It takes a long time.

Hurricane recovery.

It takes a long time. I have friends in Florida. In a number of cities. One, who is located near Fort Lauderdale started posting in Facebook, about an hour after Hurricane Irma cleared out. No Power. An hour later. No power. A couple of hours later. Still no power. This morning. The lights are on a “XZY” center, no power here.

He keeps charging his phone somewhere. Maybe in his car.

There are two news stories today. One in The New York Times. One in The Washington Post. Both of them are about electric power restoration after a severe hurricane, and how it is “triaged.” It is likely that my friend won’t have power restored for five or six weeks. Could happen sooner. But, almost the entire state of Florida is having power issues. Electric companies are coming from all over the country to help out. Even ours sent a convoy of trucks. Still, it takes time. And, patience.

That said, a Katrina story.

My neighborhood was flooded and lost all electrical power on August 29. Power was finally restored on the day that I moved to New Mexico. November 20. I used one of those big moving companies. Something like Allied. They put together a package that wasn’t expensive because they picked up five resident’s furnishings in New Orleans and everything went to New Mexico where they broke it down by city. They made a lot more money, even though it was less expensive for us. That’s sort of normal procedure if you can’t fill a truck, but this time they narrowed the local areas.

Anyway.

November 20, 2005. Down the street comes a huge truck and trailer. Electrical power had just been restored to my neighborhood. But, it was hanging by a thread. One power line which crossed the street. Of course that big truck and trailer snagged it, ripping it down. Power gone again after finally being restored after almost three months.

Three months.

Luckily, for me — the neighbors probably wanted to kill me — Entergy, our electric company — was still working on the street. The workers laughed at the look on my face. And, the crowd carrying hand tools, axes and machetes advancing on me. That’s not quite true, but the neighbors were all working so they did have tools in their hands. Entergy reattached the power cable in about 15 minutes. They probably saved my life and the lives of the driver and loader. I’m kidding. But, just barely.

The picture.

Sometimes things are never the same. This picture was made on a block in Hollygrove. All these years after Hurricane Katrina flooded the city. Whoever lived here left. They never came back. Electricity was restored to the neighborhood, just not on this one block.

Yes, there a lot of post production and color management going on. To my eye, these remaining leftovers of the storm are always bleak. I want them to look that way. I made this picture near dusk, during the transition from golden to blue hour. The original image was just too pretty for the scene.

I couldn’t have that.

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Ain't der no mo'.
Ain’t der no mo’.

I used to see this place a lot. I was always headed some place else so I didn’t stop to make a picture. Then one day, I did. Then I stopped again. Twice in about a month.

Good thing.

I drove by about a week later and it was gone.

There was a dirt patch where it had been standing. That’s okay. Normally I mourn the passing of these old derelicts. Not this time. I saw this place fall apart over the course of about five years. It was in bad shape when I first saw it. Then it burned. That’s what the hole in the roof is about. There were rumors that the owner tried to torch it in order to collect the insurance. But, apparently the fire department did two things to foil his plan. They arrived early during the fire and were able to extinguish it, which allowed them to investigate it properly. I guess that’ll happen when you try to burn something that’s on a main street with a lot of traffic. I read of all of this in the newspaper. I may work on the streets a lot, but I’m not that connected.

Anyway.

The picture. Plenty of tinkering in post production. The original picture is sort of pretty. It would have conflicted with my intent way too much. So. I tinkered with it. Doctored it. Messed with it. And… this picture made its appearance.

They say you have to play a song about 500 times until it teaches you how to play it. Yeah. That. With photographs too.


Deserted cities.
Deserted cities.

“Upon this street where time has died. The golden treat you never tried. In times of old, in days gone by. If I could catch your dancing eye. It was on the way, On the road to dreams, yeah. Now my heart’s drowned in no love streams, yeah. The street is cold, its trees are gone. The story’s told the dark has won. Once we set sail to catch a star. We had to fail, it was too far. “

— Deserted Cities of the Heart,  Jack Bruce & Pete Brown/Cream 1968

I have no idea how this song got into my head. But, it seemed to fit the picture. Sorta. or, the picture fit the song. One or the other.

I’m getting into my storm mental zone. I didn’t mean to, but things have a way of happening. A lot of what I post this week will refer to Hurricane Katrina. In some way. All of the work will be heavily post produced.

Because.

When I started to work through my photo archives after I returned to New Orleans most of the slide film had been soaked. Much of it was unusable. Some was good enough to be scanned. But, upon enlargement they showed all kinds of weird stuff. Mold had eaten into the plastic. It caused strange colors and shapes. It really couldn’t be fixed. Or, retouched. I kept the scans, but tossed the film. You don’t want mold lingering in your house. In any way. Especially that mold.

Luckily.

The really good images. The keepers. The portfolio pictures… were scanned long before Hurricane Katrina even was a blip on the horizon. Like a couple of years before. And, as you’ve seen, the black and white negatives were fine.

