Friday, September 30, 2005

Silence is Golden

Thanks to the Red Cross and FEMA I spent the night last night in a Quality Inn motel room at the edge of town in Petaluma. It was exactly a month to the day when I sat in Hattiesburg listening to TV reports on the radio and hoping for the best in New Orleans. Since then, I have been on the road with absolutely no clear direction and almost never alone. My thinking has been completely jumbled and every time I think I have a shot at figuring something out I lose track of my thoughts, I lose direction and I wind up sinking down in confusion.

Walking into the motel last night was such an incredible relief that it is nearly impossible to describe. The people at the Red Cross, especially my case worker, Betty Butler (who happens to have the same name as my mother) were soft and kind and understanding and genuinely helpful. Their demeanor alone went a long way to ease the indescribable confusion in my head. Later, on the phone, I was given the same understanding and kindness when I called to take them up on their offer of a motel room.

When I arrived at the Quality Inn, the desk manager, Jim, was helpful and understanding despite the fact that my California driver's license with its Petaluma address (for a house that is no longer mine) was thoroughly confusing. I explained all the things that anyone who has been reading this weblog already knows, fearing in the back of my mind that I might not be trusted and that I would be turned away. Instead I was accepted and treated with genuine kindness and compassion. On the Quality Inn website there's a page of information on the things that different folks around the country are doing for evacuees. There's some good stuff going on out there, but I'd like to add my thanks for my experience here in Petaluma to the list of kudos.

Entering my room I let out a huge sigh of relief and sank into the soft bed. It was then, for the first time in weeks, that I felt like my brain could open up and I might be able to figure this whole thing out. The room is quiet and I can meditate without the fear of chiggers. The motel even has, what has become the Holy Grail of my travels, WiFi, so I can get back to managing the New Orleans evacuee connection emails with greater ease, efficiency and accuracy. The room is actually quiet and sane enough that I might even be able to record some new Blues Routes episodes and begin to feel like I have a purpose again.

I am profoundly grateful to EVERYONE who has been kind to me on this month long journey, but right now I am most grateful to these strangers in my old home town.

I remain one of the truly lucky ones and I am fully aware of that fact.

Good People Doing Good Things

There has been a lot of noise about inefficiency and waste in the Red Cross system both in this time and in previous disasters, but MY experience has been nothing but comforting, helpful and wonderful. Being on the receiving end of this assistance has definitely turned me into a supporter of the Red Cross from now on. If you haven't given to their disaster fund, I would like to encourage you to do so by going to the Red Cross website. You can aso find a link to the Red Cross website, as well as a direct contribution link to some of the work we are trying to do at Mercury Public Media by going to the MPM Katrina page.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Andy Warhol Would Love It

So I was reading some commentaries on The Huffington Post when I caught a line about the horrible nightmare of not being "Googleable." I figured it might be interesting, fun and conceivably even enlightening (in a thoroughly self-involved kind of way, but then the very existence of my - not one but two - blogs should be proof positive of the narcissistic reality of my life these days) to find out what Google provides on me.

I was really quite pleased to discover that the first thing that comes up is my profile at the public radio website PRX because the work I am trying to do in radio is at the top of my list of interests and I was happy that Google strangely seemed to agree. What was strange was a link that shows up on the second page of listings (after the long list of other Thom Butlers out there). It's a recent article from Petaluma's weekly paper that discusses various blogs of note to Petaluma's "techno-savvy" populuation. At the very end of the article, is a paragraph on me, my travels to New Orleans and this blog.

So here we have finally plunged into a sort of infinite loop of mutual infatuation; an online article about this blog that is now being referenced by this blog.

The main thing to remember, I'm afraid, is that none of it matters a damn.

