"Christmas Is Dead" Hyperinflated Venezuelans Face Holiday Without Lights, Food, & Hope

Tyler Durden's picture

In 2013, Maduro’s first year in office, the government released a Christmas carol praising the Socialist utopia's dictator. Last year, Maduro debuted a “socialist Barbie” that almost bankrupted stores forced to sell it after the government forced the price down to a tenth of its value. And this year, as AFP reports, "Christmas is dead, there is not enough money," according to one resident, noting there is no Christmas decor anywhere and people do not have enough money to buy presents. Some cannot even afford the basic goods needed to put together a traditional feast of roast pork and assorted sides.

 The government’s take on Christmas celebrations has been significantly more muted this year than in 2014. As Breitbart reports,

Last year, Maduro debuted a “socialist Barbie” that almost bankrupted stores forced to sell it after the government forced the price down to a tenth of its value.

 

Barbie was the latest in a series of goods – eggs, milk, flour, vegetable oil – to suffer a similar fate. Fixed price controls forced the government to issue ration cards for basic goods in 2014. That year, Maduro also used his time on television to condemn the anti-socialist opposition for being “grinches” trying to “steal Christmas from the people by condemning said price controls and demanding an end to the violent oppression of dissidents.

 

In 2013, Maduro’s first year in office, the government released a Christmas carol praising Maduro titled “Knock Knock– Who Is It? People Of Peace, Lower Those Prices, Nicolás Is Here.

Maduro has been significantly less prominent in holiday celebrations this year following the overwhelming defeat of the Venezuelan United Socialist Party (PSUV) in the December 6 legislative elections.

“This year, Christmas is dead, there is not enough money,” Elise Belisario, a resident of the Caracas suburb Petare, tells Agence France-Presse (AFP). She notes there is no Christmas decor anywhere and people do not have enough money to buy presents. Some cannot even afford the basic goods needed to put together a traditional feast of roast pork and assorted sides.

 

The website El Colombiano estimates that a full Christmas dinner costs between 2,000 and 3,000 bolívares, which is the equivalent of about one third of a monthly minimum wage. Individual basic food items can rack that price up significantly if especially scarce in any particularly neighborhood. For example, a woman selling eggs on the black market in Caracas tells AFP a box of 30 eggs costs 1,300 bolívars alone.

 

It is difficult to estimate how much these prices would translate to in dollars because the government insists on setting the value of its currency at a fixed rate most believe is intended to mask the nation’s hyperinflation problem, and is significantly higher than the real value of the bolívar on the black market. The Venezuelan website Dolar Today, which tracks the price of the bolívar on the black market, claims one American dollar is worth 841 bolívars today. This would make Venezuela’s minimum wage about $11 a month.

 

In addition to food items, non-necessary goods have seen a massive spike in prices. El Colombiano estimates the price of a Christmas tree to be up to 33,000 bolívars. A toy doll costs around 15,000 bolívars. “You either eat or you dress your children,” Lucía González, a vendor in Caracas, tells the publication.

*  *  *

Socialist utopia... where everyone is equally pissed off...

 

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ZeroPoint's picture

Happy Hunger Games! May the odds be ever in your favor........

johngaltfla's picture

But, but, but, Communism is awesome.

Goldman Sachs told me so.

ZeroPoint's picture

The only form of government in the world is feudalism. Doesn't matter what the outer layer of the surface looks like.

Looney's picture

Who needs “lights, food, and hope” when they’ve got tons of toilet paper?

Oh, wait… they don’t?  ;-)

Looney

Cognitive Dissonance's picture

Plantation living at it's finest. There is the American plantation, the European plantation, the Russian plantation, the Australian plantation, the Chinese plantation, the Brazilian plantation, the........well, you get the idea.

bigkahuna's picture

Remember that gold we brought back???  ...oh yeah, ....its gone

Handful of Dust's picture

Socialism has a tendency to Schlong nations and their people eventually. Venezuelans are no exception.

God's picture

I'll tell you what. Do you want some top shelf chicas? Head to Venezuela. Be prepared to do battle. You know how to make a hand held single shooter, right? Silence it with a used oil or fuel filter. Your first or second chica will provide you with a few rounds. Then the town is yours on the cheap.

--GOD

Richard Chesler's picture

BLONDE SOCIALIST BARBIE? REALLY???

Mutherfucking apes can no longer keep their story straight!

 

SING TO THE TUNE OF CLASSIC VENEZUELAN AGUINALDO...

Knock, knock

Who's there?

Another free-shit monkey,

Open up the door now,

we can rape your girls.

 

duo's picture

$11/month wages.  Isn't that good for business?

Benjamin123's picture

Irrelevant in the grand scheme of things, billions vs trillions.

Jeffersonian Liberal's picture

Brought to you by socialists just like Bernie Sanders.

