Tuesday, September 06, 2005

I'm so impressed with Austin! We went to the Care for the Coast donation drive at the grocery store Friday, & they already had huge trucks and containers FULL of donated water, food, & diapers, with people driving up to bring more all the time, & that was only one of multiple donation sites. Meanwhile, several thousand hurricane evacuees have come here (including a new boy from Louisiana in my son's first grade class today), and an apartment complex opened some units to house evacuated families rent-free for a while. They were soliciting donations of basic living supplies, furniture, cookware, etc., for that complex and possibly some others. We took over some donations on Saturday, & planned to take another van load on Sunday, but they reported they were FULL for the time being, with nowhere to store any more donations! We figured we'd donate another load to the city's official donation drop-off location this week, but today the newspaper reports that the whole 400,000 sq. ft. warehouse is also full! So they're only taking cash for now (Austin residents--check the Austin Freecycle forum for updates on where to make non-cash donations). My local SCBWI group is also collecting book donations for evacuees this Saturday, my son's school is collecting necessities, there's a benefit concert planned with Willie Nelson headlining, and there's a city job fair for evacuees here this week. I'm sure it's not just Austin...I've heard such stories all over the net, and seen people on all my online groups just looking for ways to help. With all the negativity and blame being passed around, it's heartening to see this kind of response! (And props to celebrities like Macy Gray & Sean Penn for actually volunteering in person, instead of just criticizing relief efforts from a comfortable distance.)

For most of the past week I was too horrified by the hurricane to even think about writing, or to read anything but news and message board posts. For Labor Day, I decided to take an escapist break and finally read David Lubar's novel Sleeping Freshmen Never Lie. I really, really enjoyed it! I'm glad I took a chance on buying it instead of waiting to check it out at the library. When Cynthia Leitich Smith blogged about this book, she mentioned she'd never been a high school freshman. Same here--my high school started with 10th grade, and I don't recall a class caste system as such, so I didn't really relate to the freshman experience aspect. Yet on another level, just being human and having lived through high school, I related to so much of it! And special kudos to David Lubar for mentioning Dorothy Parker's excellent, snarky story "The Waltz," one of my favorite short stories ever. I once did a reading of it at a speech tournament. David Lubar also has some hilarious humor on his web site, including a Young Adult Novel Kit I just saw yesterday that made me laugh so loudly that my 7-year-old asked why I was laughing and I couldn't explain.... I also love his guide to literary fiction (a must if you've ever tried to write it, as I have!) and his aptitude test for potential book reviewers for "Carcass Reviews." (He's also got a daughter named Alison, so that's got to count for something!)

Anyway, the book was a welcome diversion, as well as thought-provoking and even somewhat educational. But as I got to the end, it brought me right back to reality with a passing reference to New Orleans on the penultimate page (penultimate being one of the narrator's favorite words). Who could have imagined that the mention of a concert in New Orleans would sound jarring enough to send a shudder down my spine, mere weeks after the book's release? So strange. I hope it doesn't sound jarring this time next year. I only went to New Orleans once, for the World's Fair in 1984. My souvenir of New Orleans was a pair of ceramic comedy & tragedy masks I bought in the French Quarter. It seems almost eerie now, thinking of that tragedy mask as a symbol of New Orleans. But comedy and tragedy are interwoven, and in the city where, as Rick Bragg wrote so eloquently this week, death has long been faced with music and humor as the saints go marching in, I hope the smiling comedy mask comes out triumphant, as the people of the region rebound and have the last laugh.


MattJ said...

This is a really nice post. I've done my fair amount of dubyah bashing on this side of the Atlantic, not even the beeb manages to quite capture the outpouring of aid supplied by the good citizens of neighbouring States. It's all too easy for us to be swept away by what's perceived as the stereotypical Southern American (helpfully perpetuated by Repent America). I do plan to visit the States one day when means allow but until I read a few blogs (this one and drivingmissdallas.blogspot.com), I never considered the lonestar State.

The blame shifting is useless, it's obvious where it lies. The cries of 'punishment from God' are at best futile and at worst callous, cruel and (from an aetheist perspective!) downright unChristian!. So, all power to you and those good people of Austin who're helping out.

Alison said...

Thanks, I appreciate that! I also want to point out, as a Christian, that you are right about that type of finger-pointing being unChristian! Most (& hopefully all!) of the Christians I know are joining in the relief efforts with donations, prayers, and even hands-on help in some cases. And reputable Christian organizations like the Salvation Army, Samartitan's Purse, and Mercy Corps are spearheading many of the relief efforts. The message of the gospels is love, and the Bible says we are one in Christ. I think most Christians try to live this out--unfortunately, they tend to be overshadowed by the obnoxious folks using the name of Christ for the wrong reasons! For any injustice perpetrated in the name of Christianity, I apologize! That's not at all what our faith stands for. It gives us no excuse not to feed and clothe anyone who needs it, no excuse for anything but love.

MattJ said...

No need for apologies, a lot of evil things are said and done in the name of many religions, much to the chagrin of the true followers of those faiths.

If it sounded like I was having a go at you and yours, please forgive me, it's the hollow vessels (see, even an atheist knows some scripture lol!) that wind me up.

Anyway, good luck with everything and keep an eye out for a pastey skinned Welshman bumbling around Austin sometime int he next few years! lol!

Anonymous said...

For whatever reason God allowed this to happen, the fact is, it is a time that we can all show an outpouring of love to each other. What happened is horrible beyond description, and I am so sad for the loss of lives and property, but at the same time, it is so heartening and amazing to see this country pull together to help each other out. :) Great post, Alison.


AlianaDrex said...

Great post. I cannot even imagine how devastated these people must be. It breaks my heart. Many have come to Alabama also. We had several (students + 1 teacher)start at my children's school this week. I guess we just have to put it in God's hands, while trying to put ours to helpful use also. By the way, I am glad there is someone else from our blue board on Blogger! Ali (bohemian princess)