Friday, September 30, 2005

The Red Cross can and has done much fine work. But today, they did not.
I went to a financial assistance center today to dig into a rumor about a bunch of people from Louisiana being forcibly escorted from line for being ineligibe for financial assistance because of their zip code. After police removed the group from the line, the center shut down for a time, leaving literally hundreds of eligible people standing in the hot sun and with no clue as to what was going on.
So here I come, all smiles and compliments, trying to dispell some of the nastier rumors which were floating into our paper about what had actually happened and who (namely what race and socio-economic class) the people who were escorted away were.
All the officials I managed to find played dumb or stand-offish.
So, I ask simple questions, like, "How many people work here?" "How many people do you see a day?" "What exactly do you do here?" And they refuse to answer me.
I call a PR person for the Red Cross and she says she does not know the answer to my questions but would need to talk to the manager of the center, who happened to be standing right next to me and who demanded I call the PR person in the first place. So I say this, ask her to give this woman permission to tell me the basic things about the center, and everyone refuses everything.
Then they go into a huddle to decide what to do about me.
Five minutes pass.
Ten minutes.
So I pull out my camera and start taking pictures of anything from the belly level without ever looking through my viewfinder.
Next thing I know this old man with a security badge grabs me firmly on the arm and starts yelling, "You can't take pictures. You're a troublemaker and I know you're taking pictures."
I say, "Sir, I'm sorry, please calm down. I was just fiddling with the camera."
"No you weren't," he screams. "I know you're here to cause trouble. I know you took pictures. We need to repsect the privacy of our clients. You can't do that here. You need to give me that camera."
While ignoring that last comment and before I have a chance to say, "Okay, let me walk around the room and ask everyone's permission," (which I was more than willing to do) some older peroxide-blond woman appears and, quite literally, starts screaming at me, "Who do you think you are? Does your publisher know you're here? Do you want me to call him on you?"
To which I respond, "Sure. Would you like the phone number, ma'am?"
At which point, she explodes.
Next thing I know security personnel are escorting me out while yelling at me and grabbing for my camera. I stop, hold up the display and delete the photos I had in there (don't worry, I downloaded all photos from earlier in the day already). I then walk away quickly, but not before turning to the group causing the ruckus and say, "I was here to dispell some ugly rumors about what happened earlier. You just made them worse. Congratulations. Sorry."

I have always been wary of the American Red Cross. They do not share donations with the International Red Cross. The usually act like an arrogant, closed-off and uncooperative organization in times of disaster. When I worked in a soup kitchen, they demanded that we close on Thanksgiving day (they didn't bother with Christmas) so they would have enough people to feed.
And they were late when the disaster hit, showing up over a week later in most places.
That said, they are a necessary evil. They have the best resources and experience. I just frickin' can't stand the way they do business.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

For those of you who don't know, this was past of the Hurricane Camille memorial giftshop. That boat washed ashore to that very spot after Camille on Hwy 90 and a Gulfport resident turned it into a giftshop. While driving along 90 today, I have to admit being amazed and thrilled to see that the boat survived the storm. Unfortunately, the gift shop that was attached to the aft of the boat did not. The difference between the things that survived and the things that didn't never ceases to amaze me.
This photo by Joshua Norman

