Saturday, September 24, 2005

Houston and the Hurricane

In the best tradition of the New Yorker as it once was, I am including a letter from a friend. She is, or was, in Houston and her story is too good not to share.

In Austin, evacuated Wed. pm to my sister's. She graciously let us stay. My parents are here from Conroe. Our drive was six hours, theirs was eight. We are lucky to have a place to stay. I found provisions, wine, beer, batteries and water to take back with us. If I don't use them, I'll donate to relief. Stores in Houston were stripped by Tuesday of water, bread, canned goods, meat, beer. Still plenty of healthy food though. I packed in four hours, stripped the house of what we need to start completely over if we should need to. The lawyers from NO, our renters, only brought 2 days worth of clothes and had to go back to rescue moldy clothes.

I was loathe to leave my pretty house, to say the least, especially my keepsakes from when I was a kid. When I was six, I bought a clear blue handmade vase on an island near Malta where glass has been made since Roman times. It was the first time I remember bargaining down a vendor. Boy, was he mad to have this very pretty little girl walk away, the ultimatum. It worked, and I walked away with a vase the color of the Med sea.

I cleared all tsochkes that could do damage into closets. By the end of four hours, my clothes were packed, R's clothes were packed (did I mention he didn't come home to help? WHAT IS IT WITH MEN AND PACKING?) a few kitchen basics, the plants were in the garage, the furniture was off the porch, the wills, insurance, computer, digital camera, my Gucci sunglasses (completely irreplaceable, from last year's collection), all of R's meds and eye stuff and Sam's med records, etc.etc. were in my car. I was spinning around in a tizzy, crying and heaving and not sure what to do next, walking from room to room. I did that for half an hour and realized the shadows were growing long on the floor. I walked once more to every room and screamed "GOODBYE HOUSE!" at the top of my lungs, raced to the car and took the back streets to R's office by Compac. From there, we boogied at 8 pm. We arrived here about 2am.

The people from New Orleans in our house left and took all eleven of them to Athens GA to visit family. My sister's secretary has 27 people in her house this weekend here in Austin. Galveston is completely evacuated, as is Bay City, Beaumont, Port Arthur, Texas City, Chocolate Bayou down to Surfside and Jacksonville. Landfall is expected over Beaumont area. East Houston to take Hurricane force winds. All of the loop evacuated. I have 1 friend who stayed. Her husband is a first responder with Schlumberger. They have a generator, but her house burned and rebuilt for a year about three years ago. She won't go.

We all have gas in our cars, and R and I bought steaks, asparagus, pies. We will dine in style if this is my last hot meal for a while, with Dom and Bonnaire, Silver Oak and Stag's Leap. I also have a bottle of Chateau Margaux I have been saving to share with you and Peter. I wasn't leaving that to the looters if worst came to worst. We are lucky to have the provisions for six adults and three children. I brought our good wine R received for his fiftieth birthday.

School is closed. Terrible evac problems with the plan, freeways clogged and city/state would not open them to one way out until this morning. By now, the airport is closed. Wed. PM it took twelve hours to go from Galleria to Beltway 8. I wasn't in it. I am not too worried about Peter, since he has a plane.

We expect Martial law to be declared shortly in Gal and Hou, as it is now in NOLA. I paid 2.99/gal in Houston before I left, but I swear the anarchy had already started. Some guy drove by waving a gun (in Memorial!) and another started a fist fight over gas! I got out by avoiding the freeways completely, except for a thirty mile stretch between Hempstead and Brenham. We then drove North past Lake Somerville to Milano, and came into Austin from the North. We were the only people on those roads.

Katrina death toll at 1,069. The toll from this one is already at 24, a bus of seniors exploded from a oxygen bottle that got too hot. The bus was incinerated immediately in Wilmer, TX, one hour south of Dallas. Clogged the freeways even worse.

On a happy note, my arm still hurts a lot, but I am far too busy, too neurotic and too preoccupied with destruction to think about it. Always the Pollyanna.

In the category of dumb and dumber,  5 looters were arrested last night at WalMart on TCJester, stealing stereo equipment.  With all of the highdollar stores in a deserted city, who would be stupid enough to go to WalMart for stereo equipment???

I wish I were in H now.  I love deserted cities.  Quite seriously, I would like to take pictures of all the spray painted wood on houses and business, with their references to MargaRitaville and such.  We are afraid to go back, because there is no gas.  Once we get there, there is no way to return or get around.  It would be much easier to return if I could make two trips. I have
plenty of food, though limited meat.  Did I mention that I cleaned out the fridge and freezer and dumped the food in a dumpster far from the house during my evac prep?

It is now 7am.  We are all sitting around the tv watching Mayor White.  No definite plans for repopulation of the city yet.  2.7 mill evacuated, and it is said to be the largest ever traffic jam in the world.  I don't believe that . . . you know how prone to exageration Wayne Dolcefino is. 

We are on our third pot of coffee and second pound of bacon.  Drank one bottle of Bonnaire Champers last night, damn it was good, vintage 1998 with homemade meatloaf, with lots of Chachere's seasoning.  I have repacked half of our
stuff to try to consolidate it down to take the water back to H.  Will call my friend who stayed later.  Three buildings in the strand burned to the ground, caused by a fallen electrical pole.  Presently, 750K without power in H and Clear Lake.  City of Cleveland, located at 105 and 59North without power, 50,000 people.  Lake Charles has taken the brunt of it, as has Beaumont.  The worst of all, I fear my favorite casino is damaged!  Oh, God NOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!

The biggest drama is my cat and my sister's griffon dog.  She is very sweet, and Sam has been remarkably restrained, perhaps because I clipped his claws.

So that's all the news for today, folks. No photos for this one though some good ones are circulating on email which are not from this storm or Katrina . . . Anna keeps me straight on these things, and it's great to have someone who can help me distinguish the real problems from the urban legends.


At 7:43 PM, Blogger eliza said...

All I really wanted to say was that Joe never called me at work once in 19 years until he recently got a cell, now he can call, but rarely does so I was surprised today that he left me a voice mail, "Mom, Catherine called, Patricia has a BLOG, it's gooooooood." Thank you for entertaining us both. I think there has to be some mistake concerning the age that was posted though, maybe its all the stairs making you feel twenty years older than you actually possibly could be. Be safe out there . . .

At 3:26 PM, Blogger K. A. Laity said...

Pat -- I got your email about downloading your email on campus, but my email back to you seems to have bounced (can I use the word email once more?). Send me your password and be sure to email Julee so she knows it's okay to let me in your office, and I'll take care of the overflow problem.

I will not gloat about having these exrta days off :-)

At 8:02 AM, Blogger Patricia Golemon said...

Eliza and Joe, how wonderful to hear from you! I'm so glad you both like the blog and that you are together and, I hope, doing well. Would that the age were wrong, and you are kind to suggest it, but when I start up those stairs several times a day I remember every year of it. Joe, what are you doing that is fun? Catherine can send you my email address so you can tell me, if you want.

At 11:54 AM, Blogger eliza said...

Joe says he is "living good life in Scottsdale," that means for him that all the electronic equipment, of which there is a prodigious amount thanks to the wonders of EBay and his brother, the Geek-with-attitude. Last weekend Joe saw Charlie and t he Chocolate Factory at Farrelli's Dinner Cinema with his "homeys" -- this weekend its laser tag. He is scheduled to begin the process for his FIRST job October26.

We are high and dry if WAY too warm 99 today . . .

Keep em coming! you Amazon Caucasian Warlord Professor you!


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