ArtId Art Blog
I am an evacuee from New Orleans and am now living in Lakeland Fl.
The storm, per se, was no big deal for me. I slept through most of it. I lived in a big 2 story house on the Bayou St. John. I had a small apt. on the ground floor in the front. Morning was nice and not much damage to the property; mostly to trees and tiles from the roof. The levee had not broken yet and I decided to wait it out. Of course, I had stored stuff like water in empty gin bottles, no joke, and some food. We figured it would be a few days without utilities etc. First the electric went, then phone, then water, and on Friday, I went to make coffee, no gas! I said I am out of here.
Helicopters were flying all day and night over the house. My landlord would not leave as he had a dog and a lot of caged birds. The house was dry but the street in front was flooded about knee deep. I could see across the bayou the houses on the other side were flooded. I packed a small bag and started to walk in the water where I thought the helis were picking up people. My landlord and handy-man had found a tin rowboat and told me to get in. They pulled it and me to where the helis were landing. Just as we approached one came in and I and another fellow who was wading thru the water climbed on board. This was about 9 am.
We flew over the city and picked up people on bridges and roofs until we were full. They took us to the airport where we stood in line for 9 hours, waiting to go somewhere. The fellow who climbed on the heli with me helped me as I have osteo arthritis. He stuck with me. His name is John Adams, like the president. Finally at 9pm they put us on an army cargo plane with seats and flew us to San Antonio.
We stood standing in line for hours in the dark, to be "processed" in San Antonio. Everytime we were moved, we were questioned if we had any weapons of any kind and if so to throw them in a pile over there. Our "luggage" so to speak was searched frequently. I had a very small convas bag with a pair of reboks, socks, two shirts and a pair of shorts, my pills and vitamins, my camera and jewlery...all rolled up tight.
We were put in a huge warehouse with hundreds of cots like you've seen on T.V. We were given cold hamburgers and soft drinks. No blankets or anything else. I think the whole place was put together very fast as they were still setting up the cots when we got there. We tried to sleep. No good. It is now about 6 am. John Adams said to me, "lets get the hell out of here." I said "go for it"! He had a cell phone and we called a cab and went back to the airport. He called a friend in Miami who sent him a ticket and I called my friend, Ernie Daughtry, here in Lakeland, FL and he said come... I said to the girl at the counter, have you a flight to Tampa? She said in half and hour. I said book it.
I was here a couple of days and got a phone call from a Ms. Sue Riley who said she is the CEO of The Lakeland Assoc. of Realtors. She said they have a few thousand dollars and would like to help me get settled. I said "fantastic"! I was staying with my friend Ernie in the Lake Bonny Mobile Home Park. I looked around and found a mobile home for sale that I liked and that was very reasonable. When they heard my story they knocked off a grand...Sue Riley and realtors Vera Tungate and Rachel bought the place and furnished it completely. They even filled the fridge. I now own a home! People here and friends of friends have sent money to help me.
I have a much better place here than I did in New Orleans. My apt. in New Orleans was not damaged too badly. A wonderful woman I was connected to through a friend in Miami packed and shipped everything to me here in Florida except furniture, and I mean everything.....including all (50) paintings. I only paid her incidental expenses. My friend in Miami picked up the shipping. Katrina was a blessing.
I have an artist friend in NY who is with Minds Island, Jose Acosta. He too has been wonderful and I am going to send him 4 works he will exhibit in a show this summer. Jose saw my work on Minds Island and emailed me. I, of course, answered and we began our friendship. It is strange as he is 43 yrs. younger than I. He is married and has 2 teenaged children. We have been corresponding for a couple of years and once when I told him my bike had been stolen in New Orleans, he helped me out....Unbelieveable. We have never met, except by photo. I want to go to NYC to meet him when I get the money.
I also had a show at a gallery frame shop called Fast Frame owned by Ellen Simms. They are doing a cinco de mayo celebration in May and I will show some works I did when I lived in Mexico.
Thanks! John Sowley