"This is home: a year after the hurricane devastated their community, many gays and lesbians are still struggling to rebuild. Others are deciding whether to come back at all.
By the time Tommy Misener and Bobby Blatchley returned from their annual trip with friends to the Alabama Gulf Coast last summer, the lush landscaping around their charming two-bedroom home in the Lakeview neighborhood of New Orleans New Orleans (ôr`lēənz –lənz, ôrlēnz`), city (2006 pop. 187,525), coextensive with Orleans parish, SE La., between the Mississippi River and Lake Pontchartrain, 107 mi (172 km) by water from the river mouth; founded had gotten away from them. Misener often lamented having planted ginger along the north side of the house. Even though it produced a pretty flower, he says, "it would take over," especially in the summer.
So the couple spent an entire day trimming and cutting--maintaining their garden's reputation as the pride of Polk Street Polk Street is a street in San Francisco that travels northward from Market Street to Jefferson Street. It's attractions are the See's Candy flagship store at California Street, and is usually cleaned every Saturday by the neighborhood organization. . "My neighbor would come over and say, 'It looks so good,'" Misener recalls. "I loved doing it. One of the things I miss so much is that gardening."
That was Saturday, August 27, 2005. The next day Misener, 42, and Blatchley, 41, reluctantly packed up some things and fled with their neighbors to a friend's house in Ville Platt, a town north of the city. Hurricane Katrina Editing of this page by unregistered or newly registered users is currently disabled due to vandalism. had failed to veer toward Florida as expected and the mayor had just issued an official evacuation order.
Sitting in a trailer parked on the spot where his garden once grew, Misener looks out on a patch of tall weeds growing in the back of his property. His house, having sat under eight feet of water for two weeks, was demolished and hauled off earlier this year. "I want to come home, but I don't want to come home to this," Misener says. "I hate to say that. I love this city, but it's never going to be the same."
Misener not only lost his house, he lost the community he loved. And he lost his partner--at least for now. After the storm the couple of nearly 11 years, who work for the same media company, took separate job transfers: Misener to Minneapolis and Blatchley to Phoenix. "I don't feel like I can plan for my future right now," Misener says, finding it difficult to speak. "I don't know Don't know (DK, DKed)
"Don't know the trade." A Street expression used whenever one party lacks knowledge of a trade or receives conflicting instructions from the other party. where I am going to be in three years."
While the French Quarter escaped with little damage from Katrina, the surrounding areas--middle-class neighborhoods like Lakeview, where many gays and lesbians owned homes and built communities--still sit in ruins a year after the storm. Huge piles of debris crowd the streets in front of thousands of hollowed-out homes. Many have simply been torn down, and hardly any have been rebuilt or restored.
The hardest-hit areas, such as the lower Ninth Ward, where several breaks in the levees around an industrial canal The Industrial Canal is a 5.5 mile (9 km) waterway in New Orleans, Louisiana, United States. The waterway's proper name, as used by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and on NOAA nautical charts, is Inner Harbor Navigation Canal (IHNC). unleashed a torrent of water that tossed homes about like toys in a bathtub, show no signs of life. Elsewhere, trailers provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is the federal agency responsible for coordinating emergency planning, preparedness, risk reduction, response, and recovery. The agency works closely with state and local governments by funding emergency programs and providing technical are popping up in front yards, but the neighborhoods are a long way from rebuilding.
When asked why so little has been done a year later, residents cite a lack of services and temporary housing. But most also blame the government. FEMA FEMA,
n.pr See Federal Emergency Management Agency. has become "a dirty f word," they say, and Mayor Ray Nagin Clarence Ray Nagin, Jr. (IPA: /ˈneɪgɨn/) (born June 11, 1956) is the mayor of New Orleans. He was first elected on March 2, 2002, to succeed his fellow Democrat, Marc Morial. has hardly been seen since he was reelected in May. "We're pretty disgusted with the lack of progress from the government," says Debbie Guidry, 54, who owned a home with her partner, Shannon Powers, 55, across the street from Misener.
Guidry also blames the Army Corps of Engineers for the loss of her home. "Nothing would have happened if the Corps had done their job [building the levees]," she says. "Now they're starting with all these studies. You don't need to study. Get in here and fix it for us. That's why people aren't coming back."
Indeed, with a new hurricane season Hurricane season refers to a period in a year when hurricanes usually form. For more information see: Tropical cyclone#Times of formation.
For a lists of past seasons, see:
1. Nautical A small flatbottom fishing boat with a lugsail on a raking mast.
2. Scots A kind of flatbottom rowboat. , 38, lived in an apartment in Mid City, an area affectionately known as the "lesbian zip code zip code
System of postal-zone codes (zip stands for “zone improvement plan”) introduced in the U.S. in 1963 to improve mail delivery and exploit electronic reading and sorting capabilities. ," she says. Before the storm she fled with her 79-year-old father to her girlfriend's place in Louisville, Ky., and has been there ever since. Mid City, right next door to Lakeview, was hard-hit by flooding, but the shotgun-style apartment Coble still rents there--and visits--is habitable habitable adj. referring to a residence that is safe and can be occupied in reasonable comfort. Although standards vary by region, the premises should be closed in against the weather, provide running water, access to decent toilets and bathing facilities, heating, .
"My long-range plan has always included going back to New Orleans," she says via telephone from Kentucky. "It's the only place I've ever really considered my home."
The rent on Coble's apartment--like rents all over the city--has been steadily going up, and now she's not sure she can keep it, especially since launching her own arts and crafts arts and crafts, term for that general field of applied design in which hand fabrication is dominant. The term was coined in England in the late 19th cent. as a label for the then-current movement directed toward the revivifying of the decorative arts. business. "Every time I put money into a rent increase I think, That's money I could be putting into my business," she says. "Also, there's a part of me that says my mental health will be better in the long run not having to deal with what life is like there right now. Folks are really struggling there. It's really difficult."
Sherby Guillory also plans to move home to New Orleans, but it may be a few years. "There are a lot of reasons not to go back," the gay social worker says. "There's always the threat of a hurricane. But where else in the U.S. can you go out and listen to jazz at 2 in the morning?"
Guillory, who turns 31 the first week of September, was in his last semester of study for a master's degree master's degree
An academic degree conferred by a college or university upon those who complete at least one year of prescribed study beyond the bachelor's degree.
Noun 1. in social work at Tulane University History
The University dates from 1834 as the Medical College of Louisiana.<ref name="facts" /> With the addition of a law department, it became The University of Louisiana when the storm hit. He found out the University of Houston was accepting refugee transfers, so he went there to finish his degree. Now he's got a hill-time job at Legacy Community Health Services health services Managed care The benefits covered under a health contract in Houston, where he has been assisting other gay and lesbian victims of Katrina. "I will sit down and talk with people," he says. "They still want to reminisce rem·i·nisce
intr.v. rem·i·nisced, rem·i·nisc·ing, rem·i·nisc·es
To recollect and tell of past experiences or events.
[Back-formation from reminiscence. about the good times in New Orleans. It's like a narrative therapy."
A lot of gay people from New Orleans This is a list of individuals who are or were natives of, or notable as residents of, or in association with the city of New Orleans, Louisiana, USA. Academia
Despite the challenges, Guidry and Powers have come back and are living in the FEMA trailer The of this article or section may be compromised by "weasel words".
You can help Wikipedia by removing weasel words. on Misener's lot with their two dogs, two cats, and parrot. "When we drive in here we get excited about coming back because this is home," Powers says. The couple were paid off by their insurance and are planning to get some federal aid to help them rebuild across the street, where a damaged swimming pool frill of murky brown water is all that's left of their demolished house.
Inside the trailer's cramped quarters a mattress barely big enough for two sits on a bunk next to a tiny bathroom separated by a flimsy wooden door. Outside, a big white plastic pipe snakes its way from the back of the trailer to a sewer hookup hookup,
n in the Trager method of therapy, the practitioner enters into a meditative state along with the patient, which allows him or her to work more intuitively and to feel subtle changes in the patient's movement and tissue texture. on Misener's property. There are weeds and debris everywhere. The streets and sidewalks are cracked, and the surrounding homes are vacant and falling apart.
