Sunday, July 11, 2010

Day 30 - Help is help

New Orleans:

It's raining outside, fogging up my 10th floor view. The best room I've had so far and it's on Charles Street. Sadly, I'm so desensitized to less-than-accommodating sleeping arrangements these days. The next day could prove musty with palmetto bugs.

I have long considered New Orleans to be the meat of my trip. I've been salivating for it since reading Anne Rice, Tennessee Williams, Faulkner and all that jazz, and the Big Easy has been at the top of my list for almost six weeks now. I decided to ground myself and visit the Lower 9th Ward where the displaced residents are still waiting for a miracle after Katrina.

I'm not being dramatic or bleeding-heart. Two reasons why I took a is to know what the other side of the bridge from the French Quarter holds. Secondly, I wanted to see the houses built by the Make It Right foundation, started up by Brad Pitt. I like architecture and I'd heard a lot about the different architects that contributed their designs - even Frank Gehry, William McDonough, and other superstars. There's even the house designed by Thom Mayne that floats when there's a flood. Cool stuff.

I've read some blog comments about the project. One said something like, "It's some liberal wet dream with fancy shmanzy houses."

Now that I've seen the homes, interspersed with condemned and dilapidated houses, such nastiness boils my goiter. Help is help. Over a hundred fifty homes are either built or under construction - that's something at least. I understand the other complaint about changing the style of the neighborhood too much that it's becoming a bit foreign. Perhaps architects should have dug in and consulted more with the community...but lessons were learned and the designers and engineers are listening now.

I liked the houses. They have solar capacity, good ventilation, and great composition. I'd love to live in one of those if they were plopped in Los Angeles. Katrina changed everything. I wish people could have their old homes back, but they're too expensive to replicate. Once customizable mass-production techniques are hammered out, the new homes will be cheaper to build and easier on the electric bill.

In my travels so far, I make sure to walk to the not-so-nice areas part of time. I might sound like a hoity toity d-bag, but I just want to be grounded. I want to make sure I don't enjoy myself too much because life isn't always about being a tourist.

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