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It Looks Like Spring

Second Season

Second Season.

I took this picture some time last week. In late August.

Look at all those new blooms. Look at that bee that is backlighted by the sun’s glow.  Looks like spring. Felt like the middle of summer while I was out there. Hot. But, not so humid.

I’ve written in the past that we have two growing seasons. One starts in very late winter — well, our kind of winter — and the other normally starts around fall. Usually, late September or early October. We actually plant winter vegetables then. These blooms seem very, very early.

The picture. Nothing to it. F8 and be there. But, there is a little twist. I was photographing something else with a 20 mm lens. Very wide for this kind of nature work. But, when I looked up I just had to make this picture. Besides, I’m lazy. Who wants to change sense in the middle of what I’m doing?


Canal Street streetcar

Canal Street streetcars.

Streetcars. One of the reasons that visitors to New Orleans come here. Mostly, they come for the French Quarter and mostly Bourbon Street. But, more adventurous souls like to roam around the city. There is plenty to see and do. They can tour very easily just riding the streetcars. The older cars — green — run along St. Charles Avenue through most of Uptown. Eventually, they meet up with the Canal Street red cars, which are air-conditioned, in two locations. It’s a great ride. For tourists and those of us who live here. Many local people use them to do the same things people do in their hometowns. Commute to work.

The picture. Easy. Simple panning exercise. Keep the subject sharp, let the background blur. Shoot at dusk with a little bit of rained soaked streets and there you go. It helps a lot to use a lens that is about medium length. Maybe 70 to 85 mm.

That’s not all.

It’s opinion time. For you.

What do you think of the redesigned Storyteller?

The actual template looks very little like this. I like it more than what you are looking at right now. But, WordPress doesn’t make it easy to actually customize the template. Sheesh. I want a bigger main picture. Looks simple. Type in the pixels you’d like the picture to be on the long side and hit save. Yeah. Right. It falls back to the default position every time. On the other hand, it does help with the issues that I identified. It’s open. Airy. Modern. Clean.

I suppose that if I wanted to start an entirely new blog, the template would look exactly as I saw it on the demo. But, I don’t want to do that. It also tells me that WordPress is likely not the place for my commercial site. There are a couple of options that are much more functional and easier for people like me — non coders — to use.



New Orleans

New Orleans.

New Orleans.

New Orleans. Louisiana.

At dusk. On a very hot rainy and humid evening.

I know what you’re thinking. If it’s raining, why isn’t the highway wet?

Good question. Simple answer. What falls down, must go up. We’d have rain. Heat. Humidity. The streets would dry out. Causing more humidity. At a certain point, rain falls again. Then… well, you know. Wash, rinse and repeat. All day long. Really, for two days. That’s Southeast Louisiana. We live in a hot-house for at least seven months a year. Even when the temperature drops, we still have humidity. It just feels chilly. And, stuff still grows. We are about to enter our second growing season of the year. How about that? Fresh, garden grown vegetables in January?

The picture. I made this picture on the way to the new hospital corridor. Remember that? The place where the new rolling hills are hiding debris? I make a version of this every picture time that I circle around I-10. I’ve got a great collection of “Entering New Orleans” pictures. Most of them aren’t worth showing you. Or, anybody. But, every now and then…

You know my “drive by shooting” routine by now. Use a wide angle lens. Set everything possible on the camera to auto. Put it on the dashboard and push the button. Pay attention to the work at hand. That’s driving. Let the camera do whatever it does. Just before I get to the place where those tail lights are showing, I just drive. That’s a merge lane. Things get a little weird around there. Especially if there a couple of big trucks and a bus are trying to merge into the same line that I’m in.

You know what the main rule is… take pictures, but come home safely.

Oh, this great. Spell check helped me out today. It changed the word, “button” to — wait for it — “button.”

Ten Years Gone



I did the right thing.

With all of the Hurricane Katrina memorial events taking place all over New Orleans on Saturday, I decided to photograph one. Just one. And, to do the very best job that I could. After talking to a few of my friends and seeing others’ posts on various social media, I’m convinced that I did the right thing. Many of them had horrible days. Between the emotions of finally reaching the tenth anniversary and trying to chase all over the city, many of their days were long and messed up. My thoughts are with them. Yesterday was a very hard day.

