Four Years On

So, long story. When we moved back to New Orleans after Katrina, I didn't really know what to do with myself. I was despondent, I was depressed, I was angry, I was antsy. To sum it all up, I was feeling a bit crazy. I had a nine-month old baby, a husband who worked non-stop, and a lot of time on my hands. I didn't know how to process what had happened to me, to my mother and stepfather, to absolutely everyone in my husband's family, to my friends, to my co-workers, to the people I knew in passing--to everyone on this whole damn coast.

I drove around--a lot--and I pulled my camera out--a lot--and I took a lot of pictures. Four months after the storm, eight months after the storm, one year after the storm....Last weekend, I drove around Lakeview and the Lower 9th for the first time in about a year. Some houses have been repaired by now; about the same amount haven't. I heard on the news today that there are some 40,000 houses abandoned to Katrina still standing in the greater New Orleans area. Forty. Thousand. Abandoned. Houses. Can you even wrap your head around that? I can't, and I've driven past the majority of them.


This is What is What Like

Thanks to my friend Kelly, I've discovered a new blog that I absolutely love. I haven't had time to obsessively read every page yet (I do have a little bit of a life, I'll have you know--just not much of one), but I came across this post in his archives that just sums it up perfectly.

This is what is was like, in the days immediately following Katrina, when we had no news and everyone was telling us that it might be best to just cut our losses and move. This is what is was like when people were debating on CNN and Fox whether New Orleans should be rebuilt. This is what is was like. We weren't listening to anything anyone had to say. We were thinking about everyone we knew in New Orleans and the people whose names we didn't know but who were still a part of our lives. This is what is was like. I hope sturtle won't mind if I quote him in full:


Pre-K in a Good Way

Where did the time go? How is it that I already have a pre-kindergartener?

All dressed up in her uniform.

The school is having half-days all this week, so Emmeline is getting to spend some time at work with me in the afternoons. Who knew that underneath the desk is the best place to hang out? I think I might try this the next time my boss comes looking for me.

Need office help? E can type 1.5 words per minute.


Going Mental

It’s nice to see that some things never change and that there’s still plenty of scorn to go around four years later. Earlier this month, an article appeared in The Washington Times (H/T, Charlotte) entitled “Mental Illness Tidal Wave Swamps New Orleans.” An excerpt:

That shortage of facilities is felt most strongly by residents like Byron Turner, who four years after Katrina still is haunted by visions that eventually drove him to seek professional help.

"Life was real good for me before Katrina," he said. "I had no mental health issues ever in my life. I was never homeless. I had jobs. I had two automobiles before the storm."

Today, he is homeless and taking medication to reduce his bouts of anger. Sometimes he's angry about his situation, sometimes he just gets frustrated with himself. Sometimes, he's still angry over the hurricane.

"I still see the bodies. I still see the dead children. I still see the elderly people floatin' in the water. I still see the water," Mr. Turner said.

Overwhelmed public health agencies in New Orleans can only guess how many of the city's residents are, like Mr. Turner, still struggling to cope with the mental and emotional consequences of a maelstrom that swept away whole neighborhoods and stole away friends, relatives, homes and social networks - the glue that holds people's psyches together. 


Old Wounds

I can feel it starting to set in on me. When I'm sitting, relatively relaxed, as I am now, I can feel the tenseness start to creep into my shoulders. I swear, for the first two years, I couldn't sit completely relaxed. When I was sitting, it was hunched over, with my shoulders rolled forward and tensed for flight, my hands constantly fidgeting or making that weird washing movement like Mr. Burns from "The Simpsons."

For the most part, these days, I put it aside. I live with the daily frustration of life in NOLA and remember all of the reasons that I still choose to live here. But when the height of hurricane season rolls around, sometimes it's still hard.

Sometimes, I hate to admit, I wait for the next big one--the one that will deal the finishing blow and allow us all to move on. To where? I don't know. But if there's one thing the Gustav scare taught me, it's that no matter how much I try to pretend that I'm inured to it now--that I can handle it again, if worse comes to worse, because I've been through it before--I'm lying to myself.

