Friday, November 04, 2005

home to stay

From my journal, 6 weeks after the storm:

Saturday. I'm sittong on the stoop. The new sights and sounds of New Orleans is of front loaders, backhoes, bobcats, 18 wheel dump trucks. The bobcat scrapes the street and dumps the load into the front loader, and when its bucket is full it raises the load (like it's emphatically praying to the heavens) and drops it into the dump truck which sits, idling, at the corner of Royal and Marigny. There are today four dump trucks lined up, idling and waiting. The front loader is beautiful in the graceful way the arm raises and lowers. Machines are beautiful. These machines are from Florida. The men are all wearing white nylon or plastic suits over their clothes and heavy work boots and orange reflective vests and white hardhats and white cups over their mouths and noses. There's the constant roar of diesel engines and the beeping the machines make when they back up, and the sound of the metal buckets banging against the dump trucks, and the bobcat's bucket scraping the concrete street. A neighbor just came by with a flea-bitten dog on a leash and he took the defunct bike off the curb that I'd put out there, and told me he stood in a free food line on Canal Street that was for the workers, not the locals, and he said they were cooking steaks as big as dogs and he pointed to his dog. Then he told me he was using his FEMA money for weed.
Now the trucks are gone and it's strangely silent. Since they left I think I've heard two sounds -- a car passing on Royal and a woman around the corner greeting a long lost somebody. I'm in a cleaning frenzy. I took four bags of trash out of the back plus several large things, like a lawn mower and that bike and some other things I can definitely live without. I de-potted my plants. Almost all of them are dead but I created a plant hospital anyway, just in case. It's sad about my cedar tree especially. That has been my Christmas tree since I've lived here. Next door a man is on the roof, hammering, and a woman is standing on the ground giving him instructions. The flocks of pigeons are beautiful today. I love the way they move. They fly like girls, breast first.
Sunset, on the stoop again, mosquitoes. I think it's my job now to be outsidde, to show people that our city is habitable. Just like it was at Douglass, just to exist and show up and be myself. But it's a vacant city. A ghost town. I don't understsnd why people didn't flock home. It was a really lonely day. It's like the Twilight Zone. And I feel achey and my sinuses hurt. I raked and swept the whole street and sidewalk on my block this morning and I guess the dust got me. I guess there's a reason those people wear those masks.

Tuesday. The refrigerator is OUT. I've been terrified that I would go crazy in the night and open it. I've been adding more duct tape every day, just in case. But now it's gone. I have three ice chests, one of which is leaking. I bought some pork chops to barbecue but really don't know if I can stomach meat anymore, considering what Mark the butcher said about how there were things living in my refrigerator so big I could put them on a hook and go fishing with them. The idea that the seeds of those creatures are IN THE MEAT AT ALL TIMES. God. And we eat that. Are the creatures in us?

Thursday. I have the cats back home with me now so the house is almost comlete. Orange is behind the stove. My turntable is going crazy and ruining my Gordon Lightfoot album. That will not do. I couldn't park in my usual place because of the workers across the street. Which makes me SO HAPPY! People. Glad to have people. I keep looking around, drinking my life outside back into me. Everything looks brand new to me. But I also feel sick. Nauseous. Every little exertion shows my limbs to be sore. And I'm having a hard time breathing. It's mental. Leaving Dave's was hard to do. Besides the fact that we became like a family, leaving there with the cats also marks the end of a very safe period. As long as my stuff and my cats were there I felt like I had that safe haven and someone to take care of me to which I could retreat. But now I'm really altogether back, and alone. And it's scary being alone around here right now.


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