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Email From NOLA IIg
Yesterday, the end of the first week of November 05, in New Orleans, it was hot and muggy enough to require a full immersion cold shower and I feel even now, the next morning, baptized by the refreshing water of hope flowing from out of my pipes, here in this mostly vacant city.
I have potential support from many sources and am not in bad spirits, nor, as of this date can I create a list of unmet needs. That there are people suffering far more than I is such a constant in my frame of reference that--although I am not without some guilt for how relatively fortunate I am--I am trying not to waste too much time wallowing in what is mostly a waste of emotional energy.
Every new week brings new senators and activists who take their bus tours of the city and see what it is we are all seeing once arriving--a scope of devastation much larger than we were prepared for. All of them purport to having seen prior devastation, worldwide, and all say the same thing, they haven't seen anything this bad before. I think that has to reflect more on their lack of really getting out and seeing prior devastation worldwide than on the severity of this catastrophe versus others, but still, no shit, the scene here is mind boggling.
It's foggy this morning.
It is going to get cold eventually.
Mayor says eastern New Orleans might have power in six months.
The energy company (Entergy) in charge has filed Chapter 11.
New Oreans' bond rating has been downgraded, making investment here even shakier.
Out of town worker-looters are still a factor but relative to the crime that existed here Pre-K, those little punk ass bitch overpaid fuckers are really only a baseball bat away from eradicating. I wrote on the refrigerators still in the street this morning, "clean.up crew looted here."
I spent a cumulative three hours on hold, for three separate calls to Entergy, on Saturday. Entergy has always been very easy to deal with, very polite and helpful operators, and this is coming from a phonecallaphobic, but the second operator on Saturday was noticeably on edge, very grumpy, surly even, and essentially, just hung up on me. What I accomplished, I think, was having the utilities put back in my name. The renters are now set up on the West Bank. So the good news is I'm not incurring any utility costs, the bad news of course--got no utilities.
But Uptown and the FQ are up and running, only slightly crippled, and these are good things. Hundreds and hundreds of fine structures survived the flood. Being able to park in the French Quarter for morning grocery or breakfast runs is a thing I never thought I'd experience. I am constantly being cautious, taking the first spot I see, and then seeing numerous spaces, closer to my destinations.
I can pick up the Internet via wifi signals in various locations around the city (although I do have one favorite spot).
I know it is a better read when I report on actual characters, and my occasional interaction with them, and like I've said, the FQ and Uptown have quite a few people roaming around, but where I live, and did historically roam, is all but devoid of human beings, and still, completely devoid of operating businesses. Well, I know a couple of car washes are open. And, that newspaper box is selling papers on a nearby corner. And the Rockn'Bowl is opening back up, but, I never really dug it there.
I have run a hundred foot extension cord from the charging device in my truck and down the sideyard and into the bedroom window, and can now power up and use the laptops from the comfort of this air mattress. And although there is no mail delivery, and you have to take your mail and deposit it inside an actual post office, and then, one by one, try to retrieve your mail after giving one of 3 or 4 employees your ID, I do have hopes of resuming my Netflix addiction; I got the email notification yesterday that they had received the three I sent back last week. I was getting a really good turn around time those last few months in Virginia, but if I can get half that good of a turnaround here in New Orleans, I'll be happy. I bought some new batteries for my little clip on reading light because the days not only seem really short, they are short. And then I realized I can use the blank screen of this laptop as a reading light. The obstacles to my well being are simply no match for my desire to overcome them.
Email From NOLA IIf
It was always pretty quiet on this block of Rocheblave. And Sunday mornings in New Orleans were always quiet. I was getting ready to say how completely different and eerie is the quiet here now when a vessel twenty blocks behind me, floating down the Mississippi, gave a long sustained blast on the foghorn. I heard a bird chirp a minute ago. Somebody's rooting around in one of the Bienville houses, whose back yards back up perpendicularly to my side yard. Three crazy Blue Jays flying around, one slid down the slope of my porch railing earlier. They not making any noise though. I hear some vehicles moving somewhere. The cooling fan of my universal charging device plugged into the cigarette lighter makes a little noise. There go that aggressive Blue Jay sound.
Heard somebody say recently that the Monk Parakeets are gone but I saw some yesterday. They noisy too. Just not right now.
There was a muffled thump and a vibration felt, maybe the structural beam of a far off structure crashing down. And finally, a songbird.
The chauffeur went back to Houston for a few days. On the way out he called me and said the Red Cross has set up another food truck at the battered and boarded up Shell station, Orleans and Broad. I do not fit the profile of the beleauguered victim. I was not here for the storm and my house did not suffer any great damage from the flood waters. I have cold running water, and toilet, and even though I am without power I am living pretty much the same ascetic lifestyle I take with me wherever I go. Even on the small scale that describes my assets, I have considerably more value than debt and can afford to be here as an observer and watchdog of my block for some time longer, before my conservative fiscal sense requires me to take a job, here or elsewhere. So I haven't been hitting the Red Cross trucks but the chauffeur has and I have sampled several different styrofoam container filled lunch selections. The best so far has come from City Hall where the chauffeur was last week trying unsuccessfully to find out something useful but came away only with two lunches. It was the lunches provided for the few employees still employed down there. Brisket with gravy over rice and crisp salad with dressing and that stuff I cannot think of its name but its not cauliflower and I won't eat it anywhere else but New Orleans. Its like a relative of the lettuce family, thick, clear leaves, with some fat cooked with it and preferably some spices on the hot side.
