September 2005 Archives
Clayton James Cubitt is a New York fashion photographer who grew up in New Orleans. He's back home now dealing with the catastrophe that has befallen his family since Katrina. He's blogging about it...no, not blogging, he's RAGING...and taking some of the most awe-inspiring portrait photos of Katrina survivors that I've seen anywhere.
...And that's how it works. Your government is a mandarin class of tan Docker-clad elites, shuttling in SUVs from anonymous office parks to anonymous exurbs, windows rolled up, AC on full blast, Amy Grant on the CD changer. They insulate themselves from contact with the public, who they theoretically work for, with a phalanx of minimum-wage call center operators, and mega-tiered automated voicemail prompts and Byzantine organizational structures. You will never ever be able to talk with a person who can make any decision to help you. You will only hear "No", or maybe, if the drone you're in contact with still has some residual soul, you'll hear "I'm so sorry, I wish I could help, but I'm not authorized."
FEMA is doing nothing for the victims of Katrina. FEMA is nowhere near here. Official-looking FEMA shirts and hats are everywhere, worn on the backs and heads of earnest-looking sunburnt middle-aged men, often with moustaches and Oakleys. Imagine a fly-fisher, now put a navy blue FEMA shirt on him. But you soon realize that it's only a shirt. These are just drones. Dispatched by the mandarins to appear caring. These are usually local volunteers given two hours training and that official FEMA gear, and sent out to give people the 800 number by which you can file a new claim.
That's it. An 800 number. A mega-tiered, bilingual, automated, never-answered-by-anyone-who-can-think 800 number. That's how much your government cares about you. That's what the earnest volunteer blue shirts can help you with. When they realize you need more than an 800 number, their moustaches droop a little, crestfallen, impotent, and they give you some inside information. "Look for the red shirts, those are the actual FEMA guys."
I haven't seen any red shirts. Maybe they're the ones that have occupied all the motel rooms within 400 miles. The motel rooms with AC and cable and phones and internet and Amy Grant on the CD changer.
Same experience we had in Austin with FEMA. The first FEMA folks to show up at the Austin shelter were actually those firefighters who were held in Atlanta to get sexual harrassment training instead of being deployed to New Orleans to do search and rescue. Some of them showed up at the ACC a few days later wearing their freshly-issued blue FEMA shirts. They were nice guys stuck with a shitty task by the federal government, and they had a can-do attitude, but all they really could do was pass out the FEMA phone number. Which we already had. I never saw any red shirts before I got sent home sick.
Thanks to Sci Guy and also Susan for the link.
The article states that he may have to step down. Ha! As if.
I think it's more likely they'll send armed FEMA agents to take over the Travis Co. DA's office to protect them from Rita.
It's National Goth Month, according to this great interview with Neil Gaiman and Joss Whedon.
Mirrormask looks awfully cool.
And now that they mention it, I do feel a lot like a dolphin lately.
Robert Landsden was in my high school class in New Orleans, and is now a captain in the Navy. Another classmate just forwarded around some links to an article in the Times-Picayune describing his heroics after Katrina. He found himself sitting on a ship with a large cache of fuel and disobeyed orders in order to make sure this fuel got distributed to hospitals in Jefferson Parish to keep generators and emergency vehicles running. He even had to fight off FEMA latecomers who tried to go to the head of the line to commandeer fuel for themselves.
Give the guy and his crew some medals, why doncha. (But ask him how he got the T-P to list him as "age 38" when the rest of his classmates are 41 or so.)
Todd Leopold writes for CNN. We grew up together, since grade school. Our moms were buddies. We ran in the same crowd of brainy dorks. We used to fight about whether Pete Townshend was cooler than Ray Davies, in an era when most kids were listening to REO Speedwagon. His bar-mitzvah was the best party I ever went to as a kid.
After Katrina he went back home with his mom to check on their house in Algiers and writes about it here. He's conflicted, as many of us are, about the city. It's hard to describe how one can be so homesick for a place that you really don't want to make your home any more.
Even as a boy, I knew all about the corruption, the decay, the lack of forward motion in a sleepy city that seemed to awaken only for parties. New Orleans was proud of these things.
And yet ... I went to high school in an 1854 courthouse. That was an irreplaceable experience. (Classrooms were subdivided courtrooms and offices, and there was no gymnasium; a mile run was five times around the block.) The city's prewar architecture, though sometimes unkempt, is one of the grandest collections in the world. (Magazine Street alone is a walk of wonder.)
And its spirit, its love of music, food and hedonistic pursuit, is unique in the world. Tell people you're from New Orleans and their eyes light up.
Yet, for all its distinction, I couldn't wait to leave. I wasn't alone; I know many people who have pursued their lives away from New Orleans. That fact only made me sadder when I came back.
Mikey found the video here at Guerilla News Network.
The song is angry and funny as hell. The video is heartbreaking.
The motherfucking bomb:
"Five days in this motherfuckin' attic
Can't use the cell phone I keep gettin' static
Dyin' 'cause they lyin' stead of tellin' us the truth
Of the day the helicopters got my neighbors off the roof
Screwed 'cause they said they're coming back for us too
That was three days ago I don't see no rescue
See a man's gotta do what a man's gotta do"
What really irks me about this whole thing is that the same T-P reporter who wrote the article about how the rumors were all false is the one who wrote the supposed "eye witness" account of bodies at the Convention Center.
Read this article by Brian Thevenot, T-P staff reporter, from September 6.
Arkansas National Guardsman Mikel Brooks stepped through the food service entrance of the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center Monday, flipped on the light at the end of his machine gun, and started pointing out bodies.
"Don't step in that blood - it's contaminated," he said. "That one with his arm sticking up in the air, he's an old man."
Then he shined the light on the smaller human figure under the white sheet next to the elderly man.
"That's a kid," he said. "There's another one in the freezer, a 7-year-old with her throat cut."
He moved on, walking quickly through the darkness, pulling his camouflage shirt to his face to screen out the overwhelming odor.
"There's an old woman," he said, pointing to a wheelchair covered by a sheet. "I escorted her in myself. And that old man got bludgeoned to death," he said of the body lying on the floor next to the wheelchair.
Brooks and several other Guardsmen said they had seen between 30 and 40 more bodies in the Convention Center's freezer. "It's not on, but at least you can shut the door," said fellow Guardsman Phillip Thompson.
The scene of rotting bodies inside the Convention Center reflected those in thousands of businesses, schools, homes and shelters across the metropolitan area.
This article, under Thevenot's byline, strongly suggests that Thevenot himself witnessed these things. I've seen this very story quoted widely as "first-hand" evidence of the post-Katrina atrocities.
And yet now under Thevenot's byline comes the story I just wrote about this morning, with quotes like this:
That the nation's front-line emergency management believed the body count would resemble that of a bloody battle in a war is but one of scores of examples of myths about the Dome and the Convention Center treated as fact by evacuees, the media and even some of New Orleans' top officials, including the mayor and police superintendent.
Thevenot has the unmitigated gall to blame "the media" for propagating myths, when he is the media person who is the source of one of the biggest myths. So did he actually see any of this stuff? Or was his September 6 article an exaggeration, a reporting of rumor as fact?
NOLA.com did an excellent job covering Katrina, which is why I feel so letdown by fuckups like this. The world thinks my hometown is populated by amoral savages due in no small part to Thevenot's sloppy and alarmist reporting.
I had been noticing a disconnect in recent weeks about the atrocities supposedly committed in New Orleans in the aftermath of Katrina. Little inconsistencies that gave an urban legend feel to some of the supposed "eye witness" accounts. Like the little girl who supposedly had her throat cut at the convention center. Sometimes she was 7. Sometimes she was 12. Sometimes her body was on the sidewalk outside. Sometimes it was in the bathroom. Sometimes it was in the kitchen.
Well, funny thing about the stories that are true because "I talked to a guy who saw it", is that often times they are complete bullshit.
Following days of internationally reported killings, rapes and gang violence inside the Dome, the doctor from FEMA - Beron doesn't remember his name - came prepared for a grisly scene: He brought a refrigerated 18-wheeler and three doctors to process bodies.
"I've got a report of 200 bodies in the Dome," Beron recalls the doctor saying.
The real total was six, Beron said.
Of those, four died of natural causes, one overdosed and another jumped to his death in an apparent suicide, said Beron, who personally oversaw the turning over of bodies from a Dome freezer, where they lay atop melting bags of ice. State health department officials in charge of body recovery put the official death count at the Dome at 10, but Beron said the other four bodies were found in the street near the Dome, not inside it. Both sources said no one had been killed inside.
At the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, just four bodies were recovered, despites reports of corpses piled inside the building. Only one of the dead appeared to have been slain, said health and law enforcement officials.
The rumor mill was flying, obviously, and the media unfortunately took everything they heard from a New Orleans native as the gospel truth. "They're locals, they must know what they're talking about."
See, this is what the national news media still does not get about race relations in New Orleans. It is just a fact that many many white people in New Orleans expect the worst out of black people in New Orleans. This is why white-flight suburbs like Slidell, Metairie, and lower Algiers exist. This is why the overwhelming majority of white kids in New Orleans go to private school. This is why Gretna police turned back evacuees who walked across the bridge from the eastbank just looking for food and water.
When I was a kid, there was this Mississippi River Bridge Authority building next to the bridge on-ramps on the Westbank, and it was "common knowledge" amongst my friends that this building housed riot gear, weapons, and ammunition to be used in the event of a riot in the nearby Fisher Projects. This was just accepted common knowledge, even though now it obviously sounds silly.
New Orleans is a racist city. It's one of the reasons I don't live there. The dual nature, the split personality of a city that is so warm and wonderful and creative, but that is shot through under the surface with such ignorance and bigotry...sometimes it's hard to watch. It's easier to keep New Orleans at a little distance, where you can just remember the good stuff and pretend the bad stuff doesn't exist.
And it's one of the reasons that stories of atrocities could be accepted so easily, and passed on from person to person as gospel truth. Because it's what you'd expect from "those people".
In our family, we make up song lyrics all the time, especially in times of great stress. Yesterday wandering through the ACL dust bowl, punch drunk from the heat, we kept giggling our way through this one:
"Whoa black boogies
Bam a lam
Whoa black boogies
Bam a lam""
Which version varied from person to person. Leadbelly? Ram Jam? Myself, I had Nick Cave stuck in my head.
The heat and the dust were awful. By sundown Zilker Park looked like lower Manhattan on 9/11. A thick cloud of dust over everything, crowds of people with bandanas over their faces, coughing and spitting and pretending to have a good time.
Cass and Gina saw the Bravery and Arcade Fire, and then I joined them later for the Decemberists (only the Magnetic Fields can stoke my geek love any higher), a little Bob Mould (just the Husker Du songs), a little Wilco, Franz Ferdinand, and Tortoise (who were much more aggressive live than I expected).
Then I left them early while they checked out yet-another Coldplay clone called, uh, Coldplay.
The record heat and the dust made this more of a death march than previous years. Honestly, if they keep having it in September, I'm not completely sure I'm going to keep going back. I understand that they don't want to have it in October because the weather is so unpredictable. But in mid-September, the weather is all too predictable, and it's guaranteed to suck. New Orleans manages to hold Jazz Fest in April, and tell me April in New Orleans isn't a volatile weather season.
I say move it or lose it. The festival should be a weekend of fun, not a test of human endurance.
Pictures on the Flickr page, as usual.
Brother Bill reports that the bayou in his neighborhood in Prairieville was flowing backwards yesterday as the last of the rain bands passed over head. After Katrina he needed some roof repair. After Rita, he now needs a completely new roof. No power, but his best friend is a building contractor so he's set up with generators and is reasonably comfortable.
"Dude, Baton Rouge just sucks right now."
Poppy seems to have no patience for people who don't want to move back. I don't know, seems to me that the experiences of somebody who makes her living sitting in her house writing books and whose loved ones are all accounted for might not give her the perspective to judge a person who drives a bus, or works part time at Popeyes, or collects welfare, and who has dead family members who they haven't even been allowed to bury yet.
Some people are going to land on their feet, some people are not. And for somebody whose biggest problem in exile has been "where can I recharge my laptop" and "oh dear, I lost 13% of my cats" to pass judgment on other folks who are in MUCH worse shape and who are choosing survival of their families over some kind of New Orleans culture fetish...I don't know, I just expected a little bit more compassion.
New Orleans will be rebuilt. I applaud the people who will do it. I hope to help rebuild it myself somehow. But demanding a loyalty oath out of people whose families are in tatters shows a lack of class which rivals that of those who think New Orleans should be abandoned.
Eh. I'll still buy her books, though.
Finally, Austinite Larry Archer has some pictures in Flickr of Dick Cheney's visit to the Austin Katrina shelter. I like this one here, at the public computers where we volunteered, of Dick Cheney feigning interest while a volunteer explains to him that FEMA's web site is a pile of shit.
Update: Quicktime link here.
Russert appears surprised to learn that Broussard hasn't been sitting around reading blogs the past few weeks.
Gina ran downstairs to tell me about this interview this morning right after it happened. Link to the video is here. I haven't watched it yet (typical MSNBC, I don't have the right software on my Mac), but here's the transcript, picking up right at the point where Russert makes the mistake of sucker-punching Broussard with a clip of his breakdown from three weeks ago:
Mr. Broussard: I've never watched this. Why are they taking me here?
Mr. Russert: Mr. Broussard, obviously that was a very painful, emotional moment, but let me show you some of the...
Mr. Broussard: Sir, I've never looked at that. I've never heard that. I'm sorry. You take me to a sad place when you let me hear that.
Mr. Russert: Well, it was important, I think...
Mr. Broussard: Go ahead. Go ahead, sir. Go ahead, sir.
Mr. Russert: Thank you very much.
Mr. Broussard: Go ahead.
Mr. Russert: All right, sir. Thank you very much. Take your time. But it's important I think...
Mr. Broussard: Go ahead.
Mr. Russert: ...that our viewers see that again because MSNBC and other blog organizations have looked into the facts behind your comments and these are the conclusions, and I'll read it for you and our viewers. It says: "An emotional moment and a misunderstanding. Since the broadcast of [Meet the Press] interview...a number of bloggers have questioned the validity of Broussard's story. Subsequent reporting identified the man whom Broussard was referring to...as Thomas Rodrigue, the Jefferson Parish emergency services director. ...Rodrigue acknowledged that his 92-year-old mother and more than 30 other people died in the St. Rita nursing home. They had not been evacuated and the flood waters overtook the residence. ... When told of the sequence of phone calls that Broussard described, Rodrigue said `No, no, that's not true. ...I contacted the nursing home two days before the storm [on Saturday, Aug. 27th] and again on [Sunday] the 28th. ...At the same time I talked to the nursing home I had also talked to the emergency manager...to encourage that nursing home to evacuate...' Rodrigue says he never made any calls after Monday, the day he figures his mother died... Officials believe the residents of St. Rita's died on Monday, the 29th, not on Friday, Sept. 2, as Broussard has suggested."
