Whiting's Writings -- Starting Over
Write to me: email@example.com (Note: I am writing a LOT, so keep reading downward until you find something you've already read)
A whole new kind of hurt
31 Oct 2005
No kids coming through the neighborhood for trick-or-treating, which is just fine with me. I don't have any candy to share, and I doubt any one young enough to trick-or-treat would want anything from my kitchen at the moment.
My body, especially from the hips downward, really really is not comfortable. It's not "pain", like piercing, burning, shooting pains. Just a general achiness and discomfort, to the point where I had to take off my pants for my legs to feel any relief. And these are my baggier jeans!
And the base of my neck, top of my spine is incredibly sore and achey, with a large amount of crepitus (grindy crackly noises when I move/turn my head).
I think part of it might be due to working long term sitting on this chair. It's a cheap task chair for occasional work, not a really good office chair. I need to buy a new one, I suppose.
But whatever is causing it, I don't feel good, I don't feel like DOing anything, and I just feel sorta rotten all over.
My friend Eileen came by last night to say good-bye. She returned from Boston just long enough to pack her things and move out. She's moving permanently to Boston where she has a long-time network of friends and near-family. I've known her about 15 years. I'll miss her, which I'm sure is contributing to my general malaise at the moment, on top of other things going on around here. So many, many people just won't be coming back -- friends, co-workers, and even strangers whose faces I used to see regularly on the bus or around the neighborhood. They just aren't here any more.
No matter how you slice it, recovering from the hurricane is more than just sweeping the sidewalk and getting back into routine.
I'm feeling tired but it's still too early to head off to bed. Maybe I'll go read Harry Potter or something.
This isn't helping!
31 Oct 2005
A story in today's news is not helping the public image of New Orleanians!! WTF is this about? Granted, the story is probably true, but what is it about New Orleanians that they have to behave soooo fucking badly???? Sheesh! And it's not the hundreds of selfless, giving, generous people that get in the news. It's the one or two idiots who act the fool and give everyone a bad name.
31 Oct 2005
My 7th grandchild, Dagon Darwin Rogers was born 5:09 p.m., 29 October 2005, 7 lb 4.5 oz, 19.5 inches. All bits and parts are reported to be present and functioning, and both mother (my 2nd daughter) and child are doing fine. I don't know where "Dagon" came from, but "Darwin" is his other grandfather's name, honoring his father's father. Very cool.
It's pronounced DAY-g'n, like "ray gun" (or Reagan), which I think should be spelled Daegon, but his parents don't like the 'e' in the middle of it so they spelled it to rhyme with 'wagon' .... oh well. It won't be my first grandchild with a name spelled non-intuitively. No matter, though -- as long as my grandchildren are all healthy and know they are loved through and through, I don't see a need to make an issue of how their names are spelled.
This is my second grandson. My first, Kenneth Scott Whiting, Jr., (nicknamed "Little Bo" -- his dad, my son, is Bo) arrived 13 April 2001, but died of SIDS on 1 Oct 2001 -- just a few weeks after the horrors of 9/11. I remember the trepidation of boarding the plane to attend the services for his funeral. I didn't want to get on the plane, but I had to be there for my family and to honor my only grandson (only one at that time).
I attended Little Bo's funeral and took some pictures of him, laid out in his own crib brought into the funeral home, all dressed up and surrounded by his own blankets and objets d'amour, looking like he'd simply fallen asleep after a long busy day of play and activity. The following summer by buddy from Florida was visiting, and I showed him pictures of all my grandkids. He saw the picture Little Bo lying in his crib, and said, "Man, he looks dead to the world." I had to tell him, "Yes, ummm...that's at his funeral." I don't show that picture any more.
Anyway, I have high hopes for Dagon, and hope he continues to thrive.
I was in Houston at my daughter's home for 5 weeks, watching her discomfort as she got closer to delivery. Had I waited just a couple weeks more, I could have been there for his birth. I'm not much of one for hanging around a hospital, of course, and probably would not have gathered with everyone else in the waiting room, but it would have been nice to be there in the area to see him as he came home.
Wow... It's a weekend!
29 Oct 2005
Well, that's pretty much a no-brainer for most folks, but this is the first time in two months when I have actually FELT like it was a weekend. I woke early, as is my wont, and proceeded to wipe down the kitchen, wash dishes, do a couple loads of laundry, and run to market to make groceries.
I was also feeling "weekend-ish" in the way of wanting to re-arrange furniture, minimizing pieces while maximizing the utility of each. I suppose that is a form of "nesting" or a return to just setting up housekeeping again. I feel more energized to face this one day, and to be okay with that, and I don't feel particularly drained by the burden of the days that have come before, nor the many days yet to come.
I won't belabor the point, of course, but basically it signals (at least to me) a step toward "moving forward".
I also feel a sense of liberty -- I can never ever go back to the 'normal' that I once had, but I can certainly take this opportunity to create a new 'normal', and to accept it for what it is without bemoaning what it is not.
Change is not something I deal with easily. I suppose most people have trouble with change in one way or another, but I recognize that I am not nearly as fluid as some folks. But you know what? I think, given all that has happened, I think I'm doing pretty damn good with it.
I'll come back later if there's anything more worth writing about the day.
Musings through the day
10:20 a.m. 28 Oct 2005
I am beginning to understand why some people with OCD and even those who are victims of crimes against their own person, are seemingly obsessed with being clean, never able to be clean enough.
I mean, I don't understand WHY the brain works as it does in this regard, but I am recognizing in myself a weird sense of having been somehow violated. I find myself wiping and dusting and cleaning things that I've never before given much thought to ... and then doing it again the next day.
I understand that at some level my home was itself dusty, musty and unkempt following the hurricane, and I recognize that the city itself is basically "unclean". And I recognize what I'm doing as I'm doing it, and that I don't need to be so fastidiously sterile and sanitary about every little thing. But I'm doing it anyway. Weird, huh?
In today's Times-Picayune is an article titled "Good Grief" -- dealing with the grieving process of a lost life. Not the loss of a loved one, but the loss of the life we individually and collectively shared as New Orleans. I will have to go back and read it a few more times, but there is a large portion of it given to the role of DREAMS in the grieving process. Hmmmm..... interesting, no?
Until now I've not really thought much about the "grieving" in that sense, but it's true and I have mentioned it several times in different words -- the life I had before Katrina simply does not exist. It's gone. And what I'm going through is part of the grieving process. It's nice that someone else put it to words in that article. I knew I couldn't be the only one dealing with all this shit, but it's nice that others are expressing it so that I don't feel like I am the 'only one'.
Some people are better able to pick up and move forward, while others will take longer. I cannot possibly set the timer and expect in 17 more days that <*BING*> I will be all healed inside and life will return to normal. That's bullshit. The "normal" I once had is not here for me to return to. I can move forward into a new brand of 'normal', but the normal that used to be here is gone. I cannot return there. And even if I could return there, I would not be the same person as the one who used to live in that version of "normal", so what's the point of even trying to "return"?
Had the quarterly Board meeting (via teleconference) this time. It went well. Nice to get back into something familiar.
I have commented occasionally that I am a BIG FAN of Ralph Waldo Emerson and read his "Self-Reliance" several times a year. This week I began reading another of his Essays, "Spiritual Laws" and have been blown away by several portions.
"...our life might be much easier and simpler than we make it"
"Nature will not have us fret and fume. She does not like our benevolence or our learning much better than she likes our frauds and wars."
"Let us draw a lesson from nature, which always works by short ways." This one, in particular, really struck me. Nature works by short ways -- simple, straightforward. When the fruit is ripe it simply falls. It doesn't call a committee of leaves to vote on its ripeness. It doesn't ask the trunk to lend its faculty of branches to reach and twist the fruit to pluck it free, and then pitch the fruit away. When the fruit it ripe, it falls. Plain and simple. And everything else is like that.
If we could just learn the laws of nature, we would see that everything really does fall into its proper place. Somehow. It is the nature of the apple to ripen and fall. And it's not because of a decision to do so, but because that is its nature to do so. If we let nature do what nature does, and then observe and learn, we would certainly get along in the world better than we do. Trouble comes when we resist the laws of nature or try to make ourselves somehow no longer subject to the laws of nature. Flying doesn't reject or deny the law of gravity; flying harnesses the laws of aerodynamics to work WITH those laws, not against them.
You can read all of Emerson's "Spiritual Laws" I'll continue reading and commenting as various thoughts hit me.
About the Blog... and other stuff
3:30 p.m. 27 Oct 2005
A reader writes and comments about the lack of a commenting facility here, as is found on most other people's blogs. I had one when my blog was running on WritePress. Unfortunately, when I was in Houston I was unable to get into that for posting, and had to resort to this manual method of updating each day. Even before then, however, I turned off the comments feature because about 95% of the comments I got were from automated places filling my pages with poker, porn, and propoganda.
Gentle Reader also comments on a measure of synchronicity -- sometimes in her (his?) life issues come up or a writing topic is begun, and she finds a similar thing here in my notes. Very cool, on several levels.
For over a year and a half I've been staunchly supporting Kirk Talley in various forums around the internet. He's the award-winning gospel song writer who was inadvertently outed in December of 2003, when a supposed fan tried to blackmail him. It hit all the papers, his career was basically trashed, and the entire Southern Gospel community (well, the more vocal part) was all a-twitter because of his supposed "deception". The Southern Gospel Music field is loaded with gay folks, of course, but nobody is supposed to talk about it because ... well, "because it's a sin". Bullshit.
Anyway, since they were raking him over the coals just for BEING gay, NOT soliciting, not tramping bed to bed, but just for admitting he'd had a life-long struggle with homosexual atractions -- just attractions, mind you, not necessarily ACTING on them -- I felt it was my duty as a somewhat enlightened gay man to stand up for him, both as a person in general and as a gay person.
I've been getting his sporadic newsletters and so forth, in which he rambles on frequently about things that seem rather tedious, unless on was actually there to witness the event. So this week I got another one in which he recounts a tale of some unfortunate renters in one of his properties and how he had to go in and clean up after those tenants got hauled off to jail. He talks about gagging on the smell as they loaded the trash into a pick-up, how a trash bag ripped and got the stench all over him and a helper, and how they ended up tossing their clothes in with the trash and then running the truck through a car wash in the middle of the night wearing little more than their boxers and smile.
Yeah, well ... whatever. So I wrote him back and told him of the stench and garbage and so forth I'd witnessed myself, and said that a year from now he'd be laughing over his little escapade with the stinky gooey trash, but New Orleans would still be digging out from under what was left here by Katrina. I asked that in his position as a public entertainer, singing in churches all around the country, to take advantage of that to remind all those church folks (you know -- those helpful compassionate christian folk) about the condition of New Orleans and her people.
Next thing I know, I get some sort of note saying I'd been UNsubscribed from his newsletter. WTF????? And it wasn't an immediate response, like an auto-responder that sends things back right away. It was many hours later, and had the flavor of having been handled by a human being taking specific action. It said, "Kirk Talley has unsubscribed you from Kirks Krew." (Kirks Krew is the name of his newsletter.)
So I wrote him back:
I doubt I'll ever hear back from him again, but this just irked me. Doesn't much matter to me that he's gay or whatever, or that he used to be a popular singer. But having related my first hand experience of the aftermath of Katrina to his experience of cleaning up the muck, I am surprised that not only was there no acknowledgement of the impact of Katrina on thousands of people, I was summarily dismissed. Hmph!!! Poor baby just needs to get laid and he'd realize what he's missing!
I've been following many of the forums concerning the return of New Orleans, particular one of the forums touching my own neighborhood. There is a whole lot of negativity being tossed about, which is really wearing me down and depleting any enthusiasm I might have had for this place. The political stuff continues, doubts continue about the ability of the city to come back, and many other issues. It is also quite clear that Rita, Wilma, earthquakes, famous celebrities, supreme court nominations, and so much else, is making Katrina "old news".
People are tired of hearing about it. They have lit their candles, said their prayers, and written their checks, so we should just quit talking about it, get over it, and let the world get on with their little lives in peace.
Well, I'm sorry, but it's just not that easy in The Big Easy right now. Tens of thousands of homes are totally ruined, hundreds of thousands of people are still in temporary housing situations, many aren't even able to return to the state yet. Every citizen of this area has had a major blow. You can't just sweep up the sidewalk and go on with your life.
It is discouraging and depressing, in many ways, and it prevents me from really allowing myself to feel "at home" just yet. I don't know how long this can continue to be my home.
I have committed to sticking with it to help with reconstruction of the school, or at least as long as they are willing to pay me. Beyond next year, however, after the school is back in place, it will require a long, hard look at the overall situation -- politics, economics, levee systems, health care, and all the rest -- and there is absolutely NOTHING I can do about it until then because everything is going to be in a state of flux for a long time to come.
No wait. I take that back. There's nothing I can do about New Orleans, or many of its problems. There is a LOT I can do about ME. I don't want to sound selfish, because I am surrounded by people who genuinely need and deserve me help in personal ways. That's fine, I can do that. But since I cannot fix the city I have to focus primarily on fixing ME, making sure MY life is as good as it can be while I'm still here, and then making sure MY life will be able to continue wherever I might go from here.
Do you think it is chicken-shit of me to talk about bailing out in another year? I've written long and often about wanting to be closer to my kids and grandkids, to have an independent income, and so forth, so it's not like some new notion that just popped up. But the more I track the progress (or lack thereof) in New Orleans, the more discouraged and disheartened I feel about it all.
Is that really needed right now?
8:00 p.m. 26 Oct 2005
I was just perusing the Web site of our local newspaper, the Times-Picayune, and over in the left column there's a yellow box with a brown header, announcing various businesses that are helping to rebuild New Orleans. Banks, medical services, and so forth. But one business caught my eye: The Fertility Institute. HUH? Okay, so they are seeing their patients at satellite locations in Baton Rouge and Covington.
I understand that EVERY business is essential to the rebuilding of this city, and I understand they probably had many patients in various stages of fertility treatments and so forth. I cannot question or challenge anyone else's choices in how they plan and build a family, and I cannot fault any business for wanting to get back into business.
But, for some reason it just LOOKS funny to see, in a list of companies helping to rebuild New Orleans, a listing for a fertility treatment center. Just how the heck are they planning to rebuild? Plant seeds and watch babies grow?
And how many families right now are actually in a position to be thinking about enlarging their families? So many children are now orphaned in this area. So many parents are questioning the sanity of returning with their children to this city, without adequate assurances that it is even safe for adults, much less the vulnerable children.
I dunno.... maybe my brain is in a quirky space, but this item just doesn't sit right with me today.
What do you think?
A Touch of "Normal"
5:15 p.m. 26 Oct 2005
I woke a little early this morning, got into the day. It had to be a conscious effort but I managed to make breakfast and take a shower and shave almost around the same time I normally would have for a work day. That was good. It is still VERY difficult to sit at the computer trying to take care of work-related issues, while all around me the rest of my house remains in a measure of chaos, desparately needing the attention of a crew of designers, cleaners, and so forth.
