Monday, May 08, 2006

Letter from New Orleans (May 2006)

"They're working on the levees but the city is flat broke and may declare bankruptcy. Pot holes don't get fixed, stop lights still don't work in areas, the streets are still full of debris in many areas."
-- Tom Morgan
Tom Morgan, a French Quarter resident and local jazz radio personality took refuge in the Pensacola area after Hurricane Katrina. We published his earlier letter back in March. Here is the latest:
A few people have emailed me and asked how things are going and whether I will send out another update of my log. I finally have time after three weeks of festivals here in New Orleans.

Every day during the last two weeks when I went to the Jazz & Heritage Festival, I drove through areas that had four to five feet of water. All I see in those areas now are semi-gutted houses and a trailer or two. To say that this area in the middle of the city is coming back would be a whopper of a lie, at the least. Everywhere I look it is the same. There's still massive destruction and very little recovery.

Sure we can hold festivals. The electricity is there and the water is good, but are people really coming back? Not yet.

How has life changed in the last few months? We've had more visitors but not enough. I expect that many businesses in the French Quarter will close by the end of the summer. Business is that bad. Even last week when normally people stay over between the first and second weekends of JazzFest, the Quarter still was not even half as busy as it would normally have been Pre-K. The restaurants will make it but the small shops and the ones with the highest rents are hurting badly.

Our electricity in the Marigny is still wonky. We have been able to get through a rain storm or two without an outage but then it went out for an hour last Saturday for no apparent reason.

Some of the street lights have been replaced but we still have some very funky stop lights and none of the blown-down signs have been reinstalled. Relatively few businesses in the 'hood have reopened. My mechanic still hasn't shown up nor have they done any work on the local supermarket.

We've had two neighbors move out. One young couple was never really ready for life in the Big Easy. They moved back to Seattle. Other neighbors have moved due to job changes that Katrina forced on them. This is not a isolated incident, more friends will be moving away due to what has happened.

It has gotten more expensive to live in New Orleans as everything including the taxes on our house have gone up. The music is as sweet as ever which definitely keeps us all sane. Personally, other than the highs of the festivals -- where I hosted many broadcasts, MC'd "Piano Night" at the House of Blues, and did an interview with singer John Boutte on the Allison Miner stage at the 'fest -- stuff is still not going right. I have not received an electric and gas bill for 7 months. I have emailed and called numerous times and still no bill. I totally expect them to turn off my power when I am away for not paying a bill they won't send me.

My insurance company has still not sent me our settlement despite it being settled 6 months ago. My private adjuster can't even get anyone on the phone.

Am I frustrated? Wouldn't you be?

[My wife] Hild's job is seemingly coming back this summer as the Tulane medical school reestablishes itself in the city. Dottie the cat loves the warm weather and would like to be outside all of the time except when it rains. We had a wonderful party last Wednesday with a 100 lbs of crawfish boiled on premises and a wonderful band. A good time was had by all, although the party cost 50% more than last year's of similar size.

I still have not received any magazines since the storm and just Saturday got a letter with a Jan 3 post date. Talk about late delivery! I have no trust in any government entity anymore.

Oh, yes. And where have all those billions of dollars earmarked for us gone? Hell if I know. They're working on the levees but the city is flat broke and may declare bankruptcy. Pot holes don't get fixed, stop lights still don't work in areas, the streets are still full of debris in many areas. Yep, and hurricane season starts in less than three weeks. They tell us they are going to evacuate if a Cat 3 even shows up in Gulf. How will anything get better if half the city leaves three times a month for the next four months?

Still no doctor and no dentist, so much so that we are thinking about flying to Virgina just to have our teeth checked by our old dentist and getting Hild a mammogram. Are we frustrated and tired of the way our city is going? Wouldn't you be?

Hild and I don't want to move away. We both have no desire to be anywhere else in the US. This is good and bad as we are trapped in a situation that is not going to get better for years, so we must be happy with what we have -- good friends, a wonderful house and amazing music. Next time I write, let's hope I will be less frustrated and more optimistic.

-- Tom Morgan

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