Thursday, August 31, 2006

Two things that are fully recovered.

Based on my personal experience and discussion with friends. I estimate the the beer, wine and spirits business in New Orleans has more than recovered from Katrina. I heard that over at Tom Fitzmoris's forum these was a healthy discussion along those lines.

Southern Comfort was invented in New Orleans, but first bottled in Memphis. The plantation shown on the Southern Comfort label is Woodland located in West Pointe a la Hache, Paquemines Parish on the west bank of the Mississippi, south of New Orleans.


Constructed in 1843 Woodland survived Katrina and is open as a bed and breakfast. Spirits Hall on the grounds is open as well.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Evacuating FEMA Trailers

With Ernesto out in the Gulf, I began to reconsider my evacuation plan. Our plan had always been to retreat to Atlanta and return as soon as possible it always worked well, except for last time, well you know what happened.

Since we are now living in a FEMA Travel Trailer I have my few remaining clothes in the trailer and my relatively few other possessions stored. I think I might clean out the trailer as much as possible and put at least my clothes in the trunk of the car.

FEMA as usual has come up with a completely dada series of rules regarding the placing and removal of trailers.

We have all heard that FEMA bought several thousands of House Trailers for use in Louisiana, Texas and Mississippi. Many of these trailers are parked in a field in Arkansas, reportedly because FEMA has a rule that says that they can't put House Trailers in a flood plain. The rule is justified because they can't move them out of the way of flood like the more mobile Travel Trailers. I guess they never bothered to look at the NFIP maps which show virtually all of Louisiana south of I-10 is a flood plain.

They did however realize that Katrina was a hurricane and that there could be another hurricane at any time. I guess the four hurricanes that hit Florida in one year was the clue. In order to protect residents of Travel Trailers FEMA decided that Travel Trailers must be connected to the local sewer system, set on blocks, with the wheels off the ground and anchored to the ground with metal straps to improve wind resistance. In order to meet the needs of the disabled many Travel Trailers are fitted with large wooden ramps, every trailer was provided with fancy steps. They are effectively immobile.

In addition to these already severe impediments there are the operational problems of moving more than 100,000 Travel Trailers in advance of a hurricane. Since the paths of hurricanes are so unpredictable there is seldom more that 3 days warning of a storm, just look at the changes in Ernesto's predicted track.

If you assume you have at most 3 days to relocate the 100,000 trailers placed because of Katrina. You need to move 33,000 trailers a day. If you assume you need to drive them 250 miles to safety, one truck and driver could move little more than one a day. If you have two drivers per tow you might double that. If you assume a crew of four could disconnect and prepare 2 trailers per day for travel, you would need 16,000 crews and 64,000 workers.

During the same time, mixed in with the 100,000 Travel Trailers, approximately 1,000,000 people in 400,000 cars would be evacuating. That doesn't include bringing them all back.

Does that make any sense to anyone?

Wouldn't it be much simpler and cheaper to simply waive the "no House Trailer in a flood plain" rule and replace any trailers that might get destroyed?

Monday, August 28, 2006

Martha and Me.

I like my beer in a glass, so we have several kinds of beer glasses from mugs to pilsener glasses. My favorite is the tall pilsener glass. When we cleaned out the house we salvaged ours but unfortunately we also packed and stored them so I won't see them for a while.

I began to miss the little ritual of pouring a beer into a glass and watching the bubbles, waiting for the foam to subside. I decided I could afford the cabinet space for a few pilsener glasses in order to resemble a normal life. Sometimes it's the little things like that that help make you comfortable .

I set out to buy a few cheap pilsener glasses. Has anyone else noticed how hard it is to buy anything in New Orleans? First I'm not spending much money (I think I'm going to need it before I move home), secondly I'm trying to spend it in the city because I think it's the right thing to do, third I don't have any place to put anything anyway. If anyone knows any reasonable place to buy things in New Orleans, I'd like to hear about it.


Eventually I broke down and bought four Martha Stewart pilsener glasses in at the Super K-Mart in Metairie. They are plain clear glass with an etched stripe around the top ($10.99 of 4).

Since that purchase I've been back purchasing a number of Martha's things, including a cute little ceramic spoon holder, a heavy glass butter disk with cover and a floral printed napkin and table cloth set.

