Crushed by the weight.

Like a moth to a flame.

I kept going back. At first, every week or so. I had to know what would become of a once vibrant neighborhood of blue-collar people. While it is true that many people lost their lives out here, many more didn’t. It is still sacred ground. It always will be.

They were the rebuilders. The ones whose sense of pride and ownership brought them back to almost nothing day after day. They emptied their houses out. They removed pews from churches in hopes that they would dry out under our hot Louisiana sun.

Some even scraped away what remained of their houses in hopes that they could started rebuilding soon. Dump truck after dump truck helped them remove the remains and the debris. The home owners hoped to rebuild soon.

It was not to be.

So many of the home owners lived in houses that were built by their grandfathers or their great grandfathers. When one generation passed, the next generation simply moved into the family home.  There was no legal line of succession. Most homes were insured at, maybe 1920 replacement cost prices.

Without legal proof of ownership the residents could not qualify for anything. No FEMA funds. No LRH funds. No low-interest SBA loans. No nothing. Probably 90%  of these people never returned home.  They had no home to come back to. Their diaspora is far and wide. Many went to Houston. Many went to Atlanta. Some went further west. When we evacuated to New Mexico one of my 7th Ward neighbors family lived two doors down from us. Imagine our joy at seeing each other alive.

Yet many continued to care for their property. Even today. You’ll often see overgrown land with one neatly mowed and manicured property in the middle of that.

The best anyone did for this neighborhood was actor Brad Pitt, who founded the “Make-It-Right” organization.  They built about 30 house. They used very famous architects who designed modern structures designed to withstand storms. They builders used modern building materials.

The new houses may have been designed to withstand a storm, but they weren’t designed to deal with our extreme heat and humidity. You have to live here to understand. Some are falling apart. One is in such bad condition that demolition permits have been filed in order to tear it down. Brad Pitt is being sued in order to force Make It Right to repair the houses.

And, so it goes.

At least there’s this.

The picture. They were made over time. For instance, the top picture was made a few weeks after the storm. The middle two were made a month or so later. The bottom picture was made maybe six months after that. I suppose the toilets attached to very strong plumbing will live on. I have no idea if the seat cover was there before the storm or added later. I prefer to think it rode out the storm.

I continue to return today. Usually once every three months. Beside the Make It Right homes, a few people have managed to return and rebuild. There are houses scattered here and there. Many properties are still as the storm left them. Worse for wear after rotting in the hot sun, and severe storms, over thirteen years.  The rest of the neighborhood has returned to nature. Perhaps, that’s as it should be. This was always bottom land. Land so far below sea level that some streets leaked in the best of times.

And, so it goes.

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New Orleans streets.

Flooded Streets.

As our new fall-like weather arrived, we had one of those amazing storms that come with the transition from hot weather to cold weather. Thunder. Lightning. Sideways rain. Wind. Broken trees. And, lots of newly dropped leaves. Everywhere.

Prior to the storm the city sent out tweets and texts asking us to make sure all the storm drains were cleared. They couldn’t get to it. It will take the city about three years to really clean out the gunk that block the pipes to the drainage system.  So, they wanted us to clear out the tops of the system. For most of us, this is normal. We do it because we know better. But, for the city to ask… whew.

The system is so impacted that even with cleaning the tops of the drains, the streets flooded. To be sure, it was nothing terrible in my neighborhood. We had a few inches on our street, but the water barely came up over the curb.

No big deal.

But, the “flood” let me make a few pictures.

See?

Those leaves are floating on the street over my freshly cleaned drains. They are so blocked up with sediment and who-knows-what that my rake work didn’t matter. The leaves were floating and settling. Making more sediment.

Yes. I did some post production in order to sort of sculpt out the picture so that you could see what was going on a little better.

One more thing.

Under the heading of “Huh, WTF?” a new blogger called “Writer, Fay Miller,” posted a comment on Storyteller saying that she was just going to yesterday’s sunset picture for a background on her blog.

She didn’t ask. She told me.

This, after all my writing about image theft and copyright laws.

You can see my reply in that thread if you are interested. After sleeping on it, I’ve decided that there is no way she will use my picture on her blog. Those who know me, know that I’m generous to other bloggers. This just struck me as a command coming from on high. She’s a new blogger. One who retired to write something. She should write, not worry about my work. Besides, when I went to her blog to see what she is about, she posted that she took 50 pictures of sunsets. Use one of those.

Sometimes, I’m never failed to be amazed.

 


Broken in the 9th ward.
Broken in the 9th ward.

Once upon a time, Storyteller had some structure to it. Sundays posts used to be for experimental pictures. Monday, and a day or two afterward, used to be for second line parades and so on. And, on, and, on.

I moved away from that.

Because. I’m supposed to be an artist. I’m supposed to be random and spontaneous. Mostly, I just got lazy. Mostly, I had a hard time filling each day.  And… now that I’m pretty much done chasing every Sunday’s second line parades, I don’t have the new work to fill the days in any sort of order. So, I post whatever is new.

But, I think I need a little structure. Not to be entirely predictable, but to give my own brain a little sense of order on these pages.

So.

Let’s start with Sunday experiments. I used to do that every Sunday. I’d just tinker with pictures — as I still do today — whenever the mood struck me. But, I’d only publish them on Sunday. So, that’s what you are seeing today. Experiments.

