Sunday, April 29, 2007

I spent the past week in Louisiana on work related business but none of it would take me to New Orleans. I decided it was worth it stay an extra 36 hours to go to Jazzfest and to see New Orleans for myself. My time in New Orleans was brief but there was no way I was leaving with out seeing the Katrina damage for myself. At happy hour last week, a woman named Kate recommended that I go on the “Katrina Tour”. I was shocked that a tour company would have something like this. She assured me that it was not exploitive at all and that it had a profound impact on her. Reluctantly I paid my $35 because I wasn’t sure if it was safe enough for me to try and drive around by myself. The media will tell you it’s the “Wild Wild South” but I didn’t want to attempt to prove them wrong.

I booked the tour and it would be the last thing I would do before I left town. Earlier that morning as I was driving from my appointment I ran into some homes with significant damage. The closer I got to Lake Ponchatrain the more damage I observed. Street signs at odd angles from wind damage. The stores that were open had mylar banners indicating so; if you drove too quickly you would think they were out of business. There was a house that looked like no one had touched it in two years which was probably true. The mold covered the entire facade and the grass untouched. The windows were blown out so I pulled over and peaked in. The furniture was strewn all over and you could see the extensive water damage on everything in sight. It didn’t appear that the family who previously inhabited the dwelling had returned to retrieve anything. Actually, there was nothing to retrieve. An entire history lost to the storm surge and to the incompetence of our government for the last 30 years.

On every block there were several homes just like this one. The symbols from the rescuers still graffiti home after home. As I viewed the numerous symbols I tried to remember what it meant. The storm hit on 8-29 and every home was dated with somewhere between 9-14 and 9-24. Their homes weren’t checked for at least 15 days after the storm. Fortunately the number on the bottom on the X was always 0. Which means they did not find anybody dead in that particular home. They all escaped, fortunately.

The news has focused on the lower 9th ward, where there was total devastation and where many of the stranded poor black residents resided. I went through every part of town, rich, poor, large homes, small homes. Every one of them with a rescue squad symbol and a waterline. Each home featured a gray, brown or rust colored line that told the story. The waterline, the point where the flood water settled ranged from 2 feet to about 16 feet. This doesn’t include the 20 to 26 foot surge. Many one story homes had the rescue symbol on the roof indicating that when the home was checked the water was so high they probably checked it by boat. I passed by many two story homes with their first floors engulfed with quickly rising water.

Then there were the holes in the roofs, the attempts to save themselves from the rapidly rising water only to be me stuck in 100 degree without food, water, or a radio to find out what is going on. Even though the French Quarter survived how can you stay in a town with no electricity, no potable water, no police force?

Many people are back in town now. For every home you see untouched, you see at least one with a trailer in front. I even found a block where every home had a trailer in front. You also see numerous “Katrina Villages”, parking lots that have been turned into trailer parks. The trailers are very small, although we joke about them, they could at least give them a double wide. You also see the little red flags marking spaces where trailers are to come but haven’t arrived yet, two years later.

Finally there was light at the end of the tunnel. After passing by Fats Domino’s house we turned the corner to see two blocks of bright pastel rebuilt houses. These houses were a part of Musicians Village. Habitat for Humanity and Harry Connick Jr. started a project where they are building houses for displaced musicians. They get interest free loans and they must put 350 hours of sweat equity into the home. We rounded another corner and there was a family on the porch. They waved and clapped and they were happy to see the tourbus. Their house was in the middle of renovations but I saw three generations of New Orleanians enjoying a nice day in April. This was the end of the tour and I had slipped into a depression. Seeing those people happy with what they had brought tears to my eyes.

My camera battery died early during the tour so the links represent some of the areas where houses are still standing. In many places, whole neighborhoods have been lost. It was probably for the best because I stopped trying to get the best shot and just took it all in.

We rode around for 3 hours and I have no idea how many miles we covered but we covered many. The area impacted was much bigger than I could have ever imagined. I have heard many people talk about how the recovery is going slow. Now that I see that it’s much bigger than what we see on TV, I can’t see how they can go any faster. With so many people not returning, no insurance money for homeownwers to rebuild and no help for displacd renters I understand why it is the way it is. Almost every home in the city has some damage. New Orleans is much bigger than DC but if every home in DC was destroyed I can’t see it all being rebuilt that fast given that there isn’t any precedent for the situation. We didn't have a plan. Whatever plan they did come up with will not make everyone happy because there are always winners and losers. I want to go back soon. One to do more tourist things and volunteer. Everyone needs to see it for themselves because there is no way to understand the magnitude of what happened the day the leeves broke.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Girl Interupted:Blog Neglected

For the next month, as well as last month, my travel schedule is crazy. Every other week I am out of town on work related business. There are several things I want to write about but I just can't find the time to do it. I'm writing this just to do although there are stories to tell and things ponder. I'll see you all next week.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

As many of you know, I spend a fair amount of time perusing the web. Today everyone is talking about the VA Tech incident. As with everything people move away from the actually facts to the policital and social aspects. So today some posed the question "Are Asians embarrassed?". The point the person was trying to make is that black people have internalized so much racism that when things like this happen we secrectly hope and pray the person isn't black. We really worry how the actions of one person effects the rest of us. I completely agree with that point.

However, where it went astray for me is that have several close relationships with Asian people and I know that their communtiy is devasted as well. Now Asians don't secretly pray "it won't be them" because racist executives don't even portray them in the media, negatively or positively. I think many asian people will be embarassed because "we don't do that sort of thing." They are equally concerned about their image as are Black people. I can't tell you how so many of my Asian friends haven't lived their dreams because they are afraid of what the extended family will think of them. I know these aren't isolated incidents, Berkeley is like 55% Asian and my highschool was like 40% Asian.

