Thursday, November 24, 2005

New Orleans - Thanksgiving Day

Last night the temperature did NOT drop into the thirties so I got some better sleep. After breakfast our crew went back to the Community Center we gutted to remove the rest of the trash. There are signs that debris removal crews have been through, but very sporatically. The best way to get trash removed is to physically take it to the end of Franklin St and dump it there.

Once we removed the last of the trash from the front of the Community Center we just seemed to keep going and cleaned up the rest of the street. It made an amazing difference. Only one other house on this street has been gutted so far. I don't know if any other houses will be saved or who will be coming back. But their front yards won't look like a landfil when they do.

We changed and cleaned up back at the Convergence Center warehouse (they are BIG on decontamination here) and headed over to the Distribution Center for the big Thanksgiving feast. And it was large. All us volunteers plus a few from other groups, some media and maybe 20 residents of the neighborhood. The street had been closed off and xmas lights hung. There were tables, chairs and a mess of food. At one point things seemed to get tense when a Sherifs department SUV pulled up with its lights on. You could see people pulling out cameras to document anything that might go down, but it turns out he was just escorting a pick up truck from a church volunteer group who was donating even more food to the feast (sweet potatoes and pecan pie I believe). Stranger still the Red Cross stopped by and delivered water. We've seen them twice here in the ninth offering hot meals of dubious nutritional value. "You guys want a hot meal?" they ask over the loudspeaker, but we're usually eating our bagged lunches. This time we offered them a hot meal and WHAT a meal it was. After a few brief words we dug in and it was very good. Deep fried turkey with all imaginable fixins. We stuffed ourselves. Kerule, who helped organize this week long work event sat next to us. She was amazed how well everything came together. The Sheraton Hotel had lent us the tables, the National Guard lent the chairs. The police had made no fuss about closing off the street. I told her my new philosophy.

"Companies, governments, armies, police forces...whatever, are made up of people. And most people are actually pretty cool or are at least, not total assholes"

"You believe that?"

"With all my heart. And it will help lower your stress level if you look at things that way too."

I have no doubt that she has seen and experienced things far worse than I can imagine. Things that can make you believe that some people and institutions are bad thru and thru. She confided that her own Grandfather had been a grand dragon in the Ku Klux Klan. The Klan had a strong following in her home town. But her father regected the Klan and had coached the first integrated football team in her state and now here she was working with a former Black Panther in the 9th ward. People learn and grow. New Orleans has suffered at the hands of nameless, faceless agencies. It has suffered at the hands of corrupt or criminal individuals. But its statistically impossible for everyone at FEMA, the Red Cross, the State Gov't or City Hall to be a racist, corrupt or an asshole. And the proof was our dinner.

We left New Orleans early and headed back to Biloxi. Vlad let us crash and get our first decent shower in a week. It was a gift from the gods. We need to get a tire fixed before heading home. We picked up a screw somewhere and I don't want to drive home with it. It's amazing we didn't get more flats considering the derbris we've been driving through.

I will post more pics and thoughts when I get home, where it is apparently 12 degrees. Sigh.

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