I remember the day that I left New Orleans. I didn't want to leave. I wanted to stay. When can you see the effects of a Category 5 hurricane once you have left your city and moved to the Northeast? But, as my friend told me over several beers at 1 in the morning, you can always come back and see what happened. And as Ron White said, "It's not THAT the wind is blowin', it's WHAT the wind is blowin'."
When Georges hit in 1998, I stayed. I was 27 or 28 and thought I could be of some help if something disastrous happened. I had no wife, I owned very little, and I didn't really think anything could ever be that bad. What could I really have done with a refrigerator full of beer? Whom could I have helped? What did I even have that was worth saving? I could barely afford my rent, had a truck that was running on borrowed time, and rented an apartment next to someone drunker than me.
So in August as I was visiting New Orleans for the first time since my wedding, I did not want to leave. I couldn't get a flight; Everything was cancelled on Saturday night. I was going to have to evacuate with my mom. I got home late as was my wont. I knew I was going to have to get my belongings together as soon as I got home because in the morning my mom and I were going to drive to Jackson, Mississippi. We had been watching TV all day and heard public official after public official admonish all of us who had not left yet. We were hoping and watching and praying that the bitch would take a last minute turn.
When we awoke, she had not turned and she was not going to. It was time. The contraflow was on. Without getting prolix and overly verbose and to make a long story short, I was stuck in Jackson for a few days. It sucked. But I was on my way home. I had a home to return to. I had a wife who was worried for me. I had a job waiting for me. And a warm shower. And so many other things that I knew all of the people of the metro New Orleans area were not going to have for a looooong time. But when I got to Allentown Airport and into my car, I broke down and cried. And I am still crying. There are times when I don't know why, but that doesnt' console me. I am sad. very sad. I read nola.com every day. I look at the pictures. I watch every television program. I have fewer thoughts than I ever have had in my life. I am empty. I am not creative or energetic or enthusiastic. I don't smile or laugh like I used to. For the first time in my life, I don't have an answer or solution or a thought on how to fix anything. I want to help. I don't even know how.
It's been three months now. I have been back once. And it was to help my mom with the relatively minor flooding she had in her Metairie home. I feel unfulfilled though helpful. What can one person do? How can I do more? Where do I begin?
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