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Old haunts in New Orleans

The old haunts and what has become of them

Damage in the Hollygrove area.



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New Orleans (Louisiana)

Posted: 6:15 p.m. ET
From Andreas Preuss, CNN Gulf Coast Bureau

After landing at Louis Armstrong International Airport, I took the long way to the bureau, driving down Airline Highway to Earhart Expressway. My first stop in Orleans Parish was the Hollygrove neighborhood.

I used to rent an apartment on Dante Street. Not much damage at the place, but further down the road you could see what would be the pervasive image in New Orleans: damaged homes, giant piles of rubble and trash, and discarded refrigerators. Welcome Home!

I drove down Carrollton Avenue, stopping by my favorite diner in the city, The Camelia Grill. Doesn't look like western omelets and chocolate freezes will be served there for a long time. Next was the grand avenue, St. Charles Avenue. I wanted to look at another apartment, this one on Cherokee Street.

While I was looking, a Florida based phone repair crew was working overtime to get service restored. This was my first sign of the city returning to normal. Small steps for sure, but positive news.

I kept on cruising St. Charles passing by my alma mater, Loyola University. A huge flag was hanging on the facade. Another sign of hopefulness. But my biggest disappointment was the visit down State Street to Laurel Street, my first home and mortgage.

I was shocked as I saw two stories collapsed on top of the neighbor's house. We have a lot of memories from that place. I had no belongings there of course, and yes it's just a building... but like many New Orleanians I have lost something as well.

And ending on a positive note, my favorite music club, Tipitina's, looks like it was boarded up pretty tight. "Tips" is an institution here: The House that Professor Longhair Built. I hope it's not too long before the sweet sounds of funk, jazz and blues pour onto Tchopitoulas and Napoleon!

Next: New Orleans may be down, but is Mardi Gras 2006 out? A visit with a very positive Blaine Kern.

Matching pictures with reality

Posted: 11:43 a.m. ET
From Andreas Preuss, CNN Gulf Coast Bureau

I am a native New Orleanian and CNN producer.

For the past month, I've felt all the helplessness and hopefulness of the Katrina disaster. Now I'm back in my hometown, and like many returning residents, I don't quite know what to expect.

I've seen the rooftop TV footage of waterlogged desolate places, like the 9th Ward, New Orleans East, Lakeview, Old Metairie, Slidell and the Mississippi Coast.

I've been in the CNN Control Room in Atlanta as we showed live pictures from St. Bernard Parish that would make your heart cry -- residents gathering their lifelong possessions in a suitcase walking through the muck and the mire.

Some couldn't even find their home and got lost navigating their neighborhood. The devastation is so complete. Katrina was the great equalizer.

The smell that pervades everything

Before I arrived, I heard about that paltry smell. A toxic mix of spoiled food, sewerage and dead bodies all boiling in the typical New Orleans summer humidity.

Parts of the city have always had a rather peculiar smell. French Quarter on Mardi Gras has its own toxic odor. But this Katrina smell is still here. It overtakes your nostrils as your tour flood damaged homes.

It can permeate your clothes. It along with the massive piles of rubble are the constant reminders of the destruction. But things seem to be getting better. I've seen the debris collection.

When I arrived on Sunday, and took the long way to the bureau, I stopped by several of my old haunts. At one location, a phone company crew from Florida was trying to restore service. And power trucks are crawling through neighborhoods as well. I've seen the debris collection.

I think things are beginning to look up, and I'd like to know your opinions or ideas about returning and rebuilding metro New Orleans.

Are residents coming back for good? Are they going to pull out? Should extremely flooded neighborhoods be plowed down and returned to marshland? What about the "DisNOLAnd" idea of an adult's only French Quarter playground, protected by super levees? E-mail the Gulf Coast Blog

New Orleans gets into your blood and stays, whether you are a resident, an expatriate or a tourist who always comes for Jazz Fest. I know I've had my share of pain and tears from this event. Stay tuned for more observations from CNN's Gulf Coast Bureau. Next: The old haunts, and what has become of them.

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