Thursday, September 29, 2005

Why the town of Vidor, Texas didn't see any looting after Hurricane Rita

(At least on this street). Drunks with guns are never funny in real life. Photographs, yes. I do hope that they didn't actually pull them on anyone and that's it's just a clever photo.

Special Thanks to Tara Avena for sending me this image.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia and why dentists deserve the money they charge

My wife and I have watched the first two episodes of Martha Stewart's version of The Apprentice. It doesn't have the same bite as Trump's. He clearly trumps Stewart for both originality of tasks and likeable sidekicks. Martha's are her daughter (yawn!) and some dude that always chomps on unlit cigars. Every time they say the name of her company, they say the whole name: Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia. Good grief, would an acronym kill them? Ms. Lo. Or MSlo (pronounced emslow). Even just calling it Martha Stewart would work. Omnimedia sounds pretentious and like you're trying too hard. Call it Martha Stewart Living World Domination or Martha Stewart Living Megalomania or something else.

Also, the team that won tonight's challenge won as their reward, a bunch of community service hours at a public housing development. I wonder if Martha is somehow able to use their labor to work off some of her community service hours that her probabtion must surely require? I laughed when she mentioned the fact that "I even went to jail" to someone, and that she did it with a whispered tone. That same tone that old people use when they say "cancer." Like the whole world doesn't know that she went to jail for lying.

I found an endodontist who may do my root canal for free if it turns out I need one. He's in LaGrange, Georgia which is way down by Phenix City, Alabama, but it's worth the drive for that price. I went to a dentist today and he thinks it may be just that my crown was seated incorrectly. He ground down a very high point on it. I haven't even had to take any pain killers today. Veremos. Deus milacroso

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Dog Days are in August but it's National Dog Week

I don't like dogs. I've been bitten by them five times as an adult. Not good. These photoshopped photos are good. Enjoy.


Ten Soldiers and Nixon's Coming

Hong Kong Phooey

Stefi Gruff

Doubting Mac

My beloved Braves have clinched their 14th Division Title in a row. Nevermind the strike shortened 1994 season when the Expos were a heavy favorite to win the division. It never happened. 14 in a row. Back in May, I didn't think they had it in them. I doubted. I am not a fairweather fan though. I will (and have) root for the Braves if they are in the cellar. I had season tickets in 1988 & 1989. Now the Braves have been winning, in 1st place for my entire adult life. 1995 will last me forever. If they never win again, I'm still happy. Great baseball. Great guys. Glavine, Smoltz, Maddux, and Chipper (almost) are Hall of Famers. Cox, Schuerholz and Mazzone deserve the Hall too. Smoltz has been on every one of those teams too. All the way back to when he was one of the "Young Guns." Here's hoping the Series comes to Atlanta this year.

We're not Siamese, we're yuppies, bam rum pum bum

When I go to someone's house I HATE being asked to remove my shoes as a matter of custom, unless:
#1 It's obvious that my shoes are dirty
#2 The person is of Asian descent
#3 There is something that my shoes could immediately damage on the floor like a school project or a Tibetan sand sculpture.

Otherwise I think it's bad form to invite someone into your house and then ask them to remove their shoes. A grown person knows if their feet are dirty. They don't need to be told to take their shoes off. You're not their momma. Don't put white carpet down if you're not prepared to see it soiled and need to have it cleaned on occasion. You don't ask people to wash their hands (most likely far dirtier) before shaking hands with them or touching the armrest on your overstuffed furniture.

If you've got a touch of Asian culture in your fuel supply, I understand. That's a cultural thing, which I can respect. I've seen the Last Samurai. I'm down with it. I don't mind at all when I go to my friend Paul Dunn, a Great American's, house that they ask me to remove my shoes. His wife's parents are from Singapore. I get it; you need to respect someone else's culture. But, if your ancestry is decidedly WASPy, it ain't culture, it's your petit bourgeois trappings; stop it. No one's stuff is so nice that you need to ask me to undress.

Also, to anyone not from the South now living in the South, it is the epitome of rudeness to not offer someone something to drink when they arrive at your house. The first thing you ask a traveller should be if their thirst needs quenching.

My tooth hurts and I'm on Vicodin. Forgive me my peccadilloes.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Root canals and Dissertation progress

I actually wrote 3 pages today. They most likely are not high quality, but they're there and that's what matters. I need a root canal. I don't have dental insurance. The collusion price in Atlanta is $900 for a root canal. The tooth is crowned already. I should've had it done when I got it crowned, and when I had insurance, and when my wife still was employed making money. My tooth hurts. I've got some antibiotics which I'll start tomorrow. I'm allergic to penicillin and this is Cephalexin which has a mild risk of also causing an allergic reaction in me, so I'm not taking it until someone else is awake. I also have a bottle full of Vicadin, but from my experience with gout, it doesn't hurt that bad yet, and I don't want to call in the heavy guns unless I really need them. Vicadin is addictive. Better try Advil and Aleve first.

Brush your teeth, up and down, if not they'll rot and fall to the ground.

Don't be allergic to penicillin, cause then they give you Tetracycline, which weakens your enamel and makes your teeth turn yellow. Cavities galore. Caries a plenty. Piss and vinegar. Anyone know a charitable endodontist? Does such a thing exist? Dentistes sans frontiers? Acho que nao.

Also, note the google ads. If anyone clicks on these something magical is supposed to happen. Mark Friedman of Fresno, California clicked on one and he won the lottery the next day. Kate Barberi of Springfield, Ohio clicked on one and won the Publisher's Clearinghouse Sweepstakes. Jake Montalvo of Las Cruces, New Mexico didn't click on one and died the next day....

Sunday, September 25, 2005

31 Flavors

When I turned 31 back in December, little did I realize that I would soon be living with my parents again instead of in New Orleans. Katrina changed all that. I got my wife, my daughter, and myself along with a friend of ours, a fellow Tulanian from Idaho with nowhere to go, out of town the Saturday before Katrina hit. We evacuated to my hometown of Woodstock, Georgia (about 30 miles NW of Atlanta proper). We did all the normal things that we were supposed to do before we left; moved stuff away from windows, put all our hanging pictures on the floor in the hallway lest the windows break and gale winds knock them off the walls. We got all the stuff off our front porch and secured what could be secured. Luckily our landlord had an enormous termite-ridden hackberry tree cut down behind our house the Friday before the storm. Otherwise it would've bisected our house right down the middle (as it stands [lies rather] the tree on the other side fell and hit our house anyway, though it did little damage).

We got to my parents house and spent all day Sunday agonizing and waiting, sick to our stomachs. The storm suddenly turned into what the Weather Channel was calling a category 5 1/2. There were wind gusts that measured 213 mph. When it finally hit, I was up watching the news, the internet, the sky outside. For a few hours I thought it hadn't really clobbered us as bad as we had expected. When the cameras showed the destruction at the Superdome, my heart sank--I had friends, dear friends that had been forced to seek refuge at the Superdome.

When I saw that those levees had failed, I knew we were screwed as a city. Anyone who has been out to Bucktown knows that the levees are taller than the neighborhood, and that a little water in there would wreak havoc. Our worst fears came true. The next few days were a blur and endless. Desperately dialing cellphone after cellphone trying to get through to someone. Emailing, calling, praying. I found Dr. Avelar's blog and I was relieved to know that others were okay. I especially felt bad because I hadn't checked on my Borgesian twin, Miguel Rivera, before leaving. O biscoito fino brought us all together; what a blessing that blog was/is!

