Katrina: Blackwater & the Mossad Revisited
On incredibly short notice and with Katrina's projected path taking her over Pensacola as late as early Saturday morning, Doc had generously offered to help me evacuate Cash Bar west over to the Orleans Marina, a mere stone's throw from the now infamous 17th Street Canal breach in New Orleans. It turned out to be a highly successful safe harbor compared to the loss that occurred throughout the marinas of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast, but it certainly did not come out unscathed.
We had barely finished tying the last lines to the pier before Doc rambled off beer in hand and without a word into the rapidly approaching mayhem that was to become of the great city of New Orleans. What I now understand is that Doc, always one to sense impending doom and having some weird genetic switch turned on in his DNA which sucks him toward events when most rational humans would flee, felt a 'crucial moment in time' approaching. Doc flourishes in insanity - whether it is warfare, social upheaval or nasty squall lines.
Having finally secured my Gulfstar, I had a last beer with a few liveaboards and then headed out of town with Trudy to stay with some relatives of hers up in Natchitoches. The tension in the New Orleans summer air was menacing and electric, and we were nearly losing our cool while listening to AM talk radio and driving through the neighborhoods of Lakeview and then the stalled evacuation traffic of the interstates.
There was a palpable sense of foreboding even then, a surreal knowledge of this monster hours away and which was only then shredding the offshore oil rigs off of Louisiana's weakened coast.
It took us nearly twelve hours to drive the typical five hour trip up to Natchitoches, but that was nothing compared to the seeming deathly slow pace of the entire next week as the world watched as New Orleans drowned in floodwaters brought about by the Army Corps of Engineers.
The first glimpse I had of Doc alive came on the Wednesday afternoon after Katrina's landfall and was a random sighting of him on CNN. Anderson Cooper was energetically interviewing some looters when suddenly a huge black offroad truck with "Mississippi Mud Marauders" emblazoned on the side and fully equipped with winch, brush bar, massive floodlights and Q beams pulled up behind him. The vehicle easily rose three feet off the street and had a few highly dangerous looking paramilitary types standing alert in the truck bed, M-16's and HK-94's at the ready.
Doc clambored out of the crew cab and appeared healthy physically, his rotundness seemingly lost in his olive drab military coat, an Uzi lazily hanging off of one shoulder. Anderson Cooper appeared a little dumbstruck at this odd sight crashing his interview.
As the camera zoomed in on Doc's face, a chill went through my spine. It was his eyes. His eyes gave it away. He was fully alive in that moment; those eyes normally placid like a ducks or glazed with liquor, instead held a fiery wicked gaze. He was in his element. He was completely crazed and yet fully in control.
Anderson quickly regrouped and fearlessly tried to interview this obese olive drab creature standing next to the truck. "Sir. Sir, can I ask you a few questions?"
"We have no comment." was Doc's lone reply. In perfect timing two blackhawk helicopters roared over the oak trees above them.
Anderson pressed on. "Sir, which agency are you with?"
"I have taken it upon myself to organize a defense against the creeping waters and criminal element deflowering this fair maiden of a city. But still I have no comment!" Doc tried to move away from Anderson, though doing his best to frame a flattering profile for the camera.
The reporter did his job, "Well who are you exactly and these soldiers with you?"
"I am not important at this moment. The gentlemen with me are culled from several sources and are patriots all." Doc paused, appearing to listen intently to an earpiece.
One of the paramilitary types motioned for Doc and he walked over, the camera now trained on the two of them. Doc readjusted his Uzi onto his back and accepted a large slice of watermelon and a beer from a soldier in the truck bed. He heavily nodded and then barked out some orders in what sounded like Hebrew.
The intrepid reporter closed trying to get more information. "Sir, who exactly…"
Doc cut him off. "We have taken control of a large swath of Uptown. Let it be known that this area is secure. All media must obtain passes from me at the Meraux house on Audubon. Otherwise we can not guarantee your safety." Doc spit out a few watermelon seeds, and juice rolled down his enormous chin, resting there precariously until he took a hit of beer. He then swung up into the truck - shockingly athletic - and they sped off into the third day of madness.
Trudy and I just sat there on the couch looking at the TV watching the bewildered Wolf Blitzer back in Atlanta try to get a handle on what he'd just witnessed. After a moment Trudy spoke, "What a fucking oaf."
I reached over for my cell phone and began frantically trying to shoot Doc a text message, by now the only way to communicate with anyone in southeast Louisiana.
Hours later I received my first reply: Running gun battles. Secured palace. Will have boat wait for you at spillway 0900 hrs fri.
How could I pass that up? I already knew that I'd probably lost my home in Pascagoula and was feeling totally and completely helpless stranded here on the couch with a bunch of old ladies trying to drink ourselves out of depression and into oblivion. I wanted to be proactive. I needed to do something… anything.
