This video is a segment of Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson’s March 26 talk on Cosmic Quandaries in St. Petersburg, Florida. Though the entire talk is well over an hour long, I found this particular segment, featuring Tyson delivering some incredibly interesting thoughts on the nature of the universe and our place within it, to be both engaging and exciting. I recently finished reading Dr. Tyson’s Space Chronicles in which he goes into greater detail on some of the subjects mentioned in this video, as well as his views on NASA, the future of space travel, and America’s role in that future…all subjects I find very interesting. If you enjoy the video, I highly recommend Space Chronicles.
Me – “It doesn’t look venomous to me, gonna get a picture.”
Aussie Bloke – “Oi…I wouldn’t get too close!”
Me – “Why? Do you know what kind it is?”
Aussie Bloke – “Yeah, mate, its my least favorite kind.”
Me – “Really? What kind is that?”
Aussie Bloke – “The not-dead kind.”
* * * *
Yep, the words…‘it doesn’t look venomous to me’ actually came out of my mouth and, no, it wasn’t in reference to The Wallaby, but rather in reference to a snake I had just suddenly come across in a car park. And just as with anything else I ‘suddenly’ come across…I am ‘suddenly’ an expert…THE Snake Specialist! I am not only fearless, I am also an authority on all things venomous. I am Venom Woman and I was having my very first Australian snake encounter! (Please see Photographic Evidence #2 – The Snake) I actually very nearly stepped on this snake, but it wasn’t my fault! The snake was hanging out in a very non-snake-like location; the car park behind the Rock Pool. (A car park is a ‘parking lot’ to us American types.)
I managed to whip out my Nikon camera in time to snap a pic before the snake slithered away. (At this point I think it important to make clear that I ADORE Nikon cameras, always carry a Nikon camera with me in my travels and would swear on my mother’s collection of whimsical ceramic hummingbird figurines that Nikon cameras are the best in the world!)
Checking the photo I was instantly delighted by the out-of-focus, fuzzy quality to it. As Mitch Hedberg pointed out, ALL photos of fantastical creatures are in fact blurry and out-of-focus. See any picture of Big Foot, Sasquatch, The Loch Ness Monster, or The Abominable Snowman if you have any doubt. These creatures are, in actuality, fuzzy. It is not the photographer’s fault (and certainly not the fault of Nikon cameras!). If you’re ever in the woods and come across a fuzzy creature….RUN!
Though I AM a snake specialist, I did feel the need to get a second opinion on my car park snake. So I shared the photo with my friend Ben, down in Melbourne, because he’s awfully hot…I mean nice, he’s awfully NICE…and yep, he’s also really fun to share with. No, he’s not an ophiologist or a herpetologist, but he IS a photographer and a bartender, and damn good at both from what I understand. Furthermore, he’s been to the Out Back….more than once, so yeah…snake expert. I also imagine he would sound really Australian saying the word ‘herpetologist’! (I should, in addition, point out that I’m fairly certain Ben also uses Nikon cameras.)
Melbourne Ben – “Hmmm, might be a taipan.”
Me – “So, taipan it is then.”
Melbourne Ben – “…….maybe. I’m not sure. Kinda looks like one.”
Me – “So, yeah……taipan.”
Melbourne Ben – “Hard to say, the pic’s a lil bit fuzzy.”
Me – “Well, yeah!”
Melbourne Ben – “Were you using a Nikon camera?”
Me – “……..of course.”
Melbourne Ben – “Hmmm.”
Now for you Steve Erwin fans, the taipan is what he referred to as the Fierce Snake.
The Taipan : (It helps to read the following description using an Aussie accent, preferably Victorian.) Australia has 30 different kinds of venomous snakes. The largest and most poisonous of them is the taipan. Taipans eat rats and hang in car parks.
CRIKEY!!!! Now with that rather unpleasant, though not completely uncool, taste in our mouths, I think I should quickly direct our attention to Photographic Evidence No. 3 – The Possum.
While the sight of the (possible) taipan caused me to (naturally!!) draw nearer to it, the initial sighting of the possum caused me to – well – scream, and not at all un-little-girl-like. I’m sure, given the time of night, most neighbors were thinking the sound to be that of a Bush-stone Curlew. (See Photographic Evidence No. 4 – The Bush-stone Curlew, aka The Screaming Woman Bird.)
