Thursday, September 29, 2005

Seven things you didn't know about Rob

7 things I plan to do before I die:

1. Pee in all the oceans of the world
2. Drive up the California coast from L.A. all the way to Portland. Maybe next week.
3. Be a Dad
4. Perform a Miricle
5. Write a book
6. Run for public office
7. Become Notorious

7 things I can do:

1. Fly a plane (fly, yes… land, very iffy.)
2. Sail a boat
3. Make others smile
4. Anger sleeping bats with my laugh
5. Work out a mystery in the first three chapters
6. Sing
7. the “cowboy shuffle”, “the electric slide”, and the “Texas two step”

7 things I cannot do:

1. Ride a horse
2. Juggle
3. Make a really good Alfredo sauce from scratch
4. Build a functioning auto engine from a block of steel
5. Get blood from a stone
6. Change the course of a mighty river
7. Bend steel in my bare hands

7 things that attract me to the opposite sex:

1. A pretty smile
2. A great sense of humor
3. Deep, Dark Brown eyes
4. Dark, silky hair
5. A high tolerence for “geek speak”
6. The ability to converse well on a variety of subjects
7. A willingness to listen

7 things I say most often:

1. “Not for nothing…”
2. “Sweet”
3. “mmmmm...(whatever is aplicable)”
4. “the point is…”
5. “anyway…”
6. “so…”
7. “antiquing”

7 celebrity crushes:

1. Jeri Ryan
2. Lauren Graham
3. Rachel Ray
4. Catherine Zeta-Jones
5. Christie Brinkley
6. Terry Farrel
7. Teri Hatcher

7 people I want to do this:

1. Sleepy
2. Sneezy
3. Grumpy
4. Bashful
5. Doc
6. Dopey
7. Steven Hawking

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Down the Mississippi, down to New Orleans.

"I wake up in the morning
And I raise my weary head
I got an old coat for a pillow
And the earth was last night's bed
I don't know where I'm going
Only God knows where I've been
I'm a devil on the run
A six gun lover
A candle in the wind
"-- Blaze of Glory, Jon Bon Jovi

That phrase echoed in the speakers of the jeep as I left Brandon this morning... Somehow, the soundtrack of my life never disappoints me. I was bound, as you probably know, for New Orleans, or at least my little corner of it. It's hard to describe how I felt as I put the cruise control on 75mph (120 kph for all my metric-using fans) and told myself to just keep the damn machine pointed south, and three hours later you should be there.

The trip from Jackson to Brandon isn't quite like a drive to the corner store, after all... And even if it was, I would probably have just walked and saved the gas.

The trip was uneventful until I hit Manchac... about 50 miles or so from New Orleans... Manchac is basically a fishing village on the bayou. It's home to Middendorfs, which serves the best fried catfish in the south. The simple functionality of the homes there always impressed me... no-nonsense numbers on stilts, only accessible by boat, built with only fishing and sleeping while fishing in mind. Most of them, sadly are gone now. Middendorfs is still there, but didn't look like it would be open for business for a while. I also saw standing water where there used to be a patch of land that comprised the town... Reclaimed by the swamps around it.

As I passed over the bonne carre spillway, I could see the train tracks that carried me safely out of the city a month ago... Or, rather what was left of them... The railway was washed out in many places, and Amtrak crews were trying to rebuild.

I went south there, across the river and along route 90. Destruction and trash was still everywhere... Couldn't go more than two blocks without seeing a building down. I started to worry at this point. I pulled into my Job's satellite office to see if there was any word... But the best I could get was "maybe in a month or two" not the most optimistic answer, but better than I hoped... I have a job when the company resumes operations... Probably in a month if all goes well. Good thing.

From there, I went straight to my apartment. The checkpoint to enter the parish was surreal, but one of New Orleans finest smiled and welcomed me back. Still there... no broken windows or doors. no flooding. Just as I left it. Relief washed over me as I was startled by a c7 cargo plane passing twenty feet over my house. The military is everywhere in the point, as it has become the launch point for the relief efforts on the eastbank. Very surreal. I also saw my neighbor, Keylee, outside washing her car. Her husband, Jack was one of the brave ones who stayed through the storm. One day, I'll have to sit down and buy that man a beer.

After catching up with Keylee fro a few minutes, I opened the door to my house, still half expecting a horror to await me inside. Everything was just as I had left it, except for the mouse bait, which had apparently been eaten by that pest, Pepino.

Yes, it was vermin, but I had named the mouse which had been keeping me up at night with all that rustling. It's dead now (it did eat all the poison) so get off my case. Of course I never did find the body, so.... Maybe Pepino just moved to Florida or something.

