A year ago today I got home.
Of course, my home was a horrible mess, but I got into it. After dropping Darv off at his car, I met Arwen at Molly’s in the Quarter and then we went to check out the house. We weren’t supposed to be back in our neighborhood, as Mid-City wasn’t officially opened until Oct. 5 (my birthday present last year), but nobody stopped us. They didn’t seem to care where we went in the city as long as we did it before curfew.
We had to kick in the doors because they were all swollen shut and, after five weeks of trying to figure out just how bad the flooding was from blurry satellite photos – “Is that a hole in the roof, or just missing shingles? Does it look like the water is to the roof of the back porch or is that the railing?” – I finally got a first-hand look at it. You can see those pictures here.
I still had a key to my old apartment, and my furniture and clothes were still there, so even though I hadn’t been able to get in touch with my old landlord, I just moved back in. At the time, I didn’t think I’d still be living in this apartment a year later, but so it goes.
A few weeks ago, I was flipping through the notebook I had with me in those days, trying to find a FEMA registration number or something, and I found this scribbled in it. I’m not sure exactly what day it was written (second night back? third?), but I figured I’d type it up just to give people an idea of where we were a year ago. I decided not to edit it (beyond spelling errors) to keep it more accurate to the moment.
Here it is:
I don’t know where to begin – anywhere seems inadequate. Besides which, I can barely scribble legibly. I’m in my apartment with AC, and yet my house is a wreck. I’d like a drink of this J.D. but I have no glass I trust. There are glasses here, but they are packed away and dusty, and I can’t trust the water rinsing them off, so out of the bottle it is. On the one hand, Gavin conjured up a fabulous pasta dish from thin air tonight (keep in mind his refrigerator is currently duck-taped up on the curb awaiting removal. My refrigerator is disgusting but I’m still considering popping open bottles of Pilsner Urquell in there – hey, they’re cold. I’ve heard, by the way, that refrigerators are, of course, impossible to come by, but also that insurance will pay for the food that rotted in the fridge, but not for the fridge itself – it’s the “storm vs. flood what’s covered” debate, which is clearly going to be the debacle of this disaster.)
Anyway, after having a fabulous dinner at Gavin’s, I then had to take off to get home by curfew. Writing about the house is impossible at the moment, but the apartment is in fine shape – I have a perfectly good bed to sleep in. I can listen to the radio, and they keep telling me to look at some website to get updates on the city and services. “If you are re-entering the city, you must be aware of the warnings and regulations, especially the curfew, which are available at www.cityofno.com.” Fair enough, but granted nobody in New Orleans has web access, how about giving us those rules and curfew hours?
Meanwhile, the radio station continues to simply broadcast anyone who can call them, which ranges from people wondering if they can come in yet, to people looking for people either to a – reconnect with families, or b – hire people to clear junk. Whatever it is, they seem to be doing the best job of getting info. out to folks actually in N.O., which I mention because how odd it is that the oldest technology (radio, tv, internet) is the only one working. Currently people are calling in to complain about not being able to get help from the Red Cross or FEMA. I have no idea if that’s typical or not. I’ve heard everything from impossible to fantastic job. I’ve apparently dropped back into the zone of “no good info” which the entire country was in a week or two ago.
So I came home and surveyed the damage, both house and apartment, but found myself incapable of doing anything today clean-up wise. In fact, I filled my bathtub with water (theoretically uncontaminated) before Katrina but I have no idea if the rather greenish and dirty water in my tub is safer to bathe in than the stinking of chlorine water that comes out of my faucet. So that’s what my life is down to, but as soon as I think that, I remember that at least I have a life to have stuff to get down to, so no complaints.
And that’s where it stops. Not the most coherent thing I’ve ever written, but I wanted to share anyway. Reading it now, what mostly strikes me is the stuff I didn’t bother to explain, like the curfew time (8 pm) or that only one radio station was broadcasting or that the water was unsafe for bathing and drinking. I had forgotten how quickly the completely fucked up aspects of being in New Orleans in those days became standard, assumed, normal.