Well, the "crew" is just me, so things are taking forever, and it bugs the snot outta me. I want to get the place cleaned up and decent and presentable. Part of the issue is waiting for the landlord's insurance man to come through with a decision on what will or won't be covered (and hence, what will or won't be fixed). But I can still clean and dust and mop and sort and all that kind of thing -- just no painting, no building, nothing that would remain permanent in the house.
I did manage to spend a goodly amount of time actually on the computer, actually DOing work-work stuff, which is good. And now the day is ending, I have dinner in the oven (chicken thighs, topped with zucchini strips and a can of seasoned diced tomatoes). This is good. This is beginning to feel almost 'normal'.
Oh yes, and I filled out the required paper to request info from the state on all the stuff I will need in order to start a business here in Louisiana. The state has a "one stop shop" for doing this, and the first step is to request a checklist showing all the various licenses and so forth that I will need for the kind of business I plan to have. I should probably do the same thing for Texas, in case I need to move things there next year. Very cool.... one thing at a time: prepare, proceed, produce. I can do that.
The next thing I need to do is get information on how to conduct business on eBay. I'm sure there are books and so forth available to guide me through that process.
And because I have already registered for stamps.com I can take care of all my postage needs right from my computer. Very cool! I'll need to order a goodly postage scale (they have a special on a 25-pound scale, which should be more than adequate for my purposes).
And I will need to order a large inventory of yarns from my supplier in order to start. I think I have enough money for a basic inventory, so I'm not too worried about that. I have one supplier who will allow me to use their yarns in a manufacturing setting, and I need to find out about another manufacturer and their willingness to sell to me wholesale for kits and finished goods.
I am feeling good about this. It may not produce a lot of income at the start, but persistence and diligence will build a reputation. And most business success is in the marketing. I need to learn marketing, or find a partner who is really really good at marketing -- finding the appropriate demographic, learning what they want, and making my product available and desireable to them. I'll need to think about this, of course, to figure out who my target demographic would be. I think "Knitters and people who love Knit Goods" is tooo broad for a starting audience: I'd get lost in the crowd. I need to narrow it down to what I can effectively produce for a specific market, and then go from there. Start small, leave room for growth. Makes more sense than trying to be everything for everybody and spreading myself too thin and bombing out too soon.
Any advice? suggestions? Let me know: ray at raywhiting dot com (you know how to write it so it works!)
Moving Toward November
9:00 p.m. 25 October 2005
Just another week and it will be November! I am feeling awkwardly unsure about things relating to my day job. There's just too much ambiguity in the air about who is staying and who will be let go. I just learned that the governor has ordered a freeze on hiring and spending. I assume that committed contracts will be honored, but no additional spending is available. Since I cannot access my office supplies from my office, I will have to purchase things on my own if I need them. I don't need a whole lot, of course, but just the idea of limitations is rather annoying. I do understand it.
On the other hand, the Governor just approved something like $45 million in other spending around the state (various construction spending, wildlife spending, and even some sort of sports facility), at the same time as southern Louisiana is struggling just to get back on its feet. In a related story, there is reportedly almost 300,000 jobs gone now.
I am proceeding to do the things I am paid to do, fully expecting the school will re-open here in New Orleans by next semester.
But my free time and evenings are spent developing a business plan and filing papers for starting my own business. I won't go into any great detail regarding what it is, other than that it is probably knitting related in one way or another. I just can't get away from the gnawing feeling that I need to get my shit in order before someone else truly puts me in a bind.
I have to be cautious, but not paranoid, about spending habits. Until I know for sure that all is well on the job front, I would be foolish to spend a lot of money for furnishings and fixing up my home, even for the short-term. Any money spent needs to be put toward creating more money -- business filings and licenses, materials for creating things to sell, etc. I also need to be sure UPS or other package service is actually operating in town. Would be stupid to make stuff for sale if I couldn't ship it out!
It Only Takes One
3:00 p.m. 25 Oct 2005
Last week, as you recall, I went out with a co-worker to put notices up for our identified cancer patients, so that they could resume treatment if they haven't already.
Today we got word that a neighbor of one of the addresses we marked saw the notice, contacted the individual, and that person called the numbers provided. The person had evacuated to another city in Louisiana and was being seen at a related Charity Hospital site. Trampling through the muck and mire (even though my co-worker did most of it, I was there for following maps to reach these addresses, and for moral support in such desolate and unfamiliar neighborhoods), knowing that even ONE such patient was located makes it worth the effort.
Anyway, that's cool, huh? :-)
As reported in this CNN.com news story, Rosa Parks has died at the age of 92. The news report begins this way:
It says, "Parks' moment in history began in December 1995..." Bullshit. Her "moment in history" began long before that.
Great things rarely happen on a whim. I cannot imagine Rosa Parks had simply had a rough day and didn't want to stand on the bus, or give up her seat. You don't flout the social constructs on a whim like that, without some forethought and consideration. If it had not happened on that day, I believe it would have happened sooner than later. People were beginning to realize the folly of racial segregation and discrimination, and there had likely been many, MANY blacks in the South who toyed with the idea in their minds, "What would happen if I didn't go to the back of the bus?" or "What if I took a drink from the Whites Only water fountain?"
Considering the social ways of the times, I cannot help but think Rosa Parks "moment in history" didn't begin that fateful day in December. It began when somehow, somewhere in her mind, she realized she didn't need to go to the back of the bus.
Her bold, brazen act of defiance sparked the modern Civil Rights movement, of course, and for that she is both greatly remembered and highly regarded. I, for one, am GLAD for what she did, and what folllowed (the famous bus boycott led by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.). But the singular act that set other acts into motion was definitely not the beginning.
Like any great and lasting changes in society, the visible moment of change is that spark of time when thought becomes action. Intense conviction of the heart and soul and mind is what prompts significant acts. Even a singular act like not giving up a seat on the bus to a white man, which was small in itself (and, I suspect, it wasn't even the first time a black man or woman challenged the status quo), can be the spark to cause other acts.
My boss when I worked at Charity Hospital 15 years ago had a little plaque on his desk that said, "Fortune favors the prepared mind."
Thought precedes action. Always has, always will, although many times we don't acknowledge the thought process leading up to action. We should. We should revere and honor and DEMAND adequate training in thought -- how to think, how to process thoughts to develop creativity, how to form the mind in such a way that the actions which proceed from it will be effective and beneficial.
Luck and good fortune occasionally comes to blathering idiots, but it doesn't last because their minds aren't prepared for success.
It's like the talk show host interviewing an up-and-comer rising star who asked, "What's it feel like to be an overnight success?" He said, "It's great ... it only took me 17 years of hard work to be an overnight success."
NOTHING significant happens on a whim, nothing is really an "overnight success". Preparation precedes production.
It's not a difficult concept; quite simple, actually. Not easy, but simple (i.e., not complicated or complex). Most of life, in fact, is just as simple: prepare, proceed, produce. First you Think, then you Do, then you Get. Doing without Thinking practically guarantees that the Getting will not be pleasant. Getting without Thinking or Doing guarantees that what is Gotten will not stick around very long.
I need to keep this in mind. There are things I want to Get, so I need to Think it through and prepare myself for what I want, then I need to Proceed, to DO the things that will produce what I want.
Seems like I passed this way before -- about 15 years ago I was exposed to this line of thinking while I was in Seattle. Funny how lessons come back repeatedly, if they weren't effectively learned the first time around, huh?
For all you did, and all that followed: Thank you, Rosa Parks.
Mother Nature's Mayhem in the Streets
5:15 a.m. 25 Oct 2005
Why am I not surprised? The bizarre, nightmare-leaning dreams continue. Last night it was a tornado. I was in a hotel or multi-level mall or something similar, packed with people going about their business, when suddenly everyone around me was going crazy. The place was walled with glass windows and it was apparent that a storm was not only brewing but about to boil over in our midst. Everyone was scrambling. I was trying to get my kids out of the way and into safety (although in the dream, my "kids" were people I wouldn't recognize in real life, not my real children, but in the dream I had to protect them).
Suddenly, the image changed and we were in a two storey house but still trying to escape the wrath of the storm. I could see a tornado bearing down in our direction, the house was unsteady and rumbling in the winds. I was trying to get to a point of safety under the heavy massive staircase. But I could not just walk there. I was scooting backwards on my ass in
s l o w
m o t i o n
Annoyingly slow motion. What is it with nightmares (and horror flicks) that everything moves slowly?
Okay, so the day starts early. I've been able to pretty much go to bed between 9:00 and 10:00 and sleep until 4:30 or 5:00 in the morning. That's pretty good, I guess. I can feel myself returning to some semblance of normalcy.
On Sunday my friend came over and picked up the knitting table and some other stuff. I had gone to make groceries earlier in the morning and passed a local caterer closing down her shop and putting things to the sidewalk. She said she was giving up and leaving town. I don't blame her. People have to do what they have to do. But I was able to get a couple of nicer patio chair, a wood-and-iron bench, several shelving units, a brand-new (still in the box) rice cooker just the right size for me, several serving trays, various cutting boards, and a couple of nice wall clocks.
It wasn't right to just take her cast-offs and benefit from her loss, so I gave her what I thought was a worthy amount for these things. I thought she was going to cry.
It's one thing to pick up something from the sidewalk, not knowing the story behind the pieces, but to watch someone in the throes of giving up, it's not right to benefit from her loss without giving something in return.
Anyway, so after washing all the shelf units on Sunday afternoon, yesterday I put them up in the kitchen. I really do need to rip out the two kitchen cabinets, so I'm starting to use the shelf units for a pantry. I started sorting through the buggy of foods from the refugee house where I stayed. There had been a box of graham crackers, which normally come packaged with 3 neatly stacked inner packs. The box only had two sealed packs when I brought it home last week. Yesterday when I went to put them on the shelf, the cellophane packs were still inside ... with only a few crumbs bouncing around. Mice (or most likely, rats) had consumed the crackers. How rude!!!
So last night, I set up a line of mouse traps and a big rat trap around the area where the food had been. I also transferred into new plastic storage containers anything that wasn't in a sealed can -- cello bags of noodles and pastas, individual packs of instant oatmeal, granola snack bars, etc.
Onward into the day I go. Much to do today, and I will be working away from the house at the clinic at least part of the day.
More to come later.
Oh my aching ass!!!
6:10 a.m. 23 Oct 2005
I should have expected it, as the second day after a workout is often worse than the first day after. My buttocks (the glutes) are truly sore this morning, along with my knees, and most every other part of my body. Friday I did all that yard work, and yesterday I continued to work by moving things around inside the house. All in the name of "progress".
I should add that I am glad I actually DID bag up the little branches, leaves, and debris on Friday. Early Saturday morning I heard the unique rumble of the waste service. I ran out, making sure all my bags of trash were secured and at the curb for easy pick-up. I also took some small bottled waters out to the trash men, so they'd know I appreciate their efforts. It was such a relief to see the trash taken. And, when I looked across the street and saw they did not take any unbundled treeparts and leaves and debris, I was doubly-glad I'd made my own efforts.
The trash haulers are paid by the city, and they are doing the best they can against an enormous burden of trash. One or another of the early relief teams had tiny Bobcats pushing fallen trees and debris to the sides of the roads to make the streets passable, and one by one the huge trees are being removed. But it is up to the people living here to also participate by cleaning up their own little spaces, too. Slowly, but surely, the Uptown area is coming back to life, and many of the local area residents are returning, so I'm sure there will be increasing momentum in cleaning up the neighborhood.
In one of the local online forums, someone noted that there had been a run in Audubon Park -- people out there running for something, apparently as a group, or perhaps as individuals just getting some exercise -- and the poster commented that such folks are living in a fantasy world by pretending it's okay to be out running, when they "should have" been using that energy to clean up the city or something else useful. One responder noted that returning to normalcy is part of the healing process. Another commented that facing a house of mold, or addressing the overwhelming task of recovery is not a fantasy at all, and that stepping apart for a while to run in the park is a healthy thing to do. My favorite response, however, was when another person commented back to the first poster that he was sitting on his ass in front of a computer monitor and not doing much to help the city, either! Hahahahahaha
I don't believe it is a fantasy world to step apart for a while and enjoy a sip at the coffee house, or to take a stroll in the park. My own home is fairly intact, but I find myself overwhelmed by the task of sorting it all out, putting it back together, trying to sterilize/sanitize what I can.... viewing it as a whole is simply more than I can handle at one time. I have to take a small corner or room, do what I can, then leave it alone for a while. If I kept plowing through all this shit, without a break, I would go insane. It's just too much.
And, by contrast, knowing how greatly I've been blessed in my own situation, there is absolutely NO WAY I could fault someone else for taking a break, running in the park, visiting a coffee shop, or just parking their ass on the porch to let the world go by for a while. Like my knitter friend who came by yesterday -- the entire contents of her home had been immersed for 3 weeks and she's lost virtually all her possessions. If all she can do is knit for a while and stay with her kinfolks until the adjusters do what they can do, that's totally fine by me. Normalcy has been suspended for a while, and people are finding many ways to cope. As long as their coping mechanisms are healthy, constructive, and not along the lines of violence, looting, or self-destructive behaviors (drinking and drugging), who am I to judge how another person copes?
Healing is a process, whether it is physical, emotional, mental, or spiritual. It takes a couple months for a broken bone to set and heal. It can take months and years for a broken heart to mend. It can take a lifetime to restore one's sense of faith and purpose. Judgment must be suspended, too, regarding how people heal.
And now, I need to go eat and get into another day.
7:00 p.m. 22 Oct 2005
Busy day. I didn't go anywhere today, but busied myself around the house, mostly. I gave away 10 or 12 trash bags of yarns that I knew for a fact I would never get around to using -- mostly inexpensive acrylic stuff that was gotten for cheap off eBay, and which would be readily available should I ever need it again. Fortunately, I didn't see any evidence of rodents, which is a good thing.
The woman and her daughter to whom I gave it used to have a home in the Gentilly section. I imagine parts of the house are still there, but that's the same area where Wayne and Teda were from. That is the older couple who were rescued from their house in a boat, ended up staying at Kris' house for a couple days and got so sick.
Anyway, my knitting friend said that her house had been under 13 feet of water, much of which didn't finally recede for THREE WEEKS after Katrina. As a crafter and scrapbooker, she kept her supplies, materials, and scrapbooking stuff neatly organized in plastic bins -- which readily filled with water but then had no place to drain out of. When she inspected the house this week, everything in the bins was still wet ... and presumably all melting together into a glob of paperpulp. Every single thing in her home had been under water and was totally destroyed. And even though everything remained in the house, not a single thing was where she'd left it. The waters had moved everything, including a 3-piece section sofa with hide-a-bed, which was up-turned and across the room on top of other things.
