Video killed the radio star

1 08 2011

On August 1, 1981 Music Television (cable network) launched with John Lack’s announcement “Ladies and gentlemen, rock and roll” followed by the famous theme song (a hard rockin’ guitar riff by Jonathan Elias and John Peterson) and equally famous scene of the Apollo 11</a> moon landing boasting astronaut (Neil Armstrong) pushing an American flag into the moon below his feet, of course for the hip theme it was an MTV flag.

It was the beginning of a new era in music.  VJ’s (video jockeys) were the answer to radio’s DJ’s (disc jockeys).  Five young, unique, fresh faces were hired to fill these shoes.  A different world than what the radio generation was used to.  The original VJ’s were; Martha Quinn – your cute and spunky punk rock girl, Alan Hunter –  the clean cut, hip blonde male, Mark Goodman – a hunky, suave, dark haired male, with the hot rockin’ blonde Nina Blackwood and J.J. Jackson, the most experienced member of the group, always smiling and probably the most talented host.

The original format offered something new and different to music fans, the music video.  A music video is basically a short film created to accompany a song mainly for the purpose of marketing.  Although music videos were actually in existence prior to the debut of MTV, they were far and few between.  Prior to MTV, these videos were considered promotional videos that artists used to generate interest among producers, record companies and on rare occasions to promote new records to fans.  These promotional videos somewhat paled in comparison to what followed after the birth of MTV and were rarely shown on television.  Videos on MTV required much more than a simple live act, they needed to be a short film that would cultivate more interest among fans.  For this, a wide range of styles in filming technique had to be exercised including animation, live action film, and basically storytelling within abstract films.  This heightened the competition in the music industry because not only did your music have to sell itself, but you’d best have a good video to back it up.  In fact, often the popularity of the video outshined the music itself but still enabled the song to be a best seller.  Because visibility was used as a promotional tool in the record industry, the network was criticized for devaluing the importance of music by replacing quality with pure visual entertainment.  Ironically, the first video to debut on MTV that early August morning was “Video Killed the Radio Star” by The Buggles.  It was their only real hit, but rather historical and revealing as the song was written about the end of an era; telling of the golden days of radio ruined by television. (included in video above.)

Since it’s premier, MTV has made an intense and long lasting impact on the music, entertainment and media industries.  Slogans such as “I want my MTV” became etched in the minds of the 80’s pop culture generation and remained throughout.  MTV has also been referenced countless times in song lyrics, movies, books, and shows on other television stations.  One of the best known music references to MTV is  Dire Straits’ “Money for Nothing” as the lyrics mock how the working man struggles to survive but the “yo-yos” on MTV “ain’t workin’” and are getting “Money for nothin’ and chicks for free.” Ironically, the video for this song became one of the most popular videos shown on the channel at that time.

The moral influence of MTV on young people has been debated throughout it’s existence. Parents Television Council (an American interest group formed to inform parents of television programming that is both beneficial and harmful to children) claims the network is a bad influence on it’s targeted audience.  The American Family Association (a non-profit organization that promotes conservative Christian values) has also criticized MTV for it’s negative moral influence.  In the 80’s the parent-media watchdog group, Parents Music Resource Center, fought MTV over certain music videos that were claimed to have explicit imagery of Satanism.  On the other side of these debates, the network was also under fire for being too politically correct and censoring too much of their programming.

Against all odds, MTV prevailed and in it’s early days was a catalyst to stardom for a large number of artists in the 80’s such as; Duran Duran, Def Leppard, Madonna, Culture Club, Mötley Crüe, Cydni Lauper, Adam Ant and countless other 80’s icons. MTV also played some famous classic rock acts heavily, placing them on a new plateau of popularity by reaching a wider spectrum such as; David Bowie, Journey, Genisis, Fleetwood Mac, Heart, Van Halen, ZZ Top and many more.

In it’s early years on air, MTV featured very few black artists in rotation.  Many black artist’s videos were rejected because they didn’t fit the rock dominated format at the time. During the uproar of black artists and other supporters of the fight to break the color barrier on MTV, Michael Jackson was among those artists denied airplay on the network.  In an effort to pressure the network to re-think the format, the president of CBS records made a strong statement by threatening to remove the network’s ability to play any videos by artists under the CBS label.  MTV claims they chose to add Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean” video without being pressured, while CBS claims otherwise.  Regardless, “Billie Jean” seemed to be the video that broke the color barrier but is also claimed to be the video that brought the network out of struggle and into major popularity.  Jackson’s videos from the multi-platinum “Thriller” album (including “Billie Jean”) were credited for the mega success of MTV, thus causing the network to change the format to add R&B music.  This change also helped other black artists such as Prince and Whitney Houston enter the music revolution.

MTV is credited for turning music videos into both an art form and a marketing machine that became beneficial to artists.  Over time, MTV added several genres to the format and somewhat even created those genres such as alternative rock. Today, however, the general public seems to be disappointed with the ironic lack of music videos played on MTV.  While the original MTV network still broadcasts 24 hours a day, the actual showing of videos has (over time) dwindled to a maximum of only 3 hours per day.  The rest of the air time focuses on a completely different format, currently a large amount of reality shows and news programs about entertainment and politics.  However, today the network owns several sister channels that do broadcast more music videos though all pale in comparison to the original days of Music Television.  And to this, I say … I WANT MY MTV!!!

To see more of the early days of MTV, click here:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LATTM7DkvWo
because TOO MUCH IS NEVER ENOUGH!!!

ABOUT THE ARTISTS MENTIONED IN THIS BLOG:

The Buggles:
An English New Wave band with only 2 studio albums and one hit single, “Video Killed the Radio Star”.  Learn more here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Buggles

Dire Straits:
British rock band active between 1977-1995 known for hits including “Sultans of Swing”, “Money for Nothing”, “Walk of Life” and “So Far Away”.  This band boasts one of the greatest yet most underrated guitar players in rock history, Mark Knopfler.  They’ve had 6 studio albums, all of which are very good.  Learn more here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dire_straits

Duran Duran:
An iconic 80’s new wave band from England who dominated the early days of MTV and were widely known as the “pretty boys of rock”.  They are still very popular today and have released 13 studio albums so far during their career with numerous top 40 hits.  In my opinion, this band represents the epitome of MTV in the 80’s.  Learn more here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Duran_duran

Def Leppard:
Though their sound is mild by comparison today, Def Leppard was considered a British hard rock band when they crashed the scene on MTV and won the popularity contest with hits like “Photograph”, “Bringing on the Heartbreak”, “Pour Some Sugar on Me”, and “Hysteria”.  Like Duran Duran, this band also has the gift of longevity and is still popular despite their rough history which includes the death of 2 guitar players and a crippling auto accident leaving their drummer with one arm.  They have 11 studio albums and also numerous top 40 hits.  Learn more here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Def_Leppard

Madonna:
Perhaps no star from MTV’s golden era knows more about longevity than Madonna.  This All-American 52 year old sex goddess still holds the throne of top rock diva for many reasons.  While her image is ever changing with the times, her music has been and remains hip, happening and chart topping.  She has a remarkable legacy not only in music but in film and entertainment in general.  She also has 11 studio albums and countless top 40 hits.  Learn more here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Madonna_%28entertainer%29

Culture Club:
The band Culture Club had one of the most controversial front men in music history, Boy George.  Another British new wave band to parade onto MTV and steal the hearts of many viewers, Culture Club had several popular dance hits including “Do Your Really Want to Hurt Me?”, “Time Clock of the Heart”, “Karma Chameleon”, and “Miss Me Blind”.  Though the band is no longer together, the music still remains popular and is featured in many films and documentaries based in the decade of decadence known as the 80’s.  In more recent years, Boy George has made the news in a negative light and has even dealt with criminal charges and remains recluse.  But, in their better days, the band 5 studio albums – 3 of which were big sellers.

