The Steampunk World

Being the continued explorations of a living steampunk.

The steampunk world is all around us, lying just out of sight, in a continuous thread of steampunk builders and culture that extends from the Victorian era to the present. You'll find no science fiction here: This is real life steampunk.

Monday, January 02, 2006

I'm on the Gulf Coast cleaning up after Katrina. My grandparents didn't get hit as bad by Katrina as they did by Ivan. Ivan was just as bad as Katrina, of course, but the levee break made it so much worse for New Orleans. Ivan was the one that made them evaluate the levees and conclude "they won't hold". Wanna read something creepy? Check out the October 2004 issue of National Geographic, their article about how New Orleans is going to be underwater the next time a big hurricane hits.

Still, all the attention on New Orleans is little consolation for the folks down here, who have had everything destroyed again after it just got destroyed last year. I'm cutting down branches that have barely healed from when I cut them off higher last year. This town is pretty much wiped off the map. Last time it was debris everywhere, now its the remains of reconstruction projects scattered everywhere. My cousin Frank says that the aftermath of the hurricane, the chaos and lawlessness, was the strangest experience of his life. A tree went through the house next to his and its gone now. For a while there gasoline was really hard to get. A lot of the roads are open again but I'm still having trouble getting to New Orleans. The City of New Orleans is running but not the Sunset Limited from Mobile.

Tragedies can be measured by the number of people they affect, but for any given victim the disaster is the same. It's so frustrating that our culture is one of rushing to aid anybody who is held up by the media as a poor poor victim, but when it comes to legislation to help some unseen sufferer (things like welfare, health care, rehab) we don't want to lift a finger or raise those taxes a cent.

Biloxi is gone. Wiped off the map. I couldn't believe what I was seeing. On the bus was someone who knew the town better, and they'd say "there's where so-and-so casino used to be" and then we'd drive a mile and they'd say "and there's where it is now, on the other side of the road". In Gulf Shores the destruction was kinda here and there, we'd say "the storm got Fat Tuesday's but not the Pink Pony". In Biloxi there were just foundations and debris.

A few families had pulled campers onto their old land. One of them, defiant, living in a post-distaster wasteland with no law and no utilities, was flying the skull and crossbones.

New Orleans
What can I say? Plenty of pictures show the destruction but they can't convey the emptiness, the quiet. I ride through neighborhood after neighborhood and encounter only contractors and MP in Humvees. The occasional family cleaning out their house in somber silence. Everyone says hello, happy to see another human being. My host was overjoyed today because she saw some kids riding bikes.

Each house has a waterline on it. One of the worst parts about a flood I remember from losing my stuff to one is that everything you owned is still there, it's just ruined. So you have to haul it all out and you're reminded of each and every thing that you lost.

Everything is covered in toxic mud. Spraypaint on each house lists the number of dead. "Three dead dogs chained to logs in backyard, one angry cat". I rode through a field and was hit by the thick smell of something large and long-dead. I couldn't stick around to see what it was.

The worst part is that we did this. We built in low-lying areas, we created the atmospheric conditions that cause the storms, we elected the administration that turns a blind eye to the disaster and diverts the resources to the war. On the bus over here I heard someone say "I can't believe George Bush is trying to make Iraq look like this, when he could be spending that money cleaning up this town".


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