SILVERGEDDON's picture

Christmas is not dead - it is just resting after a long squalk.

wisebastard's picture

it is awesome.........for them

MrNosey's picture

The agenda is clear and will be rolled out across the globe in the new year......

http://beforeitsnews.com/conspiracy-theories/2015/12/as-events-spiral-ou...

phatfawzi's picture

Socialist utopia... where everyone is equally pissed off ... poor

Midas's picture

Bernie Sanders for Presidente!

1033eruth's picture

We're on a beeline path to socialism and complete tyranny.  Why is it that I'm the only one that uses Venezuela as an indicator of our future.  The trend couldn't be more obvious.  What will happen when our national debt is a 100 trillion plus mega future liabilities.  

That is the whole point of Uncle Fraud attempting to discreetly cause dissension in the US in a variety of different ways.  To impose gun control so that they can steal from us more overtly to postpone the Ponzi collapse.  With absolute control we'll end up just like Venezuela pretending that the next election will make a difference.  Of course we're doing that now, Venezuela is just much further along the timeline. 

junction's picture

Coming soon to a neighborhood near you, courtesy of Obummer and Company.

Demdere's picture

That is the Israeli-Neocons win, you understand?

Think MSM as a permanent Israeli-Neocon deep-state COINTELPRO psyop, and discount current understandings accordingly.

Handful of Dust's picture

"Change you can believe in!"

nmewn's picture

I did notice he didn't do the whole "If I had a son he would look like Zaevion Dobson" routine.

I wonder why that is ;-)

buttmint's picture

...good idea to copy and paste this article to pull out in future years.

A Time Capsule.

USA and the rest of the world is not far behind Venezula's predicament.

Anyone out there have a boorish friend that works in Sunnyvale at Google? Googlers are a weird class onto themselves. This ladyfriend, a bit tipsy, revealed to me yesterday "....I'm clearing $235k at Google and cannot make ends meet."

 

 

 

 

sun tzu's picture

because the vast majority of people are stupid

Chuck DeBongo's picture

This raises a question I've been meaning to ask fellow ZHers.

I think we all accept that paper money will be hyperinflated away, hence our gold and silver stacking. However, while all that is for longer term planning, what is the best policy for cash in the short to medium term? Should I take it out of the bank and stuff it under the mattress? Or should i leave it in the bank, and earn the meagre interest which is offered to me? Or invest it in something which provides a decent dividend?

Although, long term, gold and silver is where it's at, I still want to earn more money by investment and build towards something decent (in my case, earn enough to buy a house in Australia or the United States).

Any help would be appreciated.

As for the article's topic. I feel sorry for the citizens of Venezuela. To live in a place where there is little food and resources and that which is available is out of your price range must be frustrating at best and terrifying at worst. It'd be very easy to say "That's going to happen to us! You just wait!", but I think that will be such a long way off we will be missing out of life at the moment (which, to me is a more terrifying prospect. We've only one shot at life). I don't know how they will get out this hole. But if I was the President of Venezeula? I'd be "doing a Zimbabwe" and talking to China about making the Renminbi the official currency of Venezeula (to bring price stability) and then, selling oil to them at a good price. As the film "Saw II" said:

"...once you're in Hell. only the Devil can help you out."

 

earnulf's picture

Frankly, loaning your money out is probably the only way to earn any type of return.   Of course, that means you vet the folks you choose to loan to really well or have Guido on standby, just in case.

Or invest in some good farmland and a stable water source.    Food and water never go out of style.

Chuck DeBongo's picture

Thanks. Any advice is appreciated.

Demdere's picture

The only rational goal for ends of eras is not losing your wealth.

This is a time when money is being lost, not made, except for people who profit on the trading per se.

Converting your wealth to gold in the ground in a quiet and friendly place until the world returns to civilization is the rational goal.

Chuck DeBongo's picture

If that is the case, then I am already rational. I am stacking and where I live is a very friendly part of the UK.

But I am trying to find a way of making money. Otherwise my free capital is just sitting there, deteriorating.

But thanks for replying. :O)

Handful of Dust's picture

Be careful if you choose the Landlord route. My brother tried that and got hit bad by a bad tenant who did quite a bit of damage. Plus, property taxes are rising and home insurance is also rising almost too fast to pass it along to a tenant. Many tenants are losing their jobs now so it's rough on them which translates into rough on the Landlord.

 

Alot depends on your location but my brtoher is in the Houston area and a serious recession is setting in their both for residential and commercial RE there.

 

 

KnightTakesKing's picture

At this point in history your objective should be capital appreciation, not making money on existing assets.

Chuck DeBongo's picture

Could you elaborate further, please?

tarabel's picture

 

 

Here is my take on it...

The initial stage of any major crisis witnesses the seizing up of the principal organs of commerce. Banks are closed. ATMs are dry. Internet lines are down so businesses can't take plastic.

At that point, cash is not just king but god and emperor combined.

What happens afterward will determine whether things go back to some appearance of normality or degenerate further to the point where tangible store of value considerations take over-- gold, silver, barter.

