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My grandmother is now in a nursing home. I was hit (roughly an hour-and-a-half into 2005) by a terrifying and unsettling premonition, realizing that she may or may not be around for 2006, that she may not be around for today, but she’s here. I went to visit her yesterday and she was sharper than she’d been in months. She remembered where I go to university and that I’m working at the campus newspaper this coming year. I think it was the greatest gift I could have gotten, even if it’s only temporary.

Today is my twentieth birthday.

I forgot to have my health card renewed. I start another year of undergraduate study in two days and I haven’t bought notebooks yet.

I was, for some reason, recently reminded of the first time anything of mine had been printed in an honest-to-goodness newspaper. I was seven-and-a-half. The newspaper published (and may well still publish) a page “for children by children” on Sundays. As the second grade was winding down, our teacher told us we were going to write one or two sentences about why our fathers were awesome and she was going to send them to the newspaper.

I don’t think any of us honestly believed our writeups would end up published. Three of ours did. In retrospect, mine was a little bit out there compared to most of the others:

“My dad is great because he plays Nintendo with me and turns the computer on for me. He loves me and is the best dad in the whole world.”

I still mean every word of that, even though I can turn computers on myself (and almost certainly could then, as well, though something so technologically advanced as a 486 required rules for a seven-year-old). I can only wonder whether or not the section editors were amused and whether or not it only ended up in the paper because it was so unlike the other submissions.

When I was a child, 20 always seemed like the age. It was eons away. My family brought that 486 home on my seventh birthday. I spent so much time on it that I became known as the school's resident computer expert – at the age of seven. I didn’t think I’d be ushering in my third decade curled up on my bed with a laptop, but somehow I don’t think that would have surprised the seven-year-old me. I don’t think many things about now would have surprised the seven-year-old me.

I live with my parents. I’m half-finished a degree. I have two jobs. I have never had a boyfriend, have been kissed by one person and am unabashedly in love with a man to whom my existence may be irrelevant. I have never been on a date. I spent most of my high school prom sitting idly at my table and yelling "They’re all gonna laugh at you!" at the annoying kids.

And maybe nothing about the way things are at this very moment would surprise me as I was in 1992, in 1995, in 1998, except for the way things turned out with my grandmother.

We had plans for the future. Technology was going to have advanced dramatically by the twenty-first century (as everyone rather intelligently expected it to in the early 90s. Oh, hindsight). I told her I’d have one of those newfangled flying cars (cherry red) and we’d go on leisurely drives all the time. I’m 20, no car, no driver’s license, no learner’s permit. She’d always talked about being afraid of going into a nursing home. I used to promise her that she wouldn’t because I never thought she’d need to.

She is generally doing better after breaking her hip last month. She was moved to a long-term care facility from the hospital a few weeks ago and was not at all happy once she found out about it. She wishes she could see, she says; she wishes she could see and walk. More than anything, she wants to go home. There is a waiting list for a better nursing home and a rather unsettling awareness that spots only open up when other people die.

Even the hospital was a more cheerful environment than where she lives now. The hallways are lined with residents who have no family, who’ve been forgotten, who are so fargone that it breaks anyone’s heart. She can’t see these things but she hears enough to know that she doesn’t want to be there. My mother took her for a walk around the grounds last week and she begged her to help her escape.

I hugged my grandmother yesterday. She’s in a wheelchair, she’s frail. She’s lost so much weight and when I touch her shoulders I first think there is some kind of metallic piece on them. I quickly realize it is bone. She is tiny and frail but still has strength in her hands when she holds yours. I hugged her and she pulled me into her shoulder and for a minute it felt like she was the strong one and I was a little girl and all was right with the universe.

I’m 20 now and those days are long gone, but we're going to be okay, her and I.

"You're such a lady now," she told me yesterday after being reminded of my impending twentieth birthday.

Maybe, but only because you showed me how to be one.

And even though I did go ahead and search and research, I can find little-to-no info on the disaster in New Orleans. I have found many, many articles but the majority deal with the politics surrounding, not the happenings at. Bush said, Gov. Arnold Schwarzeneggar said, etc. I do not watch television; am not privy to the news (I have a TV, but never ever use it for anything). What I get, I get from the papers--or from the Internet. So I have goneover this topic, and have chosen to provide my own outlook, such as it is, as a Canadian who has abundant love of all humans (except for the bad ones, and even then, some of them Aren't That Bad). This is not intended to clarify or be an unbiased look at anything, ever. This is merely a visual medium that I can look at later and recall the madness of this time. A citywide flood is a big deal. As big as tsunami, or terrorist attacks.

