Nov 12, 2008

A Plea for New Orleans

I was a guest on Voluntourism.org today, and we talked about having ApacheCon in New Orleans, why we had it there, and how we incorporated Voluntourism into the conference. ApacheCon chose New Orleans this year for a number of reasons, but one of them was an email that I wrote to the Apache Members almost two years ago in an attempt to help them understand why New Orleans needed (and still needs) all the economic stimulation she can get. I read this mail on the show today and agreed to post it on my blog, so here it is:


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From: Brian W. Fitzpatrick
Date: Wed, Dec 27, 2006 at 1:16 AM
Subject: A plea for New Orleans for ApacheCon 2008
To: Members of the Apache Software Foundation

As a native New Orleanian who just returned from New Orleans (~3
hours ago), I'd like to strongly advocate that we have ApacheCon
2008 in New Orleans, and for the following reasons:

1. New Orleans provides plenty of entertaining things to do in the
evenings for you and your friends. Things don't close at 2AM. or 3
for that matter.
2. It's within walking distance of the French Quarter (about 2 blocks
to Bourbon Street).
3. It's next to Harrah's casino (I didn't go in this time, but
pre-hurricane, I found it kind of dumpy).
4. The food. It's amazing. Red beans and rice anyone? Gumbo? Po-boys?
5. Coffee and beignets, mmm mmm mmm.
6. Other cool trips you can make over the weekend: River plantations
tour, the zoo is amazing, the aquarium is awesome, take a streetcar
ride down St. Charles and see some of the beautiful French and Spanish
architecture of the Garden District. Take a riverboat cruise on the
Natchez.

I could go on and on and on, but the main reason that I want us to
have AC 2008 in New Orleans is this:

While the French Quarter (and most other neighborhoods along the river
which are actually above sea level and didn't flood) is still a pretty
hopping place with food and drink aplenty, New Orleans is still
suffering greatly from hurricane Katrina and the levee breach that
filled the city with water. While I was down for Christmas visiting
my family in Metairie (a suburb), I took a drive through the city
proper, and I was devastated.

For 16 months now I've been watching video footage of New Orleans with
suitably awed newscasters repeating over and over that "you can't
possibly understand the devastation that this city underwent without
coming here to see for yourself."

Well, let me say it once again: You can't possibly understand the
devastation that this city underwent without coming here to see
for yourself.


I drove through the Lakeview neighborhood (closest to the floodwall
breach), and SIXTEEN months later, it still looks like Beirut
on a bad day. I'd guess that about one house in 50 is inhabited.
City streets are so bad that you can barely manage 15mph in a rental
car. Street signs are mostly non-existent. Houses are gutted,
abandoned, and falling in on themselves. What used to be a grand old
neighborhood is now so much bulldozer fodder.

Mid-City, where I went to high school, is better, but not by much.
The closer you get to the river, the better things get, but they're
still not great. In the Central Business District, the Hyatt by the
Superdome is still abandoned. The New Orleans Center next to it, a
shopping mall/office building, stands decrepit with broken windows a
daily reminder of the hell that happened here [Remember, I wrote this
in December of 2006 -Fitz].

Metairie, where I grew up, is better, but it's still crippled--FEMA
trailers still litter each city block. To get a feeling for what it's
like, take the neighborhood you grew up in and rip out every 3rd tree.
Park a trailer on the front lawn of every 7th house. Leave 1 house in
20 abandoned. Leave 1 house in 35 gutted and abandoned. Now burn
down and remove 1 house in 40. Demolish 1 house in 50. Lean fences
over precariously, buckle sidewalks, and board up storefronts. It's
truly heartbreaking to see, and this is SIXTEEN months later
(and believe me, my family lucked out big time with minimal
damage to their homes).

So what's the point of this long rambling email? New Orleans needs
economic help. They need you, me, or anyone to show up and spend
money. They need anything and everything that they can get. Sure
they've got their problems with selfishness, greed, and corruption
(every city does--New Orleans is just famous for it :-). It will
never be the same, but I think it would be nice for the ASF to help
out "The City that Care Forgot" and have a good time in the process.

Laissez les bon temps roullez!

-Fitz

2 comments:

brettporter said...

And thanks for doing so - I really enjoyed my first trip to New Orleans and this year's ApacheCon, the most of any I've been to so far.

James Gerber said...

Hi Brian,

I just saw your post because I was trying out this new tool I came across that searches for people's comments.

It was good to see you at the show and great job on Voluntourism.org. I really like the email that you wrote to everyone about it, very moving. It was a good call to have it in New Orleans. I myself wasn't sure what to expect, but being there at the conference and Voluntourism Day was pretty eye-opening. New Orleans is a city still trying to get back to what it was, but more importantly, its people it seemed to me have hope.