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Ed B. Downtown New Orleans 09/07/05

I was in Los Angeles before I was in New Orleans. I was in New Orleans for five years.

Well, we knew the storm was coming. At that point we knew it was a Category Four. So we knew we were gonna have do something. But we went to the French Quarter on Sunday morning about five o’clock. We had money. So we went to the bars and we were drinking, gettin drunk, ‘cause we figured it was gonna be a while before we would be able to come down here again. So, everything was closed by lunchtime. You couldn’t get a cigarette, you couldn’t get a drink, or anything. In New Orleans, that’s a strange thing, because it goes twenty-four hours a day. Christmas Day you can go out and get a drink. So, the sky was kinda like it is right now. But we knew the storm was coming. So about five o’clock in the afternoon, the wind started picking up and we thought, well, shit, we better go to the Superdome. So we got to the Superdome.

In the beginning it wasn’t too bad, but the people just kept coming and coming and coming and coming, and then the storm hit on Sunday night. And, you’re sitting in the Superdome and it’s a huge place—I don’t know if you’ve ever seen it. The roof started rattling—oh, you could look out the window and the trees were like that, were like bent over. And it uprooted a bunch a trees and stuff. So I thought, well, shit, we’re here for a while. So we’re all sitting inside, they put us in the chairs, they got a bunch a chairs and we were sitting in them. And the roof started rattling, and the next thing you know, parts of the roof were blowing off. And it’s coming, it’s falling down into the Superdome. And there’s people there, I mean, lots of people. So here come the National Guard, and they made everybody move outta there. Now they’re sleeping in the hallways. So they’re bringing around these, what they call these “meals ready to eat.” And they’re not bad, I mean considering they’re giving them to you. But, you had three choices of what kind you get. And it wasn’t like, oh, I’d like this kind or that kind. Whatever they throw to you, you were glad to have it.

So, then you started hearing about, oh, there’s a dead guy up in the hall on A. And, aw, some lady got raped. So, the day after the storm, everybody was outside because everybody was using the bathroom, and I’m not talking about the bathroom, I’m talking about wherever they could go because the bathroom smelled so bad that it would bring tears to your eyes. I mean, when you tried to go in there, it would just bring tears to your eyes from people—you couldn’t flush the toilets. There was, like, I think they said like a hundred and twenty-five thousand, or more people, in there. And so the next day, they got all these National Guard trucks outside, and the next day wasn’t too bad because we just decided to stay outside. The day after that, about twelve trucks are leaving. I walked over to one of the trucks and asked the guy, I said, “Are you leaving?” He pulled his gun out, he said, “Get away from the truck.” National Guard. I said, “Whoa, wait a minute, man I’m just – I don’t—” It freaked me out, I didn’t know what to think.

So, eventually the buses came. And they were using those big-ass military trucks with the big wheels and all that. They took us to the airport, and the line at the airport was like from here to Sixth Street with people. But I was at the end of the line. Well, they told us to go to Gate Four. We went to Door Four, and there was about ten people in front of us, and the guy said “No, it’s Door Six now. You know, I had been waiting for a long time. So I went, and they had been taking – they took these seats out of these vans, and they had set them down. I guess they were so they could bring supplies to the airport. I’m sitting there and I watch this lady, she walked over, they got these sliding doors. And there’s a cop at every door with guns and all that. And she opened the – the cop left. For some reason, I don’t know if it was lunchtime or whatever, but nobody took over that door. This lady walked over and opened the door and went right in the airport. I said, Aw, man, I’m gonna try that. I went straight in the airport, walked in, got into line, forty-five minutes later I was on a plane heading to Austin, Texas. But so much went on in New Orleans. I mean, the Convention Center, there were gangs running around shooting people, raping girls. They had some guy was in there raping young girls and cutting their throats. I think they said they caught him and beat him to death. In the Convention Center. Oh, here’s another thing: the National Guard didn’t go to the Convention Center, for like, three days after the thing. They had no food, they had no water. I guess that’s what caused them to do the things they were doing.

I was at the Superdome. But we heard about it ‘cause I know people who were there.

Dead bodies everywhere, oh, and a couple of cops committed suicide. They had the chief of police, his name is Compass, Eddie Compass or something like that. And he was on TV the other day crying that this one officer that was with them said, “Well, my family’s out of town, I lost my house, I lost my car,” he said, “I don’t feel well, I’m gonna go rest.” And he killed himself. So Compass is there crying on TV. You ever heard of Mayor Nagin? He’s the guy, he’s the mayor of New Orleans. He’s on TV, he’s crying, he’s yelling at the President. He’s yelling at the President, I mean the President came, and he’s yelling at the President. And they had it on TV, it was cool. And now everybody’s pointing fingers, and—the only people that are pointing fingers are the people like—Nagin’s pointing the finger at Bush. Well, the buck’s gotta stop with him. But, Bush said, now look—well, this is what Clinton said. Clinton said we can do all the hollering and finger-pointing later on. In the meantime, let’s get these people some help. And he’s had a couple of people – his wife was backing him up all the way.