I desperately tried to make contact (and still am) with the 300 members of my church in New Orleans. The vast majority of them are poor with no cars and no money to be able to afford to evacuate. I was especially worried about one of my Boy Scouts, Eric Walker. He is 14 years old and not street-wise. He has no father and his mom is schizophrenic with a severe gambling addiction. He hadn’t seen her for 2 days before the storm hit (turns out she had been in Biloxi on a gambling jaunt). He came to the bishop of my church asking to evacuate with him because he didn’t have anyone to help him, but the bishop couldn’t take him because his 3 cars were already full of other younger children and because Eric’s mother had called the police on the bishop once for taking Eric to a Boy Scout meeting in Kenner. It was a misunderstanding (digamos), but the police told the bishop never to take Eric anywhere again with written permission. Luckily, a friend of mine was watching the Weather Channel and saw a clip of Eric being reunited with his Mom All of us were total wrecks as we watched the horrors unfold at the Superdome and the Convention Center. I bristled every time I heard someone start to blame the situation on someone else. I rebuked the self-righteous people who claimed it was God’s wrath that the Gulf Coast be hit with such destruction. I heard over and over again the hate filled and ignorant rhetoric that the city got what it deserved. The very Bible, even from the mouth of Jesus in St. Matthew, says that the Lord causes the rain to fall on the just and the unjust. The politicians and pundits screaming for each other’s heads made me feel like no one gave a damn about the people suffering. How could they claim to not know about people suffering and dying at the Convention Center? It was all over the damned news! After that first Friday, I basically quit watching the news. I couldn’t handle anymore coverage from any side, position, or point-of-view.

Tired of worrying about my house and the flood waters, tired of pouring over satellite images hoping to glean any information I could about the status of places and homes, my Dad and I got in the car, loaded down with supplies and went off to Picayune, Mississippi about 15 miles from Slidell, LA to help. It was terrible devastation there, like some giant had come through with an enormous lawn mower and mowed the tops off of most of the trees. We helped those we could and came home. More worrying. Then, a glimmer of hope. A business permit was obtained under an invented name for my eBay business (a half-truth). We got into the city. My house was spared! All was ok! Only the wretched smell coming from my deep freeze to complain about. Then I went round to some of my friends' houses. They were not so fortunate. To quote a famous New Orleanian, Fortuna spun her wheel and Katrina's valve closed. I went into house, where the water would've been over her head. She had a complete loss downstairs. Can you imagine all you have, all your keepsakes, sentimental stuff, photos, wedding trinkets, baby toys, memories all covered in a white/black fur and the funk of forty thousand years? We drove on I-610 because I need to go and retrieve my car down on St. Charles Ave. and the interstate was blocked. We drove through the 9th Ward, over the Industrial Canal. The devastation was catastrophic. The city has no color anymore, just different shades of gray. The water is pitch black—the smell, like a rotten pig carcass boiled in feces and then sprinkled with vinegar and burnt hair. Strangely, I got used to the smell after a few hours. It feels like winter, most of the trees have lost their leaves, save the ever-indestructible magnolias. The only sound to be heard was the occasional helicopter overhead. Otherwise, it was like being in the country.

I have none of your typical vices. I don't drink, don't smoke (what do you do?), no coffee, no tea, no drugs, not much of anything except over-eating. My wife and I started a diet in January that has resulted in some dramatic weight loss for us both. My health is much better. But, I am a stress eater. When things go badly, I struggle not to drown my sorrows (or whatever) in Coca-Cola and rich food. Since I suffer from gout, this is not wise, but that's my stumbling block in life. The first night after the levees broke my wife and I went and bought some ice cream. The good stuff--Ben & Jerry's. Each day we ate ice cream. We realized that we were fast on our way to breaking our diet forever so we've relented before we made our way through all 31 flavors.

At first I found it impossible to even think about working on my dissertation, in spite of Dr. Soufas's chastisement to those of us who should be working on such things. Now I've created an office in my old bedroom complete with a wireless internet connection. I got a job once a week teaching a Spanish class at a very small school in mid-town Atlanta--just to keep doing what I love and not fall out of practice. I have been reading and writing a little here and there. This week, with my mind finally clear and my long-term situation more solid, I plan to get down to brass tacks and crank out some pages. I hope all are well, all are progressing in their fields, and that all know that I will exhaust myself trying to help you recover from the storm in any way that I can. I firmly believe the Scripture that says "When ye are in the service of your fellow beings, ye are only in the service of your God."

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Eric, Scott, Jason, Josh, & Kevin

Those are the five names most common to boys of my generation. That's not a stat that I looked up somewhere, it's just from my personal experience. The corresponding girls' names would be: Jennifer, Jessica, Heather, amd Melissa. If we think back to our school days, I'm sure that each person reading this post can think of someone they went to school with that had one of those names. I know I can (that's why I listed them). Here's my list.

Eric Nichols, Eric Burns, Eric Pogrelis
Scott Derryberry, Scott Tisdale
Jason Davis, Jason Tankersley, Jason Sullivan, Jason Daughtery
Josh Quick, Josh Allen
Kevin Crawford, Kevin Shell
I can't remember the Jessicas' last names but there were about 40 at Etowah
Heather Allen, Heather Brooks,
Melissa Thompson (total crush on her from 7-11th grade), Malissa Allen (crush from 3-12th grade)

Those first two names, Erics Nichols and Burns came up today. I took my daughter to the Chick Fil-A Dwarf House over on Hwy 92 in Woodstock because it was family night and they had all these free activities for kids. Big inflatable 2 story slides, moonwalks (where you can jump around like crazy), and lots of games, ballons, etc. At 8:15PM they were showing Racing Stripes in the parking lot on a big screen. They had someone in their cow mascot anthropomorphic suit going around and hugging the little children. My daughter is terrified of anthropomorphism. She starts screaming and wanting to leave as soon as she sees the cow. Same thing happened in June at the New Orleans Zephyrs game; she saw the big Nutria headed our way and started bawling. It's kind of funny. I like to tease her and tell her that the Nutria is standing right behind her. She knows I'm joking but that initial look of worry on her face is adorable. Yes, I know I'm incredibly cruel. Better I now than your kid 5 years from now.

We decided to eat there and when we were waiting for the waitress to seat us, I looked over and saw someone I recognized. I said, "She looks like Brooke Nichols"--a girl [much younger than I] I had gone to Oak Grove Elementary with YEARS ago. I then looked up and saw someone else I recognized walking towards me; it was her husband who I knew was also an Eric, so I said "Eric Nichols, how are you" but then I caught myself because at that moment I remembered that Brooke's brother is also named Eric, and that the Eric in front of me was Eric Burns. Turns out they got married, which I'm sure is fun sometimes when the whole family's together.

