We stayed at Le Pav less than a month before the hurricane (that visit here); here’s our trip a month *after* the hurricane:
Room: There *are* hotels open in New Orleans – they’re filled with government people. We were able to get a room at Le Pav for a couple of nights. I’m embarrassed to say what we paid for this room, but I can tell you that it was significant (what can you do?). This room, like the one we stayed in last time, was really small, and the bathroom this time was even smaller than our previous stay.
Lobby: The lobby is still as beautiful as ever. The hotel is filled with firefighters from Yonkers and EPA people and all kinds of government contractors. When Av was waiting for an elevator, a firefighter stopped him and half-jokingly asked if he was in the right place – he couldn’t believe that they had been put up in such a nice hotel.
Service: I’m just going to type in this letter that everyone receives at check-in:
September 26, 2005
Dear Hotel Guest,
We would first like to thank you for staying with us in our time of rebuilding the great city of New Orleans. During this rebuilding process some hotel services are not available and others, although available, are limited. As our guest, we would like to make you aware of these changes.
Due to the displacement of our staff, we are unable to provide daily housekeeping service. Once weekly service will be available. If you need anything such as towels, shampoo, soap, etc. please call extension 4250 and we will gladly bring it to you.
The water hotel is being treated with a chlorine solution but city officials have not yet declared it safe for drinking or brushing your teeth (my note: actually there were warnings that it wasn’t even, at the time, safe to get on your skin….so we brushed our teeth and bathed using bottled water.). We have bottled water available downstairs in the lobby near the elevator for your use, free of charge.
Late night front desk and telephone operator personnel will not be available between the hours of 11:00pm and 7:00am. Upon check in you will be provided with a direct phone number to your room which bypasses the operator station. Please give this number to anyone who may call you during these late hours. If you should need assistance, please speak to our security team located in the main lobby.
Breakfast and dinner will be available a la carte in the Gallery Lounge (and then it lists the hours). (My note: supper was a buffet on all disposable plates and cups. It was $25 per person.)
The Gallery Lounge will be open from 4:00pm to 11:00pm.
Room service is not available. If you need special assistance, dial 4250.
The rooftop pool, hot tub and fitness center is open from 5:00am to 1:00am.
Parking is located across the street. It is currently self-park, free of charge (my note: it stayed at capacity most of the day and night).
The cable television is not currently working (my note: we were only able to get one local channel on antenna).
Guest laundry and dry cleaning service is not available at this time.
Bell service is not available, however if you need to use a cart, one will be provided for you. If further assistance is needed, please let us know.
Our famous PB and J hour is ongoing between 10:00 and 11:00pm.
Thank you for your understanding and cooperation. If you have any questions or concerns, feel free to contact the front desk at extension 4250.
Food: We did have supper there one night, the only option was a buffet, and it was $25/pp.
Extra: The PB and J was nice.
Our experience is this:Le Pav wasn’t our favorite hotel before the hurricane, and although we appreciate that there was room for us, the fact that we paid a multiple of the rate we did last time didn’t exactly endear us to it. The Ritz is great (we stay there a few times each year), the Monteleone is nice, the W is cool, and Queen and Crescent isn’t expensive (those four are our fav hotels in New Orleans). Many more hotels are opening in December, and that should bring prices down.
Av and I made it back to New Orleans. Crossing over the causeway into Metairie was no problem, but there were checkpoints to get any further into the city. Av had his credentials so we had no trouble.
The first place we went to was Lakeview. I don’t know how to describe it…..it was dirty, dusty, there was an incredible putrid stink in certain places…..we got out of the car at one point and it was like we were the only two people left on the planet. All of the houses had water marks. 5′, 8′, 10′. The spray-painted signs showed if there were any bodies found. Thankfully, most of them showed a zero, but I saw one or two that had big numbers like nine. I told Av I thought that someone must have filled out the ‘x’ wrong. I don’t know. There were other signs, like someone had spraypainted a zero in the bottom quadrant of the ‘x’ but next to it put ‘one person still alive’. There was another that said “cat rescued 9/24”. There were also cars that had been spraypainted to show that they had been checked, and thankfully every one I saw had a zero on it. These are things you never expect to see, ever. Things you never even know to consider.
