Monday, September 19, 2005

Hurricane du Jour

It's beginning to feel like a hurricane is simply one installment of a story published in a series, like in an old-time magazine. This installment's titled: Rita.

So far she's still only Tropical Storm (TS) Rita. And she looks like she belongs to the Lower Keys, not us. She has a fairly tight cone of error, which is good, and the dirty side is north like it should be. (Katrina was so ill-behaved in those ways.) Still and all, no use pretending we actually know where it's going to hit, so prep we do.

Serial or no, they all have their unique personalities. Just like in humans, some of those characteristics are fairly common. You can kind of group them, label them. This one's a Sneak Up On You When You Aren't Looking hurricane. Like Katrina was. Fast Moving, too. Distinctly different from, say, a Frances.

Now: we've all watched in horror as Katrina demolished New Orleans, and the help that poured in there from Florida topped the charts by several methods of measuring aid. We don't want to say one word about how long our electricity and phones were out, or the fuel problems either. There's just no comparison. Survivor guilt maybe plays some part in that feeling too.

But the fact remains, we haven't finished cleaning up from Katrina yet. There really was a huge mess of trees downed, a stunning amount for a Cat 1 storm, and bad flooding in Dade that slowed down the cleanup. So there's all these piles of debris, mostly branches and chainsawed trees, still sitting by the side of the road turning brown. Waiting for either the chippers - working diligently away, they are - or to take on a new career as a Rita Projectile.

And she snuck up so fast I'm not sure I can tidy up the loose stuff in my own yard before it's too late. It was gusting, bad, at noon already. I had just enough health today to keep my pain doctor appointment, do my shopping, catch up on Rx's, and fuel up. I'm tired. Tomorrow is Hurricane Day already. The worst is supposed to be over by tomorrow night.

Huh! If I miss my chance to make some Hurricane Baked Goods it just won't feel right.

I sense an Oatmeal Raisin Cookie binge coming on. Walter may be home to eat some soon and Jeff likes cookies too. And perhaps a little experiment with dinner rolls is in order...

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Strange Dreams

Last night I had a really fine example of a strange dream.

We were by the ocean in a beat-up hotel - like maybe a hurricane hit it, but it decided to stay open. At the beach the tide would go way way out and come back in over a shallow surface, and some of us *natives* were explaining to some visiting New Yorkers that it could knock you off your feet so be ready for it. But don't be scared, it was otherwise harmless.

In this dream I was a cigarette smoker, there in the shabby hotel room. Electricity was only on in parts of the building and some of the doors didn't work. In one dark and mildewy hall was a table with some cheap sticky pastries someone had donated.

My room was supposedly a non-smoking room but I knew no one would bother me about it so I smoked in there. The only other people near me were down an outside hall, like a balcony but sort of enclosed. They were Polish, and were practicing some sort of blues improv music but were totally dissatisfied with themselves, and argued in strongly accented English about it.

I had visitors; Walter and my mom at different times came by.

My ancient cat was with me. He's never been much for traditional cat activities and he's pretty useless as a mouser. Unless his mama really, really needs his services.

Which, in this dream, in that grungy hotel, I did. He was a very good boy and caught two rats in my room. For which I praised him to the heavens when I woke up this morning.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

It's a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

Being the sort of person who doesn't "fit in" much of anywhere, I wasn't sure I'd ever find a neighborhood to call Home. I wanted a place that wouldn't just tolerate my minor eccentricities, but consider them inoffensive in the first place. I wanted neighbors who'd have eccentricities of their own, and would be interesting to talk to as they walked their dogs or their selves down my street.

To my great pleasure and everlasting gratitude, my neighborhood not only existed, but was affordable and close by, superbly located. We bought a house here in 1996 - the only piece of property this longtime real estate person has ever owned.