This is not a scanned slide. This is a new digital image. But, I managed to come very close to what that damaged slide film looked like. All it took was a lot of tinkering. False starts. And, a couple of successes.

That’s how it goes.

 


Light play.
Light play.

I found the scene. Made the picture.

I had to.

The scene was sort of boring. Adding to it in post production helped it out some. It’s a weird little device I found buried in a layer building device. It’s really designed to add bokeh circles to night pictures. I thought that it made the picture look like I took it through something like a fence or a bullet ridden something or other.

A horrible thing happened last night. A young man and his pregnant girlfriend were gunned down in what looked like a drive by shooting. After reading the news story, it sounds more like a hit on one of the two adult victims. The young man was 25. His girlfriend was 23. He worked two jobs to support his family. She was an honor student. But wait. It gets worse. The young woman was a week away from delivering the baby. A little boy. The baby didn’t make it either. Three young lives… gone.

And, you wonder why I have a love – hate relationship with this city.


Ruins in Hollygrove.
Ruins in Hollygrove.

Before I write anything more, a quick word of caution. If you are a Mac user, DO NOT download the latest their operating system called El Captain. It was bad from the original download. Now, two versions later, it’s worse. It’s slow. It doesn’t recognize other manufacturer’s software that I need to do my job, and it only took 27 hours to download. Yes. We have a very fast internet connection.

Now that, I’ve written that and gotten it off my chest…

I return to the scene of the crime — a past photographed location — every couple of months. I like to see the progress made in a particular neighborhood. This is a still unrepairedd house left over from Hurricane Katrina’s flood waters. It is located in a neighborhood called Hollygrove. You’ve been there with me in past stories. When I was there taking pictures, everything was fine. Three hours later it was a crime scene. A man was shot and killed there. I don’t know when the odds start turning against you, but it’s starting to feel that way. I’m very situationally aware –that’s the proper term for “I have good alarm bells in my head” — but life turns on a dime.

The picture. The actual image is pretty clean, but I added a ton of work to it in post production. The funny thing about this house is that it doesn’t look like a New Orleans house. It must have been a fine home pre-storm.


Ruins, Maybe.
Ruins, Maybe.

Remembering Hurricane Katrina. Day Two.

The more that I work on this project, the more the memories start to return. We left New Orleans on Sunday, August 28 2005. In the morning. We put all the things that we wanted to take with us in a pile on the floor. Cameras. Computers. Digital files. Legal documents. Financial and insurance documents. Medical stuff. Some keepsakes. That sort of stuff. And, very few clothes. The spaniel, who knows everything before humans do, added her favorite toys. She made sure that her toys went into the car. She sat on the pile until they were sure that her stuff was packed too.

We didn’t take many clothes because we didn’t think about being gone for very long. As I recall, I took enough clothes for about a week. All light summer clothes. I can’t even remember if I took long pants. It was very hot that day. That summer. About like this one. I took flip-flops and running shoes.

I locked the house and the gate. We pulled into the street. We saw our neighbor, Mr. Joe. At the time, he was in his late 70s. He lived sort of catty corner from our house. We stopped to ask what he was going to do. Leave? Or stay? He said that he was staying and would look after our house. I remember wishing him, “God Speed,” and we hit the road. I had no idea that was the last time we’d live in that house. Or, the our neighborhood would be so badly flooded. Luckily, I did see Mr. Joe again, unlike many of my former neighbors. He lives in a factory built home that looks like the house he originally lived in when we were neighbors. Right on the corner. If I remember correctly, he is now about 87 or 88 years old. He’s one of those wiry guys. He’s got more energy than me. He’ll probably out live all of us.

That’s my story for today.

The pictures. I’ve driven by this place a hundred times. I never stopped. Today, I did. I stopped because the number two caught my attention. It’s my second day of this project and there is that big number two. How’s that for a sign? No pun intended.

I’m not sure if this business closed before the storm. But, I can see the remnants of flood waters.  I can see what’s left of a Katrina Cross. I can see that it has been multiple businesses. Oh, and the bottom picture is really just a scene setter for the top picture. The yellow building is a social club. The kind that sponsors and pays for second line parades. They are likely mowing the lawn in front of the old cleaners. That’s what we, in New Orleans, do. That’s especially what social clubs do for their neighborhoods.

This picture was kind of a lucky one. The day was cooling off and the light was okay. It’s my usual kind of picture about remains. Ruins. Junk. Not to worry. I actually planned project this out. I’m happy to say that it’s pretty balanced between broken places and new, restored and made-even-better places. The list isn’t complete and likely it will be filled out opportunistically, but it isn’t a downer. And, I am sticking to my picture a day workflow. I could take a shortcut and photograph a couple of places in a day, but what would be the fun in that? Besides, I’m on a mission.

A little housekeeping.

I’m sorry if I haven’t replied to emails from your blogs. My email has been compromised by the very people who host my commercial website. For some reason, somebody employed by them went into the site and pointed my email settings back to their old third-party email provider. On a Friday night. About midnight. That service was terrible and after years of problems, they — Livebooks — finally decided to fix the issue, by no longer offering email with their hosting service.

