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Andrew Fox
Posted on Sunday, October 16, 2005 - 10:04 pm:   

I arrived back at Louis Armstrong International Airport early yesterday afternoon, Saturday, October 15. Mr. Martin, my family's longtime friend and handyman, met me at the airport in my car, which survived the storm in good shape. We went across the street to Park-and-Fly, where I'd left Dara's Mercury six weeks ago, just before we left for Bubonicon. Wouldn't you know it -- not only was the Mercury unflooded, but it started up on the first crank! Of course, we've "replaced" it with a Mazda minivan, so we'll have to sell it soon in order to make the payments on the newer vehicle. So I went from thinking I had no driveable vehicles at all to being the owner of three working cars. Well, worse things have happened (much, much worse, of course).

The house is in decent shape. We'll need a new roof, but Mr. Martin and his son patched up our holes and missing shingles, so we're okay for the time being. We lost much of our fencing, but, amazingly, our backyard swing survived entirely intact. Nothing inside was damaged, so all my computers (with the exceptions of the ones I'd stored in my office at the State Office Building, which is now an environmental hazard site, only accessible to people wearing complete hazmat suits) are just fine. It felt very creepy to walk in here and see all the baby stuff, playpen and exer-saucer and mini-tub, right where we left it back in August. The only things missing are our refrigerator and freezer, which Mr. Martin has already disposed of. Everyone in the whole area lost their refrigerators and freezers. Everywhere I've driven so far, the curbs are filled with refrigerators and freezers, all taped shut so that children (what children are around) won't be tempted to play inside them and get trapped and suffocate.

I was very pleased to see that a number of businesses in my immediate area have reopened, including my favorite breakfast joint, a good Italian restaurant, my local PJ's Coffeehouse, and my local Winn-Dixie. All are open for limited hours, but it is heartening to see the neighborhood beginning to come back. My street lost about 50% of its trees, which is sad, because we'd enjoyed very good shade before the storm. Many of my close neighbors have returned. The block association will be holding a block party on Friday to thank the local police and firefighters for their assistance since the storm.

Saturday night, I drove over to the French Quarter to have dinner and take a look around. I assumed this would be the first Saturday night in history I'd be able to easily find a parking place in the Quarter, but boy was I wrong! The whole neighborhood was packed with vans and trucks belonging to FEMA and other recovery personnel. The Canal Street neutral ground, normally the territory of buses and streetcars only, was all parked up, too. I had to drive down to Faubourg Marigny, just east of the Quarter, to find a spot to park. Then I walked around Frenchman Street, normally bustling with hipsters on a Saturday night. I practically had the street to myself. But a few of the businesses had managed to reopen, including a hookah bar, Cafe Brasil, and Snug Harbor jazz club. Snug Harbor is only open on Fridays and Saturdays for the time being, but they aren't charging a cover (normally their cover runs around $20 a head or thereabouts). I talked with one of the managers, who lives in my old Mid-City neighborhood and is friendly with my pal Steve Picou from the New Year Coalition, then watched the music for a couple of minutes before wandering off in search of food. I walked up Decatur Street, past a reopened Checkpoint Charlie bar, to Angeli's Restaurant, which was packed. I found a seat next to the entertainment, an odd jazz quartet made up of strangely assorted old white guys playing trumpet, bass, guitar, and fiddle. But they played old standards with lots of spirit and continually thanked the patrons between numbers for coming back and helping New Orleans come back to life. I ordered a vegetarian sandwich and saw an old friend, poet and publisher Dennis Formento, in the back of the restaurant. He came over and we traded hurricane stories (his home, in mostly devastated Slidell on the North Shore, managed to survive with minimal damage), and I met his significant other. Then some of his other friends wandered over, including the son of my old friend Kit Senter, and I finished my meal and joined them over at Snug Harbor (where I missed the end of the last set, which made me feel like a real night owl, but it was only 10:30 P.M. -- incredibly strange for a New Orleans music club, where the sets usually don't get rolling until sometime close to midnight).

Today, Sunday, I had a late breakfast over at the Crescent City Coffee Cafe in Algiers, which just reopened this past Thursday. Then I headed across the river to drive up Magazine Street to see what that area of Uptown looks like. Just yesterday the businesspeople and residents of Magazine Street held a big clean-up, so the street didn't look too bad. A number of businesses had opened up, including the flagship location of Rue de la Course Coffeehouse and several nearby restaurants (including Slim Goody's, where I had breakfast once with John Picacio, while he was in New Orleans researching George Alec Effinger's career). My happiest moment came when I drove past Octavia Books and found them open for business, with my dear friend Tom Lowenberg behind the register. Tom has been operating Octavia Books for several weeks now by himself, managing to keep the place open seven days a week. Although his home was partially flooded, the store didn't get a drop of water in it. Tom told me that Garden District Books is also open for business, with Maple Street Books to reopen soon. By way of contrast, the big Barnes and Noble and Borders stores out in Metairie remain closed. So maybe the little guys can capture some additional market share by having the moxie to make themselves and their wares available first. Man, it felt great to see that place open for business and so pristine.

Then I drove up to Children's Hospital, which has recently reopened. I found out that the occupational therapy and speech therapy departments are operating, which may allow me to retrieve Dara, Levi, and Asher sooner than I'd planned, maybe in two weeks, rather than a month. Very good news! I stayed on River Road out to Metairie, where I drove past my synagogue on West Esplanade Avenue, Shir Chadash, and saw that, although they'd suffered some flooding damage, they are still holding services there. The neighboring Jewish Community Center looked in bad shape, though. Dara's and my favorite Japanese buffet, Ogi Nagi off Veteran's Boulevard, has reopened, as have Dorignac's Grocery Store and New Orleans Hamburger and Seafood Company.

The worst damage I saw today was in the Lakeview neighborhood. I drove up part of West End Boulevard and saw very distinct waterlines on the sides of houses, about eight feet above the ground. The homes and businesses along Harrison Avenue were in terrible shape. I think that entire area will be demolished, as nothing is salvageable. I turned onto Marconi Boulevard, next to City Park, and was extremely saddened to see the very poor condition of the charming old neighborhoods next to Delgado College. Then I turned onto City Park Avenue, which I believe sits on higher ground, because the grand old houses there were in much better shape. I drove onto one of my old streets near the park, Sherwood Forest Avenue, where I lived from 1994 to 1997. I saw some old neighbors there and stopped to talk. That area doesn't have any utilities yet, but they only suffered about three feet of water on the street during the storm, which meant that the houses on the street only suffered damage to their basements (which in New Orleans are ground-level). While I was talking, a familiar voice called out my name, and a couple of friends from the local science fiction community came over to greet me. They filled me in on the whereabouts of some mutual friends active in the convention circuit, and Keith, who works in building maintainance at Charity and University Hospitals downtown, told me that both buildings will be demolished in the near future, to be replaced by a modular hospital with 400 beds (far fewer than the combined total of the two current facilities).

Then I took a drive down Esplanade Avenue, another of my old neighborhoods, and one of the most historic and charming neighborhoods in the city. Much of the avenue is above sea level, so it didn't flood nearly as badly as other parts of Mid-City did. I spotted the Rob and his wife, the owners of Fair Grinds Coffeehouse and recently the hosts of my George Alec Effinger Memorial Writing Group, sitting on a bench in front of their business, so I pulled over to chat. They suffered a lot of flooding damage in the rear of their store, but they hope to be open by Christmas. Their neighbor, what used to be a Whole Foods Market and which is in the process of being changed over to a Lakefront Fine Foods, has power and lets them run an extension cord to their place so they can run some equipment. While I stood talking with them, a handful of other neighborhood residents biked or walked over, and I got to meet some new folks and hear their storm stories. The most amazing incident occurred when I introduced myself to a very animated middle-aged lady who arrived on a blue Schwinn. She told me her name is Lynn Borsodi, and I asked if she was any relation to my deceased friend Bob Borsodi, who ran three coffeehouses in New Orleans and was one of my dearest friends and a major reason why I moved back to New Orleans in 1990. Turns out she is his half-sister -- and I had never had any notion that Bob had a sister! She hadn't known Bob as a child (she was ten years younger than him and they had different mothers), but she got to know him and admire him when they were both adults. For the last ten years, she's had the ambition to open a bohemian coffeehouse of her own, and now that the city is in desperate need of neighborhood cultural spots to congeal and heal around, and she is out of a job, she is seriously considering furthering her brother's legacy by opening a new Borsodi's Coffeehouse on a shoestring. I told her that Bob had meant the world to me, and his death had been devastating, especially since I narrowly missed the opportunity to introduce him to my first child (he died only weeks before Levi was born). I also said that dozens of people in the city owe Bob a tremendous debt and would be delighted to help her get her coffeehouse off the ground, including Tom Lowenberg of Octavia Books. Since she is looking for part-time work, I told her to go over to Octavia and talk with Tom, who is currently desperate for help. Maybe I've arranged for a perfect match-up there.

By the time we finished talking, the sun had gone down. I took a delightfully creepy drive along Canal Street back towards downtown -- the only illumination was from a full moon. Jules would love it! Then I drove around my office building (dark and deserted), City Hall (some lights on), Charity Hospital (condemned but with lights on), New Orleans Center next to the Superdome (lots of broken windows -- that place must've suffered some serious abuse while the Dome was being used as a shelter), the bus and train station (looked like it was open for business), and the headquarters building of the Archdiocese of New Orleans (many broken and boarded up windows). Then I got on the Crescent City Connection Bridge and headed back to Algiers.

Right now, there is a very positive energy in the portions of the city which are coming back to life. People are thrilled to see one another and eager to share their stories. I have a sense that this is a little what London during the Blitz must've felt like, with residents all sensing they were going through a horrendous time together but that pulling together and helping one another would make even the worst surroundings liveable. I'm a whole lot less depressed being back here than I thought I'd be. Indeed, I'm excited to be back and looking forward to helping the city get back on its feet. Of course, I realize that I'm much, much better off and far more fortunate than many of my fellow New Orleanians, who come home to find they have nothing to return to, no home, no personal possessions, and no job. In contrast, I still have all of those things. A few years ago, when I was contemplating moving to Dara's old neighborhood in Algiers, I seriously wondered whether I'd ever be satisfied or happy to live in a neighborhood so comparatively devoid of historic charm and interesting businesses and restaurants. I'd never had any desire at all to spend time on the West Bank, much less have a home there. But I recognized, at last, that it made sense to raise my family close to Dara's mother and in an area with a decent elementary school and relatively little crime. Little did I know then that I'd be buying a home in the luckiest neighborhood in the entire parish.

It's good to be back. Even if I'm here without Dara and the boys, and I'll have to commute to Baton Rouge until my agency can locate me a desk and a phone somewhere in the New Orleans metro area. As Dorothy famously said, there's no place like home!
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Diana Rowland
Posted on Monday, October 17, 2005 - 05:53 am:   

I drove through Lakeview last Friday, past the breach in the levee and then through West End. I agree with you that Lakeview is probably not salvageable. I watched the few people out there pick through belongings, but I just can't beleive that any of those houses could be gutted and saved. Many of them were knocked completely off of their foundations. The one directly in front of the breech looked like many of the houses in Slidell do that suffered the storm surge, with the downstairs completely blown out.

