Monday, September 19, 2005

Another Post-Katrina Baton Rouge Update

More updates from Baton Rouge. Tuesday night we headed to the river center again. Janet decked herself out in her “fifth grade boy” outfit of tennis shoes, cords, and her Pittsburgh Steelers t-shirt. This is an important detail because an evacuee in line behind us sees her shirt and just starts going crazy about it. Stopping people as they walk by and pointing at Janet’s shirt. He, then decides to include the yellow shirted, high school hipster, scientology volunteers in his antics. He keeps telling us we’ve got to see something. He also tells us he’s a little drunk, but he’s going right to sleep, and asks us not to turn him in. Once we get through security, he takes us to his cot, to show us his Steeler’s hat, freshly autographed by Terry Bradshaw who visited the shelter last weekend. I really wanted to take a picture, but I just couldn’t do it inside the shelter.

That night, we got shower duty. The showers are in tents set-up outside the building. I don’t think there was any hot water and only minimal privacy. There were only 3 shower stalls inside the tent, so most of the job was maintaining a line and distributing fresh towels. We had a steady flow of people, without too much back up from 7-9pm. We talked with those in line, more than we’ve talked with anyone in previous volunteer times. I talked with two men who got jobs getting bussed into New Orleans in the morning to do clean-up. They were happy for their jobs, said they were paid and fed well, even tipped (apparently they were working in a nicer neighborhood where residents were allowed in during the day). They did stink like you wouldn’t believe and were happy for the cold shower.

That was all we were able to volunteer this week. Janet worked at the gallery this weekend. Many of you know, or know of, our friends Rod and Greg. They were on vacation when the storm hit and flew back to Houston, where they’ve stayed with friends. Greg’s office is in Houston (he used to telecommute) so he’s been working. And, Rod’s been able to switch to telecommuting himself. They got a voicemail from a friend who’s a reporter for the New Orleans paper, that he was standing on Rod and Greg’s porch and could see no damage. There were even a couple of newspapers still on their porch from the 2 days before Katrina. Greg, went to the New Orleans airport to pick up his car on Saturday. The lot did not get any flooding, and his car started right up. They only charged him until the day Katrina hit, which was shorter than their original plans.

More good news from my boss, who had been commuting most days from her condo in the same neighborhood as Rod and Greg, she took the day off Friday for her first trip back to see her place. She reports that all was well for her. There were lots of downed trees and power lines on most streets. Some large streets were so filled with debris; there was only a path for one vehicle to pass. She said Kenner smelled horrible, and it was still bad in the Marigny, but roses by comparison.

Unfortunately, not all our stories are good. We have seen 2 couples of artists this weekend whose studios are probably still underwater. Both couples are waiting to see when they can go back and see what they can salvage. At least they have pretty good Baton Rouge living situations.

We’ll be back to volunteer again tomorrow, and we’ll check in with you all again soon.

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