Monday, September 29, 2008

The Weenie Tribute to the 50-Year Plus Six Pack.

I remember several young lads from my high school days, most of them on the wrestling team, who sported fairly impressive six-packs. I also recall very clearly how those ripped abdominal muscles quickly metamorphosed into beer bellies by their second year of college (if they chose to pursue higher education). So perhaps that's why I've always been impressed that Paul Newman had as toned a stomach as you can get from the mid-1950s, possibly earlier, and still pretty much had one in 1994's The Hudsucker Proxy. One suspects he had a genetic predisposition to it, as well as healthy eating habits and an active lifestyle, but perhaps the media personality who gets the honor of interviewing Joanne Woodward in the coming days should ask her how many sit-ups Paul did during the half century she was acquainted with him, because I would wager it was a staggering number.

Promoting six-packs and straw hats since 1982.

What I've always found very interesting about Paul's career is that his big break pretty much came at the expense of Marlon Brando, who was offered the role of Rocky Graziano in "Somebody Up There Likes Me" after James Dean's corpse wasn't really up to the task, and he declined it because he didn't want to go through the arduous process of getting into boxing shape. Some actors can clearly let themselves go and still maintain very successful careers (see manboobs, Jack Nicholson), but Marlon's decline seemed to be directly aligned with his pudge and unwillingness to tackle it full-on. While I enjoy Paul Newman immensely, it's very difficult not to compare the last 30 years of his career with that of Marlon, who for all intents and purposes bought AT&T and phoned in his performances to maintain his Tahitian paradise. Paul Newman rocks hardcore, and Weenie Enema has several recommendations for the loyal reader base to take home and peruse at their leisure.

He has looked like that for decades.

When I heard that Paul Newman was dying several months ago, I made it my mission to see every Newman film before he died. I DID make some considerable progress, but fell far short of my goal. I made it to 1969's Winning (possibly the worst Newman movie I've ever seen, and he has a lot of crappola on his resume), and Netflix didn't have most of his cinematic efforts from the 1950s, so there are gaping holes of Newman knowledge in my noggin. That said, I have hand-selected two movies from each decade that are either hardcore badass, or are simply overlooked in the face of Butch Cassidy and Luke.

1. The Long, Hot Summer.

In my mind, the best Newman/Woodward movie by a long shot, and in many ways better than the more highly acclaimed Southern family drama Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. Although a morbidly obese Orson Wells looks purple and is supposed to be plausibly diddling Angela Lansbury (and not Winston Churchill-lookalike Angela of present day), Paul spends most of the time wandering around the sweltering fields shirtless or close to it, and Joanne is deliciously frigid. This observation will come up later as well, but Paul Newman has to be the only person in Hollywood history who plays gigolos and general skeeze, and comes off looking classy. That cannot be an easy task.

England called. They want their war-time Prime Minister back.

2. The Left-Handed Gun.

Full disclosure - I hate this movie. I thought it sucked beyond all reasonable expectations, but it has been included because in many respects, I found it to be one of the most engaging and interesting Newman performances. His hotness factor is through the roof. I feel the movie-going public has been really shortchanged by his closely cropped hair in most of his films, because when he lets it go for a few months, it's deliciously hunky and curly and makes him look more sleazy. But in a non-STD kind of way. In terms of characterization, Paul's playing an incredibly immature, impulsive man-child, who can immediately transform into a hardened killer with colder eyes than Keifer Sutherland in The Lost Boys. If you can zone out the rest of the inept movie, dot dot dot.

Spurned of a nomination? You decide.

1. Hud.

This isn't exactly an unknown product, but Hud to me is the best Paul Newman movie ever, surpassing Cool Hand Luke, The Hustler, The Sting and every other heralded classic that comes to mind. I know that many people, especially in my own demographic, have never even heard of this movie, and I suspect that's partly because a) it was shut out of most Oscar categories and Paul was outshone by Sidney Poitier's history-making win, and b) Paul's eponymous character does not inspire the legions of hero-worshipers that an outsider like Cool Hand Luke does with his repeated jail escapes, or Fast Eddie Felson does with his cue stick - he's so hideously unlikeable that the genius of the character isn't received as such on the scale of some of his other portrayals.