Your comments obviously...
Mr. Broussard: Sir, this...
Mr. Russert: Go ahead.
Mr. Broussard: Sir, this gentleman's mother died on that Friday before I came on the show. My own staff came up to me and said what had happened. I had no idea his mother was in the nursing home. It was related to me by my own staff, who had tears in their eyes, what had happened. That's what they told me. I went to that man, who I love very much and respect very much, and he had collapsed like a deck of cards. And I took him and put him in my hospital room with my prayer books and told him to sit there and cry out and pray away and give honor to his mother with his tears and his prayers.
Now, everything that was told to me about the preface of that was told to me by my own employees. Do you think I would interrogate a man whose mother just died and said, "Tommy, I want to know everything about why your mother just died"? The staff, his own staff, told me those words. Sir, that woman is the epitome of abandonment. She was left in that nursing home. She died in that nursing home. Tommy will tell you that he tried to rescue her and could not get her rescued. Tommy could tell you that he sent messages there through the EOC and through, I think, the sheriff's department, "Tell Mama everything's going to be OK. Tell Mama we're coming to get her."
Listen, sir, somebody wants to nitpick a man's tragic loss of a mother because she was abandoned in a nursing home? Are you kidding? What kind of sick mind, what kind of black-hearted people want to nitpick a man's mother's death? They just buried Eva last week. I was there at the wake. Are you kidding me? That wasn't a box of Cheerios they buried last week. That was a man's mother whose story, if it is entirely broadcast, will be the epitome of abandonment. It will be the saddest tale you ever heard, a man who was responsible for safekeeping of a half a million people, mother's died in the next parish because she was abandoned there and he can't get to her and he tried to get to her through EOC. He tried to get through the sheriff's office. He tries every way he can to get there. Somebody wants to debate those things? My God, what sick-minded person wants to do that?
What kind of agenda is going on here? Mother Nature doesn't have a political party. Mother Nature can vote a person dead and Mother Nature can vote a community out of existence. But Mother Nature is not playing any political games here. Somebody better wake up. You want to come and live in this community and see the tragedy we're living in? Are you sitting there having your coffee, you're in a place where toilets flush and lights go on and everything's a dream and you pick up your paper and you want to battle ideology and political chess games? Man, get out of my face. Whoever wants to do that, get out of my face.
Mr. Russert: Mr. Broussard, the people who are questioning your comments are saying that you accused the federal government and the bureaucracy of murder, specifically calling on the secretary of Homeland Security and using this as an example to denounce the federal government. And what they're saying is, in fact, it was the local government that did not evacuate Eva Rodrigue on Friday or on Saturday. And they're making that, in fact...
Mr. Broussard: Sir...
Mr. Russert: Let me just finish. I'll give you a chance to respond.
Mr. Broussard: Yes.
Mr. Russert: And, in fact, the owners of the nursing home, Salvador and Mable Mangano, have been indicted with 34 counts of negligent homicide by the Louisiana state attorney general. So it was the owners of the nursing home and the local government that are responsible for the lack of evacuation and not the federal government. Is that fair?
Mr. Broussard: Sir, with everything I said on Meet the Press, the last punctuation of my statements were the story that I was going to tell in about maybe two sentences. It just got emotional for me, sir. Talk about the context of everything I said. Were we abandoned by the federal government? Absolutely we were. Were there more people that abandoned us? Make the list. The list can go on for miles. That's for history to document. That's what Congress does best, burn witches. Let Congress do their hearings. Let them find the witches. Let them burn them. The media burns witches better than anybody. Let the media go find the witches and burn them. But as I stood on the ground, sir, for day after day after day after day, nobody came here, sir. Nobody came. The federal government didn't come. The Red Cross didn't come. I'll give you a list of people that didn't come here, sir, and I was here.
So anybody that's saying, "Oh, they were all here," you know, they weren't living on my planet, there weren't living in my parish. They did not come. I can't make it any more clearer than that. Did inefficiencies, did bureaucracy commit murder here? Absolutely, it did. And Congress and the media will flush it out and find it out and those people will be held accountable. You've already given an example. These people in the nursing home in St. Bernard, they're getting indicted. Good. They ought to be indicted. They ought to get good old-fashioned Western justice. They ought to be taken out and administered to like they did in the old West.
Yes, there's a lot of people that they're going to find that are going to be villains in this situation, but they're also going to find for the most part that the Peter Principle was squared. The Peter Principle is you promote somebody to the level of incompetency, but when you promote somebody to the level of incompetency in a life or death department, then those people should be ousted. Those people should be strung up. Those people should be burned at the stake. And I'm sure Congress and the press is going to do that.
Mr. Russert: At the local, state and federal level.
Mr. Broussard: Sir, at every level. Are you kidding? This is a jigsaw puzzle. This is a mosaic. The blame will be shared by everybody. The heroic deeds will be magnified as individual stories of heroics come out from different people and agencies that did eventually come here. Sir, this is chaos. It's organized chaos at best. There are plenty of heroes that have to be uncovered. There are plenty of villains that have to be uncovered. Let the process go on. Let it happen. I don't have time to do it, sir. I didn't even watch my own broadcast that you played to me in my ear. It pained me to hear that again because Tommy Rodrigue is a friend of mine. He works for me. I was at his mother's wake.
When somebody wants to nit-pick these details, I don't know what sick minds creates this black-hearted agenda, but it's sick. I mean, let us recover. Let us rebuild. If somebody wants me to debate them on national TV, hey, buddy, be my guest. Make my day. Put me at a podium when I got a full night's sleep and you will not like matching me against anybody that you want. That person is going to be in trouble. If this station or anybody else or any other station wants to do that, you just give me a full night's sleep, sir. I haven't had one in about 30 days. But you wind me up with a full night's sleep, I'll debate every detail of everything you want, sir.
Mr. Russert: Aaron Broussard, the president of Jefferson Parish, Louisiana, we thank you for coming on and correcting the record and putting it in context. And we wish you well and to all your people in the recovery. And we hope to talk to you again.
"I gave you the warning
But you never heeded it
How can you say you miss my loving
When you never needed it
You're gonna wake up wondering
Find yourself all alone
But what's gonna stop me, baby
I'm not coming home
I'm not coming home"
Day two of ACL. As Gregg pointed out, much to Cassidy's dismay, Tegan and Sara cancelled. But the other highlight of the day would turn out to be transcendant.
We saw bits and pieces of Aqualung (OK, this Coldplay shit has got to stop...how about a moratorium on pianos for a few years), Shields of Faith (my soul was saved), The Frames (who fucking ROCKED), Death Cab for Cutie (I'm noticing a theme here of bands who would sound great at night in a club, but who are completely out of their element playing on the surface of the sun), some replacement gospel band for the AWOL Betty Lavette (who we dubbed the Gospel Family Doofus Hour), Jet (see Death Cab...although they did do their Beatles-y song AND their Stones-y song AND their White Stripes-y song), and the Dirty Dozen Brass Band (Cassidy was mortified to see dad shaking his ass, but there were clearly lots of NOLA refugees there and it was a hell of a party).
And then there was Roky.
I saw Roky in one of his ill-advised nights out about ten years ago, at Antone's, when he was clearly not in possession of all his faculties. They did three songs, Roky only sang, he didn't seem to know where he was, and he meandered off in the middle of the set, confused, never to return. It was painful to watch. It was sad to see such a brilliant mind wandering in the wasteland of mental illness.
Well, tonight was not that Roky Erickson.
"I told you I'd come back....
I don't look like him, but I am him.
Don't you recognize the voice, Jim?
I promised to see you die, and I will."
It was fantastic. Cassidy and I got there early enough to be front row center right in front of him. And when he came out, after being introduced by Kinky Friedman himself, it was paparazzi mayhem. There were over twenty media cameras in front of the barricades and more cameras going nuts in the audience. Roky smiled the whole time. Played guitar and sang the whole time. Joked between songs. They played a full hour. The audience sang along with every word. Roky songs. Elevators songs.
It was fucking glorious.
Lots and lots of pictures on the flickr page.
I picked Cassidy up from school today and we headed straight to the festival. This was kind of a practice run, since most of our favorite bands aren't playing til tomorrow. It was hot, like last year, with a few passing clouds from the outermost edge of Rita, and every once in a while a strong wind gust. Hopefully we'll get at least a few sprinkles tomorrow to tamp down on the dust storms.
I tried not to think about hurricanes today, I really did. Every once in a while, though, the wind would blow while I was sitting in my chair looking east and I'd get that sick feeling in the pit of my stomach, thinking about the Ninth Ward filling up with water again and tornados tearing through Cajun country, just over the horizon past the beautiful sunset reflecting off the Frost Bank building.
Music we saw: Morgan Heritage, Lucinda Williams, Thievery Corporation, Spoon, and Keane. Nothing too special, although Cass really liked Keane, who struck me as one of those overly-earnest post-Coldplay Brit pop bands. They were nice enough.
Food: Quail and andouille gumbo from Prejean's (apparently it took the Prejean's crew 26 hours to drive over here from Lafayette), bratwurst, veggie burger from Waterloo, ice cream from Amy's, and a total of 11 pints of water between the two of us.
Back in the car after dark, I couldn't pick up 870 AM out of New Orleans. They've been broadcasting from Baton Rouge since Katrina, probably just lost power. Radio silence never gives you a good feeling, though.
Tomorrow we'll take the Triumph, weather permitting. The day is bookended by Tegan & Sara in the morning and Roky Erickson at night. Everything in between is up for grabs, but sweet Jesus let it not be so damn hot.
Pictures in the flickr page.
Yesterday Gina had to listen to more smug comments from some guy she works with about how "Texas knows how to prepare for a hurricane". This guy has spent the last three weeks badmouthing Ray Nagin over this mistake and that error, and yesterday he was saying "Watch how Houston does it."
Well, ain't that something.
From the Chron: Havoc from hurricane comes early to Houston's freeways
TxDOT didn't even have a plan for converting the freeways to contraflow. For crying out loud. Something that they do almost by routine in Louisiana, and Texas is making this shit up as they go. As of 3pm today, they were still trying to puzzle it out, and finally gave up on doing it at all for 290 (one of the two main highways from Houston to Austin).
The freeway is littered with cars that have broken down, cars that have run out of gas. At 3pm, KTRH 740AM reported that there was no gas to be had on 290 until you got to Hempstead, and then you could expect to wait in line for hours.
At 7am this morning, the state was "working on a plan" to get fuel to these stranded motorists. At the 7pm press conference...the plan was almost ready.
It was supposedly Democrat ineptness that caused the failure to evacuate 80,000 poor and disabled from New Orleans, but as of 7pm tonight, busses had only evacuated 6000 people from Houston.
Tick, tick, tick...
Show us how they do it in the Red States, Rickster...
what of the people who don't have what i got?
are they victims of my leisure?
to fail is to be a victim
to be a victim of my choice
maybe partying will help
After a frenzy of activity yesterday, it appears that Rita has pulled farther east, so Austin likely won't feel much more than a breezy rainy Saturday.
Houston appears to be in for it, and New Orleans looks more and more threatened. From what I've read, they're sealing off the canals from the lake to protect from storm surge, but this weakens their ability to pump out rain water, so any heavy rains from Katrina will cause renewed flooding in the usual areas (which includes some areas that were immune from the levee breach flooding).
Brother Mark's family left their new Houston home yesterday, heading for sister-in-law's house in Dallas. Mark's comment was basically "What the FUCK?!"
Charles Kuffner is also bugging out to Dallas, but will hopefully be posting from there. He's my main connection for all things Houston.
Even though this storm is hitting closer to home, and even though I lived in Houston for six years when I was a student at Rice, I don't feel as connected to this one as I did to Katrina. I don't feel as much like this is "my" hurricane. Not sure if it's because family is less involved, if it's because I lack the hometown connection, or if my synapses are just fried.
I'm going to try to enjoy ACL this weekend, although I'm not going to be able to completely escape feeling guilty about not reporting for duty at the Rita shelters. Listening to music in the park all weekend while people's homes are being destroyed, some for the second time, and while the Katrina displaced are being shuffled out of the convention center to who knows where....what right do I have to this privilege?
Rita is now a Category 5 storm, and the center of the track shows it as still being a hurricane-strength storm when it passes less than 100 miles to the east of Austin.
The City of Austin says that it is important that Austin/Travis County residents make preparations for this storm including possible loss of power and some delays in receiving safety services.
People should specifically assure that they have the following on hand: food for one week, water for three days, prescription medicines for three weeks, medical equipment and supplies for family members with special medical conditions, flashlights and extra batteries, battery powered portable radio, telephone that is not dependent on outside power (most cordless phones require power for the base station unit).
Kiss ACL 2005 goodbye, kiddos.
We interrupt the non-stop hurricane coverage to bring you Kinky's first campaign ad.
Jesus es grande!
Man, Rita has thrown a real wrench into what was going to be a fun weekend decompressing from Katrina.
Forecasters are expecting the storm to pass close to Austin as a tropical storm, with possible hurricane-strength winds in central Texas. At the very least, it is likely to be a catastrophic storm somewhere along the Texas coast, and possibly in Houston.
So it seems prudent to prepare around here. Bring in all the plants, lawn furniture, trash cans, etc. Get ready for possible downed trees and power outages. And prepare for the possibility of the kinds of shortages of food and gas currently seen in Baton Rouge if we get a huge influx of evacuees from the coast.
And just in case we get off easy, we still need to prepare for a possibly damp Austin City Limits festival, on the off chance it doesn't get cancelled.. Find ponchos and tarps instead of sunscreen and blankets, etc.
All this while the poor Katrina evacuees are being booted out of the convention center as of Friday. Right about the time we start seeing the first rain bands come ashore. CERT is trying to round up volunteers to help escort Convention Center residents through the process of checking out, and once again I feel guilty for not being able to volunteer.
Meanwhile the Houston Katrina evacuees are being shipped to Arkansas to get them out of the way of Rita. Like the lost tribes of Israel.
Sci Guy has been providing great Katrina coverage with a Houston point of view for the past few weeks.
He completely geeks out with Rita storm analysis now.
"You must swear, legally swear that you will not kill that shark, or whatever it is, if it exists."
"I'm going to find it, but I'll let it live. What about my dynamite?"
I can't believe that once in my life I actually thought Bill Murray was a Chevy Chase wannabe.