It was nearly 10 pm and I was in the home of the wonderful and awesomely cool North Queensland family I was staying with. The boys, Jack(10) and Dillon(7), and I were playing video games and Jessica (13) was in her room being a 13 year old girl and having no interest what so ever in video games. Dillon, being more of a morning gamer, had fallen asleep, while Jack, being damn hardcore, was killing everything in sight. I, being a somewhat responsible adult, was remembering washing which needed to be hung out on the line. And, yes, before you ask, any time it is NOT raining in North Queensland during the ‘Wet’ is a good time to put clothes on the line. I was nearly finished and reaching down for the last piece to hang……….when there at my feet……and I mean RIGHT AT MY FEET…….was this large furry ‘thing’! (Please note, the ‘thing’ was furry, but not fuzzy, so I know immediately it is non life-threatening. This, however, does not stop me from screaming.)
Ok, where am I? Oh yep……screaming…….
I’m screaming and I jump back. In my defense I did not immediately identify this thing to be a possum. I seriously thought it to be a rat. A very, VERY, large rat. (Though I had never seen a rat there, apparently they are found in car parks else taipans would not be hanging there.) This ‘thing’ was not small, it was easily the size of a cat, a good size cat!
To make complete my freaked-out-ness…..as I backed away…….it advanced! It seemed to be sniffing my feet – closely, intently. This, I’ll admit, was making me very nervous. I then realized it was backing me further and further away from the house. Then with agility previously unbeknown to me, with the grace and swiftness of a gazelle (one that’s been targeted, separated from the herd, and facing certain death) I leapt over the furry creature and race towards the open back door. The possum followed – quickly. I shot across the utility area and into the boys bedroom, “Jack, come see this!”
“Whoa!” Jack stepped out of the back door. “It’s a possum!”
Me, looking cool – “Yeah…I…..I know that.”
Jack – “Back away! That thing will bite you and…..and scratch you.”
Me – “Nah, it’s alright. Ummm, it doesn’t look venomous to me.”
This made absolutely no sense, however it HAD worked for me once before. I was extremely cool at this point as the possum, having found a much more preferable target, was now following Jack.
Jack – “It’s after my feet!”
Me – “Oh wow, it’s so cute!”
Jack – “What do we do?”
Me – “Lets feed it!”
Jack – “Hell, yeah!”
Jack raced around to open the kitchen door and we were thinking……now, what would a possum like to eat…..
Me and Jack – “Chocolate cake!!”
Three pieces of chocolate cake later and the possum was still into it. Jack and I, at this point, felt certain we’d hit on it’s natural and proper nutritional diet! If not for the lateness of the hour we could have rang Ben in Melbourne to verify this, but the cake felt right and we went with it. At some point Jess, hearing the ruckus, came from her room and joined in the fun. We tried to wake Dillon but not even a marsupial hopped up on chocolate cake was match for the child’s X Box induced coma.
By this time the possum had climbed it’s way up to the top of the clothes line post, and was in no hurry to leave. It held out it’s little paws as if pleading (or jonesing)….
The Possum – “Oi, what else ya got?” (The possum was obviously a Queenslander, and possibly sporting a mullet.)
It’s big shiny eyes were now on nearly the same level as ours, only a bit higher. If it were planning to launch into an aerial attack, it was now in perfect position. It was then Jess who thought of feeding it an orange. I’m sure given the time Jack and I would have come up with that, but in the excitement of the moment the chocolate cake definitely seemed the go. Once rendered passive by the combination of highly refined table sugar and carbohydrates the possum agreed to be photographed. Don’t be put off by the pic, the possum is actually MUCH cuter than it appears. (The poor quality of the photo is to be blamed entire upon the photographer and not at all the fault of Nikon cameras….)
Thanks to Mitch Hedberg and Steve Erwin for their posthumous assistance in writing this piece, and also thanks to Ben in Melbourne for being extremely cool and stuff!
~You should keep diving in, Alex. This is your specialty, your focus, your dedication. – Eric Murtaugh ……who’s awesome blog can be found here - http://ericmurtaugh.com/
I LOVE…Diving In! I once had a friend refer to me as ‘fickle’. This was because during World Cup 2010, when he asked me which team I liked I went on to tell him which team I liked in each of the 8 groups. The conversation went something like this..…
Him: No, no, no! You can’t have a team in each group. You can only have ONE team!