I gave the house the once over, and everything was fine. The power was on, the hot water was still hot, and even the cable TV worked! I even opened the fridge, thanking the good lord for the bachelor lifestyle that only had it filled with Mustard, Teriyaki sauce, and some fritos... no smell to speak of. Then, like an idiot pushing his luck after not getting electrocuted the first three times he touched the third rail, I opened the freezer. Completely oblivious to the two pounds of shrimp and pound of venison I had in there.

For weeks when the house had no power.

Sometimes, words fail you in trying to describe something... But if you take the worst smell you've ever smelled, add a few tons of rotting trash, and microwave some limburger cheese on top of it, you get the idea. Keep in mind, folks... I grew up downwind of the world's largest landfill. I know from stink. Nothing ever prepared me for this, though. Still, remember that I was a boy scout, and came prepared for this... Face mask, vapo rub, disposable gloves, trash bags, 409, vinegar, baking soda... I was set, and it took me a few hours to clean it all out.

I was sitting on my stoop for a while after, having a sandwich and a coke while the house aired out a bit, when my cell phone rang. It was Donald, who lived in Chalmette. For those of you unaware of what that means... chalmette was part of the city that was under twelve feet of water, and still under three feet of muck. He was calling to ask me how my place was, and to tell me that while he still has a job, he and his Dad had nowhere to stay.

I realized several things in that moment as I figured out how to answer...
1) Despite my whining to the contrary, I had lost virtually nothing compared to some others.
2) My friends are something else.
3) I still have a job, a home, and friends in New Orleans. How could I have ever been thinking about leaving?
4) I wouldn't be needing to use my apartment for at least a month... And have always wanted to travel a bit, anyway.

I offered my place to Donald on the spot. He mulled it over with his Dad for a bit, but accepted. I felt totally like I was "paying forward" the generosity that Drew and Stacey have this past month.

They picked up the key, I grabbed a few of my things, and was about to leave when my EX-MOTHER-IN-LAW calls my cell phone. Similar situation to Donalds.. But ten minutes too late. I felt bad, and I tried to find them a place to stay, but had no luck. It didn't help that she started the conversation with an insult, and refused to tell me anything about how they were, or where... Even though I have been trying to contact them since the storm to make sure they were okay. I spent a solid hour and a half driving around to every B&B I knew, every landlord I thought might have a place open, and asking everyone I knew in my neighborhood if they could take Char and her family in. I called and apologized to Her for not being able to help. She huffed, and hung up on me.

I hate that woman. SO glad the divorce is final.

Anyway, I left for Brandon confident in my future for the first time in months, stopping briefly to check on Kristen and her family (her neighborhood flooded, but is now habitable... Story for another blog.).

I have some money... The bills will be paid... My apartment is being used for a good cause... The open road beckons... And my life will be waiting for me when I return.

A good day. :)

"Well I'’m on my way
I don't know where IÂ’m going
I'’m on my way
I'’m taking my time
But I don'’t know where
Goodbye to Rosie the queen of Corona
See you, me and julio
Down by the schoolyard"
-- Down by the Schoolyard, Simon and Garfunkel

Monday, September 26, 2005

Homeward Bound...

"And each town looks the same to me, the movies and the factories
And ev’ry stranger’s face I see reminds me that I long to be,
Homeward bound,
I wish I was,
Homeward bound,
Home... where my thought’s escaping,
Home... where my music’s playing,
Home... where my love lies waiting
Silently for me.
" --Homeward Bound, Simon & Garfunkel

I know... starting the entry with a Simon and freakin Garfunkel quote? am I loosing it? where the heck is the typical Billy Joel reference? I'll get to it, I promise. the S&G quote is a little appropriate right now.

Well, kids... The time has come. Tomorrow, for the first time in a month, I am going to make the trek further south to Algiers Point in New Orleans, Louisiana. I am homeward bound for the first time in a long time.

Home. I'm going home.

Except, I suppose... I'm really not. It's a funny word.... it's more than where you hang your hat, or where your mail comes to, isn't it? the past few weeks have taught me a few things about what "home" really is. My home is where my friends and job are. My house is really secondary to that, I suppose. Being that I still have no job, and my friends are scattered to the proverbial winds, I suppose that apartment back in New Orleans, regardless of it's condition, is no longer really my "home". Knowing that, my plan is to grab what few things I have that matter to me, pack up whatever else I have time for, and head back to Brandon for now.

It's funny making the list of "essentials" in my head... deciding stuff that is really important to me... things that no matter where I hang my hat, make it my "home". I think a lot of you would probably be suprised at what I think is important to me at this point... other than the obvious stuff, like my clothes and computer. I find myself wanting most of all to grab the pictures of my family, (Right now, somewhere, my brother is feeling his blood pressure rise in satisfaction upon reading that.)I find myself wanting my wedding pictures, and the painting Char gave me on my 32nd birthday, (even though my divorce was finalized on the 20th- ladies, take notice... parents, hide your daughters!) I find myself wanting the framed copy of "footprints" my aunt gave me when I first moved into my own place, (even though she sent me a new one as part of a care package two weeks ago) and most of all, I want my freaking teddy bear.

