Thursday, September 08, 2005

enough Katrina, already

I've now got power at my house, and am told that the phone service may be restored as soon as some time next week. Cable/internet service will be restored at an unknown time.

I'm tired of whining about Katrina. heh

Instead, I will talk about my bicycle. I've added a dual basket to the back of my Trek 7300. This should prove valuable for grocery shopping, carrying dry clothes & such for the commute to work, and general load-bearing. It's a very utilitarian modification, particularly since I like to carry an assortment of *stuff* with me.

Carrying more gear with me should also help condition my body to make longer trips with more load, which is an ultimate goal of mine. I aim to rack the bike on the trunk of the Sentra, head off for the occasional weekend to some town or other place I want to explore, and go trekking. The bike's already proved its merit, thanks to Katrina, so now I just have to work on conditioning and wait for the weather to cool down a bit over the next few months.

I look forward to some golf/bike combo trips this fall and winter. Fortunately, you can play golf very nearly all year in the Deep South while weather ceases to be supportive of the game in other parts of the country. Maybe I'll wait until the end of hurricane season, though. ;D

Monday, September 05, 2005

Katrina, Day 8, 11:30 a.m.

There's some sort of loud commotion (Is that redundant?) across the lake. I hope it's Entergy! As far as I can tell, power is slowly creeping nearer. Y'all will know ASAP as I get more info.

Katrina, Day 8, 10:37 a.m.

By Crom, it's hot!

People said that trash pick-up would happen today. I'm maintaining a healthy skepticism, but I put the rotting food & stuff out on the streetside anyway. If nothing else, it may lure the wasps & hornets that much farther from the house. My supply of wasp & hornet spray, while ample for the moment, is still finite, so I don't want to be wasteful.

Ever seen a hornet? If a yellowjacket was an SUV, a hornet would be a HUMMER. They're frelling evil. (And if you have no idea what a yellowjacket or a hornet is, you may want to wear armor and carry lots of antihistamines when you visit scenic Mississippi. You're may not be prepared for our... wildlife, to be polite.)

I've rigged up some primitive but loud alarms on the house's entry points, which may ease my mind a little more when I'm away. And I plan to wait out the heat of the afternoon in Florence, where I can flee the heat, wash some clothes for work, and get a hot shower. I don't *think* I've had a hot shower in over a week, but a lot of the details are turning blurry. Good thing I've been journaling!

Yesterday I had the luxury of reading some gmail while I visited with my sister, and I discovered at least one other guy who had a bicycle at the ready when the storm hit. He evacuated New Orleans to Baton Rouge on his tourning bike. Seems he made it a good distance until he had a flat tire.

Get a bike! :D

Katrina, Day 8, 12:48 a.m.

Try to be in at least decent health when planning your next calamity. Fitness makes all the difference in the world. So if you take my advice and get a good hybrid (although there are other fine bikes - no religious wars about bike varieties here), get out and ride the thing.

No need to get in hard gears and punish yourself for being out of prime condition. Stick to easy gears and rides of a pleasant duration. And when you feel so inclined, take some longer pleasure rides. You'll want to go farther as your body gets into the groove.

And shop around for ways to carry some stuff comfortably using your bike. Have some bags such as panniers, or baskets, or roped-on buckets - whatever makes you giggle.

If you get on that sucker & ride, particularly if you make it a point to derive some pleasure from it, you'll be much more ready for the unexpected. And in the meantime, you'll look & feel better, save money on gym memberships (that you probably wouldn't use anyway), etc.

Katrina, Day 8, Midnight

I took a break from guarding the house today. My brother-in-law delivered some clean towels & other provisions and lured me away for a couple of hot meals, ice cream, a cold beer, and family. Was nice.

They're not quite back at 100%, but are very nearly so and were in great spirits. And I got to spend some time with a long-lost friend - one of my first and longest friends, in fact. His daughter & my niece carry on in so many of the same ways we did as boys.

