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.
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.
"EMMA, SAVE ME!"
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.
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.