Friday, September 02, 2005

A letter I sent to government officials, for what it's worth.

To whom it may concern - and it certainly concerns ALL of you:
I have been watching the painful and needless decay of a once beautiful city on TV for days now. Let me be quite frank with you: I am absolutely outraged at how things have been allowed to descend into chaos.
I realize the President is a busy man. However, with the fact that there are thousands are people dying in the streets of a toxic city, some reduced to insanity and fury because of DAYS without water, food and medicine in a hot southern climate in a harsh situation, I feel that there has been too much bureacracy in the way of saving lives.
I am fully aware that the media sometimes warps the truth for its own benefit - but how can you look into the faces of these suffering people and think for one moment that this is not a painful reality?
I understand the president is backing zero tolerance for "looting" in the city of New Orleans. If he's talking about guns and plasma TVs, then fine, I would agree. What I don't think the president - or those in charge of making actual decisions realize, is that those who are "looting" food, medicine,and water -BASIC HUMAN NEEDS are doing so because they are TRAPPED and have NO LEGAL WAY to obtain these items.
The mayor of New Orleans understands this. Perhaps some will think him lax as a result, but then tell me what are these suffering AMERICANS supposed to do?
I don't believe it when I hear that no one can get in to bring these people out when buses have already taken away some survivors. I'm sick of hearing about how the people are promised aid and buses over and over again - yet nothing comes.
Are the upper levels of government blind to all this?
Is there someone in an ivory tower who is waiting for some kind of arcane hand signal to sign a sheet of paper authorizing delivery of what these people need?
I've started hearing stories about how the police have told STRANDED TOURISTS "It's every man for himself." Stories about National Guard officers at the convention center becoming hostile when a local chef and some others weren't even allowed access to the kitchen to try and find available food.
And I'm sorry, but you don't handcuff a man stealing diapers for his kids.
I've also heard that Canada would be willing to fly in supplies and aid at the word go, and are waiting for AUTHORIZATION, but no one has given it to them.
YOUR people feel abandoned. How long, do you think anyone would last in that situation? Imagine yourself with no food, water, or shelter for DAYS. You have NO contact with your family, you're surrounded by death, disease, fear, and pain. You see the people around you been driven MAD by the circumstances, and you have no idea WHEN and even IF help will come to you in time because you are so isolated.
And when authority drives through - you only get lip service.
I would like to know when the people who are in charge of these efforts are going to scrap the damn paperwork and bureaucracy and just SEND HELP.
Why are there buses WAITING OUTSIDE the city and not continually moving people out? Why aren't there more people besides the media going IN to do SOMETHING?
YES - I know that there has been violence and shooting at rescue teams. Horrific circumstances have pushed some good people towards animal instincts in order to survive. That doesn't mean you stop helping those who need it. Even the truly violent need to be removed from these situations so they do not slow down the rescue efforts for everyone.
I certainly hope that any response you give to these questions and issues are not delivered in written form. I want you to THINK, search your hearts and minds, and then take ACTION. I have a house and a family and food, and if I could go down there now and hand out bottles of water, I would.
In fact, I hope you all are too damn busy saving our fellow Americans to even read this.
My confidence in the way things are being run is shaky, at best.
New Orleans is a place worth saving. These people have lives worth saving.
There are people all over this country that are willing to bring stranded survivors into their homes to save them from this horror. How can the American government be so unhospitable to what has been the most hospitable city in the country?
Pam and Mike

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

I am nothing less than heartbroken by the aftermath of the hurricane. While I am mostly speaking of New Orleans and pining for it because I've spent time there, I speak just as much for the devastation elsewhere.

New Orleans, however, has it the worst right now because of the flooding and the people who are still trapped. I just can't get over the images of streets that I'm familiar with being half filled with water - some so much that canoeing is a better option than anything else. And the fact that the water is so polluted is frightening.

I'm sad that all the places we visited are in such disarray, and am even more sad for the denizens who have nowhere to go and are unsure where their other family members are.

New Orleans, while being one of the poorest cities in the nation, still had so much to offer in beauty, history, character and culture. To think that the guy with the telescope by Cafe DuMonde who took donations for star gazing has probably lost his gear, or that the merchants in the french market have lost all their wares, or the street artist their supplies...hell. I even feel sorry for the annoying mimes. Nobody deserved this. I think about the chance encounters with people we've met briefly on the street and talked to and wonder where they are and if they are ok.

In the three visits we had, we met a lot of nice people - most of them locals. We tended to not hang in the deliberately touristy areas although we did some touristy things. But what I'm getting at is I found many of the people were very nice, laid back, friendly. Everyone from the guy who shuttled us to our car to the bellboys to the bartenders had a story and a dream that they more often than not, freely shared with us.

This isn't something I come across in Chicago, where the pace is faster, people are tired, grumpy and scowling on the bus or train. I know that the major portion of New Orleanians aren't well off, but being not in the greatest shape myself, I can understand. Many of them just seemed to be more down to earth then the stuffy briefcase toting shirts that you wind up next to on the train. I'm quite tired of snobby yuppies, thanks.

That said, I've been watching the looting that is going on, and I have two trains of thought about it. Ok, so you're someone who couldn't leave and decided to ride out the storm. You may or may not have a house. You most likely have a family. You haven't eaten or drank anything for 2 days, and you're in a hot sticky climate surrounded by rising waters.