2. Sweet Bird of Youth.

Apparently the original play involved venereal diseases and castration, and the film version suffers for their glaring absences. Instead we're treated to an abortion on the down low and a black eye. Not as fun as the clap, but it WAS 1962. Like the other Tennessee Williams/Paul Newman collaboration, there's an unevenness that puts it at odds with the Broadway original. It seems too easy to simply say that Newman was miscast, though a fresh-faced debonair creature doesn't seem like the optimal person to be playing a washed up male ho. Watch out for a young, non-pedophile looking Rip Torn!

Perhaps someone ELSE should have played the gigolo.

Largely considered the weakest period of Paul Newman's career, the decade highlight is unquestionably 1973 Best Picture winner The Sting, though Slapshot has gained a loyal following over the years, as has the more suspect Towering Inferno. Since I only made it to 1969 during my mission and have only seen one movie from the 1970s, I feel it would be disingenuous of me to wax eloquent on the subject. Though I have heard that Pocket Money is really underappreciated. Take that for what you will.

I seriously wonder if this movie was pulled from television broadcasts in the weeks following 9/11. Since it apparently sucks, it might not have even had to come up.

1. Absence of Malice.

Also known as The Last Movie Where Paul Newman Was Insanely Hunky, Absence of Malice isn't exactly a tour de force of film-making, but it was enough of a parallel to Newman's publicized battles with the press, namely my BFF The NY Post, that he signed on and ended up with what is probably his least-known Oscar nomination. While the entire movie is extremely irritating, namely because Sally Fields is playing the kind of journalist that in real life would end up fired after about two days of employment, and is instead lauded for her tenacity and ability to seduce a 56-year-old Newman, who looks more like MAYBE 40, in his second-weakest decade, it's sadly a highlight of sorts.

Keep fighting the good fight.

I'm not selecting a second movie, because, like the previous decade, my choices are limited, and his most heralded roles are in two movies that don't deserve any sort of recognition - The Verdict and The Color of Money. Newman's Oscar win for The Color of Money is exactly why so many people hate on the Oscars for their politically motivated decisions, and The Verdict is a lame two-star movie that's constantly being labeled a classic for no good reason. I've heard Blaze is interesting, but again - I haven't even gotten into the nitty gritty of the 70s.

I am ashamed that such a noble creature was forced to share screen time with that L. Ron freak of nature.

1. Nobody's Fool.

To me, this otherwise nothing special, mediocre movie is worth watching because it serves as an affirmation for how great Paul Newman can be. It's rather sad that he has such a mediocre cast to work with, the exception being Jessica Tandy in her last film role, but I daresay only a noble creature not of this earth could make Melanie Griffith watchable. I've heard rather nasty shizzle uttered about how the Academy was simply nominating Paul for previous contributions, much like his 1986 win, but I don't buy it. I have a co-worker who remains utterly convinced that Jack Nicholson hasn't deserved any of his Oscar nominations since the early 1980s, and I feel a legit case can be made for that argument, but this is a subtly brilliant performance, and even Mr. Die Hard himself should feel honored for being allowed to participate in the production.

Wouldn't it have been amazing if Paul Newman was in a Die Hard movie? Heart.

2. The Hudsucker Proxy.

Um, you should just watch it to see a 70-year-old six pack that isn't Jack LaLanne's. One of the earliest Coen Brothers' pictures, and very ambitious in scope, it falls short of expectations, but is just gorgeous to look at, with the exception of perennial gawkyness Tim Robbins, leagues away from his badass Shawshank performance. In another highlight, Jennifer Jason Leigh isn't being raped or abused in some way, which is about as rare as Charlize getting through a film in one piece.

We are ALL on to you.

The 2000s are also a sparse cinematic wilderness, and the only project worth viewing is probably Road to Perdition. Empire Falls, a star-studded miniseries that won a whole bunch of Emmys, is kind of lame, but I'm a bit biased, since my primary gripe was how nasty Ed Harris' hair looked. It was mangy.


Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Wading in Shizzle-Infested Bayou Water May Be Just As Sucky as Evacuations.

