A trip to New Orleans

I’ve struggled a lot with how to write about New Orleans. I feel like Katrina defines so much of what is there now, but it’s such an old and spectacular city that I somehow don’t want it to be defined only by that awful thing. I keep starting to write, and finding that I want to be weeping and wailing and gnashing my teeth, feeling mournful for what this city lost without even understanding what they lost…since I’m not even from here, and pretending that I could have any real sense of it gained in an afternoon feels like it would be demeaning to them. Then I delete everything I write and try to just write about how stunningly beautiful, and interesting and wildly enthralling the place is, and then I realize I’m gushing and delete all of that. The mind numbing thing about New Orleans right now, is that it is both. Sad and happy, devastating and uplifting, thrilling and crushing. Right next to each other will be something repaired and beautiful and old and fantastic right down to its very molecules, and right next to that will be something just as ruined and sad and….it’s almost impossible to take ten steps in the city without goggling at one wonder or another while simultaneously having your heart broken. As much as I watch the news and read the papers, I don’t think that I had any real sense of what had happened, or the enormous scope of it. In the complete absence of the ability to sort out my reaction to it, and what the right thing to say is,

I’ve decided just to let it roll. My tour of New Orleans was graciously given by Dez, who also makes an absolutely Kick Ass veggie gumbo.

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The French Quarter was stunning beyond all. There was wrought and cast iron everywhere. Buildings with Spanish style architecture are everywhere (which struck me as sort of odd, considering that it’s the French Quarter) but of course:

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I need to remember what little history I know. Mardi Gras beads hang year round from some of the balconies and trees, and it’s like coming upon little sparkling treasures everywhere you look.

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We walked (and ate) our way through the streets, hot and steamy with my hair huge and ships going by on the wide Mississippi while we went. I saw a band, made up only of a man with a tuba and a man with an upright bass, playing fantastic jazz while a tarot card reader sorted out peoples destinies feet away. I looked for good sock pictures.

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(This is an Alligator, not a crocodile and if you make that mistake you are quickly corrected by every person within earshot.) I laughed and laughed as I came upon balconies dripping with enormous plants that are wee potted things in Toronto.

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It’s like everything green in New Orleans is on steroids. We went to a very beautiful yarn/ needlepoint shop in the French Quarter, (The Quarter Stitch) and the place was like a jewel box.

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Despite the way they wrap up the yarn that you buy like it’s your birthday and how tempted I was to buy something just so that I would get a pretty bag, only Dez had a falling down and my virtue remained intact. Nevertheless, that can all really take it out of a girl, and I recovered the best way I ever have.

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Coffee and beignets at the Cafe du Monde, out in the open air with ceiling fans spinning in the heat above us and live street jazz and people laughing and just beside us, the river with boats and ferrys going along. The menu at Cafe du Monde is printed on the side of the napkin box and I’m pretty sure all you can order is Café au lait or black coffee with chickory, and the only question about the beignets is how many. They take your order and bring you your things in about 2 minutes, and the whole shebang cost $7 for the two of us, with a tip.

It was one of the best cups of coffee I have ever had. Ever, and I don’t say that lightly. I almost laughed myself stupid when Dez deliberately sweetened her café au lait by tipping some of the sugar from her beignet into it. Very efficient. Cafe du Monde is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, but took 2 months to reopen after Katrina.

Then we drove through some other parts of the city. The French Quarter and much of the old city are on high (comparatively) ground and they sustained some minor flooding and significant wind damage. With the occasional exception of a building where the owners didn’t have insurance, the insurance hasn’t paid out or there is some other big issue,

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most of the stuff there is fixed up. I think you can see that the French Quarter is beautiful. As you begin to drive out of the Quarter, the ground begins to slope, ever so slightly, and the amount of damage you see begins to be significant. There are whole communities where they have lost their schools, their stores…all the places that support a community and make it possible for people to live there.

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It’s a catch 22 for them. The people can’t come back (HALF of the population of New Orleans is gone.) if there aren’t things like stores, but the stores can’t rebuild (even if they have the money) if they aren’t going to have any customers.

By the time you get into the 9th ward, where the water was very deep, it starts to look like a third world country.

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The incredible thing is that people are living here. These are their homes and they can’t afford to move. Most of them didn’t have insurance, and if they did, some of them got screwed. Some of them can’t afford the repairs so they are doing it themselves, slowly..as the find the money. Many of them don’t have jobs any more, because their places of employment are in the same condition. Beside most of these houses there is a small white FEMA trailer. That’s where they are still living, two years later. It’s easy to be angry. Two years later thousands of citizens of a superpower country are living like this? I know it’s expensive, but it makes you wonder why they aren’t cancelling all the gala’s at the White House to divert money to these communities until its fixed. I doubt anyone would complain. It’s also easy to be impressed…since I cannot believe what enormous work has happened in the last two years to get trucks out of trees and boats out of of roads, and move the mud and the garbage in the streets and put the power and gas back on….and the huge amount of engineering repair that has happened to just get and keep the city dry is impressive alone. Somebody has seriously busted a move in this place. It just seems….stalled.

I found it incredible the way the consequences of the hurricane are viciously unbalanced. Compare these two schools two years after Katrina. The first is a public school in the 9th ward, the second, a private Catholic school in the old part of the city.

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Admittedly, the old part took mostly only wind damage and not wind and extensive flooding, but still…the consequences and the way they are divided are unbelievable. To paint it with broad strokes, all the people who are least equipped to cope in this disaster are the ones with the most to cope with. On our way to the bookstore, we saw some of the old and beautiful homes in the garden district. These sit on higher ground and suffered terrible wind damage, but not as much flooding. The wind damage shouldn’t be underestimated though, it’s tremendous. One old church had its entire spire ripped off. Almost everyone had their roof trashed and their windows blown out. In some cases trees falling did a lot of damage.

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For the sake of history it’s a lovely thing that these homes weren’t taken out, and that the people living in them are affluent enough to have adequate insurance to bring them back. It’s stunning through this part of the city. I love the “live oak” trees.

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I would find it incredible that there would be an old an beautiful live oak next to a smashed up house. The things are built to last.

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Dez pointed out that they grow in a slightly twisted, spiral growth pattern. I didn’t get it at first, but she asked me what happens in spinning when you twist fibres. “They get stronger,” I said. “Oh….I get it. Holy Crap Dez, are you saying the trees are PLIED?” She was. Nature is a smart cookie. We journeyed on, arriving at the bookstore at almost the last minute (everyone needs a little adrenaline now and then) and I met the Knitters of New Orleans….

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Er…sorry about that. I have no idea why, but my camera didn’t take the pictures of the crowd. Some weird New Orleans voodoo. It apparently perked up later, and I got a few fantastic ones. (I think I figured out what goes wrong actually, there’s a little wheel with settings on the back and if it’s between settings…er, that’s what you get. I think the wheel gets turned while it’s kicking around in my bag. I’m onto it now. I hope the knitters can forgive me this time.) It was a small but thoroughly charming crowd. thoroughly. Evidence? You bet.

This is Allie and her brand spanking new knitting tattoo. So new it’s still pink.

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This is Christina and her knitting tattoo.

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This is Christina and Allie laughing because they both thought they would be the only ones with knitting tattoos.

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This is Debbie B, saying hi to Ms Too Much Wool.

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and this is Sarah, knitting tiny, tiny, teeny tiny socks for preemies.

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This is Martha, blaming me for enabling her right into a Kauni Cardigan of her own…

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(I’m not sorry either.)

Ashpags!

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She brought me a little of the fabulous Cafe du monde coffee to make in hotel rooms. I may love her entirely and forever.

This is Dez with a wee New Orleans gift for me.

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A squirrel voodoo doll. (I am armed so many ways now. Do not speak to Lime and Violet about this.)

Finally, Dez, fulfilling her role as hat lady,

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seen here with the charming Vanessa who gave me a ride back to the hotel, which was incredibly fortunate, since as we were driving along…we saw this. Vanessa was beside herself, saying that these are rare and wondrous.

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It’s a bottle tree. They are an African idea, transported to the American south with the slaves, and it’s a remarkable and beautiful thing. It’s in the front yard of an ordinary house in an middle class neighbourhood. Some of the houses are repaired, some are still trashed, stalled without insurance to fix their homes. Some of the people got their insurance money but are waiting to see if the community comes back before they rebuild. Many people, moved out of their modern 3 and 4 bedroom homes are living in tiny trailers next to their homes. These people are. You can see their unused home on the left of the bottle tree and the trailer on the right.

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Here they are, living in a trashed neighbourhood with their trashed house and this crude little trailer and half of the people they know have moved away and things sort of suck, and what do they do? A bottle tree. Bottles are hung in a dead tree, along with other sparklies. Bad spirits and luck are attracted to the bottles, go in, and can’t get out. When the wind blows across the bottle tops you can hear them, but they are stuck. It’s meant to improve things for you.

It’s hopefulness, and I think it’s really something remarkable that people who lost everything two years ago and don’t have it back yet, would come out of this cruddy trailer and make something this beautiful in the hopes of improving their lot. There’s a small sign on the tree that reads “rebirth”.

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I loved it. I wonder if they are knitters?

310 thoughts on “A trip to New Orleans

  1. New Orleans…one of my favorite places on earth (and I’m from WI)! Note: Cafe du Monde took 2 months to reopen, in part, because they took advantage of being closed for the first time in decades to upgrade their equipment while they waited for the people (and employees) to return. Talk about something good from something bad. Gotta have my coffee, too!

  2. well i guess there is some reward to being up extra early with the baby…i get to be first commenter!
    i went to new orleans years ago before katrina but it was during the height of mardi gras, so I doubt the “real” city bears much resemblence to what I remember..

  3. Wow, I must have caught this post early, as some of the pictures don’t match the words with them. (Either that, or Bloglines is doing some sort of funky VooDoo on me.)
    That bottle tree is the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen. Next stop – internet research and tree finding.

  4. What a wonderful post! I have never been to New Orleans, but love reading about it and see movies which play in this town, its just so incredible different a world than I life in. Thanks again, for great pictures and this story!

  5. You have captured the essence and the spirit of the Katrina victims, both human and architecure. Thank you. I lived on the Mississippi Gulf coast and have read many accounts, by far your description is the only one I have read that captures both the beauty and the agony, the haves and have nots. Again, thank you.

  6. I’m so glad you enjoyed our faded jewel of a city…you’re right, she is beautiful and heartbreaking all at the same time.

  7. You know what makes me really angry? The people who had flood insurance that didn’t pay out nearly enough to do any good. That just makes me want to kick FEMA in the collective arse.
    I have never heard of a bottle tree, but it’s just beautiful. And also, I would like a beignet. Stupid sweet tooth.

  8. NO is one of my favorite cities, despite the incredible heat/humidity and now Katrina damage. Every time I visit I make sure that my breakfast every morning is at Cafe du Monde. And I love the gift wrapping at the Quarter Stitch.
    I once ran in there while brunch was being cooked at the restaurant at the corner, scooped up a bunch of yarn, let them swipe my card and went back to eat. When brunch was over there were beautifully wrapped packages waiting for me. Did they tell you that you can contact them with a list of color/yarn options that you are looking for and they will send you a sampler selection to choose? Incredible customer service.

  9. Exceptional post.
    (btw some of your pictures seem to have gotten mixed up. Some more voodoo perhaps?)

  10. Could I have your permission to turn the bottle tree into a Christmas card? I’d send all the proceeds to somewhere in the 9th Ward..the Lower 9th Ward Health Clinic comes to mind.

  11. Thank you so much for your thoughts on New Orleans…you showed so eloquently the good and bad (and the good in the bad) of the last 2 years.

  12. “Sad and happy, devastating and uplifting, thrilling and crushing. Right next to each other will be something repaired and beautiful and old and fantastic right down to its very molecules, and right next to that will be something just as ruined and sad and….it’s almost impossible to take ten steps in the city without goggling at one wonder or another while simultaneously having your heart broken.”
    i was completely touched by your entire post, but the clip above went straight to my heart becasue i am in prishtina, kosovo presently (for work) and those words really describe what i have been feeling as i am walking around the city. if you look past the trash and rubble, you can see that this once was a great eastern european city rich in culture before the repression, occupation and war. and in the midst of rubble and trash, there is a lot of modern building going on. it’s a little mind blowing, let me tell you.
    i haven’t found any yarn shops, but haven’t had much free time. i am spending the weekend in london on the way back to my home (vermont) and plan to make a pilgramage to liberty to worship at the altar of rowan!

  13. My favorite memory of my vacation to New Orleans is Cafe du Monde. A watercolor of the cafe that I bought off the street hangs in my kitchen. To see it, up and running and looking just as I remember is a wonderful and amazing thing. What a city…

  14. I’m thrilled that you got to see NO. It’s one of the best places on earth. I love it like no other city. I am, however, deeply ashamed that you witnessed the lack of concern our government has for the people…the POOR people of NO. It is a complete disgrace.
    Hope you enjoy Hotlanta!

  15. I live in Michigan and my two trips to New Orleans (both before Katrina) have left marks on my soul. There’s something about that city that just gets inside of you. Your first paragraph really captures the heartbreak that is post-Katrina New Orleans.

  16. Thanks for the tour of New Orleans…maybe someday…
    I like the bottle tree; mmmm…gives me some ideas!
    Safe journey, Stephanie

  17. Steph, this was a very, very moving post, and very emotionally charged. Last week, I was watching “Feasting on Asphalt” on the Food Network, and Alton Brown pointed out many of the same things that you did — how much devastation still exists. You’re right…there should be less galas at the white house, less of everything extravagant. Perhaps if everybody (American) who reads this post would write a brief letter to their congressman, something may happen. Maybe. I know it’s on my to-do list for today.
    Thanks for sharing.

  18. Your humanity is evident once again through your wonderful words. Thank you for this heartfelt post. Cafe au lait and beignets at the Cafe du Monde is the best–I remember from my earlier trips to NO.

