Sunday, September 25, 2005
Little Rock really didn't sustain much in the way of damage. There are tree branches and other minor debris scattered about the neighborhood. I did see where an oak tree bent and broke crushing a Geo Metro that was parked beneath it on Valentine Street. But that's about all I saw. As is typically the case with storms like Rita, the reports of property damage and injury will come limping in during the days to come.
But we have no room to complain around here. Rita had taken a chill pill by the time she visited the Natural State having laid it to Southeast Texas and Southwest Louisiana earlier in the day. I have a lot of friends in Lafayette. I hope they are all right. My friend Jeanette moved to Houston with her husband around three weeks ago. Is that timing or what? She rode it out in a Salvation Army shelter in The Woodlands. She called me yesterday. She and Hot Rod,her goddamn cat, are fine.
I got a call around 10:30 last night from my buddy Chris in Thibodeaux. He said he had turned on the Weather Channel and saw that the eye of Rita was over Little Rock. So he decided to call me to see how I was doing for once. We were both sitting on our respective porches 300 miles apart drinking wine and watching it rain.
We always understood each other Chris and I.
He is fine. He is a Captain of the volunteer fire department down there so he was busy the last 36 hours. But Thibodeaux is none the worse for wear. I have to think that the rates for fire and casualty insurance would have to be pretty high with him being at the helm of the volunteer fire department. But what do I know?
It seems that most of the Rita related damage is limited to the Beaumont, Port Arthur, Lake Charles triangle. ( I am not going to write about the levees breaching again. I'm depressed enough as it is.) I don't know much about any of these places except that they are supposed to be tough old oil and gas towns. Even at that, we must remember that there are people that have homes and lives, such as they are, down there and we must wish the best for them. I do know that Lake Charles is the title of a song by Lucinda Williams and that Port Arthur is the birthplace of Janis Joplin and Jimmy Johnson.
I don't know anything about Beaumont but I do have a funny story that sorta relates to Beaumont.
When I was at Tulane, Tulane Basketball came on right after the Marvin Gorman Crusade show. For those of you that don't remember, Gorman is a New Orleans televangelist who hired a private detective (or his son who was a deputy sheriff in Jefferson Parish depending on who you believe) who got pictures of rival man-of-the-cloth Jimmy Swaggart canoodleing with a hooker in a sleazy hotel room out on Airline Highway. A quick search of the Internet reveals that the old peckerwood's bidness is still extant and you can see for yourself here:http://marvingorman.com
Anyway, my friends and I always enjoyed the altar call that ended each service. The sinners would troop down to the front of the stage where Gorman would lay hands upon them whereupon some of them would immediately hit the deck. Not only was this amusing to behold, but it provided an apt metaphor for what was to generally befall the Green Wave a few minutes hence.
One night, the "Music Minister",a big fat guy who talked like Ashley Wilkes and who generally wore a Bobby Knight-type plaid jacket interrupted the usual laying on of hands and falling out to exclaim in his singsongy voice " Revvun GOH-man, Revvun GOH-man! Please come ovah heah!"
Gorman went over to the Music Minister who was standing in front of a couple of young men.
" Revvun, GOH-man! These are two HOEmohsexyooals from BOOmont!"
I remember popcorn flying in the air. I remember one of my buddies falling out of his chair as if he had been touched by Revvun GOH-man.
These are the memories that will sustain us in our golden years.
And that's all I know about Beaumont. Other than it is supposed to be a pretty tough place and I would imagine that it was short a couple of homosexuals after those two got outed on the Marvin Gorman show.
Like I said, I don't know much about Southeast Texas but I hope everyone is ok. Especially those two guys from Beaumont.
Tuesday, September 20, 2005
" It was supposed to be just a game. Instead Carroll (the Trojan's head coach) turned it into a joke, and he made sure everyone knew who was the butt of the laughter, as if anyone needed another example."
