Monday, September 19, 2005

Evac 6, or Going Home 1

Hey folks,
(Written on 9-18-05)
Okay, I admit it, I’ve been hiding for a week. Brooke brought me up to Jersey for a time, and I’ve been using it to chill. It’s been good. Everyone has been wonderful, and nobody seems to mind if I spend my time talking about this, which has been good. Therapeutic, I guess would be the word. Anyway, it’s been a week with as little stress as possible in this time. The deep breath before the plunge, I guess. So now the plan is, such as it is, to get back as soon as possible. Yes, I know, it’s dangerous, there isn’t any infrastructure or power or 911 service or potable water, yadda yadda yadda, I don’t care, I want to go home. I’ve spent enough time twiddling my thumbs. Eventually I have to go home and start cleaning up and the longer I wait, the worse it will be. So I’m going to head to Virginia over the weekend and load up on supplies – you know, rubber gloves and boots, respirators, that kind of thing – and then work my way back to New Orleans. I actually am pretty sure that my apartment has power – Gavin said Jackson Avenue has power, and I know there was a working traffic light at Prytania and Felicity, which puts my apartment one block east and three blocks west of power. Hell, I can power up with extension cords from there. My zip code isn’t one of the ones called for return by the mayor, but Gav and Allison’s is, and they are planning on returning on Wednesday for a recon mission. I’m FedExing them keys so they can check out my apartment and house, if they can. If all goes well, I should be back in about a week and a half or two weeks, just in time for my birthday, which I plan to spend at Molly’s trying to chat up the new bartender with the hurricane K. tattoo on her back.
(Written on 9-19-05)
See, it’s so impossible to make plans when they keep changing things on you everyday. Or, I should say, the weather. Hurricane Rita has thrown plans in disarray. I don’t know if Gav and Allison are still planning on trying to get back (still lots of “all circuits are busy” phone trouble, you know), but since the mayor is suspending his repopulation plan until Rita no longer threatens us, I don’t know what I’m doing. By the way, I checked the hurricane center’s website yesterday and they were tracking 7 storms – 7! Usually, it’s one or two. All I can say is, I’m so glad we have a president wise enough, smart enough, and brave enough to stand up to those silly 95% of scientists saying global warming is a serious problem and tell everyone that we need more study before we even know if global warming is happening let alone having an affect on the weather. Hurrah!
Anyway, hopefully my plan stays basically in place. Brooke and I went by the Red Cross today (she to volunteer, me to ask about volunteering, but the gov’t. won’t let the Red Cross into New Orleans yet). So instead of letting me volunteer to do whatever in N.O. when I get back, they gave me money, which I intend to use on those afore-mentioned rubber boots, gloves, etc. – whatever it takes to get the muck out of my house and gut it, which, assuming the foundation is still sound, is I’ve been told the only way to stop the mold from taking over. So, I guess the plan remains essentially the same, though possibly delayed.
Meanwhile, Brooke doesn’t have cable so I’ve been getting all my news off the web. Speaking of which, is putting out the N.O. Times-Pic, and I definitely recommend it as a news source, especially an article titled “Needs and resources out of sync.” I know everyone is a little sick of the bitching, but it’s a good run-down of who was supposedly responsible for what and where things went wrong. Similarly, has a pretty extensive timeline of the disaster. Good resources for everyone. For the locals, or those interested, Gav mentioned that MSNBC has some flyover pictures. Very detailed pictures of the flood that you can search by street. Believe it or not, beyond the photos of the devastation, they have a photo centered on my house. On it you can focus on my house to the extent that I can see my back porch and how the water (at the time the picture was taken) covered the floor of the porch but not the railing. So hey, I got that going for me. Seriously though, I’m one of the very, very lucky ones, so I have no personal complaints. Complaints on behalf of those not so lucky – that’s a-whole-‘nother story.
So I’m going to try to send shorter emails more often, and to that end, I’m bringing this one to a close, which has absolutely nothing to do with my desire to watch the Saints whup some N.Y. Giants butt.
Red beans and ricely yours,

