Apologies for not writing in a while. I've been deep underground working on my India Fudge book. My desk is a mess, there's no food in the house, the kids have forgotten they have a mother. But I finished the draft and passed it on to the powers that be and now I can come up for air. Ahhhhhh! Meanwhile, I've been watching the reports from Louisiana and Mississippi and praying for everyone down there. My heart goes out to all the people affected by the hurricane - words cannot describe the devastation and loss. I've been watching all the news reports and just weeping at the tragic stories coming out of there. I cannot fathom that this is happening in our country. Why can't the government get food and water to these people? It makes no sense. We can send spaceships to Mars but we can't drop palettes of water for those in need??? There's a fundraiser on NBC tomorrow night and those of us with electricity should watch and give generously. Or you can just go to the Red Cross site and donate. I've already given to the Red Cross and I'm planning to call in and give more tomorrow night. Here's hoping Leonardo di Caprio answers the phone when I call. Why do they always show him answering phones at all the disaster relief telethons? Seriously, you watch - they'll show him the most tomorrow night. Why? God only knows.
I did hear from my friend Brad who lives in New Orleans and managed to get out of there. I'll pass on his message for those of you who might like to hear directly from the front lines. Here goes...
Well, first let me say we're high and dry. Max and I departed New Orleans last Saturday night/Sunday morning just after midnight. Turned out to be a good plan, as we drove all the way to Jacksonville, Florida with no traffic whatsoever. We're actually just outside of Jacksonville, in the small, small, small country town of Hilliard, Florida (one red light), which is just below the Georgia line. We're talking cows in the yard country here people! A place where they differentiate between "house dogs", "yard dogs", and "hunting dogs". Needless to say Max is a "house dog" - he doesn't even like to associate with the "yard dogs"!
The home is that of my good friend Art's brother and family. Art, as some of you may know, moved back up here from New Orleans just before the beginning of summer. Good timing on his part. The family consists of Kenny, Connie, and their kids Ethan -14, and Bayley - 5. Ethan, whose nickname is "Bubba", is on the junior varsity football team and is already the size of a small fridge. Bayley, whose nickname is "Damnit girl, I said stop that!", looks like a young Pamela Anderson, and acts like she's 18. But they're all good people, and have been really gracious to open their home to Max and I. Not a lot of people are able to take in someone who comes equipped with a 104 pound German Shepherd. I told Art I've gone from Queer as Folk to Country as Folk.
I'll probably stay here a few more days, then get back on the road and head up to stay with my dad and step-mom in Bethany, Delaware. It could be a good month or four before we can even get back to the city, and who knows how long after that before power is restored. I haven't been able to find out any specific information regarding my house or neighborhood, other than the aerial footage I've seen of the Fairgrounds, which is two blocks over. Various reports have put the water levels in my area at 6 - 10 feet. My house is 3 feet off the ground, so who knows what that really means -- if, whenever I can actually get back there, I'll find anything left, or salvageable. Not really the way I had wanted to start a new wardrobe.
Tulane (University, where I work), from what I've heard, also has a good bit of water on it. No telling when it will open back up. Also not sure what they're going to do in regards to staff, specifically payroll. Oy, if you see me greeting at a Wal-Mart, say hi! Actually, Art said he was at the Wal-Mart in Jacksonville the other day and they were soliciting donations for hurricane victims via a bucket at the door. I said, "Good -- can I go show my ID and get it?"
Fortunately it's not as bad as all that. Yet. But I really did think this was going to be another situation where it was best to get out of town, and then we'd be back in a few days. Sooooo all I packed were a few items of clothes, some food for Max, and a six pack of diet coke for the road. Left behind the brand new desktop computer, the clothes, the shelf of photo albums with all my pics from the cruise ship, Max's meds, and, well, everything that was life as I knew it. But, the dog, the car and I are safe. And in the end, that's what matters.
Thanks to all of you who have emailed or called with concern. My cell phone doesn't get reception here in Hilliard, but earlier today while we were in Jacksonville I got signal and was able to access my voice mail for the first time.
Don't think life is all bad though - I'm enjoying a cocktail and Max has two kids fawning over him with long-lasting belly rubs.
I'll send more updates as things progress. If you're a New Orleans refugee as well, let me know how you're doing and where you're at.
~Brad and Max
P.S. Connie just got home and told us that all the gas stations as far as Jacksonville are almost out of gas, and don't know when the trucks will arrive next.
Here's another firsthand report from one of Brad's friends (let's all count our blessings)...
HI brad its very good that you got out. my family and i were not going to leave, we NEVER leave. but it has also never been a cat5. so we left at the last minute Sunday afternoon.me, sister mom and grandparents....dad and brother were too stubborn do they stayed.
we drove toward slidell thinking we were going to florida....it took 5 hours to get to slidell......so we turned and stopped in mandeville at my great aunt's house(88 years old) thinking we were going to pick her up and go. she said she didn't want to go and she knew where she was better off.
so then we got on I12 and headed back west traffic free.....until we got to i10 in BR from there we go on to i90 and continued to opelousas louisiana. by this time it was midnight and we stopped here to look for a hotel. of course none were available so we followed a policeman to a shelter where we slept outside in the parking lot me mom and sis in the minivan and grandparents in the truck.
the next morning we found a nearby holiday inn that was full and allowing people to sleep in banquet rooms and the lobby. we took a few things to an upstairs mezzanine planning to sleep there for the night. this was not necessary, the head of housekeeping gave up the suite that she and another staff member were staying in. the people in opelousas are VERY nice.
after that 1st night we were able to book 2 rooms in the holiday inn. and meals for the entire hotel were donated 1st by the rotary club, next by an individual, and some by the hotel itself.
locals even came by and offered rooms in their homes for people in need. the same lady that gave us her room informed us of a man that offered a currently uninhabited HOUSE yes a whole house. we went to look at it and thought of staying there until my brother. his wife and my father arrived. by this time we were able to contact a cousin in monroe who offered her home to us. i am still waiting on the group's decision as to where we are going.
my brother and his wife were staying in a days inn on the i10 service road near severn. he witnessed the hurricane from the 4th floor, flying light poles and all. the day that they left he waded through waist deep water in the lobby and hitched a ride in the back of a truck to the vets. exit where he proceeded though lafraniere park in more high water fighting off snakes and rats with a large knife.
when he made it to our house there were people posing in front of it for pictures. the front wall of this 2story brick building was torn down by katrina. the bricks buried the front of my car and the cab of my sister' truck. (one good thing I GET A NEW CAR!!!!!) my brother threatened suspicious people gathered a few belongings and met my dad in kenner where the business took in 2 inches of water. from there they made their way to us here in opelousas
Thursday, September 01, 2005