The marking of the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina continues in traditional ways – art exhibits, concerts and gatherings profane and sacred – and surprisingly familiar, including second-line parades. It has been an extraordinary journey from the shock and horror of watching despair and destruction on TVs far from home to returning to face the devastating reality of damage wrought when the levees broke to seeing the rebirth – torturously slow, ever steady, nonetheless – of this great American city.

To me it doesn’t seem so long ago that the waters subsided, every other roof was covered with blue tarp and a brigade of refrigerators stood like sad, silent sentinels. Meanwhile, under tarp and amid the trauma, citizens of every color and creed pulled together: former debs, doyennes, young mothers, smart singles, line cooks and lineage-laden formed organizations such as the Katrina Krewe with volunteers sweeping, raking and cleaning parts of the city; Women of the Storm with their umbrellas and heads held high, lobbied and continue to inform; Citizens for 1 Greater New Orleans brought down once-omnipotent members of the levee board and assessor’s offices, and now act to right Washington’s knee-jerk reaction to the disaster in the Gulf. Others went cross-country speaking, fundraising and working on behalf of our great institutions such as City Park, The Preservation Resource Center, New Orleans Public Libraries and The New Orleans Museum of Art. They worked tirelessly to bring the music back to the city, its clubs, schools and street corners.

Our recovery isn’t over yet, but our Saints have won the Super Bowl; the streetcars are running; the street lights work; and lots of folks have made repairs to their homes and are moving on. There is a new generation ready to take over the stewardship of our city’s great houses, historic, large or just long-held. Turning over the keys to such are the likes of the Eads Poitevents, of psycho- and retail therapy acclaim (they founded “Feet First”); the Charles Mayers, of legal and philanthropic fame; and the Charles Fenners, who will soon claim the Drew Breeses as former neighbors. Rumor had it the Tom Bensons were the buyers of the monumental Romanesque mansion on St. Charles Avenue at Valance Street, once owned by the George Villeres … but rumors are just that. It isn’t true that Deb and Jerry Shriver are putting their oft-photographed (House Beautiful, Southern Cosmopolitan, etc.) home in the French Quarter on the market; the couple who commute from New Orleans to New York City, with dogs Ella and Louis, are prepping for the launch of Stealing Magnolias: Tales from a New Orleans Courtyard, a valentine of a book to the city that Deb wrote in her courtyard on Dumaine Street.

White Linen Night was a roaring success as masses flocked to Julia Street galleries, the Ogden Museum of Southern Art and the Contemporary Art Center, all underwritten by our beloved local Whitney Bank. NOMA’s “Love in Bloom,” held in the Sydney and Walda Besthoff sculpture garden, is on board to be the biggest event to date; meanwhile, plans move apace for a seriously spectacular and scholarly salute to the efforts of E. John Bullard, NOMA’s retiring director, at the 45th Odyssey Ball in November. Mrs. Frederick Stafford will fly in from New York, where she spends much of her time serving as honorary chairwoman – it was the Staffords’ generous gift of antiquities to the museum that started the whole Odyssey Ball rolling lo those many years ago.

NOMA isn’t the only artful or inspiring spot to have parties on the schedule this fall: At the Ogden the always fun, fanciful and serious fundraising happens with “O What a Night” in October. Plus, The Historic New Orleans Collection breaks ranks with the past by honoring a living legend, Mignon Faget, for the first time in its history.

Mignon as those who know and love her – not to mention avidly collect her bijoux – will be thrilled to see what waits in this 40 year retrospective. (I am digging out a scarab on a thick silk cord to wear to one of the preview parties!)

Despite the disaster in the Gulf, Chef John Folse served up Louisiana seafood for some 800 of Europe’s top travel and food writers at a party hosted by U.S. Ambassador Bruce Oreck (Dave’s son) and his wife Coty in Finland, where he serves at the President’s pleasure. The ambassador asked Honorary Consul General Philip Claverie and wife Laura to join the fun and help fill up goody bags with Community Coffee, Tabasco, seafood boil and information on everything New Orleans from the National World War II Museum to the Hotel Monteleone. This all happened in Finland, one of the most environmentally correct countries in the EU; if they’ll eat the shrimp, I’ll eat the shrimp!

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