Friday, September 09, 2005

Evac 5: Still Moving

Hi everyone,
Sorry it’s been so long since my last email. I had some busy days – first off, driving to Nashville and then on to Virginia, and then slogging through the bureaucracy of everyday life – calling the mortgage company, the insurance company, registering for FEMA, talking to credit card companies. “Putting my life back together,” as we call it, though honestly it seems like so much meaningless nonsense when I consider how many people can’t put their lives back together. Ever. I hate waking up. For a second or two, I don’t remember where I am or why I’m there and then it all comes back. It’s like it happens all over again every day. And then I just have to go on with my day anyway.
Which I do – the good news is Loyola got their website up and running and I found out I still have a job. Classes are cancelled until January, but they intend to reopen then. The campus is relatively unscathed.
Side note – as I write this, U2 just started playing the best song ever on the hurricane relief concert on tv.
So I’ve gotten through the short-term. I’m fed and sheltered, and yeah, it’s surreal that I needed to focus on that for awhile. Now I’m moving on to the middle-term (the long term being rebuilding New Orleans), which is what I’m going to do until January. What I want to do is get somewhere close so I can help. I know this is a longshot, but if anyone knows of an apartment I can rent for three months, maybe starting in October, somewhere nearby (Jackson, Nashville, Memphis, Houston, whatever), please let me know. Anyway, I’m going to be working on that for the next week or so. Gavin and Allison are in Houston or heading there (I haven’t talked to them in a couple of days – connecting isn’t easy). They’ve got an apartment and are going to see what they can do. Speaking of which, how is my cell phone working? I can call out but I don’t really know if calling in works – it’s XXXXX, by the way. Arwen’s in Nashville, and she’s getting in to New Orleans later this month to be a doctor.
Morgan Freeman quoting Faulkner – man will not just endure, but prevail. Very nice. Interesting to write this with the tv on – clearly I need some kind of real-time blog set up or something. “George Bush hates midgets.” Is that funny? I laughed, but I’m not sure. Jack Nicholson singing into a phone – that’s just weird. Hey, there’s the Foo Fighters – thank you, Dave. Ugh – Mariah Carey – where’s the mute?
Of course, what I really want to do is just go home. I found a website with maps and satellite photos and flood information which said my house had 6.3 feet of water – not sure how accurate that is, if it’s peak flooding, or updated information taking the receding into consideration. Here’s the site - That gives hope for my bass guitar – my last gesture at hurricane preparedness was to put the bass on top of the brand-new stove not even out of the box, and then I locked the boarded-up door and left my house. That said, I know my apartment didn’t flood and while I know security was a serious problem, now it seems that’s under control, water is flowing (though undrinkable), and it seems like they could start letting us in sometime soon. Rebuilding is ultimately going to be a matter of all the residents getting back in and tackling their homes one at a time (we certainly don’t want New Orleans to get Wal-Marted and Disneyfied).
That’s something that I haven’t heard on the news, so I’ll mention it – the unbelievable amount of renovation that has been going on in New Orleans over the last seven years or so. The list of friends that have bought houses and renovated them – Gavin and Allison, Jen and Cesar, Janet and Monty, Erica, Gina, Gloria and John, I could keep going - that list is practically as long as my list of friends. The majority of us have done it, and now we have to do it all over again. But that’s what it’s going to take to rebuild New Orleans the way it should be done, with an understanding and love for what makes it special, so let’s get back in as soon as possible.
That said, the list of people that I know that aren’t coming back is also growing, and that makes me sad. Not that I blame them – it makes perfect sense – but I will miss them. Smuteye is a trio now, not a five-piece, but Smuteye still exists, and Darv promises he will keep sending us lyrics from North Carolina.
The strangest things hit me, like when I heard Coolbone’s version of “Keep on Using Me” (is that the right title?) as the background for a commercial and I had to stop what I was doing and just sit for a few minutes. Or today when I wanted to get a haircut. Normally, I’d call Jeni at Aidan Gill, which is this old-fashioned barbershop on Magazine right around the corner from my apartment where they give you Guinness or whisky while you’re waiting and still do hot shaves, which I always meant to do, and Aidan and the other men wear bowties. Plus, he’s Irish and throws a party every St. Patrick’s Day and the parade band makes a point of stopping and saluting him. And now I have no idea what happened to Jeni and her baby boy and so getting a haircut was clearly out of the question.
Meanwhile, Brownie is no longer in charge of the relief effort, which is a relief. They should just fire him, but now he’ll be in charge if Ophelia hits Florida – you have my sympathies, Florida. It’s infuriating to watch all these people (Bush, the Two Stupid Michaels, even Bush the First) saying not to point fingers and then in the next sentence pointing fingers at the state and city government, as if there isn’t plenty of blame to go around. Right, because we have to focus on the now, instead of what somebody did or didn’t do before the hurricane hit, before a disaster was declared and FEMA took charge (also before the hurricane hit, by the way). As if Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama aren’t in a constant struggle to see which is poorest and has the fewest resources. As if Mayor Nagin isn’t the only person, the only person, I’ve seen go on the media and take personal responsibility and admit he should’ve done more. Methinks people don’t want to cast blame because they are to blame.
I guess this is what happens when you put people who don’t believe in government in charge of the government. What was it Norquist said? A federal government so small it could drown in a bathtub. Fairly apt turn of phrase now, isn’t it? Oh, how I long for the days when the worst abuse of power, the thing that brought the government to a screeching halt in scandal, was a blow-job from an intern.
There I go again, ending on a sour note. I’ll try to avoid that next time. When I’m not feeling anger, or depression, or all those other stages of grief, I really do feel hopeful, and determined, and sure that we will get through this, and that maybe, maybe we’ll actually be a better nation and people because of it. But on that last part, probably not.
Anyway, thanks again for all the phone calls, emails, well-wishing and help. My love and appreciation go out to each and every one of you. More later - Dale