Mötley Crüe:
Reminiscent of the glory days of Alice Cooper, the New York Dolls or Kiss this band brought back the theatrics of flashy rock music and they added a sound heavier than most on the market at this time.  Mötley Crüe were the true pioneers of what is labeled today as “hair metal” or “glam rock”, but in the 80’s this was considered a rather hard core sound and scene.  They were one of many up and coming metal bands from the Sunset Strip of L.A., California.  Still widely known and popular, they’ve sold nearly 100 million albums worldwide.  If any metal band has a colorful past it’s these guys.  They’re notorious for  bad behavior, bad reputations and just all around bad-ass-ness! Learn more here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/M%C3%B6tley_Cr%C3%BCe

Cyndi Lauper:
Though she wasn’t quite Madonna’s nemesis and the two artists were very different, the uniqueness and charm of Cyndi Lauper made her tough competition … especially since she happens to be incredibly talented as well.  This American icon quickly rose to fame with her aptly titled debut album “She’s So Unusual” that including chart topping hits like “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” and “Time after Time”.  She has always been a stand out artist among her peers and still tours for sold out audiences today.  Learn more here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cyndi_Lauper

Adam Ant:
This British pretty boy’s career originally began with Adam and the Ants and later he went solo as Adam Ant.  A real heart throb for all the ladies during the 80’s, he seemed to bring a steamy sexuality to the small screen with his well known hit videos for “Goody Two Shoes” and “Strip”.  He was once voted the sexiest man in America by the MTV viewing audience.  Unfortunately, similar to Boy George, his almost come-back was shattered with criminal charges for bad behavior that landed him in a psychiatric hospital.  Learn more here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adam_Ant

David Bowie:
It would be impossible to sum up this brilliant artist in a few sentences and I’m not even going to try! Bowie is best known for his work in the 70’s, but his hit making career spans from the late 60’s to current works.  He has released 24 studio albums, all of which are a must have for any avid music fan.  During MTV’s high point, Bowie released the album “Let’s Dance” which included popular videos for “Modern Love”, “China Girl”, and the title track “Let’s Dance”.  To learn more (and I suggest you do) click here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Bowie

Journey:
Journey boasted one of the most iconic lead vocalists ever to grace rock music, Steve Perry.  Though this All-American rock band debuted in the mid-70’s, the 80’s was their time to shine.  Their catalog of music is a catalog of top 40 hits and I struggle to think of a song they recorded in the 80’s that wasn’t a chart topper … I don’t think it exists.  While they didn’t share the theatrics and style of video making that many of their competitors did during the 80’s, they won audiences over with classic simple videos that displayed their talent lyrically, musically and vocally.  This band is always imitated and never duplicated.  In 1998 Perry left the band with no rumors of a reunion since and, though Journey still tours with numerous replacement singers, without Perry things have never been the same.  Learn more here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Journey_%28band%29

Genisis:
Genisis formed in the late 60’s with Peter Gabriel as their lead singer.  And, much like Bowie, it would be hard to sum this band up in a few sentences.  But, in the 80’s they became famous with  Phil Collins as their lead singer as well as drummer.  Though they were considered progressive rock in their earlier days, during the 80’s I think they would be best described as controversial in some ways with their political lyrics and thought provoking music.  However, they were also know for some meaningful love songs.  Collins brought them into the mainstream and to the peak of their popularity, but left the band for an equally popular solo career in the mid 80’s which kept him as a familiar face on MTV.  Learn more here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Genisis_%28band%29

Fleetwood Mac:
Like Genisis or Bowie, attempting to summarize the history of Fleetwood Mac is nearly impossible.  This was, however more of a 70’s band than 80’s though MTV did help keep their career in tact with a few hits like “Little Lies” and “Big Love”.  The band seemed to have a revolving door with members and their romances which included Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham who seemed to be more popular in the days of MTV with their solo works.  But, never the less, Fleetwood Mac is historically one of the best known bands in rock history with top selling albums and singles decade after decade and are touring today with all of the original band members… well, the 2nd wave original band members anyway.  Yeah, there’s no way to sum this history up so just learn more here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fleetwood_Mac

Heart:
This great band went through 2 major phases of popularity, or you could say it didn’t end.  In the 70’s they were a pleasant surprise or alternative to mainstream rock music because they were a sister power duo with the phenomenal lead vocals of Ann Wilson and the sultry lead guitar of Nancy Wilson.  In the 80’s they gained popularity on MTV with power ballads and videos showcasing their sex appeal such as “What about Love”, “These Dreams”, “Alone”, and “Nothing at All”.  But, most people will remember their iconic hits from the 70’s like “Barracuda”, “Magic Man”, and “Crazy on You”.  However, nobody was complaining about being able to see this vixens in video! They’re still popular and still touring… and their still kicking ass, take it from me cause I just saw them live a couple of months ago and was left feeling satisfied yet longing for more! Learn more here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heart_%28band%29

Van Halen:
I have to laugh because probably the main reason I can’t sum up this band in just a few sentences is because they are unequivically one of my all time favorite bands.  My opinions would be biased here and perhaps unfair to the reader… but here goes…
Van Halen has had 3 lead singers over the last 3 decades, but in my opinion only one that matters … the iconic and unmatched David Lee Roth (who recently reunited with the band and they are touring and doing a fantastic job!).  So, I have to warn you that I will  only be referring to the David Lee Roth era (even thought he Sammy Hagar era was very popular as well).  Van Halen burst into rock music fame in the late 70’s with their multi platinum self titled album that included the unforgettable hits “Running with the Devil” and “You Really Got Me”.   Now, I could comb over their entire history in fine detail here, but I’ll just cover the 80’s MTV era of popularity for Van Halen which is the height of their career.
“1984” was the album of the 80’s.  Everybody who’s anybody had that album! While this album brought the band ultimate success with chart topping hits such as “Hot for Teacher”, “Panama”, “I’ll Wait” and “Jump” it also brought the demise of the David Lee Roth era as egos began to outshine the talent and caused band members, namely David and namesake/lead guitarist Eddie Van Halen to butt heads until David left to persue a solo career which also brought him much fame in the 80’s/MTV era. Anyway, you can learn more from me personally (lol) or click here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Van_Halen

