Sunday, October 02, 2005
Proud to Swim Home
Okay, actually I just drove my car, but I couldn’t resist. For those non-New Orleanians, we’ve got bumper stickers down here that read “New Orleans, Proud to Call it Home.” I’ve seen lots of variations, my favorites being “Proud to Crawl Home” and “Proud to Brew at Home.” Speaking of which, I’m hopeful that my beer brewing equipment will be able to be bleached safe. We shall see.
Drove in with Darv on Saturday. He needed to be picked up because he and Amy got evacuated from Tulane Hospital so they were without a car or their cat. Luckily, their landlord stuck around and kept the cat fed. They were stuck in the hospital for days. At first it was great – a chef was there and cooked them a fabulous meal on Monday night and everyone had wine, but then the water came up and they couldn’t leave. The generator got flooded so they lost power and were stuck in the dark with desperately ill patients and little ability to care for them. It’s best to not even think about the bathrooms. They could see people wading through the water below, and the private security guards broke out the machine guns and kept anyone going by at gunpoint until they passed. They were told they were being evacuated on Thursday and were taken to a parking garage where they waited all day until the helicopters stopped flying. So they had to spend the night on the parking garage under guard. That was the night the refinery blew up around 3 in the morning, which, well, woke them up. They got out Friday, got decontaminated somewhere, and eventually ended up with Darv’s family in North Carolina.
Anyway, I grabbed him and saw Amy for the first time since this all began – it was good to see familiar and much-missed faces, but Darv and I had to keep going. About the time we hit Mississippi we started seeing the devastation. Whole stands of trees, a cluster of twenty or thirty, would be on the ground. We saw giant trees ripped up by the root and others snapped in half. Highway signs were blown off or broken so we had to count exits on the map to figure out where we were. We’d occasionally pass towns where houses were knocked over and walls torn away, and saw a lot of “blue roofs,” the temporary tarping job the Corps of Engineers is doing. When we got about halfway over the Lake Pontchartrain causeway (actually a bay, for the geographically persniketty), New Orleans appeared in the mist. We could see buildings standing, and I said, “Well, she’s still there, so there’s that.” There’s a hotel right where the Causeway hits the Orleans side and half of its windows were blown out. As we drove into New Orleans proper, it just got worse and worse. We saw the ripped up Superdome and all the tall buildings with their windows gone, not to mention the trash, the branches, and the downed power lines everywhere.
It’s anything but a ghost town, though. Their were military and cops everywhere, plus everyone there to clean up and the returning residents. I dropped Darv off at his car in the garage near the hospital. That was very creepy – no lights, nobody there, just all these abandoned cars. I don’t think anything says post-apocalyptic U.S. better than a dead parking garage. Darv went to check on the cat and I went to Molly’s.Yes, Molly’s was open and I met Arwen there. I had a cold beer and chatted with people – the place was packed. Coop’s next door wasn’t open, which was too bad, but I’ve heard it’s since opened up. Two or three other bars on that street were open, and people were everywhere on Bourbon Street. They even had the rainbow balloons up. The whole place stinks of sewage, though. Some places are worse than others, but whiffs of it reach everywhere. On our way out of the Quarter to see the house, I paused to take a picture of the bra hanging on one of the horse-hitches, ‘cause hey, the Quarter lives.