I figure she and I now have something in common, her cell was probably smaller than my trailer. I wonder if the stripes are a signal to the other ex-cons out there, a sort of secret signal for the krewe or something.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Rising Tide Report

The Rising Tide Conference was successful, a bunch of people showed up and talked, most even listened. The New Orleans Yacht Club was great and got the air conditioning fixed Just in Time. The Cruise Director was in fine form. The Audio was handled ably by Ashley. Lisa counted the money. The Loud Indian Girl has a blow by blow of Rising Tide. The Main Mollusk has additional coverage. ScoutPrime traveled to New Orleans and reported on the happenings. I greatly enjoyed meeting G Bitch, she has a report on her experience getting to the NOYC.

The authors of DISASTER:Hurricane Katrina and the Failure of Homeland Security were the keynote speakers. They were great, Chris Cooper and Bobby Block spent the day talking and signing books.

Authors of The Wet Bank Guide, People Get ready and The New Orleans History Project have established The Rising Tide Blog.

Steve at Spot Coolers was also great. He was able to provide a temporary air conditioner on short notice and, when the club got the AC running, cancel it on even shorter notice.

A good time was had by all, the Dunbar's chicken was great. We heard they are reopening Monday at a new location.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

That New Trailer Smell

Most people like the smell of a new car. People like it so much companies sell artificial "New Car Smell".

New trailers also have a distinctive smell as well. It not so comforting. It is a noxious smell that irritates the nose and causes the eyes to burn.

News reports have linked it to formylghide, the stuff they used to preserve the dead worms and grasshoppers I dissected in High School biology. If I Recall Correctly it smelled different. I think if anyone were to analyze the trailer odor, they would find it is made up of many things. These things are generally called Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs). Volatile because they evaporate at normal ambient temperatures.

Gentilly Girl posted to that she couldn't live in her trailer due to the fumes. Shortly afterwards I got an email from another blogger asking for comment on formylghide, in response to a news story.

Technically the process is called out gassing. All new synthetic products exhibit this behavior to some extent. Plastics are the most easily identified, synthetic textiles and plastic foams are most common and most voluminous. Virtually every material used in a trailer will have some level of VOCs in it.

The condition is also easy to cure in most cases, especially in summer in New Orleans. It is even easier in the summer in Arizona where humidity is lower.

As Far As I Can Tell there are no absolute levels of exposure which guarantee that every individual will be free of any reaction. The best that can be done is to limit exposure to volatile organic compounds and make sure that all new materials have plenty of opportunity to out gas. One technique is to "bake out" the structure, by running the heat as high as possible, with as much outside ventilation as possible. Simply opening the windows has a similar effect, although it takes longer.

The good news is the the once the trailer is manufactured the amount of VOCs in it is fixed and if ventilated they will dissipate in time. How long it takes depends on a lot of things. One article I saw said the New Car Smell is reduced by 90% in 30 days. At the Geek Diner II the other night I was in another FEMA trailer it didn't have any apparent smell. Today I was in my neighbors unoccupied trailer. It still has the smell, after sitting unoccupied for months.

I have read reports that claim FEMA trailers are especially susceptible to this because of the speed at which they were manufactured and the other trailers do not have this problem. This is simply not true. I was in a new trailer on a dealers lot recently. The smell was obvious and caused my eyes to water. It is likely that trailers sold through dealers have an opportunity out gas while in the sales pipe line. Frequently dealers have their entire inventory open for inspection, so there is the opportunity for some of the smell to dissipate. I do wonder why FEMA does not have pre-delivery ventilation procedures in place. Opening the windows while the trailer is being prepared, transported or set up would go a long way. Informing residents on delivery would be advisable. None of that seems to be happening.

When we got our trailer it was pretty noxious. When I entered after it had been closed up for a few days my eyes would tear. Opening the windows would dissipate the smell within a few minutes. Fortunately we got our trailer during the fall and the weather was mild. We opened the windows whenever we could. I slept in it with the windows open when the temperature was moderate or even cool. Today after several months there is no longer any noticeable odor.

I have noticed that many of the news reports on this issue cite various "acceptable" levels for formalghyde exposure. These levels are not really applicable to trailers. The exposures cited are generally occupational exposure levels and anticipate many years of exposure at those level. Even if someone lived in a trailer for years the level would steadily drop. On The Other Hand some trailer residents may be more sensitive to environmental conditions (children, the elderly, pregnant women) and the trailer conditions are more complex than simply formilghyde. The trailer smell includes a much more complex mix of VOC's.

Monday, August 21, 2006

The Truth about New Orleans

Everyone wants to know the truth about New Orleans, here it is.

The Truth is that everyone here knew that someday the "Big One" is going to land and drown the city. We all hoped that we would be lucky enough to survive until either the flood protection was strengthened or we didn't need to worry about in anymore.

The Truth is Katrina wasn't the 'Big One". The levees, at least in New Orleans, were designed to survive that level of water, especially in the lake. The failure of the levees was a human failure and the Corps was in charge.