I'm not sure if you'll be able to get in there (I had to show my badge to get past the guards) but if you get the chance, drive through the 9th ward. There's a stark contrast between 9th ward and the other areas of the city that suffered flooding and damage. Everywhere else there are piles of debris on the street from people making an attempt to clean up their houses, or at the least refrigerators on the street. There is nothing like that in the 9th ward, and I don't think it is entirely because they have only recently allowed people back in there. We saw No One there who looked like a resident. I think that only a very small percentage of the 9th ward residents will return, and even if they do, those houses are not the kind that can be gutted and refitted. The shape of the city is going to change dramatically.
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Ellen Datlow
Posted on Monday, October 17, 2005 - 04:52 pm:   

Andrew,
Thanks so much for this post. It's marvelous to hear that much of the city is coming back to life.
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Andrew Fox
Posted on Wednesday, October 19, 2005 - 05:04 am:   

Ahh, now Wilma. I wanted to put up a quick, happy little post before leaving for work, but I check the news and see that Tropical Storm Wilma is now Cat 5 Wilma. These storms have taken on a sci-fi, J. G. Ballard horribleness and suddenness.

Well, here's the happy part. Cafe du Monde is scheduled to reopen today across the street from Jackson Square in the French Quarter. The joint will probably be mobbed with FEMA folks, but I may try to make it over there tonight after work (maybe I'll go across on the ferry to avoid parking problems) to help them celebrate their reopening. It's one of the hearts of New Orleans, so this is really good news.

I'll post more news later about my last couple of days in Baton Rouge and plans to redevelop the Food For Families / Food For Seniors program. In November, amazingly enough, we have plans to serve about half our pre-Katrina client load, which is a gratifyingly swift ramp-up. Right now, our biggest problem is lack of staffing; staff are either still trapped outside the area, or they've taken other jobs, such as flipping burgers at Burger King for a $6000 signing bonus. Hell, if I were in their shoes, I'd do that, too.
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Diana Rowland
Posted on Wednesday, October 19, 2005 - 07:54 am:   

The busboys at Times Grill in Slidell are getting $15/hr. Assistant managers at Burger King are starting at over $40K. Tempting... :-)
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Adam-Troy
Posted on Wednesday, October 19, 2005 - 10:12 am:   

Ah, Cafe Du Monde. (Sigh)
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Andrew Fox
Posted on Thursday, October 20, 2005 - 08:38 pm:   

I had a really long, somewhat dispiriting day today. It started out well enough, though, since I treated myself to breakfast at the newly reopened Cafe du Monde. Mostly FEMA and out-of-state government types there; I could tell when the guy next to me asked the Vietnamese waitress repeatedly if she could get him a cup of hot tea, and she kept telling him, "No, only coffee, no, only coffee." The coffee was good (especially after all that weak coffee I drank down in Florida), as were the beignets.

My job for today was to visit all eleven local Food For Families warehouses and food distribution sites, spread out in neighborhoods from Marerro in the west to New Orleans East and the Lower Ninth Ward. A few buildings, such as Our Lady of the Sacred Heart on St. Bernard Avenue and All Saints in Algiers Point, near Blaine Kern's Mardi Gras World, held up better than I thought they would and avoided the entry of any flood waters into food areas, so the foods inside might still be salvaged. Other buildings might be able to be salvaged themselves, after a suitable clean-up, but enough water had gotten inside that all of the food was a total loss (I didn't have keys to any of these places with me, so I had to make judgements based on the water marks on the outside of the buildings, plus a walk around their perimeters). In terms of our facilities, the most horrific sight/site I visited was our main warehouse on Haynes Boulevard, just a block away from the Lakefront Airport. This was a forty-thousand square foot warehouse that, at one time, held about four million dollars' worth (wholesale value) of donated commodity foods. The entire roof had been peeled away, two walls were mostly caved in, and the inside coolers had been crushed like tin cans. I didn't need to walk inside to know that everything was a total loss, but I felt a personal need to walk through the open loading dock and stroll the entire length of the facility, despite clouds of flies and still gooey food residue marking the concrete floor. I'd spent hundreds of hours in this place, performing inventories and doing inspections; sometimes I was there at six in the morning, and sometimes I was there at midnight. A good part of my job was servicing this place, keeping it filled with just the right amount of food. Almost every year, whenever a hurricane approached, I worried about this building and tried to find out anything I could about its condition. Now, it is basically a shell filled with rubble and rotting pallets, stacked three and four high, of canned foods. I approached the door of one of the climate control boxes; a sign on the door said, "Please Keep Door Closed." The door was still standing, and was closed, but the walls around it had fallen in. I thought I'd found a souvenir when I came across a monogrammed Commodity Supplemental Food Program travel mug on the ground. But when I picked it up, I saw it had been ruined by muck and rusty sludge, so I left it where I'd found it.

Elysian Fields through the Gentilly neighborhood was bad. The water mark on the sides of the houses was about four to five feet above the sidewalks. Restaurants that I used to go to with my writing workshop friends on workshop nights, Mona's and the Italian Pie, looked as though they'd been bombed. Even a raised Taco Bell where I used to eat on warehouse inventory days, raised on a slab five feet thick, had gotten at least two feet of water inside. I drove through the University of New Orleans neighborhood along the lakefront and saw the P.J.'s Coffeehouse where my workshop group had sometimes met, now just a ruined, mud-spattered shell. But worse was yet to come.

I drove out to New Orleans East, to the mostly low-income, mixed Vietnamese and African-American neighborhood of Village de l'Est. Our food site there, on very low, sinking ground, had been raised up on a high mound next to the St. Brigid Church. Despite being up on a mound, the building, at high tide, had taken on at least two feet of water. Water still filled the low land surrounding the food site and church, forming a kind of Lake Brigid, where migratory birds were already finding things to eat. Every single house in the neighborhood had been inundated with three or four feet of water, sometimes more. On my way back, had I the time, I would've taken I-510 South to Chalmette, the heart of St. Bernard Parish, where the flooding was even more savage. My friend and co-worker Bonnie said her Chalmette home had water up to its eaves.

Heading back towards downtown, I turned off the highway onto Louisa Street and headed toward what remained of the Florida/Desire Housing Projects and the new, single family housing that had begun to replace the project apartments. Houses new and old, brightly painted and completely decrepit alike, were all flood victims. Cars had been entirely drowned. The water marks were a good five to six feet high. The streets were still covered, especially the side streets, with caked, cracking mud. I'd estimate that 95% of the structures here will end up as complete tear-downs.

Then I took the St. Claude Avenue Bridge over the Industrial Canal to the Lower Ninth Ward. Fats Domino's houses are right around the corner from one of our food sites. His house on a slab had water to above the windows, whereas his raised house next door may have only gotten a few inches of water above the bottom of its front door. Two drowned Lexuses sat in the front yard, partially washed up onto the porch. A fan who'd heard (wrongly) that Fats had died in the flood had spraypainted on the side of one house, "R.I.P. Fats--We Will Miss You." The entire neighborhood was dotted with ACORN's signs begging the government to not simply bulldoze the whole area flat.

On a brighter note, my food program served its first grocery boxes since the storm on Wednesday in North Louisiana, and for November, there are plans in place to serve about half our pre-Katrina clients. We have no idea how many displaced clients will show up at pick-up sites in Baton Rouge, Lafayette, and Monroe; we'll just have to send extra food out, along with computers that will let the clerks identify clients from anywhere in the state. Several sites in the Greater New Orleans area are not severely damaged at all and can begin serving people as soon as we can find staff to man them. But the Archdiocese can't afford to pay the suddenly inflated salaries that many private companies are offering for the time being, so finding bodies to pack and distribute those grocery boxes may be a challenge.

I'm looking forward to having Dara and the boys back here with me. A little quiet in the house is a nice change, but it's much, much TOO quiet now.
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Lori Smith
Posted on Friday, October 21, 2005 - 06:44 am:   

I'm glad to see that you're back and that overall, things aren't as bad as they might have been. It's a shame that some of the food in your warehouses didn't survive, but looking on the bright side, you're in much better shape than the poor folks at the New Orleans Cold Storage and Warehouse who had 52 million pounds of formerly frozen chicken on their hands. It was officially declared hazardous waste.

And speaking of hazardous waste, do be very careful around any areas that are still slightly mucky. There are some pretty horrifying things in that sludge. Folks I know who have been helping with the cleanup recommend Comet for cleaning both shoes and clothing that have been exposed to the muck.

On a brighter note, since Halloween is just around the corner, I did a display of vampire and ghost-related books here at my library. Almost immediately, someone grabbed _Fat White Vampire Blues_ and checked it out. So, while Dracula and Lestat languish on the shelves, Jules is out there giving someone a much needed chuckle. That oughta make you feel good. :-)
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Andrew Fox
Posted on Friday, October 21, 2005 - 01:08 pm:   

Hi, Lori! Glad to hear you're back on the job. Thanks for your continuing boosterism regarding ol' Jules. Our muck may be declared hazardous waste, too, given that cans full of chicken, other meats and fish, and milk have been rotting for a couple of months now. I still need to have the State Sanitarians advise us on just how we need to get rid of all this stuff.
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Kathi Kimbriel
Posted on Saturday, October 22, 2005 - 11:32 pm:   

Andy--

It sounds like you have a zillion cans around--can any of that food be salvaged, or are we talking not only labels soaked off, but cans with their seals broken?

Very glad to hear that Cafe du Monde has opened back up. The Cafe and some things like Marie LaVeau's house are what makes up the bits and pieces of NO for me.

I hear of signs hung on ruined fridges saying "Loot This!" And then there's the famous shopkeeper with his warning sign of an ugly woman, a big dog and a gun... Plenty of drama in NO for you, whether for your non-fiction idea or to filter into your fiction.

I sent reading material (or sales material, if that helps) and also a silly thing, more for Dara's stress than yours--you have your writing to help, sounds like. Please let us know if there's anything you need in NO, or that Dara needs, to help make the transition easier. I know I'd be shell-shocked about the whole thing (I remember the time my house was broken into and robbed...I got up at 4:30 AM and started cleaning. It took a long time to feel normal in that house again.)

Some of us don't have a lot of money to contribute, but we're very creative about general scrounging!
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Andrew Fox
Posted on Sunday, October 23, 2005 - 09:29 am:   

Dear Kathi,

Thank you so much for your kindnesses. I think Dara told me that you mailed her some fancy bath soaps, which she really appreciated. Right now, she's trying to decide whether or not to evacuate with the boys twenty miles inland to the home of friends of our friends the Castros. With Wilma projected to be only a Cat One on the east coast of Florida by the time it arrives there, she's having to make a "cost-benefit analysis" of moving the two boys and all their associated equipment (playpens, toys, food, high chair, etc.) into a home that will be crowded with other folks in the face of a storm that may not end up being that bad for the area she is in. I've got a feeling she'll decide to stay put, unless the situation changes dramatically and local officials begin telling people to get away from the east coast.

Regarding those cans at our warehouses, I don't believe that USDA or our local sanitarians would allow us to salvage any of them that would not otherwise be permitted to be distributed to our clients. The cans will either be suffering from rust damage or will have been contaminated by exposure to weeks' worth of mold spores and insect activity. The best we might be able to do with some of the stuff would be to redonate it to animal feed operations, and even that would be dicey. My strong feeling is that all of this stuff will end up in the same place where other storm debris and ruined household items will go, unless the sanitarians require us to segregate it from other storm debris and dispose of it in some special fashion, due to the dangers of cosmetically whole cans drifting back into the pathways of human consumption. The scale of this destruction and the required disposals is way beyond any prior experiences either I or my program have had to deal with. We're learning how to deal with it as we go along.