I just finished listening to a radio interview with Mr. Ray Nagin, and to be honest it is difficult for me to sort what he was saying into easily digestible info-pieces. He was very angry, as are a whole ton of people (not the least of which are writers who frequent this website). He--and they--should be: he should have had hundreds (or thousands) of troops, relief workers, doctors, food drops, water drops, boxes of clothes etc., the day after the event. Hell, even if I were a pre-industrial civilization, I would have sent him stonemasons. All he got was phone calls and well wishes. If wishes were fishes we'd all cast nets and all that. Mind you, it seems that, based again on the news, which at best is best taken with a grain of salt, things are shaping up. Though:

I am not a smart person. I have the occasional insight which serves to amaze just me and no one else. Being that I am not a smart person I cannot say that I understand any politics, let alone those of a different nation. Yet, politics is brought up all the time, isn't it, even when natural disasters occur? This happens in all nations, I'd imagine. I do not understand the United States. This is not said or thought with a sneer on my face, either. It is not said in disbelief or with a look of curiosity. This is a piece of information: I do not understand the United States because I do not live there. The joke is that Canada is the fifty-first state but the border--though "undefended"--between this country and the one south of it does divert me, especially and significantly, from the politics of the latter. I only know what the Republican and Democratic Parties are because I have read definitions of these terms. I do not understand, for example, why it is that Americans are so strong in their politics. I have a family member in the United States who once told me that not only her husband, but her father-in-law and her father-in-law's father have all voted Republican. I do not understand this.

There are other American things I do not understand: I do not know what the store Kinko's is but I do know the name. I do not understand why there is a rivalry between certain baseball teams that extends decades back and I do not understand why American football is so popular (about that: I like football, but there are movies all about the sport, this seems weird to me; this same mentality of mine extends to other movies about sports, but for some reason football stands out the most).

I have a friend who, two days ago as of the time of this writing, pointed out that, well, if the Army reservists were not over in Iraq, they would be immediately available to help the people of the city of New Orleans. I cannot comment on this except to say that it is true. I try to stand back and offer up as little of an opinion on the Iraq thing as I can because a) I am loud-mouthed and prone to cursing and b) I do not know enough about it to give an honest two cents' worth--the most I could provide about that, is about three-quarters of a cent, and that is not good enough. I do not understand the war in Iraq, except to know that people die in wars and as such, I am against it. I like people. I will return to the topic of understanding in the third-to-last paragraph of this writing.

As a former gigantic dork, I know of the geography of the area surrounding New Orleans enough to know that, as has been said over and again by everyone, it is for the most part (if not all) beneath sea level. I knew without looking that New Orleans leans against Lake Pontchartrain. To the west is land. To the east and south and north are water. I am in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. To the west, south, east and north is land. All but the west is miles and miles of plains. Flat, boring, unadulterated prairieland where very few people live. There are as many people in the province of Manitoba as there are in the city of New Orleans, give or take a couple hundred thousand. To the west of me are mountains. Unless something like that movie Deep Impact happens, I am in no danger of a flood or hurricane. I am too landlocked and too north for that. According to Mapquest.com: Total Est. Distance: 2541.52 miles. That is, south and east of me.

I know of rapper (and what now, activist?) Kanye West's little Bush-doesn't-like-black-folks speech. I have seen pictures of entire CITY BLOCKS of houses up to the eaves in water. I have seen broken-into buildings. I have heard tell of rape and looting, death and possible dysentery outbreaks and the overflowing Superdome and the National Guardsmen. I have seen the photos of New Orleans nice-and-dry, and a photo from space later where it seems that the two lakes no longer have defining characteristics such as borders delineating them from land. I have heard this opinion, and that opinion.

An abrupt change of topic: one group of musicians that has not broken through in the United States--a dream of most Canadian musicians, I have no doubt--is a band called The Tragically Hip. They're a bluesy rock band with a singer who is either brilliant or afflicted with some sort of developmental difficulty. They are one of my favourite bands. They have a song, released in the early nineties called New Orleans is Sinking. I play it very well, guitar-and-vocals. Many stations here in Canada have refused to play this song out of respect for flood victims. While it may be prudent and yes, even necessary, I find it ridiculous. It's a song, for Chrissake, not an unholy ritual to summon death and destruction.

Apparently, everyone has now been evacuated from the Superdome, according to MSNBC.com. This is goodnews. Also goodnews is that eighteen year old kid who stole a bus to get everyone over to Houston, TX. Someone send a donation that kid's way, too, if there's a way to do it. Better yet, give him a fucking medal. Way to save lives, man.

