Sunday, August 29, 2010

My experience during Hurricane Katrina part Two

New Orleans Sunset view from my French Quarter balcony, taken after Hurricane Katrina

Names have been changed to protect some people

The day after Katrina it began to hit home that this was more a disaster then we had thought. Living in the Bohemian French Quarter, we were in our own little world, we had been protected from flood waters that desolated other New Orleans neighborhoods. The day after Katrina, reports came in about the dead and flooded neighborhoods. I remember walking around the Quarter and seeing people that were not from the area camping out in cars, The Quarter began to be flooded not with water but with people, who's homes had been destroyed and were now under water. Some of these people seemed humble, others gave me looks like they wanted to kill me. And I could see some carrying guns. They were camping out in there cars and some on the streets and sidewalks of the Quarter.

The was the shotgun double I bought and restored between 2000-2003 in New Orleans! 

I met with my best friend Don that morning and every morning after. We walked the old streets of New Orleans looking for people we knew, and food . We passed by a mans home that Don knew in Faubourg Marigny. He gave use lot's of frozen chicken breast and red fish that came from the freezer of a famous New Orleans restaurant. They had cleared out there freezer knowing it would go bad in a few days. Just recently Don told me he committed suicide. I told Don, I wonder if this was how woman felt during WWII when there was a shortage of food. He said he did not know he was only a child, "more like a early teenager". We walked over to a friends home in Faubourg New Marigny, Jules, a French Canadian . He and his wife had inherited the house from there daughter Lurk who had been murdered a few months before. I had known Lark as she was a dog groomer and had taken care of my dogs many times when I went to France 3 times a year. She lived around the corner from my old House that I had sold 2 years before. When I first moved to the neighborhood Lark had given me 8 Bantam chickens. My French boyfriend added to the menagerie 20 Rhode Island Reds & Plymouth Rocks chicks of which 6 turned out to be mostly cocks , Russian ducks and rabbits! All in a back yard of a inner city home. I walked around the corner to see my old home. It was still there sound. There was a few feet of water in the street. The street was named Marais, French for swamp.

I was still in search of water and Jules had about 20 ten gallon jugs of water in Larks home. We sat down and had coffee and talked about our devastated city. Jules told use that we could come every day to get one gallon of water. I was happy that I had this source of fresh water to drink and cook with every day as I had none at home. I returned home with fresh water and food. Half of the people that lived in my building had left the other half including myself stayed. One of my friends a Antiques dealer actually moved days before the Hurricane into a home he bought on the Mississippi Gulf Coast 7 blocks from the water. He had rented three apt in my building, my old double parlor apt on the first floor and the two above it. All filled with a life's collection of valuable antiques. Garry had collected Grand Tour antiques. He had bronzes, Marble statues, Porcelain and 18th century copy's of Old Master paintings in hand carved gold leafed frames. He also had a very fine collection of American classical furniture and Decorative arts as well as the finest in rare Gothic Revival. Over the years Geary had sold to some of the major museums in America and pieces he had found were in some of the finest private collections on both sides of the Atlantic. I had learn so much from Geary over the years. The last time I saw him was the Friday before Katrina. He was moving his last items out of the apt. After the hurricane someone had broken into the apt by carving a big hole in the original 1830's door. I would latter find out that the only thing left of his home on the Mississippi Gulf Coast was it's cement slab. Years worth of collecting were now taken by the waters of the Gulf of Mexico.

My friends Garry's apt he vacated days before the Hurricane and my Old apt that I lived in before I bought my home in 2000. Located on the first floor, water poured in from  4 stories down to the 1st floor apt. Originally a Parlor and dining room. The Blue room was my bedroom. I picked out the colors of Blue and Creole putty trim. The builder of the house relied on Minard Lefever’s more florid Greek Revival design models illustrated in his book The Modern Builder’s Guide (1833)

My friends Garry's apt he vacated days before the Hurricane and my Old apt that I lived in before I bought my home in 2001. Located on the first floor water poured in from a 4 story down to the 1st floor apt. Originally a Parlor and dinning room. The Blue room was my bed room. I picked out the colors of Blue and Creole putty trim. The builder relied on Minard Lefever’s more florid Greek Revival design models illustrated in his book The Modern Builder’s Guide (1833)

My friends Garry's apt he vacated days before the Hurricane and my Old apt that I lived in before I bought my home in 2001. Located on the first floor water poured in from a 4 story down to the 1st floor apt. Originally a Parlor and dinning room. The Blue room was my bed room. I picked out the colors of Blue and Creole putty trim. The builder relied on Minard Lefever’s more florid Greek Revival design models illustrated in his book The Modern Builder’s Guide (1833)

Ceiling cornice molding from Minard Lefever’s more florid Greek Revival design models illustrated in his book The Modern Builder’s Guide (1833)

Black and gold vain Egyptian marble mantel in the apt one of two from Minard Lefever’s more florid Greek Revival design models illustrated in his book The Modern Builder’s Guide (1833)

Neoclassical Honeysuckles carved into Louisiana cypress in the apt  from Minard Lefever’s more florid Greek Revival design models illustrated in his book The Modern Builder’s Guide (1833)

Large Neoclassical ceiling medallion in the apt from Minard Lefever’s more florid Greek Revival design models illustrated in his book The Modern Builder’s Guide (1833)

My apt 2th floor

My apt

The other half of the people that stayed out the storm in my building I did not get alone with. Living in the French Quarter one meets lot's of crazy people. There was Billy Bob Thornton and his boyfriend Skeletor. They lived in the carriage house/stables part of the building which was the largest apt in the building. I could see it from my balcony. I don't remember why I did not talk to them or liked them. I don't know there real names but I nicknamed Bill Bob Thornton his name because he was a middle aged country queen with a few teeth and a country accent. His boyfriend Skeletor was a tall skinny bleached blond that looked to be under 100lbs. He was one of theses types that the first time I saw him a block away he appeared to be in his 20's but on closer inspection he was double the age. They lived in my building for almost a year. We saw each other almost every day but did not talk. It's funny how a disaster can bring people together. On the third floor in my old apt was a trashy heavy set woman that dragged a different man home every night. I also did not talk to her.

Hopkins House Esplanade Ave house down the street that my family built in the 1830's. 


