Baboon Pirates

Scribbles and Scrawls from an unrepentant swashbuckling primate.

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Location: Texas, United States

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Tales From New Orleans

The Thrilling Adventures Of The Cisco Kid

I got the OK to go ahead and post this, so here goes!

When Katrina changed from a damp nuisance into an "Oh, Shit..." scenario, me & my buddy Zibig get this message in our email Inbox from our friend "The Cisco Kid". The Cisco Kid wanders all over the Gulf Coast doing techie stuff. We weren't expecting to read this dispatch from Louisiana...
The roads were just fine.
Gas is readily available but this lines in BR were very long for gas as well as ATMs. I fortunately topped off my tank in Layafette with no line. Oddly enough the price at many gas stations in Lafayette and Baton Rouge is around $2.85!
There were many reports of looting and violence in Baton Rouge. In my brief time there there seemed to be no disorder other than lots of traffic. The current estimates are that the population of Baton Rouge has doubled.
The equipment I was supposed to have installed today did not arrive. Instead of camping out I decided to get a hotel room and some good rest. I had to back track all the way to Beaumont to find a room.
I have also found out that the equipment I am to be installing is to be installed in New Orleans. This equipment is to allow the Louisiana Office of Emergency Preparedness to communicate and coordinate their efforts. If this equipment were not so important I would never take this risk. We are to be traveling from Baton Rouge to New Orleans under military escort.
Please do not convey this to XXXXXXX (the Cisco Kid's wife); The worry would kill her.
Pray for me.
Pray for New Orleans

Wow. Color us surprised. Then, nothing. No emails, no sign of The Cisco Kid. Until today...
Sunday Sept 4, 2005

Today I had a bowel movement and flushed the toilet. I have no way of knowing but I believe this qualifies me as the King of New Orleans. I firmly believe this despite the fact I had to haul water from the Hyatt pool to refill the tank afterwards. Let me fill you in on my adventures from Houston.

Thursday Sept 1st
I started off the morning offloading my work assignments to my grateful coworkers. (If they ain’t, they should be.) I loaded my Honda CRV with everything I could imagine Id need and took off to Baton Rouge.
Plan A was to meet our equipment (delivered by Fed EX) in Baton Rouge and proceed by military transport to New Orleans. On my trip to Baton Rouge I tried to communicate to the Unisys rep there. I was able to succeed only by text messaging. I coordinated a meet up at the Unisys office in Baton Rouge. 45 minutes out of Baton Rouge I was informed Fed Ex had lost the equipment.
Knowing accommodations were not to be had in Baton Rouge I had planned to camp out at the local Unisys office. When I at arrived at 1500 I found the office locked and no one responded to the knocks on the door. Cellular communications in Baton Rouge were impossible, I could not even get a response to a text message to the local contact.
Having nothing to do for the rest of the evening or the next morning I decided to try to find a real bed and a shower and a good nights rest. I called American Express travel. One by one I named off the towns along I10 heading back west to Houston. Not one Vacancy to be found in Louisiana. I started a long drive back. I informed my manager of the situation. He said he would try to find me accommodations and get back to me. The closest Accommodations to be found were in Beaumont TX.
At the hotel in Beaumont I met MJ. MJ escaped New Orleans by walking out to an evacuation point. MJ had landed a job at the House of Blues two weeks before Katrina. MJ weathered the storm at the hotel he had been living in. After the storm he went to the parking garage to discover is car 6 feet above water. MJ was relieved that he had weathered the storm with his possessions intact. After the storm had passed however the water continued to rise! MJ had lost his car and all his possessions. MJ fled his hotel and found shade on an elevated section of the freeway near the Superdome. He had helped to rescue a blind woman and several children in a leaking boat. He had the children try to plug the holes with their feet and bail as MJ pushed the boat thru chest deep water contaminated with petroleum and human waste. MJ walked out of the downtown area and caught an evacuation bus to Baton Rouge. MJ caught a shower, a Western Union money gram and a ride West. MJ related this to me after offering me a beer from the six-pack he had purchased as his initial therapy. I hope somebody gives MJ a medal.

Friday Sept 2nd
I slept in and had a late breakfast in anticipation of a long day. The news reports I had been listening to inspired me to buy a holster for my Browning 9mm. After words I received word that most of the parts arrived in Houston. The rest were to arrive by Fed Ex at 7pm. I arranged with the rest of the crew, who had flown in from New York, that they drive on to Baton Rouge and I would pick up the part and join them there and continue on to New Orleans.
That evening the part did not show up. After much searching it was determined that the part had missed its flight and would arrive tomorrow.

Saturday Sept 3rd.
The part had missed its new intended flight and was rerouted from Delta to Air France. Air France had no record of our Fed Ex shipment. In fact they only had two parts at their dock. We had the Air France rep check the weights of both packages. Amazingly one matched the weight of out box!

The only problem was that only a Fed Ex rep could sign for the package. Fortunately a Fed Ex driver arrived to pick up the part. I shudder to imagine where he would have taken the part if we had not been there to meet him.
I arrived in Baton Rouge in the late afternoon. I met up with Dwaine. Dwaine works for the mayor’s office. We arranged to enter New Orleans early the next morning when thing were likely to be a little more settled.
I had the fortune to be Dwayne’s houseguest for the night.

Sunday Sept 4th
After I got up and dressed I met Dwayne’s friend Lanny. We unloaded my stuffed Honda CRV into Lanny’s pickup. Lanny was shocked that my supplies filled the bed of his pickup. 5:45 am Dwayne, Lanny and I strapped on our guns and left for New Orleans after checking in with the Louisiana Office of Emergency Preparedness. On the way we picked up a few last minute supplies including Redman chewing tobacco and Skoal. This being the currency de-jour of the Alabama National Guard on station in downtown New Orleans.
We passed several checkpoints on the way in. We entered central New Orleans thru the garden district. Occasional looting was evident. Looting was usually restricted to food and supplies. What really worried me was the amount of fallen, drying tree limbs. The garden district seemed like a tinderbox waiting for a spark.
We arrived at our destination, the Hyatt Regency, without incident. The first 3 floors of the Hyatt were the base of operations for the National Guard. The other members of my group had arrived the day before and set up a satellite to provide communications for the mayor’s office. We had a several rooms on the sixth floor. One room had a window knocked out to allow the communications equipment some shelter while having access to the satellite dish on a nearby rooftop.
Thanks to the efforts of Big Jim and half a dozen pouches of Red Man my pickup load of gear and supplies was hauled up to the sixth floor by several appreciated members of the National Guard.
Other than our generators there was no power at the Hyatt the night my teammates arrived. By the time I arrived some lights and the rooftop exhaust fans were running. Shortly after my gear was brought up elevator service was restored.
The Hyatt sheltered an estimated 3000 people during the storm and for five days afterwards. 3000 people X 5 days = 15000 required flushes, but no running water. My activities for the rest of the day made me glad I had brought long rubber gloves and hand sanitizer.

End of Part One. Part Two posted whenever I receive it!

From the left: Cisco Kid, Juan, Ed, Dwayne, Big Jim, & Dave.