ZZ Top:
Was well known for their classic videos of the 80’s, even though they were a very popular 70’s band.  ZZ Top videos told a story, and because they were so downright cool the songs behind them became wildly popular such as “Legs”, “Sharp Dressed Man” and “Gimmie All Your Lovin”.  This Texas Based Southern Rock band has a bluesy rock sound backed by legendary musicians Billy Gibbens, Dusty Hill and Frank Beard.  Though MTV may have given this band commercial success, ZZ Top had been a success for many years before and has remained a success to this day.  Unfortunately, time has not been kind to the band and even though they still have music in their hearts Billy Gibbens’ health issues has crippled touring and any new projects.  Learn more here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zz_top

Michael Jackson:
In all seriousness, I’m sure I haven’t had to define who any of these artists are in this blog but at the very least I know I don’t have to explain Michael Jackson.  He is, after all, “The King of Pop” and one of the most well known artists in the history of music… ever… only to compete with Elvis Presley or the Beatles, but in all seriousness… probably more known.  I have to say I feel it would be a waste of my time to try to summarize his career or life at all in this blog or anywhere else.  There are countless movies, documentaries, news articles and so fourth about him and he is particularly in the current news as the world mourns the anniversary of this death one year ago this week.  I doubt I even need to offer you a link to learn more about him, but here it is anyway: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_Jackson

Prince:
In my opinion, no truer an artist (musically) by definition than this man.  He can and will do anything… anything… and do it amazingly well.  He writes, composes, plays every instrument, acts, and just downright shines at everything he even attempts! He spews sex appeal, emotion and passion in all of his works.  He’s controversial, political, and phenomenal at all times.  His career began in the 70’s and was an underground success that overtook the 80’s with steamy videos and unforgettable movies of his own as well as his work with other artists (song writing, record producing…etc…).  A real genius in my opinion and yet another artist I couldn’t possibly summarize.  Prince manipulates multiple genres of music including rock and R&B (an incredible feat).  Some of his more notable MTV era hits are “1999”, “Little Red Corvette”, “Purple Rain” and “When Doves Cry”.  But, really, summarizing Prince just does him and you a real injustice so please, learn more here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prince_%28musician%29

Whitney Houston:
Actress, model and notable performer, Whitney Houston had a million dollar act the moment she danced onto the small screen with her first hit “How Will I Know”.  America fell in love with this knock out vocalist who had all the elements missing from the 80’s female R&B scene.  Once MTV got a hold of her, there was no turning back on one of the most notable careers any female artist could ever hope for.  She seemed to be a hit making machine and as her career grew she also dominated the big screen.  Recognized as one of the best known divas in music history, Whitney became a multi-millionaire almost overnight with hit after hit, but behind the scenes she led a very troubled life that would end up crippling her career and today she struggles to make a comeback.  However, she still has the talent so I suspect that once she gets her act together she can have a very strong return to the industry.  Learn more here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Whitney_Houston

Who do you remember most from the MTV era? Did you love it or hate it? What are your thoughts on this topic? What do you think of MTV today?

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Coming out of the dark

29 08 2010

It’s impossible to condense the Hurricane Katrina experience in a few short blogs let alone the 5 years that have followed.  I have tried, but came to the realization that it would be several more blogs to truly give the full spectrum.  In the first 3 blogs of this series I have given you a taste of my personal experience during the storm and the days that (immediately) followed along with a few bits of other survivor’s stories and some interesting facts about the storm.  This has been my best effort to share it all with those of you who don’t know what it’s like first hand. Each year, I try to write something for you that helps put a face on this reality.  The eye of Hurricane Katrina made landfall in my hometown.  My life was forever changed.  History washed away and starting over in a place that felt comparable to the aftermath of a nuclear explosion.  Each year I take this journey again, but I learn a little more and I reflect a little more and I am reminded of how truly blessed I am to be here today and with little struggle compared to so many.  It is also a huge part of my healing process to do these projects.-Suz 8/29/10

I re-read my closing from the series I wrote last year, and want to share it here with you today:
From “Coming out of the dark” by Suz (post date 8/30/2009):
I have spent this week focusing on facts about Hurricane Katrina in order to raise awareness for a few reasons.  #1 most people were led to believe by the media that Katrina struck New Orleans, LA but that is not all together true.  The media favored New Orleans because it is a famous city, but the media failed the MS Gulf Coast where Katrina truly made landfall and did far more devastation than was done in New Orleans.  The actual eye of the storm landed in the very town where I live, Waveland, MS.  #2 Four years have passed since Katrina made landfall and people are beginning to forget.  We are still struggling to rebuild and I’m sad to report that, for the most part, things here are not much different than they were 4 years ago.  Don’t get me wrong, the debris and garbage have been cleared… but the land is still barren and remains an empty shell of a town (actually a few towns) that once was great.  But, I do not want to be negative here.  I want to generate understanding.  It is not completely illogical that the rebuilding process is moving so slowly.  It is very hard to comprehend complete devastation and where to begin to rebuild an entire city (cities actually).  Not only that, but how do you rebuild a city so that it’s better equipped in the event that is should ever face another disaster like this? It’s not easy.  It takes time.  I admit, I complain constantly about the stagnant recovery and I shouldn’t.  Being a resident and eye witness I should be understanding of the very statement I just made about how hard it really is to rebuild after complete devastation, but living in the stagnation and harboring memories of what once was is not an easy task.  If you want to say I have courage, then say it is for just that… living here among this when so many others have moved away.  But don’t misunderstand me.  I completely understand why so many (more than not) people moved away afterward… they were homeless, they were jobless, they had families to care for and they needed to proceed faster than the conditions would allow.  I was more fortunate in the fact that I wasn’t rendered homeless or jobless and didn’t have a family to care for, so I stayed.  I’m not a hero, I’m just a person.
I’m a person forever changed after this devastation.  But a person changed for the better in ways I cannot begin to describe in a blog or a letter or in any words that even I could understand.  You see, I was blessed with the ability to give to others.  I was able to house others for up to two years after the storm and I was able to feed and care for others in ways that so many could not.  This was humbling for me.  This was awesome for me.  From the moment the storm ended and the years that followed, I was able to help and it was wonderful.  I guess my only mistake in that period was not taking a moment to consider my own feelings of pain because I continuously convinced myself that I didn’t deserve to feel pain since I was so much better off than the average person.  The losses that I suffered were not so much material though.  My friends moved away, almost all of them.  My two best friends, one who lived up the road from me that I spent much time with and one I’d spent my whole life with and shared time with daily.  That was a tremendous loss for me.  The places that I liked to go for fun, the places that I attended school, the landmark of my first kiss, the physical locations of many milestones in my life… gone forever… that was a tremendous loss for me.  But I became so absorbed in helping others in moving forward that I didn’t mourn my losses for quite some time, at least 2 years after the storm.   And helping others healed me and made me a better person.
But another thing that changed my outlook was seeing the good in others.  In these modern times I had come to see people as selfish and uncaring.  I had grown bitter as the media continued to show horrible crimes and selfish actions of people day in and day out.  Each day that passed made it harder for me to believe there was any good left in the world.  Each day it seemed my heart grew colder … until Katrina.  Immediately following that storm, I saw people reaching out to help one and other.  I saw people from all walks of life, standing in long lines waiting for supplies… holding each other as they cried.  Race did not matter.  Age did not matter.  Financial status did not matter.  We were all one … for once.  It was amazing and beautiful.  Even though the circumstances were so hard, we were one.  If was fantastic.  People were helping each other without even asking.  If one saw another struggling, they immediately helped.  It was simply amazing.  It was great.  And then came the others.  Before the government stepped in, the Christians came … from everywhere.  Whether or not you are Christian, you have to respect these people who came as quickly as possible from all over the world to aid us …  Living in tents just like the residents …  Working round the clock to feed and clothe the people of the area and eventually working toward building homes for the homeless.  The kindness and giving that poured in was another thing that truly changed my heart.  As time passed, it wasn’t just Christians but several organizations of people with good hearts who came to help.  Groups of people who were part of no organization at all, but just wanted to help came too.  Groups of people who formed organizations just to be able to help, they came too.  Again, I find myself in a position where I could write a novel just about the change of heart that occurred within me … about the kindness I saw daily … about the good that surrounded us here.  But this is my last blog in the series, so I need to make some other points too.
Many of you have asked about my status today.  As you have read, when Katrina struck I had just purchased a new home and still owned the old one I was in the process of moving out of/renting to a couple.  I had a brand new mortgage that was costing a rather large sum on top of an old mortgage that was supposed to be paid with rent I was obviously no longer to collect (that home was completely destroyed).  After struggling for 2 years as I supported the bills of 2 households (including one that no longer existed) and the financial needs of myself and anywhere from 7-4 additional residents in my home (depending on the time frame) I found myself on the brink of bankruptcy.  I could not receive government aid or any favor due to the fact that on record I appeared to be financially better off than most so I was not eligible for any form of government aid.  My vehicle, though it was paid for, was falling apart.  I was in a bad financial state.  I had to sell my only good home in order to make ends meet and just as I thought I would have to start all over again, like everyone else, God had saved one more blessing just for me.  My employer had a program to rebuild the homes of all employees devastated by the storm.  I had originally refused to be a part of the program due to the fact that I was so much better off than any of my fellow employees, but when my boss learned of my struggle he insisted I join the program and rebuild on my original piece of property.  Today, I am in a new home thanks to that blessing.  Today, I am on my feet again thanks to that blessing.  I didn’t come out ahead, but I broke even … still better off than the average person here.  And, I admit, I still feel somewhat guilty about that but I shudder to think where I would be today without it.

