Sunday, December 31, 2006

Welcome 2007

Have a Very Happy and Prosperous 2007
May You and Yours Have a
Better Year This Year Than Last Year

Posted from Key West, Florida

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

I love Christmas

I have always loved Christmas. It is a time of joy and giving. A time for family and friends. A time even the unreligious can enjoy a winter festival and contemplate the meaning in life. A time to prepare for a New Year with hope and determination.

The first Christmas we moved into our now flooded house, I covered the front of the house with lights, including a giant tapestry of crawling, blinking, sequenced lights. I said it was so people could find the place but I just wanted to do it. In that now empty house we hosted several Christmas Eve parties for far flung family and friends. We have many memories.

Every Year we have gathered family and friends and exchanged gifts and good cheer. Often we hear for far away friends who, while not exactly forgotten are, in the press of time and the hustle of life, not often remembered either.

This year we took it easy. Just the Mother in Law, Brother in Law and Nephew joined us for a traditional Christmas dinner in our temporary condo. Christmas Eve was spent with a much reduced Family at Her Uncle's house, but her uncle has not yet been able to return to his home from exile in Texas, due to health care problems. Hopefully he will return shortly after the New Year.

After our Christmas Eve party, back in our temporary residence we exchanged gifts and talked of relatives and friends who have moved on. Children of friends we have known since childhood, now raising their own children. It doesn't seem that long ago. People no longer in New Orleans. She asked me what we did last year.

In the the aftermath of the flood we were trying to put our affairs in order. We didn't get together with family because they were spread across several states, with no home completely unscathed and ready to host the crowd. I don't even think we exchanged gifts between the two of us. I honestly can't remember Christmas at all.

This year was a whole lot better. Maybe next year will almost normal.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Emergency Living Unit Blog Crue

Back when I started Tin Can Trailer Trash someone wrote that I was the only person in New Orleans blogging from a FEMA Trailer. I didn't know if that was true then and I still don't.

I do know that there are now several other New Orleans Bloggers living in FEMA "Emergency Living Units".

I think we need to Organize.

I propose we establish the Emergency Living Unit Blog Crue
"to unite fraternally all autocampers" 'Emergency Living Unit Residents' and promote "friendliness among campers residents, decent behavior and to secure plenty of clean, wholesome entertainment for those in camp "Emergency Living Units".

The only requirement for membership is to have blogged while residing in a FEMA "Emergency Living Unit".

I know of several potential members and am looking for more. I hope the Blogosphere will do its thing and help me unite all Survivors in ELUBC.

NOLA Bloggers

Tin Can Trailer Trash
Tim's Nameless Blog
Michael Homan
Kalypso The Odyssey
PH Fred at Humid City
Gentilly Girl
Gulf Sails

Other candidates I found on the Internet.

Confessions of a Wannabe Princess
Jason Sampler
Mary-Pat
Ruminations
Paula's Pad
darnola
Kitchen Politics
Pat
Cameron
Aly
BigMac
Cool Will Gee
Rachel
Kevin Gallagher
aimee
David and Beth
Wendy Michele
tdoe

I actually may have found several more potential members, but I couldn't be sure they had actually blogged while living in a FEMA "Emergency Living Unit".

We need to recruit someone to devise "an initiation ceremony that teaches the prospective member the secret handshake, sign, and password. After singing the official song (which still needs to be written) the trailerite will become an official member of the Emergency Living Unit Blog Crue". We are looking for someone to volunteer to develop an official logo and blog banner so that members of ELUBC can identify themselves.

Maybe in a year or two we can organize Bonus March on Washington, just like the old days.

We could use a better name.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Government in Action - Gretna Style

Last week I had occasion to attend the Gretna City Council Meeting.

It was a great opportunity to see Government in Action and judging by my small window it actually seems to work.

I arrived early and the mayor introduced himself to me while I was waiting for the rest of my party to arrive. He even took the time to check the agenda to see if my matter was on it.

The meeting itself was a model of decorum, with the council members offering courteous, respectful comment on the issues before them.

The meeting had the possibility of running off the tracks in several places but failed to do so.

Its interesting that the issues paralleled issues which come before our much more Self Important Council.

Historic Preservation. Several issues dealt with the Gretna Historic District and approvals of various proposals. Everyone seemed to be trying to come to a reasonable conclusion. They discovered and discussed a few issues which needed further consideration and actually came to a sort of resolution.

Advisory Base Flood Elevations. Gretna adopted the FEMA Advisory Base Flood Elevations. A representative of FEMA was present. She offered helpful information and was treated with respect.

FEMA Trailers. Like Jefferson Parish, Gretna adopted a Housing Emergency Ordinance after the flood. Their Ordinance apparently authorized trailers in Gretna (they are otherwise prohibited) until January 1, 2007. After that trailers are technically illegal. City Workers have managed to locate all 501 trailers in Gretna and have so far delivered two notices of the existing requirements to each one. City workers have identified 78 trailers which do not meet the requirements of the regulations or were not permitted and suspect many more do not but they can't be sure.

The City of Gretna will be notifying each trailer after the first of the year that the Housing Emergency has expired and will eventually cite any trailer in violation of their regulations. Any trailer complying with the rules will be allowed to stay until repairs are completed, but monitored for progress. All in all a fair outcome. The rules apparently allow trailers only to be used by citizens of Gretna as a temporary residence while their home is repaired. They apparently may not be used to house displaced relatives or as rental property. Seems reasonable to me. I don't have all of the rules but this is what I understood from the meeting.

Citizen Involvement. One portion of the meeting was set aside for Citizen Statements. Apparently the statement can be on any issue. Most of the comments were on FEMA trailers. As you might expect most of the people commenting were not well informed, apparently there was a rumor that all trailers were going to be moved to a trailer park somewhere. The Mayor and Council listened carefully to each citizen and tried to understand their situation. In a couple of cases they made recommendations for the Citizen to consult with someone at a city department later to provide more information.

