Sunday, October 02, 2005
Life On Hold
Katrina Gothic, Slidell, Louisiana
Here's were we are now, one month later. My mom was going to go crazy if I let her stay in the Gulf. There's nothing that can be done there right now. Nothing but survive, living day by day, in the newly-created Southern tribe of third-world hunter-gatherers created by the storms. It's a nonstop job, sun-up to midnight. Cleaning, worrying, lining up, being knocked down, gathering decaying provisions, drifting.
My mom said that for people without jobs, they sure work hard. If you've ever been homeless you know just how much work it is. If you've never been homeless, don't worry, with the way things are headed it's just a question of time.
I can't have her living in a tent, waiting for the Bushvilles to be built, someday, maybe. So, a few days ago we evacuated her to Las Vegas, at least for a couple of weeks, to recuperate. We have some history there, and some contacts, and I figured if she's going to be competing for survivor scraps she's got better odds in a city with 3000 other survivors than in the gulf with 100,000.
So far I've been proven right. The FEMA office there is at least indoors, with seats to wait in, and air conditioning. These small condolences make a difference, even though the idiot blue-shirts she finally reaches after her six hour wait tell her the same things their idiot cousins told her in the Gulf, weeks ago:
"I'm sorry, the FEMA computer is down right now."
"Did you try the 800 number?"
"Here's a trick, instead of pressing 3 when you call, press 2, there aren't as many Spanish speakers so you might get through to somebody. Oh. Ummm. Maybe try calling at 3AM, it's less crowded then."
"I'm sorry, the computer is still down."
So, we finally discovered where the Red Cross has been all this time. Looks like they've been in Vegas. Turns out they must also like roofs and air-conditioning a lot. I guess it's really hard to concentrate on aid when it's all hot and dirty and the sun is beating down on you. So, a quick 2000-mile commute is all that's needed for Gulf victims to get some living money and a voucher for two weeks in a hotel while FEMA looks for the power switch on their computer. And it looks like even this little program might soon be going, going gone.
There are two huge blindspots in the future right now, for us. One: what exactly is the government's plan for short-term and long-term housing? Good, bad, or ugly, just tell us what it is and where we stand, so we can plan accordingly. Two: is my mom's job, her perfect $6.91/hour job, going to restart, and when? And if it restarts but she has no place to live locally, is she allowed to sleep under her desk?
Without clear answers to both these questions it's impossible to make many plans for the future. So it's day by day. Same life, different line. Is this how the diffusion happens? Is this how families get separated? Is this what the Dustbowl felt like?
Finally, and most importantly, my mom wanted to thank everyone who's written, everyone who's donated, everyone who's offered her help. She said her mind is blown. This little Cajun woman at the back of life's line, she's in awe of you all. She's in awe of your generosity and spirit and care. Thank you for keeping her spirits up when fate conspires to drag her down.
Thank you all for not forgetting about her little corner of the world.
The last picture I took of them before we split up.
Me, I'm going into New Orleans tomorrow to see what I can see there. I'm going to see if I can get to the starting place of this whole story. That little shack on McKain Street, in one of the roughest parts of town. See that street sign in the background of the top picture? That's all my mom's got left of the street she grew up on. I want to see what's left now.
I'll try to keep you posted.
Posted by clayton cubitt at 9:59 PM