Lost: one Chicken Little with cracked head gasket, last seen weeping in a tin-foil hat at the Industrial Canal levee in New Orleans

In oilpocalypse by summerburkes3 Comments

This is a big day in the life of Summer Burkes. Maybe it will be known as the day I cracked. Calgon, take me away. Houston, we have a problem. Elizabeth, it’s the big one.

Today, for me, The Quickening started. I feel it. Everything about this Earth is faster. Even my body knows it, moving in cycles all close together and annoying-like. I feel I need to move, to get out, to run to the hills.

Maybe it is a product of my nomadic tendencies and my desire to live life on intuition rather than plans … but it’s proooobably chemical poisoning. Maybe I’m Chicken Little … or maybe I’m one of a million canaries in this coal mine.

I smell oil. Right now. I live in New Orleans. The oil is supposedly 250 miles away.

choking. can't bweathe. sad cwab. soon to be ex-cwab

“Our fate and the ocean are one.” – Sylvia Earle
“Our fate and the ocean are one.” – Sylvia Earle
“Our fate and the ocean are one.” – Sylvia Earle
“Our fate and the ocean are one.” – Sylvia Earle
“Our fate and the ocean are one.” – Sylvia Earle

Here’s the good side: Most of the crap I worried about doesn’t matter now. Whether I get enough money to build a house doesn’t matter. Whether I marry someone or have a baby doesn’t matter. There won’t be time to do either, if I don’t do something now. If we don’t all do something now.

Interpersonal relationships gone bad don’t matter. Whether or not my agent ever gets me a book deal doesn’t matter. There won’t be new books being printed, nor will people buy books. Money will be worthless. People will be starving. We’d better make sure we all have what we need for the rest of our lives, sooner rather than later, or at least posse up and hunker down for the long haul. I will not be foolhardy enough to announce plans and make God laugh, but I can dream, can’t I?

I see it now. The oil will keep gushing. The “safety third” fatcats responsible will keep bullshitting, even as the public becomes outraged once they see through the charade. Attempts to clean up the oil will fail. Marine life will die off in droves and the sea will get hotter and make the planet hotter. People will lament the loss of sushi, dolphins, coral reefs, entire species, and vast sections of the planet’s waters, turned to “dead zones.”

All over the world, justified rage at the United States of Convenience will bubble over. They’ll boycott American. The dollar will plummet. As a nation, to put it mildly, we’re gonna get knocked down a peg or two. If we are still alive. Of course, we’re all playing by BP’s rules now.

that’s the mansion next door, and the back yard where i’m not gonna be able to grow stuff to eat

Hey, BP, wanna buy a house in the Lower Ninth Ward? You’ve got the cash. It’s right on the Mississippi River, in the most amazingly bucolic pocket of New Orleans. It’s got a brand new roof, a cleaned-out MOOPed-up stump-free yard, and it’s gutted to the studs.

When I bought it, it was still filled with all the moldy, jumbled-up remnants of a homestead ruined in a tsunami caused by human error and/or sabotage. It took me a lot of time, effort, heat-and-humidity labor, and expensive dumpster runs to get the house to where it is today. And because of more human error, tomorrow it could be soaked in oil. In a couple years, my house, and everything around it for miles, may be submerged entirely. For good.

Should I bill your lizard-people for the improvements to the house, Dick Cheney? I mean, since I may never be able to sell the thing for what it’s worth before it gets blown apart by a category 5 hurricane. I’m definitely billing you for moving costs. I just don’t know where I’m moving to, yet. Or where is safe. And I’m billing you for how much money the house would have been worth in the gentrification zone in a few years, if it hadn’t rained black blood on Dixie during the second trumpet of the seventh seal.

The whole idea, when I decided to see if I could tone down my nomadic ways and start a homestead, was to buy a house nobody else wanted, in a dangerous Paper Street Soap Company paradise in the world’s most musical city, alongside the River coursing through my Mississippian/Memphian bloodlines. Fourteen months ago, I found a good spot, by serentypical chance of course, and purchased my first Very Big Thing.

“If I ever run into a situation where the stock market crashes or I become destitute,” I thought, “at least I’ll have a roof over my head, land to grow food on, and a sorta-polluted water source right beside me with fish and filtered-boiled-semi-okay drinking water if need be. If I’m poor, at least I won’t be hungry.”

Welp. Guess that plan’s gone out the window. I can’t wait 20 years for the water to be clean again. (This is where my brain turns to fantasizing about having my own pet herd of nano-robots.)

i found this polaroid when i was gutting the house. it didn’t make me cry — there was a piece of sheetrock in my eye. THERE WAS A PIECE OF SHEETROCK IN MY EYE I SAID.

She was the grandmother, the woman who lived in my house before me. Before Katrina blew down New Orleans and they all left. Her son, the patriarch, lived next door. On the other side of me, the fourplex housed the uncles and cousins and whatnot.