Monday, September 26, 2005


I was sitting there at your table
A face that was unfamiliar
and unnecessary

I was
in the way
a glitch in the sub-routine
of your morning breakfast ritual

You didn't recognize me
as you moved in on the spot
where I was sitting
without so much as a smile
a handshake or
a kiss my ass

I don't look local
despite having
lived in your town
shopped in your stores
played with your children
and drunk beer next to you
for more than
five years

My reality

I don't look

I don't look

I don't look

I bear no indication that
a month ago I escaped the
whirlwind with
only the clothes on my back
my friend's van
and a shaggy dog named
or that everything
I own is in that little white
car sitting by the curb

I am back in your tiny
town for only one reason

I have no other place to go

I am not your
weekly charity case
for I don't bear the
expected complexion
and I don't meet your
designated criteria

You probably sent a donation
to the Red Cross
Or the United Way
Or maybe even the
New Orleans Musicians Clinic

But you won't buy me a cup of coffee
Offer me a seat at your table
or ask how I'm doing

Like me
You didn't vote for George Bush
But the redneck Tennessee Republican

A guy I met while buying beer at
Freddy's Bar Grill and Drive Through Package Store
(no liquor no guns and no bad attitudes)
on the side of a mountain road through
Cherokee County Tennessee

He was
more friendly
more kind
more interested
more real
and more polite
than all your liberal
pretensions are capable
of even imagining from
inside that
carefully constructed
perfectly manicured
safely insulated

"I hope your people are all right"
he said

"Thanks" I said

We both smiled
as I patted him on
the shoulder

The moon was nearly full over the mountain
Fog drifted low on the highway
I was headed east

Sunday... Funday

With apologies to The Bangles... I LOVED Sunday because it was my Fun Day.

It started off at 6:15 am when I got up and got out of Petaluma to meet up with my kids at Crissy Field in San Francisco for our 11th consecutive running of the Race for the Cure. I'll have pics from that soon (I'm SUPPOSED to have them already, but my personal photographer didn't deliver). Considering that I haven't run more than twice in four months I was relatively happy with my 36 minute time on the 5K course even thought that turns out to be over 11 minutes a mile... boy am I outta shape!

The first time I ran that race was October 1995 just shortly after Marsha was diagnosed with breast cancer. my daughter, Jen and Marsha's son, Caleb went to the race with me (that year it was held on a great course in Golden Gate Park) and they walked the 1 mile course while I ran the 5K (considerably faster than I did yesterday). I will always remember coming around the concourse past the Asian Art Museum and seeing the two of them rounding the corner towards me. One of those incredibly small yet infinite moments it is one of the great memories of my life. I was originally expecting to miss the race this year for the first time since I started running it, but Katrina changed my plans and I was able to surprise Marsha's kids (Caleb and Lia) by calling to tell them I was waiting for them down by the Bay.

After yesterday's race I made my way out of the Presidio and over to nearby Fort Mason to check out parts of the San Francisco Blues Festival and to try and find some semblance of New Orleans overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge. It was one of those absolutely perfect early fall San Francisco days with bright sunshine, cool breezes, light whisps of fog over the bay and music in the air... And food... boy oh boy there was food.

My food of choice was the first Creole food I've had in over a month! Courtesy of the wonderful people from TJ's Ginergerbread House in Oakland I wound up with a heaping plate of Jamblaya (chicken, shrimp and sausage), red beans and rice, salad and "sassy" cornbread. It was as close to home as I have been since I packed the van, filled up with gas,loaded up Roxanne and headed out of town exactly four weeks ago. And when Mavis Staples came on and sang "God Is Not Sleeping" for "the folks from New Orleans," and then followed it with a joyful, rip roaring version of "When the Saints Go Marchin' In" I was ready right then and there to WALK back across the country and into my home.

It was a good good day and one I have needed for a month.

Saturday, September 24, 2005


With soft french music on the stereo, fabulous espresso and french press coffee and beautifully crafted, incredibly tasty french pastries, I have found in Della Fattoria, on the boulevard in downtown Petaluma, my first safe place to land in a week. And it has Wifi too!