Do what? This is all about mean old Pete Carroll turning what was supposed to be "just a game" into a joke? Like the Hog's porous defense had nothing to do with this?
Southern Cal didn't run up the score so much as they just flat out beat the living hell out of the Razorbacks. Running up the score is when one clearly superior team unfairly takes advantage of a lesser opponent as Texas Tech did the other night when it hung 80 on Sam Houston State. This was, on paper at least, an intriguing matchup between teams from powerful conferences. There is no way in hell that a team from the Southeastern Conference should have gotten beaten this badly.
The fact of the matter is that the Razorbacks showed no heart. The fact of the matter is that a team as talented as Arkansas doesn't get beat this badly without considerable help from the sidelines. But you will never hear a word of this out of Homer Hall.
Just because everybody but Tommy the Trojan scored for USC doesn't mean that they unfairly ran up the score. It means that the Razorbacks stunk.
Vanderbilt would have given the Trojans a better game. You won't hear that out of Homer Hall either.
Sunday, September 11, 2005
- How 'Bout Them Hawgs?- The Arkansas Razorbacks managed to lose to the Vanderbilt Commodores up in Fayetteville last night. Granted, Vanderbilt is not a bad ball club. They are as good as they are gonna get and nobody in their right mind would look forward to playing them. But you just can't be losing at home to the Vanderbilts of this world. This does not bode well for Houston Nutt. You can already hear the yahoos on the radio call-in shows and the Internet calling for HDN's scalp. And, as sure as the sun comes up in the morning, you can bet that someone will make reference to the fact that UA has no business losing to "an academic school" like Vanderbilt. It will be ugly. If they don't run the table after next week's loss at Southern Cal (who was the genius that scheduled that one anyway?) HDN will be fired. You heard it here first.
- Like It Is- It is always instructive to turn to Wally Hall when a debacle occurs in Razorback sports in order to get a cogent, well-thought out post-mortem. Today's column does not fail to disappoint, containing as it does the following gem : " As for the Razorback's offense, overall, it might as well have been a copy of the New York Times with the lights off." Huh? If anyone can translate that for me, I will kiss your ass on the steps of the State Capitol at noon.
- Small World- A Jewish friend of mine called me last week. He had gotten a call from the synagogue with the news that "four nice Jewish boys from Tulane Law" had washed ashore here in Little Rock. They are first year students and can't enroll anywhere else so my friend asked me if I would help find them jobs. Since last week, two of the guys have headed home but a girlfriend has popped up. It will be easier to find work for two nice Jewish boys than it would be for four. Girlfriend is on her own. Also I got an e-mail from a kid who is staying down the road with a lawyer couple who have taken her in. She has enrolled in law school here. I told her that if she needed anything to holler, as we say here in Little Rock. This is amazing.
- The Response-My church is running a shelter in the gym for people displaced by Katrina. I got an e-mail asking me to pass the word that all Methodist shelters and UMCor (United Methodist committee on Relief) depots have more stuff than they can use. This, too, is amazing. A friend of mine and a bunch of her girlfriends went down to the church to volunteer to work a shift and was told that they are booked up through November. My brother was told by his front office to forget about sales for awhile and to help bring these shelters up to speed on the Internet so the folks there can register with FEMA and the Red Cross. I told him we needed a laptop at the church. He got me a laptop. Somehow we will get through this. People are good. Somehow we will get through this.
- The US Open- Boy, you got to love Andre Agassi. In the quarters against James Blake he faced every problem you can face on a tennis court and still won in 5 sets. Check that. He didn't face every problem as today he plays in the Finals against Roger Federer. My heart goes with Andre but my head says Federer in straight sets. Federer just may be the best to ever play.
As Andre put it, " Federer doesn't have any weaknesses and he has a few great shots. So that equates to a problem." Well said. Again, Federer in straight sets.
Enough of this. It is starting to get hot out here. Time to grab a shower, clean up the kitchen and look for a fully electrified copy of the New York Times.
