Friday, September 30, 2005

In Which the Poet Buys a Blue Fish and Eschews Work to Shop for Cabinets

Well. Things are going well. The contractor and his crew have been going above and beyond at my house--all of the sheet rock in the half of the house that was damaged has been replaced, floated, and "sprayed," whatever that means. Bryan and I will be priming this weekend along with getting debris out of the attic. I know, I know--we should have done that when the ceiling was gone, but at the time we were too overwhelmed to make even small decisions, much less act on them. The sheetrock man, Adrian, also installed the two bay windows that were crushed in the crushed area of the house, and he will be pulling out another window in the kitchen just so they will match. Something tells me insurance won't be picking up the tab on that one.

I finally did get a little money from the insurance people--anough to pay the people who were holding checks of ous. Now we're back to using our own money, but I don't care, because things are coming along so well. Our next big expense will be tree removal--if you can believe it, I think the three trees on the house and the two teetering precariously will end up costing us $16,000 to be removed. And no, that isn't a typo.

Once on a WITS trip I had a student write the lines "I got the blues and I'm broke but I'm happy." That's how I'm feeling today.

On the front of smaller aggravations, I'll note that this storm has posed a real problem to the professional side of my life as a poet--I can't receive proofs or copies or rejects or book offers, and I certainly can't send anything out.

I am so happy I bought a fish and named it Bishop.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Your Place Was Checked

When I lived in Livingston Parish on the Tickfaw River, every few weeks or so the sheriff, Willie Graves?, would drop in via boat and check to make sure the place was ok and didn't seem to have been vandalized. He did this because it was the off seasoon, and I was living year yound in a place of seasonal (summer) places. He would leave a card on the boat dock that read You place was checked on ______ with the date written in by hand.

Well, over the weekend my brother went into New Orleans to check his place. He had about seven feet of water in the house for three weeks. The smell was so bad he said he was retching. Mold up the walls, the fridge turned over, every single object he had ever owned destroyed after soaking in shitty water for three weeks. He showed me the pictures and I did not recognize anything--not the house, not his street, not the surrounding areas. Every landmark tree and sign was either goe or surrounded with so much debris that it couldn't be seen.

He didn't say much, but I know whe was very upset. He got sick that night, from touching the water we think. He took off a glove to rub some debris off of a Strom trooper figure, and we think maybe the water got under his fingernails or something. Jay came home with two plastic bags of objects he thinks he can hold onto. He hasn't showed us anything from the bags.

He's been washing CD's in a bucket all week. No word on if they're playable or not.

Jay had to sneak into the city under the protection of a friend of his who had clearance to save cats. (All the remaining cats are dead now, the friend says.) As hard as he worked to enter the city, Jay says he never wants to go back while his house is standing. Just tell them to bulldoze it to the ground.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Fucking Pine Trees

A big fuck you to hurricane Rita, who sent a large limb through the good side of the roof and a leak into the bedroom, where everything not destroyed is currently being stored. Luckily we have our honest roofer up there anyway, and he said something to the effect of him sticking it on our tab. The super huge pine on the side of the house has limbs like the one we're fretting over now swinging in all directions--it could be that we have the roofer out again next week. We need to take the tree down, which, due to its size, we can expect to cost anout 4k. But even if I had the cash in hand, there's not a tree crew to be found around here--they will only remove trees from houses--no extra cutting.

The leader of the sheetrock crew, Arian, somehow broke his hand and has deemed himself unable to give orders. So yet another day passes without them working.

We're just working around the cracked slab, hoping it's a surface crack. And I know this is a dumb thing to worry about, but I want to see of there are any christmas tree ornaments left in the attic, in case it turns out we do have Christmas this year.

