Monthly Archives: August 2005

Here’s another couple of people who were “too dumb to evacuate.” — A wife’s desperate journey with her husband’s corpse — Aug 31, 2005

Bowie, 57, a truck driver who had been with Turner for 16 years, had advanced lung cancer and could not be easily moved. When Turner could find no one to take them out of the city, she decided to stay home and hoped the storm would spare them.

“I’ve got electric and stuff right now,” Turner told herself. “I can keep going. I’ve got oxygen. I can keep going.”

But Hurricane Katrina left her neighborhood under several feet of water. By Tuesday, with no phone and only a small tank of oxygen left, Turner slogged out into the streets for help.

By the time she got back, Bowie had died.

On the topic of looting

Katrina’s powerful hurricane-force winds did an efficient job of peeling that thin layer of tolerance from the hides of many so-called liberals. A chorus swells of condemnation over those people, abandoned by their supposed protectors and surrounded by an increasingly chaotic, desperate, and violent populace, who themselves take up arms or take jeans or boomboxes or silverware from local stores.

I don’t condone theft, whether it’s a 25-inch television from an abandoned store or a pension fund. But I’m not going to waste a tear for property being taken by people who are, in effect, free-lance salvage workers. These people have been abandoned, given NOLA’s “Every Man For Himself” evacuation strategy. The comfortable can sit back in their computer chairs and cluck about propriety from behind their mouthful of Doritos. But were I faced with the prospect of trying to survive a month of flood only to emerge into a post-disaster New Orleans with neither jobs nor infrastructure, and a nation blaming me for not having the foresight to be wealthy enough to be able to leave for a month’s vacation on a moment’s notice, and if a microwave was sitting in a store window just above the rising waters of Lake Nawlins, you’d better believe I’d be tempted to take the damn thing. What good does it do anyone if it’s ruined by the flood? Salvaged — stolen — call it what you will — it might bring 25 bucks that I could use to buy food in two months.

And just how wicked is that much-referred-to stack of stolen jeans? In that situation, what would you do for some clean, reasonably dry clothing? forget your credit cards and your full tank of gas and your college pals with the comfy couch in the next state. You’re there in that water for a month. There are ten pairs of jeans sitting there. Some of them might be your size, or your spouse’s, or your mother’s. Tell me how loudly your finely-worked-out, long-held moral strictures will be shouting in your ear.

There was a time in my life when I survived, in part, on food stolen from grocery store shelves. Or taken from the dumpsters out back, which was every bit as illegal. Do I defend my behavior? No. And neither will I condemn it when others are forced to the brink.

If that makes me “pro-looter,” as one blogger alleges today, then so be it.

Cherie Priest offers the populace-bashers more eloquence than they deserve. Excerpt:

“Look at the reporters who are “incensed” by the rampant looting. Look at the smugness from those distant from the situation who chastise the dumb southerners for not evacuating when they had the chance. It blows their minds how many idiots stayed to wait it out. It makes them shake their heads and make “tsk-tsk” noises into their shiny microphones.

Well, fuck the lot of them.”

Incidentally, the Making Light family has been doing top-notch NOLA blogging. I got the Priest link there.

Partial sigh of relief

Tulane claims all their students and staff have evacuated to Jackson. I’m presuming this means my pal and former co-worker Liz Davey — who I haven’t seen in four years — is OK. Fingers crossed.

May 1984

Elissa and Matthew and I had been crammed into the little Civic hatchback for two days almost non-stop from Berkeley — excepting five hours’ motel rest in El Paso — to get to Rockport, Texas, not far from Corpus Christi. My mother and sister were living there at the time. We arrived at two in the morning, and then my mother woke us at six to go to a gallery opening at which her name would be mentioned in the thank you speech. We spent two, maybe three days in Rockport. I don’t remember. And then east, driving toward Galveston eating gigantic shrimp. We were thoroughly sick of it by lunchtime. We threw much of it to the gulls riding the bow wave on the Galveston ferry.

We accidentally left the restaurant in Lafayette without leaving a tip. I still feel a twinge of guilt for that.

We reached New Orleans past midnight, and we looked for a cheap motel near Tulane. We found one, but it was full and decrepit and forty dollars a night besides. We headed across Ponchartrain to a campground in Slidell. Three of us crowded into my tiny red puptent.

That was stupid, and at about five I crawled back out to sleep on the ground under the pine trees, although sleep was suddenly hard to come by. Doghair pines and soft ground beneath a carpet of needles a foot thick notwithstanding, there were frogs, and woodpeckers, and egrets, and a great blue heron that I would have woken Matthew for had I not been terrified of Elissa’s wrath.

A few hours later they woke up. We struck camp and headed back across the lake.

There was a nice restaurant on Chartres next to Jackson Square. We ordered breakfast. Red beans and rice for me, and coffee. And, what the hell, a mint julep. “That’s not really a New Orleans thing,” said Matthew. “Shut up,” I agreed. The waiter smiled and brought it all out.

I didn’t listen to their conversation. I was watching the park, thinking of people lost and left behind.

Elissa had heard of the French Market, and off we walked. The line moved quickly. A dozen beignets and three more cups of chicory coffee later, we were completely touristified. Elissa sipped her coffee, made a face, handed it to me with a shudder. Oh, well, more for me, I thought, until I remembered the tablespoon of sugar she’d put in there. We headed for the river.

There was a big smiling musician on the levee, playing steel drum for the tourists. His accent didn’t seem local, neither NOLA nor Lousiana creole. He may have been Haitian. He played that well-known Caribbean anthem “In The Mood.” He somehow added an extra measure between each break. Matthew, a Californian farther east than he ever had been before, stuck his foot into the Mississippi just so he could say he had. He joked about chloracne for the rest of the trip.

We walked into the Vieux Carré. Elissa, a fan of Zora Neale Hurston, pulled us into a voodoo store, not that she needed any help in that regard. She browsed the hexes and charms, the little bags to be filled with salt and placed beneath the doormat of unwelcome neighbors. I looked at the figurines of loas, the old voodoo spirits of which practitioners beg favor. The figurines were roughly built and attractive, cloth scraps and dots of paint on old wood. I looked in my wallet. Not enough for Legba; not even enough for Damballah. I put them back and vowed to return someday.

After an hour, we found the car. Lightning followed us, and we made Chattanooga before collapsing again.

Legba is the only loa that gives a shit about the likes of us. He is good, wise, compassionate. The others can sometimes be swayed to act out of boredom, or in return for future favors. When appealing to their mercies, watch your back. Sogbo is the loa of lightning. Bade, the wind loa, travels with Sogbo. Agua is angry, a muscular black man with fire in his eyes. When Sogbo and Bade work with Agua, the thunderstorms come. Damballah manifests as a king cobra, and rules the water in the sky. He controls the river and springs, the flows that come up from the sodden ground: it all comes from his domain. Though he is remote and dispassionate, his heart is pure. He is associated with predestination. You can find him in your Creole voodoo glossary just before the phrase “Dans l’ Fond d’l’eau.”

To entreat Damballah one can offer him a large bowl of water. The water should be scrupulously clean.

Reader poll

I’ve been asked by someone I respect to join a blog advertising network.

Cons: design issues, increasing commercialization of every other goddamn aspect of my life, occasional offensive ad slipping through

Pros: some control over ads, possibility of covering the increasing cost of this blog, occasional link to business I’d link to anyway.

What do you think?