Out of all the opinions, pseudo-facts, pseudo-fictions, and weak, circuitous ramblings above, I only have one thing to tell you. I know and understand what it's like to live in a place--maybe you do too. I know what it is like to own certain things and while this is not a true measure of who you are as a human on this ball, it is definitely a comfort. It is definitely grand to have resonating deep within you a sense of accomplishment when you lay down your feet kick off your shoes at-the-end-of-the-day amongst all your own clutter (or cleanliness) and look at all your own things. Follow it by saying to yourself this, all this stuff, all this life, I did this. I accomplished this. I bled and killed for every last thing here. I, personally, am happy about where I live and what I do to live here. There are many in the city of New Orleans who can no longer say the same. There are many other people who won't go home to their clutter (or cleanliness). There are many people who won't go anywhere.

So look around your house, bedroom, apartment, whatever the hell you have. Look at all the things you have bled for. And then, grab a twenty (or a hundred, or a thousand) and send it over to the Red Cross. Hypertext link and phone number are on the Welcome page of this website. I have never donated anything to anyone (that I can recall), aside from little things. I talked to a nice lady and threw a fifty their way. I would like you to do the same.

If you've read this idle rant through, thanks for your attention, all my love and affection and hope sent your way.

I awoke around 8:30am. My first impression upon waking is that my stomach is upset. I lie in bed trying to fully awaken, and then I made my way to the bathroom and eliminated some mostly liquid waste. I guess the herbal laxative tea works.

The next order of business this morning is 32 ounces of warm water with 2 teaspoons of sea salt to flush my sytem. The book reccomends chugging the water. That is insane. Chugging this concoction will induce vomiting. After taking sane drinks somewhere between a sip and a gulp, I finished all but a tiny bit in the bottom. At this point I started feeling like I might vomit afterall. Part of the point of this detox is the morning cleanse, so I decided to forego the last bit of the saltwater in order to keep the rest down. I am now gonna go relax and try not to feel sick.

10:30am: I am beginning to worry that we don't have enough toilet paper in the house. It may be time to make a trip to town for supplies. All that salt water earlier made me feel ill and I had to lie down and wait for it to go through my system. When it finally did it's job and I was sitting in the throne room I could actually hear the water gurgling through my intestines before it came out.

We staggered our intake of the foul mix this morning. My girlfriend did it about a half hour before me. We were hoping to stagger our bathroom urges as well, since we only have the one bathroom.

This means that she started drinking the lemonade mix before me. So while I was still recovering, she became very hyperactive and started talking loudly and smacking me on the stomach to emphasise her words. I am not feeling so horrible yet, and thus took it calmly.

The uncomfortable feeling in my stomach was finally expunged and I felt ready for my own lemonade mix. To the kitchen!

It's a little strange to drink but not horrible. It's a good idea to keep stirring as you drink or when you reach the last bit it will be full of cayenne and you will make uncontrollable facial expressions.

2:00pm: I have had 3 glasses of the lemonade mix so far. I am getting very hungry. At one point my mouth started filling with saliva and I kept thinking about steak houses and chocolate bars. But I had another drink and it went away mostly. My tummy is growling. I am trying to keep myself distracted by playing Everquest 2 and reading a book.

6:30pm: Up to 4 glasses. Almost supper time. 2 more glasses of lemonade. Yum! I am pretty hungry but don't feel sick at all. I am haunted by the thought of food, restaurants, and the happy comfort of dining with friends.

Toothpaste is also forbidden on this fast. I have learned that it is quite possible to brush your teeth with table salt.

I feel that this day will soon be over. And then I will sleep.

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So, I've been taking my little blue fluoxetine hydrochloride pills every morning for 6 days. And now I'm jealous of all you people. The stuff isn't really supposed to kick in full strength for about 4 weeks, so I don't know if I'm just lucky and it's working really well and quickly for me, or the good old placebo effect, or what, but I feel amazing. I almost feel a kind of quiet joy, not because of the meds directly, but because I've realized that it's actually normal to not be afraid of talking to a salesperson in a store, or to be able to have a conversation with someone in a bar and not feel completely awkward and strange, or make eye contact with and smile at a pretty girl, or to not sit and stew in anxiety for hours on end every night. It's almost unbelievable to me that most people can do these things fine, without any help at all, like it was the most natural thing in the world to them.

I have started to notice some mild side effects. Sometimes I get a sort of odd floaty feeling and it's like all of my senses are turned up to 11. It is strange and a little disconcerting but not at all unpleasant. And some of those 'sexual side effects' are also cropping up. I don't really care, because I'm not having sex with anyone anyway, and in any case the side effects are nothing compared to the relief I feel. I still get into nasty thought patterns, but it seems much easier for me to break out of them now and continue on with my life. Before, I would get into one of those and let it eat me alive for days or weeks on end.

I'm also exercising regularly, which is probably helping. I used to run a lot in high school and college, but I never had enough time or energy after that. Most people still consider me skinny, but my stomach is noticeably not flat and that bothers the hell out of me. So maybe I can kill two birds with one stone and fight depression and get into shape at the same time. And probably feeling like I look good would help fight that off as well.