I was back in the French Quarter and the Frenchman Street part of Faubourg Marigny last night. Word has gotten out fast about the rebirth of part of Frenchman Street's entertainment strip. Last week, the strip was pretty much a morgue, but last night, parking was tight, and large crowds of people spilled out the entrances of the dba Bar and Snug Harbor. Snug was busy enough that management had to open up the balcony to accomodate folks. I spent an hour or so walking around the Quarter, hoping to get a cup of coffee at Cafe due Monde. It saddened me to no end to see the Cafe closed up, its chairs stacked on its tables, at a little past 11 P.M. I know it's a very, very little thing, but I always used to be able to depend upon C.D.M. as a 24-hour per day refuge, in case I ever found myself needing a place to take a load off in the Quarter late at night. It's unsettling that places like C.D.M. and the Clover Grill on Bourbon are now closing up at 10 or 11 P.M. (despite a curfew recently extended to 2 A.M.). I walked up and down Royal and Chartres and lower Bourbon and just felt lonely, like I used to feel walking the hills of Northport, Long Island late at night as a young (and usually miserable) bachelor. Some of that feeling comes, of course, from missing my family. One bright spot was wandering over to Kaboom Books on Barracks Street and seeing a sign that they are open from 3-6 P.M. Strange hours, but at least they're back.

The best part of my day yesterday was going to Shabbos services at my synagogue in Metairie, Shir Chadash. They got about four inches of water in there and have had to rip up all of their flooring and a lot of sheet rock, plus remove all the pews for restoration or disposal, but the building came through mostly all right. I was the tenth person to arrive for services and so had the honor of making the minyan. By the end of services, about twenty-five people had come, including some of my family's best friends. We had a good lunch (lox and bagels, even! Thank you, Dorignacs Grocery!) and traded stories about where we've been the last eight weeks. Unfortunately, I heard that Barry and Fran Ivker, among the hearts of the congregation, lost their home in New Orleans East and will be relocating permanently to Birmingham, where they have children. Fran, an OB/GYN doctor, arranged for the circumcisions of both Levi and Asher, and Barry performed the liturgy for Asher's bris, since the rabbi was called away for a funeral that afternoon. They both also helped Dara and I prepare for our wedding and have generally been our family's guardian angels in the Jewish community. Their departure will leave a huge hole in our synagogue family. Still, it was wonderful to see that so many dear and familiar faces have returned.
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Andrew Fox
Posted on Sunday, October 23, 2005 - 10:09 pm:   

After a day of suffering with sinusitis, I had a really good night out with friends. I picked up Lynn Borsodi from her house in Mid-City, which got about two feet of water inside and which still doesn't have power or running water, and we met Marian and Marc and Nicky from my writing group out at the King Chinese Buffet on Veterans Boulevard in Metairie. The joint was packed, even though Veterans outside was eerily empty. It was wonderful to see everyone. Marc and Nicky sent their 9-year-old son Bradford to stay with family in Alaska until his school reopens sometime next year, and they miss him terribly, but it sounds like he is living a Bradbury-esque small town life up there, bicycling everywhere and having a good time. Marian is commuting between here and Houston. We took a drive back to Marc's and Nicky's place through a number of completely dark neighborhoods, including the intersection with the city jail and criminal court building, all abandoned. After having coffee with my friends, I dropped Lynn off at her brother's place in the Lower Garden District, just off Prytania. On my way back to the Crescent City Connection bridge, I decided to go past David Brennan's apartment and look for signs of life; David is a retiree to whom I've been delivering food boxes a number of years, and he's also an old friend from the Borsodi's Coffeehouse days. I saw lights on, so I parked and called out to him through his open window. Turns out he'd been in the Superdome for six days and says he came within a few hours of committing suicide, before he and the thousands of others were finally put on buses to Houston. Fortunately, he ended up hooking up with a niece in Plano, Texas, who paid for him to go stay with good friends in New Haven. He's been back for a couple of weeks. I'll help him on Tuesday to renew his Louisiana Purchase/Food Stamps card, and I hope my own Food For Families program will be up and running in our area as of November, so I can start delivering him his monthly boxes again. One nice gift from FEMA -- a writer, he was able to use some of his relief money to finally replace his broken computer with a new Dell. He didn't have the energy to tell me the whole story of his nightmarish days and nights in the Superdome, but he promised me to tell me the whole thing over coffee soon.
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Kelly LaPlante
Posted on Thursday, October 27, 2005 - 01:22 pm:   

Andrew,
Am happy to hear that you and yours made it ok. Was also thrilled to see your name on the list of guests for Midsouthcon in March! Can't wait...missed you last year. Wanted to get you to sign my copy of "Bride". Loved it by the way, don't know if you ever got my e-mail. Kelly from TN.
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Lucius
Posted on Thursday, October 27, 2005 - 01:46 pm:   

Hey, Andrew == Had a computer accident and lost all email addresses. Send me yours when you get a moment, will you? Keep pushing, man.

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Andrew Fox
Posted on Thursday, October 27, 2005 - 07:36 pm:   

Kelly, I'll look forward to seeing you in Memphis. I'm really glad you enjoyed Bride as much as you did. Lucius, here's that email address. I hope your computer feels better soon.

I switched my flight for tomorrow night to Miami International from Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood, since they seemed to be getting their act together quicker. Dara tells me the lines for gas in South Florida stretch for as much as a mile and take five hours to get through (and then sometimes there isn't even any gas waiting). Sounds like Panic in the Year Zero, for cripes sake. So we may need to cool our heels a few days before hitting the road back to good ol' N'Awlins. At least Dara's area has power again, so the coffee shops will be open. Going without gas is one thing; going without coffee. . . well, that's a tiger of a different stripe entirely.
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Andrew Fox
Posted on Friday, October 28, 2005 - 05:38 am:   

Boy am I sore this morning. I spent a hellacious day yesterday packing up my old office in the now-condemned State Office Building. I drove over there expecting to be allowed inside for only an hour, so I made up a list of the most essential items, personal and business-related, to take with me in that short time of going up and down the stairs to the fourth floor. Instead, when I arrived, I received instructions that I was to spend all day (in the mold and dust) packing up my entire office, including the contents of eight five-drawer filing cabinets, so that movers could move the majority of it into storage and a small part over to the new, temporary office which should be ready in two weeks. What a job! I did in one ten-hour day what normally would've taken me three or four days. I took the opportunity to throw out about half of our files, many of which dated back to the late 'eighties, historical stuff that I haven't had reason to look at in ten or more years. It sat there, happy in its filing cabinets, so long as things remained the same. However, things ain't the same no mo', and I wasn't about to pack up a whole lot of crap that is basically no good to anyone. So I filled up about fifteen giant garbage bags so heavy with paper that I could barely lift them. Most of those ancient filing cabinets are on their last legs, anyway. They'll thank me, groaning with relief, at least until they get delivered to that gigantic debris collection dump, now three stories tall, over on the big, wide neutral ground on West End Avenue (once a very silk stocking neighborhood, and now home to much of the storm garbage from the rest of the city).
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Adam-Troy Castro
Posted on Friday, October 28, 2005 - 05:56 am:   

My brother in law waited in his car for three hours, inching toward a gas station, only to see it catch fire as he rounded that last bend.
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robert D. Fox
Posted on Saturday, October 29, 2005 - 07:58 am:   

Hi Andy,
I found the site again and read your news. Happy that things are progressing.
bob fox
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Andrew Fox
Posted on Friday, November 04, 2005 - 09:49 am:   

As of early Wednesday morning, November 2nd, my family is reunited and back in our home in New Orleans. After an incredible two months of wandering. I arrived in Surfside, Florida on Saturday night and was delighted to find that my two sons hadn't seemed to have forgotten me during my two weeks away. We spent Sunday visiting with Phyllis and with May and Joe (dinner at Mo's Deli in Aventura, which was filled to bursting, since so many people in the area are still without power and want a hot meal), finding a gas station without a line, and donating children's items that we wouldn't be able to take back to New Orleans to Goodwill Industries. Then I spent all Monday morning cleaning out the Surfside apartment and packing the minivan. Not to toot my own horn too loudly, but I did an amazing job packing that van -- Dara had not believed I'd be able to get everything secured inside. If we'd had just one more item, I would've had to have stuck it on Levi's or Asher's lap. I made good use of the van's roof rack, too, as I roped our kiddie corral up top very carefully (although I was on pins and needles the first hundred or so miles on the road, waiting for that whoosh noise that would tell me the kiddie corral had just flown off the roof and was heading directly for the windshield of the poor schmuck just behind me).

We made it to Tampa Monday evening and spent the next day with my brother's family and my sister. Levi and Asher really enjoyed playing with their two cousins, although both my boys were suffering (as they have been on and off since the start of our odyssey) with head colds. I rested most of the day on Tuesday so that we could drive all the way back to New Orleans Tuesday night while the boys would be sleeping. It turned out to be a good plan, as it ensured minimal whining and complaining on the road, although I scared the shit out of myself at about 4:30 A.M. when I fell asleep at the wheel for a half-second just to the west of Mobile, Alabama. Struggled through the next hour to reach the open rest stop at the Louisiana border, which didn't come a second too soon. I dozed for about twenty minutes, which, weirdly enough, was enough to refresh me so that the rest of the trip passed with no threatening micro-snoozes. We drove over the one repaired span of the I-10 bridge across Lake Pontchartrain and observed the destruction a few yards away on the second span. Then we drove through the ghost town of New Orleans East, inundated when the Industrial Canal levee broke. This was never my favorite part of town, having mostly been built in a big hurry during the boom years of the late 1960s and early 1970s when NASA's Michoud Avenue plant was at its peak, and thus the repository of a whole lot of mediocre or ugly 1970s architecture, but it was home to thousands and thousands of people who loved their houses and neighborhoods. It's one of the parts of town that has a huge question mark hanging over it, as do the Upper and Lower Ninth Ward.

We got back into our area in Algiers at about 6:15 A.M. and spent a while looking for an open breakfast place, since we didn't have any food in the house. I drove Dara and the boys around the commercial areas of Gretna, and we tried eating at an IHOP, but the place was staffed by only a single cook and a solitary waitress, and the wait would've been at least forty-five minutes had we stuck it out. We ended up at the Crescent City Coffee Cafe on General de Gaulle, whose breakfast menu has been reduced to two choices, eggs with pancakes or eggs with toast and grits. After an eleven-hour drive, I would've eaten stale Pop Tarts for breakfast, so I wasn't too disappointed by the lack of choice.

Dara was, of course, very happy to see the house again and almost immediately started complaining about the leaking faucet in the main bathroom, a longstanding kvetch, so I felt like things had begun returning to normal. I couldn't tell whether Levi recognized his old toys or was just happy to see a bunch of new stuff to play with. He definitely recognized his crib, however, and was happy to nap in there. However, we learned that he has acquired the ability to crawl out of his crib during the two months away; we heard him crying loudly and found him with a big egg near the top of his forehead. His birthday is Saturday, so one of his gifts will need to be a toddler bed.

I turned 41 today (Levi's and my birthdays are one day apart). Levi gave me the best possible birthday present this morning when he spontaneously hugged first his mommy, then me, a new and extremely welcome bit of behavior from him.
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Pati Nagle
Posted on Friday, November 04, 2005 - 11:22 am:   

Glad to hear you're all together and home again! Best wishes to Dara and happy birthday to you, Andy! May your future be ever brighter.
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Andrew Fox
Posted on Friday, November 04, 2005 - 12:01 pm:   

Thanks so much for the good wishes, Pati. I hope my family and I get to see you again soon. Please send our love to all our New Mexico SF friends and to your husband.
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Kathi Kimbriel
Posted on Monday, November 07, 2005 - 07:53 am:   

I can't think of any belated birthday wishes that would mean more than having your family safe back at home with you! I hope by this time next year, things are at a "new normal" and perhaps you can even join us all for WFC in Austin.
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Andrew Fox
Posted on Monday, November 07, 2005 - 08:53 am:   

Kathi, thanks so much for the birthday wishes. If at all possible, I'd like to make both ArmadilloCon and World Fantasy in Austin next year, with at least one of the trips being with family in tow. I learned this past week that the way to go with the two boys is to travel late at night, when they are too sleepy to do much complaining. Also, I've heard from Lucius Shepard that he plans to be at both Austin events next year. Lucius is a great guy and a terrific friend to my family, so I certainly wouldn't want to pass up an opportunity to see him and show him how Levi and Asher have grown. Dara and I are certainly anxious to discover that "new normal" you wrote about. This morning is a good start; I discovered that my favorite location of local coffeehouse chain Rue de la Course, the old bank building at Oak Street and South Carrollton, has reopened for business. They've got free wi-fi there, so that's where I'm typing this message. Great to be back here! I wrote a good part of Bride of the Fat White Vampire sitting in here (and I used to do most of my copying here, too, back when this building was used as a Kinko's Copies).
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Andrew Fox
Posted on Monday, November 07, 2005 - 09:10 am:   

As of Saturday afternoon, the whole family is officially back together again in our home, as we made the hour-and-a-quarter trip to Thibodeaux, home of Nicholls State University, and picked up our seven cats from the emergency animal shelter run by our friend Henry Faust's parents. (Well, let me qualify that statement just a bit -- Phyllis, my mother-in-law who lives around the corner, still hasn't come back from Florida, but she tells us to expect her within a couple of weeks. Of course, knowing Phyllis, that two weeks could be two months, or two years; she is predictably unpredictable.)