The French Quarter is much, much better. I’ll post pics of our hotel in a day or two, but we stayed at Le Pavillon along with tons and tons of EPA and other governmental people. The water wasn’t safe to drink or to get on your skin, so we bathed and brushed our teeth with bottled water. All the food was served on disposable plates. Not many places were open. FEMA, Red Cross, National Guard, government people were *everywhere*. We brought a couple of cans of gasoline with us on this trip, but we didn’t need them. We thought that there might not be gasoline available in New Orleans, but there were some stations open in Metairie and there was one off Lee Circle that was open and the attendant told Av that they had never even lost their power the whole time….
The Garden District did okay too. There was some flooding, but nothing like Lakeview.
BTW, the Superdome roof looks like junk. The outside of it has mostly been cleaned up – I remember very vividly seeing the pictures on television of stuff just being *everywhere*. The neutral ground on Canal is mostly cleaned up, and people are using it for parking (it’s not like the streetcar is going to be a problem). You can park anywhere and you won’t get booted – the police are being really nice about letting people park wherever, which is good because a lot of the parking decks aren’t open.
In Metairie, there was flooding and residents there have been back for a few days. We saw lots and lots of carpet and furniture thrown out, and refrigerators with duct tape around them. After that many days without electricity, nobody wants to open their refrigerator. Seriously.
I know I have lots more to say, but it’s really a little much to think about right now.
For now, I have a lot of pictures uploaded to my Flickr set from this trip.
Thanks for all the encouraging emails, and comments in my Flickr photostream about the Hurricane and aftermath.
My next project I’m starting is a publicity piece for my husband’s hometown community; it will be sent to several communities outside the state to let evacuees know that there are cities who really want them to come in right now, with open arms. So many of the evacuees went to Jackson or Baton Rouge or Houston or Memphis that there are issues in those places now with housing and school space (and other things).
I just can’t wait for the rebuilding in Louisiana and the MS coast to start in earnest. And I can’t wait to get back to New Orleans, the city I love.
Yesterday we went to the BJCC in Birmingham, as a few hundred evacuees had come there on buses. We dropped off the individual soaps, shampoos, conditioners, and lotions that I had (it was the same sack that I brought on our first trip to the coast; the places we went to really didn’t need them but at the BJCC, when I told them what I had, they said that was what they were really in need of right then).
Av and I went inside one of the convention halls that they have set up now as a Red Cross shelter. It is very nice, with cots and blankets, food, and air conditioning. They have clothes distribution, books for children, hair braiding, medical evaluations, crafts for children, everything you could imagine. There were so many local volunteers that they were actually turning those people away at the door, explaining that they were overrun by volunteers, but to come back later. Literally I would say that there was probably one volunteer per every one or two evacuees.
A clown leaving the BJCC after performing for children
We are already on a list for home hospitality for some people from New Orleans, but we did have space at least for that night for a couple of people. What happens is really odd – the Red Cross can’t match you up for liability reasons, so you go in, let the people at the desk know that you want to offer your home to someone, and they tell you to just go up to someone that you might like and talk to them. It’s almost like dating.
We talked to a man from Arabi, Louisiana (which is just over the river from New Orleans) who had 14 feet of water in his house. It is a total loss, and his car is totaled. He is there with his son, but his wife and two other sons he believes are in a shelter in Algiers. We offered them to come stay with us, but he didn’t want to leave because he had been on television and was afraid that she might see it and be able to come for them, and then they wouldn’t be there. We also wanted to take him to them, but what if they passed each other on the highway? A lot of the phone service in Louisiana (and Mississippi) is still down so you just don’t know what the other person knows or what their plans are or anything. It is just such a frightening thing.
Av and I went back to the coast bringing supplies for our second trip yesterday – this time, we brought less canned food and more fresh food. Friday we were told that some people had eaten beans from the can for a few days, so we decided that since we knew the food would be eaten immediately (so spoilage wouldn’t be an issue) we got our 20 or so cases of water but also brought tons of bread, muffins, sweet buns, a few cases of tomatoes, cantaloupes, peaches, plums, and apples. Av also bought some grocery sacks at Sam’s so that things could get divided and people could get some of everything.