Everybody in the building pulled together to decide a plan for survival. We decide to booby trap our building by pulling the many dropped live oak branches up close to the 10 foot brick wall the surrounded the property and put liquid soap on the top of the wall. One of the people in my building thought that if someone did get to the top of the wall they would slip up on the soap and be impaled by the live oak branches below. I wonder how long it tuck to come up with this ideal. The 2th floor apt in the main house that Garry vacated was used as our base as it provided the best view of the outside street from it's balcony 20 feet above. Every night someone would sleep in this apt to keep a look out over our building. We sat on the balcony looking at the goings on in the streets below. The 2th day after Katrina we saw two young white boys on bikes trying to brake the glass door of circle k across the street. They were successful soon after hordes of people invaded the store just as the woman of Paris during the French Revolution stormed the bread shops in search of food.

As I entered the store I saw friends and neighbors both young and old, middle class and rich in survivor mode. I tuck some junk food & candy that I would need in the next few days and 10 bottles of Asti Spumante. A bigger grocery store a few blocks away, Roberts was also packed with people I only stud in the doorway looking and would not go in. It was like something out of Dante's Inferno! The floor was covered with brown sludge, it was dark inside and a mad house of people pilling up carts with perishable foods. I thought if I went in I could be raped or something. From our balcony on Esplanade Ave we saw people rolling down the streets and sidewalks with carts heaped full of perishable food like hams, roast, chicken and packs of beef steaks! The carts were so full that food dropped out as they rolled them down the streets. Sometimes we saw one person pulling two carts full of food that would go bad in a day in the heat of New Orleans. Did they know this? In the days ahead all of the perishable food was out in the streets and sidewalks moldering in the hot heat of summer for rats, dogs and fly's to feed on.

My building Esplanade Ave. You can see trashy heavy set woman on the balcony 

My building showing brick walled courtyard


Four months before the Hurricane I started a romance with a man almost 3 times my age. He is famous and rich. Born in New England he was every bit of a WASP and a blue blood, but also not. He did not have that dry sense of humor that most East Coast men have of his class. He was a Bohemian at heart although he wore custom made hand embroidered velvet slipper that cost over a $1000. I was swiped away with his Cary Grant accent (He had lived in England as a child) his good looks, as he was still a very attractive man in his early 60's. His story's of travailing the world. But one of the many problems was I met him when he was moving to a third world country. He was moving there to go into the business of buying old homes, restoring them and selling them to wealthy Americans. We had a little over a week to get to know each other before his move. What a crazy week it was, party's and dinners in the most expensive restaurants in New Orleans. One meal cost $1,300. dollars at Arnaud's restaurant. When the chef found out who he was we were invited into the kitchen and sent out free dishes to eat.

A month after he left New Orleans I went to visit him for a week. I could not see myself living in this place. I did not like the country or the culture. We had talked about moving to France but he thought that France was too expensive. Before Hurricane Katrina we talked about restoring homes in New Orleans. But the Hurricane put a end to that ideal. Plus the troubles of a long distance relationship was getting to me I had broken up with him 3 times over the past 4 months. The hurricane was a clear sign that it was time for me to end one chapter in my life and start a new one. I informed him once I had a way to contact him that I was moving on.

I cooked for everyone in the building plus people that lived around the area the chicken breast and fish I received that day and served it over rice on a large 18th century Paris porcelain Cornflower painted platter. Billy Bob and his boyfriend invited people to there place to hang out. Upon entering the place I now knew why I did not like them. The front room of the apt was set up as a Gay torture dungeon! The walls were painted to look like some type of cheep stone and plastered with gay fetish pics and porn. In the middle of the room was a large crude wooden structure with bondage restraints for feet, head and hands. Hanging on the walls were belts, leashes, leads, whips and paddles. Hanging from the ceiling was a sling and the open drawers of the cheep 1960's furniture displayed every size and color of dildo, magazines and videos. I was in shock as I entered the place and now knew why groups of men entered there apt every night. The both of them were walking around the place without a care in the world as if this room was a antique filled room at Versailles! The trashy woman on the third floor also invited me into her place. It only had a few pieces of furniture that look like other people thru out on the streets or off a balcony. It was hard to walk in her place as the floor was covered in trash including open porn magazines. What place was I living in? I would have been very happy living in the Marais in Paris in a 18th century building sipping mint juleps on my wrought iron balcony over looking the street below.

18th century Building in Le Marais, Paris, France

From our protected balcony on Esplanade Ave we saw a very attractive man that lived in the building across the way clearing the sidewalks and streets of limbs and branches. He worked tirelessly for hours as if he was a lumberjack. I don't remember his name but let's call him Mike. Mike introduced himself. And we included him in our clan. His story was that he was living Uptown when his two story place flooded He swam 30 blocks with his two very large expensive dogs to the Quarter, I don't remember what kind they were but I do remember him telling me that they had cost a lot of money. He was staying in a friends apt across the street from our place. He was a little bit older than I liked, in his late 30's early 40's but he had a very nice body with shapely legs. His side of the street did not have phones that worked so I invited him over to my place to use my phone. He called friends he had living up North in Upstate New York. That night as we sat on the balcony we saw large creatures crawling on the power lines above. They were rats the size of cats. All of the dead animals I saw on the streets of New Orleans were gone in a few days without a trace. Where I had saw birds, not a feather remain or a drop of blood. That night from the balcony we saw a group of boys that were up to no good zig-zagging from door to door trying each one to see if any were open. When they got to our house someone in our group said We will call the police. They told use "call the police they will not come, waving a gun at us. Thank goodness they did not fire. I felt like Scarlet after the war when the Solder invaded her home. This place was becoming like a 19th century Western town. Just about everybody I met on the streets had guns. There was a curfew in place for sundown to sunup. You were not suppose to be on the streets at this time. As soon as the Sun went down all you heard was gun shots! little wars were going on all around us. We have been told that the Government had sent in secret sharpshooters to take out problem people that walked the streets up to no good at night. It was said the body's disappeared after they were killed never to be seen again.  I don't know if it was true but many white people living outside of the Quarter told use this.

Mike with the nice legs looked like this man. 

House across the street from my building people said someone was dead inside. Mike with the nice legs was staying on the 2th floor of the house to the left.
Historic Claiborne/Gardere plantation style home with greek revival floor plan. Fabulous details and architecture. 

