My Katrina journals

I used to have a deadjournal. I’ll continue when you stop laughing.

I updated it periodically, and it was mostly dumb emo stuff. But I went through it today because I remember that I wrote some things about Katrina. It was fresh in my mind then, only a few weeks old. I am copying down all three entries so I can remember and so I can delete deadjournal once and for all.

9th September, 2005. 11:30 pm. We’re going to mix some truth and fiction on this one.

Complacency is a prescribed drug of my generation. At approximately 3:30 PM on Saturday, August 28th, I had an overdose.

People may consider me short in years, but I figure if you spend your entire life in one place and your life spans twenty years, that gives you a good bit of knowledge about that particular place. For instance, I know a lot of things second-nature: suck the head and bite the tail, never travel all the way down the road without two people in the car with you, and if you live in St. Bernard parish, hurricanes are judged on a “I’ll believe it when I see it” scale.

Again, I may only be 20 bordering on alcohol-purchasing legality, but not once in my life has a storm really affected my town. When I was young and we would run away from a potential danger, I would actually hope it would hit us, because my brain was small and didn’t perceive how much would be affected. All I knew was that I’d be missing school. Good enough for me.

Andrew did a bit of damage when I was about 8, but I never cared because my home was okay. Whore-hay was a close call as well, but the most damage it did was postpone the concert I was looking forward to and prevent Lenny Kravitz from playing in New Orleans at the height of his career. Looking back on it, that might have been a good thing.

When push comes to shove, Hurricanes don’t hit New Orleans. They always go through the invisible territory known as Florida, a magical place where you know no one and see the damage on CNN with unshakable indifference. But New Orleans? No way. We’ll take the little bit of rain we catch and throw a party. Because we’re a tank. This town is a god damn tank.

Or it was.

So I got home from work after being sufficiently threatened by the powers that be, wiggling their fingers and going “oooh, you better get oooouuuuut!” The same old story, same old song and dance, my friend. Steven Tyler wasn’t buying that bullshit and neither was I. I knew it was bad, knew in the back of my head like every time that there was a chance it would hit New Orleans, but my complacency was taking full effect at that point. “Screw that, no way we’re getting hit.” I’ll just take a three day vacation and come back to my unwavering life.

I came home to open up the phone lines to my wonderful girlfriend, who informed me that we had to get out, and fast. I placated her as is my boyfriend job description, but inside I was still kicking my legs, tossing out my cane, and tipping my top hat in a big “yeah, right” to Mother Nature.

Now that I look back, and of course hindsight makes me so freaking intelligent, it was just a matter of time before the winds and rain landed directly on top of my small coastal town. I mean, if these were tally marks in prison walls for every time a near miss occurred, John Gotti would be walking the streets. It had to happen sooner or later. Wish I would have known that before I filled my schoolbag with a whopping three changes of clothes, a ratty toothbrush, and six condoms.

So I’m off to the races, and I was speeding my heart out. My girlfriend was very time oriented, as were the Delts, whom I was following to San Antonio, the specific where and why withheld from me for, I’m sure, security reasons. “We’ll give you specific directions when you get close.” That statement, I was sure at the time, was going to bite me in the ass. But that’s not for another 18 hours, and I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s get back to the interstate.

I’m pushing my little car as far as she can go, because according to my clock in four minutes my caravan was getting the hell out of dodge and first I had to go into dodge to pick up my girlfriend before I too got the hell out of it. So my natural male ability to multi-task was taking full effect as I was speeding, listening to a song that piqued my interest, waving at the woman next to me to turn off her blinker, and running into a shovel that happened to be in my lane on the interstate.

(For those of you taking notes, that third one was the cause of the fourth.)

As I understand it, a truck containing tools of various trades lost a hold of their shovel and were trying to find a way to retrieve it when I helped by hitting it and getting it lodged under the front of my car. At the time driving, I had no idea what I was dragging, though several people did kindly grab my attention on the road to point out to me, in case I wasn’t aware of it, that something was under my car. “Oh, so that isn’t part of the new Fall Out Boy song. Thanks!”

Yes, that is an exact quote. I wasn’t sent here to retroactively make things up to sound cooler. On occasion I do say the right things at the right time. But my witticism did nothing to change the fact that I was dragging a fucking shovel under my car.

Once I hit my exit, I pulled over and dislodged the tool from my front, amongst laughter from everyone around and my girlfriend on the phone. I wanted to keep the shovel as a souveneir, but the men in the truck who had followed me off claimed that the shovel was theirs and they wanted it back. Another small bit of my soul taken away from me, I consented and made the drive, without incident into Tulane University, or as I call it, Dodge.

This is part 1. The rest will come, if it ever does, when I’m ready to keep going.

