Friday, September 30, 2005
Dammit to hell! (or, if Bill is reading, dangit to heck!) I'm in the middle of a minor panic attack in our bullpen office area. I'm trying not to show it, but the easiest way to make it go away is to go through several minutes of deep, heavy breathing until the anxiety subsides. I don't know what triggered this, but it sucks not to be able to go into my office and close the door, which is what I did back in New Orleans whenever this happened.
Anyway, just for fun, let's see some offbeat suggestions for addressing this situation.
Monday, September 26, 2005
I drove from Slidell to Houston today, through the region affected by Hurricane Rita. Lake Charles, Orange, and Beaumont didn't look as bad as I thought they would. Lots of trees down, but, from what I could see, Slidell got it worse from Katrina. Remembering the gas shortages of last week, I filled up three containers with gasoline before I left and placed the containers in my trunk. Within minutes, the car reeked of gas, and it smelled like that all the way back. Oh well. There was a stretch where gas was unavailable, so I was able to unload four gallons on someone who had run dry. He insisted on paying me, and paying an outrageous amont--$30! I really did try to turn it down, but the guy was very insistent, and I didn't want to offend him. Probably he was ecstatic about being able to drive home. Getting rid of some of the gas did nothing to make the car smell any better, or me smell any better, for that matter.
Sunday, September 25, 2005
I drove across the Rigolets bridge into the Fort Pike/Lake Catherine community of extreme eastern New Orleans today. The destruction is near-total; few buildings survived in any shape or form. U.S. Highway 90 had several chunks washed away by the storm surge, and the highway was reduced to a dirt-and-gravel road at one point.
Saturday, September 24, 2005
Friday, September 23, 2005
Yesterday, I drove from Houston to Slidell, LA, a trip that usually takes 5-6 hours. This time, it took 15 hours, and it turns out to have been an exercise in futility.
I had planned to go to St. Mary's today to see Toby and Adam. When Rita was forecast to make landfall around Matagorda Bay, I decided to drive to Slidell on Thursday, so I would be in a position to drive to Alexandria today without having to worry about the storm. I woke yesterday and looked out my window at the Katy Freeway and Houston's famously botched evacuation effort. I gathered my stuff, got in my car, and started driving. I drove through downtown and on to Baytown at 75 mph. Suddenly, traffic came to a near-standstill, and it stayed that way. As I was driving, evacuations were ordered in Beaumont, Port Arthur, and Lake Charles. Beaumont, in particular, was traffic hell. Not even driving on the shoulder and cutting onto the odd feeder road advanced my cause to my satisfaction. I looked at my map and noticed a loop down to Port Arthur and back up to Orange, right near the Louisiana line. It seemed worth the risk, so off I went. I drove very fast down a freeway to P.A., all the while watching an endless line of cars coming from that direction on the northbound side. I turned to go towards Orange and came to a police roadblock. I was told to drive back on that highway with the endless line of cars. While the cop was telling me to do something I had no intention of doing, I noticed that the entrance ramp to the Orange-bound highway was completely open from the other direction. So I made a few u-turns and was off to the races for a couple of miles. I came upon a second police roadblock at the base of the bridges over the Intracoastal Waterway. I couldn't sneak past that roadblock, but I found a side road back to Beaumont that wasn't nearly as congested and, even better, had a gas station with almost no waiting! The stations on I-10 that had gas also had 2-hour lines, so getting gas quickly made my detour worthwhile.
I almost turned back to Houston at that point, but I remembered how terribly gridlocked the city was, and I-10 east from where I met it in Beaumont was moving along relatively well. I thought of how much I wanted to see the kids, so I decided to keep going east. A few miles inside Louisiana, the traffic came to a standstill again. At Lake Charles, I took another detour on the local loop freeway; that detour may have saved me an hour or so. I also had to pee very badly by that point, but I couldn't find an open facility. I saw a dentist's office with an empty parking lot, so I took the exit, got out of my car, and pissed on the landscaping.
Alexandria was the destination of choice for the Lake Charles evacuees, and it sounded as if I could not get there last night. It looks out-of-reach today and tomorrow also due to the weather, so I won't be going up for the kind of weekend I had wanted. At most, I may get up there Sunday, have a pizza with Toby (he didn't get his trip home this month due to Katrina), then curve back down to Houston--assuming I can get there at all.
Wednesday, September 21, 2005
I was roused from my bed at 1:15 a.m. today by frantic knocking on my door. The hotel desk clerk was outside. I opened the door to a pungent burning odor, and the clerk wanted to ascertain the source of it. The smell was very strong, so I put on my bathrobe and went down to the lobby to wait until it dissipated. One of the other guests was in the breakfast room off of the lobby, dancing to a disco show on the television. This didn't seem strange in light of the events of the past few weeks. The clerk explained to the two of us that the guy across the hall from me had attempted to bake cookies in the microwave, and that he fell asleep. The dancing guy asked, "what, a stoner thing?" It sounded like classic stoner or drunk behavior to me.