The Truth is Louisiana has a morally corrupt political culture based on dividing people and fighting over pieces of the pie instead of working together to bake more pies.

The Truth is New Orleans has been in relative economic decline since the middle of the 19th century and in absolute decline for a generation. Katrina might have accelerated the decline, although it could also have a cleansing and reinvigorating effect.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Adrian, Adrian

I don't think I ever knew anyone named Adrian.


For the longest time I associated the name with Sylvester Stallone's character Rocky Balboa in "Rocky" imitating Marlin Brando as Stanley Kowalski in Tennesse Williams' "A Streetcar Named Desire".

Lately I associate it with Tony Shalhoub's Adrian Monk.
It's a jungle out there
Disorder and confusion everywhere
No one seems to care. Well I do.
Hey, who's in charge here?
It's a jungle out there
Poison in the very air we breathe
Do you know what's in the water that you drink?
Well I do, and it's amazing
People think I'm crazy, 'cause I worry all the time
If you paid attention, you'd be worried too
You better pay attention
Or this world we love so much might just kill you
I could be wrong now, but I don't think so. It's a jungle out there

She calls me Monk all the time, just because I like to line my peas up on the plate or something.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Wrongformation

I though I had invented the word, but I guess not, google has one and only one hit to a PDF I didn't understand (If you can tell me what its about I'd be mildly interested).

Wrongformation is information which is either completely or partly wrong or omits information critical to many people. It is a form of mis-information which is likely to cause people to make objectively bad decisions.

A Current Example.

Recently there has been a lot of media coverage of the Insurance Commissioners efforts to get insurance companies to waive or extend the proscriptive period specified in their policies. He has been apparently successful in getting most of the companies to agree. For that he should he congratulated and he has been doing a lot of the congratulating for himself, after all he is running for office.

Unfortunately neither he nor any of the radio or TV broadcasts I heard have bothered to explain the difference between the Property Insurance which covers Wind Damage and the Flood Insurance which obviously covers floods. The vast majority of the damage suffered in New Orleans due to the levee break is due to flooding. Flood Insurance is a Federal Program and as a Federal Program it is exempt from State regulation. The agreements recently made with the Property and Casualty Insurance companies do not have any thing to do with Flood Insurance.

I think the Insurance Commissioner should say the at the beginning of every paragraph. As far as I know and as far as I can find out FEMA has not extended the cut off dates for Flood Insurance, past their original extension which was for one year.

If you still have issues with your Flood Insurance you still need to do something now.

I hope I'm wrong.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Intersection of Recovery and Despair

John Chase's classic book on New Orleans "Frenchmen, Desire, Good Children and Other Streets of New Orleans". Is a classic, light, lively history of the city. The most famous streets in New Orleans are probably Bourbon and Desire. Desire primarily because of the Tennessee Williams play. Bourbon for obvious reasons, although the name didn't come from the whiskey. Both the street and the whiskey were named for kings of France, the whiskey indirectly.


As I look around town I see a distressingly uneven recovery. Some areas like the CBD or parts of Uptown look and feel like little has changed. Other areas are still virtually deserted. Even in the flooded areas there are patches with no activity, some apparently identical areas with a lot of rebuilding and other areas with FEMA trailers in every yard.

As far I know there is no street named Despair nor a street named Recovery, there probably should be. In the Seventies a few streets were renamed in honor of civil rights leaders, but not too many.


I think it might be time to remember the events of the past year by renaming a number of the streets in the city, especially in the hardest hit areas. Perhaps streets names Recovery, Despair, Katrina and Betsy might be in order. We should start with the atrociously named Lake Forest Boulevard.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Propane, Propane

The trailer runs on propane. The heater, which is not needed much requires it. More importantly the refrigerator requires it. The refer eats a combination of twelve volt electricity and propane. The trailer has two propane tanks and if properly managed, one tank is always available.


If you want to hang out, you’ve got to take her out, propane
If you want to get down, get down on the ground, propane
She don’t lie, she don’t lie, she don’t lie, cocaine
If you got bad news, you want to kick them blues, propane
When your day is done and you got to run, propane
She don’t lie, she don’t lie, she don’t lie, propane
If your thing is gone and you want to ride on, propane
Don’t forget this fact, you can’t get it back, propane
She don’t lie, she don’t lie, she don’t lie, propane

I had some limited experience with propane. Like many people I had a propane powered crawfish boiling rig, I had a propane torch. I used to get the tanks refilled every so often.