Me: (Quite stunned.) Why can I not have a team in each group? What’s the fun in that? What if my ONE team isn’t playing…or gets eliminated? I need options.
Him: You need options? No, you need a reality check. You’re too fickle.
Me: I am not! Explain to me why I can’t be completely excited about Brazil one day and then completely excited about Portugal the next.
Him: What the fuck?! Brazil!? Portugal?! They’re in the same group!
Me: I know. So?
Him: Didn’t you just say ONE team in each group?
Me: I’ve changed my mind. Two, I want two teams in each group.
Him: Two in each group? That’s half the teams playing in the entire fucking Cup! You want half the fucking teams?
Me: Yes…and you can have the other half. Woohoo! High-five!
Him: No, no high five. I’m not high-fiving you and your SIXTEEN fucking teams. I have one team.
Me: You can have Korea and Côte d’Ivoire….
Him: You have no conception of the word ‘loyalty’.
Me: I’m extremely loyal…
Me: To whatever I’m excited about at the moment.
Ok, so some may call me fickle or erratic, but I prefer to think of myself as curious, excitable, and fascinated by things around me. I do ‘dive in’ and I do it with both feet. I dive into romance, love, music, conversations, nature, exploration, discovery, the universe, and I can certainly dive into a large pizza with the works! (But no freaking anchovies!) I love learning and I absolutely love feeding off the passions of others….
You: I love popsicles!
Me: Me too!
You: Do you really?
Me: Well…I do now!
If someone is excited about something, I can’t help but feel that excitement and dive right in along with them. And I don’t want to go for a quick dip, I want to really experience it. I want to find, and revel in, that passion and excitement they feel. At this point some may be thinking that I have no convictions, no ideals, and no opinions of my own….but that’s not true. I’ve lots of them! In fact, that’s pretty much the entire purpose of this blog….things I LOVE. While I have tons of opinions, what I have very few of are rules….and the few I do have I’m very flexible with. I’m constantly changing the rules. Why go to all the hassle of breaking a rule when it’s easier to just change it? In my opinion, if you break a rule….it was probably a lot of fun, so eliminate the rule, eliminate the guilt, and enjoy yourself. Of course, there are some things I will not dive in to, some rules I will not break no matter how much some one else enjoys it….
You: I love anchovies!
Me: Me too! No, wait…did you say anchovies?
You: Yes, I love them!
Me: You’re weird….weird is good…
You: Don’t you like them?
Me: Nope, but…what else do you love?!
You: Quantum electrodynamics….
Me: Hell, yes! Tell me everything about it! You wanna go grab a popsicle?!
I LOVE…weird, exotic food! I’m one of those people who will try just about anything once, and most things twice if I think maybe I did it wrong on the first try. This also applies to food. One of the incredibly awesome things about travel is trying new foods… some things I never in a million years thought I’d be ingesting! I found this Food Challenge over on kimkiminy’s very cool Check Your Premises blog.
So here I go….The 100 Foods Survey….
1. Abalone: Nope, never tried it.
2. Absinthe: Yes, and umm….it’s ok.
3. Alligator: Yes….I’m from New Orleans! Either fried or in a sauce piquante. YUM!!
4. Baba Ghanoush – Yes, and I love it as I do most Lebanese food. (I know it’s cooked in other places, but I’ve only had it at Lebanese/Mediterranean restaurants.
5. Bagel & Lox - Bagels-yes, Lox-no. I don’t think I know what a lox is….
6. Baklava – YES! Delicious!
7. Barbeque Ribs – Please…I’m living in Texas! Rather pork ribs over beef…with TONS of sauce. Best ribs in Texas: Salt Lick in Driftwood outside of Austin!
