Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Hangin' with James and Mary, while respecting their privacy. Until now, of course.

My second day of Habitat for Humanity was cancelled without much of a reason, which is something of a bummer. But even more of a bummer is just how things look in those areas most brutalized by Katrina. We rented a car for a day starting yesterday afternoon and drove around the Ninth Ward leading up to those famous failed levees on Lake Pontchartrain. Some areas look to be heavily rehabilitated. Others are filled with house after house of windowless, tattered shells of former homes. I drove around some more this morning and noticed dozens of now equally-worn FEMA trailers parked beside houses that are obviously under varying degrees of repair. Most noticable to me, however, is how the grasses and trees have essentially grown back fully, often lending a feeling of marsh land to certain neighborhoods. If you didn't venture out of the French Quarter or Central City it would be hard to imagine that life had not returned to normal. In short, I'm glad to have taken a bit of time to see just how much of a dichotomy that is when you compare it with life in the flood zones. I can do it no justice through description and, sadly, I didn't do much to help this week as it turned out. But a little bit of education goes a long way.

On a much brighter note, Sarah and I splurged on a classic New Orleans restaurant last night. K-Paul's Lousiana Kitchen in the French Quarter, owned by Chef Paul Prudhomme (a dead ringer for Dom Deluise of the "Cannonball Run" era). The food was very good, even though we're convinced yet again that even the exceptional versions of this style of cuisine ain't exactly our fave. But midway through our delightful meal, we got a surprise celeb sighting that added a star to the rating. James Carville, Mary Matalin and their kids sat down at the table next to us. For me, it was like seeing Miley Cyrus plop down next to me in the high school cafeteria. But Sarah - as a credit to her infinite wisdom - convinced me to not approach them and just let them have their family time. After a while, two pharmaceutical reps from a large table across the room approached and asked to have a picture taken with a make-up-less Mary. She declined. Graciously. I got to overhear James order a "double order of gumbo". I gained new respect for them given that it was a big Primary night and they chose to skip watching the results and have a meal with their kids. I didn't even see one check of a Blackberry or the like, even as we lingered over dessert. Maybe James saw what was coming for Hillary and just wanted to escape. Regardless, we finished our meal and walked around the French Quarter. Sarah swore that she saw James checking me out. That was reward enough. My rating for the restaurant - a solid B. With a gold star for the company (wink, wink).

After that, we headed to "Iron Man" with a friend who grew up here and moved back from Austin a year ago. The same friend (Peter) who the night prior brought us to Cooter Brown's for super po'boys and Dos Jeffes for cigars (don't ask). My ratings - Cooter Brown's (B-plus), Dos Jeffes Cigar Bar (B-plus), "Iron Man" (A-minus). Good times in all three cases. In the case of "Iron Man", Robert Downey Jr. is having more fun than anyone on the planet at the moment. The movie is perfect blockbuster fare, satisfying in every way. The design is pitch-perfect and really fun to watch. I couldn't imagine a better way to start the summer movie onslaught. See it.

Hope your own trips back home today feature an extra seat and double bags of almonds. Rock on.

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