Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Mardi Gras amid the ruins

New Orleans has not even come close to recovering from Hurricane Katrina and the massive flooding from smashed levees, but Mardi Gras happened nonetheless today.

I had an assignment to cover the queer angle for a string of gay newspapers.

About 189,000 of New Orleans' 462,269 residents have returned to the city six months after a total evacuation was ordered, Katrina hit, the levees broke and 80 percent of the city was submerged in up to 20 feet of water.

The massive flooding from the levee breaks destroyed or severely damaged tens of thousands homes. At present, only a third of the city's residences have reconnected to the electricity grid.

Sections of neighborhoods such as Lakeview, the Lower 9th Ward and Gentilly, where the storm surge smashed through adjacent levees with tsunami-like force, remain nearly completely depopulated.

Other people can't come home yet because of their children. Only 20 of the city's 124 public schools are open.

It was a much smaller Mardi Gras in the gay area of the French Quarter this year but spirits were clearly high and some people said they preferred not being crushed by the crowds.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Carnival season kicks off in New Orleans

Carnival season got off to a raucous and politicized start Feb. 11 with the Krewe du Vieux parade through the Faubourg Marigny and French Quarter neighborhoods.

More than half of the 100-plus contingents took pot shots -- ranging from biting to lewd -- at city, state and federal officials and agencies for their perceived mishandling of the Hurricane Katrina disaster. The campy, gay-inclusive parade was the first of 59 Carnival parades that will take place in metro New Orleans this year -- fewer than usual. The season ends with Mardi Gras on Feb. 28.