We got here to Austin, and it was like, almost like going to heaven. I mean, the people are—I didn’t know there was such cool people. This one of the coolest places I’ve ever been. I’m not gonna stay, but there’s so many other people that need what these people can give. Some girl gave me a pack of cigarettes. As a matter of fact, I picked a cigarette butt out of the ashtray ‘cause I didn’t have any cigarettes, and this old lady saw me, and she said, Hey, come here. She said, you don’t have any cigarettes? I said no. She said, You do now. She went in her purse, she said, Look, I’m gonna go get you another pack. I’ll be back in ten minutes. She came back, gave me another pack of cigarettes. I was at the bus stop the other day and there was this girl, she was going to Popeyes, she was so sick of this, eating what people were giving her, she wanted some fried chicken, she was going to Popeyes. And she was talking to this young girl, a young Mexican girl, must have been about fourteen. Gave her money. Here in Austin. People have been coming here, they’ve probably taken four hundred people outta here and put them in people’s homes. They don’t know these people!

I had a friend that came here with a dog, and he lost the dog. He didn’t lose the dog, the lady was watching the dog, the ASPCA lady was watching the dog and he went to take care of business, he had to get a bed and all that stuff. When he came back, they had sent the dog in the truck. The ASPCA trucks are air-conditioned. Who ever heard of such a thing? The trucks for the animals are air-conditioned. So, but he left here, he got on the phone and within three hours – I remember when he was, the guy was on the Notebook thing, and three hours later he came over, he said, well, I’ll see you later. He’s going to somebody’s house and they’re taking the dog. Just amazing, the people in Austin, it’s just awesome. Like I said, I’m not gonna stay because I can make it anywhere. Some of these people just have never been in this type of a situation.

At first we thought it was gonna be cool, ‘cause it was only gonna be a Category Three, we though, Oh, cool, you know. Nobody was expecting what happened. The levee broke in three places. The levee broke for 300 feet, a hundred yards, and the Mississippi River just poured into New Orleans. That’s how it got flooded like that. It wasn’t from the rain, it was from when the levee broke. And everybody’s pointin fingers about why the levee broke, and wuwuwu. Well damn that, let’s fix it, get the water outta here and we’ll do the finger pointing later.

See, I’m ready to go now. I would go now. As a matter of fact, I almost got on the phone a little while ago, ‘cause they’re gonna give us free tickets. It’s one-way, but they’ll send you anywhere you wanna go. And I wanna go to Los Angeles. But I’m gonna wait on FEMA. Because FEMA, they’ve been talking about FEMA’s coming, FEMA’s coming. They were supposed to be here Tuesday, they were supposed to be here today. That’s the Federal Emergency Management Association. And they’re supposed to give us some money, walking around money. So, if I have like 200—they’re saying minimum 200, maximum 2000. If they give me 200 bucks and I get a bus ticket and I go to L.A., I’m straight. ‘Cause L.A. is, California’s like Austin. I mean, it’s gangs and people getting killed left and right, but I know my way around, I know where the cool spots are.

You can get anything you want in here. I got a radio. I go down and watch the bats. Well, I didn’t go tonight. But I been going down. I seen the bats, I seen Sixth Street. I’m not really impressed with Sixth Street, but I didn’t get a chance to go into any of the clubs. I’m sure these are cool clubs, but after New Orleans, everything else is kinda anti-climactic. I been to five Mardi Gras. Actually, I went to nine Mardi Gras before that just on a trip to go to Mardi Gras but I never stayed. But this time I been there for five years and it’s just – if you ever get a chance, and even now. The first one I went to was 1971. The last once I went to was last year. It’s – take all the best parties you’ve ever been to, multiply it by ten, and you’re getting close. You’re getting about halfway. I don’t know how much you guys party, but we party. I mean, I come up in the 70s, late 60s and the 70s, and there’s nothing like a Mardi Gras. It’s the most incredible thing you’ve ever seen.

The cops are getting kinda funny now, though. They were arresting a lot of people and … A friend of mine he had got his food stamps and this lady was holding his card—he was going to pick up the card. And we got tired and it was a trolley thing that goes down St. Charles. And we sat down at the trolley stop and it had been raining like hell, so we decided we’d sit down and rest. We were there for maybe 20 seconds. A cop come flying down the street, splashed us, gave us the wave with the water, he hit the puddle and got us all soaked, and throwed us the handcuffs and says, put them on. Made us put our own handcuffs on. We was resting. So he put us in the car and he’s laughing. He’s driving to the police station, he said, You guys just made my day. He said, I just made my quota. And he’s laughing. But there’s nothing you can do. The New Orleans police are like – I can’t even find the word for these guys. But they’ve been lightening up lately.

You didn’t see many cops. I don’t know where they were, but they weren’t at the Superdome. Mostly National Guard at the Superdome. There were some cops, but they were scared people would kill them. I mean, that’s how nasty these cops are, if they’d have caught … They did kill one cop, what the hell was his name, the deputy chief or one of them. They killed his ass at the Convention Center. ‘Cause he’s an asshole. If you’re an asshole, you treat people wrong all the time, eventually something’s gonna happen to you. It happened to him. Who else was it? Oh, Compass, was saying he was at, I don’t remember if it was the Superdome or the Convention Center, but he said there’s a lotta gangs in New Orleans, and these guys all got guns. And they’re young guys, I mean like 15, 16, 17, 18, all the way up to like 30. They sell crack, they rob people, they rob stores. But they started surrounding him. And the National Guard had to take him outta there. ‘Cause they were gonna kill him.

