John Howell column 8-28-12

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Hunkering down with damncats as Isaac pays call

These lines are written in Batesville on Monday as my wife waits in New Orleans with giddy anticipation for the arrival of Isaac. Tropical Storm Isaac, or maybe Hurricane Isaac by landfall.

What can I say? There’s nothing the old girl likes better than a good storm — say a minimal hurricane. We sat there through Gustav in 2008 and found it exhilarating. Once peak winds had subsided, we opened the front and back doors of our home. We still remember it as the storm that came through the front door and blew out the back.

Scared? Weather doesn’t seem to scare her, but evacuating the city as a passenger in a car leaves her white-knuckled and cross. First there’s bumper-to-bumper traffic crawling along for hours with the constant threat, during a split-second’s distraction, of rear-ending the vehicle in front or being rear-ended by the vehicle following.

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Then there’s always the chance that you won’t be able to return to the city as soon as you’d like or that when you are allowed to return, you’ll find yourself in that same, long line of bumper-to-bumper traffic, crawling back.

So she’s probably hunkered down with the damncats, at least two of whom are the same damncats that we left behind during the Katrina evacuation in 2005. The following week, after much of the city had flooded and it had become evident that it might be weeks before we would be allowed to return, we — Rosemary, nephew and fellow New Orleanian John Nelson and I — evaded police and National Guard barricades at New Orleans’ city limits by crossing to the West Bank and sneaked into the city’s back door.

When we left that afternoon, we had gathered in pet carriers damncats Stella from Pope, Oreo, and the late, great Cookout Kitty. Plus we had picked up a neighbor lady who had stayed behind with her two dogs because she had been unable to find anyone who would take them all three together.

Our departure from New Orleans that afternoon might have bore resemblance to the Clampett family’s arrival in Beverly Hills.

Not so this time. Stella from Pope and Oreo will be hunkered down with Rosemary, along with Oscar the Grouch and Sissy, with no epic road trips planned.

And as soon as rain and wind subside, she’ll be coaxing the outside damncats from the places where they will have found refuge.

And that’s the way things are on Laurel Street in Uptown New Orleans, where, since Katrina, the neighbors now substantially outnumber the hoods. And damncats usually fare better than old goats.