New Orleans

New Orleans to DC and Back again by Andrea Garland

Monday, September 26, 2005

Hi Everyone -



First off, a HUGE thanks to everyone who has donated to our efforts, financially and otherwise.

Please keep helping and encouraging others to help - our road to recovery has only just begun. I

apologize for not being able to thank each and every one of you individually, but as I'm about to

explain, there have been a few difficulties in the area of communication....



I know, every time I promise I'll be back online soon, it doesn't work out like that.

Unfortunately, these days, solving problems with technology is a little more involved than a simple run to the

store. I expected to have my internet issues resolved by today, but apparently it's going to be

close to another week before I've got a consistent internet connection. Here's the saga in short: I

bought a laptop about a week after Katrina to make getting online easier as I'd been hauling my

desktop computer in and out of the van - not exactly practical. CompUSA in Baton Rouge had all of 2

mac laptops left, so I got the last iBook in stock - which would have been fine if there were more

wireless connections around. However, it turns out that the only practical solution for internet

service in New Orleans is with a cell phone broadband card. So Jeffrey got one of those for me

while on a supply run to Baton Rouge. Turns out my laptop doesn't have the slot for the card, so I

figured I'd get an external adapter while up in D.C. this weekend. Well, such a thing doesn't exist,

so I had to buy a whole new laptop (yes, I now have a barely used 14" iBook for sale - please

contact me if interested as I can not afford to have two laptops!) with the proper slot for the

broadband card. Figured this was the end of the saga.... not so. Jeffrey was sold the wrong broadband

card by the Verizon folks in Baton Rouge - it's not compatible with a mac. This is despite my having

talked to the salesman on the phone while Jeffrey was in the store; we were very clear that this

was for a mac. So today I went to a Verizon store on our way out of D.C. and exchanged the card,

but of course they don't have the card I need in stock so it will be 2-3 days before it is shipped

to Baton Rouge, at which point I will need to make arrangements to get the card from Baton Rouge to

New Orleans.



This is just one example of some of the, um, interesting challenges that arise these days. And

hopefully now you all understand why I haven't been online nearly as much as I'd like to. At the

moment I'm borrowing Leenie's broadband card while we are riding back in the van so I can at least

give everyone a brief update. Of course, once I get the proper card, we still have to deal with

issues like keeping computer equipment charged up and all that good stuff.



Anyway, enough about technological difficulties.



With Hurricane Rita headed into New Orleans, we decided we wouldn't be able to do much in the city

for a couple of days, and as Leenie and I had been asked to speak at the Green Party rally in D.C.

during the big anti-war protests, we hopped in  her van at the last moment and drove some 24 hours

straight there. In a world that is nothing but surreal nowadays, leaving our occupied, broken home

for a fully functioning city extra full of people was yet another measure of the bizarre. We

stepped out of the van right into a full 24 hours of meetings and speeches and marches with a bunch of

wonderful Green Party folk from D.C. and elsewhere around the country. A big thank you to all our

fellow Greens and especially to David and Olivia for letting us stay in their beautiful home and

take more than our fair share of non-toxic hot showers. It took 3 showers before dirt stopped

rubbing off my skin when I toweled off.



We spoke to people about the real situation in New Orleans and about our needs in regards to

rebuilding our communities and our city. We are very excited by everyone's energy and eagerness to help

and look forward to various fundraising efforts and Greens coming down to help, bringing very

necessary items like solar panels and other items to help create a sustainable environment.



It was a beautiful thing to see just how people have tied New Orleans in with the global struggle

against war, poverty, injustice and the like at the big march this weekend - and very

disconcerting. I planned to come to D.C. for the anti-war protests months ago, but never in my life could I

have imagined how very personal it would end up being. It's always been fun being from New Orleans -

when you tell someone you are from New Orleans, they usually get an excited look on their face and

start talking about all the great things they've seen and done there or heard about the city. Now

when you say you are from New Orleans, people get a tragic look on their face and barely know what

to say. I don't blame them - I wouldn't know what to say either - it's pretty much the same as

trying to figure out what to say to someone who has just lost a loved one.



Everywhere in D.C. we saw places collecting money for the Red Cross and so took it upon ourselves

to break it to all these well intentioned individuals that sending the Red Cross money is as good

as putting a match to it. Just in case you haven't caught this bit of info yet, here is what the

Red Cross is doing in New Orleans: feeding the National Guard and the police and site seeing. We

have not seen one Red Cross person doing one thing for any citizen of New Orleans. They do not bring

us food or water (the Salvation Army has done this, tho, and we give them many kudos for being the

ONLY official disaster relief doing ANYTHING in the city of New Orleans) or medical care or

anything. I have only seen two Red Cross vehicles in New Orleans - one perusing our Toxic Art exhibit

outside our house (Jeffrey asked them where they'd been all this time and then told them in no

uncertain terms to get lost) and one by the levy break in the lower 9th ward taking pictures. That's

it. So please, people, spread the word - DO NOT give the Red Cross your money if you really want to

help. They already have millions, and I'm sure that is plenty enough to feed the National Guard.