All of the cats came through their ordeal surprisingly well, most looking a bit trimmed down and more sleek, with the exception of our most obese cat, Doc, who somehow found a way to put on an extra half-pound or so. The only cat really worse for the experience is Jack, who suffered liver damage and a bad sinus infection due to a long period of not eating. He's spent the last two weeks in an animal hospital in Thibodeaux. The vets had to force feed him, and to deal with the sinus infection, they shaved his forehead and drilled two small holes in his skull so that they could insert long straws into his sinus cavities to drain them. Mr. Faust said he took photos of Jack following the operation for Halloween, as he looked like a quadroped alien with his yellow skin, shaved forehead, and two extraction straws sticking up from his head like a pair of antennae. He was eating and drinking on his own for a while, but then he stopped once we got him back to our house, so Dara has had to resume the regimen of force-feeding him. Plus, the cats brought fleas back with them, so they are being quarantined in an upstairs room until we can arrange to have them dipped and pilled. Still, retrieving them has been a big step on the road back to what will come to pass as normal.

On another good note, Levi's behavior took a big jump towards normal socialization over the weekend. He's started giving his mother and me (and occassionally other unsuspecting adults) spontaneous hugs, and he's been inviting us more and more to join him in his games. On the drive back from Thibodeaux, he initiated a vocal copying game that we played for about twenty minutes, and yesterday he started piling cat toys on top of my head, laughing uproariously every time I tilted my head and all the toys and assorted debris fell into my lap. All in all, he and I both enjoyed a very fine birthday weekend, even though circumstances didn't allow for parties and cakes this year.
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Eric Marin
Posted on Monday, November 07, 2005 - 09:12 pm:   

I'm glad to hear that you and your family are all home together again, Andrew. Happy belated birthday!
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Nathan Ballingrud
Posted on Monday, November 07, 2005 - 09:44 pm:   

Wow. Reading these posts fills me with mixed feelings. I miss that place so much, and even though I moved out a month before the storm hit, I find myself just aching to go back. (That's always the case with New Orleans, of course -- this is actually the second time I've moved away -- but even more so now than ever.) I'm really gratified to hear that the old the Rue has opened again; I used to go there just about every morning for coffee and a bagle. And Octavia -- that's such good news. I thought they'd do all right, since they're close to the river and therefore on a natural levee, and since they were far from the breaches . . . but still, it's nice to hear it confirmed.

I hear about these places, and it reminds me of my comfy old routines; in just about every respect my years in New Orleans were the best of my life. Hell, even the cockroaches don't seem so bad in retrospect (that's how I know I'm getting too damned sentimental).

I'm proud of you for sticking it out, Andy. If I didn't have Mia I'd be right there with you. It's thanks to people like you that New Orleans has a future at all.
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Ellen Datlow
Posted on Tuesday, November 08, 2005 - 09:00 am:   

Andrew,
I'm so glad that things are getting back to normal for you and your family. And Happy birthday!
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Andrew Fox
Posted on Tuesday, November 08, 2005 - 06:28 pm:   

Eric, Ellen, and Nathan, thank you all for your kind wishes and birthday greetings. Nathan, how are things going in Asheville? I was just at Maple Street Books yesterday (yes, they've reopened), and one of the clerks there who lost her home in Lakeview said that one of the places she and her husband are considering relocating to, if they end up leaving New Orleans, is Asheville. I hope you can make a trip down here sometime soon to get a feel for the post-Katrina landscape and to experience what I think will be a defining moment in this area's long history. Uptown fared pretty well, comparatively, and more and more good places are reopening. I spent most of yesterday in one of my favorite coffeehouses, the Rue de la Course at Oak and Carrollton, and the Blue Bird Cafe is open with a restricted menu and for limited hours (but at least it's there). Independent bookstores mostly made out okay. Octavia, Garden District Books, and Maple Street Books are all reopened. Beaucoup Books may not reopen; however, rumor has it that the owners of the two Afro-American Book Stops (which were both ruined in the flooding, both the New Orleans East and downtown New Orleans Center locations) will be taking over that location on Magazine Street and starting a new, general readership bookstore with a strong specialization in Afro-American interests. Down in the Quarter, Kaboom Books has reopened for a few hours each afternoon, and there's a newly opened used bookstore on Tchoupitoulas that I need to check out. The Metairie Borders and the Harvey Barnes and Noble are both open now and both have full parking lots every time I pass by. Snug Harbor, the Maple Leaf Bar, Margaritaville, and Dos Jeffes Cigar Bar on Tchoupitoulas all have full music schedules now.

So I hope you can come down for a visit sometime, Nathan. I'd be really, really happy to reprise that lunch we had back at the beginning of the summer. That was fun.
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Andrew Fox
Posted on Friday, November 18, 2005 - 04:02 pm:   

Things are beginning to return to normal somewhat, whatever "normal" means nowadays. We did suffer one loss this past week. Jack, our big, fat, sassy black cat that has been in and out of animal hospitals with liver and sinus ailments ever since he was rescued three and a half weeks after the storm, had to be put down. Tests done by our local vet revealed that Jack had liver cancer, which had likely been severely aggravated by his food deprivation during the post-Katrina period. Losing Jack now is pretty sad, because he was the cat who, of all of them, liked best to mix it up and rough-house with little kids (he loved my stepdaughter Natalie the best of anyone in the household, and that's saying something mighty strong about his rambunctious personality). So now we're down to six cats, five boys and a girl. Dara's and my bed isn't nearly so crowded in the middle of a chilly winter night as it once was (when I first met her, Dara had ten cats).

We're running into delays typical for returnees. Our roof, which was to have been replaced this week, now won't be replaced until sometime in mid-December, if then. Our tree stumps were supposed to have been ground down by now; I suspect they'll still be around for Asher to climb on once he's walking six months from now. However, our fir tree hasn't died yet and may end up growing straight again.

My beloved George Alec Effinger Memorial Writing Group got together again at the Rue de la Course Coffeehouse on Magazine Street last Wednesday night -- or at least a small portion of it did. We've dwindled down quite a bit over the past year, a dimunition badly exacerbated by the storm. Just four of us were able to attend this week, versus between twelve and fifteen of us that used to show when George was still alive. Still, it was wonderful to see Laura, Marc, and Fritz again, and Marian should be coming back from Houston soon. My best proofreader (apart from Dara), John Webre, decided to move to Houston with his family, so my manuscripts may not show up any longer on editors' desks, in Ellen Datlow's words, "the cleanest I've ever seen." Not only a great proofreader and grammar checker, John was funny, too.

At the end of our meeting, an old friend of Dara's and mine walked into the coffeehouse. I hadn't seen Anton Giussoni in at least a couple of years. As a teenager, he'd lived with Dara's family for a few years, becoming a personal assistant and driver to my future father-in-law once Dr. Levinson suffered his first strokes. He still considers Phyllis, my mother-in-law, his second mother. Oddly enough, I'd become friendly with Anton years before I ever met Dara, and I didn't make the connection until Anton showed up at Dr. Levinson's funeral the summer before Dara and I got married. Anton's family suffered badly during the storm. They all lived either in New Orleans East or Lakeview, two of the areas that suffered from the worst of the flooding. His elderly aunt and uncle drowned inside their Little Woods home, not far from Lake Pontchartrain, after the London Avenue canal levee failed and the lake poured into their neighborhood. Anton came back to the city just a couple of weeks after the storm, camping out in his ruined apartment and living on MRE's handed out by the National Guard (his apartment, right behind my favorite comic book store on Oak Street, didn't flood, but its roof was caved in when the entire roof flew off neighboring Zot's Coffeehouse and landed in his living room). He spent weeks visiting the homes of families and friends who were unable to come back to the city themselves. While visiting the twenty-eighth home he'd been asked to check out, he slipped on some mud in a completely abandoned neighborhood and cracked three of his ribs. If he hadn't have been able to deal with the pain and get himself back to his car (after passing out for an unknown amount of time), he would've died of hunger and exposure out there, because there was no one, no one, for miles. He could've starved to death in the middle of what had been a city of half a million people, a city famed for its food.

Unbelieveable stories I'm hearing. Most of them due to a civil engineering cock-up of greater consequence than almost any in American history. You can't sue the Federal government, however.
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Ellen Datlow
Posted on Saturday, November 19, 2005 - 08:05 am:   

Andy, thanks for the update. I'm sorry about Jack.

And especially thanks for the story of your friend Anton.
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Andrew Fox
Posted on Monday, November 21, 2005 - 06:37 am:   

Ellen, thanks for your good wishes. Best of luck finding exciting new projects to work on. All of us fans, readers, and writers will be watching with great interest to see where you land.
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Andrew Fox
Posted on Monday, November 21, 2005 - 12:35 pm:   

We had a good weekend, for the most part. The weather turned beautiful and invited us all outside. The boys and I spent a good deal of time at three local parks, one in our neighborhood, one in Algiers Point, and the other in Audubon Park. Levi has reached the point where he can climb around on the equipment without giving me heart palpitations, having acquired at least a smidgeon of common sense about what he is capable of (climbing steps, going down slides) and what he isn't (sliding down a pole, jumping from a platform six feet high onto sand). Asher is still working on his crawling (can go backwards, can go in circles, can't yet go forward, at least not most of the time), but he loves being out with other kids and being a center of attention to older children. Dara and I talked with a lot of parents who have recently returned to New Orleans. It's good to see them back. Yesterday, walking the boys around Audubon Park's biking/skating/walking loop, which is normally bustling on weekends, felt eerie; we could look around and count our fellow park attendees on the fingers of one hand. However, once we stopped at the playground adjacent to St. Charles Avenue and Loyola University, kids and their parents began accumulating, until a decent crowd had gathered and Levi was having to take turns going down the spiral slide. Several parents told Dara or me that they were staying with relatives or friends while they figured out what to do with flooded homes. I admire them for their pluck and willingness to tackle a really hard job.

