Julian Stock, 2003
I'm worried for my buddy Julian Stock down in New Orleans. He's a tough nut, but nobody should have to cope with the kind of shit coming down on New Orleans for the second time in three years. And if I know, Jules, he may opt to stick it out this time. He may choose not to abandon his post which, in its abandonment for Katrina, likely feels now all the more important to stand firm and protect rather than watch helplessly from afar as it molders to ruin.
Jules is an artist, builds Mardi Gras floats for Royal Artists in a warehouse near Napoleon and Magazine. Chaos and Hermes are two parades for which Royal builds floats. I had the honor and pleasure of working alongside Jules in the months leading up to the 2002 Mardi Gras season. Those were a couple of the most brilliantly colorful months of my life (click HERE for fun photos posted back then - hint: flip the coins), and I have missed New Orleans ever since. I had a bad premonition of disaster in NOLA (New Orleans, LA) during the final weeks of my Appalachian Trail thruhike in 2004. It took a year for that premonition to catch up. And when it did, I wanted to be there in some way for the friends I'd made there. But I never got there. Like all the aid we as a nation have promised NOLA since leaving them high & damp in 2005, I never got there.
It's hard to give one easy answer to why I didn't return. I don't really know. Life. Other life got in the way. Publishing and promoting Dead Men Hike No Trails. Getting through another suicide in my close circle of friends. Paddling the Mississippi River in my unrequited Dream Catcher Expedition. Losing a best friend to cancer a year later. Obliterating sensation for much of last year to cope with all the loss. Then came a detox to cope with life again.
Now as Hurricane Gustav looms in the Gulf of Mexico, I wish I were there with Jules.
Watch this New Orleans tribute video posted 3 hours ago.
I wish to hell I'd headed down there right after Katrina or anytime since to lend some kind of aid if only in moral support, and if only to Jules in his campaign to survive and rebuild where many didn't or couldn't. Then I would be there now. We could ride it out together.
If I thought they'd let me in down there, if I could get past the National Guard troops, if I had press credentials, hell yeah I'd go. It's just my kind of gig, just the sort of thing for which I trained at the Gonzo School of Hard Knocks. See chaos? Run headlong into it with Crackberry in one hand, bilge pump in the other.
Instead, I can't even reach Jules. Lost track of him during the past year. I hope he makes it through this in one piece.
My heart goes out to Julian and everyone in NOLA, especially those who made my experience there so singularly unique and memorable. To Jules' brother Chris, who was displaced after Katrina destroyed his home, I send out a big hug and well wishes. I miss you both, sons of Robert. (click HERE for my ode to the Stock brothers & their family back in 2002)
I'll be here, on the water across the bay from your birthplace, Jules, holding vigil via the Internet, following events via YouTube and individual blogs like those on Metblog New Orleans. And, as I was during Mardi Gras six months ago and am most every day I'm online at home, I'll be tuned in to the live web stream on WWOZ.
God Bless you, brother.
ps: Duke sends his love, too!