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Our Magnificent Journey
Chapter 8
New Orleans


Carol and David on the job  
Day 3

I drove my Chevy to the levee but the levee was gone...


We woke at 5:30AM. Did not shower - what's the use? We were going to get sweaty and stinky within the hour.


Met Marc and Muriel in the ornate dining room for another one of Brad's delicious breakfasts of fresh fruit with whipped cream, orange juice, coffee, egg/cheese/garlic/tomato souffle and sweet cinammon rolls. We visited for a while with Brad and Larry, his partner and co-owner who had just returned via train from Mississippi during the night.


Larry and David


We jumped into the car for the half hour drive down Canal Street to Rampart, southeast on Rampart straight out to Violet in St. Bernard Parish, and Camp Hope. Met up with Rebecca and our team, Black Four, around 18 volunteers led by Ben, who lives in Alaska working in construction. Ben saw how badly help is needed in New Orleans, so he bought a one-way ticket and has been here for four months now.



We followed the yellow school bus to our first destination - a cockroach infested house deep in St. Bernard Parish. Ben, Marc and I did the initial walk-through and "critter search" and then the entire team proceeded to strip the house down to the bare floor and studs. We accomplished this in less than four hours. I worked in the kitchen, and when I swung the sledge hammer to tear down the counter tops, about a million cockroaches started coming out of the walls not unlike a Stephen King movie. There were roaches everywhere. During a break I felt something wiggling inside the finger of my glove and found a roach in there.


On the job


Gutted house


Marc, Muriel, Carol, David and Rebecca - break time


On the job - notice the storm debris still on the roof, 16 months afterwards.


During a break at 11:30 I did a live radio interview with Thomas from station KVNR in Paonia Colorado. Thomas is originally from New Orleans and we spent about ten minutes talking about the dire situation that continues to surround New Orleans and the Gulf Coast.


We then took a lunch break, and Carol, Marc, Muriel and I drove miles until we found a Walgreens (not much is open in St. Bernard Parish) where we were able to use the bathroom. We also restocked our Snickers supply.


We rejoined the team and drove to the next house, which was truly a nightmare. It had sat in flood waters well above the roof for so long that the house and its contents were still damp, muddy, moldy and crumled to the touch. But what is most memorable are the smells. The mud and mold-encrusted floors, walls and ceilings were one thing, but there is absolutely no way that words can accurately describe the stench that surrounds refrigerators that have contained uncooled food for more than a year and a half. We found two in this house, and even though we duct-taped them thoroughly, when we moved them on dollies the contents simply drained out the rusted-out bottoms. The stench cleared the entire house in seconds, and at least two members of the team became ill outside. About half the team could not return back inside, and I waited about fifteen minutes before attempting it, and once back inside, it was hard not to gag. Once back inside, however, I immediately slipped and fell into the puddle of stinking nameless goo that had leaked out of the refrigerators. Not only did I incur some pain on my right side, you can not imagine how I smelled for the rest of the afternoon. People were running away from me.


Carol on the job



The house, like the others, was full of memories. Rebecca found a large family bible and two photo albums, and she carefully placed them outside to hopefully dry out.


Finally we were glad to see the arrival of the yellow school bus indicating the end of the work day. We could go clean up. None of us could imagine that we would ever get clean again. We were what Carol calls "Outer Limits Dirty." I could not get into the car smelling as bad as I did, so I took of most of my clothes, sneakers and socks, threw them into the trunk, then drove us back to Walgreens where Carol bought me sweat pants and flip-flops. At least my new clothes were clean.


We then drove to Musician's Village, where we found Chuck in his new house. We apologized for our stench, but Chuck was very happy to see us again. We introduced him to Marc and Muriel and we visited for a while, then said goodbye and drove back to the B&B. Carol and Muriel took showers while Marc and I drove to the nearest laundromat and washed our stinky clothes and sneakers. I didn't think we could ever get those clothes clean, but God bless soap and hot water. Then back to the B&B where Marc and I took long showers.


Carol, Chuck and David


Rebecca drove up from Camp Hope and the five of us went to the French Quarter where we had a delicious dinner at a restaurant called Mimi's on Royal Street. We thoroughly enjoyed the evening and on the way back to the car we stopped at a popular club called the Spotted Cat where we listened outside to the klezmer music the band was playing inside. We saw Michael, one of our team members from Ohio.


Back at the B&B, we said goodnight to Rebecca and crawled up the wooden stairs and fell into bed after a very smelly but productive day.


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