"People just don't know. I think that's really sad," Misener says, noting that he has met people in Minneapolis who said they thought New Orleans was "all back to normal." "People just have no idea that there's still this much devastation."
Even though it means living apart for an indefinite period, Misener and Blatchley are going to focus on their careers and wait and see how things develop in New Orleans over the next couple of years. "It can be a little lonely and hard, but I look at the future," Blatchley says. "It's just temporary. Military families do it all the time."
Back on Polk Street, it's going to be a tough life, Guidry admits, and there may never again be that sense of community that made it such a great place. "We loved the neighborhood. It was very gay-friendly," she says. "There were three [homes owned by] gay people on this block. We asked ourselves, Do we want to rebuild if Tom and Bobby don't come back?"
"It was great having them as neighbors," says Blatchley, who used to jump in Guidry's swimming pool on hot days and would call upon her to feed their cats when he and Misener went on vacation. "There is a really strong sense of family and community down there. People were friendly. I miss that. Phoenix is more cliquish clique
A small exclusive group of friends or associates.
intr.v. cliqued, cliqu·ing, cliques Informal
To form, associate in, or act as a clique. ."
That loss of community is mourned even by those who have returned to areas where there was little storm damage. "I've lost so many of my friends," says Bill Coble (no relation to Margaret), 47, sitting in the courtyard of his shuttered walking tour and gift shop business in the French Quarter, which closed after the storm for lack of customers. "That has been so hard. It's one thing to lose your business; it's another thing to lose your community because they had to go elsewhere for work."
The entire city's infrastructure was destroyed, Bill Coble says. Of around 20,000 businesses that existed in Orleans Parish, only about 2,000 remain. Living in the predominantly gay neighborhood of Faubourg Marigny Faubourg Marigny or simply Marigny is a neighborhood in the downtown section of New Orleans, Louisiana, just down river from the famous French Quarter. Boundaries and geography on the edge of the Quarter, Coble was at first making ends meet by helping people gut their homes, hoping that he could reopen his business in the spring. "That didn't happen," he says. "By the end of May I realized I had to find a hill-time job." So he started bartending at Lafitte in Exile, one of several gay bars on Bourbon Street's famous "fruit loop."
One block away, Lawrence Shepherd, 35, has been bartending at the Bourbon Pub and Parade since moving to the French Quarter from Indianapolis six years ago. "About three months after the storm I had people come up to me in the bar and say, 'I'm so glad you're here,'" he recalls. "I was a symbol of normalcy nor·mal·cy
Noun 1. normalcy - being within certain limits that define the range of normal functioning
Business has been good, Shepherd says, and everyone has been looking forward to the Southern Decadence Southern Decadence is a week-long, predominantly gay-male event held in New Orleans, Louisiana and its environs by the gay and lesbian community in early September, climaxing with a parade through the French Quarter on the Sunday before Labor Day. festival, New Orleans's big gay party. But there is a noticeable difference among the locals. "A lot of people didn't come back," he says. "There's a whole shift of who's here and who's not here, of alliances and friendships."
Brian Peterson was part of that shift. But he decided to come back after almost a year of building a new life in Atlanta with his partner, Todd Shaffer. "I was afraid to go back," he says via telephone from his Atlanta apartment the night before driving back to New Orleans. "I tried to look optimistically op·ti·mist
1. One who usually expects a favorable outcome.
2. A believer in philosophical optimism.
op at Atlanta. But I realized where I truly wanted to be. In New Orleans there's a sense of community wherever you are. Everybody knows everyone else."
Peterson, 35, an actor and performer who lived in New Orleans for 10 years, is part of a close circle of friends who live in the Bywater, a neighborhood just the other side of Faubourg Marigny with a high concentration of gays. The area saw very little flooding, but it has been plagued by power outages This is a list of famous wide-scale power outages. 1965
Giving up was never an option for Sal Mulle and his partner of 19 years, Johnny Cutrer, who have struggled to keep their restaurant, Two Jokers Grill, and its accompanying bar, the Masquerade, open in Metairie, north of downtown New Orleans In New Orleans, Louisiana, "downtown" refers to areas along the Mississippi River down-river (roughly east) from Canal Street, including the French Quarter, Treme, Faubourg Marigny, the Bywater, the 9th Ward, and other neighborhoods. . The bar wasn't flooded, but it was destroyed. "All the windows were busted bust·ed
a. Smashed or broken: busted glass; a busted rib.
b. Out of order; inoperable: a busted vending machine.