But so long as it continues to be accepted as a medium of exchange, cash has no rival. You want cash in the mattress where it can do you some good rather than worrying over whether you get ten bucks in (taxable) interest from a hundred grand in the bank. 

While the necessities of life may be very expensive in cash terms at that time, they are not obtainable any other way. Plus, as a bonus, others will need physical cash rather than locked-up financial assets. This leads them to exchange non-essential luxury goods for the cash they need to survive and then plan on getting it back later when thigns go back to normal.

So hold cash, including lots of small bills to use for change and minor pruchases and also a nice stack of new Franklins to spread out on the hood of a car and tempt people. 

Chuck DeBongo's picture

Some good food for thought there. Thanks. :O)

sun tzu's picture

the people forced to live under hard core socialism would love to have some food for their thoughts

tarabel's picture

 

 

This is kinda long but I only have the copy I saved rather than a web link. My apologies in advance for putting up something this lengthy but I believe it will be of interest to everyone interested in this topic.

 

“Yes, indeedy,” the first guy said with a big smile. “It sure looks like Louisiana is a-gonna get spanked. And spanked good! This looks like it might just be the best hurricane ever!”

The other guy agreed with great enthusiasm. “Yes, indeed! A once in a century event. Maybe even a once in a lifetime event and it looks like we’re going to get to see it all right here!”

Apparently, neither of them had gone for weeks without electricity in the Subtropics in late summer, where the heat index can go as high as a hundred and twenty degrees. They had probably never gone to a grocery store to find the shelves stripped bare or waited in line for hours for ice that may or may not be there when the front of the line is finally reached.

I don’t remember which station those idiots were on, but it was probably one of the big stations up north. I don’t remember seeing either one of them on TV ever again either.

We had been through many hurricanes and tropical storms over the years (Camille and Andrew immediately come to mind), but there was something particularly ominous looking about this one. It was huge, the eye was extremely tight, and it looked like we were going to be on the western side of the hurricane when it made landfall.

I went out that Saturday to fill the car up with gas and to pick up a few odds and ends that might come in handy over the coming days, though I wasn’t planning on going anywhere. I was doing this simply because the gas stations had run out of gas after previous storms.

Charcoal had been quite useful after previous storms when the electricity had gone out, so I picked up an extra twenty-pound sack. A few briquettes can heat a cast iron skillet very quickly. I’d been meaning to get one of those propane camp stoves, but whenever I could find the money and actually made the effort to go out to pick one up (usually at the start of hurricane season), the local sporting goods places were always out of them.

Ah, well. Somebody once said that you don’t go to war with the army you want. You go to war with the army you have.

Two cinder blocks and an old refrigerator shelf on a concrete patio table had done service as a stove on other occasions. I also have an old coffee can that has been converted to a hobo stove. (This is done on the outside patio, of course, because of the carbon monoxide, you know.) Two briquettes generally do the trick for the morning coffee, which I’ve brewed on numerous occasions in my very handy German mess kit. It’s aluminum and has a bail handle and a lid that doubles as a small skillet. I’ve actually cooked rice (not the minute stuff but enriched long-grain white rice) with it, and two briquettes can boil a quart of water almost instantly when the lid is on. The mess kit was a daily special from one of the big military surplus mail-order places. They practically gave it to me after I ordered a pair of boots over the phone. Maybe I’ll get one of those propane camp stoves this year.

Batteries were still plentiful at the dollar stores. Also, there were pallets of bottled water and charcoal stacked up in front of nearly every convenience store and service station, and nobody appeared to be buying any of it. There was no sense of urgency among my fellow shoppers that morning or the even next day, when I went out to pick up a couple of extra fifths of eighty-proof nerve tonic. Very few people appeared to be taking the weather warnings seriously. There had been too many misses over the last few years. (However, over the next year or so afterward, if it so much as drizzled, the store shelves would be completely stripped of bread, soft drinks, bottled water, and batteries within an hour.)

I secured the things in the yard that could potentially blow away and went about making the other usual pre-storm preparations. I cleaned out the ice chests and filled them with soft drinks and ice and filled two five-gallon jerry cans with tap water from the bathtub. We had gravity feed from a water tower, so as long as the thing didn’t blow down we would have water for awhile; the toilets would flush, and we would be able to take baths. If things started to get thin there, I had a big stainless steel cauldron we could use to boil water from a nearby creek, and of course we had bleach.

I also arranged the two cases of bottled water in the deep freeze. They would prove to be very useful, as both ice and as drinking water after the ice in the ice chests melted, if the power was out for an extended period.

Over the years we had pretty much converted all of our flashlights and portable radios to AA battery, and we had tons of batteries and candles. Last but not least, I found a couple of pairs of my olive drab, Vietnam-era 100% cotton tropical shorts. I saved them for such occasions.

I also had four seventy-two count cases of MRE entrees and a case of a hundred assorted MRE pound cakes stacked up in a dark corner of the utility room. I picked them up at a very, very good price, shortly after the Y2K thing blew over. They would come in handy in the event of things getting really thin.