In celebration of Talk Like A Pirate day, we all sat down to watch The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou, since it has, like, actual pirates in it. Although they're all Filipino and carry machine guns, so not a lot of arrrrrr.
This movie is indescribably awkward and charming and funny and sad. Almost reminds me of Boogie Nights, in the way it portrays a grouchy but loving father-figure running a dicey business venture with a bunch of eccentric strays who he treats like family. Including a guy whose main activity consists of sitting in the background singing old Bowie songs, in French, with an acoustic guitar. Bowie does for this film what Kevin Shields did for Lost in Translation. Bowie is good.
I am now suddenly consumed with the desire to rent every single movie Bill Murray has ever made.
This was the second R-rated movie for each of the kids...Cass has seen Lost in Translation and loved it, and since when I first watched this one the other night it seemed obvious the R was mostly for the rare naked boobies and liberal cussing, we figured it was OK for her to watch. Liam just kind of tagged along because there was popcorn, but after we figured out that he was totally bored with the movie and only hanging around for the novelty of all the unbleeped F-bombs, I yanked him out and took him upstairs to watch some baseball.
The Astros were playing....
...wait for it....
A complete day.
I'm not sure I'm ready to do this all over again.
Yesterday this storm was predicted to hit the lower Texas coast, and I was OK with that. OK, I feel guilty for saying that, I don't wish a hurricane on anybody, but it's a little more sparsely populated, and there aren't a ton of those poor Katrina evacuees down there. And so maybe we could focus our prayers on keeping it a category 1 or 2 storm, instead of the predicted category 3. Maybe Austin could get a little rain out of it to cool off ACL. The power of positive thinking, all that.
But now it's drawing a bead directly on Houston. And Houston contains the largest population of displaced New Orleanians anywhere, outside of Louisiana. Houston is where my brother's family now lives, while he spends his days ripping moldy sheet rock out of his house in Metairie.
And for it to avoid Houston, it would have to pull farther north, closer to Louisiana. Mayor Nagin says today that the battered levees could be breached by as little as a 3 foot storm surge, so Rita wouldn't need to strike anywhere near New Orleans to cause a flooding repeat.
And I don't have enough positive thinking left in my arsenal. I'm wrung out.
Really, what are the chances of Camille and Alicia repeating themselves within weeks of each other?
And from the "Coincidences Too Tragic To Contemplate" department, the Austin Convention Center shelter is closing on Friday, just in time for Rita to make landfall.
FEMA, don't send engineers, don't send architects, don't send insurance adjusters. Send vast truckloads of Valium.
And send the Coast Guard. Put them in place now, please. You have almost a whole week to not fuck this up.
I'm going. Depending on what the kids have going on we might all be there.
They need volunteers and donations to help put on the event, call the number below.
A few hundred Austinites filled the rainy backyard of Lola Stephensâ€š East Austin soul food restaurant last Sunday for a live concert, contributing more than $2,500 in tips to the 20 New Orleans musicians who are currently living at the Austin Convention Center. Lola and her family and friends have scheduled a follow-up backyard benefit BBQ and concert this Sunday, Sept. 18, from 2 p.m. to 9 p.m., at her restaurant, Nubian Queen Lo-La’s Cajun, Soul Food, and BBQ Kitchen, at 1815 Rosewood (corner of Chicon).
Austin-based Jupiter Band Instruments made a major donation of brass and woodwind instruments, and several other Austin musicians have donated their own instruments. RockNRoll Rentals provided an entire sound system and installed it behind Lola’s purple and yellow restaurant. The Austin City Manager’s office arranged a Capital Metro bus to transport people from the Convention Center to and from Lola’s place less than a mile east of I-35. And many other Austin businesses and individuals generously donated goods, cash, services, and time.
Lola prepared a full Louisiana menu—including seafood jambalaya, red beans and rice, and Louisiana-style sweet potatoes and green beans, with ingredients donated by Quality Seafood Market, Boggy Creek Farm, Texas Sausage Company, and other local businesses and families.
Lola’s wish list for the Sept. 18 BBQ includes: five cases of chicken quarters; a case each of ranch-style beans and BBQ sauce which she will doctor; a 25-pound sack of rice; a half case of peaches in syrup; two trays of bread; bottled water and non-alcoholic drinks; cash for other purchases; and a new or used tuba and other instruments to match with musicians who lost their instruments in the flood.
Volunteers who would like to participate in the next benefit are asked to call Lola at 512-542-9269, or Dean Graber at 512-203-4033.
Posted on Sep 16, 2005 at 04:58 PM
Gulfsails posts this report from the Preservation Resource Center of New Orleans. Here's the lead-in, click through to get detailed neighborhood by neighborhood reports on the historic areas of the City.
Many neighborhoods in New Orleans remain intact. The Preservation Resource Center is organizing: 1) to save as many buildings as possible that suffered damage so that people can return to their homes -- many of the damaged buildings are modest homes and PRC is optimistic that with sufficient resources they can be reclaimed and restored; 2) to advocate with the National Trust and its partner organizations to secure the federal tax credit for homeowners, to secure grants for restoration of damaged properties and to loosen some of the requirements involved with tax incentives and grants; and 3) to secure funding and incentives at the state level for the restoration of damaged buildings.
We are also advocating that the rebuilding be the best possible -- stronger, higher buildings of good design that reflects the architectural traditions of our city.
We need your help in reaching the media with the message that much remains, and we want to spread the word that there is hope so that everyone will return to the city. We need your help in generating resources -- volunteer and financial -- for the restoration effort. The power of people working for their neighborhoods and to restore their homes is incredible -- PRC has a tradition of success in working with neighborhoods and we are organizing at this moment to do more than ever to make the City of New Orleans better than ever.
The PRCNO website is here, although there isn't much there yet.
Obviously I'm behind this, not only because of my ties to the city, but because I spent a lot of time getting historic landmark designation for my own house in Austin, so I'm sympathetic. There is going to be a lot of pressure from developers and from the feds to raze whole neighhborhoods and put up modern gentrified yuppie ghettos in their place.
The claims in recent days that the body count is turning out to be far lower than originally estimated (typically followed by petulant swipes at Mayor Nagin for being an alarmist) have been bugging me. It seemed to me that the hardest-hit neighborhoods would have to be searched last, since they wouldn't search an area until most of the floodwaters had receded, and so to extrapolate a total from the early numbers wouldn't make sense.
Well, guess what.
Tentative optimism that New Orleans' death toll from Hurricane Katrina might be far lower than first projected gave way to somber reality over 36 hours as search and rescue squads turned up bodies by the dozen in the hardest hit areas of the city. ...
"Parts of the city have become a target-rich environment for human remains," Hood said. "We're just now getting into the areas that experienced the most rapid inundation."
From City Pages via WWL TV blog, one of the six NOPD officers who was stationed at the Morial Convention Center during the days after the storm tells his story here.
Read the whole thing, it is harrowing stuff.
So we hunkered down again. Our hotel was at the corner of Gaiennie and Convention Center. If you walk into a door 40 feet over, there's 20,000 people. And they were not staying inside the Convention Center because of the murders and robberies going on inside there. They were all on the neutral ground staring at us. We don't have many supplies, so we're not passing shit out. We barely have enough for us to get by the next two days. Occasionally another police car would drive by and stop and ask if we were all right, then drive on. No patrol presence whatsoever.
The majority of the people were staying outside. We were hearing all kinds of horror stories from inside, murder to rape to robberies to shootings to beatings. There was no way to verify any of that stuff. Ninety-seven percent of these people were behind us. They wanted us to be the police and they loved that we were still there. We were the only police they saw for four or five days. The majority of the conversations were, "Baby, I know you're being left here just like we're being left here and you don't know anything, but if you find out something, could you tell us?" My response was, you've got the radio--you tell us what's going on. And these people would come over and give us bulletins as they heard it from the news.
Sam Flory blogs from the shelter. Updated frequently, really gives you a good view into what goes on.
Thanks to Melanie for the link.
The native New Orleans blogosphere isn't angry with Andrei Codrescu. The attitude is simply, "Fuck Codrescu. We'll rebuild without him."
How long will your house guests stay? Do you think New Orleans will eventually be rebuilt?
No. New Orleans had a great period, and now it is going to sink into some kind of glorious mess, like Venice, and become just a tourist spot. People will come to gamble in the casinos and feel the grandeur of what was once there, which the tourist bureau will do its best to recreate.
Seriously. Fuck Codrescu.
I'm at 90% now, healthwise. Being held back from the shelter by Gina, since she rightly points out that if I go down there again without a rock-solid immune system, I'll have a relapse and then I'll be sick for ACL, which would break Cassidy's heart since we have been planning this father-daughter rock-fest weekend for a year.
Work, believe it or not, has eased up a little.
Bill and Mark are back at the Metairie house this week. The water has receded, but there is a fast-growing field of mold extending about a foot above the high water mark. They spent yesterday ripping out sheetrock trying to get a jump on some demolition contractors that are going to pull apart the ground floor to see if the house needs to be razed or if they can just redo the bottom story. Mold is bad, though.
Austin CERT sent us all an email about a hiring frenzy that FEMA is going through, looking for temporary employees with expertise in a variety of fields, including architecture and historic preservation. Gina went ahead and sent them an application. We're thinking creatively right now...if the money and travel reimbursement are enough to make months away from the family worthwhile, then this would satisfy Gina's urge to get in there and contribute to the rebuilding while at the same time giving her a lay of the land and a feel for whether moving back there is a good idea for the family. Meanwhile, I wait for people to start posting actual job ads at places like Tulane and Loyola. A relaxing instructor position in a Comp Sci department almost sounds like a vacation right now.
I found a great blog of a guy who rode out the storm in New Orleans, with lots of pictures of areas where the damage isn't bad at all. Major areas of the city are close to perfectly habitable. The idea that the whole city is a wasteland that the nation should consider abandoning defies the reality on the ground.
Seriously, to all residents of Orleans and Jefferson Parishes whose zip codes have been selected... You are really not going to notice a difference from when you evacuated... other than no crime, roadblocks, soldiers with machine guns walking around, and having to go to the Convention Center (Orleans Parish only) for maybe a week until the Winn-Dixie's are open; everything physically is almost normal. The only thing we're missing is people, the community.
Seriously again, large parts of Jeff Parish are already back online. The streets are clean, the neighborhoods safe and everything is under control. Heck you can even go buy a car now if you want. Orleans is NOT far behind.
Moreover, despite the losses, there are still some MAJOR misconceptions about what has happened down here. I drove throughout Uptown and the Garden District again today, and then I ventured my furthest downriver to date. I hit the CBD, Marigny and the French Quarter. In all areas, yet again I was shocked by the lack of damage and looting. I expected rampant lawlessness and trashing of buildings. The L.A. riots were probably much worse. The real looting happened on Canal St. and at several bars - seeking cash from the video poker machines. I can't say it enough, it is not what I understood as portrayed by the national media.
Click through to Gulfsails to see heartening pictures of the Marigny and Commander's Palace and other bright spots.
Chuck writes a eulogy for St. Bernard Parish:
St. Bernard Parish. (1788-2005) It's gone, pretty much. The Isleños arrived from the Canary Islands, and settled in Delacroix, Yscloskey, Hope Beach, Reggio and Shell Beach. People migrated from New Orleans to "da Parish", to Chalmette and Arabi, Violet, Podyras and Meraux. The thick Nint' Ward accent got even thicker in Chalmette and Arabi. Local food, especially of the Creole-Italian and fried seafood variety, flourished there. It has a rich history as well, being the site of the legendary Battle of New Orleans in 1814...
And now it's gone. And I miss them all so much already.
Click through, he's got pictures of Rocky & Carlo's from before the hurricane.
There are so many stories like this, of so many neighborhoods. But St. Bernard's suffering has been outside the public eye, because only the locals really grok the concept, and only the locals know how badly the parish was hammered.
My posting has slowed down considerably, which I hope is understandable. Right now I'm kind of out of things to say. I have only limited patience for the news media and the talking heads. Because of my health I'm not likely going to be going back to the shelter any time soon, and I'm trying to focus my limited energy on my job and my family now (who themselves are getting sick).
Part of me feels guilty about that. Because when I get exhausted, when I get sick, I can just go home and rest up, but those people in Louisiana, and those people in the shelters...they don't get a break. They don't get to just go home and rest up. Their situation is what it is.
At the drugstore the other day I ran into somebody wearing a blue City of Austin shelter badge and I felt compelled to go up and talk to her. Because lately I've felt like the only people I can really relate to, other than my good friends, are people who have worked at the shelter. Austin is back to being obsessed with Longhorn football and software releases and the usual stuff of normal life, and I don't feel ready to go back to a normal life yet. But only other volunteers understand that.
Turns out this woman is a crisis counselor, so we ended up spending a couple of hours at Spiderhouse talking over coffees. She's trying to organize counseling for the volunteers, because she says a lot of them are showing signs of what I think she called "secondary post traumatic stress", or something like that. A common syndrome among people who work closely with disaster victims.
Since I don't have much to share, I thought I'd point you to a recent post at Electric Mist, which is a great blog by Toni who has been back and forth between Baton Rouge and the North Shore in the aftermath. She's one of the ones who gets it. Click through to read the whole thing, read her whole blog even, but here's a snippet:
When I went to the shelter Saturday, I asked the Red Cross Volunteer (who'd arrived on day seven, three days later) if FEMA had shown up. She said they had driven by once and dropped off some ice (which was gone in an hour) and they hadn't been back. At that point, it was day twelve.
The newspaper, the following day, showed another city entirely forgotten: Bogalusa. No one had been there, no one had called, no supplies, lots and lots of damage.
I don't understand these things. I know I live in America. Well, last time I checked, Louisiana was still in America. Maybe something happened somewhere that someone forgot to mention to us, but yeah, pretty sure we're still in America. And the magnitude of the inept response (including local) is staggering.
It was like watching someone I love get gutted and lie there bleeding and knowing that help was standing a few feet away, talking about golf scores.
So many things that I miss from New Orleans were gone before the hurricane anyway. McKenzie's Bakery. K&B purple. Those giant Schwegmanns bags. The Robert E. Lee theatre. The old falling down abandoned Jax Brewery. The old rail yards that used to sit between the Canal St. ferry and the French Quarter, where the aquarium is now. Al Scramuzza and Wild Bill Watson and Hap Glaudi and Buddy Diliberto.
I graduated from high school in 1982. Last time I lived there was the summer of 1984, renting a room in Mark's frat house near Tulane and taking the streetcar to my engraving job at a trophy shop down off Magazine Street. Spending all my nights trying to sneak into Jimmy's without paying, or that other club a few blocks away (Jeds? Tupelos? It's had so many names by now.) I saw a news report that a body has been laying in the street near Fern and S. Carrollton for more than a week. Just two or three blocks from Jimmy's. Probably right near that bookstore that we used to walk to from my high school at lunch time.