Bridge Restores a lifeline to a battered town (NY Post original date: May 29, 2007)

Sometimes a bridge is more than just a bridge. The new span across the copper-colored St. Louis Bay connects today’s diminished reality to memories of a more generous past, a hopeful link to the return of better days. And it has ended the isolation, physical and mental, of a place that once considered itself a jewel of the Gulf Coast, a sun-baked collection of picturesque old frame houses that Hurricane Katrina smashed, then severed from its brethren to the east. The surge from the storm wiped out the concrete bridge carrying U.S. Highway 90 that had stood for a half-century. The recovery is creeping along. Wind off the bay is still the loudest noise in the empty-seeming downtown, whistling through ruined buildings and banging loose siding. Before the storm Bay St. Louis was a favored seaside retreat for New Orleanians — the historian Stephen E. Ambrose had lived and written here before his death in 2002 — and, coming from the east, a genteel respite from the garishness of Biloxi’s casinos.“It’s major, psychologically,” said Alicein Chambers, who opened the Mockingbird Cafe a year after the storm. “It just feels like we’re moving, we’re making progress, we’re going forward.” Before, “we were all just on this little cut-off island,” she said; now, “we’re happy to be part of the coast again.|
The partly illusory feeling of isolation — the east-west Interstate 10, just 10 miles to the north, has been available throughout — was nonetheless pervasive. The old way of communicating with the neighbors in Pass Christian and Biloxi, first by way of the wooden bridge of the 1920s, then the concrete one of the 1950s, had been wiped out. And a seven-minute dash across the bay had turned into a 45-minute commute.“After the storm, we were an island unto ourselves,” said Brian Rushing, a minister at the First Baptist Church. “We truly have been isolated from the rest of the Gulf Coast community.”Bay St. Louis Mayor, Eddie Favre, is still living in a trailer, and the old City Hall downtown is still empty. He has moved municipal functions to a former utility company building on the highway. Downtown, on a deserted street, an injunction scrawled on a vacant frame house — “Please respect our loss. Do not enter” — seems superfluous, as there is nobody around to read it.
Mayor Favre calls the bridge a tremendous psychological and emotional boost.“For 626 days, we felt that isolation,” he said. “The bridge, in so many ways, whether it was walking or fishing, it was just so much a part of our daily life.”

Taken from “Bridging the gap” By Suz (5/17/2007):

Yesterday it finally felt better. Yesterday it finally felt like home. The Bay bridge was finally opened. I rode through my home town and felt happy for the first time since Katrina. I guess, because for the first time, I was able to see progress on our beach front. The best part of our wonderful town remained a ghost town, separated as if a deserted island without a bridge to cross the water. To get to the other half of the Gulf Coast, you would have to drive around to take the interstate, adding about 30 minutes to your ride and a good $5-$10 in additional gas!! We were severed from what we knew. Having lived here all my life, it just felt so wrong to be severed this way. I seldom even drove to the barren beach front any more that used to be my favorite place to go.

Today, for the first time, I took the bridge home from work. “Sweet Emotion” cranked on my stereo, windows down, and a smile across my face. It was a gorgeous day. The bridge, now constructed so differently, made me feel as though I was traveling to a whole new place. It felt strange … but good!
Some readers’ comments:
Neil- I know exactly how you feel Susan.  When I went over the bridge on Thursday it felt like I was free again! .. These past two years have made me feel like I have been trapped on a blown up island.  Although there is really nothing on the other side of the bridge till Gulfport, it gives a sense of freedom that is hard to quantify, or explain to someone that has not been living in Bay St. Louis since Katrina.  The bridge does give some hope that the coast will come back.
Drew- I LOVE this blog! I will keep going back to people have NO IDEA, but seriously, people have no idea how much milestones in improvement can make such a HUGE difference. Like I remember when they put the two trailers and a deck where the yacht club used to be, and I joined all the locals there for a party and it was so nice to have some semblance of progress. So nice. Hell like the celebration of electricity. Just getting f’n electricity was a reason to be excited and have a party. ;-)Friends have a house on the bluff that survived the storm. I will never forget the first party I attended at their house. To see lights at night that were not run by a generator and a working bathroom was something most people can never understand how gratifying it can be. We grilled and drank and I sat back and quietly listened to all the stories. It was a magical night that is imprinted in my memory forever. The new bridge is so glorious. It is a tribute in a way to making things better. The effort put in by so many that have come to help the Bay rebuild is so heart warming. When I drove around early after the storm. Every time I saw a Georgia Power truck, I would roll down the window and thank them. I was so blown away by their commitment and effort to get the job done not even being from there. It is people like that that reinforce my belief in humanity. They came to a place where they were not even going to have basic human services and comforts, and stayed for months until the job was done.

