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The rain, the park & other things

Kin Man Hui / San Antonio Express-News
A toppled school crossing sign is partially submerged in flood water in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey in Rockport, Texas on Saturday, Aug. 26, 2017.
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History repeats while the sick machine roars” – “Exiles” by Son Volt

OKLAHOMA CITY – Exactly 12 years after Hurricane Katrina changed countless lives forever, many of us are looking on in shock and horror at the slow-motion catastrophe taking place in Houston, Texas and beyond.

Once a hurricane, Harvey is now a tropical storm, one that really has it in for the Gulf Coast area of southeastern Texas and southwestern Louisiana.

A number of rivers in southeastern Texas have not crested yet. Levees are already being breached. Whole towns and small cities evacuated. Lives are being altered – as I write this – forever.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has told Harvey evacuees - essentially exiles in their own state - that Texas State Parks are open free to those who want to camp out until the floodwaters begin to recede.

Media reports say there are 17,000 people in shelters. And as many as nine people dead. Many are stranded awaiting rescue and relief while officials are now worried about just how many bodies will be found as the waters recede.

Not enough praise can be given to those brave people out there working to save lives. Texas will get through this unprecedented crisis. But will something be lost in the meantime? Not in terms of our humanity, but something else? All I can say is that I have felt unsettled for weeks now, and it seemed to be leading up this time. 

I recall feeling similar to this in the summer of 2005, leading up to Hurricane Katrina. It brought great change in my life.

SEASONS

This is the height of hurricane season, as Tropical Storm Harvey moves back offshore and heads to Louisiana on a northeast track. Louisiana, particularly the New Orleans area, has already been saturated with summer rains. 

And President Trump, along with wife Melania, stops in Corpus Christi, Texas and holds a brief press conference to address rescue and relief efforts

And so today, the 12th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina's arrival in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast, I am sensing deja vu. At that time, I could not believe what was happening in front of my eyes as an American city was submerged, people died and lives were changed - with many of those New Orleanians moving west to Houston. A sad irony, in light of the disaster taking place in Houston, where only 1 in 6 homeowners has flood insurance. 

America is going to have to engage in some real soul-searching in the wake of Harvey. With Houston being the fourth-largest city in the U.S., but built on a low-lying and swampy coastal plain, prone to flooding, little-to-nothing has been done over Houston's many years of existence to prepare for such preventable disasters, where so many lives hang in the balance.

The harsh reality of all of this is that we know what to do. The Dutch, located in what is called the "Low Countries" in Europe, realized that a system of flood-preventing dikes needed to be built to protect their citizens in Holland.

Why, after so many years, did Houston not engineer a system of levees, seawalls and dikes to protect the city, which is on the hurricane-prone Gulf of Mexico? It's utter madness and after Katrina, one would think we would learn our lesson. City, state and federal officials have failed Houston, as they failed New Orleans before. America is the wealthiest country in the world and yet we see heart-wrenching scenes of people, pets and homes in dire jeopardy. Why is this?

Houston, an "energy capital" where the gulf between rich and poor is wide (and is the home to 13 of America's billionaires), is slowly turning into a toxic soup of sewage, chemicals, dead animals and deadly viruses and bacteria as many poor people - the forgotten - are essentially left to fend for themselves as yet another disaster befalls America.

And history repeats itself. The "sick machine roars." 

FLOOD DREAMS (6:18)

For me, delving into synchronicity and synchromysticism - and with that, dream interpretation - began with a vivid "flood dream" I had while I was working at a summer camp in Michigan in 1993. 

As is often the case with my dreams, I am looking down on a particular geographical location and the dreams go from there. In this case, back in '93, my dream involved looking down on the Mississippi River, in the area where the Missouri River meets the Mississippi at St. Louis, Missouri. The rivers, in my dream, went muddily over their banks and spread over populated areas - which was actually taking place, although due to my remote location, I was unaware of.

As I would learn a few days later, St. Louis and other areas along the Mississippi and Missouri rivers were struck by a devastating flood, what later became known as "The Great Flood of 1993." 

Over the years I've had other flood-and-water-related dreams. While I did not dream or anticipate a serious flood, I did have a very bad feeling about what was becoming "HARVEY," a storm with a sync-worthy name that I find disquieting. I sensed, along with the August 21st "Great American Solar Eclipse," that Harvey was going to be a menace to America, as I noted here.

And so here we are, a little over a week since much of America came together during the eclipse. An eclipse that, despite its unifying nature, was an omen for many, as this post noted. 

Finally, though, this weather event is seriously affecting areas I note in "the Stilwell Enigma." Recall that Arthur Stilwell was "warned" by otherworldly entities not to build his railroad (Kansas City Southern Railroad) to Galveston because a great storm was coming. He heeded this warning and avoided being a victim to the Great Hurricane of 1900.

ST. JOHNNY

More recently, I had a flood dream involving the late singer/songwriter/humanitarian Johnny Cash. He, of course, wrote the song "Five Feet High and Rising."