I don't know how much longer I'm going to be in Petaluma. I was originally planning on leaving for Los Angeles tomorrow, but there are a few things I still need to do here and some places where I might pick up a little work (and some very much needed cash). The biggest thing I find that I am missing is a sense of quiet, softness and sanity, but now that I have found this lovely bakery/cafe, I have at least found a way to touch on the peacefulness I need to keep going.

It's sort of like when I was a kid and we would play hide and go seek in the neighborhood. Once you finally found a way to sneak around and keep out of the range of "it" you had to make it back to the base and shout "Safe!" Right now... for at least a couple of hours, I am indeed feeling a little bit safe.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Better Days

I've gotten a bit tired in this process and there are many days that I feel are just not all that interesting and not particularly encouraging and so I simply don't get around to talking about it... or FEELING like talking about it.

BUT... I've started getting emails and comments from people wondering what's going on when I don't post something, so in some weird way I am actually starting to feel a need to respond so people know that at least I haven't dropped off the planet.

An old song from The Boss strikes a chord for me today. It's a song from ten years ago when it really felt like there were some better days really on the way, but these days I am willing to take encouragement in any place I find it and today I'll take this old song (and it's memories) from the boss.

This morning, I found myself feeling a little more stable and a little more sane despite the ongoing chaos and confusion. I spent four hours writing and the rest of the day tending to details (mostly boring) that need to be dealt with. Money (and the work I need in order to GET money) are the major concern right now as there is very little coming in and there was little or nothing to spare.

At least I'm not leaving Houston this evening... like some folks I know.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Synchronicity 2

I had a particularly frustrating morning today, with no way to get online until making my way to a friend's house late in the morning.

The coffeeshop where I have paid to get WiFi in Petaluma had their service down, and frankly it's not a particularly inviting coffeeshop anyway. The whole morning (combined with the daunting task of dealing with my car which hasn't been moved since before I left for New Orleans six weeks ago)and the imminent approach of Rita to The Crescent City led to a sinking feeling as deep as (really deeper than) anything I have felt since I left New Orleans on August 28.

Today, for the first time in all of this, I am feeling alone and without any real resources. My contact points have vanished and I find myself back in Petaluma with no sense of what to do, where to go, or who to be.

Then iTunes comes to the rescue once again and Sting brings me the Word of the Day from an album that is ten years old.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Life in the Bush with Ghosts

Like the imagery of the previous post, I find myself moving through the day with glimpses of ordinary things that carry water-logged baggage from The Crescent City.

Walking up the hill of California Street to Grace Cathedral... I pass a gate (actually two matching gates) on an apratment building. At the center of the gate, arranged in a large crescent are two dozen fleur de lis.

As I leave the church, a church I have attended on and off for nearly 30 years, I notice for the first time the ironwork fencing along Jones Street... Again... fleur de lis.

I drop to the bottom of California Street to catch a ferry boat across to Larkspur and back up to Petaluma... It's one of those very rare and very perfect days on the bay. I can stand outside on the front deck of the boat in my shirtsleeves and not freeze my ass off. There are dozens of beautiful sail boats, loaded with beautiful people, on a placid and lovely bay. Somewhere just past Angel Island, with the Golden Gate Bridge still visible in the gap betwen the island and Tiburon, I suddenly have an image of the dark waters and bodies rising up from below.

I pass the strange facade of San Quentin as it stands on the incredibly valuable real estate of eastern Marin County and I think of the large population of African Americans in that prison and the large population of African Americans left to suck it up and suffer in that prison of the Superdome.

I get off the boat and walk across to Marin Brewing Company for that wonderful combination of lunch, beer and WiFi. On bright sunny Sundays like this, they also have music, but the keyboard player is taking a break and Mac's voice is pumping from the speakers.

I go inside to get online and to order a cask conditioned Porter, the TV is showing the Broncos and the Chargers... all I want to know is what are the Saints doing?

Ghosts... filling unexpected and surprising moments. I saw a preview for some new network show about the paranormal the other day. The line that stuck with me was, "Houses aren't haunted... People are."

