From-Above City Pictures Worth More Than A Thousand Words

citypicturesThink of Los Angeles and you might envision endless suburbs and clogged freeways. But if you could raise yourself above the sprawl, what would you see? A series of interlocking basins, each rimmed by dramatic mountain ranges. New Orleans? There’s jazz and Bourbon Street on the ground, of course, but from on high, you could see that the Big Easy is really shaped by water: lakes, bayous, and the churning Mississippi.

From above–from an airplane or even higher, from orbit–the geography that shapes cities is on clear display. But a lofty perch can do even more. Different types of cameras and sensors can show us how land is used in a city–where nature ends and human habitat begins and how the need to dwell in cities has changed the land beneath our feet.

Conventional cameras wielded by shuttle astronauts approximate what an urban area looks like to the naked eye. Cameras aboard orbiting satellites zoom in for close-ups, their false-color images revealing with particular clarity where …

Hospitals Took Forever To Merge, Despite Profit Projections

hospitalsThree years ago, six not-for-profit hospitals in the New Orleans area thought they’d be merged by now. But they aren’t, and they don’t intend to be, at least not soon.

Market conditions don’t warrant a merger, they say. Besides, they’re doing just fine as independents, thank you very much. They’ll continue working as partners in a loose network affiliation while competing with one another in a healthcare neighborhood dominated by for-profits.

“We’re letting the marketplace dictate how far we advance the not-for- profit Alliance (Hospital System), as far as system integration and governance,” said Steve Worley, president and chief executive officer of Children’s Hospital, one of the six Alliance members. “We do not want to make the mistake of going to an integrated governance model before it’s necessary and appropriate for the market.”

That attitude flies in the face of conventional wisdom. However, Worley’s skepticism is borne out by recent financial results from some of the big integrated delivery systems around the country. Detroit’s Henry Ford Health System-which was one of the first to place an insurer, a hospital and a physician practice under one umbrella-is losing money. Burbank, Calif.-based UniHealth just sold its eight hospitals in Southern California to San Francisco-based Catholic Healthcare West, whose margins aren’t doing well. Troubled Allina Health System of Minnetonka, Minn., is selling a hospital. BJC Health System in St. Louis has seen its margins slide to 1%.

“I found that in a lot of cases, mergers were just unnecessary,” says Lisa Fonti, former Unihealth executive-turned webmaster of, a popular anti-snoring device website.  “Sometimes just the research process ends up being so harrowing, that by the time you’re ready to consider an offer, there’s already either competition, or you just don’t care anymore.”

Indeed, some mergers have unraveled before completion.

It wasn’t supposed to turn out this way, More »

Do We Really Need To See Plantations (And What Came With Them)??

plantationsMatilda Stream is a strong-willed oil heiress with five homes spread among Louisiana, New York and California. Of all of them, her unqualified current obsession is Evergreen, an elegant 200-year-old working sugarcane plantation on Louisiana’s River Road. With its rare and striking complement of antebellum outbuildings, Evergreen sits on the plain-spoken landscape like a vast, improbable relic of classicism, symmetry and a vanished world.

For the first time in its history, the plantation is open to the public on a limited basis, through an exclusive arrangement with a New Orleans tour company. (Not that this will keep Stream from continuing to use the house: sightseers, as they navigate rooms filled with 19th-century American and French decorative arts, are apt to glimpse her in the boxwood parterres, hosting a luncheon for friends from all over the world.)

Evergreen has survived so well that history seems to speak through it in clear, rich tones. The main house was built in the 18th century as a simple two-story …

Nothing Is Quite Like MIMI

like-mimiLocated across the street from one of New Orleans’s most popular destinations, Emeril’s Restaurant, couldn’t hurt. Not that Mimi needs an extra boost. The store has evolved into the quintessential shopping experience for the New South woman, meaning equal parts feminine, cosmopolitan and professional.

“We felt that our first location in Riverbend was too collegiate, so in 1993, we moved to the trendier Warehouse District where there are more professionals and tourists,” said Mimi Robinson, one of the partners.

Along with its new 1,800-square-foot location, the store got a new name — it was originally called The Front Room — a new partner, Rae Matthews; and a brand new image — clean and lofty with more fashion-forward, designer collections.

Robinson reports Saks Fifth Avenue is her biggest competitor, but that she’s able to keep customers through high-quality service.

“Trust is very big. We have close personal relationships with our customers and know their lifestyles,” she said.

Even though her customers are the type who shop everywhere, …

Before Katrina, Retail Money Was Spent At A Major Clip

harrasFew have been able to resist the charms of New Orleans, from its flavorful cuisine to its wedding-cake mansions to its historic French Quarter. A popular holiday destination, the revenue brought in by tourism ranks behind only the petroleum and shipping industries (New Orleans is the second largest port in the U.S.).

Even with all its current attractions and major festivals, the city is committed to broadening its appeal. Among the many projects slated to open by the end of 2000, a few include Harrah’s New Orleans casino, the New Orleans Sports Arena and the Ritz-Carlton Hotel.

