Saturday, October 01, 2005

In all the mayhem I've been posting I've nearly forgotten to talk about the positive things I've seen. Here's a quick list:

--Creole Creamery on Prytania is open.

--Bywater Barbecue and that area, with Bargain Center U.S.A., Piety St. Recording, my friend Alex's house, and the area in the Bywater from the bridge up to the Quarter, is fine, with the highest waterline being less than a foot. Most places didn't even have that.

--I've heard from some people who are back in N.O. or on their way, including AG people Jason Songe, Patrick Strange and Dakota of the Witness Exchange, Zack from Rotary Downs, DC from Doctor a' Go Go / More Fun Comics...I've hung out with Brian Jones, manager of the Landmark Theatre, Ballzack and his crew, and a few other people.

--Beer. I've got some Abita Amber at the house. It's good.

--One Eyed Jacks was open last night, from what I hear.

--Um....that's about it. Still, some good is still good, right?
Today we went into Chalmette to see my grandma's house. She passed away almost two years ago (my grandpa fourteen years ago?), and my parents and my mother's side just finished getting the estate in order before Katrina. My parents took out a loan and bought the house to keep it in the family, so a lot of the furniture was out of the house already (unfortunately some of it was at my place), though there were some things left in the house. I drove (which is why I don't have as many pictures as I'd like) with my parents in tow. The press pass came through again, since we got through the easy way instead of having to essentially circle the city on the interstate to get in the back way.

If Mid-City is bad and the lakefront area is worse, Chalmette is the end-all-be-all bottomless pit of despair and destruction. At first glance you may not be able to locate a waterline on most houses. That's because the waterline was above the houses. On our way down the street where my grandma's house is, we were blocked by a house in the middle of the street. That's right. A house in the middle of the street.

We doubled back, went down a side street and up our street. We were again blocked by a house, so we got out and walked the rest of the way. Another house was kind of in the street, to our left, and I recognized the dark yellow siding. My mind knew what it was but still told me that it couldn't possibly be what I thought it was. We walked up to where the house was supposed to be only to find this.

My mother realized where the house was and kind of shrieked, I guess, I don't really know. I was just astounded that the house had moved to a completely different lot, the house that was supposed to be there in its own backyard. This is the view from the street.

We chatted with some neighbors, people my mother grew up with, and they all were aware the area's going to be demolished. It has to be. What else can be done with it?

My dad and I went into the house, through the "front" door, and as depleted as the house was, stuff was still spread everywhere. These are some pictures of the house. We couldn't get into the den because the floor had evidently collapsed (I'd have been more surprised had the floor not collapsed, honestly), so these are the bedrooms. You can see a bit of the den through the kitchen shot.

And a shot of the "front" of the house.

We didn't stay over there long, so we went by my uncles houses. It was more of the same, really. No other houses in the street, but the same type of damage I've seen already. I offer this picture only to show the vast amount of mud caked up around the house. In parts of New Orleans (like around Crescent City Comics) you can hear the ground crack with the breaking of dried up mud. This was still wet. And deep.

I'm getting tired of all this destruction. Going to drink tonight and watch football tomorrow. No more of this stuff until Monday, at least.
Yesterday Les and I went back into Crescent City Comics to grab a few more things and to clean up. We went in the back way, meaning we took Carrollton (which turns into Wisner) towards Filmore, and Filmore up to Elysian Fields. The neighborhoods along Filmore are just demolished, entire blocks still wet and everywhere is muddy.

This is a shot from just over the canal.

After we cleaned up the shop we went towards my friend Dereck's dad's house. His dad stayed behind for the storm and wound up being rescued from his roof. Here's an outside shot of that house. I can imagine what the inside looks like.

We went by our friend Derrick Wells' house, which is a few minutes from the shop. Les had spoken to him last week and Derrick expected to be able to save around 25% of his stuff because he only expected a foot or two of water in the house. He had 3,000 CDs and over 300 DVDs, as well as who knows how many toys and whatnot. This is the shot from the front of the house.