  19. Worse than the destruction and the disparity is the significant number of Americans who believe that the Lower Ninth Ward residents *deserved* what happened to them. (Maybe it’s the only way they can make sense of it, or feel OK about it, and somehow they need to do that.)
    But moving on… the oaks here grow straight and tall and sleep all winter long. Less wind and more snow, I guess.
    I’ve been eyeing that Kauni, I who don’t do patterns, much less kits. You are an enabler of the worst description.

  20. Thank you so very much for that. NO tends to get forgotten; I’m not sure how many people realize there’s still so much that needs to be done.
    A friend in Lafayette just sent me some of those little red packages of coffee. FANTASTIC stuff.

  21. Wow, have you ever understood the tragedy of New Orleans. It is truly the city of desire and dispair and Katrina opened its secrets to the world. Thanks for having the courage to use your Canadian eyes to tell us what we need to know about our national tragedy. The city’s glory is that she is still alive and breathing, tragedy notwithstanding. She’ll come back changed forever but still alive and breathing.

  22. The bottle tree is just exceptional. Beautiful in all that it represents.
    As for New Orleans, I think perhaps I will keep my thoughts quiet. It was a beautiful town and perhaps that is as it should be.

  23. Thanks for all the pictures of New Orleans. I was there once about 15 years ago and was spellbound by the place, I want to go back. I especially loved the Garden District and my camera wasn’t working too well so I don’t have many photos. I can’t believe people aren’t more angry at our government for what has happened there.

  24. Thanks for writing such a beautiful post about our city. The pictures you took, too, are very clear and the lighting is good too–they show how soft and weathered everything looks.
    I’m glad you enjoyed your time here. I enjoyed your reading!

  25. Thank you, Stephanie, for “getting it”, and for writing about it so movingly. I do regret that this – “I saw a band, made up only of a man with a tuba and a man with an upright bass, playing fantastic jazz” – was the only representative you saw of the tattered soul of the city. The coma in which the music lies is, to me, the most painful loss of all…

  26. thanks for the post…I’ve been to the gulf coast four times over the past two years to help with rebuilding efforts, and it’s been my pet project ever since to spread the word about how much work still needs to be done, both in New Orleans and in the surrounding areas. I’m so glad you went and had the experience that you did; please keep the memories close to your heart and tell anyone that will listen, because it’s so easy for people to forget that rebuilding doesn’t happen overnight.
    thanks again!

  27. i live on the west coast of florida
    i ave been packed
    and ready to leave and not know if i will come back hugo ivan and charley that destroyed cities
    and towns with out nary a thought for the winds
    have no mercy for any one black or white rich or
    poor young or old—-we do best we can here the
    communties to the south that were so hurt try so hard plus 911 to recover from if they party in
    white house and i do when i can so be it
    this super power me does best she can stay packek

  28. thank you stephanie for showing us all new orleans. the last time i was there was december 2005. it was heartbreaking to see the area that i had vacationed in torn to shreds. it is import ant that we are able to voice our opinions about the world in which we live. the bottle tree was awesome to view. thanks again for voicing what many of us feel.
    sharon (aka knittingauntie)
    ps – i am glad to see the quarter stitch survived the storm…it is a wonderful little shop in a great part of the world.

  29. I’m glad to hear the Quarter Stitch survived. I love that shop. See you in Virginia. I’ll be interested to see how many knitters they can cram into Borders. It’s not a large space….

  30. I was in New Orleans for a biochem conference with my now husband a few years before Katrina and became completely addicted to the Cafe du Monde coffee. Not having drunk it since, I was delighted to find a small Cafe du Monde on the second floor of the Kyoto train station! I wonder how long before there is a franchise in Toronto…

  31. I have not had the oppertunity to visit New Orleans. I had the chance once while I was in the Navy, but I had duty that day that I could not get out of, so I was unable to go. This was before the hurricane. I would still love to visit some day. Your post was beautifully written and I actually cried at the end about the bottle tree. Makes me want to have one of my own when things get rough. I honestly think it’s one of the most beautiful things I’ve seen lately. Thank you for sharing your experience with all of us.

  32. Stephanie, so well written, beautifully written. I do believe you found the essence of it all. Why, indeed, the White House…redirecting gala funds, love that, there are so many other areas that could do well with less and New Orleans benefit so much more. Watching the news last night ‘where the money went’ in Iraq… it is shameful.
    I love bottle trees.
    Thank you.

  33. Very well done! Think you really hit all the good and bad issues of New Orleans in your post. I was stunned a few weeks ago when a work friend told me that he has family friends in New Orleans that still do not have power. Makes one want to fly to D.C. and slap some sense into certain people.
    The lighted bottle tree was truly beautiful and inspiring.
    Looking forward to finally meeting you today! You will love my LYS aka Knitch!!!!!

  34. It takes a Canadian to point out an American truth. I appreciated the compassion you expressed in this post. I also commend you for venturing out of the Quarter and the Garden District. People who have passed NO by will receive an education.

  35. I visited NO for the very first time almost one year ago. It was an impromptu, but stunning stop. One of my most vivid memories is of the lengthy conversation I had with a NO police officer. His family had been in NO for 5 generations. And he didn’t think his children would be able to afford to live in the rebuilt NO. The people with megabucks buying up property – may we be saved from NO becoming another Atlantic City.

  36. I lived in New Orleans for 6 months several years ago. I have some mixed emotions about New Orleans as a hometown vs a place to visit, but there’s no denying that there’s great spirit in that town and in it’s people. Have you ever read A Confederacy of Dunces?

  37. I’m certain the knitters of New Orleans will forgive your photo-faux-pas when they read this touching tribute to their wounded city.

  38. Oh you Canadians and your naive fantasies. Don’t you realize that democracy is only for the folks who can afford to contribute to political campaigns? Anything else would be downright socialist, and we just couldn’t have that.

  39. Hey that’s not me!
    Oh well, you had camera voodoo! Thank you so much for doing us justice, you can’t understand the love hate relationship with New Orleans, it’s too haunting to try. But I think you did well. I wish there were more people who could say it like you did!

  40. “it makes you wonder why they aren’t cancelling all the gala’s at the White House to divert money to these communities until it’s fixed”
    Does make you wonder, doesn’t it. I think we’ve got a little war or something going on that we might could cancel too. Could come up with a few, oh, billion dollars or so that way, I guess.

  41. The last time I was in NO it was August, I was in dress clothes, and I was trapped at a tradeshow. Cafe du Monde coffee and a couple of beignets were the only things that kept me civil first thing in the morning.
    As much as I loved NO, pre-Katrina, the economic disparities among its inhabitants were hard to stomach *then*.

  42. Twenty years after Hurricane Agnes (’72) decimated Wyoming Valley (PA) there were still signs of the disaster. Even today, the entire city of Wilkes Barre still struggles in some respects.
    It is way more than just money and funding.

  43. What a remarkable post, thank you so much. Indeed, why DON’T they divert $$ from White House galas (or other things) to help out citizens like this…The contrast in pictures is incredible.
    That yarn shop/needlepoint shop really looks like such a thing of beauty. I wouldn’t have been able to resist :)

  44. Thanks for taking us on the tour with you.
    You did a good job of describing something that must have been very difficult to put into words.
    There was a time that I was proud of our government, but now they’re an embarrasment. Our government has done a lot to tip the balance against the poor and middle classes all over the country. It’s just more apparent in New Orleans.
    I have to go to a computer where I can see your photos. My phone quit displaying them about halfway through. I especially want to see the bottle tree and the KNITTING TATOOS!
    Thanks for the answer to my question. I was appalled that someone as busy and sleep deprived as you are at the moment would take the time to answer my question. I didn’t mean to bother you.
    See you tomorrow in Virginia!

  45. Now that you have “passed some time” with Dez, that makes you a “friend of a friend”. Dez is the gen-u-ine thing, a “Nawlins” girl, so your tour was not just tourist hype. If I couldn’t welcome you to Louisiana myself (DH had an emergency hospital admission, is on the mend, thank you very much), then I’m so glad you met Dez.
    Don’t you think I can finagle a major yarn crawl out of his hospitalization making me miss The Harlot’s NOLA visit? VBG!!

  46. I’m glad you got to see New Orleans. I too had never been there before Katrina, and it breaks my heart every time I am there. In October I hope to get back down there for my third work trip. Demolition was more my speed, but I can try to figure out drywall mudding to help out.

  47. Amazing, it takes an Canadian to tell the truth about New Orleans. Thank you for pointing out the failure of the US to fix the problem for the less fortunate.

  48. You seem to have captured what I know of New Orleans. My husband was there last summer with a work group – there is a lot of that going on, people who pop in for a week or two to help out, organized by churches and such. While he was there the group took a ride around the area to get context for what they were facing; they brought back amazing photos and incredible stories, like this one:
    One of the people in the group was a friend of mine whose daughter had been a Tulane student when Katrina struck (safely evacuated back here to New England, dogs and all). The house she and her fiance lived in was severely flooded; when her daughter went back she was able to retrieve a few things that had fortunately been above the water line, but most everything was ruined.
    Almost a year later my friend was on this little tour and realized she was in her daughter’s old neighborhood. She convinced that person driving to stop so she could see how things had gone with the house. It was one of the places that had been “detrashed” and was therefore empty but not really habitable. However, there was something left on the mantle. My friend went and picked it up – it was her (soon to be) son-in-law’s Tulane diploma, which some kind soul had discovered during the clean-up and set aside. I doubt that this person really imagined the diploma would ever find its way back to its owner, but you can imagine it would have been hard to throw away. Just one of those little miracles – one hopes for many more for the people of New Orleans.

  49. Thank you Stephanie for this thoughtful, eloquent post. The photos are lovely, esp of the bottle tree (wondering how out of place one would look in my backyard… the dogwood is dying after all). You’ve made me weep and gnash my teeth yet again at the superfluous spending, careless choices, and hard-hearted negligence of our federal government.
    I’ve a feeling that the white house spinmakers would look upon that photo of the middle class family’s home with the bottle tree and choose to see only the hopefulness, and that as a sign that they’re doing everything right rather than anything wrong.

  50. Hey! I was just drinking my morning coffee yesterday from my Cafe Du Monde mug, that has been languishing on the back of the shelf, and recalling that wonderful place and hoping it was OK. Glad to see it again.
    Fantastic entry, by the way. It shows the city in a way I’ve not seen anywhere else.

  51. I believe that Katrina showed us everything that is right AND wrong with our society. Right–in the way that so many people pulled together and tried to do what they could to help. Wrong–in the sense that the devastation still exists and that people there are still struggling while our government WASTES money every second of every day.

  52. You are so on it! Your post should be required reading for the idiot (opps, I mean person) in the White House on down through the entire Congress. Thank you.

  53. Even if they don’t knit, I think the bottle tree people have the souls of knitters. Something out of string, something out of bottles and things. You made me cry with hope and joy today.

  54. Your words were perfect. Did Dez tell you about the people in Mississippi? Although Katrina was devasting to New Orleans, a jewel of a city, what really caused the damage was man-made – broken levees. What damaged the Mississippi coast was all mother nature. Entire towns were wiped away by wind and storm surge, and almost no one received insurance money – because it was “flood” not “wind.” It’s the second and least talked about Katrina story – fewer people lived on the coast than in NO, and a destroyed city is much more “interesting” than destroyed coastal towns. But it’s equally devasting. My mother, aunt and cousin all lost their homes on the Mississippi coast, and will never go back because the town still hasn’t been rebuilt, and may never be. There was a yarn shop in my mom’s town – all the yarn was strewn about, tangled in branches, wrapped around tree trunks, and ensnared in the undercarriages of overturned cars – it was quite a sight to see! Thanks for your post. I loved it.

  55. Thanks for sharing your experience of New Orleans. It is an incredible city. I want to go back some day. It has been my favorite city to visit. I haven’t been back since Katrina, but I know it will be heartbreaking to see the affects.

  56. I enjoyed your story and the pictures what I find incredible about N.O. is that the person who could have done the most to prevent some of the psychological damage and the mess with the evacuations, was re-elected. He didn’t want white people to move back into the city, yet, it was the people in the 9th ward he let down. In the US there is a procedure for the federal government involving themselves in local affairs, it prevents them from nosing around where they don’t belong. They Feds will only come in after the mayor requests assistance from the Governor and the Governor, in turn asks for federal assistance, this can be done before a large storm such as Katrina hits.
    It is a real tradgety the mayor and the governor didn’t do this properly. They couldn’t have prevented the physical damage of the storm no one could, but it might have prevented some of the after affects.

  57. It’s such an amazing place. Pre-Katrina I visited a lot, but I haven’t gone down since. It breaks my heart to hear what’s happened–and what HASN’T happened–in the last two years. (And, oh, do I miss beignets and cafe au lait–yum!)
    I have a bottle tree in my back yard, but it doesn’t hold a candle to that one in beauty or in meaning.

  58. I loved this post – thank you so much and especially the story of the bottle tree – to end the post with something that shows the hope of many folks who are still struggling brought tears to my eyes – they will forever be in my prayers.

  59. My husband is in the National Guard and he was deployed to New Orleans following Katrina. The stories and pictures he has from that experience could rival those from a war zone when it comes to living conditions. I’m glad to see the pictures showing the re-established areas as well as highlighting the resiliance of the people. I can’t wait to show him your pictures.

  60. I was fortunate and blessed enough to have lived in NO for 3 wonderful years while my husband attended Tulane Law School. Interestingly enough, I am from Miami, FL and my family home was mostly destroyed with Andrew. The neighborhood I grew up in was demolished, so much so that I couldn’t recognize my street from a photo taken on the front lawn of my house! Anyhow, I was thoroughly heartbroken to see and hear of all the devastation from Katrina to the beautiful city I once called home.
    Thank you for the tribute and the pictures (although I would love to see the squirrel voodoo doll – that’s one of the mixed up pictures). It made me smile to see what’s already been done. However my blood boils to see what’s left to do. Especially when I remember how my parents’ insurance company attempted to totally SCREW THEM OVER during the claim process. They attempt idiotic things like claiming that appliances can be repaired even though most of the working parts were mangled by the damage, wind and rain. They wanted to repay my parents for just the ‘damaged’ roof shingles rather than give them a whole roof (2/3 of the roof was on the floor of the bedrooms at the time). They said that there was much that could be reused even though the home suffered 60-75% damage. And don’t even get me started on what they offered my parents for their possessions in the home.
    The sad thing is that by the time you actually get the initial offer for compensation from the insurance company, you’ve been out of your home for months and all you want is to get started rebuilding your life. Luckily, my husband made sure that my parents where properly compensated rather than being prey to the insurance company who played on the emotional turmoil of the situation.
    I have to go now. I’m getting mad all over again and I need some coffee.
    Sigh.