Saturday, September 10, 2005
I know that area well. My buddy Don, the one who foolishly sat for the bar exam in North Carolina last month, used to live in an apartment over there on Monticello Street just over the Jeff Parish line right next to an industrial canal. Probably the same one from which my friend was calling. Anyway, Don's apartment was infested with wharf rats the size of Volkswagens. He named them Trigger, Tank and Silver. I was over there when Trigger bought the farm. Don had bought a rat trap the size of a closet door. When it went off, it sounded like a .38 had gone off in the house. Even at that, it only stunned Trigger who struggled to escape the watery grave Don consigned him to when he flushed him down the toilet. The other two eventually succumbed to poison but not before they had ingested a hell of a lot of it-or so it seemed to me-before it started to disagree with them.
My point is, they had a problem with the rats over there even before Katrina. I shudder to think what it will be like once they get the area drained.
Still, his news today was mostly positive. Or as positive as things can be when there is six feet of standing water. The good news is that they weren't finding as many dead bodies as they were prepared to endure. The total last Tuesday or so, was 6. As of 9 am this morning, the number still stood at 6. No one seriously believes that they won't find more bodies, but the numbers are trending well, as the pollster might say.
I told my friend that they may well find bodies in that canal but that their presence there might not be attributable to Katrina. Perhaps you may not have heard but New Orleans is a hotbed of Organized Crime which is yet another tax-free generator of revenue, along with the churches, in Orleans Parish. It is easy to forget that there is so much organized crime in New Orleans especially in light of the fact that so much of the criminal activity we have been seeing lately from down there is of the disorganized variety.
But New Orleans is mobbed up to its eyeballs. Always has been. And when I was there, they used to dump their stiffs into the industrial canals. The one over by Don was one of their favorite places of casual, if not expedient, interment. My friend has been told this already and they will keep their eyes out for any corpses that are wearing Rolexs and that are sporting a bullethole between the ear.
Katrina can't be blamed for everything, after all. Fair is fair.
The other good news is that Entergy seems to be doing a bangup job of getting power back to the city. The CBD and the French Quarter have lights. The Hilton should have power by this evening. They think that with any luck the Garden District and Tulane should have juice in 10 days or so. My friend described Entergy as an army marching North bringing the lights with them. Which is pretty much the opposite of what happened to them down there during the Great Unpleasantness back in the 1860s but I digress.
My friend says that it appears that Mayor Nagin is going to throw in the towel on forcing the evacuation of the rich white folks over by Tulane in the Garden District. What the hell. They never sustained much water damage. They have water pressure now, so the Fire Department can put out any fires that occur. These guys got food, water and alcohol sufficient to last a month. Some of them have private security guarding their homes and their power will be back on in a week. What the hell. The Mayor has bigger problems than this.
Speaking of housing, the most interesting news my friend related is that some folks have fashioned temporary accommodations in a most unusual place: Mausoleums. I'm not kidding. But first, some histoire.
One of the more interesting aspects of life in Orleans Parish that immediately presented itself to the early French and Spanish settlers was the fact that buried people tended to not stay buried there. At least not for very long. You would think that this phenomenon would have given them some clue as to the larger design difficulties that the sudden reappearance of Uncle Arnaud after his funeral Mass foreshadowed. Indeed, Bienville's engineers thought he was quite nuts to have picked a spit of land 6 feet below sea level upon which to build a city. But there was money to be made and the old town was built there anyway over the reservations of the French Corps des le Ingenieurs.
So they began interring their dead above the ground in mausoleums. The practice continues to this day. And some of them are quite ornate with a square footage that would make them compatible with some outbuildings in Pleasant Valley or Chenal even. Hell, you could fit my little house here in the People's Republic of Hillcrest into some of them.
As a matter of survival tactics, you could choose worse. They are pretty much waterproof which is an attractive feature in a building in Southeast Louisiana nowadays. Many cemeteries are gated communities if security is a concern. As far as aesthetics go, they are well maintained with plush lawns and pleasant gardens. And you are pretty much guaranteed quiet neighbors.