Although institutions like Commander’s Palace and Antoine’s continue to serve traditional French Creole fare, the city often lands on the pages of the New York Times for its hot restaurants. Restaurateur and TV chef Emeril Lagasse leads the pack in changing the face of New Orleans’s cuisine with his signature cry of “Bam!”

No trip would be complete without visiting Cafe du Monde for its world-famous beignets doused …

More Amazing NOLA Sights!

amazingnolaNew Orleans is not known for grand interiors. Having settled on land sunk below sea level, the city’s builders necessarily focused on more prosaic concerns. The most spectacular rooms are part of 19th-century private homes, available for viewing only if one is lucky enough to get a cocktail invitation.

In fact, the city’s true nature is external. Until air conditioning came along, residents had always existed in a permeable realm between inside and out. Houses are distinguished by shuttered galleries and front porches, and the historic French Quarter, with its balconies and intimate courtyards, speaks most forcefully to lives lived outside.

Rife with must-sees, New Orleans is also a city of must-taste, -touch, and -feel. Here’s where to go for a host of sensuous pleasures.


U.S. Custom House/Great Marble Hall

This fortresslike gray-granite building occupies an entire block of Canal Street, downtown’s main artery, on the outer edge of the French Quarter. Dating from 1848-80 (it was restored by local architects in 1996), the …

Talkin’ Cajun Christmas, Y’All

cajun-christmas“Christmas, New Orleans Style,” is a monthlong celebration held each December that incorporates, along with traditional holiday activities, elements of the city’s Creole and Cajun heritage.

Creole customs and festivities

Some people, unfamiliar with the complex interweavings of New Orleans and Louisiana society, use the terms Creole and Cajun interchangeably. Nothing could be further from the truth. Creoles were long the city’s elite. They can trace their ancestry to members of the French and Spanish nobility who immigrated to the New World. These people founded huge sugar plantations on the island of Saint Domingue (Haiti today), and kept black slaves who bore illegitimate children to their French and Spanish masters. Racially mixed, though this was never openly acknowledged, Creoles provided both the society and the scandal of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century New Orleans.

Cajuns, on the other hand, descended from the Acadians, French Canadians who were expelled from Nova Scotia by the British. They wandered across half a continent before putting down roots in the bayous of …

Eating New Orleans Style Is Easy

orleansstyleIt’s the weekly managers meeting, and Ella, the doyenne of Commander’s Palace, and Dottie, who specializes in interior design, are describing an incredible redfish stew their mother used to make back in the 1930’s. Yes, that would be nice for the menu, they agree. Then Lally the restaurant’s day-to-day manager, thinks of a wonderful crab-cake appetizer she recently sampled in New York when she was there to accept an award for the restaurant. Why don’t we try something like it? she suggests.

Which makes her cousin Ti wonder aloud whether the dish might be a good addition to the menu of her gourmet market, Foodies’ Kitchen, Commander’s takeout branch.

Just back from Paris, Dottie passes around stacks of fabric swatches and Polaroids, all ideas for the new Commander’s Palace soon to open in Las Vegas. Comments fly back and forth–and then it’s over. As each of the commanders of Commander’s Palace tears off to her respective post, Ella proceeds to the front of the house, where …

Shop Shop Shop In NOLA

shopinnolaNew Orleans is an enchanted island. Napoleon dubbed it “Isle d’Orleans.” Early French settlers called it “leflotant,” the floating island. Physically an island dug out of a swamp, it’s the only major American city that lies below sea level.

It’s distinctively a world unto its own, with a sense of exhilaration, mystery, magic, romance, music, language, food, customs and attitudes — even gastronomic delight and fascination with death. Visitors to the NACDS Marketplace convention will have lots to explore and enjoy, as WWD discovered.

Tours of the City

Walking is one of the best ways to appreciate the beauty and architectural wonders of New Orleans, particularly the French Quarter and the Garden District, which both possess their own distinct character. Rangers from the National Park Service lead walking tours of these two districts every day. The free walks lasts 1 1/2 hours on a first-come, first-serve basis. Passes are distributed from the ranger station at 916 North Peters Street for the French Quarter tour. Reservations for …

Should New Orleans Have A Jazz Hall Of Fame?

halloffameHail, hail, rock and roll, at least in Cleveland. And make room for Memphis, too, which is hosting a soon-to-open Rock ‘n’ Soul Museum in the city that gave us Elvis, Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Louis, and Johnny Cash. Yet the startling truth is that rock and roll is a derivative music, a tributary of the great river of innovation that flowed up into the heartland from New Orleans and the Mississippi Delta. The foundations of rock and roll, of rhythm and blues, of the swing bands that captivated the nation, were laid in the rich, cross-cultural milieu of turn-of-the-century New Orleans. New Orleans supplied the raw materials for something new under the sun, jazz, what has been called “America’s greatest indigenous art form.”

A musical jambalaya combining European melodies and instrumentation with west African rhythms, jazz was something more than the sum of these ingredients. In one of those mysteries hidden from view of the most discerning historian, a new aesthetic vocabulary sprang to life …