Across the street from my building was the Old Claiborne Mansion. A Large 1831 Greek Revival plantation style home built on the outskirts of the Quarter. The large house was bought in the 1850's by descendents of Louisiana's first governor William Charles Cole Claiborne, or known as what we call him in New Orleans, W.C.C Claiborne. Living in the mansion was old lady Claiborne her husband I believe he was from Mississippi and daughter Holly, she ran a B&B in the raised basement of the home. I met holly at a tour guide class given by the Friends of the Cabildo. We quickly became friends and I was invited to take friends and guest I had visiting me thru the lovely home filled with 200 years of family antiques. Sadly Holly had a stroke a few years before the Hurricane, she was never the same and her parents were elderly. Holly told me as a girl she remembers seeing Clay Shaw, the only person prosecuted in connection with the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, who owned my building in the 1960's.

Clay Shaw at Mardi Gras early 1950's

The Claiborne's did not leave there home. Every day after Katrina I saw Miss Claiborne being rolled out onto her large front porch with two story Tuscan columns gracing the front of her home. Army people came by every day to check on her and brought supply's but the family never left. I sure they were afraid to leave a home full of priceless family antiques . Inside was a large center hall wider then most rooms in homes today. It ran the length of the house. Crowded with a collection of big Louisiana armoires dating from the early 19th century until the mid 19th c. 1850's gasoliers with gilded figures and animals looking down on you as you walked the hall and lot's of over stuffed furniture, a letter from Jefferson Davis ,President of the Southern Confederacy on a mahogany bookcase. In the parlor was a set of Napoleon III tufted sofas and chairs bought in Paris in the mid 19th century by family members. The corners of the parlor had Boulle tortoiseshell marquetry cabinets with large gilt bronze cherubs holding up Rococo Revival candelabras . Ancestral oil portraits looked down on you in gold leafed carved frames. When I came for a visit I would sit by a Large period Empire Old Paris porcelain vase given to Governor Claiborne as a dignitary gift by Napoleon during the Louisiana purchase in 1803. It sat on a large carved marble pedestal. Next to the parlor was the dinning room it had smoked 1890's overdone wallpaper after William Morris. The gasolier had figures of a hunt with deer & horns. The furniture was dark over carved Jacobean. The other side of the house had the bedrooms. Each with a large 1850's rosewood carved bedroom set by Prodence Mallard. The most fashionable cabinetmaker in New Orleans before The Civil War. Holly's bedroom set had the shield of the Villeré family carved on each piece. Two nude men with fig leaf covering there parts. The set also had original silk embroidered covers and pillows with the Villeré family shield. She would pull it out for me to see when I visited.

The Claiborne's stayed in there home when other Old Louisiana families moved away from the big mansions on Esplanade Ave in the mid 20th century into smaller modern homes. Large antebellum furniture would not fit into the new homes. The Claiborne's received the bedroom set from the Villeré family, descendants of the 2th governor of Louisiana. Old Paris was everywhere, clocks, vases. I was suppose to photograph the home and it's continents but I never did and Holly became sick. It was the type of house that one rarely sees today in the South. A house that had been lived in by the same family since before the Civil War that had a great collection in it. A few years after the Hurricane Old Lady Claiborne passed. One her death bed promises were made to her that the house and collection would be held together . Not long after her death the contents of the house was auctioned off and the empty house is for sale today.

One day on my 7 block walk to Jules house for my gallon of water I saw a woman on the neutral ground camping out with a pack of people. I had camouflaged my water in a bag. She looked at me and asked You know where I can get water don't you? I could see rage and madness in her eyes. I said no and quickly walked away. If she had been by herself I would have given her my water. But I could not betray the home and friend that I was getting my gallon from every day. They had saw me coming out of Jules home. The Next day Army people were giving people all the water and some ice that was needed. Boy that iced felt good! Still during the day every time you passed a army person or police they informed us to go to the Supperdome. Thank God I was not stupid to obey them. As I had remember years ago in 1998 hurricane Georges did little damage to New Orleans but the people were trapped inside of the Supperdome without food. It made headlines worldwide. I remember hearing about all of the looting going on, on Canal Street but did not go down that way. As I also had heard people were bringing there dead family member to Canal Street. I did not want to see any dead body's. Most of the people I saw in my area were white walking down the street with new bright white clean sneakers with a hot beer in hand. But on the news they only showed blacks looting. I did go to Canal street a few days latter when I heard Canal Street was flooding I had to see this myself. And yes there was a few feet of water in the street coming from the lake side of the city. By this time I was living off of candy bars , chips and crackers and my gallon of water a day. I was taken a bath a few times a day using water in my tub and standing up in a shallow pan. It was hot as hell walking the streets, sitting, laying down or trying to go to sleep having to fight bugs and rapidly producing fly's for all of the food rotting in the streets.

After a few days of this madness people seemed to go crazy drinking hot beers and using drugs. One of the people that had stopped to talk to us lived in Faubourg Tremé the neighborhood behind the Quarter that I did not go into after dark before the Hurricane. He told us that the Government could not get fresh water or ice to us but every day the drug houses in Tremé were supplied with drug lords in water boats pulling up to homes. Drugs were ramped on the Streets of New Orleans during this time. It and hot beer seemed the only way for many people to cope with the problem at hand. I knew I had to keep a clear head to get thru this ordeal in one piece. I had never been offered drugs before in my life up until this time. I was offered drugs many times a day, I always turned them down. I found out Mike with the nice legs was a dope dealer, at night he had candlelight orgies with men and so called straight young men that had no money to pay for the drugs he gave them. People in my building used binoculars to look at his candle lit orgies. This certainly turned me off from him plus he had on the same pair of white shorts every day that got disgustingly dirty day by day with his clearing of the roads and sidewalks during the day. Now I know where he got all of his energy from. Someone in our group gave him a clean pair of shorts that he never put on.

The two young men that were hanging out with Mike. Were visiting our city from out of town. Days after the Hurricane one had fell on a rusty street sign and sliced under his eye 5 inches. He wore a crude patched over his eye as there was no Doctors to be had. He had told use that he was high when this had happen. Someone ease told us that a friend had overdosed in the Quarter and to cover it up the body was put in a swimming pool. Our pool in the courtyard had trees in it. But right after the storm a few people from the building went in to cool themselves off. The trashy woman with big breast seemed to be taking a bath in the pool. I remember Billy Bob saying with his country accent " She is washing her breast & ass out in the pool". I did see her rubbing on her breast as she had only a bra on up top. The next day the water was green like a swamp with green bubbles bursting as they made their way to the top. Billy Bob had commented that Trashy had did this to the pool washing herself off and out. But I knew the Trees & leaves that were in the pool probably had something to do with it.