Tuesday, September 20, 2005
I started back to work in our temporary Houston command center yesterday. We're in a bullpen area of a former credit union office. Attached to what used to be the tellers' counter is a sign proclaiming that our mission is "exceptional financial services, today and tomorrow!" I may see about taking that sign home as a souvenir; it would look good in my new office in New Orleans. I expect that I'll be more productive than usual while I'm here, as our alphabetical desk arrangement has me next to the least slothful attorney in our office. That guy's work habits put mine to shame.
Monday, September 19, 2005
Saturday, September 17, 2005
I came home this weekend to remove trees and pine needles, clean up the yard generally, and fetch some respectable clothing for work. As respectable as mine gets, anyway; I have a bit of a fetish for loud, colorful ties that few of my peers seem to share. Hell with them.
Oh, as I was saying, I got to the house later than planned. I had a request to drive by the health club and check on its status. It is open, by the way, despite being in a part of town that, like mine, remains under a boil order. I decided to do a little curious sightseeing, so I made my way down to the Oak Harbor/Eden Isles area, which was hit by the storm surge from Lake Pontchartrain. Along Highway 11 is utter devastation, with the already ramshackle buildings completely gone or blown into odd places. The residents of the more pricy, better-built neighborhoods down there are gutting their homes and throwing everything out by the street. I was surprised to see no roadblock on the Highway 11 bridge, which goes across the lake from St. Tammany Parish to Orleans Parish, which is coterminous with the City of New Orleans. I decided to keep driving until someone stopped me. I drove across the bridge and into New Orleans. Interstate 10 was barricaded, but one idiot sped around the barricade, evidently thinking that he could make a fast run for it and not be caught. Alas, I saw a troop transport making a U-turn from the other direction just as said idiot got close. Interstate 10 towards Slidell is also closed, and the bridge across the lake on I-10 is very badly damaged. I use that bridge every day, so seeing it almost in ruins made quite an impression. Down Highway 11 a few hundred yards, I saw a Guardsman checking licenses, so I turned around and drove back across the lake to Slidell. I had not personally observed destruction on such a massive scale, and I got the impression that none of the many other local tourists driving around down there had seen anything like that either. The whole thing is surreal.
I cleaned out the front yard pretty easily last night, then ran the lawnmower. This morning, I acquainted myself with the intricacies of running a chainsaw, I then attacked the trees in the back yard (there were all or part of 5 different trees back there, but two were particularly large). A couple of guys from the nondenominational Northshore Church were helping my next-door neighbor, who attends their church, then they stepped over the remains of my fence and gave me a hand too. We had the big stuff out of the yard within a couple of hours. I was amazed at the pine needles I raked up--I have about 8 enormous piles of needles in the back yard, waiting to be taken to the curb tomorrow. Later on, I drove over to loan my chainsaw to Ann's husband, but when I got there, I saw two or three vanloads of Hispanic Mormons from Houston, with all the tools needed for tree removal. I was glad to see that.
I had a strange craving around noon for a cherry limeade from Sonic. Given the current state of affairs in Slidell, I decided to drive all the way to Covington for my flavorful treat. Covington appears to be almost back to normal, but it wasn't hit nearly as hard as Slidell was. In my town, WalMart, Target, and Home Depot evidently worked pretty hard to get their stores open so people could obtain food and repair supplies. The only restaurants I noticed open were Waffle House, one McDonalds, and two Burger Kings. Many places remain under boil orders, and a good many establishments in town took on water and must make repairs before they can open again.
I cannot believe that New Orleans itself is being partially reopened. None of the water in the city is drinkable; nobody really knows what's in the water to begin with; gasoline is unavailable; and there are no police or fire services that are readily available. Evidently, the powers that be don't want anybody becoming rooted in Atlanta, Houston, or Dallas, and they're willing to take chances with public health and public safety to avoid that rooting. Just my own humble opinion.
Edited to add: A roving band of Texas Mormons showed up early this afternoon, just as I was loading up the car to return into exile. I asked for their opinion about the one tree we couldn't quite figure out how to bring down yesterday. They strategized for several minutes, then brought the sucker down without damaging anything other than my already-broken fence. They had to chop a tall but extremely thin pine tree in the neighbors' yard, but I figure a) the only way anybody could get the big tree down was to take down the other one first; b) they won't mind; c) if they do mind, they don't know my new cell phone number and they'll have time to cool down before I go back to the house. The Texans also assisted another neighbor re-attach the tarp to her roof. The neighbor actually got into her car and started down the street, in hopes of finding a roofer at work somewhere. She saw the Texans at my house and asked if they could help her. Damn decent of them to show up today; it saved me a few hundred dollars, and it may have saved the neighbor quite a bit more.
Wednesday, September 14, 2005
I went into the temporary headquarters of my office yesterday to have my laptop fixed. While there, I told my boss that I was going to hang around town until I was certain about DSL Internet access at home. My boss gave me a pretty hard sell on the benefits of staying here for a while longer than I had intended. The boss is not a hard-sell kinda guy, so I figured that he must want as many people here in the central office for as long as possible. DW is leaving for Utah tomorrow, and the boys are at St. Mary's, so I'll be flying solo for the next few weeks. And there are many worse places to be than downtown Houston. I walked over to the hotel where the office has made arrangements, and I decided to stay in exile until the end of October. For fun, I plan to spend a day at one of the local water parks, and I may even attend a 3-day retreat here with the head of the San Francisco Zen Center.
