I’m in Houston where I plan to work out of my law firm’s office here. It’s in a nice office building at 2200 West Loop South, up on the 10th floor. We have a nice conference room with wireless internet set up, and soon our IT system will be restored and we’ll have access to all of our digitized information. The physical files are trapped on the 40th floor of our building in New Orleans, but if the recovery effort goes as well as many people are saying it will then we may soon be able to have access to those files as well.
Fortunately, the Eastern District of Louisiana’s PACER system is working and soon the court’s administrative functions will be up and running in Baton Rouge. I suppose everyone wishes that the EDLA had implemented e-filing a bit sooner (it’s the only one of the three districts in Louisiana that haven’t yet adopted EF/ECM). But many of the cases in that court have all of the pleadings scanned in and available from PACER. So that’s helpful.
My family is doing well. My father, who lives most of the time in Panama, had been planning on returning to New Orleans on the exact day that Katrina hit. Fortunately, he was not in the city and obviously he couldn’t get a flight in so he’s still in Panama, safe with my brother and his family. My kids are mostly in Houston. By that I mean, that two out of the three are here, as is their mother. Bridget, the sixteen year old, went off to the Sacred Heart school in Connecticut and is living with a host family. She reports that the school there is harder than in New Orleans but she seems to be happy to have the opportunity to be away from home for awhile. A teenager’s perfect dream, right?
The oldest child is my son Ernie (17yrs old) and he’s in his senior year of high school. The Jesuit school in New Orleans has mostly reconstituted itself in Houston by merging forces with the local Jesuit school known as Strake. In order to accomodate the 500 kids that came over from New Orleans, the school has had to do something novel. Ernie and his New Orleans cohorts will attend school from 3 pm to 9 pm everyday from Sunday to Friday. He starts school this Sunday and I’m sure he’ll do very well. He loves math and scored perfectly on two of the three PSAT sections, including math. His SAT scores were also phenomenal. For a kid who had a serious hearing problem his whole life and had to have a cochlear implant at age 12, adversity is just not something that registers on his radar screen.
The younger daughter, Charlotte (13 yrs old), started at the local Sacred Heart school here (called ‘Duschene’) on Thursday. She attends during regular hours and is mostly merged into the same classes as the local kids. A few of her New Orleans classmates are in the same school so she’s got some familiar faces around. She says she likes the new school and that people are really nice to her, so I think she’ll be happy too. Charlotte likes to draw, play piano, write poetry and –most of all– sing. Last night we had a great time playing the guitar and singing. To say that it’s wonderful to have her close by is a collosal understatement.
Friends are a different story. A few are in Houston, but many of my really close friends are dispersed in other cities.
My friend Vincent who ran a bicycle messaging service in downtown New Orleans has relocated to Austin, Texas. Vincent was a music major in college and plays excellent classical and jazz guitar. A few years ago when he graduated he got in his car and started driving to Austin, but when he passed through New Orleans he fell in love with the city and got side-tracked. He started out playing gigs but then decided to do the bike-messenger thing. He eventually took flying lessons and bought a small two-seater plane, which is what he used to evacuate from New Orleans. He put a bicycle in his plane, but left all his guitars. So, now he’s completed his journey to Austin, except he’s working in a bike shop instead of playing music. I’m sure he’ll find a guitar soon.
My friend Ched, another musician buddy, just called to tell me that he had returned to Mandeville (a suburb 30 miles north of New Orleans) and was in a state of shock as we talked. He had evacuated to Florida. He tells me that Mandeville looks haunting. Trees are down, and there is a rag tag assemblage of tents with people living near an Applebys, which is apparently one of the few food businesses that are open. Supposedly, the government is imposing a 6:00 pm curfew, or at least that’s the impression that Ched got as we talked (he was just getting back). Ched’s plan is to help his father rebuild his house and then possibly move to Alexandria, Louisiana to be near his six year old girl.
A couple of my newest friends, Billy and Bonnie, were recently engaged and had just bought a home in Uptown that they had proudly worked on decorating. They had just finished and were going to have a party to showcase their decorative flair. Their house is fine (I checked on it before I left town), but they are now living in Austin, and I get the impression they’ll stay there. Billy and I have traded a lot of text messages and emails, trying to carry forward in a ‘virtual’ way the incipient friendship that we had begun in the weeks before Katrina arrived. Today he told me that he has started a blog, which I expect will become a great outlet for his tremendous creative energy and passionate vision.
Hopefully, we all find a way to reconnect somewhere soon. The last time I saw Billy and Bonnie was on the porch of the Columns hotel, along with my neighbors Kristen and Rimus (through whom I met Billy and Bonnie). It’s so strange how it all started, and how it all ended. As Kristen said "We were all so happy and content there on that porch with our Long Island Iced Teas and Sea Breezes. And here we are now, completely scattered but alive … and thankful for that."
Yes, we are thankful. Scattered and disoriented, but thankful. Fortunately, we’re also still passionate and curious, and–at the same time–connected in some strange new way. Isn’t life wonderfully mysterious?