September is an emotional time of year in everyone’s life here in the U.S., as we are reminded of the day we were attacked by terrorists in New York City and Washington D.C., and our world was forever changed. It’s a sad time. My good friend Steve Chopek was on tour drumming with Charlie Hunter at the time and on that very day he was standing at his terminal, waiting for a flight at the airport in Newark, NJ, where the NYC skyline is clearly visible to the eye and he watched the entire thing unfold. He was visibly shaken when I saw him after that and I can’t even imagine what it must have been like, then and now, for those who were even closer or had friends or loved one’s that perished. My heart goes out to them, the many.
For me personally, this month is also about remembering the hurricane season and at this time five years ago, September 0f 2005, I was at the end of a month long tour with JJ Grey & MOFRO. Katrina had already blown through the Gulf and New Orleans, where I had recently relocated, was flooded. I had befriended a local guitarist and teacher, Brian Seeger, who owned a beautiful house there in Mid City that had a studio apartment in the back where he’d let me move into in early March. Such a killer spot and centrally located to City Park and tons of restaurants. Great neighborhood. Five days before the storm, I left to go out on the road with the band and was in Seattle when Katrina hit. Bummer. It was next to impossible to get anyone on the phone and as the days rolled on and I watched the daily reports and images of the flooding and devastation on CNN, I would look for my house when the news helicopter’s flew over the city and my heart would sink. I just knew my stuff was gone, clothes, family heirlooms, photos, furniture, drums, everything gone. At least that was what my gut told me, but I was wrong because two weeks later, I found out through a good friend of Brian’s that the house actually was just high enough off the ground that not one drop of water ever made it inside, which meant we were dry. Wow, total elation! I could not believe that news. When it was all over, the water was gone and our zip code was allowed back into the city (early October) when I got to my house and walked in the front door, it was hard to believe that we’d been spared.
Luckily, we came out of it better than most, with the majority of our possessions in-tact and we only found one little spot of mold in the house in one of the bedroom closets. Whew. I lost an ’88 Toyota pickup truck that I’d driven out from California, but hell, it had three hundred thousand miles on it and was near it’s end anyhow, so no great loss there. It was a great little truck that serviced me for a good ten years. But sadly, a lot of our family and friends didn’t fare as well as us and it was a long road back for them. Bless their hearts.
On September 23rd, another hurricane, Rita, was blasting through South Texas and destroying everything in it’s path. MOFRO were about to play the Austin City Limits Festival that day and we all thought they might be shutting it down due to the powerful winds, but Rita lost steam and the show went on. I was feeling pretty good as the band took the stage for our last show of the tour and you can see the wind is blowing pretty strong in this video. There was a stage technician running around like crazy with a roll of duct tape, taping the legs of my cymbal stands to the drum riser. Very funny.
Much love to those who have suffered in September and may we never forget.