Eric Burns and I had lots of classes together at E.T. Booth Middle School. He played drums in the band when I played trombone. He was in my math and social studies classes. He had this crazy habit of ALWAYS, and I do mean ALWAYS, waving his head from side to side like Stevie Wonder is prone to do. I mean he was always doing it. He outgrew it by the end of high school and I saw no sign of it today. It was good to see someone from Etowah. Eric looks about the same, though I think he grew a few inches after high school. He lives in Jasper, Georgia and has one kid. He's an electrician (certified). Eric Nichols is in the Army and apparently supposed to be going to Iraq, but his wife is pregnant and something is very wrong with the child, so he's been given a reprieve for the forseeable future.

Hurricane Rita has hurt many people. We should all offer prayers of thanks that the destruction was less than expected. A category 5 storm weakened. That alone is reason enough to offer thanks. We don't need to wait for a turkey or cranberry sauce to have a national day of Thanksgiving!

Thursday, September 22, 2005

I am no prophet, seer, or revelator

But I am forcasting a landfall near Orange, Texas much to the east of the current track. It is still a raging destructive storm headed to put a hurtin' on someone, but it's no longer the behemoth it was last night. Maybe if we keep praying it will diminsh further. With that said, RUN, EVERYONE RUN FOR YOUR LIVES!

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

2 Nephi 28:15

Responding the a Vatican Council of Mexican bishops and Catholic leaders at the Vatican where the pope lamented the dangers and ills caused by rampant corruption and drug trafficking in Mexico, Roman Catholic Bishop Ramon Godinez, of the central state of Aguascalientes, said that donations linked to drug trafficking are not out of the ordinary -- and that it's not the church's responsibility to investigate their origin.

"If they have money, they have to spend it; I don't know why such a scandal has been made of this. If a drug trafficker gives, we are not going to investigate if he's a trafficker or not. Let me explain: We live on this, on the offerings of the faithful. And we do not investigate where they acquired the money." The bishop said money can start out being dirty but "can be transformed" when it enters the church.

Key problems with what he's saying compared to the law and the Law.

Drug money is dirty money, legally if he accepts it, it's money laundering. He is allowing someone to legitamize illicit gain. Money made of the blood, sweat, tears, and sins of his "faithful." The Bible would most certainly call this money filthy lucre and anyone who had tried to pay tithes, sacrifices, or donate it to the alfoli in Malachi's time would've been scorned, if not struck down by an angry Jehovah. He satement that "we live off of" those donations indicate a key problem, he preaches for filthy lucre, an act absolutely condemned in the Scriptures (1 Peter 5:2). A man of god should not live off of the sacrifices of others. Employ yourself first and then use you spare time to minister. The whole concept of money being transformed when it enters the church is an admission of money laundering. To suppose that somehow it is made holy when the criminal gives it to the church smacks of indulgences and the buying of salvation. It's like Phillip Morris funding anti-smoking campaigns, casinos funding anti-gambling call centers, or the porn industry funding abstinence programs. Filthy lucre only makes the church a whore to evil doing. An absolute whore. And that goes for any church, institution, charity, individual, or family that takes money made in illegal enterprise.

Hurricane Rita and the Astrodome Redemption

If I were an evacuee at the Astrodome right now, I would be DEMANDING that FEMA evacuate me to like Alaska or Washington State or somewhere that no hurricane can get within 1,000 miles of.

Are these men becoming the national celebrities of the disaster?

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Mrs. Caroline Dunn

My friend Paul Dunn, a Great American, had the experience today of seeing his wife Caroline through surgery to repair a herniated disk in her back. I imagine that Paul is busier than FEMA right now, so I have no updates on her condition. Our prayers are with her. In honor of her surgery, I must point out the importance of correct orthography. One tiny mistake can completely change the meaning of a sentence. For example. read the doctor's description of the lawyer's medical problem and then the lawyer's submission to the court.

The S and the C are an inch apart on the keyboard and a world apart in meaning, use, and embarassment. Here's wishing Caroline a speedy recovery.

Monday, September 19, 2005

In a daze

I really am in a daze. I do not understand why my house and car escaped any damage whatsoever when people all around me suffered total losses. Again, I must reiterate how I know that I was supposed to come to New Orleans for my PhD. Let me tell the whole tale.

I applied to eight different PhD programs: UC-Irvine, Penn State, UGA, Vanderbilt, Virginia, Florida, Tulane, and Emory. Penn State, UGA, and Tulane all accepted me. I've still never heard from Virginia (though they did cash my check--completely unprofessional). Penn State offered me $12,600 for teaching 3 classes per year plus free insurance for myself and my family. UGA was $13,600 for 4 classes per year and it was very very close to home. Tulane offered $11,600 for 2 classes per year. Penn State made the most sense. UGA made me long to be home where the moonlight through the pines has inspired songs. Tulane was where I least wanted to be.

So when it came time to decide Mickelle was on bedrest because she was pregnant with Marley and her blood pressure was high. I decided that I should go to the temple and pray about what I should do. For those of you who are not LDS, the temple is different from our churches. The temple is a special place where only members who live a strict set of commandments may enter. Various ordinances are performed therein and there is a special room, called the Celestial Room, where we believe that we enter into the presence of God--meaning that He appears to us or anything ike that, but that it's as near as we can get to Him in this mortal realm. Satan cannot enter the temple, so we are free to be at one with the Holy Ghost and hopefully commune with the Spirit without any outside influences or distractions. I went to the temple to pray.

When I pray I typically don't ask the Lord what I should do. I find that I should decide on a course of action and then seek confirmation that that decision is in accordance with the Lord's plan for me. I had decided to go to Penn State. It made the most sense financially. Two of my LDS friends were going there. Slam dunk right? Wrong! I never felt comfortable about it while I prayed. I was panicky if you can imagine. I then decided that Penn State was wrong, so I switched to UGA. Again, same feelings, same sickening feeling in the pit of my stomach. Then I prayed to see if going to Tulane was the correct thing to do. Instantly I felt a sense of relief and peace. During the times when I've doubted whether I should've gone to Tulane or not, that feeling of peace and comfort has come back to me to remind me that I am not only about my business, but the Lord's as well. I came home from the temple to talk to my wife and she told me that she too felt like we should go to Tulane, even though it made the least amount of sense.

Okay, so we're moving to Tulane--only I don't know the first thing about New Orleans other than a couple of times I had been there as a youth. I knew that is was a violent place, susceptible to floods, and a host of other concerns. But, armed with the knowledge that that was where we were supposed to be, we sallied forth. Finding a place to live was no easy task. The Tulane family housing is a joke. It's like a cubby hole with no quality of life. Especially not for 4 years with a wife and child. I didn't know the neighborhoods and I was calling people blind from the real estate listings when my Dad told me that I should call his friend Lee Isaacson. My Dad and Lee knew each other from the early 1980s and the computer industry. Lee is an affable, intelligent, and all around gentleman as well as a lifelong native of New Orleans (his home flooded, his wife's house in Waveland, MS is completely destroyed, his parent's house on Napoleon Ave is damaged, and her parents' house is still standing but has no roof). I called Lee and he told me that rather than asking about certain neighborhoods, to just give him addresses and he would go check them out. We had pretty much decided to live in an apartment in Metairie on Houma Blvd. He went there and nixed that. We gave him places to look at on Jena, Cadiz, Derbigny, and Calhoun--he nixed them too. When he went by the place on Walmsley where we live, he called me from his cellphone and said that it was perfect--a straight shot to campus at the end of one of the nicest roads in all of New Orleans. Big house, 3 bedrooms, off street behind-the-house parking, all the amenities. He even pulled out his checkbook and wrote the landlord a check for the first month's rent and told us to pay him back when we go to town.