A walking staph infection.

After the last hurricane fiasco, I decided I was NEVER leaving for a storm EVER again. This past weekend has given me pause to reconsider that statement, but the fact remains that even in the worst flood conditions Crown Point has seen in Mego's grandmother's lifetime (she's in her late 70s), I had access to Diet Pepsi, which MAYBE makes this latest run-in with mother nature more tolerable than the last.

I'm starting to think that my desire to get my birthday ribs (yes, it has been three weeks since my birthday, and NO RIBS) is cursed, because every time I make solid plans to acquire them, Louisiana faces some sort of natural disaster. Despite the mandatory evacuations placed on the area each time, my suspicion is that the fact that this area is under sea level and thus incredibly vulnerable to even a raindrop is a much more legitimate reason for what has gone down of late.

See the trenches? I live there.

In the middle of last week, the Nash Roberts emails start up again, but this time the hurricane named after the 34th President of the United States looks like it's going to make landfall in Galveston, Texas, which is pretty far away from New Orleans. However, Nash cautioned that because the storm was hitting west of us, storm surges would still be a strong concern for coastal Louisiana, as water from the Gulf would basically come churning up into the bayous and flooding everything. It sounded fairly serious. On Thursday, the wind started picking up on the way home, and by the time I had finished watching an inhumanly depressing movie about Jared Leto's ravaged heroin arm, it was blowing about 40mph outside. Big Bear and I sat quietly for most of the night listening to pieces of the house crack and pretending we were Helen Hunt's character in Twister. It was not as comforting as one would hope it to be.

No, no we do NOT.

Driving to work on Friday was very scary. We were getting the outer bands of Ike at this point, so not only are the winds at tropical storm force levels (in the 50 and 60 mph range), the rain is just coming down in sheets. Poor, battered Mariska is wobbling into other highway lanes, and since the lack of power steering wasn't very helpful to begin with, I was pretty rattled when I managed to drag myself into work. My attention was diverted at lunch when this weirdo loud rich Jewish kid took Fatima (one of the hippest cats in existence EVER) and me to a pretentious restaurant in a Marriott. From extensive personal experience, I can tell you that expensive bovine is almost ALWAYS overrated. The chefs clearly feel compelled to mess with the simplicity of the cow, so they tinker with it and make it taste like perfume. It's a burger. If you wanted something fancy, you would have ordered a porterhouse, which in my book is the weirdo loud rich Jewish kid of cattle.

"Burgers? Oh, I NEVER converse with them, we don't travel in the same circles."

By the time I was driving home, the rain had pretty much stopped, though the wind was still whipping around at a leisurely 35 mph or so. What should have alarmed me was the DIRECTION the wind was going, because it was north. As in north from the Gulf to the bayous. Since I have rediscovered a love of photoshopping maps, I have taken the liberty of giving you a general idea of where I live in relation to nearby areas. The following map is of Jefferson Parish, with a grayish dot showing where I live in relation to all the major bayous:

So essentially, I am surrounded by water at all times, and you can see how strong winds pushing up from the south is just horrid.

When I get down to my street, the way south is already completely closed off. If you gaze intently at the map above, you should be able to see a line of water almost immediately south of me. That's the Intercoastal Waterway, and everything south of that is even further below sea level than I am. Based on the number of emergency personnel patrolling said waterway, it appeared that the towns over there (including Lafitte, which is named after the erstwhile pirate from days of yore Jean Lafitte) were already dealing with extensive flooding. The road I live on was already filling up with water, but was still navigational with Mariska. I was starting to think I wasn't getting ribs. The compound looked almost unrecognizable. The backyard/fields were already full of water, and it was getting close to the houses. I gazed warily at the driveway, which was damp, but thus far flood-free.

"Argh, we be getting wet."

For the best possible understanding, my readership would be best served with a primitive map that shows the compound I live on, as basic knowledge of the area will aid greatly in understanding my tale.

On the north and west sides is bayou, which directly connects to the Intercoastal Waterway. The road is to the south. The house that says "E" is where I generally reside, and the driveway next to it with the red "M" is where Mariska usually hangs out when I'm there. The "G" is Grum, Beretta Mego's grandmother, and the "R" is where Mego's Aunt Ronda lives. Note that when she built her house in the late 1980s, she insisted on importing $15,000 worth of dirt to make a hill that would avoid flooding the house. It would be an important decision. Grum's house was directly on the land, so it was subject to the most flooding, and the Emma house was built with a 4-foot foundation underneath, so it was safer than Grum's house, but Ronda's was the place to be. The green slanty lines are the meadow, which is VERY low-lying and is usually pretty wet in a simple rain shower. Oh, and the "S" is a little shed that has this air thing that I use to fill up Brando's tires when they're low. I hope this has clarified shizzle somewhat.

"Emma, your artistic abilities simply dazzle me. There are no words."

Throughout Friday evening, the water rose frighteningly quick. My ribs were a distant memory, and when several of us ventured out to find some fast food (no one wanted to stay away for too long) the road had about a foot of water in it. By the time we returned, it was clear that the flooding was going to be massive, and since we had not had electricity since Thursday morning, there was no way to tell when it was supposed to crest. Thus, it was clear I should at the very least get Big Bear up to Ronda's for the night. My chum Lori very graciously drove up my tiny driveway (which by now was almost as waterlogged as the road) so I could walk through minimal floodwater to retrieve some basic toiletries and my beloved orso. Have you ever walked through nasty stank bayou water that's full of worms? It was colder than I thought it would be, but wormier too, so it canceled out. On my way back to the car, I was convinced I had just stepped on an anaconda, but as I clearly still have a pulse, I'm starting to doubt it.

My driveway.

Although it was fairly scary/stressful, much of the panic I would have been in the midst of was nonexistent because everyone on the compound had been through floods and was very blase about the whole thing. The most common sentence ever was, "I've seen worse." On Saturday morning, no one was saying that. Ronda was in a state of panic, since the water was now only several FEET from her house on the hill. Grum's house looked to have one or two feet of water, and I couldn't see how high it was over at my headquarters. Since it looked like there was a very real possibility that that house was going to see water pretty soon, I took a pair of hip boots and a golf club (which served the dual purpose of aiding balance and fending off snakes) and set off to look at the other two houses and hopefully get my Winona movies off the floor of my room before they were attacked by the worms from Tremors.


Grum's house was indeed flooded, and it felt very strange to be WADING through her garage. I found her lying on a floating couch looking remarkably calm. The first words out of her mouth? "Do you guys have enough to eat over there?" Amazing. Totally my hero. But since her house does not contain Diet Pepsi, it was a moot point. It turned out that Grum's pressing concern was not her well being or that of her husband, grandchild or house. No, she had the retarded Weimeraner cowering on some furniture, and it was very scared of water and needed to get out of that house. I put it on a leash and managed to coax it into the driveway, but as soon as the water went up to her chest, she freaked out and went back inside to her Atlantis-esque hovel. While I considered her plight, I went over to see Mariska, which had water getting dangerously close to the undercarriage, and the house, which was about a foot away from flooding. After Wino and company were safely tucked away on my bed, it was time to rescue the Weimeraner. I managed to get the creature into the garage, where I lifted it by its legs (like a shepherd with sheep), put it into an empty Tupperware garbage can and carried it through the water back to Ronda's. Here is a picture of the DARING RESCUE MISSION:

I don't know why it looks like I have a black veil over my face, but at least you can see the head of the Weimeraner. As a result of my saving her via garbage container, the Weimeraner now follows me everywhere. This is the price of nobility, bravery, et cetera.

I was hoping I could avoid direct contact with the bayou sewage (at this point, much of the sewage system WAS blocked up, so there was legit shizzle floating around, as well as a frequent 12-foot alligator visitor that my chum Cody was on a first name basis with. Big Boy, in case you were wondering. I really wasn't. However, several family members were generously bringing groceries and wading boots to the end of the road, and we had to get over there somehow. So even though my only experience with an oar was on this rowing machine in the basement of one of my many college dorms, I wandered into a rinky dink rowboat with Cody and set off on a mile and a half rowboat ride through human waste. Lori and Ronda followed close behind, bellowing for Cody to slow down because "of the Mexicans." I figured such a statement was a product of an overactive imagination, but I would be proven wrong. Although the initial part of the journey was remarkably drama-free, except for a few small waves that dampened the top half of my pants (and in case you're wondering, when the bayou gets on part of you, even if it's just part of your clothes, you will feel absolutely filthy and tainted until you take a hot shower. A change of clothes just isn't going to cut it.), as we rowed closer to the highway, we began seeing...sketchy people. Not just homeless flood victims, but Hispanic dudes in Fubu gear who weren't carrying belongings, and appeared to just want to wander around in two or three feet of sewage. Clearly they were bad news, and one particularly seedy guy came up to us in the boat:
Mexican: I want a ride.
Cody: Uh. No.
Mexican: C'MON!
Cody: *begins rowing frantically*
Lori and Ronda, who do not give off as much of a badass vibe as we were doing in the other boat, actually had to deal with the Mexican crazy person trying to get INTO their craft. One would assume that Noah and his posse did not have to contend with illegals trying to SUBMERGE their vessel. Chaos, absolute chaos.

Our boats had DIFFERENT animals trying to get on board. Growl.

When we got to the highway, we were BOMBARDED by chaos. There were numerous tv crews down there, though no Geraldo that I could see, and hundreds of skeezy people wearing crappier clothes than I was (I had prepared for the rowing trip by donning ripped US flag pajama pants and a very snazzy football ringer shirt from Ebay, in fact the very one I am wearing in the Weimeraner snapshot above), ostensibly from even lower lying areas. What captured the attention of my traveling companions was not the absolute bedlam that greeted us, but the (apparently) glaring absence of the black population, which is pretty significant over there. My favorite quote of the day:

Lori: Where are all the black people?
Ronda: Looking for FEMA.


Too busy mapping out troop positions in the sand, no doubt.

Eventually we rowed back, though it took three times as long because we were going against the current. Also, Lori and Ronda almost got sucked into a canal undertow in front of the NBC news van, but because we didn't have cable/electricity, we have no idea if the entire metro area witnessed it as well. I developed several very nasty raw sores on my feet from chafing against the size 26 wading boots, and I'm pretty sure that they were directly tainted by the poop water. It is unknown at this juncture whether I am dying, though my mother certainly thinks I am. Perhaps I should get that checked out. As it stands, the flood waters have mostly receded, Mariska has DIED, and because they haven't fixed the wiring in the area, I no longer remember what air conditioning feels like.

Also, Keira Knightley is going to make another run at the Oscar this weekend. Hopefully I won't be surrounded by shit and I can attend the proceedings.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Breaking Wind Has A Whole New Meaning - Weenie Enema Meets Gustav.

As most readers know, Weenie Enema has temporarily moved headquarters to the Crescent City, specifically the sweltering bayou south of New Orleans, down the street from the Bayou Barn, which bears an eerie similarity to the hangout Turkey Point in Crybaby, minus Hatchetface. The last several months have been chock full of adventures, including encounters with stereotypical inbred rednecks who derive endless amusement from noose jokes, as well as a random job at a prestigious law firm that hosts pizza parties to boost employee morale, a very noble and successful technique, in my view. At any rate, on August 1, the head of the firm sends out this email reminding everyone to solidify hurricane preparations, because the season was upon us, and tropical storms were already a-brewing in the Atlantic basin. Heavy stuff, though I felt the extra preparedness was mostly an offshoot of post-Katrina neurosis, understandable of course. I conferred with a mentally disabled Weimaraner who lives next door, who agreed with my summation.

Cesar Millan, please help.

