Sunday, September 04, 2005

Evac 4: Bricks and Bouquets

Hi everyone,
Finally some good news is coming out of New Orleans, but it's still out-weighed by the bad. At least they're finally getting some people out of there, though again we've lost so many lives just because of the slowness of the help. Our airport is turned into a triage center, and I've heard that they're losing about a dozen patients a day while waiting for evacuation. But you don't need me to relay that, it's on the news. I have to send some thanks to CNN especially and the rest of the media for covering this, though also some criticism as today some anchor (blond & pretty - like that narrows it down - I don't remember the channel) saying something like "Help will arrive in New Orleans as early as tomorrow." AS EARLY? AS EARLY? There's nothing early about that. It's probably just a bad choice of words, but it does indicate some of the spin already going on and I want to make it clear that it's absolute bullshit. I saw some guy from FEMA saying today that nobody anticipated mutiple disasters at once, meaning both a hurricane and a levee breach. Absolute bullshit. We've been saying for years that if a major hurricane hit, the levees would breach. Don't believe it, and don't let them get away with those lies - it simply isn't true. Shortly after Ivan last year, the Times-Pic ran a seroes of articles detailing exactly what would happen, it I have to say it's remarkably similar to what is happening right now. As I was driving my folks out Sunday, I was saying, "Well, this is it - this is the one that leaves the city under 20 feet of water." If I knew it, the government and disaster planners damn well knew it too. So don't let them excuse the inadequacy of the rescue efforts with "we couldn't anticipate this" lies.
That said, I'm immensely relieved that they are finally getting people out of there. And I don't mean to minimize the tragedy in Biloxi and Bay St. Louis and everywhere else hit, it's just that New Orleans is what I know.
On a personal level, we still don't know exactly what we're going to do. Right at the moment, we've discovered that Danny Cupit, who owns this house we've been staying in for a week, has a tree down in his yard and can't get power back until the tree is gone. We've got power here, and he doesn't have power in his own home, so tomorrow we're going to go over and get rid of the tree. At this point, that's as far as plans extend. Gavin and Allison want to figure out a way to stay around here and help, as do I. How exactly, we don't know. Arwen is planning on making it back towards Baton Rouge or somewhere so she can be a doctor again. Today we sat in a gas line for about an hour and Salvation Army folks came by and gave us bottled water. At the moment, we're the people taking bottled water, but we want to become the people handing out bottled water. That said, we're not sure how to make that leap. My first thought is to do what Loyola needs me to do, be it mopping out dorms or what, but they can't get any word out. If anyone knows of a way to contact some of the people in charge at Loyola, please do so and have them contact me or relay a message.
I think I'm headed to Nashville soon, and from there on to Virginia. I don't know if I can make Nashville to Virginia in one go so if anyone is along the way and can put a refugee and his cat up for the night, we'd appreciate it. I'm going by Nashville because Arwen and I have to apply for FEMA help, because we're suddenly the people that do that. But the long term plan, such as it is, is to somehow get back here within striking distance of New Orleans so that first, I can volunteer and help in whatever way possible, and second, be on hand to get in and rebuild as soon as possible. Somewhere down the line I'll need a place to live around here, so if anyone knows of any possibilities, please let me know.
Gavin and I found some satellite photos of New Orleans on-line, and they're amazingly detailed. Here's the good news - Gavin and Allison's place looks okay. There's something we can't quite make out in the back corner of their house (a fallen tree? a trick of the light?) but their street is dry and their roof is there. We can even see Allison's car, which wouldn't start the morning they were evacuating. We also found my apartment - again, it looks okay. Assuming those places haven't been looted, things should be fine. Here's the bad news - my and Arwen's house appears completely flooded (sorry, Arwen). We can't see any sign of cars on the street anywhere near, and I think it's because they're entirely submerged. The house directly across the street from ours has a lower roof than ours and it appears to disappear into the water. All that said, it's just stuff. It can be replaced. There are no official reports of casualties from Louisiana, but the last estimate I heard was ten to fifteen thousand. That's so unimaginably bad, I can only hope it's wrong.
Oh, man. And now Rehnquist has died. It's not the straw that breaks the camel's back - the camel's back is already broken. I guess I feel like a dead horse getting beaten.
I don't really feel like going on with this email, but there are a few things that I promised myself to record, so I'll keep going.
First off, everyone from New Orleans knows Gambit, our weekly alternative newspaper, and knows how they had a weekly bit of "Bouquets and Bricks," where they reported on those who got thrown bouquets and those who got thrown bricks. By the way, Darv recently got a bouquet for helping the UNO newspaper get back up and running. So in an effort to keep that tradition going, here are my bouquets and bricks (probably more bricks than bouquets):