So, having lost EVERYthing, and currently staying with a relative on the West Bank, I am glad that she is able to at least find comfort in knitting, and glad she is able to use the yarns. I have plenty of other yarns, including all the yarns that were sent by friends around the continent while I was at my daughter's home.
I think I would rather see my home be burned to the ground, or totally washed away, or reduced to a pile of ash and dust, than to go back and see it still standing with all the contents in such chaos. Of course, nobody really had much chance to pick-and-choose the end results of the storm's destruction. Everybody along the Gulf Coast had to deal with this, to one measure or another.
But even though we can't pick-and-choose where or how or when a storm will land in our back yard, we can still choose the manner in which we deal with it. Fortunately, among the people returning, there is a sense that there is something worth recovering here. My knitter friend's daughter is choosing to move to another city, and I'm sure there are thousand more just like her -- some who see no jobs and no future here, others who need to put their kids into a school and get them stabilized, and hundreds of other reasons people are choosing to leave or to remain. But among those choosing to remain, there is a forward, progressive, positive attitude. No one I've talked to pretends this city will be the same as it was, of course. That's okay. The city's history is simply what it is and was, but the city's future will be what the people here make it to be. You have to actually BE here in order to be part of what the city will become.
Anyway, so I got many bags of yarns out the door, enabling me to begin re-organizing the remains of my working studio.
By the way, I lied in an earlier post, unintentionally -- I'd written that I hadn't knit a stitch since returning, and that was incorrect. The day I went to the dentist (Wednesday....?) I did take a minor project, a washcloth, on the bus with me to work on. I did a few rows on the bus, but I honestly have not yet done any knitting here in the house.
I think once I feel my studio space somewhat more restored I will be of a mind toward returning to work.
Plus, it just occurred to me <*BING!!!!*>: The work table where I had had my knitting machine set up, (the one I moved out so that a friend could use it, as I mentioned earlier) is the table under which I hunkered down for much of the hurricane as it passed overhead. It had been left in such a jumble when I finally left town, and only now have I been able to begin the process of clearing it off (it's amazing just how MUCH there is to do still toward getting my home really liveable). I have removed that work table and put up another table in its place that will suffice for the knitting machines.
I'm wondering if the hurricane connection created a mental block about that table, or if I was just going through a phase of decompressing and not being ready to knit yet. Hmmmmm... Well, no matter. The table is going out the door (she wasn't able to come today, but promised to come tomorrow), and I have no interest in seeing it come back any time soon. They can use it as long as they want. And with that table out of the room, and the other table in its place, and yarns neatly cubby-holed, basketed, or otherwise in an orderly manner, I do feel more able to knit.
This afternoon, in order to move the knitting machine off the table, I had to remove the baby blanket I started for my friends who adopted their girl from Ethiopia many months ago. It's been almost two months since I worked on. I had to take it off the needlebed, stitch by stitch, onto a ravel cord to hold the stitches live. When I mount it back onto the needle-bed, I will replace it stitch by stitch, and then I will have to tink it back a row or two ("tink" = "knit" backwards; UNknit) before I can move forward, in order to re-set the tension, balance the stitching, and make a uniform fabric again. By the way, tinking is different from "frogging" ("rip it, rip it") which simply destroys the whole project.
That probably means nothing to most folks in a literal way, but it forces me to face up to the obvious metaphoric question: what other parts of my life am I going to have to take back, stitch by stitch, unknitting myself, before I can find balance and restore equilibrium before moving forward? Goddamn, I really do NOT want to think about that, but I know I must at some point do a full inventory of my life, my Self, my values and priorities, and everything else. I'm sure much of me is still pretty much "ME", but because of the last couple of months, I think it would be worthwhile to at least be open to examining the issue.
I am NOT about to try a full personal inventory today or this week, of course. But I know it will be necessary as part of my healing process -- I need to know what has changed and what has not. If I am to move forward and leverage my momentum in a positive way, I have to have an intelligent and objective (mostly objective, anyway) perspective of what my CURRENT resources and limitations are. I know I've lost some parts of my Self, but much of what I lost was built on fears and insecurities. I've faced a lot of shit lately and have replaced the lost parts with determination and ability to "face the fear and do it anyway". My beliefs have changed. My perception of humanity is changed.
So, at some point, little by little over the coming months or years, I will except to come face to face with the "To Tink or Not to Tink" question in various parts of my life. In the meantime, I will get back to knitting on that baby blanket.
Another Day Begins
a.m. 22 Oct 2005
Well, poop! I got sidetracked last night by suddenly realizing I was too tired to bother cooking, so I ran out the door to the closest eating place -- Theo's -- and got a take-out pizza. I never went there before, but their current menu consists of large or small pizza, thin crust, with 5 meat toppings, and 7 or 8 veggie toppings. I got a mix of things, including pepperoni, sausage, pineapple, olives, mushrooms and tomatoes. Actually it was better than I thought it would be.
What impressed me is that their entire menu was printed on one sheet of paper. You pick the size you want, and then pick the toppings. That's it. Limited and quite basic, for $22.00, but they are OPEN and DOING BUSINESS IN NEW ORLEANS. Woo-hoooooo!
I should also mention that the hardware store I went to is a locally owned, independent little hardware, but it appeared to be fully stocked, and very well staffed. They had a little bit of everything, not a warehouse full of each item, but nonetheless I went with my list and got everything on my list. The local ACE hardware that I usually visit is still closed. The Wal*Mart is closed, as are the local Walgreens and many other places.
This tells me that it is the small, independent businesses that are taking initial steps to get back up and running, while the big companies are sitting around with their corporate thumb up their corporate ass. Well, no, I'm sure they are struggling with issues, too, but they are so large that it takes forever for them to do anything, while the lone entrepreneur is moving right along on their own.
The local Rue de la Course coffee house is open, as is Cafe Luna (the local one-location coffee house, owned by a fellow-knitter -- we had our Knitting Meetup at Cafe Luna and will do so again starting in November) while the CC's, PJ's, and Starbucks are still closed and looking for employees to work. Hmmmmm.... wonder why? CC's and PJ's are New Orleans-based places, but even so, it is odd that the big companies have no employees, but the little local places around town are managing to come up and open in the Uptown area.
Okay, enough of that. I can't figure out the ways of business this early in the morning (5:32 a.m. right now to be exact), but when I see who is opening for business and making the effort to serve, on ANY scale, it turns my thoughts toward continuing to support these people when given a choice in the future after the big companies open again.
What I was starting to write about yesterday is that after a long walk back from the hardware, and then a couple hours bagging up all the hurricane debris, I found my body quite sore by evening. But it was a good sort of 'hurt' -- I'd been physically active, doing something useful, and making progress to restore the front of my home to something less "war-torn" and more "lived-in". It felt good.
I went to bed around 9:00 (truly, I struggled to stay up that late!!), and managed to sleep until almost 4:30 this morning. I woke a couple times during the night, but fell back asleep quickly. That's a good thing. Maybe it signals a return to some measure of normalcy in my sleep patterns.
On the other hand, I am NOT enjoying my sleep. I continue to have bizarre nightmares and weirdness. Last night I was somehow up high above a cityscape, watching a woman skewer herself on the radio spire of a tall building. It seemed I was listening to radio coverage of the event and someone was describing the woman as suffering mental disorders of some sort. Apparently many people were observing the event and/or knew of the woman, but nobody was actually DOing anything to prevent it or get the woman off of there. I watched her slide down the antenna spike, amazing that she was still wriggling around and moving in ways as if to maximize the damage to her body -- no crying out, but just moving in ways that made sure she was fully skewered. I should add that she was NOT anyone I recognized -- in the dream she was a rather small Asian-appearing woman, and her appearance didn't even remind me of anyone. This was odd, as most of my nightmares have at least one or two people that I seem to recognize, at least in my dream if not someone from real life that I would know.
But this is just one of an on-going process of really ugly dreams I've been having since the hurricane. I suppose a lot of people are experiencing this, and I've heard of people having such nightmare experiences after significant trauma or life-changing events. I would imagine this hurricane and the aftermath qualifies as such a thing. :-)
I might also add that these nightmares are of a quality or type in which I'm not personally in danger, but I am present as an observer, in most cases. I appreciate that difference, of course, but I don't know why I'm watching these scenes, but not really participating. They are certainly disturbing to watch, but I don't feel personally threatened. I wonder why? There is one element of this that does reflect my life -- I'm an observer of many things related to the hurricane, but I recognize I have been enormously blessed throughout the process. I've been scared at times, but not personally threatened. Maybe that's why in these dreams I'm not feeling threatened, but certainly upset by what I'm viewing.
Okay, enough of that, too.
This morning a friend and co-worker will be moving into the neighborhood and has asked for a table on which to put her and her roommate's computers so they can work from their home, since all of our offices are unavailable. I need to begin re-arranging this office/studio space, since I'm giving them my knitting table and lending them a pair of chairs. I can use other things for the knitting work, so it's not a big deal. I'm just not emotionally ready to actually go through all my knitting stuff.
Y'know ... it's funny. I have not knitted a single stitch since returning home 7 days ago. I wonder why? My brain has not failed to think up things that I could be knitting, new projects I want to explore, and all the typical brain work that goes into being a knitter. But my hands have not felt the urge to pick up a project and actually DO anything. Very odd for me, since I usually have one or another project in my hands at any idle moment. Now, however, I find myself plopped down in my living room, escaping into the television, mostly the Food Network, and HGTV for their decorating and organizing ideas and their make-over programs. I don't get into news programming, sitcoms, or even the regular drama serials. I want to just sit and escape into watching other people get their homes in order, or learn about food things (my son introduced me to "Good Eats" and "Unwrapped" on the Food Network).
But even so, I know I need to continue working on one room at a time to get everything back in order. Today it is the office/studio and I have to rearrange things before my friend gets here to pick up the table. Having a time frame helps me to move forward, so it's a good thing.
I'll be back this evening, I'm sure.
It hurts so good!
5:30 p.m. 21 Oct 2005
My body is stiff and sore this evening. I needed to go to the hardware store, and the closest one was around 20 blocks away. I took the bus up there, but took my granny cart, as the things I needed would have been cumbersome to carry on the bus. I got 2 garden hoses, a leaf rake (my other one was lost at Kris' house), a box of industrial construction waste bags, and a pair of leather work gloves.
I walked it all home, and then spent another 2 hours raking and bagging the remaining hurricane debris in my yard.
As if it weren't enough already!
5:45 p.m. -- 20 Oct 2005
The last two months have been interesting to say the least. Not even two months after putting Deefer down, there was Katrina, for which I stayed largely because of Hazel, then ended up having to entrust Hazel to someone else anyway.... then there was Rita ... and still wondering about the condition of the house I'd left and everything in it ... and trying to maintain my job and ensure my viabiity toward the short-term reconstruction process (all the while considering longer-term options for later on, of course, about which I've been quite open), and then getting my ass back into New Orleans as soon as I could in order to establish my willingness to show up and be present so that I would avoid the dreaded threat of FURLOUGH. O'course, I was told that the furlough was for those classified employed (of which I am one) who had NOT made contact with the school (of which I am NOT one -- I've been in regular contact throughout the ordeal). So I got myself back here and have been doing the things I could.
This evening, however, I got a call to inquire as to my plans (whether to stay or leave), because my name was on a short list if 8 classified employees from which the dean's office was asking the cancer center to furlough 6!!!! YIKES!!!
Well, to make a long story short, I made some other phone calls and learned that budget from which I am paid is a dedicated line item in the STATE's budget, and the STATE can decide to do otherwise, but that would be a legislative process. LSU cannot arbitrarily decide to take the money and do something else with it, so putting me on "leave without pay" will not help them at all.
Suffice it to say it gave quite a bit of consternation, grief, anxiety, and emotional upheaval. I will save you the grief and despair, as it is now a moot point. After all I've already been through, and after doing all I could to avoid furlough, to suddenly hear that I'm even being considered for it was enough to send me into an emotional tailspin.
The person who first called me wasn't privy to all the details of the budget from which I am paid, of course, and she had absolutely no way of knowing. And, in truth, I wasn't aware of how strictly that particular budget was limited. When I called her back to let her know, she had already decided (along with the head of the cancer center) that they simply HAD to keep me. I am present (which a lot of folks are not), willing to work at whatever is needed (which some folks wouldn't be so willing), educable and intelligent enough to do just about anything (which, sadly, is not true of all the State's classified employees).
It is one thing to know that the budgetary limitations prevent them from simply dismissing me (which is, of course, comforting), I find that I am far more at rest knowing that the people who could wreak havoc in my life have a favorable view of me and my worth to the school. Actually that part feels really, really good.
I will certainly sleep better tonight knowing this and reflecting on its implications.
This morning I went with Daphne into some really terrible sections of destruction. Pictures on television cannot possibly convey the level of horror in some neighborhoods. Particularly in the Lower Ninth Ward, whole neighborhoods were caked with several inches of muck-and-mire from the flood waters. Every once-living thing was dead. The entire area had been stroked over in the same shade of "oh-mah-gawd-shit-gray" ... and the waters receded, the slime dried hard on EVERYthing and is cracking like so much desert clay -- like you see on a TV documentary about severe drought conditions.
We were posting notices on the last known addresses of cancer patients within the state medical care system, informing them, if they happen to return, where and how to get back into treatment.
In one particularly bad section, houses had been literally floated off their foundations and skewed at really awkward angles between other houses; at least those that weren't actually collapsed on their footings. At one address we tried to reach, two different houses on two different blocks had floated completely off their lots and were deposited smack-dab in the middle of the street!!!! And with all the flooding muck around it, and not having a visible foundation, it almost appeared these houses had been planted right there all along.
At one house, I volunteered to climb over the crumbling rubble of the house, and the only place I could find to tape up the notice was on a lone vertical beam ... walls, doors, windows were all a jumbled mess around my feet. And I had to hold my breath all the while because of the incredible stench.
I have been a dumpster diver for years, done my share of trash picking, and have changed more than a few truly disgusting diapers in my day. There is NO SMELL in my past experience to prepare me for what I smelled today. I could almost feel the pores of my skin start to clench to avoid exposure to that odor.
I understand how people want, in their hearts and minds, to go back to their homes, to clean up and rebuild. After seeing it first-hand, there is NO WAY they can do that. There were even some sections so bad that even now the National Guard is not even letting residents inside the neighborhoods to investigate their own properties, much less a couple of hospital representatives trying to contact patients. We had to put that address on hold until we can make some other contact, if ever at all.
Once again, I am forced to appreciate the blessing of living on this particular street, in this particular neighborhood, in this particular section of town. We had some damage here. What I saw today goes beyond damage, beyond destruction, beyond anything I could ever imagine seeing as a result of a weather event.
I honestly hope I never EVER have to witness such a thing again, but unfortunately we have another list of addresses in another part of town to try and reach tomorrow. Hopefully it won't be nearly so bad as the Lower Ninth Ward.