Current mood: complacent.

10th September, 2005. 9:52 pm. Welcome, my friends, to the ride that never ends

I remember a time when rhyming was a good literary tactic.

Where were we?

Ah, yes. Dodge. So I picked my girlfriend and her belongings up, and upon lifting her bag I rediscovered the fact that I had packed rather poorly. Many of her favored possessions and a good 10 changes of clothes were accounted for, though that may just have been the natural light packing of woman. Some intricacies of that particular gender are and forever will be a mystery.

After a bit of warmed greeting mostly due to the raised tempers, we exchanged my car for hers, as she predicted (and I shamingly agree) that my car would not make the drive to San Antonio. That done, we head for the interstate, where I try to place a few phone calls and find the shocking discovery that the phone lines are not working for numbers of my area code. That inconvenience is still in effect as I write this, though moderately less so.

After a few tries I got through to my fraternal brother Jeff, who informed me that he was following a long highway until it merged with the interstate heading to Texas. This was slightly more helpful than my prior link to evacuation intelligence (“We’re going to San Antonio. It’s in Texas. Just keep driving until you see Spurs signs.”) so I decided to follow him blindly. We were in somewhat of a state of panic, after all.

After about ten minutes of calm, non-traffic clogged driving, I began to get antsy and called Jeff for verification. The best he could give was “I saw an evacuation sign pointing in the way I’m going.” So we continued to drive. With more driving under our belts and still no traffic or sight of this infamous evacuation sign, my antsiness became full blown nervousness. In a fit of desperation for signs of fleeing, I told Sarah to get onto the interstate, and upon seeing all of the stopped cars, I got a bittersweet feeling to go with the slap to the head from my girlfriend.

Eventually our crawl became the trot of a three legged greyhound, and we were in good spirits once again. Happy to be together after the months of loveless sabbatical. For a long time this was our primary concentration, as driving is a largely automatic process. That is, until the police force decides to close I-10 West and send us north.

Our happy feelings were quickly siphoned out of our bodies and replaced with sheer panic. Consulting the handy atlas that would go on to be my best friend on this trip, I saw that in twenty exits I-12 West would be available.

But it wasn’t. Nor was the next west exit. Every exit whose green sign tempted us with its white letters screaming “Here’s a Way Out! Follow me!” only went on to laugh at us with orange signs and blockades. In frustration we asked a police officer how to get back to I-10 West, and he said exit 47. Not too far away. We breathed again.

Before the next part of my series of unfortunate events is unfolded, let me give you a hurricane evacuation glossary lesson. The word contraflow has no real defintion, but when applied to this situation means blocking off the paths to the evacuated area and instead opening them to same direction traffic. For instance, on I-10 West before it was blocked off, both lanes were going West. On the road we were on, I-55 North, both lanes were going north. We were in the lane that would be going south were a category 5 hurricane not barreling towards New Orleans with the ferocity of one thousand ex-girlfriends in spiked boots.

So we’re on the I-55 South going north, needing to get off at exit 47. What a surprise, the exit for I-55 North is on the NORTH SIDE! Oh, how happy we were when we saw it fly past us, too far away for us to do anything about it! In a display of frustration, anger, and pure coolness personified, Sarah drove her car across the interstate median and took the first exit she got to. If I weren’t feeling the same emotions that drove her to that decision, I would have been awed by it. All we needed were two explosions, a cow blowing by, and a racist joke and Michael Bay could have directed this particular scene.

So, after consulting the atlas and finding the best road back to the west, we went on the longest, windingest road in the pitch black of night. Honestly, the rest of this journey, plus the road from 250 to I-10 out of Louisiana, isn’t very noteworthy. There were a few lost turns, a few swear words, and a lot of O.A.R. playing. I peed in a terrible restroom and read the words “I am the assfucking queen” which brought a big chuckle. But other than that, we finally got to I-10 where it wasn’t blocked off, and we once again were happy and carefree.

We were out of Louisiana, into Texas…and once again in crawling traffic. Home sweet home, right?

So ends part 2. Next episode: Texas, it’s like Mexico with a tan. Or: AAA, the last a stands for asshole.

18th September, 2005. 8:57 pm. Part 3

So we’re in Texas.

Our celebration from finally being on the right track attained, we were quickly subdued by the endless line of cars stretching before and after us. Once again, the other side of the contraflow was going steady, but we had learned our lesson and stayed in the crawl.

Once again the speed began to pick up, and we found out that the reason we had been in a nearly stationary position was not because of all of the cars evacuating, but because there was an accident on the side of the road. This accident was small enough to only merit one police car, but somehow large and important enough to make every single evacuee break from their task of escaping the hurricane to go “oh my god, someone’s on the side of the road!”