Across the street to the corner was The Melrose Mansion a small luxury hotel that movie stairs stayed at. We met the person that was looking after the place and was invited to swim in the clean clear large pool. At the time our group included a lot of middle age gay men from the area. As we enjoyed our cool retreat two young woman spotted us thru the wall opening. They asked us if they could come into to the pool. We looked at each other. You could hear crickets chirping! Someone said no! they began to beg and we said yes but no more. As they ran around some Queen from the group said. Now we are going to have fish in the pool! The water will not be fresh for long! and we all laughed. The girls were high on some kind of drugs and spoke about all of the dead bodies they saw. By this time Skeletor, Belly Bobs boyfriend was walking around in a white jockstrap every day. It did not fare well as the days went on. Across the street one day we saw a sheriff's car pull up to the circle K ,4 obese good ole boy white men dressed in sheriff's outfits got out looking like they were right out of a movie about Mississippi, each carrying deer rifles, one keep a look out as the others tried to break into the atm & safe inside. We could see from the balcony unsuspecting people walking by asking the one outside for directions. The men were unsuccessful in getting the atm open. Plus too many people were stopping by to ask questions so they all left. They could see us on the balcony and I was scared for my life. People had tried to open the atm every day since the Hurricane. All day and night you could hear people banging on that thing. A few days later someone got it open as well as the safe in the back. I was so damn glad as all of the noise would stop. Billy Bob working in a circle K in the past informed us on how much money was kelp in each. I was glad someone had got the money as I was tired of hearing betting noise of people trying to break it day and night. Now if we could only get rid of the Helicopters. Days after the Hurricane buildings were on fire outside of the Quarter. We saw helicopter carrying water to put out the fires. I was scared that the 300 year old Quarter might burn down. By this time I had gas to cook with everyday, but because of the fires the gas was turned off about 4 days after the hurricane.

Word on the Streets were that everyone had to leave New Orleans by the middle of the week after the storm. A week after the Hurricane the Supperdome was being cleared. The problem still was how was I going to leave with my two dogs. Plus other people in my building and area had pet's. We had heard story's from people passing by of rescue people shooting pets as they tried to get people to leave there water lodged homes. The story's pored in. One young white guy that lived in the 9th ward told us he was trapped in his apt on the 2th floor when a helicopter landed on his roof at night. Army people were inside and tried to get him to go but he would not leave his dog. They told him if he would not go they would kill his dog. He quickly open food for his animal and went with the army people. but latter escape to tell use the story he had on a new pair of white shoes. We had heard the story of a large group of people 20 blocks up Esplanade Ave my street that were rescued. They left there pets in a School building with hand written notes on the walls with pets names and contact into. Someone, people say the army went in and killed all of the pet's, this was one of the few story's that made the news. I had to get out intact with my pets. But how? As the days went on few people were on the streets as they were being forced out . News spread that the few hanging out like myself would not leave without our beloved pets.

Belle & Lebeau


A rich Latin man originally from South America heard our cry. He was a big land developer living in Baton rouge. He was to charter a buss only for people with cats or dogs that would take use from New Orleans to Baton rouge the capitol of Louisiana. We would still have to wait a few day but that would give me time to pack and fortify my valuables. I packed my large collection of gold and diamond Georgian and Victorian jewelry in a shoe box. Some valuable pieces of porcelain worth over $20,000. A few small pieces of 18th century porcelain from Marie Antoinette's factory in Paris and only a few outfits. I had one large suitcase and a few bags. Billy Bob claimed he was handicapped and in bad heath. He did take a lot of pills. One day as a Army truck with attractive young men drove under our balcony and ask if we had anyone sick, he and his boyfriend tuck this as there time to leave. They put me in charge of there two cats. with info as how to have them shipped to his sister. Now I had 4 animals I had to look out for. Billy Bob and boyfriend were looking to start life over in San Francisco with there new found Fema money of $4,500 dollars. As I would never invite theses people over to a party I was having, we did share a bond for a week and got thru safe. Some kind of a way I was sad to see them go as we kelp ourselves entertained with funny stories and lot's of laughter. Now it was just me and Trashy in the building and a trashy man she had picked up off the streets. Over the next few days she and her man drink there meals which consisted of hot cheep beer.

Some of my collection of 18th & 19th c jewelry
Some of my collection of 18th & 19th c jewelry

Some of my collection of 18th & 19th c jewelry

Lord deliver me from this place. By this time there was a strong military presence in the city 5 to 6 days after the Hurricane. Soldiers marched down the streets and I felt a little safer but every night the air was full of gun fire. Mike from across the street had been calling friends in Upstate New York in my apt since my landline still worked. A interracial gay couple he had met in the city a few months ago at the bathhouse. One night Tim the black one had called my home asking for Mike across the street. It was curfew time but I agreed to go across the street to try and get Mike. I crossed the dark street and debris wondering if I was going to be shot and killed by a Government sharp shooter. I was unsuccessful in getting Mike. He was too busy with his drug induced candle lit orgies. I returned to talk back to Tim. He asked what I did and I told him I was a Artist and Antiques Dealer. He told me that he was a interior decorator. Also that his boyfriend Richard would be in Baton rouge in a few days to pick up Mike I was invited to come along. I thought I just might do that as I was intent on moving to Baltimore.

Billy Bob and boyfriend's cats I tuck care of enjoying fresh air on the balcony


My last few days in New Orleans was spent walking around my beloved city and trying to remember all of the good times and 3 parties a day I enjoyed. Luncheons during the daytime I was invited to. I hardly ever bought food because there was always some function to go to. I walked the streets with a middle aged gay man that was original from New York city. He had told us stories earlier of how he was addicted to crystal meth. He had loss over a hundred pounds only in a few months. He skin hung from his bones. He had, had sex for days on crystal meth and did not want to eat. He said that he found a young cute guy in the bath houses in New Orleans. They were boyfriends be he had left him a few days before the hurricane. This man was a very talented clothing designer. He showed me some of his beautiful watercolor drawings. He was moving back to New York city. We were interviewed by reporters from around the world on the streets.

