Thursday, October 06, 2005

Frog Legs, Mold, and Skeeters...

I'm in Louisiana! Yes, I flew the red eye, got through Red Cross processing, and got sent with a tiny cadre of folks out to far western Louisiana (Lake Charles now, Sulphur tomorrow, if you wanna look it up). It has been an adventure, but then, with enough sleep deprivation, anything is. We have seen a lot of downed trees, blown down buildings, etc. It is amazing that only one fatality has been attributed to Rita. I've seen many buildings that people could have died in, but didn't.

We will be setting up shelters today and openning them tomorrow. We will be providing the first aid that this locality has seen from the Red Cross in terms of money. They have had ERVs (Emergency Response Vehicles) serving food, and the Baptist Kitchens have been feeding the phone and power guys. The area has been evacuated, however, and folks weren't encouraged to return until yesterday, so theoretically, there wasn't anyone around to provide aid to.

The unbelievably cumbersome process that I was trained in for Emergency Family Services in my Western Nevada County Chapter has been streamlined on both ends. The big form, called a 'flimsy' for reasons I forget, has been shortened down to essentials--a two sided paper that's not too dense. The supplying of the resources has gone from vouchers--one for Wal Mart, one for the grocery, one for hardware, etc., with a form about each referral (!) to ATM type cards that wouldn't allow people to get cash, to the current plan, which is for a check to be sent. This will allow people total freedom to dispense their own fundage--buy a tarp, buy food, give money to a neighbor to reroof, pay relatives for groceries after staying with them for two weeks, buy a fifth of whiskey and some ciragettes, or whatever will contribute to well being.

There is some nervousness about how wound up our 'clients' may be. The Red Cross is fair game for criticism at this point, and certainly somewhat deserved. However, we who have travelled far and put up with mild hardships to be here don't want to be treated as the faceless minions of a monolithic bureaucratic entity.

We will stay in a shelter. I will have to try to keep track of the laptop. Currently using a desktop in Lake Charles Red Cross Chapter. The building itself has sustained damamge and is running on a huge diesel generator.

It is an opportunity for a "too many chiefs, not enough Indians" situation. I have resolved to be a plain Indian. Call me 'Stands With a Magic Elixer of Bean Juice in Syrofoam Cup In His Hand." One of the jokes about my references was that I asked my employer (since resigned) and my stepmother (also resigned) to vouch for me. I specifically instructed them that they might be asked if I was a person who did not question authority or think that I knew better than everyone else what ought to be done. They either weren't asked, or dodged, I guess, because I'm here...

We went to Sheldon's Fish Place last night. Ate stuff like chicken fried steak, frog legs, crawfish, catfish, and oysters. There was a small galvanized bucket on every table with peanuts roasted on site. The floor was strewn with peanut shells and the red 'paper' that covers the meats. A sign said, "Please throw peanut shells on the floor." I thought of my friend Jen who is studying to be a lawyer. I could just hear her going off about, "They put up a sign encouraging people to create an unsafe condition and when the little old lady with the walker goes down on a peanut shell and breaks her hip, they are going to lose it all!" Great ambiance, though.

Our little group did a whole lot of planning. I was mostly dead and not helpful. Also, my suspicion was that we would make a big old plan that would then be shown to be obsolete as soon as we showed up. Sure enough...

Meanwhile, I have my eye out for a bicycle. I have a feeling that some riding will provide opportunities to meet folks, see some sights, take some photos, and get some exercise. Louisiana is flatter than a flat thing, so a one speed or English three speed will suffice for miles of travel. (Planetary gears are so elegant!) Of course, we work twelve hours a day six days a week...

The Red Cross 800 number is busy. Folks calling me for help who have gone to Texas or somewhere aren't going to be able to come to our centers. They need to apply by phone. Can't apply on the Web. I hate to send them to a phone number that is busy.

Orientation meeting! Gotta go. Really need real cream. Coffee is decent, but cream is powdered...



Blogger marianna said...

hi carl-
still waiting in nevada city for a call from red cross. on monday i was told: oops, your file must have slipped underneath something. now i am in the system and waiting. is this a test of my patience? heck, i could have told them i am not the patient kind.
talked to karen in alabama. she thinks the take-along list is overbloated, especially the sleeping bag and food and water. but then i see what you are doing, setting up a shelter, and my sleeping bag is in again. i am amazed that shelters are still being set up. i thought the situation has moved beyond that. so keep the posts and reality coming.
frog legs, eh? i can do that. certainly cooked and served and ate them at my parent's restaurant.

11:45 AM, October 06, 2005  
Blogger Rebecca Sullivan said...

hi carl
glad that you finally got down there and feel like you are finally doing something. sounds like you are doing more of the stuff that is suited for you like building.
hope you find a bike to ride.
have fun
keep us posted
i would not want to be eating frog legs.

4:05 PM, October 06, 2005  
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12:29 AM, February 01, 2006  

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