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Friday, September 23, 2005

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Today

Today, in Baton Rouge, I was interviewing a sad man to see if he qualified for hurricane relief aid, just like I've been doing for twelve or more hours every day for the last ten days. Most of the people I interview are sad. When I got to the column of household members, I saw two people listed.
"Is that your wife?" I ask.
"Yes."
"Is she currently living with you?"
"No."
"Well, I'm sorry sir, the person has to be living in your household to qualify. Where is she staying at?"
"My wife went back home right before the storm. I think she may be dead."
"Oh...
I finished the form (he qualified) and walked out of my little office into the hallway. One of my supervisors saw me, and told me to take my lunch break. I went to the bathroom to wash my hands, locked the door, broke down crying, loud face-stretching sobs, cleaned my face off, went to lunch, went back to work. Tomorrow is my office's last day of hurricane relief interviews. Thank God. I don't think I can do this much longer.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

k-k-k-k-Crazy!

These 12-hour overnight shifts are doing strange things to me. There is a rumor that we will be working normal hours by next week-and eventually we may get a weekend off. I am typing with one hand right now, and cradling the phone with the other-I am on hold with the cable company trying to get some problems fixed as a favor to my father.
Well, have to leave for work in two hours (I have been awake for almost one hour). Things have been pretty good so far-28 days left.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Big Happenings (Changes Come)

So, where do I start this?
This morning, I helped take out all the trash at the shelter at the church. I got to spend some time with the people, and they reminded me of something good that will definately come from this disaster. People around this country will see the fine character and integrity of New Orleans' citizens. I have been blessed by so many acts of random kindness while in that city in the past, and I was more than happy to return the favor, though I wish this could have been under much better circumstances. Afterward, I went to see my new baby cousin again (the best looking baby I have ever seen). While chilling on the couch, the phone rang. It was the woman who would have given my interview last Monday had...well...you know. She sounded very tired. She proceded to tell me that, if I could, she needed me to work, now. I'm not sure how much I'm supposed to talk about this job on a public forum, but it involves state provided aid for Katrina victims. It is, as I said before, a state department. Anyway, because they are swamped she needs me to work 12 hours a day. Seven days a week. For the next thirty days.
"What are the shifts?" I asked.
"Well, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.," she said.
I made a not happy noise to my myself.
"Or, actually," she said, "we really need someone for the 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. shift."
"Brilliant," I said, "I'll see you tomorrow."
Wow.
Later, I thought about how much my lifestyle is about to change. Actually, is changing at the moment, because I am staying awake until 8 a.m., and sleeping until about four to get my body ready. This is going to be interesting. But, this is the kind of thing I live for.
After visiting new baby cousin, I went to a little party for my now 20 year-old cousin (in Louisiana, you are not a citizen unless you can't count all of your cousins on your fingers and toes), and got to unwind a little bit with the folded white paper-plate where I had written my new job info in my pocket. The party was a good time. After the party (at about six), I caught a ride back to the church shelter. There, I helped an elderly couple move from the church shelter, to Jon's house (he has posted comments here, before), and got to help some other folks pack some stuff away.
After I helped the couple, the elderly man handed me this:

No, not the hight-hat, silly, the pack of gum. At first, I was going to insist that he keep it. Then, I realized how shallow of a gesture that would have been on my part, and took it graciously. As I helped this elderly man and his wife move, I got to meet his family and friends. What great people. I made fast friends with one guy, and talked to him about soccer and science fiction. Despite a vast age and life difference, after a few hours, I felt like I had known this guy my whole life. I was very sad to have to leave his family and him at the end of the night. I happened to randomly have a Bible with me, as, since I hitched rides all day after church, I had no place to put it.
His wife saw my bible and said, "I have read that book."
"Do you want it?"
"Yes, for my husband. He wants one, now."
So, I gave them my Bible. Don't worry, worriers, I'm not abandoning my faith. I have twelve more.
After we finished with everything, and the New Orleanians began to go to sleep, I drove my mother home in her vehicle. She has been going 90 to nothing this entire week. I'm not really sure what 90 to nothing means, I just know people say it when they are implying that someone has been really busy. When we got home, she passed out. She was exhausted. I am not sure when she had slept last. She is a good person.
Oh yeah, and I got paid! I got paid for that video project I am working on, even though I haven't even finished it. I am going to have to squeeze that in during this week, somehow. My editing office (a.k.a Frank's house) is pretty far from my new job/home. I will finish it somehow, though. I promised I'd be done on Wednesday. Getting paid was good. Now I can pay to drive to my new job. Driving to BR and back cost around nine dollars. My new job is downtown, which is closer, so it might be more like seven. But I have a job requiring a degree now, at least for the next 30 Days (someone call Morgan Spurlock-since he got rid of super-sizing, he owes me one), so I should, for the first time in my life, have bling. Well, maybe. I'm not really much for bling.
I really must give props to the couple that paid me. They are Christians, and I have done work for Christians before and been told, "Your payment is in the blessing God will give you," and I have thought back, "Fuck that. God wants you to pay me, so I can eat." This couple is not a "God will bless you for this" couple. They are a "When someone performs a task for you, you are required by law to pay them. This is called work, which people do in order to survive. Now, as God would want us to do, we will bless you by paying you. Then, you can eat. That way, you won't die. Here is money" couple. And not only did they pay me early-they payed me more than I was going to ask. They rule. This whole catastrophe has really put a damper on my human-beings suck mentality. People have been great. I only hope I can return the favor.
Oh, and finally:

This outfit has been hanging up since last Sunday night, when it was ironed and made ready for the Monday interview. Because of the long hours, and needed mobility, I will be wearing jeans for the next 30-days. Sorry Tie, you strangling bastard, whom I hate from the most intense flames of passion in my soul. You are just going to have to stay in the closet where you belong, you evil cloth-carved hellspawn!.
I am guessing that my blogging rate will probably drop for the next month, and I won't be able to keep up with your blogs as much, which makes me sad, but this is (supposed to be) only for a month.
Anyway, enough about me.
God bless you, and hopefully I'll be blogging with you Tuesday morning.
Goodnight!

Friday, September 02, 2005

Here we are

Well, it is time for me to lighten up. Some may say the situation is too dire to be light, but I am in the situation, and it has wore me out, so last night I decided it was time to laugh a little bit.
I have no money, no mode of transportation, and I feel like I am neutered. I am pretty much stuck at my house. I am going to try to hitch a ride with my mom to the shelter at my church to help out, whenever she comes home and leaves again.
I know some jerk reading this is thinking, "What a loser. Just catch a ride with a friend."
Well, jerk, this shelter is close to 40-miles from my house, and I have no friends here in Pointe Coupee, and few in EBR parish, right now. Remember, I am in what is called a post-college transition phase. I am still waiting to be called back about various jobs I have applied for, but with the storm and all, everything is crazy. I'm not trying to seem shallow. I know that many have lost homes, jobs, or their very lives, but you have to understand, I have a roof over my head and food provided by my parents, my pre-transition possessions, and that is about it. I am trying to rectify the situation, but I now have sympathy for anyone who has ever told me they were in a transition period, and I thought, "Whatever, loser."
So, I feel neutered at the moment, but I have ceased watching coverage of events on my TV 24-7 because they are driving me nuts. Tonight, I am going to watch the Sci-Fi channel for four hours straight, and then go to bed. My mom is, I think, with my grandmother in the hospital, as grandma's body thought, "hmmm...what would be a better time for you to need sudden surgery? I know-NOW!!!" So anyway, I have passed the guilt stage of making light of my situation, because human beings need humor to survive, and humor has always been my defense mechanism anyway.
I know I whined about my church Wednesday, but truth is, they are really stepping up to the plate here, which rocks. I am hoping to be able to help out as much as possible, and also I am hoping my interviews are soon rescheduled, so I can get a job, so I can make money, so I can get off of my sweet, sweet can....
Good news, my mom just called me in the middle of this post. My grandmother did fine, and she is going into recovery, right now. This is a burden off my shoulders-she is my last grandparent, and has been for the last ten years. My mom is coming home tonight, and I think we are going to go help out at the shelter, tomorrow, after we visit my grandmother, most probably. I'm not sure what tomorrow will bring, but I guess I am ready to face it. And I will face it with this strange new haircut:

That's right, bitches! That puppy in the background symbolizes gang warfare! You best back off! Break yo self, fool!

