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John Henry

When my girlfriend Heather Vinz and I watched the news on Friday night before the storm we decided that this was the hurricane not to stick around for. I had been thru every hurricane season in the 11 years I spent there and I can attest to the fact that year after year they have become larger and more frequent. On Saturday night, Heather had to work her shift at Mimi's in the Marigny and I stayed at the Spellcaster, where we were living at the time, to help Miss Pussycat board up the house and load Quintron's equipment into there van, he was out of town at the time. When Heather got out of work we grabbed a few things from the house and decided to head out of town before traffic got to heavy because the mayor had made an announcement that we should leave town if we were able to. We left around 3 in the morning on Sunday with a few friends and our dog in our van and headed to Memphis.

We stayed in a Motel 6 for a few days spending our days visiting friends we know there and spending our nights watching our town be destroyed on CNN. This part was the most frustrating because we realized that we were not just spending a few days out of town and then heading back to clean up some branches in the yard, we were stranded. After we heard the news that they would not allow us to return for at least a few weeks we not only knew it was a very bad situation but that we needed to go somewhere for a while to either work or get other resources because our money would run out just hanging in Memphis.

This situation led us to our current destination - Los Angeles. We received a phone call from our friend Larry Lamborghini, a New Orleans native and old friend who moved to LA years before. He offered his help finding work and a place to stay for as long as we wanted. I had never been to this part of the country and thought it would be a great change for a while until we could figure out what was next. We spent the next few weeks trying to deal with getting money from FEMA - which is a hassle. To this date Heather has received nothing from them. We were getting work but needed to get back home to check on our things.

The weekend of September 22nd I decided I would make an attempt to get into New Orleans even though we were not allowed according to the National Guard. I flew into Memphis. We had been doing research and networking with people to find out how our neighborhood was at that point. It was looking like the 9th Ward took it pretty bad, especially the area where our practice space was. A friend who stayed behind to help out reported that he had to use a canoe to get to this area and that he helped some people off their roofs. I also had another agenda for that particular weekend, Gonerfest was happening that weekend in Memphis. Detonations were supposed to be playing this annual 3-day festival but our equipment condition was a mystery at that point and we were scattered across the country. I spent the three days there and then on Monday rented a U-Haul truck go down and planned on meeting a friend with a place on the west bank we could use as base camp.

We arrived in New Orleans late at night - dodging check points and weaving our way through the city trying not to get stopped. In hindsight I think the U-Haul was a good vehicle to have because a lot of the cleanup contractors in the area were using the same trucks. We arrived at my friend Alex's apartment and luckily the power was on and it did not take that much damage. In the morning we tried to find a way into the city proper. Alex is friends with one of the ferry workers so we tried there first. Turns out his friend was the only city ferry worker left in town to do the job and he let us on with our truck, even though it was only to be used by city workers, cops, or national guard. This gave us the opportunity to slip through without encountering any checkpoints, and when we got on the other side we blended in with the other trucks driving around.

The first place we went to checkout was our warehouse space. This wound up being a complete nightmare. Our practice space took on 10 feet of water. Everything was destroyed. The amp boxes were melting into the floor, the drum sets were cracking from being soaked then drying out and when I picked up one my guitars it fell into pieces. My friend Jamie Kalal met up with me at that point and we had to wear long rubber gloves, boots, and a respirator just to enter the building. The water had taken everything in the 3500 square foot building and blended it into one mass of garbage. There were black mold flowers the size of my head growing on the walls. That, and the fact that large quantities of toxic chemicals had spilled over from the industrial canal a block away, made it unbreathable. Needless to say nothing was recovered.

The next stop we made was The Spellcaster Caster Lodge. Heather and I lived in the apartment up in the back behind Miss Pussycat’s workshop. This faired well. A little water came in the widow and that was about it, but the downstairs bar took on some water and was really moldy. Unfortunately this apartment was our temporary living space for the summer while we were searching for a new house to purchase. We did not have many of our belongings there. They were all at the warehouse space and a storage unit that was down the street which, by the way, fell over and is being bulldozed. I grabbed the bit of clothing we had our computer, my one last guitar, and Heather’s organ from the house. Lucky for me I got most of this stuff out before the police arrived.

This was the highlight of my adventure. While loading the truck 5 police cars pulled up and within a few seconds I was surrounded by 20 cops in bulletproof vests and machineguns. They asked what I was doing and asked for my ID. Now at that point my friend Jeff Matson had already been beaten up the police a week earlier and I knew they were very aggro. When they checked my ID they noticed it was not for the address I was removing things from, I hadn’t changed it since I had moved in. This did not make them very happy, but I talked my way out of being arrested by telling them my situation and they gave me an hour to finish. I got the fuck out of there as soon as they were gone. We were also nervous because Black SUVs with tinted windows and military vehicles were constantly driving by.

We drove out that night down the I-10 and I headed back to LA. - driving from New Orleans to Houston was surreal, Rita had hit the weekend before and knocked out the power all along the coast. We almost ran out of gas because nothing was up and running. I have not returned to New Orleans since.

I am now in Los Angeles trying to rebuild my music and my life. Heather and I are reforming the band Black Caar under the name Static Static which pretty much describes our situation at this point. Detonations have broken up, all the members have scattered across the country. I know some musicians who are returning to pick up the pieces but mostly for reasons like taking care of property and so forth, not for music. Los Angeles has been very receiving. We've gotten lots of offers to play shows but we still have an equipment dilemma, as in - we have none. The label I am on in LA hasn’t offered shit for help so we're just saving our money and buying things slowly. Goner Records is sending me some money from their fundraiser and the Grammy awards/Musicares foundation is buying us a few grand worth of stuff but we're still waiting. In a nutshell New Orleans is fucked for an underground music scene. Maybe we can rebuild someday but it won't be any time soon.


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