I don't feel comfortable posting the pictures of inside the house because he hasn't even seen it yet. His room looks like my house, but in a smaller space.

The sad thing is that when we were on the phone with him he just couldn't believe what we were telling him. He still expects to salvage something, and even though I've been through the same thing the only explanation I could give him is that words and even pictures cannot set a person up for the actual sight itself. I'm sure I'll talk to him after he sees his stuff.
Wait a minute. It's October? Jeez, time flies after a hurricane, doesn't it?

The daily newspaper was actually delivered to my parents' place today. We'll see if that keeps up. Pictures from yesterday go up soon, later today we go into Chalmette to view my grandma's house.

Friday, September 30, 2005

A big update today with a ton of pictures I took when I went to board up Crescent City Comics yesterday.

A load of stuff happened yesterday. I was called to go by my friend Dre's dad's apartment because he got a report that it looked like the buildings were about to be torn down. It wasn't the case, fortunately. I'm supposed to go move stuff from his apartment into a storage unit tomorrow morning.

I found out that it's becoming more unlikely by the day that the printer I use for AG will reopen. That's not good news because the price they gave me was the only thing keeping the magazine afloat. I can maybe use an outside printer they have a deal with for whatever we wind up doing for Voodoo, but there aren't any more web printers in the N.O. area. I'll have to think about a format change if our printer doesn't come back online. I'll figure something out, though.

I think something new started to sink in yesterday. Once the shellshock of seeing all this destruction passes and the actuality of it all is's hard for your brain not to just shut off. It might sound weird, but seeing my house destroyed was one thing, because I only lived there since February. (Of course, seeing my stuff destroyed was a million times worse because I've had it for such a long time). If it was my parents' house destroyed, where I grew up, obviously it'd be a hundred times more difficult. Seeing the area around the comic shop destroyed, now that the shock of seeing it all the other day has worn off, may be worse. This is an area that I go to school in and have since 1996. I've eaten lunch thousands of times in the area, driven it even more than that.

It hit me, when I was looking at some abandoned cars in the Wendy's parking lot next to the shop, that this whole thing is like a Twilight Zone episode and we've been transported twenty years into the future only to find our civilization empty, old and broken down. Those cars look like they haven't been touched in so long...

After Les picked me up and we got near the shop, I began to notice some things that I hadn't the last time I'd been that way.

Like the sign from Burger King on a car three blocks away.

Later I took this photo for reference. You can see where the sign should be.

We got down to the shop and Les took it all in. Even after I sent him the photos I took the other day, he was still impressed with it all. It really is something, as vivid as pictures can be, that creates a whole new meaning for the word "damage." After we took a few of the more important things from the shop we explored the area a bit.

The inside of the nail salon we'd walk past on our way to the shop.

Again, it really is surreal to visit the places you've been so many times and to see them look so different. How many times have we eaten lunch from this Wendy's?

We walked around to Robert E. Lee and looked around. This can't be safe.

When I went to the shop the other day, Les requested that I look for his keys. He'd misplaced them in the mayhem of evacuating, and while he had his brother's keys, which allowed him to get into the shop, their house, etc..., he still wanted them. I couldn't find them then, and when we were in the shop we still couldn't find them. Still, when I walked around the parking lots, he said to keep an eye out for them. Walking around the back of the shop, Les wanted to check on a door in the alley that leads up to a storage area in the shop. Sure enough, there were his keys, still in the door from when he locked up. They're nice and rusted from being submerged in water for two weeks.

We also realized that in the alleyway of a nearby bar, the Wendy's outdoor cooling unit sat, propped on the building and a neighbor's porch.

And from the back angle.

Also in the back parking lot sat a box of glasses, obviously from someone's house.

The Ferrara supermarket didn't do too well. I didn't want to go inside so I just stuck the camera in the side of the building and snapped a shot.

Phone calls are still 25 cents, though.

I wonder why they made the Ferrara "Camp Lucky," but I'm glad somebody took the dog.