The Times Picayune also came up. Apparently the Paper gets it wrong a lot and reports things like murders as occurring in Gretna when they didn't

Meetings like this make you understand that government can work and doesn't need to be all about the politicians. Although the meeting took almost four hours and we were near the bottom of the agenda, I'm glad I had to go.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Radio Bru-Ha-Ha

Someone left my blog this spammy comment;
anonymouse has left a new comment on your post "The (Long) Road Home - the First Steps":

If only New Orleans cared about New Orleans If it had been a concert at the High Noon Tuesday evening it would have been a sold out show. Four hundred ninety supporters of Madison's Air America affiliate, the Mic, packed into the venue with more spilling out onto the patio and into the parking lot. Multiple speakers, including politicians and Mic advertisers, took to the stage to express their concerns and frustration over the decision by Clear Channel to dump the progressive talk format and replace it with FOX Sports. But those speakers, while they all brought important messages, weren't the most striking part of the evening. What struck a chord in me was the casual conversation after the event from unsuspecting folks who sounded like they were snapped in the ass with a towel. They were saying things like, "Clear Channel doesn't care about Madison," "why does Clear Channel get to make our decisions," "Clear Channel owns too much." It struck a nerve because it has been a long time since there has been casual talk like that in a public space.
It made no sense in the context of my post and shortly afterwards the same comment showed up on another New Orleans Blog. I rejected the comment but the subject brought up some things I had been thinking about but had almost decided not to post since the events were getting a little stale.

Recently Entercom, WWL and WSMB's parent company, changed the format of WSMB, one of the oldest radio stations in New Orleans (along with WWL). WSMB was originally a partnership of Maison Blanche and Sanger Theaters, hence the call letters. Both WSMB and WWL have great history.

Some of my blogger friends have taken exception to Entercom's decision to discontinue Air America Radio. They all seem to have overlooked some facts. Which are;
  • Air America Radio has filed bankruptcy protection under chapter 11.
  • WSMB was one of the lowest rated radio stations in New Orleans.
I hope Arbirton doesn't mind me reproducing their most recent survey here;

Station
Format
Su03
FA03
SP06
SU06
WQUE-FM
Urban Contemporary
*
*
10.7
11.3
WWL-AM
News Talk Information
*
*
10.6
10.6
WYLD-FM
Urban Adult Contemporary
*
*
10.3
10.3
WLMG-FM
Adult Contemporary
*
*
7.3
7.7
WNOE-FM
Country
*
*
9.6
7.3
WKBU-FM
Classic Hits
*
*
3.8
5.0
WEZB-FM
Pop Contemporary Hit Radio
*
*
6.0
4.9
KMEZ-FM
Urban Adult Contemporary
*
*
3.2
4.2
WRNO-FM
Classic Rock
*
*
4.5
4.2
WTIX-FM
Oldies
*
*
2.3
2.8
KHEV-FM
Gospel
*
*
2.3
2.4
WDVW-FM
Hot Adult Contemporary
*
*
2.1
1.9
KKND-FM
Country
*
*
1.5
1.5
KGLA-AM
Spanish Contemporary
*
*
*
1.4
WYLD-AM
Gospel
*
*
1.2
1.3
WPRF-FM
Contemporary Inspirational
*
*
0.8
1.2
WMTI-FM
Soft Adult Contemporary
*
*
1.5
1.1
WIST-AM
Talk/Personality
*
*
1.0
1.0
KLRZ-FM
Variety
*
*
1.0
0.9
WFNO-AM
Spanish Contemporary
*
*
0.4
0.9
WSMB-AM
Talk/Personality
*
*
0.9
0.7
WYNK-FM
Country
*
*
0.4
0.7
WODT-AM
All Sports
*
*
0.7
0.6
WFMF-FM
Pop Contemporary Hit Radio
*
*
0.4
0.5
KNOU-FM
Urban Contemporary
*
*
0.6
*
WYLK-FM
Rhythmic Contemporary Hit Radio
*
*
0.4
*

Please note that WSMB is near the bottom and falling from 18th to 21st of 26 stations (if I can count, which is questionable). There are two Spanish language stations with better ratings than WSMB.

Air America's parent filed for bankruptcy protection. According to MSNBC;
Air America has struggled financially since its inception. Documents filed with the bankruptcy court show that the company lost $9.1 million in 2004, $19.6 million in 2005 and $13.1 million so far in 2006.
I don't listen to talk radio much. I never did prior to Katrina. I started with the United Broadcasters of New Orleans (a joint project of Entercom and Clear Channel). That's when I started listening to Tom Fitzmorris. In the early part of this year when I drove alone through absolute darkness and desolation to my FEMA trailer behind my gutted house he was the only person I found who was trying to lighten our spirits, reporting every day on restaurant openings in New Orleans as we all struggled to return to sanity. He politely refused to report negative news. That helped me more that I can express. I still listen to WWL sometimes because they have call in shows with local officials.

I found what little I heard of Air America annoying. Rush Limbaugh is subjectively more entertaining, whether you agree with him or not he is, to me, simply better radio. I know a number of my progressive friends who regularly listen to Limbaugh, just to yell at the radio.

But my primary beef with all of this is I still like to listen to Tom Fitzmorris on my way home from work. They have moved his show up in time so I can't listen to him any more. Instead I get Bobby Hebert or Garland Robinett.

I'm also ticked that they changed the call letters of WSMB to WWWL and let the history of WSMB, a pioneer local talk radio station in the sixties, fade from New Orleans.

One final fact, Entercom introduced Air America into New Orleans giving it a chance to find a local audience and if their web site is correct Entercom still has an Air America station in Sacramento, California, that hot bed of progressive activism.

I think I'll just go back to WWOZ.

I probably shouldn't have waded into this and some of my blogger buddies probably won't speak to me again but facts is facts.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Geaux Saints


Section 139, Row 29, Seats 1 and 2

Stop by and say Hello.

Be forewarned that we often don't arrive in time for kickoff.


Thursday, December 14, 2006

The (Long) Road Home - the First Steps

We procrastinate.

We are also pretty much convinced we will never collect anything from the Road Home so we put off filing our application.

We were concerned that we might need a lot of stuff we don't have. That turned out not to be the case.

Finally about a month ago we sent in our application.

Monday we got a letter saying we were qualified to apply, but that we needed to make an appointment. The earliest appointment is January 19th.

