Tuesday, September 1, 2009

This is why I love New Orleans

for more photos I've taken of New Orleans and New Orleanians,
please go to: estudiomartita on Flickr

I'm leaving for New Orleans tomorrow, September 2nd, with my daughter Gaby. Gaby wants to attend the University of New Orleans in Spring 2010. She is interested in pursuing a degree in their International Studies Department.

I have been visiting New Orleans since October 1988. My son Mario was only ten weeks old and my husband Gary was working a convention there. I had lots of time during the day so I wheeled Mario all around the French Quarter in his stroller. It was then that I fell in love with the ambiance and the people there. Forget about drinking a Hurricane and walking down Bourbon Street. I loved the openness, accessibility of the people. I loved their ability to tell a story and their offers of help when I was caring for my infant son. I fell in love then and this love continues today.

I try to go to New Orleans every year and hope to some day have an apartment there. The flooding and devastation of New Orleans after Katrina has not prevented me from continuing my travels to NOLA. My husband and I returned to New Orleans 9 months after Katrina to attend Jazz Fest. The debris in the fields had just been cleared away for Jazz Fest that May. We attended a music festival that was a testament to the strength and sustainability of the people of New Orleans.

I have included below an article from Heather Elizabeth, a jewelry designer who I've met in New Orleans. She wrote about her experience attending the August 30th events surrounding the 4th anniversary of "the storm" as locals call it. After reading it, I felt reaffirmed that it is truly the people, their strength and resilience that have spoken to me in all my visits to this city. New Orleanians express powerful ties to their past histories, present experiences and future lives. It is a city full of stories: some haunting, some enchanting, some playful and some terribly sad. New Orleans is the center of life played out on the surface for all to see and experience. No need to hide there. Feeling is part of living.


Here is the article from Heather Elizabeth:

Heather Elizabeth Designs New Orleans photograph jewelry & accessories

I memorialized the 4th Anniversary of "the storm" (as we call it in New Orleans) in the lower 9th ward early this morning. There was a gathering on the Claiborne Avenue neutral ground (called medians in other cities). Some people spoke and... said some prayers for the 1600 that perished. Then, we solemnly second lined up the Claiborne bridge which was the only means of escape for many out of the flooded neighborhood. It was very hot and all I could think about was how hot it must have been 4 years ago. We got to the top of the bridge and taps was played. Then, Major Kelly of the NOPD threw the memorial wreath into the Industrial Canal. You can see in one of my pictures the masses of photogs around her trying to get their photo op on the bridge. After the wreath was thrown into the canal, we second lined back down the bridge to happier music. (During second line funeral processions, once the body has been laid to rest in the cemetery, happier music is played and dancing begins. It is a very old tradition here. During funerals this is called, "cutting the body loose". That is when people dance happily b/c the soul has gone to happier place.) When we got down to the foot of the bridge the party began. It was mostly on Tennessee Street where the Make It Right homes are being built and have been built. When I left there about an hour ago, there was a full a street party happening! Mardi Gras Indians were out. DJ's were on porches and there was also another second line parade! Oh, and don't let me forget the N'Awlins seafood being boiled for lunch! That smelled sooo good!

The picture of Al and I is very special. It is the one taken in front of the yellow house. He lives in one of the Make It Right Homes which is on his property that was destroyed during Katrina. He is learning how to install solar panels right now. How cool is that? New Orleans is going green! He is a wonderful guy who was evacuated from New Orleans for over 2 years. I am so glad he got to come back home.

Also, there is a picture of Mr. Herbert Kettridge sitting on a bench. Some of you may recognize Mr. Kettridge from Anderson Cooper's hurricane coverage and also Frontline on PBS. He is 86 years young and nearly built his whole house back by himself. He said so many volunteers have to help him do the things that he can't do at 86 years of age. And, he is so grateful. He built his home in the lower 9th ward in 1952. He grew up in the 7th ward and is a master plasterer. A cherished trade in our old city. He showed me his Plaster Union trade card showing he's been in the Union for over 50 years! Being a descendant of 3 generations of carpenters, I have a real respect for Mr. Kettridge's line of work. He said he paid for his home outright in 1952 with his own money. Never asked for a loan. He said he worked days and nights to make the money to build it in 1952. What an amazing man. I could have listened to him tell stories about New Orleans for hours on end. I am going to go visit him again very soon.

Read more and view pictures on : Heather Elizabeth's Facebook page

This is the longest blog I've written so far!

If any of you are looking for a FABULOUS place to stay in New Orleans, look no further than the River House. Staying in the River House is a dream come true. Check out Csaba and David's web site. The pictures speak for themselves.

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