My happy ass is currently in Houston. I turned down a few hurricane-party type evacuations and made for my lovely aunt's house, where I will await further notice of Gustav, everyone's least-favorite German.
Let me preface: the city seems to have gone from a level of guarded caution to genuine fear in the past day or so. New Orleans residents are taking this pretty seriously, and you can hear conversation all over town about the storm : it's at the forefront of everyone's minds. I was walking down the street last evening and struck up a conversation with a guy nailing plywood to his shop windows: better safe then sorry, we remember last time. New Orleans natives are getting out earlier then they did last time and preparing better: maybe people can learn from the past.
One reality: the city of New Orleans is offering no in-city shelters of last resort - they remember the Superdome and Convention Center debacles. Get out, folks.
I shut down my house today - threw out all the fresh food, unplugged my appliances - and rattled down the steps with my dorky little wheeled suitcase to campus. I hopped on the trolley with my bags and exchanged knowing nods with the usual morning suspects: You're getting out too, gettin' out early.
I feel especially for Tulane freshmen, who were just settling into the excitement of their FIRST SEMESTER OF COLLEGE and have now been dispersed to go on home. You've never seen more despondent co-ed faces then those of the kids hanging out at the airport or packing up on campus. Students without flights or other options unfortunately are being shipped off to Mississippi to sleep in a college gym for a week: hopefully they'll make a good time out of the situation and return with a funny story or two about getting into trouble in Jackson. It's a pity: the freshmen seem to be having a genuinely great time (just like myself) and don't want to leave. I overheard one girl saying, sadly, "We all just got here...and now we packed up our stuff, the beds are all stripped, our desk is empty of all our stuff....it's just sad." You said it, sister.
I'm also sad about missin' Southern Decadence, the big gay pride and drag show scheduled to go on in the Quarter this weekend. I had dearly hoped to see an authentic New Orleans queen or three before the week was out. I hope they're all headed due North, fuzzy boas and stilettos nothwithstanding.
Still, we've all been trying to make light of the situation. No Me Gustav shirts are selling like hotcakes and everyone is joking around about interesting evacuation arrangements and the irritation of goin' home AGAIN over Mad Dog and pizza at the Boot and in the quad. Keep it together, kids, hopefully we'll be back in NOLA soon enough and can laugh all this off.
Traffic wasn't too bad on the way to the airport, though I left at 12:00 for a 5:00 flight just to make sure that everything would run smoothly. We passed by a cemetery on the way out with a 1000 white flags laid out. Don't you know? Friday was the Katrina anniversary. The city is having deja-vu of a most unpleasant nature.
C'mon, Gustav: you don't have to be so ugly about it. Give us some time.