Fire Cloud...
An irregular marking on the exterior of Native American pottery: usually resulting from burning fuel coming in direct contact with the vessel during firing

Saturday, 9 May 2009

The Voodoo Queen of New Orleans

Pontchartrain RV Park, New Orleans

I find the Voodoo queen of New Orleans online. She sells a love candle for $575, but clearly states that the money is only for the candle and that the spell is complimentary. I’m uncomfortable with online “gris-gris” so I decide to make a real gambler’s gris-gris for my gambler friend Chris . It’s made of chamois, a piece of red flannel, a shark's tooth, pine-tree sap, and dove's blood. I mixed blood and sap together, and used this mixture to write the (undisclosed) amount that I want Chris to win on the chamois. Then I wrapped the chamois in the red flannel with the shark's tooth between the two layers and sewed it all with dead cat's hair. This charm needs to be worn in the left shoe to bring good but uncomfortable luck.

On Bourbon Street a desperate man asks me for $5 to buy crystal meth. We walk the street at night and I eye the girls dressed in scanty outfits. Mrs. Phred points out that most of the girls, while attractive, are actually men with strong legs and relatively flat muscular chests. I regard it as impolite to take pictures.

We do the Katrina tour and get a little more insight about the lingering disaster. The City is, of course, in a huge swampy bowl that sits about six feet below sea level. Lake Pontchartrain on the North and the Mississippi (which flows though the City) is twelve feet above sea level. There are canals cut though the City, one of which connects the Mississippi to the Inland waterway at sea level.

There are levees and walls everywhere which are intended to keep high water out of the city. A barge broke though a wall in the lower ninth ward and flooded a third of the city at varying depths. Most of the damage was due to wind blowing South on Lake Pontchartrain in Katrina’s NE quadrant. Fats Domino, age 78, spent two nights on his roof and was picked up the third day. A lot of the dead fled to their attics and drowned or died of heat exhaustion.

The houses sat in a lake of putrid water laced with motor oil, sewage and dead bodies for over a month while the Corp of Engineers pumped it out. The heat produced thick layers of dangerous mold within the homes as well as a later of mud and filth. The contents of refrigerators were unimaginably foul. Each house has to be gutted and dried out, rewired and re-plumbed before it is habitable.

Brad Pitt is helping to construct a number of new homes in the Lower Ninth Ward. I know where he lives, but I’m not telling. Here's one of the Pitt homes in the lower ninth ward.

To put this in context, the bodies here are buried above ground because of the water table. To build a house, you drive in 80 telephone poles and pour a concrete slab on top of the poles. Even so, houses sink, sidewalks sink, roads sink, walls crack and you have to redo everything again about once every ten years (including shoring up the house). We hit the casinos, took a steamboat dinner cruise on the Mississippi, went to the aquarium and IMAX and the WWII museum. We also saw some fine antebellum mansions, a few cemeteries and wandered the French Quarter.

Our RV Park is Pontchartrain Landing. It’s very nice, with a pool, cable, book exchange and runs a 10 minute shuttle to the French Quarter three times a day. It’s Passport America, so you can get a nice spot for about $30 a night. We could spend another week here, but we have reservations in Abbeville tomorrow.

If you get a chance, come to New Orleans. It’s still a lot of fun and they could use your tourism dollars to help the recovery.

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