And it beats all hell out of living in the Superdome.
So that's the latest from the Big Easy. Where heavily armed white folks insist upon the right to observe the cocktail hour from their homes on St. Charles Avenue and other people are sleeping with those who have gone on to that great Jazzfest in the sky.
You couldn't make this stuff up. You really couldn't.
Tuesday, September 06, 2005
It was my friend in the Guard. He was calling from New Orleans.
The following is the gist of what he described to me in a 30-40 minute conversation.
They finally got the last of the folks out of the Convention Center. He said that he cannot imagine how some of those folks survived, especially the elderly ones confined to wheelchairs. One man confined to a wheelchair weighed around 500 lbs. The Red Cross commandeered a U-Haul that could lower to the ground. They had to roll him onto the lift and then raise him up. Once inside, about 6 guys got him back up in the chair.
He described the carnage inside the supporting as, well, indescribable. As he said, "You would not recognize the place where you and your buddies used to watch all the ball games." He said that once they get the power and water back up they will have to send in guys with pointy-tipped shovels to scrape and haul stuff out. They turf will have to be pulled up.
The reports of human waste being everywhere is true. There are corpses to be found over by the Superdome. He thinks they need to start gathering the bodies soon as it is a public health issue. The stench, even outdoors, is overpowering in places.
He said that the French Quarter is in pretty good shape. He saw only a couple of collapsed buildings during his patrols. Most everything is structurally intact. The damage caused by the looters seems to be pretty much confined to the point of entry and to the cash registers. They were only interested in stealing stuff and not in wanton destruction. There are abandoned vehicles all in the Quarter. He has been using them to charge his cell phone. The ones that still have batteries in them that is.
He believes that the most critical need is the restoration of power. Once the power is restored, they can put up banks of lights and start hauling debris around the clock. And when the water pressure comes back up, and the sewers are back online, they can commence hosing down the streets and sidewalks to transport the waste. Also, once the power comes back up, and the hotels are able to do some repairs, they hope that rooms will become available for NOPD and the relief workers so they can shower and rest in comfort. Hopefully, the kitchens can be restocked and hot meals can be provided in the hotels for the workers as well.
Power and water are back up in the Riverwalk already. They had to go to each of the restaurants there last night to turn off coffee pots that came back to life. It was obvious that the folks dropped everything and fled as soon as they got the word. Catfish was found in frying baskets in one restaurant. A pizza had just gotten pulled from an oven to be cut up in another. In any event, he said that once they did some glass work and did some cleaning, they could open back up all things being equal. Which is amazing to me.
The water starts about I-10 and gets worse the further you go West. They got some pumps up and running and the water is being drained back into the Lake. He said he has heard that it may take as long as 80 days to draw down the water to where they can start cleaning up out there.
He said the best news is that they have had no trouble out of the bad guys. They are still keeping a wary eye out but so far the people have been orderly and have obeyed the instructions of the police and the military. They are extremely grateful for the porta-potties and the food. He said soldiers bitch about MREs (Meals, Ready-to-Eat, in the flowery language of the Pentagon) all the time. But MREs taste pretty good when you haven't had anything to eat in 4-5 days and so they haven't heard any complaints.
He asked me about the news. He asked me if it was true that a lot of cops had resigned. I told him that as near as I could tell there were some resignations-and I suppose that throwing down your badge constitutes a formal separation in service-but that most of them had returned without repercussion. I told him that two officers had committed suicide. He was genuinely shocked by that report.
He asked me if it was true that the Sheriff over in Plaquemines Parish was running checkpoints to keep evacuees out. I told him that I had not heard that but that it would not surprise me, given the sorry history of Plaquemines in race relations stemming from the days when the place was run by the legendary Leander "Boss" Perez of whom Earl Long once said, " Leander doesn't hate Washington because of integration. Leander hates Washington because they got the bomb and he doesn't." Or something along those lines. Uncle Earl was always saying shit like that. He was a lot funnier than his brother. He was a damn sight crazier too.