I photographed the Tenth Hurricane Katrina Anniversary healing and second line. It is the world’s longest second line. That’s what the parade organizers said. I believe them. Where I worked, it was very long. As they roll along they tend to gather new second liners and turn into something that is massive at the end. This one was beyond huge, at the start. I tried to jump. But traffic was all tied up because this one stretched out all over the place. Instead. I came to the front of the parade from some side street. I did what I came to do and headed home. Some of the second liners were still going on into the night at Hunter’s Field, the parade’s end point.

I did the right thing for another reason. As I was driving to the Lower Ninth, I looked around. People were working at their every day jobs. Stores of all kinds were open. People were shopping. Mowing their lawns. Tinkering on their cars. They were doing whatever it is they do. I realized right then and there that the whole city isn’t caught up in all things Katrina. In fact, it’s likely that most people aren’t. And, that’s a good thing. They’ve moved on. The storm changed their lives — my life — but we’ve moved on. As we should. Hopefully, the people who had a bad day will use the memorial events to shake everything out of their systems. If there is an 11th Anniversary parade I won’t be there.

And, the media? OMG! I’m pretty sure there were more people taking pictures with good gear than there were people actually walking. What can I say? Hopefully, there will be one last group of anniversary stories and they’ll all move on to the next big thing. I know their staffers liked being here. How could they not? We are one of the best tourist destinations in the world.

A couple of things.

I’m going to take a little shooting break. But, not a posting break. Aside from whatever emotions were dredged up, this was draining work. It’s still very hot down here. I worked in heat. I worked in rain. I worked in heavy humidity. I drove a lot. In questionable places. I worked on this project every day. That doesn’t count my paid work, my second job, my home life.

As I mentioned, while I was photographing this project, I also took pictures of whatever I saw. While I was taking a little break on Friday, I did some work on those pictures. There’s a lot of them. I think you’ll like them.

I also decided somewhere out there yesterday to book end this project. The title — Ten Years Gone — is how I started 15 days ago.

The pictures.

Well, this event is a little different from a normal second line. The first hour is given to a healing time. It gets a little religious towards the end. The folks with their hands up in a power salute are really raising their fists in a “New Orleans Strong” salute. Everything else is pretty self-explanatory. I’m sure that guy taking a picture of the young ladies in purple will be wondering who I am. The same goes for me. You know, who was that guy? The kids on the porch were not all that happy that I took their picture. When I said thank you, as I always do, they had no expression… until the young lady — maybe their big sister —  behind them whacked them on their heads and said, “Y’all have better manners than that. Say you’re welcome.” Big sister, indeed.

There you have it. Thank you for sticking around and reading. It means more than I can tell you.


Empty church.

Empty church.

Yesterday was August 28th. It was exactly ten years ago that we evacuated the city.

Today, I will photograph the last of my ten-year anniversary pictures. There will be a massive Hurricane Katrina memorial second line parade that will start at Jourdan and North Galvez Streets at the levee. It will wind through the 9th Ward and arrive at Hunter’s Field some time later. It seems like everybody is coming out for it. The main brass band is Rebirth. They retired from the street a year or so ago. Kermit Ruffins is coming out. Even though he works here, he lives in Houston. Texas. There will be all sorts of healing events along the way. It’s either photograph this, or go listen to former president Bill Clinton speak about something. What would you pick? Heh, heh, heh.

As you know, this and today’s second line pictures close my Hurricane Karina work. I hope never to photograph another storm anniversary again. That doesn’t mean I’ll stop photographing New Orleans. There too many stories to tell. And, not enough days to tell them. But, as I’ve written in the past, ten years is long enough. You can only reflect and mourn for so long. It is, in the words of Leah Chase, “Time to pull up your pants and get to work.”

The Pictures. I thought that I would close my Katrina coverage with something peaceful. This is St. Maurice Church, located in the Holy Cross neighborhood of the Lower 9th Ward. It was built in 1857 and consecrated in 1862. During the Civil War. Even though the Archdiocese of New Orleans deconsecrated and may have even sold it (It was for sale in 2013), it seems to have risen from the flood waters as a sort of community center. The doors were open for the first time since I’ve been exploring the neighborhood. So, I went inside. I’m not going to caption each picture. You can see for yourself. The pictures don’t take much explaining.