On top of the lack of services provided by the Red Cross, I'll tell you about Jeffrey's latest

experience with the Red Cross shelter we were staying outside of in Covington (the one we were buying

toiletries and over the counter medications for the residents as the Red Cross does not provide

such things) as registered 'guests.' We left the shelter to do relief work with the Vets for Peace

while waiting to get back into the city. Before we left, we'd signed up for our Red Cross debit

cards, the little amount of money they give you to get by on. These cards took over a week to arrive.

Jeffrey went back to the shelter to get our card and check on Daniel who was still there and look

for our two missing cats that escaped out of the tent and into the woods. Upon driving up to the

shelter, he was stopped by a sheriff who informed him that he was not welcome on the property.

Apparently someone forgot to inform us when we left that once you leave the shelter you can not

return, and that if you set foot on the property you will be arrested. That's the kind of thanks you get

for leaving to help take care of others. And a very nice way to keep people victims - we'd been

trying to help some of the shelter residents get back home - they have FEMA checks to go pick up,

but no gas money to go get the checks so they can cash them and buy gas to get home. But they aren't

allowed to leave the shelter. It's a disgusting and abhorent Catch-22 situation designed to keep

people victims and prevent them from helping themselves or others.



So now we are on our way back to New Orleans - Jeffrey stayed on through Rita and was apparently

spotted on '48 Hours' as 'the last man standing in the Bywater.' While parts of the city reflooded,

it was in areas still completely abandoned. Other than some wind and rain, the Bywater fared well,

as we expected. Our hearts go out to those in other areas who lost their homes and businesses to

Rita and we wish you a speedy recovery.



I heard today that NOPD has established its own checkpoints after the National Guard checkpoints

into the city - that should add another level of 'fun' to getting into the city. I also heard from

Jeffrey today that all the French Quarter now has power, along with the Central Business District.

We're glad to hear that the city has its priorities straight - making sure that corporate

interests are being well taken care of. Meanwhile, there is still nothing being done in our neighborhood

and many others. Leenie cornered a worker for Entergy last week who explained to her that there are

currently no plans to restore power to our neighborhood. Get that... NO plans. Nor have we heard

anything about if and when residents will be allowed to return to our area, still cordoned off with

bales of razor wire. Most of the houses in our neighborhood are pretty much fine... and those that

were flooded are in more and more danger of becoming inhabitable as the mold continues to grow,

unchecked. If people were allowed back in they could be cleaning their houses up, saving them from

the toxic mold - but no, I'm sure the developers and corporate interests have better plans in store

for us.



Meanwhile, we are ready to roll back into town and continue our relief efforts. Food Not Bombs

will continue feeding people and delivering food and other supplies during its mobile runs around

town. We are working on setting up computers and free internet access to help people apply for their

FEMA aid and reconnect with friends and loved ones. We hope to be working on setting up solar

panels and other sustainable technologies to keep us from being so dependent on hard to come by fuel

to run generators to keep a few lights on and keep people in touch with the world. BTW, if you work

for FEMA you get free fuel. If you are merely a resident of the city, you get... well, if you can

you get to drive somewhere outside the city and pay for fuel and then hope you can get back into

the city.



Joe and his friend are on their way back down from Massachusetts with another truckload of

supplies - food and water and things to clean with. Joe is one amazing fellow, and a big thanks again to

Nicky in MA for helping gather these supplies. Joe and his friend will be staying with us for a

week and helping out - we think this week more people will start to return to the neighborhood,

permission be damned - and so we will be ready to help them start cleaning up the mess and introduce

them to the finer points of existing without power or drinkable/bathable water and with military

and police constantly patrolling the streets.



With any luck, I'll be able to start bringing you all daily updates once that new broadband card

arrives and is retrieved from Baton Rouge.



By the way, Algiers, where our city council women - Jackie Clarkson - lives in a gated community,

has had power, drinkable water and cable TV for the last week or so. Hey Jackie - what about us?

Can we all come live with you?



Oh, one more bit about upcoming plans - in a couple of days Jeffrey will be driving to Dallas to

get Sylvester Francis, proprietor of the Backstreet Cultural Museum in the Treme, home of most of

New Orleans' cultural history. Sylvester has been pretty much stranded in a hotel in Dallas and is

eager to get back into his home and the museum and establish his presence. We look forward to

working with him to try to figure out what to do about all the African American neighborhoods  

disbanded and dispersed and otherwise wiped completely out of existence, how to bring back the soul of

our city.



