people are being vandalized.

Yet where is the National Guard, why hasn't every able-bodied member of the armed forces in South Mississippi been pressed into service?

On Wednesday reporters listening to horrific stories of death and survival at the Biloxi Junior High School shelter looked north across Irish Hill Road and saw Air Force personnel playing basketball and performing calisthenics.

Playing basketball and performing calisthenics!

When asked why these young men were not being used to help in the recovery effort, our reporters were told that it would be pointless to send military personnel down to the beach to pick up debris.

Litter is the least of our problems. We need the president to back up his declaration of a disaster with a declaration of every man and woman under his command will do whatever is necessary to deal with that disaster.

We need the governor to provide whatever assistance is at his command.

We certainly need our own county and city officials to come together and identify the most pressing needs of their constituents and then allocate resources to meet those needs. We appreciate the stress that theses elected and appointed officials have been under since the weekend but they must do a better job restoring public confidence in their ability to meet this challenge.

The NOPD has no help right now. The police themselves have no food or water.

Within 24 hours there should have been tons of troops there, airdrops of food and water. What is taking so long?

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Wednesday, August 31, 2005

UPDATE: 8:04pm CDT   Hope this helps.

Nagin declares Martial Law to crack down on looters

Disgusted and furious with the lawlessness of looters who have put fear into citizens, New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin declared Martial Law in the city and directed the city's 1,500 person police force to do "whatever it takes" to regain control of the city.

Nagin said that Martial Law means that officers don't have to worry about civil rights and Miranda rights in stopping the looters.

[...] Officials tried to balance security needs with saving lives.

"We're multitasking right now," said New Orleans Police Capt. Marlon Defillo. "Rescue, recovery, stabilization of looting, we're trying to feed the hungry." New Orleans' homeland security chief, Terry Ebbert, said looters were breaking into stores all over town and stealing guns. He said there are gangs of armed men moving around the city. At one point, officers stranded on the roof of a hotel were fired at by criminals on the street.

Jesus. I hope they get those people off the streets.

More details.

Call the American Red Cross: (866) 438-4636.   Donate what you can, and use this number to look for any friends or relatives who stayed behind with whom you can't get in touch. posts that "there is a database being developed for people who are missing and may need to be rescued from ?New Orleans. Call 225-925-6626 to give officials their names. They may also have information about people already rescued. We attempted to check this number and were unable to get through (busy signal)."

Call FEMA to begin the assistance process: 1-800-621-FEMA or

(Call FEMA while you can, before Bush finishes his appalling process of dismantling it.)

Hopeful news.   I just found out that my sister Marie's neighborhood in Marrero is probably okay, very little wind damage and no flooding in pretty much the whole neighborhood. I'm still trying to find out about Mike, Rhonda and Mia's house in Tall Timbers, but from what I've been hearing that might be okay as well.

The West Bank seems to have fared relatively well, far better than the East Bank. Polimom's blog reports that Algiers Point took some damage but is mostly okay. If that's the case, that close to the river, then I'm hoping Tall Timbers did well too.

Unfortunately, according to some televised aerial footage my sister saw, our parents' house in New Orleans East is not visible, completely submerged.

I'm ... numb. When I'm not numb I'm a sobbing wreck. Fortunately, everyone's keeping me busy; my family, spread out between Lafayette, Shreveport and Birmingham, have difficulty contacting each other but seem to have a relatively easy time contacting me, so I'm a messaging hub and Internet looker-upper. It's good to be busy, and I've taken leave from work until next week, 'cause I have to confess that I really couldn't give a crap about a single thing going on there right now, and that's not fair to them.

2:07am. I should probably get to bed.

Thoughts from N.O. musician Jack Fine.   (Thanks to Mary for contributing to this post.)

When I was home three weeks ago, we met Jack Fine, a longtime trumpet player in New Orleans, 78 years of age, and the leader of the Palmetto Bug Stompers, who play every Sunday at the Old Point Bar in Algiers Point. We talked for a while; he seems like a great, great guy.

I was just watching CNN, and there was his voice; he had apparently stayed behind and ridden the storm and floods out in his home in Algiers. He's alive and well, and called in to Paula Zahn's show to describe what he was seeing and feeling. Thanking Gawd for TiVo and its ability to rewind live television because of its buffer, I transcribed these comments from Jack:

"This is a lovely, vibrant community... it's ghostly here now, the silence, blackness, roofs have peeled off all over the place. I'm alone here, all alone; there's nothing -- no heat, no light, no cooling, nothing. It's just silence, like living in a ghost city. And it's just appalling, because we're accustomed to a vibrant, alive, very very active city. I'm very much a part of the culture of the city, involved in it, and friends of mine have called, those who have survived and those who have left the city, saying 'My God, we're changed forever. Where are we going to play, who are we going to talk to, it's gone, it's finished, it's done.' And it's very upsetting, and the devastation around here is just appalling. I've seen some hurricanes in my time, but nothing like this."

Paula Zahn: "Jack, you're a 78-year old man, all alone. What are you going to do to survive over the next couple of days?"

Jack: "Well, I've got a bottle of gin here... (chuckles) I haven't lost my sense of humor, and I can practice at will now, because I won't upset my neighbors."

