So you can read my books

Monday, August 13, 2012


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“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

{Just a note: THE BEAR WITH 2 SHADOWS is now #98 in Amazon's paid best sellers.}

Siv Maria has asked me to join her UNFORGETTABLE MOMENT BLOGFEST:

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.

I remember that day. 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 over the radio. 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 Kathleen. 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. Thank you Roland for sharing your story and part of your life with us. I can not begin to imagine living under those circumstances. I find it interessting that you took with you nothing but your cat and laptop, you must have been one stinky but very brave man :)

  2. Wow, Roland, an unsung hero who did some extraordinary things and will probably do them again if called upon. I can now see why you write as you do.

  3. It would be very frightening to go through all of that. We've never had a hurricane here that so totally devastated our town.

  4. Its always good to be positive and to keep a cool head in the time of crisis. You have a good grasp on knowing what you can control. Yourself.

    Hugs and chocolate,

  5. You had a great attitude during that tragedy. And Job fared rather well.

  6. You have suffered so many losses, Roland. Thank you for sharing what you've endured. Cats can make everything better!

  7. Siv:
    And cash. I took cash. We in hurricane country learn to keep a small amount set aside to take with us in an emergency evacuation. Besides, there was no room in Freddie's car for more!

    I bought soap and clothes in Baton Rouge. I smelled very nice, thank you! :-)

    So did Gypsy. I bought a litter box and filler, too! She insisted! LOL. Oh, and books. I bought books at the B&N near the hotel!! You have to have the essentials in exile!

    I only worked with unsung heroes. They inspired me to be all that was needed by those around me in such terrible need. All of us have a hero inside if we but pay attention to the hurt around us. The courage and love and bravery did influence how I write though. You are very perceptive. Thanks for visiting!

    L. Diane:
    It was odd. I stood outside myself through much of the time. A kind of shock I believe. You find yourself dealing with the crisis at hand. I kept repeating: "My times are in Your hand, Father."

    You are wise. All that we can control is ourselves and our responses. Everything can be taken from us but the ability to choose how we will respond to life. Thanks for following ... and the hugs & chocolate. :-)

    Yes, Job ended well, didn't he? His material goods were doubled at the end. His children were only given back in the same number he had. Why? His other children were waiting for him on the other side. So in a sense, the number of his children were doubled! Thanks for your constant friendship!

  8. Jennifer:
    Everyone has suffered more losses than it appears when you look at them. That's why I try to be kind to all those around me.

    Yes, cats do make things better. And they are more self-sufficient than dogs ... though I do miss not having one. I have to settle for a giant stuffed Scooby-Doo waiting for me at the front door to my apartment. He certainly eats less than a live dog!! LOL. Thanks for visiting and writing. Roland

  9. You've got some amazing stories, I'm sure! What I love about reading your blog is I'm always reminded to get outside myself.

  10. I've read a lot from you over the past years, but very little is about you and I've always wondered at the man behind the curtain.
    Thanks for sharing.

  11. Lara:
    That is very gracious and nice of you to say. It made my weary evening after 12 hours straight running the roads!

    I try to point to some help for my friends and not to myself. Thank you for caring enough to visit and talk awhile! Roland

  12. Touching share Roland. I've always known you were a special kind of person. Thank you for sharing, you told it beautifully and I hope life is better for you.

  13. Hi, Roland,

    I will never forget reading when you had posted this or something similar when I had first met you over a year ago.

    It effected me the same way. Chilling. And yet, inspiring.

    As always, you passion, heart, and soul shines through your writing.

  14. You astound and inspire me. Here are not words enough to express my gratitude for you sharing this small snippet of your life. Between you and the two boys I posted about on Saturday, I have certainly had a wealth of positivity that I needed. I just got some pretty devastating news health wise and reading this has made me feel some of the strength I need. Thank you.

  15. Melissa:
    The human body has repair mechanisms that are truly a wonder. The human spirit possesses an ability to surprise the most jaded of doctors time and time again. I will be praying for you.

    Your own tale was evocative, and I hope prophetic for great things ahead for you. I was beginning to miss your visits! :-)

    Life holds beauty each moment for me. It is so fragile and short that I try to appreciate it while it is yet still mine. Your entry was beautiful and perceptive. Thanks for visiting! Roland

  16. That's an amazing story full of inspiration. It's amazing what we can manage to do when we have to - and you with only your laptop and your cat. When you mention delivering rare blood - is it your blood?