Five Years On

I debated about whether to put this post up or not--I feel like all of us are suffering from Katrina fatigue--or at the very least, Katrina anniversary fatigue. In some ways, it seems like it happened yesterday--in others, it feels like a lifetime ago.

So, I'll give you the option of whether you want to read my five-year post or not. If you do, it's here.


Katrina Memory #5

Sunday night, August 28th - My mother and I got to Atlanta on Saturday. It's been a weird day of alternating between pretending that nothing's wrong and wallowing in the deepest depths of fear. We go out for take-out and come back to my sister's house to eat dinner in front of the tv. Of course, we tune into the Weather Channel to see what's going on. The streets are flooding from the rain, and we get the obligatory shot of the latest dumbass that decides his small car will be the car that can make it through the eight feet of water that always accumulates on the portion of I-10 underneath the Metairie railroad tracks in a hard rain. Predictably, he doesn't make it and some other guy races into the frame, wading out through the chest-deep water to save this yahoo that's just driven right into the water. We all laugh, as it's a brief moment of brevity in an otherwise overwhelming night.

Monday, August 29th, around 8:00 a.m. - We're sitting on the floor in my sister's living room, clicking the remote from news channel to news channel, desperate to find out what's going on. We stop on NBC, where Brian Williams is in the Superdome, showing the roof lifting up off of its supports and eventually tearing apart, resulting in a hole where you can see the sky from inside the dome.

Monday, August 29th, around 12:00 p.m. - I'm sitting on my sister's front porch, and my mom comes out to join me. She starts to cry, telling me that she feels incredibly guilty that, from what we've seen on the news, it's likely that my house might be in trouble. I tell her not to worry about it and desperately don't want to be the cause of my mother's pain.


Google Search of the Month

The person who's trying to figure out how to insert or extract his or her boob from a vacuum cleaner is back.

Dear weirdo: go away.

Get Used to It

This makes me happy. One of these days, people are going to realize that trying to legislate who other people are allowed to love is ridiculous. I've never understood the argument that somehow, gay marriage is a threat to straight marriage and I never will. If two people love each other, they should be entitled to the same rights and benefits as anyone else in this country, regardless of their sexual orientation.

My favorite part of the article is this: Andy Pugno, a lawyer for the backers of the ballot measure "called it disturbing that the trial court, in order to strike down Prop. 8, has literally accused the majority of California voters of having ill and discriminatory intent when casting their votes for Prop. 8." Well, um, yes. In what other way can you explain this vehement opposition to gay marriage other than through ill and discriminatory intent?

I also love the fact that the judge who overturned Prop. 8 is "a Republican appointee with libertarian views." I bet heads are exploding over in Freeperville.


Katrina Memory #4

Kenny and I are in Bay St. Louis, in December of 2005. I've just gotten back to New Orleans within the past two weeks, and it's my first chance to see Bay St. Louis, where Kenny and I had lived for about five years, and where a large portion of our families had lived.

We drive down Main Street, trying to get as close to Beach Boulevard as we can. We end up parking a few blocks away, where the road stops existing, and walk the rest of the way to the beach. Dan B's is gone. The Good Life is gone. The Dock of the Bay is gone. The Fire Dog is still there, sort of, but all that's left of it is an empty shell. We stand looking at what used to be a thriving, beautiful (and yet crazy) little beach town. We walk down what used to be Beach Boulevard, trying to wrap our minds around the fact that storm surge can be this powerful--how can water be strong enough to rip up a road? Huge sections of asphalt, six inches thick and 6-8 feet long, are lying around in crazy angles everywhere.

All that's left of the old bank building is the vault. (Way to go, vault makers!) It's just sitting there, a 10' x 10' bank vault, out in the middle of a vacant lot, nothing left of the building that used to surround it but the slab.

We walk to City Hall and peer into the window of what used to be my office, a long time ago. The front doors are covered in plywood, the glass having been forced out by the surge; the doors are locked with a chain and padlock.

