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Dear Katrina, | Pamdemonium
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Dear Katrina,

August 30, 2010

I meant to write over the weekend to note your 5th birthday but I was busy living my life.

You were in my thoughts, though. It was inevitable. Television was filled with retrospectives that I didn’t watch. National Public Radio on Friday morning had so many Katrina-related interviews that I turned the radio off. A big work project was due, and the chatter distracted. I needed to wrap it up so I could have lunch with an awesome friend in Nashville.

Trust me, I did not avoid television and radio coverage because I’m in denial. I cannot deny an experience that changed my life, but five years is enough time to put it in perspective. You and the failed levees killed people, destroyed homes, devastated a unique city and left the world asking, “Why?”

“Why?” is always a good question but rarely has good answers. Like President Bartlett in “West Wing,” I prefer asking, “What next?”

The answer depends on who is asking – residents of the Ninth Ward or New Orleans East, the city’s new mayor, the head of FEMA. I can only answer the question as it applies to me.

Leaps of faith come easier today.

Perhaps paradoxically, I am willing to take greater risks today – emotional, professional, financial. In no order of importance, in the last five years I walked away from newspapers after 23 years to work for myself, quit drinking and watched my mom take her last breath. Shaun and I bought some rental property and actually allow other people to live in it. I’m writing about subjects I never imagined and writing in new ways. Hell, I even have a blog and put it out there for the world to see. In New Orleans, when the Sunday paper had a big package I’d written, I’d hide the paper from Shaun or tell him he couldn’t read it while I was around.

I savor the little joys that just make me happy – a Cardinal flitting across the backyard, our dogs in silly repose, dinner and a movie with my mate, a book that makes me laugh or think or both.

Big rains and floodwaters still make my heart stammer and my stomach churn, but I know we can handle whatever comes. A few nights ago, Thursday I think, I dreamt I was in some Medieval land and trying to get to higher ground before water that breached a dam reached our motley bunch of refugees. Out of nowhere appeared a huge wooden structure half the size of city block and we climbed up through it, staying above the water as it rushed around and through our haven. When it was over, the larger-than-life crate became the centerpiece of our new village, the town meeting hall. In the dream, I was chastised for not using complete sentences in penning my recollections about the flood and how I felt. Whatever, I thought in my dream as I packed my meager bag. I’m outta here.

Sunday night I dreamt that a really cool advanced studies institute wanted me to take a bunch of its classes and then create a new program. The deans told me I could do whatever I wanted.

I’m thinking the theme of freedom is linked to my first skydive the previous evening. In real life, I suited up and latched to an experienced diver, jumped out of a plane at 13,000 feet. All through my 20s and 30s I yapped about wanting to skydive.  Then I no longer wanted to—the idea of giving up that much control made me uncomfortable. After your rampage, I figured, “Why not?”

It was liberating.

In so many ways your tenure also liberated me to enjoy the now and embrace each day. I don’t know what’s next but I plan to enjoy it. If it is bad, I’ll deal with it and learn from it.

You taught me many lessons, including that Wild Turkey outside a borrowed Baton Rouge dorm room has its limits, though evacuating New Orleans with a corkscrew in my bag was brilliant. More importantly, I am learning not to let life get in the way of living.

More feisty than ever,




Johnny Mac August 30, 2010 at 7:33 pm

I miss you Shawn and Pam. You were two of my favorite people here.

admin August 30, 2010 at 8:00 pm

We miss you too. Have them send you to Thursday’s came and we’ll figure out a way to meet. And we may be visiting NO in November so stay tuned. Love to you and the kids.

Joe August 30, 2010 at 10:47 pm

I had a similar weekend. pre-planned and become anxious about the anniversary. and when it came, i was too busy living my life, to stop and mourn a long lost life
someone asked me today how was my weekend? anything exciting?
well, quite frankly yes. everything is exciting. i’m alive. i have something to live for. we didn’t jump out of planes, although Tracy having to listen to me play bass was probably similarly terrifying.

but life changes, our environment rearranges. the memories are there, some stronger than others, some you could probably remind me of. but i am making memories now. that i can remember. i hope.

if it is bad, then i’ll deal with it, too. the structure, the core, the center of the web never changes, only the winds and rains that blow through.

admin August 31, 2010 at 6:34 am

Well said! And some people remain with us at our cores, even if the winds and rains blew us to different cities.

Jennifer August 31, 2010 at 5:59 pm

I am SO far from where you are- but you are my fucking hero. Miss y’all!
PS- LOVE LOVE LOVE the Pilgrim series.

admin September 3, 2010 at 7:26 pm

Thanks, lady. Am behind on Week 4 of Pilgrim series. Too busy jumping out of planes and such. Come visit already.

Fran Fried September 4, 2010 at 4:57 pm

Holy shit, honey! I can see wanting to go 240 mph in a race car or something, but I think I draw the line at skydiving.

But I’m glad you survived the skydive, survived Katrina and the ensuing hell, and you know I’m awfully proud of you for facing your demons and coming out on the other side a better person for it. Stay wonderful — and be even wonderfuller, if that’s possible. mmmmmWAH!

Rockin’ the abalone earrings,

admin September 5, 2010 at 11:30 am

Back at ya, Frannie babe. The tandem freefall from 13,000 only reaches 120 mph or so, which is not quite race car speed but pretty darn fast.

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