  61. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and impressions of New Orleans with us all — it’s a place that everyone, I think, needs to hear more about, regardless of where we may be. That bottle tree is really amazing.

  62. I haven’t been to NOLA since 1981, but we’ve been planning on taking the City of New Orleans next March down to see her. (My husband and my kids have never been).
    Thanks for the pre-tour.

  63. Thank you. That was a beautiful post about New Orleans. It is criminal how the government has all but abandoned this city and her people, but they will rise up out of the ashes. I love the bottle tree – hope does spring eternal.

  64. Thanks for that amazing post. Now I’m more determined than ever to make my way down to New Orleans one day. (I’m also dreadfully curious about the squirrel voodoo doll!)

  65. Part of New Orleans has always been about death, decay, and rot. It’s part of what New Orleans is – a party city with a deep and mysterious and unworldly past. She has her own life, and no force of nature can take her down. It doesn’t help the people living there now, but later, when they have rebuilt (probably around the FEMA trailers themselves), it will make her stronger. They will do it without Bush and his lackeys (though they shouldn’t have to) and they will be a testament to their own strength and his failure.

  66. Is it just me, or are the pictures all mixed up?
    It’s probably just me.
    Anyhoo…love this post. Makes me want to vacation in NO soon :)

  67. It’s worth repeating: what an impressive post. And it’s important to remember that our world is cruelly divided into Haves and Have-Nots; NO is perhaps its “poster child.” Fewer galas, etc., is a great idea; we are at war, internally and externally. Why can’t we face it? Thank you.

  68. Wow! You are such an talented writer. Most days you make me laugh out loud (or at the very least smile). And then, every once in a while you throw in such poignant prose that I have tears streaming down my face long before I reach the end. I had never thought about visiting New Orleans. Now I feel as though I must go there sometime to see it for myself.
    As for the White House…if they would just stop spending millions every day in Iraq fighting a war that should never have been started in the first place… getting talented, brave, dedicated young Americans killed in the name of lies and greed…. Just imagine what the great city of New Orleans could be looking like if just a fraction of that money and just a fraction of the peoplepower that is being wasted over seas were instead used to rebuild. Just imagine.
    Steph, you need to write a different kind of travel book. One about all of the places you have visited. I know you miss your own city and your family when you travel. And, I know that we are all always clamoring for you to visit ‘our’ area so we can meet and visit with you in person. However, you need to stay a few days longer in some of these places you have already visited and try to see as many new places as possible. Then, write about them the way you just wrote about New Orleans. The way you have written about so many other wonderful places you have visited. Your descriptions are so vivid and so amazing. Even things that we all take for granted (like the weather, the terrain, the local plant life) you see with new eyes and describe so perfectly. I suppose, your could tie it in to knitting in some way (ha! a pun) if you had to but it would probably stand on its own. Sort of a female knitter version of Kerouac’s book. Just a thought…
    Anyway, politics aside, thank you so much for today’s post.

  69. Thanks for sharing your tour of New Orleans with us. It is unsettling and yet amazing all at the same time. What a great looking yarn store!

  70. Plied trees, green-dripping balconies, iron lace… And a bottle tree, gaping buildings and trailers. Somehow, anything I saw on TV or online never managed to show it all so well.
    “…it starts to look like a third world country.” Those words and the photos accompanying should be printed up and delivered to the White House every. Damned. Morning.

  71. Yank my heart strings why don’t you?
    My grandmothers had, luckily, both left not only N.O. but this world before Katrina hit. Grandma’s house had been up on about 5 feet of “stilts” so the water only came to about waist high in her living room, but Grandmother’s house had a good 9 feet of water in it during the worst of the floods. I still wonder what happened to them (since I know neither house’s current owner).
    Sounds like you might have missed MY fave N.O. yarn store — it’s off the quarter on Decatur Street — Bette Bornsides. I understand that even though she’s off the quarter, she didn’t suffer too much damage.
    But thank you for the trip down memory lane (even the sad ones). I still miss coffee and Beignets, (and crawfish bisque, and ….)

  72. Thank you for sharing your experience of New Orleans. That city is one of my favorite places in the world, such wonderful beauty and rich culture. While I used to visit at least 4 or 5 times a year, I’ve not been there since Katrina. Part of the reason I haven’t is just plain fear. Fear that all the great local restaurants and shops won’t be there anymore. Fear that my memory of New Orleans would be so much different than the new reality of New Orleans. As an amateur photographer, I must have photographed 500 different corners of the city, and there is a part of me that wants to hold on to the New Orleans in my photographs. Your post gave me hope that some of the New Orleans in my memories still lives in the city. Maybe I’ll just plan a trip down there soon to reunite with the city I love so much.
    Thanks again for reminding me about sweet NOLA.

  73. I’m so glad you got to hang out with Dez! I don’t know her, but I read her blog and she has a wonderful way of writing that makes me feel as if I know her. Much like yourself. :o)

  74. It is really heartbreaking to see New Orleans today. It has been 2 years since Katrina and people should not be still living in trailers. As an American it really pisses me off (sorry about that it) It seems that New Orleans is not talked about much anymore so it will be forgotten about. Meanwhile kids are being killed in a war that we started for what? Oil. The people in washington need to get their priorities straight.
    I do not mean to come across so angry but this really bothers me.

  75. I’m so glad you posted the link to Dez – her post about the 2 year anniversary made me cry. I haven’t read anything that opened my eyes more.

  76. Wow…thanks for those New Orleans pics. Our neighbors swam out of their house there two years ago and they spent 4 extreemly terifying days in the Super Dome. You should hear their stories – unbelievable. Both of them actually taught at that catholic school you had pictures of!
    See you tonight in the ATL! Come down to the Dark Horse Tavern before – there will be a bunch of us there!

  77. Delurking to say that I’m *thrilled* to hear that Quarter Stitch survived. I admire your restraint; I can’t seem to leave the store empty-handed, and I make a point of stopping by whenever I have the privilege of visiting New Orleans.
    Thanks for letting us read about your adventures!

  78. Great post Steph! Thanks again for visiting and speaking to us. I’m glad Dez gave you a proper tour of the city, and appreciate all the nice things you said. It’s amazing how even up here in BR, the storm comes up daily; it made such an impact on everyone’s lives.
    And don’t worry, if anyone one doubts the sock picture, I have proof that you really did try to take one! =)

  79. Thank you, Stephanie. Thank you for your words, and your hope.
    So many of us feel that NO has received the short end of the stick over the last few years… And that the administration is willing to “let them go” because many of the people down there didn’t vote, and many of them didn’t have much money.
    Thank you for showing us the beauty that can be there again.
    When Katrina hit, I was one of many who sent blankets down to the victims, as well as many other supplies, trucked down there by friends who knew that the “official channels” weren’t getting through. I don’t know who has my stuff now, but I hope that whomever they are, they are doing well.
    Thank you again.
    I look forward to meeting you tomorrow in Bailey’s Crossroads. :)

  80. Well done, Stephanie. I don’t think I’ve read any account that is so well written on New Orleans.
    Thanks for this.

  81. Thanks for the great post. I love New Orleans and have many friends there, but haven’t been there since the storm. Many of my middle-class (mostly librarian) friends lost their homes or had them badly damaged, but all but one stayed — or came back as soon as they could.
    And you are so right about the government not doing right by these people….

  82. Oh that was heartbreaking and lovely! Thank you!
    I haven’t been to New Orleans in probably 6 years and it was good to get photos of what’s going on. That bottle tree is wonderful.
    On the brighter side of things, have you EVER had anything better than a beignet from Cafe du Monde? I didn’t think so. YUM!

  83. feeling incredibly unoriginal as i write just below mandy: lovely and heart-rending (heart-rending-ly lovely?) what a wonderous photo essay. now i’ve got to get me travelling. and: i’m hungry. and: i’d rather knit than work today. pooh.

  84. Cafe du Monde has, hands down, the best coffee on the planet!! I’ve managed to make it to New Orleans twice, and I just can’t imagine the devastation! Proof once again that the rich get rich and the poor get nothin!

  85. I was in NOLA this last April, and had much the same feelings as you. It’s this beautiful tragedy and I get upset every time I think of all those people just waiting for homes to be fixed, and all the people who have just given up and left. Every day there felt like a holiday, not because of celebration, but because of there being half the cars there should be on the road.

  86. Steph, this is a beautiful post.
    It was both an honor and a rollicking treat to be your tour guide.
    I have tears rolling down my face at your incredible ability to cut right to the heart of the matter, to absorb so much in just a few hours’ drive-by.
    If you’d been able to stay another day I would have showed you Plaquemines and St. Bernard Parishes, which lie below New Orleans and are even in worse condition, and to the Mississippi Gulf Coast to show you where Waveland used to be. There are simply no words for that.
    Today I am sending you some good mojo to help with the weird camera voodoo, and I’ll forward you some shots of the crowd at the store.
    And I am SO glad you saw a bottle tree. That was a sign. Vanesssa, what street was that on?

  87. Thank you Steph.
    This post was so well written and asked all the right questions.
    I know exactly how you feel – the first time i was really confronted by absolute poverty was a short trip to Nogales from Tucson. I’d never seen anything like it: i walked the streets and cried. I’m sure they thought i was crazy. But even in the poverty of my childhood ( i grew up in the north end of Hamilton) i’d never seen anything so devasting. And yet there were hopeful people, and people practising their art – even to the point of painting on the sides of the shacks contructed of corrugated tin and cardboard… it changed me forever.

  88. I’ve only been to new orleans once, about 5 years ago, and only for a couple of days, but I immediately fell in love with the place, despite the intense humidity in the middle of august. what an amazing city that has been through more than it should have. breaks my heart… thanks for your lovely words – and pictures of the beignets!

  89. Thanks for this. You have a real gift for writing about the hard things, and for recognizing the hope and joy in even the most desperate situations. I’d love to hear what you’d have to write about highland communities in the Andes…
    Enjoy the rest of your trip!

  90. What a wonderful and moving and thoughtful post. I know that feeling too, to start writing about an amazing personal experience and feel like there is no way to describe it honestly. Wow. What an amazing time that must have been to be able to see so much of the city – your impressions of all the different parts were such that I can imagine travelers who only see the old city will have a much different impression of how the place is recovering. The bottle tree is a really marvelous thing. Thanks for this vivid post.

  91. Thank you for such a wonderful piece of writing. I love New Orleans and ache for them.
    When you think about how little has been done, what the U.S administration’s POV is on this–and the values they use for spending their money,etc. I bet you’re glad you’re Canadian. Wish I was…

  92. I was in New Orleans a month before Katrina, and your pictures brought back so many memories! I, too, went to the Quarter Stitch and fell in love with the amazing yarn and wrapping paper and bows and lovely, lovely owners! I’m glad they weathered the storm. Maybe it’s time for TSF to donate money for New Orleans…or is that not possible?

  93. You are a truly strong woman to not have fallen down in the Quarter Stitch. I have never been that strong! NO just gets into your soul. My daughter used to live in Baton Rouge (about an hour inland) & I tried to visit her 4 times a year. We tried to make to NO at least half those times. I wonder how the Audubon Zoo is doing. It is one of the most beautiful zoos I’ve ever seen & Katrina must have devastated it. I know the Aquarium lost all it’s inhabitants because a power surge after K electrocuted them. I remember petting a shark there. I have a photo of that same house in a drawer somewhere; the Garden District is so lovely. Just yesterday I was thinking maybe we should visit NO; DD moved back to the Chicago area 4 years ago so it’s been awhile since I visited La. Live Oaks are gorgeous – at least as impressive as redwoods to me. The LSU campus (in Baton Rouge) has hundreds of them – alleys of them & their beauty always stops me in my tracks.

  94. I had the opportunity to go to New Orleans 4 years ago, it was amazing. I just can’t imagine what the devastation must be like first hand to see. It makes me sad, that the city I loved visiting so much, isn’t the same anymore.
    It sounds like you had a truly fantastic time. Those beignets made my mouth water just seeing them! What an amazing town…oh and the bottle tree…wow.

  95. My folks just moved to the Gulfport-Biloxi MS area and I had similar feelings about the devastation the place experienced after Katrina, too.
    If you want to see what did all the damage, watch this video. (I have been in this parking deck. Notice that in the beginning the road is about 40-50 feet up in the air. Notice where the water ends up. You just can’t believe there is that much water in the world.)
    Turn the sound up.
    http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=5954521938928173924

  96. Thank you for struggling through the how-to-write-about-this dilemma to create this to share with us. Your respect and compassion are so affirming.
    (I would go on about the pictures of the schools, and how they are snapshots that could’ve been taken in any major city in the US – what with differences in resources impacting kids’ access to education here – but I’ll save that for another time.)

  97. I had a discussion about New Orleans with some co-workers while I was living in Spain this past year. The Spaniards considered it ‘their’ city, and that the French just took it over…

  98. Urgh….We bleeding heart, tree hugging American liberals cringe everytime we hear the word Katrina….cuz of the shame of knowing we’ve failed a whole of a people.
    I think we knitters could have stitched New Orleans back together much more efficiently, compassionately, and sensibly than the little shrub.

  99. i’ve been so blessed as to be able to visit N.O. 2x and hit the quarter stitch on BOTH occasions. the gals there told me, a new knitter then, that i could do a top-down raglan and got me started, right there at the counter in the small shop.
    i ‘ve wondered how it did w/ Katrina — thanks for showing me it’s still bejeweled.
    to not be disappointed in how our government abandoned those affected by katrina – ALL those affected — is one of the heartbreaks of the century.
    thank you for keeping us honest.