Do not forget us.
We are the Mississippi Gulf Coast.
Remember our name.
We will make history again…
as the people who fought
to revive
the greatest place we’ve ever known…
Our home!-Suz 8/28/2009

Will South Mississippi be recovered in five more years?
By KAREN NELSON – klnelson@sunherald.com
State Sen. Debbie Dawkins, D-Pass Christian, and Ocean Springs architect Bruce Tolar both said progress has been slowed by a holdup in recovery money. It hasn’t flowed where it was needed, they said. Both said they might consider the Coast recovered closer to 20 years after the storm, not 10.
“Five years feels like we’ve been in quicksand,” Tolar said. “I think we’re just now starting to see things happen that we thought we would see three years ago.”
Scott King, director of policy and research at the Gulf Coast Business Council, predicts in the next few years, as the recession fades, the Coast will see an acceleration in construction, leisure and hospitality jobs that will exceed those of the nation.
“We’ve made progress in the midst of a recession and prohibitive insurance rates,” King said. “The recession will take care of itself, and when the insurance rates start to come down, there will be a real stimulus to the economy.”
He said Katrina forced the Coast to work together and gave some cities a chance to look at how they want to grow. But what the Coast will actually look like is hard to speculate, he said.

AFTERMATH – Hurricane Katrina: Five Years Later
By J.R. WELSH of The Sea Coast Echo Aug 28, 2010
Five years later, Katrina has become a bookmark in the lives of thousands. Stand in line at any store, and you’ll hear it over and over: Time is marked by the prelude “before the storm,” or “after the storm.”
Historic homes were left in rubble, businesses were ruined, dreams were shattered. And in the ensuing five years, crime has risen, people who managed to survive the storm have died from Katrina-induced stress or illness, marriages have come apart at the seams.
Jim Thriffiley, a retired educator who served 30-plus years on the Bay St. Louis City Council, has been quietly keeping tabs on Katrina recovery. While the area has sparkling new government buildings and roads rebuilt with federal money, he thinks the progress glimmers on the surface but hasn’t really improved things for ordinary people. Five years later, he said, Katrina’s largest legacy is a lack of prosperity.

“A lot of the people who are under 45 – maybe 50 to 75 percent of those people – don’t have a permanent job where they can work 40 hours a week,” he said. “I see a lot of people who are discouraged.”
With city revenues falling, the loss of the vacation home economy, and a precipitous decrease in population since the storm, Thriffiley fears the area is returning to the low economic tides that flowed here in 1965, when Hurricane Betsy struck Louisiana.

Homesick in my home town
gazing out the window
I pull the blinds down
I mourn for you
more with each day that passes
I wish I could see you through rose colored glasses
I took you for granted
your beauty, your history, your imagery
vanished
I’m lost without you
though I seem to find my way
your landmarks and milestones have all washed away
I’m homesick and broken hearted
ever since the day we parted-Suz 7-29-10





Home Bittersweet Home

29 08 2010

As most of you know, this is the 3rd part to a series I am writing about Hurricane Katrina in commemoration of the 5 year anniversary this weekend.  I ask you to please join me on this journey by starting at the first blog, “X Marks the spot” here: https://suzrocks.wordpress.com/2010/08/26/x-marks-the-spot/ followed by “The Great Outdoors” here: https://suzrocks.wordpress.com/2010/08/27/the-great-outdoors/

It was impossible to get close to my cottage.  The surrounding houses were scattered about like broken toys, matchsticks, piles of lumber and people’s personal belongings … boats, vehicles, and many massive trees.  It’s hard to describe, but just imagine a city … a neighborhood … picture it in your mind. Picture it as if it were a model that you were able to manipulate.  Now imagine putting it inside a tank of water and swirling the water very quickly and then lifting the model out of the tank to see what’s left… this is the best way I can explain it.  This is what every neighborhood in several cities for miles around looked like … apocalyptic. –Suz 8/25/10

Katrina Relief Worker Leigh Russell tells her story of first arriving on the coast in November of 2005 after joining her church’s mission to help the people here:
I left corporate America for life as a minister’s wife and home school mom and have since been on five mission trips, three overseas and two in the United States. The Hurricane Katrina relief trip was the hardest emotionally.
Driving through Pass Christian, a small Gulf-side community just east of Saint Louis Bay, we could see into residents’ homes because entire walls were torn away. Razor wire was a frequent reminder that the area had just recently been reopened. Some of the buildings still standing were little more than picnic shelters, with the remains of roofs held up by nothing but the wall studs. Sometimes only a slab remained to indicate where a home once stood. There might be a foundation or front steps leading to nothing — doors, walls and the rest of the homes were blown away in the storm. Sometimes we would see families picking through the rubble, searching for belongings or anything that could be salvaged from the mess.

Pass Christian, MS

Similar to the result of an atomic blast. The Penthouse Condominiums in Pass Christian, Mississippi, along with most other properties in the area were completely obliterated by Katrina. 100% of all business properties within the coastal community of Pass Christian had been destroyed. In a published damage assessment of Bay St. Louis and Long Beach, Mississippi, Digital Globe stated that the majority of single family homes were destroyed (foundations/pad remain).

Our journey seemed relentless.  My heart longed to check on my family, but I could barely journey within a 3 mile radius let alone venture out toward their location 8-10 miles away.  We encountered more people with more stories.  Stories of riding out this unfathomable nightmare from a tree top, hanging on for dear life.  Stories of struggling to save pets and swimming for survival including a man who had to swim for about 6 hours with his cat under his arm.  So many stories of survival.  Some stories of inspiration and others of desperation.  We followed a woman who had walked many miles to check on her home, she was heading in the same direction as us.  As we approached, her home was gone.  She was shrieking and panicking.  She was trying to understand if she was actually in the right location or if she’d gotten lost.  We were getting closer to Christian’s house and expecting the worse.  She had left her cats there under the assumption it might be bad but not this bad.  She had yet to forgive herself for this decision.  We were praying for the best.
From the outside, her house looked normal.  We had hope, but when we opened the door it appeared as if the inside of her home were a blender that had been stuffed with a mixture all of her belongings and thick, black mud.  It was surreal.  Furnishings resting on high shelves, clothes hanging from a ceiling fan that’s blades were curling downward and dripping water.  We could see a clear line about 6 inches below the ceiling.  The cats began to meow.  They must’ve floated on different items, compacted in that small open space and rode out the storm.  It was unbelievable.  Christian was hysterical.  Tears streamed down our faces.  The cats were skiddish and wild. –Suz 8/27/10

