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?
- Holy Cross neighborhood. The house is painted. It looks secure. The roof looks fairly new. That’s a really good sign.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.