So yesterday was my first direct contact with the Red Cross and there was nobody else waiting and I just pulled up, asked Lorina to hold please and went and got two lunches. The woman told me to tell other people because what the deal is--I mean God bless the Red Cross and all, but--there just aren't that many actual citizens living here, on the east bank of New Orleans, in these poorer neighborhoods. The lunch was delicious, chunks of white chicken meat w/gravy over rice, and an apple, two bottles of water and three mini-packs of Oreos. There are no restaurants nearby other than the FQ and Uptown, and nothing cheap and what the Red Cross is giving out is quality and relative to what I was getting pre-K in those same styrofoam containers, from various local sources, I would gladly pay three dollars for, but nobody is charging for, or providing, cheap food here so, such as it is convenient, and doesn't require that I burn a lot of gasoline to acquire, I will gladly accept free food, from any source, any time. Driving down Broad back to Rocheblave a dude walking in the street flagged me and I stopped and he was looking for South Broad and I said you on North Broad. He said I know, I said get in, shifted the lunches and that mornings newspaper and kept on in the direction I was heading. Four or five blocks later we crossed Canal and I said Canal is the North/South divider and three blocks later dropped him at the Carpenter's Union, behind which is a trailer, out of which I can only guess is being conducted the business of business, as regards carpenters. Here, take a lunch I said and he said no, he wasn't hungry, but I said, come on man, they free, and he smiled and took one, saying surely somebody in there would be hungry. He got out and stood there looking in the rolled down passenger window, all beamy-eyed, like nobody had done anything nice for him in a long time. He looked sort of like a blond, middle-age version of that actor who had his heyday in the forties and fifties, Wally Cox. I said, hey man, you are entirely welcome. I was a little bit my edgy aggressive self because I was momentarily pissed off. Nobody should have to be that grateful for accurate directions, a free ride, and a chicken casserole.
Email From NOLA IIe
I hear these optimistic spins on how much of the city is with and how much is without power and the reported numbers imply that there are only about 100,000 in the whole area without electricity and 25,000 to 50,000 without gas, two months after the storm Katrina or enemy insurgents caused the 17th Street and London Avenue flood walls to collapse. Perhaps that is spun to mean that juice and gas is available but not yet running back into homes until they are inspected and this I accept, but let me give you some numbers about as realistic. If 80 percent of Orleans Parish was under water then 75 percent of Orleans Parish is still, effectively, without power. Rounding up (by 25,000) the New Orleans population to 500,000, that leaves 400,000 of us without power. Of course, I would estimate that almost all of that 400,000 are not here and at least a quarter, but maybe half, of that number do not have livable homes to come back to.
The projects are not going to be reopened, not because they couldn't be utilized but because they have proven to be a failed experiment for housing low income people, and neither apparently are the majority of Orleans Parish public schools, a whopping 75 percent of which are failing according to state and federal guidelines for acceptable achievement. There is yet another new superintendent of schools here, been here about a year, and she thinks the state government is "rushing to judgment" in their threats to take over the local school system. I do not mean to suggest that the state government is the right agency for the job but this woman should just be fired immediately and deprived of that juicy pension package that all the superintendents seem to take away from this city. Anyone, and I mean anyone, who suggests that anything short of revolutionary change is necessary here in our public schools is a complete and total idiot.
All my neighbors, 75 percent of whom own their homes (although the total number of homes is only about 8 or 9, in the square block bounded by Iberville, Dorgenois, Bienville, and Rocheblave, have started initial cleanup and repairing of their properties. Without electricity. I am apparently the only one in this square block on full time duty (which in my case consists of a lot of reading and waiting), except maybe there is a worker camping out in that school building run by the Pentecostals on Iberville, near Dorgenois.
The EPA was out yesterday, examining some ancient acetylene canisters somebody left on the refuse pile on my street.
The four refrigerators are still out there too, in front of the bags of insulation. It is on top of the fluffy, pink filled bags that the canisters lay.
People are still writing messages on refrigerators and I'm thinking of writing one that says "I saw you looting." That would be specific to the one cleanup crew that worked this block on Nov. 2nd.
Had a cheeseburger for breakfast at the gay diner on Bourbon St. this morning but today no one seemed gay at all, rather everyone seemed depressed. You would think there might be a titter of excitement about the visit of Prince Charles and Camilla but there wasnít. Today there was just heaviness.