The last week of August arrives. I am excited, as my birthday is coming up, and my plans are simple but tantalizing - honey BBQ ribs at Chili's. Also, since I'm very far away from my parental figures, I assume excellent presents are in the mail, including the Collector's Edition of the 1986 World Series and Paypal money for Paul Newman posters. The Monday before my birthday, I turn on my brand new HDTV (my older Japanese television, which I'm pretty sure my mom bought for her art studio around the same time that Hill was trying to get her socialized healthcare goodness going, had developed a rather aggravating habit of opening and closing the VCR door, and then inexplicably shutting off. I had actually devised a technique whereby I immediately unplugged the tv as soon as the VCR door clicked open, and that usually saved about 30 seconds of time, but when it decided to turn on in the middle of the night and scare me shitless with a televangelist special, it was time to go.) and discover that a tropical storm named Gustav is hanging out in the Atlantic and appears to be heading toward the Gulf. Hmm. Interesting.

Goodbye, chum of mine.

When I get to work, I'm greeted by masses of nervous creatures constantly checking and making hotel reservations as far as Memphis and Atlanta. For some reason, and perhaps it's because of the rebel in me that never lurks far from the surface, every single lawyer, paralegal et cetera was convinced I would never evacuate. Not sure when rebel got confused with stupid, but if I had a nickel for every time someone frowned in concern at me and said, "You know, you should really consider getting out of here if that storm looks like it's heading our way," I would have $4.35. Because apparently I have a reputation for being Gary Sinise in Forrest Gump.

I'm not sure how a friendless, legless alcoholic would evacuate anyway, but the comparison stands.

When I get back to the bayou compound, I decide to at the very least confer with some of my associates to measure their concern and hurricane plans, and am pleased when my famous taxidermist friend breezily says, "Oh, we'll drop off my exotic ducks and go to Houston." As this could mean a second rumble at Minute Maid Park with braindead Astros fans who still haven't gotten over their inability to sign my center fielder to a long-term contract, any feelings of anxiety were assuaged, and I go back to reading my amazing, incredible feral cat warrior books.

I'm not kidding. Everyone needs to read these literary treasures, especially the second miniseries "Warriors: The New Prophecy."

One of the paralegals at the law firm has a boyfriend who works on the oil rigs in the Gulf, and his company hired this locally famous hurricane expert Nash Roberts as a consultant for the hurricane season, so by the middle of the week, everyone is getting two or three emails from this guy a day documenting Gustav's projected path and current status. Also, I was informed that every single hotel up to Little Rock was booked up, and yes, when I see "Little Rock" and "hotel" in the same sentence, I too think of Paula Jones. Friday, the day before my 24th womb exit anniversary, was insanity. Bobby Jindal - who I HEART and wish he had been the governor of New Jersey instead of that crazy gay American who likes to get nookie at the Alexander Hamilton Rest Stop (a really sketchy place that has a Roy Rogers that somehow successfully operates without their excellent chicken nuggets. Go figure.) - had taken massive measures to ensure a smooth evacuation if there was one, and the National Guard was swarming all over the CBD (Central Business District, for the uninitiated). A good percentage of buildings had already boarded up their windows and doors, and every publicly accessible television had swarms of people around it glued to the Weather Channel. Creepy.

*wolf whistle*

My birthday arrives, but the ribs do not. Since projections had Gustav making landfall roughly half an hour away, pretty much every business on the West Bank had shut its doors by noon, Chili's included. It was very, very sad, though I did manage to locate a po' boy establishment that sold me a Vitamin Water. Sigh. In the afternoon, it's officially decided that Bobbie Ragsdale, Beretta Mego and I will depart at 10 or 11pm for Houston, since Sugar Ray Nagin has issued mandatory evacuations for pretty much every parish in Southeast Louisiana, and despite his hyperbolic rhetoric ("THIS IS THE STORM OF THE CENTURY!"), it seems foolish to stay, especially since my current residence is below sea level. Traffic had been absolutely insane for the past two days, and this seemed like the right time to go, especially since 4am was when the contraflow would begin on the interstate. Two weeks ago, I couldn't tell you what contraflow was. I would probably have assumed it was the opposite of a period. For those who have never had to evacuate, it means that both sides of the highway go in one direction, in this case AWAY from New Orleans. And you definitely don't want to be anywhere near the city when that shizzle gets underway.

You are not ribs. Sniff.