On the other hand, I wish everyone I know, particularly the self-righteous idiots who think some God was showing some upset at New Orleans' lifestyles ... I wish they could walk where I walked today, see what I saw, smell what I smelled, and touch what I touched. I defy them to smugly say their God could do such a thing in real life. Bible stories of mass destruction are mythic stories and illustrative allegories, not historical fact attributable to the actions of a personal god bent on destruction. What I saw today is real and factual. Any "god" who publicly takes personal responsibility for this kind of thing is not a god I wish to be involved with, and certainly such a "god" is foreign to any concept or version of god I have ever known first-hand.
Weather is a fact of life, and it happens to everyone in one way or another. It's just part of the ride. But to arrogantly declare with such certainty and ferocity that there's a personal God who personally directs such events toward individual people or places, is just superstitious and spiritually abusive. I will have nothing to do with such a god. I will instead throw my lot in with whatever god will encourage those who lost everything and will give them strength to get up tomorrow morning and move forward in hope.
Early Morning ... again!
4:25 a.m. -- 20 Oct 2005
I don't get it. I didn't take a nap yesterday, got loads of exercise (walking), didn't go to bed until after 9:30 ... and I still woke before 3:30. And, because I will be working away from home today, I won't likely get to have a nap today, either.
Yesterday I went for my regularly scheduled dental visit to have a couple fillings replaced. Easy in, easy out, no problem. The Magazine Street bus was running so I rode as far as Poydras, but without a Poydras bus I had to walk up another 10 blocks to the dentist office. Viewing the destruction downtown was not pleasant, to say the least, although I have to admit that most drivers were being more cautious than pre-Katrina, traffic was very light, and the streets were populated more by construction and relief crews than by normal working folks from the business district.
The dentist visit went fine, and I walked back down to Magazine Street to catch the bus home. On the ride downtown I'd seen that Aidan Gill was actually open this time, so on the return trip I got off the bus and picked up my shaving cream. The bus is only running about every half hour, so I started walking the rest of the way home, about 20 blocks or so.
It was interesting to view the piles of trash along the way. I saw lots of furnitures and storage units that would have been quite serviceable. I just left it all there. I'm not in the mood for trash picking and dumpster diving at the moment, but there are loads of truly useful stuff just sitting on the sidewalks. I don't generally pick up things if it has been rained on, and I have no honest idea how long some of this stuff has been sitting out. Even hard plastics or other washable materials, which I'd normally clean off, I have no idea where these things have been, what sort of contaminants they've been exposed to, or other health risks. So I'm not picking up trash these days, regardless how useful it looks.
What I said yesterday about Life and all the rest cannot be taken to discount the role of personal responsibility. I'm not a "victim" of Life, as if things happen TO me regardless what I do. Sure, "the rain falls on the just and the unjust", and there are certain things I have no control over. The Universe works with mathematical precision, doing whatever it does on a grander or smaller scale by it's own reckoning. But I'm not a victim of it. I'm a participant.
So it is irresponsible of me to say it doesn't matter how I behave. If I fuck up and behave in a risky or irresponsible manner, I will definitely have to deal with the consequences. Ernest Holmes used to teach that we are not punished FOR our sins (as if some deity is taking notes and personally punishing us), but we are punished BY our sins -- because there is a mathematical precision to the Universe, and because every action has an equal and opposite reaction, and because every cause is followed by an effect, and because we don't live in a vacuum, and because the Universe demands an absolute and delicate balance at every level, we don't need to be in fear of some deity thumping us on the head but instead need to observe how things work and use that knowledge to behave in wisdom.
I am not blessed in my life because some god or another favors me at this particular time in my life, but because that's how the Universe works. Give and take, rise and fall, ebb and flow, light and dark, and so forth. Perfect balance. I cannot gloat about being blessed because it is entirely transient and there will be (as there has been in the past) times of loss, times of barrenness, times when I can't directly imagine a better time. But what goes up must come down. What comes in must go out and what goes out must come in.
Why should I invest energy being upset OR being joyful at the transient events of my life, other than momentary emotions that come and go. Sure, I'm happy to be blessed, but I'll be happy anyway because when these particular blessings fall to the wayside, it just makes room for other blessings. So what?
Okay, enough about that...
Today I'm going with one of my co-workers to the homes of cancer patients. I suspect most are not around, and many of the homes no longer exist because they are in the most devastated areas of town. But it is important to attempt to notify cancer patients of where and how to return to treatment if they haven't done so already.
It is good to get back into a working routine, even if it is sporadic and different from what I did before. This is part of making myself a participant in something larger than myself, and beyond my own needs. Helping cancer patients, even if it is just putting up notices where nobody lives anymore, is important. With nearly two dozen addresses to visit, if even one of those patients is found and informed of the opportunity for continued treatment, it will be worth it. I cannot force anyone back into treatment of course, but that's not the point. These are adults with their own choices to make. My role is to provide the opportunity for informed decision-making. (I strongly disagree with certain elements of "public health" where the officials become paternalistic and demanding when it isn't necessary to do so.)
This weekend I'll be helping some co-workers get set up in a new apartment here in my neighborhood, and then later on will be sharing some yarns with another knitting friend who lost almost everything from her home. It will be a good weekend, I'm sure -- seeing friends and helping folks.
More to report later on.
18 Oct 2005 - p.m.
I knew from the start that my life would be different. I even wrote that at the start of my journal during the hurricane (transcribed here). As I sit here at my computer, I realize that I don't give a fiddler's flying fuck about what the idiots are talking about at alt.music.gospel.southern. The asshole from Australia will continue to be an asshole, unenlightened and choosing to remain in darkness, regardless what I say or do. Fuck him ... and all the other fundamentalist bullshit idiots.
Many of the other places I used to visit frequently on the Web have similarly lost their appeal. I don't know why, and perhaps I will return to them one day. My values have changed, my interests have changed, and my inner self has changed, as well.
I am quite confident and sure (even more sure now than I was before) that there is not a single religious path that holds more than a fraction or glimmer of Truth/Reality. Every single one of them is just someone else's opinion, filtered through personal experience.
BUT!!!!!!! At the same time I have to admit that I have a stronger and more sure faith today than I think I have had at any other time. I have been through some things lately, which when combined with all the other crap I have lived through in my life, that have convinced me that all is well in the Universe. I don't put my faith in someone's definition of "God", or any particular package of doctrines. I don't believe that if I do good some god will bless me, or if I do bad some other god will damn me. And there is no doubt that really crappy things do happen to really good people, just like good things also happen to some really crappy people.
But I think the failure of most religion is that it is a self-centered pursuit -- trying to figure out "Me and God" and how to get the best from God for Self. I don't accept the notion that there is some deity out there taking notes on my life. Most religion is all about micro-management, and that's bullshit. Every decision about how the universe runs has already been made. It's a process, and nobody is rightfully entitled to take any of it personally.
The process of Life is such that if we look at the micro version, some folks get off better than others. But looking at the macro version, the very whole of it, the center-and-circumference of it all, everything is just fine. There is no life without death. Some folks get flooded out, and others get left alone to help rebuilt whatever is left. Praying for a storm to turn and go somewhere else is a colossal waste of time, and a really arrogant exercise in ego-fluffing. Whatever gives anyone the right to actually expect the laws of nature to bend for the whim of one while ignoring the whim of another?
When my neighbors left to evacuate before Katrina, they gave me the key to their house, attached to a little token of something written in Hebrew. When I gave the key back to my neighbor on Saturday, she noticed it was her husband's key, and that the little token was some sort of Hebrew thing to ward off the evil eye and prevent harm.
The entire time I had that key on my keyring, I was blessed in a mighty way. The flood waters stopped just six or eight blocks from my house. When the city water was shut off and I set out to see about evacuating from the Superdome, I ended up instead at a house of strangers, only later to learn that the Superdome had fallen victim, and the people were being carted elsewhere, losing more and more other their posessions along the way with each new shelter searrch. When the National Guard was taking the folks from the refugee house, I and another person were granted private ride to my own destination in Baton Rouge because I asked a total stranger for it, while all the others from that band of refugees had most of their belongings taken from them at the official shelter. I was blessed along the ride to Houston, blessed with my children while in Houston, and blessed to find my home fairly intact on my return. Time and again throughout my ordeal, as rough as it was, I came to learn later that alternate choices would have resulted in far worse dealings along the way.
I know that there is nothing magical about a little token on a key ring, nothing particularly protective about a little prayer in Hebrew, or any other superstitious thing like that. But I also know that I am one tiny miniscule element in the grander scheme of things, and that I have been blessed for one purpose, and ONLY one purpose -- to serve the rest of the people around me. I will be nobody's slave, of course, but if I have lucked out and been blessed in my life it is because I will eventually have an opportunity to give it all back some day. When or where or how, I have no idea.
I have been made stronger because other parts of Life are not as strong. I am an essential element of making the Whole work a little better. Obviously I have to believe the same is true about everyone else, whether they realize it or not. It's all about survival, making it through the day. That's all. It's not about getting, having, acquiring. It's not about collecting stuff and things. It's about being a functioning, contributig participant in the process of Life. If I can do that, and help someone else make it through the day too, that's GREAT!
Life will never be the same for me.
What about trash?
18 Oct 2005
Because there is no regular trash pick-ups, it is going to be a challenge to handle my household waste appropriately. I have to be extremely conscious about what is organic (and compost-worthy) and what needs to be compressed or recycled, or some other way minimized.
Walking the streets I can see the mass wastefulness of so many people, and I don't want to contribute to it. I am probably more conscious of such things than the average consumer in this city, and I realize my efforts are such a tiny effort overall. But it's still worth doing my best to minimize the waste so evident around the city.
17 Oct 2005
Before return to N.O. I called my grooming shop, Aidan Gill for Men, to see if they had re-opened. The woman assured me they'd just opened, AND that they had my shaving cream in stock. I was running low before Katrina and used my last little bit just ever-so-sparingly during my time away. Even with my cautious frugality, I ended up having to buy a cake of store-bought shaving mug soap. YUCK!!! Gross and disgusting.
So, anyway, the woman said they were open, so I hopped on a bus to get a new little tub. Well, SHIT!!! The lights were off, the doors were locked, and the gate was chained-and-padlocked shut. What a fucking wasted trip!!!
I WANT MY SHAVING CREAM!!! I want my pre-shaving oil, too, but that's a luxury item I suppose. A little tub of shaving cream lasts about 10-12 months, using just a scant pea-sized glob, whipped into a lather with my pure badger-bristle brush (it was a bargain at $45 and will last the rest of my life if I continue to protect it). Alas, I will have to call them tomorrow and re-check their schedule, I suppose.
Earlier this morning, the landlord's insurance adjusters came by and looked at the house. There's no telling just what they will allow, but it sounds like they will cover some new carpet, a new back door, as well as some other things that needed to be done.
I have made some progress on getting the place cleaned up. I have a tolerance limit on how much I can do in a day, of course, and I refuse to beat myself up for not having the house back in order just yet. I put things away as I can and that's good enough in my book.
I was able to find a cheezy cheap electric alarm clock at the grocery store yesterday. It was the only model they had, no radio or anything, just an alarm. I haven't had one of those since Katrina, and I have NO idea what happened to the one that I did have. I suppose it is packed away in one of my escape bags or boxes that I had planned to leave with. I guess I'll find it this week.
Anyway, I set the alarm so that I could try to force myself back into a reasonable sleep schedule again. It sounded dutifully at 4:50 a.m. and I reached up to turn it off. Then I turned on the light and waited a moment for Deefer to crawl out from under the bed as he did when the alarm sounded and I turned on the lights. It took a couple seconds for me to remember that he wasn't he any more and wouldn't be crawling out of anywhere.
I miss Deefer. I miss Hazel, too, but not as much. She is happier out in a large parcel of land to play on, so I'm not worried. It just struck me as odd that as soon as I got into my own bed and had my own alarm clock sounding, I also expected the dog to be here, too. Deefer has been gone 3 months. This has been an eventful summer, indeed.
14 Oct 2005
Tomorrow morning one of my sons will be driving me to my home in New Orleans. Today I am doing some laundry and packing my stuff to make ready to go.
Lots of emotions up and down today. Going home usually means a return to what is familiar, comfortable, and 'normal'. I'm not sure that's what it will mean tomorrow. Certainly there will be a measure of familiarity, since I've lived on that street and in that house for so many years, and all my own stuff will be inside. But it will not be the same as just going away for the weekend.
Not only have I been away for almost two months, but so much of my inner being is changed. Will I still want the same stuff I had before? Will I just chuck it all and start over with different things in my life? Will I find myself clinging to useless shit just because it's MY shit and I don't want to lose it? Hell, I don't know.
I have definitely enjoyed being around my kids and grandkids. I would prefer to stick around, or at least be in closer proximity so that I could see everyone more often. I'm sure it will happen exactly on schedule. A lot of that "schedule", of course, depends on how quickly I can make an independent and portable income.
I will do things differently, for sure, but at this point I'm not sure how differently or what parts of my life will be different in my daily routines. Certainly any "routines" I'd established have been totally fucked over in the last couple months -- there's no way to maintain a routine while living with strangers or even taking up space in a kinfolk's house.
Anyway, since this afternoon is packing time, I'm not going to be posting again until I get my computer up and running at home. I am assuming that my internet connection will be working at home. I called bellsouth.net and asked, and the guy said the network was up, but I won't be surely sure until I'm there and try to plug in. So, if you don't see a post from me for a few days, it's probably due to the connection.
Thoughts and Such
14 Oct 2005
Yesterday I received a surprise phone call from a fellow knitter and friend in New Orleans ... well, she HAD BEEN in New Orleans. But she said when she was finally allowed into the area where her home had been, it was just a total loss. She's not allowed to actually do anything, or sift-and-sort through the rubble, until the adjuster gets his ass out there, but she said the whole area stinks -- the smell is horrific, from what she says. She is staying at her son's home across the river for now, but there's no telling what may yet come in the future for her.
I just learned that the cafe where we had been having our Knitting Meetup gatherings is now open again -- Cafe Luna at the corner of Magazine and Nashville. It's a great place, with good people, a home-grown coffee house (not like those copy-cat chain places like Char*Bucks). If you are in the area, go visit Cafe Luna and help them rebuild their business. New Orleans needs Home-Grown business to return.
Battling Depression? Too much stress?
13 Oct 2005
Nope, I don't think that's an issue for me at the moment. I've known depression in my life, and I recognize some of the symptoms--lethargy, disinterest, etc.
But I have to recognize that I have had some incredibly stressful, life-changing moments over just the last 6-7 weeks:
And lots of other details along the way. Yup, it's been highly stressful on many points. Personally, I think I have done remarkably well holding myself mostly together (I said *mostly*), but I have to recognize that what has happened lately is far from normal, and thus I need to be cautious about several things, particular when it comes to making life-changing decisions. I have to recognize that I am in an abnormal situation and I cannot try to behave as if all is "normal" just yet.
