ustxtxb_obs_2009_09_04_50_00031-00000_000.pdf

Page 9

by

take in 150,000 Katrina evacuees from Louisiana, we responded with grace and elbow grease. It was like that with Ike, too. We got to work, and we expected others to follow our lead. Mayor White uncharacteristically yelled at workers from the Georgia Forestry Commission that they needed to pick up the pace sending supply trucks to distribution centers around the city. According to reports, White colored his suggestion with a strategic use of the Fbomb. Maybe Georgians were offended, but the majority response in Houston was civic pride. Usually what people in Georgia think of us would be pretty important. It’s a painful reality that we desperately like to be liked and appreciated, even as we still laugh over the New York Post’s infamous 1994 headline \(“This Place is a Hell The Economist’s 2001 profile that claimed our hometown is “ugly.” Days after the storm, we wondered if anyone was still paying attention. “Are we still on the national news?” I asked my mother back East. “Not really:’ she said. True, Ike didn’t devastate Houston as Katrina did New Orleans, but after the storm dissipated, there was a sense that we were going it alone. Anderson Cooper didn’t stick around long. Cut out of the national media, we relied on local radio, television and newspapers. Local broadcast stations spent days repeating supply distribution information and interviewing everyday people. Much later, when I had met KUHF’s Rice, I asked how he’d survived for hours at a time talking to the exhausted, the frightened, the drunk. He told me he’d been happy to serve as a “cathartic vehicle” for his fellow citizens. Rice came to Houston from Pennsylvania 18-and-a-half years ago. Like me, and like many non-native Houstonians, he never dreamed he would stay. Now he plans never to leave. The day after the storm, when everyone on my street ventured out to take stock, our, neighbor Mr. Gomez wandered over. “You know,” he said ruefully, scratching his sweaty, beefy neck. “I always see stuff like this on CNN and think to myself, `Those poor bastards. And now that’s us. We’re the poor bastards:’ My husband and I laughed. We were, all of us. And despite the camaraderie, the time off from work, the warm highballs at two in the afternoon and the realization that I live in a city full of good people, please understand that I am almost certainly speaking for every citizen of this metropolis when I say that even though we know we could have had it much worse, we do not want to live through another hurricane. We were poor bastards, not for the first time and probably not for the last. But if I learned anything last September when the trees broke and the power lines snapped, it’s that if you must be a poor bastard, this isn’t a bad place to be one. In Houstoneven in a hurricaneyou always know what’s coming. 111 Jennifer Mathieu is an English teacher and freelance writer living in Houston. Her essays have appeared in The Washington Post, Going Alone: Women’s Adventures in the Wild, and the Dallas Museum of Art’s “Texas Bound” reading series. POETRY I CHRISTOPHER STEPHEN SODEN TEXAS SUMMER You would think that after more than half a century, the washed-out empty sky, the grass, mashed down in yellow patches, wouldn’t discourage me. The neighbor cats lolling on the sidewalk long after sundown wouldn’t invite me to stretch out in the vapid comfort of unmeasured sleep. The broken down drive-in movies with ghosts of circus paintings and screens vast and immaculate as a cotton sail, offering nothing but silent, untroubled absence of color or motion. Clunky metal box speakers hang from black poles. Skeletons from a time when it took almost nothing to find pleasure anywhere you went, just some ingenuity and spirit of revelry. Now mercury soars like a fever bearing down, blowing circuits, soaking sleeves and collars and boxers and socks, ruining gardens and annihilating even the simple industry of brewing a pot of cool, dark blackberry tea. Why bother when you can surrender to the stolid, hypnotic dance of newspapers dragging in a rough wind, the hum of cicadas playing voiceless dirges, the sparkless flint of dry wood and road kill bone, the tinder of aimless rage? CHRISTOPHER STEPHEN SODEN studied English and theater at from Vermont College of Fine Arts. He lives in Dallas and has written, published and performed widely. SEPTEMBER 4, 2009 TEXASOBSERVER.ORG 31