Last night in the French Quarter view from my balcony

My messy bedroom last day in New Orleans

Jesus and Mary keeping looking out over my French Empire bed in a alcove

My messy parlor, last day in the French Quarter

Lebeau happy in my apt right after the Hurricane the last pic I have of him

New Orleans was like a ghost town. There were very few people on the streets, most military and press. The funny thing about Canal street was that all of the stores were looted except for Brooks Brothers. I could see the pink polo's and white linen pants still in the unbroken window. A joke was going around that Brooks Brothers was not looted because all of the Republican white men had left town before hand.

The next day I pulled a cart with bags, luggage, two cat taxies and two dogs behind me leaving my home. I was with Mike, Trashy and her mate. I was finally walking out with dignity with my pets. We went to Rampart Street to meet the chartered bus that would take us to Baton rouge. As Mike and I sat on the sidewalk waiting for the buss. I said I can't believe I made it thru all of this without having drugs. Mike open a container and offered me pills. I turned him down. The press from all over the world showed to interview and take pic of our pets. When the bus arrived we were informed that because the bus was rented all animals had to go in boxes. It was the craziest thing I had ever seen but I had to tape my two dogs into boxes with there heads out.

Soon we were on our way. The drive from New Orleans to Baton rouge takes one hour but this ride tuck 8 long hours. I could see the devastation with trees and homes from the Hurricane all the way there. We arrived in Baton rouge at night at the LSU campus. The Agricultural building was set up as a makeshift animal shelter. I dropped off the cats and my two dogs in a cow pin. Mike also dropped his dogs off. After I said goodbye and was leaving my male dog lebeau had dug his way out of the pin Belle my female had followed him. They were barking at two teenage volunteer girls that were helping out. I grabbed both by their ears and pulled them back in the pin. We put bricks in the dug out hole Lebeau had made. This would be the last time I would see him.

After we were finished Mike and I tried to locate Richard. We finally did. Richard a 6"4 tall light blond, blue eyes mid western guy was in his late 40's but looked younger. He was very nice to us and he was one of those few people you meet in life that seems like you have known them your hole life. He had been driving two days straight from Upstate New York to Baton rouge. He was tired but we were told there was not a room to be had in a 100 miles of Baton rouge. Mike went back to get his dogs and I was offered a chance to get my dogs but I had to get settled first in Baltimore and decided to leave them. Plus the dodge durango was packed. We drove for hours thru Mississippi. Mike know a gay plastic surgeon that lived in Greenville Mississippi. He tried calling him but he did not pick up. It was 2 or 3am in the morning. Finely he answered and invited us over for the night.

We arrived to a nice modern townhouse in a gated community. The Dr was a middle aged gay men that had a 20 year old something living with him. His home was very comfortable compared to my mosquitoes infested apt. The Dr only had one bedroom. He offered his bed to me and Richard. We did not know each other that long but we both were tired. We looked at each other got into the plush king size bed and went to sleep. Mike the Dr and young guy had sex and did cocaine all night. I checked my emails the next day for the first time in a week and a half. I had over 400 emails. We had coffee. Mike had informed us that he was staying with the Dr. I sure to do drugs and have sex. I was happy he was staying as I and Richard thought the whole trip up the to the East Coast would be us stopping at gay men's homes he know having sex and drugs. Richard did not know Mike was into all of this. Him and his boyfriend had offered Mike to come stay on there 40 acre property in Upstate New York with his two dogs as long as he wanted to, to clear his head. He turned this down for sex and drugs. As I packed my bags in the car Richard gave me $500. cash. I turned it down. He told me to take it as he had donated by phone but did not know where the money was going to. He and his boyfriend Tim wanted to put it in someone's hands from New Orleans. He told me he also gave Mike $500. I can wonder where he spent his money. Richard Told me that for the rest of the trip he would pay for hotels and food. I was thankful that I had made it out and had found the right people at the right time.

Part three coming soon, Southern Baptist, Baltimore and New York city!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

My experience during Hurricane Katrina part One

Broken Beauty, my friend Peter Patout's courtyard after the Hurricane. 
I did not know a hurricane was coming my way until Saturday morning Aug 27th when I walked across the street to go to Circle K to get half & half to make my Café au lait. The glass door of Circle K had taped X's on it. I thought Hum a hurricane must be coming as all glass is taped with X's to prevent the glass from flying when windows are blown out.

My dogs Belle & Lebeau on there mid 19th century Rosewood New Orleans sofa.

Also I don't look at the news as it is all depressing and propaganda! I did turn on the news when I returned home to see that yes a BIG hurricane was coming. I was not worried as I had lived in New Orleans for over 10 years and had never left because of a hurricane. I did know how to prepare myself for one but I was in some type of a daze. I did not have any food in the house or bottled water. I thought I will just buy some after Mass at Jesuit Church tomorrow. I don't know what I was thinking with that thought. Latter in the day I got phone calls from friends that were fleeing the city. Most asked if I wanted to ride with them. I turned them down as I had two dogs and they were not offering to take them.

18th century French colonial Creole plantation house a block away from my apt

Sunday Morning rolls around. The city is overcast with clouds. On the 13 block walk thru the French Quarter to Jesuit Church. The city had a quietness and stillness I had never seen. As if it know that this was the last chapter of a period that I was lucky to have lived for 10 years. I arrived at Mass and there was only 20 people compared to the few hundred. I was asked to help serve the wine during communion if one of the people did not show. I was glad to see the person show up as I have never served the wine before and don't like to be the center of attention. After mass I ran to my grocery store Matassa's Market to find a line of people outside a block long. The grocery store is in a old small 19th century home so it's not that big anyway. Plus on a regular visit. If some one was coming down the same aisle you were on, You had to do the Egyptian to let them pass. I had to stand in line a hour before I could get in, and by that time bottle water and other provisions I needed was long gone. I did pick up some picked over food items but being in that store was a ordeal.

Jackson Square after the storm
The good thing is on my way home friends were packing cars to pull away and gave me frozen meats and seafood. As you always clean your refrigerator out as to not be surprised a week later upon return when the power has been out. I returned home to more frantic phone calls from family and friends warning me to get out. That morning mayor Ray Nagin ordered the first-ever mandatory evacuation of the city, calling Katrina "a storm that most of us have long feared. If you could not leave the city wanted you to go to the Superdome. I knew I was not going there.

