Keep On Truckin’ Tuesday, Oct 27 2020 

Can we talk about the trucks here? It dawned on me today that friends from out of town probably don’t know about them. Amidst all of the debris and rubble are debris trucks, food trucks, power/cable trucks, & work trucks. They’re everywhere.

Our couch and chair going for a ride.

The massive debris trucks have been here since the first storm. I assume they evacuated for the second storm in what must’ve looked like a parade of sorts and then meandered slowly back only to find that the first hauls from the first storm were replaced by second hauls from, well, you get it. My favorite saying from local officials prior to Delta was, “Secure your debris.” Ha! We’re known down here for our family-friendly Mardi Gras so it’s been mentioned a time or two that perhaps we should invite these fellas and gals back to be grand marshals if we get to have a post-COVID carnivale. They can throw instead of collect next time! If you’ve never seen them, they’re impressive enough to bow down or curtsy if you’re inclined. Between two massive dumpster-like bins is a chair and arm like the claw game from a pizza parlor. They’re followed by a guide that must be like security and sometimes a couple of jesters sweeping up the rear.

The food trucks are still here. It’s normal to have a few local favorites like Hi-Licious Street Kitchen which is a little local celebrity favorite. We have real carnies here too, though. There are funnel cakes, anything you can dream on a stick, and the intriguing everything-wrapped-in-bacon one. All you have to do is follow the main drag through town, and you’ll get the feeling that something seems off. The food trucks and carnival booths are usually festive. They sell their treats for an arm and a leg, and if you search long enough you’ll likely find appendages of all species fried up all crispy and skewered. It morbidly reminds me of when I returned home after learning of the death of my father and pulling into a scene of balloons and horse carriage rides in the driveway for a party taking place on the grounds for a neighbor. Life goes on right? The world keeps spinning, and where there’s a market there are sellers. The savvy ones will follow these disasters I guess because they also have to make a living. It’s only fair.

The cable and internet trucks are currently everywhere. Suddenlink ghosted this town after Laura which is why I’m considering that for my Halloween costume if we head out anywhere this weekend. I think their first objective was to ride around and just be visible. They took a hit PR-wise, but maybe they were also dodging them like the little Pac-Man ghosts from the video game so the goal best strategy was to keep moving. The workers that are here now are human just like the rest of us though and want to help when they see what happened here. The lineman from the power trucks have already literally laid the groundwork and have found fans for life in this town.

Let’s talk about the tree trimmers and the roofers with the ladders in their trucks, can we? These are like the acrobats from the circus. The roofers go from sun up to sun down with hardly a break or complaint. It’s a balancing act while carrying heavy loads, and I stare straight up in awe sometimes while down the block the tree guys fly and do their own daredevil stunts. Be careful though, because unscrupulous magicians are also in the wings and for their final trick they’ll perform a disappearing act with whatever you were hopeful enough to give them.

I think we figured out about 6 months ago who the essential workers were. They’re all welcome back here any time. As the saying goes, if you’re eating it, wearing it, drinking it or driving it, thank a trucker. In times of crisis they deliver.

The Days Are Long Wednesday, Oct 21 2020 

I’ve heard that saying since my kids were babies. It’s meant to help young frazzled parents when they’re tired. It’s sort of a “you’re gonna miss this” phrase with a chin up, slow punch to the shoulder for the sake of camaraderie just letting you know that everything’s gonna be swell. I’m living in what looks like a war zone landscaped with post-Covid crosses in everyone’s front yard with the saying, “All Is Well” painted across them, and I ain’t feeling s’well.

It’s hard to complain around here because we’re all going through something similar and the aftershock from Hurricanes Laura and Delta are pervasive. It’s hard to go about our “normal” lives like they were a couple of months ago, if you can even say that in a post Covid-19 world. We’ve just added to our corona gear, and I’m wearing a fanny pack to hold it all in for convenience sake. So is the story of my life now.

Every morning I get up. My feet meet the pavement of my bedroom floor and head to the restroom. There’s now a doggie door there covered by a trash bag where the walls were cut out after the first storm when water seeped into them. Letting the dogs out is no longer a quick throw open the door because my fence is gone so we leash up. I’m past the point of caring whether or not the neighbors see me in my nightgown. We’re like family now anyway wading through the muck together and steering clear of the fence line where I’ve heard one neighbor found some rattlers so my nerves are rattled now, too. I’ve gotten efficient so rather than head straight into the house, we stop at the garage to pick up the breakfast and eye drops for the dog who’s allergies got stirred up in the storm. The temporary fridge is in the garage now because the nice fridge and first major appliance that I ever bought myself is still sitting at the street with its third layer of duct tape just waiting to be picked up after 7+weeks. I prayed and wished for Hurricane Delta to TAKE THAT FRIDGE in her rising waters downstream but she didn’t. I waited on word from neighbors who stayed for the second storm because they were too tired and weary to head out again. Someone else across town posted their fun video of one rollin’, rollin’, rollin’ on the river and through the neighborhood while this town took a beating.

Our big wheels keep on turnin, proud Marys keep on burnin so we leave early every morning for two reasons. It takes time now to wipe off the windows enough to see since we can no longer park in the garage, and you just never know what section of the grid will be out so that you have to sit and wait in long lines without traffic lights at intersections. Only the fortunate ones are heading to school and work again 7 months from the first closures back in March. My teenager has started football, it’s the Deep South after all, and I’m rebuilding a couple of businesses simultaneously with my house and life with little or no staff. There’s still no school, and I don’t have coworkers.