  100. steph, thank you for such a lovely, honest post about new orleans. i’ve spent a lot of time there before the hurricane, and something about N.O. gets into one’s heart and never leaves. I found myself choking back tears, once again, as i read your post, and am so touched that someone who’s never been there could feel the heart of that special place and know how tragic and wrong what has happened is. thank you for loving it and telling so many people about it with this post. enjoy the coffee – it truly is the best in the world.

  101. Wonderful post, thank-you so much. I have been to NO before and after Katrina, and very few people understand the extent of the devastation or the huge heart of the people who have returned to rebuild despite what they are up against. And your comment about the White House Galas was also right on. Glad you got to go to Cafe Du Monde!

  102. I’ll let the White House keep their galas if they end the war and stop spending 51% of the federal budget on military spending. It’s bleeding the whole country dry. States don’t get the federal funds they used to. Therefore institutions don’t get the state funds they used to. The result is a lot of people are screwed.

  103. Its still a beautiful city. Its also, along with this war, our country’s biggest discrace. Thanks for showing it from a great perspective.
    Kris

  104. I’m pretty far down the list so I don’t know if you will actually have time to read this. My husband and I honeymooned in New Orleans 6 years ago. We are jazz lovers and food lovers (who isn’t). New Orleans won a very special place in our hearts. I’m so happy you were able to experience such an awesome place. The only place I have found beinets that match Cafe du Mond’s was in Disneyland. Those things are so good. My husband and I laugh that you can’t breathe while eating them. If you breathe in, you choke on the cloud of powdered sugar. If you breathe out, you kill the person sitting across from you with a deathly cloud of powdered sugar. And if you laugh while taking a bite, the person across from you will be covered from head to toe with powdered sugar. You get the idea. :)

  105. Your post was exceptional!!!
    I had the oppurtunity to vist New Orleans this past May when my brother graduated from Tulane University. I must say I was struck by the spirit of the people of New Orleans. They are truly amazing to me. The graduation ceremony (which was so much more like a party then any other graduation I have ever been to) amazed me even more when the key note speaker asked all the students who helped rebuild to stand up and every single person stood! I have no words to describe that moment. That is the magic of New Orleans, you love it no matter how long your there.
    Can’t wait to see you in VA tomorrow! Safe travels!

  106. As usual, you did yourself proud on the tribute. Living in FL, we see firsthand how unswift the helping hand is. New Orleans means so much in our culture whether we live there or not and for sure, big brother has forgotten them. Uncle Sam also has been spending their (NO’s)money on something else lately.

  107. Beautiful architecture. I’ve never been to New Orleans, but my husband took a trip there pre-Katrina. Thanks for sharing.

  108. New Orleans was so happy to have the Yarn Harlot here! Wish we could have lured you down to our shop in the Garden District. Maybe next time? http://www.gardendistrictneedlework.biz
    As for Katrina, as awful as the detestation was, as lousy as the insurance companies are being, as slow as recovery is going to take…this town has been here hundreds of years and been through many disasters…including a few we elected in office! We’re all very much alive and kickin’.

  109. NOLA makes me want to cry. The churches up this way are still sponsoring trips to work on homes. I want to help them all. The govt. may have forgotten but the hearts of the people of Central PA have not. Thanks for the pictures of the bottle trees, I love them. They are like our Hex signs here in Dutch Country. Unique to place. What is not unique is that we are all knitters. Thanks for sharing the pics of your trip.

  110. Great post. It’s so important to remind people that New Orleans has *not* totally recovered, and that there are *so* many people that are still barely surviving down there. Thank you. :)

  111. Thank you for those images, New Orleans has been on my list of places I want to visit since I read a lot of Anne Rice’s work in my late teens/early 20′s (geez, said like that it sounds like an awfully long time ago).
    And once again your gift for writing astounds me. What a beautiful post.

  112. I’ve been reading your blog for a long time now and I always love it, but this is my favorite post ever. You have such a gift for mixing humor and pathos and coming up with something touching and informative and funny all at the same time. (I’m the knitter in L.A. who couldn’t think of anything to say except, “I just love you so much!”–but I do actually have other words swirling around in my head, and sometimes they even make it out. You’re even better in person than in print, by the way, which is saying a lot.)

  113. Thank you for writing so eloquently about New Orleans. I cried, smiled and laughed. It was touching, inspiring and moving – I’m going to get the kids to read it because I think it says everything they need to know.

  114. My husband and I were in New Orleans in March of 2006 to help out with repairs to some friends homes. While there, we visited the 9th Ward. I’ll never forget the things I saw that day.

  115. If you and Camille get together to produce the bottle-tree Christmas cards, PLEASE let all of us know! And make sure the backs of the cards give info about further ways to contribute to assistance efforts in New Orleans. I most definitely want to send those cards this year.

  116. wow. your pictures of new orleans are startling. i’ve been down since katrina, but it’s incredible to see it through your eyes all over again.
    i like the bottle tree people. it makes me want to put one in my yard. i wonder if it would take on any of the bad knitting project mojo that creeps up on me from time to time.
    i’m off for lunch at highlands bakery before i go to hear you tonight! have a good trip to atlanta.

  117. You can get Cafe du Monde coffee in Toronto at Cajun Corner on Queen street east near Logan, if I recall correctly. They also serve coffee and beignets on Saturday and Sunday mornings, but they do sell out somewhat quickly. Their website is http://www.cajuncorner.ca/
    Spike Lee made a really interesting documentary about Katrina’s aftermath and the social problems in New Orleans. It’s called “When the Levees Broke” and it’s one of those films that will stay with you long after you’ve watched it.

  118. On the up side – we who live on the Gulf Coast know that our lives may be disrupted at any time during hurricane season and we band together and exhibit a resiliency that comes from living in a potential disaster area. Nawlins was a tragedy among tragedies, no doubt, but I have met many new neighbors and friends here in Houston who vacated NO and surrounding areas. They are moving on with moving on. They are finding jobs, homes, churches, schools, communities here and refusing to let the tragedy crush their spirit. There is always a bittersweet moment when we meet. Then we are on about being alive. The losses of the city and the history are sad, but the determination of the people – those who left and those who stayed – is awesome!

  119. NO is one of the most amazing cities in the world and what happened to the city and its people is so very, very sad (an understatement). Stopping the war and sending billions to NO is not going to rebuild the city – as long as they have politicians who are not using the money correctly and insurance companies who are cheating the people out of what they rightly paid for. The gov. of NO is taking possession of property from people who have not been able to repair their homes. Why? because there is a law that gives them permission. Corruption at its worst!

  120. wow this is quite possibly my favvy “you” post yet! I have ALWAYS wanted to visit New Orleans, since reading the Witching Hour trilogy by Anne Rice, its mainly set there and she described it so vivdly down to smells and sights etc that I had the exact picture of the place. I can understand how you feel and I havent even been!

  121. Living on the West Coast (Sacramento), we only hear and see what the government and the media wants us to know about New Orleans … namely that “people are returning and its getting repaired”. The real story seldom makes it out here, and unless we actually travel there, or find a totally truthful or unbiased article, we don’t know. Your mix of past and present, humor and tragedy explains the situation there far more than anything I’ve seen in two years since the disaster. I think both the government and the media could take some serious lessons from you, and I thank you for informing the real power in this nation, the Knitters! Considering all you have accomplished with your work in the caps program, doctors without borders, and so forth, imagine what New Orleans would look like if the knitters took over the clean up, repair, and rebuilding. The mind boggles! Thanks for an outstanding post!

  122. Such an essential post. Such an essential, devastating, wondrous, hopeful, needed post. Words cannot convey how grateful I am for it. And such memories you brought back. I kept hoping as I scrolled down to find pictures of the gorgeous old Commodore Inn… and there were none. I finally googled, and…there were no links anymore. There were, right after Katrina, saying how devastated the place was and how they hoped to rebuild it. And now, none, at least not in the first few pages of results, so you know it’s not a functioning business–yet (I can wish). I remember the green growing down from the balcony above like that…
    Those beignets at Cafe du Monde. Being a Mormon, I didn’t try the coffee, but those beignets. I was 16, tagging along on a business trip of my Dad’s.
    Thank you. Wow. I’m with everybody else commenting above me, can we make the White House read this post? And the comments?

  123. Stephanie, thank you for such a thoughtful reflection on the shameful devastation in New Orleans!
    For folks who would like to learn more about the efforts of poor people – and especially African Americans – to rebuild their city, here’s a link to a website with many, many informational resources and ideas for how you can help:
    http://www.cwsworkshop.org/katrinareader/

  124. In the movie Ray there’s a tree like that outside his childhood home & the scene that touched me tho most showed him standing under it listening just after he’d lost his eyesight, thanks for giving it meaning to go with the beauty.
    Mark & I had vacation plans for New Orleans & had to cancel when Katrina hit, perhaps it’s time to remake those plans.

  125. It is consistently amazing to me that even when you’re exhausted by jet-lag, you can swoop through a place and see it more clearly than anyone else I know.

  126. You are absolutely right, Stephanie, in thinking that it’s a crying shame the United States government has enough money for galas in Washington and to pursue an unlawful, absolutely intolerable and ill conceived war of aggression in Iraq and NOT help its own people in New Orleans. Of course, the fact that they are black, poor and vote democratic won’t win them any good will with Bush and his cronies, just as the fact the people of Iraq are brown and Muslim doesn’t help them either. The rich, white, well-educated, well-insured get help while the poor do not.

  127. “I’ve struggled a lot with how to write about New Orleans.”
    I know what that feels like. I’m a student at Tulane here in NOLA, and even though campus is back to normal, you can’t help feeling that sense of disconnect when you’re in the city. Thank you so much though for visiting and writing about the city, the good and the bad, to get it back into the public eye.

  128. An elderly acquaintance compares NO to the European cities he saw after WW2. He can’t understand why we could rebuild those places — probably 20-25 major cities all at once — and now we can’t deal with one city here in our own country. He said it made him embarassed to be an American.

  129. Thank you, Stephanie, for such beautiful pictures of my home. It really makes me homesick, and I want to go straight there and help rebuild.

  130. Wow…that bottle tree brought tears to my eyes and I don’t even know why. Thank you for sharing – it’s easy to forget what hasn’t been done when no one talks about it anymore.

  131. I think a few less balls, meals out and flights to sunny warm places are in order for the big wigs. Your post is wonderful and sad. The pictures my hubby came home with after they were there to help are very sad, and happy. I am over you not taking the most direct route to TX now.

  132. WOW. Thank you SO much for this lovely post. I always wanted to go to New Orleans before Katrina happened and then afterward I thought it might be too sad for me. Now that I have seen and read about your experience, I want to go. The contrast is amazing. Why has the government forgotten???

  133. Even before Katrina New Orleans had the power to break your heart. I’ve been afraid to go back for fear it would have lost its magic for me. Looks like its heart is still intact.

  134. I was in New Orleans last August. It was my first time in the city. I went down to help deconstruct houses (through RHINO – Rebuilding Hope in New Orleans) and help build new houses in the Musicians Village (Habitat for Humanity). It was an amazing experience. It was hard to believe after a year it looked like it did and I am saddened that it still looks that way 2 years later. Thanks for sharing your trip!

  135. Stephanie, you have me tearing up with the bottle tree. In all the coverage of New Orleans, I have NEVER seen anyone mention these. And don’t get me started about where the money in this imperialistic “superpower” is going right now–it’s to fuel all the (expletive not written) SUVs and Hummers that the citizens of this country can’t seem to give up (not to mention all the politicians who claim NOT to have an interest in the oil business). I can’t wait to see if people can get it right in 2008; otherwise I’ll be joining the knitting community in Toronto.

  136. After reading your post and the comments I had to step away from the computer for a minute and compose myself. Your comments about our beautiful city were very touching. It was a very tough choice for us to come back and I still question myself daily if it was the right one. There are things going on (or not going on) in this city that no one ever hears about. But a lot like knitting, there is also magic in this city, and until you’ve been here you don’t really get it. I hope you, and all your readers, don’t forget about us (NOLA) and check in from time to time.

  137. What a staggering post, capturing the beauty,splendour and the rage still present in NO, a city I’ve always wanted to see. The bottle tree was an inspiration – beauty and hope out of rubbish.

  138. I love the Quarter Stitch. I happened upon it about a year ago when husband and I were in NO for vacation. Such a treasure tucked a way…Looking forward to tomorrow’s visit to VA.

  139. Goodness. This post makes me really miss the South, especially my live oaks. I virtually lived in those trees throughout my childhood. And the bottle tree? That is a perfect example of everything that I miss all wrapped into one small, sparkling package… the colloquial nuances are breathtaking at times.
    Though it is too bad that New Orleans is not at it’s best now (look at how empty the streets still are!), at least Cafe du Monde is still kicking arse with their chicory and beignets. Drool.

  140. New Orleans looks fabulous and awful. It really is so sad that the government has simply let the ball roll away without even noticing that it’s gone.
    I know I am probably the ‘nth person to mention it, but you’ve swapped out a few photo for ones you’ve already posted. The one of Dez with her voodoo squirrel appears to be a photo of the tattooed ladies and the one Sarah knitting tiny socks looks like the Catholic school.

  141. Steph,
    Thank You for your words, your thoughts, your emotions… I grew up just east of New Orleans, in St. Bernard, where the destruction was even worse than in the city. Nearly every member of my family became homeless overnight. Some of them still are because of the insurance companies screwing them over so badly. I was there Monday night with my MIL who is still living a FEMA trailer. We were both thrilled to have met you, and grateful that you took the time to show so many people how amazing our city was/still is/can be again.
    And I think it’s totally awesome that someone else had a knitting tattoo!

  142. I believe Kate DiCamillo uses the concept of the bottle tree in her children’s novel “Because of Winn Dixie”. The book was produced as a movie too. Her books are awesome.

  143. Steph, I thank you, too, for the way you have descxribed New Orleans to those of uw who can’t really comprehend what it is like without being there. And now that the city is no longer on the news much, it has nearly dropped out of our minds. Thanks for not letting that happen.
    And, yes, the pictures and captions don’t always line up for me, either. Still loved it, though!