The first time I ran out of propane was an experience. It was a Saturday night in December. I didn't really understand how the system worked so I managed to empty both tanks at the same time. It was cold but I had a quilt. I simply decided to find someplace to fill up the tanks in the morning, or find another place to sleep in the afternoon. The alternative wasn't a problem since my mother-in-law had offered to put me up any time.

Sunday morning I woke up, cooked some breakfast and pulled out the yellow pages. Unfortunately this was the pre-K yellow pages. I looked over the listings under propane and began calling. Predictably many numbers were disconnected or no one answered. After all it was Sunday and many people were still not operating. I called several numbers and either got no answer or a disconnect recording. Finally one number answered. It was a on Barataria Boulevard on the West Bank.

I had inadvertently, in desperation stumbled on to a typically New Orleans business. It was combination Brake Tag/Propane/Daquairi/Po Boy shop. I had to see this place.I loaded up both propane tanks, and headed out. I crossed the bridge and headed down the West Bank Expressway. Taking the Barataria Boulevard exit I headed past the former Chinchuba Institute and past the former Belle Promenade Shopping Center.


I soon found my intended destination. It was a small building with a large propane tank in front and a small office where the propane and brake tags are sold. The Daiquiri/Po Boy shop was not open, but is was about only 10:00 AM Sunday morning.

I filled up the tanks and headed back across the bridge. For the next several months I adopted this as my personal propane filling station. I would use one tank until it was empty then switch to the other one. About every three weeks, on Saturday morning I would drive across the bridge and refill the empty tank.
I recently started using to another propane filling station. It's closer. It's in Orleans Parish but costs a little more. I'm willing to spend the extra three dollars (less the bridge toll) to support rebuilding and patronize a reopened business.

But, nothing can equal buying propane at the propane/brake tag/daiquiri/po boy shop.

Hiatus

She and I took an excursion last weekend. From noon Friday until Sunday afternoon I was completely out of electronic communication, even broadcast communication. I'm only now catching up with the rest of you.

One thing happened, in my sloth Tim wrote about trailer life and rain far better than I could ever have.

Go read it for yourself Rain and rainbows.

I'm very jealous. I wish I had his email address so I could thank him properly.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Rising Tide New Orleans 2006

A group of bloggers are working very hard to help New Orleans recover. They have organized the Rising Tide New Orleans 2006 convention August 25-27, 2006.

I am grateful and humbled that this group of passionate citizens invited me to the initial planning. I only started blogging on June 29 , 2006. I had never met any of them so I was flattered to attend the initial organizational meeting held only about a month after I started this blog.

When I showed up at that meeting I reserved my identity and everyone respected my preference to remain private. I appreciate the respect they all had for my wishes.

I should explain why I decided to remain private not for my own sake but because I am concerned that if I (or anyone else) become identified with any group, the "others" will discount me. I have no concept of the "others" myself. As far as I am concerned we are all New Orleanians, in this together, sink or swim.

Although I am not a native of New Orleans, in the more than thirty years I have lived here I have grown to love and cherish New Orleans as a unique place in all of the earth. I consider it a privilege to be able to live here.

The Rising Tide organizers all feel the same way. They are working hard to help our city recover from a near death blow. The breadth of their commitment, involvement and passion is astonishing.

I believe that if all the people who love this city for many different reasons and from many different perspectives come together with goodwill, open hearts and open minds, we will be able to rebuild a stronger, healthier more vibrant city for the future.

I hope many people attend this citizen organized conference and contribute their passion for our home.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

The Raid - Part 5 Withdrawal

Withdrawal

Loaded up, tired, sweaty and relieved, we headed out. Throughout the whole experience we told ourselves that the worst that could happen was that we would be escorted out of town. On the way out of town, we didn't need an escort. We were evacuating (again).

It's now clear that the public story of the city being closed was not quite accurate. Many people came and went. Many people were granted access, either officially or unofficially. In retrospect I wonder if there was any legal way to prevent people from entering the city.

Our trip back to Jackson was quiet, at least for me. We had accomplished our goal. We also confirmed that most of our stuff was fine. All we had to do was wait for the building to reopen or go move it. We were all tired but by the time we got to Jackson we were ready for a bath, a beer, a good meal and a good nights sleep.

After we cleaned up we all went out to diner at Hal and Mal's with some friends. There were no hotel rooms available in Jackson. One of our friends put the three of us up in his house. That was really nice of him. He was leaving for Europe the next day.

The next morning we split up. She drove me back to Atlanta and He picked up the car he had stashed in Jackson when he evacuated his family. He drove back to his family in that car.