We were lead to this house. Had we lived in any of the other places we had selected, they all flooded. We might've lived in the New Orleans 1st Ward boundaries where they have an abundance of priesthood holders and an overabundance of bourgeois SUV-driving Wasatch Fronters. The Uptown Branch where I'm known as Brother Mac and I make a difference is the place for me. The very Hand of God reached out and led us to this house. Otherwise I can only call our blessings luck. Without the Lord we would be sunk, literally. I offer thanks to Him, to Lee Isaacson, to Dr. David Laraway for suggesting I apply to Tulane, and to my wife for knowing what we should do too. I am truly in a daze. It doesn't seem real that we escaped total devastation when so many others so close to us did.

Deo gracia


Eloi eloi lama sabachthani

Is the Gulf Coast forsaken? I have been blessed beyond my description to offer thanks, but if this thing tracks east, there will be little left. Everyone start praying NOW! Evidently the lesson wasn't fully learned.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Saturday, September 17, 2005

1,100 miles in 26 hours

In the last 26 hours I've driven to New Orleans, found my house in excellent shape, loaded tons of possessions into my car and driven back to Atlanta. I am utterly exhausted. You can browse the photos I took at:

Will give more details on the morrow.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Sunshine came softly through my, window today

I have great news to report.

#1 Eric Ezekiel Walker is safe and sound in Alexandria, LA. He is with his mom.
#2 The bishop of my church went by my house and he doesn't think that water got inside. That is such a welcome relief after weeks of worrying. Hopefully it's true. I must say that I don't relish the thought of going home and finding all my stuff intact when I know that many people lost everything. It seems somehow unfair or cruel or I don't know.
#3 I've just received a five day permit from the City of New Orleans that will allow me to enter the city to retrieve my business inventory from my house and to retrieve my car.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Why my wife is my ticket upstairs

And by upstairs, I mean heaven, the celestial kingdom, eternal life and salvation, that kind of stuff.

My wife read yesterday's blog entries. She told me that she thought it odd that I could write a somewhat spiritual entry about "moth and rust" and then swear and drop an f-bomb while writing about the most Honorable FarraKHAN! (to quote Capt. Kirk). She mentioned that perhaps my inability to get answers to my prayers might come from the fact that my writings keep offending something larger than the sensitive Mormon set; she thinks that I am offending the Spirit. See before I got married, swearing wouldn't have even made a blip on my sin radar screen. Swearing was something I only worried about around kids and family. After my wife's scolding I think she might be right. That doesn't mean that I still don't think the same thing about KHAN! as I wrote yesterday, it just means that I should find more articulate ways of disparaging him rather than resorting to base vulgarity.

I'll get back to KHAN! later.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

The Ugly American summed up


Check this link out:

Here's a quote from that article. I can't believe it.

Minister Louis Farrakhan was in Charlotte Monday to rally support for his Millions More March. However, he did have some choice words about the response to Hurricane Katrina victims some of whom are staying at the Charlotte Coliseum. Farrakhan's been traveling across the country to visit shelters like the one that is set up at the coliseum. He said he's not happy with the job the American Red Cross is doing. He had harsh words for FEMA too. But that was just the warm up. Farrakhan also shared his thoughts on how the levee breached in the first place. "I heard from a very reliable source who saw a 25 foot deep crater under the levee breach. It may have been blown up to destroy the black part of town and keep the white part dry," Farrakhan said.

Lakeview is the wealthiest, whitest, and most submerged section of the city you f**king race baiting asshole. If the breach was under the levee, and that's submerged with filthy water, how in the hell could anyone see a "25 foot deep crater?"

That was a real scream.

Some men are searchin for the Holy Grail, but there aint nothin' sweeter than ridin' the rails

Well I woke up this mornin' to find myself staring up at the same ceiling that I woke up to from 1982-1997 minus the two years I was in Costa Rica. The ceiling has changed little. The ceiling tiles still form a diagonal line from one corner to another, the light forming a block for the Tron like games I used to imagine when I was home sick from school. I remember being sick one day and listening to my clock radio in my room. Van Halen's "Jump" came on the radio (Z93) about once every 20-25 minutes.

Hurricane Katrina has forced me to do what I never thought I would do again: live with my parents. I am 31 years old, married with a wife and child. Were it not for my self-imposed poverty while I finish my PhD, I would most likely own a house and have a 9 to 5 somewhere far away from hurricanes and divers disasters.

Living with your parents is never easy after puberty. Never! They don't respect privacy. My parents both work out of their house now so they are always freaking here. Always! They also are now in their 50s and seem to have lost the need for sleep. They don't go to bed until 1:30 AM, minimum. If they ever want another grandkid they will change this behavior. Mickelle and I will most likely have to adopt otherwise. Seriously!

My Mom still thinks I'm 12 and bosses me around accordingly. They still tell me not to lean back in chairs (that have never broken in 30 years of leaning back in them), not slam doors, not do this or that. I am going insane. My Mom thinks she is encouraging me when she says things like "I just think you need to finish your dissertation as soon as possible." Like I don't need to be reminded of the 4,000 lbs. gorilla that got me into this perdicament in the first place.

The weight of the world is on my shoulders right now and the Lord seems to have abandoned me when I pray to Him for guidance. Answers do not come. I am wracked by indecision. If I decide on a course and then pray about it to seek confirmation, it doesn't come. I'm left to my own devices which are broken, outdated, or obsolete apparently.

Nevertheless I know that I was supposed to come to New Orleans. And being here with my parents has helped me realize a few things. For example, tonight my Mom told me that she had been preparing a Sunday School lesson and one of the Scriptures she read was St. Matthew 6:19-21,

19 Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal:
20 But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal:
21 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

Moth and rust are corrupting New Orleans right now and thieves have broken in and stolen from many. My things are my things, but they are not important. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. The Savior knew exactly how to sum of human behavior. Where is my heart at the moment? On my possessions. On my friends. On my little daughter and the heartache I feel when she asks me if her room is flooded and all her toys are ruined. I have my wife and child and my life. That's where my heart should be, and it is But, please don't tell me that. Point clear. Point made. Point beaten to death. Poignant only if I point it out from this side.

Living with my parents aint easy, but at least it's better than being homeless. To quote Tom Waits,

Blind or crippled
Sharp or dull
I’m reading the bible
By a 40 watt bulb
What price freedom
Dirt is my rug
Well I sleep like a baby
With the snakes and the bugs

Slept all night in the cedar grove
I was born to ramble
Born to rove
Some men are searchin for theHoly grail
But there ain’t nothin sweeter
Than ridin the rails

Jared Benjamin Craig: cousin, dude, bro

My whole family on my dad's side is Mormon. My whole family on my Mom's side is dead (they weren't really that adept at procreating), save my 93 year old grandfather. Growing up, I wasn't mormon so I had all these weird cousins that did weird things. My grandpa had a swimming pool. We'd get together all the time at the family farm in Moreland, Georgia. On those occasions where our parties fell on Sundays in the Summer, I can clearly remember getting in the pool and having my cousins all sit around the pool lusting after the cool splashes we were making. Conversations usually involved these exchanges:

Me: Why aren't you swimming?
Cousin: It's Sunday.
Me: So?
Cousin: Sunday is the Sabbath.
Me: The what?
Cousin: The Sabbath. We don't do any recreation on Sunday.
Me: Why not?
Cousin: Cause it's the Sabbath.
Me: So?
Cousin (getting frustrated): So, we're supposed to remember the Lord today and dedicate it to him.
Me: Just get in the pool, weirdo. I can tell you want to.
Cousin: I do want to, but I love the Lord.
Me: Well, if he loves you, he'll understand. It's damn hot out here.
Cousin: Ugh!

