Mr. Wake

Are you understand?

Location: Kamakura, Kanagawa, Japan

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Back in Japan

I’ve been back in Japan for a week. I can’t say I’ve been busy, but I just haven’t gotten around to writing.

I arrived in Lafayette on a Tuesday. On Wednesday we did some shopping at the SUPER Target, and on Thursday Mom, Sister, and I drove to the house I grew up in.

All of us were surprised at how little traffic there was. It took about as long as it usually takes to drive from Lafayette to Kenner. About an hour away we started to see evidence of the storm: leaning telephone poles, a McDonalds sign with all the colored plastic blown out (for some reason McD’s signs seemed to take it harder than others). By the New Orleans airport billboards had folded over on their steel I-beam stilts. The traffic lights were out, and the intersections were manned with police and soldiers, humvees at the side of the road.

Our neighborhood looked pretty good, compared to what you see on TV. There were lots of downed trees and a dusting of debris everywhere, but no shattered houses. My mom’s house had lost a gutter. Inside, the carpets had not gotten wet, and the windows were not broken. Nothing had been stolen. There was even electricity and running water, though we weren’t going to drink it. There are two trees in the backyard of the house behind us, and Mom had been worried that they would blow down onto the house. Instead the backyard was full of their branches. There was also what we thought to be a stray garbage can lid, but it turned out to be the cover to our attic fan.

Mom opened the fridge to find that the electricity had been on long enough to re-freeze everything, so it was easy to clean out. Smelly, but not as horrible as we thought. It was hard to tell what was up with the garage. We never used our garage for cars, we used it as a storage free for all. Stuff is stacked on stuff so deep that the easiest way to get from one end to the other is to climb. The stuff in there is in such disarray that it might as well be thrown away (this is before the storm, mind you). So damage in here was difficult to assess. The carpet by the washer-dryer was soaked. It was squishy and slimy with spilled detergent. Deeper into the garage it looked like the bottoms of things had been wet; some clothes were still damp. Maybe rain blew in from the missing fan cover on the roof, though I couldn’t see any water damage on the ceiling.

I chatted with some neighbors. The portly Sicilian next door told us that they had cleared the street with Bobcats. Just shoved everything down and then went back and did it again. He had a gutter blow off and rain ran down the inside of the wall and filled the living room with water. He had not been able to contact his daughters since before the storm. At another house there was a guy attaching a tarp to his roof. The roof had yielded to the rain, and so much water came into the second story that it soaked through the ceiling of the first floor, and was still dripping when I saw it.

The guy behind us with the trees had some roof damage. He had already surveyed his house and had gone back to the family who had evacuated to a place called Opolousas to report. Apparently, a band of roofers had also evacuated to Opolousas and overheard. So now they were on his roof. I asked them if they could come look at the cover of our attic fan when they were done. He said the portly Sicilian already had dibs. On the way to our neighbor’s house they peeked up at our roof. The head roofer told me to find a piece of plywood to cover the hole, and they would nail it on. Our garage delivered. Someone at some point years ago had decided that this was a perfectly good piece of plywood, and that we might need it someday, and the wood sat there until it was called into service. But the roofers lacked a ladder. Their roofing truck was downtown in a parking garage. No telling when they were going to see that again. They had just nails, hammers, and roofing paper. Fortunately, the Sicilian had a high roof, and a good ladder to get on it. So the roofers nailed down the plywood, and fixed some other little spots. The sun was baking those roofs. Sister and I had tried to get on the roof before, and couldn’t do it for the heat. These guys were sweaty and slick like the carpet in the garage. Super nice guys. Though I’m sure the business didn’t hurt anything – the guy who lives across the street was waiting his turn to get a few patches. They had been having a hurricane party when the levee broke. The sister of one of them had to be rescued from her roof. The neighbor of another had drowned. They quoted us a fair price, we paid them some extra, and gave them a bag of non-perishables that mom and sister had bought when they thought they may ride the hurricane out. They didn’t say, but I had the feeling they had big families.

So we were damn lucky. Roofers on demand! Can you image what these guy’s waiting list is now? These hurricanes and things always happen to other people (though I often seem to be pretty close*). Then I thought, no, this one happened to my city. But then I saw that my house was relatively untouched, the neighborhood had not even flooded. But there were other people that this happened to all around us.

Check out the pictures. And I know I have a misspelling in the description of the "photo set" but there seems to be no way to fix that.


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