When we arrived in Atlanta we unpacked the Tahoe at the office. We went back to the apartment and put the rear row of seats back in then returned it to the rental agency, after taking a few photos for the album.

Conclusions- Lessions Learned

Looking back we learned a few things, should anyone be in this situation again.
  • If you have to go into a similar situation get a vehicle like the Tahoe. It looks semi-official.
  • Wear the uniform (black or navy cargo pants with matching t-shirt and ball cap, black jump boots and a M-16).
  • Act like you belong.
  • Do something, if you don't act nothing will happen.
If we had not made this trip we would have been unable to continue without significantly more dislocation. A number of people likely would have lost their jobs. As a result no one missed a paycheck. I'm very proud of that.

I was also satisfying and reassuring to see the conditions in town. It gave us hope for a speedy recovery. The first up of the roller coaster ride to come.

Monday, August 07, 2006

The Raid - Part 4 Entry

The Building

Lunch was over. We had decide what to do. We had come so far and were so close but hadn't really accomplished our goal. We still couldn't get in the building. We had already decided we needed to start back by 4:00 PM or risk getting out stuck out in the country in the dark. We were burning daylight.

The broken door didn't lead all the way into the building. We stood around for a while trying to get up enough courage to actually break into the building. With all the firepower around I was very concerned we could have a serious problem. We had just about decided to do it. We were looking for a tool. Suddenly one of the building guys showed up in his pickup, with a generator, a pump, lights, and most importantly keys. He let us in.

He apologized for not being able to go with us but he had other stuff to do. I didn't care, we were in and we didn't have to break anything. I was relieved we all wouldn't be shot as looters. Now all we had to do was climb about twenty floors of stairs (in the dark), find some computers (in the dark), gather all the necessary pieces and carry them all back down almost twenty floors (in the dark). Piece of cake.

The building was a mess. It had taken some flood water, not much, only about twelve inches from the water marks on the glass. But the first floor was still very wet and the water had left behind a thin coating of slippery, slimy mud. The basement was full to the level of the first floor, you couldn't even see the steps.

We gathered the stuff we were taking up with us. All we were taking was almost couple of empty backpacks. They held only a couple of bottles of water some flashlights, duct tape and string. We thought we would be able to find anything else we needed in the office. Climbing the stairs was surprisingly easy. We arrived on our floor in about 15 minutes.

When we got to the office we were surprised at how little damage there appeared to be, but it was dark and so we couldn't really see all that well. We began to reconnoiter and to record the damage. We discovered one window broken by the storm, the blind was a twisted heap of crumpled aluminum. I saw the same pattern many times over the next few weeks. It is proof that wind caused the broken window. Around that window there was a lot of paper blown around, but surprisingly little apparent water damage.

Most of the damage we saw came from above. Apparently windows on floors above our office had broken and let in lots of water. Several sections of ceiling tile had collapsed due to the weight of the water. Most of the fallen tile missed the furniture. By then it had all dried out so we couldn't tell very much. Our computer equipment appeared to be perfectly fine, although we would need to power them up to be sure. We were pretty sure we could salvage most of our stuff and wouldn't need to replace our entire office.

We had come mainly to collect two computers, a file server with all of our electronic documents on it and a PC with all of our accounting records on it. These were essential to our continued existence.

Fortunately the computers were in a back room far away from the exterior wall and any windows. Barring a major building failure they would be safe for damage. They were also in a room with no lights or ventilation.

The file server consisted of several pieces and was the biggest problem. The PC was also a very large heavy box. Working almost in the dark we took the pieces we needed a conference and began packing them up to carry down the stairs.

If possible we also needed to remove some paper records including our check books. We gathered that up and packed those as well.

Having gathered and packed everything we thought we could carry, we started back down. We were trying to make only one trip. I'm not sure I could have made a second trip, if it had been necessary.

Hauling the stuff down the stairs was hot sweaty work. We had backpacks and were carrying things over our shoulders and in our hands. We stopped every few floors to make sure we had a good grip and that we wouldn't drop anything.

When we got the the landing on the first floor we stacked the stuff and went to back the Tahoe under the the building canopy. Since there was still water in the street over the curb and onto the sidewalk we didn't want to risk wading to the Tahoe. Hauling the stuff across the slippery first floor was out last hurdle and it took several careful trips but was uneventful.

After we loaded the Tahoe we looked up our benefactor, the building guy. He was checking things out and starting to figure out what to do next. We left him everything we had any of us though we might need, including bottled water, flashlights, sandwiches and duct tape.

