I got in this afternoon from my trip to New Orleans, which turned out to be very enjoyable.
I’ll be posting pictures and more stuff later on, but I’ll tell a few highlights now…
The NACBA convention was very good. I learned a lot, both about the mechanics of bankruptcy law practice in the post-BARF (Bankruptcy Abuse Reform Fiasco) era, as well as the work of NACBA to challenge the most onerous of BARF’s provisions through litigation.
One of the coolest parts of the trip was being in NOLA during the Mayoral campaign. In fact (I’ll post pictures later), my Dad and I got to see Mayor Ray Nagin when his entourage was driving through the French Quarter and we later went to his victory party (which we luckily happened in our hotel), where I heard possibly one of the best political speches of my life. I know Nagin is controversial and has shot off his mouth too often, but I do like the guy and am very glad that he won.
Portland, OR may get all of the attention (which it certainly deserves), but I almost think that New Orleans has the potential of being the #1 bicycling city in the US. There are few bike lanes (which are over-rated anyway… read Forrester’s Effective Cycling on this point), but much of the old-part of the city (I mostly biked in the French Quarter and Mahiqny) is as flat as a pancake, with narrow roads and slow traffic (in most case the bikes can go faster than the cars actually). But more than that, there is a huge bike culture there. Bikes were everywhere, old clunkers, lots of cruisers, re-habbed department store Mountain bikes (most purchased by locals on the cheap from a local organization that is getting bikes into the hands of folks who need transportation), and especially lots of bikes with cargo capabilities. — And my favorite part (what bliss) was all of the cute alternative-type girls on bicycles. I swear, I fell in love several times with dark-haired women who were riding old clunkers with a milk crate basket for cargo. There is nothing sexier than a bicycling woman.
Bourbon street reminded me a lot of Sixth street in Austin, except you could buy drinks to go (and carry them around as you walked on the street) and there was less live music. It also reminded me of Austin in that it was infested with way too many frat/sorority whitebread types.
But, the one exception to the overrated decadence of Bourbon Street was an awesome brass band that played on most nights at the corner of Canal & Bourbon. The guys in the band were all young Black men. There were I think 3 trumpets, 2 trumbones, a tuba (oh yeah!), a baritone, a sax (don’t remember if it was an alto or a tenor), a snare drum, and a bass drum with a cymbol on top. And boy were they good, playing with such fervor and energy which was punctuated by a really solid bass drum foundation.
The best part of the French Quarter was along Decatur Street — with Crescent City Brewhouse, Cafe du Monde (home of the famous chicory&coffee brew & their incredible beignets… btw, K. if you are reading this — thanks for introducing me to beignets back in Austin), the French Market area, the Cathedral, etc. This area definitely was far more enjoyable to hang out in that Bourbon Street (well actually, I liked buying a beer on Bourbon and then riding my bike over to Decatur to then hang out)
Speaking of beer, most of the crap served on Bourbon was macros. However, Abita was available quite a bit (mostly their Amber, but also occassionally the nicely roasted Turbodog), and Crescent City had a good selection of German-styled beers (my favorites were the Red Stallion and the Black Forest)
As for the state of the city post-Katrina, things are in pretty good shape in the old parts of town that were spared of the worst flooding, but the rest of the town is still in pretty bad shape. Like all fiascos, there are few easy answers and no single scape-goat, but I will say that from what I saw NOLA is screwed if another hurricaine hits and the federal government really doesn’t care. Given the massive resources of the federal government (and especially how much is being wasted in the lost-war in Iraq), it is inexcusable that the levees are still in such bad shape and that real flood gates haven’t been built yet where they are most needed.
The locals are pretty antagonistic towards the government (and I don’t blame them). Some of the t-shirts said…
FEMA — The new 4-letter F Word
FEMA Evacuation plan — Run m—–f—-, run
Make Levees not war (I bought this shirt)
But despite this antagonism towards the government, I didn’t really sense much racial tension to speak of. Folks there seemed to understand that everyone was suffering from the governmental ineptitude and that race wasn’t really the primary issue (probably class is a bigger deal).
Of a more light-hearted statement about governmental leaders, one shirt I saw had Mayor Ray Nagin’s face super-imposed on the body of Willy Wonka (of Chocolate Factory fame), with the words “Willy Nagin and the Chocolate City — Semi-sweet and a little nutty”
Overall, I loved New Orleans and relish the thought of going back soon (maybe to do some pro-bono work). NOLA has plenty of problems, but I think they have enough pluck and passion to make it (particularly if their glorious bicycle culture continues to flourish… they may end up being better off than the rest of us when gas prices are $10/gallon)