Days I've been waiting for a check the insurance agent "overnighted" to us: 9.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Thieves

Well, it's storm time again, and my roof is unfinished and unshingled. The sheetrock crew we hired has an articulate sppkesman, but his crew gives new meaning to ineptitude. We nicknamed them Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. They are always together, always sitting down when I pull up into the driveway. One is tall and skinny, the other short and fat, with a little short red mustache. Their job? to throw hammers at the walls and ceiling to get the sheetrock down. Their other job? sifting through our belongings to take what they want--so far toaster, carseat, toys, retired infant bedding, etc. I almost don't care. and I have a new passtime. Passing by the house at odd hours to take pictures of their progress. What I'm really doing is spying on them and trying to get their faces in the frame, just in case. Yesteday they left a ton of sheetrock outside and it got rained on. Needless to say, I don't want that in my house.

If anybody is sending me mail, you should know that I am not getting mail--not at the house address, not at the P. O. Box. I don't know what is up with that, and I am hurting for the first of what will be numerous insurance checks.

I'm about to go hunker down--we're on the rain side of this new storm, and tropical storm winds here for the next day or so. I am really hoping my neighbors' trees stay on their sde of the fence. I need a break from the home fiasco chaos.

As for my brother Jay, you know things are bad for him when his good news is that his house only took 8.5 feet of water, not the twelve feet we thought. At night we all sit together watching the news, drinking, figurng what few things may have floated to the ceiling and survived the three weeks of water, hoping that maybe some of the Star Wars toys made it, or maybe one of the eight guitars he left behind.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

The Rock

Well, thanks to all of you have been sending me supportive emails. My goodnews is that I got a good bid from a drywall man who will come in with his crew on Monday after we clear out the house. And we may be able to arrange to have one of his crew members install the bay windows if we can find the materials. We have considered going to Jackson.

In other good news: I saw a praying mantis on the window, which I took as a good omen. And I believe Squeezers is going to print early next week.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Where I'm At

I have been up and down over the last week and a half--from elated at the thought that things might work out, to despairing as I take a clloser look at the damage my house has sustained. We did have the trees removed ($7,500), and we did hire a roofer to build a roof ($12,000). He'll be finished this week, and we are looking for someone to rebuild our missing wall, and a drywall person to replace about all of the drywall. Still waiting on money from insurance. I have discovered that I do not like to tangle with the adjustors. We have been very honest with them, but I am suspicious of these numbers they keep spouting out.

Over the last week I have gained a house at least temporarily. I have gained my brother as a long-term house-mate--he lost everything in his New Orleans home. I have begun drying out the books that can be salvaged. I have used a shovel to dump my children's ruined toys into garbage bags. Today I will try to get to the attic to go through the water-damaged items therein. At this point, I'm hoping to be able to save at least a few baby outfits. A lot of our wall art and extra furniture is sitting up there destroyed.

I have received water and ice from the FEMA stations still set up here, and the kids love to see the soldiers. (They're walking around armed, by the way, even the ones directing traffic.) I have a P. O. Box address for at least the next six months.

Mary--I hate to be grabby, but I'd love a postcard from you with something funny written on it and a replacement of the Fayetteville mix CD a la searching for J W's tombstone experience.

Anyway, I'm in a better spot than most.

Does anyone have a translation of Catullus translated by Charles Martin I can borrow? Peace out.

P. O. Box 1512
Mandeville, LA 70470-1512
504-952-1745 (alas, cell phone service is sketchy, and land lines are a joke)

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Bad to Worse

Bryan made it to our house, but I almost wish he hadn't. We took hits from three pine trees--two in the same place, and one so large it tore/smashed roof from back of house to front. Lots of water damage from rain. Books, guitars, toys, furniture ruined. Attic exposed. I spent the day looking for a place to live in Hammond, which over night has become an impossible-to-penetrate, cutthroat real estate place. I have lots of connections, and none of them did me any good. I was told there was a house I could buy for 289K if I moved fast (like in an hour) but I still have to meet the mortgage on my destroyed house, and I don't know how I will be able to get in to work. (I'm supposed to be back on Thursday)

My kids are so confused, and I don't know where we'll be living in a week.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Thanks for Asking after Me

Many live friends and blog friends have written to check on me via email or the blog. I have written back to you, but the emails keep bouncing back. So this is just a general thanks.