Many pleasant childhood memories were rekindled. Heck, this was the guy with whom I got my first tattoo.

Plus, I got to check gmail a bit & update my blog. I'm trying to keep my people out there as in-the-know as possible. To my mom and everyone else who can't reach me, know that those nearby who wish me well are seeing to it that I get everything I need.

Wednesday I've got an appointment to have a dual basket saddlebag-like contraption modded onto the bike. It's just about perfect for carrying groceries, dry clothes, & other essentials for the daily commute, or whatever needs doing.

I gotta tell ya, if you've got to survive the unexpected, you could do worse than own and use a well-built hybrid bicycle. For your next apocalypse, consider a hybrid with the ability to haul as much gear as possible as far as possible and as comfortably as possible.

For me this currently translates to twenty seven gears for achieving reasonable speeds & mounting stunning steep inclines. I've got front shocks, but if I had a solid fork up front, I could attach even more gear to it. (Everything's a trade-off.) I can carry a heavy payload on the back, and two water bottles.

I *wish* I had a trailer, so I could carry more gear. And I *wish* I had a $400 high-definition headlight already, so I could ride home from work in greater safety and style. I *wish* I had these trippy spoke lights called hokey spokes, because I think they're cool. :D

But I love my bike, really. And I can't believe my good fortune of buying this particular bike a matter of days before Katrina hit.

TREK, if you're listening out there, I'd endorse you any day of the week. And The Bike Rack on Lakeland Drive, too. Without y'all, I might be in really dire straits right now.

I'm still planning on touring Mississippi towns by bicycle this autumn. But it won't be the same. We'll not be the same again any time soon.

Now don't get me wrong. Mississippi and our neighbor states hit by Katrina are all filled with people capable of fearlessness and compassion, humor and insight, and a rich, varied oral history. We'll survive and pass Katrina stories down for generations. But so much beauty & life has already been lost.

My favorite restaurant on the coast is surely gone. There's a fair likelihood that I'll find out that I know or love someone who hasn't survived. The casinos in which I first legally gambled are toast. The place where I got my first tattoo. The places I got tattoos #4 and #6, as well!

The Zen Temple, the restaurants, the jazz clubs....

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Katrina, Day 7, 9:05 p.m.

A couple of five-year-old girls are outside on a swing set playing Entergy linemen. They say they're busy connecting down power lines so the news channel can come back on.

This is definitely a sign of the times.

A freaky, freaky sign of the times.

I should be back guarding the house by now, but am taking my chances to enjoy a hot meal with my sister, brother-in-law, an old friend from grade school, and their daughters (the ones pretending to be restoring power).

This is the first time I've seen a television actually on in a week. It's all reruns. Go figure.

Katrina, Day 7, 2:21 p.m.

I just had a hot lunch and a cold beer at my sister's place, where I've been typing up these last few entries. They and Aaron are working to see to it that I get the remaining supplies I need to take care of myself.

I'm determined to see to it that I get a more vitamin-rich diet, and they're helping as best they can. I slam on Wal-Mart as much as the next guy, but their supply chain has at least ensured that *stuff* is available to people who can get to a Wal-Mart or have someone get there for them. Some say that Wal-Mart has done a better job of this than any government, and one guy I know asserts that this is because Wal-Mart is bigger and more powerful than the government. I stay out of the middle of all this, because I just want to survive, work, bicycle, and blog (not necessarily in that order).

Entergy trucks have been spotted in my neighborhood today to begin the repair work. I've heard that it'll still be a while before we see any real effects from this because of the total failure of our local grid. Cleary Heights, a.k.a. the Hoover Lake area, where I live, was apparently hit harder than just about any place around here. From what I've seen on my bicycle tours of the area, this is an understatement. Cleary Heights has been an absolute wreck for the last week.

Katrina, Day 7, 10:35 a.m.

