Friday, September 16, 2005

Ground Subzero, another personal story

To my surprise and notwithstanding prior post to the contrary (, we do have friends who are Katrina diaspora. My wife was transferring from an old address book to a new one and realised one of our old friends from Guam had retired to New Orleans. She optimistically shot off an email into the sky to enquire as to their wellbeing and was greatly relieved, but also saddened, to receive their reply. The writer was a long serving news presenter on Guam TV. With his blessing, I'd like to share with you his reflections.

We got out in time but we have lost everything including what Bob Rogers
once called the best art collection on Guam. All of those works by
Chamorro, Micronesian, Balinese, Indonesian, Australian, and New Zealand
artists --- all of my antique maps of the Western Pacific. Maori war
clubs, Palauan story boards, and so on --- all were on the first floor
and I know that the first floor is flooded --- we are hoping that the top
floor was spared. The tough thing is having to wait. Still another two
weeks before we can get in to look at things. And then another month to
get the power grid up and running.

Things look pretty bleak. How do you start over at 66 years of age? We
still have some resources but I don't know if I have the energy. We had
just finished a three year, complete renovation of our 100-year old
house. I spent every day for three years working on that house and had it
just where we wanted it. I signed the last check to the contractor a month
ago. The Thursday before the storm Sis had the new living room furniture
delivered. $270,000 down the drain. (No flood insurance in New Orleans.)

Right now we are in Kingwood Texas, a suburb of Houston. We have a
bachelor friend who lives here in this enourmous house by himself so we
have one wing to ourselves for as long as we want to stay. When we get
back in the house if we can secure it we are going to get out of town.
Can you imagine what that city is going to be like for the next six
months? Luckily, we have a friend who has a house in Alburquerque that is
unoccupied for the rest of the year and he says we can stay in it as long
as we like. (His wife died two months ago and, irony of ironies, he works
for FEMA and is headed for the recovery in Mississippi and will be gone
the rest of the year.

The spirit is flagging I'm afraid. But I did get a boost yesterday. I went
to the local Chase bank to get some bank checks (yep, took all of my legal
papers and forgot the check book) and I noticed the bank officer helping
me was named Santos. When we were finished I asked him his nationality and
he said "Chamorro." I immediately said hello, brother, I lived on Guam for
17 years. "Yes, I know," he said, "I thought I recognized you when you came
in but I wasn't sure until I heard that voice. Then I knew it was you
because I grew up listening to that voice." Now the kicker--- he is Frank
Santos' nephew and Ben Pangelinan is a cousin. The Coconut Connection is
alive and well even in southeast Texas.

Every day is bad because every day you remember something new that you have lost. Today was especially bad so your note helped a bit.

I always wondered about Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome. I guess I have it. The smallest thing sets off a rage. I got so angry this morning I scared myself. And it was about nothing. Another thing that I have noticed: Making the simplest decision is hard to do.

Oh well, enough's almost 5 p.m. and I'm going to go fix a monster drink.



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