  144. It sure is something. Have fun in Atlanta. I am not going to be able to make it out there. Maybe the tour will bring you closer and we will get to see you then.

  145. Even tho it’s been (too)many years since I was in NO, I do remember that needlework shop, those beignets, and that school! You should see it when all the little ones are out playing in their uniforms! I still wish I had taken a photo, but the picture in my head has never faded. Thanks for the little reminder that New Orleans is not like anywhere else on earth: so diverse, so unique, so unquenchable, so never-to-duplicated.
    Thanks!

  146. As a response to both the post and the comments…
    It’s not the government’s job to make sure people have food, clothing, and shelter. It’s our responsibility to make sure we have food, clothing, shelter, and the means with which to acquire them. America doesn’t ascribe to “from each according to his ability, to each according to his need.” We demand a certain level of personal responsibility.
    I’d like to thank Milly for pointing out a very seldom heard fact: the mayor and governor *didn’t* ask for help from the federal government (which it certainly could have, but, you know, politics got in the way), which is a major reason why federal help (and the Red Cross) weren’t in the city ASAP.

  147. I don’t think that New Orleans will always be defined by Karina just as Ontario has long ago gotten past the ice storms of about 10 years ago. A city is just a place. It is the people who make up her heart and soul. New Orleans will be defined by the people who carried on and fought for their history, their present and their future

  148. Beautiful post. I am jealous of your beignets and jazz in the open air (not to mention the fabulous curly-ribbon festooned yarn shop). I am also reminded and further educated about how much my country, this great country I was born in and love so much, so often fails its own. I am inspired to renew my prayers for the folks and the city whose lives were forever altered in a reparable way by a hurricaine, and in some ways irreperably by the indifference of a government that seems to think it can back down now that the news stories have quieted. The Superdome was awful for a short period, but somehow I think still being in a trailer this long after the fact would wear you down even more. It’s the relentlessness of it all, the daily reminder of the power one lacks. That’s why I was so inspired by the bottle tree . . . a visual and auditory reminder of the power one has. The power of spirit, courage and tenacity. And the often underrated power of the will to make beauty–right there, right next to the devastation and the trailers–out of what you have. The people of New Orleans are honorary knitters all. I’m glad you got to experience the bottle tree, and thank you for sharing it with us!

  149. The kind of sadness and hope and (likely) outrage that you felt as you looked at New Orleans is the same sort of thing that led me to be a Sociology major years ago when I was deciding. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to learn why (and hopefully change the fact that) we allow some people in our country to suffer so terribly while throwing MILLIONS (literally) of dollars at judicial luncheons and galas at the White House and multiple homes and luxury cars and Paris Hilton and… ugh. I’ll step off of the soapbox, but we Americans are a confusing culture with wonky values, to say the least. Posts like this one re-ignite the desire in me to use every moment of my life to make a change.
    The bottle tree is beautiful. Such resilience in the human spirit is uplifiting. Thank you for this phenomenal post.

  150. I suffer from the ‘write it, delete it, write again’ syndrome when it comes to New Orleans.
    You’re not getting my rant – you know, the one where we have money to fight a war but not to fix our own home?
    I’m glad you enjoyed your visit, big hair and all!

  151. I wonder how they knit since it’s so hot and humid down there. San Diego was warm-ish, but it’s not humid, so I don’t really understand. It’s like knitting in the desert; I don’t get it.
    It’s good that you had fun in New Orleans.

  152. Even better than New Orleans brewed coffee is New Orleans iced coffee, which is cold brewed overnight. Use a pound of ground dark-roasted French coffee with chicory. In a large non- reactive pot, stir in two cups of cold water to wet the grounds down, and then eight more cups of cold water. Cover it, and leave it for 12 hours. Filter through a sieve lined with clean, damp muslin or cheesecloth, and pour into glass jars, cap, and put in the refrigerator.
    About 1/4 cup of this concentrate with steamed milk makes a classic cafe au lait; about 1/3 cup over ice with milk makes the best iced coffee ever. It never gets bitter or oily. And it tastes like New Orleans, which was our largest coffee port before Katrina, used to smell.

  153. Thank you for a beautiful post Steph. Everything I read seems to concentrate on either the recovered parts or the ongoing devestation. Yours is the first thing I’ve seen that manages to convey the reality of the juxtaposition. I especially loved the bottle tree.
    I’m not really surprised things aren’t fixed. It took Florida ten years to rebuild from Andrew and there was much less destruction. North Carolina is still rebuilding from Hurricanes Ivan and Frances from 2004 (we were just helping last month).
    If you want something done, you’ve got to do it yourself. Don’t depend on the government to fix it for you.
    If every person on here either went down and helped with reconstruction or donated to one of the many NGO’s helping that would be a big boost. My husband worked with Habitat for Humanity on muck-outs in east Biloxi and has been on several rebuilds since. He’s going next month to New Orleans for a rebuild.
    You don’t need to come with skills for most of it. They’ll train you. You just have to be willing to listen to what to do and willing to work hard. Some companies offer volunteer days off or are willing to match you 50-50 when you take off to do volunteer work like this.
    It’s going to be a long road but if we all pitch in it will help a lot.
    SharonF stepping off her soapbox to get the dear Muggles ready to survive without me tomorrow so I can see Steph. I can’t wait!

  154. I have enjoyed your blog in so many ways, but this entry regarding New Orleans was really special. A very serious topic – and still no answers, but you covered it very well. Thank you.

  155. I’m originally from Louisiana and currently living in Michigan. I really enjoyed your blog about New Orleans today.

  156. A beautiful post about a beautiful city. I love NOLA but have not had the chance to go back since Katrina, so it was really nice to read your post and see your pics. I’m torn between heartache and tremendous pride for what people have accomplished. And the bottle tree is spectacular.

  157. How wonderful – I have been to New Orleans vicariously, I could almost taste the beignet, and I LOVE the bottle tree – thanks, Stephanie, for capturing it all so well…

  158. My husband’s family lives in New Orleans and surrounding area. (They survived Katrina with almost no damage. But it did come after a very traumatic summer when his only sister was shot and killed in a double murder-suicide. She befriended the wife of an abusive alcoholic.)
    Anyway, your post did New Oreans, the new and the old, the ruined and the saved, you did it all justice. I am going to have my mother-in-law who mostly stitches, but taught herself how to knit premie hats, take a look at your post. By the way, I have been there since Katrina twice, and can vouch for your pictures, and the sad truths regarding the general lack of interest and funding in re-building the most damaged parts of the city. (As you put it–to paraphrase–those with the least resources and ability to cope, received the least help.)
    Well written.

  159. I haven’t been to “N’awlins” for many years, but one of my favourite memories is coffee and beignets at Cafe du Monde. The last time I was there I stayed in the French Quarter, and I’m glad that most of it remains intact. It should definitely be experienced at least once by everyone. BUT I’m just so angry at the US government for all the bull**** that they put the survivors of Katrina through; they can (and do) do so many things, but they can’t get their collective butts in gear, cut through the red tape and help these people rebuild their homes, their lives??

  160. You’ve done it again, dear thing. You’ve raised my consciousness in spite of myself. You’ve brought startlingly clear the beauty and pathos of the Crescent City is it struggles to emerge from its own ruins. You’ve moved me almost to tears, and you’ve moved my hand right to my wallet.
    I want to make my Christmastime donation right now, and I know exactly where I want to send it. I want to find a charity that is helping these neighborhoods rebuild and I want to help. Knitters, please help me find an organization that’s doing good in New Orleans! Maybe some of you will want to help, as well.

  161. I was part of the audience at Borders in Metairie (knitting the long green striped socks) and had a blast! Thank you for writing so beautifully about the city I’ve adopted as my home (post-Katrina). You’ve really captured the feeling of New Orleans today – both sad and beautiful at once. It was such a great surprise when I got to the end of the post to see my friends’ – Mary & Bruce – bottle tree. I can pretty much guarantee that Bruce doesn’t knit, not sure about Mary, but will find out.

  162. The media can never manage to portray our city in a fair way. But you’ve done a wonderful job of striking a balance here.
    It was great seeing you Monday night.. I hope you’ll get to come back in the future.

  163. Steph, it was great meeting you Monday night. You were a delight. I wish we could have ‘represented’ more, but it’s hard to convince people to bury themselves in wool when it’s so hot most of the time. Your post captures our city well. One of our biggest problems now is local government, amazingly, which wants FEMA to pay for everything (including things that were broken *before* the storm), and won’t get moving on repairs without federal money.
    I was glad you didn’t mention Katrina during your talk – sometimes we just need to get away and forget for a few minutes, know what I mean? Many of us are just SAD all the time, and it was nice to be able to relax, enjoy your humor for an hour, and get away from it all. Thanks for a good dose of medicinal laughter.

  164. Thanks for this entry. It was more hopeful than I expected an entry about New Orleans could be.
    On another note – my husband and I are traveling to Toronto this weekend from Alaska. I was wondering if you could suggest three things:
    1. The one must see sight of Toronto
    2. The best place to eat
    3. The best place for a good pint
    We are going to see RUSH at the Air Canada Center on Saturday the 22nd. We plan to drive to Niagra Falls on Sunday. We arrive Friday afternoon and leave Monday morning. We have a travel guide for Toronto, but no there is no way that in Friday after noon, Saturday day, and part of Sunday we’ll be able to see it all. So, any top picks advice you can give is greatly appreciated.

  165. The NYTimes has run some good continuing coverage, IMHO. http://www.nytimes.com/pages/national/nationalspecial/index.html
    Economic injustice does not go away. The rich people built on the higher land in the first place; it is no surprise that when disaster struck, the effect was not economically equal.
    As for canceling White House galas, oh honey! You don’t live here, do you? We are all responsible, however, that is what democracy means.
    sending this before I delete it… mayb…

  166. Thanks for your impressions and insights about New Orleans. As an American, though, I’ve been troubled by how much everyone has focused on New Orleans to the exclusion of the surrounding states, one of which suffered more economic damage than New Orleans did in that hurricane. There has been an awful lot of shouting about economic disparity, ethnic racism, and such, but the state next door to New Orleans lost more than this city did, and apparently because they haven’t been as vocal, hardly anyone seems to know or care about their losses. This has bothered me a lot…but there doesn’t seem to be much that can be done about it (spending all the reporting time on one location versus all the other affected places, that is).

  167. I have great sympathy for the people of New Orleans, but it is not the federal government that primarily failed them. Their city and state received millions of dollars to plan for disasters like Katrina and never implemented even a fraction of the plan that was detailed on the city’s web pages WHILE Katrina swept in and as the city flooded. Like all those buses that sat there and were flooded and ruined? The city’s plan called for them to be used to evacuate those without cars. The Superdome? The city had received money to stock the Superdome with food, water and sanitary supplies sufficient for a week to 10 days – but when the people got there, those supplies were never purchased.
    FEMA is NOT responsible for flood insurance, it is the individual state’s responsibility to regulate insurors operating in their state.
    The fact that New Orleans, and indeed a great deal of Lousiana, has been a poster child for political corruption and explotiation is a great deal more to blame for the economic disparities that exist and existed.
    One of the telling facts about that is the fact that a number of Katrina evacuees have settled elsewhere and substantially improved their lot in life. Tragic that it had to happen the way it did, but also very telling that the political realities of the city they were living in were part of the problem.
    And, we are not spending 51% of the federal budget on the military – rather it is social programs of one sort or another that make up 55.5% of the budget while defense spending is about 20%.

  168. You’ll LOVE the chicory coffee! And they’ll ship it right to your door too. For traveling, try their coffee pods – coffee in a teabag basically. (my fav kind,chicory, can you tell?) Thanks for the ‘apres Storm’ update, nice to see people are still hopeful there, even after all they’ve endured. Happy Knitting to you!

  169. Stephanie; thanks for your wonderful take on N.O. As an American, my sincere thanks to a lovely Canadian who sees and reports things with compassion, good sense and thankfully no political agenda! Your comments and your photos are fabulous…I know I will reread this one many times, Ruth in N.J.

  170. I’m not so sure it’s an issue that enough money wasn’t spent on this area as much as that most of it went into the wrong pockets. As always, the rich get richer and the poor get poorer

  171. Thank you for the photos of New Orleans. It’s good to see that people are hanging on, and have hope, even in the face of such incredible challenges.
    The problem of poverty among American neighborhoods like the 9th Ward is a pernicious one. There have been books written about the psychology of poverty–and it’s a nearly impossible cycle to break from the outside. Pouring money into poverty-stricken areas can help only so much when the minds and habits of the recipients remain in poverty. Change has to come from within, and there are so few people willing to really get in there and work to teach the principles that are steps up out of poverty. Well, there are people willing to do that . . . but none of them have any financial backing. I second the motion to cancel the parties on the Potomac and get some actual, Real Social Work done.
    As one who grew up in near poverty, and as an adult married out of it, I can tell you from personal experience that pouring money into the poverty problem isn’t the answer. Oh, how I wish it was, though. Then it would be easy.
    That bottle tree was beautiful.

  172. As an ex-New Orleanian, I must say you did an excellent job reporting on the realities of this fascinating city. May I add a couple of comments? There is a lot of history about why neighborhoods were built on lower lands. Before the levees were built, flooding would happen spread out over a much larger territory. The French Quarter and Garden District were built earlier, and higher ground was logically chosen by those first settlers for the oldest parts of the city. Lower ground was settled later and was less expensive. In fact, the very first town established in the area, pre New Orleans, lies underwater in Lake Pontchartrain! One “cheerful” note (read “what were they thinking”), in response to all the emotion following Katrina, the levees have now been strengthened all around the city, leaving the weakest point at the bend of the river next to the French Quarter where it cannot be strengthened and the Corps of Engineers knows this, are totally aware. This is partially why it wasn’t done before. Which means if such a storm ever happens again, it is the French Quarter which will be sacrificed. Candidates for the Darwin Awards!
    The levee system was designed long ago with good intentions, but the long term results have destroyed the wetlands which protected the city. Before rebuilding willy-nilly, a master plan should be implemented which will sacrifice some areas to make the whole stronger. There are no quick fixes to this, and I would only hope that some cool heads will make wise decisions…quickly. The city will come back, but different…and safer.
    Another reason that a lot of money has been directed into the more commercial parts of town is that NOLA cannot support all the social services of a non working population until it has a functioning tax base and jobs to offer.
    It is all a huge Catch 22, balancing emotions and practicality. I love this city, beautiful and dangerous, and hope that with time it will come back even better. But throwing government dollars at it before logical plans are made is wasteful. And those neighborhoods that are gone are not about the houses, but the people who lived in them, and they will take on a different form in the rebuilding.
    And I must say that I agree with Cara above. So much more was lost than just New Orleans. Historic towns on the Mississippi coast just disappeared. Buildings and homes and livelihoods. Thank goodness without the huge loss of life New Orleans had.
    I lost one of my dearest lifelong friends in New Orleans in that hurricane, and that is a loss that will never be made right. I asked him to leave early and come to stay with me and he didn’t. Several other friends came and stayed with me for months as they tried to put their lives back together. It wasn’t easy for anyone.