My sister and her husband have been trying to help out, since they live in Florence, which is a few miles away and has is way ahead of Hoover Lake when it comes to utilities. Highway 49 runs through Florence on its way to the Gulf Coast, so establishing some sense of normalcy there is relatively important.

The problem with situations like the one I face isn't that people can't live without phones, power, & such. The problem is that we've built a civilization that *depends* on these things. Downed power lines are a threat in themselves (took one in the face on my bike the other day... ouch), but they can become worse when power eventually returns or some numbnuts plugs his new generator into the household power grid & sends electricity into unsuspecting neighbors outside (which has happened here lately). [For the love of all that's holy, read instructions, people!]

We need water to live, but the water coming from our pipes is deadly with microorganisms. I have to bleach everything & air dry all clothes & towels. The rotten food attracts wasps, which lurk just outside every door. Some have entered the house and behaved aggressively. If they aren't killed before they can sting me, I'll definitely have the essence of that garbage injected into me alongside the usual toxins associated with such stings.

Fortunately, they've been managed so far. I don't think any more are still in the house, so I mainly focus on keeping others from entering.

Katrina, Day 7, 8:13 a.m.

The number of unexplained bruises on my body is growing. This concerns me, because it means that either I'm sustaining more damage than I'd thought (possible, considering the number of places where my skin is cut & torn) or something's going wrong internally. Possibly both. Hopefully it's nothing to worry about.

There seems to be a lot of media coverage on certain coastal cities, but not a whole lot on neighborhoods like mine. I guess our problems just aren't as sexy. I've seen military helicopters flying overhead since last Tuesday, but not they're Apaches armed to the teeth and flying just above treeline. I'd much rather see troop- and load-bearing choppers bringing MREs, water distillers, and medical assistance. Add in the fact that my brother was packing a shotgun when he made his quick trip, telling me to avoid televised news (advice repeated by Aaron upon his return from Arkansas), and I want a weapon... NOW.

I do appreciate some of the side-effects of all this. No power for miles means less light pollution, so stargazing has been considerably more gratifying. As power slowly returns to nearby towns, it's already fading, sadly. If you've never seen the milky way with the naked eye, you've missed one of the natural wonders of the world, worth a trip to the desert to see.

I've also seen more people on bicycles, and I'm hoping that drivers will begin to think of bicyclists as less odd. And I do tire of the way people tend to treat me as strange for living as though disaster can strike without warning. Now that it has, perhaps some people's attitudes will shift.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Katrina, Day 6, 10:05 p.m.

Aaron & Rocky came by to offer me some things I'd love: a hot shower & a cool place to crash for the night.

If only I could accept! But if I'm gone overnight, who will guard all the stuff?

I'd nodded off in the rocker on the back porch (where I write all this stuff in between opportunities to upload it), writing that last entry when their knock awakened me. It pained me to decline, but this is one of those decisions you make not for immediate personal gratification, but out of desperation. I can't say how many of my decisions during all this are the best decisions, but I'm doing the best I can think to do. Just like everyone else.

There have been too many such decisions of late.

Katrina, Day 6, 7:05 p.m.


No, really.

Last night, Shelton & I cleaned the rotting food from a friend's freezer. Today I had to throw out my own. It's heartbreaking to have to throw out what had been a very nice pantry like that. Deer meat from a free, hunted animal... Beans, peas, fruits & vegetables bagged & jarred in our own kitchen... A small fortune in store-bought fish & chicken... All gone. Near total loss. Rob sad.

I'm completely alone now. My brother came out from Texas in a rented SUV to bring a little fuel, some food, cash, and provisions... and to extract my elderly mother. After much family drama, she grabbed a few things & went with him.

Although this leaves me so completely alone, I feel she made the right call. She needs to be in a safe place with the resources for her to stay alive instead of risking all on on a stand-off against the Third World we've become.

My brother James had seen footage of Katrina's aftermath and came armed. I understand that people *in my neighborhood* have contracted dysintery from the water contaminants merely from using the same towel twice.

