Sunday, September 25, 2005

Eastward Ho!

Goggles? Check. Respirator? Check. Extra gas? Crap. No extra gas. Once again, gasoline is in short supply, and those precious red, plastic cans are sold out. Oh, yeah. And I have to figure out the best way to drive around 2 million de-evacuating (devacuating?) Houston-ites.

Rita has blown over, and the trip is back on. I'm heading east tomorrow (I hope) to Nicholson, Mississippi, an hour outside of New Orleans where I'll meet up with John and Zack, and we'll form a sort of neo-apocalyptic Three Musketeers of reconstruction, wielding our hammers with fury and might. Or something like that.

At various moments, this thing has felt like it must be a different century. Mass population migrations? Packing provisions? Leaving the womenfolk and children behind?* This stuff doesn't happen anymore, right? When Katrina blew through, it rolled back the clock and created a new frontier in the middle of the Gulf South with New Orleans at it's epicenter, a no-man's-land, surrounded by concentric rings of progressively increasing normalcy. In the passing weeks, the normalcy has gradually flowed back in (although Rita briefly put that on hold). Now some things are really back up and running. Others are still in the stone age.

I'm looking forward to going back, and taking the first little step towards rebuilding our New Orleans lives, even though I know it won't be easy seeing my home like that.

And I have no idea when my next post will be. Check back in. If I don't manage to update in the interim, I'll definitely have plenty to say when I get back in a few days.

* This is not a comment on my gender politics. It's just how things have worked out.

True Character

In a recent comment Billy passed along a link to this bit of ugliness. It reminded me of something I heard the other morning when I was flipping through radio dial and landed on a local fundamentalist Christian talk show. They were lamenting the "poisoning of our cities" by "demonic gang members" from New Orleans. Eventually they conceded that there were, in fact, some "decent folks" from New Orleans who should be treated with respect. I'm not sure how one distinguishes the demonic gang members from the decent folks, but I'm pretty sure it has something to do with the color of their skin.

Disasters have a way of exposing peoples true character. Shortly after Katrina I talked about how wonderful people have been. Folks from all over have stepped up, putting aside their everyday concerns, and doing their best to help out in whatever way possible.

And yet there are some people, who have the exact opposite response, who choose this exact moment to indulge their basest instincts, to vent a bit of racist nastiness. Sometimes it's veiled. Sometimes it's blatant. I don't get it. And I've seen it in so many places - from politicians who can't quite hide their indifference, to the Gretna cops who wouldn't let folks over the bridge, to ignorant talk show callers, to diehard bigots from my own hometown talking about how they hope this "cleans up the city" once and for all.

When they say these things they're talking about my neighbors, good people. And it makes my blood boil.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Lovely Rita

Although, thankfully, the folks in Houston have been spared, Rita is still causing a big ol' mess. And it's delaying my plans for a trip back into the city, passing directly between Austin, where I am, and New Orleans, where I need to be. The trip will be on again as soon as this all blows over. The sooner the better, I say, because just sitting around here, biding my time, is really starting to work on my nerves.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Mr. Jurvis



Mr. Jurvis
Was quite nervous
About the passage of time
For he knew that each tock
That the clock did tick
Brought him closer to the end of the line.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Another Round, Please

Ah, yes. Another day in Austin. Taking the kids to school. Running errands. Oh, yeah, and preparing for another hurricane. Ridiculous.

It could be worse though. Our friends who evacuated to Houston are having to evacuate all over again. Blech!

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Yet Another Undeniably True Observation By My Four-Year-Old Daughter

"Usually boys drive vans."

We Will Rebuild (or The Return of the Mustache Joke)

This blog use to be funny. Recently it has been less funny. This blog use to have many running jokes. Recently it has had less running jokes. We use to joke about mustaches. Recently we have not joked about mustaches. But tonight I offer this pledge to the American people. We will do what it takes, we will stay as long as it takes, to help this blog to be funny again. We will rebuild the mustache joke.

And all who question the future of Slimbolala need to know, there is no way to imagine Slimbolala without the mustache joke. This great joke will rise again.

To that end I present the following pictures, sent to me by "Hilary", wife of "John". They were taken in a simpler time, a time when hot New Orleans nights sparkled with the laughter of hundreds of raucous Mustache Parties (alright, this is the only mustache party I've ever been aware of, but there should be hundreds). I had completely forgotten about them until they showed up in my mailbox.

Enjoy.


Yours truly avec mustache (I think the "wife beater" is a nice touch too).


The lil lady con 'stache.


Maysey et moi.


"John" (king of "cracker packers") dons the lip fur. Hilarity ensues.

That felt good. Didn't it?

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Post-Millenial-Scandinavian-Lounge-Chic

Friday night we went on a huge furniture binge at the Houston Ikea (well, it's not technically a binge since we only bought stuff we really needed, but either way, it was a hell of a lot of stuff). It's a bit of a shock. In the matter of a few short weeks our home decor has gone from 19th-century-frayed-at-the-edges-Creole-eclectic to post-millenial-Scandinavian-lounge-chic. When we do eventually move back home they'll get all mashed up together. It will be cool.

...

We saw our dear friend Fay (wife of Jeff) and her darling kiddos today. They've been residing in Houston for the time being. Once again, it's great seeing our folks from home.

...

We're trying to make the best of our time in Austin. Barton Springs is one of my new favorite places on Earth.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Sharper Focus

Our plans for the near future became clearer everyday.

We got a call from our tenant this morning who rents (rented) the other half of our house in New Orleans. He snuck into the city today to try and rescue his cat (the cat, as it turns out, had already been rescued by one of the various animal groups at work in the city). He was able to give us a pretty detailed assessment of the house. The water has receded, but the first floor is a wreck. Mold has grown on everything: floors, furniture, walls. Upstairs on our side is fine. The roof on his side has a big hole in it and one can see sky from the hallway.

So we are feeling some urgency to get the situation in our house stabilized. Here's the plan:
  1. Get settled in our Austin home over the weekend (there's a trip to the Houston Ikea in the works for tonight).
  2. I head back to New Orleans next week (supposedly, they will be letting folks from our zip code in on Wednesday). We have other friends who will be descending on the city at the same time. We get all of our houses in reasonable stable shape.
  3. I return to Austin. We make our little lives here for as long as necessary.
  4. Once it's a viable option, we return to New Orleans to live, staying with friends if necessary, until our house is available again.
  5. Eventually everything returns to some weird, new version of "normal" (although nobody actually has any idea what that will look like).
Makes sense to me.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

A Compendium of My Ridiculously Obsessive Rules of Attire (the Refugee Remix)

Due to recent changes in circumstances, the list requires an update.

Wandering the face of the earth:
  • One of three black, size-medium, one pocket t-shirts.
  • Optionally (in cooler weather): my one vaguely retro, short sleeve shirt.
  • Pants or shorts (depending on climate).
    • Pants:
      - My one pair of Levi's 501s, dark blue.
    • Shorts:
      - My one pair of vaguely retro, plaid shorts OR
      - My one pair of Dickies plain-front, khaki shorts.
  • Plain, brown, leather belt.
  • One of three pairs of grey socks.
  • My one pair of black, lowtop (increasingly funky) Chuck Taylors.
Hair:
  • Dax Wave and Groom (just because I'm a refugee doesn't mean I have to let my hair go all to hell - although it is getting kind of shaggy).
Sunglasses:
  • $9 wire-rimmed, rectangular aviators from Rite-Aid (it's bright in Texas).
So the list is shorter, but that's O.K. I pretty much wore the same thing everyday anyways. Now I just have a good excuse. And I still try to always wear a mustache on Fridays.

Hey, Neighbor

We went to the Red Cross here in Austin to deal with some housing stuff. It was the first time since Katrina that I've been around a large group of New Orleanians, and it felt so good.

Home, Perfectly O.K., Home

Last night Sarah and I both woke up in the middle of the night wondering what the hell we were doing here. Austin is not our home (a lovely city, don't get me wrong, but not our city). For the past two days we've been in a state of constant "decision thrash", making choices, reversing them, revising them, and reverting back to our original choices - over, and over, and over. When you have no information to base your decisions on, there are no good decisions. When you have no information, each new little scrap of information radically reshapes your decision-making landscape. Choices which made sense an hour earlier are suddenly untenable. It's been two days of this. It's been exhausting.

So at three o'clock in the morning we had a conversation and essentially decided, "Screw it. We're sticking with what we've got." And a lot of things came together very quickly today. We've found a half-day program for the girls at the YWCA, a place where they can play with other kids and have a bit of structure (and Louise can learn some Spanish). We found an apartment. It's nothing special, a completely generic two bedroom in one of those anonymous apartment complexes. But it's cheap, and the lease is monthly, and it's great. It's great to have a place, any place, to call "home". Even if it's really just "home for now".

In the afternoon we ate good Mexican food (and drank good margaritas) with friends. It was nice.

And I just found out that I might actually still have a job working remotely for my old company. The nice thing about the geek business is that it can be done pretty much anywhere. My employer is a small New Orleans software company, but they've managed to set up a virtual office with folks working from their various locations around the country.

As we were making plans to come to Austin I had a fear that I would fall in love with it, that I would fall out of love with New Orleans. Despite its reputation as the "Big Easy", New Orleans is actually a hard place to make a life, and it just got a lot harder. I was afraid that if I actually experienced life in a "functional" city where things are clean and the schools work I might not want to go back. The opposite has happened. I miss my home more than ever.

We want to return to New Orleans as soon as it's a viable place for us to live. But that may be a while, and we need to be somewhere in the meantime. Today we made a lot of progress. It's been good.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Giddyup!

Louise got to ride a horse for the first time today (actually a pony, but don't tell her that). She's been fixated on doing so ever since we got here, which is sort of funny since New Orleans is (or was) about as good a place to ride horses as Austin.

Our friend, Andy, took us to Kiddie Acres:



a hilarious holdover from the middle of the last century with about a dozen rusty old amusement rides staffed by a total of precisely two laconic teenage girls. Tickets were 95 cents. Pony rides were three tickets. Louise loved it in here adorable, quiet, serious way.



A good time was had by all.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

We've Come a Long Way, Baby!*

At about four o'clock this afternoon Sarah and I realized that today marks fifteen years together as a couple.** Considering that recently we can barely remember our names, the fact that we remembered at all is a remarkable accomplishment. Whoo hoo!

* From now on I'm going to try to reference cigarette slogans in all my post titles (not really).

** We met the first day of college. We're not actually, you know, like, really old.

Note: Hey, look! Footnotes are back. And I'm actually trying to be humorous. There was a time many moons ago (well actually it was just a little over two weeks ago, but it feels like an eternity) when this blog was sort of funny. Does anyone remember that? The phoenix shall rise!

Back in the Saddle Again

I'm actually managing to find a bit of time to draw again, and I've rigged up a crude substitute for my scanner (it involves my digital camera and a large jar of peanut butter - I will overcome!). So this is "Theoretical Texan Man":



He's "theoretical" because I haven't seen anyone in Austin who actually looks anything like this.

Giddyup.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Today's Notes

Zack and Ana arrived here in Austin earlier than expected. They had intended to spend a little longer in Mississippi packing up their home, but it was just too depressing. Power in their region is still out (although, curiously, it was on at the Wal-Mart - that pact with the devil is really working out for them). Everything is still a mess. And the railroad tracks a hundred yards from there house have been turned into a giant military and utility staging ground with hundreds of vehicles and giant klieg lights burning through the night.

It's good to see them.

...

Memorial Hospital, the hospital in the news today where they found 45 dead bodies, is just around the corner from our house. I used to walk my dog past it everyday. Awful.

And the strange disconnect continues. The little places of our daily life at home are everpresent in the news but entirely inaccessible in our actual lives.

...

It's fun driving around Austin. I always like learning new cities. Even if I have no idea what the hell I'm doing here.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Austin

We drove through the night and arrived in Austin in the wee hours of the morning, or, more precisely, at our destination on the very southern edge of town. For the moment we are relying on the kindness of strangers, staying at the temporarily vacant house of parents of friends of friends, until we can find something longer term.

Did I mention that we've never actually been to Austin? We have lots of connections here, plenty of friends. In some ways we've always thought of it as our sibling town to the west. But for whatever reason we never actually made it here ourselves. Well, we're here now.

...

We left Perdido yesterday afternoon. Everybody else was departing as well. Miranda and Phillip were heading up east to spend time in North Carolina, visiting friends, until they can return to the city. Ana and Zack were heading to their home in Mississippi to pack up there belongings and will be joining us here in Austin in a couple of day. For them the move is permanent. They've been planning to migrate here for some time, and Katrina simply provided the catalyst to do it sooner rather than later.

