Monday, August 31, 2015

K+10 - We survived Katrina again

We didn't know how we were going to get through August 29, 2015 amid all the hoopla around the "Anniversary." G suggested we throw a party, invite friends over and fire up the grill. Sounded good to me. The morning of I saw our next door neighbors and invited them over. They moved in about 2 years ago (In 2005 the house was empty. The owners finally renovated it and sold it.). I told them we were having a party for the anniversary and to please come by. She said "That's nice. It's your anniversary?" I replied "No, for the Katrina Anniversary." She said "Oh, we weren't here then so I'm not sure of the actual date." I won't hold it against her, they are very nice people.

We're not the only ones who were not in the mood to rehash history. Many of our friends felt the same way. One of our friends blogged about it and it's been shared wide and far. Katrinaversary Blues: Of Resilience Tours, Carpetbloggers & Disaster Tourists. 

Even Chris Rose, who spoke to us in the months following Katrina from the website, wrote a piece that appears on New Orleans Is Tired of Talking About Hurricane Katrina. Unfortunately Chris Rose has had a tough go of it, fell on some hard times, and hasn't been writing as much as he used to. Every page of the Times-Picayune this past week seemed to have a K+10 story, complete with a special logo. Sunday, there was even a 68-page, full-color insert by ESPN titled "After The Storm: A summer in search of saints, sinners and lost souls in the New Orleans that Katrina left behind." Not gonna read it. Who has time?

I spent the weekend with friends and it was wonderful. Some friends were from Pre-Katrina but many were not. One of our newer friends told us his story. He wasn't living in New Orleans when Katrina struck, but was visiting with his girlfriend. He was lucky they were staying with some of her relatives, because he was able to evacuate with them, instead being stuck in a hotel and then loaded on to a bus bound to who knows where. Even after that he chose to move here.

When I shared the Chris Rose post on Facebook, a friend from Miami commented "Remember Hurricane Andrew here in Miami? Eventually it just becomes a 1 hour special on the Weather Channel." I do remember. It was a huge storm. I had been in south Florida visiting family and left just before Andrew hit. I had just graduated from FSU and was planning to move to New Orleans. My friend who was also moving and I wondered what was going to happen in Louisiana. Would we still have a place to move to? Thankfully we did. I never evacuated all the years I lived in Florida (I was born there). But I've evacuated more time than I can remember from New Orleans. We were in Houston when Rita hit and we were puzzled by how badly everyone was freaking out. Houston's pretty well inland and above sea level. We only had 1/4 tank of gas and couldn't leave even if we wanted to because all the gas stations sold out of gas 2 days before. The city shut down and looting began before the storm arrived. We hunkered down in the 2 story house we were staying in and never even lost power. Strange times.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Katrina or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Technology

I'm a technophile though I'm not an early adapter.  I'll let others deal with the frustrations of Beta software and whatnot. I want the bugs worked out. A couple of months prior to Katrina my in-laws gave my husband, G, his grandmother's cell phone. Neither one of us had one yet. Many of our friends had them but we didn't want to feel like we could always be tracked down. We didn't blog. We weren't on any sort social media that was around at the time. It wasn't until 2009 I embraced social media. But Katrina introduced us to texting and blogging.

We had given G's cell phone number to our neighbors across the street. Several days after the storm his phone chirped and he received his first text message. It was from our neighbors, they were OK! But it took us a while to figure out how to reply to them. This was years before smart phones when it took forever to type anything out. I remember when G snuck back into New Orleans with his cousin, I was so nervous and scared. We had heard the stories. I was in Baton Rouge and tried to call G with no luck. The phone lines were still all screwed up. I ended up sending an email to a friend in Chicago and asked her to call him. It worked! She emailed back that she talked to him and they got in OK. When we got back to New Orleans in October, one of the first things I did was buy my first cell phone. The landline was out at my office and we had no idea when it would work. (Side note, our AT&T landline at home never went out.) Now I'm addicted to my iPhone.

After the storm, email was the only reliable way to communicate with people. Unless you were teaching at a college that was stupid enough to 1) have their server on the first floor on a campus that flooded and 2) not have a back up server in another location. I was teaching part-time at Delgado and I hated all the crap I got through my DCC email, so I had set up my own email address to communicate with my students. So glad I had that so I could check on my students and report to them what little I knew. I even heard from former students who were checking on me and their friends. The college boated in, rescued their soggy server and eventually was able to send emails out. So many emails wizzed back and forth between us, family, friends and clients. It got to be chore to respond to all our well meaning friends. We started sending out blanket emails. At some point we set up a blog. I knew G used to read blogs before the store but wasn't blogging himself. Blogging made communicating so much easier and was/is therapeutic. We read other New Orleanians blogs and the message boards on to figure out what was really going on back home. The message boards were also a life saver. Through blogging, we made new friends after Katrina, real friends we see face-to-face. I think the post-Katrina NOLA blog community was unique. We had each other backs and we were trying to get the truth out there to anyone who would listen.