My high school moved out to the lakefront about 10 or 15 years ago. The lakefront campus is underwater now. The old courthouse where it used to be, where the streetcar turns the corner at St. Charles and Carrollton...I still haven't checked yet to see if it flooded. That building dates from before the Civil War, and I can't bear to think it might be torn down.
I didn't even know the Robert E. Lee closed. I saw The Kids Are Alright there when I was 16, kicking off an obsession with The Who that didn't subside until I discovered Joy Division. I saw Decline and Fall of Western Civilization there with my girlfriend Lynelle. I first saw Rocky Horror there. So the theatre's been gone for 10 years. And now the place itself is underwater.
What about Hubig's Pies? The Camelia Grill? Parasol's? Bud's Broiler? The Hummingbird? What about that guest apartment we stayed at on Napoleon when we took the kids to their first Mardi Gras a few years ago, when they said Mardi Gras was better than Disney World?
My very first concert was in the Superdome. 1980. Louisiana's 2nd Annual Day of Rock'n'Roll. The Eagles, Cheap Trick, and Foreigner. All the big arena shows that I saw, including the Stones, were at the Dome. I remember at the Rolling Stones I took my girlfriend at the time and we got completely smashed on strawberry dacquiris, because there was this one dacquiri stand there where the guy was cool and he could see I was trying to get my date drunk and he knew that was more important than checking ID. I was 16. She was 14. Big deal. It was New Orleans. Hell, we drink at kids parties there.
The Superdome will be torn down, apparently.
There's another news report of a body in the 4200 block of Laurel. A couple of blocks from where the uptown krewes assemble before the parades near Napoleon and Tchoupitoulas. That would be a neighbor of Rickey and G-man. If Rickey and G-man were real people. That poor person in the street sure was.
I was talking in email with an old college friend of mine a few months ago, and she reminded me of a time in the late 80's when we had all driven over from Houston to go to Mardi Gras, and I took her on this semi-sober late night driving tour of spots from my childhood. Houses I lived in. Places I worked. Places I took dates to. Bars and clubs I hung out at. I wonder if I took that tour today, how many of those places would be gone?
I was born in Boston, so I sometimes feel a little funny calling myself a New Orleans "native". We moved to New Orleans when I was 7, and I'll admit, I have roots in Massachusetts that pull on me pretty hard. But I always used to say, the place where I'm from, the place I call home, is the place where I first learned to drive, where I had my first shitty minimum wage job, where I lost my virginity. Not the place where I was born, but the place where I, literally, grew up.
Many of those locations are underwater. Many of them will never be the same again if they still exist.
Anyway, Jette got me thinking about all this stuff. Go click that link above. She doesn't think so, but it's moving and eloquent and perfect.
Today Gina and I discussed the subject of moving back to New Orleans.
I don't mean the topic of whether the evacuees should move back to New Orleans.
I mean, should Ray and Gina maybe think about packing up the kids and moving there?
This came up as Gina was wistfully window-shopping overseas real estate while listening to the Roberts nomination hearings. Furnished apartments in Paris, in case you didn't know, go for US$3000. But this got us back to the topic of New Orleans, and her desire to contribute her architectural services to the rebuilding effort, to make sure that whatever gets built there won't be some butt-ugly urban-renewal crap.
I say, "Well, New Orleans was cheaper than Austin even before Katrina. Now it's going to be cheaper still. And compared to Texas, property taxes don't even exist there. And I know where the good magnet schools are, so we wouldn't have to worry about private school."
"But you wouldn't be able to find software work there."
And then the light went on in both of our heads.
Of course, I wouldn't be able to find work there...if I stayed in the software biz.
But what have I been talking about for months now but my desire to get out of the software biz and somehow get into something else?
Is it remotely possible that the cut in pay I would take would be made up for by Gina's drastic increase in business and the savings from lower taxes and a lower cost of living?
I feel like New Orleans might be on the verge of a great renaissance, and part of me just doesn't want to miss it.
Something to ponder. We're not talking about it seriously, yet, don't worry. But it's got me thinking.
I got a lot sicker over the weekend, so I'm still home in bed. At this rate I don't think I'll be back at work until Wednesday or later, and not back to the shelter before Thursday or Friday.
A few other computer volunteers there have also turned up sick with chest colds. Could be something from the shelter, could also be just coincidence. School started a couple of weeks ago so we're all swapping our summer vacation germs with each other anyway.
Gina has been volunteering and says that since Friday they've gotten real serious about sanitation at the computers. Volunteers will frequently go down the line and wipe down keyboards and mice with sanitary wipes, and there are bottles of Purelle all over the place.
Things overall have slowed down at the convention center. There are about 1500 residents remaining, from a high of 4200. Still lots of confusion about FEMA applications, but there are FEMA people there at least (finally!) to help them get their benefits.
If you are able to help out with the public internet computers at the shelter, especially during normal M-F business hours when the volunteer pool is thin, you can learn more about volunteering here:
Pay close attention to the instructions for scheduling and getting a wristband. Security has really tightened up the last couple of days due to incursions by ambulance chasers and by scammers trying to get fraudulent disaster benefits.
If you do sign up for this, be sure to subscribe to the Katrina IT volunteer mailing list:
That page also has a link to the mailing list archives, in case you're curious about the daily updates and frustrations and successes that we have been having.
Finally, in happyland, I heard from the girl I talked about in this post, who was missing most of her family. I had chased down a couple of leads for her, and I'm not sure if my leads led to the final result, but she has located her family. Her mom apparently had to be airlifted from New Orleans to the hospital in Laplace due to dehydration, but they are all safe now at an aunt's house in Mississippi.
She sent me a very sweet email which I think I will save forever.
BATON ROUGE, La. — Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown, the singer and guitarist who built a 50-year career playing blues, country, jazz and Cajun music, died Saturday in his hometown of Orange, Texas, where he had gone to escape Hurricane Katrina. He was 81.
Brown, who had been battling lung cancer and heart disease, was in ill health for the past year, said Rick Cady, his booking agent.
Cady said the musician was with his family at his brother's house when he died. Brown's home in Slidell, La., a bedroom community of New Orleans, was destroyed by Katrina, Cady said.
"He was completely devastated," Cady said. "I'm sure he was heartbroken, both literally and figuratively. He evacuated successfully before the hurricane hit, but I'm sure it weighed heavily on his soul."
Gina says that all the TVs at the convention center were tuned to the Saints vs Panthers. Probably the same everywhere in Texas. Same here at my house.
Tied 20-20. 10 seconds left on the clock in the fourth quarter. The Saints are within field goal range.
And the local Fox affiliate just cut away to the Cowboys game.
While touring the Reliant shelter in Houston (Houston Chronicle, via Wonkette):
While on the tour with top administration officials from Washington, including U.S. Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao and U.S. Treasury Secretary John W. Snow, DeLay stopped to chat with three young boys resting on cots.
The congressman likened their stay to being at camp and asked, "Now tell me the truth boys, is this kind of fun?"
They nodded yes, but looked perplexed.
[I'm not really disobeying doctors orders, I'm going to bed as soon as the Red Sox finish reviving the Curse.]
Now I know why the pastor was so insistent about me getting my sore throat checked out. Kept saying "there's lots of bad stuff going around those shelters".
1:13 P.M. - HOUSTON (AP): Doctors at the Houston refugee complex housing thousands of Hurricane Katrina evacuees have contained a viral outbreak.
Authorities say the illness caused diarrhea and vomiting among hundreds of those seeking shelter.
The Harris County Public Health and Emergency Services today reports about 700 people have been treated, with 40 still in isolation to contain the virus.
While the noro-virus was relatively mild, doctors took extra precautions to keep it from running rampant.
The approximately 3,000 refugees remaining in the dome are using public restrooms and showers. Cots are lined in close rows.
The sick were quarantined until they had gone 48 hours without symptoms.
I've been feeling pretty wiped out most of the past few days, only really energized and happy when I'm at the shelter, and I think that was mostly adrenaline. Last night I didn't leave until well after midnight and did some more people-search homework when I got home (didn't want to let Pastor Hargrove down, y'know) and my throat was starting to hurt.
Well, doctor says I have a sinus infection and a chest rattle that is one step away from full-blown pneumonia. I've been overdoing it. So I've got some meds and I've got strict orders, "48 hours of bed rest, 8 hours of sleep a night, lots of fluids, stay away from those immunosuppressed people at the shelter, stay out of the heat, and no Little League."
When she said no more shelter work til Monday at the earliest, I started to cry, and she hugged me. Grown men crying seems to be the theme of the week, eh, Chuck?
But I said that might work out because I have some people I can still look for on the computer from home and she said "well if you're going to be up half the night on the computer you're not doing what I told you." Uh, has my wife been talking to you?
So I'm taking a break. From the shelter. From my beautiful missing families. I'm going to really really try to stay away from the blog as well, and to not watch TV.
You folks are the best. Really. Thanks for being there for me.
I'll be back soon.
Sent back to Washington, which is way too good for him.
If it was up to me, he'd be doing body recovery in the Lower Ninth Ward, with no waders.
It drives me crazy that people are still creating and advertising their own homemade Katrina missing-persons databases. More databases make our job harder, not easier.
The fact that CNN is still saying "look for your loved ones on CNN.com" and MSNBC is still saying "look for your loved ones on MSNBC.com" is maddening. CNN and MSNBC don't give a fuck about the realities of actually connecting families, they are just interested in looking like they are helping, and driving traffic to their sites. If they want to actually HELP us, direct people to redcross.org.
The only good new development in databases are the aggregator ones that are collecting info from all the disparate locations and letting you search all of it at one time. Lycos has one, and now Yahoo has one that rocks:
The people search is obsessing me. I bring homework home and work on it late into the night. I think I found another one last night, waiting on a confirmation. But it's the ones that you don't find that are haunting. I know the day is coming when they will start putting the deceased database on-line and we will have to start searching there too, and I dread it.
Let me put in a plug here for a Pastor Hargrove of Austin TX. This man is one of those bad-ass drill sergeant kind of preachers. Ray Nagin with a Bible. He was at the shelter late into the night, grabbing whatever remaining volunteers he could find and saying "here, you need to help this person", and sticking around and taking notes himself on everything you did. Christianity needs more dudes like this. If I see much more of him I might actually get inspired to go back to church.
I talked to a girl who survived four days at the N.O. Convention Center. She put down $200 a month as her income on her FEMA application. She knew her way around the internet though, didn't need any help at all. Her mom, her sister, her niece are all missing, last known whereabouts at the Superdome.
I talked to a guy who was at the N.O. Convention Center for three days but refused to eat the looted food because the Lord did not provide that food to him and it was not his to take. He was on the very first bus out. He is quite certain that the Lord put him on the first bus as a reward for keeping the commandments. I could listen to that guy talk all day.
This link here takes you to a webapp that gives you flood depth information just by clicking on a map of New Orleans. It uses Google maps combined with satellite and LIDAR data to give an average flood depth within a 100x100 foot region around the point where you click.
This is really cool, since it gives you a real number instead of just fuzzy satellite photos.
I spot-checked it with my brother's eyewitness report of the water depth at his house in Old Metairie and it was pretty close to accurate.
I'm starting to see a divide over the question of moving back and rebuilding.
I'm not talking about asshats like Dennis Hastert who question whether the city should be rebuilt at all. Hastert is a menace and ought to be quietly led away. I mean a divide amongst the evacuees on whether they personally want to go back and rebuild.
From what I see and hear, it seems like the people who got out before the storm want to rebuild. They love their city. They're dying to get back in there and see what's left and show the world how it can be done. Upper and middle class people, a lot of them. Business owners. Restaurant owners. The kind of people who have to buy in to make it happen.
But when I talk to people at the shelter, it's a different story. These are the people who rode through the hurricane, who went through the hell that we saw snippets of on TV last week. Let me tell you, what was on TV is the sanitized family hour version of what these people went through. And none of them want to go back. Not because New Orleans is not worth rebuilding, not just because they have nothing left. But because they don't think they will ever get out of their minds the things that they saw there, and they don't ever want to see those places again.
"The horror". That's the phrase you hear at the Austin shelter over and over and over. They don't want to go back, any more than a WWII veteran wants to live in Bastogne. They want to know what the jobs are like here, how much apartments cost here. They want to know if everyone in Austin is as nice as the people working at the shelter.
And these people are the poor, the working class, who really give New Orleans its flavor. It's hard to describe what I'm talking about, and I hope I don't put my foot in my mouth here. But there are some cities, Austin being a good example, that just "feel" like they are defined by their middle class. And New Orleans is not one of those cities, not like Austin. It has a different "feel", as Tom Waits would say. If you just lop off the poorest 20% of the population of New Orleans, if those people become the permanent diaspora, and New Orleans thus becomes more of a middle-class kind of town, then you have fundamentally changed the character of the city.
The analogy maybe sucks, but it'd be like a gumbo without a roux.
Not to mention the practical aspects of it. If the Brennan family wants to re-open, that's all well and good, and God I hope they do. But if their line cooks, their dishwashers, their busboys and waiters and the cabbies who bring the tourists and the guys who drive the delivery trucks for the purveyors and all those other people, if they don't move back and don't ever want to move back...well, it's gonna be kind of hard to run a restaurant. Even if the tourists are willing.
And if the New Orleans diaspora stays away, it may actually be good for Austin. God, I love those people at the Convention Center, and part of me hopes a lot of them stay, shake up the provincial attitudes of this town with their crazy ways and their love for life.
But if that pattern is repeated all over the country, and thousands stay in Austin, in Houston, in Memphis, in San Antonio...I worry what will happen to the social fabric of my hometown.
I don't know the answers. I don't really even know the question, I guess, I'm just kind of wondering out loud, and maybe tomorrow I won't be worrying about this at all.
My brothers Mark and Bill went into Metairie yesterday to survey the damage and salvage what they could from Mark's house. I had a very brief talk with Mark yesterday (brief because he was breathing hard from working) and a longer talk with my sister-in-law Anne today.
Miracle of miracles, I reached Anne on her 504 cell phone. Shitty connection, but enough to talk.
The report is they got 3-4 feet of water in the house, but it dropped a couple of inches while they were there. Mark believes the house will have to be condemned. They met a neighbor who had a flat boat so they were able to ferry a fair amount of stuff from the house to the U-haul truck on the highway without having to carry it blocks and blocks through the water. They salvaged clothes and toys from upstairs, most of the pictures from the walls, and the wedding silver from upstairs. The wedding china got wet, it was downstairs in a sideboard, but they packed it up and will think about the right way to clean it later.