2. out," Mulle says with a thick accent and a look of exhaustion. "There were bottles and food all over the place. They busted all the commodes. They just smashed everything. [Outside] the stench was horrible. No one ever mentions the stench. Everything was rotting in the street."
Mulle, 47, and Cutrer, 49, had to refinance their home and fight with the insurance company, which eventually paid them off but doubled the bar and grill's premiums. For the first couple of weeks post-Katrina they lived in the restaurant, and they have been working 80-hour weeks ever since. But the couple, who have both lived in the Big Easy their entire lives, are only too happy to be there. "The best feeling in the world is when you see someone you haven't seen since the hurricane come walking in and say they're moving back," Mulle says. "I say, 'Have a cheesecake on me, baby.'"
Two Jokers was one of the first restaurants to reopen in the area, and it has played an important role during a time when the local community has been so threatened. Every day a colorful mix of gays and straights, police officers and businessmen find comfort together behind its glass doors inside a small strip mall strip mall
A shopping complex containing a row of various stores, businesses, and restaurants that usually open onto a common parking lot.
Noun 1. .
A few miles to the south on Carrollton Avenue Carrollton Avenue is a major thoroughfare stretching 3.9 miles across the Uptown/Carrollton and Mid-City districts of New Orleans. South Carrollton Avenue runs from St. , west of the Garden District, gays and their allies have been finding comfort inside St. Matthew United Church of Christ United Church of Christ, American Protestant denomination formed in 1957 by a merger of the General Council of Congregational Christian Churches (see Congregationalism) and the Evangelical and Reformed Church. . Every Sunday evening about 15 congregants of the Metropolitan Community Church of Greater New Orleans gather in a small wood-paneled sanctuary--about half the number that typically worshiped there before the storm. "People have started to make a decision about whether or not they want to come back," says the Reverend Dexter Brecht. "Some people came back and were active in the church and then decided they just weren't willing to deal with the recovery."
Since the storm the congregation has been coordinating donations, helping with reconstruction, and providing services to victims. And Brecht, who has served there since 1994, has become decidedly political, calling for a "spiritual response" from his followers to the government's lack of help.
To mark the one-year anniversary of Katrina the congregation teamed with four other MCC (The Microelectronics and Computer Technology Corporation, Austin, TX) The first high-tech research and development consortium in the U.S., created in 1982 by leading companies within the electronics industry. churches along the Gulf Coast to host a "Rainbow Revival" celebration at the end of August. "I do not get why people are not grasping this as an incredible opportunity to rethink a major city in America," Brecht says. "Yes, the losses have been awful. But this can be the fresh start that New Orleans has needed." And people need to see that parts of the city have come back, Brecht adds. "They have re-created a life for themselves. People should come and see that. That's an incredible thing too."
It's Saturday night at New Orleans Food and Spirits, a restaurant on the shore of Lake Pontchartrain Lake Pontchartrain (local English pronunciation [leɪk ˈpʰɑntʃətʰɹeɪn]) (French: Lac Pontchartrain, pronounced in Metairie, one block west of where the 17th Street Canal broke open, destroying Lakeview to the east. Misener and some friends dine on fried shrimp and beer around a big table. They talk about all the problems that still persist: increased insurance rates, construction needs, a lack of workers, and a worthless government. And they laugh and talk about the past, including all the places they used to eat together in the city.
Out back after dinner, they hug and say goodbye, and plan their next trip to the Alabama Gulf Coast--the "redneck Riviera," Misener says with a chuckle. "This is what I miss. This is what makes me want to come back," he says. "If I could turn this all back, I wouldn't worry so much. I would just take what I had, and it would be great. I would even take the ginger back."