Author Cynthia Joyce collected and published a bunch of blog posts "Please forward: How Blogging Reconnected New Orleans After Katrina." I don't know if I can read the book, and I guess it's not really for me as she says "I think I wanted this collection to exist not so much for people who lived through it, but for people who didn't but who wanted to better understand it." Interviews with her resonate with me. So it is now I return to my blog to rant and get relief.

I was a graphic designer at the time and I reached out to my clients to see how they were, where they were, and what could I do to help them. As a small biz owner, I understood the helplessness they felt, and the desire to get back to work. Updating my clients' web sites kept me busy after the storm. We posted their new cell phone numbers so their clients could get in touch with them. I posted status of them and their businesses. It made me very happy on the days I got to update their websites to say "Now Open."

My first foray into social media was MySpace. Remember that? A friend had a profile on MySpace and that was the best way for me to keep up with what was happening with her after Katrina. Of course I had to join to be able to see her posts. Is MySpace is still around? Yep. And you can log in with your Facebook or Twitter account. Ha! Now I'm on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram and Nextdoor (and probably some other sites I'm forgetting). I have this blog, a blog about my cats, a retired gardening blog, and a blog for my pet sitting business. I also do social media for my business plus a couple of other businesses and organizations. I also have more email addresses than I can count on both hands.

For better or worse, this is how we communicate now. I rarely talk on the phone anymore. Faxes, remember those? But nothing beats good, old fashioned face to face interaction. And I still love getting a card or note in the snail mail.

Today, it's a beautiful, rare, cool, dry day and I have dogs to walk. So it's time to walk away from the computer and sign off.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

The weepy week of the year

Thinking about my mom who passed away 16 yeas ago. I think this is the last photo I have of her, from my BFA graduation show at FSU. She preferred to be behind the camera, not in front. Maybe that's why I'm such a ham in front of the camera because she took a ton of photos of me growing up. :-) I miss her but I carry with me her love of cats, reading, photography, art, music, laughter and The Blues Brother.

Mourning the loss of my mom this time every August gets compounded with the Katrina anniversary. I'm not always sure which event prompts which tears but with them being a week apart I spend a good part of the week grieving. I learned after my mother's death you cannot, and should not, try to ignore it. You have to let the grief flow and not fight it. I also found it helps to come up with you own way of marking these events. With my mom, there are plenty of good things to remember about her. With Katrina, not so much. But the occasion needs to be marked, and it's good to see how far you've come since then.

I finally settled on the way I like to honor my mother. I make a meal of Hungarian origins, because my mother was proudly half Hungarian. It is either chicken paprikash with spätzle, which I don't really recall her ever making but is damn tasty and my husband loves it too, or stuffed cabbage leaves, which she did cook. There's usually a cucumber salad because I love cucumbers and they are used a to in Hungarian cuisine. Since I'm making the chicken tonight, I'll also sauté some cabbage. Rouses grocery store actually carries Hungarian wine so I picked up a bottle of a red called "Bull's Blood." My mom was also a Dracula and vampire fan WAY before it was cool, as well as a fan of murder mysteries, so anything with word "blood" in it would be OK in her book. And last but not least, we'll pop in "The Blues Brother" movie to enjoy with our meal and drink a toast to my mother, Margaret.

As for Katrina, I haven't figured out a good way to deal with that bitch. And when I say Katrina, I'm not just referring to the hurricane, but the whole damn thing: the storm; evacuations; wondering what was happening to our city, friends, home; wondering where we were going to stay and when we could return; watching the footage of the destruction; hearing the national media and politicians lie; reading the hateful things people were saying about New Orleans. But I'll figure something out between now and Saturday.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

K+10 minus one week

Here we are, one week from the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina and the Federal Flood ("Katrina" for short). Like most of my friends who lived here and through Katrina, I don't want to relive those days so I've been actively avoiding watching TV. I know it's not healthy to stuff the emotions down so I'll just deal with them as they come. I have been reading some articles and one that really spoke to me was this one by Robert Mann. I've enjoyed his OpEd pieces he writes for the T-P and hadn't realized he worked for Gov. Blanco at that time. I knew watching the reports by the big networks on New Orleans and Katrina that they were full of shit and making shit up, and he confirms that.

I worked for the governor of Louisiana during Katrina. Here are 5 things I learned. 
by Robert Mann on August 20, 2015

The Gambit has an interview with the former Governor and it's sad how politicized the rescue became.

Katrina at 10: An interview with former Louisiana governor Kathleen Blanco
The former governor talks about Hurricane Katrina and the politics of Louisiana recovery

The lies that were spread immediately following the have mostly been proved wrong, but most people will remember what they heard on the TV. I remember ranting in my emails and my blogs posts to friends to not watch CNN or FOX news. I encourages them to visit and get news from a local source. I follow my own advice today. When a disaster hits a distant city, I go to the local media outlets to get the facts, not the sensationalized conjecture and speculation. Here's a wonderful video that overlays the chatter of the media reporting on Katrina with footage of the city today. It was put togther by several very talented men, graphic design Tom Varisco (to whom I owe a huge debt of gratitude for taking the time to meet with a newly graduated art student looking for a graphic design job in New Orleans) and photographer Jackson Hill (who I had the pleasure of working closely on a number of projects).

High Water Mark from Tom Varisco on Vimeo.