Fine with me.

I switched to Go Daddy for email pretty seamlessly last June and haven’t had a problem since except for a systemic failure that actually made the news. Every morning is no longer an exercise is terror.

Unlike the rest of the digital world, Livebooks doesn’t offer customer service on a weekend. I suppose that was the point of repointing my email connection on a Friday. night. Unfortunately, they control the website underpinnings and  they control their end of the administration. They have to repoint my email connections. I can’t do that remotely. I’m sure they’ll do this on Monday. It’ll take a while to propagate the connection.

I’m sure I’ll start shopping for a new commercial website hosting company right after that. That’s fine with me, too. I really don’t think Livebooks has the kind of revenue to remain stable. They just raised their hosting rates. But, not for me or people like me. We are grandfathered into their oldest plans. In fact, in 2013, they almost went of business until a wedding website bought and saved them. For me, that’ll mean another new redesign. And, a bunch of work I hadn’t planned on. I’m actually thinking of combining my two websites, here on Storyteller. While WordPress can be a little frustrating at times, they do have pretty good customer service. And, they do work on the weekend.

Like me.

 

A scene setter.

A scene setter.


Ruins
Ruins

It’s been a rough week around here. Aside from the horrible murders in Charleston, we lost three people who made a difference in New Orleans.

Harold Baquet. Harold Battiste. Daryle Holloway.

A photographer. A musician. A police officer.

Cancer on Friday. Lengthy illness following a stroke on Friday. Killed in the line of duty on Saturday.

I’m not going to write too much more. Please go to NOLA.com and look around. I’ll just add that I ramble around a lot. I cross paths with a lot of people. I knew these three men. Just a little. But, that’s enough. My world was a better place.

So. These pictures are about them. They contributed to the city. This is my contribution. They did what they did best. This is what I do best.

Later today, I’ll photograph a second line. I’ll see what I can do. It’s the first one since I’ve been repaired.   I’m a little achy. And, I’m not very fast. I do have more mobility than I did when I made the “blue” picture. But, you know what I always say. The work is the prayer.

Peace, y’all.

Burning street.
Burning street.
Nothing works.
Nothing works.


Still not repaired.
Still not repaired.

Back to work. Sometimes seeing these not-yet-repaired neighborhoods is a good thing. It’s a reminder. Sometimes, not so much. This set of pictures is one of the latter. It too, is a reminder.

This place is still struggling. It’s an odd side of a neighborhood called Hollygrove. It’s about as far as you can go in upriver Orleans Parish, and still be in town. A few streets further and you are in Metairie and that means Jefferson Parish. I’m not going to get into the ten years thing today, but look at this place. There are holes in some of these houses. The bottom picture shows what remains of a Katrina Cross. It’s so weather-beaten — ten years will do that — that I can’t read it. But, it told other early responders who searched the house, what they found and when they came. Sheesh, nature is taking over. Bushes are growing INSIDE the old house.

The middle picture is even more disconcerting. That is, assuming sneakers tossed over a power wire still means what it used to… those wires cross a corner. Shoes on the wires used to mean this is a drug corner. You can buy whatever you need there. Maybe street language has changed some. I doubt it. However, I didn’t see anybody hanging out. But, I wasn’t looking all that hard. They might have been looking at me and decided I didn’t look the part. You know, taking pictures and all.

This looks like one of those neighborhoods that might never come back. Supposedly, it was in pretty good shape before the storm. But… ten years. Not much progress. Not a good thing.

Hanging sneakers.
Hanging sneakers.
Katrina cross
Katrina cross


Back on the Track.
Back on the Track.

So. Whew. After yesterday’s huge post, I’m sort of back on track. I’d really like to finish these projects before I publish my next 2,000 blogs. I’m really not sure how I’ll do that… even before the end of the year. There really is so much to do. And, as some of you know, energy is an issue. My energy. Not the electric company’s. That said, we are already under a flood watch and there is a tropical storm out in the gulf that is turning in to a cyclonic storm as I write. Next stop. Hurricane. That is very unlikely to happen. The gulf isn’t warm enough to feed it. Yet. And, it is very unlikely to strike New Orleans. It’s on track to hit Texas and near the Texas – Louisiana border.

I’ve said that before.

On the Tuesday before Hurricane Katrina made landfall in Buras, Louisiana, I said to a group of people that there is a big storm in the gulf. It’s tracking to hit Florida, Georgia and will likely strike Atlanta. I said that I would see them next Tuesday. I never saw most of them again.

See? It’s starting for me. We are in hurricane season. It’s been a decade. The stories are bubbling up. Sorry. I’ll try not to make this the summer of Hurricane Katrina. I already lived through that once.

Anyway.

This house has been falling down since I returned to New Orleans. Four years ago. I have no idea if any of this is storm damage. But, there is a lot of fire damage. I pass by this building every time I take the “secret” way to the airport. I finally photographed it four years after I first saw it. See? I get around to stuff. Eventually.

The backyard.
The backyard.
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