Dara kicked the boys and me out of the house yesterday morning so she could do a decent job of cleaning, and we headed over to visit my cousins Barry and Lindy in Algiers Point, where there is a wonderful kiddie park called Confetti Park that Levi adores. Barry and Lindy adore Levi and Asher, and it's always a pleasure to go visit them; they treat the boys the way I've wished my mother and stepdad would treat them. The Point looks like it hardly took a blow from Katrina, but just two months ago, a few homeowners protected their blocks with shotguns, dogs, and improvised intruder alerts, rows and aluminum cans tied together with string, that kind of thing. Barry is a cameraman for Fox News 8, and one of the first post-Katrina stories he covered was this vigilante defense of his own neighborhood. Although things never got quite as bad as CNN portrayed, there was so much senseless, utterly needless destruction. The area's economic comeback has been hampered by a lot more than nature's fury and the Army Corps of Engineers' fecklessness. Whereas some looters stole items that they needed to keep body and soul together, others engaged in vandalism for the fun of it, or for revenge, or out of boredom, maybe. Our local Oakwood Mall in Gretna took some wind damage from Katrina and at first had no flood damage. Had that been all they'd suffered, the whole place would be open now, providing hundreds of jobs and hundreds of thousands of needed local tax dollars. But a gang of thugs decided that stealing shoes, clothes, jewelry, and fast food wasn't enough; they tried setting the entire mall on fire, starting gasoline fires in four locations throughout the mall. None of the fires spread beyond its immediate area, but the whole mall took millions of dollars' worth of water damage from the mall's own sprinkler systems. So now only the Sears is open, and the rest of the mall sits quiet and empty.

Based on yesterday's front page editorial, the editors of the Times-Picayune expect the leaders of Congress to essentially dust off their hands and leave South Louisiana to stew in its own juices, without some major outpouring of advocacy from the public to galvanize action. Not a good sign, as we are rapidly becoming old news. And unfortunately, our state and local political leaders aren't showing too many signs that they can put aside old habits and rivalries and work together on a single, unified recovery plan. The best news I've seen on the political front recently is that the State Board of Primary and Secondary Education will likely take over operations of the substandard public schools in New Orleans (or about 115 or so of 130 or so schools) and turn over their management to foundations or local universities. Given our local political culture, this may not ensure an improvement in our mostly dreadful local schools, but it at least makes improvement a possibility. For the foreseeable future, the New Orleans School System will be educating (or miseducating) far fewer students than it has in recent decades. Perhaps, with rebuilt or newly constructed facilities, new management teams not hogtied by the competing political fiefdoms of the School Board, and students with parents who have demonstrated the drive and gumption to try to rebuild their lives in New Orleans, we will end up with a public school system that won't drive virtually every parent who can afford it into the arms of the parachial and private schools.

The Saints continue to lose; their record now stands at 2-8. Katrina didn't change that, at least.

This morning and this afternoon, I've been back in my old neighborhood of Jefferson City, the part of Uptown between Upperline and Audubon Park, St. Charles Avenue and the river. I'm working at the CC's Coffeehouse on Magazine Street and Jefferson Avenue a few blocks away from my old house on Constance Street, the coffeehouse where I wrote most of Fat White Vampire Blues between 1998 and 2000. It just reopened on limited hours about ten days ago. Before then, a lot of their old customers still parked themselves on folding chairs beneath the coffeehouse's awning, because although the store was closed, its wi-fi connection was still working. So people brought their laptops and their own coffee and hung out on the sidewalk. It's good they're back in business, both the coffeehouses and their parent corporation, Community Coffee of Louisiana; in my humble opinion, Community makes the best "cheap" coffee you can buy in supermarkets around here, although fans of CDM (Cafe du Monde) brand will disagree. Dara and I sure missed our Community Coffe while we were down in Miami.

Good news and bad; it seems to come in tandem. Since our return, Dara and I have been looking for a new pediatrician to take Levi and Asher to see, since our old pediatricians' office, Treadway Pediatrics at Jena Street and Napoleon Avenue, was badly flooded out, along with the entire neighborhood surrounding Memorial Medical Center. We've called the office numerous times and never gotten more than a message saying they are closed. Last night, talking with our friends Marc and Nicki McCandless, we found out why. Nicki is a nurse who works at Children's Hospital. Dara asked her if she'd heard anything about the whereabouts of the doctors from Treadway Pediatrics. She told us that, just a few days ago, Dr. Treadway, the pediatrician who had come to visit both Levi and Asher in the hospital just after they were born and who provided early childhood checkups to both of them, committed suicide. He hung himself, leaving a wife and a couple of college-age children behind. The death toll attributable to the storm continues to rise and probably will do so for some time to come. Dr. Treadway looked and sounded just like Fred Gwinn of The Munsters TV show. He loved making jokes and smiled whenever I saw him. He had a great touch with kids, just as you'd imagine Herman Munster would if he'd become a pediatrician, and he was a jovial, comforting presence on the two occassions Dara and I were staying at Memorial Medical Center together. I hardly knew him, of course. I don't know anything about his personal or business situation. But the destruction of his practice and the scattering of his patients to probably dozens of states must have played a major role in convincing him that life was no longer worth living.

That's the bad. Here's the good. Remember Tillie Jones, the elderly black woman with diabetes and other ailments who I've been delivering a food box to each month for years, who I thought I saw on CNN being rescued by flatboat? I parked at her house this morning to see if I could detect signs of life. No one was home, but the yard and house had been cleared of debris. I went across the street and rang a neighbor's bell. A friend of Tillie's answered and told me she'd recently spoken with Tillie's daughter. After a rough couple of months, Tillie is on the upswing -- she survived the storm and may be returning to her house soon. I'll have to ask her, when I see her, whether it really was her who I saw on TV; her immediate neighborhood didn't flood, but she might've taken shelter with friends or family across town in areas that did flood. I've known her for seven years, and every time I've seen her, she's told me, in a weary voice, that she isn't long for this world. I hope she continues to be wrong in that way for a good time to come.
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Barb Packett
Posted on Tuesday, November 22, 2005 - 12:46 pm:   

Andy,

Just was reading to see how you all are doing. This site is great to hear how you and your family are doing. Sounds like there is a beginning to some sort of normacy in your life. So glad to hear it.

When you have a minute or two please let me know what is happening in the CSFP in LA and where you are working from.

Take care and so glad you are all together finally.

Barb

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Andrew Fox
Posted on Tuesday, November 22, 2005 - 02:43 pm:   

Dear Barb,

Great to hear from you, as always. I don't have an office as of yet; officially, I'm working out of the City of New Orleans Algiers Community Health Unit, but the desk that was offered to me there didn't have a phone, computer or Internet access, or a fax, making it pretty much impossible for me to get anything done, so, "on the sly," I've been working out of the house and from coffeehouses with a laptop. Plus, I've been on the road a lot, going back and forth between New Orleans and Baton Rouge, or out to a few surviving CSFP sites in the New Orleans area. I'm supposed to be assigned a "temporary permanent" or "permanent temporary" office in Metairie sometime in January. I'll email you my cell phone number so you can give me a call, if you'd like.

Our Louisiana Commodity Supplemental Food Program is slowly getting back on its feet. For the time being, it is headquartered out of the Food For Families Baton Rouge warehouse. Tim has leased new warehouse facilities in Delhi, east of Monroe in northeast Louisiana, and in Opelousas, just off the I-49 in south-central Louisiana. The program is currently serving the majority of our parishes in north and central Louisiana and is trying to get the Acadiana parishes up and running again. Our second-biggest site, Hope Haven, located in Marerro, on the west bank of Jefferson, reopened yesterday. We hope to get our biggest site, Sacred Heart in New Orleans, up and running within a month. I'd estimate that, as of this March, we should be serving just about all the parishes we were serving prior to Katrina, with the exception of St. Bernard Parish, which, like much of Plaquemines, is simply not there anymore; in both parishes, between 80% and 90% of the homes suffered critical damage.

Have a great Thanksgiving, and please send my very best wishes to all the members of the CSFP family nationwide.
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Nathan Ballingrud
Posted on Friday, November 25, 2005 - 07:46 pm:   

Thanks for these updates, Andy. You're my eyes in the city, man. I hope to get down there for a visit soon. If I do, I'm taking you out to lunch, mister.
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Kathi Kimbriel
Posted on Friday, November 25, 2005 - 10:19 pm:   

It sounds like you, Dara and the boys are doing great! Work for your hands and a moment to laugh together will go a long way toward healing the ills of New Orleans. Your story of your doctor is tragic; he was needed by old patients and new as New Orleans heals itself. Now, his family and patients are denied his help forever--at least in this life.

I know that Thanksgiving this year had special significance for all NO folks. As we remember all we've lost and all we have to be grateful for, I hope that the next few months show you signs of the eternal rebirth of your beloved city.

Back in Austin, I've found a group collecting furniture for relocated refugees, and our trusty sofa bed will be offered to the church. It's 95% perfect, so I hope they'll agree that a sofa that is also a double bed will be a blessing for some family. We'd still be using it except it doesn't fit in our new house! I'll need to meet the collectors at the rent house sometime in the next month.

Hope the writing is cooperating, around all that business travel.

Be well--

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Louis Maistros
Posted on Saturday, November 26, 2005 - 02:32 pm:   

Hey -- Stumbled across this message board, thought I'd say hi. I'd be one of those unknown New Orleans writers (although Night Shade was nice enough to spotlight me a few years back), and proprietor of Louie's Juke Joint, formerly of Decatur Street, in the Quarter. Stuck in Maryland at the moment with wife, two kids, four dogs, 3 cats, one rabbit.

Just wanted to say it's been nice reading Andrew's progress reports about our city. Nice to hear about home in any form right now. Addicted to NOLA.com. Chris Rose is my hero.

Me and the wife made it back into the city on October 4. Our house didn't flood, we live in the Marigny, but there were four trees on it. ON it, not IN it, so we were lucky. The good news is that every tree that could have possibly hit our house DID just that, so we won't have to worry about the tree issue next hurricane season. Always a silver lining.

The homesickness issue has been hard. We should be back already, but there are some medical issues we need resolved.

This evacuation stuff is nuts. From nola to Brookhaven, Mississippi, to Somewhere in Arkansas to Chicago to Cleveland to Maryland. Drive, drive, drive. I remember the day the mayor said on the radio, approximately, "run like hell, keep running, and don't come back till Christmas." Remember thinking, "Whaddaya mean? We only brought 3 changes of clothes."

Gotta get back. Gotta help the city find its own way home. So damn homesick.

But that's crybaby shit. We really are lucky. Maryland has been great to us. Lotta love in Charm City. But this does get old. When people find out you're from nola, you get "the look," as my wife calls it. It was amusing at first, that immediate, weird pitying expression of shock, like you're a ghost -- amusing at first. And people are really nice up north. But we just want to go home.

Keep writing, Andrew. I might not pipe in too often, but I'll be reading.

Louie
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Andrew Fox
Posted on Sunday, November 27, 2005 - 11:19 am:   

Happy (belated) Thanksgiving to all our friends around the country who have been keeping in touch through these boards or following our progress by reading the messages. You all have been an enormous support, even since those bad first days when we were stuck in Albuquerque and my only lifeline of information and moral support was the hour or so each morning I could spend logged in to the computer down in the hotel lobby.

We enjoyed a pretty good Thanksgiving weekend. On Turkey Day (Vegetable Day for us, but that's all right), we met my cousins Barry and Linnie over to the west in Harvey at the Boomtown Casino, to eat at their holiday buffet. It was surprisingly and gratifyingly crowded out there. I guess West Jefferson didn't take that bad a hit, so Boomtown has been able to get most of their employees back. Barry and Linnie are terrific relatives and friends; they adore the boys and always k'vell over them (that's Yiddish for "make a big fuss"). Plus, the boys cooperated by being especially good at the buffet; no fussing or destruction of public property. Barry is a news cameraman for Fox News 8; since the storm temporarily disabled the station on Jefferson Avenue, behind Xavier University, Barry and Rob Masson have pretty much kept the news programs going, running things from a mobile van and from their houses. He always has interesting stories to share. Told me at the buffet that he'd just met a homeowner in Lakeview, a contactor himself, who is pretty much the first guy to begin rebuilding his house. He's got most of his place put back together again, with swimming pool and all, although he doesn't have a single neighbor within a mile's radius.

