Fucked New Orleans (A Seemingly Endless Series):
You may not forgive the Rude Pundit his cynicism, but he thought Herbert Gettridge's wife was going to die, along with Gettridge. Nearly a year ago, the Rude Pundit met Gettridge on his return to the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans as two other men helped him gut his still-standing home. Gettridge's wife was ill and in Madison, Wisconsin, where they had gone upon evacuating their city because of Hurricane Katrina.

Now, in today's New Orleans Times-Picayune, Gettridge is interviewed as one of the only residents to return to the Lower Ninth. Writes Gwen Filosa, "'A lot of people can't come back,' said Gettridge, a stubborn 83-year-old who has been rebuilding to provide a home for his ailing wife, who yearns for him in Madison, Wis. 'In some cases, some people are better off now than they were before the storm.'" Filosa says that Gettridge's house is one of the few occupied ones in the Lower Ninth now, 16 months after Katrina.

Gettridge is besieged by thieves in the post-apocalyptic landscape that is his neighborhood. They stole his $800 generator that he had chained down. Here's how Gettridge lived after the storm: "For months, Gettridge captured water from ruptured pipes in the area and hauled it back to his property in buckets. Through the swampy heat, he used coolers instead of a refrigerator and cooked with a propane camp stove. Electricity came back only last month, and Gettridge became one of the region's last residents to receive a FEMA trailer. He's still waiting for gas service to be restored."

New Orleans is fucked, you know. In the time since the big storm took down the city like a lion bearing down on a three-legged zebra, yes, much has gotten better in that many people, many of them white, some not, can live an approximation of normality, a pretense of everyday life. But the future, oh, the future of the city is fucked like a drunk sorority girl on a Royal Street balcony at Mardi Gras. Here's how the Times-Picayune describes the current state of the levee system: it "could be likened to a patient who no longer needs life support but remains in intensive care."

Meanwhile, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, with a delicious sense of irony, is going to raze 4500 housing units in the city, making way for private development of the land and far less housing for the poor. It would cost less than a day in Iraq to repair the four largest complexes. Sure, they may have been shitholes, but a shithole to call home is better than no home at all. And it ain't as if the residents were promised fuckin' Valhalla in exchange for the demolition. The poor in New Orleans are like the Indians of old, removed from place to place when it becomes inconvenient to keep them where you put them in the first place.

But, shit, life ain't a whole lot better for the middle class. The wads of fuck running the Road Home Recovery program, a private corporation called ICF Emergency Management Services, were given a three-year contract worth $750 million to run the $8 billion program to get grants of up to $150,000 to homeowners so they can, you know, rebuild their homes. And, well, it's worked like seemingly every other privately-run government program: "Only 82 of the 87,000 homeowners who signed up for the grant program...have gotten final checks." The company's already made $60 million. So, like, that's less than .1% of homeowners and ICF's been paid about 9% of its money.

Oh, and even if you get the money, after waiting for months, chances are you're gonna be fucked by ICF and the Road Home: "Melanie Ehrlich, a founder of the New Orleans advocacy group Citizens' Road Home Action Team, said she has seen 15 yellow final award letters and found errors in 11 of them."

Back in the Lower Ninth, Emelda Skidmore, another elderly returnee, awaits her Road Home money. And Mayor Ray Nagin has said that market forces and private investment will power the recovery in New Orleans. But the Lower Ninth will probably be the last place to come back because it awaits "citizen investment."