#TBT – Going to New Orleans (March 2009)

IMG_0290It is hard to believe that it has been 10 years since Hurricane Katrina blew through Louisana and the surrounding region. FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) is quoted as saying “Katrina is, the single most catastrophic natural disaster in U.S. history.” The total damage for Katrina is estimated at $108 billion. This makes it the “costliest hurricane in U.S. history.”

I remember watching the horrors on TV while they were unfolding. New Orleans was always a place I had on my bucket list and in a flash I thought I would never get to see it in the way I wanted to. And then I did.

I have written about this trip before. In fact, it was waiting at the airport to go that I made a decision to start my blog when I got back. This would make it six years that I have been sharing my stories with you.

NOLAI remember being on the shuttle from the airport to the hotel and driving past the Louisana Superdome. It is a larger than life stadium structure that would bring pride to everyone that every watched an event there. For me, just looking at it gave me a bit of a chill. If you watched or remember any part of the Katrina coverage from that time, you know that the Superdome was where thousands went to ride out the storm and thought they would be safe, which turned out to be nothing but a safe haven. Thankfully Mercedes-Benz spent $336 million dollars and rebuilt the dome. It is once again a venue to be proud of.

I loved my time in New Orleans, or NOLA as it is loving called. I actually think it wasIMG_0230 that trip that I really started to become a “foodie”. I tried something new every day and nothing I tried disappointed me. Combine good food, art and antiques, great sights and of course sounds, the music of NOLA can’t be beat. It also helps to be with a great travelling companion who really enjoys to get the most out of each destination.

While we were there we took a city tour. It would have been nice to take a “pre Katrina” city tour, where the tour would not have gone into the ninth ward and made the tragedy a tourist stop on a tour. I know, I know… I also went to Ground Zero before it was a beautiful memorial, so I am not saying people don’t want to go and see the sights of tragic events. I understand the need to want to put some ‘reality’ to something we have only seen on a small screen.

Our tour bus took us over the bridge as we drove into the worst hit area of Katrina, where the levee broke and had the most destruction. As we drove into the neighbourhood, the tour bus driver was explaining what we were seeing. It was pretty clear. Destruction, even five years later. Street upon street of abandoned homes. outside of some of them, there were people working on repairs. Repairing their homes, repairing their lives. But many of them were just abandoned, and the residents never returned. For some, there wasn’t a home to return to.

What was left of a home - the concrete porch and stairs, where a home once stood.

What is left a home – the concrete porch and stairs, where a home once stood.

If you haven’t been to New Orleans, you really need to add it to your list of places to see. You will not be disappointed.

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Road trippin’ – live from Altus Oklahoma

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Back in March B and I were starting to talk about travel plans for the summer. After some back and forth discussion about where to go, beach vacation, etc, B had an idea. His 30th anniversary high school reunion was going to be happening in June and he asked me to go along with him to the reunion, and then we would do a road trip to Dallas and finish the trip in Oklahoma City and spend time with his sister who lived there. He made a very valid point. Out of the many places I have seen in the US, I had never  been to that part of America. So it was decided. Oklahoma here I come!

The trip was really three different trips in one – part 1 Altus High reunion weekend, part 2 – Dallas/Fort Worth and Part 3 – OKC with family and friends.

I arrived in Oklahoma City and was met by B and his sister. We left the airport and started to drive towards the city. My first thought was how flat the landscape was. As well, everything seemed so spread out. When you live in a city full of high rise buildings, condos and skyscraper office towers at every turn, with a lack of ‘space’, seeing all the open space between the different areas of the large city was, for lack of another description, culture shock. We have our own “prairie” provinces, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba, and they are flat and spread out as well, but I have never been there. It gave understanding to the “plain” states, that is for sure.

We left OKC the next morning to go to Altus Oklahoma. There is an Air Force Base in Altus which was the reason B was there with his family during his last years of high school. It really was where his passion for working in radio began. The base is a town within a town. When you are an army family, you get used to moving every time your family member gets a new assignment, so you don’t really get to settle down and have ‘roots’ in one place for too long. Something that I have never experienced of course. In my life I have very deep roots.

Our first stop for the reunion weekend was his old radio station – KWHW. I enjoyedKWHW4 the reunion and the other things that we did in Altus, but I think the highlight for me was the visit to the radio station.

We walked into the station and we were greeted by the on air DJ, whose name was actually JD. He was so warm and hospitable, just like everyone else there. We met the owner and her son, as well as others that worked there. He gave us a tour well which allowed B to walk through the rooms of the station reminiscing about his time there, even finding the old board that he worked on when he was on the air.

Each room was filled with treasures of times gone by. There were tapes (yes tapes) of recordings, shelves of albums full of southern country and blues music. Most of them were artists I have never heard of. Then there were boxes of 45 records. B was determined to find at least one record that he used to play during his time there, and he did.

KWHW3We made our way back to the DJ booth and he welcomed us on air to the listeners. It was Alumni weekend and he introduced B as an alum of both the station and the the high school and started an impromptu interview. I sat back and watched B interact with JD and it was a really nice experience. He had a chance to tell a few stories about his time in Altus High and at the station. B also had a chance to talk about his book, which has some Altus memories in it as well.

I did get to meet some great people that have lived in Altus and have stayed and made it home. I was describing it to a friend of mine who watched Friday Night Lights and she said it reminded her exactly like the show. Of course we know how popular football is in the States, and it seems to be the same in Atlus – go Bulldogs!

At the reunion B introduced me to his friends as “my friend Lisa, she is from Canada”. It was then followed up with “we have travelled around the world together”. I loved hearing that, because we have really experienced a lot on our travels. I was really happy that I was invited to come along for the ride and share this reunion experience. It gave me insight and perspective.

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I think it is only fitting that our music for today’s post is none other than Small Town by John Cougar Mellencamp.