I live in Louisiana. Five tropical storms hit us this year. New Orleans dodged the first four but hurricane Zeta was a direct hit as a category two. And it wasn’t nothing nice.
I was sitting at my desk. The wind was howling outside. Then the lights went out. Shortly thereafter–and I do mean “shortly”–sounded like a train or something. If I was scary, I would have jumped up and run out the room. But, in the immortal words of Chicago troubadour Oscar Brown Jr., “I was cool”.
When I reached out about 36-inches to my left, I felt something totally unfamiliar. It was rough, jagged, not smooth at all. Almost simultaneously I looked up and could see what seemed to be a hole or something. I got up slowly. Remember the lights are out. Hurricane force winds are blowing. And I don’t have a clue to what is actually going on.
After feeling around, I figure out that it is a tree branch that blew through the roof, and then through the ceiling before knocking over a computer monitor (thankfully, one that I am not using), and landing on the quadruple four-foot or so stacks of books next to the table I use as a desk, on which I have two iMacs.
I still have phone service. Peteh Muhammad Haroon, a veteran of NOMMO, our writing workshop and who is partnered with my daughter Asante, came by–it’s maybe an hour or so after the hurricane has passed. We’re lucky because the storm was moving thru quickly. I had already dragged the tree limb down our long hallway, out to the front yard, and threw it over the porch railing by the front side of the house.
By then I was disgusted but not discouraged. No power. A hole in the ceiling. Middle of a hurricane night. I was, as we say in New Orleans, “too thru”. So, I climbed into bed and fitfully tried to go to sleep.
Then Asante called back, she let me know that Peteh was out front. By the time I got up, I heard Peteh on the roof and went out into the backyard. Peteh had a small flashlight and said it didn’t look too good.
By now the storm is gone and there wasn’t that much rain. Using my i-Phone, Peteh took a shot of me holding up the branch that had come close to hitting me and doing grievous bodily harm, if not totally knocking me dead. That’s me and the tree segment you see in the picture. Imagine that crashing through your roof, through your ceiling and landing right next to where you are sitting.
We are used to hurricanes in New Orleans but I never personally had one come close to being the potential death of me.
As bad as it was, the next morning when I got out in the yard and Peteh returned to see about getting the major tree branch off the roof–it was big as a small tree. I thought I had a good estimate of the damage. How wrong I was. The house is long. The added-on master bedroom, closet and large bath with a jacuzzi and a separate shower was at the extreme back of the house, fortunately I don’t sleep in that bedroom.
A short, heavy tree part was lying on the bed and a massive tree branch was literally sticking through the ceiling above. Look up at your ceiling and imagine a jagged tree branch sticking through big as Cuff. I said, ‘dang. Zeta wasn’t no joke’.
But wait. By now I’ve decided to move the four stacks of books into the master bedroom. However, there are many more stacks behind my desk, plus postal bins of books along a far wall parallel to the hallway, and easily over 500 DVDs stacked on the long window sill next to the desk. As I bring the books from the office into the master bedroom, I took over and see more plaster on the floor by the closet. I look up and there are two big holes in the closet ceiling.
Before she passed, my wife had renewed the homeowner’s insurance. After a number of calls, I was able to track down the policy. After more calls and conversations, I’m given a case number and hopefully will get a settlement to help defray the damage.
That October 28, 2020 Wednesday night and most of the day Thursday is clean up time. Peteh was on the roof with a chain saw. I’m dragging large branches from the side of the house into the back yard. Saturday morning I contact an experienced roofer. Won’t go through all of the details but the roofer that was recommended to me couldn’t take our job. By Saturday morning he had twenty-five customers ahead of me.
The only blessing in this whole ordeal is that I still had some hot water, so I was able to take a soothing warm shower on both Friday and Saturday morning. Got a text from my good friend Jerry Ward who lives in another part of the city; his damage was limited to his garage.
My daughter lives on ironically named Jefferson Davis Parkway, not too far from Xavier University. I spend the days following hurricane Zeta on a comfortable couch, which I sleep on Saturday night, and work on every day I’m there.
I don’t know how this is all going to end but we’ll deal with it like the way one deals with eating an elephant. One bite at a time.
Oh, did I mention, the day after the hurricane, we had a major Zoom gathering celebrating NOMMO’s 25th Anniversary. Ayo Fayemi-Robinson, my NOMMO co-founder and business partner, does the bulk of contacting and coordinating of NOMMO people. We had former members joining in from all over the country. You can see our live-streamed conversation archived on Facebook. You also should check-out the NOMMO Kudo Board for a fuller 411 on our literary society.
Joy and pain. The irony is that when NOMMO was preparing to celebrate our 10th anniversary over the Labor Day weekend, we were scattered by Katrina back in 2005. And here it is 2020, and Zeta is forcing us to have a Zoom celebration. Like I said, joy and pain. . . more about NOMMO is available on our website. Over the years members have collectively produced approximately 30 books. Joy and pain. Be well.