I found it interesting that my neighbor in the National Guard Engineer Detachment in town hadn’t been put on alert. He was getting ready to take his family on vacation the day before the storm was scheduled to make landfall, and no silly old hurricane was about to stop him. There was still a chance that the storm would miss us, and the governor was gambling that it would because an alert would cost the state a small fortune.

The mayor of New Orleans called for a mandatory evacuation of the city on the 28th of August, and the Contraflow Plan was activated. All the lanes of I-10 and the other major highways intersecting the city would be directed out, and all the lanes of I-55 were directed north. We were approximately seventy five miles from New Orleans, and our exit was the first place where the Contraflow evacuees would be allowed to get off of the highway.

Our electricity went off shortly after dark the night before the hurricane made landfall. The little Grundig Traveler AM/FM shortwave would be our only source for news from the outside world until the lights came back on.

It was different from the other hurricanes we’d been through. There was almost no rain, and it was still a Category 3 after it made it a hundred or so miles inland. We would find out later that the winds were so strong that the rain became mist before it could hit the ground. The young pine trees in the front yard were bent completely over to where their tops touched the ground. The big oak trees took a pretty good pounding, and there was lots of potential firewood scattered around the yard.

A couple of shingles blew off the roof, but otherwise we were left relatively unscathed. The people who had ridden out the storm in the city started to pick up the broken limbs and other scattered debris.

Then the levees broke.

Several months later, I ran into an old acquaintance who had lived in the city near the 17th Street Canal. He said that after the storm passed, he went inside and started getting the stuff together to do a little outdoor grilling. While he was in his kitchen, he noticed a trickle of water coming from under the door that led to his patio. Next thing he knew, his face was pressed against the ceiling and he was treading water. He and his wife somehow managed to make it into their attic and they dug a hole in the roof with a pocketknife after the water hadn’t gone down for a couple of days. They were eventually picked up by a helicopter.

He’s still got that pocketknife and never goes anywhere without it.

The local news reports were nonexistent, as all of the local radio towers were down. Cell phones were useless, as most of their towers were down as well and the underground landlines were very shaky at best. About all we could really tell from the initial radio broadcasts coming out of Baton Rouge was that several levees had broken and a massive evacuation operation was starting to take place in the New Orleans Metro Area. They didn’t say where they were bringing the evacuees.

There were lots and lots of large military aircraft flying over at the time, mostly C-17s, C-130s, CH-53s, Blackhawks, and Chinooks. More than once, we were shaken out of bed by low-flying CH-53s and Chinooks.

It appeared that the main sources for most of the early radio broadcasts coming out of Baton Rouge were just people calling in to the stations.

Somebody said that a hundred thousand body bags had been staged outside New Orleans. Somebody else said that people were shooting at the rescue helicopters as they passed over. Some people were setting buildings on fire so they could shoot and rob any firemen who might still be around and interested. Giant rats had formed a caravan and were using the I-10 to relocate from New Orleans to Baton Rouge. Crabs from the lake were getting fat from the dead bodies floating around the city. Sharks had escaped from the aquarium and had eaten several people. (There are still a hundred and thirty-five people listed as missing.) Rock and roll legend Antoine “Fats” Domino was missing. (He was eventually found; he had been rescued by a Coast Guard helicopter.) Roadblocks had been set up on bridges to keep evacuees from New Orleans out of Gretna and other areas that were connected directly to the city.

Dangerous prisoners who were being evacuated from New Orleans had escaped. (Two of them were apprehended in an abandoned trailer near my mom’s house.) Citizens were having their firearms seized by law enforcement. Intensive care patients and the nursing home residents were being euthanized by their medical staffs and caretakers. A United States Congressman had commandeered two rescue helicopters to save the furniture from his house, while many of his constituents were trying to survive on rooftops. (The U.S. Congressman who commandeered the rescue helicopters to save his personal belongings is currently in prison, but they didn’t get him for that. He was convicted for racketeering and a bunch of other stuff.) Street gangs had taken over the city.

Nearly four hundred New Orleans Police Officers were missing and presumed lost in the flood. These police officers were eventually accounted for. A large number of them had selflessly saved their patrol vehicles for future use by driving them to Houston or Lafayette before the chaos and looting really got out of hand. Some of the officers did stay and performed as admirably as they could have under the circumstances, and there were others who have since gone to prison for various atrocities. A few of them were convicted and sent to prison in 2011 for the Henry Glover murder and the subsequent cover-up. Five others were sent to prison after the Danziger Bridge shootings. Both incidents involved law enforcement opening fire on unarmed civilians.

A brigade from the 82nd Airborne was supposed to be arriving soon to help restore order in the city. The various local and national leaders did a very good job of making sure the words “martial” and “law” were never strung together in a sentence. “Declared State of Emergency” did have a nicer ring to it.