When I get back to my house and take a realistic assessment of what's going on there, then I will be equipped with realistic information about my immediately-current options.
Even though I'm not in my normal environment with normal activities, there are steps I can take to maintain my own mental/emotional/spiritual balance -- I can be very present in the moment, neither borrowing trouble from tomorrow nor carrying troubles from yesterday; I can focus on something larger than myself and thus avoid getting sucked into a downward spiral of "poor little me"; I can remind myself that EVERY situation is temporary and will not last, and that I can do for a day or a week what I would never consider doing for all the rest of my life.
12 Oct 2005
The Nation has an article called 25 Questions About the Murder of New Orleans which is not only UNsurprising in its content, but somewhat restrained on many points.
My brother sent me a heads-up about a discusion about illegal immigrants rebuilding New Orleans, in which the Mayor is quoted as follows:
What the fuck???? If any white guy had said such a thing about ANY group, he'd be run out of town before midnight. Mayor Ray Nagin will definitely NOT be getting my vote ... assuming he has the balls to run for re-election.
Please pardon my ignorance, but where the fuck are all those unfortunate, displaced, under-employed African-Americans who are complaining? If illegal immigrants are able to find a way into town to work, why can't the people who used to live there do the same thing?
The people who SHOW UP and rebuild New Orleans have as much right to be there as anyone -- indeed, they are investing and building sweat-equity in the reconstruction of New Orleans. It is only right that they be given a voice in the matter. Further, under the circumstances, I believe they are entitled to some sort of dispensation regarding naturalization and citizenship.
Even before the rumors were flying over the air waves, people at the refugee house where I ended up were already discussing things along the lines of those 25 Questions About the Murder of New Orleans. Personally, I have little trouble accepting the notion that, while there might not have been a deliberate effort to "cleanse the city", there surely didn't seem to be much deliberate effort to prevent it, mitigate it, minimize it, or otherwise save what was irretrievably lost.
I recognize that most of the poor in New Orleans were black and other minorities. I recognize that most of the criminal element in New Orleans were also black. With over 75% black population, this is to be expected.
I REJECT ABSOLUTELY that any of this is directly racist. Whether by design or by default, if the criminal element and the financial drain is removed from New Orleans, that is a GOOD THING. New Orleans' economy cannot survive when most of its people are poor and dependent on the city, parish, or state. But, it is NOT a good thing, and it is totally UNacceptable to target all blacks for removal. I cannot possibly support such a thing. I work with too many blacks, asians, and others -- poverty and crime is NOT a race thing at all, but a mentality/educational thing. Granted most of the poor are black, and most of the population in N.O. was black.
I have no idea what will actually happen there, but I doubt the city will have the same dynamic. I truly hope it will NOT become a "no coloreds" territory, of course, but there is no way the city will be rebuilt just the way it used to be, with the crime, the povery, the lack of adequate education, and all the rest.
I don't know how long I will be there, but if I go back to help rebuild even for a little while, I hope that my efforts will be part of what makes New Orleans a better place for my having been there.
Self-Abuse is not appropriate behavior
5:40 p.m. 11 Oct 2005
Fuck it. Just fuck it. Why the fuck should I sit around waiting for someone else to do something? I've spent the last 24 hours or so all in a stew over whether I have a fucking job or not. That's bullshit. Why do I do that to myself? Why do I beat myself up, imagining the worst-case scenario like that???
Fuck it. I'm going back to New Orleans this weekend. I will assess the damages in my home. I will contact the people (co-workers) who are IN New Orleans and make arrangements to continue working as best I can from the house and/or the clinic. I will proceed on the assumption that I have a job until they tell me otherwise. It is up to tell me straight-up whether I have been furloughed or not.
The dean said the school of public health may even be able to return to the building by the end of the semester, which is only two months off. I still have 3 paychecks coming anyway and I now have a tiny little amount socked away (as of today) that will carry me over until the building opens up .... OR will fund me if I need to rent a trailer and get my shit out of New Orleans and start over around here or do something different.
Regardless what happens, I do not deserve to be in a stew over this. I am an intelligent, capable individual. I have marketable skills that have endeared me to the folks at LSU just fine and my abilities will open doors wherever else I might end up. So fuck it. I'm going to show up, and keep showing up until they tell me not to. Period.
On another note, a friend sent me this piece in email today:
Well!!!! Isn't THAT interesting! ?
After the weekend...
4:00 a.m. 11 Oct 2005
I spent the weekend with my older daughter, her husband, and their daughter, up on the north side of Houston, about 45 minutes from here. It was good to see them again and spend time with my granddaughter, of course, plus it enabled me to take a rest from some of my concerns and pretend is was sort of like a mini-vacation.
Pursuant to notices posted on the school's Web site, I was under the impression I had until Nov 6 to get my shit together and appear for work. Now I find out I may have misinterpreted the directive and that it might mean as of Nov 6 I will be on "leave without pay" regardless whether *I* am in place or not, based on the ability of the school to keep me on.
I am attempting to get a formal declaration from the head of the cancer center (my paychecks flow through his budget) as to my status, but I spent last evening and most of the night stressed about the issue. (Notice the early hour of my writing!)
I have 3 more paychecks coming, for sure, but after then I don't know.
The issue for me, personally, is whether I should be returning to New Orleans this weekend (the planned return was moved forward a week, by the way) and plan to stay, or to make other arrangements, and go to New Orleans to collect my stuff and get out of there so I can start over somewhere.
I should probably "let go" for now until I get a definite directive from someone in authority, but I'm not good at just letting go. I want to KNOW if I will have a job there or not. I suppose I "should" take this as an opportunity to just bail out and leave on my own, but I don't feel like "should"-ing on myself just yet.
My son in law was telling me about a mobile home and lot for sale a couple blocks over from here -- a decent place -- for $25,000. I could buy that and use it as a starting point for living and creating the manufacturing center that I want, since I don't want to run a retail shop. The downside is that I don't have $25,000, nor any way up-front to finance such a thing.
If anyone has an extra $25,000 lying around and wants to buy a home for me to rent from you on the cheap, feel free to speak up. :-) The land itself is worth more than that, so it could be turned over readily enough. I just don't have the cash up front to buy it, nor could I in good faith commit to a mortgage until I know for sure what my income status is going to be like.
Well, it is still early in the day, and I don't need to pursue a lot of day dreaming shit just yet. But I do need to prepare for taking control and exercising authority in my own life, and I suddenly don't feel like I have the luxury of a lot of time in which to do it.
And now the boys are waking up to get ready for work, so I'll close this off for now. I'm SURE I will have more to say later on.
Okay, here's the deal ...
6:00 a.m. 7 Oct 2005
Based on the information I am receiving from news reports, and individuals in the area, my particular part of town in New Orleans is improving and becoming liveable.
A good friend of mine has decided she will be moving permanently up to Boston during the last week of October. I would definitely like to visit with her at least once before she goes away, so I'm planning to return there the weekend of the 22nd or 23rd. I have promised to try to help establish a neighborhood clinic with some co-workers, and I'll start doing that the first week of November.
I am also hoping to be able to get my work computer from the office so that I can continue working from home, although this isn't essential -- I will have access to the hard drives so I can just suck what I need off of those and put them onto my own computer at home.
I am going for the short-term, mostly to finish up some projects, and to help in the first wave of restorations.
I am NOT convinced today that the city of New Orleans has what it takes to come back and be a viable place for me to live. I am NOT convinced they are committed to actually improving the levee system to prevent another disaster.
I will be cleaning up my home, first to get things just back to pre-Katrina status (it was a mess when I left because of all my shifting about and making it storm-ready), but then I'll also need to start thoroughly sifting and sorting my shit so that I can get ready to move out of New Orleans by next spring or summer. Because I am not convinced the city can withstand another big storm, I have no intention of sticking around waiting to see what happens.
I want to live closer to my kids, and hopefully be able to retire in an area where I have access to the kids and grandkids. I have in my head an image of a nice retirement cottage, with a garden and a place for grandkids to play in off to the side of the yard -- a swing set, a hopscotch formation, balance beam, tetherball, and some other stuff that would be interesting for kids to come and play safely while the grownups visit on the deck.
I would like to make that a reality at some point. The only way to do that is to work and make it happen.
One of the first things I will need when I return to New Orleans is a set of towels, since all of mine were destroyed in Katrina when I lived at the refugee house. Once I get home and take stock of what needs to go and what can stay, I'll post a link to my Target wish list! :-)
Today I am going to visit with my other daughter for the weekend. I won't take the computer this time, but plan to take a significant break from the computer. She has real bike trails and green spaces in her neighborhood, so I want to take advantage of that while I can. I also want to scope out some of the other areas up there, to see if there's a way to focus on moving to the north side of Houston when I come back next year.
Living With Ambiguity
11:00 a.m. - 5 Oct 2005
Well, according to http://www.cnn.com/SPECIALS/2005/katrina/rebuilding/ (then click on my zip code 70115) the restoration of services is somewhat slow, but still faster than in other parts of town. I've heard also that they have isolated certain trouble areas in order to restore water and stuff to the less damaged areas.
I called a local (New Orleans) grocery to see if they were opening yet, and a woman answered and said today was their first day open, and tomorrow there's another store that will open. And I just called my delivery water company to see if they'd be delivering, and they are already doing so. Very cool.
As I just told my brother, if I do go back to New Orleans, it will probably be with a view toward making an intelligent and PLANNED and permanent departure from there sooner than later. I do not want to live through another killer storm, nor do I relish living in a toxic environment. It will be years before New Orleans is actually a reasonably decent place to live again, and I'm not sure I am up to the task of it all.
I am enjoying being around my kids and grandkids, but I don't like living with all this ambiguity, vacillation and so forth. It is really draining.
I have a pot of beef stew cooking for dinner. It's a big one-pot meal, edible at different times. The older son went off to pick up the younger son from work and bring him home, before the older one goes off to his night shift. My daughter will be home about an hour after that, and her husband another hour and a half later still. A pot of stew can warm just fine, and the biscuits are easily made as needed.
I really dislike packaged stuff, so I did buy real stew meat, real carrots, real celery, real potatoes, and real onions. I did, however, also buy packaged beef stock (low sodium), and a beef stew seasoning packet. I do not like working in someone else's kitchen, I don't care how well stocked it is (or isn't). I don't like using other people's tools and utensils, either. I like how I cook my own food in my own kitchen with my own tools. That doesn't make me a bad person, does it?
4:00 p.m. -- 4 Oct 2005
We had our meeting today (over lunch) and developed a few strategies for most easily identifying Louisiana patients now located in Texas. That is a good move. I'm still not convinced my role is all that essential, but I am sincerely trying to do my part and help out the folks who are here and similarly trying to keep working.
I can't imagine ANYone is actually "working" full time at the moment -- no wait, I take that back -- there is one person who is probably busting her ass on computer stuff (TechnoDyke -- a trooper, if ever there was one) -- but anyway, I think most folks who are attempting to reach normalcy are similarly foundering between work-related tasks in the midst of making sense of their day to day lives.
As for me ... well, I'm not all that good at it. I need the security and stability of knowing each day what I'm supposed to be doing. Lists help me somewhat -- if I have a list of tasks to do each day I can get up and do them without a lot of emotional angst. It's when I have blocks of time uncommitted and I sit thinking about all the things I "could" be doing, if only I were at home or at my regular office.
6:10 a.m. -- 4 Oct 2005
I got a report from Erik (one of the guys who stayed at the refugee camp in New Orleans) who said the water in N.O. won't be drinkable or bathable for 4-6 months. Shit!
And yesterday's quandary brought a couple responses. Jo says I should give myself until Christmas to really sort things out and make a decision. My brother says he found himself without a job and jumped headlong into his own business -- which, by the way, has continued to keep him employed almost 24/7 for the last 10-15 years or so. Not bad.
So, I just don't know.
Today, the Houston contingent from my New Orleans office will be gathering here for a local meeting to consider ways of tracking down cancer patients displaced by Katrina (and, now, I suppose by Rita as well). There was a report that Katrina evacuees and refugees have ended up in over 30 different states, so it will be a difficult task trying to track down patients and help them get back into treatment or whatever they need. It's all about continuity of care for their own well-being. Part of the problem is figuring out who went where, and another part is that medical resources in other locations aren't willing to violate the new privacy regulations and identify their incoming patients. And, of course, since medical records in New Orleans aren't readily available (and the doctors have likewise been displaced to other places), a lot of it is up to doctors to remember who their patients were. What a royal pain in the ass.
This, of course, points up the need for universal records that are accessible electronically by all authorized medical providers.
As for me... I can see how it would be really helpful to pursue this course. But what do *I* want for *MY* life in the future? Just how deeply do I want/need to be sucked into the reconstruction of New Orleans?
I was commenting back at Erik and noted that while my home and my job are in New Orleans, my heart is not emotionally tied to that particular city -- I'm not addicted to the French Quarter, Mardi Gras, Southern Decadence, JazzFest. My limited social circles didn't revolve around New Orleans "culture", foods, etc. New Orleans does have a strong and deep traditional culture, and it would be a shame to lose it. But I'm not a part of that culture.
The life I life don't depend on being in particular location. I am 'portable', in a sense -- I can live modestly and well in just about any place that has basic resources and infrastructure.
Plus, I've wanted to years to be able to live closer to where my children and grandchidlren live. Not in their laps or anything, but close enough to visit regularly. Well, hell -- I'm here already.
I would have to go to New Orleans and pack up my shit, of course. I'd need to first find a place to bring my stuff, then go pack up the important (non-replaceable) stuff, leave behind some of the big furnitures, and just make a commitment to start over.
Can I do that?
I mean, of course, I *can* do that, but am I ready to make that mental and physical shift? Am I ready to start over on a shoestring?
If anyone else has any thoughts or suggestions, it would be nice to have a different perspective -- not necessarily advice or "should", but new angles and questions for me to consider in the weighing process. Gimme a note at firstname.lastname@example.org
The Week Starts
7:00 a.m. -- 3 Oct 2005
Well, I didn't post much over the weekend, but there wasn't a whole lot going on, mostly just family folks coming and going.
4:00 p.m. -- Had a conference call with my co-workers this morning. Obviously, with all the changes in New Orleans generally, it is reasonable that our program focus would change as well. I don't know that this will affect me as much as the rest of the group, since I am still the administrator for the Cancer and Lung Trust Fund Board, and so my role in cancer control will simply be supporting whatever activities they are doing at the moment.
According to my landlord, it may be reasonable to aim toward moving back to New Orleans at the end of October, assuming all city services are back up. The building I worked in will not be viable until January or later -- the first floor had water damage, which subsequently destroyed all the electrical systems. Plus, my office on the 11th floor (plus the adjacent offices) had water damage seeping down from the roof. The building is full of mold all inside the stairwell all the way up to the top of the building. That will need to be removed before we can think about working there again.