The entrance to the spillway underneath I-10 was an area that Doc and I had gone for target practice on several occasions and was just before the entrance to the city and its suburbs, which had been sealed off and contained by various governmental agencies and local police forces. The spillway butts up against Lake Pontchartrain, and sure enough at 9:00 am sharp there was a Yamaha Bowrider S230 HO idling amidst a few cypress knees. Onboard were two very tough looking bearded characters outfitted in camo uniforms with HK-94's at the ready.
After a few moments of showing them my identification papers, they accepted me onboard, turned over a sidearm to me and we were off. Cruising at some ungodly speed over the water - these Yamaha's can haul ass - we began nearing the city. Even from this view, the city appeared in a state of siege. There were easily ten plumes of dark smoke rising from every section of the city as the dual blows of fire and water were having their way with the town. Helos were everywhere in the sky above, flying low enough over the city as to remind one of the great battle from Apocalypse Now.
As we passed around the point into the marinas, the husk of the sprawling Southern Yacht Club sat there smoldering and the true expanse of the devastation started to come into view. Boats of all sizes and makes were everywhere - on and under the water, in buildings, crushed upon seawalls, sailboat masts jutting from the black water - ugly. The lighthouse leaned precariously. It was pure carnage.
As we docked up, I was briefed on the situation by one of the mercenaries who I later determined to be from Blackwater. "Sir, basically at this point we're going to have to travel by another boat and then a truck through this northern section of the city here." He pointed to a map. "There's a railroad bridge cutting a swath through the city, which prohibits boats from moving anywhere they please. Effectively there are now two small-craft navies operating within Orleans Parish and they cannot get to each other. Logistically, the whole thing is fucked up beyond belief. The military are primarily located at a few staging grounds. They're having difficulty landing 'hawks because of the power grids and streetlights. They're cutting those things down left and right. But they're primarily holed up here at the Lakefront and Audubon Park, Uptown. Hell of a mobile base already set up there on the golf course and at the zoo. Their patrols are seriously light - the city is effectively a no-mans land, especially where it's inundated."
"Great. Well where exactly are we meeting with Doc?" I asked feeling a little bit on edge, but pleased to know that I had a pretty hefty handgun belted to me as I stood there in my shorts and Hawaiian Jazz Fest shirt.
"In the Green Zone Sir." was my only reply.
After a buzz tour of wet New Orleans on another ski boat and a transfer to two other separate vehicles, all I know is that the wrath of God had indeed descended onto this historic city.
We passed large formations of troops stationed all along the Lakefront, humvees and deuce-and-a-halfs were everywhere the ground was dry. The sky was loud and heavy with helicopters of every sort imaginable from Blackhawks to Chinooks to PHI offshore service helicopters. Entire blocks nothing but smoldering remains or chimneys rising out of the waters with natural gas lines inevitably bubbling up through the waters. I simply cannot explain the surrealness of the whole experience. New Orleans already looks like a town straight out of the Caribbean, but now - to see M-16 toting foot patrols marching along the small colorful streets - I felt like I was in Haiti or Panama during the invasions. Checkpoints, and I mean real checkpoints were at the major intersections, large walls of debris or rocks across the asphalt in order to control access with soldiers standing out of Hummers with M-60's trained around. Totally bizarre - and once away from the checkpoints or military encampments or 'forts' - chaos and anarchy. Everyone was armed. At one point Uptown we passed a group of little old men sitting on a porch playing bridge or something, with shotguns or rifles and in a few cases, assault rifles at the ready. They completely paused and eyed us up and down as we passed, the Blackwater guys nodding to them but maintaining at least their handguns at the ready.
We eventually made it onto St. Charles Avenue and quickly passed Loyola and Tulane Universities immediately followed by Audubon Place, easily the most palatial street in the South.
The private drive entrance was a little different than I had remembered. Normally staffed by one rent-a-cop, the entrance had been transformed into something you'd expect in Fallujah. No less than three heavily armed men wearing sunglasses were stationed underneath the graceful arch leading to the two neat rows of ten mansions. They were surrounded by a very ordered blockade of private hummers, sandbags, razor wire and one bulldozer. I quickly passed through the checkpoint into the Green Zone.
Six houses or so down on the left we came to the old Meraux house, it's bucolic porch also remade for defense of life and property, but there was also something more that I couldn't quite put my finger on.
As I walked up the grand marble steps into the massive home and the growl from the generators outside faded, I quickly figured it out. The entranceway made a quick transition into what had been too big to be only a foyer - it was more along the lines of a ballroom. But a ballroom remade for war. It was command central. There were several antique desks and tables conscripted into map tables or piled high with radios and other electronics. There were giant formal dining chairs stationed randomly about the room, and case after case of MRE's and bottled water. Over in the corner near a shuttered main window there sat a giant rococo desk and chair - seated behind it was none other than Doc Farto.
