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Judy Patsch 04-10-2007 12:53 PM

My New Orleans trip report
 
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Ok, I've gotten most of the wreckage cleaned up which my 'kids' caused while Mom was away, so here goes with some observations and pix from my visit to NOLA and the NATCHEZ April 3-8. When I arrived last Tuesday, it was 87 degrees. When I left Sunday, it was raining and 40 degrees. I always bring the cold air with me from the north! At least this time it was gradual: 87, 73, 69, 63, 53, 40... I planned this trip to coincide with the stay of Franz, Carmen, and Leonie before they cruised on the GRANDEUR OF THE SEAS, and it just happened that the NATCHEZ' narrator wanted some time off, so I got to narrate Wednesday-Saturday. I always stand on the roof so I can see what is occurring, and I use the pilothouse as a shield against the wind. It was sunny until Saturday, so even with the cooler temps, it was fine up there in the sun. The NATCHEZ is running more trips now, some subject to cancellation a day ahead if it looks like there won't be any business. She is running at least one trip every day, the 2:30. This week we ran the 2:30 and dinner on Wednesday, the 11:30 and 2:30 on Thursday, and all three on both Friday and Saturday. We never went over 300 pax a trip and the lowest count was 96. Most were in the low 200s. This is much improved over my last visit in November, when fewer trips were made and sometimes the pax count was 25. Of course, under normal circumstances during this week the counts would be upwards of 500 for all 21 cruises during the week. So, like the city itself, the NATCHEZ business is improving, but it still has a long way to go to get back to profitability. What they are making now will keep her running, but the debts incurred to this point are staggering. They have sold the two swamp boats and closed the restaurant there, they are trying to sell the JOHN JAMES AUDUBON, and are looking for smaller office space in the WTC. So basically the New Orleans Steamboat Co. is now the NATCHEZ, period. She is still carrying a minimal crew, but she's steaming along. Capt. Steve is now living on the second floor of his home while finishing the first. He just got rid of his FEMA trailer, which is a milestone. Capts. Don and Troy are still working on their homes, as are most of the crew members. Tuesday night Doc and I went over to our favorite burger joint, Ruby Reds, on the westbank. Since Doc doesn't have a car, the only time he gets over there is when I'm in town. Doc is doing just fine, playing the calliope occasionally and working at the auction house. He'll be on the Memphis-Cincy DQ race trip. Wednesday :After driving around the city and checking out the progress - and there is progress -, I narrated a trip and then went out to MSY to pick up Leonie and parents. A PT Cruiser rental car does not have much trunk space! They stayed down the street from me at LE Richelieu and had a pleasant stay there. I was able to keep my car in that lot, free, so we didn't have to jockey cars around in our driveway. Free parking at a hotel in NOLA is a rarity - LeR is really a nice place and a good deal, a family run hotel. Thursday: I drove them around on the 'disaster tour' and then we rode the N. both trips. We then had a gathering in my courtyard for the crew. Ever since I gave my neighbor Ott the recipe for Planters Punch, he looks for any opportunity to make it, so we cohost the patio party every visit. Friday: we zipped through Robin St. wharf. The only remnant of the DQ Co. days is the huge "Welcome Steamboaters" sign hanging over the arrival area (its still there, too big for my suitcase) Otherwise the shed is stripped of everything. The La. State Police are storing some of their cars in there. I dropped them off at the AQ at Erato St, where they boarded and visited with Keith Tinnin and got the grand tour. I'll let them tell you about their findings. After narrating the 2 day trips, I took them across the river to Ruby Reds. Alas and alack, it being Good Friday, it was closed. So we ate hamburgers at a Sonic, good but not RR good. Then it was back to watch the AQ leave. It sure sounded like Steve Spracklen on the calliope as she turned and headed upriver under the bridges. Saturday: This brought cooler temps and a cloudy and sometimes rainy day, but I was able to stay out on the roof to narrate anyway. Leonie got a good look at her ship as we turned by it on the 11:30 trip, and on our 2:30 trip they got to see the N. from their ship. I stayed on the N. and photographed the departure of the GRANDEUR at 5PM, and could see our .org crew waving farewell. I rode the dinner trip, which still features the wonderful Dukes of Dixieland - there is no better place to hear Dixieland than on the N. Preservation Hall is not open every night, and many musicians have left the area due to lack of work. Sunday: The cold rain and 40 degrees made me not sad to leave town this time. Hopefully the next time I go down it will be to clean up and reclaim my apartment. They are now giving Marion a target date of June 1 for their house to be ready - barring delays. And there are always delays and problems. The fortitude of the people is amazing to me. It is one frustration after another, and as Don pointed out, waiting in line forever. I found the big WalMart on Tchoupitoulas open and well-stocked, but they had 20 checkout lanes. 3 were open. I got through the 'speedy checkout' in 14 minutes... I left NOLA this time feeling much better than previous visits. There IS progress, There are more businesses open, there are more tourists around. The port is operating at its pre-Katrina capacity. The cruise ship companies aren't all back yet, but the cargo tonnage is approximating the old days. There is so much to do yet and so much frustration. I think Capt. Steve Nicoulin summed it up well. He said that when he moved down there in 1975 to start up the NATCHEZ, they were still talking about and building up, from Hurricane Betsy, which had struck 10 years earlier. This devastation was much more widespread and more severe, so it obviously isn't rectified in a year or even two or three. New Orleans and the NATCHEZ are alive, they aren't well yet, but they are alive and steaming along. Following is a potpourri of pix...1) This is Ground Zero for Katrina. This is the lower 9th Ward. The levee collapse occurred a couple of blocks away, this side of the blue bridge. The progress in this pix is that this area, about 3 blocks deep and 10 long, has been cleared of the destroyed houses. 2) Well, not totally cleared. This is from the same spot, but turning and looking downriver. Buildings can't be torn down without owner's approval, and although its obvious they aren't salvageable, the wait goes on... 3) A couple of blocks away from the canal. The flags are flying on St. Claude Avenue.