Something like that. I tried and tried. They never gave in.....except one cousin. Jared.

My cousin Jared is cool, but not because he swam on Sundays. He can't help it. The way he talks, the way he opens his eyes all radiate coolness and chill. He's like the Dude in the Big Lebowski (minus the manias). He's just cool. We always got along better than all my other cousins. He's the smartest of the bunch, probably the best looking one too. I remember going to 99X's Big Day Out in 1996 at the Lakewood Amphitheater in Atlanta. Lakewood has covered seats and then an enormous sloping lawn on which to sit and enjoy the show. It's a great place to go see a concert because it has plenty of cheap seats. That day it poured rain. I mean poured rain. At the base of the hill a big mud bog formed and a few chemically inspired people started becoming mud people and dancing around in a trance like state. We were fairly close and decided to go get a better look. As I got closer to the pit I thought I recognized one of them. I did! It was my cousin Jared. I called out his name, he saw me and waved, responding with "Hey bro". He probably recognized me too, but his mind was under the influence of something else that day. He has never had any recollection of that moment. I love my cousin.

So today I got the gumption to maybe give it a try and attempt to enter the city this week. My Dad has allergies so bad that he has hurt his back sneezing (something I didn't think possible until my friend Paul Dunn, a great American,'s wife herniated a disc [disk?] in her back coughing). My Dad can't go help me get stuff out of my house, and Paul can't really go unless it's a weekend because of professional obligations and his ailing wife, so I thought to myself........who can I call? My mind instantly settled on my cousin Jared. I called him. He dropped everything and agreed to go with me. It's nice knowing that family will help out when needed. It's great that he loves me enough to come help on a moment's notice. It's even better to know that he is a crack shot with almost any gun. Too bad I lost the nerve to attempt to enter the city; driving ten hours just to face the possibility that I might not be able to get in killed it for me. I'd love nothing more than to go on a two day adventure with Jared. A friend is a friend, but kin's kin.

The Media do aggravate sometimes

Okay, 34 elderly people perished in a nursing home in St. Bernard Parish. This fact is indispustable. Period. Report it. Let people know about it. The attorney general can then determine if a crime has been committed or not. The media should immediately stop rending their garments and wailing in the streets over this. There are bigger fish to fry and other innocents to indict (not that I'm saying anyone is innocent in this case).

That the owners of this nursing home are absolute callous bastards is most likely a given. Whether they are guilty of murder or not is up to a court of law, NOT the media. I am listening to Anderson Cooper and his blonde de jour back in the studio just erupt in a torrent of molten self-righteous anger about these two people being released on their own recognizance. They are saying the same things over and over. These two people are going to be hung out to dry and rot. Asshats will call for them to be executed by strapping them to hospital beds and letting them drown. We don't know what it was like to be in that horrific location. Can you imagine the costs involved in operating a nursing home? Imagine having to load up all your patients and move them out of harm's way every time there's a storm coming. That's one ambulance per patient. The payouts for this would be staggering, most likely bankrupting. I think it's far too early to scream for these people's blood. Give them their day in court and let a jury of their peers decide their fate. I for one would think their lawyer a fool if he did not immediately insist on a change of venue to somewhere far far away. They will not be able to get a fair trial in Southeast Louisiana.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Just astounded

So I guess some people besides my closest friends actually do read my blog. Today I have been absolutely astounded by donations from people that I don't even know. Tennessee Williams's best known play takes place in New Orleans, A Streetcar Named Desire and the most famous line from the play is "I have always depended on the kindness of strangers." Allow me to paraphrase that line to have it apply to my post-Katrina world: Lately, I often depend on the kindness of strangers. Today I have received donations from strangers to my little effort in the amount of $355. These are funds from people I have never even met. One person gave me $5 because this blog made them laugh. People I know have been telling people they know about me and they have sent me money. Truly truly humbling.

The St. Charles Avenue streetcar (NOT trolley) line is the world's oldest continuously used railroad line going back some 170 years. I do not know if this interruption will end that streak.

I want to go home and salvage what I can. I have $5,000 in ebay inventory hanging in cedarlined closets. If I could get to it before it molds, some could be saved.

Wishing and hoping and waiting and praying and dreaming.........

Oh, I have gout today too. And I need a root canal. My car is in New Orleans and I'm going to be 40...........................someday.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Top Ten Annoying Katrina Quotes

1) "I don't think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees." –President Bush, on "Good Morning America," Sept. 1, 2005, six days after repeated warnings from experts about the scope of damage expected from Hurricane Katrina (Source)

2) "What I'm hearing which is sort of scary is that they all want to stay in Texas. Everybody is so overwhelmed by the hospitality. And so many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway so this (chuckle) – this is working very well for them." –Former First Lady Barbara Bush, on the Hurricane flood evacuees in the Houston Astrodome, Sept. 5, 2005 (Source)

3) "It makes no sense to spend billions of dollars to rebuild a city that's seven feet under sea level....It looks like a lot of that place could be bulldozed." –House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.), Aug. 31, 2005 (Source)

4) "We've got a lot of rebuilding to do ... The good news is — and it's hard for some to see it now — that out of this chaos is going to come a fantastic Gulf Coast, like it was before. Out of the rubbles of Trent Lott's house — he's lost his entire house — there's going to be a fantastic house. And I'm looking forward to sitting on the porch." (Laughter) —President Bush, touring hurricane damage, Mobile, Ala., Sept. 2, 2005 (Source)

5) "Considering the dire circumstances that we have in New Orleans, virtually a city that has been destroyed, things are going relatively well." –FEMA Director Michael Brown, Sept. 1, 2005 (Source)

6) "Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job." –President Bush, to FEMA director Michael Brown, while touring Hurricane-ravaged Mississippi, Sept. 2, 2005 (Source)

7) "I have not heard a report of thousands of people in the convention center who don't have food and water." –Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, on NPR's "All Things Considered," Sept. 1, 2005 (Source)

8) "Well, I think if you look at what actually happened, I remember on Tuesday morning picking up newspapers and I saw headlines, 'New Orleans Dodged the Bullet.' Because if you recall, the storm moved to the east and then continued on and appeared to pass with considerable damage but nothing worse." –Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, blaming media coverage for his failings, "Meet the Press," Sept. 4, 2005 (Source)

9) "I mean, you have people who don't heed those warnings and then put people at risk as a result of not heeding those warnings. There may be a need to look at tougher penalties on those who decide to ride it out and understand that there are consequences to not leaving.” –Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA), Sept. 6, 2005 (Source)

10) "You simply get chills every time you see these poor individuals...many of these people, almost all of them that we see are so poor and they are so black, and this is going to raise lots of questions for people who are watching this story unfold." –CNN's Wolf Blitzer, on New Orleans' hurricane evacuees, Sept. 1, 2005 (Source)