  173. I’m sad to say it, but the disparity in the schools probably existed before Katrina ever hit. I was in elementary school there once upon a time, and the public schools were so awful that my parents scrimped, saved, and sacrificed on an enlisted U.S. sailor’s salary to put my brother and me in a private school. I don’t know how they did it, but we are forever grateful.
    Your pictures are heartbreaking and uplifting. I loved your writing about the places I used to know and getting to see them again. I also wish more were being done to return the city to its glory.

  174. than you to valeria this is who we are
    these are our laws if we have galas in the
    white house fine on 911 they tried to destroy
    it and the pentagon and the towers
    white house galas you bet we do
    the pictures are lovely and moveing
    but so much anger is becuse we could
    not stop the storm we were not in control
    and thats hard or 911
    now try to have a good time really
    i am just going to gala myself all over
    the world we even clap at the sunsets
    in my part of florida bon jour or whaterver

  175. I so appreciate your writing skills, Stephanie. You evoke images that stand out, and then linger in our minds after we’ve finished reading. Hopefully, many who read will be moved to do what they are able to help those still in need. As Valeria so clearly stated, there are many reasons why New Orleans was devastated then and continues to struggle in her recovery. Churches and volunteer groups are best able to help their ‘neighbors in need’ rather than more gov’t programs that only get bogged down in red tape. And there are plenty of people who have resources to share, if they choose, who are not in the political arena.
    I am amazed that my love of knitting has led to my learning about other places and people I might not have encountered otherwise. Thank you for letting us travel with you on tour.
    ~ Dar

  176. Welcome to the USA, the less you have, the more
    you pay! A superb overview of our strengths and
    weaknessess in the journey of one city. Plus,
    knitting too. The work that keeps us sane.
    Thanks for a wonderful, heartbreaking and up-
    lifting post.

  177. My husband flies to New Orleans at least four times a year. Last March, he was snowed in because the Northeast was getting hit with another holiday weekend snowstorm. Being stuck in NO for him was hell because he didn’t understand why a city, which has so much to repair and replace, would shut down its one work thorough-fare to have a parade for St. Patrick’s Day. I told him simply that it was a) New Orleans, b) you have to celebrate even in bad times, and c) everyone is Irish on the 17th. Very, very jealous of your beignet . . . but it will pass.

  178. Your story and pictures are indeed moving. I’m fascinated by the bottle tree. When my husband and I were engaged thirty years ago, there was one in a nearby town. I didn’t know it was a traditional anything–I just thought it was someone’s personal idea. At that time Milk of Magnesia and some other medical-type products came in blue bottles, and those were mostly what was on the tree. The house is still there, and I think of the tree when I drive by, but it and the bottles have been gone for many years.

  179. Hey, a friend just told me you are going to be in the DC area tomorrow night. Not sure I can make it — it’s Back to School night. I guess it would be a little too warm to model my Bohus anyway.

  180. Thank you, Harlot. Once again I’m crying since Katrina, and I don’t even live there anymore (and haven’t in 25 years). My parents do and so does everyone else in my family, mostly on high ground. My aunt and uncle had to be evacuated in a pirogue because they wouldn’t leave their cat. we all lost contact with them for days; somehow, I knew they were ok, but it was hard on us anyway. When they finally got to dry ground, the cat carrier busted and the cat ran away! On a side note, the animal shelter there is now incredibly well-funded and Katrina kitties are still pouring in.
    Anyway, I could ramble on like this for days. I thank you for writing so beautifully about my city. while i was concerned about my family, I’m still devastated by what happened to the people least prepared to handle what “that bitch Katrina” brought. I’m sorry i’ll miss you in Dc tomorrow; my parents are coming to see me.

  181. What a beautiful ode to a Beautiful city.
    Long live New Orleans…
    …and if you EVER get to Dallas, I’d be more than happy to navigate for ya!

  182. Loved your comments about New Orleans. I have a friend who after being flooded out before, took her kids, dogs and pictures and headed out before Katrina hit. While she came back, everything was gone, just the foundation left. They are now living in a trailer on the site, friends had fund raisers to get them their own trailer. My Father’s family was from little town called Abbeyville, which is in New Iberia Parish. They were hit with a lot of flooding, but made out ok. Your comments brought back memories of my recent visits, the bitter and the sweet. Cafe du Monde and the beignets are the best. You can order their coffee and beignet mix over the internet, or I have even seen it in several supermarkets.

  183. Wow.. it seems that you and I went on the same tour and yarn store in this amazing city.
    I still have my Koigu yarn in its beautiful wrapping and bag.. I don’t want to ruin the package. The only problems is that the Koigu is inside.
    I had the pleasure having a personal tour guide and I will never be the same after going to the Big Easy.

  184. amazing pictures. I love the idea that is the bottle tree. so I now have plans for our dying crepe myrtle in our side yard. (I will send you pictures…)

  185. It’s amazing how sometimes… the most simple photos and heartfelt words can tug at your heart in a way you never expected. Thank you for sharing NOLA with us…

  186. I am always amused at the number of people who think they’ve posted first! :-)
    What if our “President” had taken charge and called upon all the private pilots and news copters to get themselves immediately to Katrina victims to rescue them (and pronounced other similarly Presidential mandates)?
    Some of the people who saved their houses but weren’t living in them came to find out they’d been unceremoniously demolished….that made me sick. Blanco or Nagin or whoever claimed that “notice was given” but all they did apparently was mail a letter …. to the address that was vacant. And the FEMA trailers are making people sick from actual physical emissions.
    *heavy sigh*

  187. Yes, thanks for sharing. We lived there for ten years, and loved the city. I graduated from Tulane, having gone back to school to finish my degree when my youngest child started pre-school. I took the streetcar to class. During Katrina the music library at Tulane, where I had spent a great deal of time for three years, was completely flooded since it was in the basement of the library. I have not been back since Katrina, but my husband has. He says pictures cannot fully capture the devastation, so I can only imagine what the bad parts really look like. I have been to The Quarter Stitch and I’m so glad to hear it’s still there. I was not knitting while we lived in New Orleans, but when we went back pre-Katrina we played tourist and I discovered that cute little store.

  188. I love your blog, it makes me feel better about how much knitting stuff I buy! = ) I was wondering if you could give me some advice. I am a beginning spinner. I am spinning with a spindle and I am trying to spin enough yarn to make a skein. How can I do that? Where do I store the yarn when there gets to be too much for the spindle? Can you help me or can you tell me who to ask, or where to look? I have searched just about everywhere and haven’t found anything on this. Thanks!

  189. That was a beautiful post, Stephanie, thank you for bringing it home in such a moving way. As a Brit who has never visited NO, I really got a feel for the spirit and tragedy of the place.

  190. I read your post and loved it. My son spent the summer in NOLA on a college co-op assignment. He’d never been there and learned a lot, on the job and off. I read the Times-Picayunne every day on-line, trying to convince myself that he’d be ok on his own, over 900 miles from home. As you get more familiar with the city, it becomes more obvious that it was, and still is, a city of the “haves” and “have nots.” It’s beautiful and haunting, and filled with crime and corruption. Some are working hard to restore it, while others wait on their fannies for someone to fix it for them. Frustrating how American democracy works, isn’t it?

  191. I am so glad you posted that. I think pretty much all of the country, (including, ahem, it’s leaders) has forgotten about what Katrina did to the Gulf coast.
    I wish we could find a way to help them knit their way out of it.

  192. This was very eloquent – I have friends in NOLA, and second what you’ve said about EVERYTHING, truly.
    I wondered, on another note, if it would be okay if I “friended” you on Ravelry? I got my Invite today!!

  193. This post absolutely made me cry. I’ve visited New Orleans a couple of times, and it’s one of my favorite cities. It’s so hard to look at the photos of the poorer areas that were destroyed and I agree that it is most definitely a crime that 2 years later, it looks as though nothing has been done in some places.
    Unfortunately, this is not unique to New Orleans, but perhaps because of the age and history tied to that glorious city it is more devastating.
    I, myself, live in Orlando, where 3 years ago, we were hit with 3 hurricanes in sequence, and while most of the damage has been taken care of, I do still have a couple of neighbors whose rooftops are not completely repaired from Charley, Frances, and Jeanne. And there are a few businesses who just got new signs and things that they lost in the storms.
    My parents, who live 20 minutes from Charley’s landfall, have friends who lived in a FEMA trailer until about 4 months ago, when FEMA came and TOOK IT AWAY. Their home needed some work, but the insurance bulls**t was so bad, that the latter two storms and just general Florida rain did more damage, and their house was condemned from the water damage and mold that resulted. So now, they’re living in a hotel room while they sue their insurance company for causing them to lose their house when they could have easily repaired the damage, had it been taken care of within enough time.
    Every time I see or hear news of a “tropical system”….I can almost feel the collective holding of breath by everyone on the Gulf Coast. It’s going to be a long time before the physical evidence is taken care of…but I think it’s going to be much longer for the emotional scars to fade.

  194. Wow. You and my buddy (and National Public Radio reporter) John Burnett have a wonderful eye (and ear) and a wonderful way of sharing what you see (and hear) with others. And both of you have a certain way of making me embarrassed that I share the adjective “Texan” with George W.

  195. Exquisite post.
    New Orleans is an emotional dichotomy for me – It breaks my heart that it took the damage it did, and it makes me angry that it was allowed to happen. The spirit of the people there is incredibly uplifting, but the abject destruction is at the exact opposite end of the spectrum. I’m from Mississippi, and grew up ’till now regularly visiting NO, and you’ve hit the nail on the head.
    That being said, I do live in Biloxi, MS. (I saw comments from some other people here, and I’d love to knit with you! email me!) We had – and please note the past tense – mile after mile of incredibly posh antebellum mansions, and they’re just gone. Naturally, with the way the world works, that was the beachfront, also known as “where the rich people are”. Still, such an architectural waste. It breaks my heart. I live three miles from the beach, and Beach Blvd still looks like Katrina hit two weeks ago. Debris and empty slabs and – well, just loss. In 2+ years now, I’ve been down there four times, and those times were with family from out of town wanting to see what was left.
    It’s so hard to get people to understand that there’s _nothing_ left.
    On the other hand, a tiny town west of Biloxi, D’Iberville, took flooding that _no_one_ expected. Public schools and lower-middle income housing, gone. And yes, still in FEMA trailers.
    I like to think that you hear less about Mississippi because we’re so d*mned proud. I like to think that we know we can pull ourselves out of this, that we’ve done it before (D*mned Camille!), and that we’re survivors. I like to think that one day it will all be like it was before, but we’ve lost so much that it’s hard to imagine that, realistically.
    That yarn shop in Pass Christian (that’s Kristie-anne) was almost as spectacular after the storm as it was before. We temporarily had a yarn tree to compete with New Orleans’ bottle tree – which did make me cry.
    OK, rambled and cried enough. Thank you again, Stephanie – I’ll be forwarding a link to your post to my state representative.

  196. Not much I can add to the comments that hasn’t been said already. But I wanted to stop and say thank you for a great post. You are such a good writer…
    And I thought too, too bad the people who need to read this won’t see it…and then the poster before me said (well, see above.)
    Thank you Stephanie. For your big heart and no fear of showing it and for your amazing mind.

  197. Just wondering if you have seen Spike Lee’s Documentary – When the levees broke – A requiem in four acts.
    It will make you cry, what those people went/are going through.

  198. Lovely post, Stephanie.
    I’ve never been to New Orleans, or Mississippi. But my heart is with all those who suffered, are still suffering and who lost so much.
    The photos of the bottle tree made me weepy.

  199. WOW! Stephanie you made me cry. Your words are amazing. I could hardly wait to see your post about New Orleans, I knew it would be something special. It was a privilege and honor to drive you to the hotel. I plan on driving through the area where we saw the bottle tree so that I can let you and Dez know where it is. I am hoping that if I do so on Saturday I may get to see the owners and let them know how special the sight of the tree was for me and (it seems) for many of those who see the pictures. Vanessa

  200. Steph, I’m the displaced New Orleanian you met last night in Houston – you were concerned about whether we had insurance… we did, and we’re doing fine now. But I just have to thank you for your wonderful post about my beloved New Orleans. So much was lost, but thankfully, much of the City’s charm and beauty is still intact, as you captured so well in your photos. I have enjoyed reading everyone’s comments – it really touched me to see how much other people love my sweet hometown. Please remember that New Orleans still needs your thoughts and prayers. Thank you.

  201. SharonF’s husband here.
    I volunteer with a group out of Northern VA that works down in East Biloxi and I will be going down to NO mid Oct. One of the things that is making the Biloxi rebuild work is partnership. It is a true partnership between NGOs, local government, and volunteers. It takes roughly between 25-35K to rehab a house in East Biloxi. Take the hope and the hurt and put it to work. Volunteer or donate each of us can make a difference. The story in Biloxi includes some groups you don’t here a lot about, folks like Americorp (these kids really rock!), retirees (truly the backbone of the rebuild efforts down there with the NGOs), and the local government. Biloxi government has been supportive since day one kudos to them. Make Hope Happen!