I am trying to remain upbeat and positive about all of this -- after all, my job and my home are there -- but I have to seriously question going back with a full heart and full commitment. Can I do better for myself elsewhere? Can I viably start my own business for myself, and really make it work?
I would need a year's personal and living expenses, plus business expenses -- approximately $75,000.00 -- and have it secured and in the bank before I would normally jump out and take the chance. But here I sit in limbo and it is awfully tempting to start with "nothing" (or close to nothing) and see what happens.
Whatta ya think?
Busy Day Ahead
6:00 a.m. -- 30 Sep 2005
As I mentioned earlier (I think?) both my son and my ex-wife had significant damage in their mobile homes because of Rita, and so they've been spending time both here and at my other daughter's house. It's been a houseful around here with so many kids, but that's okay. Kids are kids, and it's good to spend time with the grandkids when I can.
Yesterday my son's sister-in-law got power back on at her house, so they all went back over there, and my ex-wife and her family will be going to Austin to visit other folks for the weekend. I guess that means it will be a quiet house here.
I thoroughly enjoy waking up early in the morning (today it was about 3:40 a.m. when I finally decided to quit tring to sleep), take my coffee, cigarettes, and note pad out onto the deck and enjoy the morning air. It's been horribly hot since I got here, but a cool front has passed into the area, bringing the temperatures down enough that it is almost chilly, relatively speaking.
What prompted me to rise so early was that my brain was running on fast-forward, and I wanted to check the regulations for starting a business in Texas, in case I need to do so. I can't start a retail store here, but I can start a manufacturing business -- creating knitting kits and other such things for sale over the Internet.
I'm also keeping a watch on the status of New Orleans. I still have a job (and we're on "special leave" until Nov 6 now, so I'll have a paycheck for another month), and I suspect that a lot of folks who used to work at LSU will have lost everything to the point of having to start over in some other town. Many of them won't want to return to New Orleans -- it will be a long wait and they need to put their kids in whatever schools they can find in other cities. I don't have immediate dependents, so when they say it is safe to return to New Orleans, I will probably go and try to pick up the pieces of my life, if there are any.
My requirements for being able to go back: I have to have power and water, phone and Internet, plus there must be adequate stores for buying food and other essentials, and I need to know that my office is open and available for working. True, I could work at home until the office is ready, so the house is the most critical thing -- having basic city services is vital to my survival, and to my ability to earn an income.
I would love to be able to get back to my home by the end of October, but a lot of it depends on whether the landlord has been able to secure the house against further rain damage, and whether my household belongings have suffered any mold/mildew damage already.
As for today, I have plenty of chores on my list. Pretty soon the kids will be getting up and making ready for work, so I'll have a few minutes with the kids and my granddaughter, and then get into my chores after they all get on their way.
6:00 p.m. - 29 Sep 2005
Okay so this is going to be another change toward my return to normalcy. I was able to obtain most of my essential softwares, and I have purchased a new format for the entire website (okay, I admit it -- I'm too lazy right now to figure out all that shit, so I paid for someone else's template which I can modify any way I wish and not violate their copyrights). I will have some time toward reformatting over the next week.
On the flip side, having made sure I can have my essential softwares, I plugged in my flashdrive and discovered that NONE of my required Biostat modules were on the flashdrive -- it was just the work Web site, which I don't particularly need at the moment. Grrrrrrr.
I'll have some more stuff to ramble on about tomorrow, but right now all the kids are getting home, and their kids are getting ready for supper.
Mid-week - I'm so blessed!
5:35 a.m. - 28 Sep 2005
Was up late last night, and then woke around 4:00 this morning. Geez. It's difficult to get into a routine with a houseful of other refugees.
8:10 a.m. -- About to ride my bike up to Wal*Mart for a few things. Mostly it is a trial run to see how long it takes me and see what sort of a ride it really is, through the neighborhood and so forth.
2:20 p.m. -- Rode the bike up to Wal*Mart, got what I needed and rode back. A good long ride, I guess. It took as long to ride there and shop as it did to walk to Kroger and shop. Hmmmm.
When I went outside to check the mail I was surprised to find a fat package with my name on it -- a friend sent me a good supply of Manos del Uruguay yarn in a rich deep cranberry/ruby sort of color (?), along with some much-needed needles. How very cool! And another friend had sent me a "CARE package" of Brown Sheep WildFoote (2!), plus markers, 3 sets of DPNs, some stitch holders. Someone else sent a box of Wool of the Andes in the exact colors I had already picked out to order for holiday stockings, only she didn't tell me ahead of time what she'd picked, and I didn't tell her what I'd picked. LOL.
Since the daughter I am staying with is going to have her 2nd child in just a few weeks, I might have to whip up the WildFoote into a pair of spiral tube socks for her to wear home from the hospital!
Anyway, it's totally awesome to be on the receiving end of so much support and gifts, notes of encouragement, and friendship from all over – some of which I haven't even mentioned here. I know I am blessed beyond measure and have been throughout this whole hurricane stuff, and even before.
Back to Routine
7:00 a.m. 27-Sep-05
Fortunately, Rita provided only a brief interruption in the routine around here. I'm starting to get back into a form of normalcy, re-establishing my life. It is difficult, and I continue to wonder what will happen with my home in New Orleans, all the stuff I left there, as well as the “life” I lived there.
I have a job and I continue to get a paycheck, but it is weird being disconnected from it all. Sometimes I find myself considering buying a house here and just starting over, but I'm not sure what I would do for a job. I'm sure I could find a way to earn an income, of course, either with a regular job or by starting my own business or something. But the uncertainty of the next few months is what I find rather unsettling.
If my home had burned to the ground, or if I'd gotten laid off from the job, or some other such thing, there would be a point in time when a definitely change had been made. For now, though, I feel like I am still in limbo, not knowing what will come next. And the threat of yet another storm in the Gulf doesn't do anything to calm my thoughts.
But I am building a routine. Each morning I try to get out and walk or ride my bicycle around, just to get some exercise and get the blood flowing. I noticed that most stores around here do not have bicycle racks or places to lock the bike, which is bothersome and makes it just as easy to simply walk where I want to go.
Today, after the kids get into their day, I will try to figure out how to upload pictures out of my camera. There are several shots of the aftermath of Katrina that I want to share, plus some knitting pictures that need to be incorporated into the instructions for the stockings that I am making. I am sure I can sell the pattern, since I developed it myself, which would add some income to my pocket.
The kids have gone off to work and stuff, and I'm generally keeping busy with a few chores for work, and getting myself into the day.
Last night I went to bed, thinking I could just crawl under the covers and fall asleep, since I hadn't had ANY naps during the day yesterday. WRONG! I slid into a very wet spot. Apparently when the girls were playing in the room (I'm sleeping in my granddaughter's room, and she is on a pallet in her parents' room), and one or another of the girls had allowed a juice box to drain into the bedding. So I was up until after midnight washing the bedding.
And both my son's home and my ex-wife's home (both were mobile homes) were significantly damaged and unliveable, so my son and my ex-wife's husband had to stay the night here in order to have a place where there was an alarm clock so they could get up in time for work early early early this morning. And since my son and his family had been staying a hotel with his wife's sister, they were all sleeping here overnight as well. My ex-wife, her sister, and the sister's two children all went back to my other daughter's house to spend the night.
Seems wherever I go lately there's always a pack of refugees and/or evacuees!!!!
And I am still trying (hard) to learn more patience with little ones. Part of the joy of grandparenting is that one doesn't have to tend to the children all the time, that it's okay to let the parents BE the parents. I'm quite confident I am truly annoying my daughter by harping on my granddaughter so much. I don't mean to interfere, and I am truly sorry for it. It's just my instinctive triggers – when I see a child misbehaving it is my instinct to correct the child. Even when it isn't my child.
Oh well... I'll just have to keep trying to avoid interfering, and only correct the kids if they are directly dealing with me or obviously in danger or something.
My New (?) Computer
I forgot to mention.... after I shut down the computer and made it ready to transport and/or protect for my son, he asked me what kind of computer I was thinking about buying for using here at the house before going back to my home, so that I could work. Long story short, I bought this one from my son for about half what one would have cost at Circuit City. Not a bad deal for me, and I will likely just leave it here for my daughter and her family when I go back to New Orleans.
So now I have a computer that I can do my work on, and (hopefully) condense some of my other files onto as well. Not a bad deal for me, and my son ended up with some quick cash which probably helped him during his evacuation for Rita. Still not sure what happened to him, but I'm sure he'll report in soon enough.
Dodged the bullet
Sun 25 Sep 2005 – 1:30 p.m.
Okay, so we ended up going to my son-in-law's cousin's home out in Spring, TX. Including about an hour stop for lunch and another 45 minutes to let Mike's (son-in-law's brother-in-law) transmission cool down, it took about 6 hours to drive the 45 miles out there.
Let's see... there was me, my daughter, her husband, their daughter....
my son-in-law's cousin and her parents and grandmother...
my son-in-law's sister, her husband, their three children, her husband's brother and his daughter, the husband's mother and grandmother...
my son-in-law's other cousin....
plus about 6 or 7 dogs (I never did manage to get an accurate count), one of which was having kidney problems and had to wear a doggie diaper.
We got up there Thursday afternoon, stayed, Thursday night and Friday night. Thursday night we spread out throughout the house (huge house), but Friday night, when the storm was coming through, I made sure everyone slept downstairs under the center of the house, away from windows.
Fortunately, Rita turned easterly and we missed the harshest part of the storm, but the power did go out on Saturday morning around 2:00 a.m.
We listened to the news on a battery-powered radio. They were saying folks should just stay away for another few days, but the kids all figured if they could get home, they'd rather be at home without power than at someone else's house without power. So, we drove back home in about an hour, making pretty good time without much obstacles.
Last night we had make-shift supper at my son-in-law's parent's home, where they had a generator running the refrigerator in the workshop, as well as a fan. They barbecued some burger patties and hot-dogs, made potato salad and some other stuff, and boiled a ham on their gas stove. My daughter has an all-electric kitchen, so we weren't able to cook here at this house.
Because my daughter is pregnant, they all decided to go to another relative's house where there was power and A/C, but I chose to come on back to my daughter's home. I slept with the windows open and did okay. I made coffee thismorning by putting some grounds and water in a big shaker cup and set it into the kitchen window. Then I strained it out through a hanky (cleaned and rinsed) laid into a sieve. It wasn't hot, but it was coffee!
I also washed out by hand a couple pair of short pants. I didn't know how long the power would be out, so I wanted to be sure I had something to wear.
The power came on here about noon, so I put the pants in the dryer and made a pot of “real” coffee. Now the house is cooling off, and I suppose the kids will be home soon.
Anyway, I wanted to let everyone know that I'm still okay, still learning new survival tricks ... and thinking of ways that I will be able to live with less electricity when I do get back to my own home.
Off we go...
Wed 21 Sep 2005 – 2:45 p.m.
I'm about to turn off the computer and pack it up for my son so that it will be relatively safe for the duration. I probably won't be able to post until after Rita, but I will be keeping notes for transcription later.
Wed 21 Sep 2005 – 10:00 a.m.
Bo and I went to do a little more shopping. We now have plenty of batteries, flashlights, foods, etc. I've just been through this a couple weeks ago, so I'm mentally prepared and know what I want to take with me. The computer models are putting the storm enough west of us that I'm hoping it won't be too bad here. But even so I'm going to take as much with me as I can.
I was joking with the kids earlier, saying I could take this storm really personally – Katrina chased me out of New Orleans, and now Rita is chasing me out of Houston. And my son said he's already gotten several emails (those nasty forwards of forwards of forwards) pontificating about how this must surely be a “sign” from God over the wickedness of the folks living on the Gulf Coast. Bull shit. Total bullshit.
But I still cannot take the weather personally. I am having an incredibly unique and eventful season, BUT there are over 1 million of my closest friends and neighbors going through this with me. It's not about me, it's not about any of them, it's NOT a “punishment” from God (what a fucking stupid God that would be, eh?) ... it's the WEATHER! It is a natural phenomenon, developed from a combination of wind currents, water temperatures, and other naturally-occuring factors. Duuhhhh... NOBODY should take the weather as a personal affront, and NOBODY can rationally say that the weather is a device of a deity to manipulate or control the inhabitants of earth.
Lovely Rita, Meter Maid...?
Wed 21 Sep 2005 – 6:30 a.m.
According to the news reports this morning it appears we will, in fact, need to leave the area for the storm. Damn it!!!
I suppose it is good that I only have a couple bags to pack at this point. My daughter and her family live in a mobile home, which reportedly has a stronger foundation and better tie-downs than some concrete slab homes. Even so, I do NOT want to be here for another storm. Been there, done that!
We made groceries last night, with plenty of bottled water, canned goods, hurricane candles, a few batteries, and other essentials. All we need to do is get it all packed up and into a vehicle and go out Highway 90 to my son's home. He also has a mobile home, but he's another hour or so to the northeast. We'll still be on the “dirty” side of Rita, but far enough away that the immediate damage might not be so great.
I definitely feel sorry for the Katrina refugees still in shelters in Houston. Last night the news reported that Katrina folks still in the shelters here were being shipped out to some place in Arkansas. And some of them were most unhappy about it. But when you pack your goods and put yourself in the government's hands, and the government take responsibility to feed and shelter you, then you had damn well better just buck up and deal with it, or go find your own way in the world.
This goes back to the frivolous welfare mentality of the folks who took their Red Cross debit cards and went to buy luxury items that they wouldn't have otherwise been able to buy. Not all people did this, but enough people did it to make it a news item. Some people were even using their debit cards at the titty-bars in town. I can't comprehend the extreme lack of self-responsibility, as if they will continue to get more hand-outs later on. Sorry, it doesn't work that way.
But enough about other people's shortcomings.
I am sitting here listening half-way to the news, and half-way running a list in my head of what we need to prepare and take with us if we do in fact decide to move farther east.
Y'all continue to keep us in your thoughts and prayers.
Well... here we go again
Tue 20 Sep 2005
Shit. The Houston area is going ape-shit over Rita. And, I admit, I am not at all comfortable with the prospects of having to evacuate yet again. There is the typical media madness making every pay attention, which is probably a basically good thing, but they are raising the level of panic, rather than the level of alertness and preparedness in calm.
According to the news reports, I am physically located on the border between an evacuation zone and a non-evacuation zone. In particular, if a Category 4 storm comes into Houston, this area should “probably” evacuate just to be safe, but the part on the other side of the freeway has to evacuate.
There are a few places we could go. But this is just not at all what I want to be doing this week, y'know?