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Ahh The Onion, making the horrific funny since 1969

When my wife woke me on the morning of September 11, 2001, I was asleep in our recliner. It was just after 6AM. We both had to be at work by 8AM, and she always got up earlier than I did to shower and get ready. That morning, she woke me up and turned on the TV and told me that an airplane had flown into one of the World Trade Center towers. I was dumbstruck. I figured it had to be a terrorist act. As we sat there and watched the building burn, we were suddenly shaken by the sight of the other plane slamming into the other tower. I will never forget the words I uttered at that moment, (edited for the sensitive Mormon set) "HOLY F***ING SH**!" I'm sure I was not the only one to say that exact combination of words on that day. Two weeks later or so, I check the to see what they had to say about it and the headline I find blazing across the top of the page is verbatim what I said when I saw that second plane hit. September 11, 2001

So this massive hurricane comes through and levels the Gulf Coast and the Onion figures out a way to make it funny, such as "Louisiana National Guard Offers Help By Phone From Iraq". Read the current issue. You'll notice that in the photo they have on their front page--on the middle left edge, you can see the New Orleans 1st Ward church building with water up to the tops of the doors. No, this isn't the building that I attend. The best article from this issue is the one about perspective and looting. I about laughed myself to death, probably breaking a covenant in the process (I'm not trying to be ironic or funny here).

Read this:
Throughout the Gulf Coast, Caucasian suburbanites attempting to gather food and drink in the shattered wreckage of shopping districts have reported seeing African­Americans "looting snacks and beer from damaged businesses." "I was in the abandoned Wal-Mart gathering an air mattress so I could float out the potato chips, beef jerky, and Budweiser I'd managed to find," said white survivor Lars Wrightson, who had carefully selected foodstuffs whose salt and alcohol content provide protection against contamination. "Then I look up, and I see a whole family of [African-Americans] going straight for the booze. Hell, you could see they had already looted a fortune in diapers." Radio stations still in operation are advising store owners and white people in the affected areas to locate firearms in sporting-goods stores in order to protect themselves against marauding blacks looting gun shops.

That is some funny stuff. Sadly though, it's only funny because we all know that this is funny because it's true. If white people do it, it's foraging; if blacks do it, it's looting; lock 'em up--being the predominant attitude. What a bunch of crap! I can offer no solutions.

A total ingrate

National Guard soldier on a night patrol in Metairie, LA.

That's me, a total ingrate. I'm not having a good day. Tomorrow I am going to church, the ward in which I was baptized when I was 17 years old--the ward where everyone knows me. I am going to have to answer the same questions over and over.

#1 How are you?
#2 How's your house?
#3 Is there anything I can do?
#4 How are you holding up?
#5 What are you going to do?

Those five questions, usually in that order, are how every conversation I have begins these past two weeks. What sucks is that I know that most of these people really care about me and want to know the answers, in earnest. Problem is, every once in awhile they let slip these words which I am now sick of hearing, "Well at least you're alive."

True, very true. But hold on a second. Unless you've ever been in the position of having lost everything, of having to hit this enormous pause button on your life, you can't really justify saying that to someone. It seems like the right thing to say, but it's not. It doesn't make me feel any better. I've had my parley with God. He knows how grateful I am that my family escaped with our lives (not that we were ever in mortal danger). Reiterating the obvious seems just as glib as my writing about it in this blog. I don't need people to tell me I'm lucky to be alive. That point is crystal ******* clear.

I am a total ingrate.

Katrina ain't got nothing on Mitch

I do not speak for God, nor can I declare what is the product of his wrath, only as it relates to me. I do know this, Matthew 5:45 has never had as much meaning to me as it does right now: "[...]for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust." Yes He did indeed.

Gordon B. Hinckley said the following in a speech before the Los Angeles World Affairs Council on May 13, 1999:

When Hurricane Mitch hovered over Honduras and Nicaragua for six days last fall, the destruction was unbelievable. We immediately began shipping supplies and I went down there myself to do what I could. I was amazed at what I saw. Others had sent in supplies, but initially there was difficulty, it seemed, in distributing it. Our local bishops, these volunteers of whom I have spoken, immediately went to work as did our missionaries in that land. Water had filled their homes to the tops of the windows. Everywhere there was mud and filth and suffering. There was a lack of food, a lack of clothing, a lack of medicine, a lack of hope. We quickly supplied that need for our own people and for many others. As the waters receded and mud remained, we sent shovels and wheel barrows, large numbers of them, simple things but so very very important in these circumstances. The mud was cleaned from the homes and people were slowly able to return.

I talked to a little girl in San Pedro Sula who survived the floods and with a young man who found her. Her mother had died a few months before the storm. As the wind blew and the rains fell, her father, who was sick, placed her on a stack of furniture in the home. He wanted to do what he could to save her. He died in the catastrophe. There she was, lying on top of that furniture, unable to move, the water all about her in the room. She had nothing to eat or drink. As the waters receded, a young man, a member of her local congregation, came along looking for survivors in the flooded homes. He heard a noise and looked up and there she was, alive. He brought her down and took her to the home of the bishop, whose wife cleaned her up and fed and clothed her.

When I returned home, I spoke of this in a public meeting. I told them my desire to send some money to give a little holiday candy to this orphaned child. When I told of this experience offers came in, offers came in from Nestle, Hershey, Bache’s, and other candy companies who wished to know how they could help. We couldn’t send chocolate because it’s so hot there it would melt, but we did send a great deal of candy from those who offered it and we thank them. Checks came in and money from children who wanted to assist. Thousands of pounds of candy and other items were sent to aid this little girl and many others like her. Now she’s been taken in by her aunt. The response to her needs and the needs of others was immediate and tremendous.

The response has been the same in New Orleans. Hurricane Mitch killed untold tens of thousands, forever entombed in an avalanche of solidified mud. En paz descansen hermanos.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Pond ripples from Kelo v. City of New London

Remember a couple of months ago when the Supreme Court ruled in Kelo v. City of New London that imminent domain could be invoked in order to seize private property for commercial development and tax revenue increases? Think about the potential effects that this ruling could have in New Orleans, especially in the impoverished and most likely destroyed Ninth Ward and Lower Ninth Ward. The aftermath of that decision may rear its ugly head in New Orleans. Hopefully the state legislature will step in and either pass a law prohibiting that scenario, or amend the constitution to forever outlaw it. Can you imagine the feeling of dread if you knew that not only had you lost your home, your possessions, possibly loved ones, but that also some giant corporation could come in and buy the land out from under your feet with the government's approval.

Go Eagles! yet again....

No, not Etowah (War)* Eagles, Emory Eagles. Thanks to the help of some very kind individuals at Tulane (Dr. Chris Dunn), UGA (Dr. Susan Quinlan) and Emory (Dr. Jeff Lesser) I am now officially enrolled at Emory University for the Fall semester. Who'dathunkit? Since I was accepted at Georgia State for my Masters, and UGA for my PhD, and since I attended Georgia Tech for the first half of my undergraduate, I have now been a student all four major universities in Georgia, yet I'll not hold a degree from any of them.

