Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Red Cross Redux 9.26.2005

We've moved from vignettes to montages. . . .. or Red Cross Redux
9/26 7:36 PM

Hi all,
Just a note to say that I haven't forgotten the objections of the eloquent ladies in NY. I will respond when able. For all of you wanting to send things to us personally, UPS is running but the Post Office isn't.

First I need to tell you that we have to put David on a plane to Florida so will do so this Thursday. His father is very ill, and we're lucky that we were able to do it considering the financial situation here. He has to go, bless his heart. He needs some time to talk with his dad now, while his dad is with us. He'll be gone for a few days, but will come back and continue doing what we're doing. I just feel badly that he's getting such a double whammy in his life and there's nothing I can really do about it except support him emotionally.

Today we found one of the missing from yesterday. LC from the shop called while we were feeding the cat at HeadQuarters, who was indeed still in the shop. Her house is gone and she's in Mississippi complaining that it's hard to get beer because, "they don't BELIEVE in that stuff around here." Lucedale, Mississippi. She was stunned that I knew exactly where it was. I knew because it was on our horrendous evacution route AND our circuitous return route. Was so delighted that she was okay considering. Also grateful that the HeadQuarters cat was okay. Now we need to locate R because putting food through the mail slot is a bit difficult! But the cat looks healthy.

Last night on the news, the crawl says: "New Orleans' re-entry plan may start as soon as Monday, Sept 26, starting with the business owners and residents of Algiers." COOL BEANS! Does that mean it's now legal for us to be here? No more checkpoints? Anyone's guess. Too hilarious in a horrid sort of way. Clearly the right hand has no idea what the left hand is doing, no matter what the topic or issue is here.

Still no FEMA money, although David and I have graduated. We BOTH actually got a tape at the Red Cross financial line. I called during Hurricane Rita figuring everyone else would be hunkered down or evacuating. Got the tape. David and I have called that number countless times. It's programmed into our phone. We just hit redial. We get the busy signal. But the tape! New and different! "Due to the overwhelming number of calls regarding Hurricane Katrina, we are having difficulty answering all the calls." We think, GREAT, it'll flip over to a hold thingie. No dice. Flips instead to a busy signal which then hangs up on you. It's been two weeks of calling every minute, then every half hour, then every hour. Now we call here and there, laughing all the while. One day someone will answer it. No one we know has gotten any of their Red Cross money. Wait. I lied. One couple applied in Tennessee on their way home and got it.

David spent a day going from the Red Cross station, ("No, we don't have the facilities or the paperwork for the disaster aid program. Please call this number." :::::::::::::Hands him card) to the FEMA office, where they told us our application was pending, but we knew that since we had been checking it online. Now we can't get to the server anymore as it's overloaded and I heard today that the 800 line for them is as impossible as the Red Cross line. He then bravely calls the Unemployment Office. We filed for him as soon as we got home. He's told, "Call the Luling Office." He does. They say, "Call the Gonzales office. There's no one here." He does. They say, "We're evacuating for Rita, call THIS number." He does. He gets some woman from the Louisiana Dept of Labor. She says, "We've sent you two checks for about $350." "Okay, that's great, but we have no mail service." "Oh dear, well then I'll have to send you a form." "Okay, but, um, we HAVE NO MAIL SERVICE." "That's a problem." "Ya THINK?" Finally he asks her, "Where are you?" "Montana." At that point both of them just start laughing. All this money to help, but no way of getting any of it. We'll keep trying the Red Cross line, oh yeah, AND FEMA.

At the Dry Dock, a local bar on Algiers Point, actually open. Guy in a blue polo shirt with a FEMA logo on it. David says, "Buddy, you got BALLS wearing that in here!" He did too. He's lucky he didn't get lynched.

Tall guy on the Ferry today. Dancing to music in his head along with the music on his Walkman. Older guy. Clearly a self medicated schizophrenic doing a relentless and graceful Tai Chi in the style of the Four Tops. He has his "forty." He's been drinking a while. His batteries die, so he slams the side of the Walkman. We have Otis Redding Live on in the car with the sunroof open, so I crank it up and he smiles broadly and begins his dance again. Finally he comes over, I say to him that music makes everything okay. He says clearly and sweetly, "Yes, like the warmth of a smile on a person's face." We talk for a while and we find out that he lives on Claiborne, a ravaged area. He sent his entire family off on whatever form of evacuation he could find. He stayed behind because "it's MY city, and I'm not leaving---it's gonna be GREAT again, you'll see." Then he tells us that the blue roof, a giant tarp people put on their broken roof, is at his house, but he's afraid of heights and he can't put it up and he's the only one on his block. It broke our hearts. He knew about the clinic on Teche run by Common Ground so we told him to ask some of the volunteers over there to help him put it up. He said maybe he'd do that. Then he put his hands out and bowed to us, smiling big and warm, saying, "Sunny days! Sunny days! Sunny days!"

