Today we'll take the RV to a local self wash here and see if we can get some of the kids' finger-painting off of it. It's covered with paint and dust and the windshield has a small crack. I don't know how this happened, but I imagine we will forfeit our five hundred dollar security deposit -- the one we didn't have to pay, but that they will most certainly take from us now. I will make this RV look as spiffy and clean as possible but you can only do so much for a truck that has been blasted by high, dust-filled winds for ten days in the desert.
Beau is dying to get home. He needs to have some time to himself in which to get prepared for school. It is hard to believe that my little boy is now a six-foot-tall young man -- covered with hair and pimples -- about to enter high school.
I don't understand the passage of time. I hate time. It has always been an enemy; something strange I have never been able to embrace and comprehend. I always seem to be on the backside of beautiful things I don't want to let go of that sped by, or in the midst of stressful slow moving things that hurt. I am sick of my weird relationship with the passage of time. I intend to get a hold of this issue of mine and thrash it out until I can make peace with it in some way.
We have promised our friends Mara and Phil that we will spend some time with them again at their house in Grass Valley but Beau doesn't want to go. I don't want to disappoint Phil and hurt his feelings because he has been looking forward to our visit for months. When we were only able to spend a day or so with him before Burning Man, I promised we would spend almost a week there with him afterwards, so spending a day with him, especially since we will be passing right by his town on our way home, seems like the least we can do. I would love to visit some of my Live Journal friends who live in Sacramento and Fresno, but there is no way I will be able to do this and get Beau back in time to leave him with at least a day before school starts.
I have decided that I desperately need to go to the "secret" hot springs that are about thirty miles north of Reno in a gorgeous meadow filled community of like-minded people and we'll do that today on our way to Phil's. Hopefully there will be some fellow Burners there we can try to spend a bit of time communing with. I've never understood the concept of the need for decompression as clearly as I do now. It's hard coming back to all of this.
I spent last night getting clean and catching up on the news from and about New Orleans; worrying about our friends, and getting news from home. I hate being back in "the default world" as many people at Burning Man call it. Already I am tense, anxious, suspicious, and grieving.
I had an argument/upset with Scott over the phone last night because I was exhausted, he was depressed and somewhat insensitive, and I perceived him as not caring -- how stupid, and such a waste of time, energy, and precious feelings -- both of ours.
I made the mistake of calling my Mother, again this morning, (I had already spoken with her last night, to check and see that she was all right, and to help quell her anxiety over having been out of touch for more than a week), and happened to catch her when she was doing her weekly money thing with her secretary. This always makes for a stressful and potentially volatile situation. She leapt at the opportunity to grab me and "shake my beads" as my BM friend Alchemy/Maeve would put it. All of her constant, manufactured anxiety about money came up and grabbed my by the throat. I told both of them that there would be plenty of time to discuss all of these kinds of things when I returned and that for now I needed to concentrate on keeping us healthy and safe. I don't need to be driving an overloaded thirty foot RV through the Sierra's in a worried distressed state of mind. It's hard enough to do when you're going somewhere you're looking forward to -- let alone driving back to something you are dreading. And none of it is real anyway, it's just my Mom's anxiety, everything is going to be fine. I have to keep reminding myself of this.
I've learned that my dear friend, our cat Spot died, and Ana, our housekeeper who is a terrible communicator -- even Spanish speaking people cannot make sense of what she is saying -- just didn't make any sense on the phone, and I don't know what happened. I couldn't understand her and had to call the vet a second time to try to ascertain what might have happened. Ana said she found him dead in his bed yesterday morning. I am so sad. I don't know what happened to him. I keep seeing his sweet black and white face, the wave of his fur, his big eyes, his tail. We are going to have an autopsy because I need to know if he was in any way neglected by Ana and Esther -- if his death could have been prevented.
For all the physical discomfort, the expense, the drama, and the risk of Burning Man, it can be an infinitely better place to be than here. Already I feel the burning pain of muscle tension spreading across my back and shoulders, creeping up into my neck, taking over my lungs and my ability to take full breaths. I will let go. I will meditate. Everything is going to be okay. The news from the world I live in is too much to take in all at once.
Here's a letter I thought you might want to read from one of my oldest friends, Mary, who bought a house in New Orleans and has been spending a lot of time there. I have been worrying about her and am glad to know she is okay. When I called I spoke with her husband and naturally he said the possible damage or even loss of their home was nothing compared to their concern for the people who have lost everything and are/were trapped there.
"Jacqui, thanks for calling. I'm sorry Steve didn't put you on the phone, since I know you are hard to get in touch with. I left you a phone message as well.
We are gutted, of course. The following is my boiler plate email--some of it I sent you in response to your first email, so you may have read it already, but there is new information in it. The short version is that our house has holes in teh roof, and part of a ceiling that could come down at any moment, which means more rain water could get in. The downstairs has/had at least a foot of water in it, which bears it's own problems. All in all, we got off lightly, compared to our many many friends, who are our extended family. Every single person we know has lost their house, their livelihood or both. Every. Single. Person.
We feel like we are getting punched repeatedly in the stomach.
Our neighbor called Tuesday at 5am, finally. He rode out the storm in his house.
'Hey Steve, I've got great news!.....We've got lakefront property!"
