Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Dog Gumbo

No, this isn't a recipe (that might come later) just some thoughts on post collapse city life VS post collapse country life. I consider myself fortunate to have experienced Hurricane Katrina. It allowed me to see firsthand how quickly the thin veneer of civilization can dissolve when people start to get desperate.
I was very fortunate to be in the 'country' a few miles outside of a one-stoplight town on the north shore of Lake Ponchartrain. I was prepared. I evacuated (not far) with marine batteries, 12V fans, food, water, gas, chainsaw, camping gear, xtra fuel, batteries, etc. Driving back to my house there were no street signs. They had all been blown down. I saw no other vehicles on the freeway. It occurred to me then that I was entirely on my own. No phones worked. No power anywhere. No gas stations, no grocery stores, no help. If I was to survive, it was all up to me. It was an interesting feeling. I had to stop several times, fire up the chainsaw, and clear the road to get through. Power lines and debris covered the roads.

I was very lucky. The flood was about a foot shy of getting inside my house. Once I got back to the house, I lived on the screen porch for a month with no power or running water. I would read by candlelight, or listen to the chaos in the city on my battery powered radio. After the first night, I decided I needed a gun (I didn't own one). I painted "Looters will be shot" on my plywood, and carved a big oak branch with a knot on the end. Not much good against a gun, but maybe good against someone who thought they were dealing with a unarmed female, and better than nothing. But it was good to be out in the stix. The people in my neighborhood worked to clear the roads. I brought my neighbor a tarp because a tree went through her roof, and mine was mostly OK. She hugged me and cried. I had never met her before.

A few days later, I ventured out for supplies. I procured 30 gals of gas for $95.00 after waiting in line for four hours. I showered with water left in the pressure tank at the nursery I managed, and stood naked in my store drying myself off. It was surreal.

Hurricane Katrina provided me with an invaluable snapshot of both the worst and the best sides of Humanity. It made me realize how much we take for granted, and how easy it is for all that to fall apart. It fully reinforced my notion that if you wait for help from the government, YOU WILL DIE WAITING. And it convinced a formerly pacifist hippie to arm herself to the teeth.

It really was quite an adventure.


  1. Sounds like a very educational experience. In Houston, we were pretty lucky in both hurricane Katrina and hurricane Ike in my neighborhood! Not something I care to do again...

    That's why I'm moving to the desert, around Big Bend, this spring...or as soon as I can.

  2. Good post... you also responded to my post about City-Country partnerships.

    One needs to consider the fact that we don't really know what will happen when the system collapses... what will take it's place? A hurricane is one thing, but during a long, slow, ugly slide, where is the best place to live?

    For one thing, the best place to live is probably where you will have some support from neighbors and a community. The viability and security of each community, whether rural or urban, will largely depend on the decisions and planning of the people in that community. Some rural areas will be awful places to be, and some cities will be good places.

    Finally, the synergy of people acting together can apply in both rural and urban areas, but again, in cities, it's easier to get together.

    I say this as someone who fantasizes about a nice rural retreat, but is forced by circumstances to stay in the city for a while longer... where I have a job. For now.

  3. Maitreya,
    When I saw what was happening on the television first my heart went out to those still in the area. The next day I told my wife .."Those people are on there own. There would be no one coming anytime soon to help them." I realized then that everyone is on there own.(I wasn't naive and I always suspected as much but the horrible proof was there on my television) I think your post really shows what its like in a situation like Katrina. Thanks for sharing it.

  4. Nice post. I was in New Orleans in the bywater/Elysian Fields area that first week of the flood. You did well to voice some of my own..."experience"...minus the horror. Y'all were really lucky with the horror. We were not lucky at all. By about day 6 we were beginning to plan how our factions might fall together because it was obvious that was the next step since we were pretty much on dry land near the river and the natives had gotten way beyond restless and were moving into outright desperation armed to the teeth. But then they did come the troops. I mean, it was great to see all the volunteers circumnavigating the Federal Fuck Block, but they weren't troops with weapons and there were no cops as you have heard. I don't know what you heard but the cops were the first to run. Gone. The NOPD had made a lot of enemies soooo Payback was their payback. The coward bastards.
    It was that bad. And it got that bad so fast. We of course had no idea how it was playing around the country at the time.
    But this feeling of being alone within The Nation Proper was a profound feeling indeed. Very interesting. Not good like you might think because if those troops had not started rolling and if that nightmare had been allowed to calcify for another week or two... y'all might very well have been next.
    God help us all if this country ever faces such a fracture regionally, sectionally.

    Hung you on today's Ladder.
    Editilla~New Orleans Ladder

  5. Wow, thanks guys. Glad you enjoyed the post. I was really glad I was in the country. I saw all those people in the superdome on my battery operated TV during the storm. Trapped like rats. I thought to myself that must be one of the lower circles of Hell. I'd rather die in the storm than be trapped there. I'm glad I missed out on the horror. I'd probably be even less sane.
    Publius, you are absolutely right about the people you're with determining much of the outcome. I understand about needing to live in the city for a while. Just have a way out. Always have a backup plan.

  6. Excellent post. You've experienced what most of us have yet to.... Wonderful blog, and I've added you to my daily reads....

  7. Thanks Mayberry. It was great practice. I vowed I would be even better prepared 'next time'. Sometimes I still long for the days of running around in nothing but my flip flops, cutting up trees, and not seeing another human for days at a time. I think I started to get a little feral. Although, it was pretty reassuring to me that I went into survival mode so fast. It gives me a lot of confidence for times ahead.