Loading up the van for trip #2
We went to the farmer’s market in Birmingham, and when I told the people we were buying the fruit from that we were taking it to Mississippi, they gave us a discount and some free fruit too. Everybody wanted to help.
Av and I made our delivery, and people literally started eating the fruit it as soon as we took it out of the van. We pulled up (with a police escort) next to a truck full of bags of ice – which is really great, because ice is an important commodity. Other good news is that we passed convoy after convoy after convoy of National Guard on the highway down to the beach – one convoy was just of National Guard trucks towing boats, and there was another of this huge amphibious vehicle that took up about 1-3/4 lanes on the highway. I really wished that I had made a sign before we left that said ‘thank you’ that I could wave to the Guard and let them know how much everyone really does appreciate their help.
Av and I had to go to the coast, so we brought a van-load of supplies.
Av packing the last things in the van
Inside the van
We went to Sam’s and bought 22 cases of water, a bunch of diapers, baby wipes, food, baby formula, Parmalat (which I wasn’t familiar with, but it’s milk that’s safe to not be kept refrigerated), and toilet paper. We went to Wal-Mart and bought packs of underwear also (I figured that if people had been without power for a while, they might need fresh underwear). We bought a bunch more things, but that’s what’s coming to mind right now.
Soaps, shampoos, lotion from hotel stays
In front with me is a bag full of individual-size soaps, shampoos, conditioners, and lotions from hotel stays. I always keep these because I save them up and give them to a local homeless shelter. I figured this would be good for the people in shelters along the coast.
After filling up the van and gas cans, $69.30
5-gallon gas cans
Gas is in shortage right now, in Alabama south of Montgomery and in Mississippi from Jackson south. We filled up the van and also brought four 5-gallon gas cans in case we needed them or needed to give somebody else that was stranded some (it ended up that we did need to use one of the five gallon cans). When I went into a gas station just south of Birmingham, I overheard the station manager telling a truckdriver that things were really day-to-day in terms of supply, and that he had already called the local ambulance companies to let them know that when he got to a certain amount left, he was going to turn everything off and they could get the last of it.
The first thing we did was drive to Mobile. In Mobile, we checked on the people and places we needed to. Really, Mobile didn’t look super-bad. On Government Street, which is the street downtown that all the beautiful oaks line and form a sort of canopy over the street, there were tons of limbs down but I didn’t see any of the big oaks down. There was still a lot of power outages and trees and huge limbs down, but I didn’t see anything “blown away”. Part of downtown had flooded, but that had all gone down.
Below are a couple of pics of Mobile. Things are supposed to be *much* worse in Bayou La Batre and on the Eastern Shore (places like Fairhope, etc). Again, all the pics from this trip – well over a hundred – will be on Flickr, so click here to see them.
Mobile : Dew Drop Inn Sign
Mobile Regions Bank : Flag At Half-Mast
We drove over to Biloxi. I really expected that we would be stopped by someone and that Av would have to show his credentials so that we could get in, but it was no problem hopping off I-10 to Hwy 90 right where the Beau Rivage is situated.
The pictures on television really do not do justice to what has happened here. So much of Biloxi and Gulfport now is a giant mess and much of it just….lumber. I really don’t want to do a running commentary of what we saw because it *is* absolutely gut-wrenching, but I will be putting the pics up on Flickr (click here) so that those of you who are familiar with Biloxi/Gulfport can see what condition everything is in. I’m putting just four of the pictures below:
Lighthouse still standing, with flag
The first floor of this house was mostly washed out
Mattress Impaled by Tree Limb
Av and I drove as far down US90 as we could, which is to where the President’s Casino is in the middle of the road (literally). Blocking the rest of the highway was…the Arkansas Wildlife agency! Okay, so we dropped by their command post there at the MS Coast Coliseum and asked them what shelter to take our supplies to. They said (1.) do NOT go by yourself to a shelter. People will kill you trying to get at everything and (2.) there is a church on Pass Road that you can go to and everything will be orderly.
Soooo, we went to the church on Pass Road – a Baptist church – and they were *so* appreciative of everything. We gave them about half of everything we had (since we heard things were getting really tough in Hattiesburg and Laurel and we intended to go there with the other half). Some other people had brought by supplies to the church too, and they have specific times when people who need help can come by and get things.