In case this email is too upbeat, I'll leave you with some details of my last experience in New

Orleans before taking off for D.C. A couple of hours before leaving, our documentary film maker

friends were headed into the Lower 9th Ward and so Jeffrey and I decided to go with them. The place we

hadn't dared set foot yet for fear it would finish the job of breaking our hearts - and it did.

The outer bands of Rita were starting to roll in, and the big black clouds and falling rain only

heightened our already overly busy imaginations unwillingly reliving the unspeakable horrors that

happened there.



We rolled into a scene of unimaginable devastation. Thick black caked but now re-liquefying sheets

of mud over everything, still over a foot deep in some places. We started over on our side of St.

Claude and visited the home and recording studio of my good friend Mike West (mikewest.net). The

back door was open and I stepped in to the horrible stench of toxic sludge and spreading mold.

Possessions strewn everywhere, nothing where it should be, everything wet, beyond salvation. Even with

a bandana over my face, remaining in the house for more than a few minutes was impossible. Ever

present in my mind was Mike's friend Terry and Mike's three dogs stranded on that roof amidst the

rising waters.



From there we passed Fats Domino's compound on our way to the break in the levy. Another all to

present memory, the picture of Fats being air lifted off his roof. Closer and closer in to the levy

break the damage got worse and worse. Houses tilted off the ground, houses rotated off their

foundations, cars flipped over, mud everywhere and not a living thing in site save one pitifully skinny

forgotten dog. Then we rounded the corner and there is sat: a barge. For some reason I hadn't

heard about this barge that came over the wall of the levy, I missed that piece of news. It took me

several minutes to comprehend what was sitting there, this huge metal object sitting on what must

have been several houses, one end still embedded in a half standing house. And beyond that? The most

incredible, horrible, absolute devastation I have ever seen. For a radius of 10-20 blocks,

everything was gone. Nothing stood but a few household items that explained that a neighborhood once

stood there. To the side, the flattened wall of the levy. I can not imagine this, how fast those flood

waters must have come in and with what force to lay waste to everything in its path, nothing and

no one stood a chance. Unwillingly, my mind forces itself to imagine being in one of those houses

as the water rushed in - but it can only skirt around the very edges of that horror.



So yes, we walked up onto the levy and looked at it and wondered. No, there were no left over

sticks of dynamite lying there, no obvious signs. I know there are plenty of people out there

questioning our allegations that the levies were dynamited - sorry, no, I can not give you proof - these

kind of things are not meant to see the light of day. Still, I stand by what I have heard - reports

from a source who I have every reason to believe, and more and more mention of people who lived in

the Lower 9th and claim to have heard explosions.



But be that what it may - and we will not stop seeking the truth - the facts do stand that Bush

cut the budget to repair the levies and that he said after the fact that no one had anticipated the

breaching of the levies, despite warnings to the contrary from before the storm. Or the fact that

the levies did not break until after the storm but still the people were not evacuated, nor were

they after the waters started to pour in. Whatever the truth of the levies in, it stands as fact

that these people were murdered.



Still, New Orleans is New Orleans and you can not kill our soul. While our hearts lie in ruin with

our city, we can not help but keep hope alive - this is our city and we will save her. And so, I

urge all of my friends out there from our beautiful city to please come back, now. Life there is

hard and very surreal, but your city needs you. Please come home and we will help you. Or if you

know someone from New Orleans, please tell them to come home. Send them to us or tell us where they

are and we will find a way to get them. Our city needs her people and the worst thing you can do is

stay away.



Peace and love -



Andrea Garland

GetYourActOn.com



P.S. I forgot to mention our Toxic Art exhibit! Jeffrey and I have a lowbrow art gallery, l'art

noir new orleans, that was supposed to have its grand reopening in the downstairs of our new home

Halloween weekend. We are pleased to announce that the grand reopening took place sooner than

expected, though it happens to be out in the neutral ground (median) outside our house and not inside.

'Toxic Art: This exhibit will kill you' held its official opening reception today, Monday September

26th, 2005 at 3pm, in celebration of the 4 week anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. 'Toxic Art' is

comprised of personal artwork, works of art by others in our personal collection, art supplies and

all other items from the first floor of our home that stood in the flood waters for a week and are

therefore toxic and must be destroyed. If you are in the city, we invite you to come view the

ongoing, ever changing exhibit outside our house at 4108 St. Claude Street (but please, DO NOT touch

the art, we aren't kidding that it can kill you) or you can view photos at http://www.lartnoir.com.



If you have received this message via a third party, please visit http://www.getyouracton.com for

additional information, ways to help or donate money (we hope to be setting up Get Your Act On as

a non-profit organization this week... to the people out here who seek to discredit us because we

are not already a non-profit, um, YOU try taking care of legalities in the midst of a national

disaster and see how far you get), photos from New Orleans and mailing list sign up.

updated 8 years ago