Working ... er, sorta
Mon 19 Sep 2005
I was on a conference call with my coworkers today, trying to sort out where everyone is located and how to be utilize our various locations and resources. Most of us have phone, internet or both, which is good. Some of the team have already learned their homes are not liveable and they will need to find new quarters, so I am basically better off than some of them. Others haven't been able to find out anything. One of my co-workers was able to evacuate to Cleveland, only to be watching a CNN report that showed her apartment building burning to the ground, so she is totally in need of special consideration regarding work.
Apparently the word from work is that if they make provision for work space and give a call for people to report to work, and they can but don't, they will no longer get paid. Fortunately, most of my team is able to work electronically, so that whatever temporary shelters and/or housing has been provided by FEMA (yet to be determined, and yet to be delivered) it should go to those who are absolutely without provision, while the rest of us living with relatives should be allowed to work remotely and report in as needed, or whatever.
I was also able to find out that a couple other team members are here in the Houston area, so we will probably be linking up to make arrangements for combined working spaces.
Ophelia, Philippe, and Rita
Mon 19 Sep 2005
Well, shit .... storms are brewing all over down in the Gulf and surrounding areas. I think I am glad I am not in New Orleans at the moment. If another storm hits the area, there's no telling what would be stirred up.
Continueing to get conflicting reports, but it sounds like I won't be going back to New Orleans for at least a few more weeks yet.
I talked with the landlord again last night, who said things inside the house look pretty good. But without power and safe water, there's no point going back there just yet. I just hope I don't get forced to shack up with folks in temporary housing in the interim. If I could get my computer (or another computer where I could install my hard drive), I could work from just about anywhere and email my work in. The biggest and most pressing project is the Biostatistics course for the online distance learning.
While I am thinking about it, I have to give kudos to the National Guard unit that was policing my area while I was at Kris' house. They came to check on us regularly, making sure we were okay and that we had food and drinkable water. They inspected the above-ground pool that we used for siphoning toilet flushing water and they said it was okay. I imagine it helped that we had collected bleach from various sources and were regularly bleaching the pool.
Both my brother and my sister have commented that I seem more relaxed and “coherent”, not talking nonsense, because I'm writing about going back to New Orleans, getting back to work and so forth. Hell, if I could afford it, I would walk off and leave it all behind and start over. I am concerned about the one Biostat project, but the rest of it can fuck off and I wouldn't care much. I mean, it's good work, and I like the people I work with, and it's for a good cause. But I'm certainly NOT emotionally attached to any of it, or to the town, and would much prefer to do other things with my life.
But, I suppose it is the “responsible” thing for me to participate in the clean-up and restoration of the school and the city. So many of the poor and disenfranchised of New Orleans probably won't be returning. Many of them were given emergency funds for subsistence, and turned around and used their money (much of it in the form of debit cards) to buy jewelry, fancy stereo equipment, and other such foolishness. Like my brother said, most of those people have never had that much money all at one time, they've never learned about budgeting and self-preservation, self-reliance. The welfare mentality allows them to relinquish all self-responsibility, so when they are given money to live on for the next month or two, instead of budgeting for the duration, they go wild and spend it on foolishness and end up with nothing again.
That is sad. It would be better if they could have been given food and shelter and other necessities instead of being given a debit card.
Constantinople Pleasure Club and Social Aid Society
Sun 18 Sep 2005
This is the name I gave to the motley crew (krewe?) at Kris' house – a band of refugees trying to survive the aftermath of the storm. There are various other versions of it, depending on whom one listens to, but I like this name so I'll stick with it.
Many of the traditional New Orleans Mardi Gras Krewes have similar names, as they were originally formed as social network and support organizations. Members would celebrate Mardi Gras together, but throughout the year it was like an extended family where members could turn for help in time of significant need – such as in times of natural disaster, death, or similar life-changing events.
Kris didn't know most of the people who came through her door during the aftermath of Katrina, but she opened her home as best she could, as well as taking advantage of the hospitality of her absent neighbors who allowed her to use their facilities as well.
My first night there, I slept on the floor of the balcony upstairs. It was about the only breezy part of the place. Another night I slept on the floor inside the upstairs apartment. I finally settled onto a mat as “my” place to sleep, although one night I did manage to catch a brief snooze in the papasan chair near the open window, hoping for a breeze. The heat, the mosquitos, and the discomfort of not having a real bed of my own made sleep a difficult treasure to grasp. But we managed, most of us, to sleep wherever and whenever we could.
In the mornings, it was my task to fill up the water jugs from the pool to get some water for the toilets. In order to conserve the resource, the men were expected to pee outside and avoid flushing the toilet unless someone had to poop. I'm not sure how many of the men actually did use the bushes outside, but I know that I did.
I was also somewhat responsible for emptying the trash cans. For some reason there were several that seemed to fill up. Down the street, at a renovation/construction project, was a huge dumpster trailer. I emptied the trash cans down there, to avoid having flies and stuff gather right at the house. I told the folks to leave all the trash cans but one down by the dumpster. Easier and more sanitary to have just one trash can and empty it frequently than to have several cans all stinking and drawing flies and creating a health hazard. Invariably the trash cans would move back toward the house.
At the last day, when it was evident the National Guard really wanted us out, we all started piling trash at the sidewalk around the cans. Most of our clothes, which had been unwashed and were plenty smelly, ended up on the trash heap. For myself, I didn't particularly want to take a load of stinky dirty smelly half-moist laundry to wherever I would end up, and it was just weekender type clothes anyway. Better to throw them away when I could and then start over later on.
And, having lost some weight in all of this, it's just as good to buy new clothes that actually fit.
Most of the people gathering at the Constantinople Pleasure Club and Social Aid Society were people I would normally not mingle with – lots of drinkers and so forth. But they were a godsend at a time of need. They took in neighbors, we looked out for one another, we found our places in the scheme of survival and we managed to make it work for that time. Each of the people involved will always have a special place in my heart. There is a bond that cannot be broken, because we all shared in the experience. Most of them, I have no idea how they live their lives in real life, but that's okay. Most of them don't know much about me, either. But they took me in just the same.
Life in the Passenger Seat
Sat 17 Sep 2005
Coming back from the mall, there was a song on the radio by one of the current girl bands. It was a country song, about a girl riding in the passenger seat, looking over at her man driving and so forth. One of the lines in the song was “life is sweet in the passenger seat” or something like that.
Man-oh-man – that really sums up how I'm feeling lately: just sitting in the passenger seat, going wherever Life happens to take me. There's no way I could have planned the last 3 weeks since the storm, and there's no way in hell I would have deliberately scheduled these 3 weeks. I've not been in control of my own life in the way I would have wanted to be, and the way I used to be.
But as I was listening to that song, I was thinking about what my life has become as a rider sitting over in the passenger seat. I don't control the steering, the brakes, the accelerator. I'm just along for the ride for right now. And as I think about it, I'm sort of glad. Trying to take control from the passenger side just leads to frustration and insanity. All I can do is just pick up my knitting and watch as we go along.
I'm learning to relax and do that. I'm not the world's best passenger, of course (as anyone knows who has had me ride in their vehicle!), but I'm learning how to not stomp on the imaginary brake pedal all the time. I can't control other people's driving, and I can't control where Life takes me, either. The sooner I learn this (and accept it instead of resisting) the happier I am. It is only when I relinquish control that I can relax and enjoy the ride.
Sat – 17 Sep 2005
I had trouble sleeping again last night, but forced myself to stay in bed as long as I could. I finally heard my daughter out in the kitchen, so I figured it was okay to get up.
I talked with my landlord finally last night. That was good, just connecting with him, letting him know I had gotten out but had not just abandoned all my stuff. The city is letting business owners come in this weekend to begin assessing the damage. The landlord will take a quick view this weekend and let me know what's going to happen. I told him I'd really like to be able to come back there if the place can be fixed, since I can't beat the rent. He said he can't beat having me for a tenant, so it works both ways. That's good. But mostly it depends on how damaged the house is and how quickly it can be fixed. I don't want to live in a place that is falling apart or a place that presents a health hazard.
And, too, it will depend on where work is available and how soon the office in New Orleans becomes viable again.
Today I'm supposed to be going out to buy a bicycle and get a cell phone. That will increase both my mobility and my communication options, both here and when I return to New Orleans. I don't know how soon buses will be up and running again, so if I have a bicycle I will be able to get to work or other places if I need to.
Later, in the afternoon ...
What a busy day! I went with Donna and Devyn to the mall. At Mervyn's I got 2 pair of pants, a pair of shorts, 4 polo shirts, 2 pair of sneakers, and a pair of flip-flops, all for under $200. They had a deal for Louisiana evacuees could get 10% off, plus if you apply for a Mervyn's card you get 15% off, plus if you use the Mervyn's card you get a scratch-off coupon, which gave me another 15% off. For about $160, I saved about $140 off all the stuff I got. Not a bad deal, and now I have something besides funky dirty pants and undershirts.
I also got me a cell phone. There were several kiosks in the mall, each hawking their own cell phone plans. I went to the Sprint place first. The poor girl there, I felt so sorry for her. It was her first day at that kiosk, and her first day working for Sprint, the supervisor wasn't even there yet, and he hadn't stocked any new equipment yet (they had just opened that kiosk), and he hadn't really even trained her yet.
I went to the Cingular kiosk and he had me up and running in about 20 minutes. I just got a basic plan, but I felt it was important that I have a cell phone, especially for communications.
I decided to wait until I return to New Orleans before buying a bicycle. If I bought one here, it would be just one more thing to carry back home when I go.
Then Donna and David went and bought a new lawnmower, and then Donna's cousin came over with her family and we've been out on the deck for a while. Now they've all gone over to David's mom's house, and left me alone for a quiet time, so that I can chill out and get my thoughts in order. I am having a good day today, and I feel good about my life as it is for the moment. That's important.
About Wayne and Marilyn
Fri – 16 Sep 2005
When I got up to Kris' house on Wednesday, they had just welcomed Wayne and Marilyn Shaw. They lived over in the Gentilly part of town. When the water began to rise, it came swiftly to Gentilly. Wayne and Marilyn are near 80, living alone in their home. The water came up, and they had to be rescued by flat-bottom boat out their dining room and down the driveway. They were paddled to a place downtown where they were put out of the boat and told to wait for a bus to carry them to the Convention Center.
A day and a half later, with just a small bag between them, and a satchel of pill bottles, a bus never did come. A neighbor of Kris, named Mary, was out driving around to see if there were any she could help. She saw an old couple lying on the grass in the neutral ground of a major thoroughfare. They stayed in place as they were told, waiting for a bus that never came. Mary took them to the Convention Center, but there was nothing for them there, either, so she told them, 'You don't know me and I don't know you, but you will just have to trust me and go with me because I'm not putting you out on the street without help.”
So Mary brought them back to Kris' house. Both were barely dressed and horribly sunburned, dehydrated, and sick. Their prescription meds were running out. I have never before seen sunburn of such a deep reddish purple as I saw on Marilyn's knees, legs, feet, face, upper chest and arms.
And then came the diarrhea. Regularly.
Several of Kris' neighbors upstairs were medical doctors, out of town on other assignments. They called and Kris told them about Wayne and Miss Teda (her nickname). Armond said it sounded like a bacterial infection. They needed to be on antibiotics. Of course, there was no pharmacy open to fill the need.
There was a young drug dealer down the street. He knew how to get drugs. Kris told him what kind to get, and he managed to walk into a drug store, explained to a cop what he needed and why, and was permitted access to the pharmacy. (He was also able to return later and refill many of Miss Teda's other prescriptions.) This was a young black man: dreadlocks, torn pants, angst and all. In 'real life' I probably would have walked the other side of the street. But I saw him looking out for strangers in his company. I respect that.
I don't respect the drug dealing, and I don't understand what motivates this young man in his life. But for this time, I am forced to respect what he did for this old couple.
At one point, Mr. Wayne was so embarrassed because he'd had an accident in his pants. We had them sitting in the shade outside where it was relatively cooler. He didn't have time to reach the bathroom, so he sat there leaking into his chair and feeling vulnerable in front of all the strangers around him.
He ended up wearing a pair of my underpants and a pair of drawstring pajama pants that I ran back to my own house to get for him. It was a joy that I had them and they fit ... well, sort of fit, anyway.
It was an embarrassment that they had been dumped on the road and left on their own. It was an embarrassment they had so little resources available to them. It was NOT an embarrassment to be vulnerable and so human among other humans. We all tried our best to grant them both as much dignity as possible in the midst of nearly impossible situations.
They slept in Kris' bed, with all the doors open to grant some ventilation in the heat. They were exhausted and fell asleep as soon as they hit the bed. They soiled the bed, and the Kris' doctor neighbor called and said she had to get the mattress outside and burn it as soon as possible to avoid further contamination. The second night, Kris tried to line the mattress by duct taping Depends all over it. That didn't help much, and I thought a shower curtain liner would have been more effective. But people do what they do and that's just the way it is.
There was a constant flow of phone calls to Wayne and Teda's daughter in Georgia as she tried to find some way to get her parents out of New Orleans. Finally, on Friday, a young man in a Harahan police car drove up. He was a nephew of a nephew or something like that. He had just enough room in his car to put Wayne and Teda and take them to his parents home where there was power and water and air conditioning.
They were taken out on Friday afternoon (Katrina the 5th). It was two or three days, but finally a call came that they had reached their daughter in Georgia.
They weren't rescued by national resources, rescue squads, and mass-publicized campaigns. They were plucked off the street by a common woman with a vehicle. They were cared for by a houseful of strangers doing the best they could. They were humans in a bad situation, taken in by other humans, and passed person-to-person to their destination. Just common humans doing what common humans are supposed to do in uncommon times.
I am grateful that I had the opportunity to participate in their departure from New Orleans to a better place.
I am a looter ... of sorts
Fri – 16 Sep 2005
When I was a child it was great fun mischief to slip a candy bar up a jacket sleeve. I wanted a candy bar and didn't have the money, so I took what I wanted.
Even as teenager, I would stop by the drug store on the way home from school, a tall stack of books under my arm. I'd peruse the magazines and the rows of all the latest paperback novels and books. It was so easy to just slip one or two on top of my school books and walk out without paying. I was a kid then.
I'm 50 years old now. Two weeks ago I was staying in a house full of strangers who needed supplies. There were reports that local stores had been broken into and people were taking things. Kris and I took my big red granny cart and went to Rite-Aid. The glass in the door had been broken, and the floors were covered in the slime of rising waters now abated. Machines were smashed for no apparent reason and the place was utterly trashed.
I had remembered to grab a collection of plastic grocery bags, and we filled them – Depends (for the old couple with diarrhea), Tums and Immodium, and some other household needs. I grabbed a toothbrush, also for the old people – they didn't even have one between them, and I took the very last one visible on the drug store shelf. It was a child's toothbrush, with some cartoon character on the handle, in brightly colored design. It was the only toothbrush in the place, and I knew an old married couple who had none at all, so I took it. I took whatever tobacco products remained – a few packs of cigars and several dozen cans of chewing tobacco. As a smoker I figured any tobacco is better than none.