As we headed out, there was a definite curiosity to see the area effected by the hurricane. Although this thing has made a jumble of our lives, those of us who evacuated ahead of the storm never actually saw the thing firsthand. We simply watched it on TV like everybody else. We wanted to somehow witness it, or at least its tangible aftermath, directly.

I-10 westbound through Alabama and Mississippi was chock full of vehicles moving in to the disaster area: roofers, tree services, big trucks towing trailers, big trucks towing airboats, a convoy of 30 Florida State Troopers, a humvee of soldiers in full combat gear including helmets. As we moved further west there was increasing evidence of the hurricane. Huge billboards advertising shows at now non-existent casinos were toppled and mangled. Large swathes of pine trees were snapped in half. Almost every house or building had damage. Some had been severely battered, and a few were entirely destroyed.

We drove as far as we could on I-10, just a short distance east of New Orleans, where the highway is closed, and then veered onto I-12 around the north side of Lake Pontchatrain. Night was falling and most of the area was still without power. For a long stretch everything was closed. Occasionally we saw large encampments of utility or military vehicles alongside the highway. The parking lot of one mall had been turned into a tent city Occasionally there were small bands of civilians camped alongside the road. Even though this was far from the worst of things, it was unlike anything I had ever seen. I imagine it looks a lot like the rear lines of a war zone.

We stopped in Hammond, a normally smallish, North Shore town that is now flooded with displaced people. The streets were jammed at 10 o'clock on a Saturday night even though most businesses were closed for curfew. Taco Bell, though, was open and full of Red Cross workers and evacuated teenagers from Slidell. A panhandler asked for 4 dollars. I said I was from New Orleans and had nothing to spare at the moment. He gave me a friendly wave and told me where I could find a hot meal and a cot for the night.

...

As we passed through Lafayette, our friend, Jeff, called. It was the first time we'd talked to him since he went into the city and the first time we'd gotten any details about his experiences. He essentially sweet-talked his way in, using every connection he had, hooked up with the police, and then set up a make-shift medical clinic in the gift shop of the Sheraton Inn on Canal Street. He's been administering to officers with supplies commandeered from a nearby pharmacy. Remarkable. What's even more remarkable is that he had to fight so hard to help. He has the skills. There's an obvious need. And yet the only way he managed to make it happen was by essentially bypassing all conventional channels.

What's also remarkable is that he's actually very optimistic about the fate of New Orleans. He thinks many things will be up and running again long before people anticipate. He's seen things first hand that most people haven't. I hope he's right.

...


Once again...

As we drove in to Texas it began raining, the first rain since Katrina. I remembered that it was exactly two weeks from the night we drove to Memphis and the first rains from the hurricane moved through.

...

This morning we slept, and then did a couple of errands. This afternoon we made our first forays into downtown. This evening we met up with our Austin friends. They're good people. Our kids played with their kids (Louise and June are actually doing great through this whole thing - Louise is tremendously excited about Texas even though she doesn't know a thing about it and is constantly declaring that everything is "beautiful" and asking when she gets to ride a horse).

It was sad yesterday when our little Perdido commune broke up. At each step since Katrina the place we've been and the people we're with have become "home for now", first Memphis and then Perdido. Now Austin. I have no idea how long we'll be here. I've given up on trying to anticipate things like that. But we've got good folks here, and we'll figure it all out.

Now I'm very sleepy and must go to bed.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Until We Meet Again

Well, it looks like tomorrow we're heading into the great beyond (this is all very fast, but now that we've made the decision there's really nothing to hang around for), so things might be kind of quiet around here for a day or two.

Catch you on the flipside.

Hey, Eight-Eyes

One might assume that a house full of eight human and four canine refugees is always a sad, fretful, and gloomy place. That assumption would be wrong:

Evacuation Oddities

The choices that one makes of what to take when evacuating for a hurricane can be illuminating. Some are just straightforward: clothes, toiletries, essential documents, etc. But there are other choices, the idiosyncratic, non-essential ones that can reveal a lot about a person.