The patriarch, he was gunned down in front of the fourplex at dawn. The killers cut his phone line and waited all night in Miss Patsy’s back yard. Miss Patsy says the dogs were barking and barking and she couldn’t figure out why. She didn’t want to go out there and check, though, because it sounded scary.

So all the houses which the patriarch and his family owned are for sale, except the creepy crackhead mansion next door, which the partriarch and his construction crew built by hand. (He was a contractor, in addition to being an American Gangster-type illegal drugs pirate). The family is therefore “emotionally attached” to the rotted mansion crackheads use now and won’t sell it yet, even though the City of New Orleans might’ve slated it for demolition by now. Meanwhile it threatens to fall on my modest abode, the strong barge-board house with the pretty new roof and re-mortared piers and expensive termite-fighting chemicals. But that’s not the biggest threat to my way of life … to my new life, which I was not really finished building but I guess I am now.

I can feel something urgent so strongly in my bones and tissue … I just wish I knew what it was. I think I know what it is. We all know what it is. A disturbance in The Force so great it literally threatens all life on this planet.

How does this oil spill directly affect New Orleans? I mean, in the short term, in a way that’s even more of a bring-down than Gulf Shores fishermen, wildlife, nightlife, coastline, and Cajun and Creole culture being slowly obliterated?

Imagine a hurricane splashing into the Gulf and sliding into home. The marshes of Southern Louisiana break its fall and dissipate the force of the wind and water. Without the marshes, hurricanes will be dropping on New Orleans and the populated areas of the Gulf like fat kids cannonballing into the pool.

I remember, just weeks ago, when I used to worry about the nutria eating away our hurricane protection at the rate of one football field of marshlands every 30 minutes. That was serious business last month, but now it seems cute. Nutria are cute, kind of. They’ll all be dead, too. Be careful what you wish for, huh.

And! There are fifteen Atlantic tropical storms forecasted for this year, as opposed to ten last year at this time. Hurricane season 2010 promises to be brutal, even before all that oil started sucking oxygen out of the water and pre-heating the Gulf for their arrival. How will gas shortages intersect with evacuation routes? …

And! As if the asbestos and lead in people’s systems down here didn’t already feel butt-hurt when Katrina mold came along and upstaged them … the crude is coming ashore. The smell is getting stronger. Living in an environment where breathing in benzene and tar is an everyday thing doesn’t sound like my cup of Texas Tea. How can New Orleans rebuild if nobody can breathe? Anybody got some cancer-containment booms on hand for THE WHOLE SKY?

And! Who knows — perhaps by the time this thing is all over, enough oil might have “spilled” out of its underground lair to where the Earth’s crust shifts and falls and sloshes the ocean around and smears back entire cities, cultures, and regions with its monstrous death-waves. Alternately, so much oil may bubble up from the deep that the oceans turn hot and it makes the air hot and melts the ice caps and New Orleans splooshes and becomes New Atlantis.

Cold, black ocean — Our Lady, Star of the Sea as Kali — her back will turn to us, when we used to sway in her bosom and take her for granted.

once the marhses get done dyin', the hairycanes will get to destroyin'

The word “melodramatic” does not apply. THIS IS A REAL THREAT. At this point I’m torn between keeping my mouth shut for fear of sounding like a newly-schizophrenic end-is-nigh freak, and shouting it from the moutaintops that the sky is falling and that everyone should F THE DUMB SHIT and do all they can this summer for preparation of a life without a surplus of readily-available electricity, oil, food, or money … I don’t want the Doomsday Blues to gush out and disperse and infect my entire aura, but on the other hand, chance favors a prepared mind.

The threat is there, and it puts everything in perspective. We are past the time for holding back, for drawing imaginary lines in the sand, for holing up separately when we should be banding together, for playing with our toes when we should be watching the skies.

Oh yeah and … here’s another hard but necessary truth to be watched right now, since it’s part of the problem we already needed to fix. Let’s keep it in mind when we’re praying for and visualizing the new world, coming soon, that doesn’t suck out loud.

Our only hope may be the utterly fascinating and frightening revelation that scientists finally know how to play God.

Chew on that last link for a while. And chew on this: Some of us have been waiting for the Apocalypse Moment our whole lives. Stardate May 2010: Head gaskets are cracking everywhere. This is a turning point in human history. Hopefully this senseless chain of events will scare everyone into behaving. What happens until then is anyone’s guess.

Like they say, it’s all fun and games until you lose a planet … then it’s just a game of finding a new planet.

via humidcity – the best New Orleans blog there is

Follow Summer Burkes on Twitter.


  1. Summer, how much is this rant is just feeding a fatalistic fantasy? Even if you were completely broke You know full well that you have people whom can get you out of there and back to comfy SF. I have a feeling you will stay and ride this one out as long as possible and not at all because you have to.

    1. yeah, i vacillate on the daily between staying and going. get out of harm’s way, or stay, fight, and get cancer from the benzene?

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