I don't think that's too bad.

I still don't think We'll get a nickle.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Bones

I am watching "Bones" in Atlanta and it is full of voo-doo, as if New Orleans is submerged in voo-doo.

I especially liked the snake in the morgue.

When did voo-doo become a part of the cause of the flood?

How did someone who rescued people during Katrina get swept away when the levees broke.

I'm glad I'm not paying attention.

Got Milk?

A few weeks ago She stopped by our neighborhood Kroger's in Atlanta. She just needed a few things on the way home from the office.

When she got to the checkout, She selected a line with only one cart ahead of her. There were Two Ladies conversing with the Checker. They all seemed to know each other. The Two Ladies had apparently been shopping together, mixing their purchases in the same cart. They were separating their purchases at the cash register all the while while carrying on an animated conversation with the Checker.

Impatient as always She stood there for several minutes waiting for the conversation to end. Eventually A Man with a few items got in line behind her. Noticing his few purchases she commented somewhat exasperated, I'm sure, that he "might want to try another line, it might be a while". He decided to stick it out.

Finally as the Two Ladies finished their conversation with the Checker and gathered their groceries to leave, one of the Two Ladies announced, to no one in particular, "I'm from L. A. and don't allow Milk to talk to Us like that." The Lady hurried out the door and disappeared.

At least that was what She thought She heard. She was both stunned and puzzled.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Jingle, Jangle, Jingle - He's Baaaack ...

I don't shop. She Shops, or rather She buys stuff. Shopping would imply that She browses through merchandise comparing and selecting. She is much more direct that that. She is also fast. She calls it BlitzShopping.

She started Christmas shopping and made one of her occasional trips to Dillard's. She came home with one of these plush Bingles.


She also bought one of these tree ornaments. You can't read it but it says Mr. Bingle 2006 on his jacket.

I miss the giant Mr. Bingle that Maison Blanche put up on Canal Street. Do you think Dillard's and the Ritz-Carlton could get together to continue the tradition?


Dillard's is offering collections of Bingles, for people who want to restore their collection or start a new one.
They also have a website, which has all sorts of Binglemania, including the Story of Mr. Bingle.

Sean Payton is a God

His play calling was beyond great. He beat the Big Tuna every which way.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Darkness Continues but Some Progress Is Made.

Darkness at The Trailer continues unabated. We are still without electricity in our Emergency Living Unit.

I'm staying in the Kenner Kondo, but I go back to The Trailer and the house every few days.

Yesterday I made a visit. Work on the house next door is progressing nicely. More good news. down the block construction has started on one of the cleared lots. They haven't done much but they have started. Further down the block another house has its yard all torn up, with big piles of sand in the yard. They seem to be getting ready to complete the work.

Entergy has now been out three times. They identified the problem, the conductors from the manhole to the meter are shorted out. Entergy sort of knows where the short is, it's under our house or our driveway. Entergy thinks it's because the conductors were submerged for however long they were under water or bexause of f;ppd related settlement. Entergy also says its our responsibility to provide a 2 1/2" conduit from their manhole to our meter cabinet. That was a month ago.

We also called FEMA. They said they would send someone out to put up a pole and a meter. The said they would call us back. That was three or four weeks ago. Someone dug a hole next to the manhole and drove a very stout red metal spike in the ground. That was a couple of weeks ago. No call yet.

Not much progress on my part but the neighborhood is starting to show signs of recovery.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

The Saints Go Marching In.


I had planned a post prior to the Saints game, unfortunately I was not able to be in that number. I will probably post it before the next home game.

Last Thursday while I was in Atlanta I got a call from my sister. My Dad had been taken to the hospital. I started figuring out how to get from Atlanta to East Texas. I was a little disappointed to be missing the Saints game.

Whenever I think of the Saints, both the song and the team I usually think of the my Dad. My Dad came late to New Orleans. He moved here in 1965 to help build the Union Carbide plant in Taft. I was just starting high school. We got here just in time for Hurricane Betsy. Almost all of our furniture was destroyed when the storage warehouse flooded. Welcome to the coast.

My first Saints game was the very first Saints game. We attended almost all of the home games while I lived in New Orleans. I spent many Sunday afternoons in the end zone of old Tulane Stadium with my brother and my Dad. When I left for college I continued to follow the Saints. Going to LSU I came home frequently and still attended many games, until the rest of the family moved to Puerto Rico the next year. After I graduated we moved away for a while but I still followed the Saints, of course She is a much bigger fan than I am. When we moved back to New Orleans for good a few years later She and I started going to the games again this time with her father. He was another "plank owner" having held his tickets since the beginning. We eventually took over two of his seats.

Before I could finish my travel arrangements, my sister called back. My Dad was gone. Suddenly, unexpectedly.

When he lived here my Dad loved to go to Preservation Hall. He loved tradition, all sorts of traditions. He recognized the value of them. He also recognized the value of passing tradition to the next generation. He often took families with children to Preservation Hall early in the evening to sit on the floor and listen to the music.

The family gathered from around the country. Lately we only seem to gather at times like this. What started as a sad occasion became a remembrance of a life well lived, a man and his family.

We played the Saints at the end of his service.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Duh

After months of puzzling over my erratic stats. I had an epiphany (I love that word). My stats jump whenever I post comments to someone else's blog. The more comments I post the more hits I get.

I could probably figure out which blogs generate the most hits if I tried. I'm just not that interested, although Saints comments seem to be part of it.

I'm pretty sure I'm the last person on the Internet to figure this out.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

They Say It's Her Birthday


Notable Birthdays November 29


Dagmar was born on November 29, 1921


Louisa May Alcott was born on November 29, 1832


Busby Berkeley was born on November 29, 1895

C.S. Lewis was born on November 29, 1898


Howie Mandel was born on November 29, 1955

It's Her Birthday Too, Yeah

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

A New Thanksgiving Tradition

I have been trying to eliminate the unhealthy parts of traditional dishes from the Thanksgiving menu. One of my targets was the ubiquitous canned cranberry sauces, either chunky or regular. I like the taste and cranberries themselves are healthy, but the canned stuff has way too much sugar added.

