Sunday, November 25, 2007

Former Katrina-Shreveporter Steve Allen: what it's like to be back in the Lakeview neighborhood in New Orleans

Debbie & Steve Allen
Originally uploaded by trudeau
Steve Allen, wife Debbie and sons Chandler and Parker, escaped Katrina by leaving their flooded neighborhood in New Orleans and moving to Allen's former home of Shreveport. Allen, sax player and ebullient personality, quickly jumped upon local stages with people like jazzer Doug Rust and R&B pianist Chris McCaa. His horn, smile and distinctive sense of style added a great vibe to Shreveport.

In August they returned to their renovated home in the lake front area of the Crescent City. They recently returned to Shreveport for a weekend while Allen played the Highland Jazz and Blues Fest. Asked for an update on the rebuilding of their lives in New Orleans, he responded thusly:

Our block in Lakeview was about 75% levelled by the various owners due to flood damage and basically it's still mostly flat. On 3 sides of us the neighbors demolished their houses. Two new 2 story homes are nearing completion; they've been built to the flood plain elevation.

We have restored our ranch style one story on a slab to a better version of it's original self. Right now there we and neighbor Susan Spicer, the celebrity chef, are the only residents, but around New Years our near neighbors will be living in their new houses.

My friend and great drummer Ricky Sebastian is building a house in the Musician's Village. He is putting in his 'sweat equity', working on the houses of others and they will in turn work on his as it gets built. All the houses are identical except for the colors, which are bright and varied. There will be maybe 3 or 4 solid blocks of them with a common park and community center when they're all done, maybe a year or 2 from now.

I have been getting calls to work as a sideman in a wide assortment of groups, but haven't started anything of my own since I've been back in New Orleans.

My boys are both in Lusher, in my opinion the coolest public school in New Orleans. Very arts oriented, Chandler is in a music focused curriculum and Parker is in sports and theater a little bit. His cast from the first football game comes off next week.

There is a weekly batch of emails that comes about events in the city. It is organized by a photographer named Pat Jolly. The sheer number of things going on in New Orleans on a weekly basis is really incredible. Art openings with live bands, festivals of every kind, 2 or 3 a weekend, screenings, plays, gigs, meetings, lectures... you just have to admire the spirit of the people behind all this energetic activity. And people come out to the things too. Last weekend there was the Po Boy Preservation Festival, a new one. Packed. Ran out of food.

It is very fun here, and I can't even spell out why. It just feels good here. Our house is very cute and cozy, and I guess knowing where every screw and wire and pipe in the whole thing gives it a special 'pinch yourself' joy to it. We will stay here until forced to leave, just like last time.

Shreveport was wonderful for me these last 2 years, and it felt weird last weekend to be there cause everything is so familiar and known, but our home is really here, in New Orleans.

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