(One note here: I know that the Red Cross says not to bring supplies, to just write them a check and they will do the rest. As we found with other hurricanes, this really doesn’t work so well if you are already in the area and are able to help, because the Red Cross can’t get to everybody and well, neither does the government. If you live in Seattle and want to help hurricane victims, then yes – write a check. But if you live in a neighboring state or are far enough away so that you have the means to bring help to people, that’s really a good thing. People suffer if not. I know the Red Cross would hate to hear someone say that, but that’s been my experience. Neighbors get there, and know the area, best.)
They were especially happy at the church to see that we brought diapers and milk and toilet paper, because they had been rationing diapers to four/baby and toilet paper to one roll/family. This whole thing was really heartbreaking.
I asked them who had been by to help and was told it was only people like me and Av that had brought things down. They had not seen the National Guard or FEMA or the Red Cross or **anyone**. This church is on Pass Road! Pass Road is a major road in that area….not hidden out in the sticks. Sad and infuriating. I mean, parts of highway 90 along the beach were very rough (I’m not incredibly sure we could have made it in my Volvo loaded down with supplies) but certainly passable for people in vans and SUVs.
So the hurricane happened on Monday, and here on Friday, in Gulfport, Mississippi – which G-d and everybody knows has been devastated – there has been no government assistance in a lot of places.
I am not a political person, by any means. I don’t especially like to watch television news because so much of it is sadness. But to know that four days after a catastrophic event our government has not:
gotten every single person out of the Superdome, Convention Center, and the streets, rooftops and attics of New Orleans
brought aid of every type – medicine, food, shelter, counseling, fuel, money – to the people in the afflicted areas
…tells me that the government really doesn’t have a clue. That no one has done their homework in the wake of 9/11, and that there’s no real plan as to how to get people out of a city or to bring help for thousands of people in. That we *can* set up tent cities overnight in places overseas and drop MRIs out of planes to people in deserts, but our government *cannot* mobilize the Guard and whomever else, that it can’t clear the rails for Amtrak to get as close to New Orleans as possible to take people out of the city, that it can’t or won’t get sufficient number of buses to move people out, that we don’t have resources set up to get food and medicine to places in our own country like New Orleans and Biloxi/Gulfport/Bay St. Louis even four days after something like this happens. I heard Jesse Jackson on television suggesting racism in New Orleans, but it seems to me to be just incredible ineptitude by those in the government – that no matter what color the victims are the government just can’t handle the situation. We ought to have every available resource pointed right at Louisiana/Mississippi/Alabama right now. And it should have started several days ago. I’m sorry if I sound like I’m on a rant, but I saw this on the coast first-hand. It is heartbreaking, sickening, and maddening.
One more thing. Av and I stopped in Ellisville, Mississippi with the rest of our supplies, because we had heard after Hurricane Ivan that smaller, less-known communities hurt more because aid wasn’t directed at them at all. Ellisville is off the coast, but they still don’t have power or fuel and things are very bad. We went to the police department to ask them if the people there needed supplies, and where we could take them if so. While we were there in front of the police department, someone pulled up to say that another person had threatened to shoot people if he didn’t get his cigarettes. The police chief told us a bunch of horrifying stories about people being desperate – over much more, and much less – than just cigarettes. He also said that we couldn’t go alone (again, there would be violence), so he and some other police escorted us to a school where people were waiting.
While we pulled up to the school, he told the people there on his speaker to get in a line to receive supplies. No sooner had we turned off the engine now that we were in an adjacent parking lot, but there were more than a dozen cars already in line. We gave them everything we had. They were *so* appreciative. It was like being in a dream where a hundred things are going on but you just stand there watching, not knowing what to say. All I could make out was “G-d bless y’all”. Unbelievable. The police chief said to everybody in line, “I want y’all to know this isn’t the government, this isn’t from FEMA. These people drove here from Alabama.” Nobody from the government or the Red Cross had been there. We left and I rolled down the window and said, “do y’all need us to be here again tomorrow?” and he said that absolutely, they do.
Getting some sleep, then off to Sam’s for more supplies.