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 -

Friday, September 02, 2005

Evac 3: Walking the Earth

Hello again,
Thank you everyone for all your messages – I’ll try to get back to everyone individually as I can. We lost our internet connection for awhile, but then we got the phone back. Again, the land line here is XXXXXXX, though getting through is not easy. Keep trying if you can because getting calls is really great. More and more word is coming in from people we know about how they’re okay, though at the same time we’re getting stories that are much, much worse. Arwen worked at Charity Hospital and knows people that are there. Yesterday she got a text message saying something like “They know we have food and drugs and they have guns.” They apparently locked themselves in, and we heard the National Guard finally arrived there sometime this afternoon, but right after that we saw on CNN that they were still waiting for evacuation, so we just don’t know. Gregory, a friend who was renovating Arwen’s side of the house while Gav and I were working on mine, had to crawl out his roof and wade through two miles of water to get his grandmother, but now they’re in the Astrodome. We’ve heard from many, many people, but others are still not accounted for. There’s a woman staying across the street with her two daughters; her husband is an EMT for New Orleans and we hoped that with Arwen’s hospital connections we could give her some news, but we couldn’t. She hasn’t heard from him since Monday.
Meanwhile, here a grocery store is open and surprisingly calm, so we have food. Plus beer and liquor. Unfortunately, there is no gas available, so we can’t get out. I have enough gas to get maybe a hundred miles but I don’t know if that’s far enough to get to more gas. I’m sure some will arrive soon, but meanwhile we’re stuck. Arwen and Cayne stayed here last night, along with Arwen’s dog and Cayne’s cat, and now they’re trying to make it to Nashville. We siphoned some gas out of an ATV like something out of “The Road Warrior” and got them on their way. We can’t believe how we’ve suddenly become those people you see on tv fleeing a disaster with nothing but a bag of clothes. It’s turning us into Buddhists – no attachments, living just day to day. Gavin found a large aerial photo of New Orleans online and we were able to find my house on it by comparing the photo to a map. It looks like I still have a roof, though clearly all the streets around me are flooded. There was a little white dot in front of my place that we think might be the taxi cab that’s always parked right in front of my house for some reason.
We don’t know what we’re going to do. When we arrived here, we wanted to stay a short time and then get back to the city, but that’s not possible. Obviously, we’ll have to move on as soon as we can and figure out where we’re going. Allison and I haven’t heard anything from our universities; they can’t get any messages out and we don’t know if we have jobs anymore. I hate it that that worries me given the scope of the devastation, but it does. To paraphrase Sam Jackson in “Pulp Fiction,” I guess we’re just going to walk the earth. Wander around, itinerant migrant college professors going from town to town, asking if they need teachers and getting in adventures, like Caine in “Kung Fu.” But with cats.
The offers of places to stay and money and everything keep pouring in and I can’t thank all of you enough for them. We’re actually in pretty good shape here and believe me, I’ll let you know if I need to take you up on those offers. In the meantime, there are so many people in much, much more desperate situations than me, so do what you can for them, too. I’ve heard is organizing some sort of spare bedroom list so people can offer hurricane refugees a place to stay for awhile, so if you can you could check that out (and why is it is apparently more on the ball than the government?).