I've tried several things but never been entirely successful. This year I was. I made a no sugar added cranberry gelatin mold and it was a hit, even with my non-health conscious relatives.

Your Mominem's Satsuma/Cranberry Mold
  • One bag of fresh cranberries
  • One cup of Splenda
  • One package of Knox gelatin
  • Three Louisiana Satsumas
  • One quarter cup of chopped walnuts
  1. Peal the Satsumas, separate the sections and clean. Set the cleaned sections aside.
  2. Heat cranberries in four cups of water until boiling.
  3. While the cranberries heat, blend the powdered gelatin into one cup of cold water in large mixing bowl.
  4. As soon as the cranberries come to a boil blend the mixture into the mixing bowl with the gelatin mixture.
  5. Mix the cranberries gelatin and Splenda gently until the gelatin is completely dissolved.
  6. Cool the mixing bowl in a larger bowl or kitchen sink filled with cold water.
  7. When the mixture reaches approximately room temperature gently fold in Satsuma sections and walnuts.
  8. Transfer to molds if desired and refrigerate until hardened (at least 3 hours).
  9. To serve, release gelatin by placing the mold in hot water.

If anyone tries it please let me know how you like it.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Life, Remeberance and Katrina

Last week my Aunt died after a long illness. She was my mother's sister and a wonderful woman. When I was a child all of my mother's family lived in the same town and we saw each other frequently. I grew up seeing my cousins almost weekly.

Over the years the family dispersed to different parts of the country, so I haven't seen her much in the last several years. I last saw her at a family reunion in South Carolina which was disrupted by Hurricane Ivan so many people couldn't make it.

I consider myself lucky, both my of parents are still living and in relatively good health. That is a blessing.

At times like this we always reflect on life and this time is no different. I remember things.

One thing I remembered is something my parents did when my father retired. They sold their big two story house near Houston and bought a new smaller one story house in a small East Texas town away from the coast. I never have understood how they came to pick the town they picked.

The strategy was sound. They used the equity in their old house to entirely pay for a smaller new house better suited to their needs as they would grow older. They also eliminated a mortgage payment, freeing up a significant part of their retirement income. As Betsy survivors (they lost almost all of their furniture) they wanted to be safe from hurricanes, so they moved away from the coast. Not quite far enough it turns out, Rita left them without power for a week and a tree fall on their house.

It occurs to me that many people in New Orleans and along the Gulf Coast will now never be able to do what my parents did. They have lost the equity they had built up over many years and are now saddled with substantial new debt, in the form of low interest SBA Disaster Loans. I don't see how people of ordinary means can overcome that.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Holiday Travel Tip

The New Orleans Louis Armstrong International Airport has announced a 350 car Cell Phone Parking Lot. Good idea.

I have a better one. Go sit in the Airport Hilton Bar. I've been doing this for several years. It's relatively cheap, comfortable and they usually have fresh popcorn. You can get to the airport in a couple of minutes, long before a passenger get their bags. I usually wait until I have a call confirming the bags are in hand.

I hope 350 people don't start using the Hilton Bar. It will be very crowded.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

New Neighbors

My next door neighbor finally sold his house. We don't know for how much. We haven't met them. We don't even know to who yet.

The good news is that they are moving quickly to repair the house. They have a new roof already on and are beginning work in the inside.

I only hope they will let me move the trailer out through their yard, because that's the way we got it in. It's also the only way to get it out.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Land Reform New Orleans Style

In much of the under developed world one of the major issues has been Land Reform or Land Redistribution.

After Communist governments were established in most countries, land was expropriated by the government and collectives formed, for the benefit of the "peasants" or "workers". In theory the workers were to benefit from the removal of the oppressive land owners. In reality the Soviet workers attitude became "They pretend to pay us and we pretend to work". Mexico and other Latin and African countries have at different times also initiated Land Reform with varying degrees of success. Recently Zimbabwe has been in the news with charges of expropriating land from mostly white owners, for the benefit of government supporters.

There are at least three separate causes which will effect significant redistribution of the Residential Property in New Orleans.

Foreclosure and Repossession. Many people are going to simply walk away from their mortgages and New Orleans rather than rebuild. Some of the mortgage companies may recover from the insurance, especially if there was flood insurance in place, but they will eventually repossess the property. A large number of small rental properties will fall into the group, since rental don't generally qualify for government help. A lot of these loans will be federally insured through VA and FHA, leading to HUD ownership.

Road Home Buyouts. No one knows how many people will take the buyout option. I know of a couple of people who are going to. I don't have a feel the economics of the situation and it probably varies by neighborhood. Private investors will likely make it more advantageous to sell to them in the more desirable neighborhoods. Out in the east, I expect a lot more LRA buyouts.

Blighted Property. The city has recently begun notifying the owners of nearly 9,000 properties that they need to clean up and secure their property. Most people will comply but a lot won't. The city will in time begin to take possession of these properties.

Since the Road Home and Blighted properties will eventually end up under the control of the city, there are really three categories of Owners which will be prominent in this process.

Private Lenders. Normally sell repossessed properties to private investors as soon as possible, owning property only costs them more money. In New Orleans I expect there will be a shortage of investors by the time the lenders actually have the property. Lenders might decide to demolish any heavily damaged property, rather than risk a mold or other suit down the road Lenders might be induced to donate property to a Redevelopment Authority, in exchange for immunity for future law suits or simply to unload it.

HUD has a well developed process of disposing of reposessed property and as a federal agency can afford to hold property as long as it takes, but their normal process probably won't apply in New Orleans. I expect HUD to demolish any building not meeting the minimum flood elevation. They might also be directed to donate property to a Redevelopment Authority by a higher authority.

The City of New Orleans will receive, through a Redevelpment Agency, all of the property purchased by the LRA. They will also likely receive the property seized through the Blighted Property programs.

I am fearful of the result of the current land redistribution efforts in New Orleans. How this property is transfered and redeveloped will be crucial to the long term health of New Orleans. If past experience is any guide we should be very vigilant in monitoring how this is accomplished.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Going, Going, Gone

Just before we were to close on the Condo we flew back to town together on a Thursday evening. As we drove past Kirshman's Rooms to Go on Veterans Highway on the way home. We were looking for some place to eat. We noticed that there was an auction sign up. Actually there were several signs were up. The Auction was already going on so we decided to go in and check it out.