8. Bellini – I know it’s some kind of drink and that alone is enough for me to try it! But I haven’t as yet.
9. Bird’s Nest Soup - No…..
10. Biscuits & Gravy - Hell yes!
11. Black Pudding – Nope, what is it?
12. Black Truffle – Would like to, but haven’t.
13. Borscht – Yes, once….I’m not sure it was cooked right. I need another sample.
14. Calamari - Yes, and when it’s good it’s great, but when it’s bad…..ewww!
15. Carp - Yep.
16. Caviar – Yes, at parties….the kind of parties I’m not usually invited to!
17. Cheese Fondue – Melted cheese=good!
18. Chicken & Waffles - Never heard of this, but I’d give it a try.
19. Chicken Tikka Masala – No…but I SO want to!
20. Chile Relleno – Oh yes, plentiful here in San Antonio, and quite good!
21. Chitlins – Ok, yes I’ve tried them….and I never, ever, want to again!
22. Churros – Yep!
23. Clam Chowder - Yes, but I rather Crawfish Chowder.
24. Cognac – Yes, don’t mind if I do!
25. Crab Cakes - Love crab cakes….my mother’s!
26. Crickets – Nope, but it would be interesting.
27. Currywurst – Again, I don’t know what this is…..
28. Dandelion Wine – No, sounds good though.
29. Dulce De Leche - Mmmmm, yes!
30. Durian - Interesting….but no, never had it.
31. Eel – Yes, I’m kinda iffy on eel though. I’d give it another try.
32. Eggs Benedict – Anytime, yes, and with a Mimosa please!
33. Fish Tacos – Yes, awesome fish tacos at The Cove in San Antonio.
34. Foie Gras - No, thanks.
35. Fresh Spring Rolls – I knew a woman who made these, yummy!
36. Fried Catfish – Yes, my folks have a catfish pond!
37. Fried Green Tomatoes – Yep, and I can take it or leave it.
38. Fried Plantain – Yes, when living in Jamaica.
39. Frito Pie – Yes, I hate to admit…but I have had this.
40. Frogs’ Legs - Of course, I’m Cajun! Taste like chicken! (Not really.)
41. Fugu – Ummm…nope. Would I? Maybe….
42. Funnel Cake – Well, yes, I’ve been to a Fair before.
43. Gazpacho – Yes, I have a friend who makes it wonderfully!
44. Goat – Yes, goat soup in Jamaica. Interesting, but a bit greasy.
45. Goat’s milk – Yep, but I’m not a milk drinker no matter the source. Love goat cheese though!
46. Goulash – No, would like to.
47. Gumbo – Oh Yes!! See my post on COOKING. Not only do I love eating it, I love cooking it!
48. Haggis - It would take some convincing, but I would try it. Haven’t as yet.
49. Head Cheese – Yes, I’ve tried it, my step-father use to make it in his butcher shop. I’m not a fan.
50. Heirloom Tomatoes – YUM!! Yes!
51. Honeycomb – Delicious!
52. Hostess Fruit Pie – Fried pies! Ok, I’ll admit I have….but Hubig’s pies on Dauphine Street in New Orleans are SO MUCH better! Cherry or apple!
53. Huevos Rancheros - Of course….again I’m in San Antonio!
54. Jerk Chicken - Ah….jerk chicken! Before I moved to Jamaica I had spent the pervious 5 years as a vegetarian. The smell of jerk chicken cooking broke this. I wish I had some right now!
55. Kangaroo – Yep, it was alright!
56. Key Lime Pie - Yes, and as often as possible!
57. Kobe Beef - No, but I would.
58. Lassi - No…what is it?
59. Lobster – Yes, but only once. Would like it again!
60. Mimosa – Do you even have to ask……Yes!
61. MoonPie – Yep!
62. Morel Mushrooms – I’m allergic to mushrooms, but some are worth the reaction!
63. Nettle Tea - Yes, in Australia….horrible!
64. Octopus - No, not as yet….cook it up!
65. Oxtail Soup – Yes, in Bali….delicious!
66. Paella – Yes, I like it!
67. Paneer – Never had it, but I want it!
68. Pastrami on Rye – I love pastrami, not crazy about rye bread.
69. Pavlova – Yes….very nice!
70. Phaal – Another food I don’t think I know of….I’m starting to feel very unadventurous about which foods I’ve tried….
71. Philly Cheese Steak – Of course!
72. Pho – Vietnamese….yummy!
73. Pineapple & Cottage Cheese - No….not together. Love pineapple though.
74. Pistachio Ice Cream – Love it!
75. Po’Boy – Again this is a New Orleans thing, so, definitely yes! Roast beef po’boys are the best!
76. Pocky - no….should I?
77. Polenta – Yes, yes, yes!
78. Prickly Pear – No, want to though.
79. Rabbit Stew – Yes, my mother’s. I don’t eat the meat, too many small bones for me, but the gravy and rice is heavenly!
80. Raw Oysters – Are you kidding?! Fuck yes! And I love them naked…not me naked, the oysters. If they’re fresh and naturally salty there’s no need to add anything.
81. Root Beer Float - Yes! What’s not to love?
82. S’mores - Yep, over-rated….I’ll just eat the ingredients as is please.
83. Sauerkraut – Never have, and I feel that I should.
84. Sea Urchin – No.
85. Shark - Yep. In Australia most fish and chip shops have ‘flake’ on the menu, it’s shark. It’s not bad but it’s not nearly as nice as barramundi. The barra is worth the price difference.
86. Snail - Yes, unfortunately I have.
87. Snake – Yes, it’s alright…not something I would go out of my way to have again.
88. Soft Shell Crab – This is one of the wonders of life….soft shell crab! My mother keeps a stash of these in her freezer….hidden, well hidden. I love them!
89. Som Tam - No, but sounds interesting.
90. Spaetzle - No…..
91. Spam – Of course I’ve had it….really don’t care for it though.
92. Squirrel - Yes…there are cute and delicious!
93. Steak Tartare - Yes, I tried it and my conclusion….we have fire for a reason….
94. Sweet Potato Fries – Yummy! Sweet potatoes are great anyway you cook them!
95. Sweetbreads – What are sweetbreads. It sounds like I’d like it….
96. Tom Yum - Oh, yes, more please!
97. Umeboshi - Don’t know this food….
98. Venison – LOVE it!! Another food in the ‘cute and delicious’ category.
99. Wasabi Peas – Fun to eat!
100. Zucchini Flowers – No….but zucchini is wonderful, and the flowers are pretty…I’d try it!
My Score: Of the 100 foods listed I’ve tried 68. Not a great score! But I’m willing to try the other 32…well, most of them! How did you score?!!
I LOVE…Douglas Adams! I find brilliance, intellect, and cleverness to be absolutely compelling, and Douglas Adams possessed no shortage of these qualities. He’s easily in my top 5, completely-love-to-read, writers, and most importantly, he is a constant reminder to not take any of this ‘life’ crap too seriously. His Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy series (a trilogy in five parts) was my introduction, and it was love at first read. I was hooked with the opening paragraph.
One of the coolest things about being a Douglas Adams fan is the totally random occurrence of running into other Douglas Adams fans. It’s almost like being in a club, an imaginary club which only exists in the minds of the members, and only exists because the members know there is no club. Just mentioning things such as…don’t panic…or 42.…or life, don’t talk to me about life….lets one know instantly if that person you’ve just met is a member. If so, its needless to say, your admiration of this new person instantly goes up like a million percent. Once at a video rental shop I noticed the clerk had ‘Don’t Panic’ tattooed on his arm, this, of course, launched a 10 minute long conversation…. much to the annoyance of my date…who was not in the club.
One of the things I admire most about Adams is the ease with which he seemingly wrote. I’m not saying it was easy for him, only that he made it seem easy. I also love, and share, his passion for science and physics (hot!), his passion for music, photography, and his passion for atheism. Richard Dawkins, in his book The God Delusion, which was dedicated to Adams, quotes Adams…..”Isn’t it enough to see that a garden is beautiful without having to believe that there are fairies at the bottom of it too?”
I LOVE…The New Year! It’s not just turning another page on the calendar, it’s an entirely new calendar! And of course, it’s far more than the calendar itself. The calendar is an arbitrary thing, meaningless other than that which we choose to apply to it. Yet, there’s that feeling…that anticipation of a new start, a new beginning, another chance to throw out the old and welcome the new. We should, of course, realize that this ‘new start’ takes place every day, not just at this time of year. And this ‘new start’ takes place whether you like it or not, whether you recognize it or not….and whether you take control of it or not. The option, or the decision rather, to take control and become the leader of one’s life rather than one who allows outside influences to do the leading, is an option which is forever on the table. All one has to do is to make the decision to pick it up.
Yet still at this time of year, and on this day in particular, we all feel the excitement and anticipation of the opportunity to change, to better ourselves, to accomplish more of what we truly want to bring into our lives. And this is a good thing, it’s a freaking awesome thing! Welcome it! If turning a page excites you, inspires you, to bring more passion and intensity into your life then by all means turn that page. Just know that you are capable of turning a page whenever you want to…not just when the calendar says it’s ok to do so.
Resolutions….hmmm….I’m not much of a New Year’s resolution maker. Don’t get me wrong, I love resolutions. I love when I resolve, make that firm decision, as to what is and what is not acceptable to me…and then follow through on it. However I find most New Years resolutions to be very ordinary and uninspiring. We resolve to make the new year better than the last, we resolve to spend more time with loved ones, we resolve to lose 10 pounds, and we resolve to quit smoking or drinking as much. In my opinion these resolutions put focus on things we don’t want. We don’t want to neglect the people we care about, we don’t want to be unhealthy, we don’t want another crappy year. While it’s good to not want these things, the resolutions themselves are completely lacking in inspiration, passion, or method of how we intend to achieve them. They also clearly remind us of our failures in the pervious year.
This all being said, I do love the new year. I love the good cheer, I love the celebrations, I love the fireworks and yes, I also love the symbolism of the fresh beginning. I love being able to crack open the cover on a new journal and writing the first words on a clean new page….and I love the thought, the absolute thrill, of not knowing what will be written on the last pages, and all the pages in between. All the love, happiness, successes, failures, heartaches, discoveries, adventures, sunrises, journeys, surprises, disappointments, sadness, epiphanies….I welcome all of it with the complete knowledge that how I view them, how I feel about them, how I react to them, is 100% entirely up to me!
WISHING A VERY, VERY, HAPPY 2012 TO YOU!!! YEP….THAT’S RIGHT….YOU!!! : )
I LOVE…Life In A Day! I should explain something about myself. I am very much ‘out of the loop’ when it comes to pop culture. It can take me forever to catch on to some things. Sometimes when I discover something I think is cool and new, I quickly find out that it’s not actually new and seemingly everyone else on the face of the planet already knows about it. This is true of Life In A Day. I found it a couple of nights ago while browsing around Netflix looking for something interesting and inspiring to watch. If there’s anything positive about being outside the pop culture circle, it’s that when I do finally stumble upon something I can then experience it without the hype/propaganda associated with it. It’s for this same reason I rarely will read a review before watching a film, reading a book, or listening to music.
So, I watched Life in a Day only knowing the brief description given by Netflix…. ‘After thousands of people around the world joined together to record banal and remarkable everyday events on July 24, 2010, director Kevin MacDonald led a team of editors to condense more than 4,500 hours of video into this picture of life on Earth.’.
Cool enough. While I was expecting something inspiring, and I did find inspiration, I also found a lot I was not expecting. Initially I was very impressed with some of the amazingly beautiful footage shot by the amateur photographers. I was also impressed with how frank and open some of the participants were. I thought the editing done by MacDonald and his team to be brilliant given over 4,000 hours of video to work with. I was also extremely fascinated by the 3 questions asked of the participants; What’s in your pocket? What do you love? What do you fear? In my opinion, the answers to these questions proved to be the most compelling aspect of the film.
While I enjoyed watching the film in it’s entirety, and as I mentioned I did find inspiration, there were also moments which I found incredibly sad and incredibly touching. Other moments were, to be honest, incredibly boring. And there were some moments I could have lived my entire life without seeing. I think this all adds to the authenticity of the film as, in reality, a typical day can contain all of the above.
After watching the film I began to think about what I was doing on July 24, 2010. How was my day spent? What would I have contributed to this documentary? I went to my journal and found my entry for that day. I was in Dili, East Timor, it was only my 4th day there. It was a place I came to quite in-expectantly. I also went though my photographs and found I had taken 4 pictures on that day. In an effort to somewhat take part in this project, I’ll post the pictures taken that day. If you remember what you were doing that day, or where you were, I would really love to know!
I LOVE…Hurricane Katrina. Please allow me to clarify such a seemingly awful statement; I’m from New Orleans, lived through it, and I don’t expect anyone except fellow New Orleanians to fully understand. You can judge me if you wish, all I ask is that you read before doing so. For me, Katrina changed everything; the way I think, the things I do, and the way I live.
Katrina formed over the Bahamas on August 23, 2005, and New Orleans watched. During hurricane season, New Orleans is always watching. On Friday, August 26, Katrina began her entry into the Gulf of Mexico. The satellite images on the news that night were surreal, beyond imagination. She appeared awesome in her power and intensity, completely beautiful and elegant, yet completely brutal, mindless, and horrifying. My partner at the time was from California and had never experienced a hurricane, Katrina was his first. Watching the news, he asked if we were evacuating. The decision was obvious and the need to act immediate. We were leaving now.