Deep Water

this is an audio post - click to play

Saturday, September 17, 2005

What Am I Doin' Here?

Another synchronistic iTunes moment came through just now when a recording I produced twenty years ago popped up out of the blue.

With a planned trip to Grace Cathedral this weekend and a rather strange sense of displacement here in my former town, there couldn't be a more appropriate question for the moment than, "What Am I Doin' Here?"

Ironically, I was supposed to be meeting the singer/songwriter of the song next weekend in New Orleans when he passed through town on a concert tour.

Guess that ain't gonna be happening... Ironically, that's the one thing in all of this that seems just about right.

iTunes, Individuation... and Home

As I understand it, Jung's concept of Synchronicity is fundamentally based on the idea that if you are deeply engaged in a process of individuation you will not only find, but in some sense create, links between seemingly unrelated, even seemingly magical, events. Durinng this very turbulant time, I am finding this to be a fundamental reality of my life.

One of my favorite ways of experiencing synchronistic messages is through the shuffle feature in iTunes. By not planning a series of carefully selected songs, but instead allowing the nearly 4,000 songs I have in my collection to present themselves at random, I regularly run into quite enlightening surpirses.

One fo those surprises just happened to me with a song from Crescent City gift, John Boutte. His joyous rendition of "Didn't It Rain" provides an unexpected light and hope for me this morning as I sit in a formerly familiar coffeeshop in a formerly familiar town feeling more out of place than ever before.

Of course, you can have the same experience by keeping your ears open to the musical soundtrack that runs through our daily lives - on the radio, in the elevator, and at the coffeeshop - and noticing where things connect. For me... I just took off my headphones and ran smack into Bob Dylan singing my life across the canyon of 40 years... "Something is happening here, but you don't know what it is, do you... Mr. Jones?"

Friday, September 16, 2005

A New Day... A New Direction... A New Life

Yesterday was the day I set three months ago as the moment when, with my life pulled together, I would ask (again) for Marsha to marry me. It was planned, in true romantic form, for the top of the Empire State Building... Magic!

Yesterday, instead, was the end of our 17 and a half years of relationship.

Almost exactly ten years after her first treatments for cancer, ten years after I spent every day going to doctors and evaluating the various proposals for treatments, being Marsha's driver, her second pair of ears, her secretary and her backup brain. Ten years after I spent a year of my life helping to keep her alive; cooking for her, driving for her, tending to her while she sat with life-threatening, soul ripping chemicals dripping into her bloodstream. Going home with her weak and nauseated, looking already like death warmed over, but really only starting out again with a whole new life. A life that grew strong and smart and healthy and lovely again. A whole new life that ultimately came to the point that it was always leading to, a life without me in it.

Ironically, yesterday was a similar day for another love of my life, my city, my home… New Orleans. In the same manner as before, doctors and other learned folk are presently swarming all over my sweetheart's body, examining her vital signs, evaluating her potential, and proposing various forms of dangerous and unpleasant solutions to rid her of the cancer that is stealing away her life. My new love currently lies broken, dangerous chemicals running through her bloodstream, her once lovely features looking ugly, haggard, chopped off and dead. But I've already been through this once and I have faith that there is life on the other side of the darkness.

New Orleans was already a Magic city, rich with culture, food and music; full of life. Every night a night for dancing. Every day filled with something new to find. While she is sick now, she won't be that way for long, and I plan on helping her come back to life. Back to a life even more exciting, more dynamic and more vibrant than it was before.

Count me in docs… I've got experience with this kinda thing!

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Fay Wray... 5:02 pm

We were supposed to have a date tonight... But I'm not there... and neither are you.

There's only 8 minutes and 40 seconds of anything else to say.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Fog Brain

I have a splitting headache this afternoon. I don't know if it's because of the pilsner I drank at lunch (THAT'S a story in and of itself), the DECAF coffee I drank at breakfast, or the simple fact that there are too many choices and no distinct clarity running around in my brain.