The Auctioneer was selling furniture, rugs and other stuff like there we no tomorrow. They were selling everything imaginable in home furnishings - lamps, decorative statues, pictures, rugs bedroom furniture, sofas, chairs, dining room sets and appliances. In addition to the auctioneer there was a well oiled crew moving furniture on and off the platform. It took less than a minute to auction an item and move it off to some hidden staging area.

Often the lots consisted of entire room sets. It was fascinating. I wandered around looking at the furniture which was being auctioned. It was all sitting around the store. I could never figure out what they were going to auction next. Since we had no furniture and since we were just about to buy an unfurnished condominium. I was wondering what I was going to sit on. I encouraged her to buy something, but she wouldn't bid.

Eventually hunger got the best of us. At dinner we couldn't get the auction out of our minds. We just kept talking about it. We couldn't go back Friday, we had a party to go to. We decided to go back Saturday and see if there was anything left.

Saturday we went early and after a while She started biding. The first thing she bought was a big leather club chair, unfortunately the matching ottoman had gotten lost somewhere along the way.
It was immediately apparent that it wouldn't fit in our car or in the Brother's SUV. I rushed around to find a truck. That turned out to be easy. I was able to rent a decent sized U-Hail truck from the U-Haul store on Causeway for less that $20 per day and $0.87 per mile.
By the time I got back She had purchased two sofas, a table and two rugs. She later purchased another rug. We had enough, or at least I had. When we paid for our stuff we were told we could either load it that evening or the next morning. We decided to call it a day and come back tomorrow.

In all of the crowd and commotion of the auction there was a crew painting the front of the building, part of the switch over to Rooms to Go. As you can see from the picture the Kirshman's store already had the pediment. All that was necessary was to add the distinctive distinctive Rooms to Go paint job.

We weren't sure how much help we could get loading the stuff and while She could handle the small stuff, the upholstered furniture was to big and heavy for the two of us to handle. We enlisted the Brother and the Nephew to get up early Sunday morning and help load the truck. They don't usually rise that early but they did for Her. It was a nice gesture. It was also unnecessary. The furniture crew who was hustling the stuff around the auction floor was there to help load and they loaded the truck in a few minutes. We were off.

Sometimes She doesn't tell me everything, and often She thinks She has told me everything. This time She didn't tell me the sofas She bought were really a reclining sofa and matching love seat, similar to the one pictured. Not exactly what I was thinking of, but She had my backing to buy anything She thought would work.There was another problem. The sofas might not fit through the door of the condo. The condo is a small one and the form door is very close to the front closet. The back door is a very narrow sliding glass door. There is no place to turn a seven foot sofa. I decided we need professional help . I called a mover and told them we needed a furniture expert to help us get these things in the condo. That was easily arranged. They could have a crew come out on Thursday morning. I had already decided to keep the truck and store the furniture in it since we couldn't move in until after we bought the thing on Wednesday afternoon.

Thursday came we got all of the furniture in. It's lucky She bought the reclining sofas. On most recliners the back is removable, they just lift off. Even with the back off they had to take the sliding door apart to get the big one in.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Movin' on Up.

Since the flood She has been spending much of her time in Atlanta. I have been here, mostly. She commuted here for several days each week and I visited there about once a month. We did that so I could get our office here up and running and She could oversee things there.

She decided she needed to come back to New Orleans, to work more directly on our house. She also decided she couldn't spend a lot of time in the Trailer. She decided to buy a small Condominium in Kenner (or Kennya as one of our Metarie resident friends calls it).

The purchase was an interesting experience.

I guess I should confess I wasn't all that thrilled with the additional expense, additional complications and inevitable delay on getting our house completed. She managed to pull it off and we are now the proud occupants of three and one half residences (An Apartment in Atlanta, a Condo in Kennya, a Trailer in the backyard and the hulk of a House in front of the trailer).

We learned a lot about the state of New Orleans. We learned how hard it was to get insurance, for one thing. Our current home owner's company for the house wouldn't cover us for another property, although if we sold the house we could get coverage on a new house. We contacted one State Farm insurance agent about getting condo insurance, and he agreed to provide it. We went to sign up and give them a check. They suddenly asked if we had any claims in the last 3 years. We had one so they denied us insurance. If we had moved here from Iowa and had no previous claims we would have been able to get a State Farm policy n the same property. I still can't figure out what a claim for a weather related event on another piece of property has to do with anything. If anyone out there has a clue please let me know.

We were able to get insurance from AAA (yes, the American Automobile Association). They were happy to write insurance. Apparently they are one of the few companies actually writing new policies. In discussing it with our new agent he expressed his frustration with AAA's constantly changing underwriting rules which, for example, have stopped him writing policies on the West Bank (apparently they had written too many). Of course he couldn't write a policy anywhere in Orleans Parish.

It turned out her life long streak of good fortune was still with her, because just a few weeks later the electric service at our trailer shorted out.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Rebuilding Contracts

I am dismayed by the advice given by the "Open Contractor Fraud and Insurance Forum" as reported by Bayou Buzz. It is beneath elementary and borders on incompetent.

Citizens were offered tips on how to protect themselves when dealing directly with contractors and insurance agencies:
  • Do not offer the contractor a complete payment in advance.
  • Remember to ask for receipts once any portion of payment is remitted.
  • Be sure to request detailed invoices before work begins.
  • Price supplies ahead of time.
  • Pay with a check or money order for better record keeping.
  • Insurance claims can be resubmitted after checks have been disperse.
I already know at least two construction professionals who may have been victims of construction fraud.

In those cases they can afford it and have enough documentation to convince a court to grant them relief. There are several problems with astonishingly the minimal recommendations reported by Bayou Buzz.

The things they left out were amazing.

