The First Four Hours Are the Hardest

Sep 7, 2008 by

I’m OK, the fam’s OK, everything’s OK. Cleaning up our front yard and the block has been our highest priority, not blogging.

And I can’t get into mine. You know when you see me here, there’s a 70-30 chance my blog is fucked up.

Loki’s post expresses much of what I’ve been thinking about the latest evacuation and Lord David and Bigezbear posted the comment I and others have wanted to see—if you want me to get out of harm’s way, don’t act like each breeze is a tornado or that the lovely social services we are so spoiled by on a normal basis will be ripped out from under out feet if we do not fucking obey. I’m a rational person with a young child and 3 cats to protect but after this episode, I feel James O’Byrne:

And by Tuesday afternoon, this city was as safe as it needed to be. Indeed, all those tree branches and debris would be picked up and stacked neatly on the curb by lunchtime on Wednesday if people had been allowed to come home.

I fully appreciate the risks of letting my family stay. But I have to weigh that risk against the alternate risks, of getting trapped in an endless evacuation traffic jam, of being stranded on a highway far from help, of not being able to return in a timely manner, to secure our property and come back to as much of a normal life as possible.

New Orleans is my home. I love it, and I choose to keep living here. But if you are a public official who wants me to leave for the next storm, then you have to hear what I am telling you. It’s time to rewrite the contract.

After a few hours of packing, moving plants, securing lawn furniture and potential projectiles, clearing out the fridge and deciding what hurricane supplies to take with or leave, we tore out of here Sunday morning with important papers, food we couldn’t afford to buy twice and needed to eat while exiled for who knew how long the way Nagin et al were talking, The Girl, suitcases for an exile that could be 2 days or 2 months, 3 cats, a couple paintings and my grandfather’s rare Jazz Begins album. Two of these cats are relatively old, one going on 16, the other about 14 or so though he walks older. The oldest cat’s hysteria began immediately and culminated about 45-50 minutes into our 8-hour evac drive in a complete emptying of her bowels. Yes, that smelled worse than it sounds. I didn’t handle the transfer of this cat, damp, hysterical, moaning and yowling, to the clean carrier and I didn’t clean the shit with a handful of Wet Ones. [I have a spouse who really loves me.] The not-as-old cat descended into panic about 30 minutes into the drive and became a panting, drooling mess. And I was pissed. I was going to find a new job, I was moving to Chicago, I was never coming back, I’d burn my house down first, smelling cat shit and wet with cat drool, this is exactly why I was hoping not to have to evacuate in the first place—2 old, hysterical, causing-multiple-messes cats, anxiety, flashbacks, indigestion, sitting for hours, living out of a suitcase and other bags for an undetermined amount of days with the prospect of completely and permanently losing my job if the city flooded again. I didn’t need it. I’ve been tired for 3 years already. My reserves are gone.

By hour 5, all 3 cats were calm and either sleeping or near enough sleep for us not to care.

The ride back looked promising with the oldest cat quickly settling into low-pitched, deep-in-the-throat moans instead of shit. The not-as-old cat, panting and drooling, 45 minutes into the return from exile shit on the floor mat under The Girl’s feet. Then he climbed onto her crossed legs and left a turd on one knee and some smears on the other. For the 2d time in 3 hours, The usually-nonplussed Girl was near tears. I cleaned her and the floor mat with the last of the Wet Ones. And got stoically into the car because at least we were going home and could start the 2-day process of cleaning our yard and street. I was too tired to be pissed.

By hour 5, all 3 cats were calm and either sleeping or near enough sleep for us again not to care.

My mother’s house 3 years post-Floods.

BTW: The next person I hear or news story I read calling this Gustav episode a vacation, I will get a gun and start shooting. “Going postal” will be nothing compared to what I do. Nothing happened to my house but I was homicidal standing in line listening to Magazine Streeters’ blithe and cheery conversations about their impromptu vacations, their Internet connections, their need for coffee after waking at 10 am—I’m still ready to vomit bile over that. Maybe I need to move.

My place is on what we call high ground around here. In a pinch, I could take a long walk to the Quarter. For Gustav, in hopes of riding it out before Nagin got that hysterical sheen to his bald head, we bought water, ice, canned foods, crackers, crunchy snacks of the sweet and salty variety, extra toilet paper and paper towels, paper plates even, batteries and flashlights like you would not believe. And 3 huge bottles of wine. I have most of that left, including 1 bottle of wine. Before we stress the cats, The Girl, and ourselves beyond repair again, I will really have to think. And hard.

G Bitch

photo courtesy of dsbnola, used under this Creative Commons license

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