My neighborhood is filled with truly fine humans, smart and kind, yet realistic. They tend to be sensible, original, levelheaded, fun-loving, productive, tasteful, responsible, thoughtful, and tight with their community without expressing it by shutting others out. Tolerance and individuality live here.

From its beginnings in the early 1950's, this little urban town was mixed. It was built that way on purpose, perhaps as a marketing gimmick. I don't care why. The result is that we have whites and blacks, Spanish from many different countries, and likewise for Asians; people from everywhere, all over the world; and born and bred Floridians too.

They are straight and gay and in between, young and old, redneck and not, families and singles and couples. We seem to have at least one of everyone. There are a lot of small business owners here. Something about our little town attracts that independent spirit.

As different as they all are, and despite the fact that bigotry lives here as elsewhere, people tend to get along quite well.

It's also one of the hottest real estate markets in the country.

If you want a gated community, go to Boca Raton. If you want condo commandos, go to Pompano Beach. Here there is no Homeowner's Association, and I highly doubt there ever will be.

Are there jerks, too? Sure. It ain't perfect. And gentrification is upping one of the jerk factors, which is, Change your property because I don't like how it looks. OTOH: there's a good strong sense of individual sovereignty to combat that.

Overwhelmingly, it's just so likable, and comfortable...and home.


You know you're really coming out of the hurricane cleanup mode when you start to get junk mail again.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Happy Birthday

The man I love for life, my mate, was born on 9/11.

He's not from here. He fled his country in Europe while it was still under communist control in 1985.

Making him no less horrified about 9/11 than any born-and-bred American. And, as I hope we don't forget, people from all over the world were killed that day, including his former countrymen.

For a long time, Walter had serious trouble with his birthday.

If I remember right, it was on the second anniversary of 9/11 that I heard about a young pregnant couple who would be ready to deliver their baby right around 9/11. They decided to induce labor, and to do so on that date.

They said it was out of respect and love, both in memory of the dead, and to honor the way it united our country, who came together and gave everything they could think of to help those many people devastated by that terrible act.

Naturally, the story included a debate on whether it would have a negative or positive effect on the baby to have that date as their birthday. Naturally, that's not predictable; only time will tell.

What mattered to me was that I could tell Walter about it. Somewhere, for whatever reason(s), a family had decided that having 9/11 as a birthday was such a very good thing that they made it happen on purpose.

It didn't cure the sadness for Walter. But it does seem to me that it was enough to keep him from the black depression that used to swallow him up on his birthday.

One thing I really like about this story is, it involves new life. I think of creation, new life, love, true selfless "other-directedness" as good. Evil is wanton death and destruction, not the natural death we all come to but the vicious selfishness of one human stealing the life of another, or destroying clean water and rainforests, out of greed. Blind hatred like racism is evil too; it's wantonly destructive.

In my own sense of religion, both evil and good dwell within us all. The proportions may differ, and I believe our ability to combat the evil and promote the good isn't entirely in our control. Surely genes - nature - and life's circumstances like our upbringing - nurture - have a significant effect on that ability. To lay all of it on what we call "character" and/or "responsibility," and then hold each individual solely responsible for innate characteristics I believe are greatly affected by genetics and upbringing, is way oversimplifying the complexity of what makes us human.

Ah, but our actions, now, that's a different story. Here comes choice. And while the choice of good may be easier for some people than others, I think we can lay choice at the feet of the doer with only a few exceptions.

For those perpetrators of the 9/11 murders - all its perpetrators, living or dead - I have a message for you today.

Like in us all, religions carry good and evil side by side. True religious calling is good in any religion. Hatred, destruction, is not on the side of good, ever. It's why in my book at least, the end never justifies the means. People can utilize religion to understand and choose good more often; they can also use religion as an excuse to do evil. Religion doesn't create evil in them, but it sure can be a useful vehicle and fine-sounding excuse to do what they wanted to do anyway.

You people chose to destroy, and you made your choice out of greed. I don't care who the hell your God is, only evil likes what you did.