While I get the point the person was trying to make and I thank him for making it, the behavior he was referencing is found

Thursday, April 12, 2007

The official "How not to holla" blog....

People think I make this shit up. Street harrassment is so real in DC. I make light of it on this blog but it's a serious problem.
The Best of DC

A friend of a friend does restaurant reviews for and I am so jealous. So right here, right now I'll stop being jealous and take a turn at it myself.

Last night after a marathon meeting for one of my community endeavors we ventured out to the U Street corridor for a cheap but satisfying meal. We eventually settled on Polly's Cafe. I haven't been to Polly's in about two years and I didn't remember being moved by anything other than the apple crisp.

Polly's is a very small restaurant in the basement of a brownstone and it doesn't seat very many people. When we arrived we were cramped at a table that was oddly placed in the middle of the floor where nearly everyone brushed me as they walked by. It was also very dark as I could barely read the menu. Myself and my companion settled on ordering the turkey burgers with a side of spicy coleslaw. In addition, I ordered a glass of sangria to help me wind down.

The sprite my friend ordered was more like seltzer water. My sangria was just okay but I wasn't expecting much from a place that probably more focused on beer. Our turkey burgers came and I was surprised by their size. The burgers were somewhere between 1/3 and 1/2 pound with accompaniments so large I would think they were genetically modified. The burger itself was very well seasoned and not dry as turkey burgers tend to be. The spicy slaw was indeed spicy almost too spicy but it was a unique take on a dish that I usually don't care for.

I don't usually have favorites because it's hard for me to give that honor to anyone. However, I think Polly's has the best turkey burger in DC. The only downside is that Polly's is cash only and not too many people carry cash these days. It feels very much like a neighborhood place unlike many of the newer establishments that are in the area and prices aren't that bad either.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Comment Comment Comment

I've been on a businesstrip/vacation for the past week. Apparently I missed when Don Imus insulted the Rutgers women's basketball team. As I was waiting around in the Detroit airport, FoxNews informed me that he refered to the team as "nappy headed hoes." I was outraged at his comment and more than an apology was needed.

However, I feel conflicted. Recently Ludacris released the song "Runaway Love" and I everytime I hear it I think "I really wish he would go back to bitches and hoes." Don Imus didn't just pull the phrase out of his ass...he's heard it somewhere. Probably from Ludacris. I'm not blaming hip hop but... Don Imus is dead wrong but let's put it in context.

Thursday, April 05, 2007


So today was going great. I got my hair did. I went to lunch with my father and talked to my uncle for a few minutes. Then I went inside with my father to try to ask him some questions about his life since I am trying to write his biography. Well out of no where he wants to talk about his love life. So for 45 minutes he tells me about all the trials and tribulations of his life. He talks about the ladyfriend he really loves, the one who needs validation by meeting me and another one with issues. For 30 of the 45 minutes he was digging around for some piece of paper to show me. So after a while I asked him what he was looking for and he told me it was a letter he wrote her on valentine's day. I told him to stop looking for it . I sat on the couch and I damn near cried because I was incredicably uncomfortable with him telling me about his love life. There are boundaries that I need to maintain with him. You can't wait until I am 28 years old and all of the sudden you want to talk about relationship yours or mine. I didn't reallly talk to my mother about these things either. So at about minute 45 he switches gears and starts to tell him what love is. He does this by asking me questions about Brent. I pretendend they were rhetorical and didn't answer anything. At about minute 48 when I really thought I was going to start crying because I wanted him to stop. I just said, "you are belaboring" the point. Then I made an excuse and said I needed to leave.

I havent seen my dad in 6 months and I hated to end my day long visit on this note not knowing when I would see him again. For my sanity I needed to leave the situation. I think I'll call him right now and apologize for my abrupt departure.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Welcome to the Yay!

The plane ride from Baltimore to Oakland was long and horrid. I got a nonstop for convenience on southwest because every other flight had a connection. After today, I really think I might actually be a fan of the short layover. You get to stretch and get something to eat. Also if you have a 2 year old kicking your seat and smelling like shit, you get a chance to have at least half your flight go better.

I'm in my hotel in Oakland, CA waiting for my coworker to arrive. I wanted to leave and go to the Burrito Shop since I ate there at least once a week when I was going to school. I thought it wouldn't be wise decision since she would be arriving soon and we still need finish up a few loose ends before the morning. An hour later and she still hasn't arrived. I doubt I will get to satisfy my burrito craving so I am kinda upset. However, I found Top Dog. Top Dog is where I discovered the chicken apple sausage nearly a decade ago. At the time I didn't eat beef or pork so being apple to eat chicken sausages was great (yes i know the casing was pork). I got a Lemon Chicken today which was my second favorite sausage. They grill them just right and put them on this delicious bread. I haven't been back in Oakland for at least 5 years and I am kind of sad that I will only be here for 24 hrs.

I was on the plane trying to figure out what my favorite bay area restaurant was. I don't know if I have one since during college you can't really afford to eat well. I remember eating lots of burritos, crepes, Thai, pizza and "smart fries".

Operation Stunna Shades continues

I forgot to put my shades on when I left the plane which had disastrous consequences. I was approached by a 65 year man who wanted to chat. We talked about DC because his son went to Howard Law and worked on the hill. Innocent enough I thought. Then he started hitting on me. He had a cane and his eyes looked hella glossy like he just smoked a blunt or something. He was completely invading my space. However, none of this would have ever happened if I had of remembered to put my glasses on.