I'm tense. Four years later. And Jeanne Meserve echoes in my head.

CNN Transcript - August 29, 2005

MESERVE: It's been horrible. As I left tonight, darkness, of course, had fallen. And you can hear people yelling for help. You can hear the dogs yelping, all of them stranded, all of them hoping someone will come. But for tonight, they've had to suspend the rescue efforts. It's just too hazardous for them to be out on the boats. There are electrical lines that are still alive. There are gas lines that are still spewing gas. There are cars that are submerged. There are other large objects. The boats can't operate. So they had to suspend operations and leave those people in the homes. As we were driving back, we passed scores of boats, Fish and Wildlife boats that they brought in. They're flat bottomed. They've obviously going to put them in the water just as soon as they possibly can and go out and reach the people who are out there who desperately need help.We watched them, some of them, come in. They were in horrible shape, some of them. We watched one woman whose leg had been severed. Mark Biello, one of our cameramen, went out in one of the boats to help shoot. He ended up being out for hours and told horrific tales. He saw bodies. He saw where -- he saw other, just unfathomable things. Dogs wrapped in electrical -- electrical lines who were still alive that were being electrocuted.The police are having radio problems. At least they were earlier this evening. They didn't have enough boats. They put out an appeal to various police who had personal boats to bring them to the scene. But the problem was the people who had the boats couldn't get to the boats to bring them to the scene to go out and rescue the people.People are out there tonight. One of the EMS workers told us that the water is rising, and I can tell you that when we came back into the city tonight, it certainly was higher here. Whether it's rising in that neighborhood as much as it has here, I don't know.


I'm slowly but surely coming to the realization that my one child is probably my only child. Acceptance of that, however, is another matter.

I guess the best way to describe it would be completely conflicted. I had a dream last week in which I realized I was pregnant. And it wasn't a "happy-family-Oh-my-God-I'm-pregnant!" dream. It was an "Oh-my-God-I'm-pregnant" dream and all of the resultant panic. One of those wake up with a pit in your stomach dreams.

So, since then, I've been trying to figure out what the fact that I'm having non-happy dreams about pregnancy means. Needless to say, procreation has been on my mind a lot lately, especially now that I'm 40 and the window for actually being able to have another child is rapidly closing.

The Google Revisited

Today's top search on the google? "Nasty gris porn." Of course.

Today's weirdest search? "Big ass flying bug with two stripes on its butt." I haven't seen that bug yet, but I can assure you, if it exists, it will make an appearance on my porch soon.

Speaking of which, one of my neighbors is chainsawing something right now. At 9:50 p.m. WTF? Oh well--I guess that's a step up from crack dealing.

Keeping the Brand Out There, "No, Really" Edition

A favorable article from the New York Times.

H/T, Latin Teacher

Hurt - Johnny Cash via Trent Reznor

I hurt myself today to see if I still feel.
I focus on the pain, the only thing that’s real.
The needle tears a hole, the old familiar sting.*
Try to kill it all away, but I remember everything.

What have I become, my sweetest friend?
Everyone I know goes away in the end.
And you could have it all, my empire of dirt
I will let you down. I will make you hurt.

I wear this crown of thorns upon my liar’s chair,
Full of broken thoughts I cannot repair.
Beneath the stains of time, the feelings disappear.
You are someone else and I am still right here.

What have I become, my sweetest friend?
Everyone I know goes away in the end.
And you could have it all, my empire of dirt.
I will let you down. I will make you hurt.

If I could start again, a million miles away--
I would keep myself. I would find a way.

*Just in case any of y’all are scared, this blogger has never tried, and never plans to try, any drugs that require needles. I just like really, really sad songs. Especially if they’re sung by Johnny. Or Willie. Or Patsy.


Conversations With a Four-Year-Old, Volume Five

I think it's only fair that E should need therapy, at some point, due to my parenting skills. Because she sure throws some zingers out at me occasionally. For example:

E: Mommy, can we have some quiet time now?

Me: Sure. Are you tired of talking?

E: Yes. Sometimes, when you talk, it makes my ears hurt.