Anne thought that maybe once the power comes on and the AC comes on, they can get in there and do more work, and I pointed out to her that the AC units have been sitting underwater for a week so they're, uh, not high-functioning machines anymore.
My nephews had two rough days at their new school in Houston, lots of tears, so today they're taking a sick day. They slept really really late. All parents know this, but for those of you who don't: when a 7 year old and an 8 year old boy both want to sleep past 10:00AM, you know they're hurting.
Mark and Bill are back in Baton Rouge now, but I haven't talked to them yet. Dialing a 225 number gets you the "Due to the hurricane, all circuits are busy" message 99 times out of a hundred. Mark told me Bill fell into the water, so I'm worried about him getting sick, but other than that, everybody is safe again.
""I don't believe in accidents. We're here for a reason," he said. "The Great Spirit took the gumbo from New Orleans and poured it all over Texas."
We've got Cyril Neville, the Iguanas, Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown, Basin Street Records, and members of the Dirty Dozen Brass Band and Irma Thomas' band residing in Austin now.
Percussionist Cyril Neville of New Orleans' first family of soul said the decision to move to Austin, where he and his family waited out two previous hurricanes, was an easy one.
"Some of my fondest memories of playing music are in Austin, going back to the Meters playing Soap Creek and then the Neville Brothers at Liberty Lunch," said the new South Austinite, who wasted no time feeling at home, jamming at Antone's on Monday night with Papa Mali and the house blues band. "Austin's the only city I know of where I could pick up the same vibe as New Orleans. You don't have to instruct the musicians here or tell them what key the song is in."
Maybe ACL can be a little more funkified this year.
From The Interdictor, where they've been blogging and camming from downtown New Orleans since the beginning:
Sometime around midnight, a squad of 82nd Airborne guys accompanied by a US Marshall busted into our Data Center with their M4-A1s to investigate the lights and movement. Personally, I know they were just bored -- there's no way they honestly thought there was some kind of threat up here just yards away from several huge military and police presences. Anyway, they came up and demanded to account for us all. That means they told Donny, who was still up, to come wake up Crys and me in the side closet room type area where we sleep. I could hear Donny telling them that I was exSpecial Forces as he came to get me. He stuck his head in and explained the situation while I made Crys get up and get dressed. We came out and I gave the Marshall a sheepish look which said was this really enough fun for to relieve your boredom? He kind of knew they shouldn't be up here -- I think it was Crystal's being here which really made him snap out of it. He began apologizing and I could tell the yound soldiers with him were really shy about having seen Crystal come out too.
But I didn't let them all off that easily. "Hey, I understand. I know you guys are just doing your job." He kept apologizing. Then I put them to work. "So wait, how did you get up here anyway? We locked this building down....
The Marshall claimed that one of the emergency exits -- the one on the Lafayette Square side had been open. I knew this was bullshit. For one thing, Sig and I tied down and concealed that door. It would have taken a group of guys to open it. For another Lafayette Square is to the south of our building. The only lights visisble are from Poydras to the north. Am I to believe that they bypassed the obvious entrances (also locked down) to look for one they didn't even know existed and it just happened to be open?
No, they searched for a way in, and by the time they got around back and found the emergency exit, they were ready to break in, so they did.
"Wait, we secured that exit. That means that this building might have other people in it," I told them.
They all knew what was coming next. If it was their job to check on lights and movement to look for people who didn't belong there....
I asked them to sweep the building for us.
And they did. All 27 floors of it with no elevators.
If you want to play soldier with me, I will make you play it a lot longer than you had in mind.
Crystal and I went back to bed secure in the knowledge that a US Marshall and a squad from the 82nd Airborne cleared 27 floors and the roof of our temporary residence. And then they secured the door they must have spent 45 minutes breaking into.
Most restful sleep I've had all week.
Good morning, world.
I got a call back from the Search and Rescue guy who did our SAR training last month. He said they're not planning to send anybody in from here right away, mainly because the logistics on the other end need to be sorted out. We can't just show up and offer our services without knowing how we will eat, where we will sleep, how we can be transported, etc.
He says he will call me back if something opens up in a couple of weeks.
There are signs up everywhere saying "FEMA will be here TUESDAY to answer your questions". People were asking me "Do they mean next Tuesday, 'cause I didn't know they were here today."
I said I didn't know, but I asked around.
Turns out those signs went up on Sunday, but Tuesday just came and went, and no FEMA.
Apparently there is a big room in the center that was emptied out and set up to prepare it to be FEMA's computer center. It is currently ready to be occupied, but devoid of people. (I haven't seen it, but I was told about it by some fellow volunteers who used to use it as a quiet hideaway before they were booted out of it.)
The center is full of City of Austin employees, Austin cops, Austin firefighters, Austin EMS, Austin doctors and nurses, Austin Red Cross volunteers, Austin techies, Austin citizens...but the only way you can talk to FEMA if you're an evacuee guest of Austin is to fill out a form on their web site.
AA meetings are being held daily at the Austin Convention Center shelter, outside the doors of the Medical Triage room.
The schedule that is posted there reads as follows:
After being turned away once, I finally got through the volunteer checkin gauntlet and got to spend five hours tonight as a roaming help desk with the public internet access that has been set up in the Convention Center by Austin Free-net and the City of Austin. I've got a City of Austin All-Access badge now, so I'll be able to get in more reliably.
The hard part will be staying away and paying attention to my job and my family. It gets under your skin, you don't want to leave.
God, those people in the convention center. They're awesome. A lot of them, they have nothing. And they are all so nice. So friendly. So grateful.
It's a big reality check, though. You who are tech-savvy, who read the internet as naturally as breathing, who blog and email and surf and hack...you have no idea how lucky you are.
Certainly, there are people in the shelter who have tech skills. I saw people cranking away at email, at websites. And lots of the kids are all over disney.com and cartoonnetwork.com and looking up hip-hop websites. There's even one kid, Denzel, maybe 9 years old, who is working up at the registration entering new volunteers into the database. He gave me my wristband. He's cool.
But then there are people who can't use the computer at all. Some of them, you can tell they're not completely comfortable with the written word, and you kind of have to figure out how to gently suggest that you can help them out by typing for them without letting on that you noticed.
I signed up one woman for her very first email address. She has never used the internet before. She was born the same year as me.
The digital divide is right there at the convention center, plain as day. You can't escape it any more.
But then there was the guy, lost everything except his cell phone and his charger. "You remembered your charger? Shit, I forget that just when I go on vacation." He was whipping the online chess game's ass, wishing there was somebody else around who could play chess with him, til he finally got a crazy sushi craving and asked me to direct him to the nearest sushi restaurant. He was definitely a trip.
An hour later, I helped a guy sign up for a yahoo account, and when he got to the part when they ask you the secret question in case you forget your password, he said "put down favorite activity: chess".
I met two chess geeks the same night. What are the chances?
And I did the greatest thing I think I have ever done all year, maybe all decade. I tracked down a woman's teenage son on the internet. He's in a shelter in another city in Texas. We're getting a message to him so that he can know that his mama is OK in Austin.
We still need to find his brother, though. Which is what I'm doing now, at home on my own computer on my own fast network.
I brought homework home from the shelter, you believe that shit?
Everybody from New Orleans knows who Blaine Kern is. Everybody who has ever been to Mardi Gras knows him even if they don't recognize the name. Blaine Kern's company manufactures all the floats for just about every Mardi Gras krewe in New Orleans and the surrounding areas. Here's what he had to say according to WWLTV.com:
11:39 A.M. - Blaine Kern, Mardi Gras World: Mardi Gras will be hurt this year, but it will come back bigger and better than ever. I'll be helping anybody get their parade on the streets.
11:38 A.M. - Kern: Not sure if people in smaller parade clubs will be able to pay their dues. Haven’t talked to any of the captains of any parade krewes. The major krewes may hopefully roll.
11:37 A.M. - Kern: There’ll be a Mardi Gras, if I have anything to say about it.
The traditions of New Orleans can't be killed. Whether through stubborness, spite, or just because it makes good business sense, these institutions are going to come back.
This is so dead-on perfect I want to cry.
"We drink at funerals." Ha!
From the Times-Picayune:
I suppose we should introduce ourselves: We're South Louisiana.
We have arrived on your doorstep on short notice and we apologize for that, but we never were much for waiting around for invitations. We're not much on formalities like that.
And we might be staying around your town for a while, enrolling in your schools and looking for jobs, so we wanted to tell you a few things about us. We know you didn't ask for this and neither did we, so we're just going to have to make the best of it.
First of all, we thank you. For your money, your water, your food, your prayers, your boats and buses and the men and women of your National Guards, fire departments, hospitals and everyone else who has come to our rescue.
We're a fiercely proud and independent people, and we don't cotton much to outside interference, but we're not ashamed to accept help when we need it. And right now, we need it.
Just don't get carried away. For instance, once we get around to fishing again, don't try to tell us what kind of lures work best in your waters.
We're not going to listen. We're stubborn that way.
You probably already know that we talk funny and listen to strange music and eat things you'd probably hire an exterminator to get out of your yard.
We dance even if there's no radio. We drink at funerals. We talk too much and laugh too loud and live too large and, frankly, we're suspicious of others who don't.
But we'll try not to judge you while we're in your town.
Everybody loves their home, we know that. But we love South Louisiana with a ferocity that borders on the pathological. Sometimes we bury our dead in LSU sweatshirts.
Often we don't make sense. You may wonder why, for instance - if we could only carry one small bag of belongings with us on our journey to your state - why in God's name did we bring a pair of shrimp boots?
We can't really explain that. It is what it is.
You've probably heard that many of us stayed behind. As bad as it is, many of us cannot fathom a life outside of our border, out in that place we call Elsewhere.
The only way you could understand that is if you have been there, and so many of you have. So you realize that when you strip away all the craziness and bars and parades and music and architecture and all that hooey, really, the best thing about where we come from is us.
We are what made this place a national treasure. We're good people. And don't be afraid to ask us how to pronounce our names. It happens all the time.
When you meet us now and you look into our eyes, you will see the saddest story ever told. Our hearts are broken into a thousand pieces.
But don't pity us. We're gonna make it. We're resilient. After all, we've been rooting for the Saints for 35 years. That's got to count for something.
OK, maybe something else you should know is that we make jokes at inappropriate times.
But what the hell.
And one more thing: In our part of the country, we're used to having visitors. It's our way of life.
So when all this is over and we move back home, we will repay to you the hospitality and generosity of spirit you offer to us in this season of our despair.
That is our promise. That is our faith.
Chris Rose can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
From Cari comes this story of one professor making explicit the connection that many of us have not yet fully made in our own minds.
...well...OK, I removed what I originally wrote about her, because her own words damn her so much better than my insults.
"And so many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway, so this--this (she chuckles slightly) is working very well for them."
My old friend Mike Johnson sent me this email he got from his dad Walt, which describes Walt's experiences during Betsy and Camille. It's pretty fascinating.
Posted with permission, although I should point out that he wrote this last Monday afternoon when it still looked like New Orleans might have dodged the worst of it.
As the news coverage of Katrina reminds us of Betsy and Camille, I thought maybe you'd be interested in a bit more personal recollection of those two storms.
I very much remember riding out Betsy under an overpass off Wisner
Blvd... Started the day filling sandbags out on the levee east of the
old Lakefront Airport. A crew of 35-35 were atop an open gondola rail
car filled with sand, shoveling as fast as we could. The locomotive
would come back every hour or so and move us a little further down the
About mid-afternoon, we all were glad to see a Red Cross canteen pull
up and we all surrounded it to get a coke or cup of coffee.. I can't
tell you how disgusted I was to find they were charging for everything,
coke, coffee, even water... (and this was before they had individual
bottles of water on the market). I forget it if was 25¢ or 50¢, but
almost no one was in the mood for buying...
Finally, as Betsy raced closer and daylight faded, they trucked us all
back to the airport hanger, where we continued filling sandbags under
the pale lights in the hanger. I suspect they had an emergency
generator. Finally with a roar, we saw big sheets of corrugated tin
roofing peeled off, the beginning of the end for the hanger roof. I
don't remember the time.
We were piled into the back of a levee board dump truck and sandbagged
in to keep us from being blown out of the truck. They drove us over to
the Wisner Blvd overpass and backed the truck underneath, so we were
protected, but still could get out if it started flooding.
There were probably a dozen of us in the back of the dump truck plus a
couple levee board guys in the cab of the truck. We slept fitfully
until the first light of dawn, then I hoofed it back to my apartment on
Broadway to see what little damage I sustained... a couple tree
branches down was about all.
I gave a friend of mine who was in his senior year at Tulane Med School
a ride down to Municipal Auditorium. The Red Cross was on every radio
station urging 'All Medical Personnel' to report to the Municipal
Auditorium to help with refugees from the storm. When I caught up with
him three or four days later, he sat around there twiddling his thumbs
for three or four hours with nothing to do... Seems Red Cross just
wanted to sound important so they could put out an 'urgent plea' for
$$$ to help the refugees... same old same old.
A friend of mine was climbing the walls worried about her parents down
in Lower 9th Ward, which was flooded, so I set off to find out if they
were okay... Just getting close to the area was tough, with large areas
flooded. One of the levees collapsed (later there were claims it had
been dynamited, but the claims were never substantiated) so it was swim
a few blocks, slosh a few blocks, swim and few more, etc. Loved the few
overpasses since at least they were dry.
It was scary, trudging chin-deep in water. The Civil Defense guy (at
least he was wearing some sort of arm band of sorts) at the staging
area by the St Claude Bridge (or maybe it was the Industrial Canal)
urged us to make some noise or chatter, so no one would mistake us for
possible looters. When I'd get to the end of each block, I'd have to
swim a few strokes until it got shallow enough to walk again and keep
my head above water. I'd pass folks sitting on their front porch, with
shotgun in hand, silently keeping watch over the neighborhood.
I finally found my friend's parents... they had taken refuge in a
neighbor's two story house. The first floor of their house had been
flooded, but otherwise okay. As I made my back to dry land, I was happy
to stumble across a Salvation Army canteen trailer, handing out cups of
Later that evening I'll always remember walking into a bar (maybe off
Elysian Fields) waist deep in water, but the bar is open, serving
slightly cool beer. The bar was lined with locals exchanging their
horror stories of the storm.
By the way... don't know what to make of the news about reports of
looting supermarkets... It was a common practice that when it became
apparent in the 11th hour before the storm hits, many supermarkets
opened their doors and passed word throughout the neighborhoods... they
figured any flooding would render all their food products a complete
loss... (They'd cart the cash registers to high ground and lock up any
liquor or beer...)
