Friday, October 14, 2005

500 Violins

Somewhere in Kenner there is a pile of 500 moldy violins. I know little more than this. My friends left early today to pick up the violins and the lamb. Of course, the violins will be unplayable. But we aren't musicians anyway.

Rosalind and her lady are together again...

This morning I took Zephyr to the park and ran into Rosalind and her owner, who was shocked and embarrassed to learn that Roz had been sneaking off the porch and pretending to be a street dog. She had received the call I made, but the dog showed up immediately afterward, so she assumed it was an isolated incident. Until this week, they had been staying on 20 acres in Texas.

I'm still not going to describe the horror of my kitchen. But I will say that I went to pick up my mail yesterday. They have temporary post offices set up beside the Superdome, and after waiting in line forever and talking with the rest of the people in line...I got one letter, postmarked August 27th.

I also went to the Sav A Center on Tchoup--it was open, fully stocked, as if nothing had ever happened. The one thing they are lacking is employees.

Some of my favorite places in the Marigny are getting ready to open: Cafe Rose Nicaud, the Brasserie, etc. And in the Quarter, Cafe Du Monde is opening next Wednesday.

Tomorrow night Andy Young is hosting the party that was supposed to be for both of our birthdays back on September 2nd. This afternoon we're driving out to Kenner to pick up the lamb. If you're in town...come on over!

And if you are among the many people wondering if it is time to come back...get your asses on the road and come home!!!

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Rosalind is living on the street now...and other first impressions on my return

Reentry to New Orleans must be a little like the shock of passing through the atmosphere after visiting the moon. You want to get home, but you've forgotten how difficult and improbable your journey has already been.

I drove in from Tallahassee, stocked up with all kinds of supplies: water, dog food, human food that doesn't require refridgeration, a Coleman stove, propane, clothes, a respirator, Vicks vapor rub (to cut the smell of spoiled food), garbage bags, bleach...

The drive went smoothly until Oak Harbor, just before the long stretch of highway that goes over the lake. There I had to turn and drive through an expensive subdivision/development until I reached route 11 which took me over the water and past completely demolished homes. Large piles of sticks is what they are now. And at first I could figure out where they had come from. The newer places were intact, though with damaged roofs. Then I noticed the empty stilts sticking up from the water. Oh, that's where the houses were. Not anymore.

Back on the highway there were occassional boats still stranded in the median.

Then we drove down Elysian Fields, watching the flood line go lower and lower until we reached our neighborhood and there was none.

My house was sealed with a piece of corregated metal screwed into the doors, decorated with the date that my home had been checked for survivors. I think it will hang now on one of the interior walls. There was a rat party while I was gone. Lots of rat poop all over. But the electricity was on. The Directv was on. There is a hole in the back of the house, and the boards are loose on one side of the front, as if it was hit by something--a runaway bus, perhaps? The kitchen...I don't even want to got into that detail yet.

The dogs were thrilled to be home, but curious about the absence of any other people. We walked around and visited friends. We went to the barren dog park. We smelled a curiously familiar smell: fuel mixed with incinerated cement. It smells like 9/11 in NYC, but without all the burned bodies.

A government SUV stopped outside the house and for a moment I thought it might be FEMA arriving to finally finish the application process they've been sitting on. No. It was a DEA guy and all he wanted was a picture of a door across the street, decorated in the style of the offical rescue code, but reading "2 cats, 1 drag queen".

Later in the afternoon, I walked down the neighborhood bar and found Rosalind, a sweet dog that I had met once before hurricane. At that time she had been left with dogsitters who were letting her run free all the time. Now she's completely on her own. She was timid, and rooting through junk. (Oddly, this is very much like the final scene of my unpublished novel!). Finally she came to me, and I found her owner's number on the collar. I called and got a voice mail about how much they miss New Orleans. I left a message asking if they were missing their dog. I'm still waiting for a response. I tried to get her to come home with me...but she ran off and I haven't seen her since.

Who names a dog Rosalind and then leaves her on the street? I'm tempted to post the number here...

Monday, October 10, 2005

My return to New Orleans

There will be a lull in posts here while I return to New Orleans.

I'm packing up the dogs along with a surplus of dog food, water, a Coleman stove, propane, dry foods, shelf milk, a respirator, Vick's vapor rub (to cut the smell of rotten food), lots of bleach and lysol...and we're heading home.

This is what I know: the house is still standing, and it didn't flood. But I have no idea about any other damage. Some neighbors down the street found that their carpets had been soaked from rain blowing under the door. The mold was so bad that they can't move back in yet. Others have found roof damage, water and mold, even though the structure looks sound from the outside.

There is electricity on my street, I've been told. And the water is supposedly safe, but I've been told by a number of people to not drink it. Ever.

Other friends have told me that going back makes you realize how skewed your sense of awful has become. "At first it doesn't seem nearly as bad as you thought it would be. Then you realize that it is worse."

In addition to assessing my own situation, I'll be heading over to Algiers to help out with the SPCA there. They've rented a warehouse to bring all the animals back--financed by the ASPCA and one other organization. Meanwhile, there continues to be a problem with rogue animal groups breaking into houses to take--I mean rescue--pets. Last week they stole a police officer's dog while he was on duty; a few days later they broke into a family's home as they were sitting down to dinner. During the frantic weeks after the storm, many of these groups took animals lists from the SPCA but never completed the rescue.

But...we're going home. For now anyway. I'll let you know what I find.