Let me add my list;
  • Make sure the Contractor is licensed in the State of Louisiana.
  • Make sure you have a Certificate of Insurance with you named as "Additional Insured"
    • Don't accept a copy, only accept an original issued by the Contractors Insurance Agent, prior to beginning work, its the only way to be sure the insurance is in effect.
  • Don't pay for work in advance. If you pay deposits insist on verification of the invoices and clear title to the material you paid for.
  • Negotiate a complete written contract. Don't rely on oral representations. Write letter, send emails and faxes. Contracts are required for any work over $7,500.00
  • Use Industry Standard contract forms. Don't sign the contract presented to you by the a contractor without reading and thinking about it. AIA and AGC forms are Industry Standards but they don't apply to most residential projects.
  • Don't pay until the work is delivered. There is a 90 day lien period in Louisiana. If the Contractor doesn't pay his subs or his employees you might have to pay twice.
  • Record significant contracts, record the termination of the contract and get a clear Lein and Privlege Certificate (issued by the Recorder) before making the final payment.
  • Never ever pay cash.
  • If the money is being held by a third party make sure you know what they require to release the money and how long it will take. Get it in writing.
I'm sure if I had time I could think of other things to add to the list.

LRA should be issuing these guidelines. They have a stick to prevent unregulated contractors from receiving LRA funds.

The rich can take care of themselves. I also don't worry about the "poor and disadvantaged", they have an entire industry dedicated to "protecting" their "interests".

The unfortunate middle is left without the education, experience or resources to effect their recovery. These are the people most in need of help and they are the most important segment for the recovery of New Orleans.

    Saturday, November 11, 2006

    Excursion: Chattanooga, Tennessee

    Over the Fourth of July weekend we went to Chattanooga, Tennessee.

    Chattanooga is less than two hours for Atlanta by car. It has been a tourist city for many years. Anyone who drove across the south in forties, fifties and sixties would have had to have been blind to have not encountered the "See Rock City" signs, billboards and barns.


    Almost as prominent were the Ruby Falls signs.


    We didn't visit either of them.

    Our excursion started out as a get together with an old friend who lives in Huntsville, Alabama. Chattanooga is about equidistant from Huntsville and Atlanta. Unfortunately our friend had a family emergency and couldn't make it. We decided to go ahead, if only to get a change of scene. In the end we decided to drive up Saturday morning, check out the town and return Sunday morning. A short, simple excursion.

    Chattanooga is a tourist city, but very unlike New Orleans. The tourists are different, the attractions are different and the feel is different.

    We were there only a short time, so my impressions are just impressions.

    First the Chattanooga Riverfront has been developed into a continuous green space. there is a Riverfront Park which has a walking path which extends for miles through a combination of wetlands, parks and scenic vistas. While the Tennessee River is no where near as majestic as the might Mississippi, it is far more scenic.

    An old railroad bridge has been converted to a pedestrian bridge and the older part of town across the river is accessible by foot.


    We walked the river front and eventually ended up at a restaurant overlooking the river.

    After taking a cab back to our restaurant we sortied out again to the Tennessee Aquarium.

    It was interesting. There were the de rigeur exhibits of jellyfish, seahorse and tropical fish a la Nemo. It seemed well done.

    Our time remaining in Chattanooga was spent eating in a brew pub, sleeping and having breakfast at a neighborhood restaurant across the river from Chattanooga. It was pleasant.

    Our return to Atlanta was a pleasant ride in the country. We took a couple of side trips. First investigating an outlet mall in North Georgia. It wasn't that interesting.

    The second to Lake Allatoona, a artificial lake north of Atlanta. It was very scenic and interesting. There is a state park there which offers cabins with fire places which might be a cozy place to hole up on a cold winter weekend.

    Not long afterwards we visited the new Georgia Aquarium. But that is a story for another day.

    Friday, November 10, 2006

    Her First Arrival

    It's been about a year since our trailer was delivered and almost a year since I first slept in it.

    It seems about time I told the story of the first time We stayed there.

    In the process of obtaining a trailer we apparently inadvertently gave up the opportunity for FEMA to send us a check every month. Talk about poor communication.

    Does anyone recall in the aftermath that FEMA or anyone else explained that you had an option of getting a travel trailer or a monthly stipend? Has anyone had any explanation of the options for families? I have a neighbor who asked if he could get two travel trailers for his family of four. He was told NO! He declined the invitation and was instead sent a check for $10,000+ by FEMA with a promise of more to come.

    Later I heard that families could get more than one trailer, although I suspect you would need to have 12 kids to qualify.I have written before about how we obtained our trailer through the early return program, and how I worked to get it set up. I finally got everything hooked up and began sleeping there. I was eagerly anticipating her first visit to the trailer. She had been in Atlanta and except for a couple of quick visits had not even really seen the Trailer.

    I was confused. She worked very hard to get the trailer delivered and set up, then She said She wouldn't stay in it. She spent time at her mother's when ever She was in town.

    Eventually I guess I wore Her down. Given that we had apparently made our bed and had to lie in it. As much as I appreciated he generosity I just couldn't impose on my mother-in law any more. I treasure my privacy and expect the same of others. My mother taught me that after 3 days guests, like fish, begin to stink. I learned that lesson well.

    In eventually I got a tentative "I might stay in the trailer". I decided to go all out. I think she needed a romantic diner prepared in the Trailer with linen napkins and table cloths. I thought we needed a candle lit dinner.

    I had some crystal candle holders we salvaged for the house. I also had already procured (some surreptitiously salvaged) stainless steel tableware and some almost forgotten unused china, which resulted from an aborted venture in Florida.

    All I had to do was go shopping for some linens, prepare a menu and hide my anxiety.

    The Linens were relatively easy, only a few places were open the (it was early December). Kmart was open and close by so was Big Lots. They were closest to the Trailer. I visited both. At Big Lots I bought some blue candles and some decent towels to supplement the thin, small FEMA towels. At Kmart I bought a Martha Stewart table cloth and napkin set. I was almost set.


    I also had the salvaged Baccarat Champagne flutes and obviously need some Champagne to go with them. That was easy enough. The the menu was harder. I had yet to come up with any decent pots and was limited to the FEMA supplied Coleman camping set.
    Dinner would be a simple affair, a simple green salad, baked pork chops and a microwave vegetable. The pork chops were a recipe I had started using when going to pick her up at the airport. The long baking time allows for a trip there and back.

