ugust. This is when strong people turn weird. Myself included. After all, this the month of big hurricanes. First came Katrina. On August 29, 2005. Then came Ida. On August 29, 2021. If that doesn’t spook you, nothing will.
Katrina was the more destructive of the two, although Ida did her mean spirited thing. Katerina proved that the levees weren’t constructed as well as we thought. They broke in 67 places, but the big breaks flooded 80% of the city. It wiped out The Lower Ninth Ward. It wiped out a big swath of Gentilly and it destroyed Lakeview.
My neighborhood flooded with six feet of water. I left on August 28th and didn’t return until sometime in November. I evacuated to Lake Charles were I planed on staying for a few months. Along came Hurricane Rita to change my mind.
I evacuated again to Mountain Home, Arkansas. I found a motel that the Red Cross paid for based on my drivers license address. I met some very nice people at a local coffee house. I traded an extra set of Photoshop software for coffee forever. No worries. I won the software in a contest, but I already owned it. It turned out that they looked after my dog when I took a trip.
A trip? I was on a trip. My whole life was a trip at that point.
I emailed my editor at Lonely Planet Publications and asked if there were any possible assignments that they could offer me. When I told him why, he immediately said that he’d find something. He knew that I had to get away, but that I could probably use some cash. I agreed to the contract which was more than fair. They did a bank to bank transfer the advance to my bank account, which was quicker than any other way at the time. It still is, I think.
I booked a plane ticket, booked a hotel and I left.
I went to Beijing. China.
I had two weeks to photograph the city. Normally that would be plenty of time. But, Beijing is huge. The population is 21.54 million people. It shows. Luckily there is great mass transportation. Subways, buses, a good taxi system. But, with that many people roaming around the city it takes time to go anywhere.
My hotel was great except something happened to me about two days into the trip. My back seized up. I could barely walk. That was no good so I went to a dispensary. Most drugs are sold over the counter. I didn’t even have to talk to the pharmacist. He saw me limping in, held his finger up, went into the backroom and returned with Diclofenac Salts. I didn’t know what they were so I Googled them and found that they were a good treatment for inflammation.
The medicine worked to a point, but my mattress was a little too soft so I took all the bedding off of the mattress and made a nest on the floor. The first night that I laid down, “Ah, sweet relief.” I explained what I was doing to the floor manager who spoke English. She was fine with it, but her shift changed and the new chambermaid remade my bed. No matter. I unmade it again.
Anyway, once the meds started to work and I could sleep comfortably I was working within a day or so. Looking back, I’m sure that was the beginning of my current back issues which haven’t been issues for the last two years.
The picture you are looking and wondering about was the first one I made when I could resume working. I was walking out of the elevator when I saw the lobby caretaker keeping the floor clean and shiny. This is not one of those scenes that needed a tilt, but it was all I could do to grab a camera and point it at anything. I think it worked better than if I had stopped and composed it. It’s very odd that I managed to stop her motion while everything else is moving around.
You know what?
Magic and luck. Magic and luck. Magic and luck.