Saturday, September 11, 2021

New Orleans--return to normal. So ends the great game

 So as of yesterday, my freelance mutual aid support gig came to a close. Of the four mutual aid groups I was servicing, one shut down when they lost their own generator (because they never bothered to change or even check the oil--DOH!), another collapsed when the power came back on and the volunteers suddenly had better things to do. The primary person tried to keep going it alone but eventually broke down emotionally and had to quit. She really meant well but got too caught up in solving everyone else's problems and forgot to take care of herself.

Third group, the largest, shifted operations to Houma where the need was greater. I did not follow them. The last group was collecting and distributing supplies from a vacant lot adjacent to the home of one of the leaders but the owner of the lot showed up and kicked them off. His right but still a shitty thing to do considering that he never uses or cleans that lot and these folks at least mowed it and picked up all of the accumulated trash so they could work from it. I wasn't there when the guy showed up but I like to think I could have worked something out with him for another day or two. But that's what I do. I talk while others shout.

It was getting to be time to shut down anyway. The power came back on finally on Day 11 and the people showing up for help slowed to a trickle. The last couple of days I couldn't give water or ice away and I couldn't pay folks to take MRE's from me. I got stuck with six cases that were "gifted" to me by the aid group that didn't want them back.  They were in demand for about two or three days after the storm and then when regular food started coming available, they just piled up...Meals Rejected by Everyone. Guess I'll be eating them for a while.

Trading was fun and profitable while it lasted and usually benefitted everyone as I shuffled goods from places where is was plentiful to places where it was in demand. Ice, water and food were my primary stock in trade but gasoline was my cash cow, so to speak. We had tons of it at two of the aid stations as it kept coming in, but it was difficult to move unless you has gas cans, which were in great demand. I had several to start with but I quickly doubled my supply by trading gas and other goods for empties and then I used those to take gas to places that needed it but couldn't come to the hub to get it. One in particular was a small coffee shop that stayed open serving the neighborhood by running on a generator. The owner left them one gas can and I supplied them with ten gallons a day in exchange for two gallons of cold brew iced coffee for the hub volunteers, including extra cups and one of their fabulous hot breakfast burritos for me every morning. Another place a couple miles away was selling brats every day the last week and they also got topped off every day in exchange for two brats and a cold beer. And of course my own generator and those of my friends and neighbors stayed full. And while homes were being looted during the last week, my house was always being watched by some of those same neighbors (and three dogs or varying degrees of utility).

Batteries were also in high demand and I distributed hundreds of them around the neighborhood to power lights, fans, radios, etc., I asked nothing for these since they were all donated anyway but a lot of grateful people are likely to remember me, at least for a little while. That has value too.

Others will remember me less fondly. The last day most of the people turning up to "request" items from the hubs were the junkies and local "entrepreneurs" who were trying to get large lots of hygiene and cleaning products in the original unopened packaging so they could resell it. Most of the volunteers were either oblivious to this or too uncomfortable to tell them no, but I had no problem being the mean one and telling one lady that no, she could not take two cases (eight gallons) of bleach. she'd gotten them already and I took them out of her wagon, giving her one and setting the rest aside to go down to Houma where people actually needed it. And boy, did she cuss me. We were also giving out umbrellas and she grabbed four and I grabbed three back. Same for batteries as she tried to clip a whole CASE of Duracells only to have me take them all back and hand her eight of each type before sending her on her way. True we had large quantities of these things but we also had no shortage of people who could use reasonable amounts, and if word got around that no one was going to stop these second-handers, we'd wind up inundated by them. So I made my presence and intention obvious at the two largest hubs and kept outflow to individuals down to fair levels. I also took a quantity of batteries to a small hardware store that was open and traded them to the owner for his stock of pepper spray and then I took those back and gave one to as many of our core volunteers as I could since some of the local junkies and freebooters were starting to get aggressive. One girl did end up having to spray a guy who tried to go behind the table and threatened her. Good for her. Again, I was elsewhere, darn it.