We walk further down the beach. There's a lawnmower on the beach. And a couch. And a fake Christmas tree, decorated with beer cans, with a washed-up teddy bear propped underneath it. It's surreal.

We run into some acquaintances from the Bay, people we knew in passing. They tell us about riding out the storm in their house. And how they didn't really get scared until they had five-foot waves in the living room.

We drive to one of our former rental houses. It's gone. We drive to another house. It's gone. We drive to the house where my parents lived during my high school and college years. It's gone. We drive by Kenny's grandmother's house. It's gone. We drive by Kenny's sister's house. It's still there but is located several hundred feet further down the road, collapsing in on itself. We drive by the houses of a couple of friends we haven't been able to get in touch with. Gone, gone, gone.


Katrina Memory #3

I'm driving around the Lower 9th Ward, March of 2006. It's probably about the tenth time I've been there in the past few months, because I've had this weird compulsion, since moving back, to drive around the most severely damaged neighborhoods, over and over and over again, taking non-stop pictures. I don't know why I felt the need to do it--I guess it was my way of grieving over what had happened---it made me feel better, for some reason, to wallow in the horror of it all.

I stop in front of yet another decimated house and get out of my car to walk around the property and take pictures. The front door is partially open, and, as I've done before, I walk up onto the front porch and cautiously peer into the mouldering darkness inside. The smell of death hits me immediately and I walk back to my car, thinking that a wild animal must have gone into the house and died.

I go home and tell Kenny about it and the next night, when the evening news is on, he calls me into the living room. The news reporter is standing in front of the very same house, reporting that a neighbor has discovered a body in it--yet another Katrina victim that hadn't yet been found until then, more than six months after the flood.

And I know rationally, or at least I think I do, that a human body would long since have been past the point of decay where it would've given off an odor by then, wouldn't it? It had to be a recently dead animal that I smelled. And I try not to think about the fact that in our supposedly first-world country, we could let a dead body sit in a house for more than six months before someone finally recovered the body and laid him or her to rest.


All of my life, I've had feelings of self-doubt, feelings of self-consciousness, feelings of not measuring up. Oftentimes, as I get older and somewhat more sure of myself, those feelings will subside for awhile. But they're always there, waiting just beneath the surface. I've been in therapy for it. It helped a little. I took anti-depressants for it. It helped a little. I can thoroughly describe for you the origins of these feelings and can convincingly tell you that, rationally, I know these feelings are ridiculous--that if I were as hard on the people I love as I am on myself, they would crumble under the pressure. But for some reason, in my mind, it's always been acceptable--required, even--to catalog my failures and shortcomings and to judge myself--harshly--for them.


Cat People

Don't get me wrong, I love cats. I think I've had at least one cat, sometimes two, in my life since around the time I was four. But some people take it a bit too far, I think. Like the woman in the elevator on Friday. She was deep in conversation with another woman, who asked her about the picture pinned to her chest. They then proceeded to have a long conversation about her "babies"--their ages, how they were doing developmentally, etc. I assumed the entire time that they were talking about the woman's kids. And although I thought it strange that she would have a picture of her children pinned to her chest, I was willing to let it go. But no. The woman had a picture of her three cats pinned to her chest. I'm sorry, y'all, but that's just weird.

I suppose I also have "crazy cat people" on the brain lately because my next-door neighbor is one of them. This is the woman who, when my 12-year-old cat died about a year ago, asked if she could keep him. She wanted to have him cremated and keep his ashes. I thought it was a bit strange, but it spared me the trouble of having to dig a hole in the backyard, so I said sure. I had another cat, Betty Kitty, who decided to move in with the next-door neighbor shortly after Emmeline started walking. Let's just say that Betty Kitty wasn't one of E's biggest fans. Betty Kitty lived to the ripe old age of 17 and died a couple of weeks ago. I'm sure you can guess what became of her earthly remains.