We’d encountered many survivors, stranded just like us in the aftermath of what really felt like a nuclear war or something I just can’t find the words to describe.  The list included an elderly couple who’d lived behind me for years when I was in the cottage.  They had planned to stay in their vehicle until they could find a solution.  Like me, they couldn’t get to their property in that old neighborhood.
We insisted they join us in our safe home where we had supplies and plenty of room.  We also had a man join us who had to swim for his life for 8 hours.  He was new to the area and had moved out here for a job.  He lived on the beach and did not realize what kind of danger he was in when he chose to stay behind.  He was very shaken and weak.  My new home became a safe haven for a few of us who were stuck in this broken town with no way in or out, nowhere to go, and little supplies but still we were better off than most.  This was the beginning of what felt as if we were placed on a survival mission of sorts.
As the days passed, we all had special duties which mostly included obtaining supplies like ice and food from various locations.  The beginnings of the survival techniques included stealing from damaged stores.  But, for everyone, it was the only option.  Stores were guarded by policeman who allowed the scavenging for survival.  After a couple of days, some crews were able to get out to our area and offer ice and Meals Ready to Eat (known as MRE’s, the same time of meals military teams eat when out on missions…etc…).  It was a long journey, by foot, to reach designated areas.  Our team was equipped with hijacked shopping carts and this was the norm of everyone.  We would take turns getting these items throughout the day and in the evening taking turns preparing the meals and sharing in responsibilities. It was work, but it was part of a life changing experience.  Before meals, we would say grace and give thanks for being alive and able to have such comforts among so many who did not.  –Suz 8/28/10

An areal photograph of Waveland, MS

Taken from “Take a left at the pile of debris that used to be…” by Suz July, 2006
Once this coastal town had a remarkable culture rich with art, music, fine people and a New Orleans flair. Today the face of the city is blank, dry and desolate spattered with rubble and debris. Inland, businesses are slowly sprouting but they are owned by strangers and filled with strangers.
Having no remnants of our history, and replacing history with casinos, hotels, condos and such is painful progress. Don’t get me wrong, progress at all at this point is better than stagnating in rubble and desolation. It’s just hard to stomach a complete facelift on everything.
The local scene confuses me. The bars are flashy and big and sparkling new. They are filled with the heavy odor of cheap cologne, and there are 10 men to every one woman. Part of the coolness of being out and about was the competition. Ladies check out the women just as much as the men. The competition is an art.  The local women were all southern beauties to behold.  That graceful dance is missing in the scene these days.

Katrina changed my life in many ways… the way I felt, the way I looked at things.  I awakened me to who I really am.  A survivor.  A person with emotional and physical strength far beyond I ever imagined was inside of me.  The most defining moment, for me, was the day after Katrina.  I woke up early with a plan to seek out my parents.  I knew it would take at least a day to get to their home, my childhood home, but it was the only thing that mattered to me.  I packed a bag with water and granola bars and Christian and I were psyching ourselves up for the long road ahead.  As we gathered our bicycles and stepped out to the street, it was as if an aura surrounded the Toyota Fourunner as it crept down the road toward us.  I watched in awe as my mother and father parked in front of us and jumped out.  Tears streamed down my mother’s face and my own.  My father, equipped with a chain saw, cut their way to us for miles.  They traveled in their SUV that had been flooded in the tidal surge.  It was a miracle that the vehicle was able to make the journey.  We embraced.  For that glorious moment, it felt as if nothing else in the world mattered.  Later, they made it home safely and the SUV was never able to drive again. –Suz 8/28/10

“Many of you have already seen the videos and news stories from the national media. I can tell you that aerial photography, as graphic as it is, in no way shows the true story from the ground. I struggle to find the words. The faces of friends, and family, the hollow fearful eyes as Mississippi Gulf Coast residents, long experienced with hurricanes, know that this is a life changing event,” Keith Burton/Gulf Coast News (article date September 5, 2005) .  “The national news media has given you the big picture on how the Federal and State governments are responding and the news has been bad on that front with widespread criticism. But people just don’t appreciate the scale of what has happened, and how hard it is just to begin to help.”

Thank you again for joining me in this series.  Please return for the next installment, where I will describe my journey post
Katrina as well as the journey of my home.





X marks the spot

26 08 2010

On August 29, 2005  Hurricane Katrina, the worst natural disaster the United States has ever known, made landfall near Waveland, MS … my hometown.  Overshadowed by the flood damage caused by Katrina’s strength breaking the levees in Louisiana, many people don’t realize that ground zero was actually in the state of Mississippi.  At this point, however, that is irrelevant.  For the last 5 years I have been blogging periodically on this topic regarding anything from damage, to recovery, to humanitarians, and many other effects of this life changing event.  Each year, at this time, I post a series of commemorative pieces on myspace.  This year, here on wordpress, I offer you a collage of things I have written about Hurricane Katrina as well as some other items from other sources.  This will be my first series posted on wordpress and I hope that you will join me in this meaningful journey…

What I lost cannot be found
washed away at sea
what I long for cannot be achieved
so I wonder if I should leave
leave behind my home
the home that left me behind
left me in a place that I don’t recognize
-Suz 7/29/10

STATS:
The costliest natural disaster in US history
One of the 5 deadliest hurricanes in US history
The deadliest US hurricane since the 1928 Okeechobe Hurricane
Total property damage $81 Billion +
Upon landfall, Katrina sustained 125mph winds and extended 120 miles from the storm’s center
Katrina maintained strength well into Mississippi, finally losing hurricane strength more than 150 miles inland

Taken from “Hold the Salt Please” by Suz (Original post date September 16, 2008):
“In the wake of all these depressing anniversaries, Katrina & 9/11, I’m feeling a little down.  I must admit, I don’t think of 9/11 as much as I should… though I remember it like yesterday. For days I set glued to the TV in a depressed state as the media continuously replayed the horrific images of the twin towers destruction.  Though, because I don’t actually live near the destruction, after a couple of years this memory was filed on a back shelf in my mind… only to be reminded when the media brought it back to the forefront.  I don’t mean to downplay 9/11, but for me it was best shelved because the depressive and fear-filled effect it had on me was too much of a burden to bear.
Hurricane Katrina, on the other hand, is a horrific event I’m reminded of daily because I live at ground zero.  I live among the stagnating recovery process and dark cloud that continues to loom over my town.  I never got away from it, so I don’t see the progress that some see.  Driving around town this weekend, it felt as though Katrina hit just yesterday.  My stomach ached and my eyes filled with tears.  It seems never ending.  The few friends I have left here are all in the market to relocate now.  Employment is down here and businesses are closing shop left and right.  I have been looking for a job for 5 weeks now to no avail.  I feel like I’ve moved to a miserable place that lacks opportunity or activity, and I’m homesick for a place that is only a distant memory now.”

Taken from “Remembering the Day the Coast Changed” by Melissa M. Scallan (Sun Herald writer):
“Latham, the director of MEMA, and other emergency officials monitored the hurricane advisories and knew Mississippi likely would take a big hit. What they didn’t know was how much of the Coast would be wiped away in an eight-hour span.
Katrina’s beginnings were somewhat different from other storms. It grew from a combination of a tropical wave, a trough and the remnants of Tropical Depression 10 nearly 950 miles east of Barbados. It became Tropical Depression 12 on Aug. 23, 2005, and passed over South Florida as a Category 1 hurricane two days later. The storm weakened only slightly and the eye stayed intact as Katrina moved into the Gulf of Mexico. Low wind shear and warm water fueled the hurricane and by Aug. 28, Katrina took up nearly the entire Gulf and had winds of 175 mph.
Its fury did not discriminate. Katrina killed young and old, rich and poor. The oldest victim was 96-year-old Pearl Frazier of Biloxi. She couldn’t leave the home her late husband had built on Back Bay in the 1970s. The youngest known victim was 2-year-old Matthew Tart of Pass Christian. The 20-foot storm surge overtook the home he lived in on Lorraine Avenue.
The winds were a strong Category 3, but the storm surge topped 30 feet in some places, crushing tens of thousands of houses, churches and businesses and covering many more with water.”

