New Orleans ten years ago

Hello all,

Well as you can tell I’ve not been posting. Why should every post start with an apology? No one reads this, so I’m going to stop apologizing. Perhaps I’m apologizing to you in order to make excuses to myself. That has to be it. There. Problem solved without Dr. Phil or whomever is the latest TV psychologist. Except for Dr. Keith Ablow. What a douche.

Anyway, it’s now been ten years since the hurricanes swept through the New Orleans area, and there has been a lot on the news lately about it. I meant to try to dig up some pictures earlier so I could coincide with the media memories frenzy, but it didn’t happen in time. Besides, it all just seemed a bit too self-congratulatory to me, so again, I probably deliberately didn’t get around to it in order to avoid seeming like everyone else. Even though I’m not unique, I sure want to believe I am. I am comfortable with that delusion.

Back to the topic. I was in New Orleans four months after the storms, working with various health agencies that were determined to not only restore health services to the area but to improve on the delivery system. Prior to the storms, you either had insurance, and went to one of the big university hospitals, or you didn’t have insurance, and you went to Charity Hospital. Charity was where you’d also go for primary care. You’d go to the emergency room. Primary care for the uninsured was not prevalent. There were a scattering of privately run, donor-financed operations, oftentimes in collaboaration with a church, but not much. If you lived way outside of the city, you’d ride a bus for a couple of hours, sit in the emergency room at Charity, and if you were lucky enough to be seen that day, great. You’d get back on the bus and head home. If they didn’t see you, you still had to get on the bus to go home, but you’d be on it again the next morning to sit in line again. Great system huh?

In early January, 2006, I took these photographs in the lower ninth ward. The first one is of Fats Domino Publishing. He has since restored the building and it looks much better.

 

Fats Domino Publishing, January, 2006

Fats Domino Publishing, January, 2006

Kids used to play here

Kids used to play here

When the levee broke, it wasn't just water pouring into the neighborhood. This barge sits across what used to be several homes.

When the levee broke, it wasn’t just water pouring into the neighborhood. This barge sits across what used to be several homes.

Uninhabitable. You cannot just "go home." There is no home.

Uninhabitable. You cannot just “go home.” There is no home.

This used to be a street. Now there's a house there. Not a home. Just a house.

This used to be a street. Now there’s a house there. Not a home. Just a house.

This is what's left of the area near the main breach. Some sidewalks and concrete porches remain, but little else. This used to be a neighborhood.

This is what’s left of the area near the main breach. Some sidewalks and concrete porches remain, but little else. This used to be a neighborhood.

Four months later, there were still abandoned cars all over. The ones they had managed to move, were kept in a pile beneath the expressway leading in and out of New Orleans.

Four months later, there were still abandoned cars all over. The ones they had managed to move, were kept in a pile beneath the expressway leading in and out of New Orleans.

 

 

The thing I will always remember about my visits there was the utter lack of sound. In the lower ninth, where these photos were taken, there were no birds. No dogs. No children. No sounds of life. It was dusty, and the air still smelled of mildew and rot. Every once in a while you’d see a child’s toy, but it wouldn’t be next to a house, it would be stuck in a random tree. Powerful silence is quite the reminder of how fragileĀ our little constructed corner of the galaxy truly is.

There’s also a new episode of the Prehensile and Gretel Show podcast available. On this one, Rita was unable to join, so I made up some stuff and then read from The Randy Scuffle Papers. This is your chance to hear it as it sounds from the mind of the author. Check it out here

-Phil Reebius

 

 

All photographs are copyright, Phil Reebius. I have the originals, so don’t try anything funny.

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