My nephew, who clearly, now I know this for sure, has never really liked me, is asking me to do a survey of his house in Lakeview today, because he heard that his walls are caving in and he's just curious. I am going to run over there shortly, even though the very few occupying Lakeview residents have hired private anti-looting patrols and are hopping mad about ongoing looting to the second, undamaged stories of some of their homes. I completely understand. Which is why I won't be getting that extension ladder from under your back porch until you come back and escort me over there, nephew. I did not survive 10 years in these NO ghettos to end up shot in the back by some uptight homeowner protecting their expresso maker. I'm just kidding brah, I'm happy to go over there for you. Also, I don't know what the hell yall waiting on. You and the family should get back here. You got the rental place Uptown. There is shrimp. There are oranges. There is beer.
(Some hours later)
I drove to Lakeview, nephew. I did not explore much but went in your house long enough to see the full back to front extent of your flood devastation, Holy Shit. I am very sorry (the photographs donít really tell it), but I suppose yall past all that, ready to move forward. I forgot to bring my mask and if there is such a thing as this really bad toxic mold mojo working, then you certainly got it inside Memphis, my lungs felt like Iíd inhaled razor blades after only about a minute inside. I did not open any closed doors though or venture past the kitchen. I was not eager to touch anything so did not retrieve the rumored six pack of Heineken, but thanks for the offer. I did not really notice collapsed walls though; perhaps your in-law was referring to the next door neighborís house, fully gutted now, guts strewn throughout front yard. I turned the pirogue upside down on the back porch because it had collected rainwater. If that is yours we should take it and store it somewhere when you come back, I have for years been meaning to float down the Bayou St. John. Lakeview turned out not to be scary, just like everything else here, sad. The scope of the devastation is hard to appreciate from afar and from looking at maps. I drove for miles today, without even getting close to Eastern New Orleans, or the famous Ninth Ward, and saw virtually no life forms, except for a few workers and a few camouflaged Hummvees driven by National Guardsmen. I did not see any people living in their homes, which is obvious, because as I drove north towards the lake, the water lines got higher and higher on the houses.
There is a heart breaking picture on the front page of the paper today, of a daughter inspecting her 76 year old motherís attic, a Lakeview resident, a feisty grandmother who stayed in her home but was thought to have been rescued, but wasnít, and fled to her attic, and died, with a half bottle of water next to her. Another resident who stayed but was rescued said that after the water first entered her Lakeview home, it was only 30 minutes before it was up to her waist (but she floated out on a boat), and then, like your house nephew, probably took about eight feet.
The EPA showed up this afternoon. In force. Four or five trucks. At least two supervisors and six or seven worker drones who rolled the 16 canisters onto the lift of a panel truck and strapped them to its interior. It was touch and go for a minute but I think the dangerous canisters are being transported out of the neighborhood now. All in all about two hours of hullabaloo. This is only conjecture but I bet it only took two guys about 30 minutes to discard those canisters.
I spent money for the first time in New Orleans 4th Ward today. While there are no open restaurants or grocery stores or convenience stores or gas stations, or anything, you make the list, there is a Times Picayune newspaper box at the corner of Canal and Rocheblave, across the street from the blue Postal Service mailboxes with their slots taped shut, and I felt for just those few seconds hopeful as I inserted two quarters and received what for me has always been a very engaging newspaper. Todayís edition was no exception.
Email From NOLA IId
Yesterday, about dusk, I saw the ghost of Shorty, who is the cat you are looking at if you glance to left of this page. I took a bowl of cat food and placed it on the concrete up against the Auto Title establishment, which is next door to me on the other side of the vacant Pentecostal lot, and that ghost ate hungrily and then pranced about with great vivaciousness. Earlier, I had fed the facsimile of K-2 using the same bowl, but from the raised bed to the right of my steps, wherefrom now grows only the dead stalks of a photinia bush. I took the chainsaw to the bushes the other day because they did not survive the toxic soup soaking. And then later, who else could it be but Kitten, with those very exact markings, and always staying close to that Bienville property which had once claimed her. With Shorty, being all black, its harder to tell but also, there is no way to absolutely refute the possibility that the cat I am seeing is actually the original Shorty. Definitely from the same street-cat gene pool, these street cats rarely growing to a size bigger than the appearance of adolescence. And the other evening waiting for the arrival of The Rebirth Brass Band, in the FQ, where they locking the gates of Jackson Square early, I saw three cats moving confidently, pridefully, inside their own private compound. Aristocratic cats.
And this morning I saw my first wild dog, checking out the Rocheblave refuse. I did not bring back to New Orleans my bb gun, or my shotgun, for that matter. Most dogs either drowned or were shot or were evacuated after the levees broke. Cat's just climbed higher. That dog I saw maybe belonged to one of the workers sucking out the storm drains down the street a ways. I keep the chauffeur's dog in my back yard when he goes to deliver his advertising circulars. The dog's name is Flash. He is brown.
Which brings me to this--There hasn't been a murder recorded in New Orleans since the hurricane. I contend that there has not been a two month stretch without a murder in New Orleans for at least twenty years. It would take a lot of microfiche spinning to prove that I guess but for now I'm just throwing it out there casually.