Betsy had a storm surge of 20 ft and they were expecting Katrina to
surge to 28 ft... I'm glad it slid east enough to spare the city the
worst. I was worried the counterclockwise wind patterns would push Lake
Pontchartrain up over the levees, but it looks like they came out
Folks are saying the Gulf Coast 'took the full brunt of the storm'.
After Betsy, city neighborhoods were covered with water for more than a
week before you could even get into some neighborhoods. Six to eight
hours after Camille slammed ashore over Pass Christian, Biloxi, and
Gulfport, I flew into Gulfport on a whirlwind race to get photos for
the Associated Press and get out. None of the streets were flooded, no
neighborhoods had standing water other than minor puddles.
Oh, they had plenty of structural damage... extensive... but nothing
like the flood damage after Betsy...
The destruction of Camille was more like damage from tornadoes, quick,
severe, erratic. Homes completely swept away, leaving only a concrete
foundation. Others torn apart, ripped in half, with interior walls laid
open and bare as if the house had been cut in half. One of the most
memorable pix was of a shrimp boat sitting astride the median of
four-lane highway 90... Seems every photog got shots of that one in the
months before they were able to get it moved.
Whole sections of the four-lane concrete superhighway were ripped away,
with a yawning space of sand and debris filling its place. Or tilting
on a precarious angle, as if a youngster playing with tinker toys had
not decided where to put it.
Sigh... brings back a lot of memories...
When the going gets tough, and the tough can't get going because FEMA's head is too far up their asses to mobilize the tough, and the tough want to take a brain-break from the Red Cross, the tough start cooking.
Crawfish etouffee. I made it Alex Patout-style, no roux but a shitload of butter. In cast iron, 'cause it makes the onions super sweet.
My very first post on Katrina was at 7am on last Sunday morning, when I first saw that the storm was still on track to hit New Orleans and was now a category 5 hurricane.
That post had a link to an NPR story from last year about the possible consequences of such a storm, a story that has proven to be all too accurate.
Those of you who aren't locals are fairly familiar with Walter Maestri now. He was the first Jefferson Parish official I heard crying on the radio a few days ago (Aaron Broussard yesterday was the second). Refresh your memory with what he told NPR last year, and keep this in mind whenever you hear a federal official say that the Katrina disaster was unexpected.
And just across the Mississippi River, Walter Maestri is struggling to help New Orleans prepare. Maestri is the czar of public emergencies in Jefferson Parish (that's the county that sprawls across a third of the metropolitan area). He points to a map of the region on the wall of his command post. "A couple of days ago," explains Maestri, "We actually had an exercise where we brought a fictitious Category Five Hurricane into the metropolitan area."
The map is covered with arrows and swirls in erasable marker. They show how the fictitious hurricane crossed Key West and then smacked into New Orleans.
When the computer models showed Maestri what would happen next, he wrote big letters on the map, all in capitals.
"KYAGB—kiss your ass good bye," reads Maestri.
"Because," says Maestri, "anyone who was here when that storm came across was gone—it was body-bag time. We think 40,000 people could lose their lives in the metropolitan area."
And some scientists say that figure is conservative. People have known for centuries that New Orleans is a risky spot — the biggest river in North America wraps around it; and most of the land is below sea level. But researchers say they've been learning just how grave the problem is, only in the last few years. And they say the city and the nation aren't prepared to handle it.
It was their job to know. But FEMA, Chertoff, Brown, Bush...they didn't know. They didn't do their jobs. They just didn't.
"Saturday and Sunday, we thought it was a typical hurricane situation -- not to say it wasn't going to be bad, but that the water would drain away fairly quickly," Federal Emergency Management Agency Director Mike Brown said today. "Then the levees broke and (we had) this lawlessness. That almost stopped our efforts." ...
"Katrina was much larger than we expected," he said.
The Irish Trojan gives good rant on this topic.
How could Brown have not known this? I knew this on Sunday morning before I'd even had my first cup of coffee, and it's NOT EVEN MY FUCKING JOB TO KNOW!
3:32 P.M. Ben Morris, Slidell mayor: We are still hampered by some of the most stupid, idiotic regulations by FEMA. They have turned away generators, we've heard that they've gone around seizing equipment from our contractors. If they do so, they'd better be armed because I'll be damned if I'm going to let them deprive our citizens. I'm pissed off, and tired of this horse$#@@."
3:11 P.M. - From all corners of this country, hundreds of would-be rescuers are wending their way to the beleaguered Gulf Coast in buses, vans and trailers. But government red tape has hampered many who ache to help Katrina's victims.
Louisiana's Jefferson Parish is desperate for relief, but parish President Aaron Broussard says officials of the Federal Emergency Management Agency turned back three trailer trucks of water, ordered the Coast Guard not to provide emergency diesel fuel and cut emergency power lines.
Why? FEMA has not explained. But the outraged Broussard said Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press" that the agency needs to bring in all its "force immediately, without red tape, without bureaucracy, act immediately with common sense and leadership, and save lives."
The government says it is doing the best it can in the face of a massive and complicated disaster.
"Even as progress is being made, we know that victims are still out there and we are working tirelessly to bring them the help they need," said Michael Brown, head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Some of the delays can be explained by the need to control a volatile situation. Long lines of volunteers are being stopped on freeways on their way into New Orleans.
"Anyone who self-responded was not being put to work. The military was worried about having more people in the city. They want to limit it to the professionals," said Kevin Southerland, a captain with Orange Fire Department in Orange County, Calif., a member of one of eight 14-member water rescue teams sent to New Orleans at FEMA's request.
This is driving me nuts. I got trained in first aid, triage operations, light search and rescue for just such a situation. I know the city. I know the neighborhoods. And nobody will call me back. I'm watching guys on TV going house-to-house in non-flooded neighborhoods, explaining to the cameraman what they're doing as they search and mark a house, and I'm jumping up and down yelling "I know how to do that! I can help!" And nobody calls.
General Honore was just on TV saying "come on down, we need you", but the message from every other quarter is "don't come til you're called"...and then nobody calls.
On the ground they're yelling for help, but at the borders they're turning help away, saying they don't need it.
This is so frustrating.
Elevated from a comment by Jamie:
Hey guys - before closing down the Burger Center we compiled a list of the most needed resources for the initial evacuees and put them at http://www.AustinHelpsKatrina.org - if you need anything else up there let me know. I've been at the EOC but will be down at the convention center later if you need anything.
thanks for your hard work!
Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., lashed back, saying she won't tolerate federal officials' denigrating local efforts to deal with the catastrophe. "If one person criticizes them or says one more thing, including the president of the United States, he will hear from me," she said on the ABC's "This Week." "One more word about it after this show airs and I might likely have to punch him. Literally."
My money's on Landrieu. I'd love to see her pummel the shit out of that frat-boy punk.
Watch this now. Put down the remote and watch this now. The important part is at the end.
MR. BROUSSARD: I'm telling you most importantly I want to thank my public employees...
MR. RUSSERT: All right.
MR. BROUSSARD: ...that have worked 24/7. They're burned out, the doctors, the nurses. And I want to give you one last story and I'll shut up and let you tell me whatever you want to tell me. The guy who runs this building I'm in, emergency management, he's responsible for everything. (Broussard starts crying) His mother was trapped in St. Bernard nursing home and every day she called him and said, "Are you coming, son? Is somebody coming?" And he said, "Yeah, Mama, somebody's coming to get you. Somebody's coming to get you on Tuesday. Somebody's coming to get you on Wednesday. Somebody's coming to get you on Thursday. Somebody's coming to get you on Friday." And she drowned Friday night. She drowned Friday night. (Broussard is crying)
MR. RUSSERT: Mr. President...
MR. BROUSSARD: Nobody's coming to get us. Nobody's coming to get us. The secretary has promised. Everybody's promised. They've had press conferences. I'm sick of the press conferences. For God sakes, shut up and send us somebody.
This is the guy they call "The Dictator". This is a tough as nails old-school Louisiana politician that you do not fuck with. Crying like a baby on national TV.
This is how bad it is there. This is how badly the American government has failed the American people. FEMA is not just failing to act, they are deliberately and methodically sabotaging relief efforts. They turned back truckloads of water. They deliberately cut communication lines in Jefferson Parish.
Heads must roll. I mean literally. We should be pulling them from their cars.
Burnt Orange Report has this story from a guy who volunteered as a chaplain at the Convention Center shelter in Austin.
After another stint packing cell phones at the Red Cross, and a few hours at the pool with the Metairie contigent, we popped by the Shoal Creek benefit (which is still going on, by the way, if you read this in time. It's a hell of a party.)
I talked to Chef Bud for a few minutes, his family is all OK. He was talking to some other guy, sounds like they're scheming to get a big block of Saints tickets...Bud was saying something about freaking them out with a big "Who Dat?" in a non-Dome game. I told him what I heard about FEMA and Washington Parish and he was pretty disgusted.
Liam was playing shuffleboard with some other family (he can't go to Shoal Creek and not play shuffleboard), and we got to talking and they pointed to their friend and said, "This is our refugee."
I said to him, "From New Orleans? I grew up in Algiers!"
He says, "Algiers? You're dry, bra!"
"What neighborhood you from?"
And I hugged him, and he hugged back, hard, and then he didn't want to let go, and I almost started to tear up, and we just stood there in the middle of the bar, two grown men, total strangers, hugging each other like lost brothers.
His name was Jonathan, he lived on Spencer Avenue, 600 yards from the Hammond breach. I asked him when the breach happened, because everybody is still saying on the news it broke Tuesday, but I blogged about it Monday afternoon here, and I know I was hearing rumors about it before that. He said, "Tuesday is bullshit, bra. Nine AM Monday morning, there was this huge BOOM and instantly five feet of water in my house, violent rolling water, and rising fast." He ran upstairs and was trying to save his vinyl collection, stacking it on his bed, til he passed out and woke up five hours later.
When he was rescued, he could hear neighbors all around, in their attics, knocking knocking knocking trying to get somebody's attention. The firefighters who pulled him out said three things, "Are you over 18? Are you healthy? Do you have military experience?" He said yes, yes, yes, and they handed him an axe and said "you're hereby deputized" and he spent the rest of the day chopping through people's roofs and pulling them from their attics.
It was an intense story. He likes Austin. He's thinking about staying.
They're tracking him here:
Apparently the owner of Molly's in the Quarter saw him in the bar as recently as Wednesday.
Cross your fingers.
Forwarded by Chip Rosenthal. (Remember, DON'T just show up, contact them first so they can coordinate you.)
There are 50 public computers so far at the convention center. Got set up today (Saturday). We could use some help working with the evacuees to get their information input into a database and to help at the public computers with the many evacuees who have no computer skills but want to look at the people locator web sites for word of their families and friends. Some of the more techie volunteers are getting drafted to help with networking things, etc. They could use some printers for instance. None at the public computers and very few at the intake area.
E-mail me at email@example.com if you can spare some time. We're
that address to coordinate the computer volunteers. Dale
She'll be annoyed that I linked this, probably, but Doxy wrote something about Katrina that is, in her typical style, both moving and practical at the same time.
I've talked to Doxy a couple of times this week, and she's been great. A whole lot of "honey, I don't know what to say", and then she'd go on to say exactly the right thing.
"I think I'm here for a reason: to rebuild," he said. "New Orleans is the soul of the country. It's the place jazz comes from. It has Mardi Gras Indians that nobody else has. It's a place where a chef can take a piece of fish and make it into a masterpiece. We don't even think about not rebuilding Miami. We don't think about rebuilding Los Angeles, and they're on a fault line. We just do it. We don't talk about it. I don't want to talk about that foolishness."
He also talks about the continuing inadequacy of the rescue efforts, and the infighting and "two-stepping" that is still going on between the federal and state governments. Read it here.
NEW ORLEANS — Combat operations are underway on the streets “to take this city back” in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. “This place is going to look like Little Somalia,” Brig. Gen. Gary Jones, commander of the Louisiana National Guard’s Joint Task Force told Army Times Friday as hundreds of armed troops under his charge prepared to launch a massive citywide security mission from a staging area outside the Louisiana Superdome. “We’re going to go out and take this city back. This will be a combat operation to get this city under control.”
They're out of their fucking minds.
I guess if you can't save 'em, might as well just declare war on them.
A history lesson, and a moral lesson. Yeah, the vampire shit drives me nuts sometimes, but Anne Rice loves her city.
But to my country I want to say this: During this crisis you failed us. You looked down on us; you dismissed our victims; you dismissed us. You want our Jazz Fest, you want our Mardi Gras, you want our cooking and our music. Then when you saw us in real trouble, when you saw a tiny minority preying on the weak among us, you called us "Sin City," and turned your backs. Well, we are a lot more than all that. And though we may seem the most exotic, the most atmospheric and, at times, the most downtrodden part of this land, we are still part of it. We are Americans. We are you.
I spent the afternoon at the Red Cross warehouse in South Austin, setting up communications gear which will be shipped to field teams in the hurricane region. About half my time was spent packing radios and accessories into heavy-duty shipping containers and filling out inventory forms. The other half we spent unpacking pallets of brand new Thinkpads donated by IBM and stacking them up so the techies could reimage them with the standard Red Cross configuration.
The radio stuff at first was intimidating. You're so afraid you're gonna fuck up and leave some rescue worker stranded in the bayou with the wrong kind of coax connector or a missing antenna or something, but as is typical with volunteer work, unskilled people quickly rise to the level of expert. By the time I left, I was teaching other people how to fill out the inventory forms and how to pack hardware bags..."two big clamps, two little clamps, two M-F coax connectors, 1 F-M connector, 2 green 30A fuses"...I could do that shit in my sleep now.
The laptop work was fabulously mindless. Exactly what I needed after the stress this week of shipping a software release while my mind was in New Orleans. I left the Red Cross center with my mind a blank and my lower back aching slightly. Feeling like I'd done something useful, finally. It was perfect.
The kids, meanwhile, sold lemonade and cookies and brownies to UT fans to raise money for the Red Cross:
$45 in a little over an hour, and most people just gave money and didn't take any food. Meaning that we've got this problem now of what to do with all these brownies. *burp*
The other great news is that Mark and Anne have brought their family to Austin for a couple of days. If you've been reading here since the beginning of Katrina, you know about their evacuation and about the scare we had with Anne's family. We took them out for dinner and margaritas at Trudy's, and then we took the boys home with us for a sleepover with Liam. They destroyed the upstairs. Made tons of noise. I loved it.
Mark and Anne:
Mark Jr, Liam, Haley, Chris, and Cass:
Everybody. We probably annoyed the fuck out of nearby tables. This one time, I don't care.
Tomorrow I'm back at the Red Cross, plus we're hitting the benefit at Shoal Creek Saloon and will be taking the visitors to the pool, so hopefully another day of happiness and productivity and not so much damn TV and computer.
