Saturday, September 03, 2005

My First Blog

My First Blog

I had expected to start this blog writing about silly things like how to attract men, and why they make so many movies for boys and almost none for us.  I was gearing myself up, listing ideas, and then the hurricane hit my home town, or at least the home town of my heart and all other thoughts flew out of my head.

I’ve live through hurricanes.  You tape the windows, stock up on candles and flashlight batteries, buy bottled water, lots of food and, of course plenty of wine and don’t forget the gin and vermouth for martinis.  Then you fill the bathtubs with fresh water, put on a pot of spaghetti, and hunker down.  But we knew this was different when the governor ordered New Orleans evacuated.  Evacuated?  Had New Orleans ever been evacuated before?  The roads out of the city are causeways.

As the hours passed, I watched one of the most wonderful cities in the U.S. turn into something that looked like a disaster in the third world.  Rotting bodies littered the streets.  The Times-Picayune reported one hundred people died at the Chalmette Slip after being pulled off their rooftops while they waited for buses and ferries.  One hundred people died waiting for help?  In America?

You all saw the pictures, but for me it was personal.  I had family and friends down there.  Sunday, before the hurricane hit, I figured most of the people I knew would be packing.  I didn’t want to waste their time talking to me on the phone so I emailed.  And waited.  Rosemary James was the first to write back.  She and her husband Joe DeSalvo own Faulkner House Books on Pirates Alley in the French Quarter.  William Faulkner lived in that very building when he wrote his first novel.  It’s not only a bookstore but the cultural heart of the city.  They hold readings and parties and every year host Words and Music “a Literary Feast in New Orleans.”  And believe me it is a feast in every sense.  Rosemary wrote that they were safe in Charleston, but they were afraid they’d lost the bookstore.  On Tuesday, I finally heard from my brother and his wife.  They were safe in North Mississippi, but feared they’d lost everything.  My nephew emailed he and his wife were safe in Baton Rouge.  I tracked another couple down at the Houston Marriot.  They’d packed up their dogs and their cars and headed out.  Their home has a big picture window looking into their gorgeous yard with giant oaks.  They have no idea whether it survived.  Friends on the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain lost their house to a fallen tree.  On Wednesday I was able to write Rosemary the good news that Faulkner Books was probably intact.  An indomitable French friend, who’d stayed in her apartment through storm and flood, reached Fort Worth on Tuesday with the news, that the upper French Quarter hadn’t flooded.  But there are still others out there whose fate is uncertain.

I heard some government official, from the endless chain of talking heads I’ve been watching all week, explain that shoring up the levees would have cost fifteen billion dollars.  (I’m rather loose with numbers so the actual figure may be off.)  He said it didn’t seem worthwhile (I believe he said cost effective) to spend all that money to prepare for a disaster that had never happened in the history of the United States.  Now of course the cost will be much higher in taxpayer money, not to mention the lives lost, homes and careers destroyed.  Is there a lesson here?

I think about global warming.  Scientists throughout the world want us to conserve , to switch to solar and wind power before we reach the tipping point.  There are others who say, it’s not cost effective or worth the unpleasantness of downsizing.  The ocean warming, the hurricanes, droughts could all be caused by natural climate shifts.  hey may be right, but do we want to take the chance?

No comments: