Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Disaster Tours, Shopping Carts and Glasses filled with Water. . . . .

Hi all,
It was five months ago today that people saw on their TV's the water pouring into our city. The storm itself had moved its way north, and the levees broke. (Granted, the media was showing only the worst aspects of human behavior but that was, as we discovered, not only their bias but the fact that almost all the media trucks happened to BE on Canal Street at the time.) At that time, we thought we were part of the United States. For a long time David and I have discussed our situation in those terms, feeling very much as though we are not citizens in the same country as the rest of America. It's the kind of thing we talk about quietly at the kitchen table, usually a little bewildered. Then the anger comes and we start thinking about secession and laugh because the same conversation was had in these environs 150 yrs ago. A friend of mine sent me an article today about some of the refrigerator art that cropped up. In the article the authors say the same thing. Funny how sometimes you think you're the only one thinking a thought and then find that a lot of others feel the same way. The authors of the article ANDREI CODRESCU and NILS JUUL-HANSEN, said " For a week or so after the storm, when the city wallowed in its filth and misery without help from the United States of America, which it had mistakenly believed it was part of, people helped one another drag the taped-up fridges outside."

Our monarchy has dismissed the Baker Bill and then asked for a "plan." Well, George, actually that WAS a plan and a pretty good one at that. Not perfect but a start. Not quite as convoluted as your Medicare Drug plan, but hey, some of us aren't into that kind of byzantine stuff. Besides, we're still dealing with FEMA, and that's quite byzantine enough for our taste. And what WERE you thinking putting FEMA under Homeland Security?:::::::::::I used to come up with questions for God to be asked upon my death if I was faced with the all knowing one. I had lots of questions for God. Now my mind more often goes to questions for George:::::::::::

A friend of ours came for a visit last week. It was great to see him, and it was absolutely fascinating to take him to the 9th Ward. We aren't jaded, that's not the right word, but we are used to seeing debris piles and houses that are flattened. It takes a really SPECTACULAR car in a tree for us to notice. What we saw on our friend's face was a rush of emotions. They played across his face like a montage, flash edits with no seams. I'd watch him get out of our car, look at the barge or something else, stand there a second and shake his head like he thought if he shook it hard enough the scene would change when he opened his eyes. He also understood that no pictures can ever show the scope of the catastrophe. Miles and miles of destruction that even David Lean couldn't ever quite capture. Well, maybe David Lean could.

We told you that Grey Line Tours was doing Disaster Tours and we'll admit that we had some misgivings. We saw that they were sold out the first day, and apparently they continue to do a good business. One day while we were down in the 9th we saw a tour bus. We were concerned that the tour might be in bad taste. What we subsequently learned was very heartening. At the end of the tour, the guides hand out petitions and letters for the tourist to send to their representative. We are delighted. Our view is that the more people see the devastation, the better off we'll be in the long run. Watching our friend's face convinced us of that. We will continue to send emails and pictures, we figure everyone has a delete button on their keyboard. We continue to get email from people we've never heard of who have somehow been forwarded our emails. As long as there are some of us refusing to let the public forget, although it will be a long haul, I think the city will survive albeit in a different form. So we've taken back our objections to Grey Line, and I might take the tour just to see what is being said. Evidently one man, digging through the wreckage of his house, saw the tour bus and came over to it. The tour guide wasn't sure what was going to happen. It could have been a very negative encounter. He was surprised when the man looked into the tour bus and told the tourists, "Don't forget what you saw here. Please go tell everyone you know."

Talk about surprises! There are plenty of shopping carts at the big stores now. Sounds like a silly statement huh? Not here. Not now. So many thousands of people used shopping carts to put their stuff in while evacuating on foot to I-10 or wherever they could find high ground, that the stores, once they got the boards off the windows, staff at the registers and stuff on the shelves, had no carts. You can still see them on the sides of the freeway or on a neutral ground somewhere. There must have been a whopping big truck on our roads recently, filled with nothing but shopping carts because on Saturday I didn't have a problem finding one. Sometimes it's the big things like the Baker Bill that get you, sometimes it's the little things like finding a shopping cart to put the catfish and the milk in.

Our beloved Rock has closed. The club in which we spent many hours and many dollars and many wonderful nights dancing. It is dark there now. Another casualty.

Disaster tours, shopping carts, and. . . . oh yeah, glasses filled with water!

Saturday was David's birthday. We had run into Walter Williams, the creator of Mr. Bill and an acquaintance of ours (the Quarter is a small place and one finds that running into someone repeatedly over the course of a week is standard), and he had said that he had been talked into doing a sort of performance at Harry Anderson's club, Oswald's Speakeasy. The show was for Saturday night and he was a bit nervous he said. We said we'd be there. We went and were lucky to get tickets. There were only five tickets left when we arrived. We found a seat, ordered a couple drinks and looked up to the stage. Under the lights was a man with a long white beard, glasses, and an elfish demeanor disguising a wicked wit. In front of him, gleaming in the light, were glasses. So many I can't begin to estimate the number. Each with water in them to a certain height. You think you know what's coming, right? Well yes. He DID indeed play the glasses of water, but the man was incredible. Playing everything from Bach to Amazing Grace, and lacing each song with repartee, he was entrancing. He then called for requests and of course, the crowd being an interesting group of bohemians, someone laughingly hollers out "Freebird." The whole place starts laughing, as that has become the cliche of my generation. He then says he can play a little heavy metal on some fragile glass and launches into Stairway to Heaven. A beautiful rendition actually that had everyone speechless. He then related a story about how Robert Plant and Jimmy Page had been in some town he was working in years ago. He had called for requests, someone requested Stairway. He played it, only to find that Jimmy Page had requested it. He said, "The bastard requested his OWN song!" This man was a joy.

When Walter Williams got up on stage, he was clearly nervous. He had no reason to be. His presentation, liberally sprinkled with Mr. Bill clips, including one with Sluggo as the insurance agent coming to do the adjuster thing on Mr. Bill's demolished home, was brilliant, funny, poignant and brave. He did a piece on how Louisiana as a land mass had been made by the shifting of the river over centuries. In it he interviewed climatologists, Corps of Engrs' guys, levee specialists, environmentalists. He gave some history, lots of facts and made it so interesting that although he had said before he played it, "Maybe this is too long. If you get bored just let me know and I'll turn it off," no one said it, no one shifted in their chairs. He told some stories about his time on Saturday Night Live laughingly saying, "Yeah, I worked with Belushi, Gilda, Aykroyd, Bill Murray, but there was no talent there!" All in all it was a wonderful time and typical of New Orleans in that the citizens will somehow find some humor and art in just about anything. We think he should take the show on the road!

We were supposed to finish up our storage today, but life intervened in the form of glitches in scheduling, so that will again be put off til Wednesday. We just want to get that over with, get the stuff dried out and be done with that part of our process. Everyone here is in the middle of some process, but this being the kind of place it is in this little warp of time, they muddle through.

We will send more pictures soon,
Love and Light,
Bec and David

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