Nola contender: Musician flees flood for roots

Alexandra Scott still had the sheets of plywood she bought a year ago when fleeing before Hurricane Ivan. Still, after hiring a stranger to board up her house in the Uptown district of New Orleans, she had a sheepish feeling because she'd returned after Ivan to find her plants dry and wilting.

"I'm probably just over-reacting," she told a fellow Uptowner Saturday as she retreated in advance of Katrina. "That's okay," the neighbor reportedly replied. "We'll look after your house."

Scott now worries that many of her Uptown neighbors ended up in the fetid confines of the Superdome.

"I've never been so angry," says Scott. "How could they not have gotten water to people in the Superdome? What kind of government leaves old people of rooftops?"

A musician raised in Albemarle, Scott has been calling the Big Easy home since being lured there by her former husband in 2000. Now, she's back in Charlottesville as a refugee.

She may end up pursuing her career as singer-songwriter in New York since, like so many others, she realizes the Crescent City is off limits. A year ago, a weekly newspaper put her album, Spyglass, on its "best of" list. Now that newspaper, Gambit Weekly, has disappeared.

Still, good things have been coming her way. Besides a chance to stay at her mother's comfortable downtown condo, Scott was handed a little rubber bracelet reading, "hope * faith * courage * strength" on her trek home. And while walking her dog, Jack, in downtown Charlottesville, Scott found herself so moved by a neighbor's flute playing that she dropped the musician a thank-you note.

"There been so much goodness," says Scott. "Consolation seems to come in small doses."

Cruising the countryside around Lafayette, Louisiana, on Monday, August 29, with other New Orleans refugees, Scott had thought her town would survive.

"We had a little bit of the feeling we had with Ivan– 'Whew! We've been spared'," says Scott. "We didn't know about the levees."

As the hours passed and Scott and the rest of the world watched as New Orleans dissolved under a foul tide of slime, strife, and starvation, her disbelief gave way to anger. And hope.

After 9/11, she says, Americans should have learned how to cross racial, ethnic, and religious lines to help one another. "Instead," she says, "we were told to shop."

"Part of me wants to get back and help with relief efforts," she says. With such in-City efforts forbidden, Scott hopes instead to compile a benefit disc by various New Orleans musicians. And while she yearns for the town's revival, she realizes her 100-year-old house and its contents may not have survived.

"I suspect everything will have been removed from my house by the time we get back," she says.

That means she can say goodbye to five of her six guitars and the batch of cookies she baked just hours before her 4am Sunday departure.

"For some reason, I keep thinking about those cookies," says Scott. "The brain gets through shock by thinking about little things."

Scott, 32, says she and her friends had recently talked about the enthralling idea of giving up material goods. "We always had this idea that it'd be good to get rid of all our possessions– we just thought it would happen later in life."

Alexandra Scott