Mary, if you are trying to call me, I'm at the Holiday Inn Express in Greenville, MS room 316. My mom's in 328. If you call after nine I'll be pissed b/c the kids will be asleep.

I'll be here till Sunday

Peace out

Katrina Is a Tacky Name

Katrina is a tacky name. It's easy to say it with disgust. Today was a strange day--waking up to fires in the city, bedding down to news that help has fucking finally arrived. I do not feel optimistic, but I do feel slightly encouraged. When I hear 50,000 remain in the city, that seems too high to be true. I hope.

The local government is under fire and they are firing back. Nagin went off on the radio, and in a press conference with Bush he looked like he was ready to slug him. I think it's dumb to call local officials unprepared--how could you possibly prepare for somehing of this magnitude. Also, to those who criticize Nagin's timing, you should understand that he was following the plan everyone agreed to last year after major traffic problems during the evacuation for Ivan: a contra-flow plan was to be set into motion simultaneously with the mandatory evacuations, which would start in the lower parishes fifty hours before storm landfall. Plaquemines, being lowest, would leave fifty hours out, followed by Jefferson at forty hours out, followed by Orleans, thirty hours out. They are late announcing "shelters of last resort" because they know, on paper at least, what a storm like this could be like, and they do not want to give people an option to stay. There are also those, like my great-aunt and uncle--who have the means to leave and a place to go--but they holdout anyway, proud of the fact they have never left before. Now, we are fairy Aunt Bee and Uncle Leonard are dead.

Of course, this doesn't address the money/race issue. Those who got out have money, a running car, and place to go. Those who remain largely don't. That situation is unacceptable, and I do think local officials need to admit it.

In Greenville, MS, which seems like largely poor area, I was greeted with kindness and sympathy from every angle. My kids have seen free movies at the movie theater, we have been invited to church suppers nearly every day, we have been offered food, clothing, and shelter.

I must stick out around here, because everyone knows I am a 'refugee.' Today at the laundrymat a woman asked after my family and offered to help me in anyway possible. I could have been anyone.

I feel funny being called a refugee, though it's true that I am displaced, my home is partly destroyed, I am worrying over the whereabouts of my husband and brother, and my kids are asking me questions I don't know how to answer. I don't know when we're going home. I don't know who will fix our house. I don't know why daddy didn't call tonight.

Still, all this is a dust speck--a true refugee doesn't have clean sheets and a high-speed internet connection.


I am just sick to my stomach. What the fuck. I feel confident saying New Orleans is not getting the help another city--say New York--would have received in the same situation.

Here I am, homeless, but safe, taking my kids swimming in the hotel pool. I haven't told them about our house. I haven't heard from my brother since Monday. I know he left the city, but only that.

Bryan left seven hours ago to make a four hour journey. I have no way of knowing he is ok.

I cannot believe what I am hearing about New Orleans. I don't understand why so many people are still there, though I speculate it has the media's inclination to focus on the behavior of a few individuals. And for the record, I would steal anything I needed to stay alive. And, FYI, rich white people are looting and robbing on the Northshore where my father-in-law is. He has taken to drivinig in pairs and carrying a weapon at all times. He has to drive to Hammond to call us.

In Mandeville our home is heavily damaged--according to my father-in-law, we no longer need a door because you can walk in the missing wall. I barely even care about this anymore, becase we will be able to fix the house at some point. Bryan tried to get to his parents yesterday, but had to turn back. No gas anywhere. I know they are worried sick--I think he will try again today.

I am supposed to be back to work on Sept. 6. I hope I don't lose my job, because then I'll have no health insurance, and Ben has breathing issues when he gets sick in the winter.