Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Michael Into the Breach

Michael Reynolds, proprietor of The Mighty Middle, is trying to do what many of us want to do: walk the talk and do something real, something concrete, to help those displaced from the Gulf. So, he's driven south a few hundred miles from his Chapel Hill home on a quest to find some people he can help.

He's posted an entry this evening about his first day there, and while I continue to be inspired by his efforts, I'm sad, but not surprised, to hear his description of recent events.

So. Today, I hopped in my wife's SUV and drove from my dull but perfectly serviceable hotel in Birmingham over to Meridian, Mississippi. Here was the plan: I would arrive, I would be humble, I would understand that professionals were at work and that I should make a minimal footprint. I would keep my place, make my little offer, and get out of the way.

Here is the offer, in brief: I will fly or bus or train, or even drive, God help me, some poor, hopeless, fucked up family out of Katrina's path and deposit them, miraculously, in lovely Chapel Hill, or somewhat less lovely Durham. My family will cover the basics. We will appeal to our friends to help us, but if we have to, we'll take care of the expense because Life, capital "L", has been good to us, and although we don't believe in God, and don't believe we'll get some eternal reward, some persistent sense of obligation, duty, guilt, something, tells us we owe something to people who are as vulnerable as we used to be.

So. I hop in my wife's absurd Yuppiemobile and drive from lovely if boring Chapel Hill to Birmingham, Alabama, where I find the last outpost of functioning civilization, as defined by: decent hotel, bar and premium gas.

This morning, I cover the last two hours to Meridian, Mississippi. I'm looking for evacuees, refugees, the big storm's victims. What I find is not Niger or Somalia. Meridian is the kind of town that, if I were not in compassion-mode, I would describe as a place that could drive me to suicide in under an hour. It's poor, it's boring, it is devoid of charm or attraction. It's a Wal-Mart town. Not a Target town. Not a Tarzhay, town. A long, long way from being a Saks Fifth Avenue town.

Meridian has taken a bit of a hit. It's not flat on its ass, the Burger King is open and a Whopper there tastes just like it does everywhere else, but the town took a hit. It looks shaken. Like a guy who's been in a fender bender: not dead or in the hospital, but suddenly aware of mortality. A lot of the gas stations are closed. Out on the interstate that runs past the town, are convoys of military vehicles, and that's never a good sign.

The day begins with comedy.

There's more at Michael's site.

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