My schedule and plans change several times a day, yet two weeks after arriving in Bubbaville I am still here in the land of no beer and little culture without a really good sense of what to do next. At one moment I am online booking a flight back to California to get things together and raise some funds to use for our "Musicians in Exile" project, then Mayor Nagin comes on the TV and says that he might be willing to let people back into the city in a few days and I think, "Well, maybe I should stick around here." Then my brother in law, who is seeking to be of all the help he can be, asks me to come down to Florida where I can maybe pick up some work. But that mostly feels like a distraction, as practical as it might be.

My friend Tom Morgan calls it Hurricane Brain in his daily email Hurricane Log and that seems like as good a description as I've heard.

The last few days have been particularly difficult as I have tried to do work and as I get reports from people scattered to the winds who are beginning to pull bits and pieces of their lives back together, in some sense, in the places where they have been scattered. Sunday night I even saw a news story about Molly's being open and I so desperately wanted to be there.

The whole experience reminds me of the Catholic concept of Limbo... neither a bad place NOR a good place... just a stuck place. Better than hell... not as nice as heaven.

I've already been to heaven... I know what it's like... and I want to go back.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Shower the people...

Every one of us, at some point in our lives, has moments that change us forever. We experience this change so profoundly and so deeply that it feels like a mutation; an alteration in our basic DNA. This is one of those moments for me. I will not come out of this experience the same person I was when I got on the Airport Express in Petaluma on August 5.

One of the ways I have been changed is not so surprising and probably realtively typical. It's corny to say, but when I heard this song on the radio this morning it made me keenly aware of the daily ways I have and do miss the boat. It's so ridiculously easy to move through your day to day life thinking of yourself, your troubles, your job, your money worries and your pet peeves. To be annoyed with the guy who cut you off in traffic, the idiot cashier who ignored you at Starbucks or the way your partner spoke to you in the wrong tone of voice. It's easy - incredibly easy - to take for granted the idea that the people you love - your friends, your parents, your children, your lover, partner, or spouse - are there and always will be. But for the people whose loved ones floated away two weeks ago, and for those, like me, whose already embattled partnerships didn't survive the tumult for less poignant and far more mundane reasons, it's important to remember the old saying about the fact that nobody died wishing they had spent more time at the office.

I suspect nobody died wishing they had just one more argument either.

We are a species that likes to fight. People, in general, find it necessary to grapple, argue and defend, territories, positions, and perceived treasure. But after two weeks of my own loneliness and too many hours of watching other's pain, I am ready - after 51 years - to give up the damn fight.

I don't feel badly about the ways I was an asshole when I was a teenager. Teenagers suffer from the ridiculous assumption that they know everything and others know nothing. It's their nature. They are not to be blamed for fulfilling their nature. I don't feel bad about how I behaved at 17.

What I do feel bad about is the remaining 33 years of my life, years when I argued, yelled and screamed at my friends, my enemies, my parents, my kids, my lovers and the guy in the car next to me at the stop light. What I do feel bad about is the ways I forgot to say, "I'm sorry" or "I apologize" or "I'm proud of you" or "Thanks" or "I love you more than I can possible say."

My life has been filled... absolutely FILLED... with lovely wonderful moments, with deep caring, fabulous conversations, good jokes, great parties, fun times and LOVE. I am more thankful for all those times... and to everyone one of you who gave them to me and shared them with me. I'm sorry for not being more grateful, for not being more thoughtful and for not being better at my job. The job of being a human being.

I Love You... ALL... Always.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Dances with Dubya

Back on Thursday, after two weeks without work, and several hundred dollars in expenses (gas is running over $3.00 and Pat's van is not exactly a gas saver), I decided that I would apply to FEMA for some kind of assistance. The process of applying is something I will describe elsewhere, but after switching from my Mac to the required PC with Microsoft Explorer, I was finally able to complete the application after four tries and several hours. The end of the process tells you to check back in 24 hours.