There is uniqueness happening here in a city that was unique to begin. There may be less of the unspeakable happening but no less of the unfathomable. More and more of us are camping inside our powerless homes, eager for the uncertain future, mesmerized by the present. There is talk of a new New Orleans being ruined by bureaucratic incompetence and malfeasance and a master plan designed by carpetbaggers with a Disney vision. But there will be no death to this ground that has been New Orleans, by bureaucrats or by any means, because there has been so much death upon it. It will be the ghosts who decide what happens here. And if its Disney that ends up here then it will be the Disney of your youth suggested to you by your college prof when she said--you really must take some mushrooms and go see Fantasia. You cannot kill ghosts, they do not drown. There will be no method which leaves this place unhaunted.
All day long, from sun up to sundown, I can hear the whirring engines of bobcats with front end claw loaders filling up dump trucks. I will stand in the middle of an intersection in my neighborhood for minutes and not be disrupted in my lolly-gagging reconnaissance by vehicle or any recognizable life form. And sometimes I can't see anything in the way of workers, in all directions, but I can hear that whirring, and scraping of metal front end buckets against asphalt. Other days I can't go a block in any direction without seeing a guy on a powerline, or a bobcat, or sewage maintenance truck.
Bobcat and dump trailer pausing at my block of Rocheblave right now, a discussion is going on. Bobcat guy clearly wants to move down Iberville, no wait, he's making a circuit of the block, just drove behind me, dump trailer pulled by heavy duty Ford truck parking at the end of the block...
They worked for about two hours, five white people, three men, two women, one of the trucks had a vanity plate on front that said "Bama." They left behind as much as they took and during breaks looted small items from houses across the street that were left open, and in one case not being able to force open the front door of a home, forced open a side gate that was duct taped shut, a guy disappeared for a while and came back smiling and said, found me a brand new garden hose, and tossed it in the back of the truck.
I called a couple of electricians today. Inspections will be mandatory to get any power back. First inspection from an electrician and then a city building inspector, the latter of which are coming from a department that has been sliced and diced due to the city having no income. Thousands of us are beginning to wait in line for a visit from one of four available inspectors. Electricians, however, are plentiful, and charging approximately a little more than double what the going rate was Pre-K.
I started writing this in the morning but am just getting back to it now. The sun is setting. Heard the crunching of leaves in my side yard, went out front to investigate. Two more wild dogs, foraging. One looked like Benji from Hell, had a frayed section of rope hanging from his neck.
This is me, reporting from the passenger seat of my truck, dateline, New Orleans.
Email From NOLA IIc
The guy across the street is a chauffeur but one of his limousines floated when the levee broke and the other got looted and so he was off in Houston for awhile but he's back driving this new van now which he uses for his delivery business, delivering mostly advertising circulars for a national drugstore chain. He's also picking up the occasional rider to the airport, came over the other day and shaved with my cold water in my clean bathroom and came back out wearing a suit and looking like a chauffeur.
This morning he's parked over there on the street behind me. Today I'm parked forward in my driveway, facing my house, the sun off the white painted cypress siding blinding bright and if not for these tinted reading glasses protecting me I would be struck senseless with the impressive yet harsh reflection bouncing off the surface of my past accomplishments. The neighbor is giving his dog something to eat and drink. He is writing something on paper, using a ruler at times, and snacking from a bag of cheetoes, all on the hood of his van.
He drove us down to the town meeting last Wednesday at the Sheraton where the mayor and a few of his council awed us with their political acumen and afterwards I said if he found us a place to eat I'd cover it up to the 23 dollars I had on me. On St. Charles we passed Lucky's, which appeared to be open, and The St. Charles Tavern, which maybe was open and then he saw Igor's and said, I'gor's, and I said, fine. Igor's is a bar with bar food, which two months post-K is served on a paper plate with plastic utensils and includes a thick slab of pre-cooked hamburger, slightly heated, on room temperature bun, with cool baked beans, for six bucks. I wolfed it. It was most delicious.
Upon entering we had seen out front on the sidewalk, an animated, attractive young blond woman with ample vocal capacity and piercing blue eyes behind innocuous eye ware, and she was gesturing and I think having a brief conversation or confrontation with a passing motorist. What appeared to be a boyfriend was standing off a bit as if unsure of his desire or ability to lay singular claim on the young blond woman.
Somehow the ordering process had baffled me for a minute and I had roamed around the mostly deserted bar and looked out at the sidewalk as if I was considering sitting at one of the tables there. Then I came to my senses and went to the bar and asked the bartender if they were serving food and she said yeah and pointed to yet another young blond woman who frankly looked a bit too fresh faced for this particular establishment, but was eager to serve and that warmed my heart.
I don't know what the hell the chauffeur was doing, hey man, you ordering, or what? He was talking to the blond woman from the sidewalk and she was talking to him like they old friends, which is always possible with the chauffeur because he knows people almost everywhere we have ever been together. Previous to talking to the chauffeur the two blonds were talking to each other and the one was very animated about her chances for the right potato chip and the other seemed patient but not bored, she only had so many chips to offer. After I ordered my burger I ordered a budweiser and took to drinking it with urgency. The animated blond woman introduced herself to the chauffeur as Sarah, and he introduced himself as who he is and I ran off to the front and picked the table open to the sidewalk but not actually on it. Passing Sarah she pushed a small bag of Lay's potato chips at me and said--wan't 'em? I don't like 'em. I just said yes and took them and walked to the table, already suspicious of the overeager, animated blond woman and her standoffish boyfriend.
At the table with my chips and beer and a breeze blowing off St. Charles I was content.
The chauffeur came over and I said get a beer if you want but he wasn't interested. He said Sarah wanted to help him clean out his house (of his water damaged possessions--his living space was twice as close to the ground as mine, so he took a couple feet of water). I said how much and he said for free and I said, good luck, keep me out of it. He took no offense and said he would but dammit, why the chauffeur got to bring this whack job to our neighborhood? I mean, they come and they double the population of the neighborhood, which for no specific reason makes me uneasy. What about the boyfriend I wanted to know, what's up with him? The chauffeur offered knowledge from past experiences which caused me to reiterate the keep me out of it credo. I don't think he's as goofy as he appears man, I tell the chauffeur. I'll look out my window every once in awhile, see if they loading your cold dead body into the trunk of their stolen car before loading up your van with your stuff and hauling ass. He said he would appreciate that.
The chauffeur took them the most direct way, which was sort of through central city. It would have been kind of a scary route with people populating the streets and I found it too be not much less scary looking without people. The truth is there a large swaths of this city that looked bombed out before the hurricane. I wondered what the so-called good Samaritans following us were thinking. I was betting they were thinking twice about ripping off anyone who lived around the neighborhoods we were taking them through. I bet they were worried about getting ripped off themselves.
When we got here to Rocheblave I jumped out and said goodbye and when I looked out a few minutes later, I was frankly dumbfounded. That skinny, blond, blue-eyed, Alabama girl was working her ass off, hauling stuff out of my neighbor's back shed, and piling it on the growing refuse piles lining the street. Her and her boyfriend worked for about thirty minutes and when she was finished she hugged the chauffeur, twice, and kissed him, once. I was a little jealous and when I heard the vocally ample blond girl say to the chauffeur he should go get me so I could take a picture of the three of them I momentarily considered ignoring them. But I didn't and when he came knocking I went out and took the picture of the three of them sitting on his steps. When Sarah said she was taking a piece of the refuse for an art project I just nodded and then shook my head and said, goddamn, actual good Samaritans.
And speaking of good Samaritans or just good neighbors I give a hearty shout out to my Pentecostal brethren this morning, who as I speak have their hired help hauling that huge pile of insulation-laden trash bags out from the middle of their lot next to my house, to the street.
One of their spokesmen came over to talk to me and I gave him my brief bio and although he said he knew it wasn't my stuff I gave him a peek at my insides to prove the insulation wasn't mine and said how I'd only taken about an inch of water to half the house. He didn't respond to that right away, but later asked if I knew of anyone renting around here and I said no, not really. He said he lived in Violet, took twelve feet. Ouch, I said, St. Bernard, I'm sorry, man. Thank you, he said.
Email From NOLA IIb
I got bored over on Rocheblave, opened a warm budweiser and thought I would listen to Saints football on the radio but it wasn't on yet so I came over here and parked in front of Armstrong Park to check my email, I guess I'm ready to take big step and change my Netflix mailing address, hope the show your ID pickup at the Mid-City post office works as advertised (did a dry run the other day, yep they took my ID, and nope I haven't any mail, which I shouldn't of course because I haven't done a change of address) and anyway I won't be sitting here too long because it's a little too warm right now and my house is the perfect cool temperature. All I really wanted to say is--and here let me say if you can't respond maturely better not to respond at all--I just drove past the Funky Butt coming over here and they have it opened up, fans inserted inside, airing it out.
Email From NOLA IIa
Today I write from the truck parked in the FQ on St. Philip between Burgundy and Rampart, engine running because the charging device I got has an emergency shut off if the devices you are charging drain too much power from the car battery, and this morning it keeps shutting off without the truck running. That is one of the new rules. If you are driving around, have something plugged into the charger. I have with me two laptops, cell phone, mp3 player, and a very small 2megapixel digital camera. All have to be plugged in at some time in order to work.
Gas is 2.80 a gallon here. Lorina called me about 3 this morning to see if I was awake and I told her I was about to get up and pee anyway. She said gas was down to 2.29 out there in Rappahannock, VA.
No offense to Cooter Brown's Bar and Grill with its hundreds of different beer choices but it just too far away to be driving every time I want to access the Internet. I found a gay-run diner on Bourbon St. and I have been getting eggs, grits, bacon, toast and coffee breakfasts for about 8 bucks including tip. And they told me of a much closer wireless connection, just 12 blocks from the house so I'm pretty happy about some recent developments (although I wouldn't mind a couple more eggs in my scramble for that price). They serving on paper plates, coffee in Styrofoam, utensils plastic. And look, I wouldn't even mention the place was a gay establishment if they weren't constantly cracking jokes between themselves like, "yeah baby, I want some cream," and some other allusions regarding bacon, and the cashier calling his male co-workers "bitches" every time they not getting his orders out fast enough. The one female employee put some lively dance music on the jukebox this morning and the cashier/server was a little more free with the coffee fill-ups today so all in all this new breakfast place is getting high marks from me. And the breakfast is well-made, all three cooks making better than average scrambled eggs and the one of them making the eggs better than the other two. I don't know how long I can keep showing up there without being thought of as one of those wannabe homosexuals, or godforbid, an outright homosexual, but I don't guess its that much different than living in the hood all those/these years and at least part of the time being thought of as a crackhead (why else would that skinny, long-haired white boy be here), or what?--wannabe African American? You can also be a dumbass and that is what you will be whenever you think people aren't labeling you.
Yesterday one of my Rocheblave neighbors showed up with a hand truck and we moved my refrigerator and three others to the street and now there is a neat pile in front of my house and extending across the opening to the Pentecostal vacant lot--a furniture pile, a tree limb pile, a mattress pile, and a white goods (appliances) pile.
Somebody left a big mound of trash bags full of insulation right in the middle of the Pentecostal lot next to me, a hundred feet from the street, and closer to my house than any other structure, so the issue of Pentecostal debris continues.
About ten blocks in front of me is the Mississippi River and every once in awhile, down that sliver of horizon offered by St. Philip, I can see the top of super tankers floating by.
Things are feeling good right now in the FQ. I know the town has got to have those tourists to survive but there not too many these days and it feels really fine to me.
I'm starting to notice a few of "us" camping at our properties. Saw a couple of people in Treme today.
It got a little too hot sitting in the sun on St. Philip so I gave up my parking space and am back in my driveway on a perfect Fall day, sunny, breezy, upper sixties.
I've mopped my floors a few more times and bleached the little bit of mold near the baseboards in the front two rooms. So it turns out to be a lucky thing my house is not level because the back half of the house was just a high enough difference not to take any water. And the front two rooms didn't take much more than would happen if you kicked over a couple of mop buckets. My wood floors did not buckle at all. I'm still going to cut out the bottom two feet of sheetrock and insulation in the front rooms but I'm going to attend a couple more town meetings with the mayor and his crew before I do too much. There is some talk about who is going to be allowed to do what according to the elevation of your site and at this point I'm considering the option of just cleaning up a little more before any inspectors get a look at me. My water heater sits in shed outside and my AC condenser sat on the ground so the both of them need replacing, and the fridge, and that's about it. My house is good to go. I might get me a kerosene heater before its all over, and I was at Mary's True Value Hardware on Bourbon St. this morning looking for an oil lamp, so I can read at night, but they were all out.
I was a little worried about leaving all that bucolic isolation up on that hill in Rappahannock, VA., but, here in my driveway, in the middle of New Orleans, I got all the isolation a person could really use. Today, nobody around for several square blocks.
I thought I was going to tell you about this crazy blond chick and her boyfriend who followed my neighbor home the other day, offering what I considered very suspicious good samaritanism, but maybe I'll get to that tomorrow.
Email From NOLA II
I have spent my first few days back in New Orleans getting my ducks in a row.
The first duck was getting over the excitement of returning to a city that would offer exhilarating new perspectives to a person overly enamored by such and the getting over this took very little time. The hundreds and hundreds of snapped in two spindly Mississipi pine trees along I-59 150 miles out had me going for awhile, oh boy, what fun is this going to be. Then crossing the I-10 twin span between Slidell and New Orleans over Lake Ponchartrain and seeing the missing sections of highway, boy oh boy, how cool is this. One section of highway was flipped upside down, resting on an adjoining section. A section of concrete and steel 75 yards long by 45 yards wide and maybe two feet thick, flipped like a playing card. That was only cool enough to make me start thinking about the reality of what was coming. New Orleans East as seen from I-10 is just as I had heard it would be. It looks like the city was bombed. Like Europe after the big one only without the amazing architecture. Most of NO East is comprised of housing stock 50 years old or newer. A few miles later I exited onto Orleans St. and down the ramp and headed right so the Lafitte projects were on my left. No people, anywhere, in an area where being out and about is the norm, day and night. A few trucks and passenger cars on the road, no stoplights, temporary stop signs at every formerly lighted intersection. I wasn't exactly prepared for how vacant the area was. I went by the Dumaine St. house and while the house next door, which had been thoroughly burnt several years ago and which I frequently referred to as Esnard Villa, looks to be near the end of a extensive, historically respectful renovation, the Dumaine house, 1897 Victorian, looked pretty beat up. Some shingles missing and a couple of trees lightly touching the roof. The front door was open, some ceiling sheetrock in the front room crashed in from post Katrina rains coming through the missing shingles. M's computer gone. I stole a rake and a broom and headed over to Rocheblave. I had already received pictures from a nephew and knew the damage was not that extensive. Many people have already been back to do what was referred to by city officials as a "look and leave" visit. Soggy interior home and business contents are stacked along the curb on every block. Refrigerators, stoves, washer/dryers, are asked to be kept separate from furniture, etc., are called "white goods" and many of the refrigerators are duct taped shut and spray painted with messages like "Tom Benson Inside," or "Tom Benson Liar." He is the owner of the New Orleans Saints football team and is considering the necessity of keeping his business solvent by moving the team permanently to San Antonio. I sat on my front porch determined to follow proper protocol and wait for a meet the next day with the property manager, with whom I had left a voicemail message. While sitting on a five gallon bucket on the porch the tenants showed up and apparently