Here is a sampling of some of the things the folks here have evacuated with:

Sarah and I:
  • Rum.
  • Limes.
  • A juicer.
  • Simple syrup (we thought this was just a three day evacuation - we figured a mean old hurricane is was no reason not to have good daiquiris).
Ana:
  • The fancy, purple purse that her mother gave her, by far the fanciest purse she has ever owned. It's very nice.
Phillip:
  • A guitar.
  • A mini-Marshall portable amp.
  • His brother's "Davioke" book (his brother, Dave's, song book for karaoke with live accompaniment - oodles of hits from recent decades - it's a remarkable treasure).
  • A crystal paperweight with a laser-etched illustration of a light house.
Zack:
  • A jar of Creole mustard (the local New Orleans variety) because, as he rightly points out, you can't get it any where else.
Miranda (she takes the cake on evacuation oddities):
  • Her darling stuffed bunny, "Bun-bun".
  • 3 really good down pillows.
  • All of her Netflix movies.
  • Her grandmother's dentures.
  • And last but not least, the really weird, mutant double-goat-paw-thingy that normally hangs on the wall of her living room:



    Talk about odd.
Fellow refugees, anything to add?

Texas Bound

Well, it seems that our next step is Austin, a place where we can settle in for the longer haul, get a place, get the kids in school, and start working. Until New Orleans is an option again. We just decided on this a couple of days ago. We're probably heading there in another day or two. Giant decisions are being made at an alarming rate, but what else is there to do?

I've been intending to write something about this move but, not surprisingly, haven't managed to find the time or presence of mind. Then Sarah sent out an email this morning to all of our people which said precisely what I wanted to and more. So I'll just let her do the talking.

World premiere blogging by Sarah:
We have a plan. It is now clear that waiting here in Alabama until we can get into the city is not something we can do. It could be a while. Especially since we still have water in our house. And we need a home of our own for the girls: we need to get Louise in school, Dave (and possibly me) need an income and as lovely as it is here on Perdido Bay, I don't feel much like being on vacation. I want to be around people in a city. So, we are moving to Austin, TX. We have no idea if it will be for 5 weeks, 5 months or a couple of years. Whatever is going to happen in New Orleans, it is going to be a long haul. They don't expect schools to be open this entire year. We want to go back, we will go back, but when will be determined by so many things. Will David's small New Orleans based company make it? Are schools going to open next fall?

I think of all of the families of New Orleanians scattered everywhere. New Orleanians, famous for never leaving their city, are now all over the country. What are the people in Texas, Utah, Michigan going to make of us? Do their schoolkids know that it is actually cool to be in band? That if you are in band in New Orleans and you march in Mardi Gras people stand 10 people deep and scream for you? Do they understand that you start planning dinner while brushing your teeth in the morning? That while you are eating said dinner, you talk about food, not the food you are eating, but other wonderful meals you are going to have or have had? That grown men call other men 'baby' and grownups call kids 'boo'? I can't begin to think about the things I will miss desperately about New Orleans: it makes me profoundly sad. All I know is in New Orleans I could call people on a Friday and by Saturday night have a potluck dinner party with 12 friends. When will I have that again?

But we are not going to Austin alone. Ana and Zack are going too and Ana has a whole group of friends that are already gearing up for our arrival. We have a place to stay. leads on jobs, etc... It is appropriate we are leaving New Orleans with Ana: she is the first friend I made in New Orleans when we moved there 10 years ago. She was just the start of the wonderful community of friends Dave and I made there over the years. Now we are everywhere. Well, all we can do is keep in touch. So, please write and call - it means so much.

And also, thanks for all the care packages we got here in Alabama. Don't send anymore since we will be going to Austin soon; in a day or two. As soon as we get settled, I will send everyone contact information. By the way, the girls are good and happy. We told Louise we were going to move to a place called Austin for a while. She was silent and then asked if Austin had mountains, I said no, but it has hills. She then asked if the hills were green. When I said yes, she said, "well that sounds nice. I like hills."

Love,
Sarah
Well said.

The Morning News

A revised version of my Notes from the Diaspora has been published by The Morning News. Take a gander if you're so inclined.