We each loaded up a backpack. Our three cats, who were totally opposed to evacuating, weren’t given a vote. They were unceremoniously placed in carriers and put on the back seat of the car. It was nearly midnight when I called my brother who lives 90 miles north of New Orleans, I told him we were leaving the city, driving to his place. His reply was, ‘Get the hell out of there’.
The weekend of August 27 and 28 was spent watching Katrina consume the Gulf of Mexico. Feeding on the warm waters she doubled in size, and intensified from category 3 to category 5 in 9 hours. We debated whether 90 miles inland was far enough. Should we move up to north Mississippi? Tennessee? We stayed.
She came ashore at 6am Monday, August 29 directly hitting the town of Buras, Louisiana. We lost power around 8am and Katrina’s winds forced us into the storm shelter shortly afterwards. As it turned out, we were not far enough inland, her eye passed 30 miles to our east. 6 people, 5 dogs, and 5 cats in a roughly 10 by 8 underground shelter, all day, with only the sounds and a narrow, ground level window to give us a hint of what happening outside. We left the shelter around 5pm and it was like entering into a post-apocalyptic movie. No electricity, no water, and surrounded by Katrina’s aftermath. It took a day to cut our way through the fallen trees to reach the highway, and we still had to cut our way into the town before our water ran out.
For 3 weeks we were without electricity, and water became something which one had to think about daily. Showers? No way. Our only news of what was happening in the city came from a small crank-operated radio. The broadcasts were chaotic and impossible to comprehend. We weren’t seeing the images being viewed by the rest of the world. The only thing we knew is that our world, and life as we had known it, had ceased to exist. Army helicopters flew overhead, MREs became currency, and governments, local and national, were fighting over blame. There were radio messages to contact FEMA, but phones were useless, landlines were down and cell phones weren’t receiving signals. After a few weeks I was able to get a call through. The person I spoke with was very helpful, very empathic. He asked about my ‘loses’. I told him I had no idea. He then asked for my address in the city. I told him and he put me on hold. He then came back and said… ‘Lets assume you’ve lost everything.’.
Those words; lets assume you’ve lost everything, changed my life completely. I looked at my backpack with the thought that this was everything I now ‘own’. Everything. I grew strangely ‘ok’ with that.
It was 5 weeks before we were allowed back into the city, and the drive back down was like surrealism on acid. At this point, we still had no real idea of what to expect. We knew we only would have a few hours in the city before we’d have to leave again…Hurricane Rita was heading in and she was bigger and badder than Katrina. We arrived at our 3rd floor apartment to find everything exactly as we left it …exactly as we left it. The emotions, the actual guilt, of that was almost overwhelming considering what we had just driven through. We drove back up to my brother’s to ride out Rita. Afterwards we returned to New Orleans, but nothing was the same. How could it?
There was never a conscious decision on my part to rid myself of my possessions. It happened gradually. People around me had lost everything. The microwave was the first to go, given to people who needed it. The television was next, and I didn’t stop…everything went…dishes, pots, towels, sheets, clothes, furniture, everything. We left the city a few months after. I’ve returned for visits, but I’ve yet to return to New Orleans to stay. But I’m proud of my city in her ability to bounce back, to never quit, and to laugh at herself.
I’ve also yet to replace any of the items I gave away, 6 years later I still live out of that backpack. I’ve traveled, seen parts of the world I never would have, and lived in places I didn’t know existed before Katrina.
So why do I love Katrina? It’s pretty obvious. She changed everything. I now know that all ‘things’ and all ‘conditions’ are temporary and meaningless. The only thing which matters is love and the people you share it with. She showed me the best of humanity and the very worse. She showed me the difference between want and need, and to never take more than I need…and never accept less than I want. She was a wake up call. She made me strong, confident and resourceful. She told me to stop whining and realize that I’m in complete control over every decision I make. She gave me my life and reminded me to appreciate every second of it. She gave me freedom.
A couple of years afterwards, while on the deck of a boat out in the Coral Sea, a world away from New Orleans, a world away from home, a realization came to me. I realized that yes, a lot of people had lost everything they owned in Katrina, but I was lucky…I lost everything which owned me.
Written with love, respect, and compassion for all those along the US Gulf of Mexico coast who lost loved ones on 8-29-05 and during the days and weeks which followed.