Your greed wasn't for heaven. It was for power. If it really were for hopes of heaven, it still would have been greed: greed for your heavenly rewards. It's the same kind of greed I've seen masquerading as good in Christians and Jews and all sorts of others, and I don't for one minute see greed as good. Ever, under any circumstances. It's absolutely selfish. It's at the heart of most or all evil in this world.

For you who deliberately died perpetrating these acts: To call your suicides "sacrifice" is laughable. Instead of trying hard to live lives of good, lives of creating and caring and working out your doubts and pain and fears, you were lazy and figured to take care of it all with one easy act. Yes, easy. So fast it was probably almost painless, and with all the time beforehand to get your affairs in order. You were trying to purchase the highest of rewards with your one nonvaluable life, and with many valuable lives of innocent others. I guess you thought you could buy a place in heaven both on the cheap and with stolen funds. Like God wouldn't know.

Did you think we would forget? No. Every year on 9/11 we remember, even those of us who no longer remember it every single day. Like any time someone we love dies, little things throughout the year remind us: seeing an older photo of the New York skyline when those twin towers were still there; running across someone we know who lost something there; watching firefighters battle a blaze. Or having your birthday fall on the same day.

Did you think it would make us fall on each other in hatred, hatred like your own? No. It did just the opposite: it made us remember who we are and why we care for each other and our country. We pulled together in an atmosphere of love and tenderness that seemed to astonish and confuse people like you.

Did you think it would infest us with an elevation of the evil within, turn us into destructive haters and murderers just like you? Like the American who randomly killed a Sikh, ignorantly thinking the Sikh was Muslim, and then that any Muslim should die? Like the so-called Christian ministers who tried to defrock their fellow churchman because he prayed for the 9/11 victims on the same podium as members of other religions? No. That evil was already there in their hearts, and quite ready to masquerade as "good." That's why they acted so quickly. The only thing that changed was, the evil became visible. Good thing, too, for most of us; we can stay safer when evil is open and obvious. Except, of course, for the innocent Sikh and minister who suffered at the hands of those particular evildoers.

Did you think good people would admire you? No. The only ones who do were already ready to accept an excuse for their own evil. If you weren't the catalyst, some other cheap and greedy charlatans would have filled the role. For all the spectacle of your acts, evil is common and mundane, and not hard to find at all.

You did damage us. You did hurt us. What you never got was that you can't destroy us. And you can't destroy good.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Suvivor Search

The Red Cross has put together a centralized site for non-New Orleans people looking for news on family members, and for Katrina survivors to let everyone know they're okay. I still don't have any news about my friends, but I was glad of a site like this to use. Here's the link:

Friday, September 02, 2005

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Looking for Friends and Family in Katrina Ground Zero

If you're looking for people you can't contact by phone who were in Katrina's Ground Zero, here are some bulletin-board type links you can post a message to, and/or check for messages from those living there. There doesn't seem to be any centralized contact forum (yet) so it's a bit tedious, and naturally you may want to write a message first and just copy it into each site.

Please let me know if you find any broken links below, because I haven't checked them yet.

Good luck to us all.
Craigslist: New Orleans Lost & Found's forums
WWL-TV's forums
WDSU-TV's message board
Hurricane Katrina Survivors
N.O. Pundit bulletin boards
Now Public's missing persons board
Salvation Army information request form
Slidell Hurricane Damage Blog
Find Katrina
U.S. Next of Kin Registry
Hurricane Katrina message boards
Katrina Family and Friends
The Sun Herald "Reach loved ones"

*Many newspapers in the South, including some of The Spectrum’s sister papers — Lafayette and Alexandria in Louisiana and Jackson and Hattiesburg in Mississippi — feature community forums on their Web sites to aid in the search for survivors. Visitors to these sites can post an entry asking about the condition of a specific city or even an individual or family.*
Other area newspapers can be located by visiting