Thursday, October 13, 2005

I'm back

So I got back Monday from my three week volunteer stint with the Red Cross. I'm still at a loss as to how to describe my experience. The awesome camaraderie I felt with my fellow volunteers, the frustration with the inevitable inefficiency at times and the way in which I was most certainly ready to return home and never leave at the same time. I managed to take 6 rolls of film but all the pictures in the world can never encompass the darkness of New Orleans at night, a post apocalyptic ghost town with no working street lights. Or the smell of a Slidell neighborhood that had been evacuated, flooded and left festering until homeowners could return to completely gut their their homes. One snapshot of a lake-front home in Slidell that has been reduced to a pile of matchsticks doesn't show how this devastation continues for a mile or more down the road. My observations of returning to "normal" life thus far: It is cold in Minnesota compared to Louisiana. I'm suffering from media cluelessness as I went from watching the news 24-7 with the rest of America after Katrina to practically no TV, newspaper, internet or radio for three weeks. My hurricane injuries are healing (ok, so a few scabby mosquito bites and my grazed knuckles from trying to open a bottle of Heineken with a rental car key in the parking lot of a Baptist church). It is very satisfying to shower in a facility that is neither a decontamination tent or semi-truck trailer and one which doesn't require wearing flip flops in fear of gangrene. After three weeks on army cots, I feel a bit like Tom Hanks in Cast Away when he returns home and is more comfortable sleeping on the floor than in a bed. Or perhaps that is just because my girlfriend and the cat got used to having the bed to themselves, as evidenced by my pillow on the couch and the bite marks on my toes. After a day at home, my immune and adrenaline systems said, "Well, I guess you don't need me no more" and I promptly got a cold, slept for 12 hours and my back gave out.

But I must not be too messed up because I passed my mental health exit interview in Baton Rouge and the Red Cross "stress team" called me at home the other night and I didn't seem to raise any major red flags (or he was very good and covering up my true diagnosis and the people in the white coats are on their way as we speak).

I missed a few things while I was gone. I was a bad girlfriend and missed Allegra's gigs (storytelling gig for U.S. Fringe Festival conference, Sax in benefit for New Orleans musicians and a band concert). I also didn't make it to the Cirque de Soliel touring performance we'd had tickets for since April. I seem to have missed Fall. When I left Minneapolis it was in the 80s and now there are Christmas Cards for sale in Walgreens.

Also, she and the in-laws completely redecorated the apartment while I was away. The place looks awesome. We basically live in zig-zagging hallway and weren't making the best use of the limited space. My Real Simple subscribing Mother-in-law rearranged furniture and installed curtain rods and shelves galore until there was enough storage space in our apartment for all the shit Allegra still had in her parents' garage. My only gripe is that I noticed my Kung Fu Fighting Hamster got stashed in a closet. The only thing I have to say about that is, "Nobody puts Baby in a corner!".

More thoughts and photos to come. Until then, check out fellow volunteer MJ's thoughts on returning home. MJ and I were assigned to the same kitchen my first week.


MJ said...

"Nobody puts Baby in a corner!"

Ha! So you came home to the "Uh, I still live here too, right?" extreme home makeover edition?

Where is my shit!

Great to meet you "in the trenches" Ms. Smitty! Rock on sistah...

crazy j said...

I have your favorite blanket...I wasn't going to tell you, but when I found out about the Hamster I decided....fuck Allegra!