This is where I pray to the government officials responsible for this sort of thing that rubbernecking be outlawed and deemed an offense punishable by death, or at least several groin pummelings.

So even though we were in Texas, I was much chagrined to discover that our destination was not just around the corner and was, in fact, a good 5 hours away. The time was around two thirty in the AM, so we approximated our arrival at around 8 o clock to account for our bad luck and once again called a Delt for directions, where we were once again told to wait until we got close. That done, we were left in our car. In Texas.

Now, I am not a politician, and therefore am not afraid of losing the Texas vote. So I can sit here with absolute one hundred percent pure honesty, and tell you that Texas is the most overrated thing since the movie Shakespeare in Love. Yes, I am aware that I just pissed off two distinct groups of readers, but that does not change the fact that I like my state better, which anyone who knows me can testify that’s saying something.

Now, I know many people from Texas, and they are all wonderful people. They are fun people to talk to and their company is treasured. That said, these assholes had me believing that Texas is the greatest plot of land in the entire world, that it required its own section in Risk. (“Whoever conquers Texas wins the game automatically!” – actual quote)

Even from the first few miles in the whole ‘nother country, I started to have my doubts. Even if the braggarts had not given their state a greatness it could not possibly have lived up to, the state does not particularly stand well by itself. The cities we passed through were nothing that stood out, and soon enough we hit our first big city, and one of the biggest reasons for my anger: Houston.

For a reason that I will not start to question, the interstate through the city was either closed or just does not exist. I was warned about this in advance, but was not given any directions on how to face it other than “well…you’ll know what to do.” Well, we didn’t. I told Sarah to look at the atlas for an alternate route, and she found one – a sort of crazy loop that goes around the entire city. Kind of inconvenient, but at least it would get us past. Not too bad, right?

I can almost imagine the road planners’ conversation now, seeing them sitting in a room together coming up with ideas for different highways and interstates. “I’ve got the perfect idea! Instead of going through the city like EVERY NORMAL PLACE IN THE WORLD, let’s construct something that will take an extra hour to achieve about thirty miles!” “Hey, that’s a great idea, Norm! But you know what would make it better? If we made them PAY FOR IT!”

Yes, not only did we have to go out of our way, but due to the toll booths at eight mile intervals, we had to dish out about twelve dollars to do it. Towards the end we were running out of ones, so we were thankful when I-10 showed back up, for the first time not shrouded in evacuating vehicles. I knew I had accounted for bad luck for a reason. At least we were almost there.

(Definition of the day for almost: “not even fucking close.”)

At this point in the trip, Sarah and I began to intermittently switch driving duties while the other caught up on sleep we had not had since 6 AM on Saturday morning. During my shifts I had nothing to comfort me except for Sarah’s CDs, which were quickly becoming repetitive since it had taken us the entire Third Eye Blind CD two and a half times to get out of Houston. So I began to think.

This is when I finally started to come to terms with what might happen. I kept telling myself it was crazy, hurricanes never hit New Orleans (Betsy and Camille only being stories that our parents used to scare us into eating our vegetables). But then I began to think about what I would lose. My house. My clothes. My CD collection.

And what were my friends doing? My family? Should I have gone with them instead of using this as a vacation excuse with my friends? Maybe I should’ve –

And that was when the tire blew out.

“What the hell is that? Pull over, pull over, pull over!”

And this is where I’ll leave you, friends. Stranded on the interstate, little more than two hours from San Antonio, with a broken tire and a sound mysteriously similar to rattling all around us. Don’t worry, we survived. How else did I write this?


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Where I’ve been for the past 10 days

The simple answer is “writing,” but I wanted to give specifics.

I finished (A)live in Omaha last week. I’ve spent every day since editing it. I finished at 72,771 words. It is now at 69,623 words. I still have more work to do on it, but I’m pretty happy with it so far.

I have a few more projects I want to get to, but I want to do another pass of editing first before I leave it to sit.


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Weekend writing

I wrote about 500 words in aio over the weekend. It’s been slow going, but I still have my general direction down, so it should pick up soon.

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Footbawl blog and aio

I wrote a retro for the Seahawks on the footbawlblog page.

I also wrote 1000 words in aio. My slowest day so far, but I still feel good.

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Yesterday’s writing again

I wrote 2 chapters and 2500 words. I have to get better about updating this thing!

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Yesterday’s writing

I wrote 3600 words yesterday and finished 3 chapters. 7 chapters left.

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Chapters 1-3 written in part 4

I’m keeping the actual writing close to my vest. I have 10 chapters left and then I’ll be done. My total is 9 words shy of 60,000. Finished over 3000 words today.

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