My birthday...and NOLA...
I had a great birthday yesterday. I had at least seven people sing me Happy Birthday. No one could sing real well, but it was appreciated nonetheless.
We started the day off touring the Lower 9th Ward. I didn't get a chance to see it last year because I didn't come for the New Orleans leg of the trip, but I imagine that I missed nothing since nothing has been done. You would not believe the state things are in. It looks like a warzone. There is hardly anyone down there and all they are doing is demolishing houses. I praise God that during the time I was down there, I didn't see any homes that has bodies in them at one point or another. We went by all three of Grace's houses first. The first one I had already seen, but the last two I hadn't. They had torn down one of the last two, and the second one was still standing, in the same condition. The house next door had actually moved so far that it was touching the second house and about to topel it over. The streets are ridiculous in their condition.
From there, we went to 1931 Tupelo Street. This is where my great aunt, uncle and hosts of cousins use to live. That house is still standing, but it needs to be gutted. The damage was so bad, that there are no street signs, so people have spray painted the street names onto electric poles so you know where you are going. There was also a note on the street that noted the intersection of Tupelo and Johnson streets. After that, we headed to my family's previous address before Tupelo, on Louisa Street. That house was still standing too, and it's amazing that it was considering that it was built in 1945. The houses around it were in horrible condition though.
One thing that I thought was amazing is how the churches in the area, that we saw, were still standing. One in particular blew my mind. It's my cousin Gene's sister church in New Orleans. That building didn't even look like it had been nearly covered with water. That is a testament to the amount of prayer that is there.
Across the street from Gene's sister church was the recreation center that was named after my great aunt and uncle. They were involved in a lot of community activities through the group S.O.U.L., which was started in their kitchen. The building is closed, but they have set up a temporary fire station there. It's nothing but a portable building. We talked to a retired New Orleans Fire Fighter who is volunteering through LSU to provide counseling services to the fire fighters in the area. He said it's needed because of all the changes they and their families are facing.
From there, we headed to the French Quarter. We went to Cafe Du Monde. As many times as I had been to New Orleans, I had never eaten there. We got beignets and iced coffee. Jean then tipped this street band to play and sing happy birthday to me. They even included my name. I was embarassed, but happy. The beignets were great and I bought a couple of boxes to bring home with me. I also purchased a mug for church family and another magnet for my best friends and myself.
Later, we went to the Cheesecake Bistro for dinner and then headed to Best Buy. Jean got me a bluetooth for my new phone, that I have yet to purchase. She gets worried about me driving and being on my cell phone.
After that, we headed back to the Quarter. Earlier, we had tried to go to this black art store that I love on Bourbon Street but it was closed. They have been open for over 30 years and have some of the best prints I've ever seen. Fortunately, I called there and they had opened. So when we went back, I purchased two prints and five postcards. Jean picked up some prints and post cards.
Today, Jean was supposed to leave, but volunteered to get bumped to a flight tomorrow. She got a $400 voucher for doing so. So, after that, the both of us have travelled here for $10!!!! God is SO good!!!
I leave tomorrow and I'm sort of sad about it, although I miss my friends, church family and a special person. It means I have to get back to the grind, and not be in semi-retirement anymore. :(