I have to say New YearĂ˘â‚¬â„˘s Eve in New Orleans was a bit surreal. Reporter Baird Helgeson and I joined local New Orleans residents in Jackson Square to celebrate the coming new year. A thick, heavy fog had settled over the city and I almost half expected to bump into a few Anne Rice characters along the way.
The square was full of Mardi Gras masked characters, and those wearing boas and 2006 glasses. A voodoo bone reader had her table set up yards from military vehicles parked in the square. Balconies were full with revelers, and below the balconies screams for beads echoed through the streets. A few of the National Guardsmen were milling around behind a group of women collecting the beads.
Walking down the neon lined street looking for dinner at about 10 last night, I was trying to imagine what Bourbon Street was like before Hurricane Katrina hit four months ago. I have to admit this trip has been my initiation to the famed street. I have heard stories and seen countless photos of Mardi Gras celebrations, but never had the chance to make it here before the storm. It was for the most part rather tame. Workers looked bored at the daiquiri shop, where we were forced to eat pizza, because all other restaurants in the French Quarter had already closed for the night. They filled tiny paper cups - the size that you would put ketchup in at a fast food restaurant - with small samples of the daiquiri for themselves as they stared silently out into the street. Many of the revelers had already called it quits for the evening, but a few remained such as these two couples outside of a female impersonation club.
I want to wish all of our friends, family and readers a very Merry Christmas from New Orleans.
We’ve been asked several times what our plan are for Christmas. The answer is always the same: Working. Reporter Baird Helgeson and I will be out searching for stories in New Orleans. We spent this morning and early afternoon in Arnaud’s, a famed Creole restaurant in the French Quarter.
They were determined to offer New Orleans a traditional fine dining atmosphere for Christmas, even while operating on a skeleton staff.
Walking down the streets of the French Quarter, it is hard to imagine that only four months ago, much of this city was underwater. I know we are in a tiny oasis, and miles of devastation surround us, but the twinkling of Christmas lights can put anyone in the Christmas spirit.
A lit courtyard caught my attention last night. We walked in to find a staircase bannister decorated in greenery and lights. I wanted to share it with you.
It is almost eerie. I was here four months ago after Hurricane Katrina, and in some ways it seems like I never left. We revisited some of the areas like Gulfport, and Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, where our teams spent a few days after the storm. The scene then was destruction as far as you could see.
There are areas such as Hwy 90 in Bay St. Louis that look the same. The bridge connecting Bay St Louis with Pass Christian is still washed out. There are still homes that are cracked wide open with its contents strewn about in neighboring tree limbs. No looting signs are still present.
The only difference is now as you drive down streets, you will occasionally see a trailer here or there where residents are trying to make do with what they have, some decorated for the Christmas season.
I shot this photo along Beach Boulevard in Bay St Louis. It is amazing to see what survives a storm like this. A tree swing still hangs from a gnarly old oak tree. Just behind it a house is almost leveled.
As we drove along the roadway that parallels Highway 90 in Gulfport, Miss., on Wednesday, I realized in the midst of all the history that was lost in the tragedy that was Hurricane Katrina, people seem to find humor to help themselves cope. Someone placed a pink flamingo decked out in Bermuda shorts on the wall in front of what was once someone’s home along Beach Boulevard. There is something about pink flamingos that always make me smile.
Leaving Dauphin Island this morning we stopped to watch a boat named Patches chug down a canal next to the roadway. Burlap bags bulging with their morning catch heaped on the bow.
Ă˘â‚¬Ĺ“Ya ee oistuhs?Ă˘â‚¬Âť the pudgier man asked in a slow, swampy draw.
I was raised in the South, but it took a moment for me to understand the dialect.
I asked him to repeat it.
After a moment or two it hit me, and I understood: Ă˘â‚¬Ĺ“You eat oysters?Ă˘â‚¬Âť
Ă˘â‚¬Ĺ“Sometimes,Ă˘â‚¬Âť I replied as he and his crew floated away.
We are in Mobile, Alabama. I had to pull out the fleece jacket. It is a cold morning out - quite a difference since the last time we were here. We are planning to head out to Dauphin Island this morning to see the changes there.
What exactly did men do in a Tallahassee washroom to warrant a ban on toilet paper at the Mckenzie Markets gas station?
After four hours on the road we stopped to get gas and reload on diet soda. I walk to the womenĂ˘â‚¬â„˘s restroom, and see a sign posted saying no men may use the womenĂ˘â‚¬â„˘s facility. Another sign posted on the menĂ˘â‚¬â„˘s room door reads Ă˘â‚¬Ĺ“due to continued misuse of this restroom no toilet paper will be provided. Use as a urinal only.Ă˘â‚¬Âť The funny thing was, there was plenty of TP in the womenĂ˘â‚¬â„˘s room.
Reporter Baird Helgeson and I leave tomorrow to revisit areas of Mississippi and Louisiana that were hit by Hurricane Katrina. I am curious to see for myself how the area has changed since we were last there after the storm. I plan to bring you photos and audio from what we encounter along the way.