Mission accomplished we started back out.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

The Raid - Part 3 Reconnaissance

Checking out the CBD

From Annunciation street, we entered the CBD uneventfully and went to check out our building. It was locked and there were no signs anyone had entered it since the flood, although one of the glass entrance doors was broken out. There was a National Guardsman with an M-16 on the corner. We decided to try to find someone to let us in or if there someone we knew had a locksmith available. We split up and They went to find our landlord. I went on foot to find someone else we knew. Our cell phones were only working sporadically.

The scene in the CBD was incredible. There were military personnel on virtually every corner armed with machine guns. There was private security in force, also armed with assault weapons. There were police from just about every city in the country speeding around the streets. There was even a dump truck in the loading dock at the Federal Reserve cordoned off by M-16 armed guards who politely asked me to walk in the street, around their cordon.

I went from building to building trying to connect with someone I knew. Either they weren't there at all or more hopefully had just left. Since our cell phones only occasionally worked (just enough to keep trying), I kept trying to call people.

I walked up an down Poydras. On of the most surprising sights was the number of people working to clean up the city. Several major Disaster recovery contractors were out in full force. There were crews cleaning out buildings, boarding up broken glass and in some cases sweeping down the side walks. There were many many people around the BellSouth building on Poydras, running in and out. All in all the damage looked manageable, about what you might expect.

As I got closer to the Dome more damage became evident, the first sign was the draperies in the trees along Poydras. As I could see the east face of the Hyatt it was evident that most of the windows on that face of the building had blown out and some of the contents of the hotel rooms had been blown out as well. The adjacent buildings had suffered more apparent damage than those on the other end of the street. As I approached New Orleans Center there was still water in the street, not much it was only about curb depth but is was deeper on the Girod Street side of the building.
I was surprised nobody paid any attention at all to me. I was out of uniform, wearing shorts a Hawaiian shirt, open shoes and no weapon. I had opted for coolness over attitude since I intended to enter an un air conditioned high rise building and carry several computers down almost twenty floors. The standard Uniform on the street was black or navy Cargo Pants, with a matching t shirt and ball cap, and of course a big gun. There were even black helicopters hovering overhead.We gathered again at our building about noon to re-group and have some lunch.
I don't know what comes over people when there is a disaster. When we decided to make this trip She went to the grocery and got cold cuts, and sandwich fixings. Some of the stuff She bought was expected bread, salami, sliced ham, sliced turkey, pickles, tomatoes, lettuce, mustard and mayo. I don't understand what compelled her to buy bologna. I haven't eaten bologna, well I don't know when I last ate bologna. Its sort of like the milk and white bread everyone buys when a hurricane threatens, although if its bad both the milk and the bread will spoil in a matter of a day or so.We opened the tail gate and She made sandwiches for all of us. I don't remember if anyone ate bologna but I know I didn't.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

The Raid - Part 2 Insertion

Infiltration

The pickup went according to plan and we got to Jackson without incident. We had dinner with friends and turned in early. We planned to leave Jackson at 5:00 AM, which was about first light. We had no idea how long it would take or what conditions we would encounter. I was very concerned that we would have enough gas to get back to Jackson that evening. We had only a little idea of how much gas the Tahoe used or how big the tank was.

The trip down I-55 was uneventful. One thing we noticed was the number of military and relief vehicles on the highway, there were a lot of them. It was really quite a sight to see convoys of military vehicles, convoys of utility trucks, loads of equipment all heading to our assistance. I really felt like the whole country was coming to help. We stopped at every gas station that looked open and kept a list. Each time we topped off we increased the likelihood we would make it back to Jackson. Our last stop was in Hammond. When we topped off in Hammond we knew for sure we would be OK.

Just south of Hammond, in Ponchatola I-55 was closed except to relief traffic, we were directed on to US 51. There was little traffic on either road and it moved pretty quickly. I wish Middendorf's had been open, I could have used some good fired seafood.

When we reached Laplace we decided to try Airline Highway, which was just opened for Jefferson Residents, since He was a Jefferson resident we though we could get through. We were waved through, they were more concerned about traffic that looters.

We first went to his house. Although some of his in-laws had stayed behind and they had visited his house and reported it was OK (they even cleaned out the refrigerator). He still wanted to see it and pick up a few things for his kids. We thought that was the least we could do. Anyway his house was sort of on the route we wanted to take anyway and offered an opportunity to regroup. We needed a lot of regrouping.

His house is located close to River Road above Oschener Clinic. We thought River Road was our best option for entering Orleans Parish. We had no idea what security we would encounter and unlike later trips we had no passes. We headed out, She was driving.

Just as we turned on to River Road a small convoy of vehicles with an NOPD car, blue lights flashing, in the lead roared past. I yelled "Follow those cars". She did. As our little adopted convoy sped down River Road She did her best to keep up.

