The Green Mile.
Well, actually it’s 2.6 miles long. It stretches from the French Quarter to Mid-City. It opened last spring, but it’s a work in progress. It’s about rebirth. It’s about diversity. It’s about development. Users commute to work. Commute to school. To make groceries. There’s space to play. There’s a football field. Baseball diamonds. A bike path. Trees.
Yes. There are safety concerns. There is no way to close it at night. So, it’s lighted. It’s hard to patrol. And, we are very short on police officers. It does pass very near to some sketchy neighborhoods. But, on balance, this is a good thing for the city and the neighborhoods through which it passes.
In order to develop this place, there was no demolition needed. It runs along the path of a former canal, which was eventually filled in and became a railroad right of way. Prior to Hurricane Katrina it was unused. The neighborhood that bordered its downriver side was one of the worst and most violent housing projects in the city. I remember once, coming back from a long trip, that I took a taxi to my home. The most efficient way to get there was through the projects. The taxi driver started to turn the meter off, apologetically saying that it was safer to drive around it and they he didn’t want me to pay for that. I told him that I was from here and I understood. He should just keep the meter running. If you look at picture number two, you can see how housing project was replaced.
It’s all still a work in progress. Just like the city in general. You can see that from a couple of my pictures. Eventually, there will be a bike path to City Park. As it stands, you can ride to the northern end of the bike trail and ride through city streets to get to the park. Of course, you are sharing the street with the red streetcar and a lot of cars. Everybody knows that New Orleanians can’t drive worth…
A Katrina story. They are starting to blur a little.
I’ll write a little about cleaning out our house. First. I realized that it was a job best done alone. But, I wasn’t all that alone. My neighbors were around. If there was something heavy to toss out on the street, all I needed to do was ask for help. I think I’ll talk about that.
Oh yeah, the spaniel decided she wanted to come with me one day. She walked through the house. She smelled the mold. The rotting stuff in the refrigerator. She walked outside and found a place to lay in the shade. She watched me work. She refused to enter the house again. Ever.
You know how on some days, you want nothing more than to toss your computer out of the window in frustration? Well, I got to do that. I wasn’t frustrated. I was hot and sweaty. I felt good doing that.
We had some old art deco furniture. It was water-logged, swollen, twisted and starting to rot. One of my neighbors asked if he could have one of the pieces. He would try to restore it. Absolutely, I said. We got it out of the bedroom and into the back yard. It completely fell apart into little pieces. My neighbor and I looked each and almost fell on the ground. We were laughing so hard.
The cleaning out process was pretty simple. Get the stuff out of the house and onto the little neutral ground between the sidewalk and the street. FEMA paid for road graders and huge dump trucks would come by and scoop it up. They’d take it to one of the landfills. We lived on a corner. That meant the trucks would come from both directions. The corner was a natural stopping place. I’d put my broken junk out, they’d pick it up. Sometimes something would fall out of the grader. They’d just leave it for the next pass by. On the next day. One day, they left a toilet. On another day, they left an old car engine block. I duct taped our refrigerator closed, and left it on the curb. They picked it up. In return, they left a broken and rusted stove. Thanks, guys.
There were some nostalgic moments too. When I first returned to the house, I found that the out buildings were completely destroyed. The wind must have powerful. One of the sheds had corrugated metal roof. They are laid out in maybe 24 inch wide sheets. One of the sheets was torn off the building with such force that it was embedded into the side of my neighbor’s house. I looked at the muddy ground as I walked onto my property. It was sparkling with all these brightly colored bits of something. Then it hit me. Those sparkling bits were the remains of all our Christmas decorations. Some of them belonged to my parents. Some were made in the 1940s.
Oh well. All things must pass.
- The light was with me. I waited for a big storm to pass through. Then out the door I went. Too early and the light would be too high. Too late and there would be no light on this side of the street.
- All new. All built after the storm. The buildings. The grass. Not the trees. They remained from the days before the storm. Or, the days before there was any sort of neighborhood here. Maybe before settlers moved here.
- A look at what remains of the old neighborhood. You are looking at the border of Mid-City and Treme. As I wrote, the area is still a work in progress.
- More of the old neighborhood at a different location. As I have written in the past, everything that doesn’t move is tagged in this city. Graffiti everywhere. Even city owned buildings. I’ll show you more pictures of this place after the post-Katrina series comes to a close.
- The bike path. It too is still a work in progress. The bike path used to be a railroad spur. It ran between two industrial buildings. One was torn down. One remains. It currently houses business like a yoga work shop and a bakery. Gentrification.
A couple of picture notes. I’ve been making a lot of pictures that are not really part of each chapter of the Katrina story. They happen by accident. Because I see them. Not to worry. I’ll show them to you after the anniversary is over. Posting them will give me a little chance to recover. Photographing these things on a daily basis is hard. I’m trying to balance good and bad. Doing that means I’m very light dependent. An overcast day lends itself to something a little negative. A day like yesterday works well with positive pictures. It’s even harder to write about my own stories. Plumbing those depths is very painful. I try to keep it somewhat light. But, often it can’t be. Some of you have been moved to tears. I didn’t think I could write well enough to do that. I’m still not sure that I can.