Christian and I sat across the dining table with a transistor radio between us and a deck of cards we tried to focus on playing with. The wind howled outside and we tried to block out scary noises like crashes and bangs.  We were struggling to pick up any radio station and honed in on a a.m. station broadcasting soul music and storm updates out of New Orleans.  Our guts wrenched to the point of feeling physically ill as we listened to the frightening broadcast that began to unfold detailing the struggles for survival in Louisiana, and we were in the thick … dead center of the same storm.   Earlier I had lost the phone signal while speaking to my mother, 8 long miles away from me and screaming about windows bursting and water entering her home.  She and my father, now in their early 70’s, alone in a situation I fought imagining.  I couldn’t fight the urge to have a cigarette inside my home.  I decided I would go into the recreation room to smoke and try to keep it out the house.  I opened the door and stepped down into a fast growing pool of water.  My heart sank.  This house was 23 feet above sea level! My first though was of those, 8 miles south of me and below sea level.  Visions of loved ones flashed in my mind.  I rushed to a window, calling for Christian and we stood in awe watching white caps rolling down the street.  My mind was racing on thoughts of survival and wishing I knew how to swim.  Moments earlier we were praying for the lives of those in danger, and now we were praying for our lives.  -Suz 8/23/10

PEOPLE’s Sept. 19, 2008  issue ran an abridged version of reporter Alice Jackson’s tragic story: When Hurricane Katrina ravaged the Mississippi coast on Aug. 29, she lost her Ocean Springs, Miss., home and nearly all her possessions. Here she describes the storm and its aftermath in greater detail. Here are some quotes from her story:
“Saturday, I evacuated to my friend’s house with my 81-year-old mother, my 28-year-old niece and my sister-in-law. We packed clothes, food and water – plus axes, an extension ladder and flares. That way we could cut our way out through the roof if necessary. As a reporter, I’d covered too many hurricanes where people drowned in their attics because they couldn’t escape the rising water. On Sunday, the news showed the eye of the hurricane heading toward our exact location. That night, before the TV went out, a report said, ‘It’s looking better for New Orleans, and the very worst for the Gulfport area.’ After hearing that, I said to everyone, ‘I want you to forgive me now, because I think I made a mistake. I’m afraid we’re all going to have to fight very hard not to die.’
All night I’d been watching a giant pine tree in a neighbor’s yard. It had been bending mightily, but had stayed rooted. Suddenly I heard a deafening crack, and I yelled, “Run!” Seconds later the tree smashed through the house. We had escaped to the master bedroom closet in the center of the house. My sister-in-law hauled a mattress off the bed and leaned it on top of my mother and my niece. Then we noticed that the walls were heaving, so we raced around the house, opening windows to relieve the pressure build-up. Looking outside, we watched in horror as the house behind us turned into what looked like a living, breathing monster. The roof would lift, the house would expand, and then the roof would fall. Finally, the house exploded.
The next day, we drove out to see what had happened. When we turned toward my street, all I saw was a big lake where there once had been houses, trees and roads.  Finally, about three miles from my property, we were stopped by debris: the remains of what had once been beautiful homes, with tattered curtains blowing from shattered windows and overturned furniture covered in mud. We walked through the debris, which was sometimes head-high.Some women were pointing toward an empty slab. They told us, ‘Last night, there was a house there, and a whole family was in it.’ One woman screamed, ‘Where are the children?’ We walked toward them, and I stepped on something. It was a little shoe, with a leg attached; it was a body, buried in mud. I told the women as calmly as I could, ‘Please don’t pull this out; let the rescue crews do it. You don’t have anywhere to put it, and you can’t just leave it out here.’ My house … it was completely gone. I knelt down on my slab and said out loud, ‘I am so grateful that the people I love have lived.’ And I cried. I had 20 good years in that house, and I feel fortunate.
After I went to Sunday mass in my old church – which was still standing – I decided it was time to stop digging in the mud and start rebuilding my life. I no longer want to live in Mississippi. You know you’ve seen it all when you’ve watched deputies taking ice chests from the local Winn-Dixie to store bodies. I will leave here and make a new life somewhere else.”

Although, winds, flooding and occasional tornadoes accompany hurricanes, most damage and death are caused by the storm surge.  The surge consists of the rising of the sea level caused by low pressure, high winds, and high waves. These are characteristic of hurricanes as they reach land. Storm surges cause significant flooding, and being caught in one is extremely hazardous.
The fall in air pressure with a hurricane helps with the rise in water. Normal pressure at sea level is 29.92126 inches or 14.6969 pounds per square inch. In the wall of the hurricane’s eye, ascending and spiraling winds lift over a million tons of air per second. This process drops the surface pressure as the air soars. The surface of the sea rises one foot for each one inch drop in barometric pressure due to the air rising within the eyewall.
If you think about the weight or mass of water, it is easy to understand why a storm surge can cause so much damage. One cubic meter of water has a mass of 1,000 kilograms. If we look at the weight of water using the British system, most of us are used to, we see that a cubic yard of water weighs nearly 1,700 pounds! (Source: Center for Atmospheric Sciences)

No sooner had the water began to cover the floor of the recreation room, it began to seep out never making it into the rest of the house.  Looking out now, we could see the whitecaps change direction moving almost as quickly as they had rolled in.  It was this suction that put so many lives in danger.  Though we realized we were momentarily safe from downing, we then began to notice the many trees outside swaying close to the house.  We quickly realized we needed to stay in the center of the house and that smoking indoors in the center of the house was not only our best option, but our only option.  We prayed heavily and paced, chain smoking and listening to a voice on the radio telling of how the roof was peeling off the New Orleans Superdome filled with evacuated people.  We were about 6 hours into the storm and about 4 hours past the last time I’d heard my mother’s voice.  I was feeling ill.  I’d become sick thinking of what I knew so many people, so widespread were enduring.  My parents weighed heavy on my mind. -Suz 8/25/10