I told my friend that the long knives are coming out. That the finger pointing has begun. I told him that people all over the spectrum are united in their dismay and revulsion over how all of this has been handled by government at all levels. I told him that you could almost smell the anger in the wind. But I also told him that hearts everywhere swelled when the military showed up to literally save the day. Just like in the movies. I told him not to doubt for a minute that folks aren't 100% aren't behind what they are doing down there. There may be doubts about the war in Iraq. But there is none about the war in New Orleans.
And with that he took his leave. He said that he and another officer were off to find some IVs for the medic. He says that the medic is worried that guys are working too hard and that dehydration may be an issue and that he wanted to be prepared to rehydrate the ones that needed it. He said that he would be in touch now that cell phones seem to be working as long as he could keep boosting power from the abandoned cars to recharge his battery.
And that is the news tonight from the Vieux Carre. That is the news from Hell's Gate.
Monday, September 05, 2005
Anyway, I had planned to spend the long weekend playing golf, cooking on my grill and doing stuff around the house. Instead, I have been flopped on the couch drinking water and watching sports. And occasionally feeling sorry for myself.
Until, I look at the footage coming out of Louisiana and Mississippi.
Me? I ain't got no problems. Saturday morning I a) used my telephone to call my doctor who b) called me back on his telephone which he c) later used to phone in a prescription to the d) pharmacy which I picked up later while I was e) driving around running errands. Virtually nobody in Orleans Parish can do what we up here on high ground take so easily for granted. I ain't got no problems.
But I am feeling quite poorly. Perhaps a hatchet job on Wally Hall will make me feel some better.
For some reason Wally couldn't content himself to stick to an account of the Razorback's victory over Missouri State or SW Missouri State or whatever the hell they call themselves. No. He had to lead off by musing about how Houston and Danny had to be pining away for their late father who was not at the opening game for the first time. Or let us quote from the master wordsmith himself:
"It was there.
Not so anyone could see or notice but it was there. A small but very real ache for Houston and Danny Nutt."
Well, if you can't see it or notice it, then you can't know it's there unless someone tells you it is there. And then you quote that person.
But that would be journalism. Wally just makes stuff up. It's easier.
Boy. I feel better already.
It is a pleasant morning here in the People's Republic of Hillcrest. I decided to take a walk just to get some fresh air. As I was walking past the grocery store, I got honked at by one of the hotel courtesy van. The young black fella waved at me. I waved back. He pulled up. The window came down.
" Hey, man! Can I take you somewhere? Can I help you in anyway?"
" No, son. I'm fine. Thanks."
Granted, I don't feel well and so I ain't exactly my usual picture of vigorous good health. But I didn't think that I looked like a shellshocked evacuee. Then I looked down at my shirt to see "Tulane Baseball" emblazoned across my chest. Note to self: The Tulane stuff goes in the closet for the foreseeable future.
Speaking of evacuees, my church is going to take in some folks. And so the call went out for sheets, linens, towels etc. I in turn called many of my little friends and asked them to pitch in. The response has been astounding. They got enough stuff for an army in that gym. People really do respond.
My favorite offer of assistance came from my friend B who called me from up in the Ozarks somewhere.
" As soon as I get back you tell me what y'all need and I'll do whatever."
" I was thinking. You know? I would be willing to take in a single mother. I could do that. Only don't tell my mom. She would die and I don't want that on my conscience."
"Neither do I. Your secret is safe with me."
Speaking again of evacuees there was a lady from Gulfport in church Friday night. She was there with her daughter girl who I figured to be around 15 or so. She was staying with her other daughter here in Little Rock. I spoke with her after the service. She had the vacant look in her eyes of someone who has seen hand-to-hand combat.