But our best score the last day was when one of the tame junkies (so called because they'd show up every morning and unload my truck and other donor vehicles in exchange for food and miscellaneous whatevers) came around with like a 3-4 week old puppy. He said that he bought it a few blocks away from a trap house (drug den) and that they had more for sale. The pup wasn't weaned yet and the others likely needed saving so I started calling rescues and making arrangements for them while planning how to get that one and the others. This junkie said that he could get all the other pups for $20 each and several of the volunteers, over my objection, quickly pooled their money and gave it to him. I know junkies and I was going to get these pups for trade goods or for free, but they paid him cash. Sighing, I made him take up to where the pups were and there were five more in this house. Our guy when up and paid another junkie $20 for the rest of the pups and pocketed a hundred bucks for himself. No surprise to me. Then he took off, leaving one of our girls to hold "his" puppy until he could return for it. We went in to get the pups and I saw mama dog in the other room, all upset because  she wanted her pups. I demanded mama too and the junkie there was reluctant to let her go until I explained that the puppies needed her milk and she needed to be milked because her teats were enormous. He said I could take her for a bit but had to bring her back. Yeah, whatever. I said I would but never intended to as she was clearly starving herself and had a few untended open sores. She needed saving too. She growled at me at first but once she figured out that I was going to take her to her puppies she was sweet as could be. We took all the dogs to a local rescue that will care for them until the pups can be adopted out and then rehome them and mama, who is going to be spayed and medically treated. Truth told, she was so nice I was tempted to offer to take her myself, but I talked  myself out of it. This first junkie skated right off to another trap house to score and never came back for "his" puppy, which was just as well because I sent it on with the others. Fuck him.

So we did a lot of good things this last week, but saving those dogs ranks highest on my satisfaction list. and then at the end of the day Thursday everyone shut down or pulled stakes and now I'm just here, somehow with cash in the bank to compensate me for diesel fuel burned. (That stuff was unobtainable for a while as fuel deliveries to area gas stations with power focused on regular gasoline and I only kept running because I'd stored 20 gallons and topped off the tank before the storm.) I also rotated out a lot of my older packaged supplies like bulk food and batteries into the distribution stream  and replaced it with fresh stock. So my emergency supplies are replenished and refreshed and even expanded by all of the discarded MRE's that were literally tossed into my truck, unwanted and unappreciated, when the last two hubs broke camp. I'm in a better place now than I was before the storm. but I worked for it too. I delivered goods all over the area for 8-10 hours a day every day, I ran people to the urgent care, ferried volunteers around, ironed out petty disputes, press-ganged random people into "volunteering" to load and unload trucks every day (Hey, if you're standing around our lot when a truck needs to be filled or emptied, I'm going to put you to work, especially if you're there to ask for free stuff.) I also kept supply stocks at each hub evened out, made pharmacy runs and provided security at the hubs and overnight storage of as many supplies as could be shoehorned into my van every evening, in sum, I did lots of work, helped things run smoothly, and I got paid well in goods, cash and good will which one hopes can be parlayed into future favors should a need arise.

And here's the dogs:



And here's some of the supplies that we did give out, now discarded Friday morning on the curb by someone who wanted them a few days ago but not now. These liters of water keep for ten years and the MRE's for at least five but the ones now discarding them apparently don't worry about tomorrow and more than they did before this recent storm with sent them running to us for this very food and water.



  1. Good on you, Murph! Bet the hamsters are glad to have you back.

    1. They saw me plenty as I kept stopping home to make sure the generator and the a/c for the room they were in were working properly. And I usually managed to squeeze in a short nap during the hottest part of the day in that nice chilled room with them.

  2. You really do meet the complete panoply of humans, from complete wastes of breathable air to the very occasional living saint.

    Good for you for what you did.

    Did any of the people working or running the redistribution stations ever learn from you?

  3. Hey Murphy;

    I am really surprised that you didn't add another "Hamster" to your collection. You did well and gave a good report describing the various people that you would meet in an event like this. Very educational and entertaining. I am kinda surprised...but not that the locals didn't take the excess and "squirrel" them away for the next one.

  4. God Bless you and we are happy you and the doggies are OK

  5. You really are a good person. You are no fool and you well understand that you put on your own O2 mask before helping the person next to you. But, frankly, I don't know how you are able to do what you do when you see the side of society that you offer to help that is either truly ungrateful or just downright scammy. Well done you when it would be so easy to lose faith in people.

  6. Good news on power. The pups are adorable. I'm glad that I wasn't there. I would have adopted one when weened.

  7. Thanks for the AAR, and if you have a 'lessons learned' higher level take, that would be very interesting too.

    - and GOOD JOB!


  8. Well done. I expected nothing less from you. And if you want to offload some of those MREs, we'll take them up here, next time you come this way.

  9. Well done sir!

    Yea we get some people show up at the food bank and when you load their cars, you see the stuff from last week still in the trunk.

    Dopers gots to be dopey!