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<img align="left" src="http://forums.egullet.org/uploads/1126454164/gallery_29805_1195_14466.jpg">by Brooks Hamaker<br><br>It’s not very pretty, no matter the brush used to paint it. Somewhere in the neighborhood of one million people have been displaced from greater New Orleans, and by greater New Orleans I mean not only the parts that many of you think of -- Jackson Square; the Moonwalk (which in typical New Orleans fashion, has nothing to do with the moon, but everything to do with a politician who helped get it built); Royal Street; the Garden District; Uptown; Treme; Faubourg-Marigny; Bywater; Carrollton Avenue; City Park; the Fairgrounds; St. Charles Avenue; and many, many other places that tourists have occasion to visit -- but also Chalmette, Algiers, the Northshore, Metairie, and Kenner, which are just as much New Orleans as the CBD. Ask anyone who lives there -- they’ll tell you right quick, Cap.

Tonight, I watched one more endless video stream “live from the mean streets of New Orleans.” It occurred to me that, unless you happen to be from New Orleans or have spent a whole lot of time there, there is no way that you can understand what it’s like for natives to watch these scenes unfold.

We’re scattered across the country, but we scan the same images, looking not for dead bodies or the occasional looter, but trying to identify where in the hell the cameras are pointed. New Orleans has many, many identifiable neighborhoods. In a flash, a native can figure out what part of town is being shown. St Stephen’s Church? That’s Napoleon and Magazine. Wagner’s Meats (You can’t beat our Meat!)? That’s Claiborne (Claybone) Avenue . Those cars all up and down the street? People moved them to keep them out of the water. It usually works. You just move your car to the neutral ground, wait on the water to go up and come down, and go get your car back. Well, this time the water got a little high, and it’s taking a while to go back down. The owner may be miles -- or states -- away, or not able to ever come back to get their former pride and joy. This time, sadly, there may not be anyone to go back and reclaim the car.

I’ve spent a great deal of my life (not to mention money) hanging around New Orleans in the thick of the food-and-music scene. So when I see shots of neighborhoods, I think of clubs, restaurants, and bars. Maybe it sounds cold, but the first thing that I thought of when I heard that the water was rising fast in the industrial canal and flooding the Ninth Ward (that’s Nint Wahd, to locals) was not the lives that were in danger (well, not entirely) but what would happen to the Saturn Bar, St. Roch Cemetery, and the Captain’s Houses. When the 17th Street canal broke, I heard about it on local radio station WWL. Loyal and attentive listeners were told that the canal had broken “right behind Deanie’s on the City Park side,” and that “Sid Mar’s had washed through the hole.” A foreigner listening to the radio might not make much sense of that, but if you were from New Orleans, you knew exactly where they were talking about. It was a great way to describe the location, considering that this is a town where directions are often a combination of “Uptown, Downtown, Lakeside, Riverside.”

Another long shot of Rampart Street: the cameras cross over Treme, going for one more long, too-often repeated shot of the Vieux Carre. Look down and see the Municipal Auditorium, WWOZ, Peristyle, Mama Rosa’s, and the Funky Butt. All of these places have gotten my time and money over the years. I saw Van Morrison, The New Orleans Brass, and Harrah’s Temporary Casino in the Auditorium. I remember when Oz was on top of Tipitina’s at Tchopitoulas and Napoleon, and when it moved to Armstrong Park. I listened to late-night shows with back-to-back appearances by J Monque D and Ernie K. Doe (one of the wildest nights in regularly scheduled radio history. The tapes are still traded among those in the know.) I remember (though not very clearly) stumbling down St. Louis Street from the Funky Butt after a long night of real jazz with Astral Project, or the Dozen, or any of dozens of the unsung and underpaid heroes of the New Orleans music scene.

As the water rose, many of us mentally checked off the streets that held our favorite restaurants and clubs. Not only would we be very unlikely to be eating there or listening to music there any time soon, but we wondered what was going on with the people that had worked there. With the exception of a lucky few, most people in New Orleans have been born and raised living hand-to-mouth -- including the owners of many of the funky little dives that tourists often fall in love with. And if the owners aren’t getting rich, think about your waitress, or the guy who washes the dishes, or parks your car, or carries your bag. These folks didn’t live where tourists often travel, but they had homes just like you and me, and the areas that they lived in have been among the most severely affected. Many of these people have left New Orleans for good -- but the ones that return? Man, will they have some stories to tell. Epic tales of long trips, hardship, strange customs in stranger lands, and finally of their triumphant return to the City that Care Forgot (no moniker could be more accurate at the moment). That’s what I am waiting on. Those stories.

I’m waiting to drive in on Friday afternoon, weary from a long day at work but not so tired that I am willing to pay the parking thieves for one of their little spots. I will circle around on Esplanade, make the turn onto Chartres, and head back to Frenchman Street, looking for a free spot in the block behind Doerr Furniture, just past Santa Fe Restaurant. I’ll grab my stuff, double-check to make sure I didn’t leave anything in the car that I might ever want again, and stroll off down Frenchman: past Snug Harbor, Café Brasil, Mona’s, the Praline Connection, a cool tattoo parlor that tempts me every time I go by it, and finally out of the Faubourg past Checkpoint Charlie’s. I’ll cross Esplanade and make a right. On down to Royal Street and into the Quarter, past the block of residential property, past the Golden Lantern (Home of the Mr. Leather Contest, where I was once the celebrity “straight” judge), Bennachin African Restaurant, Mona Lisa’s, and into the Verdi Mart. I’ll get a newspaper, a quart of milk, a couple of bottles of club soda, a couple of Hubig’s pies (lemon, thanks) and a pint of whatever Ben and Jerry’s looks right. I’ll go outside, walk across the street, unlock the door, and walk into the courtyard, marveling as I always do at the fact that it’s been there so long and looked so much the same all these many years.