My Street Esplanade Ave outside of the Quarter

My Street Esplanade Ave outside of the Quarter

Not having a car or knowing how to drive. I could not leave on my own, plus my friends offering me a ride did not offer my dogs come along. So I decided I was staying as I would not leave my dogs. If I was to parish it would be with my cherished collection of antiques and loved animals. To be earnest I was not afraid and had a calmness about me. For some reason I know I would survive the storm. I had chosen the French Quarter to live in wisely. Not only was it the oldest and most beautiful part of the city. I felt as if I was living in some old world European city inside of the Quarter. But the French were very smart in the early 18th century to place New Orleans on the highest ground on the Mississippi river and that was 100 miles up river from the mouth of the Great Mississippi. The French Quarter sits about 17 feet about sea level. That not much in most places but when you compare that around the French Quarter the land is at sea level and drops off the further you go out to 5-10 feet below sea level. If you have to live anywhere in New Orleans the Quarters as we call it is your best beat.

My Street Esplanade Ave last block in the Quarter
I filled my bath tube up full of water to be used after the hurricane as the water supply would be polluted. Sunday night in came the rains. I went to sleep that night knowing that the big one will be here tomorrow. Monday morning Aug 29th. I awoke to more rain the Hurricane was not here, as the morning went on the wind and rains picked up. I remember talking to my sister as it was her birthday. I also talked to a few other people. Every 30 min I went to my French doors and windows to see what was going on and every time I looked the storm had picked up more. My apt was in a 3 story slave quarters on the 2th floor to the back of a 1834 Greek Revival Townhouse on Esplanade Ave on the edge of the French Quarter. I had lived in 3 apts in the building. The first being on the 3rd floor of the main house with my French boyfriend. The 2th was the finest apt in the building on the ground floor in the Greek Revival double parlors. After this one we bought a house 7 blocks away from the Quarter. We restore it and lived there for 2 1/2 years. Broken up after the house sold I hastily moved into the 2th floor slave quarter apt in a building I was all too familiar with.


The slave quarter apt had small rooms that led into each other without a hall. I had a kitchen, parlor, bedroom & bath. Each room had a 19th century French windows and French doors overlooking a long balcony. The courtyard was below with a Olympic size swimming pool. The courtyard was bigger then most in the Quarter as the original wealthy owners bought a double lot. As the morning went on the trees that were in front of my balcony begin to lean in the high wind. There was a family of Cardinals that lived in them. On one of my visits to the window I could see the male cardinal holding on for dear life to a tree that was leaning in the wind profusely! I felt so sorry for that bird as I had observed it and it's family for months. As time went on the leaning tree with the cardinal and all surrounding trees had every leaf off of it. But the Cardinal was still hanging to the leafless tree for dear life. The next visit to the window found the Cardinal "gone with the wind". By this time the light went out and power. I lit candles in 18th and 19th century candlesticks.

The Château de Hopkins at the time of Katrina 

The Château de Hopkins at the time of Katrina 

The Château de Hopkins at the time of Katrina 

The Château de Hopkins at the time of Katrina 

The Château de Hopkins at the time of Katrina 

The Château de Hopkins at the time of Katrina 

To keep busy I started a painting that I finished that day by candlelight . It generally takes weeks to complete a painting but this one was completed in a day. As the Hurricane tore on I could hear that the French windows and doors in a apt above me were blown open. Water poured into my apt from above thru cracked ancient plaster ceilings. I was glade I was home to move around delicate French 18th century chairs, American mahogany chests and New Orleans made rosewood Rococo Revival sofas. At this point water was being blown thru the ancient cracks in my many French doors and windows. My male dog was calm but my female dog was antsy. I stayed calm and painted. The next stop by the window I saw a view I had never seen before as my view from my apt was always green trees, everyone of them were down. I could see the pool full of trees and the house next door.

Painting I finished Aug 29th 2005.  

The Château de Hopkins at the time of Katrina 

I turned on my battery operated radio on only to hear person after person call in to radio stations that were trapped in attics & roof tops with old people and children. They were frantic calling on cell phones that could go out any min. There cry's for help during the storm struck a card on my heart. The person on the other end could only tell the callers that help could not be sent until the Hurricane was over. Call after call came in with no help to be delivered. As I painted away to keep busy I knew I could no longer live in New Orleans. After a few more hours of hearing the calls the hurricane had passed over the city.

Jackson Square after Katrina. 

Just before sundown the rain had stopped. The Sun was going down. The French Quarter had a cool and calmness about it and was quit.  Curios I went out for a walk to observe what was left of my beloved city. Lot's of People were out observing also. The French Quarter did not flood. There were down trees, tree limbs every ware around with dead birds and squirrels between the branches, roofing material from every roof in the Quarter was scattered about. But for the most part the homes and building in the Quarter were ok. There were a few collapsed walls but the Quarter was better then I had expected. The Next neighborhood over did not fair as will as the Vieux Carré. Faubourg Marigny down river from the French Quarter flooded and walking around right after the Hurricane 19th century wooden buildings were twisted on there foundations, brick 2 story buildings had walls collapse so you could look inside and see furniture and painting still hanging on the walls. I tuck many photo's. I would illustrate this story with them but I can't find the photo CD they are on. I went to visit my best friend Don who was in his late 70's at the time and lived a few blocks away in this neighborhood. I invited him over for candlelight supper at my place that night.

Luckily my landline phone was still working and my gas stove. That night by candlelight I and my best friend Don had a very nice hot cooked meal of grilled chicken with vegetables in butter served on 18th century French Sèvres porcelain plates with a very nice bottle of chilled French white wine served in1830's  Louis Philippe period Baccarat cut glass. Little did I know that this meal would be the last luxury for myself for a week and a half. I know refer to this as "The last meal". That night as I retired to my French Empire bed to gun shots all night. I felt scared for the first time. We were in August the hottest month in New Orleans, with no ac, so the windows were open for the hot humid air the pored in like a mist that covered my body and everything around me like a thick damp blanket. The mosquitoes biting me all over my body. It was too hot but I had to cover my body with a thin sheet to stop the mosquitoes from eating me. I don't know how I went to bed that first night but I did. with out light the city was pitch dark with only moon and stairs lighting the night sky as if we were back in Antebellum New Orleans. This was how my Creole ancestors lived long ago on the Gulf Coast.  I had one candle burning on a 1840's Louisiana cypress tapered leg table by my bed as I can't sleep in a dark room. I thought that I could be killed, held up having my windows open like they were. the property was surrounded by a 10 foot brick wall that was some comfort. I went to sleep not knowing the storm surge had caused 53 levee breaches in New Orleans, Or that eighty percent of the city was under water. People were drowning that had survived the Hurricane in flood waters.

