Tuesday, September 06, 2005

My scattered end of day thoughts.

I worked at the refugee center saturday. Thousands of people there with nothing. But they were patient, polite, even gracious. All the coverage of looting and other crime by the media is such a slander against the tens of thousands of good people of New orleans.

I was handing out clothes and other necessities. Someone would hand me a list and I'd try to find what they were looking for. One list looked like this:


1 pants (mens) 32
two t-shirts (med. or lg.)
tennis shoes size 9

That's all he wanted. Most of the lists were like that.

One man just asked for a pack of cards.

One woman needed some nice clothes because she was going on a job interview in a few days. Already had arranged a job interview after losing everything and spending nights in the open on a freeway.

Some young girls were looking for shoes for their grandmother who only had socks to wear on the cold cement floor. She had diabetes.

Makes you feel guilty for having so much, being so comfortable and secure.

Multiply that by several thousand, and you have a small picture of Lafayette's evacuees. Double it, triple it, times ten, and you have Houston.

A friend in Houston says that the Texas visitor's center had bottled water for evacuees "as far as the eye could see."

For those who are blaming the locals, remember this.

The poor couldn't leave NO. The evacuation plan left them out, and the Times Picayune reported on that back in July.

The mayor did not have any resources because the evacuation plan was FEMA-approved, and he had no authority to change it.

He also has no authority over the levees. He could not have asked for more money to strengthen them because the mayor of NO and the voters of NO have no control over the levee boards, or the federal contribution which funds their activities.

The governor called out the National Guard immediately. The 5000 who were left in state, but who had no equipment.

All the rest is the responsibility of the Feds. As soon as Bush called it an emergency, FEMA was in charge, and Mike "Brownie" Brown waited till after the storm was over to call up a few thousand homeland security people, and then he gave them two days to get started.

Bush was vacationing in Crawford, eating cake with McCain, strumming a guitar (looked like a g-chord, but on the fourth fret). Rumsfeld was watching a baseball game in California. Condi was in NY buying shoes and seeing Spamalot. Cheney was on vacation in Wyoming. Andy Card was in Ireland at a wedding with lots of white house staff. Nobody thought it was important enough to interrupt their vacations because of a Category 5 hurricane bearing down on New Orleans and the Gulf Coast.

Man, I love New Orleans. My great grandfather Joseph Riehl died there at the age of 26, probably from yellow fever. Otherwise, I'd probably be living there myself. My grandfather was a local stringer for the Times Picayune. My father introduced me to "ersters" on the half shell there at The Pearl. And Italian food at Pascal Manale's and at Solari's, a great Italian grocery in the quarter. I marvelled at the battleground at Chalmette where Jackson beat the British "down the Mississippi to the Gulf of Mexico."Later I sneaked into strip clubs on Bourbon Street. Ate my first turtle soup with sherry at Roussel's out on Airline. Witnessed my mother's delight at the fact that you could order a pitcher of beer at Gee and Lil's seafood restaurant. I spent three years in grad school in Uptown, and taught at Chalmette, Andrew Jackson High. Just a few weeks ago I visited with friends there and had a great Ethiopian meal on Magazine Street.

It's a great city, with great people who have a warm and accepting attitude toward life, who try not to be sophisticated, who love their families (It's a cliche to ask "How's your mamma, 'n' 'em." instead of asking "How's business?" or something like that.) When I was in college we called the kids from NO "yats," a name they accepted proudly, because they always greeted you with "Where 'r' yat?" (Where are you at?)which roughly translated means "How are you?".

I won't go on -- we all have our stories. But it's a great place where it seems like everyone calls you "babe" "dahlin" or "cher" --

Only thing I don't understand is Mardi Gras. Can't hack it. But that's just me.

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