I don’t normally comment on such things, but watching news coverage of the horrible scene in New Orleans got me thinking about loss. I pictured my house underwater and realized that I don’t own much of value.
Claire and I went hiking this past weekend. I felt like it was a good idea to get away from the screens and scenes that routinely hold sway over our gaze and attention.
We stumbled up over twisty roots worn smooth by the soles of shoes and stoic rocks that refused to move. After four-plus miles of narrow trail and upward-bound switchbacks, we found a spot out of the wind on the edge of “unmuddied” Rachel Lake, “clear as an azure sky of deepest summer.” Claire and I set up the tent and fired up the gas stove.
I was stoked on this trip from the very start. It was my new pack’s maiden voyage, and I just got my first headlamp for the night vision. Claire picked the hike and made sure to keep the elevation relatively low to avoid my getting altitude sickness again (no fun). After dinner and gawking at the scenery, we retired to the tent, exhausted.
On the way down the trail the next morning, we encountered hikers on their way up carrying news of car break-ins at the lot below. Four or five cars had smashed windows and open trunks, but no one could remember whether the violated vehicles included a white Neon.
Arriving at said car, we breathed relief heavy, as all of her windows were intact. That is, until Claire noticed that the driver’s side door was unlocked. Panic. Pop the trunk. My backpack is gone. Not my new hiking pack, but my day-to-day backpack that never leaves my sight (anyone who knows me can attest to this). Nothing of value in there to anyone but me, as my iPod (the only thing of any value that would have been in there) was at home charging for next week’s commute.
Check for damage: I lost my journal, two notebooks (one with thesis and book project notes dating back over two years, and the other full of rhymes — I’ll be listening for bitten lyrics, sucka!), several Sharpies (easily replaceable, yes, but my moms sends me those, man!), three books (Intertextuality by Mary Orr, Bigot Hall by Steve Aylett, and Rakim Told Me by Brian Coleman), and other things I’ve yet to remember. Again, nothing of value to anyone but me, but plenty that can’t really be replaced.
I tend to be sympathetic to thieves. If one is in need and that’s what it’s come to to get it, then by all means, smash and grab. I only wish they had time to investigate the loot beforehand. The two backpacks I’ve had stolen probably ended up in a dumpster soon after their lifting (I had a similar experience about nine years ago).
Now, none of this is to say that my loss compares to that of anyone affected by hurrican Katrina. All of this is to say that, if put in that situation, I’d steal too (Actually, I’m white, so I guess in my case it’d be called “finding.” Thanks, corporate media! Bang up job you’re doing there! Big shout to Kanye West, by the way). I’d even take someone’s backpack. If for nothing else, to have something to read while my shit washed into the Gulf of Mexico.
[Image lifted from The League of Pissed Off Voters.]
My thoughts are with the people down there and with their friends and families. My friend Duane Pitre, whose mom is in the midst of that mess, has set up a donation link, and The League of Pissed Off Voters has one too, as their New Orleans rep Shana Sassoon is currently holed up in Houston. We’re all waiting for watershed, literally and politically.
And before I forget, my friend David Silver is working hard on The September Project, which is “a grassroots effort to encourage public events on freedom, democracy, and citizenship in libraries on or around September 11. Libraries around the world are organizing public and campus events, such as: displays about human rights and historical documents; talks and performances about freedom and cultural difference; and film screenings about issues that matter.” Get involved.
Let’s take all of our shit back.
Peace, respect, and power to you all.