The bedroom at the Château de Hopkins at the time of Katrina. 

Part two coming soon guns, sex and drugs

1860's Disorderly Boys in Mobile, Alabama

MOBILE REGISTER AND ADVERTISER, January 28, 1862, p. 3, c. 1

Disorderly Boys.—A frequenter of the Mayor's Court becomes familiar not only with the fact that there are a great many very ill-behaved children in town, but that they are agglomerated in certain nuclei. There, for instance, is the wharf gang, or rather there used to be, but it is nearly broken up at present, though a rat is occasionally dragged out from under a tarpaulin. The present want of shelter, however, on the wharves has scattered these, and we believe they have associated themselves mostly with the Royal street gang, which latter, we are sorry to say, claim to be in some manner connected with the press, though they are not all Israel who are of Israel.

These, as a general thing, belong nowhere in particular, but there are others, the numbers of which are supposed to have homes and parents. We often meet a set of them crowding the street corners, and frequently quarrelling with negroes of their own age. The police have once had occasion to notice their pranks, perhaps oftener. A house in their neighborhood being recently vacated for a few weeks, they broke some two dozen panes of glass in the upper windows with brick bats and oyster shells before the proprietor could find a new tenant.

We are glad to see that a movement has been made looking towards the establishment of a House of Refuge or of Correction. This might furnish a permanent home for the first two classes, and an occasional retreat for the last, if their parents cannot take care of them. But there is another class whom no such institution is likely to benefit. Their dress is very respectable, but we cannot say that their address is either respectable or respectful to persons who occasionally encounter them at the street corner which they chiefly frequent. A few mornings ago we observed some obscenity which they had chalked in very legible style in front of one of the principal churches of the city. If their parents do not take them in hand, we fear that their prospect of becoming either useful or ornamental members of society is quite dubious.


Anything Cool! Keeping cool in the Antebellum South, Part two

Chilled desserts that were popular during the 19th century

We take cold drinks and cool food for granted today. But during the first half of the 19th century anything cool or cold during the Summer months in the South was a luxury item. Chilled fruit after dinner, puddings and cool Gelatin desserts considered cheep today were very popular and considered a special treat in the 19th century. Gelatin desserts were made from calf's foot jelly. This was made by extracting and purifying gelatin from the foot of a calf; this gelatin was then sweetened and flavored with fruit juice and additional sugar, if necessary. A very laborious possess as compared to how easy making jello is today.

English Regency mahogany Cellarette used for chilling wine

A red glass wine glass rinser, would be place in front of dinner plate. Wine rinsers or wine washers were used to cool or rinse wine glasses between courses of meals.

Paris porcelain monteith 18th c, a wine-glass cooler or rinsing bowl with a notched or crenellated rim designed to hold the feet of the glasses while their bowls are suspended in the iced water which it contains


Drink like wine had to be chilled before being served in metal lined Cellarets or Wine coolers sometimes made of Porcelain or Tole. Also during this period wine glasses were chilled in monteiths a vessel with notched rims used to cool drinking glasses. Fruit was cooled in porcelain fruit coolers. The lid was bowl shaped so ice could be packed on the top as well as inside the fruit cooler. Ice cream was also served out of fruit coolers.

Late 18th century Paris porcelain Fruit/ice cream cooler by Nast Cornflower pattern

Pair of Paris porcelain Fruit/ice cream cooler with trompe l'oeil fruit

Detail Fruit/ice cream cooler with handle in the allegory of Winter

Detail Fruit/ice cream cooler with handle in the allegory of Winter

Cold fruit soups were popular in the South during the Summer months. The ice creams we enjoy today are said to have been invented in Italy during the 17th century. They spread northward through Europe via France. "French-style" ice cream (made with egg yolks) and its American counterpart, "Philadelphia-style," are (no eggs, or egg whites only) enriched products made with the finest ingredients. Vanilla is the most popular flavor of this genre.

Peach ice cream Old Paris porcelain, cut glass and silver from my collection

Peach ice cream Old Paris porcelain, cut glass and silver from my collection

During the first half of the 19th century ice cream was made at home or could be had in fashionable Coffee houses offering the cold treat. Most large city's in America had coffee houses offering ice cream starting in New York city around the 1820's. In Mobile, Alabama we had Festorazzi's Coffee Saloon opened in 1854 on the corner of Dauphin and St. Emanuel streets. Sylvester Festorazzi was born at Regolo, near Lake Como, in 1819. He became a confectioner, and worked at the trade first in Milan, then in Marseille. In 1850, he came to New Orleans where he went into the confectionery business. and opened Festorazzi's Coffee Saloon in Mobile. Coffee houses of the period did not offer hot food. The only thing served hot was tea and coffee. Cold deserts, pastries & swndwiches were served. Here is a ad from the Coffee saloon dating from the early years of the war between the states.

MOBILE REGISTER AND ADVERTISER, September 29, 1861, p. 4, c. 4

Ice Cream Saloon and Verandah,

Cor. Dauphin and St. Emanuel Sts.

Opposite Public Square

The undersigned have the honor to announce to their friends and the public in general that they have re-opened their well known and popular Saloon, up stairs, where they are prepared to serve their customers with the choicest kind of

Ice Creams

Sherberts, [sic]

Biscuits Glaces,

Cakes and


of every description.

Parties, Weddings, Dinners, &c., will be furnished at short notice and in the best style.

We have all kinds of Cakes and Confectioneries always on hand, fresh and of the best quality, which we will sell at reasonable prices.

S. Festorazzi & Co.

N.B.—Orders for the country will be carefully attended to.

Paris Coffee House 1819

Before the development of modern refrigeration, ice cream was a luxury reserved for special occasions. Making it was quite laborious; ice was cut from lakes and ponds during the winter and stored in holes in the ground, or in wood-frame or brick ice houses, insulated by straw and saw-dust. Many Southern farmers and plantation owners, including U.S. Presidents George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, cut and stored ice in the winter for use in the summer. Ice cream was made by hand in a large bowl placed inside a tub filled with ice and salt. This was called the pot-freezer method.