Going to see that psychiatrist was probably the best thing I've done for myself in a long time.

Last night, I took refuge in the doorway of my parish church. It was a cozy nook, all things considered: the stone was fine-grained and gentle to lie upon, especially when I wrapped myself in a fleece stadium blanket, the archway kept me from the elements, and there was a fine view of a stretch of Elm St. in New Haven frequented by Yale students, and therefore heavily policed for violence, but not towards victimless crimes, like sleeping in the open.

Why wasn't I in the shelter? Ah, long story. Suffice it to say that the heat wave this summer made for overcrowding, budget cuts made for insufferable conditions, lack of trained, empathetic staff made for a lot of regimentation to stem the rising tide of anarchy that resulted. Which made conditions ripe for a lot of scapegoating and bullying, especially directed towards people who didn't fit the "good resident" standard: broken to the demands of the System, dependent on psychiatric drugs, and grateful to "the Program" for their Nth recovery from the abuse (defined as use more than once a year) of other, more amusing substances. Then, too, there were the problems of race, class, education, and to a degree, religion.

You see, you're not supposed to discuss race. This is to discourage bigotry and racial tension. However, ethnic pride is warmly encouraged. Programs with names like Nefertiti or Women of Substance "to empower women of color" advertise freely on the bulletin board, "urban contemporary" music plays over breakfast, likewise Hispanics are encouraged to speak Spanish, display flags and the like, and so on and so forth. Whites fare less well, if only because there are few, say, Irish-targeted resources, and anyway, whites are supposed to show tolerance with others' ways and, well..."pride" isn't exactly the right word...

Instead, you're supposed to show "respect". Ordinarily, I guess, it would mean that you should be quiet, polite, and patient, but it's not exactly the same here. What it means is saying 'Squuuuze me!' whenever you find someone else to be impolite and intolerant. Or doing something you find intolerable, like snoring. Or passing you in the hallway a little too close. Or just not acting the way you would act, like being sooooo quiet and cheerful and saying all those dumbass words like "Please" and "Thank you" and smiling all the time. (Who does she think she is?)

I try to be patient. I realize that a good deal of it is that I make people uncomfortable. I'm what they "should" be, and yet what they most hate and fear: educated, apparently affluent (at one time), whitebread, mainstream. In a world where every girl is told and told and told again that despite having rotten teeth, bad grades in dismal schools, early pregnancy, and a deadbeat dad, they are royalty, whether of the Benin tribes, of Egypt, or simply a Disneyfied "Princess", I've grown up as a Preppy in a democratic Republic. And yet, the family I'm supposed to have doesn't help me (I've told them about my lousy stepdad, and the fact that I'm both siblingless and childless) and neither does my church (they have so little money because they've just installed a Lively-Fulcher pipe organ, which I've been told is quite a status symbol, and they do give away sandwiches and knit little prayer shawls...). In some ways, I'm the enemy -- after all, like any white woman (they think), I believe that Michael Jackson is guilty, which is, after all, just a step above thinking of them as property. Above all, none of this makes any difference. I'm there, with them, and none of my campy extravagance nor my good nature can break it.

Some of the abuse is meant toward me. A Black mother would never let her husband do that. Who do you think you are? 'Squuze me, you're not 'specting me, passing me in the hall like that. You snore. Your clothes smell. 'Squuze me, you shouldn't do that. You can't brush you hair here, get you dandruff all over, people eat here. You wash that fat ass? 'Squuuze me, I was talking to a friend of mine, you don't like it, don't listen. 'Squuze me, my radio is my business. I'll bust you ass, you smart mouth. Fuck that shit. Some of it just slipstream, like second hand smoke: obscenity, taken to the every-other-word extreme, makes me cringe, especially when it's mingled with "nigger". Spontaneous singing of gospel hymns makes me feel like breaking out into Tom Lehrer, except no one gets the joke. Some of it's the staff, who feel much the same way, but that's another story.

The shelter can't place me elsewhere -- why not just go home, or ask your church? I decide to leave nonetheless. One day I simply left -- nowadays my mother comes by every few days to get me fresh clothes and money for food. I have a bedroll, a small knapsack, and this doorway is really cozy, as I said.

My only problem is my bladder, and I'm praying the Lord doesn't mind me watering a bush now and then on his property. But the priest is beginning to suspect.

At six, he opened the door where I slept. "You've got to go." he said.

"Me or you?" I said, still sleepy.

"You. See you in church."

Later, I heard him preach on charity, forgiveness, and not turning away the needy from your door. Give to the Katrina fund, and please be generous in the collection plate.

The Lively-Fulcher organ played. I left.

In an hour, I had a new apartment. I'm to move in Wednesday.

The night is warm, and I'm sure the Green isn't all that bad for a few days. I can get a shower down by the beach. But I wish I had the doorway.

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