Tuesday, September 13, 2005
DW and I stood in line for two hours yesterday for a check from the Red Cross. Anybody who lives in an affected area code is eligible for the money (Ann, are you reading this?), and in Houston the RC is passing out money at a local church. Otherwise, you have to call a number that's always busy. It's a sea of humanity down there, much of which arrived in cars much nicer than mine, thus assuaging my guilt at taking the cash to defray the costs of our evacuation.
Sunday, September 11, 2005
This morning, we went to the church in Southeast Houston where the Red Cross was handing out checks to Louisiana evacuees. The RC already was turning people away and telling them to use a telephone number, so we left. I felt a little weird going down there--our situation isn't as bad as many, but this evacuation is getting damn expensive--but I didn't feel nearly so weird upon seeing Mercedeses, Lexusus, and BMWs with Louisiana license plates parked around the church. In other Louisiana news, the Saints just defeated the Panthers, 23-20.
I began re-reading "A Confederacy of Dunces" last night. I picked up a new copy at Barnes & Noble yesterday. This time around, the novel is tinged with sadness, given the events of the past couple of weeks. Also, I'm picking up more on the social criticism in the book about New Orleans as a backwater, living in an imaginary past and resisting progressive trends, implicit though that criticism is. Andrei Codrescu's new introduction did help with that, but it is something I faintly saw on previous readings. The book is so damn funny that its more serious subtext can easily be overlooked.
Saturday, September 10, 2005
We drove across Louisiana again yesterday to clean out our refrigerator, and we found that we have power, as does 48% of St. Tammany Parish. Alas, we don't have potable water or, most importantly, telephone service or my DSL connection. Without DSL, I can't work from home, so I remain in my Houstonian Exile. We drove around town and noticed that the homes inside the City of Slidell actually do have potable water, and some places evidently have cable TV already. I hope to be home for good in less than a month.
Today, I went to a nice gym with a pay-as-you-go plan. Later, DW and I found a laundry. Yes, we actually paid someone else to so our laundry. While we were waiting, we went to the mall and had lunch. I dragged DW into a leather-goods store and tried on a rather daring leather jacket. DW kind of liked it, though she didn't care for the purse I wanted to accessorize it with. "What would happen if I showed up at work dressed like this?" I wondered. "You wouldn't be working anymore," DW responded. Then we hung out at Barnes & Noble until it was time to pick up the laundry.
I'm getting a little bored; I need to go back to work.
Tuesday, September 06, 2005
We drove up to Alexandria, LA, on Saturday to see our boys. Finally, something somewhat normal for a change. Okay, so that situation will never seem normal, but I digress. As you can see, Adam is a two-fisted eater when pizza is involved. He eats the pieces upside-down, I suppose to avoid burning the roof of his mouth. Toby is less robust when eating his pizza. We had great fun as a family in the motel swimming pool, with DW and I swapping off kids whenever Toby said, "switch!" Toby has learned to jump into the pool off of the side, and he enjoys making splashes. Adam has learned to splash people using his arm and hand, and he certainly enjoys that.
Today we went to Sam's Club and picked up a carload of merchandise to donate to the Red Cross. The collection point around here is inside a movie theater. When we dropped the stuff off, the theater employee took us back into a room filled with movie posters, and told us to take a bunch of them. We probably took about 10 or so. Another theater employee approached us as we were leaving and said that the manager had approved giving us a couple of fabulous Spider-Man posters. So when I get to working again, I may hang Antonio Banderas' and Catherine Zeta Jones's "Zorro" posters in my workspace.
Saturday, September 03, 2005
It looks like I'll be hanging around a little while longer in the land of my birth, the Whole Other Country of Texas. My work will be temporarily located in Houston, and I will begin working again next Monday. I hope to be able to work from home in Slidell once power and water are restored. DW will be visiting her folks for a while to get away from the discombobulation of the situation.
In the outrage category, the people in the Superdome were stopped from boarding buses briefly yesterday so that 700 guests from the Hyatt hotel could go in front of them. Conditions in the Hyatt were bad, but not nearly as bad as they were in the Dome. In the looking-up category, the patients and medical staff at Charity and University hospitals finally have been evacuated. It was so bad at Charity that nurses were giving each other IVs to avoid starvation and dehydration.
Thursday, September 01, 2005
Here is our house this morning. Our back fence is toast, and a couple of trees came very close to hitting the house, but they didn't. Other than that, we lost about 4-5 shingles, and that's it! We are very, very, very fortunate.
After we checked on our house and grabbed a few things, we drove over by Ann's house. Ann and her DH were actually there. They had a small amount of water damage, but it sounded like it was fairly minor.
I may even sleep tonight.
As for what's going on in Orleans and Jefferson Parishes, I'm just not sure what to say. It's sad and outrageous, probably for many, many reasons. What's going on at the Dome and Convention Center is completely outrageous, and should never be allowed to happen in any American city--never.