There’s nothing I want to do more than get back to my city and rebuild it, single-handedly and brick-by-brick if necessary, but I don’t know when I’ll be able to. The people theoretically in charge aren’t taking control. Not to harp on this, but where’s the help? They keep saying it’s on the way, but where is it? Where are the swarms of helicopters? Why can’t we manage to air-drop in food and water? Why is the ship that’s supposed to be the command center only leaving Baltimore today? Why are the troops arriving tomorrow (hopefully) instead of last Tuesday? I just saw Mary Landrieu on cnn thanking and congratulating Bush and the rest of the government for their wonderful job, and I just wanted to scream – what wonderful job? There are bodies floating in the streets, there are more people dying by the minute. Not to single her out, but the politicians need to stop kissing each other’s asses and get something done. She said she didn’t want to cast blame, but I will. I blame her. I blame Bush. Especially him, actually, but there’s plenty to go around. I blame the mayor, the governor, senators, representatives, I blame the whole damn government. We knew this was coming. We’ve been saying for years that if the big hurricane hit it would be worse than we could possibly imagine, and nobody did anything. Bush cut the meager millions for fixing Louisiana’s coast and levees while spending 200 billion on Iraq, and Congress let him. But it’s not about what could have been done before, it’s about what should be done now, and so far, that’s virtually nothing. Why? Because the people suffering are poor and mostly black? The FEMA director, whose name I don’t know but when I find out I will burn it into my brain so I can hunt the bastard down, said on tv he wouldn’t judge those who chose not to evacuate, as if those dying and starving in New Orleans and elsewhere deserve what they get. He clearly has no concept of who he is supposed to be saving. New Orleans is full of the desperately, desperately poor, and they didn’t have a way to get out. Choice had nothing to do with it. Not every American owns a gas-guzzling, terrorist-supporting, wildly expensive S.U. fucking V. There was no plan for getting the poor out of New Orleans. Evacuation plans amounted to “get in your car and leave,” and now those who couldn’t are apparently left to die. Nobody can prevent a hurricane, but for everyone that has died since Monday night and for everyone who will die from here on out, that responsibility, that blame lies squarely on the people in charge.
I’m disgusted by the behavior of the looters, but I’m more disgusted by the behavior of the government. We pay them a shitload of money (what? ten times what I get paid? more?) to handle things like this, and they have completely and utterly failed. They sit in their mansions on the hills and say they understand, but their paychecks keep coming while all the waitstaff and bartenders and temp workers and shrimp-boaters, they’re fucked. They’ve been fucked by nature, and now they’re getting fucked again by the very people who are supposed to take care of them. Turns out the politicians have been looting the people for far longer than the last few days.
On a completely different note and tirade, if I hear one asshole like Pat Robertson say anything along the lines of this is God’s punishment on the wicked sinners of New Orleans, then it’s also God’s will that I beat the fucking shit out of him.
I have never lived in a place that had so little and yet offered so much as New Orleans. There are so many things that really are unique to the city that I have only known for a brief time and love dearly and now it seems those things are gone and nobody in charge seems to care. I’m beyond mad, I’m devastated, I’m heart-broken, I have lost all faith, I’m sad beyond words.
Thank you, thank you, thank you everyone for all your offers of help. I will get back in and rebuild my city. Meanwhile, we’re still waiting to be “shocked and awed” by the scope of the rescue effort.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Evac 2, or News Arrives, Rants Begin

