Weekend Cat Events: Cats of New Orleans Revisited

We at CatSynth will continue to keep this candle lit along with Kashim and Othello and all our cat-blogging friends. Please visit them for the full list of remembrances.


This week also marked the 2nd anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. On Wednesday, we revisited my trip to New Orleans last November. I also wrote about the Cats of New Orleans, both real and imagined, and so we re-visit them this weekend.


(Click to enlarge)

We also visited with the Louisiana SPCA and got a tour of their cat facilities in their temporary home, several environmentally controlled units inside a large warehouse. You can see some photos from the temporary SPCA as well. The good news is that they have completed and opened their new permanent facility. So much of the rebuilding in New Orleans has been slow or non-existent, it's good to see this success…


In addition to the Weekend of Rememberance by Kashim and Othello, the other weekend cat events are going on. Bad Kitty Cats Chaos Festival #8 as at The Mad Mirror. The Friday Ark #154 is at The Modulator. And Carnival of the Cats will be at This Blog is Full of Crap with Laurence et al.

Wordless Wednesday: Area Closed

(Click here for more on these images.)

The Other New Orleans

I conclude my series from New Orleans with a visit to the areas beyond the central city and tourist district, areas hardest hit by Katrina. Consider the following overall map of New Orleans:

The Garden District and Tulane University (where the ICMC conference was held) are in the lowel left section. The rectangular area encompasses much of downtown as well as the French Quarter and the Fauborg-Marigny district (home of the Spotted Cat featured in my article on night life). These are highlighted in red and yellow, respectively, below:

To the east of Marigny are the Bywater neighbhood and the Lower Ninth Ward. The latter is probably known to many readers as the site of some of the worst flooding and destruction from the storm.

Heading out of Marigny north on Elysian Fields Ave., the trendy crowded neighborhood gives way to a more spread-out “Los Angeles” style area of separated buildings, convenience stores. Much of this area appears to be functioning again. We then turn east onto Claiborne Ave. (LA 39), one of the main east-west streets in New Orleans. Heading east, one sees more and more of the severly damaged houses, but the scope of the disaster is most apparent after crossing the canal on a large bridge and descending into the Lower Ninth Ward:

It is more than destroyed homes. Entire blocks are either in ruins or empty, all the businesses are boarded up or destroyed. While there is car traffic and some work on houses, the district seems largely empty and devoid of people and activity:



The photos really don't capture the experience in the Lower Ninth Ward. Imagine the images above extending in every direction around you, with no end in sight. These really are ruins of a city. And it should be noted that this is over a year after Katrina and the promised rebuilding and recovery. Part of me thinks that this area should be left this way as a “monument” of sorts – though I suspect the former residents might feel differently.

Heading back west over the canal on Claiborne, we rejoin Elysian Fields heading north towards Lake Ponchartrain. Many of the neighborhoods along the lake were also hard hit by the storm and flooding:

Unlike the Lower Ninth Ward, the areas along the lake do show signs of recovery and of life.

Arriving at the lake is another experience again. It felt a lot like traveling across San Francisco on Geary from downtown west to the ocean, a quieter area with rough waters and windswept shoreline:

The wind, water and trees provide a quiet, almost peaceful, contrast to the devastation, some of which still can be seen only a few blocks south. But one can see in the waves of the lake, only feet below the flood line on a normal somewhat story day, echoes of the storm surge. It was after all the lake and not the Mississippi River that provided much of the initial flooding.

It is here along the lake that I close this article and my reports from New Orleans. The surreal mixture of natural tranquility and destruction seems a fitting contrast and completion to the music and food, the busy conference and stately manors, streetcars and cats. Somehow it all works together.








Weekend in New Orleans Part 2: City views and Scultpure Garden

My second excursion focused on walking, art and photography. I began by heading downtown from the hotel along St. Charles Avenue, following the inactive streetcar route. The hotel clerk later advised me that this may not have been the wisest action because of some rather sketchy blocks along the way. Personally, I don't think there was much of issue during the day – a lot of times such concerns are exaggerated. In addition to the “stately mansions” of the Garden district and the occasional boarded-up business, the walk along St Charles affording an opportunity to sample some of the local politics. Something called “Amendment 7”, which I gather has something to do with assessors, seems to be a big deal in this neighborhood. And of course, there are reminders that depite some of New Orlean's reputation, we are still deep in the south and “red America”:

Apparently “fundamental values” don't include keeping the streets free of litter. These flyers were scattered all over the sidewalk, and probably made a nice paste in the rains on Monday.

St. Charles passes under Highway 90 and empties out onto Robert E. Lee square. I'm guessing this was a significant central point in the past, but it seems to be a rather seedy area on the edge of downtown. I kinda like the irony of that. One notable landmark is the Circle Bar, which I hope to visit before the end of the trip. Moving west, one enters the “arts-warehouse” district that attempts to be the downtown of art galleries and clubs one finds in other cities. Not a lot seemed to open early on Sunday, it is good to see alternatives to tourist center of French Quarter getting built up. Here we see a Cat Noir, a cabaret-style club compete with one of my favorite of the old Toulouse Lautrec posters.

I did finally locate not only a source for the transit day-passes, but also a working streetcar on Canal Street. Here zip and I catch a ride:

Actually, these are the historic cars from the non-functional St. Charles line, but moved over to the new Canal Street line because its cars were flooded.

Heading up Canal street, more of the damaged and closed businesses can be seen. On one block will be luxury hotels or appartments, on the next a boarded up department store or theatre:

As the streetcar continues north past the I-10 overpass, more severe physical and social damange becomes apparent, with shuttered businesses and entire blocks empty or in ruins:


Click on the lower photos to view them in more detail. Notable on the lower right are the ubiquitous spray-paint symbols indicating that the house was checked after the storm, and the first roaming kitty cat of the trip.

Our ultimate destination was the city park, home to the New Orleans Museum of Art (NOMA) and the city sculpture garden. The city park is close to Lake Pontchartrain and the Lakeview neighborhood, and suffered extensive damage, from which it is still recovering. However, the museum weathered the storm with little damage, and reopened in February.

One scultpure in the garden was topped during the hurricane, is is currently being repaired by the artist. Otherwise, it faired well and reopened last December. They have an impressive collection of modernist and contemporary figurative works. I have included a few of my photos here. (A few of the best photos from the garden and the trip in general will be included in my photography section when I get a chance to update it). Again, you can click on any of the photos below for a more detailed view:



I think the wedding photo session on the bridge adds a nice contrast to the tower of violins in the lower right.

In addition to finding good art within the city, I also sought and found good music outside the main tourist destinates. My brief experiences with music and nightlife will be explored in part 3…