The last few days I've been taking the boys on long walks around the neighborhood and to some of our local parks here in Algiers. Families with kids are starting to drift back into town. We saw good evidence of this on Friday, when we went to the Audobon Zoo's big reopening. The place was pretty well packed, which probably meant that almost every parent with kids back in town went to the zoo that day (admission has been free all this weekend). We bumped into some families we know who are back in town just for the holiday weekend. At synagogue on Saturday, we saw Philip and Lila for the first time since the storm. They managed to lose not one, but two houses during Katrina -- they'd bought a new home in Metairie that flooded, and their old house in Lakeview, which was due to be sold the Wednesday after the storm hit, took on eight feet of water. Plus, they've got two boys the same ages as Levi and Asher. Oy.

Nathan, always super to hear from you! Please try to come back for a visit soon. I'd love to see you.

Kathi, thanks for checking in and for all that you're doing for hurricane refugees. I'm sure that sofa bed will be a very welcome addition to somebody's household.

Louie, I hope you and your family will be able to return really soon. The city really needs its businesspeople to come back. Let me know when you're back in the Quarter, and I'll stop by your place to introduce myself. Thanks for reading my posts and for the good wishes.
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Louis Maistros
Posted on Sunday, November 27, 2005 - 05:11 pm:   

Andrew,

Thanks for the warm words.

We'll get there. I believe those of us who didn't flood are doubly obligated to get back and get busy making things right as soon as possible. It kills me that we're still away from home, but we have some pretty good reasons, the biggest of which is that we have two smallish kids to think of.

My store in the Quarter actually closed a while before the storm. We were on the French Market for 3 years, then the 1100 block of Decatur Street in the Quarter for 4. Our first Decatur St. location was Record Ron's old place, then we moved across the street below Rings of Desire. Now we're operating online out of our home in the Marigny - here, if you're interested: http://thejukejoint.com.

Although you can't exactly stop by the store, maybe I can buy you a cup of coffee at Flora's if you find yourself in the Marigny often.

I thought I'd add a link for those on this board who are not familiar with the area and are trying to wrap their minds around what happened where, to whom, and maybe would like to get a better idea, in broad strokes, of the city's layout in context with the storm.

http://www.gnocdc.org/index.html

Lots of enlightening maps and info there -- even for those who know the city well.

For anyone else from New Orleans in the Maryland area, I feel it my duty to inform you that The Radiators will be playing 8x10 in Federal Hill next weekend. I'm not a huge fan of The Radiators in particular, but it'll sure be nice to see a band from home.

Take care, all y'all,
Louie
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Andrew Fox
Posted on Sunday, November 27, 2005 - 06:31 pm:   

Louie, I'd be delighted to meet you over at Flora's once you're back home. I used to stop in there a lot when Dara was working at Belle Reeve on Royal Street in the Bywater. Great little place; it reminds me somewhat of the fondly remembered Bordosi's Coffeehouse/Breezy's Place on Frerret Street, then around the corner on Soniat. Sorry to hear you no longer have a retail outlet in the Quarter, but I'd certainly be interested to peruse your stock sometime.

Even those parts of town that got through the storm comparatively undevastated still show signs of Katrina's destruction. Dara and I tried taking the boys to Brechtel Park in Algiers today but couldn't, as they still haven't reopened. One of our favorite places to take Levi and Asher (particularly on a hot afternoon), the Louisiana Children's Museum, remains closed, with no note posted as to when they'll be reopening. We ended up taking them to a little toddler park we like at the corner of Octavia and St. Charles. Hadn't been in there since before the storm. What a change in that little place. At least half the park's tree's are gone, as is much of their lawn, and one of the toddler slides is missing its slide half, with only the stairs and platform left (Levi still insisted on climbing up there, if only to practice going up and down the stairs--he didn't try jumping off the empty end, thank heavens).

The New Orleans Aquarium lost the majority of its fish while the power was out for almost four weeks (aquarium fish, just like fish in a home aquarium, rely upon artificial life support in the way of oxygenation equipment). So the earliest the aquarium can reopen will be next summer, and then probably with lots of fish borrowed from other aquariums around the country. The Nature Center in New Orleans East may never reopen, depending on what kind of rebuilding goes on in that part of town; that whole facility was badly torn up and flooded, including its planetarium. The zoo, amazingly enough, only lost three animals in the storm, and none of them were exotic animals -- two otters, plus a racoon in the Louisiana Swamp exhibit, bought the farm during Katrina.
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Louis Maistros
Posted on Monday, November 28, 2005 - 12:22 pm:   

Andrew,

I know what you mean about the "undevastated" areas showing signs of the storm. When me and Elly went back in early October, I took a walk around the neighborhood marveling at the lack of damage -- until I realized I'd been walking on roofing materials the whole time.

That's a shame that the Children's Museum hasn't yet reopened. I suspect it has something to do with the lack of children in the area. Has that gotten any better? We used to take our kids up there on the trolley -- I suspect the streetcar system is still down. You'd think they'd at least get the River Front line moving, but I guess there's damage to the cars, just like everything else. Or maybe they just need drivers.

I have to say, I was very jealous to have missed the zoo's reopening. Really wish I could have brought the kids to that, glad that the critters fared well (though Elly will mourn the otters, her favorites!) Judging from reports, it seems quite a few kids were back in the area for the reopening. Maybe not from the city proper, I'm guessing mostly Algiers.

When we went back in October, I think the thing that rattled me most was the lack of people in the city. I'm sure you understand what I mean, but most folks seem perplexed by this reaction. Although I understand and mostly agree with the concern of those focused on saving historic buildings, seeing all those old buildings without people was like looking at a face without eyes. It was just meaningless. We saw a lot of real destruction on Highway 11, in Lakeview, Gentilly, etc.. but it was the lack of people in the city - usually so alive - that really made the sadness of this situation sink in fast for me. It was the first time I ever heard my own echo in New Orleans, and that scared me silly. I also noticed there were no rats. Not that I like rats, but that was weird. I wonder where they went. Maybe they were eaten by the mosquitoes. Ha!

On the bright side, we were only there for 4 days - from Oct 4 to 7 - and each day we saw noticeable improvement. Everyone you met asked you if you needed anything, everyone was bending over backwards for everyone else, strangers felt like family, even the neighbors you don't usually like were nice. I hope that positive vibe hangs intact for a while.

OK, now I'm just rambling. ;-)

See you at Flora's.

Louie
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Andrew Fox
Posted on Monday, November 28, 2005 - 06:33 pm:   

Louie, kids are starting to come back to the area. The reopening of some schools has contributed to their return, I'm sure. The Archdiocese has opened up eleven elementary and middle schools and several high schools in Orleans Parish (including Jesuit, which just reopened this week). The New Orleans Public Schools just reopened Ben Franklin Elementary on Jefferson Avenue today, their first school to reopen (others that have reopened or are about to are charter schools which were formerly administered by the school board but will now be under the control of neighborhood boards). I take Levi and Asher to neighborhood parks every weekend, and each weekend I see more kids and talk with parents who have just arrived back in town (or, in my neighborhood, with parents from Lakeview or New Orleans East who are staying with relatives in Algiers). I don't know whether you saw my earlier posts concerning Levi's speech and occupational therapy needs, but the reason I was able to bring the family back in early November was that Children's Hospital had reopened, with all specialties on board. Also, Oschner has started a new division specifically for children. So if its specialty children's health care services that you're looking for, you should be fairly well covered.

By the way, I completely agree about that special post-Katrina vibe in town of "we're all in this together." I hope it lasts a while, too. It'll be interesting to see just how long it does last; maybe until the upcoming city elections (or their cancelation).
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Louis Maistros
Posted on Wednesday, November 30, 2005 - 09:13 pm:   

Andrew,

That's very encouraging to hear that kids are coming back to the city en masse, thanks. I did know that Children's Hospital had reopened, which is a relief.

Although our reasons for staying away for so long are actually pretty complicated, I have to admit that I'm one of those paranoid parents who was (is) perhaps overly worried about the air quality and so forth. Immediately after the disaster struck, I heard widespread reports (maybe rumors) that nasty stuff like lead and asbestos would be drifting through the air for months. As you probably know, we've had lead problems in the Marigny for years (as does Algiers), so it made me worry that it could actually get worse. I have been watching the tests on this sort of thing, and the NRDC has been releasing some pretty specific tests results for most parts of town -- it really doesn't look too bad. In fact, the biggest problem seems to be mold spores, which is not such a big deal in the nonflooded areas. That being said, I think I'm getting past the parental paranoias and we really just need to take care of a few other important issues (not comfortable with specifics in a public forum) before we go home to stay. Although there are days I just want to throw the kids and dogs in the Aerostar mini van and just get the hell out of Baltimore, head home, don't look back.

Anyway, we'll get there. As the song goes; if not by Christmas, by New Year's night.

Louie
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Andrew Fox
Posted on Thursday, December 01, 2005 - 05:37 am:   

Good deal; I'm glad to hear it. Please look me up as soon as you're back in town. Dara and I are listed in the phone book. I'd love to get together for lunch.
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Louis Maistros
Posted on Thursday, December 01, 2005 - 07:01 pm:   

Will do, Andrew. Take care.
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Andrew Fox
Posted on Friday, December 02, 2005 - 07:15 am:   

I made the rounds of some local bookstores yesterday, checking in with owners and managers to see how everybody is doing and to see whether they have any stock of my books they'd like me to sign and cartoon. As a retail category, thus far the area's bookstores have made out better than nearly any other category of stores, at least in terms of percentage of pre-Katrina stores that are back up and running. With the exception of the Community Book Store on Bayou Road in the Eighth Ward, the two Afro-American Bookstop locations (one of which has switched locales and is now sharing a building with Beaucoup Books on Magazine Street), and the big Metairie Barnes and Noble, which lost part of its roof, just about all of the city's bookstores have reopened.

Just because they've reopened, however, doesn't mean that they'll be able to stay open indefinitely. The big suburban stores (Borders and B&N) are doing okay, since about 85% of Jefferson Parish residents have returned to their homes. Among the Uptown booksellers, Octavia Books and Garden District Books appear to have strong local clienteles who have returned to town and who are supporting them. The French Quarter booksellers, however, are hanging on by their fingernails, watching as two or three customers walk through their doorways each day, and praying that they'll be able to hang in there until the tourism market picks back up again, maybe by Carnival season (the city will sponsor a limited Carnival season of nine or ten parading days in February). I stopped by Boutique du Vampyre, Faulkner House Books, and Arcadian Books, all in the Quarter, and the owners all seemed to be holding their breath, happy that their stores and stocks and employees survived but praying that things will turn around soon.

This would be a very appropriate time for book-lovers with big, fat wallets to descend en masse upon the Crescent City. One good sign is that Tom Piazza's passionate extended essay, Why New Orleans Matters, written while he was on "hurrication" and rushed into hardback print soon thereafter, has been selling very well. Couldn't be more timely, of course.
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Diana Rowland
Posted on Friday, December 02, 2005 - 08:02 am:   

In the weeks after the hurricane, before the power came back on, and then before cable and internet were restored, books were like Gold. The few stores that were open couldn't keep them in stock--not even the cheesy romances.

The population on the northshore has increased by about 50%, and there's still a booming market for reading material. I wonder if the French Quarter merchants can't figure out some way to set up temporary satellite stores in St. Tammany Parish where all the people are, especially since there are still areas of Slidell that have no tv/internet.

Andy, you also might want to make a pass through the St. Tammany bookstores to sign books. Every time I go into the B&N or the BAM over here, they're packed.

