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.


Leslie/Cajunsoaper said...


I just want to let you know how sorry I am for all that your mom and family has had to endure ;o( I am in Lafayette by the way and we got a bit of Rita last week. I am just so saddened by it all, I guess you just have to take it day by day........By the way your photographs are awesome, loved looking at them. The Katrina survivor photos, well they say so much. Anyway I am glad to have found your site, will be checking for updates and hopefully some good news for your mom {{{hugs}}}

Ringmaster said...

I'm wondering if you have an update on where we can send donations that will go directly to your mom's town. I feel so helpless up here in Wisconsin! The more I read about the waiting, and wondering, I get so angry! This is unacceptable! This country has got to start taking care of its own! Your blog has really gotten to me today. Twice in tears, sad & mad! I will continue to read your blog daily, praying for your people.

Crack Head said...

You can blame this fella for the fallout...

Anonymous said...

God bless you, Clayton James Cubitt. And your Mom and all the people you hold dear.
This morning, I cooked hot cereal in my microwave, took a shower and blow-dried my hair before walking into my closet to choose an outfit for work. I feel guilty having this life, when so many good,hard-working people's lives are misery. Those of us who can sleep in air-conditioned homes must not forget your people and everyone first damaged by the storms and then mistreated by our government.
Your blog haunts me. I've visited operation eden many times and told my friends about it. In the midst of your anger, hurt, frustration and worry, your love for your Mom and folks back home pours out. It reminded me that art helps people who've experienced incomprehensible things, brutal or beautiful, to process the experience without going stark raving insane. (or at least an insane of the dangerous, hurting-self-or-others variety).
Thank you for making it harder for people spared this tragedy to turn a blind eye. Sometimes, I know you've felt very alone and abandoned, but you are not.

Anonymous said...

Dear Mrs. Cubitt:
You must be very proud of your son Clayton and the beautiful pictures and powerful words he is able to share with all of us. I am sending three boxes of miscellaneous supplies to the elementary shcool in Pearlington w/ the notation that the boxes are to be opened and the contents used. Although you have temporarily relocated, I am sure your heart is still in Pearlington. Best of luck in Las Vegas (no pun intended) and I hope you can find Eden again wherever you wind up.

Steve said...

If Vegas doesnt work, get her on over to Charlotte. People at the Red cross shelter are staying there a max of 2 or 3 days before housing has been found for them. Lots of jobs, lots of people wanting to help, the diocese of Charlotte have been finding houses for people regularly. Serious bra, if you want, get in touch with me, and I'll see what I can do via Knights of Columbus.

Randall said...

Do you need a place for your mom and brother to stay? I mean, for a while? My mom lives in the house I grew up in, and while it's really pretty much of a disaster, the town is decent, and the schools are excellent, and my Mom would just get all goofy about having somebody to take good solid care of - look for a private email from me through gmail dot com...

Anonymous said...

Clayton, as sorry as I am for your mother and the others in your blog, I can't help wondering how people coped with disasters before FEMA. Nobody sat around and waited for the 800 number to answer because there was no 800 number. They dusted themselves off, and went on with there lives. If they were dirt poor and lived on the gulf coast at 3 feet elevation, they figured it would be better to live someplace safer, so they moved. I'm just a little tired of everyone blaming Bush and the government for not dropping everything to bail everyone out that has a problem. You are doing a great thing helping your mother out, that is what this country used to be about; looking out for yourself and your family. We need to start looking out for ourselves more, and not always looking for the government to come to the rescue.

Anonymous said...

To the previous poster, well said. I am also tired of how this is all supposedly Bush's fault. I'm sure with Kerry in office there would have been no hurricanes, correct??!! Just compare the democratic "leadership" in New Orleans to the smooth Republican-style evacuation we had in Galveston/Houston a couple of weeks ago. Say what you want about the traffic, but at least we got out, and did not have school buses sitting idle and flooding in a school parking lot. When will the northeast US and the west coast learn......

Anyway, you have to remember who created this blog, a democrat obviously. And we all know how they think; they wait for someone to come bail them out of whatever adverse situation they are in, instead of doing what they can for themselves. Remember kids, more often than not, poverty is a choice. Suck it.

clayton cubitt said...

previous anon Bushie #1:
I'm a strong proponent of self-reliance and individual action. This whole blog is about documenting what this is doing to my family and their communities. It's to raise awareness, and to raise money to help them. It's the epitome of self-reliance, as you rightly noted.

Yes, there was a time before FEMA. And there was also a time before Social Security. There was a time before women had the right to vote. There was a time before slavery ended. Just because people survived in such dark times, doesn't mean those dark times need to exist again, or were somehow noble just for having been.

You need not be for big government to be for effective government. Sadly, the government we currently have is both big and disastrously ineffective. This is not just about Bush. Just about every governmental agency and official involved with this disaster was derelict. Incompetence and negligence are, unfortunately, bipartisan.

previous anon Bushie #2:
I don't have a dog in your race, here. I don't think the Rita evacuations would best be described as "smooth", and I don't even know what "Republican-style evacuation" is supposed to mean. The evacuation of Houston was plagued by many problems, and it's large-scale is best attributed to the freshness in people's minds of Katrina, not some right-wing efficiency. Remember, all three states most effected by the Katrina/Rita tragedies were so-called "Red" states.

