New Orleans House Party: Bring in the lumberjacks

Our final day in town, a group of 13 of us went back to Larry's house. First, we took down all the drywall and ceilings. Larry also had a list of stuff he wanted done. We cleaned out the tool shed in his backyard. Larry lived with his dad, who is in his 80s. He had quite a collection of tools and unfortunately most of it had to be thrown away. Some of the other teams of volunteers finished up their houses early and then dropped by Larry's to help out.

One of the guys from the other team, Scott, came with a chainsaw. He climbed up a dead tree in the backyard and removed it from the top down. It was leaning right over the neighbor's fence so we had to be careful. After he cut a few chunks off, three of us pulled the tree in the opposite direction. There was one scary point where it was leaning toward Scott. We were lucky that we pulled hard enough to send it toppling in the right direction.

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I also got a chance to talk more with Larry, who works for the local water and sewage board. He went to Baton Rouge to escape Katrina, he said, and moved back to the New Orleans area about three months ago. "The hurricane was nature taking its course, he said "This area of New Orleans is supposed to be water." The city couldn't handle another hurricane, he explained; a heavy rain over a 24-hour period could be big trouble.

Larry was eager to keep in touch, and handed out his email address. He also gave our team a bunch of CDs he burned: some Bob Dylan, Beatles and Elvis Costello. He also left us with a video his neighbor put together. We watched it that night. His friend stayed during the flood, holing up in the second story of his home. There, he took digital photos of the water rising around him. Later, he had added an electronic soundtrack to the footage. The music was eerily upbeat compared to the devastating photos. And that's a pretty good analogy for how I felt at the end of the week: frightened by the speed at which you can lose everything and oddly hopeful at the end of much hard work about what might be regained.

Words and pictures by Adam Craven

Editors note: Last month, Adam Craven, a graphic designer for City Pages, barreled down I-55 to New Orleans in a caravan of five rented minivans. Along with a crew from his Minneapolis church, the Rock, he spent a full work week cleaning out houses in Louisiana. This is part five of a five-part series.
Day One, Day Two, Day Three, Day Four
, Day Five


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