Cut to Saturday morning... I log back on to the FEMA site where I am told that to check my status I must have an ISAAC account. So I attempt to set that up, but fail... twice. The website then directs me to call FEMA to "resolve this problem." I call FEMA and much to my shock and amusement I only have to wait on hold for five minutes while I listen to, appropriately, The Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairies. The woman - Shirley - who I speak to is quite delightful and amazingly non-governmental. I'm thinking, "okay... this won't be so bad." But then, Shirley drops the bomb.

"I'm sorry," she says, "you need the HELP DESK for that, and the HELP DESK has not been set up yet."

"Well," I begin, "when WILL the HELP DESK be set up?"

"Not for at least two weeks."

"So, since I have already put in my application I can't get any help until the HELP DESK is activated?"

"That is correct sir..."

The conversation went on from there and Shirley told me that she thought the system could work a lot beter if the administrators would listen to the people on the front lines. WOW! What a concept!

I get off the phone just in time to hear the new news story that Mike Brown - head of FEMA - has been moved from work in immediate relief in New Orleans, where he seems to have redefined the term SNAFU, and returned to Washington where he will oversee... drum roll please... the APPLICATIONS PROGRAM. That is of course after he takes some time off and has a Margarita.

What I'm wondering right now.. .is whatever happened to the "nation's CEO," as Dubya was so fond of referrinng to himself back in the early days of his administration. I guess, right now, he's just too busy dancing.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Charmaine Needs A Good Song

Charmaine Neville - daughter of Neville Brother, Charles - is one of my absolute favorite musicians from The Crescent City. I first saw her (when I didn't know who she was) at Zulu Fest down by the river on Lundi Gras. Since that time, so many years ago, I have seen her over and over again at Snug Harbor on a Monday night, in Jackson Square during French Quarter Fest, and on the big stage (both alone and with her dad and uncles) at Jazz Fest. She is always exciting, and above all, she is always joyous. A part of every set I've seen (except the one at Snug Harbor, which is a night club) has included a special section of songs and participation by children. She is truly one of the angels of the world; one of the people who shows you what it really means to be a human being.

This story came across the computer screen this morning and it just broke my heart. Frankly, I don't even want to post it, but I think it's really important for the people outside the New Orleans community to get a hint of the personal stories that are actually out there.

Interviewed on NBC last weekend, Harry Connick talked about seeing Charmaine break into and commandeer an RTA bus to transport a group of aged and injured people to safety. That was a hopeful joyous moment. Then, just a couple of days ago, I heard of her more harrowing and horrible experiences during those dark hellish days before that rescue when people in The Crescent City were left on their own and dropped off the chart of American Daily Reality. That was bad enough, but then this morning I got the full report, which you can read here. It even came with a link to a video clip from WAFB in Baton Rouge where she discusses everything that happened to her with a priest in the hospital where she was taken. You'll need windows media player and it's particularly difficult to watch (at least it was for me), but it's worth it. It will help you see the broken heart of New Orleans in the eyes and voice of one of her greatest talents and most wonderful people.

Right now... Charmaine, who has given so many "good songs" to so many people, needs a good song of her own (in case you want to go get it, the song comes off Charmaine's album "It's About Time" which is available in all sorts of places including iTunes).

Oh, Charmaine... I am so sorry.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Gotta Get Behind the Mule...

Like Tom Waits sings on his album Mule Variations, "You've gotta get behind the mule every morning and plow." One of the things that has been making my life a little insane over the last week is the fact that I have really not been able to do any real work. Work for clients, work for my own business, work for myself, or work for my friends who are stranded like me.

Today (well, yesterday actually) I began working on the email lists that Pat Jolly kept for informing people of all the things going on in The Big Easy before it became The Big Gumbo. I have so far spent several hours each day receiving and resending emails to bring people into contact with each other and with the information people need to know who is safe, who is found, and who is still unaccounted for. Sitting here in this little room in Murphy North Carolina, I am finding that I am able to find at least a small amount of meaning in helping out in some way.