The Gulf coast of Mississippi suffered massive damage from the impact of Hurricane Katrina on August 29, leaving 238 people dead, 67 missing, and billions of dollars in damage: bridges, barges, boats, piers, houses and cars were washed inland.  Katrina traveled up the entire state, and afterwards, all 82 counties in Mississippi were declared disaster areas for federal assistance, 47 for full assistance. Battered by wind, rain and storm surge, some beachfront neighborhoods were completely leveled. Preliminary estimates by Mississippi officials calculated that 90% of the structures within half a mile of the coastline were completely destroyed, and that storm surges traveled as much as six miles (10 km) inland in portions of the state’s coast. One apartment complex with approximately thirty residents seeking shelter inside collapsed.
A number of streets and bridges were washed away. In the weeks after the storm, with the connectivity of the coastal U.S. Highway 90 shattered, traffic traveling parallel to the coast was reduced first to State Road 11 (parallel to I-10) then to two lanes on the remaining I-10 span when it was opened.
All three coastal counties of the state were severely affected by the storm. Katrina’s surge was the most extensive, as well as the highest, in the documented history of the United States;  there were inundated by the storm surge and in all three cases affecting most of the populated areas. Surge covered almost the entire lower half of Hancock County, destroying the coastal communities. Remarkably, over 90% of Pascagoula, the easternmost coastal city in Mississippi, and about 75 miles (121 km) east of Katrina’s landfall near the Louisiana-Mississippi border, was flooded from surge at the height of the storm.
Although Hurricane Katrina made landfall well to the west, Alabama and the Florida Panhandle were both affected by tropical-storm force winds and a storm surge varying from 12 to 16 feet.
Katrina’s storm surge led to 53 levee breaches in the federally built levee system protecting metro New Orleans and the failure of the 40 Arpent Canal levee. Nearly every levee in metro New Orleans was breached as Hurricane Katrina passed just east of the city limits. Failures occurred in New Orleans and surrounding communities. The major levee breaches in the city left approximately 80% of the city flooded. Levee breaches in New Orleans also caused widespread loss of life, with over 700 bodies recovered in New Orleans by October 23, 2005. (Source: Wikipedia.com)

Please follow me on this journey over the next few days as I post this series about Hurricane Katrina.
Thank you,
Suz






Teenage Lament 80’s Style

2 04 2010

Sherrie came from Hancock County High School, a different world. She transferred to my school in the mid 80s. Something about misbehaving got her booted out of Hancock.  She was seated next to me in English class and we instantly became friends. We had everything in common. Sherrie had stunning big hair and heavy eyeliner. She smoked Marlboro Reds and had her driver’s license! She knew of a place much better than us Bay High School folk and she knew of a people that were way cooler.

Step into the wonderful world of Bea’s Arcade and meet the kids from Hancock. Video games, pool tables, juke box playing Def Leppard… It was the best of times. The teens of this area were totally different than what I knew. The girls all wore big hair, tight jeans and tank tops. The guys were all rough and gruff,  yet handsome and friendly. It was much like a bar scene, but there was no alcohol … well, not sold there anyway. Unlike the Bay crowd, these were the real people.  No cliques, no judging, just always about having a good time.

Sherrie and I had many meetings in the ladies room to discuss boys and gossip about girls. Bunching together over the sink, freshening our faces in a tiny mirror. The line of girls outside grows and they bang on the door. We would prance across the floor like vixen. They all did. I was actually kinda awkward with it. We’d sit at a table and chain smoke with Dawn and Pam. There was a group of guys we ran with, the bad boys of course, and they were beautiful. They all had mullets, wore tight jeans and rock shirts and had bad ass rides. They were totally awesome!

Later in the evening, the girls and boys would split up and pile in cars, driving around acquiring liquor. While this sounds a bit much for a teen, it wasn’t actually that severe. We never got into any major trouble. It was good times back then, before so much crime and drugs and thugs and such.

Derek had a boyish grin and a sports car. He also had the hottest girl in school. Your classic John Hughes story unfolds here.  I remember sitting with him in the parking lot of Todd’s mini-mart. That’s where everyone with cars would hang pretty much and walk from car to car. Being the girl in his car was the coolest. I was almost like a part of his double life. He had this girlfriend, but he was always driving around with me. He listened to cool stuff like Ratt, and he had a blonde curly mullet and big blue eyes. He was the guy Heart warned you about in “Magic Man”. He would talk a lot of talk, but only tease me and I was way too awkward and nervous to even think he would really have an interest in me. Sometimes Joe would ride with us and the three of us would be crammed in a two seater and then it was a double whammy cause he was a doll too. Those nights made the days of Bay High more tolerable.

It’s so hard to fit in when you’re a teen and I had found my nitch.

On weekends I practically lived with Sherrie. We enjoyed each other’s company so much, that even just riding around listening to music in her Dad’s truck was a good time. I remember listening to Ozzy and jumping the rail road tracks with Sherrie speeding behind the wheel, over and over. In the country, people hung out a lot and you could always find something to do. Being that it was the country, the police did not patrol the area. I don’t know if Bay folk just hadn’t tapped into this secret or if the rivalry would not work. Probably it was the latter of the two. There were a lot of scenes reminiscent to the movie “Dazed and Confused“. Cars lined the beach and kids would just walk from car to car. Everyone was jamming their rockin’ stereos, mostly classic rock which wasn’t as classic back then. 5 Gallon drums flowed Jungle Juice and people were friendly.

On the fourth of July there was always a big party, a bonfire and fireworks. Everybody who was anybody was there. Sherrie and I were inseparable staggering around, holding each other up. This is our youth on the cusp of its innocence. Pure fun. If only we had known then what we know now. Could we have made it last a little longer? I know we wouldn’t have changed a thing.

The world has changed so much since then. We certainly did go from a sleepy town to a hopping town with legalized gambling. But, still, I think the youth of today is very different from then also. That was such a simple time. The Ronald Regan generation. A time of pop angels like Debbie Gibson, unlike today’s idols Britney Spears. PG movies didn’t have nudity and if you wanted to see any T&A you’d have to sneak in an R movie.  Video games weren’t realistic, they were about campy aliens and such.  Television was fun and moral.  Music still held on to it’s last chances at having real meaning or talent.  Life just wasn’t commercialized yet.

Sometimes on a Saturday night I wish I was sliding into a booth at Bea’s Arcade, Sherrie seated across from me. We’re sharing fries and drinking Barq’s root beer. Journey’s playing in the background. Boys with mullets bearing concert t’s on either side of us. We plan a Galaga challenge, right after this cigarette…

References:
Def Leppard: A popular 80’s rock band.  Listen here:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VZ5bS3_BCDs
Mullet: A popular 80’s hair style for men.  View here:  http://images.google.com/images?hl=en&tbo=1&gbv=2&tbs=isch%3A1&sa=1&q=mullets+of+the+80s&btnG=Search&aq=f&aqi=&aql=&oq=&gs_rfai=
John Hughes: Movie writer/producer/director best known for popular teen stories in the 80’s. Read more here:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Hughes_%28filmmaker%29
“Magic Man”: A song by the popular rock group Heart. Listen here:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cYjgh-znxB4
Ozzy: Ozzy Osbourne is a well known hard rock musician. Listen here:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JRbPWcLode0
Ratt: A popular 80’s Hard Rock band.  Listen here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qCzO-DJBC9Y

“Dazed and Confused”: A movie about teen life in the 70’s. Learn more here:  http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0106677/Ratt: Ratt was a popular 80’s Hard Rock Band.  Listen hereDebbie Gibson: Popular 80’s teen idol/singer.  Listen here:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9h2fxAaXN5c
Brittney Spiers: Currently know pop-star.  Listen here:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u4FF6MpcsRw
Journey: A popular 70’s & 80’s rock band. Listen here:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=barLaHrtvoM
Galaga: A popular 80’s video arcade game.  Learn more here:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Galaga