Okay, up until flooding started Monday, there was only wind damage for our house. Many tiles, with visible holes in roof, on 929 side, can't see 931 side, hasn't been inside yet, was suppose to have gone in yesterday, and try to move things around to get them out of rain path (I tried to tell him to take the art inside his place, or at least cover with tarp, but we got cut off before I could make that explicit). We haven't heard since, thanks to minimal cell phone service. Further report: enormous old pecan tree in back came down, but right across the yards and fences, like the perfect landing spot, didn't damage a thing except fences. No flooding until Tuesday, now probably a foot of water in basement, perhaps more, unclear since we have no further reports. It rained on Thursday, so those holes in the roof could be trouble. He would get up on roof to put stuff over holes, but his extension ladder is under his house where it has flooded and isn't sure our ladder will reach. Fingers crossed. Power lines to our house are still up. Winds came through at 120 mph. His house came through fine. He's doing GREAT; he has a generator, plenty of food, plenty of water. Water is running, he can flush toilets (I think by now the water is off, though), but he's boiling water. (He's Henry. he's practical.) He said our ice cream "went the first night, as soon as the power went off." (As in, he and the others ate it immediately!) He will move into our house if the water keeps rising--it was currently lapping at his front door. Everyone except two other houses on the street did evacuate, but the ones who stayed are really nice and they are eating together all the time. Trees came down all over the neighborhood--oaks are down (branches and whole trees) all down Ursuline, the big tree at Cafe Degas is lying in the street. He said "the skyline of New Orleans has changed." BUT it was surprising how few trees actually hit houses in our area, which is good news. Water is on Esplanade, but not that bad. He says he's fine, and while he wouldn't mind being rescued, they haven't seen anyone yet, and also, they don't want to go with the large herds of people...
Okay, so the news is mixed. GREAT that Henry is okay, not happy about roof holes (now makes me wish we had gotten a new "hurricane proof" roof; suddenly the expense of that, and my own sentiment about loving our 100 year old slate roof, doesn't seem so important any more), really sad about pecan tree, really relieved the thing didn't hurt anything or any one, not happy but inevitable about basement, delighted flood waters haven't risen too high yet in our area (5am), will remain concerned about fate of stuff inside until we hear more and/or we or someone can take care of it, even more worried about how much rain we might get before those holes can be dealt with, as damage could be extensive until we get them plugged in some way, as could the standing water wreck havoc on our foundation, if it stands around for weeks, as some predictions have it.
Hope we hear from him again later and soon.
Meanwhile, all of our friends, minus two acquaintances, are accounted for, and are healthy. We have three friends who have seen shots of their neighborhoods and know their houses are entirely (as in, up to the roof) underwater, which means total loss. Others don't know a thing, including one friend who had to leave behind over two dozen cats in her house (she does cat rescue) and so you can imagine what she must be feeling. Still more know their house was okay, but now it's available to the looters to add to the destruction. And just about everyone is tied in some way to industry that is effected long term, ie, tourism or movies or music or food, which means they don't have jobs. When it's all tallied, we realized that every single person we know down there lost either their house, or their livelihood, or both. Schools are closed for at least two months: i have several firends who are trying to finish their last year of high school and are applying to colleges right now. At least one friend sent me a note saying they in Baton Rouge, looking for "jobs and schools," a note of practical finality that says a great deal.
Iconic sights are destroyed, from buildings in the Quarter to smashed homes on St. Charles. Entire neighborhoods are actually gone, underwater and simply not fixable. Reports are moving from weeks to months to never. Toxic water, no power, contaminated soil.
And it's a little, little thing, really, compared to it all, but all over the city, oak trees that date back to colonial times are down, what was once a canopy of trees is now a carpet, and something of the magic of the city will die with them. It's a small thing, the trees, nothing compared to loss of human life or even property, but how can you put a price on a soul? As it is, our lives are so tied up in that city, that place, we think about it all the time ("you know, the way some people think about Jesus" I said to a friend, who is a minister, today at school and she understood) and our hearts are ripped.
Henry called Friday night.
He sounded utterly exhasted, and I don't doubt it. He's "paddling out" (he has a canoe) tomorrow (Saturday), all the way to Jefferson Parish (actually, we aren't that far from the parish line, but even so) to find transport there, once he gets an elderly couple on our street out to a refugee center as well. He said "They are really old, they refuse to leave their home, it's right out of a Falkner novel, I will tell you the story later, but I'm going to have to explain to them that they will die if they stay. They can't wait another 11 days for the place to dry out."
He checked our home; water never did come past his porch, so I'm thinking we only have/had a foot or two in our basement (it's unclear how much remains right now). Most of the holes are on 929 (our co-owners' side)--one big hole in Diana's bedroom, with a wet ceiling that will come down pretty soon, though only about a two foot swath. He removed anything in the way of that, though of course, further rain will cause water problems on the floor and potentially in the rest of that side. One more hole, uncertain how big or how problematic, in their back sun room. Our side looks pretty good, except for a hole in the roof over the front porch, which is not a problem at all (water will go right through porch boards in that case). I asked him if he could nail up plywood over our front windows before he left (to deter looters a little bit) but he said he didn't have any more wood. He had to get off the phone right then to save his cell phone battery, but did promise to call as soon as he was somewhere safe. I then promised to send him a great deal of money, since of course, he's going to need it.
Another friend left around the same time, having stayed in the Quarter until then. He said that the crime thing is greatly exaggerated; he's been bicycling all over the Quarter, CBD and Uptown, taking photos. Yes, there was looting; almost all of it was of supermarkets and drug stores, for supplies. Some stores were looted on Canal, and the media has focused almost entirely on that. He's not denying there have been some horrific acts, but not nearly in the quantity as the press has made it seem. The human suffering, however, is everything you've heard, and more, which is the greatest crime of all.
Allan Toussaint said that New Orleans music, and by extension, the people, and their culture. will be back: "It's just intermission. We will see you after the break."
Yeah, you rite.