Here, at least.
I've got all this white space to fill and I don't know where to start.
Katrina...she could give me witch lessons with a capital B. I have a love/hate relationship with her yanno. I knew, I knew, something seriously drastic had to happen to the City of New Orleans. The heat was symbolic of the oppression--I felt like I was growing gills in early August.
I watched this city rage in a roil I had never known before. That sounds more poetic than it actually is. But to illustrate how that feels, I once lived in the city without air conditioning, and when I heard my wind chime tinkling--I knew there was no breeze. I knew a flying palmetto bug had landed on my porch wind chime and they were swarming. (I theorize that they DO indeed swarm, Mike. *wink*) So I had to shut the windows, or face the consequence of unlikely winged creatures crawling on me and mine that night.
It ain't nice.
Katrina, Katrina, Katrina...
If you've ever had a lover that broke your heart, then you know that mantra. Just fill in another name and it'll do. She stopped to bite the head off Florida before she proceeded to stall in the gulf, horrifying those with any sense, and provoking a show of bravado in the rest of us.
We have to have bravado. We have only three exits outta here, and all three are in the normal projected paths. So yep, bravado, (bottled or otherwise) some plywood, water, canned goods, and have you made a decision? I hear the sound of The Clash as my soundtrack here--"Should I Stay Or Should I Go?"
I hate decisions. They are so...irreversible sometimes. I like options. That is so much more optimistic sounding, doncha think?
But I watched that damned storm...all through Friday night, Saturday Morning, Saturday evening, into the wee hours of Sunday--I watched the authorities project that path right up my nightmare--the Mississippi River.
I didn't believe.
Bull sharks I said.
I am a CAJUN.
I do not evacuate.
(unless it's a mandatory evacuation, and everybody knew, N'awlins never, EVAH called for no mandatory evacuation.)
Then they did.
What I swore could never happen here was happening here, right before my bleary hungover eyes.
"Are you sure? They said mandatory?" I was asking my husband. He is notorious for misinformation, so I had to hear it for myself.
There was Ray Noggin (a term of affection, I sweah) saying, yes, it was an historical first, but this was THE ONE.
I still wasn't believing. I mean, you hear about this crap all of your life, but you don't believe it will ever actually happen, right?
So I did what any sane woman would do--I called my Momma.
"Are you packin'?" I asked.
She answered, "Well I've got yer Daddy's doublebarrel and a .22..." grin..that's a lie. She didn't say that.
What she actually offered in return was a question:
"What will you do if I don't go?"
No hesitation on my part, folks.
I told her:
"I'll stay and die with you."
Now that sounds dramatic, but it's the truth of what I said.
She seemed to think that was funny, so she told me to pack my bags and meet her in Houston.
Looked like we were all going to experience our very first evacuation.
Stop a minute and think now--those of you who have never done such a thing--what goes through your mind--what do you take? What is essential?
First, you think Life.
Your children, your pets, your husband. (ooops, he was drivin', so put him first. *blush*)
We didn't take pictures, but we did take insurance stuff that we could find immediately. We all took one change of pants, two shirts, and I took a mu mu. Life without a mu mu ain't worth livin'. Sheesh.
We left everything else.
We honestly thought we'd be back the next day.
We took I-90 outta town, and yes, that seemed the most dangerous way, as that highway follows the coastline, but, I trusted it more...we all did. That's the way we always went, so that's the way we left. It was a frigging nightmare folks.
Imagine it, yer sitting there on this elevated highway--the only thing between you and the hardbottom swamp, and you ain't goin' nowhere. Bumper to Bumper, and a lotta peops were drunk. We had stopped for gas at the only place we could, some place just outside of Morgan City--a town that ran off offshore monies, an "Indian Casino" and one small gas station boasting maybe, twelve pumps? I dunno. I had to go INSIDE and wasn't thrilled. The place was being looted. The cops were there, but they were busy guarding the casino.