New Orleans is – I mean, it’s dangerous. There’s places you can go and places you can’t go. If you make a wrong turn in New Orleans, you can wind up dead. When I was there, I would hang flyers, advertisements for stores and Gator’s and Aaron’s. Gator’s is like a – you can get cheap stuff there, they got like hats, and all kinda shit. We have to go into the projects, we have to go Holly Grove, Pigeontown -- and these are places white folks don’t go. They only reason we get by is because people want the stuff we’re bringing them. They want that stuff. People wait on the porch for us. And they see us coming, like, I been waiting on you, you wanna beer? But most people won’t go there. Most white people. Now there’s a lot of places you can’t go – a white boy don’t wanna be in the projects at night. It’s not safe.

New Orleans is not my home. I was looking for a reason to leave there. I’m devastated about the people that died and the families that are uprooted. Because, when we were at the Superdome we didn’t know if were gonna get outta there or not, because, like I said, the National Guard started taking off. All these trucks are taking off and, shit, must have been 50,000 people still there. And some people waited in line for three days to get on the bus. I mean, a line from here to that red light, as wide as that street, waiting to get on the bus and the buses didn’t come. And they kept waiting and waiting, and the buses never came. As a matter of fact, the Mayor got on TV, he said, Every Greyhound bus in the country oughtta be coming down here to get these people. He said, Where are the buses? And finally some came. Sure, I feel remorse, but not for me. I feel for the people. Some of these people have never been anyplace but New Orleans. I don’t know. God musta been mad at those people, ‘cause he put something on them.

Gas is three dollars and 37 cents a gallon. Who ever heard of such a damn thing? When I was a little kid I remember that gas was like 23 cents a gallon. Course, that’s a long-ass time ago, but you know, two years ago it was like a dollar fifty, a dollar forty, whatever the hell it was, I don’t drive. But three dollars and 37 cents a gallon – come on, man. And these cars take 20 gallons of gas. If you fill up the tank twice a week, you need a part-time job just to drive around. A good-paying part-time job.

The people I was close to in New Orleans, I think some of them went to San Antonio. When we got to the airport, Houston was already full. So they told us we were going to San Antonio. But I snuck in, like I told you, snuck in the door there. I didn’t know where I was going, I just wanted to get the hell outta there, I didn’t care where, I would have gone to Houston. I don’t wanna go there, I lived there before, I don’t like it. But I would much rather be there than have to stand around at the airport for four or five goddamn hours. I know a couple of people here that I drink with, socially. Of course, when you go to the French Quarter it’s always the same people that are there all the time.

And that’s another cool thing about the Quarter – it didn’t get damaged. I mean, some trees down and stuff like that, but most of the buildings, not even broken windows. If you see the rest of the town, it’s like, if there’s 20 houses on a block, there’s three left standing. All the way across the city. If you watch a TV just even for 10 minutes, you’ll be crying. I called home, and my stepmother, I thought she was gonna start crying. My sisters been calling, my family’s been asking about me. I’m just glad – I didn’t get a chance to call before then, because all the phones were down in New Orleans. And like a dumbass, I went to the pay phone and called collect. They got free phones in here, you can call anywhere you want for free, I didn’t know! And like I said, they got free phones, they got food, they got clothes. Now they’re givin me a ticket to L.A. People are coming in and they walk around and they start talking to people, Oh, well, we have a garage apartment and you can come there and wuwuwu. And it’s just so cool.

I know a lotta cities are doing this, ‘cause I been watching TV. I tell you, I can’t get enough of TV, it’s been so long since I’ve actually been able to sit. But I’m getting a little sick of the news. Three days of the news is enough. I already – okay, I’ve seen all the dead people floatin in the water, I’ve seen the buildings all collapsed, the fires, and the levee broke, I’ve seen all of that. And it’s like continuously. Course, Oprah had me, I almost started crying when I saw Oprah, yesterday and today. I don’t even like Oprah Winfrey all that much, but I watched her both times. And I’m telling you, I been through a lot and I’ve never been choked up like that before.

I think that once these people get all settled in and New Orleans opens back up—the face of New Orleans has got to change. I mean, it’s got to, because there’s nothin there. It’s like God just slapped everything down. You gotta see it. Please go in and watch some television and look at the news. Dead people floating. Buildings collapsed. People standing on the roof with SOS on the roof, please help, water up to there—all you can see is the roof, for miles. New Orleans is gonna change. It was the murder capital of the United States. It just made that in April or May. Per capita, there’s more murders in New Orleans than any place in the country. It’s not gonna happen anymore, ‘cause they’re not gonna allow it. That’s why this happened now, I think, because of the karma, or they’ve been so f-cked up down there, something had to happen. So God just wiped the slate, he said, okay, that’s the way you want it, start again.

Like I said, I don’t think I’ll ever go back to New Orleans.

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