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Day 9

Day 9

I wake up unharmed. Another hot morning in Texas. I flip on the news and see that Hurricane Ike has passed through Houston and many are without power. We hesitantly pack up and load out in the van. A long drive begins as DRIVER X is rambling on and on about stories about Houston and all the people he wants to visit. He tries to fit in little verbal jabs at Patrick when he can, making the day turn slightly sour.

Signs on the freeway warn us not to travel to Houston but we press on and eventually reach the suburbs. There are signs of devastation off the sides of the freeway. Uprooted trees, an occasional collapsed roof, street signs bent over backwards, flooding, downed telephone poles and mounds of debris. One thing is very apparent, there is no electricity anywhere. Some of the freeway is flooded over and DRIVER X navigates us around it.

We reach downtown and some of the streets are closed, covered with glass from broken windows or flooded. We eventually reach the venue on Main St downtown and it appears that the surrounding 4 blocks are the only place in the city that have any electricity at all.

There is no parking in front of the venue so we park about a block away and walk down the vacant downtown streets to the venue. Office building windows have been blown out and their black tinted glass shards cover the sidewalk. It looks like some effort has been made to clean up and there are some piles of glass and garbage swept up about every 20 feet but the attempt is futile. Downtown Houston is trashed.

We reach the venue and it is closed. We look in the window and the place seems to be ok other than a few windows being blown out. There are some tables and chairs in front of the venue so we sit down and wait for someone to show. DRIVER X rambles on with stories about coming to the venue in his past and wanting to say hi to the owner "Jim." I look down the street and it looks like one other bar is open. I am thirsty so I go down to check it out and it is jam-packed with people. This looks like the only open business in the entire city. I am chatted up by an older guy with a very thick accent and mentally note how friendly people are in this town.

I make my way back to Notsuoh and sit with the others. Various people pass by and say hi to us and a discussion is had about how nice people are in Texas versus Seattle and other places we have been. Eventually a trio of Notsuoh employees show up but have forgotten the keys so they leave to go get them and don't return for quite some time. We drink beer on the street and take in the bizarre sight of a city in ruin.

Eventually the trio returns and we talk to them and I ask about the curfew of which they say that the police didn't enforce it the previous night and they would be surprised if they did tonight. As if on queue the police start patrolling the streets in their cruisers announcing that that everyone needs to be off the street or they will be arrested. At this point the staff isn't intimidated and says that the show will go on. We walk in to the club and it appears that the upper floor of the venue had flooded, causing the entire ceiling to collapse on the bar and flood parts of the downstairs as well...

Being scared of inhaling asbestos from the age old insulation that is spread out around the bar the trio lock up the club and tell me to go talk to Jim. Jim is apparently getting drunk outside of another bar on the other side of the block so I walk down and approach the old scruffy man in the orange shirt of whom I have been told is Jim and he looks up at me and I am surprised to hear him gruffly say "Have you cleaned your room mates shit off your dick yet?!?!?" Not knowing how to respond I introduce myself and we talk about the unfortunate state of his club. DRIVER X is back on the other side of the block and doesn't get to say hi because we are quickly urged to get off the streets by the police.
I bid my farewell to the drunken Jim (who I believe is who answered the phone the other day)8) and we all go back to the van and take off towards Baton Rouge.

DRIVER X seems upset that we have to leave Houston so soon (and thinking back on it, this is where the crazy line was crossed). I think a huge motivation for DRIVER X to go on this trip is that DRIVER X would get to visit Houston, but Houston lay in shambles and most everyone he wanted to see has left the city. I think his desire to be in Houston is what was causing his strange denial that it could be destroyed and evacuated. I realize that there is no hope of DRIVER X ever being happy on this trip. I still feel motivated to keep morale up.

We drive as the sun is going down and I see an alarming amount of dead and muddy animals lining the road. Horses, deer, dogs, cats, racoons, snakes, armadillos, coyotes, unidentifiable mounds of lifeless, muddy carrion piles tangled in the dirt and dead grass. The landscape is hellish and depressing. I am glad to see the sun finally set.

Gas stations no longer have any gas and we are running dangerously low. Street lights are not working and the night is pitch black. Tension is getting high as DRIVER X starts to freak out about the gas situation when we see a sign off the freeway shining like a beacon. DRIVER X pulls in but there is a huge line of cars out on to the street that is being regulated by police officers. DRIVER X doesn't realize that the line is for gas and bypasses it and pulls in to the gas station, pissing off a lot of people. We are approached by a police officer who yells at DRIVER X but finally allows us to make the cut and get gas.
Beer, cigarettes and supplies are bought at the gas station as it seems like the only place with power for miles.

We take off and head in to the night and more bitching is done by DRIVER X. Eventually we have to pee so we pull off of the freeway in to a small vacated town that has no power. The town is pitch black and there isn’t a sign of any people occupying it. It is surreal for a place with such modern facilities to be so incredibly dark. We all pee in places we would normally not be able to. I decide to take a piss on the Jack in the Box mascots face on a picture on the drive thru menu. Feeling oddly satisfied we stay there for a little bit and eat some of the road snacks I have packed. We joke about breaking a window in a vacated hotel and sleeping there but eventually get back in the van and head out.

We are pulling twice the amount of driving for today that I had anticipated and DRIVER X appears to be going insane so I inform everyone that I will get a hotel for us if we can find one. We eventually reach hotels with power but they are stocked full of people who evacuated Houston because of Ike. We pull off at a few more exits and it is the same story.
We continue on to Louisiana and decide to take a break at a Waffle House (as I have been obsessing about going to a waffle house all night).

The disgruntled staff of the Waffle House sits outside of the restaurant and informs us that they just got done with a rush and are out of everything. I ask if they are out of waffles and they inform me that they still have waffles so we head inside and take a seat. For those who haven't been to a Waffle House before, it is a chain of diners in the south that are hands down the most ghetto restaurants ever. They have a really awesome charm to them though and their waffles and coffee rule. I am excited to be there because it has been some time since I have been to the South and gotten to eat at one and it is kind of a nostalgic experience.

The food and service are amazing and our food comes to us on styrofoam plates!
I soak in the experience. This will be the only time I get to eat at a waffle house and I think it is the first time I have been really happy since we left Washington (wait I wasn't happy in Washington, is this the first time I have been happy since the last tour?) I take some pictures of the run down southern diner and we leave in search of a hotel.

Some wrong turns are taken but we eventually nail down a good price on a room at a Days Inn at like 2:00 am in the morning. Drinking is done and I sleep on the floor and let DRIVER X have the bed. Patrick and Brian share a bed. We have an important show in Baton Rouge the next day and I hope that the hotel will allow everyone to get good rest so they can all be in good moods the next day. I don't mind sleeping on the floor and I fall asleep with high hopes and a belly full of waffles and hashbrowns!!! Little did I know, my attempts at raising moral were futile and we were about to take a step further down the path of DRIVER X's insanity...

to be continued...

(I didn't take those photos, I lifted them off the internet but we saw these sites first hand)

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