I can see where these people who are stealing food items, cases of pop, medicine, diapers, even shoes are doing so just to live. Rescues and relief efforts are in place, but going slowly. And for some, there's no telling when the rescuers will get to them. I don't have a problem with people who are stealing to survive. Where are they going to buy supplies? And with what money?

Now, the people who are looting stores and taking shit like plasma TVs, guns, jewelry, electronics, etc. THIS is fucking ridiculous. First of all, they don't need the shit, nor do they have anywhere too put it. Hell, they can't even sell it because who the fuck wants to buy a goddamn TV in the middle of a disaster zone? The guns - that's scary. The fucking looters who shoot at the police- they are the ones that need handcuffs, not the ones walking off with diapers. I cannot understand the mentality of someone who in a situation that is THIS bad decides that there is a need to be destructive. There is no excuse for this kind of greedy, self absorbed crap. All i can figure is they are doing this because they feel in some way entitled - which they aren't and the mere fact that they'd be willing to stoop to such animalistic behavior shows you that even if they had the money and material things they wanted they'd still be assholes.

You don't shoot at the people who are trying to help you, I don't care if you don't trust authority. maybe you've had reason to in the past, but this is a time to pull together, not to rend everything else apart. If you attack the people in charge of rebuilding, then they have every right to take aim at you. It's an entirely selfish kind of thing anyhow - you're slowing down the efforts to clean up and help other people like you who are in need by messing with the authorities.

My friend Patrice actually wrote MSNBC a letter about the fact that every time they show "looters" they are always black. Now, granted, New Orleans has a high african american population, and they unfortunately seem to be the ones who aren't as well off. That doesn't make them all "looters" (negative connotation). If you think there aren't any WHITE "looters", then there's some swampland in Biloxi that I can sell you. Yahoo's captioning of a picture even caused a mess along racial lines.

This is the last thing we need. We already have the lost, the sick, the dying, the starving, the disasterous landscape, the rising oil prices and the shut down of one of our major ports. the last thing we fucking need is racial tension. I thought our country was better than this, honestly.


We're likely going to donate something soon. Mike's talking blood because he's O-. Needles make me squeemish so i'll probably donate some kind of money/food/clothing depending on what's needed. I went back to my site (the original home of the Gothic toybox) which turned into my New Orleans page after our 2001 trip and put up links to disaster relief and have started uploading new and never before seen photos taken on other trips so people have something other than piles of rubble to look at.

Why do I get the feeling that someday when I'm old, I'll be like those people who lived through disasters like the Titanic who can remember every detail of the beauty before the tragedy. Even now, I can remember how the sidewalk on one end of Decatur is worn enough that the bricks are somewhat concave compared to the mortar, and how rainwater collects in the divets. I remember the greasy smell of beignet and the powdery grit of sugar that sticks to your mouth so that you need a sip of milk - and how fugly the pigeons were around Cafe DuMonde. I remember equally the smells of Bourbon Street - a mixture of urine, vomit, horse poop and beer as well as the heavenly odors pouring out of Rita's - which sold us on the food by smell alone. I recall easily the warm rush of humid air that you get going from air conditioning to the hot summer streets and how you can actually feel yourself start to glisten after a few moments outside. I can hear the noise and bustle on the busy streets - Canal, Bourbon, Royal - people working and people traveling. Laughing, trying to dupe the dumber tourists, the singing of the street performers echoing out from the front of the Hurwitz Mintz antique shop across from Hotel Monteleone.

I remember the utter silence in the cemeteries except for the drops of a passing rain on the monuments and the occasional slight breeze. I remember my eyes burning from the sheer brightness of the sun, so much that a nap in a dark place was necessary, and how there was a calm to the evening air after dark.

The moon through a telescope - so close that I can see the sea of tranquility. A tarot reader who got in conversation with us and hadn't heard of the Lord of the Rings Very Secret Diaries. The shuttle driver who wanted to start his own record label. The first few people trcking down Bourbon street in the early morning as I watch from my 6th floor window. The Whirling Dervish playing Under the Milky Way by the Church - a one hit wonder I hadn't heard in years and now a song I associate with a more joyful place and time.

Sometimes when this place gets kind of empty
Sound of their breath fades with the light
I think about the loveless fascination
Under the Milky Way tonight

Lower the curtain down on Memphis
Lower the curtain down all right
I got no time for private consultation
Under the Milky Way tonight

Wish I knew what you were looking for
Might have known what you would find

And it's something quite peculiar
Something shimmering and white
Leads you here despite your destination
Under the Milky Way tonight

Wish I knew what you were looking for
Might have known what you would find
Wish I knew what you were looking for
Might have known what you would find

Under the Milky way tonight..
Under the Milky Way tonight...
Under the Milky Way tonight...

Sunday, August 28, 2005

My city is going to be drowned. :(

Yes I know I live in Chicago, that's not the point.
New orleans is my adopted city.

So, after hearing the sucky news this morning about the storm, I decided that going to have brunch at Pappadeaux and getting myself a hurricane would be fitting.

Perhaps if we all drank some more hurricanes, the winds would slow.

So I'm wearing my Lafitte's shirt, and will likely be making cajun food for the rest of the week as a sign of mourning.

Yes, I still want to move there. Despite this kind of thing - which doesn't happen all that often.
I'd like to actually be there for a while before the city officially sinks in about 100 years (i'm planning on being dead by then anyway), but it wasn't supposed to happen this soon.
Really, the fact that the city is even there can be blamed on the french. The indians knew better than to build a settlement there. the French were too stuborn not to.

There will be lots of drinking this evening, that's all I can say.