Hi everyone,
Email update number two. I’m still in Jackson, and don’t imagine I’ll be going anywhere anytime soon. I think Danny Cupit, the guy who owns this beautiful house we’re holed up in, won’t be kicking us out anytime soon, which is good because it will be at least a week, if not longer, before I can even get back into New Orleans to get the last of my stuff out of the apartment I’m no longer renting.Most importantly, while there are some people I haven’t heard from, everyone I have heard from is okay, even those who didn’t evacuate. Darv and Amy, the married couple who make up the other two-fifths of Smuteye, stayed at Tulane University Hospital because Amy works there. Gavin got a text message earlier that read something like “We’re okay. Evac am. May need ride.” We’re also getting lots of messages from various friends telling us they are okay.Things are opening up in Jackson, and yesterday we even found an open liquor store, which was a very good thing. We’re still boiling water, but food is available. We’ve got power back, though the phones have gone out completely. Gavin’s cell phone works every now and again, though mine is useless. Currently, email is the best way to communicate. Does anyone have an instant messenger? I think I’ll try to download one. We have cable, too, so news is coming in. I won’t go into what is on the news since you can all see that for yourselves, and I really can’t even begin to describe what it’s like watching it except to say we’re absolutely devastated. It feels like we’re going through all those stages of grief psychologists talk about at once and constantly since the bad news just keeps coming.
To give you an idea of our situations, Gavin and Allison’s house is Uptown towards the river, which by all accounts is dry, so that’s good. The apartment I was in the middle of moving out of is also Uptown and on the second floor, so unless either of those simply got blown over or into, they should be okay. If you’ve been paying attention to the news and heard that the 17th Street Canal levee broke, flooding the city, that is unfortunately right near my house. If you look at a map of New Orleans, the canal runs down from Lake Pontchartrain towards the Mississippi right to the west of City Park, and then it splits in two. I’m at Telemachus and Banks, which is several blocks east of the eastward extension of the Canal. If you’ve seen shots of the jail that they evacuated, that’s about fifteen blocks from me. If you’ve seen shots of Xavier University, that’s maybe ten blocks from me. Flooding changes block by block, so there’s really no telling, but I’m afraid my earlier guess that water is up to my roof is probably about dead on. Right at the moment, I’m taking that in stride – it’s just stuff, and I’m alive – but at other times I’m overwhelmed. Allison said it’s like getting your hand chopped off and being told you’re lucky it wasn’t your arm. You know that’s true, but it’s a little hard to think of it that way at the time.
Anyway, my friend Arwen is headed here tonight – she’s the one I bought the house with. It’s a double shotgun, which I can only describe by saying it’s kinda arranged like a double-barreled shotgun. There are two front doors and then each side heads back room after room in a line. Anyway, she’s got one side and I’ve got the other. Or we did. She’s on her way here with some friends before they go on to Nashville to stay with Gunnar Nelson. That would be one of the Nelson twins from that pop metal band Nelson in the 80s. I mention that just because it adds to the whole surreal unreality of this whole situation.
On a totally different note, can I just rant here for a minute? I have to say I am completely underwhelmed by the response of our so-called leaders to this disaster. From Mayor Nagin on up to the idiot in the White House, the response could be charitably described as stupid. They keep telling us help is on the way, but we don’t need to hear that, we need the help. Whats-his-fuck tells us it’s the worst disaster ever – I knew that, I want to know when you’re sending in the fucking Marines. Or rather, when does the National Guard arrive. Perhaps they would have already been there, preventing the absolute worst people in New Orleans from looting the Wal-Mart seven blocks from my apartment of all its guns (and what the hell is Wal-Mart doing selling guns?) if they weren’t dicking around in Iraq and instead, oh, I don’t know, guarding the fucking nation! We’re in the absolute worst natural crisis of our history here and our leaders are wandering around with their thumbs up their asses. I’m supposed to be thankful that Bush cut his vacation short by two days so that he could wander across the Rose Garden lawn carrying his damn dog? I’d rather have the fucking dog in charge. My city is under water and armed gangs are ruling the streets and that’s what I have to deal with when I finally am able to make it back to my home – I don’t want to hear help is on its way, I want to hear we have the Guard on every corner restoring order. I want to hear our president considers Iraq worth spending 200 billion dollars on, and he considers millions of Americans and Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama worth spending that kind of money on.
Okay, deep breath. Here’s the good news – when you get the chance, do a web search on Jen, Cesar, and Claudio. You should find a news article about my crazy friends. In the meantime, we’re again all physically safe - more when I have it.- Dale