Tuesday, September 26, 2006

After the Flood All the Colors Came Out

Yesterday was truly a beautiful day. It's Fall, and the weather was crisp and perfect. In class my students and I discussed my favorite story, the Epic of Gilgamesh. Then I biked to downtown where I heard Cowboy Mouth. There I met my friend Mark who had lost his job at Xavier after Katrina. He had just learned that Xavier is rehiring him to the faculty. So my favorite colleague is coming back, which alone would have made the day one of the best. Then the Superdome reopened, Mark and I went inside, stood in long lines for beer and andouille sausages, and watched Green Day and U2 perform. Then Irma Thomas and Allen Toussaint sang the most beautiful rendition of the national anthem that I've ever heard. The Superdome was incredibly loud, filled with people who desperately needed something for which to cheer. Ninety seconds into the game, the Saints blocked a punt and recovered it in the endzone. At that moment, the Superdome was full of so much energy, it was like nothing that I've ever experienced. Then the Saints did something I have never seen them do: they played 4 quarters of mistake free football, and they beat the favored Falcons on Monday Night Football by a score of 23-3. Biking home at midnight smiling strangers I met wanted to talk about the game. Others just shouted "Three and O, Baby!" I'm so thankful to have experienced such a great day.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

It's Time to Start Rebuilding New Orleans

Dear Louisiana Recovery Authority,
I live in Mid-City New Orleans. It has been 391 days since my neighborhood flooded. My neighbors and I worked very hard to create a Mid-City recovery plan. We then worked with Cliff James and the Lambert-Danzey team, and yesterday I heard Mr. James present our plan at City Hall. It appears that it will cost just over $100 million to fix our neighborhood's streets, sidewalks, lights, and sewer. There are federal funds available for fixing things such as this in New Orleans, only your organization wouldn't release the funds until we had a plan. So I'm letting you know that my neighborhood, like many others, has a plan. We don't want to wait for another year until the Unified New Orleans Plan is finished. You've given $28.5 million to tourism recovery. Now please start the long process of fixing the infrastructure for the people who live here, those of us who don't frequent Bourbon Street.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Insurance Company + Disastor + Haag Engineering="Malicious Denials of Claims"

I've written quite a bit over the past year about how Allstate is denying the structural damage part of our claim based on a report from Haag Engineering.

A jury in Oklahoma ruled that State Farm, the nation's largest insurer, used Haag reports to "maliciously deny policyholder claims." Now State Farm is forced under court order to submit to questioning about how they handle claims practices with Haag. Chairman and CEO Edward Rust admitted that State Farm would not have used Haag to assess Hurricane Damage if they had to do it all over again. State Farm also has a moratorium on using Haag Engineering. "Based upon what I know now," Rust said, "I'm supportive of the moratorium and the review. And we, you know, did not have that knowledge prior to this."

Marr, the attorney representing the people in Oklahoma who had their homes destroyed and their claims denied, asked Rust: "Do you find it coincidental the Watkins verdict and the jury's findings regarding State Farm's use of biased engineers and the allegations being levied against State Farm in Mississippi are for the same thing?"

Rust: "I find it troublesome."

Marr: "Do you believe it is representative of a pattern?"

Rust: "No, I don't, but I do find it troublesome. If there is an issue with Haag Engineering, we need to get to the bottom of it."

Rust said he was unaware of any problems with Haag before the Oklahoma verdict. But when pressed, he admitted problems in Texas, Idaho, and several other places.

More of the testimony reveals that State Farm paid Haag much more than normal for engineer's reports. And more evidence is turning up that State Farm purposefully withholds and destroys documents. The house of cards is crumbling.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Blogging Katrina

Roy Bragg from Express News National writes about New Orleans bloggers, most of whom I know. He quotes me as saying about grass roots community activism blogging "The potential is incredible. We haven't even scratched the surface." Couldn't agree more with myself. Thanks Roy.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006


Today I received a certified letter from the Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections. It states that they found our '94 Toyota Tercel on a public right of way and towed it. It's being stored at an impound lot on Almonaster Ave. I have 10 days to claim the vehicle, or I can have them dispose of it for $15. Here's a picture of the car on the last day that I saw it:
The car was completely submerged by the flood waters, and it disappeared at some point between October-December 2005 when we were in Nebraska. We of course assumed that it was removed by one of the companies hired to pick up flooded cars. So it seems unfair to me that I should have to pay the $15. Instead, I'm sending the Department of Public Safety and Corrections a letter asking them to charge the $15 bill to the Army Corps of Engineers.

