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Author Topic: New Orleans and Ivan, from my friend Larry Blake  (Read 1365 times)

George Massenburg

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New Orleans and Ivan, from my friend Larry Blake
« on: September 16, 2004, 06:40:50 am »

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

ABOARD SOUTHWEST FLIGHT  #1157, 0030 HOURS

Hello All:

The short version: I'm flying back to New Orleans to be in the middle of a
killer hurricane that is headed for New Orleans.

The long version: It's hard to find a New Orleanian who isn't fascinated by
hurricanes, this  driven in no small part that there has only been one
hurricane that has hit there during our lifetimes,  Betsy in September 1965. Had
Camille (1969) hit New Orleans with the house-vaporizing ferocity that it did the
Mississippi Gulf Coast, I would be back in Los Angeles. Had Andrew regained its
strength in the Gulf and made a bulls-eye for New Orleans, after devastating
Homestead, Florida, I would never again be doing now what I did then in 1992,
fly back into the city. Had Georges nailed NOLA, as was feared until the last
moment . . . .

But none of the above happened, and here I am. Going back partly to take care
of Manny (my mother to those of you who haven't met her), partly to
experience it all first hand and be a witness to whatever happens, and partly (shhh!
don't tell anyone I'm this crazy) to record some sound effects now and then.

Getting here today has been crazy: I had a meeting to attend to earlier today
in Los Angeles, during which I found out that my usual non-stop flight on
United (leaving at 5 p.m.) was cancelled. My office sprang into action and got me
a seat on Southwest to Las Vegas, and then Las Vegas to NOLA. However, as I
pulled up to Burbank Airport, my mother called me to say that the NOLA airport
was closed. Ahhhhh!!

But, not believing that they would close this early, especially since the
weather was good in NOLA today and closing the airport would rob so many of their
escape route out, I called my brother in law, who told me that he had heard
that not only was it still open, the mayor had said that it would probably be
open until Wed. at noon. "Come home, big daddy," Billy told me.. So I got on
the plane to Vegas.

(A quick aside: a main reason that I'm able to think straight as I write is
that Billy got lumber for my house and put it up himself. What a guy.)

In Vegas, during my two-hour layover, I found out that there was a radio
problem at the air traffic control tower in Los Angeles, resulting in air traffic
being shut down in a three-state area. I was fearing that because planes
couldn't arrive into McCarran airport in Vegas that my flight to NOLA would be
cancelled and after an hour of worry, they called us up an we left 1 hours 40
minutes late. But I'm making it home, something that twice earlier seemed like it
wouldn't happen.

For those of you who haven't been following Ivan, he came all the way from
the Atlantic and has been a hurricane for a strong hurricane for a real long
time. Most seem to shoot their meteorological wad quickly, but this one has let
up very little.

Improvements I've made since Georges: I have a battery-operated television, I
have a cheap mini DV camera. That's the "fun" stuff. During my Home Depot run
only 40 hours ago (I was in NOLA over the weekend, and came back to L.A.
assuming that Ivan would turn east as originally predicted) I got a whole bunch of
clean-up equipment, shovels, tarps. Stuff to hack downed tree limbs.
Hopefully, all of this will stay new and unused in my hurricane kit.

As much as I was looking forward to weathering the storm in my house, I'm
thrilled that Manny and I will be staying in a room at the Royal Sonesta Hotel,
smack in the middle of the Quarter, the most iconic area of NOLA. This is
courtesy of my good buddy Rod, who takes care of the plants there and will be there
weathering the storm. There will no doubt be many stories of bonding with
people in the shelter. I would think that the Royal Sonesta management would
blanche at the "shelter" moniker, it being a top luxury hotel in the city. I'll be
able to get some once-in-a-lifetime recordings of the Quarter (and downtown
NOLA in general) completely closed down.

News flash: Pilot just told us that the skies are clear in NOLA, and we'll be
landing at 2:10 a.m. Winds are out of the northeast at 10 mph. He told us to
look out the window: solid traffic on I-10 westbound. Supposedly there was
gridlock in NOLA most of the day from noon on. Gridlock as in taking six hours to
cover 10 milies that might normally take 10 minutes. This is a main reason
why my mother and I are not going to risk being caught in the midst of a
trafficjam.

Speaking of which, we can see cars bumper-to-bumper on I-10--a continuous
string of headlights, moving very,very slowly.

A friend of Rod's drives a cab and will be there to greet me at the airport
to get me home.

AT HOME: CITY PARK AVE. 0300 HOURS
I'm back home , at which point I started getting my stuff together, but not
only after I played some Led Zeppelin really loud.

I'm going to be checking in on a few friends first thing this a.m.: helping
Rod get his cats to the Sonesta and giving walkie talkies to my friends David
and Mari, going to Swelltone to pick up my Deva (hard disc recorder) to be able
to record all this. Also, buy some last-minute groceries. Then I'm going to
come home to shower and shave and then go pick up Manny.

Word has it that they will be closing the highways starting at noon.

Well, hurricane-force winds are due here by early Thursday morning, Sept. 16.
Forty years ago to the day another force of nature blasted through New
Orleans, an event that I missed even though I lived only a mile away: The Beatles at
City Park Stadium.

ROYAL SONESTA HOTEL ROOM 5151 1640 HOURS
Driving around the city this a.m. at around 8, the city had that unmistakable
eerie "calm before the storm" feel. Empty.

Driving over to Manny's house to pick her up, I called my brudder in law,
Billy, who gave me the first bit of good news we've had in awhile: the turn to
the north that has been predicted since Bush #1 was president is FINALLY
happening, and it looks good that we've dodged a bullett yet again. In fact, a local
weathercaster was heard saying that we were in the clear. Said guy is
definitely guilty of "putting the mouth on it," as we say in the South sports talk. If
Ivan all of a sudden veers to the west and hits NOLA directly, people will be
storming the station.

We checked in at around 12:30 today, and considering that I hadn't had slept
more than a few hours the past two nights, I conked out until a few minutes
ago. As usual, life in the fast lane for me.

I Can't Get Away From Geeky Sound Talk Even If I Try Dept.: The local
channel's reporter on location, trying to explain his weird reaction to the anchors
at the studio, was heard saying: "Sorry, I had problems with the mix-minus on
my IFB."

Also heard on local TV: the mayor of a city near New Orleans said that
looters are "the products of a defective gene pool."

I'll try to send another dispatch later tonight, after I go get some
recordings on Bourbon Street.

Until then, I remain,

red beans and ricely yours,

Larry
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