New Orleans

Brian had never seen New Orleans.
I’d been desperate to get there after Katrina to see the city for myself… but it never seemed the right time.
Finally I decided to surprise Brian for his birthday. We crammed it all into a short day and a half weekend. Nowhere near enough time.

I picked him up from the airport from his two-hour late flight and we went to the Rock-n-Bowl to see the Blue Runners.

We got our bowling pin shaped beers and settled in to the slidy plastic circular booth next to a family who had more fun lobbing the ball to the middle of the lane and shaking the foundation than they did knocking down pins. It was certainly entertaining to watch…The bowling balls already (and seemingly always have) had huge chunks gouged out of them, which has always added an increased element of randomness and inaccuracy to the game.


I took this photo as we were driving away. Those of you who have been to Rock-N-Bowl will remember that the lanes are up a steep staircase on the second floor. Everything else in this strip was flooded out…including the awesome thrift store that was next door. The entire lot was surrounded by a high chain fence.


The hallway still had it’s odd photos and knick knacks…like for example…


these now holy shoes still watch over us.

The city feels empty…driving back to the hotel in the French Quarter it seemed no one was on the road.

The next morning Brian and walked for beignets at Cafe DuMond.


Brian ate his before I could photograph them.


The heat and the stink outside the cafe were unbelievable, but not uncommon. This is nothing new. For decades the pigeons have landed on these tables to march their sticky mangled talons in the plates of powdered sugar. I didn’t photograph them for some reason.

I actually didn’t photograph much.
It felt parasitic to capture or memorialize the devastation of another city that was not my city, even though it was a city I loved.
IS a city I love.

I made two exceptions.


Mandinas, where I’d had so many lovely, friendly, delicious meals. The last one before Calexico as an extension of my band played at the Tape Op festival. We had the trout almandine, which tasted like fishy candy. Now there is just this dirty brown line from where the floodwater stood.


They Shall Return.
A friend told me the owners had opened a restaurant in Baton Rouge that had taken off; so many local New Orlineans had shifted over to that town.

If you look down that backside street to the left of the restaurant every house for blocks were flooded. No one seems to be repairing anything here.

There is a very strong and constant urge when driving around to have been there in the chaos, to see what it looked like when the waters rose. I found myself closing my eyes and trying to imagine it all weekend long.

One thing that helped was a little book called One Dead in the Attic. It’s a compilation of the Times Picayune columns of Chris Rose a Pulitzer prize winning journalist who sat out the flood. The book is furious, and human, very sad, and tremendously funny. I’d recommend it to anyone.

The proceeds from the book go to the New Orleans Musicians Clinic so it’s a good cause.

You can also read a lot of the columns here on the web for free.


Finally, this breaks my heart.
Angelo Brocato was the best ice cream parlor I’ve ever visited.
When my family would go to Jazz Fest each year we would regularly stop in more than once a day for the frigid air-conditioning, the cool marble tables and the best ice cream in the world. They had three different kinds of pistachio and their spimoni sent you to a childhood coma.

Now I can barely tell which storefront is theirs


Good news from the website is that it’s coming back.

We had a great sit down meal with Steve and Grasshopper at Brennan’s.
I don’t know why I didn’t take a picture; they were dressed to the nines. The Bananas Foster was delicious.

And then…
We left.

Brian had his first ever muffaletta on the plane ride home.




Once we were in the clouds we could see the FEMA trailers on every lawn for miles. I’m coming back as soon as I can and in the mean time I’m going to listen to Harry Shearer on Le Show.
He knows what’s going on.


  1. drdkdover said,

    July 21, 2006 @ 2:43 pm

    I Blogged a link to a photo blog that had a bunch of pictures about a month or so after Katrina, and one of them was of the Rock N Bowl with nothing but heaps of trash after what looked like an attempt at cleaning up……. I felt pretty sick when it was all going down, when they had the reporter up in the helicopter taking a ten minute tour of the whole city. It was bad enough seeing the open expanse of roofs sticking up out of the water, but it was easily dismissed since I had no context of what I was really looking at. At one point, however, they passed over the fair grounds, where I had taken in Jazz Fest and the Rock N Bowl in ‘99, and the grandstand and clubhouse were shattered and half of the grounds and surrounding neighborhood were devastated… I guess that’s when the whole thing got a bit more personal for me.
    I would have loved to go back for Jazz Fest this year, I think it would have been amazing…..
    I was working in Pleasantville, NY earlier this year, and had the good fortune to be put up in a 12 room inn with a fancy smancy restaurant with a great little bar in it…. I had noticed a family come in early in the week, we chatted over breakfast a bit. On my last night there for that stint, I belllied up to the father a the bar. He had ordered himself a nice, Very nice, bottle of wine while the family was upstairs going to bed. We started chatting, ended up going outside for a smoke, when It came out that they were Katrina Evacuee’s who were not only on vacation, but trying to give the sister in-law’s family a break since they had been living with them for 9 months. they left the day before the storm, stayed two nights in a hotel outside of Baton Rouge, and immediately headed for Maryland and the Sister in law, realizing from the news reports that thier home was destroyed…… 9 Months later, his house was untouched. As he put it, “We’re a family with some means (Both were teachers) and we can’t get anything done, how are the ones with no advantage going to do anything?” He went back for the Fest though, said he couldn’t wait, and that even the heartbreak of checking on his home wouldn’t diminish what it all meant to him and his city to try and get back to normal…………

    Anyway, great photo’s, great story
    I gotta run
    Rock On!

  2. shampoo_tears said,

    September 18, 2006 @ 10:14 am

    “Enjoy” is probably a heartless way to express it, but I did enjoy this entry. Can’t help wondering if your public writing is confined to your blog these days (see what an ungrateful wretch I am). A song would be nice. A lyric. Even a limerick with a simple chord sequence. Thank you for listening.

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