I have no idea what you're talking about with the references to the Northeast and West Coast, since I can't remember the last time a hurricane hit either of them.

And, you should know, I'm not a Democrat. I'm not a Republican. I'm a fucked-up American, who wants to be proud of that. I value the right to own guns. I value my privacy, and right to express myself how I choose. I value freedom of movement, and low taxation. At the same time I recognize that a government is a necessary evil needed to mitigate some larger-than-life problems, such as a Category 4 hurricane, but that that government should be as small and efficient as possible in order to accomplish it's goals without becoming a bloated monster.

Sadly, we currently have a hugely bloated monster government that's as ineffective and inefficient as your average Third World communist Banana Republic. This problem is beyond partisanship. It's about America, not Republicans vs Democrat, liberal vs conservative. It's about people looking out for each other.

If you'd like to live in a country where it's every man for himself, and if you've got fucked by fate your option is to "suck it," that's a pretty sad, simple-minded outlook. Poverty is no more a choice than stupidity is a choice.

Stop for a second, breathe, clear your head of talking points, and use some common sense. Treat others like you'd want your mom treated, and talk to them the same way.

All this applies to liberals, too.

This blog is not for you, if you're here to parrot dogma. Go to Kos or Freep for that.

Here, be decent. It's not much to ask.

Adrienne said...

Clayton, what a gracious response to some anonymous posters who clearly don't belong here. Your blog is about humanity in the face of disaster, not political debate. None of that stuff means shit when you have nowhere to live, nothing to eat and are just trying to survive. Hang in there - we're all pulling for you and yours.

Lea Hernandez said...

Anyone who calls the Houston evac smooth was not there for it. 12-16 hours just from Houston to San Anotnio, a four-hour drive, is not smooth. Turfing Katrina evacuees out of Reliant and the Astrodome is not smooth.
BTW, Ray Nagin was a Republican who switched his party shortly before the election.

It's sad you'd come in with your bootstrapping talk. What era of dusting off are we talking about? The era of the Works Progress Administration? Poor houses? Putting one's children in mills for the income?

Almost each and every US citizen pays taxes to support FEMA. We pay the Hosue and Senate. We pay for highways. We pay. It's not too much to ask that the money paid in have some effect, like caring for people caught in disasters.

You know nothing of even the last one hundred years of history to say such things. You tarnish your ideals by trying to use someone's personal blog as a bully pulpit to lecture people that they're not doing enough.
Shame on you. SHAME.

Nembula said...

Dear Clayton;

I am so sorry for this terrible tradgedy that has happened to your people and the many others along the gulf coast area. More than any other single thing your photos have brought home to me the aching horror of it all. I have no money to offer or am I able to do as I wish and come down and help. I am peddling your site for all I'm worth though if that is a help. I wanted to tell you that you should never mind with your old photos, your work in Pearlington is breath takingly beautiful. What an awe inspiring talent you have to make such beauty in the face of such a disaster. I find in the faces you are photographing a beauty one will never find in the faces of models and actors. If I had any money I would be buying prints of every photo of Pearlington you allowed us to have. It would be like buying a piece of your very heart. My heart is already yours and your Mom's. May an Eden come back to her soon.

...e... said...

clayton, I can't get on the site today, just on the cached version! has something happened? I sure hope not.xgwh

...e... said...

clayton, i can't get on the site today, has something happened? i sure hope not. don't let 'em get you down.

...e... said...


Anonymous said...

While i can't imagine what your family has gone through, i have previously offered my financial aid and now my prayers. I do have one question that nags at me - while I understand FEMA has been fairly ineffectual (I'm trying to be kind) - the Federal government is the only agency being totally bashed (all the blame seems to sit squarely on the Feds shoulders); what responsibility for aid and rebuilding do city & state government agencies have?

kannan said...

I pray for you-Pl. visit-

Michelou said...

Thank you for posting your images... we all need to see them. Your document will MAKE the memory of Katrina last.

Anonymous said...


I grew up in eastern St Tammany parrish,about a mile from the little
roadside park (wayside rest area) that
Mr Cubbit talks about on this sight.It
is has brought back a lot of memories
as I can relate to his story in pretty much every way. Even though it's kind of beside the point I would also like
to say that I grew up across the street from Mr Cubbit's cousins.One of them,Buddy,was the first friend I ever had.My mother still lived there and needless to say lost everything.She's taken care of despite the fact that her homeowner's policy has been denied because technically it wasn't wind that destroyed here home but a wind driven
wave of water.Good thing she paid her premiums every month for thirty freaking years.I digress.I just wanted to say Mr Cubbit's family and the situation they are in is shamefully all to common.My biggest fear is that people like Ms Cubbit and the people in Pearlington will be forgotten.
Thanks and thanks for this sight.I am sorry if I seem selfish in my comments.