Judy Patsch 04-10-2007 01:06 PM

NOLA cont. Steamboat Houses
 
3 Attachment(s)
1 and 2) These are the famous Steamboat Houses, built by riverboat captain Milton Doullut in 1904. This is the one he built for his daughter, across Egania St. from his house. These are also in the Lower 9th, only about a mile from the first set of pix, but this area is salvageable. The land along the river is higher than inland, so they sustained less water damage here. In fact, this house is being lived in now. 3) This is on the University of New Orleans campus. I'm standing on the levee and taking the pix of the FEMA trailer park in UNO's big field. Look carefully along the levee and in the back you'll see a yellow framed structure. This was the framework for the altar from which Pope John Paul II said mass for 450,000 people in Sept. 1987. FEMA trailers were put wherever there was room. If your yard was big enough, you were able to have yours in front of your house.

Judy Patsch 04-10-2007 01:19 PM

My house, the Beauregard-Keyes House
 
3 Attachment(s)
1) The Beauregard-Keyes House from the corner of Ursulines and Chartres. My apartment is under the back porch, to the left of the pix. That's a formal garden behind the brick wall. 2) Here's my make-shift room, Mrs. Keyes' bedroom. This is in the back buildings surrounding the courtyard. My neighbor Ott hauls in two of my chairs and puts a TV in there for me. Not a bad setup...3) Here's the room adjoining my room. Note the little refrigerator Ott supplies for me. The two drawbacks to this place: no hot water and no AC.

Judy Patsch 04-10-2007 01:27 PM

Our .org crew
 
3 Attachment(s)
1) Our Planters Punch party in the courtyard. The open door in the background goes to my temporary quarters. My apartment is to the right. Franz, Carmen, and Leonie are to the right near Debbie Fagnano the calliope player. Across the table are Don Houghton, 'little' Steve Nicoulin, and big Steve Nicoulin. 2) In the NATCHEZ pilothouse somewhere around the General Anchorage: Capts. Leonie Winkler, Don Houghton, and Steve Nicoulin. Note the confidence Don and Steve have in Leonie. 3) Taken on Saturday, about 45 degrees, on the Moonwalk. Leonie, Franz and Carmen pose in front of both the NATCHEZ and the GRANDEUR OF THE SEAS.

Judy Patsch 04-10-2007 01:31 PM

MQ, AQ
 
3 Attachment(s)
1) the MQ at Perry St. wharf, taken from the roof of the NATCHEZ. No work was being done that was visible. 2) the AQ pointed downriver at Erato St. Terminal 3) the AQ from the NATCHEZ

Judy Patsch 04-10-2007 01:37 PM

Off to blue water...
 
3 Attachment(s)
1) Franz scoping out the AQ as the NATCHEZ turned around. The undamaged barge from RiverBarge is just upstream of the AQ. 2) Our intrepid trio on the GRANDEUR, under the lifeboat as the N. passed on our 2:30 trip. 3) Bon voyage! They are once again under the midship lifeboat as the GRANDEUR approaches Algiers Bend enroute to the Gulf (bow is to the left). Their cabin is one deck below the life boat deck, just forward of the larger square windows.

Jo Ann Schoen 04-10-2007 03:18 PM

WOW, Judy. Great photos. No thanks on the BIG ship. Give me brown water anytime. That photo of Captain Leonie is "priceless"!

Christopher Wirtjes 04-11-2007 04:29 AM

Judy I applaud you on your N.O. trip posting. You did a great job and I appreciate it. It's good to hear how my friends in N.O. and the N.O.S.C. are doing. Thank you very much. Applauds!

Judy Patsch 04-11-2007 09:22 AM

Thanks Chris. I believe you used to live out on Waldo, didn't you? That neighborhood is the most vibrant one of those inundated - most of the homes are being repaired, there are FEMA trailers everywhere, the UNO campus is filled with cars, a huge new dorm is going up, and the Schwegmanns on Leon Simon is now a Sav a Center, well-stocked and busy. It is good to drive through that area and see the progress.

Thomas Hawkins 04-11-2007 11:03 AM

Did they get rid of the blue sides and blue trim on AQ? I noticed only the blue deck edge. If this is the case, a big improvement


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