The very first bands of thundershowers associated with Hurricane Gustav roll into the deserted uptown of New Orleans
I must offer apologies to Connie Francis for the title, but I do confess it seemed somehow appropriate to have a theme reminiscent of the Sixties, and the beach. After all, I'm at summer camp! I left New Orleans at 7:05 p.m., just as the first droplets of rain began to fall and the most ominous clouds you can imagine began to peer over the horizon. All day long the breeze was steady, but really only gusting every now and then. Just as my car was finally packed and I was ready to leave for Henry S. Jacobs Camp in Utica, Mississippi, the wind started to pick up significantly. The air became crisp and cold and the skies darkened. Once I started winding my way onto the streets adjacent to my home, the heavens opened and the heavy rain was a more or less constant companion for me until on the interstate well into Mississippi. At times the rain was driven horizontally towards my windshield by the sheer force of the winds. It was scary, but manageable. That was the bad news. The good news was that since I waited so long to leave, there was very little traffic on the highway. What I had surmised would be a five- or six-hour ordeal, turned out to be a little over three hours, more or less normal driving time between New Orleans and the camp, which also serves as the site of the Museum of the Southern Jewish Experience, whose executive director Macy Hart was the original director of Henry S. Jacobs Camp 40 years ago. During my days as a camper I went up to Camp Blue Star in Hendersonville, North Carolina for seven years in a row. The year before he came down to Utica to set up shop for a new Union of American Hebrew Congregations (now the Union for Reform Judaism) summer camp, my counselor at Blue Star was none other than Macy Hart. As a matter of fact, Macy was still the camp director when my son attended camp here. There are about 150 Jewish New Orleanians living at Jacobs Camp for the next few days (they hope no more than that). Although donations are being accepted, the camp's present director, Jonathan Cohen, is not charging for any essential services for any visitors. The camp is not even charging for meals. Nevertheless, it is still a remarkable gift of charity. Meanwhile, the Jewish Federation of Greater New Orleans executive director Michael Weil has set up shop in Memphis a few blocks away from the Federation building there. Should levees be breached during or after Gustav and the evacuation becomes more prolonged, the New Orleans Federation is prepared to link with the Memphis Federation. Incredibly, the camp has Internet services as well as digital TV that is permitting visitors to be able to view WDSU-TV 6 in the relative safety of the camp. Several of the younger set have been occupying themselves by singing Karoake, something Jonathan Cohen, who likes to go by the nickname "J.C.," humorously calls Evacuroake.
So, we are in a waiting mode as Gustav will take at least another eight to ten hours to come ashore. Some of us are glued to the big screen TV in an adjacent room. Others are on their computers messaging each other. The other necessities -- cell phones and i-Pods -- are also being widely used by the younger set. Some of us old timers are consoling ourselves by singing songs with guitar accompaniment. Can you say "Kumbaya?"