He had slipped into Generalissimo mode. From serving as a lieutenant in Batista's army's futile attempt to defeat Castro to running guns on sailboats to the Contras in Nicaragua for the CIA to falling out on the beaches of Cuba - Doc Farto has always been a military man. He had found and then filled a power void here in the aftermath of Katrina.
Not unsurprisingly though - Doc had never participated in any successful campaigns, that I had ever heard him tell of, and I knew this would eventually be another to add to that long list of military inadequacy.
I smiled, shaking my head as I walked over, my steps echoing on the marble floors. He looked up from some papers, his eyes covered by dark sunglasses, a cigar in his hand and then I noticed the boxes upon boxes of flat screen TV's, DVD players, computers, laptops and god knows what stashed willy-nilly around him and sweeping over towards a marble staircase where in the corner and under the rounded staircase, it was stacked high with loot. There was even a new Vespa.
Doc Farto smiled a big toothy grin, rose from his gilded chair and came over and greeted me heartily. "Mon Capitan! Good to see you are well! Welcome!"
"What the fuck is going on?" I asked bemusedly.
"Government." He smiled again. "We have provided and are providing calm during this massive time of need… Drink?" It wasn't really a question as he patted me on my shoulder and walked over to a large mahogany table covered with 30-40 crystal decanters holding a myriad of colored liquors.
"I think this one is scotch." He picked up a random decanter, grabbed two glasses and poured. He handed me my drink, which I took a heavy pull from.
"What's up with all this stuff?" I asked pointing to the very new and unpackaged electronics.
"Commandeered from the criminal elements. Some here and there liberated for its own safety. But do not dawdle on the details. For you are just in time mi socio. We are planning a new strike into the heart of the city." He walked me over to a great map table. "We go into the den of rats!" He rolled his r's and a stubby fat finger landed like an asteroid on the French Quarter.
Thirty minutes later, he and I walked out onto the once perfectly manicured lawn, in front of the mansion idling was the giant "Mississippi Mud Marauder" offroad vehicle with behind a black suburban. Off the sides of the suburban, four mercenaries expertly held onto the outside of the doors in order to facilitate setting up a defensive perimeter if attacked, their rifles neatly dovetailed onto their backs. Doc again assured me I was safe as he and I got inside the mudding truck.
The transit downtown was quick as Doc informed me that most of his crew had already done a couple of tours in Iraq, providing high threat security for some well known politicos and high value asset security. No American drives slow in Iraq.
"Alright, so Doc where the hell are we actually heading to?" I asked nervously fingering my pistol's holster.
"We have discovered that Johnny White's bar is still open. Do you understand what that means Capitan? A bar. For chrissakes a real live bar is open. And they have apparently never closed! The balls of this owner. I must drink with their bartenders. They are muy burracho. We shall give them respite and security. I shall provide them with safety!" Doc reached over in front of the driver and hit the truck's horn. Dixieland blared out from a PA system under the hood.
Johnny White's Bar is a biker dive down off of Bourbon St. and it indeed was open and had actually never closed. Army humvees and Harley's were lined up outside amongst huge piles of beer bottles, discarded MRE bags, vomit and piss. The bar had actually become a supply depot for many of the remaining French Quarter denizens, and although they had no power or water, they operated by being resupplied by military units "commandeering" mostly Corona beer. Apparently the Wal-Mart had just received a huge load of Corona before the storm hit.
It was a scene out of the wild west: filth, people passed out underneath Hummers and ungodly drunkenness. But it was in sorts a celebration also. New Orleans was not dead and everyone reveled in this one stinking spot surrounded by a city convulsing.
I lasted nearly five hours at the bar, before finally persuading some boozy Lieutenant from the Massachusetts National Guard to get me out on a Blackhawk to the Coast Guard Station near the marina where they were running major Chinook operations to try and stem the breached canals.
After landing, I walked over the foot bridge in the early morning light, crossing the 17th Street Canal next to where great bars and seafood restaurants had once operated on top of pilings surrounded by the once friendly waters of Lake Pontchartrain - all vanished now in the waves of that bitch of a storm.
I lived on Cash Bar for a few weeks, subsisting solely on MRE's and have since moved into a small FEMA trailer out on my property in Mississippi, which only took me five months to get from the damn government.
As far as Doc Farto… his government was inevitably and peacefully shut down in the middle of the second week. He and his men were rounded up, sent to the superdome and then flown on a Chinook helicopter out to the airport. The Mossad agents were quietly shipped back to Israel without incident.
Doc refused to give up though and secreted himself away at the airport, walking the fifteen miles along the Mississippi River levee to get back into New Orleans only to again be rounded up without major incident, but this time he was helicoptered back to the airport by way of the Convention Center and then flown to Utah where I hear he has married a young 18 year-old girl and has set himself up as the leader of a Mormon Church in Provo.
He has text messaged me since then alerting me that he will be coming down for Southern's Opening Regatta.