Well, gotta run now... wish me luck. I will of course check in with a blog entry tomorrow, and let y'all know how everything went. Now, more words of wisdom from the piano man...

"Home can be the Pennsylvania Turnpike
Indiana early morning dew
High up in the hills of California
Home is just another word for you

If I traveled all my life
And I never get to stop and settle down
Long as I have you by my side
There's a roof above and good walls all around
You're my castle, you're my cabin and my instant pleasure dome
I need you in my house 'cause you're my home
" --You're My Home, Billy Joel

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Settling into life in Brandon...

So, life goes on, apparently... right or wrongness of it being irrelevant. As many of you can imagine, it's been a long month or so. I still haven't gotten back to my apartment to survey any damage and/or take inventory on my stuff. I have come to the conclusion that I will not be returning to New Orleans anytime soon, but still don't intend on doing much else but enjoying Mr. and Mrs. Spanky's hospitality until such time as I can.

Oh, why haven't I gotten back yet? Well, while some of you may have heard that the Mayor lifted the mandatory evacuation of Orleans for Algiers Point, (where DOA headquarters sits) that lifting lasted all of a day. they opened it Monday, I was planning to go down there Tuesday, but by Monday night, FEMA talked the mayor into closing the parish again because of hurricane Rita, which was still days away.

My frustration level peaked at this point, and I have no doubt that if I was prone to high blood pressure, it would have blown my freakin head off.

So, here I sit, in Brandon, waiting for Drew to do something foolish. He hasn't done anything really blog-worthy since the chainsaw catching incident, but as we were repainting the frame for the back door last weekend, I kept looking at him with a scene from the Simpsons in mind: Lenny, Carl and others are gathered at the doorway to sector 7G, all intently watching Homer at work. Then Lenny says, "Okay... everyone be quiet... he's about to do something stupid."

Ah, life in semi-rural Mississippi. Gotta love it. At least until THEY LET ME BACK TO MY FREAKIN HOUSE!!!!

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Into the breach...

Well, we have returned. Actually, we returned the day we left, but y'all know how lazy I can be sometimes; Why, just the other day I instant messaged Stacey, (who was in the kitchen) to tell her to bring me some cookies in the next room. Yup... pure unadulterated laziness.

I know it seems like I'm being a little glib in the face of disaster, but like Pops Kahunah always said, "sometimes you just have to step back and laugh."

Slidell was quite the mess. The eye of Katrina passed right over the town, destroying a lot of stuff. Fortunately, we encountered no looters or anything. Getting to Drew's childhood home was not as challenging as we had feared... until we tried to pull into his driveway. A huge pine tree (like a hundred year old pine tree) had been snapped in half, and stretched across the front of the yard, limiting our access. We hiked around through a neighbors yard and approached the house.

Many of the trees surrounding the house were like the one out front... snapped in half by the storm. there seemed to be no water damage though. We entered the house and walked cautiously around, checking each room for any sign of intruders or damage.

Drew's 70 year old Mom kept trying to get ahead of us, not seeming to understand that there could still be danger here. She's quite the fiesty old bird. As I entered the "great room" (so named because its...uh... great) I completely missed that there was a huge six-foot tree limb poking through the ceiling. In my defense, I was looking down for water on the carpet and such, and missed it until Drew said "Uh.. Rob?" and pointed it out. Fortunately, that seemed to be the only damage to the house, and it caused some minor water damage in that one part of the house. Drew breathed a sigh of relief, feeling very lucky indeed. Little did we know how lucky.

The next thing I did, was leave Drew and his mom to bicker, and walk with Jose (Drew's mom's neighbor, who was with us) to check his house. We climbed over, under, and around downed trees to get over to his property, and the sight that greeted us there was one I will not soon forget...

There were two massive trees that had fallen across the roof of his house, smashing his front porch, one of which was a huge old tree that has simply snapped. When Jose opened the front door, the smell was awful... the entire house had been standing in at least two feet of water for an unknown length of time. The water had destroyed everything below waist level in his beautiful home. (think of your home now... what would be left?) The stench from two refrigerators worth of spoiled food permiated the house. I have never before smelled anything that actually made me puke, but when I foolishly opened one of the fridges, that did it. We went out to the garage, and could tell by the water line that there had been at least four feet of water in there, completely flooding the car that jose had lest behind. I came back inside to find Jose cleaning the dishes... "a little like re-arranging the deck chairs on the titanic..." I thought to myself.

We spent the rest of the afternoon patching holes, salvaging valuables, and thanking God that none of us had chosen to ride out the hurricane. We headed back to Jackson emotionally and physically exhausted. I could tell how stressed Drew was, because to follow his blowing a hole in the roof incident, he at one point tried to catch a falling chainsaw. (it wasn't turned on, but still!) I swear that boy should have just joined the circus as a daredevil.

