Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Waiting for Isaac - but not like Abraham and Sarah

Hurricane Supplies

Tropical Storm Isaac is on the way.

It is likely to become a hurricane.  There is a good chance that we will take a direct hit.  It is possible that it will hit as a category 2.  It's not likely that we're looking at Katrina-level devastation, but you just don't know until you know.  We were prepared for Grace, Leo, and our five indoor cats to head out to Georgia in case of an evacuation - while I planned to stay behind in case I'm needed here.  However, over the course of time, the consensus emerged that we should all hunker down and weather the storm together.  And so that's what we are going to do.

We have prepared our best, so we wait and we pray.  And we hope our outdoor feline friends survive.

We bought ten gallons of water, as well as a good number of cans of meat and vegetables.  We got the generator gassed up, tested, and ready to keep a little power on in the house in the likely event that we lose electricity.  We stocked up on cat-food, lunch meat, coffee, and wine.  And as a tribute to Miz Grace's forethought and devotion to the mental well-being of the family, she padded the pantry with a few bars of Green & Black's organic dark chocolate.

Did I marry the right one, or what?

Even though this hurricane is not a monster like Katrina, for New Orleanians, there is still a sick feeling in the pits of our stomachs.  The horror of seven years ago (to the day this coming Wednesday) is still fresh in our minds - as well as the familiar sights of boarded up store fronts, the 24-7 meteorological coverage, the somber warnings of elected officials, the ghostly empty streets, the ever-changing computer models and ever-shifting "cones of anxiety," and the seemingly endless debates about the fitness of our levee system.

Some people are evacuating, some are staying behind.  Offices and schools and stores and other businesses have been closed, even as other professionals, such as medical and police personnel, have been put on alert and must work until further notice.

At this time (Monday night, August 27), some of the news bodes well, some not so well.  Some of the models project us being on the "weak" side of the storm, some are calling us to get pounded.  The storm is still considered only a tropical storm, and yet it is slowing down in its movement across the Gulf - which threatens us with worse flooding when it arrives.  In spite of all the kings technology and all the king's men, no-one knows just where the storm will hit, nor how strong it will be.

  Round and round she goes...

We have no choice but to wait and see.

Our family decided not to dip into our food supply this evening, and we did the stereotypical New Orleans thing: we went out to eat.  None of the fast food places were still open.  But life experience teaches that when all the restaurants seem to be closed, go for Chinese.  Wasn't that one of the lessons of the movie A Christmas Story?

This is a Chinese food day in the City of Brotherly Love!

We learned that lesson nearly 20 years ago in Philadelphia.  One winter, after the entire state was deluged in snow, the governor declared a state of emergency and closed all the roads.  Our cars were buried.  The businesses were utterly deserted.  Aside from military and first-responder vehicles, the streets - even the always-busy U.S. Highway #1 - were eerily dead still.  Nevertheless, our local Chinese restaurant was open for business.  The proprietor, an elderly lady we called "Grandma," greeted us at the door in her usual cheerful and energetic way.  She really was like our grandmother - and we enjoyed every meal we ever had there.  She never closed the restaurant.  Not even on the governor's orders.

Fast-forward to today...

A hurricane-ready primal Asian meal

This evening, we headed to Chopsticks.  Sure enough, they were open.  Instead of NFL, NBA, or world soccer matches, the televisions were carrying coverage of the storm.  We always enjoy speaking a few (a very few!) words of Chinese with our waitresses - who are always friendly and fun.  I learned that the Mandarin word for "hurricane" is 颶風 - which to western ears, sounds a bit like "typhoon."

New Orleans is blessed to have a vibrant Asian community with a lot of Vietnamese immigrants.  Earlier in the day, we realized that we could not locate our emergency stove that runs on small cans of gas.  We have the cans, but not the stove.  At this stage of the game, we were highly unlikely to find anything of the sort at Pep Boys or WalMart.  So, I headed over to Hong Kong Market - and found loads of them in stock there.  A lot of Asian immigrants shop there (and work there), and nearly every customer today was buying the little gas stoves.  It struck all of us as funny.  Even though we could not speak the same language, we were all thinking the same thing.  I am always impressed with the management and the employees of the store - all of whom are Asian immigrants.

Some people complain about immigrants.  As for me, I am happy there are so many Asians here.  I especially find members of the local Vietnamese community to be industrious, innovative, friendly, gregarious, and though the immigrants often have trouble learning English, their children have no difficulties at all.  In fact, it is almost a stereotype to see young Vietnamese women at Starbucks or Barnes and Noble studying - even though we have also seen quite a few young men who are on the playboy/ne'er-do-well side, with expensive cars, spiffy clothes, not in the Starbucks or Barnes and Noble with their textbooks and flashcards.  Hopefully, they will do a little better for themselves than Prince Harry.  If nothing else, their wives (or sisters) will keep them in the kind of lifestyle they have become accustomed to.

Though local older Vietnamese immigrants are mostly Buddhist, the younger Vietnamese population is  overwhelmingly Christian.  On one occasion at the Vietnamese-owned Cherryberry, we saw two teenage girls studying the Bible - both obviously immigrants - while one was reading explaining, and translating to the other, in great detail, a narrative from the Old Testament.

I'm sure I will be offending someone by singing the praises of the local Asian community - but I'm not going to apologize for saying good things about the folks I deal with on a day to day basis.  At the expense of being called a "lib-rul," I do believe they add to the gumbo-bowl of our unique cultural melange here in Southern Louisiana.

When we left the restaurant, the sun was setting, and yet there was a huge rainbow spanning the darkening sky.  I was reminded of two things: 1) a song by Ronnie James Dio, and 2) the promise of God not to destroy the world again with a flood.

Kyrie eleison!
So, may God have mercy on us.  If we can get through yet another hurricane on yet another August 29, perhaps this will be one more step for us on the road to recovery and rebirth.  We pray that the levees hold, that there be no loss of life, no significant property damage, and that we emerge stronger, more compassionate, and even more prepared as a community and people.

And barring that, we have wine and chocolate.  So I think it will be okay.

1 comment:

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