Bouquet: All of you. I have never, never, never seen such an outpouring of support in my life. I can't thank you enough, and I'm afraid I will probably have to call in all those offers of help on behalf of my city and the surrounding region.
Brick: The one-third of the New Orleans Police that basically deserted. New Orleans has always had a problem with corrupt and worthless police officers and now I guess we know who they are.
Bouquet: The two-thirds of New Orleans Police that have stayed through what can only be described as a hell beyond their worst imaginings. I have no idea what it would be like to be beseiged in an police station at night with no lights or water while getting shot at and then to have to go out and try to restore order. Why is it that the police officers and the soldiers on the front lines get paid so little while the politicians protected by those people get paid so much? Shouldn't the person taking the bullet get paid more than the person the bullet is being taken for?
Bouquet: Houston. As much as I hate Texas, you have apparently gone above and beyond in taking in and helping out those displaced by this hurricane.
Brick: Whatever college teams were playing their football game in the stadium next to the Astrodome when the Astrodome had to start refusing anymore refugees. Universities and colleges have been wonderful in their offers to take in students from New Orleans, but perhaps you should also consider cancelling your damn football games so people have shelter for a night.
HUGE BIG FUCKING BRICK: Condelezza Rice, for shoe shopping on Fifth Avenue yesterday. I read a report from a New York newspaper that said she was laughing it up at "Spamalot" Thursday and then spending thousands of dollars on expensive shoes Friday. I count myself unbelievably lucky to be the living owner of a single pair of shoes. (Why didn't I save my cherished motorcycle boots? they're just boots, but they have stomped the terra with me for a dozen years - it's a little thing, but damn I loved those boots.) As far as I am concerned, she should be drummed out of office for gross negligence. Apparently when Bush said "everyone is working around the clock" he wasn't referring to his Cabinet. Rice's next job should involve a paper hat and include saying "would you like fries with that?" That's apparently about the responsibility she can handle (no offense to fast food workers).
Bouquet: Harry Connick, Jr. He got in and organized a benefit. I hope you all saw it. It was nice to know that somebody was attempting to do something.
Brick: President Bush. Harry Connick Jr. beat you into the city. The guy got in a car and drove into the city before you could get off your ass and call in the best resources available to the world and stop by. And you show no embarassment. Your shamelessness in the evidence of your own incompetence knows no bounds.
Brick: Dennis Hastert. Again. When Congress is voting on emergency relief funds for the Gulf Coast, you're in bumfuck Illinois passing out over a million dollars in pork money saying, "Illinois is finally getting their fair share."
Brick (sorry, I've run out of bouquets): Congressional Republicans who got back from their vacations for an emergency session faster for one brain-dead woman than they did for this. No offense to the late Terri Schiavo but you people can get going faster for one white woman on life support than you can for thousands of black folks starving, drowning, and getting raped and shot?
I'll stop there. Tomorrow no doubt I will have some more. In the meantime, everybody has been asking me how to help, so I want to make some suggestions. First off, send donations to the Red Cross. They're way more on the ball than the government is, so start there. Secondly, if you have any spare room in your homes, we have millions, literally millions, of refugees that need housing. It's unlike anything the U.S. has seen before. There are places on-line where you can list your spare bedroom as a place for, well, people like me. is a place to start.
Next, raise taxes. I know nobody likes their taxes upped, and it probably seems like a stupid thing for me to say considering I've been criticizing the government for the last ten minutes, but it's got to be done. The money to save the Gulf Coast has to come from somewhere, and it would be the grossest kind of irresponsibility to lay that cost on our children or grandchildren. If you want a war in Iraq and you want to save the millions of Americans affected by this hurricane, than you're going to have to pay for it. Tell your representatives and Senators you're willing to sacrifice for the greater good. I know Bush doesn't understand sacrifice and wants to continue to run his private little war while shovelling money at himself and his friends, but it can't go on.
Another way you can help - stay angry. Find some way to take all the anger, disappointment, frustration, and disgust you've been feeling and sending to me in emails and keep it. Write it down in a notebook, save it on a computer, videotape an hour of CNN, whatever, and then when the next election comes around re-read it, re-watch it, re-live it and then get up and vote. In the large scale, that's the only thing that will make a difference.
Finally, five months from now when despite everything we've rebuilt my beloved New Orleans and Mardi Gras rolls around, when the reports are rolling out about "New Orleans Parties On," come on down and have a good time.
Take care everybody -

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