Monday, September 18, 2006

The Saints Are Coming!

Back in March I went a bit crazy and bought season tickets for the Saints. Today I'm pretty proud of that decision. That's especially true because I'll get to see their first home game since 2004 on Monday night, one week from today. The reopening of the Superdome will be a real milestone in the history of this city. Furthermore, U2 and Greenday will be teaming up to cover one of my favorite punk bands, The Skids, for their classic song "The Saints Are Coming." The lyrics to the song are eerily appropriate:
I cried to my daddy on the telephone--How long now?
Until the clouds unroll and you come home"--the line went
But the shadows still remain since your descent--your descent

The saints are coming, the saints are coming
No matter how I try, I realise there's no reply
The saints are coming, the saints are coming

A drowning sorrow floods the deepest grief--How long now?
Until a weather change condemns belief--The stone says
This paternal guide once had his day--Once had his day

The saints are coming, the saints are coming
No matter how I try, I realise there's no reply
The saints are coming, the saints are coming

You can hear the song at Youtube.
I've always known that music can tap into our emotions like nothing else. Seeing Bruce Springsteen at Jazzfest is something that I'll never forget. I think hearing U2 and Green Day on Monday night has the potential to be just as powerful. I'm going with my best friend Howie, who understands the meaning of the lyrics "drowning sorrow floods the deepest grief" and "Until a weather change condemns belief." And one final thing that ties all of this together for me: my Skids LP with this song on it was one of the many that I lost to Katrina.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

The Decline of FEMA Trailer Sewage Pipes

The Saints are 2-0, and last night I saw perhaps the most inspiring of all sporting events: The Big Easy Rollergirls.
My favorite player was a buxom girl named Cheap Thr!ll, and her number was 40oz. I fortunately bought my tickets online before the bout, because many people, including Howie, were turned away at the door because it sold out. Also on Saturday, Gilgamesh had his first soccer game of the season, and Kalypso had her first cross country meet. It was a pretty good weekend, only slightly marred by rogue FEMA contractors errantly installing sewage pipes. The guy supervising the installation of our FEMA trailer (there seem to be about 10 people involved in this project) ordered that the sewage pipes be put on the north side of our house. However, I came home from work on Friday and the pipes were on the south side blocking the path to the back of our house. These guys work fast, and they're in and out before I can catch them. It's especially hard to oversee all of this when both Therese and I have day jobs. But through some massive investigative work, I was able to get someone to agree to come out to our house on Monday to see about moving the sewer pipes to the side of the house where they belong, as it's much closer and better suited for the necessary decline. Sewage pipes need a very slight decline. If it is too steep, the water rushes down leaving the toilet paper and other "stuff." That's just one of the millions of things that I've learned thanks to Katrina and the faulty levees.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Where We'll Be at Saturday Night

To celebrate our new mobile home, the Homan family will be heading out to see the debut of the Big Easy Roller Girls for some "All-Female Flat-Track Roller Derby Action." Me, I don't care so much about the flat-track, but the rest? Oh boy!