By the way, what are your thoughts on the Lakeside mall christmas display that was taken down for being "insensitive"? (Me, I thought it was hysterical.)
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Louis Maistros
Posted on Friday, December 02, 2005 - 09:54 am:   

Andrew,

Are you aware of any websites or Ebay stores for New Orleans bookstores so that those of us outside the city can contribute?
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Andrew Fox
Posted on Friday, December 02, 2005 - 10:00 am:   

I didn't get to see it myself before it got taken down, but I thought that Christmas display was squarely in the honorable tradition of our satirical Carnival parades. The big difference here, of course, is that a large, profit-seeking, private business (the Lakeside Mall landlords) was sponsoring the display, and they couldn't afford to tempt the ire of their paying tenants by inadvertently offending even a handful of customers. Thus, they bent over backwards to appear "sensitive." I doubt that too many people would've taken offense; one of the great things about people who live down here is their gallows sense of humor. Oh, well. Maybe the designer of the display can have it recreated in some other venue. I'd like to go see it.

Thanks for the tip about the North Shore bookstores. I've always had a warm reception at the B&N over that way. Maybe this Sunday the family and I can make a day trip over there. Is it possible to get a meal in a reasonable amount of time at the Macaroni Grill next to the B&N, or is that place seriously mobbed all the time?
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Louie Maistros
Posted on Friday, December 02, 2005 - 11:41 am:   

I've only seen pics of the Lakeside display (it actually made the local news here in Baltimore) and thought it was brilliant. Not to be a conspiracy nut, but I do think the artist's little jab at Broussard had something to do with its removal.

My wife Elly has been creating similar art for the last month or so to help us make ends meet from up here. I think y'all may get a kick out of what she's been doing. Funny but also sad.

Here's one based on the Lower 9 that sold last week:
http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=6226167902

And here's her latest, based on what we saw in Gentilly, though that tree on the house looks an awful lot like the one on ours.
http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&ssPageName=ADME:L:LCA:US:11&item=7 371250637

Enjoy.

L
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Diana Rowland
Posted on Friday, December 02, 2005 - 04:38 pm:   

Louie, those are awesome! You ought to send a picture or the link to the Times Picayune. They might be interested in doing an article, especially after the flap over the Lakeside display.

I'm hoping that some other mall picks up the display, or maybe some individual will buy it. If I was independently wealthy I'd snap it up. I'm glad other people thought it was funny too. Everyone I work with could see the humor, but we're all used to gallows humor in our line of work, and I sometimes have to remind myself that not everyone laughs at the same things. :-) But then this is the city where,for Halloween, people dressed up as refrigerators with duct tape around them, or flooded houses (put a roof on your head and draw a black waterline across your face.) There was a letter to the editor in the paper today mentioning someone making a mardi gras costume out of MRE bags. [g]

Re Macaroni Grill: As long as you don't try and eat at a "peak" hour, you can find a place to have an honest-to-god sitdown dinner fairly easily just about anywhere. Pretty much everything is open over on this end of the parish (unlike in Slidell). The biggest problem we have is that every place is shorthanded and so you might have a bit more wait than usual during the main meal hours. I swear, there is no excuse for anyone to be jobless right now. *Every* business has a help wanted sign in the window AND is offering significant bonuses. We just had one of our crime scene techs quit to go work at Home Depot. (He got ten feet of water in his house, so we teased him about going to work there just for the employee discount.)

If you do head this way this weekend, let me know! I'd love to meet you, and I'll take any excuse to go to a bookstore.
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Louie Maistros
Posted on Saturday, December 03, 2005 - 07:59 am:   

Hi Diana -- Elly says thanks and so do I. When she put up the first one on Ebay, we expected some angry emails, but all we got were letters of support from New Orleans folks, some of whom said it brought them to tears.

I read this morning that the Lakeside display is going back up. And guess who is now its biggest supporter? President Broussard. I think that this, in a roundabout way, lends support to the notion that he had something to do with its removal in the first place. My guess is he thought it would fade quietly into the night and didn't imagine all the uproar. Now, with a movement for his recall in tow, the bad publicity of people assuming (right or wrong) that he was behind the removal of a lighthearted Christmas display doesn't do him any favors politically. It's all so Grinch-esque.

I hear the artist will be adding FEMA trailers when he puts it back up. Ho ho ho. ;-)

Alls well that ends well. I'm betting this thing winds up in the New Orleans Museum of Art before you know it.

L
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Andrew Fox
Posted on Sunday, December 04, 2005 - 06:47 am:   

Louie, I love, love, LOVE those pieces! I'd write more, but Dara is fussing at me to get the boys out of the house before they cause more destruction. Diana, we'll be over at the Mandeville B&N this afternoon (Sunday) at about 3 P.M. or thereabouts, if you'd like to come over at meet us. We'll be the ones with the double stroller (and the stressed-out mommy).
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Louie Maistros
Posted on Monday, December 05, 2005 - 05:13 pm:   

Andrew, Elly and I thank you for the kind words about her stuff. She has been particularly inspired lately -- it's nice that she has an outlet like that.

Dara has my (and Elly's!) sympathies. Our 7 year old, Booker, is quite the terror -- especially, I've recently found out, in the snow. You'd think it was some OTHER kind of white powdery stuff falling from the skies by the way it gets him riled up. Yikes!

;-)
L
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Louie Maistros
Posted on Wednesday, December 07, 2005 - 10:16 am:   

I'm trying to get as many people as possible to read this article from yesterday's LA Times.

http://www.latimes.com/news/printedition/opinion/la-oe-tidwell6dec06,0,6839109.s tory

Andrew, sorry to use your board for this.

L
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Andrew Fox
Posted on Thursday, December 08, 2005 - 09:28 am:   

Louie, I'm glad you posted this article here. Yesterday, on my drive west to Baton Rouge, I heard various WWL-Radio talk show hosts discussing this article and its impassioned, shocking language, so I'm glad you gave me the opportunity to read it. The present situation and our recent past defines exactly the old adage, "Penny wise, pound foolish."

Hey, Diana, it was great meeting you on Sunday! Dara, the boys and I all got a kick out of spending some time with you and your adorable daughter. I'm so pleased that you've expressed such strong interest in becoming a participating member of our George Alec Effinger Memorial Writing Workshop. With some of our founding members departing for other states, we need some fresh blood -- especially folks like yourself who will regularly submit stories and chapters for review.

The family and I visited the National D-Day Museum on Saturday for their grand reopening. Levi and Asher are both too young to appreciate the vehicles and exhibits (although they'll love that stuff when they're a little older; I sure did), but they both enjoyed the 1940s-style big band that played in the foyer. A good, boisterous crowd showed up, and it was fun to see so many WW2 vets there, plus younger folks in period outfits and uniforms.

I now have some temporary office space over at the Edna Pillsbury City Health Clinic in the Central City neighborhood. I'll be here until my own Office of Public Health creates a space for me over at the converted warehouse on L&A Road in Metairie. The city health employees here are really friendly, so I've been enjoying chatting with them. The city's homeless outreach health services unit has moved in here. I've had some interesting discussions with a doctor who treats the local homeless population about a group of diehard street dwellers who hid from the National Guard and refused to evacuate before or after Katrina, hiding out in various shanties, wooded areas, and abandoned buildings along the riverfront. Considering the high incidence of mental illness among the hardcore homeless (thanks to thirty years of national deinstitutionalization policies), I wouldn't be surprised if, as more people return to the city, more and more dead bodies are discovered along the riverfront.

I sure have been collecting a lot of material for this nonfiction book I'm working on. I feel like I've gotten back into my writing rhythm these last few days (finally), and I'm making progress towards a complete proposal package for The Janus-Faced City: New Orleans Since 1984. It's not easy to find blocks of time to do my own stuff, especially with both boys and my wife being down with colds the last few days. But I have to keep squeezing in an hour here and an hour there.
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Andrew Fox
Posted on Thursday, December 08, 2005 - 12:28 pm:   

I simply cannot believe this shit anymore. I just got a call from Bobbie, the Food For Families administrative assistant in Baton Rouge. A couple of hours ago, the roof on our Opelousas commodities warehousing facility -- the place we just leased, where we only began receiving shipments from the U.S. Department of Agriculture a week before Thanksgiving -- collapsed. No one can tell me why yet. My best guess would be undetected damage from Katrina and/or Rita, pushed over the edge by a rainstorm or some such.

Anyway, I'll be leaving New Orleans early tomorrow morning to drive out to Opelousas and determine how much of our food has been lost, what can be salvaged, and where the hell we're going to put all that stuff I ordered for Opelousas that's now on its way.

Pull down pants, arch anus up into the air, insert street lamp or nutria, your choice. . .
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Andrew Fox
Posted on Thursday, December 08, 2005 - 08:34 pm:   

Oy. Turns out it wasn't storm damage that caused the roof to collapse. It was forklift operator error; one of our Food For Families employees ran his forklift too fast and too carelessly and ran into a support post, bring down part of the roof. Thank God, he wasn't killed or hurt. But now the Archdiocese is responsible for replacing whatever commodities got ruined, and that facility will be unusable for at least a month. I'm driving out to Opelousas tomorrow to check out the damage and see what can be salvaged. I'll post an update when I can.

Ahh, that old Chinese curse; "May you live in interesting times. . ."
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Louie Maistros
Posted on Sunday, December 11, 2005 - 05:49 pm:   

Wow, sounds like the charitable heart of NOLA can't catch a break. What are the odds that a roof would collapse so soon after a major hurricane -- but be unrelated to the hurricane?

"Oy" about sums it up. Interesting times -- yeah, that too.

Hang in there and good luck, Andrew.

Our permanent return to NOLA now seems imminent. We've gone ahead and reserved a U-haul trailer for Dec 27. Tommorow we book a flight for the kids who will follow in early January. (We decided not to subject the kids to another 2 day road trip, especially in a van that has no heat. Plus, we thought we'd do whatever necessary to make the house "normal" before they come home for good - not sure what that will entail, but probably somethingerrother).

Look out, NOLA, here we come.

:-)
L
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Andrew Fox
Posted on Monday, December 12, 2005 - 08:53 am:   

Louie, that's great news about your coming back soon. I know you'll be enormously busy when you first get back to town, but please put a lunch with me on your calendar. Any chance you might be interested in joining our monthly George Alec Effinger Memorial Writing Workshop group? We're down a few members, so we're looking for some new blood. Our newest member, Diana Rowland from the North Shore, has a story that'll be appearing in the next edition of Writers of the Future; plus, she works for a police lab, so if you write mysteries or police procedurals, she'd be an excellent resource. And hey, she's not the only Rowland in the group -- we've also got Laura Joh Rowland (no relation to Diana), one of the group's founding members, who's published ten mystery novels set in pre-modern Japan.

Update on that unfortunate Opelousas warehouse situation -- I drove out there on Friday, only to find that the employees had called it quits early and the place was locked up. Not something you want to find out after having driven for three hours. However, I was able to walk through an adjacent cow pasture, picking my way through posies and patties, and climb up on some rubble to take a look inside the building. Very simple construction; cinderblock walls and a corrugated metal roof, part of which is now sitting on top of our pallets of commodity foods. One good aspect of this is that the collapsed roof isn't terribly heavy, so, apart from a certain amount of compression damage and water exposure, I think we'll be able to salvage a lot from those pallets of canned tomatoes, sweet potatoes, mixed fruit, etc. An engineer will be visiting the building tomorrow to determine how safe the remainder of the building is; only about a fifth of the space is directly affected by the roof collapse (although it happened to be the fifth where we had all of our food stored). So we may be able to utilize the rest of the building while repairs are being made.

