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Go here to read Ratty Scurvics' bio.


We landed at a campground east of Baton Rouge and there I had a lovely hurricane. The hours flowed by while I read a book and watched the trees dance themselves to death through the windshield. Once Katrina passed we expected to spend one more night and drive back to New Orleans the next day to avoid traffic. There was a problem with our plan though, the only source of information we had was a shitty jambox that barely picked up anything. For the rest of the day we periodically tried to listen for news but mostly frustrated ourselves. The next day more people came by the grounds and we got what we could from them - which wasn’t good, but we were hopeful anyway. It wasn’t until we heard that no one was being allowed back for a week that we decided to drive to Austin and visit old pals while we waited it out. That’s when we got our first taste of catastrophe.

The only open gas station we found had a line miles long. Most of the cars were turned off and people clustered in the shade off the highway. Obviously this had been going on for a while because I overheard that the station ran out of fuel twice already. Hours later I needed something to eat so I walked to the distant station itself only to find another line of thirsty frustrated people waiting to be let in. From the guy in front of me I learned that there was eight feet of water in the Ninth Ward. I staved off panic by reminding myself that my neighborhood, the Bywater, sometimes isn’t considered to be the Ninth Ward. Rumors of waterlines were on every tongue. This part got twelve feet, that part only three….. I didn’t know what to think. When I returned to the car a woman had her radio up so loud everyone could hear it. New Orleans was “filling up like a bowl”; it would be years before it was a livable city again, if ever. Mo, my friend who persuaded me to leave with her, looked over at me and with tears in her throat asked, “We lost everything didn’t we?” There was no other answer at the moment besides “Yes”. After five or six hours we finally refueled and drove thankfully away. We were in two vehicles, Mo, a cat and I in her car and her lover, Jo Power, in a bread truck with her dog and the directions to our destination in Austin. Go figure, we lost him. This didn’t sit well with her. Explaining the stress and open nerves on this trip is not possible. It felt like a breath could bring the cool crashing. We had no phone numbers, no idea where to go and the unsettling knowledge that Jo didn’t have enough gas money on him to make it there. If we took a route that differed from the one we’d agreed on Jo could end up stranded on another highway without a dime or a cell phone, or dog food. The decision was made to continue to Austin and drive back through this area later if we hadn’t heard from him.

At last, we approach Austin (three to four hours away), the journey had been a test of character but, being so close, surely nothing else could go wrong. Bullshit. In some little Texas town where the two lane highway actually has a stop sign, she noticed her cat was no longer in the back seat. This animal, Paddy, had been trying to escape the entire trip. I suppose he saw his big chance when we slowed down and my window was open. That was the killing breath, nothing was cool now. Mo grew hysterical; we had to find Paddy dead or alive.

By this time it was probably midnight and I hadn’t slept in days. When she said we were going to drive back the twenty miles since our last stop, on the shoulder at jogging speed with a flashlight scanning the brush, I simply surrendered. There was nothing left in me to freak no matter how close to a complete breakdown I thought I was.

The next hours were spent leisurely driving along the shoulder up and down that twenty mile stretch with me remaining mostly quiet while Mo slid swiftly into despair. There were a few times when a piece of trash resembled a mangled cat and she would jump out the car screaming while I mutely hoped it was him so we could at least have a conclusion to this fresh trial. No such luck. She formulated another plan: we were to sleep a few hours in a shelter and wake early to make lost cat flyers to post all over the tiny town. If in three days she didn’t find him we would continue to Austin.

The shelter was located in a Baptist summer camp dormitory. There were armed soldiers and police officers milling around which intimidated us and also illustrated the seriousness of our situation. You really got the feeling that something had gone horribly wrong. Up to this point the most information we had gotten was from that woman’s radio at the gas station and minutes in front of a truck stop TV on the Louisiana/Texas border. Evidently there had been a disaster but reality was slow sinking in. Bedding was provided by the worker who guided us to the dorm. She opened the door, turned on the light and there in the room were probably fifteen wooden bunk beds armed with tossing, grumbling people. I fell immediately to sleep, nothing could stop it.

For the next couple of days we covered over and again every street, alley and parking lot. We interrogated anyone one we saw and rushed after every lead. Paddy apparently was a cat about town but couldn’t be caught. For the nights we stepped up to a hotel room where at last we got to watch the news and face what was really going on. Quite a few people I knew had remained, including the housemate I spent my last day at home with. I couldn’t help but to imagine them on rooftops or in the dome, drowned, shot … there were no answers. Of course there was my family as well. Nothing could be done and that was terrifying. Eventually Mo hesitantly admitted that we had to get to Austin. There was little joy in the idea for her but I was damn anxious to get somewhere. Apparently we were going to have to start all over again and I, in my five day beard and pink polka dotted dress, was anxious to begin.

For several years I was in a band based out of Texas so there were a lot familiar faces to greet me when we arrived. They had information, contacts for free housing and refugee projects, - booze. At the time I wasn’t sure where else to relocate, broke as I was and without a vehicle of my own, it seemed logical to stay there at least for the moment.

There is a place in Austin called the Musicians Co-op which was waiving deposits and getting grants so that musician evacuees could have a place to live. The conditions were right so I took a room after sleeping on my old band mate’s floor for a month. I would estimate that two thirds of the twenty residents came from New Orleans. The Hot Eight Brass Band came by once in a while and Big Chief Kevin took over the restaurant worthy kitchen briefly with his Indians. An optimistic vibe pervaded among most of us. Sure, it was a screwed up situation but at least we survived and there were all kinds of opportunities to play benefit shows. Organizations as well as individuals were donating equipment to cats like me who lost everything or weren’t sure what was left. At the co-op itself there were open mics every week where we could hang over a lot beer and get down with each other. As for myself, I reconnected with some of my former band mates who were working on a new project. There was a great feeling in it; I rediscovered rock-n-roll.


Continue to read about of Detonations' John Henry returning to claim his property.


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