I finally ventured out about a week after the massive evacuation operation began to see if I could find out anything in town, since the news reports we were getting from the radio were just short of useless. The four-lane highway had pretty much become an eight-lane parking lot for miles in either direction. There were hundreds, if not thousands, of dirty, ragged, and sunburned people just wandering around between the cars and looking up at the sky. A few were sitting under trees or whatever shade they could find; they all had the same glazed-over look. I had seen it before– usually in people who were way too tired and had been through way too much. It was like something out of a zombie movie, except they weren’t zombies and this wasn’t a movie.

The first thing I found out was that over the previous week, the population of our sleepy little town had grown significantly. Later, there would be estimates that our population had gone from around 4,500 to approximately 35,000.

It took nearly two hours for me to drive the four miles into town. Uniformed troops of an unknown origin were attempting to direct traffic, and I somehow wound up getting directed into a MRE distribution line that had been set up in the parking lot of a shopping center.

“How many?” a young-looking E-6 asked. He had an accent that wasn’t local.

“How many what?” I asked.

“How many you got to feed?” He sounded like he might have been from the Northeastern United States.

“Uh, six.” One of my older kids had a friend staying over during the storm.

“Got it.”

Four troops near the back of the truck threw four cases of MREs, four cases of bottled water, and two twenty-pound sacks of ice over the tailgate and tapped it twice.

“Where you guys from?” I asked as I started to drive away. I could tell from the patches they weren’t Regulars and they weren’t local Guard or Reserve.

“Pennsylvania. We’re Pennsylvania National Guard.”

They were from Pennsylvania?

Police from all over the United States were everywhere. I saw a K9 Cadaver Recovery Unit from Idaho.

Idaho?

Somebody must have thought we were in pretty deep poop. I don’t remember seeing any local, parish, or state law enforcement at all. It had been a week since the landfall, and they had probably been pretty busy. They were probably taking a break.

“Any news from the outside world?” I asked one of the National Guardsman who was helping direct the traffic out of the MRE distribution point.

“I don’t know. They sent us here to hand out MREs and water. How and the hell do you people live down here with these mosquitoes?”

I asked another who was halting the traffic on the highway, so the traffic going through the MRE distribution point could exit.

“I don’t know. How in the hell do you people live down here in this heat?”

That was about all I could get out of the Pennsylvania National Guard on that first trip to town. It’s not that they were unfriendly or anything. I don’t think they knew what was going on, either. Plus, they had been busy.

Most of the Louisiana National Guard was still scattered and gone. They were all at home or somewhere else when the chaos started. It would take weeks to get them mobilized at this point.

I decided to attempt to take seldom used back roads in an attempt to get home, since the Red Cross had set up a relief center in a large vacant lot across the highway from the MRE distribution point and I really didn’t want to get directed into a two-hour long line for clean clothes and toiletries that we didn’t need. I was surprised to find the old, gravel roads clogged with utility bucket trucks and military vehicles, but I still managed to make it home in under an hour.

I quickly discovered that given the traffic considerations, the shortest route into town was actually through the MRE line. I was still fairly fluent in the language of the Regular Army and the troops did eventually start to let tidbits of information slip when they got it, which was a bit sooner than the general public did, since they were also there to provide security details. I found out that the Post Office would be opening in a week and that the people who got rural delivery would be able to pick up their mail. The big Postal Processing Center in New Orleans had been flooded out, and the big Postal Processing Center in Baton Rouge was trying to pick up the slack. I also found out that they would soon announce that I was eligible for $750 worth of emergency food stamps and that the Red Cross was going to give all the families in the disaster area $1275 apiece for just having been in the disaster area when the storm hit.

I also found out that this particular Pennsylvania National Guard Battalion had just received a bunch of brand-new 5.56 NATO M249 Squad Automatic Weapons and that, even though none of the troops were ever seen carrying weapons out in the open, there were several fully armed, locked and loaded special reaction teams dispersed out of plain sight at various strategic locations around town. They were behind the Post Office, behind some buildings near the MRE line, and behind the food stamp office, just in case things started to get out of hand for whatever reason.

I figured I’d better go check on my other neighbors. I had known them since I was a little kid, and Mrs. D was a serious busybody. If there was any real news to be had, she would have it. If not, she would at least have some interesting gossip. She and her husband were retired professionals, who lived in a very nice house with an extremely well-manicured lawn. They had been without electricity for about a week. As I approached their yard, I cinched up my belt a few notches and slipped the big Colt Government Model into my back pocket, because I didn’t want to cause Mrs. D. any undue concern. I had been bringing it everywhere lately, and my shirt tail covered it when it was in my back pocket. I hid the old black flap holster and heavy web pistol belt under hedge bush near the front door. All of the doors and windows of the house appeared to be open wide.

“Hello?”

“Back here!” came the answer.

I walked around to the back of the house to see Mrs. D. draping an enormous pair of freshly wrung boxer shorts over her chain-length fence. She had been doing her laundry with a hosepipe, a five-gallon bucket, and an old washboard that had been a decoration on her patio the week before.

“I really miss my washer and dryer, and I’m afraid this heat is killing poor Mr. D. All he does is lie on that mattress we drug out in front of the big window after the air conditioner stopped working. He never did take care of himself the way he should have.”

“He should be acclimated before too long,” I said.

A few weeks before the storm, I thought I had seen a Sasquatch or a bear or something in Mrs. D.’s yard. It turned out it was only Mr. D. He wasn’t wearing a shirt at the time.

“Oh. Did you hear? Uncle Paul’s going to open the store for a little while tomorrow. The bread man, the potato chip man, and the beer man are all supposed to make deliveries in the morning, if they can get through.”

“Whoa. What time?”

“There’re opening at ten in the morning. It looks like we’re going to have to shop by candlelight.”

After that, I made it a point to check in with Mrs. D. every couple of days or so.

Mrs. D’s uncle ran a small grocery store a few hundred yards away from where my driveway intersected with the highway. They were closed on Sundays and had been closed since before the storm made landfall that Monday morning. They would probably still be pretty well stocked. Unfortunately, I was a little short on folding money at the time.

Whoops.

I knew I was forgetting something during those pre-storm preparations. The banks were all closed until further notice, and ATMs did not work without electricity. Mrs. D.’s uncle was a mean old man. I knew people who wound up driving as far away as Arkansas to find ATMs during those first weeks. I did have a big jar of change I kept for emergencies. It was mostly nickels and pennies, but it was still legal tender. There were probably a few dimes in there, too.

There was already a long line outside the store when we got there, shortly before ten. Word of such events gets around fast in a disaster area.

One of Mrs. D.’s cousins was allowing people to enter in twos and threes, while two more of her cousins escorted them around the store. After we finally made it inside, we saw Uncle Paul sitting on a stool behind the liquor counter and manning an old mechanical cash register that had been little more than a decoration the week before. There were six or seven racks of fresh white bread stacked next to the counter and several more empty ones leaning against the wall behind it. Two large ice chests were lined up on the floor in front of the counter. One was labeled “DAIRY” and the other was labeled “MEAT.” Uncle Paul was wearing what looked to be an old Smith and Wesson Service Model .38 on his right hip, and he was dripping with sweat.

Lit candles were arranged between the isles at six-foot intervals, which didn’t help the sauna-like conditions inside the store at all. Shopping carts were not allowed, because of the danger of someone running over a candle. Uncle Paul grunted and nodded toward a sign that said “CASH ONLY” and then toward a stack of shopping baskets. The wife picked one up.

He didn’t appear to notice the big jar of change I was holding, and the improvised back-pocket method for carrying the big Colt piston was still working out pretty okay for the time being.

We picked up a twelve-pack of red Coca-Cola (limit of one per customer), two cans of deviled ham, a big bag of potato chips (another item limited to one per customer), a pound of butter (the only thing left in either of the ice chests, except for the ice), two loaves of bread, and what were possibly the last two packs of red Marlboros to be found in the Gulf South Region.

“Limit one loaf per customer,” Uncle Paul grunted. I put one of the loaves back.

He looked over everything, punched a few buttons on the old cash register, hit the big total button, and said, “Seventeen dollars.”

I set the big jar of change on the counter.

“What is that for?” he asked as his hand moved toward the butt of the revolver.

“It’s money. Give me a minute to count it.”

“You’re crazy if you think I’m going to fool with all that.” Uncle Paul grunted as he rested his hand on the butt of the revolver.

The wife stepped in. “It’s seventeen dollars even, right? Can I just write a check?” Uncle Paul glanced over his shoulder at the long line of people still waiting outside. He grumbled and nodded.

I don’t really think the mean old man would have shot me for attempting to pay for $17 worth of groceries with nickels and pennies. However, at the time, I wasn’t so sure.

The traffic and chaos began to slack up a little after a few weeks. Our electricity did come back on at some point during that time. Ours were among the first lights to come back on, as living down the road from a light company executive does have some advantages. There were people on the other side of town who went several more weeks without electricity. I did eventually find a working ATM at a local bank shortly after the lights came back on in town and it still had some money in it when I finally made it to the front of the long line, but there was a $40 limit on withdrawals.

Rows and rows of small, white, rectangular FEMA trailers had begun to appear in vacant lots and open fields all over the place, and every bit of useable indoor space was occupied by somebody or something. The house in front of ours that had been vacant shortly before the storm, had three families of evacuees from New Orleans sharing it afterward. Somebody even camped out one night in an abandoned barn in a nearby field. I saw their headlights and went to check it out the next morning, but all I found were tire tracks and a few empty beer cans. The brigade from the 82nd Airborne set up shop at a nearby university.

The shortages continued and things in red packaging were particularly hard to find. It was impossible to find red cans of regular Coca-Cola or red Marlboros. (There was plenty of Diet Coke though.) While no fresh meat, fresh produce, or dairy ever seemed to make it to the grocery store shelves, somehow the beer trucks always found a way to make it through, and the Pennsylvania National Guard made sure we had plenty of ice. They were very sharp and professional.