were coming to get the last of their stuff out, and this is what I had suggested would be necessary (in an email to the PM) if I were to complete a post flood renovation on the house. We exchanged numbers. I drove around, Uptown to Audubon park where except for the easy parking everything appeared normal. The impressive tower of Tulane University across the street, pretty blond white children on the jungle gym, fit joggers and cyclists on the path, a frat boy here, sorority girl there, and me, slumped against a tree, headphones on, Mp3 player in my pocket, pretending to read Donna Tartt and bumping on the one-hitter. I drove to the French Quarter after that, Sunday night, but it appeared as hateful with tourists and out of town worker-tourists as it ever did, and I became depressed and drove the 12 blocks home. I slept in the truck in the driveway that night but about midnight the mosquitoes were so bad I found the right key and entered the house and lay my pallet on the floor. Cold front came through sometime in the night and I was cold, woke up aching like I ached almost every day of the ten years I lived here. The property manager never called me so I have just moved back in my house, with no electricity or gas but running water and toilet. A huge improvement over my former extended stay of illegal lodging at this address. It is a fact that I have been an illegal resident of my own property much longer than I ever legally resided in it. Previously it was during a very drawn out gut renovation, from 2000 to 2004 ( some of that time with no electricity, gas, or water/toilet and the rest with only electricity), and now it is because the area has been hurricane ravaged. Also because I live in the dreaded 70119 area code, one of the most blighted (pre and post Katrina) per square inch of any of the city's area codes, and the one the city mothers and fathers are most reluctant to open up again. But I'm a good little camper and I got my property cleaned up nice except for the piles of debris and the belongings of the tenants piled high on the curb. I had a similar pile in the middle of the driveway when I first took possession of this property because neighbors had been using it as dump site. And then there was the ongoing Pentecostal debris debacle over a several year period. I'm typing this in my truck (the Pentecostal lot is to my right), bought one of those nifty little converters that allows me to plug my laptop or any pluggable device into a cigarette lighter device and as the sun sets on my fourth night back in New Orleans it becomes increasingly evident that I am one of the few human beings living inside their own house, for many surrounding blocks. There are no street lights up around here so its getting darker and darker, and quick. I can see the lights on sparingly in some of the Downtown skyscrapers, looking straight ahead, as I am backed into my driveway. If somebody drives by right now, and people do drive by occasionally, my face will have that eerie computer glow, and we don't want that, so I'm going inside now.
I've seen two cats on Rocheblave, since Sunday. Both of them from the black and white clan. One looks very much like the original cat I called Kitten, and the other looks like a pretty damn reasonable facsimile of K-2. I'm luring them over with a little food at night. There are mice in the house looking suspiciously like baby rats and they are curious enough to make rustling noises in the night, close up to my head, only four inches off the ground on my air mattress. I wish I had brought some of my new really effective mouse traps. I've seen a few of my neighbors and they are doing a little of this or that, throwing stuff out into the street and then going somewhere else as night falls. I washed my hair today because it was a thing overdue. I've been washing all my other parts in what I call the "cycle of need method of washing." The shower is a little cold for full immersion. A lot of us around here have circles under our eyes (so I don't feel so alone with it) is a thing I've been noticing. I wish they wouldn't say weather permitting but Saturday, weather permitting, the Rebirth Brass Band gonna play for free, outside, in front of the Cabildo, which is that building to the left of the St. Louis Cathedral and if you were looking at it front on, Jackson Square would be only a maximum of a 150 feet behind you. Something to look forward to is something to look forward to. Lorina and I broke up on Sept. 11, which is a shame, was in fact a crying shame, but seemed necessary at the time. Even without our respective issues our fate was summed up by the trite reality of a sign in the local VA. ice cream shoppe, which advocated buying and eating local food stuffs, and said something like "long distance relationships like long distance foods, are doomed to failure." Me, I lacked the courage to defy such an assertion. That Lorina though, she something else, I don't mind saying it.
Arrived Sunday Night, slept in truck, eaten by mosquitoes, finally found reliable wireless at Cooter Browns, a little farther than I would like to drive from mid-city but better than nothing. Probably find someplace in the quarter if I ask around. I'll let you know what its like according to me, soon. This is a test. Looks bombed out here. Went to a town hall meeting yesterday. The mayor was late. The crowd was exciting. Many good questions asked. Few answers.
Long Live Rocheblave
I just received the first picture of my house in New Orleans, post Katrina. Looks pretty good. The windows did not explode, my roof is still on. The sycamore out front topped itself. Long live Rocheblave.
From my nephew--"The door's wide open to the crack house next to [across street] -- don't know if that's normal -- also saw the only sign of animal life on Bienville -- white dog that ran down alley and under a house when we drove past -- no cats . . . hmmm . . .