Soon we were approaching the rail road tracks at the parish line. There was a military guard with a Humvee and M-16s. They waved us all though. The silver Tahoe had performed its magic for the first time. We were in. Our next objective was the CBD.

We tried to go down St. Charles. It was blocked by heavy equipment clearing trees. We switched to Magazine Street in Audubon Park. The park had taken over by the military, and the streets were partially blocked. We eventually got through to Magazine Street and followed it almost Napoleon Ave. We turned off Magazine because there were too many police cars the Second District Station. We did not want to be stopped and questioned. We switched to Laurel Street. We got around the police station but the smaller streets were still obstructed. There were downed wires and trees everywhere. We decided to get back on to a major street.

We went back to Magazine and fell into another column of Police vehicles. These were from a small town in Louisiana and I appreciate their help. They were racing around in a column, obviously lost. We followed them at high speed down one way streets the wrong way and had to retrace our steps. Eventually we ended up on Annunciation Street near the old Schwegmans and dropped off their column.

We headed toward the CBD on our own.

Friday, August 04, 2006

The Raid - Part 1 Preparation

Preparation

After if became apparent it would be a while before we could return to New Orleans we, like everyone else, began to try to contact people, in our case family was easy. I have no family in New Orleans. Her family is largely centered in New Orleans, with a lot of them on the Mississippi coast. Fortunately we were able to locate pretty much everyone right away. We were lucky, everyone knew where we were going, Atlanta. We have had an office there for a decade as well as a permanent place to stay.

We immediately decided to temporarily reconstitute our office in Atlanta, until we could decide when to return. Like everyone else we were searching for information. It was hard to come by, for one thing our primary mail server was in New Orleans. We were blind and so were most of our customers and friends, especially if they were still in New Orleans.

We decided it was necessary to recover some important things from our from our office in the CBD. We weren't sure we could get back into town or what we would find when we got there. She is very active in many professional and industry organizations. One in particular was very helpful. They immediately put up a list server with the email addresses of all of the New Orleans chapter members. Using the Internet to gather information and contact with a few people in New Orleans was extremely valuable for connecting with people, a few of whom had been or were in New Orleans. We used Google earth and a couple blogs like interdictor.
A picture began to emerge. It was both worse and better than the new reports. The CBD was not under water and there were roads into the city, we knew people who had traveled from Jefferson to Magazine Street and back. We decided to give it a try. We rented an SUV for its greater cargo capacity and ground clearance. We decided to stage our trip from Jackson and to make a day trip. Since the only road in seemed to be US Highway 51 through Manchac and then River Road or possibly Airline Highway.

We needed help She and I couldn't carry everything we needed plus we thought someone had to stay with the SVU. We enlisted one of our guys. He was in New York. The plan was to fly him to Atlanta and leave for Jackson from the airport.

The day before He was scheduled to arrive we picked up the SUV, a silver Chevy Tahoe. We packed the Tahoe with all manner of stuff, including cases of bottled water, a cooler with cold cuts, canned drinks and a few beers for the trip home.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Fixing the Trailer

I have now had the experience of calling for service on my trailer.

The first time I called was when we discovered that the trailer battery was missing. I hesitate to say stolen, because FEMA might have given it to a more deserving trailer. I can say there was definitely a battery there when the trailer was delivered because the lights worked before we had power connected.

We found out it was missing during one of the Entergy blackouts. Since the battery was housed in a nice plastic box. We couldn't tell it was missing until we needed it. I called FEMA. They promptly gave me the correct number to call for Fluor trailer service. Fluor promptly told me they were transitioning to a new maintenance provider and gave me another number. I called them. They sent someone out the next day with a new battery.

Unfortunately he hooked it up backwards, leading to all sorts of interesting problems. The Refer didn't work (It runs on Propane and 12V power) nor did the vent hood. Neither did the inverter, it promptly blew its main fuses. The lights did work, but they were getting dimmer all the time. In the guys defense although the trailer uses a marine battery but it looks a lot like a car battery. My trailer at least uses an electric color code kind of like a building. In a car the positive lead is red and the negative ground is black. In a house you have different color wires, white is neutral (similar to negative), black or red are hot (similar to positive) and green is ground. On the trailer positive is black and the negative is white with a red connector. Confused yet?I called and the maintenance contractor promptly sent out a real electrician who properly diagnosed the problem and fixed it. He was unable to replace the blown fuses, he didn't have any the right size. I went to three auto parts stores before I found them. The first two were sold out. I wonder why?