Holy fucking shit. They want to force evacuation by starving them out.
Hurricane Katrina: Why is the Red Cross not in New Orleans?
Acess to New Orleans is controlled by the National Guard and local authorities and while we are in constant contact with them, we simply cannot enter New Orleans against their orders.
The state Homeland Security Department had requested--and continues to request--that the American Red Cross not come back into New Orleans following the hurricane. Our presence would keep people from evacuating and encourage others to come into the city.
The Red Cross has been meeting the needs of thousands of New Orleans residents in some 90 shelters throughout the state of Louisiana and elsewhere since before landfall. All told, the Red Cross is today operating 149 shelters for almost 93,000 residents.
The Red Cross shares the nation’s anguish over the worsening situation inside the city. We will continue to work under the direction of the military, state and local authorities and to focus all our efforts on our lifesaving mission of feeding and sheltering.
The Red Cross does not conduct search and rescue operations. We are an organization of civilian volunteers and cannot get relief aid into any location until the local authorities say it is safe and provide us with security and access.
The original plan was to evacuate all the residents of New Orleans to safe places outside the city. With the hurricane bearing down, the city government decided to open a shelter of last resort in the Superdome downtown. We applaud this decision and believe it saved a significant number of lives.
As the remaining people are evacuated from New Orleans, the most appropriate role for the Red Cross is to provide a safe place for people to stay and to see that their emergency needs are met. We are fully staffed and equipped to handle these individuals once they are evacuated.
Via Looka (as usual), this eyewitness report from Joshua Mann Pailet, who rode out the storm and the aftermath in the French Quarter gallery he owns on Chartres Street.
THANKS - Too much to say right now.
I got a few things out and have them in Baton Rouge.
Just got out last night. I could have stayed, my supplies would have lasted for seven more days.
But, the fires have started.
The reports of looting downtown are exaggerated. Yes, they broke into the grocery stores, drugstores, gas stations, for food, etc. Canal Street had a few hours of thugs doing sports shops, but all other shops and the ENTIRE French Quarter is safe and untouched. The storm did glass and roof damage and trees UPTOWN. Just needs to be swept. Looks LESS dirty than a typical Mardi Gras day.
THE FLOOD did NOT get into the French Quarter, and along the river to AUDUBON PARK.
I stayed and helped and photographed and bicycled these areas every day.
NO shooters, some idiots, but everyone doing the best to get along and survive. Other flooded areas, it is very desperate and there are some battles going on, but very isolated.
From Monday to late yesterday there were NO military, Red Cross, FEMA, or anyone with supplies DOWNTOWN.
Even the N.O. Police and Fire Dept were largely absent.
I stayed in the Qtr at A Gallery. The building and contents is presently fine. I will be going back soon to help the other people.
The amazing people of New Orleans will survive and rebuild.
The media stayed on Canal Street and are missing the real story.
Unfortunately, the "looting" story is all they had downtown and its repetitous playing of that footage has setback recovery. IT FALSELY scared off the rescuers, I guess.
Too many rumors reported without eyewitness verification.
Bad business, needs to change.
Please spread the word.
Bush and his people have been bad to us. Every hour matters to the remaining people.
The surrrounding region is overwhelmed with recovery. Baton Rouge has 200,000 people to help,
LSU is a triage center.
EVERYONE is pitching in.
The entire situation is complex and difficult for everyone. Many shortages, gasoline especially.
By the way, since early Tuesday, access into New Orleans via the downtown Miss. River Bridge has been clear to Baton Rouge. Everyone else got in that way, why not the military?
Four hours away by CAR is Fort Polk, one of the largest bases around.
Bring the boys home, especially the National Guard.
New Orleans needs your love and positive thoughts.
Email and spread the word. Contact your leadership in Washington and keep the pressure on.
Especially today and tomorrow.
Remember that these people are the heart and soul of the New Orleans everyone loves.
See you soon
This was forwarded from Gary Chapman via Chip Rosenthal.
From: Gary Chapman Subject: Austin Helping New Orleans
Dear friends and colleagues,
There is lots and lots of activity going on in Austin in response to
the disaster in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. As a public
service, a few of us have created an effort called Austin Helping New
Orleans, and there is now a Web site up and running here:
This is a work in progress, so it's likely to improve and change over
the coming days. We're getting many offers of help and there are a
lot of interesting Internet-related things going on that we think
will help the victims of Hurricane Katrina.
We're also in the process of organizing some large community
fundraising events, and we'd appreciate your help and support if
you'd like to volunteer. On the Web site is a place to enter your
e-mail address to get on our mailing list.
Please circulate this link wide and far among your friends and
colleagues in Austin and Central Texas. We have a tremendous amount
of work to do just to care for the people who are arriving here from
the devastated areas, and this work is likely to be needed for a long
time. We want to try and keep track of what's going on in our region,
and to give Central Texans a central place to find out how they can
help and what needs to be done.
And send us news of the things you have heard about or are doing
Thanks for your help, and I'm sure we'll see each other soon.
Tonight my brother Mark and I were able to see the flooding at his house very close up. Detailed enough that we could tell that his car in his driveway was in water but the trunk and hood of the car were not covered. These are the best photos yet of the damage, very useful if you want to check on a specific neighborhood or property anywhere in the path of the hurricane:
Judging from the photos, he's expecting that there is probably water in the house, but only the ground floor and not very deep.
I was insanely busy today and thankfully nowhere near a TV or computer for the past nine hours. I'll post details in a little while, but I have a couple of informational posts I want to put out there.
Charles Kuffner as usual is The Man in Houston. His blog Off the Kuff was required reading even before Katrina, but it's even more critical now.
Amanda has a great summary of how to help in Texas, broken down by city at her blog here.
City of Austin website: How to volunteer in Austin. DON'T just show up at the shelters if you're a volunteer, you'll do more harm than good. Typically in these situations volunteers are staged and organized in separate areas and if you show up unrequested you just end causing logistical headaches for the shelter operators.
If you are a storm evacuee, you can find info on where to go in Austin here. Bring your tired, your hungry, your blues fans...we got a lovely city here, folks.
Shoal Creek Saloon is having a benefit tomorrow, Sunday, from noon to midnight. Big line-up of music all day. All New Orleans ex-pats in Austin know the chef there, Bud, who is from Bogalusa in Washington Parish and who cooks a totally badass duck and andouille gumbo.
See the web site for details.
I was at Gene's Restaurant on Wednesday, and at that time not all of his children and grandchildren had been accounted for yet. He's got a fund going to collect relief money for his family. Go in there and get a po-boy and some jambalaya and drop a twenty in the bucket, and give the hardest working chef in Austin a hug.
Also, if you're going to the UT game tonight and you're one of those folks who likes to park north of campus in the neighborhoods along Duval, swing on by the corner of Harris and Liberty where my kids will be selling lemonade, cookies, and bottled water. All proceeds go to the Red Cross.
I went down to Crescent City beignets this morning. Felt the need for coffee and donuts like they do back home, and the family obviously agreed.
While I was there, I overheard a couple of guys talking and one of them said "Bud's Broiler, that's probably gone too" and the other one shook his head in despair.
Turns out they're New Orleans natives too, living in Austin, so we chatted a bit and compared family stories. Their parents rode out the storm Uptown, then when the post-storm situation became clear, they made their way out by taking the bridge to the Westbank and getting out that way. Parents are now safely in Austin, probably munching on beignets while I type this.
Chuck is trying to maintain a list of the status of New Orleans musicians here (scroll down a bit). If you have any updates you can post them in the comments.
Many many musicians are thankfully safe.
However, Alex Chilton, of Big Star, refused to leave his home in the Ninth Ward and friends have not heard from him since the storm.
The loss of Chilton would be a blow to the music world of immense proportions.
Despite news reports to the contrary, even information on the Jefferson Parish website, residents WILL be able to get into Jefferson Parish on Monday morning at 6am. Apparently there is even confusion within the Jeff Parish EOC itself, but the word on WWL from Aaron "The Dictator" Broussard himself is that you can get in at 6am.
For the first three days, there will be armed guards at the border checking IDs. After Thursday, it will be more open. You can actually stay if you want, but they strongly recommend you just get in, get your stuff, and get back out again.
Also, you will not be able to get in via I-10. You will need to use back ways in such as Airline Highway.
Be patient. There will be big lines of people waiting to get in.
The word from NYC. Click the link and read it all. Every fucking word.
Well, motherfuckers, and that means you, fat ass Goldberg and your master, Rich Lowry, PNAC Bitch Beinart, the racist wannabe white Malkin and the little fucktards at LGF, Bareback Andy and "Diversity" Instacracker, all you backstabbing, fag hating uncle tom ministers, you can see Dear Leader in action. America's largest port is gone, maybe forever, gas is $5+ a gallon and FEMA is coming. Whores come faster with old men than FEMA is getting to NOLA.
How did your wartime President react? Like Chiang Kai-Shek when the Yellow River flooded in 1944, with corrupt indifference.
Bush, the man your fever dreams built into the next Winston Churchill when he is really the live action Chauncey Gardiner, has failed to everyone, in plain sight, without question. Rick Perry is trying to save his ass, but it ain't working. NOLA looks like ANGOLA and that ain't flying.
Say 9/11 changed everything now, motherfuckers. Ooops, 9/11, 9/11. 9/11. Doesn't work anymore? Gee, maybe the sea of alligator MRE's once known as the citizens of New Orleans has something to do with that. Now you can shut the fuck up about 9/11. Bush just proved what would happen with another 9/11. Dead Americans as far as the nose can smell.
While I'm listening now, they're discussing dispatch of busses. Which empty ones go to the convention center. Whether this full bus is supposed to go to Dallas or not.
Tonight I was dragged out of the house by the family, to go to the Millenium Center to go bowling and skating. It offered a distraction. I tried to have fun.
Katrina has put me off my bowling game though. The first game Gina almost beat me...while she bowled left-handed because her right hand still has a tae kwon do contusion injury.
My second game, which I played myself, I bowled a 48.
Yes, a 48. I bowled six gutter balls in my first four frames. I still had a score of 0 as I started my third frame. Highly embarrassing.
In the car, we alternated between listening to the Clash (by request of the kids), and listening to WWL. 870 AM out of New Orleans comes in pretty clear in Austin at night, when AM stations carry the farthest.
I kept skipping songs on London Calling because they reminded Gina and me of the disaster.
"Cause London is drowning and I live by the river..."
Tonight two guys from Washington Parish were on WWL talking to Garland Robinette. Washington Parish hasn't been on the news at all. Nobody thought to check up there. FEMA and the Red Cross both didn't even know Washington Parish existed.
Apparently there are 45,000 people in Washington Parish with no food or water. Nobody checked on them. FEMA said they send help wherever it is requested. But Washington Parish had no way to communicate. These two officials had to drive to Baton Rouge to ask for help. They haven't gotten any yet.
"I'm all lost in the supermarket
I can no longer shop happily..."
I have heard news from Louisiana that is more than rumor, but not confirmable enough to post. But I believe...I don't want to believe, but I believe, I fear...that the number of dead in New Orleans is expected to number in the tens of thousands. Numbers to rival Nagasaki.
"The voices in your head are calling
Stop wasting your time, there's nothing coming
Only a fool would think someone could save you..."
The Millennium Center is on the east side of Austin. Many African-Americans skate there, bowl there, have birthday parties there.
For the past week, I have seen hundreds, thousands of black faces on my TV. The abandoned, the angry, the despairing, sick, dying, and dead. And I see these beautiful black kids skating around in Austin and I smile, it feels good...and then I get unbidden flashes in my mind of dead black children floating in the flooded streets.
I feel this horror coming and I'm not ready for it.
Listen to WWL. They're screaming over there. They think the world has abandoned them. Not just the ones at the Dome, or the convention center. The local media. The local leaders. Hardened journalists. Garland Robinette has been on the air in New Orleans as long as I've been alive. He was the anchor man on the 6 O'Clock news on Channel 4 for decades. And he's in tears on the radio.
They are dying. We're letting the most beautiful people in the world die in the streets like dogs.
I can't bear it.
You must explain why this must be
Did you lie when you spoke to me
Did you stand by me
No, not at all
Now I got a job
But it don't pay
I need new clothes
I need somewhere to stay
But without all these things I can do
But without your love I won't make it through
But you don't understand my point of view
I suppose there's nothing I can do
You must explain why this must be
Did you lie when you spoke to me?
Did you stand by me
Did you stand by me
No, not at all
Did you stand by me
Did you stand by me
No, not at all
Did you stand by me
I called this number and they scheduled me for two shifts this weekend. They definitely need people, especially ones who are comfortable with computers, who can do ghosting and imaging, etc. Please call the number or send email and be patient waiting for a response. Don't just go down there until you are scheduled, though.
Thanks to Mike for forwarding this.
HELP THE RED CROSS
If anyone has time to help the Red Cross, please email them (firstname.lastname@example.org) or call Leo at (404) 242-6544. This is the National Computer and Data Processing Center for the Red Cross.
Their critical need is for "techies," people who can help set up new laptops and test them and set up telephones and test them. They also need people to unpack the laptops and phones, then after the setup and testing is done, then package the laptops and phones into a "communications suitcase" for the Red Cross field workers.
Once the Red Cross field workers begin registering people with their "communications suitcases" then there will be a great need for volunteers with computer skills to do data entry on the information coming in from the RC field workers.
There are many shifts for the weekend and next week and they are 3-4 hours long. The warehouse is in South Austin at Silver Dollar and Old Burleson Road. The volunteers are already overwhelmed because the need is so great and the number of volunteers is just not enough. Please find time * even if it is just for a single shift! Forward this to anyone you know who might be interested.
CNN is showing several fires. One in Bywater, near where the canal meets the river. They're fighting the fire from the river with fireboats. (God, it reminds me of the '89 quake in San Francisco, when there was no water pressure and they had to fight the Marina fire from boats in the bay.)
The other, the CNN guys are clueless about the geography, but it looks to me like a large intense fire across the street from the Notre Dame Seminary on Carrollton between Claiborne and Earhart. I recognize the seminary, we use to drive past it every morning on the school bus on the way to Franklin.
Flood, famine, now fire.
Bring on the locusts.
I hope somebody is thinking "let's prepare the fire equipment now, just in case", and isn't going to wait until half the city is ablaze before they start looking for resources. What can they use in flooded neighborhoods? Maybe forest fire planes that can pick up loads of water from the lake and drop it on burning city blocks?
Water water everywhere and not a drop to drink, or spray on a fire.
(Yeah, yeah, I know, I'm supposed to be taking a break, but when CNN gets things wrong I feel compelled to put better data out there.)
