As 2007 comes to and end, we reflect on how far we’ve come since the year’s beginning.
The big news this year is completion of our post-Katrina repairs. We are fortunate to live in the 20% of New Orleans that didn’t flood: the relatively high ground along the Mississippi, known as the “Sliver by the River” or, because of the apparent normalcy of the neighborhood, the “Isle of Denial.” Still, Katrina’s wind blew off a chunk of our roof and some attic weatherboards, letting in rain, which caved in our bedroom ceiling, leaked through the bedroom floor, and stained the kitchen ceiling below. With a blue tarp outside and some plastic sheeting and cleanup inside, we resumed living in our house in November 2005. By the end of 2005, we had a new roof, and by the middle of 2006, we completed the other exterior repairs. But finding someone to do the interior repairs proved difficult; apparently the job was too small and not lucrative enough to interest anyone. Then someone at Ray’s law firm recommended David Courtiade, who does business as Renaissance Remodeling. David was a blessing: he consistently showed up exactly when he said he would, began the job exactly when he said he would begin, completed the job exactly when he said it would be completed, and charged exactly what he said it would cost.
The work was finished by the first weekend of Jazz Fest, which is the last weekend in April. So with relatively minor storm damage and no shortage of money to throw at the problem, it took us one year and eight months to complete repairs. Many of our neighbors in harder-hit areas are still wrestling with insurance and Road Home red tape.
Citywide, progress continues slowly. This graphic by the Times-Picayune shows the pace of repopulation. If their numbers are accurate, the city’s population is 63% of pre-Katrina. As the graphic shows, the area along the river has recovered more quickly than the rest of the city. The T-P also has a nice collection of videos showing the progress of various neighborhoods. Others who answer the question how we’re doing: the Center for American Progress, the Kaiser Family Foundation, and Time magazine.
Another bit of normalcy that returned to our neighborhood this year was the Thoth parade, the Sunday before Mardi Gras. Although Thoth paraded last year, it was forced from its traditional route to conserve police resources. This year, it returned to its traditional route, which takes it past Children’s Hospital, several nursing homes, and the corner at the end of our block. We caught it at Ernie Svenson’s house, around the corner from ours. Between the beers and the bloody Marys and the beads, Ray managed to snap a few photos.
In May Ray ran the silver-anniversary Barathon. For those unacquainted with this event, it’s six miles, six bars, six beers. You don’t know grueling until you’ve tried running with six beers in your belly. It began 25 years ago as an invitational event for the Tchoupitoulas Social Aid & Athletic Club, a running club whose heyday was in the 1980s. Since then, the race has survived Tchoupitoulas and Katrina. This year Ray somehow won the award for first ex-Tchoupitoulan. He just turned 50, which makes the Barathon half as old as he is. This is the only race that Ray still runs.
Many other things in New Orleans are getting back to normal. The places usually visited by tourists — the French Quarter, the Garden District, Magazine Street — show few if any traces of the storm. With a few exceptions, the famous restaurants are all back in business. The Sugar Bowl, Mardi Gras, and the Jazz Fest were big successes. The Hornets returned to town, while the Saints returned to their maddening inconsistency. (Comparing the Saints’ 2007 season to 2006, Ray can’t help but recall what his high-school Latin and Spanish teacher, Fr. Gregor, used to say when a student gave a wrong answer immediately after a correct one: “Can’t stand prosperity.”)
Because continued employment is itself a blessing (one we often take for granted), we’re happy to report that our jobs are the same as they have been for the last several years. Suzanne works as a manager for the State of Louisiana, Department of Social Services, Office of Disability Determinations. In her spare time, she pursues certification as a yoga instructor — something she hopes to do when she retires from civil service in the next year or so. She has actually begun offering regular yoga classes for free at Touro Infirmary; with any luck she’ll soon start getting paid to do the same thing.
Ray is an appellate lawyer with a big regional law firm. His spare-time hobby consists of his two blogs, The (New) Legal Writer and Minor Wisdom, both of which continue to draw respectable traffic for one-man just-for-fun blogs. As mentioned above, he turned 50 this year (350 dog years), making him eligible for AARP. On the outside he looks relatively youthful, but on the inside he feels about 62. He has discovered that the older you get, the less you care what other people think. Let’s hope this discovery doesn’t affect his hygiene.
At home, we live with the same four cats we’ve had since 2005: Rocky (in the picture above), Jelly Roll (a.k.a. the tubby tabby), Wednesday, and Alexis (a.k.a. Petunia). We remain active in Holy Name of Jesus parish. Besides occasional lectoring and ushering, this year we became involved with the RCIA program (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults). The program’s purpose is to teach those who wish to join the Catholic church about the Catholic faith and to prepare them for acceptance into the church.
That’s it. Thanks for stopping by. Best wishes for a merry Christmas, a happy Hanukkah, an inspiring Kwanzaa, a holy Eid al-Ahda, and a happy New Year (Gregorian, Chinese, or Vietnamese).