Sunday made up for my long, discouraging drive out to Opelousas. It was the kind of day that reminds me why I love New Orleans. As per usual for a Sunday, Dara asked me to remove the boys from her house for several hours so she could straighten up without them underfoot. The weather was absolutely perfect -- low 60s, low humidity, clear blue skies -- so I decided to take them down to the Quarter and stroll them around. They're both getting over colds and were pretty drugged out and mellow, so I figured they'd enjoy a long walk in the stoller (Asher slept through the whole two hours, and Levi didn't complain or try to escape once). The Quarter wasn't crowded at all, so it was easy to maneuver the big double stroller up and down the narrow sidewalks (still having to avoid a few remaining fallen trees, however). We started at Kaboom Books on Barracks Street, where I talked with the owner, my good friend John, for a few minutes, and was happy to hear that his business isn't off by nearly as much as he'd feared it would be. Then we headed up Royal Street, where I was thrilled to find that two of my favorite restaurants in the Quarter, Bennachin's African Cuisine and Mona Lisa Pizza, have reopened. We walked over to Jackson Square and said hello to the mother of a friend of ours who owns a Judaica store on the square, then headed across the street to Cafe du Monde. I wanted to see whether Levi would enjoy some beignets and chocolate milk. The chocolate milk he liked okay (but not as much as he liked the pigeons flying overhead inside the coffee stand), but I couldn't get the kid to touch a bite of beignet. I dipped it in sugar, I ate it myself and made "yum yum" noises -- nada. Well, I detested ice cream until I turned five; kids just have weird tastes when they're little, and lots of them are loathe to try new, strange-looking foods. Someday he'll love beignets, I'm sure. He and Asher will have powdered sugar fights and blow that white stuff all over each other's faces and clothes.

After Cafe due Monde, we walked through the French Market. I stopped off by the Gazebo Bar for a few minutes so Levi could watch a trio of R&B musicians play. My cousin Barry, cameraman for Fox News and a part-time drummer, thinks Levi might have some musical talents, so I'm trying to expose him as much as possible to live music (not hard to do in New Orleans, even now). The farmers' market part of the French Market hasn't yet returned, but the flea market part is going full steam. I found a cheap Spanish compilation CD of Art Pepper's 1950s sessions with Conte Condoli, et al, so that made me happy. We listened to Art Pepper on our drive back to Algiers and stopped off for an hour or so at Confetti Kids' Park in the Point. The weather stayed gorgeous all day long, almost gorgeous enough to make me forgive the six-month-long summers around here.
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Ellen Datlow
Posted on Monday, December 12, 2005 - 09:36 am:   

Andy,
Your tour of the French Quarter makes me so nostalgic for the conventions that took place in NO. I hope to get back there some time.
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Diana Rowland
Posted on Monday, December 12, 2005 - 10:59 am:   

Andy, it was terrific to finally meet you last week. Sorry I haven't posted anything sooner, but I've been on call all week and I've been loaded down with crimes of all sorts. Fun fun!

Please be sure to let me know when y'all are going to have your Christmas party or next meeting. I'm really excited about joining the group!
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Louie Maistros
Posted on Monday, December 12, 2005 - 09:32 pm:   

Andrew, here's a tip. Touch your finger into the powdered sugar, then touch your kid's upper lip with your powdery finger. He will lick the sugar, then grab for the beignet. This is guaranteed.

Glad to hear that you are an Art Pepper fan. My favorite alltime jazz record is "Art Pepper Meets the Rhythm Section." If you don't have it, you need it. Pepper also wrote my very favorite jazz autobio, "Straight Life," which is disturbing and amazing.

Also nice to hear that the French Flea Market is going strong. I started my business there, and though the idea of ever returning as a vendor gives me the cold sweats, I have a definite sentimental attachment to the place.

Put me down for both lunch and the workshop, it all sounds great and I look forward to meeting both you and Diana (and Dara and the boys). I know things will be tough and hectic at first, but I can't wait to get back and get busy. My friend Poppy warns me, "it isn't easy living here right now," and I know she's right, but I think it comes down to picking your poison. In other words, given a choice, I'd rather be a nervous wreck at home ;-)

See you soon,
L
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Andrew Fox
Posted on Wednesday, December 14, 2005 - 11:44 am:   

Louie, I'll try your advice regarding beignets and the boys the next time we're over at Cafe du Monde. "Art Pepper Meets the Rhythm Section" is one of my big faves, too. And, like you, I don't believe I've ever read a more affecting and fascinating jazz biography/memoir than Straight Life. I'm really happy to hear that you're interested in joining the workshop. I'm pretty sure our next meeting following this weekend's Christmas party will be the third Wednesday in January, either at the Rue de la Course on Magazine Street or the Fair Grinds Coffeehouse on Ponce de Leon off Esplanade, if it has reopened by then (we had just started meeting at Fair Grinds a few months before the storm, after being booted out of UNO, where our workshop had been squatting without official sanction for seventeen years--took them that long to find us out!). I'll let you know that exact details once you're back in town, and I'll either email or copy for you the manuscripts we'll be reviewing in January.

Good luck with the move back to town, and please tell Poppy I send my best wishes the next time you talk with her (sent her a long email about a month back but never heard back, so she might've changed email services or something).
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Louie Maistros
Posted on Wednesday, December 14, 2005 - 05:44 pm:   

Andrew,

The third Wednesday in January should work out fine for me (unless something unforseen happens). I look forward to it. If you need to email any ms you can send it here: louie@thejukejoint.com. I bet you could sneak back into UNO at this point, you literary looters ;-) I've always liked Rue. I was saddened when they closed the one in the Quarter -- I used to do most of my writing there. Before that it was Kaldi's -- man, that place was the greatest. Now it's Flora's for me. Small but comfy.

I'll tell Poppy you're sending her good thoughts. I think she's just having a hard time keeping up with email. Her email is now the same as it was Pre-K (for awhile it wasn't, I think), so you might want to try again.

Remember when "Pre-K" meant "pre-kindergarten"? Ha!

L
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Andrew Fox
Posted on Thursday, December 15, 2005 - 02:53 pm:   

Thanks for passing along my good wishes to Poppy, Louie. I have very fond memories of Kaldi's, too. That's why I set one of the key scenes in Bride of the Fat White Vampire there. One of the fun aspects of writing fiction is that you set the rules and can keep your favorite coffeehouses open, if you want.

Yesterday's return from Dallas (I went on a short trip there to participate in some computer training being offered by the US Department of Agriculture) ended up being Exhibit #1 as to Why Traveling Sucks Nowadays (Especially if You Have To Transfer at Houston-Hobby Airport). My flight from Dallas to Houston, where I'd connect to New Orleans, was supposed to take about fifty-one minutes. Instead, adding in the time we spent sitting on the tarmac in both Dallas and Houston, it took almost four hours. A line of thunderstorms closed Houston-Hobby for about three hours in the afternoon, and the resulting stack-up of airplanes meant that when we finally got to Houston, we sat on the runway for nearly two hours, never reaching our gate; Continental had to send buses to pick us up on the runway and drive us to the gate. And then, when I finally reached New Orleans at 1:15 A.M., I ran headlong into this:

"Heavy rains force temporary closure of I-10 at railroad underpass--

Interstate 10 has re-opened after being closed for several hours Thursday morning when a line of storms flooded the railroad underpass near Metairie Road, authorities said.

The storms forced the closure of the underpass in both directions around 1 a.m. Thursday. The section of roadway was re-opened after 6 a.m. when the water finally drained.

The underpass has been an area of chronic flooding in recent years, leading officials to spend more than $20 million on a pumping station to help keep drain it during downpours and hurricanes.

But the Department of Transportation and Development said the big pump station is still without electricity from Hurricane Katrina. Once New Orleans Sewerage and Water Board employees arrived at the station around 5:30 a.m. to crank up diesel generators, the water began draining quicker, DOTD said.

DOTD said the Sewerage and Water Board operates the pump station.

The I-10 lanes dip 12 to 14 feet beneath sea level as they pass through the area beneath the underpass."

So which lameass local official is responsible for not having power restored to the city's pumping stations more than three months after Katrina blew through? I went through hell trying to get back to the West Bank, and I know my way around the city. I pity any out-of-towner who got diverted onto the I-610 in the middle of the night with no directions. I got off at the next exit, Canal Boulevard, but got turned back by the cops where the road dipped beneath a train overpass (due to standing water of unknown depths). I had to drive the wrong way for several blocks through completely dark neighborhoods to find my way back to the I-610 East. Then I tried getting off at the St. Bernard Avenue exit to get back to the I-10 East. Same situation, only the cops weren't there at the place the street dipped below the railroad tracks to stop drivers from venturing into the water. A cab was ahead of me and he decided to take the risk. I watched him get lower and lower in the water, put on my brakes, and started backing up. Just then, a patrol car pulled up behind me, blocking my way out, and I had to maneuver in reverse around him and several other cars he had stopped. Then I had to get on the I-610 going back west for several miles until I could turn back around. Third try was the charm -- on Elysian Fields, thank heavens, the road took a bridge over the railroad tracks, rather than under, and I was able to find my back to the I-10 and eventually to the Crescent City Connection and the West Bank. If this town can't get its pumping stations back up and running soon, any hard rain threatens to reflood all those areas that have only recently dried out -- not to mention making navigating around the city almost impossible.

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Louie Maistros
Posted on Thursday, December 15, 2005 - 06:53 pm:   

My God. They still don't have the pumps working? Holy hell.

Speaking of Poppy, here's Elly's latest bizarre creation, dedicated to the crazy uptown cat lady herself:
http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=7375547753

This one's my favorite so far.

Exhibit #2 as to Why Traveling Sucks Nowadays would be the dreaded "smokers' lounge" at the Atlanta hub. Imagine a tiny bus depot in hell encased in glass so that nonsmokers can point and laugh, with dim lighting, no ventilation and 50 or 60 cranky chain smokers coughing, cursing and slowly suffocating together.

L



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Lori Smith
Posted on Friday, December 16, 2005 - 06:58 am:   

I'm glad you made it back from Dallas alive. According to a story on the WWL web site, the "lameass local official" in question was Entergy. The story said:

"Entergy said a destroyed substation kept them from powering the station and surrounding homes.

A spokesperson for Entergy said it was an “either/or” situation and that they chose to power the 17th Street Canal pumping station and restore electrical availability to 2,000 surrounding customers."

The story also said the Sewage and Water Board was saving money by not paying its workers for overtime, so no one showed up to run the generators that currently run the pumps. So, there was more than one lameass local official involved.

On a brighter note, your Fat White Vampire novels got a very nice recommendation in the Oct. 15, 2005 issue of Library Journal. The article was titled "Bloody Good Reads: Vampire Tales with Bite."

Lori
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Andrew Fox
Posted on Friday, December 16, 2005 - 10:31 am:   

Louie, tell Elly I think her latest piece is terrific. I'm sure Poppy will appreciate the dedication.

Lori, thanks for the update on that pumping station situation. I spotted that article online from Library Journal and was very pleased. Hope you're doing well.
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christinecarni
Posted on Saturday, December 31, 2005 - 10:18 am:   

I stumbled upon this while looking at articles on Dr. Treadway. My family was very close to him and they all reside in various parts of New Orleans. Reading this was like walking thru the different parts of the city with you. Thanks. I will return to New Orleans in a few weeks to help wherever I can.
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Andrew Fox
Posted on Saturday, December 31, 2005 - 03:55 pm:   

Christine, thanks for dropping in to my message board. Many, many people I've spoken to in the past month remember Dr. Treadway and his work very fondly and miss him very much. Just yesterday, my wife Dara said for about the dozenth time that she wishes he hadn't felt compelled to do what he did. He shared one of our happiest moments with us, our time in the hospital when Asher, our second son, was born. We miss him, and we miss the doctors he'd assembled within his practice.

Glad to hear that you're heading back to New Orleans. The town can use all the friends and residents it can get. Have a happy, healthy, safe New Year. We sure hope that 2006 will be a better year for everyone in Louisiana and the Gulf Coast than 2005 was.

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