Trailer a Tight Squeeze for New Orleans Couple Holley and Eric Bendtsen are like thousands of others who have found a temporary home in a trailer provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). But the trailer is a tight squeeze -- he's 6-foot-7, and she's a self-described "plus-size woman," and daily life and sleeping arrangements get rather complicated.
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Trailer a Tight Squeeze for New Orleans Couple

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Trailer a Tight Squeeze for New Orleans Couple

Trailer a Tight Squeeze for New Orleans Couple

Trailer a Tight Squeeze for New Orleans Couple

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Holley and Eric Bendtsen are like thousands of others who have found a temporary home in a trailer provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). But the trailer is a tight squeeze — he's 6-foot-7, and she's a self-described "plus-size woman," and daily life and sleeping arrangements get rather complicated.

MADELEINE BRAND, host:

All this month on the program we've been hearing stories from New Orleans by our reporter Molly Peterson. Today she sent us this audio postcard.

MOLLY PETERSON reporting:

Walk less than a block down Frenchman Street in the Marini(ph) Section of New Orleans. Even on a slow weeknight you'll hear five kinds of music: blues, funk, reggae, country, and on Wednesdays in the Spotted Cat, jazz.

Ms. HOLLY BENTSEN (Singer): All right. This is my true story.

(Singing) My dogs and I went to my sister's home in Tennessee. My husband stayed here on his job at the Hotel Doubletree. Now, we have a FEMA trailer, just the size of Tupperware, but I'd rather be back home and have a great big couch upstairs.

PETERSON: Holly Bentsen is one-third of the Pfister Sisters, a girl group singing '30s and '40s jazz harmonies. Her husband, Eric, is the chief engineer at the Doubletree on Canal Street. He didn't evacuate and is still essential personnel there, more essential than ever since he's lost about 60 percent of his workforce. But they don't see each other all that much.

Ms. BENTSEN: It's like the Dan Hicks song, How Can I Miss You If You Won't Go Away. That's why we often sleep in the opposite places.

PETERSON: Holly says she's a plus-sized woman. Eric is a mountain of a man, six feet-seven inches tall. They don't fit on the chintzy foam FEMA mattress together, so some nights she stays at the Doubletree.

Ms. BENTSEN: You know, once in a while we double up in the same location, but...

Mr. ERIC BENTSEN (Chief Engineer, Doubletree Hotel): That's...

(Soundbite of knocking)

Mr. BENTSEN: Can't stand up in the trailer, you know.

PETERSON: How high is the ceiling according to your height?

Mr. BENTSEN: Maximum, six-six at the highest point, because I hit the ceiling. I can't get underneath the doorways. I can't get near underneath the light fixtures. And I sure can't stand up in the bathtub. It's a very tight space.

PETERSON: And he would know. Eric grew up in Denmark. Turns out FEMA trailers compare unfavorably to public housing there.

Ms. BENTSEN: (Singing) A glass of wine will greet your smiling face...

PETERSON: The Bentsens say they'll celebrate their 25th anniversary this fall. That night they'll go home to the same place.

Molly Peterson, NPR News, New Orleans.

Ms. BENTSEN: (Singing) Honey, you'll find you're in New Orleans.

Go head, Amalama(ph).

(Soundbite of a piano solo)

ALEX CHADWICK, host:

All next week, NPR News is going to be presenting a series of special reports that we call Katrina, Where Did the Money Go? For three days we'll be following the money trail in the aftermath of the storm.

BRAND: We will have a profile of one New Orleans nightclub and its challenges to stay in business.

CHADWICK: And the story of two Louisiana families. One decided to stay, one decided to leave for good. It cost each of them differently.

BRAND: These stories and more when we follow the money in a series of special reports next week on DAY TO DAY from NPR News.

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