Do You Want Fries With That? Friday, Aug 28 2015 

TW K10

When the McDonald’s opened on Judge Perez in Chalmette in May 2012 I was pretty excited (especially for an environmentalist). To me it represented growth, change and recovery. In fact, you could say that McDonald’s represented hope to me:

  • It was going to be open 24 hours a day in the heart of Chalmette.
  • It has free wi-fi providing access to people who can’t afford it.
  • It has “healthy” food (hey, it’s the south. McDonald’s has salad and yogurt!)
  • It was the third location to open in da parish.

It was the last point that was most important to me. I can’t imagine a multi-national corporation investing capital/supporting a franchisee to build a new location if they didn’t think it would be sustaining. The large number of other fast food chains popping up support this logic too.  Sandwiched as it is between the Lower 9th ward — which has almost nothing by way of groceries/restaurants — and New Orleans East — which is also a food desert, St. Bernard is experiencing a recovery of sorts economically, even when on a personal level people are still suffering.

St. Bernard Parish was about 50% returned as of the last census, maybe 55-60% now. It’s a changed community. Lots more green space — where houses used to be — and not everyone is home.


So many people have moved across the lake to St. Tammany Parish that its nickname is now St. Tamm-Bernard. So certainly, recovery does not mean restoration to a pre-Katrina state. That is, unfortunately, never going to happen.

But the McDonald’s made me think…and these are questions I’ll be asking in my dissertation research…

  • What are your signs of recovery?
  • What was the marker (or what will it be if it hasn’t happened yet) that let you know your community is in recovery/has recovered?
  • What makes you feel like your home is back?

Because I feel like we have a lot of “fake signs of recovery“. Take this “lovely” social housing project for example.


Known as Marrero Commons, these houses, just a few blocks away from me on Martin Luther King Blvd are supposed to replace BW Cooper/Calliope. Until Katrina there were 1,550 units. Construction started in 2008 and people moved in four years later. According to the HANO website there are 250 units, of which 143 are public housing. Phase One cost of $158 million. Even assuming that the website is out of date, there were over 4,000 residents pre-Katrina and less then 1,000 at the 2010 census.

Or what about this lovely patch of green grass and fresh mulch on the neutral ground on Claiborne in the Lower 9th. I was workers out laying this on August 19th and 20th 2015…just in time for the President and all the media that is descending for K10.


I guess it’s important that the L9 looks good this week, but it doesn’t matter how the community feels about it the rest of the year. Are they not important enough for nice grass?

So tell me GNO folks. Have you a personal marker of recovery? What is it?


St. Bernard Parish Wednesday, Nov 24 2010 

While I tell people back home that I live in New Orleans, it’s like saying Toronto for Whitby, or Peterborough for Bridgenorth. I actually live in Arabi which is a small town in St. Bernard Parish which is the parish directly adjacent to the Lower Ninth ward in Orleans Parish (New Orleans).

St. Bernard was completely flooded during Katrina. Floodwaters ranged from 2 to 28 ft and lasted for two weeks.

This is the water line at the gym of Camp Hope (where volunteers stay and where I lived for a month in May). It is about a mile north from my house, one street to the west.

Details on the state of the parish and return are found in the 5 year anniversary report. Return is happening slowly but surely and the parish is changing.

Very faint lettering show the search symbol used during Katrina. The upper quadrant says 9-4 (Sept 4th) the date someone came through looking for people. This is on my house.

A more visible symbol is found here:

The 2010 State of St Bernard Report says “As our population growth continues to meander upward and now is estimated to be in the 42,000 range, awaiting the official census count in April of 2010, we have seen a great increase in the diversity within our community. While it is perceived that about 65% of the population is made up of St. Bernard residents who returned home, the other 35% of the population appears to be newly established residents.” The influx of new people is important as St Bernard Parish was about 93% white before the storm and is greatly diversifying.

Much of the flooding came from the impact of the waters rushing up the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet aka the Mr. Go.

It is an often ignored area in the story of Katrina. New Orleans was 80% flooded, SBP was 100% flooded. But SBP was more cut-off from the media who converged on the city (you had to get through the badly flooded ninth ward to get to SBP).  So it is exciting to read stories that look at the impact of the flooding in St Bernard (plus, since they are technically related to my PhD I don’t have to feel like I am taking time away from school!).

I wrote previously about books that I liked related to New Orleans and Jenni shared one of her favourites a couple weeks ago.

At the local library in SBP I recently came across Lost in Katrina by Mikel Schaefer which reminded me of one of my other favourites The Good Pirates of the Forgotten Bayous: Fighting to Save a Way of Life in the Wake of Hurricane Katrina by Ken Wells. Next on the list is St. Bernard Fire Department in Hurricane Katrina by Michelle Buuck.

Schaefer’s book is so-far amazing, especially now that I am more familiar with the area. The scenes and businesses – and in some cases people – are familiar to me. I know where they are.

Visitors Thursday, Nov 11 2010 

My colleague from the Professional Writers Association of Canada, Bob Bott, is in town for a few days. He’s travelling on a 900 miles bike trip from Katy, TX to Panama City, Florida over a 5-6 week period.

Tonight we went to a Chalmette, LA institution – Rocky and Carlo’s Restaurant and Bar for dinner. Tomorrow or Saturday perhaps a tour of Katrina destruction and on Sunday the PoBoy Preservation festival.

Here Bob enjoys deep-fried oysters, red beans and rice and “wop salad” (yes that’s what it is really called. Of course, this is also the place where the signs say “Ladies Invited”.)

%d bloggers like this: