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Monthly Archives: September 2005

Not All Angels Have Wings . . .

Things could be better. But not all things are necessary. It’s a fact that you probably never want to learn and I hope you never have to. But what’s quite evident in the face of tragedy–especially on this day we so woefully remember September 11 from a few years ago—and now we New Orleanians are faced with our own version of catastrophe. It’s the little things that now count and should continue to count from here on and forth. There’s no rhyme and no reason you can put your finger on. It’s just an occurrence and we all must just get over it. Some of us will, but many of us need that little helping hand to push us just a little further over the hump toward normalcy.

So now we New Orleanians have one less thing to worry about today: The Saints are 1 & 0 in the season and the division. That’s a matter of pride and inspiration, but it’s really on a level much less important on the grander scope of things. I could hear the cheers emanate from Houston, Shreveport, Jackson, Pensacola and a thousand other places around this wonderful country of ours (except Carolina for some odd reason!) and it was a nice thing to know that amidst all the displacement and pain of not knowing what tomorrow may bring, alas there were a million plus cheers (more or less) and that’s a good thing. Without technology, there may have been no cheers whatsoever, just deadly silence over the City that care forgot and other parts of the world who wouldn’t have known the difference. But today, they do. Not because of the New Orleans Saints, but other forms of saints yet to be canonized.

Across this vast country, millions of people still with lives of their own, have postponed theirs to provide a much-needed commodity to us who have little left or are simply separated from it for the time being. Numerous times in my current situation the question “Are you from New Orleans?” has been followed with generous offers of cash, jobs, clothes, food, lodging, you name it. And this is not from people I’ve been talking with for hours. It’s a tap on my shoulder on the street. In fact, as I was doing the speed limit down a public street the other day in search of the right street to turn down, a truck sped up to me, slowed down to my speed and “forced” me to roll down the window. I thought he was lost and wanted me to give him directions. Or maybe my rear axle fell off and I didn’t even notice.

“Are you from New Orleans?” he asked.

“Yes, sir.”

“I’d be glad to give you directions if you’re lost. By the way, have you eaten today?”

“Yes, sir. I have eaten and thank you. And I think I see the Interstate just ahead. Right?” I replied.

“You got it. Best of luck. If you need help call me at XXX-XXXX.”

No wings. Just a guy.

Later at the hotel, a local church ( http://www.victoryworshipcenter.com/ ) has adopted us evacuees. In spite of their jobs, their kids’ schooling, their financial situations, they are here everyday serving up beef stew, red beans and rice, beef pasta, vegetables, lemonade, ice tea, cupcakes, chocolate cake and a warm embrace when needed. I feel so guilty drinking the last drop of tea from my cup because before it clears my lips a child of one of these people grabs it from my hands because it would be “shameful” to allow thirst to over take me. But it’s not thirst that is overtaking me. It’s much more than that and it has nothing to do with a lack.

No wings. Just people.

Yesterday, a fellow New Orleanian who escaped with his wife and two kids in the back of someone else’s pick up truck asked me if I might give his wife a ride to Lake Charles (about 5 miles) for a doctor’s appointment. She had injured her back sometime ago falling from a scaffold. They had lost everything including the crucial contact with her doctor back home. That was only a small thing for me to do to repay all the kindness I had experienced. As we were heading back to the hotel, she told me her family was coming over to Sulphur to bring her some money and not to make plans for dinner Monday night because they were taking me out for a meal. I “protested” but it was rebuffed.

No wings. Just a favor.

At the moment, a hotel employee is in my room with a cup of Café Du Monde coffee in his hand (sans beignet, but that’s part of the discussion). As soon as the deep fryer gets here and the other hotel employee brings the only remaining box of beignet mix he received as a gift a couple of years ago, the French Quarter a la Sulphur will be formed.

No wings. Just chicory.

Things could be worse. But the next time you suspect that everything life offers has been wrestled from your grip, don’t be a fool and rush to judgment. There are angels there and they do not really fear anything.

No wings. Just a lot of treading . . .

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Posted by on September 11, 2005 in Katrina

 

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From the “Ripley’s Believe It Or Else” File

In crises, no other country in the world responds as positively as the United States. Blunders of this catastrophe aside, the citizens of this great nation ban together in both micro- and macrocosms. It is evident in the swift response and outreach of individual citizens and organized groups that is the spirit of love and caring which permeates the very fabric of Americana. Katrina is evidence.