Mrs. D told me that she heard the electricity was back on in the city where the brigade from the 82nd Airborne was and that they were going to open the big Walmart. We probably should have waited a few weeks before making that trip, especially since there wasn’t anything we really needed, but we went anyway. Cabin fever and curiosity got the best of us. The traffic was still pretty rough, and it took nearly an hour to make what had been a twenty-minute trip.

Several hundred people (if not more) were milling around the parking lot. There were people looking for lost relatives. (Message boards had sprung up all over the place since the mass evacuation operation had started and there was still no cell phone service.) Families were looking to pick up a few supplies they should have picked up before the storm, and others were looking to restock their pantries after the unexpected arrival of evacuee friends and relatives from New Orleans. One family I knew had over thirty people move in with them after the storm. People were sleeping in their utility room and tool shed.

Only one of the big store’s entrances was open. I saw people waiting in a long line to pass through a metal detector as we looked for a place to park. I hated to do it, but I was going to have to leave my pocketknife and the big Colt pistol in the car. Two security guards in black BDUs and body armor wanded us after we passed through the metal detector, while two more stood off to the side. They were both holding HK submachine guns, and all of them were armed with big Glock pistols. They were all wearing tactical headsets and Terminator-style sunglasses.

“Where are you guys from?” I asked, as I passed through the metal detector.

I got no answer. He silently waved us into the store. There were no distinctive markings or name tags on their uniforms or body armor. They all had shaved heads, and they were all tall, lean, and muscular. The ripple-soled boots they were wearing probably added a couple of inches to each of them.

I remember being surprised that there were not very many people in the big store, but there wasn’t a whole lot to shop for. The shelves were mostly bare; it was “CASH ONLY”; the ATMs all had “out of service” signs on them; there were no batteries of any kind (which was okay since we still had plenty); and there wasn’t as much as a crumb of charcoal to be found (but that was okay too, since our electricity had come back on). There was no fresh meat or produce, but they did have gallons of whole milk (limit one per customer), and their bakery had been working overtime to keep the bread and doughnuts flowing. Another pair of security guards stood at each end of the bakery counter.

“Where you guys from?” I asked.

Again, there was no answer.

I glanced down to see the selector switch on his HK submachine gun was set on burst.

These were no regular security guards. They were too well equipped, too well armed, too lean and muscular, and too well disciplined. I couldn’t get a word out of them, so I had no chance of picking up an accent.

Mercenaries? Foreigners? Foreign mercenaries guarding a Walmart?

Maybe my imagination was slipping into overdrive, but things were strange all over.

As was typical, we had spent way more time waiting in line to get into the store than we actually spent in the store itself. Probably an hour in the line for the metal detector and twenty minutes to pick up a loaf of bread, a gallon of milk, and a dozen fresh doughnuts.

It may have seemed like a lot to go through for a loaf of fresh bread, a gallon of milk, and a dozen glazed doughnuts, but at the time, they were the best doughnuts in the entire world.

Many of the evacuees were having a hard time adjusting to the current situation. Our small town was in no way prepared for the traffic nightmares that came about after a sudden infusion of 30,000 new residents. Fender-benders and road-rage incidents became common occurrences. A couple of months after the storm, a little fellow in a great big pickup truck parked way too close to me in the grocery store parking lot. Instead of backing out and attempting to park again, he started slamming his door into the passenger side of my much smaller truck. He then shimmied through the partially open door and started screaming and cursing. He clenched his fists and took on a somewhat more threating posture after he stomped around to where I was still sitting in the driver’s seat. His shirtless passenger was right behind him. He was waving his arms around in the air for some reason.

I had already slipped the big Colt pistol out of the old black flap holster, but I didn’t actually cock it until he put his hands on the edge of the open window.

“Can I help you with something?” I asked.

His eyes grew large and his mouth dropped open. He made a kind of squeaky sound as he slowly removed his hands and backed away. He grabbed his passenger by the arm and led him back to the great big pickup truck. He hopped in the passenger side and slid across into the driver’s seat. His passenger got in behind him, and they quietly drove away.

I remember being worried about shooting through my rolled-down window.

It wouldn’t be the last time I cocked the big pistol during what was now being called, “The New Normal”.

Several weeks later, a large SUV came creeping down my long, ill-repaired driveway with its lights off. It was a little after 4:00 a.m. and still very dark, when three little fellows got out of the vehicle and approached my front door.

I have six treacherous little dachshunds that are capable of making quite a terrible racket when they’re disturbed, and they are very easily disturbed. They’re also extremely vicious and have very large teeth, for being such small dogs. We can no longer have visitors, as they tend to bite people– even people they know. Last time my son visited, he wound up trying to get out of the door with one clamped tightly on his rear end. One of them bit my older daughter (also in the same area) the last time she visited, and they raised them as puppies. I have no doubt they wouldn’t leave a scrap of meat on the bones of a stranger.