" We were trapped in the attic. I thought I was gonna die."
She collapsed into my arms weeping. Both her daughters were weeping.
I put my free arm around the kid. I put my right hand above my head.
" Lady, you are in a neighborhood called Hillcrest. You are in Pulaski Heights United Methodist Church. Are you getting the picture?"
She laughed. Thank God.
I put both my hands on her shoulders. "You may freeze to death before you get back to Gulfport but you will not be swept away by water."
She looked at me solemnly.
"I will never complain about the cold again. Never."
I've never had to hole up in an attic while waiting to be rescued.
Me? I ain't got no problems.
Saturday, September 03, 2005
Anyway, the errors have been corrected. I apologize. Thanks for your patience.
Friday, September 02, 2005
I don't know what it takes to qualify for a Congressional Medal of Honor or a similar award around here. But the next time they start to think about handing some out, I have a suggestion: How about the staffs of Tulane and Charity hospitals? Talk about holding down the goddamn fort! Tulane got its people out a couple of days ago but as of yesterday, the skeleton crew at Charity was working with no food, no water and very little electricity. They were ventilating people by hand. All of this while armed looters were thought be on the bottom floors of the vast building. God almighty. What devotion to duty. What bravery.
By contrast, let us now consider the human scum that has been busy stealing, causing even more property damage and shooting the place up. The story coming out now is that the authorities were surprised by the extent of this violence.
Please. Let me explain something.
In the first place, in Louisiana your homestead is exempt from property tax. In the second place, I would imagine that fully 45 percent of the buildings in Orleans Parish are owned by church or church related entities. So all of the owners of all those stately homes in the Garden District (for example) and all of those beautiful structures owned by the Roman Catholic Church (for another example)do not pay one nickel of property tax. And yet, they expect municipal services such as fire and police protection as if they did. They just expect it on somebody else's dime.
So this requires the Parish and City governments to fund municipal services out of general revenues for the most part. Which doesn't leave much for social services and public education. Which is too bad because, as the world is now seeing, New Orleans for all of it's old world charm and ambiance has one hell of a lot of poor people.
The public school system there is a joke. Nobody goes to public school except black kids on the lowest end of the strata. Public housing is horrific. The response of the City is to warehouse folks in the schools and in hellholes like the Desire Housing Project ( which was mercifully razed some time ago) and the St. Thomas Housing Project and just hope they cause the bare minimum of trouble during their sojourn through this vale of tears. And so you have a permanent population of an insufficiently civilized underclass that passes its collective sociopathy from generation to generation. Some of these people are exceptionally dangerous and live within easy proximity of Tulane and Charity and the French Quarter.
And they say they are surprised? Bullshit. They dealt with this problem much the way that they dealt with the issue of the potential arrival of a Category 4 hurricane. They just turned a blind eye and hoped for the best.
I do not say this to explain away the behavior of these punks or to assign blame to society. There is no time for such hand-wringing. Their shocking behavior is inimical to good order and public safety and must be stopped pretty much by any means. And so, there will be war in the streets tonight. There will be hell to pay for what they have done whether they did it for money, for thrills or for street cred. And much of the hell that will be visited upon these desperately stupid young men will be visited upon them by the 39th Infantry Brigade from here in Arkansas working alongside the local authorities. As we know, the 39th just got back from Iraq where they spent a year or so doing urban warfare at night. These thugs don't have a chance. Peace, even if it is an uneasy peace, will be restored.
There will be hell to pay at the polls as well. It will be interesting to see who the electorate blames for this debacle. The Feds? The State? Local government? It will be interesting to see how this all plays out.
But there will be time enough for that. The time for tears has past. The earth can accept no more water. It is time to go to work. But first, pray that peace is restored so that search and rescue teams can work without bullets flying overhead. Pray that they get the water out sooner than later. And pray that, for future reference, somebody in the government remembers the old saying that "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure."
It applies to emergency readiness. It applies as well to social engineering.