It’s like that movie Friday, and I ain’t got two things that match. There’s peanut butter but no jelly, ham no burger, and computer with no internet. Dayyyum! There’s no trying to find a matching pair at lunch either because the city is SWOLLEN. Roofers, linemen, and workers of all kinds are here setting up shop and doing what they do. If you thought chicken lines were long when the restaurants closed, then you haven’t seen anything. We block traffic for pizza. The businesses able to work outside the box will be the ones to survive. I’m still trying to sell lipstick to people wearing masks and covered in dirt so I’ll support a business taking orders for food at the road or writing orders onto bags and filling them like Chick Fil a did after Laura. You got two choices there: chicken sandwich with pickles or chicken sandwich without pickles. That crew kept the line wrapped around the building and when you got your order in the hot hot sun, you were just so grateful that you thanked them profusely and drove off. I still carry a pang of guilt because I drove off too quickly and didn’t realize that I’d accidentally been blessed with eleven chicken sandwiches without pickles. They were sent by God so who am I to complain or even drive them back in an effort to return them in this post Covid world.

I pondered the other evening live on Facebook about how in the world I was supposed to live and work and rebuild all at the same time and do it by myself because I left work at 5:00 only to pull into a beehive of a grocery store as they were shooing everyone out. We’re still not at full capacity so while the needs are great, the resources are limited. You take what you get and you don’t pitch a fit. Except I pitched a fit and finally pulled into the gas station lured by a poster board that said HOT FOOD and did the grocery shopping for me & the teen while he stared with empty saucer-like eyes. I gave up! The battle wasn’t in me to fight traffic again so we ate salads from a gas station, and I reminded him of how much worse others had it. It’ll be my version of walking to school ten miles in the snow.

He’s just starting high school and I choke up sometimes now talking about him. When I said the days are long but the years are short, I hit that lesson hard by having moved my oldest 10 hours away while evacuated for the first storm. The past four years with her blew by and spun me around like only cat 4 (maybe a 5) could do, because when I landed she was gone. I’ll remember the lesson with the tedious tasks now like just getting through the day. There’s no escaping the piles and piles and piles of debris on every corner. Every day I head into work to a job that morphs farther and farther away from the initial job description. We pick up and we clean and we pick up and we clean and we pick ourselves up along the way. No one here is immune and some have lost so much more than others though everyone has lost something. We’re all in different stages of grief and my heart goes out to so many friends whose losses make mine seem trivial. I try to remember something my daughter said long before the lessons of the storms; your broken arm can still hurt even if someone else is in a body cast.

Picking Ourselves Up Monday, Oct 12 2020 

Pieces of the broken glass from the bank tower

It was a little tough rolling back into town today. In spite of our best efforts, there’s only so much that we have the power to control. Covid-19, school closures, and two back-to-back hurricanes will teach you that, but you’ll be reminded again and again. I spent most of Sunday morning planning our great escape and caravan back into Lake Charles only to have the 4th and oldest generation in our party call from the highway and tell us to eat their dust. You can’t put your kids in a bubble nor your grandparents. They’ll make their own mistakes or simply be at the wrong place at the wrong time and there’s nothing you can do to control that.

Life still moves along here at lightning speed followed by claps of thunder that represent either the consequences of our actions or things beyond our control. Covid came through like the first wave and knocked many of us to our knees. Small local businesses struggled for air. My family had the unfortunate position of being in the cosmetics industry at a time when the reasonable folks were covering their faces. Trying to sell lipstick in that climate feels like peddling pizzas at a Weight Watchers meeting. It just feels wrong and tacky. We adapted though and started focusing on skin care + delivering local orders to keep our long-standing loyal customers.

Laura hit us at the end of August like a ton of bricks. We rose from the rubble only temporarily because the sister storm Delta followed her path just weeks later to make for a double whammy. Pandemics and natural disasters don’t care what you have going on. They’ll take your lives, spin them around, and drop them into the rubble. When I think we have it hard, I think of the friends who have lost so much more that homes and businesses. I have friends that lost loved ones in the first months of Covid, and the world kept spinning. Hurricane Laura hit us and took even more so imagine trying to bury your parent or grandparent while you’re all away from home. By the time Delta came I thought I’d just be numb to it all but my heart ached for the neighbor who lost his home in Laura then his dad the day we evacuated for Delta. I have another neighbor taken tragically in a car crash while evacuating, and it’s just not fair. That was partly why I thought I’d plan the multi-generation trek back to safety under the guise that together means safe. It doesn’t though.

We returned this afternoon and decided to take a look around town to see what had changed and what hadn’t between the first and second storms. Just several houses down from one of those neighbors is a business that was being roofed as we left. We saw the workers hurriedly putting the final work into protecting someone’s business yet saw today that half had blown away. Sometimes we can lay the very best precautions only to have our sense of comfort and normalcy ripped away. Both were taken too soon. Some family friends had a father suffering from depression that wasn’t able to fill his meds or ask for help, and he killed himself in the aftermath of the first storm. I prayed for them during this second one because I can’t possibly image the pain and trauma another hurricane must’ve brought to them. I hope that by even mentioning the connections to loved ones here that I’m not throwing salt water into an already open wound and leaving families to feel vulnerable and exposed like all of the personal effects out at the street.

Our final stop this afternoon was to collect pieces of the bank tower downtown. The windows were blown all over downtown while the city took its one-two punch. I didn’t think I’d want any kind of reminder, but I’ve changed my mind. I want to make something from it. I want to put things back to together in a different way and maybe make something beautiful. I think I’m going to copy a friend and fit the pieces together like puzzle pieces around an updated picture of my favorite statue after the storms. Maybe I’ll reframe my perspective. There were other people out there with us scraping together what they could so I hope we can all see the potential from what’s broken, pick ourselves up, dust it all off, and put things together in a way that acknowledges all that we’ve been through with others on this crazy ride. It’s all we CAN do, right?