    Her flight was in the evening. We generally travel in the evening, if possible, to avoid the impact of delays and to get the most out of the work day. I set off to pick her up in the dark, with the table set pork chops in the oven and Champagne in the fridge.

    I wasn't sure she would let me take her to the trailer. I was the only person living within several blocks and the ride home was pretty scary in the night. block after block of unlighted houses with about half of the street lights out.

    Fortunately coming from the airport you can get to out house down West along Robert E. Lee and since parts of Lakeshore, Lake Vista and Lake Terrace had not flooded that route didn't look so bad, although many many people had not yet returned even to Metarie and although things were definitely better in Metarie it was still dark dark dark.
    I needn't have worried, everything turned out just fine.

    Thursday, November 09, 2006

    Big Iron

    I love cast iron skillets. For a long time I didn't have any. Several years ago, when visiting my mother, I mentioned to her that I always liked cast iron skillets and had never had one. The next Christmas I got two brand new cast iron skillets, a small one and a large one.

    One of the keys to using a cast iron skillet is that they need to be "seasoned". That is basically creating a coating of burned on grease which fills the pores of the cast iron and creates a "no stick" surface. Seasoning, cleaning and care of cast iron cookware is almost a sacrament of Southern Cooking. Many cooks will assert with absolute confidence that there is only one true way to season and clean a cast iron skillet.
    Cast iron cookware has many unique qualities. It distributes heat very evenly. It holds heat well, so well that if you turn up the heat too high you can't get it to cool off quickly. It does take some time to heat up so you need to preheat the pan to avoid sticking. It's also cheap, 6" skillets start at about $4.00 and Sears has a set of 3 for $17.00.As we cleaned out our house we set aside the things we though we could salvage. One of the things I put in the carport was my muddy, rusty cast iron skillets. Still full of flood water when I found them. I wasn't sure I could save them. Since cast iron is so cheap, I probably should have replaced them. It wouldn't have been the same. They wouldn't have been the ones my mother gave me and they wouldn't have survived the flood. I set them aside to try to clean.

    After about a year I finally got around to recovering my cast iron skillets. First I scrubbed them with a Brillo pad (it was cheaper that SOS), until almost all of the rust was gone. Then I ran them through the dishwasher. That was to remove more rust and to disinfect them, but also so She would be happy and possible eat something cooked in them. Finally I scrubbed them again and dried them.

    The final step was to season them. There are several methods of seasoning cast iron

    The most popular and easiest is to simply coat the cookware in Crisco and bake it. I think lard would work better but it's a little hard to find these days. There are different opinions about how high and how long. I favor a high temperature for a long time. I think the higher the temperature the better. The longer the better. Some people even recommend using a self cleaning electric oven. You set to self clean which will get very hot, hot enough to turn baked on food to ash. We doesn't have a self cleaning oven, so I just cranked it all the way up and went to bed.
    I got it a little too hot. After a couple of hours the whole place filled with smoke from the smoldering Crisco. It didn't cause any lasting damage but it did work. It seasoned the pans very well. The seasoning created a hard black coating over the entire surface of the pan almost as slick as Teflon.
    The proof is in the eating. cast iron is the best way to cook a real southern breakfast of bacon and eggs.

    Wednesday, November 08, 2006

    Rapper's House Arrest Reinstated

    I have a Yahoo.com home page set in my browser. It comes up with headlines, local weather, my IRA and some links I like (the Saints and LSU schedules among others). One of the boxes I have included is the Topix.net New Orleans Headlines. For the last three months it also included, almost every day, the headline Rapper's House Arrest Reinstated.

    I have the same link on my blog home page in a side bar. The story was somewhat mildly interesting when it first appeared, although I was not all that interested in it myself.

    What I find amazing is that it just keeps on going. It's the Energizer Bunny of Headlines. Apparently as of this writing the story has not been updated in 70 days, yet it continually shows up as one the top headlines. It is also a story from the St. Tammany Parish News, hardly one of the major news outlets in the area nor a hot bed of Hip-Hop.

    It seems to have gone away recently, but if it comes back, does any one know how to kill this Bunny?

    Tuesday, October 31, 2006

    What does "mominem" mean in Japanese?

    Since I started this blog I have received relatively little spam to my blog email account. I'm actually surprised at that because I have used this email address in a lot of comments on other peoples blogs

    The odd thing about the spam I have received is that virtually all of it, to the extent I can tell, is Japanese. The addresses are Japanese, the content is Japanese, usually in Japanese fonts and the names of the senders, to the extent I can read them, are Japanese. Like this sample from;

    nakayoshi_mm@ocn.ne.jp

    ー今週末にSEX相手を探している女性会員様ですー

    If the above quote looks like gibberish, you don't have the proper language support installed.

    This lead me to the conclusion that "mominem" must mean something in Japanese or be a Japanese name. A few googles turned up nothing. I found mostly references to me, somehow juxtaposed to Japan or Japanese in other peoples blogs. Usually associated with one of my comments.

    Got a clue?

    Friday, October 27, 2006

    The Night the Lights Went Out

    I've been in Atlanta for a few days. On Thursday night we went back to the Trailer. When we got there is was dark, not just the sun going down but the trailer lights and the carport automatic lights did not come on.

    Not Good. But not that bad. I've had similar problems before with the trailer blowing a breaker or Entergy losing power, although I thought since summer was over that particular problem would subside.

    I checked that panel in the trailer the main breaker was tripped. I reset the breaker and still no power.

    I checked the panel in the house and all of the breakers were fine. There must be an Entergy outage in the area. I went out and checked around the neighborhood.

    I was wrong. The power was out but only in my house. There were circuit breakers blown in the trailer but not in the house.

    She called Entergy and they told us they would send someone right out, sometime between 7:30 and 10:40. Yes that accurate 10:40. I have no idea how they arrived a that particular time span.

    We decided to go store the groceries we had just bought. Entergy said we didn't need to be there. At about 7:15 She got an automated call on her cell phone saying that the problem had been corrected. We turned around a headed back to the Trailer.

