Scraps From the Storm

I’ve been thinking through the summer of 2005 a lot lately. Not just because of Katrina 10 hype — though that’s a huge part of it — but also because of the quality of this summer’s heat; the varying kinds of emotional energy that have been flowing through both my life and the lives of people I love; my frequent visits to Sisters in Christ, which has an ambiance that is, to me, reminiscent of pre-Katrina New Orleans (must be all the early 2000s emo); and, most significantly, because I recently dredged up some old emails from the weeks surrounding the storm, which help me to reconstruct small pieces of my Katrina experience.

I started journaling many of these thoughts, memories, mental moments, reconstructions, and after-images. Most are my own personal memories; but some are the experiences of others that have haunted me or otherwise hidden themselves in my mind. They may find a home in a zine at some point, but for now, I’m sharing a few of them below…

The stench is indescribable. Dave gave us medical passes. We crossed the military checkpoints and are prying back the plywood covering the side entrance to Nowe Miasto. We go upstairs to get the mattress, carry it down to the van.

We go back up for the box spring, and from behind us we hear a greeting. Turning around, it’s a cop with his gun drawn. We explain that we’re getting stuff for an evacuated friend. His face is expressionless. He tells us to put down the bed, follows us downstairs, and watches from his squad car as we re-position the plywood over the door.

From every angle the light looks different as it reflects from the living room tile. I could squeeze the side of my face into his until his whiskers scratched me to bleeding but his eyes could never occupy the spacetime of my eyes and so in any given moment the two of us will always behold a different reflection of the light. He sleeps in the chair with a .22 across his lap as I lean into the room and watch the weariness exhale from his mind.

There’s a space that exists like a glitch between two cities in the hard blue fire of the world. You pass in changed and pass out the same and pass in and out and in again.

Bookfair friends, I’m sure most of you have heard about the hurricane by now. New Orleans is destroyed. I have no idea what this means for the bookfair, but at this point, the bookfair is the least of our concerns. Right now, what we’re most worried about is friends, neighbors, and family who were left in the city when the storm hit. If anyone has any news – if you’ve heard from anyone at all from New Orleans, please let us know.

Like the city itself is a penal colony, the police block the family at the bridge and unload as they cross above the shipping canal and pulverized debris. The cruel sun churns in a vortex; the old water stands; the cop with a shotgun hunts his victims down the ramp.

I sit on the milk crate just as it seems we’re done speaking and in doing so become self conscious of my decision to sit. Nervously, I run my fingers across the lattice of the crate. I think about how in all this madness, a crate remains a crate, and how a crate was a crate from the day I was born until at least today, so that even if all the objects of this taxonomy would leave the world like some fully formed Platonic ideal that has been scratched from the List of Things, I will have spent the majority of my life seeing a thing of this type in my environment just as I would a bug or a tree or anything else that I would consider to be a lasting feature of the natural world. I think about how my life is littered with things of the crate’s more general type. That is: things that have been manufactured from petroleum feed stock — postmodern things, appliance things, car things, space age things. And then there are the immaterial objects of the internet whose most basic constituents travel as electrical currents through minuscule logic gates in an increasingly neural way. Our ancestors never knew nor could have even imagined such objects. But if there were only one and a half billion of these ancestors a century ago, while we ourselves are hurtling towards seven billion on this day in early September 2005, then in some sense, could these new objects of plastic and silicon and ephemeral machine logic assert a greater place on the stage of human experience than the plow, even in their infancy? And as these icons of post-modernity have shouldered their way massively onto the stage in so short a time, will they expire just as rapidly, as the sun sets on the borrow pits of capitalism and oil? I don’t know, but while staring out towards the desolate street in a spell of awkward silence, I think maybe.