I took the time to clean the truck of our garbage and laughed at my own naivete' as the wind blew the stuff right outta my hands.
The first bands of Katrina were hitting us--and we had to get back in that parade of bumpers and try to get the hell outta there.
It was crazy.
Mysteria Sharon, don't ask me how she does this, but she managed to get through on the cellphone--I talked to her and PdV, and I knew I couldn't hide the desperation in my tone. I wanted OFF that highrise. Real Bad. (Shar? and Shar? If I was irritable, forgive me please?)
The sunset is beautiful over the swamp, but when there is a storm approaching, it is just...
I realized my insignifigance.
So I thought I'd pray.
I can't name the God I prayed to, if there's a frequency, I pray I am never in a situation to find it again, but I was sweating fierce, and thinking, "we need to go some place no one else would think of..."
Keep in mind, I am working that damned cellphone. We missed the I-10 split, and so we were stuck on 90, which meant, if that storm didn't take a jog to the east, we might...wincing, we might get caught in a hurricane on a damned highrise highway.
I was one unhappy witch.
Then the phone rang.
And folks? You ever have a moment when you realize you get exactly what you pray for? grin
I found my place of refuge, and it was a place that no one else had thought of...A TRAILER PARK.
It sounded good to me after we kept kissing bumpers with them that was ahead of us and them that was behind us.
So Crowley, La. it was. The Rice Capital of The World. (I did wonder how that could be, considering the Chinese seemed to have considerable population and acreage on Louisiana, but hey? I'll buy the advertising--just get me off this expletive highway, right?)
So we found refuge in a trailer park.
And that was just the beginning of my survivor guilt, 'cause y'see? After that, as Uriah says, it was all gravy.
We found refuge from the trailer park in a private hunting camp afterward. And then, the outpouring of love, and total generosity from my fellow Pipsters began pouring in.
I am talking about the real deal here--our bank was underwater, our bank cards frozen, and the good people, who were always so generous with emotional love and support backed that up the hard way--and I had to swallow hard just now. We had no cash. We need gas, clothes, food, and the outpouring of love and essentials that came from the people of this remarkable site still stuns me to purple cheeked humility.
I wrote a friend here, and I told him that my evacuation was so mirculous, that I felt almost embarrassed. I had no horror stories to tell. (The snakes were bad, but harmless, and more amusing than my nephews. Seriously.)
But I told him that the entire thing reminded me of something I had seen my father do once, long before his diagnosis of lung cancer, back in the lazy good days of "life is good"--he took my children out to play in his back yard.
My Dad was an avid gardener and his backyard was just...it felt like forever in there, standing still. He had a liking for St. Augustine grass though, and my daughter Krista, had never actually walked barefoot on grass before. She found the spikes of St. Aug distasteful. And yep, she cried, no, she WAILED, when she got to the end of the concrete, as she watched my son run gleefully barefoot throughout the backyard paradise that was my Dad's.
I tried to pick her up and follow him for her. But no, that wouldn't do. But then I watched my Dad do something that exemplifies the spirit of him.
He took carpet samples, that were stored on the porch from the newly renovated living area, and he laid them grandly at her feet. He would lay out two and pick up the third, and wherever she wanted to go, that is where he placed it.
I wondered how long he could keep this up--he was ill, and I knew his back hurt, and nod, I tried to dissuade him, but no. He kept up this game for almost an hour. Her path was laid out like magic before her, and the spikes never touched her tender feet.
That's what I thought of in Crowley.
How blessed I was, how blessed I remain, to have such friends in you all.
You laid the carpet beneath my feet.
And I do not know if I can ever pay you back.
But as promised--I will always live with the intent of paying it "forward."
I couldn't let this anniverary pass without a proper thank you.
So those of you who took the time to read this, thank you too.
There are some here in New Orleans who intend to commemorate the date of Katrina by ringing a bell.
This post is mine.
with love and gratitude and forever paying it forward,
The Spike Lee documentary?
He ain't nevah lied.