San Rafael Valley, AZ ~~ Photo by Bill Haas

Thursday, April 23, 2009


Welcome to the "Presbytere," where the Louisiana State Museum's "From Tramps to Kings -- 100 Years of ZULU" is its focus until the end of the year.  The Zulu krewe, is an African-American club started in 1909 with a ragtag walking "parade" of tramps in baggy pants.  Its full name is "Zulu Social Aid and Pleasure Club," and it boasts significant civic and social contributions in the black community.  It is also among the most vibrant and popular New Orleans clubs, and the Zulu "throws" are the most prized of all -- no plastic, no beads, no made-in-China junk -- just shaved, polished, decorated and painted coconuts, created entirely by hand.  They are of course, handed down, not thrown, from the Zulu floats on Fat Tuesday.  Zulus eventually integrated and accepted white members in the 1980's!   

The Presbytere has an extensive permanent Mardi Gras exhibit -- I'll show you a little of that too.  (If a photo appears cloudy and includes distracting lines or reflections, it's because there was a glass case between the subject and my camera!)

The Baby Doll Krewe is an all-female club that started out as a joke but is now a traditional participant in Mardi Gras parades and festivities.

The elaborate regalia (I hate to call them costumes) worn by a krewe's King, Queen and royal court are masterpieces of handiwork and art.  Detailed and intricate, each and every feather, sequin, bead, piece of fabric, and crystal is COMPLETELY sewn by hand.  They are exquisite in their beauty and splendor.   And size!  Next year's regalia has been in production for months already.
Even children can be a part of the royal "court."

From head to toe!
This is the attire worn by Desiree Rogers in either 1988 or 2000 when she reined as Zulu's Queen.  Yes, THAT Desiree Rogers*.  I think royalty either just stands or sits. For the life of me, I don't see how they can walk with all that weight on their shoulders!

I'm now leaving New Orleans; here's one more smile!

*Desiree Rogers, The White House Social Secretary for the Obama Administration.

NEW ORLEANS, The Storm & The River

In August, 2005, having a 2-story home with a roof intact was a godsend.  Now what?
Pilings such as these are an essential element of foundations of Lower Ninth Ward homes.  Now what?
Fats Domino chose to live in the Lower Ninth Ward a few blocks from where he was born, surrounded by lifelong friends and family.  He lost everything, has rebuilt this home, but because of his wife's health, now just uses it as an office.
Fats' next door neighbor.

The destruction here is utterly heartbreaking.  But also noteworthy is the sad loss of commercial infrastructure: gas stations, hardware and grocery stores; the absence of schools, churches, banks and medical services, understandable I suppose since, as of five months ago, only 11% of its original 14,000 residents have returned.  The Lower Ninth was a working class neighborhood, not a slum, and when I visited, there was very little evidence of any attempt to rebuild this community.  Moreover, it was most distressing to drive through the Gentilly Neighborhood and see new roofs, sparkling unshuttered windows, spanking-new stonework and repaired driveways and foundations, the complete absence of FEMA trailers and a neighborhood almost completely restored.  Not so in the Lower Ninth.
A Brad Pitt house, environmentally friendly and energy efficient.  Good on you Brad baby!!  But there just aren't enough of them.
And such strange shapes.
This is called armoring, on a very small scale.  To contain erosion, the COE proposes armoring entire backsides of canals.
The light colored cement is where the canal breached the sea wall.  Our guide said it was the canals, not the levees, that failed and flooded the Lower Ninth Ward.
My simpleton's understanding of the purpose of this pump station on the edge of Lake Pontchartrain, is to pump water out of New Orleans city streets into the canals and ultimately into the lake. 

For a better understanding of how the locks, pumps, floodgates, sea walls, levees and canals are all interwoven, you might find this Corps of Engineers website of interest:

I could sit on the banks of the Mississippi all day and not for one minute be bored. The Port of New Orleans is a general cargo port, it's a cruise port, it's the center of a global marketplace.  It has cruise and cargo terminals, marshalling yards, cold storage, fuel docks, truck traffic roadways, six railroad lines and dozens of "services" such as ship chandleries, hazardous waste, fumigating, and cleaning services.  It is the center of a 14,500 mile inland waterway system, and the Mississippi River is where 500 million tons of cargo is moved each year. Count 'em...500 MILLION TONS of cargo!!  And if you ever see a picture of a blue Mississippi River, it's probably been Photoshopped!
Tugs tug, tugs snug, tugs nudge, tugs push and pull and tow.  I love tugs!  They remind me of shepherding dogs, directing, aiming and maneuvering.
This one is pushing nine containers.

A ship from Istanbul taking on supplies.

This mighty river isn't just about mobility.  It's lined with industrial plants, refineries, docks, wharves, warehouses, parks and monuments, casinos and neighborhoods.
Petroleum Processing
Moving coal
Moving sugar

This photograph of one of New Orleans' famous above-ground cemeteries has no relevance here -- I just didn't know where else to put it!!  These cemeteries  are so famous there are specialized tours to some of them and, of course, they are haunted!