As I wrote in my Dust Devil Dreams post "How high's the water, mama?", from April 2016: "In the song, Dyess, Arkansas native Cash, who experienced the great flood of 1937 and inspired that song. In it, Cash explains that his mama taught him that “good things come from adversity if we put our faith in the Lord.” And that while the flood was bad, the flood replenished the soil. And that fall, the Cash family would produce a bumper cotton crop. "

Coincidentally, the current track shows that Harvey may be a tropical depression when it makes its way up to Memphis, according to the Commercial Appeal of Memphis, not far from Cash's hometown of Dyess, in Mississippi County, Arkansas. And it was in Memphis, at Sun Studio, where the ghost of Cash "tapped" me on the shoulder during a visit there in July 2016.

DEATH AT THE WHARF

Barry Cowsill’s date of death is shown as August 29, 2005. Twelve years ago today. Cause of death? Drowning “as a result of the flooding following Hurricane Katrina.”

But there were rumors at the time that Barry’s death was not simply due to drowning, but something more sinister.

That story always stuck with me. So tragic.

It was 50 years ago this September that “The Rain, The Park & Other Things,” a number 2 hit on America’s Billboard charts, was released by The Cowsills, the Newport, Rhode Island-based psychedelic-bubblegum-pop band that would inspire the TV show The Partridge Family.

Barry had initially played drums for the family band, having been inspired by The Beatles. But as more members joined, including younger brother John, Barry moved from drums to bass guitar, and singing back-up.

But after The Cowsills broke up in 1972, after another number two hit with the Broadway musical soundtrack title song “Hair,” Barry Cowsill drifted through his 20’s, 30’s and 40’s, battling substance abuse and other problems, as many young pop stars and musicians of his generation endured.

Scrolling through old magazine articles online, one teenybopper mag (late 60’s/early 70’s) interviews Barry Cowsill to get the “real Barry.” And he was an interesting guy. Not necessarily the squeaky-clean, milk-drinking, all-American boy that the media and record label portrayed.

In part, the article notes: “Lately, Barry has become very interested in astrology and anything having to do with the mystic or supernatural! Ouija Boards, séances, and mysterious people are really outside!”

Grainy image of Cowsills bassist Barry Cowsill performing "Indian Lake" on the 1968 special "A Family Thing" (NBC Productions)

A FAMILY THING

On Saturday, November 23, 1968, the day after The Beatles (who had inspired The Cowsills to form a pop band) released what would become known as “The White Album” (check out "Faces of stone"), the weekend prior to Thanksgiving, NBC aired a musical variety show called “A Family Thing” which also starred Buddy Ebsen (“Jed Clampett” of The Beverly Hillbillies). It bumped the usual airing of The Ghost and Mrs. Muir to the following week.

This may have been the show that gave TV producers the idea to create The Partridge Family, which would premiere two years later on ABC.

Barry, 50, had only been in New Orleans a short while when Hurricane Katrina struck the city on August 29th, something I covered as a reporter in the Louisiana city of Alexandria, and, later, in New Orleans proper. I interviewed people who gave power to the rumor that the levees were deliberately weakened.

A day earlier, Barry had been scheduled to fly to Los Angeles to get help for alcohol addiction, but the oncoming storm prevented a flight out and he decided to wait it out.

But that decision would be to his detriment. Already living on the edges of society, in a city plagued with numerous social ills and inequality, Barry frantically tried to get in touch with his younger sister Susan, who was also in New Orleans at the time.

Calling and leaving messages for Susan (she was the sister who sang and played tambourine), they went unheard, at least until Sept. 2, 2005, but by that time it was too late. Barry was missing in the utter chaos that reigned in New Orleans as much of it was flooded and ruined and peoples lives were turned upside down.

Barry’s final voice message on Susan’s answering machine was: “I don’t know how to get out of town except wait for a bus …” He had allegedly said he was in a dangerous situation with people “looting and shooting.” 

It would not be until Dec. 28, 2005, that Barry Cowsill’s body was discovered on the Chartres Street Wharf, being identified through dental records, as this Jan. 6, 2006 Los Angeles Times article reported.

But Barry Cowsill was one of upwards of 2,000 (and perhaps even more) people who died during and in the aftermath of Katrina, which also $108 billion in damage.

And so here we are - exactly 12 years later - and America is in the middle of a "crossfire hurricane." Trying to ford an "impassible river" (sic).

Or, we are just a ship of fools, with a Great Fool as the captain.

Or, put another way, we are at the crossroads.

 “As I descended into impassible rivers, I no longer felt guided by the ferrymen …” - Arthur Rimbaud / "The Drunken Boat"

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Andrew W. Griffin

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Andrew W. Griffin received his Bachelor of Science in Journalism from...

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Red Dirt Report was launched July 4, 2007 as an independent news website covering all manner of news, culture, entertainment and lifestyle stories that affect and interest Oklahoma readers and readers outside of our state. Our mission is to educate, promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, government and politics. Our experienced journalists provided balanced in-depth coverage of news stories that affect Oklahomans. Our opinion/editorial stories come from a wide range of political view points. We carry out our mission by reporting, writing, and posting news and information. read more

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