Anyway, the dachsies made such a terrible racket that I had no trouble at all slipping out the back door unnoticed with the big Colt pistol. I was standing no more than ten feet away and noticed that one of the little fellows appeared to be holding a pry-bar or something. They appeared puzzled as they looked through the window of the front door while the dachsies continued to bark, shriek, and howl. They were making such a racket that I couldn’t hear a thing those little fellows were saying, nor could they hear me cocking the pistol.

Fortunately, they got back in their vehicle and left without further incident. It probably wouldn’t have looked too good if I’d shot them in the back while they were attempting to break in my front door. Of course, they may have just been looking for directions or something.

We had Thanksgiving without a turkey that year. My sister did find a turkey in Baton Rouge for Christmas, but she has connections. We also had a hard time finding Easter candy that spring.

Most of the evacuees eventually started going home to start rebuilding. A few stayed in the area, and some went somewhere else to start over. We actually ran into a few while passing through Northern Georgia the next summer.

For a very long time afterward, the name “Katrina” wasn’t spoken out loud by the locals. It was a weird, almost tribal, kinda thing. It was as if we said the boogeyman’s name, he would come back and get us. When we relate incidents, we say “before the hurricane” or “after the hurricane”.

 

It’s been nearly ten years, and there are still reminders everywhere. Just the other day I saw a herd of dairy cows around in a pasture between long rows of utility hookups that once serviced a couple of hundred FEMA trailers. We still have the ridiculously over-sized traffic signs that came into vogue after many, many traffic accidents occurred at a couple of intersections that were either beyond the patience or the comprehension of the evacuees. Also, my pine trees are still crooked.

Arnold's picture

Tar,

is the attribute in the hyperlinks?

Or was this your experience?

tarabel's picture

 

 

This was from someone else. Links are theirs.

My Days Are Getting Fewer's picture

I have lived my life by your credo for a long time.  There are other ways to protect yourself, besides collecting cash and paying your credit cards to zero.  Go to your landlord and offer to pre-pay 5 months of rent in cash with a receipt for a 5% discount.  If you own real estate - prepay 6 or 12 months worth of taxes.  Prepayment of electric and gas bills makes sense unless you are moving out very soon.  Prepayment on a mortgage usually results in a credit againt the principal balance, unless you send instructions to have the money credited against future installment payments.  If there is anything you can do without, then do without and stuff the savings in cash into a cookie jar.

bbq on whitehouse lawn's picture

Cash helps if something breaks: power outage, bomb scare, protests, etc.
Cash doesnt help with long winters, where the demad on money continues to out grow rents, income and economies.
Its the governments demand or everything that will outstrip the ability to supply it with everything. The vertual need vs the organic abilities of supply an demand.
You cant win vs the mob and their printing press, what you are forced to earn they can print at no cost, your earning power will just melt away. Its not your money its the governments.

Lucky Leprachaun's picture

Largely agree and it's what I'm doing. But the big enemy of cash is high inflation and the temptatation of governments in crisi is to try and print their way out.

And by the way do you really think that the initial stage "of any major crisis witnesses the seizing up of the principal organs of commerce. Banks are closed and ATMs are dry?"

Seems to me the crisis is well underway at that stage.

tarabel's picture

 

 

Well, let's put it this way...

As soon as the banks and ATMs aren't working and the credit cards readers are inoperable, everybody (no matter how foolish) will instantly realize that there is a problem. That is the moment when the scenario becomes real to them personally.

With a little luck, many more-attuned people will have already recognized the situation and either gotten out of town or down to Walmart and maxed out their cards prior to everyone else catching on.

Not everybody loses in a crisis, as I'm sure you know.

hairball48's picture

@Tarabel I agree.

Cash will be king when things go to hell. And while gold and silver can be traded for goods and services "directly"....PMs bigger value and utility is that there will always be "traders" who will trade whatever paper currency is circulating for PMs. The question will be at what price?

bigkahuna's picture

Chuck,

The monetary system here (in the US) will last until the guys on top have drained all they can and converted all USD assets to political power and other resources (land, real estate, PMs, perhaps other currencies). Then they will sweep the table by crashing the USD and then taking whatever they want for a pittance. These guys have been at it for a very long time, but now instead of a productive cash cow, the base here has started to consume itself and they are still stealing with both hands from a base that is orders of magnatude weaker than it has been in the last 100 years or so - and that is why you are witnessing the neverending wars - well at least they won't end untill the whole thing collapses. You are rolling the dice no matter what you do with hard currency. No matter if it is in the bank or in your hand - someone else owns it, even though you, me and everyone else have earned what we have. I have read that if the SHTF and you have currency, you should be good with that for a couple weeks or so, but after that it can be iffy wether the old currency is accepted or maintains any value.

Can you tell me what advantages you see in moving to the US? I have heard lots of people give opinions regarding advantages to the US but not many opinions coming from real potential immigrants.