On this localized level I introduce you to the dichotomy of one hotel chain against the other. Pastor Mel Estes, leader of a local congregation here in Sulphur– http://www.victoryworshipcenter.com/ —has adopted the Holiday Inn Express in Sulphur and the entire congregation is daily feeding everyone in the hotel with a fabulous dinner, dessert and refreshment and they have been doing so for the past week with a commitment to continue until all New Orleanians have checked out. Besides the meal, they insist on having each one of us fill out a Family Needs Assessment form just in case we are too bashful to ask for more help. With it, they hope to clothe, house, secure employment and provide any medical needs. Folks, this is Red Cross Jr. in operation with a local church group. Heaven—or something extremely close—is a place on earth figuratively speaking.

Upon my arrival at this new hotel, I was introduced to an elderly black gentleman who insists on being called Gerald—not mister—just Gerald. A few days ago he was plucked off his roof in the Kenilworth area of East New Orleans after two days of braving the flood waters by himself. He is a very pleasant man with almost a “nutty professor” hair style but well-kept and very colorful in conversation about the old days in New Orleans. He spent most of his adult life not far from my grandparents who lived in Gentilly also during my childhood. He is a retired HUD worker and a veteran of the pre-Vietnam campaign who did serve in the region before full-scale operations started. It wasn’t until a days later when speaking with him again that I figured out where I came up with the source of my “nutty professor” impression. Since so many of our intelligentsia are sometimes considered aloof or eccentric by nature, something in my mind clicked as to why I saw him in that way. Apart from his engaging conversational style and the depth of his insights and analyses, staring at his visage that additional day, I recognized why. At closer observation I was moved to ask him a simple but appropriate question: “Has anybody ever told you you resemble Albert Einstein?”

“No. You’re the first. But I have been told Mark Twain before,” he replied.

Good company to be in, Gerald! And if you wrote a book, I might begin to believe in reincarnation.

For four hours while waiting for our new room to be ready in the hotel lobby, we chatted non-stop about old Gentilly, the goose that chased me and grandma laying the bird to waste with her purse while passing the Gentilly duck pond, his experiences with the local merchants in the area I remembered but have been displaced by corporations like Rite Aid and McDonalds, the waste of government resources in agencies like HUD, the ultimate meaning of life; you name it we discussed it.

During our conversation, another Caucasian gentleman from the church mentioned above approached Gerald and asked if he had gotten in touch with the V.A. hospital in Lafayette. Gerald mentioned the busy phone lines and waiting on hold for minutes with no response. The gentleman said he got in touch with the V.A. in Beaumont Texas and had made an appointment for Gerald for tomorrow morning and that he would pick him up in the lobby at 8 a.m. Without missing a beat, Gerald proceeded to make a deal with him that the only way he would go was if he (Gerald) would be allowed to fill his gas tank when they returned. The gentleman shook his head in agreement and winked in my direction as if to say “Okay. I lied to him. He ain’t gonna pay for nothing.”

If you are familiar with Mike Myer’s “verklempt”—or however you spell it–I’m sure Shanna will correct me—I am right now. I didn’t mention race above for any other reason than to highlight the fact that especially in these trying times the politics and the crap we collectively as a nation think is the answer to the ultimate questions of life are just that–a bunch of crap. If that term offends, get over it. There is no other sufficient term to define with precise characteristics what I mean. Color is only skin deep and we all know where the beauty ultimately resides.

I don’t want to preach but this is what I would compare to the closest thing as heaven on earth, not to wax denominationally, but to speak to “original intent” no matter Christian, Jew, Atheist, Muslim, whatever. And as proud as I am to be associated with Gulf Games (please visit http://sacredchao.2mydns.com/gulfgames/about_gg.php for a better understanding of “Gulf Games”) and the quality of people who are members, I still see glimmers of hope for the world especially in times when cooperation is paramount to survival, when barriers of race, creed, class, et. al., are tossed to the hurricane winds of Mother Nature and we all coalesce into a proper functioning society. All is not perfect in this “heaven” I speak of but with understanding and tolerance those of us who actively and willing refuse to acknowledge random boundaries drawn by misinformed individuals, this world will continue to be chaotic but with momentary glimmers of human kindness searing through the darkest clouds of despair. And I just can’t wait until the sky is bright blue without a cloud in sight.

 
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Posted by on September 8, 2005 in Katrina, Uncategorized

 

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