I was going to enroll at UGA, but they wanted $985 to enroll for five dissertation credit hours. That's crazy. When I was a freshman at Georgia Tech, it was $895 a quarter. Tutition has gotten out of hand, and I'll tell you why. I graduated in 1992. Starting with the class of 1993, any Georgia High School graduate with a 3.0 could get free tuition at any Georgia University System School. Where did these funds come from? The Georgia Lottery's Hope Scholarship. The lottery is an evil that has taxed the poor and the bad at math to the benefit of the middle class. Yet, the middle class still suffers because if the lottery must pay for every student's schooling, then the university system has every reason to boost tuition and the state to remove funding from the tax budget for education. The result: Schools that were created with the intention of being a low cost alternative to private education, have now become very expensive. Hence the dependence on student loans, financial aid, grants and other funding that students must now use. DAMN THE LOTTERY!

* Mr. Bill Carpenter, in a fit of political correctness during the First Gulf War, changed both our school colors (baby blue and gold) and the mascot (War Eagles) to navy blue and yellow and to just plain old boring Eagles. Fox 97 wouldn't even played the Edwin Starr "War" song during the war. My how times have changed. War Eagles has flavor.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

More stewardship

Here's is another list of receipts that I was able to obtain for the things I bought while in Mississippi. I will try and remember every single cent of the money with which I have been entrusted. If you are curious as to why I purchased something or would like clarification, please ask.

A giant's lawnmower

Here are some photos of the destruction I saw in Mississippi. The green building's roof is in the tree to the left. The trees look like some giant came through with his lawnmower and sawed them all off.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Y las aguas subieron y bajaron a la vez

Acabo de averiguar que mis amigos Marco Puente y Carmen Morales de Puente lo perdieron todo. Marco fue a su apartamento hoy y lo encontró completamente destruído. El techo se abrió y las aguas se metieron a la vez. Lo peor es que ella está en Chile y su pobre esposo tiene que enfrentar todo esto solo. ¡Es de lo más triste!

It's just not even fair

With two cats in the yard, life used to be so hard

Here's a photo of our house:

As you can see, there is water all around, but you can clearly see, towards the back of our house, on the other side of a tree our neighbors Mazda Miata in the water. That is a very tiny car, which is promising. The white speck in front of our house may be our front porch. You can see our neighbor to the left's front porch which is read and roughly the same heighth as ours. Here's hoping and praying.

Bob Marley is safe

On December 26, 1995 I became the proud owner of a 1995 silver Ford Escort LX 4-door 1.9 litre engine sedan. Shortly thereafter, I purchased an enormous Bob Marley sticker at a concert and placed it in the back passenger side window of my car. Since then, my friends have all referred to my car as Bob Marley or just Bob.

I left Bob at 3613 St. Charles Ave when we evacuated. Bob is 10 years old and has 144k miles on her, half of those pizza delivery miles. I was afraid that Bob wouldn't make it all the way to Georgia if we evacuated, so we rented a car. Not knowing that we wouldn't be able to get home for a long time; this was, in hindsight, a very dumb idea.

I have been worried sick that I left Bob to be flooded with filth. Thanks to the wonder of modern technology, I can announce that Bob is relatively safe and dry. I reference the following photo, cropped by my friend Tim Boisvert, a great American. That is a major relief. Notice how the flood waters have crept into the parking lot, but have spared my little friend. If I had left her at my house, she would be flooded to her door handles.

A sincere prayer of thanksgiving will be offered this evening.

Good news!

I just found out that Tulane is going to keep paying me until classes resume! That is most welcome news. Even though my stipend is a pittance, it's my pittance. First thing I'm doing when I get paid Friday is writing a check and paying my tithing!

Second, I just got a call from my friends César and Lori Núñez. They and their two boys are safe and sound in Lafayette, LA. They were able to get back into their home in Jefferson, LA yesterday to find it high and dry. Their next door neighbor stayed home to guard their street. He had to call police six times, firing his weapon in the air, and even leading to the arrest of some people. I must assume now that my home has been looted, which is okay really. There's not much of value in my house other than TVs and such. If they loot that stuff, my renter's insurance covers the loss, and since I don't have flood insurance, even better. I'm being glib, please forgive me.

Third, I have a job interview tomorrow to teach evening adult classes in Atlanta.

Fourth, Emory University will grant me full library privileges, even though I don't meet their requirements to enroll as a transient.

Fifth, people's generosity to my family and my branch continues to astound me. I mean truly truly astound.

thank you all,


The late great Jerry Clower's words of wisdom in a disaster!

A little something to cheer you up from the late great Mississippian, Jerry Clower:

One day, the townspeople heard over the radio that a great flood was coming. The police warned everyone to evacuate. As they did, one man refused to do so. His neighbor asked, “What’s wrong with you, don’t you know the flood is coming?” “Don’t worry,” the man replied, “the Lord’s gonna take care of me.”

As time went on, the waters started to rise and the man had to go upstairs in his house. A police boat came by and urged the man to get in. “Don’t worry,” the man replied, “the Lord’s gonna take care of me.” The waters continued to rise, and the man scurried upstairs to the attic. Again, a police boat came by and offered another chance to escape. “Don’t worry,” the man replied, “the Lord’s gonna take care of me.”

Finally, the waters rose so high that the man had to climb out on the roof. A helicopter came by and pleaded with the man to get in. “Don’t worry,” the man replied, “the Lord’s gonna take care of me.” As it turned out, the man drowned, graveyard dead, and went to heaven. When he got there, he turned to God and said, “God, what happened? I thought you were going to take care of me.” God replied, “You dummy, I sent you two boats and a helicopter.”

Monday, September 05, 2005

The blame game

There are so many people that need help. I went and did all I could in Mississippi. Can't we wait for recriminations until later?

As I drove home yesterday, I saw convoy after convoy of military vehicles (easily 1,000), a convoy of 40 ambulances from Pennsylvania (including Penn State University), 60 Georgia State Troopers, 5 airboats from a police force in Indiana. Power trucks from as far away as Wisconsin. The air traffic over Picayune, some 55 miles from New Orleans, was incredible. I sat outside, seeing the Milky Way for the first time in years, and watched countless helicopters and planes work their way towards and around New Orleans. People are coming to help. I think more could have been done to evacuate people. This storm came up quickly and there were already FEMA assests committed to the cleanup of Florida. I don't think it's right to blame anyone yet, but I am convinced that many heads will roll: some deservedly, others not. All the fingerpointing in the media is making me sick. It has a time and a place and I think it's too early.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Alas, Babylon

Pat Frank's 1959 novel, Alas Babylon, deals with the aftermath of a nuclear attack on a rural community of Central Florida. The events in the novel delve into what happens to a polite society when devastation, the breakdown of order, and the law of scarcity kick in. The main character, has to take the role of family, military, and municipal leader and is able to restore a semblance of order to what was fast becoming chaos. He did this by clear leadership, decisiveness, and a willingness to get his hands dirty.