Thursday, September 01, 2005

A Last Goodbye

I know I've been heav(i)y(er) lately, but these are distressing times. I am finally getting my mind back to normal, and am ready to progress, but I must say one last goodbye to an old friend of mine who did not make it through the storm. He was not a person, but still a breathing thing, lacking the ability to live, yet blessed with the ability to contain life. His name was "The Rise n' Shine." He was a fishing camp, and his place of residence was Grand Isle, Louisiana.


My brother took these pictures of The Rise n Shine, today. Rise n Shine lived to be about thirty years old. His was a tiny, some would say, "trashy" looking trailer, but he was a good friend, and housed thirty (almost twenty-four for me) years of good times. I have many fond memories of him, and my love of universal mystery comes from long nights in his dark rooms, listening to the ocean. I will miss him. My entire family (on both my father and mother's sides) have filled his rooms to capacity many times, eating fried fish and shrimp, fighting over which channel to watch on his fuzzy TV, and shuffling board games around his carpeted floor. He wasn't beautiful, but he had the kind of character you can't buy, and I will miss him dearly. My father always said his time was coming, and alas, here it is:

Goodbye, my old friend. You will be missed by all.

Well, I guess that's it from me from the grieving standpoint.
I sent in another three job applications, today. Someone is going to have to hire me soon, because I am stranded at home, because I am too poor to buy gas to leave. Thank God for my parents, and thank God for God, because it is good to be alive, and to sit in one's own room, and type at one's own computer, and listen to the artificial indoor breeze of one's own home. Many are not as fortunate, and my thoughts and prayers go out to them, and soon, if everything goes according to plan, my aid.
I hope you are all well, and I thank you very, very much for your comments and concern. I will try to get back to all of you, soon.
God Bless, and have a great night,
Nicholas

My Way of Dealing

There is so much going on around me, and I feel like nothing. Here is a document of the last four days:


This past weekend I drove to Monroe to hang out with my couisin, Bas. She is one cool cat:

After the above chocolate milk party we hung out with some of her friends, had a Buffy marathon, and saw The Brothers Grimm with her friend Justin. Saturday night, after a little party where Bas cooked the meal, we got back to her apartment and saw the news. The storm we thought had died in Florida was coming to Louisiana. The next afternoon, I reluctantly headed back South to Pointe Coupee.

The road looked bad. Above is a shot of the crossroads along the levee, left leading North to Vicksburg, MS, right leading home. I headed South. The weather became increasingly bad. Eventually, caravans of vehicles filled the road...in the other lane going in the opposite direction. Somewhere along this time, I began to feel as if I was going to die. My head started to pound, I felt nauseous, and my body hurt. It was almost unbearable. I felt like I would never get home. Finally, I did, and the moment I got out of my car, I put my finger in my throat, but I could only dry heave. I left most of my stuff in my car, told my family hello, showered, and passed out. Sometime before I reached my room, I heard that a good friend of ours, Rick, a schoolteacher from St. Bernard Parish (next to New Orleans) and his 90-year old father were on their way to our house.
Then next morning, I felt better. I turned on the TV, and looked at the news. The storm was in New Orleans. Less than two minutes later, our power went out. Honestly, I was furious. We had basically been told we would barely feel the storm, if we felt it at all. The wind began to blow. It was incredibly loud. My cat ran into my room, and crouched next to me. I felt sick again. I rolled over, and for lack of a better term, passed out. I woke up at about four hours later. This sight greeted me:

The hall was full of insulation. It may not look like much in this photo, but there wasn't much light further down where most of the insulation was. Thankfully, no other damage that I know of was done to our house. My family, sans my brother, and Rick and his father sat in the living room. I ventured outside to take a look at things. The wind still blew quite hard. During Hurricane Andrew (1992), we lost most of the trees in our yard, but thankfully this time we lost mainly branches. Further down the street, things weren't so good. First off, I found out what happened to the electricity:

And next door:

The fence was smashed. Thankfully, no houses were too badly damaged in my neighborhood. I went a few hundred yards down the street to find my younger brother (who sells wood) making the best of the situation:

This is in the yard of my family's ancestral home, an old plantation my great x3 grandfather bought from deposed plantation owners after the Civil War. The other side of the family owns it, but they all live(d) in New Orleans, so we watch after it for them. They are actually staying at the old plantation, right now. I do not know if they still have homes.