After that exploring, we headed back towards my place. On Robert E. Lee I saw someone watching over me. The picture's fuzzy since I took it while moving.

We tried to get to another friend's house to check on it, but couldn't because the roads were still flooded. We did see this on the way, though.

And the airfield on the lakefront.

After all of that was said and done we wound up at Les' house Uptown. It was after curfew then, and he didn't have power at his house, as he expected, so we went around to our friend Brian's house. He runs the Landmark theatre at Canal Place. He was home, working on his roof. I think he's the first person I've seen other than those in my close circle of friends that I really care about, and the first person who has something to do with AG. Landmark sponsors our film reviews, and we sponsored the Midnight Madness movie series there. The theatre took on a bit of damage, but the good news is that it will open again, probably in November. That's actually some of the best news I've heard yet. I can't wait to see a movie there, even if it's a crapfest.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

My friend AJ's sister happens to know the guy who leased all kinds of equipment to TwiRoPa, a music club in N.O. After the storm he needed to get in and grab all the equipment he could, and he needed help to do it, so when we got word of it Michelle and I went to the club to pitch in. For the past few years we've had many experiences there.

In June of 2003 I organized the first [N.O.]D.I.Y: Alternative Media Expo there, and put together three more, the most recent in April '05. When the first Expo went over so well it got me a gig promoting the club's weekly '80s dance night. I did that until March of '05, and that extra job funded the beginning of AntiGravity. Michelle had been bartending there for a few months when Katrina hit.

Also in 2003, a couple months after Michelle and I met, I set it up so our second date ended on the TwiRoPa roof. We spent hours listening to music on a boombox I brought with us, drinking wine and looking over the city. We had a great view of the Crescent City Connection.

Since AG started, we've hosted a few shows there and attended many more. One of the most satisfying things about AG has been getting to a show that's doing much better than the club anticipated. The club's always thankful, the promoters even more so. I'm proud to say we had a few instances of that at TwiRoPa.

Since the equipment guys had a flat tire and showed up an hour late, Michelle and I had time to explore the venue. It was unlocked, and we went into what they called the Tchoupitoulas Room, where smaller shows took place. The bars were still fully stocked, and everything else seemed in place. The roof was dripping and there were puddles of water covering most of the concrete floor.

We walked through the venue, through the Mill Room, towards the Live Room, where all the bigger shows happened. It wasn't easy to get in, though.

It only took a little maneuvering, but we got in. This is a shot from the doorway.

And from the stage. This is the room the past three Expos were in. I wish I had a photo of the Expo from the same angle, but they were all on my PC at the house that flooded. If I did have a picture of the Expo, you'd see 8 foot tables lined up those poles and in islands with exhibitors behind them, and maybe some models in the fashion show we had last time.

We also went upstairs into the office areas. Not much to report there, but while on the fourth floor I did take this photo of the gigantic trash mound that's a block away.

I don't think TwiRoPa is going to open again. The owners (new guys who came in a few months after I got the promotions gig) aren't from New Orleans and don't have the ties to the city some other club owners do. The building wasn't in good shape during the best of times, so seeing it in the condition it's in shouldn't be surprising. It'd be insanely difficult to rebuild. The booking agents who've gotten the club to really step it up over the past few months are probably moving to California, so the main part of the club's management will be gone. The sad thing is TwiRoPa was starting to become an elite club in terms of booking, taking shots on up and coming bands (before the storm, they'd just booked Clap Your Hands Say Yeah for the end of October, as just one example). I'll have to find a new place to do the Expo, whenever it's time to do another one.

The city's music scene survived before TwiRoPa, and I'm sure it will after TwiRoPa. Another club, like One Eyed Jack's, will surely pick up the slack, though I'm sure it'll take awhile before the city can again support some of the bigger names. I know that AG'll be around to promote the hell out of those shows, though.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Yesterday I realized that I didn't know how Handsome Willy's weathered Rita, so I wanted to go out to check on it and grab some things like the remaining AG t-shirts, the leftover issues of IMBIBE, and a basket of albums AG reviewers had yet to get to.

The area around Willy's was much less active than it was the last time we were there, and Michelle and I weren't stopped once we got across the Mississippi River Bridge. When we pulled up to Willy's I realized I'd taken Michelle's keys instead of mine, so I didn't have my key to the office. I remembered that the door on the roof was blown wide open by Katrina, so I just hopped on the ice machine and walked in.

When I was nearly done grabbing everything Jarret and Justin, two of the three owners of Willy's, showed up, and it was good to see those guys again. It's nice to see a N.O. business not even sweat what's going on. Their landlord is either going to renovate their building or demolish it and rebuild, but either way there will be a Handsome Willy's again. They say that if they have to cut grass until the building is ready and they can reopen the restaurant then that's what they'll do. They're solid guys and I'm glad we partnered AG with them.

After leaving Willy's I wanted to check out Crescent City Comics. CCC has been the shop I've gone to since 1996, when the comic shop I went to as a kid closed up. I've grown pretty close to all the guys who work, and worked, there, and Les, the owner, let me work my first comic convention in 2000. I worked a total of five with those guys, and they were all great experiences I wouldn't have had otherwise.

The shop is near the lakefront and right by the University of New Orleans. The entire area had floodwater, up to ten feet. Driving down Elysian Fields was like driving into our neighborhood in Mid-City, with the abandoned houses, the waterlines, the dead lawns and the smell of floodwater and mold.

It's still amazing to me that boats are randomly plunked down on the side of the roads.

This is the front of the shop. It's in a small strip, above the dry cleaner, with a nail salon and a place that puts logos on stuff. Since the shop's on the second floor it didn't get water, though it was close. You may not be able to see the waterline, but it's a third of the way up the pane of glass above the door.

The dry cleaner, even though they'd boarded up, had their windows blown out, from water pressure inside, I guess.

When we walked up to the shop I first thought someone had broken in because the window next to the door was busted and a ladder and some pieces of wood had been laid on the stairway. It turns that's just where the water dropped them. Since the window was busted we climbed in and went up the stairs.

This is one photo from the inside of the shop.

Probably about 50% of it will be salvageable. Parts of the roof fell in and water seeped in along the perimeter of the shop, ruining the racks of new comics. Most of the back issues were okay, along with most of the trades. It was dark inside and the batteries in my camera were low so I couldn't use the flash continuously.

I called Les to give him updates and looked for a few things he wanted. He'll probably pick me up today so I can help board up the shop.

I can't imagine anything in that immediate area that's on the first floor being usable in the forseeable future. The grocery store across the street from the shop looked completely flooded out, other shops were destroyed. I know people who lived near there too, and the water only got deeper the further you went into the neighborhoods. I know how bad my place looked with less than six feet of water in it. I don't even want to imagine what houses look like with the water over the doors.

Today I'm going into TwiRoPa to help someone take their equipment out, so I'll have pictures of that later today.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Spent today watching football with friends. At this point Sundays have been the only time things feel close to normal, when we can scream at the TV and go through six packs of beer and whatever is cooked.

The Saints played the Vikings at noon and it pretty much sucked from the start. For the second week in a row they won the coin toss, elected to get the ball kicked to them and promptly fumbled it away. If that wasn't bad enough it went downhill from there. The team was down 17-0 before they scored and never led, ultimately losing 33-16 and it probably wasn't as close as the score would lead you to believe.

But we ate well, drank a lot and the Patriots (my second favorite football team since 1992) won in the afternoon so all wasn't lost. A pretty decent day, all things considered.

Yesterday my 22-year-old and developmentally disabled brother Lucas, while helping cut down a busted tree in the backyard, broke his foot in two spots when a gust of wind finished breaking the tree and it fell on his back. He's okay, the foot's in a soft cast and doesn't need a hard one, though we need to watch him for a couple weeks in case the bruising on his back puts pressure on his spleen or kidneys. He's laid up in his recliner watching TV and being waited on, so it's not so bad for him. He's had a few broken bones before, so it's nothing new for him.
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