This is a VP from DuPont company whom I accompanied on a tour today through Pass Christian and Long Beach. We also stopped briefly on the western edge of Gulfport on Hwy 90. His face, if you can see it here, is perfect for me. It's pure disbelief and borderline frustration from having no idea what to think about it. On this tour, I saw the last bit of Hwy 90 I had not seen. I have now seen every inch of the beach in Harrison County. I have to say it never ceases to amaze me. I'm not as sad as I once was, but the shock never goes away. The Long Beach Fire Chief says the same thing. When you drive along and see mile after mile of rubble, you keep grabbing for a frame of reference.
"Was that White Harbor Road?"
"Was the old Ramada Inn there?"
"Was that Boggsdale?"
And you often can't know. In those few moments where you do figure it out, the force of the storm hits you again, all those moons later.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Lessons learned from my time away:
1) It is hard for many people outside of this area to care about what is happening in Mississippi because it is even harder to understand.
What happened in New Orleans was a palpable and photogenic tragedy. What happened here is simply mass destruction and devastation on an incomprehensible scale.
When I left the Peace Corps, I was warned about the relative indifference of the rest of the world, especially from my fellow Americans, in regards to what I did and what I went through. The following conversation was frequent:
“Wow, you were in Africa?” a curious individual would ask.
“Yep,” I would reply.
“What was it like?” the curious individual would ask.
At this point, I wouldn’t know what to say. Try summing up any two year period of your life in which your ideas on humanity, happiness, metaphysics, social interactions, hygiene, language, right and wrong, up and down, and the way the world turns were completely turned on their head.
Sometimes, I would be curt.
“It was a learning experience,” I would often say.
On other occasions, I would be thorough and give anecdotes about my cat getting eaten, my projects (and my house for that matter) being stolen from, my illnesses and the desperate squalor. I would also add the happy stories about smiles, sunsets and strong drinks.
Then, there would usually be a ridiculous question. Example: “Were there any lions?”
At first, I was upset by this. Then, one day I realized how detached the questioner was from my experience and what had informed them about Africa to that point.
My point of relating those experiences is to put in perspective what happened last weekend when I was visiting with my Peace Corps friends, all of whom went through similar difficulties after their time abroad.
“So you live in South Mississippi now, huh?” one would ask.
“Yep,” I would reply.
“It’s really messed up down there, huh?” the next question would be. Or, “What’s it like?”
“It’s a learning experience,” would be my reply.
When I would get into details, try and expand upon the experience a bit, I got this question occasionally: “So it’s kind of an adventure, huh?”
“No, it’s actually really f****d up,” I would reply.
I relate all this not out of bitterness. I wanted people to not care or talk that much about what was happening. I went to the Green Mountains to detach myself as much as possible from Mississippi.
But it was a little jarring to hear Peace Corps volunteers, who had dealt with the difficult questions themselves, turn around and lay them on me.
I suppose that you can’t understand it until you see it, smell it, live it. I know that all the reporters who come here from elsewhere, stay a while and then leave still don’t get it. Shoot, even I don’t really get it.
I see, smell, feel, taste and hear the devastation all the time. I saw Hurricane Katrina coming and I watched her go. Yet I don’t understand the situation fully.
I loved Mississippi the moment I got here. Great food. Great outdoors. Great people.
To see it ripped to shreds though, has left me confused and wanting of a better picture or frame of reference for the whole situation. But even those who have been here decades don’t get it, which brings me to the second thing I learned while roaming Vermont’s lovely mountains…
2) The mental health of people living and breathing the disaster is precarious at best.
Because we can’t grasp the entirety of what’s happening, we have no chance of gaining a routine. There is nothing comfortable about being here, let alone working and living in it.
It is nearly impossible to “recharge” for large, daily tasks while here. All that being here seems to do is break you down.
One of the hardest parts about Africa was how different everything was. The hardest part about here is how different everything has become.
There is no getting back to normal. I even disagree with the saying “Getting back to the new normal.” The base that was there is gone. Building from the ground up means any kind of normal is gone.
It is hard to understand that.
Almost two out of every three dwellings in South Mississippi are gone or unlivable. To comprehend that, go outside, look at your block and say there-gone-gone-there-gone-gone as you glance from building to building. That’s saying nothing about the jobs, schools and lives lost.
When people begin to get that, and few do and even fewer seem to try, it is beyond jarring. It is worse than being slapped, beaten or knocked out.
There is an immeasurable degree of humiliation in the face of a force not only beyond control but miles past understanding.
On to my final learning point…
3) There is no horizon.
The endgame is unforeseeable. A conclusion is impossible.
Therefore it is now a question of picking oneself up and learning to work and live with that.
Mike is off to sunny Florida for a few days of much needed recharge. I hope his time there gives him some perspective on here as my time away did for me.
There may be a lack of photos for a while, although I may post a couple that won’t run with my story tomorrow on the guy who was evicted from his FEMA trailer for not taking care of his dog.
Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Over the last few days, I Nyquiled myself to relative health and well-being. I would like to shake the hand of Nyquil's inventor. I find that quadrupling the dose when feeling especially under weather really helps the healing process.

Some good news and sad news. Let's start with the sad, since that's probably what everyone is used to on this blog.

Relatively updated Red Cross assessment:
Of the 171,000 homes in the six coastal counties of Mississippi, around 103,000 have either been destroyed or sustained major damage. That number comes from an aerial assessment and does not include those houses that local officials will tag for condemnation and demolition.