Once I put my things up, I’ll head back, tripping down Gov. Nicholls to Decatur and through the French Market. Over to the Moonwalk, all the way down the river, past the Aquarium. There, I’ll walk over and ask where my son’s brick is (I never can remember where that damn thing is). Once I satisfy myself that it’s still there, I’ll walk a few blocks down Canal and make the right back into the Quarter onto Royal. I’ll probably check in at the Monteleone, just to make sure that the Carousel is still going ‘round, and then I’ll go past the Supreme Court Building (formerly known as the Wildlife and Fisheries building, formerly known as the old Supreme Court Building -- this is a very complicated structure), past the folks lining up for dinner at Brennan’s that evening, past the antique stores, the cool old gun shop, the Rib Room in the bottom of the Royal Orleans (maybe they will enlarge the rooms, finally, as they redo it), and then, just before I get home, I’ll stop in at P.J.s and get a large iced coffee to go. A real iced coffee, made the way that apparently no one else in the Deep South knows how to make it -- big go cup (not syrofoam --cardboard or plastic), ice, dark roast coffee (no chicory, no cow, thanks). And then, I’ll go back home and put my feet up and watch WWL as they report on the latest Saints disaster.

One thing is for sure, though. When I take that walk -- one that I have taken for years -- you can bet on one thing, that no matter where I am, I’ll be walking on the sunny side of the street.

Many of the places I have mentioned might be unfamiliar to you, but if you have ever been to New Orleans -- even once -- others were not. I know you pictured those landmarks, along with what were once unremarkable places, and you remembered that trip. You might have a photo on your wall of you and some loved one standing in front of General Jackson with St Louis Cathedral in the background. Or maybe, on some shelf, you have a hurricane glass from Pat O’s filled with change. Maybe it’s a string or two of hard-earned Mardi Gras beads hanging from a rear-view, or a couple of Carnival doubloons tucked into a dresser drawer. A ticket from the Superbowl or the Final Four pinned behind a Superdome magnet on your fridge. No matter the souvenir you chose to keep from your visit, one thing is sure, you left part of your heart in New Orleans. We can’t wait until you can come back and try to find it.

Brooks Hamaker (aka Mayhaw Man), is a lifelong resident of Louisiana. He lives with his family and razor-sharp wit in Abita Springs, Lousiana. Brooks is a regular contributor to Chile Pepper Magazine, the Daily Gullet, and anyone else with ink, money, and the ability to deal with someone who is consistently late where deadlines are concerned.

Art by Dave Scantland, aka Dave the Cook.

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I remember when Oz was on top of Tipitina’s at Tchopitoulas and Napoleon, and when it moved to Armstrong Park. I listened to late-night shows with back-to-back appearances by J Monque D and Ernie K. Doe (one of the wildest nights in regularly scheduled radio history. The tapes are still traded among those in the know.) I remember (though not very clearly) stumbling down St. Louis Street from the Funky Butt after a long night of real jazz with Astral Project, or the Dozen, or any of dozens of the unsung and underpaid heroes of the New Orleans music scene.

Hi Brooks,

Following your journal closely.

WWOZ was destroyed along with some priceless local music heritage. Our community station here in Portland, ME is holding a one-day fundraiser to help their staff and to help finance the acquisition of recordings such as the few you've mentioned as they are all that's left. WWOZ DJ Reddy Teddy is here in Maine with five other displaced NO residents and he hopefully will stop by the station on that day.

The nation-wide effort to help those on the Gulf Coast in all aspects is most compelling. May the cities there rise again in re-newed splendor.

"I took the habit of asking Pierre to bring me whatever looks good today and he would bring out the most wonderful things," - bleudauvergne

foodblogs: Dining Downeast I - Dining Downeast II

Portland Food Map.com

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Loyal and attentive listeners were told that the canal had broken “right behind Deanie’s on the City Park side,” and that “Sid Mar’s had washed through the hole.” A foreigner listening to the radio might not make much sense of that, but if you were from New Orleans, you knew exactly where they were talking about. It was a great way to describe the location, considering that this is a town where directions are often a combination of “Uptown, Downtown, Lakeside, Riverside.”

Rachel and I visited New Orleans at the end of May of this year -- in a spooky sort of twisted irony, I took photos of the levee that broke and destroyed New Orleans:

gallery_2_0_5909.jpg

The picture depicts the original view directly behind Sid Mars' restaurant (now completely destroyed) which we have a thread (and photos of) here:

Sid Mars of Bucktown

We also have a thread on Deanies, the legendary fried seafood mecca, right by Sid Mars, which was also wiped from this earth:

Deanies, Fried Seafood Mecca of the Big Easy

Our complete photo album, depicting the New Orleans dining scene in all its former glory is here:

Perlow New Orleans Trip 2005 (Photo Album)

And the two index threads to our New Orleans trips in 2005 and 2003:

Eating New Orleans (2005)

The Perlows to Visit New Orleans (2003)

Jason Perlow

Co-Founder, The Society for Culinary Arts & Letters

offthebroiler.com - Food Blog | View my food photos on Instagram

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I had the good fortune as to visit New Orleans last fall. I almost got tears in my eyes reading your article. I still have lots of undeveloped film from the trip and I cant wait to get them developed now. My heart goes out to all you who lost something you loved during those dreadful days.

BTW, how did Central Grocery Co. fare?

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Most of the quarter was spared any serious damage, because it's on relatively high ground -- its above sea level. But as the rest of the city is pretty much shut down, Central Grocery and all the other stores and restaurants in the Quarter are indefinitely closed.

Jason Perlow

Co-Founder, The Society for Culinary Arts & Letters

offthebroiler.com - Food Blog | View my food photos on Instagram

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