I may take a little break from posting for a while. I've got the day off from work, and Gina talked me into going out to lunch today. It's Hatch green chile season, so we went down to Chuy's and I wolfed down some chicken enchiladas with green chile avocado sauce and a couple of virgin ritas.
I've still got a non-stop stress headache, like somebody is stretching the back of my skull on a rack, but sometimes it recedes a little, instead of the non-stop buzzing pain I've had all week. It comes back real hard, though, whenever I see George Bush on TV or hear his voice. My TV is often in danger of getting something heavy thrown through it when he's on.
Quality Seafood has some live soft-shell crabs and we've got about five pounds of crawfish meat in the freezer, so I may try some cooking therapy. As Mikey says "Blessed are the gumbo makers; For they shall carry the soul of New Orleans."
I'm hoping CERT or the Red Cross will call me in this weekend to work the Austin shelters, since they are expecting a big influx of overflow refugees from Houston any minute now. I've also got a lot of vacation time saved up and permission from my manager to disappear after my next deadline is done in three weeks, so I am going to push hard to get CERT or the Red Cross to send me to Louisiana. It's something I feel like I have to do.
So if you don't hear from me, I'm fine. Stick to nola.com and wwl.com and wwltv.com for the real story. Call your elected representatives and demand accountability for those in Washington who committed this act of mass negligent homicide. And donate to the Red Cross.
And who knows, I might just get another big posting bug up my butt in a few hours.
Ray Nagin for President 2008
You've probably seen the video of orange-jumpsuited inmates from Orleans Parish Prison being held on a freeway overpass because the prison is flooded.
Well, you can see them on satellite photos, believe it or not.
I've posted this photo before, but take a look again: http://www.digitalglobe.com/images/katrina/new_orleans_msi_aug31_2005_dg.jpg
Scroll around until you find the Superdome. It's near the bottom of the photo, in the middle. There's a big freeway mixmaster intersection just to the left of the Dome. Pretend you're there, and follow the main freeway that comes out of that mixmaster and goes Northwest-ish, up and to the left...follow that for a few inches, until you get to a place where an overpass crosses the freeway. That's the S. Broad overpass. Turn right and follow that overpass NNE-ish until right before it disappears into the floodwaters.
At that point, the big white square on your left is the prison. Look closely right there on the overpass, and you'll see clusters of orange dots.
Those are orange prison uniforms.
By the way, you can also see the levee breach in this same photo. Go to the upper left corner of the photo . The very top of the photo is Lake Pontchartrain. Right along the left edge of the photo is the 17th Street Canal, running straight north to south. Near where the canal joins the lake is a white bridge. On the east edge of the canal, that thin light-colored line is the levee. Follow that line down from the bridge for an inch or so, until it disappears. Where there is no line, there is no levee. That's the breach.
CNN now has a transcript of the Nagin interview. I've copied it here, in the extended entry. I'm not sure it's entirely complete, actually, so if you can, listen to the interview (link in my previous entry).
Then print it out, roll it up and ram it down George Motherfucking Bush's throat.
Since the video feed from WWL TV is sometimes spotty, you can try the new audio feed from WWL 870 AM radio. Go here for the feed.
Right now the Jefferson Parish President is giving instructions for people to get back in. Starting at 6am on Monday, people can get back in to their homes for a brief period. He's saying "Remember how you do it at Mardi Gras. You park blocks away and you walk. You won't be able to drive to your house, we'll have major thoroughfares cleared, and you'll park there and walk to your house."
He also had choice words for the president. "I'm sure when the President lands at the airport, he'll have an entourage of troops there for security purposes. We thank you, Mr. President, and when you get back on Air Force One and go home, please leave those troops behind, we need them."
From The Gumbo Pages:
I am doing as well as expected under the conditions. I am in Gonzales, LA with my husband's Aunt. You may send some money to help my daughter who lost everything. She is out here with my sister-in-law untill she can get fare to go to California, until we can get back into New Orleans.
I am doing okay for now but I don't know how long it will be before I can get help from FEMA. Thanks for being concerned.
You may send help to:
P.O. Box 1274
Gonzales, LA 70707-1274
Tell all of my Fans I thank them.
N.O. Mayor Ray Nagin gave a blistering interview with local news guy Garland Robinette. I've only heard soundbites, but CNN plans to rebroadcast it in its entirety in the next 20 minutes, so tune in.
My boss gave me the day off, so I'm planted in Command Central here in my big chair in my living room with TV, laptop, and my New Orleans city map.
The Astrodome got half the number of refugees that they planned for and then the fire marshall declared the building "full". They are turning busses away like they're some kind of goddamn boat people.
Last night while I was falling asleep, I was thinking about the entry I wrote entitled "Priorities". About how I regretted the things I said in it, and how I probably need to delete it.
I woke up this morning and I think I hurt the feelings of a bunch of good friends.
It's gone now.
Brett, Hiromi, Melanie...I did not have you in mind when I wrote that.
I understand different people react to tragedy differently. After 9/11, I used to drive my friend Mark crazy because I refused to discuss politics with him...he wanted to hear the same old political harangues from me over beers and my heart just wouldn't let me.
All of you who have been posting here...I appreciate how you've helped me through this. I think I had other people in mind when I wrote that, other people who seem totally disengaged from this, and fuck, they didn't read that post anyway.
Again, I'm sorry.
After years of swapping emails and blog comments, and me stealing all his best recipes, I finally talked to Chuck Taggart of The Gumbo Pages on the phone tonight. We've both had good reports about loved ones in the past few hours, so it was nice to hear his voice and exchange news. "Hey, bra!" Nice to hear somebody tawk rite.
Right now he's tearing it up on KCSN with a lot of New Orleans music. "They All Axe For You" was playing while I was on hold.
While we mourn, we need to hang on to the New Orleans that is a celebration of life. New Orleans as it always was, and always will be.
And motherfuck that rat-bastard Dennis Hastert.
New Orleans will rise again.
MSNBC reports that Fats Domino is safe, was helicoptered out.
My mom calls, and my step-dad's brother Alan is safe in Baton Rouge. We were afraid he might have tried to ride out the storm at his house in Bay St. Louis, which was flattened.
Some of my crazy Yat relatives snuck back into Marrero today and all of that side of the family still have homes. Didn't even get any water in them, and it's unlikely they'll be looted because their neighbors are patrolling with shotguns. Badass!
Brother Mark's family has got the boys enrolled in a school in the Houston area, and have a lead on a 2-bedroom apartment that they can move into in a couple of weeks. We're still hoping to get them in to visit us in Austin soon. Word is that residents with ID will have a 12 hour window to get essentials out of their homes in Jefferson Parish on Monday, so Mark will be heading down there. Hopefully with Bill's crazy friends who own guns.
No word from Austin CERT on whether they will call us up. I have left my number with the Austin Red Cross to volunteer. They say they have enough volunteers for this week, but are taking messages to make a list for people to call in the coming weeks.
The past hour has lightened my load considerably.
Donate, people. Donate. This will take months, years, and many are still hurting. But right now I feel very fortunate.
They're fine, the water didn't even make it into the house. They have plenty of food and water, but no electricity and no phone.
Hot damn, this calls for ice cream.
I have set up a Ben Franklin High School Katrina blog, where alumni, faculty, and friends of Franklin can connect with each other during the Katrina crisis.
It's located here: http://bfhs-katrina.blogspot.com/
Right now you can either respond in the comments, or if you want to make a top-level post, email your post to this address:
rayinaustin dot ogsnoclaf at blogger dot com
(replace the dots and ats appropriately) and your post will automatically appear on the blog. Please include your own name and contact info in your post, as otherwise blogger will automatically mark anything posted there as being authored by me.
A few Class of '82 folks have been sharing info via email, I hope to post some of it tonight.
These photos are fantastic.
You can actually see the 17th Street Canal levee breach in the upper left corner of this one:
This post describes one guy's driving tour through Slidell: http://www.wwltv.com/forums/viewtopic.php?t=9872
There is also the Slidell Hurricane Damage Blog, which is awesome.
WWL TV was showing video footage from driving around Slidell. Many structures look to be in good shape, but some neighborhoods show devastation as bad as that in Biloxi and Gulfport. Streets were dry, but you could see high water marks on many houses.
I've heard from other family members looking for the Menards. I've heard from one guy in Texas who knows them and knows the neighborhood and is planning to try to get into Slidell to look for people this weekend. I've heard (uncomfirmed) that many Tammany refugees are being bussed to Red Cross shelters in San Antonio, so I've tried to leave word down there.
As of 11:30 this morning, Mark and Anne had no word from her family.
St. Tammany communications are a godawful mess, though, so they probably just can't get word out.
Philadelphia Daily News editor:
Over the next 10 years, the Army Corps of Engineers, tasked with carrying out SELA, spent $430 million on shoring up levees and building pumping stations, with $50 million in local aid. But at least $250 million in crucial projects remained, even as hurricane activity in the Atlantic Basin increased dramatically and the levees surrounding New Orleans continued to subside.
Yet after 2003, the flow of federal dollars toward SELA dropped to a trickle. The Corps never tried to hide the fact that the spending pressures of the war in Iraq, as well as homeland security -- coming at the same time as federal tax cuts -- was the reason for the strain. At least nine articles in the Times-Picayune from 2004 and 2005 specifically cite the cost of Iraq as a reason for the lack of hurricane- and flood-control dollars.
Newhouse News Service, in an article posted late Tuesday night at The Times-Picayune Web site, reported: "No one can say they didn't see it coming. ... Now in the wake of one of the worst storms ever, serious questions are being asked about the lack of preparation."
In early 2004, as the cost of the conflict in Iraq soared, President Bush proposed spending less than 20 percent of what the Corps said was needed for Lake Pontchartrain, according to a Feb. 16, 2004, article, in New Orleans CityBusiness.
On June 8, 2004, Walter Maestri, emergency management chief for Jefferson Parish, Louisiana; told the Times-Picayune: "It appears that the money has been moved in the president's budget to handle homeland security and the war in Iraq, and I suppose that's the price we pay. Nobody locally is happy that the levees can't be finished, and we are doing everything we can to make the case that this is a security issue for us."
Also that June, with the 2004 hurricane season starting, the Corps' project manager Al Naomi went before a local agency, the East Jefferson Levee Authority, and essentially begged for $2 million for urgent work that Washington was now unable to pay for. From the June 18, 2004 Times-Picayune:
"The system is in great shape, but the levees are sinking. Everything is sinking, and if we don't get the money fast enough to raise them, then we can't stay ahead of the settlement," he said. "The problem that we have isn't that the levee is low, but that the federal funds have dried up so that we can't raise them."
These two photos were supposedly taken within hours of each other, on Tuesday, the day after the hurricane:
New Orleans Homeland Security Chief Terry Ebbert calls FEMA's response to Hurricane Katrina an embarrassment, that all evacuations that have taken place so far are the ones managed by local and state authorities.
Jefferson Parish Director of Emergency Operations Walter Maestri says he has not heard from FEMA. They're just not there.
The WWL anchor's husband is working at the Dome, he says they have not seen a single person from FEMA. "FEMA bugged out" was his direct quote.
The WWL reporter at the EOC in Baton Rouge says that yesterday, FEMA gave lots of information to the press about how "we're going to do this, we're going to do that", but today nobody from FEMA is around at all.
Missing: Fats Domino, Irma Thomas, and Ernie K-Doe's widow
Stuck at the Superdome: Allen Toussaint
Safe: The Neville family.
Fats lived in the Ninth Ward. I have always wanted to drive past his house, apparently it was wackier than Graceland.
From Looka. I hope to hell it's not true.
'Fats' Domino Missing in New Orleans
Before NBC, MTV, or anyone else puts on a telethon to help victims of Hurricane Katrina, they might want to explore some ancillary issues. To wit: New Orleans is a city famous for its famous musicians, but many of them are missing. Missing with a capital M.
To begin with, one of the city's most important legends, Antoine "Fats" Domino, has not been heard from since Monday afternoon. Domino's rollicking boogie-woogie piano and deep soul voice are not only part of the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame but responsible for dozens of hits like "Blue Monday," "Ain't That a Shame," "Blueberry Hill" and "I'm Walking (Yes, Indeed, I'm Talking)."
Domino, 76, lives with his wife Rosemary and daughter in a three story pink-roofed house in New Orleans' 9th ward, which is now underwater. On Monday afternoon, Domino told his manager, Al Embry of Nashville, that he would "ride out the storm" at home. Embry is now frantic.
Calls have been made to Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco's office and to various police officials and though there's lots of sympathetic response, the whereabouts of Domino and his family remain a mystery.
In the meantime, another important Louisiana musician who probably hasn't been asked to be in any telethons is the also legendary Allen Toussaint. Another Rock Hall member, Toussaint wrote Patti Labelle's hit "Lady Marmalade" and Dr. John's "Right Place, Wrong Time." His arrangements and orchestrations for hundreds of hit records, including his own instrumentals "Whipped Cream" and "Java" are American staples. (He also arranged Paul Simon's hit, "Kodachrome.")
Last night, Toussaint was one of the 25,000 people holed up at the New Orleans Superdome hoping to get on a bus for Houston's Astrodome. I know this because he got a message out to his daughter, who relayed to it through friends.
Also not heard from by friends through last night: New Orleans's "Queen of Soul," Irma Thomas, who was the original singer of what became the Rolling Stones' hit, "Time is On My Side."
Let's hope and pray it is, because while the Stones roll through the U.S. on their $450-a-ticket tour, Thomas is missing in action. Her club, The Lion's Den is underwater, as are all the famous music hot spots of the city.
Similarly, friends are looking for Antoinette K-Doe, widow of New Orleans wild performer Ernie K-Doe. The K-Does have a famous nightspot of their own on N. Claiborne Avenue, called the Mother-in-Law Lounge, in honor of Ernie's immortal hit, "The Mother-in-Law Song." Ernie K-Doe, who received a 1998 Pioneer Award from the Rhythm and Blues Foundation, died in 2001 atage 65.
Dry and safe, but in not much better shape, is the famous Neville family of New Orleans. Aaron Neville and many members of the family evacuated on Monday to Memphis, where they are now staying in a hotel. But most of the Nevilles' homes are destroyed, reports their niece and my colleague at "A Current Affair," Arthel Neville. She went down to her hometown yesterday and called me from a boat that was trying to get near town.
"This isn't like having two feet of water in your basement," she said, holding back tears. "Everything is destroyed. I am just so lucky to have been born here and to have had the experience of New Orleans."
She confirmed that there had been rumors of dead bodies floating around her Uncle Aaron's house yesterday. So far the Nevilles are unannounced to participate in Friday's TV show.