Ladies and Gents... I have said it before, and I'll say it again... A category five hurricane is nothing you ever want to f**k with.

Monday, September 05, 2005

And now for something completely stupid...

Well, friends... when the going gets tough, the tough get stupid. Today, Drew and I are going into the hurricane-ravaged town of slidell with his mom and a neighbor to check on his childhood home.

There are a lot of things we're worried about with this little expedition... Fuel being the most worrisome. It's a 400 mile round trip, and the range on Drew's jeep is only about 300 miles. Normally, this wouldn't present much of a problem, but gasoline is scarce in the gulf south right now. We also worry about mob violence... the last thing any of us wants is to be stranded because someone stole the first car they saw. So, to use an old hunting term, we're going loaded for bear.

Packing the car for this was surreal... Water and food for two days (just in case)... roofing supplies, a chainsaw to clear downed trees, and a couple of guns for our personal protection. I feel like we're in one of those post apocolyptic "Mad Max" movies.

I'm very uneasy with the guns.... I was always taught not to even bring a gun unless you are prepared to use it. Don't know that I am, but I suppose I'll cross that particular bridge when I come to it. Yesterday, Drew scared the crap out of us by accidentally firing one in the house as he was checking to see if it was loaded. Fortunately, he only blew a hole through his roof, which he later sealed with some caulk. I keep kidding him that if something bad happens, all we need to do is make sure the bad guys are in an attic.

Well, we're about to leave... I'll check in tommorrow as to the condition of things along the Northshore.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

The Fall Of New Orleans

Warning: This post may lack the humor and candor you have come to expect from us here at Dogs of Atlantis. The management apologizes for our remarkable lack of a sense of humor in the wake of hurricane Katrina, and promises that as soon as said sense of humor returns, we will attempt a return to what passes as normal around here.-DOA Management

"Do you do that every time you leave?" my next door neighbor said to me as I uttered a quiet prayer for the safety of my home as I left that morning, feeling slightly foolish as I flippantly told her, "Only when there is a Cat 5 hurricane headed this way."

"I'll see you in a few days..." I said as I left the lighthouse that serves as the office for the New Orleans Steamboat Company; Never thinking that it might be in fact, the last time I would see many of my co-workers.

"Looting? It would never come to that after a hurricane!" I snickered at the ignorance of a delightful South African couple I had met on what I would later find out would be the last train out of New Orleans for a very long time.

My hometown has all but been destroyed. Mobs wander the streets, taking what they need to survive and then some. The only rule is the rule of the gun. Personally, I have been rendered functionally homeless and jobless, unable to access what little funds I have in my bank accounts, which were all in local banks. As my good friend Javafoofoo put it, "Our beautiful city, our culturally enriched city is quickly becoming a no man's land"

There are a lot of things that are going through my mind right now. My emotions are all over the freakin place.

First, gratitude that I find myself in the company of my good friends, who you all know as Drew and Stacey from the comic strip. It is soley by their good graces that I currently have a roof over my head and food in my tummy. I have thanked them about a billion times for this over the past few days... but it still doesn't seem like enough.

Secondly, I feel a good bit of old-fashioned fear for my future. I have no frickin idea what I'm gonna do right now. Everyone I talk to to let know I'm okay asks me this, and I'm running out of glib responses.

Third, I feel a tremendous amount of sorrow for my friends and neighbors that I know chose to ride out the storm in their homes. So much is being made of the refugees in the superdome and the convention center, that I think we've forgotten completely about the people that are still huddled in their homes with no water, power, and dwindling supplies. My friend and co-worker Mack is among that number. When I spoke with him on tuesday, his phone was still working, and he had banded together with some neighbors in his apartment complex to share food, water, and mutual protection. This was before the mall across the street from him burned to the ground.

Fourth, I feel a lot of anger toward the Federal, State, and City officials for not being better prepared for this. FEMA has been saying for years that exactly this scenario would play itself out if a Cat 4 or better struck our city. Admittedly, they were all overwhelmed, but why weren't better provisions made to equip the superdome to function better as the shelter of last resort? Surely they could have spared a storage room or two to pack in a hundred thousand MRE's, and enough water for a few days. they know the superdome's capacity... they could have worked it out.

Lastly, I feel a great deal of despair... at knowing my life will never be the same after this... my friends have been scattered to the four corners of the earth, and it may be a very long time before I see any of them again... If I ever do. I long very much to be handed a very cold beer by a beautiful woman in my neighborhood bar, laughing together at the latest supermarket tabloid news, or something equally meaningless.

Okay... starting to cry now, and I can't afford to replace Drew's keyboard if I short it out. I will keep y'all posted. Thank you for letting me rant about this a little.