I have also, finally, been able to do some work for clients in California. It's not a lot and it's not really profound, but I'm getting my stride back.

The other thing that came up today is that Tom Morgan of Jazz Roots proposed that he and I start a roadtrip next week, seeking and finding the musicians scattered all around creation and recording their "storm stories." This excites me to no end. This is the kind of thing I was born to do and it finally begins to answer the question I have been asking myself over and over and over again for the last week. To quote Tolstoy (and Billy Quan in "The Year of Living Dangerously") "What then must we do?"

What I CAN do is drive a car and run a digital recorder and ask questions and take pictures and seek to understand a little bit better what this great tragedy means for those of us lucky enough to still be around.

So... stay tuned. I've got some work to do and the work is giving me my life back.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Mama's Boy

If, after nearly five full years of Dubya's complete ineptitude in office and basic cluelessness as to the reality of most of the world, there is anyone still wondering about his basic inability to "get it," his dear mother just made it all very clear yesterday when she toured the refugee facilities in Houston. Babs decided that it's "working pretty well" for the folks since they were "underpriviledged anyway."
Can anyone say... "clueless?"
You can hear the story, here.

Of Plagues and WiFi

There are a lot of people on the television (as there always are in times like these) who are calling Katrina a disaster of "Biblical Proportions," or worse yet, they just call it "Biblical," whatever that means. This leads me to wonder if this is some way of distancing from the real truth of the matter; a way of detaching and plugging the experience into some sort of mental spot that links it to myth and story and things we can't ever really understand, thereby allowing for some relief from the confusion, consternation and general turmoil.

What I am feeling these days is a whole other side of this "biblical" reality. Frankly, I'm beginning to feel a little bit like Pharoah beset by plagues (but perhaps it's really just a Yul Brynner complex). Just over a week ago I fled the hurricane headed for New Orleans, only to wind up deep in it in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. There, instead of floods we had big wind with trees crashing all around. After two days of clean up I headed out to Murphy, North Carolina where my parents have a place in the woods, in pursuit of water, electricity, improved cell service, access to TV news, and internet connectivity. This is the place where Eric Rudolph successfully avoided the police for nearly five years until he was found rummaging through a dumpster behind a grocery store by a rookie Murphy cop patrolling his normal beat. You know things are really turned upside down when you go to Southern Appalachia to find "modern conveniences," but that's exactly what I did.

After a couple of days of obsessive news watching, I finally decided that I needed to settle my head. To try and get a little sanity and stability I grabbed my zafu and went out in the woods to sit meditation and hopefully get some of my brain back. I did indeed gain some greater (and much needed) stability... I also got chiggars all over my body (you really don't want to know some of the places they have decided to take up residence, but I bet you can imagine). Last night when I went out on the porch to make a phone call (it's the only place my cell phone works), I swear to God I thought I saw FROGS!

My latest pursuit is the renewal of my ever present quest for free and accessible broadband (preferably with coffee or a beer close at hand), but here there's no such thing. So... in order to try and get work done and find some reasonable connection to the outside world I have to head to the Public Library, or the parking lot behind the Murphy Southern Baptist Church. Believe me... I'm a long way away from Molly's in this DRY county, and I certainly hold onto the hope that my favorite bar is still there.

This is my life right now... waiting for the next plague to arrive and still wondering where I'm going and what the hell I'm going to do.

Monday, September 05, 2005

PDub Holded The Microphone

One of my audio favorites is a man I have only met via airwaves and podwaves, P.W. Fenton, but I love everything he does and I always listen to his fabulous podcast Digital Flotsam.

This week however, PDub has outdone himself. With a short littlespecial edition of Digital Flotsam he has not only expressed a lovely solidarity with those of us (even us short termers) who call New Orleans home (YES... that is present tense on purpose, by the way), but he has also sent out a widespread plea for help. He plays some great music, tells a good story (not very much dissimilar from my own) and reveals his heart, and I found great solace in it as I sit here, still lost and confused (but safe) in the mountains of North Carolina.

