So you can read my books

Wednesday, July 13, 2011


“Two men look out the same prison bars; one sees mud and the other stars.”
- Frederick Langbridge

There are epic events in each person's life. What we make of them determines what we make of our lives.

Shelley F. Blatt

Laila Knight asked for a little personal information. I try to focus on writing and what can help all of us become better writers. But I said I would make a stab.

Hopefully, I will not sound like that starlet who said to an ear-weary Groucho Marx : "Enough about me. What do you think of me?"

Hurricane Katrina and Rita swept through New Orleans and Lake Charles. Neither city has fully recovered. And those of us who survived are changed forever by it.

Five years ago, Hurricane Rita was a category 5 hurricane. I spent the morning running rare blood to scrambling hospitals.

I drove back home to wolf down a hurried lunch. A mandatory evacuation was issued. I went downstairs.

Someone had siphoned the gas from my car. All the gas stations were shut down. I was stranded in the path of a killer hurricane.


Or not so alone.

Freddie, my supervisor, called checking in on me. He offered me a ride in his car as he drove beside his wife's car containing his two children.

So with the clothes on my back, my laptop on my lap, and Gypsy in a carrier, I rode with my friend into the darkness.

The highways were shut down. We drove the back roads, the cypress trees bending down over us in the blackness as if listening to our whispered voices. Freddie's eyes were hollow.

As we passed his wife's car, I saw she was frantic, on the verge of panic.

I winked at the pale faces of Freddie's two children, Allison and Abigail, pulled Gypsy, my cat, out of the carrier, and picked up her front paw as if she were waving at the two girls.

They giggled. And the grip of panic on their mother seemed to break.

She waved back and gave a valiant smile with a thumb's up salute.

Freddie studied me for a moment and said, "Dude, you're like Job."

"How so?"

"I mean you got your gas siphoned out of your car just when you needed it most."

"I bet a lot of people did."

"Yeah, but if Rita hits Lake Charles, this will be the second time you'll have lost everything.

You lost it all when your home burned. And before that you closed your business. Your mother died before that. And before that your fiancee died. And your childhood best friend died before Kathy. Damn, it's like you're Job."

I nodded, smiling sadly, "As I recall Job ended up pretty well."

"You've got a strange way at looking at life, dude."

"You're not the first to say that."

We made it to Baton Rouge where I worked delivering rare blood to all the hospitals reeling under the impact of Katrina.

I drove to the hospital of Metairie, the first suburb of New Orleans. (It is a French term for a tenant farm.)

I saw people who had only thought they knew what having nothing meant. I smelled the stench of decaying human flesh on the breath of a too silent city.

I saw young boys in uniform trying to be men under impossible conditions.

Late at night I typed the first draft of FRENCH QUARTER NOCTURNE, alone in the spacious suite afforded me by the blood center for which I worked.

It had been leased for the board of directors to oversee the new center in Baton Rouge.

So for two months I slept in a prince's suite. Gypsy was, for once, satisfied with her accommodations, she being a princess and all.

I barely saw the suite. I was always driving it seemed --

down long, unfamiliar roads to strange hospitals protected by hollow-eyed young boys with automatic weapons and dry mouths.

On my days off, I would volunteer to drive vans for the Salvation Army, Red Cross, church groups, or out-of-state relatives frantic to find lost loved ones. There are stories in that time that haunt me still, but they belong to shattered, valiant hearts.

Finally, the blood couriers were allowed back to our devastated city.

It was like something from a post-apocalyptic movie. But these ruined streets and gutted homes I knew. Our city has never truly recovered. But my friends are a hardy bunch.

Me? I just fake it.

I've only mentioned one snippet of my life, and look how much I have written. Sigh. Like Freddie says, I tend to talk a lot.

But he smiles good-naturedly when he says it.



  1. I'm so glad I get to comment first on this PARTICULAR post.

    You, my friend, are an amazing and special person. Helping others, even on your days off from grueling deliveries, is BEYOND the call of duty.

    It's now wonder your stories have so much soul, heart, and tragic beauty. You lived it ... you wrote it. Your experience, your life, your feelings.

    You share YOU with all of your readers. I am awed by your humility and unselfishness. You give the world your soul and we could not ask for ANYTHING more.

    Just remember one thing... Don't forget to give back to you.... Don't forget that.

  2. Thanks, Michael :
    There were unsung, unspotlighted heroes all around me during that time. How could I do any less?

    Thanks for the kind words about my writing. I pray that the end of this year will be Both our Christmas dreams come true ... to find high sales for our books.

    There is a life lesson from letting a field go fallow for a season : if even dirt needs a rest, how much more so do we?

    Be kind to yourself as well, Roland

  3. Roland, thank you so much for making this effort to write about yourself.

    Do excuse my slight mushiness...but it's just how I am.

    I always suspected that the man behind the writer was spectacular...glad to see I'm not disappointed. I am touched to say the least and moved by the splendor of your soul. Your friend said you were like Job. I never cared for that story. I don't believe that God toys with us, but I get his gist. What I do know for sure is that he blesses us by making people like you.

    I generally keep my cool in awful situations. There is a quiet calm, maybe it's the realization that everything will be alright in the end, but I don't know how I would have faired in the midst of such disaster...specially losing loved ones.

    Did you ever hear the phrase "to whom much is give much is required."? I don't think they were speaking of personal belongings. You're one of those rare individuals that can make a change in the world by his very presence. And I love your attitude, but then again I'm an eternal optimist.

    You should post more about yourself ever once in a while. Now when I read your blog each day I'll be able to say to myself. "Roland is not just another writer. He's a kindred spirit, a hero, and just one heck of a guy."

    Thanks again for doing this. ...^-^...

  4. I really appreciate you following me and i will definitely add you up on my daily reads..:)

    God bless! :)

  5. Loved reading this.I admire your meekness and positive attitude--whether you feel strong or not--those are strengths.

    It is amazing what so many have to endure. The suffering of this "mortal coil" can be to the point of ridiculous sometimes.

    We are but "strangers in a strange land". And it is rough terrain. Hang tight, fellow traveler.

  6. Thanks, Laila :
    Each person we pass is an island of worth and hope - vessels of loss and struggle that could fill a book. In a sense, each of us is spectacular.

    To me, JOB is a book of trust : God's trust in Job that he would not crumble and Job's trust that where The Father was leading him was worth the pain of the journey.

    But then, I'm a romantic.

    Like you, there was a strange calm that was within me. I remember looking at that empty gas gauge and thinking, "All right, Father, this is going to be an adventure, isn't it?"

    My half-Lakota mother taught me that none of us is ever alone. We have our wits, the lessons of the lives of those we love, and The Great Mystery who gives us light enough for the next step and strength enough to take it.

    Thank you for being my friend, Roland

    Jena :
    I'll be looking for you and thanks.

    Jo :
    Those pictures of England and Scotland were amazing. Yes, sometimes life does seems intent on being a two by four, treating us like that poor mule, doesn't it?

    When I hurt recently, you were there, and I will never forget that, good friend -- Roland

  7. I knew you were a good person. I'm glad I was right. The weary cynic in me is glad there are people like you to prove I'm wrong.

    That's not very eloquent, I'll admit, but it's all I've got.

  8. Sarah :
    I saw my share of hard-hearted souls on the streets of New Orleans after Katrina. But, like you, I was surprised by the number of average people, stunned by their loss, still rallying to help those they could.

    Have a great end of week, Roland