(For the record, I never used any of the spit tobacco – one of the other refugees had run out and when he saw that I had some, he gave me a functioning battery operated radio for the supply I had. He needed spit tobacco, and I needed a radio. Fair enough trade.)
I also grabbed a couple bags of dry cat food (another of the refugees, Miss Jane, had four cats who needed to eat), plus several display cases of moist cat food. What the hell, even in a storm a cat appreciates fine dining.
Kris found some other things for the house as well, plus four or five boxes of chocolates. I was surprised to see them, and we joked about how Miss Jane might later admonish “But chocolate isn't essential.” She surprised us by seeming glad to have the treat. Because we had all spotted Miss Jane as the “Mrs. Howell” of the group, you'd have to recognize her as the prim and proper one. Hell, the first night I stayed there, she put on a long dress and black dress shoes for supper, strolling up the sidewalk as if to her first cottillion!
Anyway, so my granny cart was full to overflowing with mostly essential stuff. Kris had to pick up the front of the cart to help hoist it back out through the broken glass door.
If you had told me even a month ago that I would one day take my shopping cart into a market without clerks, fill it up and walk out without paying for what I'd taken, I would have said you were full of shit. I took stuff as a child, but I am an adult and I take full responsibility for my own life. I don't steal. I don't take what is not mine or what is not rightfully mine to take.
Katrina changed all of that. I wasn't stealing racks of shoes to sell on the black market, or snagging big plasma TVs from an appliance store (what the hell was that about? There was no power to run the damn things, anyway!!!), or grabbing jewelry and alcohol and truly useless things. I took what was needed for the care of the people in our house.
Legally, and perhaps technically, I could be called a looter and a thief. Under the circumstances, I did what was rationally necessary for survival. Katrina changed me. She showed me that I can do what I have to do, and to do it in ways I would not have anticipated just days before having to do it.
Why People Stayed
Fri – 16 Sep 2005
Over and over I hear some assinine comments about how people who stayed in New Orleans don't “deserve” much help -- “Well, they were mostly on welfare anyway, so good riddance to them.” Or “they were warned to get out, why didn't they just start walking?” And dozen of other ignorant comments.
I wasn't on welfare, and hope to God I never will be. I work for the State of Louisiana with a respectable job and sufficient income. I stayed because I didn't have a car (else I would have left at the first opportunity), and would have taken advantage of a bus if I could have taken Hazel. Other people had relatives attached to medical equipment. Some people had a dozen or more people at home and only one small vehicle – how the hell do you choose what kin to take and what kin to leave? Or they'd been laid off and had no money to fill the tank, and it seemed safer to stay in a dry house than to risk getting stuck on the freeway at the mercy of a monster storm.
It is really easy for outsiders to pontificate and spout off their bullshit about “those idiots who got stuck”, but if they weren't there, their voice has no ring of truth to it. Anybody can be a Monday morning quarterback, spouting off what they “would have” done, or what others should have done. Bunch of fucking bullshit. Piss on all of them.
I will not be condemned for the choices I felt I had to make at the time I made them. I will not accept a stitch of guilt, abuse, or criticism.
Those loud-mouthed opinionated mother-fuckers are largely the same ones showing symptoms of diarrhea of the mouth about how New Orleans shouldn't be rebuilt. Fuck 'em. If THEIR homes had been destroyed, if THEIR precious towns had been wiped off the face of the earth, THEY would be the ones wanting to restore their lives and homes where they had been. People have done that all along – San Francisco was rebuilt after their earthquake, so was Los Angeles. Chicago was rebuilt after the fire.
People of the true American spirit know how to observe what happened, learn why things happened, and take measures to prevent future catastrophe of the same kind. Those who will rebuilt New Orleans will build differently, and make the levees stronger/higher/bigger if necessary, and they will ensure their pumps are placed to be more effective. They will do what they can to ensure a better quality of life for the people who return.
People stayed because it was home. What more could they have done?
Friday – 16 Sep 2005
Several people have asked about Hazel. I could have sworn I mentioned it, but I guess not.
Hazel is not currently with me. When I moved from my house to Kris' house, Hazel went with me. In fact, it's because I'd walked Hazel past that house, and she's made nice-nice with the dog who lived there, when I ventured out on Katrina Day Three, it was good to see the woman there. I introduced myself as Hazel's owner and reminded her our dogs had become familiar. That's when I asked if she'd heard any news or anything, and then I asked if I could stay there with her growing band of refugees.
We stayed at Kris' house for 7 days, and Hazel was adapting fairly well. At first I wasn't sure how she would behave in a new home (especially since she had only recently moved in with me), but after a couple times of running off and returning, it was clear she knew that I was at Kris' house, and she would return there after chasing cats and squirrels. I slowly started trusting her more.
When the time came for us to actually leave, the National Guard was already there, loading up the people and animals from the house, putting them into their military personnel transport vehicle. I had been promised a ride to Baton Rouge by someone who was supposed to be returning for me any minute (which he finally did), but he was unable to bring Hazel. Kris said she was going with Charles to his people in Terrebonne Parish and they would take Hazel with them if they could.
If Hazel remains with them, and they return to New Orleans, I hope to find her again. But if not, I can only hope she will become a loved companion for someone else.
It was difficult putting Deefer down in June, and now having to let go of Hazel, too. It was because of her that I didn't immediately run from the storm in the first place, as no place was (at that time) taking animals or allowing public transport for them. I stayed to make sure Hazel was cared for, and in the end I ultimately wasn't able to bring her with me. It was hard to trust her to others, but she'd been with them for a few days and was comfortable enough to go along.
But I do miss her and wish I had her.
Friday – 16 Sep 2005 – 6:00 a.m.
How very odd to be sitting on the porch, smoking a cigarette, watching my children go off to work. I am really proud of my children and their spouses, because they all have respectable jobs. They are functioning members of society, taking responsibility for their own lives. And they get up in the morning, get cleaned for the day, and go off to do their responsible things.
Meanwhile, I'm sitting here on my ass. When did my kids become adults and I'm the goof-off??? It ain't right. It just ain't right.
Okay, so anyone who knows me knows that on a normal day, I would also be getting up, getting dressed, and taking myself to work under my own steam. I have to constantly remind myself that my life is currently NOT normal.
And I know that trying to behave normally in a highly abnormal situation only leads to insanity. The kids are being really good about it, of course, and I realize it is all inside my own head, trying to find my sense of 'place' and so forth. But it is still weird to be sitting here on my ass while my kids go off to work in the adult world.
Another element is that I have been through some weird shit in the last few weeks and my perspectives and perceptions are wonky because of it. My kids have seen it on TV, they've heard about it from me, but they are removed and detached. They don't know it first-hand. They are going about their lives, knowing about the hurricane as an event somewhere else. They come home and talk about their trucks and jobs and children and all the ordinary family drama that comes from their extended families. That's “normal”. I'm not in a normal space right now. My days are filled with the concern of just living and finding my life again. And sometimes I have to go outside to get away from the noise of “normal” so that I can hear myself think.
I love my kids and grandkids, but when my head is wondering how to find my life, everyone around me already seems to have theirs and they are living it. I just want to find mine. Is that weird?
Making Sense of it
Thursday – 15 Sep 2005 – 2:15p.m.
I'm still trying to figure out what to make of all of this. I just read the report on CNN.com that Mayor Nagin wants to re-open parts of New Orleans, including my zip code area... but then it said that people should not bathe or drink the tap water. Well, shit, why go back so soon? Would I be able to call and order my Abita Springs bottled water? Will there be stores open where I can go make groceries? Will there be a bus line where I can get to the office ... assuming the office is even opened again (it is also in the zip code area expected to open soon).
I spent two days holed up in my house and then I ventured out to find other people, and ended up staying at Kris' place for 7 days. In the process, I took all my bottled water and my canned goods up there to share with folks. Also, because the old couple was so deathly ill, I took up all my towels and such to help with the clean-up efforts. I know for a fact that I will need all new bath towels, hand towels and wash cloths, but I will wait until I get home to figure out just what kinds I want. Hell, maybe I'll just open it up and tell everyone in the world to send me a different matched set – one bath towel, one hand towel, and one washcloth from everyone around the world – just to see what a collection I can have! LOL No, just kidding. I don't need that many towels. No, I'll pick out some that I can live with.
My friend Linda said I'd probably set up my new home on a “waste not/want not” basis, since I'm on the Waste Not Want Not list at YahooGroups. Actually I'm one of the founding members of that group, originally formed from refugees from the FrugalFolks list. I've always been quite frugal. Grew up sort of poor, married poor, divorced poor. So I learned how to survive on very little, how to make things work, how to stretch things when I need to, and how to get the most out of things. I am not too proud to pull something from a trash bin if it looks useful.
I will not go to a fancy schmancy furniture store to rebuild my home. I will use what I can find or collect or salvage. Life never was about having fancy stuff anyway, but even more so now I realize it is about having useful things that are serviceable and adequate for the task. That's all. Beyond that, it is about people – meeting needs, supporting one another, making sure everyone has “enough” -- not lots, not hoarding, but just enough.
One of my friends, the one who took me to her home in Opelousas, is married to a really good carpenter fellow. He made a terrific futon frame for their living room. I want one just like it for my home. I've been wanting a futon large enough for company anyway, and the one he made would work just fine for me. When I get to where I'm going, I will ask if he can build me one. That would be better than buying a sofa or something like that.
He also built a two-seater settee with a table in the middle between the seats. That would be nice to have, also, or something similar. But first I want the futon and frame.
To ask for help?
Thursday – 15 Sep 2005
Yesterday I got a note from a friend asking about what I need and if people could send money or other goods. I don't know what I need for the long-haul yet, so I feel sort of awkward asking for specific help. But that has been one of my shortcomings all my life: failure to ask for help when it is appropriate.
I do have a PayPal account, but I need to wait and see what sort of things I will need when I begin to re-settle my life. Once I can take a realistic assessment of things, discover what parts of my life remains, and decide what it will take to start over, then I might make a wish-list of specific things.
Repeatedly I remind myself that I am so very blessed, especially compared to so many others who have less than I do. I am with my children, I have a place to stay and food to eat, and my income is still secure, at least for now. How can I ask for handouts when others have even less than I?
I don't even know how long I will be here, so it is difficult to even think of temporary stuff that would assist me along the way – I don't want to have to carry stuff place to place until I get my own home again.
Speaking of which, it is a sure bet that when I do get back home (or start a new home) I will have a totally different perspective of what I need/want, what I wish to have and what I can readily get rid of. I will definitely start stocking essential supplies against future hardships – extra water in a rotating supply, batteries, and other essentials. Having “stuff” just for the sake of having stuff doesn't make much sense any more. So I will certainly re-think the things I use for re-establishing my life.
Anyway, once I have a more clear picture of what I need and what will be required to start over, I will make a list of things, perhaps a link to my PayPal account, and maybe even a link to a registry at Target or something.
I will say, of course, that for business purposes, I need/want/desire/covet “Wool of the Andes” from http://www.knitpicks.com -- it is incredibly inexpensive, and the company has a social conscience, which is why I buy from them. Any colors, any amounts, can be used. Wool of the Andes will work just fine with the size 7 circular needle that I have. Eventually I will need to get all my needles and supplies, but I am fine for the time being.
Where's my sleep?
Thursday – September 15, 2005, 7:00 a.m.
I aimed myself toward bed around 9:30 or so last night, but didn't sleep much at all through the night. I finally turned on the radio and listen to the public radio station with classical music. That was nice. But I didn't sleep. Around 11:30 I got up and took a couple Tylenol Arthritis – everything was hurting – and I guess that helped a little. But then I woke frequently through the night and I still don't feel rested.
On the other hand, I don't recall having any weird dreams or nightmares. So I guess it is a toss-up.
The Mayor said that parts of New Orleans might be able to open for residents as early as next week, but I think I will wait until the week after before seriously considering going back. I want to be sure that the water is good, the power is on, and there are stores and other resources for me to survive until the school opens. But most of my work can be done electronically, so if I can live there, I think I would rather do that than to impose myself on my kids for any longer than is necessary.
KAT-alogue is done
I have transcribed my scratchings, the handwritten notes during Katrina. It is not nearly as interesting as I had thought it would be, with several days unwritten and many events undocumented. So I will need to fill in some blanks along the way. But for what it is worth, my Katrina Travelog is available here
September 14, 2005 – 1:05p.m.
I took a brief nap – naps seem to be coming earlier in the day now. But even so, the dreams aren't very pleasant lately. It is hard to call them all “nightmares”, but I sure don't enjoy them.
I've been trying to aim for bed around 9:00 or 9:30 at night, in order to regain my regular sleep patterns. I seem to wake into the wee hours (around 1:00 or 2:00) but force myself back to sleep until the roosters crow. This morning it was 5:15 when I got up.
Where I'm staying, at my daughter's, there are roosters roaming the yards, so I have them for a wake-up service.
September 14, 2005 – 10:05 a.m.
I walked up to Kroger's this morning before the heat of the day. That felt pretty good. After several days here at the house I really needed to get out and get some exercise. I'm not sure I will take such a long walk every day, but at least every other day I do need to get some fresh air.
Today my father would have been 82 years old. I wonder what he would have done if he had gone through a hurricane. He was in the war and saw some hard times, and I know he would have been resourceful. I wonder what tricks he would have been able to teach me along the way.
What to do?
September 13, 2005 - 11:15 a.m.
I'm sitting here feeling just a bit irrelevant. I know that I have to eventually get back to work and start earning my own income. For years I have wanted to have my own business, earning money on my own terms. In many respects I have that opportunity right now to just walk away and start over. But I am certainly scared, unprepared, and confused about what to do. I know that there will be temporary housing for staff through my job, but do I really want to do that?
September 13, 2005
Got to sleep late last night, and didn't sleep well until after about 3:00 or so, but then I got into a deep sleep.
One of the most ridiculous topics at AMGS was whether New Orleans should be rebuilt. None of those commenting are in the area, of course, and many of them are of the opinion that God destroyed New Orleans because on Labor Day weekend is when they have Southern Decadence, one of the most popular gay-oriented festivals in the world. Unfortunately, if God had a problem with all those gay folks, you'd think God would have waited until they all got into town and then blown them away. Instead God shot his load early and destroyed all them good Christian folks instead. Geez. Bunch of idiots who think God personally orchestrated the hurricane because he has a problem with gays.
Monday, September 12, 2005
This is the start of a new Blog, My Life Post-Katrina.
I will begin by saying that this is a bare-bones blog, nothing fancy, nothing extremely glorious. This is partly because I don't have any of my regular programs, and partly because so much of my life really is starting over!
I am currently transcribing my hand-written journal of the events from the hurricane until now. When that is done I will post that link here.