I worry about disease and theft. I've been assured by a friend that I'll have a firearm soon. The sooner the better! People are acting erratically - at least some I've personally encountered. Others seem to maintain varying amounts of stoicism.

Me, I prefer to live *outside the box*. I rode with my brother & mother on a few errands in Jackson right before her departure. He pulled into the gas line, and I opted not to wait through it. I donned my helmet & gloves, rolled my Trek 7300 from the back, and zipped off down the street.

During my excursion, I chatted with a cop, rode to a nearby Back Yard Burger, ate lunch in, went to pick up a hot Kenya AA for my mother (who has suffered through a wicked hot coffee deficit), and returned. They'd moved forward maybe 50 feet.

Many of my neighbhors have spirited off to Texas or Arkansas. Some have already returned, probably due to having viewed footage on CNN or the web. I hope some of the returning refugees have brought outside provisions. Some I know haven't, but won't accept any offers of help. Wierd, eh?

I offer to deliver a hot meal to someone who I know is unable to furnish one for himself, and it's not accepted. I bike past someone stuck with a half-sunk car in a flooded underpass, but they decline offers of aid.


I always hated my brother, but I gotta throw him a bone at this point. He came out here at considerable personal expense to drop off provisions & extract my mother to safety. Maybe he really isn't the guy I grew to despise all those years ago. Heck, I certainly wouldn't want someone to hold me accountable for every questionable thing I did when I was young, either. Sometimes we just have to move on. He really came through when so many others are letting us rot or profiting from our journey through hell.

Thanks to him, I've got another bottle of premium tequila, non-perishable food, gas, and freedom from worry about my mother's safety.

Lots of what I normally take for granted in my usual life has died off before my eyes or in my very hands. And the deepening solitude taxes me in a variety of ways.

Aaron's returned from Arkansas for a variety of reasons. The tree in his house has made it too unsafe for habitation, so he'll be crashing with a friend a county or two away, where there are utilities & such.

Personally, I discouraged him from returning. It sucks here! But it was his call.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Katrina Day 5

I've just finished typing up a bunch of journaling I wrote up during the course of the week and posted it to this blog, back-dated to maintain a reasonable sense of chronology. Fortunately, I frequently thought to jot down what day & time it was while I wrote all this stuff with pen to paper, figuring I'd eventually find an opportunity to upload it.

I didn't blog anything yesterday, because I awoke to find that they'd gotten a cell phone signal up somehow, and I had 6 messages in voice mail. I'd been firing up the cell phone a couple of times daily just in case coverage came back, and now I'd hit paydirt.

Well, it turned out my boss fired me and wanted the cell phone back immediately. He'd actually fired me effective the previous day, but was waiting until I called in to tell me. Right before Katrina hit, I'd emailed him describing a job offer I'd received from another company, asking him when he & I could talk about it. So he axed me.

Fortunately, the other company was willing to let me start immediately. As in, hose off in the back yard, hop on the bike, and get to work! So I did.

It's a 10.9-mile commute from my front yard to the new office by bicycle. They're letting me bike in without complaint so far because of the hurricane. After things have gotten back to normal, I imagine they'll prefer that I at least find some way to get showered. heh

One of the guys who runs the place asked me about the cuts on my legs today. When I told him about how I'd been bicycling from town to town to move information, food, and water during the hurricane & aftermath, he seemed to approve.

Now I'm back on the web, at least when I'm in the office (which won't happen again until Tuesday once I wrap this up, because it's Labor Day weekend and I don't have keys to the building yet). It's tough leaving this place with its air conditioning, lights, phones, and working toilets every day to go home to none of the above. But I can't leave my home and 75-year-old mother unattended indefinitely.

I imagine I'll have more to say upon my return, although I won't have an endless amount of time to say it, because I'll be at work. I've spend the last few hours here typing back-dated entries after everyone left for the weekend.