There are hundreds of thousands of stories in this whole mess. I hope people will find it useful to have a first-hand peek into one of them.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Thank You, Jeff

I just saw Jeff, one of our closest friends in the world, on CNN. He's a doctor, and right now he's in New Orleans doing whatever he can, helping out the people of our city (they keep on looping his clip - CNN seemed particularly interested in the gun on his hip, but it's not about the gun). He's there doing it regardless of the absence of reasonable support. He's there doing it because he's a good man, he cares about people, and he loves our city. Jeff, we're all so proud of you.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Thank You

I just want to say thank you to all of you out there. It does not need to be said that so many facets of this Katrina disaster are unspeakably horrible. However, I've never so aware of the essential goodness and decency of so many people. All of you, everyone, friends, family, folks who I only know through this little bloggy window, all of you have been wonderful. From offers of places to say to kind words to dorky jokes, a sweet comment, a phone call, or an email - it means more than you probably realize. Never in my life have I been so aware of the value of the people in my life. Again, thank you.

Less Funny Awful, More Funny Ha-Ha

Anybody know any good (or even really lousy) jokes? I'd love to hear them.

Here's one:
"Knock knock"

"Who's there?"

"Interrupting cow."

"Interru..."

"Moo."
When I heard that one this morning I laughed so hard I nearly wet myself. I don't know if it's actually really funny or if it's just my wonky emotional state. Doesn't matter.

Sarah and I went to dinner last night at a cheesy, little dockside bar and grill with huge hamburgers and a lousy band. It was nice.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Oh, Well

We just found out that the first floor of our house is chest deep in water. We kind of figured as much, but it sucks to hear it confirmed.

Happy Anniversary

Today is Sarah's and my seventh wedding anniversary (and we're a week shy of fifteen years together in total). Happy anniversary, sweetie. We'll figure it all out.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Additional Notes

I have not had the time or energy to devote to the political aspects of this crisis. I will only say that I am deeply gratified to hear the outrage expressed by those in a position to do so. Mainstream media is candidly talking about the factors of race and poverty that fed this crisis. This is extraordinary. I only wish it hadn't taken an event of this magnitude to make it so. And it brings me great joy to hear Mayor Nagin bluntly announce his fury. Keep it up. Give them hell.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Notes From the Diaspora

I'm still incapable of making any sort of cohesive statement about this whole affair. I will simply relay some miscellaneous notes and thoughts from the past few days:

The approach of the hurricane is so surprising. Friday it's a non-issue. During the day at work I begin to hear mention that it's shifting our way, but we all go home for the weekend expecting to return Monday for business as usual. We are looking forward to a fun weekend. My parents are in town. We have free baby sitting and lots of activities planned including a big party for Annou's birthday on Sunday. Friday night Annou calls saying she thinks we should make evacuation plans. We're initially skeptical but go ahead and make hotel reservations in Memphis, fully planning to cancel them later.

Saturday morning we go to an open house at Louise's school to get ready for her entering pre-K. It's sweet and exciting. We get home and there are eight phone messages including four from the bakery wondering if we still want the cake for Sunday. This is when we realize this is a real issue.

We shift into evacuation mode. We decide to make preparations during the afternoon and evening, and if truly necessary we will leave in the middle of the night, hoping to avoid the traffic nightmares that occurred during Ivan last year. It becomes clear that the evacuation is necessary. We batten down the hatches, move everything in, pack essentials and move other valuables to the upstairs hallway.



Annou meets us. We eat all of the ice cream out of the freezer and leave shortly before midnight: Mom, Dad, Annou, Sarah, Louise, June, Penny (the dog), and Delilah (the cat). We caravan in two cars. Ours is very full.

...

The contraflow is incredibly strange. Inbound lanes of the highway have been converted to outbound. Driving westward out of town the first squalls of rain pass through. Seeing the quadruple rows of red taillights heading away is surreal. It feels precisely like a scene from a giant Hollywood disaster movie. The girls are wide awake, quietly staring out the windows. We listen to 870 AM as far as we can receive it. The mayor comes on, jokes with the announcer in their jovial New Orleans way and then becomes very serious telling people that this "could be the big one".

...

We arrive in Memphis at first light. We eat breakfast and watch the news. Things have gotten worse. The storm is huge.

...



We eat barbeque for lunch and Korean for dinner. The news worsens through the day. That night after everyone is in bed Sarah and I drink a lot of Bourbon and watch a PBS special about Hank Williams. We go to bed expecting our city to be destroyed the next day. We sleep like the dead.

...

In the morning we awaken to find that the storm has shifted to the east. It seems that New Orleans will be spared the worst of it.

I can laugh now. I catch my favorite unintentionally funny quote from a ridiculous "on the scene" reporter . He earnestly tells the cameraman "we're going to try to work our way up into that crevice where we're going to to shoot some tape." I think to myself "'shoot some tape', eh? Is that what they're calling it now?"