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

We Trailer Trash Now Darlin'

Biking home from work this evening, I couldn't believe it. There in our front yard was our very own FEMA trailer.
It still needs to be "hooked up," which can take months, but it was exciting to see the trailer nonetheless. Now my kids can have the full Katrina experience. Gilgamesh wanted to eat dinner in the trailer, and we tried, but it smelled too much like formaldehyde and we got sick so we went back to our house. But someday soon, we'll be ready to go in our FEMA trailer. On that day, only Allstate will be to blame for us not moving forward in the long and arduous rebuilding process. Some of our neighbors are almost ready to move back into their houses, and some already have. We are planning on about two years once we are able to start, as our structural damage and all the other work will be pretty extensive, and contractors are hard to come by.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Lights, Camera, Action

My daughter Kalypso's movie about the rebuilding of New Orleans one year after Katrina can be seen on YouTube and Think New Orleans (a higher quality video). Alan Gutierrez deserves our thanks for hosting the video. Six months ago Kalypso had a video about New Orleans after Katrina on YouTube, and to date more than 5500 people have seen it. We're very proud of her.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

More Bad Press for Allstate, But Who Really Cares?

Allstate made record profits in 2005, and if I had no moral scruples, I'd invest in the company. It is a great investment if all you are interested in is profit. I should start an insurance company of my own, where I take payments, but don't live up to any contract. And my angst is toward the corporation, as the people who we have met who work Allstate are sympathetic and nice by and large. But it is one year after Katrina, and still they won't honor thousands of contracts here in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast. And now they're trying to get out of 30,000 contracts in the region. Here in Louisiana, a 1992 law says an insurance company can only drop policy holders with a 3 year tenure if they 1. Don't pay their bills, 2. commit fraud, 3. have more than 2 claims in 3 years, 4. the insurance company would go bankrupt if it kept the customers. But now Allstate wants to pull out of Louisiana and have a state run agency take over, which would greatly increase the cost to the insured. It boils down to this bizarre fact: if you have car insurance through Allstate, they keep you, if you don't, you're history. Ironically, we have car insurance through our nemesis Allstate, and so we still have insurance for our severely damaged home. Insurance from what I'm not sure. What exactly would it take for Allstate to live up to their end of the contract? A hurricane and subsequent flood waters caused severe structural damage to our house, and they won't address these issues. Instead, they thought it was a good business practice to hire Haag Engineering to claim that Katrina and the flood didn't cause any damage to the structure of our house. We keep paying our premiums because we don't know what else to do. But let me tell you, if a meteor fell on our car tonight, and then the fire destroyed our home, I doubt very much whether Allstate would pay us. We're covered in our minds, but they'd find ways to get out of the contract.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

One Year Ago and Today

A year ago today I left my flooded house with my dogs by boat. Many hours later I was dropped off at the Causeway Concentration Camp. In the middle of the night I walked out of New Orleans with Robyn and Carlos. So much happened that day and subsequent night, and I saw so many wonderful and horrible things, it will continue to impact my life until the day that I die.

Today I saw my father. We watched the Nebraska football game on TV. His mind is slipping, but it was good to see him. He still had his hair, but the chemo was hard on him. He said he would come live with me if I lived north of the Mason Dixon line. I asked why? He said "the weather." "It's too hot down there," he said. I said maybe it would be a good time to come down and live with us after Christmas, as in he could drive back with us. He seemed to like that idea. It seems now like he has two options: us in New Orleans, or a veterans home in Grand Island, where he also has family as well as friends. But he is one tough old man, so we'll see. It seems we both like the option of him living with us so long as it is several months into the future. When the date approaches, we always move it back.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Swimming to Work

A year ago today I swam from my flooded house to Xavier University. It's not something I would recommend. I saw several dead bodies and the scenes still sort of haunt me. I wrote a note about my name, address, and contact info for my parents in Nebraska, and put it in a plastic bag and duct taped it around a string that I wore around my neck. Looking back on it I wish I had brought my camera. But I was afraid, and didn't want to carry anything that might attract attention. I did bring an inflatable pillow to help me swim. At Xavier I went to my office and looked for students to say hi to, but they were all gone. They had been evacuated a few hours earlier to a bridge nearby where they spent the night, and then got on buses. When I swam home it was dark. Sometimes people would shine a flashlight on me from their house, just to see if I was a troublemaker or whatever. It was pretty scary. Today I'm in Omaha, visiting my mother. Tomorrow I drive to Columbus NE to see my dad. He's got quite a few cancers, and is pretty ill. With everything so busy with school, this was the first chance I was able to see him in a few months.