"Where I go from here I don't know, 'cause I don't know, the places we played at-- I'm really concerned about the cultural health of this city right now, because everybody's taken such a terrible hit. New Orleans has become such a great cultural center for the United States, and it's such an appalling waste and such a devastating situation for those of us who've been here and who've made such a contribution to the arts in the United States."

"But anything's possible in New Orleans. Anything."

God bless him. That's so New Orleans. Long may he blow. And New Orleans too.

Can and will New Orleans be rebuilt?   Governor Blanco and the director of FEMA: "Absolutely. Absolutely." This was before the breach in the 17th Street Canal got worse, but the city's already 80% flooded anyway.

This is what he need to hear, and what we need to believe, to make it happen. We're going to need every ounce of effort from everyone who loves New Orleans, and we're going to have to take it one day at a time.

[ Link to today's entries ]

  Monday, August 29, 2005

UPDATE, 4pm N.O. time: "East New Orleans underwater"   From the WDSU Katrina blog:

New video from a WDSU crew shows east New Orleans is underwater. Only the very tops of some cars can be seen, and on other streets, the water has risen past the second story of some homes. A man was seen wading through chest-deep water. He told the news crew that he was searching for injured or trapped people.


I wish they'd be more specific. East New Orleans is big. Some areas are bound to be worse than others.

Down but not out.   Jon Donley's weblog at the Times-Picayune makes me feel good:

Red beans & rice ... it must be Monday

Don't fear, New Orleans evacuees ... all is not lost. Just finished lunch from Chez Picayune [the newspaper's cafeteria] ... huddled on the second-floor landing watching the trees whip outside the big atrium window.

Red beans and rice. Comfort food in the middle of the hurricane. How you gonna get more sassy Yat than that?

Flood waters continue to rise across town ... reports pouring in on the scanner, and large trees branches are snapped off, blocking the stretch of Howard Street in front of the newspaper.

Red beans and rice ... it's Monday, and at least something's right with the world.

Kermit Ruffins asks, "What is New Orleans? New Orleans is ... red beans and rice on a Monday night." Even right after it just had its ass kicked by a hurricane. Yeah you rite.

We're getting flooded, but apparently not to the doomsday levels that they had been talking about. I just saw a live camera shot of the Quarter, and there's hardly any water there at all. (Lots of wind damage, though.) Unfortunately, I'm hearing about people cowering in their attics in N.O. East, six feet of water in the Ninth Ward, and flooding and a diesel spill on the West Bank, all places where I've got family and friends. I wish they'd be more specific about where the localized flooding is happening. I'm still digging around trying to find out what's going on.

I'm glad Poppy decided to bug out. They were going to try to ride it out at first, and that worried me. My uncle on the North Shore also was going to try to ride it out, in a hotel in Covington, but I'm glad he changed his mind too. His house is right on the shore of the lake, too ... yeesh. I hope it's still there.

UPDATE: Ugh. Chalmette and Arabi are under up to 12 feet of water, and it's probably the same in the Lower Ninth. (Residents reported that Rocky and Carlo's is underwater.) I just saw footage from CNN with chest-deep water on the I-10 near the Florida Ave. / West End Blvd. exit, and some dimwit trying to drive through it and having to be rescued.

If anyone hears anything flooding-wise about New Orleans East around Read Blvd., or in Marrero, Algiers or Faubourg Marigny, please drop in a comment.

Quotes of the day.   Just so that I won't be all doom and gloom drama queeny here, I present a couple of my favorite local hurricane-related quotes:

"Don't believe any false rumors unless you hear them from me."
-- New Orleans Mayor Victor A. Schiro, during Hurricane Betsy, 1965 (apocryphal).

"You can withdraw from the race."
-- Governor Edwin W. Edwards, to Marilyn Quayle, when she asked if there was "anything we can do to help you all" in the wake of Hurricane Andrew, 1992.

To be fair, Schiro was "highly visible" during Betsy, according to a N.O. Public Library article, and is "unfairly remembered" for that remark. It's still funny, though.

Hope?   6am. The alcohol is the only thing that got me any sleep; fell asleep on the sofa in front of the TV and the live net feed from WWL.

It looks like the eye missed us by at least 40 miles, but it's still going to be bad. It's weakened to a Category 4, but of course, several of the worst-case scenarios described a Category 3. We had a slight turn to the east, with the eye coming ashore between Gulfport and Biloxi, so the Mississippi Gulf Coast is going to get it worse, but we're not out of the woods yet by any means. There's several more hours of this to go.

Shit, the roof of the Superdome is leaking, with rain pouring in. Bill Capo on WWL was debunking reports that 1/12 of the roof had "peeled away" and was gone, but the latest is that there are currently two nine-foot holes in the roof. Just saw the picture ... Jesus.

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  Sunday, August 28, 2005

Pray for New Orleans.   My family's out, they're all okay. They might be homeless by Tuesday, though.

WWL-TV live coverage (while it lasts).
WDSU-TV, Channel 6 / The Times-Picayune
National Hurricane Center

Here's what the National Weather Service is saying as of this afternoon:








I'm pretty much in a state of disbelief at the moment. The damage from this hurricane is likely to be "apocalyptic", as terrified experts keep saying. By this time on Tuesday, the New Orleans I love might not exist, and will almost certainly never be the same. I can't even begin to think of how many casualties we might have.

I'll be drinking heavily as of now.

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