Monday, September 15, 2008

Hurricane Ike's Lingering Effects, Day 3

Kinko’s is not my favorite place to have to go to use a computer. But in a desperate pinch, it works.

It’s Monday, I should be back at work. But the Shell Westhollow campus that I work at is apparently on the same electricity grid as I am. No power, no work. We got a major break this morning – a norther! That’s unusually rare after a hurricane as we usually get the opposite: high heat and humidity with zero breeze. Couple that with no electricity, nothing cold to drink and worse – no running water adequate enough to take a shower! – and you have a recipe for extreme frustration.

So in that sense, I’m doing well.

However, electricity (as I noticed coming back from my sister’s place way out in Katy) is a fickle thing. Driving back last night, it’s an inexplicable, piecemeal quilt of little squares of electricity amongst a larger dark mass. Even the area right at the tollway, apartments that were likely mostly evacuated before the storm, has power along with the collected storefronts and convenience stores. But crossing the Upper South Brays Bayou, you slip into a sea of darkness with nothing but the occasional candle flicker in a window, or a rare house or two with generator-powered lights.

Even some of the sights are otherworldly. Riding along the Westpark Tollway, a section of it was lit up, but the lights flickered on and off individually on each side and in random patterns – seemingly in time to the music I had on the radio! At one point I spotted a high tension electric pole with two of its connectors spitting fire and sparks like a crazy sparkler, while folks drove by it like it was mundane. It was almost like I’d landed in some crazy country for Carnaval.

While in Katy, I got my first glimpse of news last night. It seems strange, but I really had no idea what was going on in the outside world. Think of wilderness camping with no contact to the outside world. So my first glimpses of the devastation were a bit of an eye-opener. I know we got hit here with well over hurricane-force winds, but it doesn’t compare to the coastal areas.

Miya Shay with our local ABC affiliate was very good in peppering both Michael Chertoff and later County Commissioner Ed Emmett, with hard questions on FEMA’s response and seeming confusion. On Friday, I was struck with some of the things that should’ve been pre-strategized and foreseen that weren’t.

Now we heard the post-storm distribution of supplies such as ice, water, and emergency food were not coordinated. FEMA had pre-determined the state would deliver supplies, but the state declined or said it could not do so, passing it back to FEMA. Great storm planning once again from our vacuous closet queen, GOPers’ boy, Gov. Rick Perry. Chertoff, meanwhile, didn’t have time to do so either and instead tossed it on local authorities – County’s Ed Emmett, and Houston’s Mayor Bill White – to conduct it.

It seems to me that with FEMA being part of Homeland Security, who’s head Michael Chertoff answers directly to no one but the President, who according to Dick Cheney has “unitary executive powers” (meaning he can do whatever he damn well pleases), it would seem the President – who’s family is still here in Houston – and Cherty could have gotten this done. Instead its dumped on the locals – where a bunch of it was to begin with – to get it done. Cherty, yer doing a heckuva job – you too, Bush-baby!

I’m sure somewhere Bush is probably now trying to “cover his ass” and make promises about working to get assistance down to those in need in a timely basis. In other words, YOYO – You’re On Your Own!

Meanwhile for the rest of us, even though we’re lucky, it doesn’t help our moods. Traveling anywhere is a bit testy as all stoplights are four-way stops – but some folks don’t care about good traffic etiquette. I saw one fender bender, and the damn fool who should’ve waited was the one out of his car acting like the enraged baboon. Stores aren’t much better. You don’t know which ones are open, and most of them have lines outside of them. Even Home Depot had me waiting in line just to get in. Once you’re in, you often times don’t find what you went there for – requiring a trip to somewhere else that’s open. One large grocery near this Kinko’s is open, has full power and is doing a brisk business. But there’s no ice, no water, no bread, no chips, precious few crackers, tuna and potted meats are gone (thankfully I’d stocked up on most all of those before). At least they had some pumpernickel and onion pretzels that turned out to be pretty good. Hey, it’s something besides tuna and crackers!

They did bring in a couple pallets of ice while I was there, but the pushy-grabby clambering to grab their allotted two bag limit just gave me a headache. Screw ice. I don’t need that.

Gasoline is also an iffy adventure. Some gas stations appear to be open – but only by generator. That means no gas that can be pumped – something that could be frustrating for someone thinking they’ve found gas, only to find it’s a mirage. The few stations with legitimate gas end up with lines up the block – they’re pretty conspicuous. They can also be hotbeds of temper flares (as I saw on the news at my sister’s).

One of the reasons I don’t make the trip to my sister’s more frequently, even though they have electricity, is the 30 mile roundtrip will whittle down my ¾ tank of gas much quicker. If I stick close to the house, I can last until next week when (hopefully) the electricity will be more widely restored and gas will be more widely available. When it comes to getting those precious supplies like gas or water or ice in the immediate days after the storm, it becomes too animalistic, not unlike what we see in third-world countries during post-disaster food distributions. As I saw close up when I was thirteen, frustration, heat or discomfort and desperation all create a maelstrom that breaks down civility rather quickly.

Three days without electricity gets tedious, even though it is better than 26 days without during August (Celia). The inertia, without even the benefit of vacation, is the maddening part.

For me personally, it’s another day down with no pay thanks to my job being closed, another day down while Human Rights Campaign and the other GLBT opportunists trash the trans community, exploit trans tragedies leaving us bereft of hope, and shoves us collectively even further down the food chain and into permanent poverty, another day while the RNC opportunists trash anyone who’s not devoutly neo-con, cleverly steals everything they can from the national tax base to “no-bid contract” out to themselves while they capitalize on any possible tragedy – esp. from Hurricane Ike – and portray themselves as heroic compatriots, down in the trenches in the same fight!

So all I can do is go cut down the mess in the back yard – and then get surprise attacks from yellow jackets! Twice! Yes this will be over soon enough. But in the meantime, it sure looks like a never-ending stretch of unforgiving rough road.

Damn I hate Kinko's keyboards!

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