With this one move P.W. Fenton has moved beyond being a favorite to being one of my heros.

Give a listen to the show... and then do what he says.

Thanks PDub.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Waiting for a Miracle

Last night, as I watched the fundraising concert on NBC, I was nearly overwhelmed with hope when Harry Connick, Wynton Marsalis, Aaron Neville, et. al. closed with When the Saints Go Marchin' In. John Goodman, who I saw bellow that song from Pete Fountain's truck on Mardi Gras Day a few years back, ripped off his tie and loosened his collar and opened his mouth. You couldn't hear him, but you could tell he was singin'! I looked to my parents and said, "One day soon there's gonna be a hell of a party."

I believe it... and I plan to be there.

In the meantime, food, water and rescue is finally getting to the people left behind and the flood is beginning to drain from the city. The new BAD news is that fires are raging through Riverfront Mall and a few other places in the city, and as a recent transplant from San Francisco, all I can see in my mind's eye are the fires that ravaged San Francisco after the 1906 earthquake. Fires that could not be put out because there was no water pressure, just like today.

What's interesting in that comparison is the article I found from 1907, which calls the rebuilt San Francisco, "...the busiest city in the world." It also makes some other interesting observations that might just apply to The Big Easy today. Mostly, the comparison gives me HOPE.

The other thing that gives me hope - GREAT BIG HOPE - happened just a couple of hours ago when WWOZ - The Best Radio Station in the World - started broadcasting from their website as... WWOZ In Exile.

A week out and things are coming together. Some things - MANY THINGS - are still terrible... EVERYONE from New Orleans is somehow displaced. We are scattered from Canal Street to Mexico City (and probably beyond). We've had a few miracles already, but we're going to need a whole lot more. Yet, I believe those miracles are on the way and the little miracles (like OZ) light the way for the big ones we need. It took some time for people to get the point (but that's for another blog), but things finally seem to be turning in the right direction.

Like so many people in so many of the places where I've been before, New Orleanians are Waiting for a Miracle.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Get off your Asses!

The generally circumspect and ultra-businesslike mayor of New Orleans, Ray Nagin, gets my personal Stop the Bullshit Award for telling it like it is. Dubya, on the other hand, made it to town today on a special trip to "study" the situation and promise to fix Trent Lott's house.

Marcia Ball's version of Randy Newman's wonderful song about another Louisiana tragedy pretty much says it all.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

It's Starting to Sink In...

Watching NBC news and seeing the streets that I have come to love over the past month, and before that over the past several years, it's starting to sink in that I'm safe, but my life will not be the same. Some of my neighbors and friends are safe like me, but some of them are suffering terribly and I feel the most helpless I have ever felt. This is exactly what I was feeling before I left on Sunday. I was afraid that I would be away when the city needed help, but watching a man with his dog crying in exhaustion and wailing over the stupidity (and guilt) he felt for not leaving made me realize that his fate could have been mine.

What I can't figure out is what I need to do... What I CAN do.

London Calling...

By the way...
You can reach me on my cell phone (hopefully) at 707-235-5434 and if not there, on the land line here (my cell doesn't actually have service at the house) at

Now that I'm back online, you can also reach me (or at least leave a voicemail) at 504-273-6186 or 707-703-1474.

Drowning New Orleans

It's not like this wasn't expected.

This article from Scientific American, published 4 years ago in 2001, describes today's situation with eery accuracy.

Higher Ground

2,000 feet above sea level is feeling like about 2,005 feet in the right direction right about now. From what they just showed on CNN, the house I left behind is at least partially underwater and the neighborhood is definitely flooded. The irony to this is that after nearly a month in town, I had finally found a more permanent accomodation, literally, the night before I left. Now I'm homeless and on the road with Pat Jolly's dog and van, but with basically no place to go.

I'm ready to go back though. In a little less than a month, New Orleans has become my city, my home, and I feel lost and confused without her. I'm a New Orleans resident... temporarily in exile.