To make my tale understandable to the masses, I have taken the liberty of drawing a set of maps. The most direct way to get to Houston is on Interstate 10, which runs through New Orleans, goes west through several major cities (Baton Rouge, Lafayette, Lake Charles and Beaumont) and then goes right to Houston. If there's no traffic and you're going at a 75mph clip, you can make it to Houston in 6 hours. That is not what happened this time.
This is essentially where I-10 is in relation to New Orleans and Houston. NOLA is obviously on the right, and Houston on the left, though technically it's further west and that left dot is more likely Beaumont:

On my Paint thingy, I had the highway red. I have no idea why it's gray, unless it KNOWS highways are gray and just wants to keep it real. You decide.

My theory was that we should just GO on I-10. It would probably get pretty crowded towards the early morning, but it was a direct route, and traffic was fairly inevitable. Bobbie Ragsdale had a different idea. There is a smaller highway called 90 that runs basically parallel to I-10, but to the south on the West Bank. Halfway across the state, it intersects with I-10 in Lafayette, and Bobbie was a strong proponent of bypassing potential traffic jams in New Orleans and Baton Rouge. So off we rode on Highway 90. Here is a picture of the previous map, but with the addition of 90:

I successfully made 90 pink, which begs the question - WHY ISN'T I-10 RED???

The 90 portion went swimmingly, with minimal traffic. In fact, the only qualm with taking this route is that it went directly through the area most likely to get hit by Gustav, so there was tons of opposing traffic, all of which seemed to be screaming, "GET OUT! ARE YOU NUTS? IT'S COMING!" I bravely ignored it and drove on. However, trouble was on the horizon, and I'm not talking clouds. When we get to Lafayette, the ramp to I-10 is closed. No mention of this on the radio, or why one WOULDN'T want their citizens to be able to, you know, drive AWAY from a potential hurricane, and we're forced to go north. At this point, I'm getting kind of tired (it's 1 or 2am, and Emmas need a lot of sleep as a general rule), so in Opelousas, I make a fateful decision - I purchase two weird Community Coffee mocha drink things. It would prove to be a grievous error in judgment. You know who also has a propensity toward grievous errors in judgment?

As we continue north, we're met with a growing, gnawing problem - every single road, small and large, is closed to the west, usually with a cop car parked in the middle of it. This is proving to be an enormous inconvenience, and none of the policemen seem to have a clue how far this BLOCKADE stretches for. Finally, Bobbie Ragsdale has enough and just drives around one of them. I am forced to follow, and feel rather criminal, but since Bobbie is in the Army, the chances of anything coming from this action seem minimal. Oh, I should also mention - Bobbie has to report to Fort Polk on that Monday because he was being deployed to Iraq in a few days. Lots of drama.

Iraq, meet BRags.

Once again, we're going at a pretty fast clip, though we probably lost two hours in there. I noticed during a period where I had lost sight of Bobbie (and my car made a scary noise) that my cell phone signal was nonexistent. This would prove to be VERY important later on. The coffee drinks had done their worst, and since Louisiana didn't think to keep the public restrooms open, I managed to leave some brown markings on the backs of several gas stations. Serves them right. Also, it didn't take long for Bobbie to make a huge directional faux pas that took us 20 minutes away from Fort Polk, which, if you're wondering, is rather out of the way. Here is a new map that shows the wrong turn that could have been avoided if Mego hadn't been sleeping or if I had decided to call Bobbie and ask why we had been traveling north for an hour:

Just looking at it makes me exhausted all over again.

Finally we righted the course and got into Beaumont, Texas. I had been given a driving reprieve in West Louisiana and felt a bit more refreshed than, say, Bobbie, who didn't get much of a break at any point. At this juncture, it was around 7 in the morning, and we finally caught sight of the elusive I-10. It was pretty packed, very close to bumper-to-bumper, but was moving a bit. My stance was to take it. Beaumont is about an hour east of Houston, and although this traffic meant it would take considerably longer than that, at least this road was assured of being open. Bobbie had another idea. Our goal was to get to Mego's mom's house, which is northwest of downtown Houston. To get there involves negotiating with three major highways, and traffic is always a problem there, even in non-hurricane situations, so I don't fault the logic of BRags' plan. He thought that instead of going west on I-10 we should go NORTH for awhile, bypassing the major arteries and then go west and approach from the north. However, something very, very sad occurred. None of us knew it at the time, but Texas had just ordered mandatory evacuations for the three counties directly south of Beaumont. Guess which direction they were going in? Here is a new map with our proposed route in dotted lines, and a bunch of Texans bearing down on us:


We ended up in Cleveland (see above map). It took six hours to get there. I remember little of it, except for an uprising by 12 billion lovebugs that kept flying into my car (my air conditioner doesn't work and it was 96 degrees out) and trying to hurt Big Bear. They were all viciously eliminated, and Big Bear was spared. At some point, we found a road going west that we needed to go on, but wouldn't you know? Blocked off. By about six cop cars and a concrete barrier. Did BRags care? Nooooo, and off we went.

Best. Picture. Ever.
A cop did pull us over and inform us that we had committed a Class B misdemeanor, which I suspect is slightly less serious than a Class A. Or maybe C. The classes confuse me.

So by 2pm (we had been on the road for 15 hours at this point), we were right back in Beaumont, though sweatier and infinitely more disgruntled. This time, my argument about I-10 was agreed to, and once again, we headed toward Houston. For 20 minutes, it was smooth sailing. The traffic had all but disappeared, and we were making excellent time. And then 55 miles from Houston, BOOM! Traffic. Lots of it. Not moving. At all. This time, I managed to locate a news report on the radio. They were of the impression that the traffic jam lasted to Houston, which, if you recall the words three lines up, meant 55 MILES. Although the 6-hour jam north of Beaumont was nothing to write home about, lack of food and water was starting to take its toll. I had packed enough liquid goodness for a 10-hour ride, and I hadn't eaten anything since 8 the previous night. I was also sleepy, though again, I would contend Bobbie was sleepier. Just as I was thinking this really couldn't get much worse, it did. My beloved GMC Jimmy had had enough, and my car broke down on the highway.


Jeffrey Grimshaw got an hysterical call from me, which I suspect made little to no sense, though I managed to get out the fact that Mariska (car, not actress) broke down on a major highway during a hurricane evacuation. Then I discovered more bad news. Apparently when your phone is trying to locate a signal, which it spent a great deal of time doing in central Louisiana, it loses battery power. And though I had fully charged it right before we went on this hellish excursion, it was down to one bar. So I screeched, "MY PHONE IS DYING! I HAVE TO GO!" and tried to figure out my options. I wasn't able to contact my parents until the next morning, the interval of which involved my mother calling the Houston Police Department looking for me, who of course already had an APB out for me because of an April run-in at a downtown Burger King. Thankfully, Bobbie and Mego were only several car lengths ahead and had managed to get on the shoulder with me, or I probably would have hijacked a car, robbed a Burger King, and then figured out a way to get all of my crap into the stolen vehicle. AAA seemed baffled about my desire to get the car towed to Northwest Houston. This is legitimately a very accurate transcription of my call to them:
Emma: I need you to tow me to Northwest Houston.
AAA: We can't.
Emma: You're AAA. What are you talking about?
AAA: South Houston is evacuating, so we can't tow you to a place that's evacuating.
Emma: See, NORTHWEST Houston is not SOUTH, and they're not evacuating, so you totally can.
AAA: Don't think so. We have someone who can, but they won't.
Emma: Eat shit and die.

Then I called 911. They said they COULD tow me, but it would cost over $600 and they wouldn't be there for at least three hours. I was pretty sure I could see vultures swirling over my head. My feeling was that I could have fought them off for MAYBE two hours, but not three.

Insert lyrics to "Every Breath You Take."

Admittedly, my opinion of Bobbie Ragsdale had taken a nosedive in recent hours, but then, as BRagsies are prone to do, he redeemed himself:
"Hey, maybe it was just overheated. Let's try to start it again."
It was very exciting, but I insisted that he drive it. I was gracious enough to accompany him, but I was starting to think my beloved Mariska hated me and would be more amendable to a military driver. And so she was.

We got to Houston at 5 or 6pm. Clearly the powers that be thought I had suffered enough, because guess what was waiting for me?

It was a hamburger. A juicy bovine that died for my sins.