The picture. One of those 9th Ward buildings that never returned for the storm with a little help from OnOne and my own mind. It’s probably a good idea to post this today as an homage to those folks who are recovering from their own “storm” in Haiti, Cuba, on Caribbean Islands and along the United States Mid-Atlantic Coast.

This house has been abandoned for 11 years. Don’t let this happen to you if you are shaking your heads and looking at nature’s fresh destruction. The best way to recover and heal from this destruction is to repair it immediately. As in, now.  For a while it is your life. Live it. It will get better. I promise.


Through the haze.
Through the haze.

Sometimes you just have to wait. Be patient. The picture will appear out of nowhere.

That’s the genesis of this picture. I waited. A guy on a bike came along. But, I got a little confused because I didn’t anticipate his path quite accurately. I wanted the shape of the old, abandoned factory. That roof line is something. I also wanted all of whoever passed by to be in the picture. I was a little too close to the subject for both of those things to happen. Oh well.

On the other hand.

Being close and having the building sort of placed at a weird angle made the picture kind of funky. Like the neighborhood. It works even without the massive post production I did to help it along.

The picture. Itself? It was made on St. Claude Avenue.  In the 9th Ward. In New Orleans. For a while there was a heavy truck parked there. By heavy, I mean something like one of those giant gravel haulers. It was parked there for a short time. Like five years. It never appeared to move. And, it never had a ticket on the windshield. For all I know, the driver could have worked early in the day and come back before I arrived on the scene. But, for five years? I dunno about that.


What's a little water?
What’s a little water?

It still looks this way.

Nothing has been done to this building since Hurricane Katrina flooded the neighborhood. Eleven years ago.

That’s not to say the building was in good shape then. In fact, the entire corner had fallen on hard times well before the flood.

Luckily for Bohn Motors, a well-known local car dealer, they’ve been on the Westbank for years. This building has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 2011. It was built in 1926. Rhodes Funeral Home bought it in 2005 for future development. Two weeks later the storm flooded the city. Redevelopment was scheduled to start in summer 2012.

So far, nothing has happened.  Four years later.

This is the place the Rhodes family said is the crossroads of New Orleans. So much for the crossroads, I guess. Despite many signs to the contrary, maybe New Orleans hasn’t really recovered yet. After the storm damage was assessed, the Urban League said it would take about eight years for the city to recover. I’ve learned a little bit about project management in my career. The rule of thumb, when I learned it, was to plan for three times the predicted schedule time. Twenty four years. That sounds about right. We are less than half way through.

The picture. More experiments. More tinkering. More starts and stops. I wanted to make it really, really dark. But, the picture looked too evil. So, I went in the other direction. I think it works.

 


Spring brings change to Central City, as temporary as it is.
Spring brings change to Central City, as temporary as it is.

This picture fits into my Ten Year Project very well. Especially in mid-spring. Well, almost late spring for us. It’s about rebirth. Yellow is about joy. Flowers are about happiness. Green. Well, what can I say about the new, fresh greens of Spring? You just like them. Right?

But.

Lurking in the background is an abandoned house. The door is boarded up. It still has a fairly readable Katrina Cross. And yet, the lawn is has been mowed recently. The stoop is clear and clean. There is no litter anywhere. Somebody cares about this house. Maybe, one day they’ll get to come home.

Isn’t that the real reason for rebuilding New Orleans? So that anyone who wants to come home can come home.


What Remains in The Lower 9th Ward
What Remains in The Lower 9th Ward

I’m movin’ after midnight
Down boulevards of broken cars
Don’t know what to do without it
Without this love that we call ours
Beyond here lies nothin’
Nothin’ but the moon and stars

— Bob Dylan “Beyond Here Lies Nothin’,” from the album “Together Through Life.”

© 2009 Bob Dylan/Robert Hunter, Special Ryder Music/Ice Nine Publishing


Rebirth. Regrowth.
Rebirth. Regrowth.

I went to Hollygrove today. That’s one of the funkiest and worst neighborhoods in the city, Not because it always was, but because the storm swamped it. I went there to work. The work is the prayer I always say.

This one was for Maya Angelou. She meant something to me. But, I didn’t really know her. Not really. But, sort of.

I didn’t know what I was looking for, but I found this picture. It’ll do. Just fine.


Back to the original mission.
Back to the original mission.

The Jack O’ Lantern Effect.

You pass through a neighborhood and you think that after almost nine years things are finally starting to come together. Then, you turn the corner. The houses are abandoned. The grass, plants and weeds are overgrown. The streets are so potholed that they have reverted to dirt. There are still piles of junk lying around from some building being partially remediated and then forgotten.

That sounds terrible, doesn’t it?

Then you start thinking about it. If you look for this stuff as I do, passing through the same neighborhoods every month or so, you begin to see that more houses are habitable. More houses are being renovated, rehabbed and restored… even in some of what would have been the most forgotten neighborhoods. That ought to make you smile. It makes me smile.

The work. I played with the post production on Sunday evening. Traditionally, Sunday has been known as “Experimental Sunday.” For me, anyway. You know the rest. Lots of heavy photo manipulation going on here.

Fire & Rain.
Fire & Rain.