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Welcome to the neighborhood

(late July events, as recalled in September)

Busting out of a rut

Prior to changing careers and moving to the Greater New Orleans area, life had settled into a stale routine. Work, go to gym, play on the computer, sleep… In the unlikely event that this pattern would someday yield children and grandchildren, I’d have very little to tell them about my early adult years. Breaking out of this rut was one objective of my journey to Louisiana, and it has been achieved tenfold.

My authentic New Orleans apartment

After living with Nat and Joan for about six weeks, I found an apartment of my own in the “Esplanade Ridge” area of New Orleans. Actually, my TGNO friend Michelle found it during her apartment search, but decided that she must find a place with hardwood floors. I enjoyed the charm of the apartment, and was not so particular about the floors. Janet, the landlord, had been advertising it for weeks, and was now in a hurry to select a tenant. Given the proximity to Michelle’s new apartment in the “Treme” area, and the apartment of another TGNO friend in “Midcity” (Nihar), I made a rare rushed decision to lease the place. I quickly developed a good rapport with Janet, who was once a schoolteacher in Chicago. She suggested I could move in immediately, rent-free for the rest of July. We agreed that someday in the coming weeks, Janet would write up the lease and bring it over for signing.
I figured I would move in after completion of my TGNO summer training in a little over a week. I immediately arranged for the rest of my boxes to be shipped from Mom’s garage in California, including my computer and all its peripherals. Knowing Nat & Joan would be home to receive the packages, I had everything sent to their house. When my nine boxes of “toys” arrived on Monday (7/25), my transition to Louisiana felt complete. Tuesday afternoon I moved my first haul over to my new place, and immediately unpacked the computer system. The shipping boxes had to serve as makeshift furniture, but I was able to verify that everything had arrived in good working condition.
I drove back to the West Bank of the Mississippi river to spend my last night at Nat and Joan’s house, and finish my move-out the following morning. They had been the best hosts I could have imagined for almost two months, and it felt like I was once again leaving “home.” I knew I was going to miss them, and they felt likewise, but I was also excited by the prospect of creating a new home in the center of New Orleans.
First thing Wednesday morning I proceeded to load up the car for the last time. The back seat was reserved for Macy’s big cage, while she would ride up front with me in a smaller transport cage. It appeared that the rest of my possessions would just barely fit into the remaining space of the car – What perfect planning! While finishing up the packing and preparing to say goodbye to Nat and Joan, I checked the messages on my cell phone voicemail. Ono, my new landlord’s stepdaughter had called from her apartment immediately above mine with “horrible, horrible news.” I hadn’t even finished moving in, and my apartment had already been burglarized.

Welcome to the neighborhood

In a state of disbelief, I unpacked my car and headed over to the apartment to find Janet, her husband, and Ono outside. Two of the apartment windows were guarded with metal bars, but the third window was not. The kitchen window had been broken with a brick that was left behind on the floor. It must have taken considerable effort to break through the quarter-inch Plexiglas, and it was somewhat surprising that no one heard the noise. Some of the unopened boxes remained where I had left them, but many items were strewn about the apartment. Gone were the only items in which I had invested considerable time and expense: my computer, two flat-screen monitors, printer, scanner, software discs, various accessories, and several other home electronic items. No one expected the police to expend any effort on this case beyond filing a report, so by the time the police showed up with a crime lab technician, we had already walked through the apartment and probably contaminated any useful evidence. They dusted for prints, but I wasn’t holding my breath waiting for results.
One of the other tenants of the apartment building, a woman in her fifties or so, had reported the burglary to the landlord upon seeing the broken window. Common speculation was that her crackhead boyfriend, a younger man named “Limp,” had committed the crime. I had run into Limp a few days earlier, and he seemed friendly enough, but I now was also wondering who all had become aware that I was moving in. I also was beginning to ponder my own naiveté – a suburb-bred Californian moving into urban New Orleans in the middle of the day, making no attempt to disguise all the expensive goodies I was bringing into my apartment. The big Apple logo on the side of my computer box might as well have been a big “Sucker” sign. This wasn’t the worst neighborhood, but it certainly wasn’t the best either. Over the next couple days I planned to visit pawnshops in the neighborhood, but quickly accepted that I had zero chance of recovering the stolen goods on the streets.
Janet was quick to have the broken window replaced, with bars. She also offered to pay for a replacement computer (not yet knowing my expensive computing tastes). Her stepdaughter Ono also installed a video surveillance system with motion sensor outside her apartment upstairs. I arranged to have my telephone line installed, which would enable an alarm system to be put in the following week. Appreciating their efforts to make the apartment safer, I agreed to still move in once the extra security measures were in place.
In the meantime, I moved back in with Nat and Joan again. I had been looking forward to settling into my new life, and being closer to the University, the gym, and my TGNO friends. Now I was back on the West Bank for a little while longer (sigh), but I was extremely thankful to have an adoptive “family” so willing to help me out in times of need.

There were supposed to be two flatscreen monitors, a computer tower, and various peripherals in the bedroom of my apartment.
This crap is not supposed to be strewn all over the floor.
Even the bag of rat cage bedding got ransacked. Was I supposed to have valuables hidden in there?
Bars were already protecting two of the windows. Woulda been nice on the third one too.