So I’ll get back to the History of the Medieval World tomorrow…but in the meantime I’ve been down in New Orleans wallowing in family memories, along with my father and his first cousins.

It’s been quite a wallow, too. My first-cousin-once-removed Ella, who can do anything, arranged for us to take a private tour of the family portraits now in the hands of the Louisiana State Museum. So we all ended up in the Cabildo, staring at my great-great-great-great grandmother’s portrait. Her sister was once married to Jefferson Davis, which (apparently) is why my great-great-grandmother Lucy used to refer to him as Cousin Jeff.

Now that I’ve written that, I’m not sure I want to admit it publicly.

Anyway, here we are in front of the portrait (as always, click on the picture for a larger version).

After we revived ourselves with coffee and beignets (in Virginia, we call it fried dough),

my father and I walked all around the nearby cemetery (above-ground because New Orleans is so wet that otherwise bodies float up out of the mud)

and also all around the French Quarter.

All of which reminds me that New Orleans is delightful and creepy and way, way weirder than Virginia.

But what stood out the most to me was sign after sign after sign for real estate,

and the empty sidewalks.

My father says that he’s never seen it so deserted in October; it should be wall-to-wall people. “Nothin’ to come back to here,” our taxi driver told us. “Nothin’ but crime. Nothin’ to come back to, you know what I mean?”

On this street, where my father lived, there are FEMA trailers STILL in front of three out of four houses (the white lines on the trees are the high-water marks) ,

and the spray-painted notices from the hurricane rescue are STILL on the foundations of houses.

Where did all that disaster relief money go?

Okay, I’m sure there are several long and complicated answers to that, but…I’ve just spent three days eating great food, listening to scandalous family stories…and seeing street after street of deserted, crumbling houses, shuttered stores, weed-patched roads, empty yards.

Showing 3 comments
  • Lori

    Yes, I’m absolutely not going to touch that question but I resonate with your description of bathing in family memories for a time. My National Novel Writing Month project is writing a semi-biographical story about my great-grandparents and their children. Of course, they were Swedish immigrant farmers and not at all married to the former President of the Confederacy (grin) but their stories have just compelled me for so long I felt I had to get them down on paper. Or on disk or whatever.

    Anyway, sorry for blathering on. I’m glad that you had a good time in New Orleans and it’s cool to see the Cafe du Monde again, but the rest is just so so sad.

  • Staci at Writing and Living

    How sad about New Orleans. I wish I knew the answer.

    I have a genealogy book my cousin wrote. It’s FULL of stories I wouldn’t want to admit publicly. :o)

  • Ella Prichard

    Hi, Susan, thanks for the undeserved compliment, but it was great fun being together. One too many “greats” for your great-great-great-grandmother Aurelia. She was married to Jeff’s brother Ben, which I guess makes Jeff some sort of step-gggg-uncle, and her Uncle Luther, who raised her, was married to Jeff’s sister Anna. When one’s ancestress is married 4 times, it all gets a little confusing 🙂

    Since you prowled the French Quarter without me, I loved reading about your experience, and I’m fascinated how different your view of the city is than mine–chalk it up to a native vs. a first-time visitor and to someone who was there 8 months after Katrina vs. someone who is seeing the damage for the first time. To me the old neighborhoods where your dad and I once lived look better than they looked before the storm. Lots of money has been spent in fixing up lately, there is construction everywhere and definite signs of gentrification. The sociological and political implications aren’t all positive, but I’m so glad to see long-blighted areas return to life. The trailers are a disgrace; it’s taken far too long to get people back in their houses. Meanwhile, in the Lower Ninth Ward, it looks like Katrina struck a few months ago. I was in Sri Lanka 1 year after the tsunami, and that 3rd-world country did a better job than ours has. I am so angry.

    I’m eagerly waiting for your post on the two Lafayettes and Andrew Jackson’s hair! And for your book from Princeton University Press!

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