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A long overdue update...

December 4th, 2006
I can hardly believe that 2006 is already coming to a close! We've come a long way in the past year...

We were able to travel back to the CLC for another session in May. Ethan has really blossomed - asking to walk instead of being carried, spelling words, helping to get himself dressed. We're still fighting with potty-training, but it is a work in progress...

He also started school here in Watson, LA, where we're renting a house. Ironically, his first day of school fell on August 29, the anniversary of Katrina. Several people asked both Thira & me if we were ok or if we wanted to talk. We thought they were talking about Ethan's first day of school!

Notes from the Road - Going Home

November 4th, 2005

Hey everyone. More notes from the road. I flew up on the 20th to help Gayle drive back to “home”. The last day at the Conductive Learning Center was very nice but sad. They really like Ethan and are enthusiastically encouraging us to bring him back in six months. I will admit some skepicism as to how much more they can do for Ethan this past visit. The facts are these: Before this session, Ethan could only walk a few steps but after he could walk all the way down the hall and all around the yard. Before this session, he had a good vocabulary, said his “a, b, c’s” but now he uses it even more and with manners like “please” and “thank you”. So, is it possible that he could have learned these skills through conventional therapy, PT & OT? Yes. But, in a month? I don’t think so. We are big believers.

I have to tell you. The trip “home” was not nearly as exciting as the trip up. We had a great time with John and Susie in Indiana. We went by a couple of orchards on the way to their house. There is nothing better than apples off the tree, fresh from the orchard. I cannot emphasized this fact more, fresh fruits and vegetables as found in the store are a sham compared to the true freshness of the real thing. BTW, if you get the chance to get apples called “Honey Crisps” get them. They are worth it.

I am awed. I do not know if I am so cynical because of my upbringing or my own personal experiences. I have this feeling that parents influence their children in more subtle ways than I had realized personally and professionally. Again, in this stranger’s house, we were made at home. No ulterior motives. No tit for tat. They took us into Chicago. Let me say this, “I am a city boy.” I love big cities, but especially Chicago. The architecture is amazing! The deep dish pizza is nothing I expected! It was at a place John had been going to since childhood, Lou Malnati, I believe. I had never had true Chicago deep dish pizza. I expected greasy, soggy crusts and toppings but this was not the case. It was tender and had that yielding chewiness. The fillings were swirling in cheese, real cheese not that Real Cheese ™ stuff. There are times when “thanks you” is not enough. Repetition dulls the sentiment. So, we decided to cook for them. That night, we made jambalaya. For us, a simple dish, a one-pot dish. For them, a special treat. We offered up our secrets, pearls to the method of Louisiana cuisine. The next day, I made them Thai food offering up as much as I could of the secrets of my Thai recipies. We had such a good time! There is a saying about New Orleanians that rings true more than I ever realized, “Most may eat to live, be we live to eat.”

In the morning Susie and John left early in the morning and we left later that morning. As we left, it was cold and rainy, the coldest we had experienced. We had a long journey ahead of us. We hoped to make Sikeston, MO. where we looked forward to something special.

Recovery: part one

October 19th, 2005

I have left the pastoral if cold, comforts of the Ronald McDonald House. Love the place, shall probably eat at McDonalds again one day. I have flown down to Baton Rouge to get a job and get the apartment in order for Ethan and Gayle. To do this I decided to return to New Orleans and recover what I could. I drove there, well prepared, with masks, gloves, boots, and little expectations. There is an inherent objectivity when it comes to pictures and print. Children of the information age can ingest the information and understand the situation. The subjective reality was it smelled awful. I got the mask to protect from molds and bacteria. I was glad it filtered out the odor. I had come here to mark what things I was going to move to the apartment. My friend, Mik, was coming the next day with his truck to help me move stuff.

The doors were stuck. I managed to pry open the kitchen door that I had opened last time and once again began the depressing survey of the damage. I am not know for my colorful speech but the video I took will have to be bleeped for broadcast. I looked around downstairs briefly making note of things that may be recoverable, dishes, things on high shelves, glass, and etc. I almost immediately went upstairs to see what I could bring to the apartment. There was less odor in the upper rooms but I could tell that everything would have a hint of mold like walking through a room with smokers, the evidence is in the scent from the clothes.

There is a heaviness that comes from each trip I take there. My sisters-in-law cried when they saw their places. I didn’t . . . perhaps couldn’t. The transience of the material, I don’t know. I suppose the scale may have been too large for me to have an emotional reaction. I just felt tired, like I had to clean a mess my son made. You don’t blame him, really. You just have to do it. Not to digress but I think in the future, no matter where I end up living; when people ask me, I’ll say, “I’m from New Orleans but I live . . . ” Funny isn’t it.

On the road with Thira

September 22nd, 2005

I am writing to you from Tinley Park, Il. We are on the road headed north to Michigan. There the Conductive Learning Center is taking Ethan for a four week course of intensive Physical, Occupationa, Speech and Special Instruction. I am amazed at the friendliness of people we have met on the road. My wife is a naturally friendly person, much more open than I am. The first night we stopped in Skieston, MO. It was night when we got there and we decided we had to eat at Lambert’s Home of the Thrown Roll. If you get the opportunity, you should eat there ( We had a great homecooked style meal, hamburger steak with mustard greens and fried apples, some black-eyed peas and potatoes. I was stuffed and Ethan ate his fair share of fried okra. Anyway, Ethan wanted to walk. You couldn’t blame him, 4 - 5 hours in a car will do that to even the most seasoned traveller. Anyway, the place is huge so we walked around while Gayle finished eating and chatted with the waiter. The place only accepts cash or checks, so I wanted a receipt. When Gayle asked for one she mention that we might need it as a receipt for FEMA. “Oh are you folks from that area?,” he asked. Gayle told him where we were from and why we were here. The waiter said, “Wait here a minute. I’ll be right back.” He returned as promised with a brown paper bag filled with four cinnamon rolls. “Take these. There really good. Home made,” he told her, “on the house.” My wifed tried to refused but he would have none of it. We thanked him for his generousity and when on our way. BTW, there are quite good

The next day we drove till we got here. For lunched we stopped in Salem, Id and ate at the Applebee’s; again, 3 hours on the road made us hungry, tired, and stiff. We ate. Rather, we took turns eating since my Little Walker, Ethan, wanted to walk . . . and walk alot. The waitressed heard our story as we were discussing our itinerary. It turns out they were quite involved in raising money for the Red Cross (I don’t support them - but that’s a story for another day). After our meal, I began the well rehearsed ritual of collecting Ethan’s things and asking for the check when all the wait staff showed up at our table. They annouced that they had passed the hat and paid for our meal. I was floored. I didn’t know what to say. “It’s one thing to give to some faceless organization like the Red Cross, ” She said, “But, completely different to put a face to the tragedy and face to our support.” We teared up with emotion and thanked them. I told Ethan to blow kisses but he leaned over from my wife’s arms and gave our waitress a kiss. I could see the tears in her eyes. We could hardly drive, emotional from the kindness of absolute strangers. In such a world how can one not think the best of us, hopeful.

Seeing is believing

September 21st, 2005

Update on the real situation in New Orleans.

I was just down there at the site of the levee breach. We went Saturday, mainly to see for ourselves how bad it was and to see if we could get anything from our houses.

In terms of the former, we had great sucess. The latter not so much.

You have all seen pictures of the flooding and heard reports of the devastation . . . but it was worse than reported. We began the day early since we didn’t know for sure if we could get passed the checkpoints and even get to our houses. When we got there, we had to stop at the, now infamous, 17th street canal and walk. This first thing that hit you was the odor. Having had history with identifing things by smell and sight. My first thought was sewage, feces, and rotting vegetation; however, as I walked I smelled the undeniable tang of decomp. The cliche “death hung in the air,” seemed weak compared to this.

As we walked along the levee, you could see the waterline where the water peaked and slowly drained. The houses had that same line, many of them at the gutter or roofline. The street was still flooded to some extent. As we made our way down to the houses, one could see hundreds of trees all fallen over, all dead as the soft ground gave up their roots. The grass and the lower vegetation were all dead, gray from the toxic stinking mud.

The houses all looked intact. Sure, some wind damage was evident but none of the structures looked blown away, many roofs still intact, some with hole cut in them from the inside; the last stand.

Three inch mud made the going treacherous. It coated everything. As we made it into our houses, we realized that there was no recovery, nothing to salvage. The rooms looked as though a giant had lifted them shooked them and filled them with refuse. Everything was wet or had been wet or was going to get wet, the humidity was horrible.

One bright spot, my sister-in-law found one of her dogs, alive sitting on the highest spot, the washer. We took her to the vet.

On the way back, we were all quiet. We all thought the same thing: “I can’t got back there.” Better, it was completely blown away; it would leave better memories. Now, all I remember is the destruction and stench of death.

I suppose in a way it gave me the closure I needed. The reassurance that my fleeing and staying away was the right choice. I have not given up on my city, but I cannot be in my city for now, cannot let my son play in the yard who knows for how long. I will be back.

Rebuilding New Orleans

September 10th, 2005

There is already talk about how to rebuild my beloved city. I am happy to see such enthusiasm to look to the future. I came across a couple of articles about this. One is from Pres Kabacoff in the WSJ. There was another one but I didn’t have the good sense to write down who and where. One journalist, Chris Rose wrote a poignant piece about recent events. I include it since it seems to fit the sentiments:

Dear America,

I suppose we should introduce ourselves: We’re South Louisiana.

We have arrived on your doorstep on short notice and we apologize for that, but we never were much for waiting around for invitations. We’re not much on formalities like that.

And we might be staying around your town for a while, enrolling in your schools and looking for jobs, so we wanted to tell you a few things about us. We know you didn’t ask for this and neither did we, so we’re just going to have to make the best of it.

First of all, we thank you. For your money, your water, your food, your prayers, your boats and buses and the men and women of your National Guards, fire departments, hospitals and everyone else who has come to our rescue.

We’re a fiercely proud and independent people, and we don’t cotton much to outside interference, but we’re not ashamed to accept help when we need it. And right now, we need it.

Just don’t get carried away. For instance, once we get around to fishing again, don’t try to tell us what kind of lures work best in your waters.

We’re not going to listen. We’re stubborn that way.

You probably already know that we talk funny and listen to strange music and eat things you’d probably hire an exterminator to get out of your yard.

We dance even if there’s no radio. We drink at funerals. We talk too much and laugh too loud and live too large and, frankly, we’re suspicious of others who don’t.

But we’ll try not to judge you while we’re in your town.

Everybody loves their home, we know that. But we love South Louisiana with a ferocity that borders on the pathological. Sometimes we bury our dead in LSU sweatshirts.

Often we don’t make sense. You may wonder why, for instance - if we could only carry one small bag of belongings with us on our journey to your state - why in God’s name did we bring a pair of shrimp boots?

We can’t really explain that. It is what it is.

You’ve probably heard that many of us stayed behind. As bad as it is, many of us cannot fathom a life outside of our border, out in that place we call Elsewhere.

The only way you could understand that is if you have been there, and so many of you have. So you realize that when you strip away all the
craziness and bars and parades and music and architecture and all that hooey, really, the best thing about where we come from is us.

We are what made this place a national treasure. We’re good people. And don’t be afraid to ask us how to pronounce our names. It happens all the time.

When you meet us now and you look into our eyes, you will see the saddest story ever told. Our hearts are broken into a thousand pieces.

But don’t pity us. We’re gonna make it. We’re resilient. After all, we’ve been rooting for the Saints for 35 years. That’s got to count for something.

OK, maybe something else you should know is that we make jokes at inappropriate times.

But what the hell.
And one more thing: In our part of the country, we’re used to having visitors. It’s our way of life.

So when all this is over and we move back home, we will repay to you the hospitality and generosity of spirit you offer to us in this season of our despair.

That is our promise. That is our faith.

by Chris Rose Times-Picayune

After the Hurricane

September 4th, 2005

Gayle, Ethan, and Thira are alright and are currently staying in Hazlehurst, Mississippi. As of the 2nd, they were fine for food, water, and shelter, and hoped to get generators running soon.

Comment by Doug -- September 5, 2005 @ 9:41 am
Great news! Keep us updated and let us know what is needed to help.
Comment by faith -- September 7, 2005 @ 12:11 am
Google maps has post-hurricane photos:
Comment by Thira -- September 9, 2005 @ 5:47 pm
We thank everyone for their love and concern. Being a first-time "refugee" "evacuee" or whatever I have not had time to read the manual on what to do. We have fallen back on old principles: 1. Water, 2. Food, 3. Shelter. To that list, is the fourth: 4. Electricity then 5. Connectivity.

As we mull over our next steps, we are reminded that we are not alone and that a vast community of friends and loved one stands by us. We thank you from the bottom of our hearts.

Remember, email is still the most dependable communication for now.