As we drove to help on Friday we first stopped in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. The air was thick with concern and hostility. Wild tales of brothers shooting sisters in the head over a bag of ice were traded nervously by wild-eyed people at gas pumps. We had six 5-gallon gas cans tied to the roof of our truck. We felt like people were eyeing them enviously. Gas was $2.99 a gallon, down from the $3.19 we had paid in Atlanta. We said that we were going to load our firearms when we got to Meridian, Mississippi. We had a 12 gauge Mossberg shotgun and a little 25mm pistol. We drove the next 75 miles to Meridian where we waited an hour to buy gas at $2.49 a gallon. They were limiting purchases to $30 of gas at this point. We filled our tank up with a mere $12 and they were prohibiting people from filling up containers--only vehicles. A lady approached us with a can saying that she had run out of gas. She was in tears. My Dad and I are big guys so we blocked so that the Marines guarding the gas station couldn't see and we filled her can for her. We spent $29.30 on gas. I was unable to get a receipt. I relate this story for a reason. Not because I want approval, for I firmly believe in the Savior's admonition that "When thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth, that thine alms may be in secret" but because I want to convey to you the sense of palpable desperation in people's lives two days ago. The air was lense tense than it was in Tuscaloosa, so we left the weapons unloaded. Please know that while I would never look for a firefight with someone, and while I would most likely give my things over to someone rather than fight them, I would not hesitate to fight back if someone sought to take away my life or the life of someone else. I went in armed for that reason. Luckily, I never even had the remotest need to load my weapon.

On the drive south as we got below Meridian on I-59 there was no electricity for 50 miles. We could not see a thing as there was a new moon and clouds covering the stars. We began to notice two smells: that of freshly tilled soil and a strong aroma of pine scent. This was due to the enormous number of broken and uprooted pine trees along the road. Eastern Mississippi is essentially still an enormous empty forest. We drove on through the night unmolested. We arrived at Picayune, Mississippi shortly before midnight. We located the Picayune Ward of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and drove up to their doors. I got out of our truck holding a Coleman latern to my face with my hands up in as unthreatening a posture as I know how. As I approached, the door opened and I was queried as to who I was and what I wanted. When I told them that I was simply there to help, they opened their doors most enthusiastically. The 8 people had been holed up in the church for five days without electricity or communication. Amazingly the church had no damage only downed trees on the property. Even more amazing, they water and gas never went out, so not only did they have potable water, they had hot water as well. We brought much needed full for their generator, fresh fruit, more food, work gloves and all the other things that we had bought.

The church members there were nearing their wit's end. They had had no communication with the outside world since the day after the storm hit. The anticipated of help from FEMA and the Church Welfare System hadn't arrived. They were running low on supplies (other than food which they had plenty of) and were visibly angry that the government wasn't helping them. The bishop had no way of checking on all of his church members because his congregation covers the whole county and he didn't have enough gas, plus well over half the roads are still impassable due to downed trees and power lines. It was hotter and stickier than a sweaty armpit there and they desperately needed news. We brought them that. Essentially, I feel that the main thing we did for them was give them hope.

Yesterday we had made plans to go and look for the daughter of a man that attends my parents church here in Woodstock, Georgia. The Church Welfare Service showed up delivering food, generators, chainsaws, two volunteers to man them, and a satellite phone to the bishop (it costs $2 a minute to use). With their spirits lifted we set about cleaning up the church grounds and then went off to remove trees from the roads. With many people having evacuated, you can't start removing trees from houses until the insurance company assays the damage. As I suffer from gout and was starting to develop symptoms due to sweating so much (if a gout sufferer gets dehydrated, uric acid accumulates in the blood, triggering an attack), I was sent on a reconnoitering mission to go and get more gasoline. We drove back to Hattiesburg, MS and we able to fill our truck's tank and get several more cans of gas. Gas was worth its weight in gold yesterday. We waited in line for an hour and a half and only about 10 more cars were able to get gas after us because they sold out. The National Guard was in force at the gas station making sure that everyone behaved. I saw no instances of selfishness that was criminal. We also called tons of people from our cell phones (which didn't work down in Picayune) for people who wanted to let their families know that they were alright. Also, we drove over to Petal, Mississippi to make sure that my friend Paul Dunn's ex-stepdad was alright (he had evacuated and his house was fine). We drove back and started a campfire and cooked hot dogs. It was the first hot meal that they had had in a week. I gave $20 cash to the missionaries serving in Picayune because the banks are closed and since the gas stations are only taking cash as payment, it is scarce. They looked like they were going to bawl (they live off of $140 a month each). I only mention this because I promised to make an accounting of all my expenses. I will post the receipts I was able to obtain in the next couple of days.

We slept on the floor. I awoke every 20 minutes. This morning, with my foot stiff and my Dad and I both exhausted, we determined that we needed to come home for now.

Picayune, Mississippi is about 15 miles north of Slidell, Louisiana and in the direct path of Hurricane Katrina. Picayune was in the western eyewall. It has suffered great damage, about one in twenty houses has a tree that has fallen into the house crating gaping holes in the structure. About one in 5 houses has been hit by a falling tree. Every house has sustained some sort of damage. Strangely, north of Picayune about 40 miles is Hattiesburg, Mississippi home of Southern Mississippi University. They have electricity there, but it looks like a giant has come through with his lawn mower and scalped all of the pine trees. The odd thing is that the tree stumps are there, most of the broken off about 10-20 feet up, but the tops of the trees are gone, carried off by the storm. Last Saturday when we evacuated, we drove through a gloriously verdant forest of loplolly and slash pines, oaks, cedars, maples, and poplars. Today driving home, it looked like Winter with most of the trees having only say 15% of their leaves still on the branches.

We're home now. I am exhausted. I saw on a satellite image that my car is not flooded at 3613 St. Charles Ave. My home looks like it might have taken on water just a little bit. It's too hard to tell from satellite images.

I still do not know what happened to Eric Ezekiel Walker. I pray that he is safe and sound, and most importantly--not alone; a 14-year-old boy all alone in this situation makes me want to cry.

Alas, Babylon's image of post-apocalyptic living is strangely similar to what's happened, happening, and what will happen to our beloved New Orleans. The main character's wealth made him a loner who barely practiced his profession (law), but once put through the refiner's fire, he cleanses himself of petty things and creates a life truly worth living. He redirects not only himself, but his community, bringing it back from the brink of incivility and desperation. We have had a disaster, have devolved into lawlessness and despair, and yet, we shall overcome.


I've been trying to think of an appropriate joke about what's been going on, that wouldn't be in bad taste. The best I can come up with is this:

The Krispy Kreme in Metairie called the looters to come protect them from the cops that were rioting outside when they wouldn't open their doors.

Still too early?

Thursday, September 01, 2005

An honest steward

To date I have received $535 in donations via Paypal and the mail from people towards the efforts I am making in helping people suffering from Katrina. As promised, I will post all the receipts that I am able to obtain for the ways in which I am spending the money. I have $250 in cash which I will use in emergencies, or in places that have no power. Below you can see a list of the things I've bought thus far. If you have any questions about why I bought a certain thing, I"ll be happy to answer them. The Chocolate Bars are for children and for people who are working and get fatigued. The potassium and magnesium are for people who are working and sweating to help them prevent cramps from mineral loss. Thanks to all those who are helping the relief effort however they can. We leave at first light.

Mississippi bound

I have received almost $500 in donations from people towards buying stuff to help people. My Dad and I are going to Sam's Club to stock up in a little bit and then we'll be heading off to Picayune, Mississippi to help where we can.

The National Guard

With the news that evacuations have been halted because some ******* (edited for the nervous Mormon set) have been shooting at the helicopters. Shoot back damnit!