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Dispatch from New Orleans

I’m not doing too much writing this week because I’m in New Orleans at a family reunion; my father was born and raised here (De La Salle High School, LSU medical school) and today we met up with his first cousins to wander around town, finding all the houses where everyone lived forty years ago. (I’m sure plenty of people were wondering why this strange little group was standing in a knot on the road taking pictures of perfectly ordinary frame houses.)

The Katrina damage is in some ways not as bad as I’d imagined; there are far more live oaks standing than I would have thought possible.

But we drove through east New Orleans and I was flabbergasted. Two years on, it still looks like a war zone. Streets are cracked and grown up with grass, brush creeping in from the sides, huge stretches of nothingness. On street after street of previously prosperous middle-class neighborhood, houses are boarded and crumbling, with perhaps lights on in one out of ten houses. What on earth do you DO, if you’re the only person on your block who still lives there, surrounded by deserted collapsing homes where neighbors once lived?

I’ll post a few more pictures later this week.