  202. I too find it unbelievable how the city has changed. Have never been there but have done my research on what seems to be one of the countries most fascinating places, unfortunately before AND after. I find it deplorable as a Canadian that more has not been done for the city residents who were forced to leave or stay on, living in less than idea conditions. For a country that can apparently afford a multi million (Billion?) dollar war they sure are socking it to those in their country that need help first and foremost. In my little ideal world we care for those near and dear before spreading the ‘wealth’ (pity this term has to do with funding a WAR.) Ahem. Stepping off soap box. Loved the pictures and your description of the city.

  203. I have traveled to New orleans several times since Katrina for work. On my most recent trip – I took a tour of the 9th ward. I was not prepared for the destruction I saw. I was nearly in tears.
    Then I saw this:
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/javajem/847539705/in/set-72157600876165432/
    Someone had planted a field of sunflowers on their empty lot. Katrina had totally taken away their home – but they still took the time to plant a field of bright, happy sunflowers. To me this effort represented the spirit of hope and rebirth that is everywhere in New Orleans.
    Tears finally came when I saw this field of yellow – but they weren’t unhappy tears this time.
    Thanks for posting the photos!

  204. OK, Steph, I had a feeling that when I read of your New Orleans visit that I would be moved, seeing as it was my home for a while and still is for most of my family. I wasn’t expecting to be in tears by the end (and its not the post-partum hormones, I swear ;) ). I’m glad you had a great visit and got to experience some of the unique sights and tastes!
    A little birdie told me you can order Cafe du Monde coffee with chicory via mail — baby’s crying so I have to run but I can dig up the info. if you want.

  205. What a thoughtful, beautiful entry. I travel vicariously through your travel sometimes, and today you took me to someplace new and someplace I needed to know about. Sending good thoughts to those still healing and hoping in New Orleans.

  206. new orleans is such an amazing place. i remember trying to plan a road trip that would take us through that part of the country, but some pesky hurricane thwarted us. years later, i still keep my fingers crossed that it will be as magical and breathtaking as it ever was.
    and you’re an amazing writer, stephanie.

  207. Fantastic post.
    I have always dreamed of visiting New Orleans.
    The bottle tree is a fantastic symbol of the indomitable spirit that will ultimately lead to the rebirth of all of NO’s — no thanks to their gov’t, but I digress.
    You are so ready for the squirrels this season!

  208. I am from southwest Louisiana which was devastated one month after Katrina by Rita. Knitters (and spinners) did so much to lift our spirits as we struggled with the aftermath of a storm that left virtually every roof in this part of the country wrapped in a blue tarp…those of us lucky enough to still have a roof (many had only a slab where a house used to sit or splinters where trees came through their homes.) But Knitters opened their stashes and sent us knitting bags, yarn, needles and other accoutrements to encourage us. National guardsmen from all over the country poured in to stand in heat and humidity they had never experienced and hand out water, mre’s, tarps and words of encouragement. Volunteers came to spend their vacations helping, power companies sent brigades of saints to bring us light…on and on. We were grateful for assistance offered by FEMA, the Red Cross and others. That assistance wasn’t perfect but I truly believe there was simply no way for anyone to prepare to meet a disaster of such proportions. Sorry this comment is so long and there really are no words adequate to express the feelings engendered by the recovery process. The feeling of community and brotherhood and connection to those outside our small sphere that existed here immediately after Rita has continued with us. The devastation that remains is awful and awesome but the spirit that remains is also awesome. Tremendous blessings from a terrible event!!

  209. I just had to come back and read more of the comments, even though I am so dreadfully late finishing all of my work for the day.
    Thanks for caring, everyone. Your comments warm the heart. I am so glad everyone “got it” about the bottle tree. Please let us know what street it’s on when you go back, Vanessa. And I want in on the Christmas cards.
    On a less sober note … someone wondered WHY we knit down here .. they said they “didn’t get” why we knit in our hot and humid homeland. We knit because it is not hot and humid ALL the time.
    Here is how I explain it: if you live in, say, Minnesota, you may enjoy a white Christmas and your winter sports, but you likely yearn for summer. Summer is a relief. You WANT to wear a light, pretty sundress, don a bathing suit, take a swim, bask in the warmth. Summer is fleeting and beautiful and brief, and your summer clothes are special. You savor summer. You may even live all year in hopes of summer, because where you live, summer is a good thing.
    We feel the same way about our winters. Summer is NOT a good thing here. We WANT it to be chilly enough to light a fire in the hearth, to wear beautiful knitted things, to walk outdoors comfortably in the refreshingly brisk air. On cold, rainy or sleety days, we savor warm things to in which to snuggle. We can’t make use of the “summer sweaters” enjoyed in Maine, Seattle and San Francisco … but we can wrap a shawl around our shoulders, to ward off the indoor chill when it’s 38 degrees and raining. Our winter allows us to enjoy snuggly things and it is a welcome and yearned-for relief from the relentless heat of May through mid-October. For Southerners who knit, it is almost a sacred act. Your knitted things are ceremonial wear for the brief and wonderful winter months.

  210. As everyone seems to be saying, you’ve done a wonderful job of portraying just how lovely New Orleans is while honestly showing the results of the disasters they’ve been through. I’ve only been to New Orleans once, before Katrina, but I hope to be able to go back for a much longer vacation some time.
    Also, you have no idea how relieved I was that you had beignets. As soon as you mentioned New Orleans, I was worried you might miss them…

  211. I was in New Orleans about a month ago. I was born across the river in Algiers (almost directly across from the French Quarter). I can see the table I sat at with my boyfriend in your picture of Cafe du Monde. It’s hard to describe how I felt being there, but I knew I needed to go back. And knit while eating a beignet.

  212. *delurks*
    Oh… so beautiful. I was in NOLA just a few months ago for Phoenix Rising (Harry Potter con) and all that you wrote, all the pictures, brought it back… along with the trips in previous years to see family (whose homes survived, mostly intact… a blessing of highest magnitude.)
    It’s so strangely heart-breaking, yet uplifting, to compare the difference before and after Katrina, but oh, did you get it. In spades.
    Glad you went to The Quarter Stitch– honestly, it’s the happiest little yarn store in the universe.
    *goes back to lurking*

  213. I just love Louisiana! I was there for the first time a few months ago to visit a sick friend and had a grand time. Since I came home I’ve been telling all my friends that I could have eaten my way a crossed the state, and I swear that I did LOL! Butterbeans, beignets, hush puppies, crawdads, gumbo, red beans and rice, pralines, Shrimp Po’boys, catfish, collard greens, mmmmmmm! I swear those people can make a great meal out of almost anything! The bottle tree is wonderful. Thanks for sharing that. Even though our government dropped the ball when it came to Katrina, New Orleans, and all the other cities and people who suffered and lost during Katrina are still very much in our thoughts and prayers. You’ll be happy to know that there are still people trying to help out the survivors, the ones down south and the transplanted ones. Even though our government isn’t paying as much attention as it should to their problems (I’m being very kind with my wording here!) the American people still are. Thanks so much for sharing all your wonderful pictures and story with us!

  214. Thank you so much. I’m from New Orleans and had never heard of a bottle tree. Your post made me cry. I’ve been living in Houston for the past 30 years but I am heartbroken about New Orleans, and I’m so glad you got a chance to see it and write about it. Thank you SO MUCH.

  215. Wow. Steph, you just made me cry in happy AND sad tears.
    My husband and I honeymooned in New Orleans. We had coffee and beignets at Cafe Du Monde and it remains one of the most perfect mornings of my life. I also went to that little needlework shop that you went to, and when I mentioned at the time that I’d always wanted to learn to needlepoint, they promptly gave me a free lesson, on the spot, made a tiny kit for me to purchase, and wrapped it up like Christmas.
    The whole city is like that, and I am willing to bet that it’s still like that now.
    I have one friend who is a lifelong resident who was only displaced for a short time after the hurricane and has been back from the moment she was allowed; and another who was a first year medical student at Tulane when the hurricane hit who went back as soon as THEY were allowed and continues her schooling there, as well as making herself her first adult home there.
    The city retains its soul of magic and wonder. I hope those with the ability to go, fall in love with it, and make it their home, so that those who still call it home can rebuild theirs.
    The bottle tree. My heart aches and sings. Thank you for this post, even more than usual.

  216. Thank you for the moving tribute to New Orleans. The flodding of parts of the city and the failure to efectively assist residents is a national disgrace. Your photos are fabulous. Love the voodoo squirrel!! What creativity amongst knitters.

  217. thanks for posting this – as a native New Orleanian, I think that often, people just assume everything is back to normal, and don’t believe me when I say it’s not.
    I was home in the beginning of September and it’s amazing to me how much still must be done, and how some of my favorite places are just a bit different now. (like St Charles Ave – I’m glad you liked the trees, but trust me, there used to be more)

  218. I am so glad you resisted the urge to write about Katrina and the city as if you had been there. So many accounts have taken the tragedy and spun it so the reader has to ask themselves, what is this about.
    On a lighter note, I was so amazed, when I lived in Florida, that I had green thumbs. Turns out, I don’t, it was the climate… The only way Im getting green thumbs is by knitting green gloves.

  219. I don’t think I have ever been as angry and heartbroken as I had been when Katrina and it’s aftermath hit the Gulf Coast. I was embarrassed to live in this country…again. At the time, I had a 4mo and a 2yo and I was in no condition to indulge in my righteous fury and drive to these areas to help. Had I been in a different life space, I would. Thanks for, even a little, keeping this situation in the front of people’s minds. AND, I’m really glad you got a chance to go, I heard it’s a wonderful city, and I’m looking forward to going there some year soon. My hope is to drive, and with a 2yo and a 4yo this is not the best timing *grin*.

  220. I don’t if anybody reads all of the comments on the harlots blog – but here I go anyway. I just heard on the radio that there is a concert here in Copenhagen, Denmark on saturday night. The money from the concert will be sent to the people in New Orleans in need. It is not much, but shows that you are not forgotten.

  221. Your lovely post reminds me of so many things, why we lived in New Orleans, why we left, and why although my heart wants to go back, my head says never.
    I met my husband in NOLA, at a conference, 13 years ago, and moved there in 95. We loved it in some ways, but I knew I didn’t want to raise a family there. Many people assume its Mardi Gras and sex, but NOLA is so much more than that. The real problem is putting children through school. I knew many people who worked obscene hours and went without many things to put their kids in private school — it’s the only way. Public schools were (are) so very bad there it boggles the imagination. The poverty was disheartening. And I got worn down by being panhandled by 5 year olds at the grocery store, every time. Or fearing for my life if I went to the store or bank alone. But I loved the community, the music, the magic of the city that has been decaying since it was built.
    After living there for a few months I told friends back in CA that NOLA is like an old prostitute: not so bad when you’re drunk and it’s just for fun and just for the night, but it’s hard to wake up next to her every morning.
    We left long before Katrina, but many of our friends were adversely affected. The news covereage was so ridiculous I found myself yelling at the tv (“what do you mean you don’t know where your ‘copter is? I’m watching on tv and I KNOW where it is, it’s on Carollton!”)
    My advice for people who are visiting NOLA is to go for JazzFest, the last weekend of April and first weekend of May, the best food, the best music, the best art. It’s loads more fun than Mardi Gras.
    Thanks Stephanie, for a sensitive post.

  222. Thanyou, thankyou, thankyou for your harlot tour through this city I fell in LOVE with in 1999 when I left my youngest baby there to go to college. The contradictions were there before Katrina. The people there were both tooth achingly poor and heart touchingly gracious.
    I needed a good little cry, but Now my knitting is wet!
    You are my inspiration!

  223. Damn you, Stephanie. You made me cry 3 separate times while reading this. I had to leave it and come back, because it’s too much to read all at once. I love New Orleans, and I haven’t been there since Katrina. I used to say I could never live there because I’d weigh 300 pounds–never had a bad meal there. I’m so ashamed of my government for allowing this to happen and not doing enough to fix it. Also, good for you for going to the 9th Ward. I wondered if you would when I saw N.O. on your itinerary.
    And thanks for finding the bright and beautiful spots that are still there.

  224. I visited NO once for an afternoon, and made sure to stop at Cafe du Monde…I loved it. I loved the mystery of the city, and was very sad when Katrina came through.
    I wonder, though, why two years would ever seem like adequate time to rebuild a city that took so much longer to make in the first place…the leaps and bounds that HAVE been made are as astounding as the utter lack of progress is heart-wrenching.

  225. oh, bottle trees . . it is one of the (few) things about living in the south for a short time that will stay with me. there were quite few in and around nashville back then; probably all gone now . . . people were “modrenizing” as fast as possible through the 90s.
    i once heard a short story or play about a bottle tree read out loud during a workshop that was INCREDIBLY haunting and beautiful; you would love it. now i cannot remember if the author was tennessee williams, truman capote, or someone else (very frustrating this middle age). i’m pretty sure it was one of those two, but i can’t find anything on the internet to support my memory.

  226. I was in Nawlins after Katrina working doing animal rescue. The people were welcoming, gracious, grateful and vibrant. It’s a one-of-a-kind place. Thank you for highlighting the current state of New Orleans. Like so many tragedies, people change the channel and it’s over (for them ….) not for the people of NOLA.

  227. Thank you so much for your most eloquent post and photos. I’m a U.S. citizen who has never been to New Orleans. I grieve for these people from such a distance, and heartily agree that our country’s priorities are vastly askew. After two years, where to begin. . . how to proceed. . .

  228. You did a good job of saying the impossible. Photos do help. You reminded me of the Beignet experience I had there a handful of years ago. We loved New Orleans, too.
    I love the bottle tree.

  229. Yes, the state of New Orleans is deplorable, but it doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with how many galas they have in the White House.
    You can take a horse to water, but you cannot make him drink. You can offer people a helping hand when such a disaster strikes, but you cannot make them use what help is offered to get back up on their feet.
    Mississippi was also hit, and recent news reports have talked about how it is now in so much better shape than New Orleans because the help that was offered was actually used in a manner that actually benefited those to whom it was directed.
    Yes, there are buildings in New Orleans that have been restored and those that are still as the storm left them. There are those people who chose to use the help that was offered to get back up on their feet and rebuild their lives. There are also those who chose instead to just live in their FEMA trailer and feel sorry for themselves when they look at their old home instead at least tearing down what was destroyed which is the first step in rebuilding.
    You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink. Yes, the state of New Orleans is deplorable, but I don’t think canceling galas in Washington would help because that’s not the problem.