Looked at another way, one-third of dwelling in this area have been destroyed. And yet another way, only 16,000 homes sustained no damage at all.

Zooming out to the Katrina affected region, FEMA numbers have about 300,000 people displaced. Of that, only about 100,000 will have the means (insurance, savings, etc) to deal with their own living situation. 200,000 will require FEMA assistance.

I got into these numbers for a FEMA housing article which should be coming out in the Sun Herald tomorrow.

Thinking of happier things:
It is about time to start reckoning for all of the outside help that flooded into the South during the emergency response stage, which is drawing to a close. The thanks go to the other states that chipped in but, even more so, to countries all over the world that contributed. They showed that all of us little monkeys running all over the earth really are connected in a deeply empathetic way.
I would like to push at least this newspaper, and others, to give the recognition that these places deserve. As such, please post here if you know of any municipally-sponsored relief that your town, state or country gave. I will compile the list and try to do something with it.

Here's who I know:
Canadian Navy Divers
emergency relief supplies

The Netherlands-
emergency relief and medial supplies

emergency relief and medical supplies

Mexican Salvation Army

Authorized the use of Greek cruise ships for temp housing

US States
State of Florida-
Miami-Dade Urban Search and Rescue
Florida Fish and Wildlife
Various state, county and city agencies

State of New York:

City of Carbondale

Various state, county and city agencies

GA Bureau of Investigation(?)

various state, county and city agencies

I'm blanking because I've seen so many trucks and badges over the last four weeks. So please post here if you know of something or you can fill in some details. I'll put it together into that list I mentioned and post it here.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

I was told to talk about things and not keep them pent up inside. I always thought that was silly because I'm hard. But I got sick last night and now I feel pretty close to crap. Maybe things are getting to me. Maybe I'm not as hard as I think. Or maybe I haven't been eating enough spam. Ummm...spam.
So maybe I'll talk to the blog compose screen and maybe I won't send this out. God, even to this point I feel like I've written more "I's" than any journalist worth his salt should write in his entire professional career.
For a while I've been going under the power that the disaster part is over and people are on to rebuilding-either in South Mississippi or somewhere else. But today I went out to a little, forgotten town on the border of Louisiana called Pearlington. I went to see how they were holding up against Rita's winds. The article should be in the paper tomorrow. I talked to survivors and disaster relief people. I got some good quotes.
A photog and I rolled up to the Salvation Army distribution center. They are also sheltering about 40 people. Rita's rains made the Katrina-beaten ground soupy and everything was covered in a layer of grime. The Salvation Army people kept calling it a camp, which freaked me out for some reason.
A woman pushing a bike with a cart attached to it navigated the muddy road. The photog wanted a pic of her so I started chatting with her. She was really a lovely woman. The right lens of her glasses was scratched enough to almost obscure her eye. Her name was Carolyn.
It turns out that she, along with almost everyone in the community, had to swim out of her home as it was swallowed by rising water from the Pearl River and the surging sea water of the Gulf. She said there was noise above her for hours that was probably tornadoes spawning off of Katrina. She said they sounded like helicopters right over head.
"The wind was screaming," Carolyn said. "I never heard anything like it."
In those conditions, when land turns to water, everything living is only concerned with surviving. All offense is shut down. Everything just swims and tries to find something to hold onto to keep from being sucked out to sea.
"I had snakes and lizards crawling on me," she said.
When she went into the water and gave up her home, she brought her "10-pound puppy," which clung to her as she found a pine tree and clung to it. She held onto that tree for two or three hours, she wasn't sure which, and her puppy held onto her.
She smiled when she talked about hanging on and saving her dog- a small victory in a forest of so much defeat.
And she didn't stop smiling when she talked about living in a tent mauled by Rita's winds in front of the remnants of her house or about her other losses.
"I lost all 14 of my kitties," she said.

Or there was the dude named Jon-e from Rochester. I didn't ask him why his parents named him that or whether he was joking, because that's what his salvation army badge said. Seemed like a nice guy, too, what with the coming down here to help people piece together their lives.
He was the first person to refer to the place as a camp. I told him that his camp smelled like human waste.
"I've been through this neighborhood since I got down here," he said. "I'm used to the smell of rotten flesh and black mold."
He smiled. I smiled. I thanked him for taking the time to talk. He went back to directing supply trucks into the parking lot of the camp. With photog in tow, I went on my merry way.

Then we went to go see a woman down the street who was making $724 government disability a month. Her name was Dallas. She had four friendly mutts who really liked my crotch.
She was sitting there in a tent in front of her house, one of those brightly colored dome ones. Dallas was real nice, too. She was a construction foreman, -woman, -person before falling 13 feet off a scaffolding.
I lied. The tent wasn't actually in front of her house. Her house was first filled with water, then picked up off its foundation, then turned about 45 degrees counterclockwise, then moved about thirty feet to the front of what used to be her yard. The house, which was overrun with gnats inside, had been redone two weeks prior.
Dallas also lost her two cars, a small boat and its trailer, her shed with a weed whacker and a new chainsaw inside and two travel trailers. That was pretty much everything except her life and her four dogs.
She swam out of her house, too. She made it to an oak tree several yards up the road and climbed out of the water onto a branch fifteen feet off the ground. She was joined by her three neighbors and eight dogs.
"I got eighteen pigs and piglets, too," she said. "They all made it. I don't know how. I guess they climbed on a roof."
She apologized for not cleaning the house before having visitors. I apologized for not knocking off the rancid mud onto her rancid muddy floors. I let her go but told her I expected fresh cornbread the next time I came calling.

People are not on to rebuilding, many are still just trying to survive. When it rains they get wet. Old men sitting on the side of the road scrape cold gruel out of an MRE packet.
Civic leaders are saying that it is time to get used to a "new" normal. As soon as we talk about death and despair without vacant eyes and out of place smiles, then maybe it will be time to get on. Now we have to confront something that seems, feels, a lot like shell shock.

Thanks for listening blog compose screen.

Friday, September 23, 2005

I guess the worst hasn't passed. Just sitting on my porch watching the parking lot when a squall came through. Heavy, almost horizontal blast of rain with wind. Somebody's blue roof peeled up. there are a bunch of unhappy people trying to keep their broken houses dry right now and not doing a very good job of it.
To homeowners- this is wind damage. If you're insurance companies are trying to get out of paying you by classifying the damage as flood-related, I would like to state that the wind and rain are very heavy right now. Localized wind gusts are nearing 35-40 mph and several inches have come down. Homeowners, throw some tarps over your valuables and go have a pina colada. Pray that the wind finishes the job.

Hello Rita!!! Welcome to the Gulf Coast. Feel free to move along quickly. West Texas and the midwest sure could use you a bunch more than us along the Gulf Coast.
That haze in the pic is not from shooting through glass. It is from super-saturated air defracting the light. I was standing outside on my porch.
Torrential rains are coming in as rain bands pass over. Wind has been gusting, but most of it has passed.

Rita's rains are the first to wash over the land since Katrina. White foam in the collected puddles indicate a bunch of nastiness in that water. Any of you folks that read the article I wrote after taking samples from local waterbodies know that this was expected. Once the rain washes down from all of the inland rivers, where numerous fish kills have been reported, it would be interesting (nay frightening) to run samples for enterococci, voc's, metals and phosphates/nitrates.

Contaminants collecting on the roadside. Oily sheen on the surface and brownish foam. There was a lot of that foam before things first dried out. Most of it was around areas where human sewage overflowed into surrounding waterways. Rita's rains will reactivate much of the biotics, dried waste and chemical contaminants that dried on the land.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Here's what over three weeks of not shaving and covering a hurricane does to you. No, not really. This was just a light moment last night at one of the few bars in the neighborhood that still exists. We also both got haircuts today for free from the company. While my more reserved cohort may not admit it, we're both weary. Our hope is that Rita doesn't make this harder than it already is. The latest info still presents the possibility, albeit small, of sending it right over our heads. I'm still planning on getting on that plane to Vermont for the weekend though.
Many thanks to the many well-wishers out there. It truly has made keeping this blog going worthwhile. Hopefully you all won't hear from me for a few days. I leave this endeavor in the somewhat capable hands of my friend with the big chin.
This photo by Joshua Norman

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Finally, the sunset. After the storm, there was three days when the power was out everywhere and generators hadn't started up yet and the stars were stunning. The kind of stars that I have not seen since my time in Togo. The kind of stars that make you shut up and stare. Anyways, the one thing that has not changed here, the visual stunner that has always remained consistent is the sight of the clouds turning red over the gulf. Now, if only those weren't the outermost bands of Rita....
This photo by Joshua Norman

Again, the Oceanarium in the background. (The greenish structure.)
This photo by Joshua Norman

The pool to the right in aforementioned photo.
This photo by Joshua Norman

That's the Oceanarium in the background to the left.
This photo by Joshua Norman

I thought I'd do a little before and after too. Here's the Oceanarium in the Gulfport harbor before Katrina taken from a ferris wheel during the Fishing Rodeo on the 4th of July this year.
This photo by Joshua Norman

This is a quick before and after of Ship Island, off the coast of Gulfport. In the top pic, there is a cut created by Hurricane Camille in '69. Katrina widened that cut by three times the distance. There is also a second cut on the eastern tip of West Ship Island. From a boat, that new cut looks navigable by a shallow draft boat. East Ship Island is almost completely gone. These images courtesy of NASA's ASTER remote sensing device aboard the Terra satellite.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

So Rita is headed in our general direction. The good news is that the path isn't projected over Mississippi and that the Gulf is a little cooler than it was for Katrina and therefore less gasoline will be thrown on that fire.
However, most Hurricanes in the Gulf take a sharp turn east just before making landfall.
Regardless, Mike and I may be faced with an interesting choice: Do we stay again?
Mike has already declared his intentions to do so no matter what. (Although he may correct on that one later.)
I have plane tickets for a friend's wedding in Vermont this weekend. My flight leaves in the wee hours of Friday morning. Rita is supposed to make landfall either late Friday or early Saturday. I don't know if I could leave if another one hits here directly.

Monday, September 19, 2005

I was asked to put the following story and informational tidbit on the blog from a friend (Hiddy-ho, northern bureau Bears!) because of all the animal questions we've been getting and because of the international attention those dolphins from the marina are getting.
1) There were also some smaller, younger dolphins who were transfered to swimming pools at a Best Western and a Holiday Inn up Hwy 49. There's actually a photo on this blog (of not the best quality) of one of the swimming pools with said dolphins and their trainer the night before the storm. Anyways, not all the smaller dolphins made it. Why has their plight not made the news?
2)A friend from work, let's call him lil' Mookie because I like that name, told me the following story early last week (all quotes are rough remembrances of what my friend told me): Lil' Mookie's house was destroyed, so he was staying with his parents. One day, they discover a pit-bull - of the large variety - in their backyard in an otherwise ruined-by-Katrina neighborhood. The dog was obviously not in a good mood so they start shouting and throwing things in its general direction to get it out of their yard so they could feel safe to go outside. Surely, this dog had survived the storm on its own and was rather freaked out, because the dog did not move a muscle, despite the noise and threats.
Eventually, Lil' Mookie's father goes to get his gun. Lil' Mookie says, "No dad, don't shoot it," and takes the gun from him.
Lil' Mookie decides to fire off a few rounds into the ground in front of the pit-bull to scare it away.
"Bang! Bang! Bang!," goes the gun and the dog looks up at Lil' Mookie as if to say, "What the f**k do you want?"
So Lil' Mookie's dad decides to call the cops. Cops come in about an hour and, by that point, the pit-bull had wedged itself under the family's deck and was shaking and growling.
The cops start to coax the dog out from under the deck and when it pokes its head out a little, "Bang!," they shoot it between the eyes. The dog took a step like it did not know what had happened and drops dead.
"What the hell did you do that for?" yells Lil' Mookie. "We didn't want you to kill it!"
"C'mon, kid," said the cop. "You know how many calls we get for this? Do you know how many of these animals there are out there? Even if we had enough space for it, which we don't, all the dogs we throw in together are so freaked out, they're tearing each other apart. That thing could have had rabies too, for all we know. Not that we had the time or resources to test for it. Besides, we also don't really have the time to deal with that sort of thing in general now, there is still that whole natural disaster, medical emergencies and looting thing to deal with."
And off they took the dog's corpse.

Things have, of course, gotten better since then. I've seen animal activists and control specialists from all over the country in their vans driving around recently.
What I want to say is, at least 1/3 of all South Mississippians lost their homes. Thousands lost their jobs. Hundreds lost their lives.
There is plenty of garbage on the roads for strays to eat and therefore I find myself not caring all that deeply about how the animals were affected. Maybe in a few months I'll be worried how Flipper and Lassie fared, but now, I'm more worried about what my neighbor on a Section 8 housing allowance and welfare is going to do with her 8-year-old daughter and herself now that we've been asked to leave our apartment complex and there's no available apartments.

This is just to show the force of the water. Those pines are occasionally used for ship masts.

This was a house also on Beach Blvd. A lot of the homes in this part of town were second homes for the wealthy from New Orleans. Many were also centuries old. It was one of the most beautfil stretches of beachfront property I'd ever seen.

This guy was an antiquer who lived on Beach Blvd in Waveland in an old plantation house. What you see there is what was his front steps and porch. He spends his days wandering the woods and marsh searching for what few antiques were not completely crushed by the storm.
Went to Waveland two days ago, which Senor Keller wrote about earlier on. I will therefore refrain from describing the scene as a whole and just write about the pictures themselves. This was a house on Beach Blvd, where the waves and surge combined were over 50 feet, by some local estimates. [I am having trouble posting to the blog via past measures. I hope this still works.]

MKeller on a park service boat surveying MS's barrier islands. Sorry folks. Killing two birds with one stone here. One, testing the photo software because Josh can't get it to work. Clearly, it's a user problem and not a technology problem. Two, showing Mom and Dad the new beard, which I know they love so much. Mom, I'll shave it as soon as I am confident I won't get a feces-derived skin infection.
The islands- all were washed over with new cuts appearing in several locations. The pines on Horn Island will all die-off because of saltwater saturation and any animals that could not climb to the tops of the trees for shelter are all gone. Boats washed ashore on the south beaches of the islands, but no sign of tar balls from the five or six deepwater norfolk rigs that blew off their wellheads. That's a good thing.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

A small change to the blog - I put a link up for the website of an ex-professor of mine. The NYTimes sent him to New Orleans a while ago and, as usual, he took incredibly moving photos. I recommend surfing the whole site. He has no equals.
Mike is taking a much needed break from computerdom. He will surely be back with a bang shortly.
I hope to be putting some pictures of Waveland I took today up soon. There have been technical difficulties though.
For now, enjoy Laforet's superior work.
As an aside to the story of the Senators described below, while in front of the library, one of them, I believe it was Senator Reid, finds this DVD of "the Perfect Storm" buried in the mud. So he picks it up, starts brushing off the mud and showing it to his buddies. He was obviously very proud of his "meaningful" find. So I walk up behind him, tug his sleeve and say, "Hey dude, you might want to go wash your hands off. There's funky stuff in this mud." And he gives me a look that is halfway between confusion and anger.
On a side note: I hate national TV media. Well, specifically, I hate the scum bags from NBC who nearly ran me off the road in my KIA with their giant rental van because they were upset about losing their place in line behind the bus. First off, they were dressed (and smelled) like drunken frat boys. Second, they had no respect for the place.
I wish a curse on all the parachutring-in journalists who care not for the people who stay behind while they return to their comfy hotel rooms or clean, well-lit homes.
Finally, Senator Frist isn't as tall as I thought he was.

off they go
This photo by Joshua Norman

back on the bus
This photo by Joshua Norman

while telling that story, Jones got a little choked up. To comfort him, Thad Cochran said, "We'll get you everything you need to rebuild here."
Lieberman quipped, "When that comes from the Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, you know you're going to get it."
This photo by Joshua Norman

Here the senators and Jones stop in front of the Pass library to hear a story about the Pass police's last stand against katrina.
the police, after watching their station disintegrate, all got on top of the book shelves and were nearly drowned inside the library. At one point, they had to form a human chain to rescue their chief, who was trying to rescue someone else form the storm surge.
This photo by Joshua Norman

getting off the bus on 2nd Street.
This photo by Joshua Norman

So they all got on this bus and toured the town for about 1/2 hour. I almost made it onto the bus, but a burly secret service guy stopped me.
This photo by Joshua Norman

This man needs no introduction. Hey Mr. K, didn't you realize you were going to So. Miss.? What's with the all black?
This photo by Joshua Norman

John Warner, aka, ex-Mr. Elizabeth Taylor
This photo by Joshua Norman

Thad Cochran and Bill Frist
This photo by Joshua Norman

Joe Lieberman and Pass Christian CAO Malcolm Jones
This photo by Joshua Norman

that's the job i want
This photo by Joshua Norman

So 14 Senators came to Pass Christian yesterday to tour the damage before next week's vote on relief money. I was glad they came to the pass. I figured either there or Waveland were the most dramatic sights on the coast. This is them landing on the first hole at the Pass Christian Isle's Golf Course.
This photo by Joshua Norman

Friday, September 16, 2005

The hotel for the Palace did fine. Not so much the casino.
This photo by Joshua Norman

same bridge
This photo by Joshua Norman

That's the Ocean Springs to Biloxi bridge.
This photo by Joshua Norman

I think, but am not sure, that the barge to the right is the Isle of Capri Casino and the one to the left is Casino Magic. Then again, the Capri's barge may have cracked in half and slid off to the left. Hard to tell.
This photo by Joshua Norman

Captain Boudreaux. That's the Isle of Capri and Grand Casinos in the background.
This photo by Joshua Norman

I did a story about those schooners yesterday. It was nice to be on the water.
This photo by Joshua Norman

The pine tress are already starting to regrow their needles.
This photo by Joshua Norman

Self portrait, of sorts.
This photo by Joshua Norman

Dear Geico: A 3,000 lb boat fell on my car. Is that covered in my policy?
This photo by Joshua Norman

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

An open letter to Josh Norman,
Hello Josh! Good to hear that you are enjoying your stay on the fabulous Gulf Coast of Mississippi.
As for being holed up in a "bar," please tell my wonderful editors that I was using "bar" as a euphemism for the laboratory, where I am busily working the mass spectrometer to find what devilish chemicals are waiting to poison us all. As part of that water analysis, I am personally testing some of the water with my own "spectrometer." That involves drinking some of those samples, which, strangely, seem to have been tainted with some chemical formulation resembling budweiser. I am a bit worried about this, so I will do an additional round of tests.
Good luck on your rewrite, and I'll let you know what this phase of analysis yields. If anyone needs me, the lab is called "Heroes Sports Bar & Grille" on Dauphin St. Interesting name for a place of science.
My lovely lab assistant, Heather, will be helping me with all further analysis and will be fielding any calls from the media.
Thank you for your time,
So the scum-bag isn't out reporting but holed up in a bar in Mobile! I take back every kind thing I said in my previous post. Better bring some of the bar back here, you schmuck. I want a comfy stool, bad country music, a frosty ale and a cheeseburger please. Damnit! Maybe this would be a good time to mention that his editor has been looking for him for three hours now.

Well, I’m holed up in a bar in Mobile, AL. I swear it was not my intention to be holed up in said bar from the minute I awoke this morning.

I’ve been collecting water samples from Harrison and Jackson county beaches and inland waterways all day. I moved from west to east and finished by dropping them off at a lab in Mobile. On the way over, I-10, one of two ways into Southern Mississippi from Alabama had gridlocked traffic for something like twenty miles. The amount of 18-wheelers and heavy equipment was amazing. Somewhere in the middle, I saw a caravan of eight airboats being pulled by pickup trucks. Must be a group from Florida.

Anyway, the shear volume of traffic made me realize that it would be better to get a hot meal (with some Stevie Ray Vaughan playing now- bless his Texas Tornado heart) than to wait on the pavement.

It’s good to be away, even if it’s just for a few hours.

I am amazed at the look of the six different sample sites I went to today. Every one of them smelled completely rancid in its own special way. Some of the water near residential areas smelled like sewage and rot, while the Gulf water smelled mainly of rot. I went to a few industrial sites that smelled of chemicals and petroleum. They all had amazing amounts of debris in them. There was a whole bed in the Mississippi Sound.

The last place was a bayou that is home to MS Phosphates, a Chevron refinery and a couple of big ship builders. I had to lie down to reach the water and had some thorns from dead submerged vegetation stick into my arm a little bit. Almost immediately, the very light wound inflamed and made my lower right arm slightly numb. Glad I got a tetnus shot. Ummm, industrial chemicals. Delicious.

Mike, for once, is out reporting and I, for once, am sitting on my butt in the newsroom. It's kind of nice doing nothing but rewrite. You know, getting fed quotes, reporting by telephone only.
The first week of reporting after the storm was an experience unto itself. No phone, hardly any internet. 2 p.m. deadlines. I'd have to wake up at 5:30 to get a story done in time. Thank goodness that is over.
By the second week, phones were back. It's a truly unreal experience, not being able to call a story in and rushing back for deadline on bad roads while running out of gas.
Now that phones are back, I have definitely been volunteering myself for more rewrite jobs and phone reporting stuff. Ah, the life. I figured my farmer's tan is bad enough.
As for personal dribble, well, I eat a lot of tuna fish. I've eaten 90 percent of meals in the SunHerald's break room, which is stocked with canned goods of all kinds, mountains of white bread, cases of peanut butter and jelly, granola bars, water, Chex Mix, and other delightful deliciousnesses. I like spam, and don't think it smells like urine, but I prefer to eat tuna daily. I also eat a lot of granola bars and apples, when we get them. Alright, that is all a lie. I eat of lot of those Peanut Butter cracker things that come prepackaged and Chex Mix.
The best meal I've had since this started was a steak that Mike cooked up on his grill. I made some rice and green beans with Zatarain's Creole Seasoning. (I hope that'll still be available for a while.) Had some yams too. MMMM-MMMM.
Mike has generously allowed me to make a copy of his aparment key and sleep on a futon in his living room indefinitely. I can sleep in my apartment - the mold is gone after a thorough cleaning - but there is some strange alarm going off downstairs that is maddening. To be precise about my living situation: the building itself is okay. The downstairs apartments were flooded with mud and water, but the upstairs where I live did okay. All of my material possessions made it. The people downstairs were not so lucky. Their places are rotting away too.
The landlady has turned off the water and the electricity could not be turned back on because of all the water there was in the apartment complex. She has strongly suggested all renters get out but has not demanded it. Of the 30+ people that lived there originally, I and one or two families are the only ones who have not packed and fled.
I have taken all my important stuff (photos, papers, etc.) and brought them to Kellers. The rest is replaceable and I am slowly working on repacking it.
Transitions always bring on dramatic mood swings. And the daunting task of having to pack and move out of a place I liked a lot - actually, it was my favorite dwelling ever - is certainly not exciting.
And I digress.
No news really otherwise. To sum: I'm staying with Mike in his infinite kindness indefinitely and using my place as storage until I officially get the boot from there.
Wow, this is a long one. If you read to here, thanks! I'd probably have stopped by now.
Oh, and if you are curious about what we're writing about, go to our employer's website linked ot the right. Mike's byline is "Mike Keller". Mine is "Joshua Norman" but they sometimes scrwe that up and call it "Josh Norman." NB: the reason I didn't want to be just "Josh" in my byline is that there is a tight-end in the NFL named Josh Norman who got a lot of attention in the last few years, as well as some strange preacher from the midwest with the same name.

That's Market Street in the Pass looking from Beach Boulevard.
This photo by Joshua Norman

One of two photos I found from yesterday that I felt like adding. That's the railroad bridge between Pass and Bay St. Louis. It may be hard to tell in the photo, but all the tracks are gone. The turning part of the bridge that allows boats to pass it, which amazingly didn't get blown away, was turned a full 90 degrees by the storm, despite being locked down.
This photo by Joshua Norman

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

The guy in blue jeans and white shirt is Ryan, one of our fellow reporters. He lost his house. He's standing next to what large swaths of the Pass looked like. This is the last one I'll post today. I thought it was very evocative of the amount of damage caused in the Pass. There were piles like that all over town. That pile was a combination of a couple of houses and garages. The debris stretched down a road in piles of similar height for 500 yards at one point.
This photo by Joshua Norman

Something about this disturbed me.
This photo by Joshua Norman

That's one of our photographers to the far left. The shirtless guy was digging through his mother's house to find some stuff for his little boy. Those are his brothers helping out. Mom hadn't seen what happened to her house yet.
This photo by Joshua Norman

When an official said that seventy percent or more of the homes in the Pass were now unlivable, he was right on the money.
This photo by Joshua Norman

I suppose I should mention here that all these photos were taken in Pass Christian today. It was the first day in nearly a week that residents were allowed back in to town to collect belongings. Needless to say, not many people found much.
This photo by Joshua Norman

Don't know why, but I found this pink bathroom amusing and sad.No way would that be my color scheme, whatever the woman might say.
This photo by Joshua Norman

That white picket fence across the way guraded the house that is tilting in the water in the foreground.
This photo by Joshua Norman

That roof in the background is the roof that was on the house that this stairway once went to.
This photo by Joshua Norman

That was a row of million dollar homes just south of the Pass/Bay Bridge that are now completely gone.
This photo by Joshua Norman

The Pass/Bay Bridge from another angle.
This photo by Joshua Norman