Weird, weird city right now -- like it's caught between breaths -- in some areas, clearly a construction site -- but never fully -- a power crew here, a sewage crew there (one at your corner Rocheblave/xxxx) -- a few independent contractors -- but mostly not much of anything."
Another Day In The Ninth
Refugees from the Lower Ninth Ward were housed at the Progressive Baptist church in Lafayette. They were watching the TV news as the canal levee was breached again, flooding their neighborhood anew.
"It's like looking at a murder," Quentrell Jefferson said. "The first time is bad. After that, you numb up."
On The Beach
On the beach this morning my footprints in the sand bear testimony to the fact that I don't walk a very straight line, and so probably won't arrive at any of my destinations by their shortest distance.
So it looks like I'm going to get my long held wish that a military presence be maintained in New Orleans. I bet I get battered with the be careful what you wish for stick. And no bad people are going to be allowed back according to Ray. I hope I make the cut.
Unflooded portions of New Orleans may be opened to residents, perhaps as early as Monday, Mayor Ray Nagin said in an upbeat and wide-ranging news conference Tuesday afternoon.
"I think the president is really focused on the job at hand, and they are really starting to move," Nagin said. "On almost anything that I want to do now, I get a nearly instantaneous response."-- mayor Ray Nagin of New Orleans.
May I suggest that you remove the dead bodies, now, Ray.
Find Katrina Victims
(Update: 9-6-05, Mandy Vincent has been rescued along with thirty others she had taken into her house on Dumaine St. and is now on her way to Oregon. She has a couple of teenage boys with her. I do not know how many people on this list were with her (although I can safely say a good few would not have been) and of these, and also the thirty with her at the house--airlifted to various cities--I have no word.) These are people I would like to know about from the city of New Orleans, Louisiana. What they would have in common is some connection to the 2600 block of Dumaine, possibly related to the deceased Dolores Santiago (Mama D, formerly of 2641 Dumaine), and almost certainly they would not have evacuated the city prior to the arrival of Hurricane Katrina. They would all also know Mandy Vincent at 2646 Dumaine, who has been caring for,assisting, and tutoring neighborhood children and teens for the last ten years, at that address. She also has not been heard from. Listed ages are approximate. There are this many more that I could list but hopefully one or two of these people would know about the others:
Shelton Ray Jackson, 20
Fermin Santiago, 19
Evelyn Santiago, 35
Julia Santiago, 17 (and children)
Glynn McCormick, 19
Lance Price, 21
KaKa McCormick, 21
Eric McCormick, 29
Jacque Lewis, 19
Shentrell Lewis, 13
Nettie Lewis, 17 (and child)
Marqin Lewis, 16
Kenosha Lewis, 20
Keshonika Lewis, 26
Erica Lewis, 13
Lulu & and son Greg
Phillis Santiago, 30
Joe Nixon, 35
Billy Nixon, 33
Van Casmere, 45
Beulah Green, 45
Eddie Green, 23
Yolanda Alexander, 30
Chris Alexander, 13
Bryan Henry & cousin Irvin
Bebe Lewis, 27
Jermaine Lee, 32
Michael Lewis, 20
Barbara Granpre, 48
Kizzie, 23, and kids:
Twins, Jonanthan and Joshua Short, and Mario, 20 from:
Dorgenois and Dumaine.
Yesterday, after a christening near the West Virginia line, Lorina's girlfriend, with the glow of her 24-hour baby delivering labor not only lighting the room but also being like a hundred shiny nickels in a sock (its a weapon now), swung that sap-sock with an innocent and sincere querying strength and hit Lorina right upside her head, which had already been lately reeling from the shattering numerical force of her girlfriends now with babies. She took the hit like a middle-weight contender while I looked on sucking all the juice out of a Heinekin bottle, and guarding my flank from the roving guest of honor, the projectile-vomiting newborn.
On the way home through Front Royal we finally found the elusive parking lot for that Bookstore and two years past my initial introduction to the store, entered. Of note on a shelf was an Anthony Burgess sandwiched by a Bukowski on one side and a Burroughs on the other. I picked up a used Russo, Risk Pool, for a buck, and a Straub/King collaboration, Black House, hardback, for two-fifty. Lorina got a couple for herself and I took the four books to a counter in the back and laid them down and was told to pay up front. Coming in I had not noticed a place nor a person to pay. I said to the woman, "there is an actual human-being up there?" She assured me there was and that that person would answer to the name, Susie.
As I walked to the front of the store with the itchy heat of embarrassment in my armpits, I thought, how nimrodic of me, is there an actual human...? What, may I ask, is up with that phrasing? What the hell did I mean by that? I get to the front and I see the L-shaped counter right near the door and how damn lucky for me, there is a cat lazed on the counter like is requisite for the independent bookstore but which I must have walked right on by upon entering. That, the cat, is what I could have meant by that, if only, I had in fact, been aware of the cat. I put my face into the cat's flank and said, Susie, hellooo, Susie? until the presumable Susie showed up from behind a curtain, told me the cat's name is Willa, and took my money in exchange for the books.