  230. Thanks for an eloquent statement. I’m scheduled to give a paper at a conference in NO in November and I’m alternately excited and dreading it.

  231. I currently live in North Georgia after living in New Orleans for 8 years (I just moved 3 months ago) and I have tears in my eyes after looking at your pictures of so many places that I recognize and love so much. Although my family was one of the lucky ones with minimal storm damage it is hard to explain to those who haven’t been there how the experience of Katrina is still an on-going process for those who remain and is still a very emotional topic for those of us who found it necessary to leave.
    Thank you so much for such a wonderful post and the pictures of a city that will always be a part of me.

  232. Thank you for your beautiful portrayl of our city. I grew up in new orleans and am now living an hour away finishing up my senior year of college. That being said you had to schedule your only visit to new orleans in the middle of my monday night physics lab huh? I was bummed that i had to miss you, but since i’m applying to medical school this semester i guess school had to come first. Maybe next time. Again, thank you for showing our city so beautifully

  233. It’s good to remember what happened after the hurricane and that the efforts to rebuild are far from complete or even adequete. But let’s not forget that New Orleans was not the only place destroyed. I have family and friends along the Gulf Coast who came home from shelters to a concrete pad, not even and wreckage to sort threw. They didn’t have much to begin with and now the are completely without. They were finally able to get a FEMA trailer only six months ago. Folks who talk about those trailers with disdain should talk to someone who dreams of the day the can at least move into that, let alone hope to move out and on. Don’t forget about New Orleans, but also don’t forget how widespread the devestation really was and how many dream of rebuilding.

  234. As an increasingly-more-bitter American who dreams of moving to Canada some day, I can tell you the main reason this ‘great’ country has not provided the money to those in need here, (not only in N.O. but everywhere here, millions are without basic health care or having other basic needs met)… Besides the fact that our president didn’t seem to think it was ‘that’ important, we are operating at an enormous budget deficit because all our money is being spent sending our military to be in the middle of a dangerous civil war that cannot be won. Just think if those billions had been used for feeding/clothing/educating/providing health care for our children AND for researching fuel alternatives so our leaders wouldn’t feel the NEED to go fight for oil.
    Okay, hopping off my soap box now.

  235. I’m a wicked lurker, but had to leave a comment on this post because reading it has left me in tears at my desk at work. I went to New Orleans for a missionary trip in December 2006 and fell over the moon for the city and the people there… I think of it every day… and still am so saddened that 2 years later so much of the lower income areas are still in shambles. Thank you so much for this post… I can’t tell you what it means to me.

  236. What an amazing experience! I have yet to visit and would love to see it.
    I really want birthday yarn, too.

  237. Awesome piece about New Orleans – so much that’s good, and so much that’s depressing and frustrating. You captured it all, and beautifully — Thanks!!

  238. Wow–you put a really beautiful spin on that Steph–I wish those of us here in the states could look at Katrina through your eyes more often.

  239. Here’s a recipe for you for when you’re home for a bit:
    Page 136 of La Leche League International’s cookbook, Whole Foods for the Whole Family
    Creole Doughnuts (Beignets)
    It looks wicked good…

  240. Loved this post. I grew up in NOLA and still call it home though I’ve been up in Boston amongst Yankees for five years now. You did it justice, which is impressive. It’s a remarkable city, even with all the heartbreak of Katrina.
    I believe that I will always call New Orleans home. The official song of Carnival is “If Ever I Cease to Love,” which states a series of ridiculous things happening if ever the singer “ceases to love” (the moon turning into green cream cheese, fish growing legs, etc.) and that sums it up for me.
    Man, now I’m craving Cafe du Monde beignets…

  241. Thanks for the spot on post about my home town, New Orleans. I really appreciated your words, since the majority of people I’ve encountered since Katrina have said things like “let it drown” and “it’s Atlantis” and “I visited once (before Katrina) and the city is dirty”. It’s interesting to me to note how some people don’t see the beauty at all.
    My family there still has the FEMA camper in the yard 2 years later. Been trying for a year to get an electrician to actually show up.

  242. Tana — you blame the people who are suffering the most for not accepting help? Please learn more about the situation. Help has not come for everyone. And sometimes “help” has not been help after all. Your comment makes me really sad. If Washington were directing their money and energy into solving the insurance and housing and medical care and school and police messes in New Orleans instead of partying, surely a lot of good could be accomplished.

  243. As a native of the Pacific Northwest I am immensely grateful to live someplace with no natural disaster season.
    What I would be even more grateful for still would certainly be the US government putting some money towards its own people and completing the work in New Orleans. In fact, why can’t we use the remaining of the current ‘leaders’ salaries for some good – making the gits in office fatter is not why I pay taxes.

  244. I had tears in my eyes while reading nearly the entire post, but when I came to the bottle tree at the end…well I just broke down.
    You covered the topic extremely well.
    A truly special entry.

  245. I used to live in New Orleans. I haven’t taken the time to read through the nearly 300 comments on here, so forgive me if I write something that has already been said.
    What of the things that impresses me most about New Orleanians is their pride, and their loyalty to their city. One example is in their love of the Saints. I grew up in a city (Boston) that has mostly fair-weather sports fans; when the Sox or the Pats are winning, they love them — but if the Sox of the Pats are losing, they curse every player on the team. New Orleanians love the Saints even though the Saints don’t win a whole lot. I really wanted the Saints to make it to the Superbowl last year, because I know how much their fans stand by them (and I’m not even a sports fan).
    New Orleanians love their city more than any other -ians seem to love their respective cities. Warts and all. When I lived there (in the 90s), the city had the highest murder rate in the entire U.S., yet the majority of the folks there are such warm, loving, hospitable people that it made it hard to fathom. It is such a shame that such a great city full of great people was hit so hard by tragedy, but if anyone can pull through this, New Orleans can. Bless them!

  246. Louisiana is the home of Zydeco and I am a passionate Zydeco dancer. Many of my fellow Seattlites have had the opportunity to visit New Orleans and other parts for the dancing so when Katrina hit, we all felt it for the people we have met and shared a passion with. Within our small and diverse community we have raised a substantial amount of money to aid the rebuilding and one of our dear teachers moved back to New Orleans to help rebuild. It prooved to me what people can do collectively to make a change. If everyone that read this blog sent some dollars to the relief aid, it would help greatly. Thank you.

  247. How funny life works, sometimes. Your post moved me to think about New Orleans in a way I hadn’t… and to want to help… and then I heard from my cousin who emailed to say he’s taken a six-month leave from work to go down there and help rebuild houses with Habitat for Humanity. I think the world of him, and people like him, who are taking a chunk out of their lives (and their income) to aid in the region.
    So I’ve found where I’ll be sending my check, to http://www.habitat-nola.org/. God bless the helpers!

  248. In November 1991, I was in New Orleans for 4 days. It was a fabulous place. I was really happy to see from your post that the Cafe du Monde is still operating. Every morning, we’d go there for breakfast and I have very happy memories of soaking up the atmosphere while enjoying my coffee and beignets.

  249. I appreciated your post very much as always. Some thoughts though on New Orleans…A few less “galas” or anything else isn’t going to help any more than all the money that many of us have already funneled into the area. (Actually I don’t remember reading much about gala’s at the White House since the Clinton’s were in office, but I mostly read the knitting news) I don’t know what will help, other than what is already happening, people just plugging along donating time, and money, to help rebuild. It will take time, a lot of time, and more than just people saying how much they love(ed) the place. It will take those same people actually doing something about it.
    Then we come to the big question…..if you built a city below sea level at the convergence of a river, a lake and the sea (purely because you didn’t know it was a problem, it was built so long ago), and it gets clobbered by a hurricane, and you know that it will only be a matter of time before it gets clobbered again (because now you are educated enough to know that it is below sea level and what that means) should you spend the time and money to rebuild? Not an easy question, but one that should be asked. There is no glib answer to either question or the situation.

  250. i am from louisiana and have also struggled so much with how to write about new orleans/katrina, how to wrap my mind around what has happened there… 2 years later i still can’t think clearly about it. you write about the city with such grace and heart. thank you, thank you for that. i read this with tears in my eyes.

  251. My dear Harlotta – if ever you become infirmed for a bit and cannot actually write your blog (I hear gasping from all over, but will press on) I think we should nominate Dez for substitute teacher. Her blog entry would hold up.
    When knitters rule the world, FEMA employees, W, Cheney and congressmen will get to do the scut work after a disaster…and we will stand on job sites and disaster areas with our antique steel lace pins to poke them if they think they are getting to put down the broom or get off of the backhoe before it is DONE. This hurricane has been stalled for two years; nature doesn’t hang around to do damage for that long, that’s a government job.
    We all read your entry from the Big Easy with tears in our eyes. It is a sin of epic proportions that this city of our own cannot seem to grasp the attention of the elected officials here who are RESPONSIBLE TO HELP and a lovely visiting Canadian lady gets it right away. A little knitter shall lead them is not a concept we here on the blog have trouble with. But CHOKE does fill the halls of Capitol Hill. They should get a little nervous.
    US knitters….we need to start changing our elected official requirements so Steph can run for president.

  252. I’m not in the South, let alone in New Orleans, but the bottle tree gives me (much needed) hope…
    (…hope that a phoenix-like transformation will indeed be a possibility for that area…)
    …but it’s also a reminder. There is beauty in all things, and the most amazing may be amoung the most ordinary, or the most plain. This is timely for me – thank you.

  253. Ruth, there is indeed a glib answer. IT IS HOME.
    I am so sick of people questioning our right to exist and rebuild. We have the right to be who we are, and to be exactly where we are. Every bit as much as San Francisco has the right to sit on a fault, and L.A. has the right to sit both in an earthquake AND fire zone, and St. Louis has the right to sit on a fault, and Wichita has the right to be in the middle of Tornado Alley, as much as Vencie has the right to sit IN the sea … and, and, and …
    I am SO sick of hearing people ask IF New Orleans should rebuild. When your home town, God forbid, is flooded, burnt down, blown away, or shaken into rubble by whatever force of nature prevails there, New Orleanians will come and help you, to return the kindness so many people gave to us in our time of need, and we will not question your right to live in Kansas, California, or Missouri.

  254. I’m commenting a few days late because I was on vacation (which also means I missed you in DC, about which I’m thoroughly disappointed). But after reading the New Orleans post, I needed to tell you that you said it all perfectly, every word and every point. All I could wish for is that the people that need to read it would read it and tear up the way that I did when I read it. Maybe then something would happen.

  255. Quick note, because I am about to be late for class, but I finally made it back to your blog, so here goes.
    In case no one has given you an answer on the Spanish architecture, I’m here to say, “Great eye!” The Spanish held us as a colony for awhile, then LA got dealt back to Napoleon shortly before the Louisiana Purchase. Under the Spanish, the city burned (it’s got a history of coming back, and the fire here wasn’t the first), so the Spanish were the ones to rebuild the French Quarter. If you email me, I can see if I can remember more history for you (life-long resident of Baton Rouge, and owner of a Spanish bachelor’s degree – did one of my lower level projects on Spanish influence in New Orleans).
    Thank you, by the way, for your write up of your experience in New Orleans. It was beautiful and touching. I’d say more, but as I said, late for class.

  256. I love that bottle tree! I’ve never heard of such a thing before and now I want a dead tree to hang bottles from. It’s such a beautiful sight and has such a wonderful meaning.

  257. Lisa, Valeria, Tana, and Ruth,
    I am angered and appalled by your ignorant comments. You clearly have not done your research and so do not adequately understand the situation. I would normally go off on a rant to try to educate you on the actual facts involved here, but I’m tired. I’m tired of doing this on an almost daily basis to people who spout off opinions on this issue that lack the benefit of facts. Suffice it to say that you don’t know what you’re talking about, your facts are dead-wrong, and please keep your mouths shut unless you have truly studied an issue completely. It is divisive, callous, and rude to do otherwise.
    That being said, I am heartened to read the rest of the comments here! It’s so nice to know that so many people truly understand and can empathize with us and our city and be outraged right along with us. Because, as I mentioned, I run into far too many people who don’t feel this way and was starting to feel as if everyone had forgotten or stopped caring. I have never felt more proud to be a knitter! Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU to all of you and to Stephanie for the kind and thoughtful words!! They mean so much to us and really do make it easier to get through the day!

  258. Your insights to the difficulties in New Orleans are excellent. Would that more folks would come and publish their impressions — and no one in the larger USA thinks New Orleans is still is difficulties — a treasure of a city and most folks, outside of this area, think everything is OK and why is New Orleans still needing help. Thanks for writing — an excellent job. Besides I visit the Quarter Stitch often. Next time you should visit the knitting shop on Magazine St — even more of a variety and knitting going on all the time there with folks so ready to help us struggling knitter!

  259. Late to the party, as always (I am so far behind in my Google reader, its a wonder I haven’t given up). At any rate, in case anyone is still reading…
    My husband is a freelance photographer, but to make ends meet he does insurance adjusting during natural disasters. He lived in New Orleans during the aftermath of Katrina for 2.5 months. The company secured him a room in the French Quarter- heaven knows places to stay were next to impossible to find. Most habitable places were full of displaced residents. Restaurants in the neighborhood would serve free lunch to those in town working on storm relief. They had food to use up so it wouldn’t go bad, and they’d buy catfish so as to give the fishermen some kind of pay. The neighborhoods he worked in were devistated. He’d have to check in with the Coast Gaurd who were maitaining the quarantine as he went in and out of the neighborhoods, and those residents who managed to get in would come to him, praying that he might be FEMA. Everyone was sick. They’d wear masks in the quarantined areas, but between the mold and the toxic ooze that resulted from all of the sewers flooding, it took months for him to be well even after he came home- he had somewhere to come home too.
    He took some pictures, he had very little time to, but here are some of them:
    http://www.pbase.com/soupgod/no

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