During this period all food had to be bought, cooked and consumed the same day with out refrigeration. People lucky to have ice houses or dairy buildings could store perishable food longer.

Wealthy land owners built Ice houses on there property to store large blocks of ice shipped down from the East Coast. Most ice houses were built under ground. During the winter, ice would be taken into the ice house and packed with insulation, often straw or sawdust. It would remain frozen for many months, often until the following winter, and could be used as a source of ice during summer months. The main application of the ice was the storage of perishable foods, but it could also be used simply to cool drinks like mint juleps or allow ice-cream and sorbet desserts to be prepared.

Temple/Ice house, Montpelier 1810-1811

James Madison built the Temple/Ice House on his property Montpelier between 1810-1811. The Neoclassical style Greek Temple was designed in 1802 by William Thornton, architect of the nation's Capitol, but was not built until 1810-1811. Thomas Jefferson, Madison's good friend and colleague, suggested two carpenters James Dinsmore and John Neilson, both had did work for Thomas Jefferson. Below the concrete base of the Classical Temple is the Ice House which is brick lined shaft, 24 feet deep and 16 feet in diameter.

The Temple served two purposes, aesthetic beautifying the functional. The Temple could be use on Summer days as a place to have a light meals with cool breeze flowing as well as being cooled from beneath. The Ice House two stores below, provided the Madison's with cool drinks like mint juleps and ice cream all summer long, a luxury during the first half of the 19th century.

Rosedown Plantation Gazebo - St. Francisville, LA

Wealthy Southerners built garden follies like Summer houses, a one room building in a garden used for tea or light supper or entertaining during the summer months. Because Summer homes were one room buildings in a garden. Cool air could circulate around the building thru windows and doors. Making them a lot cooler then rooms for entertainment in the big house. Please see my blog "The Derby-Beebe Summer House 1799".

99The Derby-Beebe Summer House 1799

Spring House, Baltimore, MD by Benjamin Henry Latrobe built over a spring and used to keep dairy products cool

You could only have something cool or cold to eat during the Summer if you have money to buy iced shipped down from the East Coast and a dark insolated place to store the ice. Ice was cut from natural lakes up North. During the first half of the 19th century, ice harvesting became big business in America. Large numbers of horses were used to harvest the ice and their waste led to pollution of ice the water and the shoreline.
Statue of John Gorrie, 1914, by C. Adrian Pillars

In 1842, Southern physician, John Gorrie, living in Apalachicola, Florida, a port city on the Gulf coast designed the first system for refrigerating water to produce ice. He also conceived the idea of using his refrigeration system to cool the air for comfort in homes and hospitals (i.e., air-conditioning). Southerners could have had man made clean ice and air-conditioning in the 1840's and 50's. His system compressed air, then partially cooled the hot compressed air with water before allowing it to expand while doing part of the work required to drive the air compressor. That isentropic expansion cooled the air to a temperature low enough to freeze water and produce ice, or to flow "through a pipe for effecting refrigeration otherwise" as stated in his patent granted by the U.S. Patent Office in 1851. Gorrie built a working prototype, but his system was a commercial failure. Gorrie sought to raise money to manufacture his machine, but the venture failed when his partner died. Humiliated by criticism, financially ruined, and his health broken, Gorrie died in seclusion on June 29, 1855.

Schematic of Gorrie's ice machine

The ice factory industry was actually propelled by Southern States, who were tired of relying on The North for lake ice that was sometimes polluted . Many entrepreneurs started investing money in formulating mechanical refrigeration at an economical cost. In New Orleans, a very important event in ice history occurred. The Louisiana Ice Manufacturing Company opened in 1868 making man made ice and offering a product that cost significantly less than natural ice.

Today we keep cool by taking cool showers and baths during the Summer. Most homes in the South did not have a bathroom as we do in homes today. During the antebellum period in the South. Before indoor plumbing, bathtubs—like chamber pots and washbowls—were moveable accessories: large but relatively light containers that bathers pulled out of storage for temporary use in a bedroom. The typical mid-19th-century bathtub was a product of the tinsmith's craft, a shell of sheet copper or zinc. In progressive houses equipped with early water-heating devices, a large bathtub might be site-made of sheet lead and anchored in a coffin-like wooden box. Bathtubs were lined with linen cloth.

19th century Tin bathtub

Galvanized tin hip bath

Tin bathtub in coffin-like wooden box

The average person in the Antebellum South only tuck a bath once a month. As doctors of the period thought that frequent bathing removed body oils, doctors thought this bad for skin. People did wish almost daily parts of the body that were visible to the public; for example, the ears, hands, feet, and face and neck. Taking a bath was a considerable labor of drawing, carrying, and heating water, filling the bath and then afterward emptying it. Bath water was shared by all the immediate family members from the oldest member of the family to the youngest. Precedence in bath order could lead to contention since the first user enjoyed the cleanest and warmest water. If you were traveling or did not have a bathtub at home you could always go to a bath house.


Old Paris porcelain footbath

Most large city's in the South had public bath houses. Here is a ad for one in Mobile, AL

Mobile Bath House.

Entrance on Conti, between Royal & St. Emanuel.

Entrance No. 0 South Royal Street.

The proprietor takes pleasure in announcing to the public that the above Establishment is now in complete order having been nicely Painted and furnished with new Bathing Tubs throughout. He will always be prepared to accommodate his patrons with comfortable Warm, Cold and Shower Baths, at all hours from 5 A.M. til 10 P.M.

A Barber Shop is also added. In short, a gentleman will have here every facility to Bathe, Dress and be attended to in every respect. Young.

What we can easily eat, drink or do to stay cool today was sometimes a challenge to achieve. It depended on how much money you had and tuck a lot longer to have during the Antebellum period in the South. As two storms are headed for the Gulf Coast today five years after Hurricane Katrina, it reminds me of going thru Katrina in the French Quarter and trying to stay cool in New Orleans for over a week after the hurricane during one of the hottest times in New Orleans was almost like living in the South 160 years ago. Tomorrow I will post my story of surviving Katrina during the Hurricane and the week after in New Orleans.