I drop my parents off at the car rental. They're driving back to Virginia, ending they're strangely rerouted vacation.

We go to Otherlands coffee shop and run into a regular from the Rue de la Course, my coffee shop in New Orleans. In fact, on subsequent visits I encounter numerous people from Rue at the Otherlands. An entire refugee community has formed, using wi fi, swapping bits of information.



We meet up with Memphis friends in the afternoon. Our kids play with there kids. Things are O.K.

We plan to return home on Wednesday.

...

Describing Tuesday and Wednesday is very difficult. They are a jumble. We have been following the news carefully, concerned for our houses, realizing it will be longer than we thought until we can return home. We begin to realize that our lives will be upended for the near future.

We keep the kids busy. Memphis is full of people we recognize from New Orleans. We go to the Children's Museum and see numerous familiar parents wondering through the exhibits with their kids. Everyone is a little dazed.

The news continues to worsen. We have determined that our house is probably alright, but gradually an awareness grows that the city itself is not. Not just certain neighborhoods, not just a temporary blow, but a radical shift.

The situation in the city is becoming more desperate. The scale of the disaster slowly comes into focus. This is not a small number of people trapped for one night in their homes. This is devastating. Looting is shifting from a small side story into something radically different and more horrible. The city is clearly unraveling.

Tuesday night friends in Memphis have dinner for us and other refugees. It is beautiful and unreal.

...

Wednesday moves very quickly. It has become obvious that, although we might have a house, we have no home. I can no longer watch the news. The devastation of my city is crushing. The sight of my fellow New Orleanians in that hell is more than I can bare to see.

There are dozens of practical details to be dealt with. We get cell phones with Memphis phone numbers so people can call us (New Orleans phones are useless). We go to Target to buy new clothes for the kids. People in the store approach us, immediately recognizing our circumstances, offering their condolences. In the parking lot a woman sees our Louisiana license plate, briefly talks to us, and then forces twenty dollars into our hands, refusing to be turned down.

We've been offered use of the house at Perdido. We accept. We make plans for Annou to travel to my parents house in Virginia.

Late in the day we remember to wish Annou a happy birthday.

Many other things happen, but I can't remember them.

...

Thursday we leave Memphis. At the last minute we decide to send the cat with Annou (there will be five dogs staying in Perdido). I take Annou to the airport. Even though I know it will be o.k. it makes me very sad. Our little Memphis community which has held together over the recent days is dispersing. It makes our situation more real.

We're driving Annou's car to Perdido. We lend our car indefinitely to friends of friends from New Orleans who have no car. They may head on to North Carolina or Michigan. Our car will go with them. These things will get sorted out later. It barely matters.

On the way out of town, in the Subway parking lot, again a woman forces a wad of cash into our hands.



We head south through Mississippi and Alabama arriving at Perdido late in the evening. On the way we pass large convoys of federal vehicles.

...

When the hurricane hit, our community shattered like something thrown against a wall, and little shards flew all across the country. We have friends from Colorado to Boston, people we were sitting next to last week. A web of communication instantaneously sprang up in the aftermath with all of us constantly calling, emailing, getting in touch however we could sharing information. For the past week the city this community shares as a home, the heart of this community, has been a hole, an inaccessible hell on earth walled in by a moat of water. We see the the images on television, see our neighborhoods, our neighbors. We can only watch.

One of the hardest things has been that all of our friends and much of our family, the people we would depend on for help, are hundreds of miles away. The phone calls and email have been crucial, but not the same. Now that a small band of us, some of our closest friends, has coalesced here in a place that can function as our home for the immediate future, things look better. After two days the shell shocked fatigue has started to fade, we make lots of stupid awful jokes, and we're able to just begin to prepare for the next step.

Note: A revised version of this post has since been published at The Morning News.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Home for Now

We're in Perdido with our friends. It's so good to be here. I have lots I want to say but don't have the wherewithal to say at the moment. I will post more once our batteries have recharged a bit.

I have been essentially incapable of watching the news for the past couple of days - it's too painful and we've had too much to handle - and have essentially been in a self-imposed news blackout, relying on friends and family to give me brief dispatches of the key developments. Now that we're here I'm at a point where I can start watching it again. Awful.