Friday, February 03, 2006

Got a bit of a shock earlier this week. My husband called me from work and asked if we could push back our moving date by a few days. Whenever he makes these suggestions to me, or runs an idea by me that seems off, I have a hesitation noise I make, and boy, did I need it. That sonic pause that refreshes...and keeps me from shooting the messenger.

Turns out there is some sort of Gulf Coast relocation tax that two out of three of the movers we asked for estimates on our move neglected to add to our estimates. And its a whopper of a tax, too - a good $450 whopper. Granted we aren't paying for the move, but its the sort of charge that makes us uncomfortable, thinking of its implications. This is the federal government's way of squeezing blood from turnips to pay for Gulf Coast recovery - God forbid our illustrious oaf of a president should admit he made a mistake in, say, sending troops overseas and call them back, thus diminishing the need for pulling more money out of our pockets.

Of course, this tax will no longer be effective come February 15...which is why Dan floated the good idea of pushing the move back five days. It turned out, though, that it was a tax that applied to the packing and shipping of the move, as well as to the delivery of our stuff. Dan has to start his new job right away, so that idea was toast. A chunk of money like that goes down the drain - or, optimistically speaking, towards a good investment in recovery and revival.

In related news, I settled on C-Span - again- as a riveting thing to watch while my husband was packing some stuff and our cats into the rented minivan he began to drive down south in yesterday. I don't know whether to kiss Brian Lamb or throttle him for enabling cable TV to bring us such things as the Katrina commission hearings. Ray Nagin was being interviewed by the committee, and the proceedings were an excruciating cross between getting at the truth and the cover your ass process that politicians seem to have brought to a low, low art. A committee sympathetic to what happened in the first days after the storm and the floods interspersed such sympathy with an attempt to pin Nagin down on the chain of command pertaining to recovery, on whether or not orders to open the Morial convention center to Superdome evacuees was in writing and corresponded to the timeline of events, and on whether or not Amtrak was asked for help or had its supposed offer of help accepted or refused by officials. Nice to know where the moving tax might be going. Thanks, Congress...

Dan's copy of the Tulane alumni magazine came just the other day, bearing its recovery news.
The president of Tulane, who stayed on the campus through the storm and a few days into the floods, passed on such crazy tidbits of information as this: he had to break into every building on campus in the search for food and water, the only means of communication he had with the outside world for a while was text messaging on his cell phone, and he helped the physical plant employees and skeleton staff who stayed behind with him with activities such as siphoning gas and hot wiring cars to help keep the campus afloat (so to speak) and evacuate people two days after the levees breached. The magazine also reported many instances of large amounts of frozen research samples lost to the power outages - and it also details a complete restructuring of the university and its goals and programs. I'm happy to see them make provisions for liaisons with city institutions - developing a joint tutoring program with the public schools and developing an urban planning school in an area that will need its expertise are great steps to take. Moral of this story? Support this higher learning institution and the students who have chosen to go there. They're going to need it!

I'm not entirely sure how to take this latest barrage of news I seem to be getting from all sides - and in the week before we all move down, too. Plus, it seems every time I turn on the radio to my favorite station these days, they're playing Lucinda Williams' music, one of these musicians and songwriters whose persona and style are inseparable, in my mind, from the South with a capital "S". And the songs are almost always from the albums of hers I don't have - Car Wheels on a Gravel Road and World Without Tears. Lord, Lucinda, what are you trying to tell me?

One song in particular has really struck me - one called "Sweet Side". It's the closest thing to a rap she does - detailing a fellow's life that has clearly been a hard one, contributing to the makings of a hard man. Then the chorus caps it off with a "You don't always show your sweet side."

Man, am I ever trying to see the sweet side in all of this crap this week. Maybe it's in the newsletter we got from our New Orleans synagogue this week (yeah, yet another newsletter), the first paragraph of which detailed committees and connections for people who wanted to help with recovery, people who needed the help, and people who needed a place to stay while they were getting the help. It also detailed stress-busting workshops being run by members of the synagogue with the professional background to do so and a cleanup day of some local neighborhoods that we will unfortunately be missing, as we will still be up here. A French philosopher and Americophile was on Charlie Rose this week, a fellow by the name of Bernard-Henri Levy. He said that the national response to Katrina's aftermath was something that had a slim chance of occurring if it had happened in Europe somewhere - that Europeans wouldn't be opening their hearts and pockets like that. The participation of religious institutions in such recovery was also a fact worthy of note to Levy.

Okay, so maybe that's the silver lining. A little faith, some belief, and the giving impulse will take us far. Now if I could just apply that to my family life all the time...... 8-)

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