Wednesday, October 12, 2005

I'm Back, With Stories to Tell: Comedy, Tragedy and Everything In Between

Wow. It been an eternity since I've sat down in front of a computer. This whole deal has been a lesson in losing attachments, and it's been cold-turkey as the internet goes. I'll get to the details of all that later.

First things first. I have more thanks to offer. Ingrid has sent a second package, this one filled with many pounds of assorted Ghiradelli chocolates (mmmmm...white chocolate egg nog...) and gift cards for Target and Old Navy. These are much appreciated, though I feel a little guilty about all this chocolate, knowing how much chocolate means to dear Claypot and how hard it is for her to get it in Zambia. Thanks also go to Hangyul (who, once upon a time, was in my blogroll as "More Than Less Like Me" but has since closed up shop. With her permission, I will post the link for her new home,) who sent a wonderful piece of herself in the form of a journal filled with an assortment of interesting bits of literature, drawings, photos, comments and other flotsam and jetsam. She sent Alex into exquisite happiness with a case full of CDs bearing songs of his favorite artists and she made Rachel swoon with a pretty jeweled barrette for her hair. And Muse sent a package full of goodies and fun for the three of us- music, movies, toys, games, tea, a wonderfully scented candle (and even the matches to light it- Muse, you thought of everything!) and some Extra Strength Dam-It-All pills. In clinical trials they demonstrated an excellent placebo effect and they are exactly what I need after the last few weeks. Thanks again to you all for shining your light and love into this difficult experience.

So much has happened since I last posted. If I try to tell it all in one post, I'll exhaust us all, so I've decided to break it up into separate posts starting with the most recent events and then backtrack from there. I think I'll present them framed as "lessons learned" Katrina Retrospective, if I can make that theme work.

Thanks to all of you who have been so patient!

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Greetings from New Orleans (But where is the city I love?)

Sorry for the long lapse, but I've been insanely busy trying to get back to my once hone-sweet-home. The to-do list included getting immunizations for hepatitis A & B and tetanus,and trying to arrange transportation home that was not either insanely complicated, insanely expensive, or both. (Eternal gratitude to my sweet friend Jeffrey in North Carolina, without whose help I'd never have made it.)

I've also been kept busy by my musical pursuits. I hooked up with some jazz musicians last week and sat in on a jam they do every couple of weeks. One of the musicians plays guitar and bass and is a good songwriter and we've now become friends. We've been talking about collaborating on the writing and performing fronts, so we might be gigging soon. This will be very good for my soul.

But back to the business at hand.

After much work on the arrangements, I managed to fly back to New Orleans. One of my friends picked me up at the airport and drove me to Jackson, Mississippi to get my car out of the airport parking lot. I am very happy to say that, thanks to a very nice lady named Barbara, I was not charged the $10/day going rate for the 5 weeks it sat there.

I drove back to the city and arrived just as the sun was setting. There was a lot of traffic both leaving the city and entering it and the interstate became gridlocked as I passed the airport heading east. I took the first exit and headed down the back streets of Jefferson Parish (a suburb just outside New Orleans) until I reached the Earhart Expressway (for you local folks). It wasn't blocked, but I was the only car on it as far as I could see. Jefferson has been up and running for quite some time and everything was well lit. As I reached the top of the overpass that separates Jefferson from Orleans Parish, I could see lights coming from the buildings of downtown New Orleans. There was a military checkpoint at the bottom of the overpass, but since there was about 45 minutes left before curfew, the soldier waved me on.

Crossing the line into Orleans Parish was like entering another world. There was no electricity and the fading light left everything in a dust-gray hue. I drove toward my neighborhood. Damaged houses lined the streets. Some were burned out shells. Trees and large branches had been cleared to the sides of the roads but trash and debris was everywhere. Not a soul was in sight. There was no sound. It looked like a city that had been ravaged by war and then abandoned. To tell you it was creepy and weird to drive through this once very familiar route home would be a great understatement. I simply cannot describe in words what it's like to see a place that you've lived your entire life in such desolate ruins. I felt like I was in a scene from a bad dream. I drove to my house but couldn't really see anything well with just the headlights from the car. As I took another route back toward Jefferson Parish, I saw more burned out houses in my neighborhood. What happened to the place I called home? Where did it go?

Things looked better in the light of day when I returned. I read somewhere that the mayor was calling this mass return to the city a "look and leave" mission, and for so many, that's they best they can do. Fortunately for me, I could do more than look, but the tasks that were ahead were daunting, to say the least.

I'm sorry to leave you all hanging here, but I've been working so hard in the last few days that I can hardly keep my eyes open for another minute. I'm so tired and achy and I've got to go to sleep now. Hopefully, I'll be driving my car up to Virginia tomorrow after taking care of some more chores. I'll give the details of what came next as soon as I can. But please understand- this has been exhausting in every way, so please bear with me if it takes me a few days.