After surveying more damage, I went back inside. We decided to drive North to Morganza to my Uncle's grocery store to attempt to buy ice. He had plenty, and we racked up on that, and food. We have a gas oven, so we cooked some food before it went bad, and sat around Rick's small battery operated television. Things South of us did not look good. The footage was chaos. No one knew what was going on anywhere. That was a long night. Finally, I went back to my room. Without AC, South Louisiana is hot. I stripped down to basically nothing, and decided to make the best of things. I listened to some music with headphones, and then did some heavy revisions to a story I wrote in college under candlelight. All I needed was a glass of whiskey, and the night would have been perfect. I guess you can't have it all.

The next morning, more mini-TV chaos. It had been a day, and still no word. We finally found out what had happened to some friends of ours in Gulfport, Mississippi. Their church (the parents are pastors), restaraunt, and home were all destroyed. Somehow, they survived.
Then, something pleasant happened. My father arrived from Lafayette with this:

We plugged in our freezers. My mother is a baker, and thankfully, her kitchen freezers were salvaged in time. We plugged in the TV, but could only catch one channel, which carried nothing but footage of the carnage. Still chaos, and still no one knew anything about what was going on. Surprisingly, our Internet worked, which is how I got the last two messages out. Rick finally got in touch with some friends from his hometown. It is destroyed, they said. Under twelve feet of water. Many of his friends were, and still are missing. I left him alone. He came back, quite broken down, and still sobbing a little bit. We went online and found aerial photos of the area, one of which I posted, Tuesday. I was very depressed. I decided to go play with the kitten Rick had brought from home:

I guess now he is a refugee, too. I let Menu play with the beads. He was enjoying himself. I realized where the beads came from, and it made me sad.
Finally, the worst thing about being in our situation sank in.
Hopeless boredom. That night was warm and sad. We picked up some pizzas from New Roads, and I ate way too much. I payed for it later. Some time around then, I decided that having all the time in the world meant that I should take weird pictures of myself:

For some reason, the lighting in the bathroom reminded me of the Augstiner Pub in Munich, and my travels in Germany with my friend Robker and his sister, Stephanie. This made me happy.
Wednesday morning, I decided I had to get out. The roads were now safe for travel, so I decided to go to Baton Rouge. I was supposed to have an interview Monday, which should now be rescheduled soon, so I decided to get a haircut. The fro from earlier this year was coming back, and I hear employers aren't into that sort of thing this decade. After the haircut, I visited my cousin Rhett, his wife Mel, and their new baby boy Leighton. Leighton was born while I was in Monroe. I was going to see him Monday after the interview, but we all know how that day went. After the excellent visit with them, I drove to my friend Frank's house to do some video-editing on a project I am working on (for pay) for someone.
Baton Rouge was chaos. Cars were lined up on the side of the road for miles at gas stations. Restaurants were virtually inaccessible. I had to go to Walgreen's to get something to eat. Combos and sherbert. This made my stomach hurt. It sure was delicious, though. I tried to turn some DVDs back to the library, but it was closed, so I went to church.
The preacher was very excited. I do not enjoy my church. It is very conservative and evangelical. I am not very conservative and evangelical. The church is where most of my family attends, (the pastor is my uncle, and I have been there since it started 15 years ago), and I feel like leaving is murder because I have guilt issues, so I still go there. The church was very excited. Lately, membership has been under eighty, but we are taking in 150 refugees. The church attitude made me numb. You know, the whole Thank the Lord for this Storm and the way our church will benefit sort of attitude-actually, maybe this wasn't the attitude at all. The church and I are very different, afterall, and there is much I don't understand. I didn't stick around for long. The atmosphere was choking me.
Driving home, I was shocked to see how much of Baton Rouge was without electricity. The population of Baton Rouge is more than doubling this week because of the refugees, and the word on the street is that it will soon become "Baton Orleans." Preacher says there is no more New Orleans. New Orleans is in Baton Rouge, now. This was all too much. Everyone was really excited. I felt like absolute shit. Finally, I got home. The power was back. I couldn't believe how lucky we were. I ate some leftover pizza, and sat down at my computer.