Look at the first thumbnail on the left. That’s in a back room of what may have been the rectory. Yes. Lots of water logged computers. That’s not the most important piece of the picture. That horizontal line is. That’s the water line. Everything below it, including the church itself, was flooded to that level.

There you have it. Waterworld Rising.

Holy Cross. The Other Side.

A little bit broken.

A little bit broken.

The President came yesterday. Yes. Barack Obama. The President of The United States.

He visited the Lower 9th Ward, Treme, The Lafitte Housing Projects and Willie Mae’s Scotch House. The last stop was for lunch.

I didn’t photograph him. Been there. Done that. I’d rather continue documenting what I see. And, trying to explain what I feel. I’m not exactly sure I’m accomplishing what I intend to do. Remember the food court, called St. Roch Market, that I showed you a few days ago? Well, a bunch of travel blogs and online newspapers like that set of pictures. As a travel destination. Cool. That’s not the reason that I intended. To add a punctuation point to that, a woman was stabbed in that neighborhood yesterday. In fact, there were twelve shootings around town two days ago between about 5 and 7pm. Hmmm…


Back to The President. I guess he spoke about climate change. That’s a pretty important topic. Especially to us in Southeast Louisiana. The governor, Bobby Jindal, said that he shouldn’t talk about that topic. Fortunately, The President doesn’t listen to him. Neither does our mayor. I very rarely talk about politics on Storyteller. But, to my way of thinking, Bobby Jindal shouldn’t talk about anything. After all, this is the man who said that the Confederate flag is part of his heritage, forgetting that his mother was three months pregnant with him when his family immigrated from India. Sheesh. It wasn’t even southern India.

I suppose The President’s itinerary was designed to show him what was still left to be done. That’s good. If he read Storyteller, he’d know. Heh, heh, heh. After all, I’ve shown you plenty of work from the Lower 9th Ward and Treme. I showed you the Lafitte Housing Projects when I showed you the new green belt. What more does he need?

Wille Mae’s Scotch House? Well, that’s legendary. Willie Mae Sutton is 98 years old. She’ll be 99 in a little less than a month. She’s won a James Beard award. Her great-grand daughter, Kerry Seaton-Stewart runs it now.  It flooded in the aftermath of the storm. A group of volunteers restored the building led by The Southern Foodways Alliance and New Orleans chef John Currence. It was Seaton-Stewart who rebuilt the business. It is popular with long time residents and tourists who come for the fried chicken which has been called America’s best. I don’t know about that. I’m partial to the fried chicken at Dookie Chase, cooked by Leah Chase. But, what does she know? She’s only 93.

It’s people like Ms. Willie Mae, Ms. Leah, the Mardi Gras Indians and the people who organize the second lines who keep me in this city. The major media finally got around to discussing the real issues of recovery. The city is changed. For good. And, for not so good. The people who come here from — oh, let’s say — Kansas City or Cleveland or St. Louis or, or, or… fell in love with New Orleans on a vacation. Or, maybe volunteering to help us rebuild. They move here because they like our culture. Or food. Our quirkiness. Then, they set out to change stuff to the way it is in Kansas City, Cleveland or St. Louis. Or, somewhere else.

Of course, there are huge unintended consequences of their love of New Orleans. Real Estate prices have risen through the roof. To give you an example, we’ve owned our house for a little over two years. We can sell it for about three times what we paid for it. I’m not bragging. That’s just a fact. Of course, rental property has risen as well.  Either it’s been gentrified or it’s been renovated with post-storm Federal money and with a shrunken housing stock… well, you get it. Those second liners? They can’t afford to live in the neighborhoods that were once theirs. They commute to parade in neighborhoods where they grew up. That may not be relevant soon. All those people who are newly arrived? They want peace and quiet. A parade assembling for a noon start time makes a lot of noise. See what I’m saying?

Sometimes, I wonder why they are here. The climate is tough. The city can be very rough. The crime rate? Wellllllll…

Besides, a good number of them are digital entrepreneurs. Start ups. Funded by some kind of venture capital. They can live and work anywhere. If it where me, and I wanted to live near New Orleans, I’d live along the Gulf Coast. In Mississippi. I’d come into town for meals, music. Like that.

Or, I’d really embrace the culture. And, really live in the community. But, what do I know? I’m a kid compared Ms. Willie Mae and Ms. Leah.

The pictures. Yeah, I’m getting to them. Finally. I made them in the Lower 9th Ward. Even though I’m about done documenting the 10th Anniversary of the arrival of Hurricane Katrina, I can’t be done documenting the city for as long as I’m around. From what I’ve seen in the past few days of more general wandering, there is a huge amount of construction going on. That’s a good thing. A lot of what I’ve photographed in the past is already gone. For all sorts of reasons. I hope that there will be something remaining for the people who were born there. Who grew up there. Besides, if I don’t do it, who will?

  1. Holy Cross neighborhood. The house is painted. It looks secure. The roof looks fairly new. That’s a really good sign.
  2. This picture is kind of misleading. The building is located on a corner. It’s a mess. But, there is another building attached to it. It looks restored. Sometimes, the owner can’t afford to restore an entire building. So, he or she does what they can in order to have a place to live. This building is pretty old. Maybe pre-Civil War. See those thick vertical boards that are under the blue boards? Those are barge boards. Prior to the advent of some kind of motor power — steam, paddle wheel — there was no way to propel barges back up the Mississippi River so they were broken up and used for construction.
  3. The house that was located here was right across the street from the levee. The owner has also made do. Nice living room. On a great day with the heat and humidity down a bit, this would be a wonderful place to watch the world pass by. Unless, of course, there is gun play.
  4. This house was located on a block full of other houses. The buildings in the background are a block away. Country living in an urban setting.


Mardi Gras beads and hurricane debris.

Mardi Gras beads and hurricane debris.

Iberville Housing Projects.

They were built in 1940 as part of the Wagner Act,  a Federal plan to subsidize housing for  low-income families. They were low-rise, built of brick in the super block configurations that were considered attractive and modern in their time. By the 1970s most of them had deteriorated to the point where they were uninhabitable. But, families still lived there. I call the area Treme, but it is really located in the 4th Ward and is a sub-district of Mid-City. Treme is located in the 6th Ward.

They were closed after Hurricane Katrina, but were the first to re-open because they did not flood. They remained in terrible shape and spawned a large amount of crime. The 2000 Census said that there were about 2,450 people living there. In 2010, there was roughly half that number. The mayor at the time was Ray Nagin. He wanted to redevelop them as early as 2003. Hurricane Katrina pushed the process along. In May of 2009, he announced a plan to demolish all of the housing projects throughout city and redevelop them into mixed use housing. Demolition began in 2013. The former mayor is a guest of the Federal prison system. For ten years.

Another statistic. Prior to Hurricane Katrina there were 3,000 occupied housing project units throughout the city. As of the early 2015, there are 706 new replacement units.

In January 2015, the remaining housing units of the Iberville projects were added to the National Register of Historic Places.

Many of the residents who lived there never came back. I’ve been reading quite a bit about where they went. Well, housing project residents in general. They are scattered all over the country. Even when they returned, rental property was scarce. And, expensive. It’s only gotten more expensive. Many relocated somewhat locally. To Jefferson Parish, on both sides of the river. Some live in St. Bernard Parish. Some live further upriver. They might come back for second lines and Mardi Gras. There is a good, but very long piece at about just this issue. I can’t seem to copy the direct link. If you are interested go to their history section and look at the story for August 25, 2015. It’s yet more Katrina coverage. But, this is worthy of your time. You’ll come to understand why my photographs of the ruined places and second line parades are very intertwined.

The pictures. I liked the gallery approach well enough that I repeated it. It should work a little better for you. Storyteller should upload faster. Anyway, the pictures:

  1. You know what those are. Mardi Gras beads. They are hanging on a piece of fence that surrounds what used to be a small strip mall. There was food store, a drugstore and a doctor’s office there. The doctor made a big deal of accepting all kinds of payment vouchers. I don’t know what the plans for the little mall are, but it’s pretty well covered in graffiti.
  2. Rising. Construction goes on. The brick building is one of the original remaining structures. One of the historic ones. It’s been cleaned up considerably.
  3. Most of the entire project remains behind fences. Please open the picture. When you do, you’ll be able to see the old buildings on the left. The newly built structures are on the right. Wasn’t I clever? I composed the picture so the fence post would divide the old and new. Pat. Pat. Pat. Right on my back.
  4. Fences. Yeah, well…