The whole experience wasn't too bad, it only took two visits by maintenance and a trip to the auto parts store to get it working properly again, but then I know a few things.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Splish, Splash, Taking a Bath

The Lavatory is only slightly larger than an airplane lavatory, although I couldn't actually find out how big one is online. I suppose I'll try to measure one next time I fly.

I did find this on an airline travel website.
As far as US airlines go, Continental Airlines has some roomier-than-average accessible lavatories on their 777s. These accessible lavatories are 45 inches wide and 35 inches deep. Granted, after the fixtures are installed it's a bit tight; with only 23 inches in front of the toilet and 21 inches on the side of the toilet.
The lavatory in the trailer is 36" x 60" including a 24" x 36" shower. Making the lavatory area about 36" x 36". I have 15" in front of the toilet and 17" to the wide side, including the counter.

The Lavatory in this photo is just like mine.

Taking a shower the first few times was interesting. The ceiling in the trailer is low at only at 76" and I am a little tall at 74". The shower sits on top of the floor, so it is raised somewhat. You actually step up into it. I don't fit, fortunately there is a skylight directly over the shower and my head sticks up into it.

Then there is the problem that my arms are longer than the lavatory is wide. I can't wash or dry my back without banging the sides of the shower or sometimes the ceiling. Because of the limited space I can't dry myself as I normally would, leading to all sorts of contortions to dry my back and legs.

I guess this proves you can get used to anything. I got a back brush and a couple of 3M medium hooks along with a body scrubber on a a string and hung it in the shower. I can now take a shower with only a little inconvenience. One nice feature is the shower is on hose and the shower head can be lifted out and used as a sprayer.

I won't describe the contortions required to operate the marine type toilet.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Excursion: Kiawah Island, SC

In June 2005 She agreed to judge a competition at Kiawah Island near Charleston SC, May 5 & 6, 2006. On August 29, 2005 she forgot all about it.
At some point, I'm not really sure when, She received an email requesting information about her for the program. She seriously considered canceling, but She/we decided a promise was a promise and She needed the break. Anyway She really wanted to do it. It occurred to me that we could go together and get some much needed R&R.

She does a lot of these kinds of things and I don't usually go along because She is busy all the time and I usually end up at loose ends. The parties and diners are a lot of fun though and the people are interesting. Besides there was a beach. I decided to tag along.

Since we were still spending a lot of time in Atlanta we decided to drive to Kiawah Island. It is a ways from Charleston so having a car seemed like a good idea. The competition was part of a two day meeting including judging and annual meeting with an awards ceremony. This was all to be held at the Kiawah Island Resort. We were to have a condominium to ourselves.

Thursday afternoon we had a nice drive through the country. Our route missed Charleston entirely and we only got lost twice. We arrived in the late afternoon, before dusk. Kiawah Island Resort is a gated community with five golf courses, a hotel, miles of beaches, thousands of residences, including condos, town houses and very little else. As far as I can tell there were only two restaurants outside the hotel. Still it is an attractive environment with miles of walking paths/bike trails and plenty of outdoor activities.


When we arrived there was the usual confusion about accommodations but we were soon checked in. Quickly we settled into our apartment. Our hosts delivered a gift basket and a Styrofoam cooler with a load of low country goodies including cook book, travel guide, souvenirs, frozen biscuits, a sack of grits and a bottle of wine.

We went for a short walkabout, located the nearest beach and contacted the Beach Service to reserve beach chairs and umbrellas for our stay.

We planned to get some quality beach time in.

Since I wasn't participating in the meetings, the next day I decided I needed some supplies so I went exploring for a grocery store. The area is very interesting, lots of narrow Oak lined roads with Spanish moss. Very similar to some of the Louisiana coastal areas.

One of the evening events was held a outdoor pavilion with a vista similar to the picture below. It began in the early evening and as the Sun set over the marsh we ate "roasted" oysters and drank beer.

The "roasted" oysters were interesting. There was a permanent oyster roaster, it consisted of a steel plate with a wood fire below. The roaster shoveled fresh clean oysters on the heated steel plate covered them with a big piece burlap and wetted it down. The oysters were served hot and shucked in front of us.

Sunday morning I made a champagne brunch for one of our long distance friends. Our friend had a late flight back to the left coast so she was sort of stuck, all of Her other long distance friends had early flights and couldn't join us. The menu was sauteed grouper, poached eggs with Hollandaise sauce over cheese grits, asparagus, cheese biscuits, coffee, and Champagne or Mimosas. We had a grand time.

She drove and I slept most of the way back to Atlanta.

All photographs are from the Kiawah Island Resorts web site.