    When we got there still no power. I checked and Entergy had indeed been there. They removed the seal from the meter but had not done anything else. We called Entergy again. Again they said they would send someone out before 10:40. I decided to stay and if necessary spend the night as we could not be sure what Entergy would need when they came back out.

    She decided to wait for a while and see what happened. About 15 minutes later another Entergy guy showed up in a bucket truck. That seemed a little odd as our electric service is underground.

    It took him about 15 minutes to determine that all of the wires from the manhole in the sidewalk to the house were dead. He tried several ways to get the service back up but it was useless. He offered to have another larger crew come out and see if they could replace the wire or rig a temporary supply that night, but he said he it would be late, very late and he wasn't sure they could really do anything anyway. He suggested we go stay somewhere else, if we could.

    She could go to her mothers I was considering staying in the trailer anyway, it was cool and I didn't need electricity to sleep. Eventually I realized that I did need electricity for hot water so I went with her.

    The next morning I dropped her off at work and headed to the house. Entergy was there setting up when I got there. Two guys gave me a run down on what they were going to do and the possible things they could do to get us back up. They also said they might not be able to fix it.

    I went about some chores I had to do and let them work. In a little while they came and told me it was no good. There was a short in the underground cable either under the house or under the driveway. I would need to get an electrician to replace the service.

    They gave me their numbers and told me since I was living they they would put me at the top of the list as soon as I was ready and they would come and hook me up.

    Great. I am now trailerless.

    Sunday, October 22, 2006

    Excursion: Cameron Parish

    After visiting my parents over Memorial Day we headed home. On the way back we stopped at the Louisiana Welcome Center to pick up a current Louisiana state road map and a Tourist Guide. The Tourist Guide was not worth the gas to haul it to New Orleans. The road map was interesting and seemed to have been updated since Katrina/Rita, showing road closures.

    As I have written we had begun looking for weekend escapes. A couple of years ago we had spent a pleasurable night a Madewood Plantation. Madewood is an interesting place located on the bayou and offers a interesting take on a Bed and Breakfast. They include dinner and cocktails in the bed and breakfast. We met several interesting people and had a very nice dinner. It was great. I was looking for similar opportunities.

    As She drove back I studied the map and guide book looking for interesting possibilities. As I stared at the map, a new name jumped out at me, Holly Beach. Beach. I never associated beach with Louisiana, although I am ignorant of Southwest Louisiana. The possibilities made my head swim.

    After reaching home I began to obsess over the possibilities. I searched the Internet and discovered that on the Southwest Louisiana coast is a virtually virgin beach with incredible natural beauty.

    Oil Exploration in the Marsh.

    I began to plan an Excursion. The areas had been rural to begin with and had been devastated by Hurricane Rita. Eventually I determined that the most scenic route would be through the I-49 Corridor to Abbeville. With a day trip along The Creole Nature Trail to the coast and back to Lake Charles. The final leg was a straight shot on I-10 back to New Orleans.

    In June we embarked on the Excursion.

    The trip through Southwest Louisiana revealed incredible natural beauty, with natural swamps, marshes and occasional wooded islands.

    Marsh along the Creole Trail

    We "discovered" a bed and breakfast in the charming town of Abbeville. The house is a charming Victorian cottage which would be right at home in many areas of New Orleans. The best thing about Abbeville is that there are several old, excellent seafood restaurants.

    Abbeville, Louisiana home of the "Blob".

    We chose Dupuy's Oyster Shop. Dupuy's claims to be the oldest oyster restaurant. It was established in the mid-nineteenth century. Unfortunately we visited in June. Dupuy's adheres to the age old rule, no oysters in months with no "R". Fortunately they fry everything else just as well.

    Dupuy's Oyster Shop

    Heading south from Abbeville generally along the Creole Nature Trail again through the incredible natural beauty of coastal Louisiana. As we progressed we saw increasing signs of the devastation of Hurricane Rita. Usually the damage was isolated as were many of the structures. the impact of Rita became clear when we passed through Grand Chenier, which was simply wiped off the map. The piles of debris had been largely removed by the time we visited. Non the less we passed many many vehicles washed far into the marsh or former building sites which were now mere slabs or bare spots in the dirt.

    Grand Chenier

    As we headed further on toward the areas of Oak Grove and Creole, the story remained the same. Natural beauty punctuated by brief intervals of nearly total devastation.

    As we approached Cameron the scene began to change. The industrial areas became for frequent the damage became less complete. Most of the industrial installations appeared to have survived quite well. There was evidence of damage but it was limited and there were signs of repair.

    Cypress Swamp

    Not knowing what to expect we had planned to fill up in Abbeville and carry our own food an water with us. We weren't sure we could buy food fuel or water in south Cameron. We were too conservative. We could have gotten gas in a number of places and although no restaurants appeared to be operating we could have gotten something to eat. In any event after a full breakfast our precautions were excessive.

    Fishing Boats at Cameron.

    At Cameron we crossed the ferry and continued along the coast road. We were soon on the beach and it is a magnificent scenic vista. The beach is virtually undeveloped with a long slope and gentle surf. The sand is hard an easy to drive on.


    Holly Beach, post-Rita

    The first area of development we encountered was Holly Beach. the same name on the map which had excited this Excursion. It no longer existed. I had seen pre-Rite areal photos of Holly Beach which showed neat rows of small beach cottages. They were all gone. Nothing more than sand was left.

    There are several other beach communities along the Louisiana Coast which were almost as devastated. Here and there individual structures remained. Some damaged some almost pristine. The condition of the structures correlated to two factors, age and location. These two factors seemed to coincide. the newest structures seemed to be both better constructed and further West.

    The Drive By complete we headed to our accommodation's for the night. We were unable to find accommodation's we liked. Instead we ended up at L'Auberge du Lac Casino in Lake Charles.

    L'Auberge du Lac

    I'm sorry I just don't get Las Vegas and I certainly don't get faux Vegas. For a while I enjoyed going to Beau Rivage, which offered an enjoyable experience. Vegas and its mini-me clones don't offer anything to me except a false experience of pseudo opulence and pseudo hedonism. But then I think gambling is fairly uninteresting and relatively dull pastime.

    After spending a lot of money on a ho hum room and a couple of mediocre meals we checked out and headed home.