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A Visit to Lakeview   

Sunday Morning, January 14, 2007


    Today, I made my first trip to Lakeview in New Orleans since before Katrina changed that world.   It has been  nearly a year and a half since the storm  hit, and since the failings of the governments we had faith in became apparent:  The levees we trusted our lives with had failed from  bad engineering, bad planning, but, no matter the reason,  Lakeview, as we knew it was over.  It was not a super storm that topped the levees.  The levees simply  failed.  The Levee board, the Corps of  Engineers, the Sewer and Water Board that controlled the pumping stations all failed as well.

     I met my friend Jeffery Smith who graciously rode with me while I surveyed my old neighborhood..  We've been friends for several years, having met through a couple of Photography Lists.  He has been photographing here and in the Ninth Ward, an equally devastated neighborhood since the storm, and has met with other photographers as a kind of guide.  I didn't need a guide,  I needed a friend to be there with me and give me some support in a time of grief. 

     Jeffery warned me that one of the things I would see in Lakeview was more bulldozing than restoration.  He was right.


    A considerable number of homes are being worked on, some new construction, and lots of houses are gutted, standing, waiting for the promised "Road Home" funding to help rebuild.  Meanwhile the FEMA trailers are pervasive, and as you can see, are plumbed into the water and waste systems for the long run.   Right now, Lakeview looks "Rode Home and put up wet."

     I was stuck by the otherworldly feeling of all this.  Bulldozed lots, partially renovated homes, gutted homes, and some that have not been touched since the eight to ten feet of water came and sat for days before they finally were able to pump it out. 

     Today I saw people working on homes, walking dogs, and planting flowers.  This kid is playing  in the sand where his next door neighbor's house once stood.


      This is a common sight; a  house waiting.  According to the diagram no one had to be rescued, and no bodies were found here.  I thought the bright green rye lawn, the pink house, and blue sky made for a Fujichrome moment.


     In 1982, Kathy and I bought our first home together.  It was this modest cottage.  I had heard from a realtor that it was available for a good price, but that there was an offer on it.  I climbed under and saw how well built it was, and decided that it would do just fine.  We offered a couple hundred dollars over the asking price and beat out the other customer.   We spent several years here, renovated it as we could afford to.  This was Adam's first home. I felt affirmation today at my judgment those many years ago.  The brick house on the right and the frame house on the left had to be bulldozed.  This house has been gutted, but it could be restored.  You can see the high water mark just at mid-window level.


     New Orleaneans often have an interesting sense of humor, even in black times.   This guy cammoed his FEMA Trailer, and along with a totem pole, has placed a water level gauge in his front yard.

    It is kind of hard to characterize the way the place was, more a small town just outside of a big city than anything else.  Churches, schools, banks, grocery stores; all the things  you expect from a community.   The ambience was what drew me there, and made me stay for 22 years of my 23 years in New Orleans.  I knew the manager of the drugstore, my church was in walking distance, as were a number of really good restaurants.  We had a butcher store, where the guy would make you a stuffed crown rib roast, just take it home and pop it in the oven.  There was a library, a great bakery, ice cream store, and for most of the time I lived there, a movie theatre. 

     I am optimistic it will one day return and be a great neighborhood once more.  It won't be the same, but I really hope they don't bulldoze all the character out of the place.













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