Power blinked on in the Quarter while we were there feeding cats and checking on the shop. Life returned with lights and neon blazing here and there. Alarm systems all over the place hollering as the power came to the buildings. House next to Tennessee Williams' house on 1000 block of Dumaine looked like it had imploded. Bricks everywhere. Towers of trash, a story high on corners. Businesses opening their doors and cleaning out. They're saying that right now, the amount of debris is 12 MILLION cubic yards. After they start demolishing houses, it could go as high as 25 million. That's just New Orleans. Where are they gonna put this stuff?? Someone suggested they use it as the bottom of a new levee system. Not a bad idea. There are probably enough refrigerators alone to put a good bottom layer up and down the canals in this city. There are 168K homes that are trashed, many of which will be demolished. And there are about 100,000 abandoned CARS in this city right now, all of which will be a write off on insurance. Engines useless, sheet metal and glass in good shape. What will we DO with all of this? Couldn't it be USED somehow? :::::::::okay, I'll quit hugging trees for now::::::::::

For any of you who don't know, David was a buggy driver before this all happened. He loved it. For days we worried about the mules.

Royal Carriages is the largest and best known of the buggy companies that take tourists around the Quarter and the Garden District. They have about 30 mules and 15 carriages. When the hurricane hit, four crazy guys stayed in the stables with the mules. Feeding them water dredged from the streets' flooding and pouring some bleach in it, which made it okay for the mules to drink, but not them, they kept them hydrated. The guys themselves hid from the cops and National Guard trying to evacuate everyone. The only food they had was the food in the vending machine in the lounge. The standard crackers, chips, candy, junk, found in vending machines everywhere. There was a soda machine and bottled water machine and luckily the vending machine also had cigarettes. These guys stayed with the mules until the owner could arrange to have them trucked to Mississippi to the "farm." They'll be brought back soon to go to work. They didn't lose a single mule. The guys that saved them are scattered now all over the country, Pablo in New York, Smitty and Roger in Oregon somewhere, and Randolph, we figure, is somewhere close by.

One day we had a Netflix movie that had been delivered prior to Katrina. (Netflix, btw, was fabulous! They not only didn't bill anyone in this area for the month of Sept, they credited back any payment already made.) It was Day After Tomorrow. We figured the trailer looked okay, and hey, Dennis Quaid's in it. Worth a look, we think. Editorial comment here, ignore it: They shoulda left out the wolves. Badly done and a terrible metaphor. But be that as it may, while watching it we found ourselves laughing a bit at our timing. Okay, not the best movie ever made, but hey, watching it while the winds of Rita were still howling outside was something. The day before Texas had dealt with a horrible evacuation, and here was a movie talking about evacuating all the southern half of the US into MEXICO??? Talk about a bottleneck! It was an apropos movie and looked a little different to us now that it would have if we'd watched it before this storm hit.

Could go on, but will leave it alone for now. More to do tomorrow. Trying to help put some folks to work if Lily Duke really has an "in" with the FEMA guys as far as hiring contractors. That's our job tomorrow, along with various other "check-for-me's".

Am trying to compile a list of names and addresses for those of you who want to contribute things, money. Will try to get you a variety as some of you are interested in animal rescue, others medical stuff, others basic needs. So very much appreciated.

Love and Light,
Bec and David
NOTES 9.26.2006
The man on the boat had told me another story while leaning into our car window. He had indeed gotten his entire family out including his 18 yr old daughter who had left with his brother, her uncle. The only time his face went dark was when he said, "I know that son of a bitch. I know he's fucking my daughter and there's nothing I can do about it. I want to kill him 'cuz I know him and know what he's up to and what he's done in the past. I don't know where they are and can't get hold of them to find out if she's okay. I heard they sent them off on a plane to Atlanta but I don't know that for sure." I was appalled at what he was saying, appalled that this might be happening. I asked him why he'd sent her off with him if he knew what kind of man his brother was. His answer was simple, "It was better than keeping her here to maybe die. It was the only choice I had, but it ain't right. It just ain't right." I've always remembered this man and wondered if what he thought happened had really happened, and if it did was he told, what did he do, and how hard it must be for him to live with a choice like that. He truly felt he had no choice.

As for the stable guys, Randolph is back and still taking care of the mules.


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