Thursday, September 29, 2005

Moonie in the (wind-swept) world: Milissa Carey

You may or may not know that our very own Milissa Carey (most recently Queen Aggravain in Once Upon a Mattress) has been off traveling the continental U.S. in the National Tour of Evita.

Well, unfortunately their tour left them smack dab in Houston as Hurricane Rita approached. Milissa sent me the complete saga of her exodus from Houston. Hers is a story with merely an apprehensive beginning, a stymied middle and a decidedly happy ending, but having never been in such a situation myself I was pretty fascinated with the whole process of trying to get outta Dodge.

Don't forget that if you want to help those who were less fortunate, there are many ways.

Milissa Carey's Evacuation Story
Wednesday Night: Company Meeting at half hour: Because of the impending Category 5 hurricane, Rita, all performances for the remainder of the week canceled. Company will evacuate to Oklahoma City, (yes, Oklahoma City - 449 miles north -- on two buses, the following afternoon at 1PM.) Gia Solari, Philip Hernandez, Milissa Carey meet at midnight and decide to leave that night in Phil's rental car in order to beat the mass exodus of refugees clogging the roadways, fleeing the Texas Coast and heading north to Dallas and points beyond, (including Oklahoma City.)

Depart Houston's Doubletree Hotel: 1:30pm. Personnel: Gia Solari, Philip Hernandez, Milissa Carey. Transportation: White Ford Focus. Refugees required to transport all belongings with them on the planned company evacuation to Oklahoma City (yes, we really did say OKLAHOMA CITY). Planned route: Houston to Dallas, via Hwy 45, through to Oklahoma City to rendez-vous with fully deployed company. Vehicle fueled 100%, supplies contained: groceries (red pepper hummus, soy yogurt, cheese, cereal apples, pears, oranges), water, 6 Doubletree Hotel cookies and a left-over chicken.

Freeway Progress: Hwy 45 commences at speed for approximately 3 miles. Speed reduced substantially, to approximately 3 MPH for the next 3 hours. Yet a "creative" use of exit lanes, entrances ramps and the occasional shoulder maximizes progress of white ford focus, (courtesy of Juan Andretti, AKA Juan Peron.) Refuges witness cars camping on the side of the road, passengers riding on hoods of car and entire families riding on the couches in the backs of their trucks. At the first rest stop, we refueled, re-coffeed and peed. We thought a map might be needed so we procured said map. We paused when we heard the announcement "Shower #8 is now available", and we decided to soldier on.

By now, Hwy 45 was a "no go." It was a parking lot. We decided to veer west in hopes of increasing speed of evac. Upon closer examination, the map we had procured proved insufficient to our needs, (there was a BIG crease on our precise location). Bummer. It was decided that a more detailed map was now needed. Reconnaissance spotted a Walmart. Juan Perriti, I mean, Peron, with engines running, ran into the Walmart in search of a serious map. Success. Western Atlas - Huzzah! Only 4.97, (that rest stop was such a rip-off -- that same map at the rest stop was $112 and it was a 2005.) With navigation now maximized we re-deployed suitably equipped, for a planned route zig-zagging west/north through Dallas, still aiming to meet company in Oklahoma City (yes, we said Oklahoma City.)

Now heading west and, um, STARVING, we began looking for food, we soon found a La Rosarita in the sprawling metropolis of Waller, Texas. Next to the nursing mother's table, the three of us ate four plates of huevos rancheras and met a nice man who said "forget about heading north on 290. Stay on the 'old 290', turn left at the convenience store across from the MacDonalds." We were happy as we were actually moving. Sadly, we missed the next turn off which led us to stopped traffic - people headed to Waco/Dallas - bumper to bumper, campers again. Once again, bummer. We toyed with making a U-turn on the road, didn't. Should have. Oh well. Bummer.

One hour-ish later, we found the magic Route 79. Glory be. (Gia fell asleep again.) No traffic, we're flying, trying to emulate Juan Perritti's earlier success, Milissa is behind the wheel of the white ford focus. Our new destination - AUSTIN, TEXAS. The long way. Small towns, one stop light each. Via cell phone, the Internet and the West Coast connections (Gia's husband), the last remaining hotel room was secured in Austin. One burning topic of discussion of this escape was the actual existence armadillos. Phil insisted they were real and lived in this part of Texas. Yeah, right. Passing just beyond the town of Milano, (named after "Fleg Milanos," of course, see notes below), we suddenly spied a strange shape, could it be, no it couldn't. Wait. Yes, - we exploded with excitment beyond words, as we realized it was in fact a real, actual, bonafide armadillo in the middle of the road. On its back, feet sticking straight up in the air, we zoomed passed the dead armadillo, screaming wildly as we went. Yup, road kill. And the proof Gia and Milissa required.

Phil and Gia took a nap. No traffic, no hurricane pursuing us, we cruised into the Austin Hilton and unloaded our 47 bags, (OK, 45 bags belonged to Milissa and Gia.) Great room. Great naps all around. Swimming, spa with apple water. We were all safe. Unfortunately, the chicken didn't make it. Alas, poor chicken, we hardly knew ye.

What to do, we went to Manuels, a swell Mexican restaurant. It was muy bien. Next planned activity - sleep. Sweet. Many hours. All good. Late check-out.

On a beautiful, sunny, cloud free, traffic free, hurricane free day, we headed to our final stop: San Antonio. We were confused as we arrived without any refugee drama to the home of Steve and Mary, Gia's in-laws, who graciously accepted the refugees in the white ford focus. Introductions and house tour completed, we sat down to the first refugee repast: sliced honey crisp apples and Don Juan Manchego cheese. And, oh yes, Cosmos. The first of many delightful eating experiences at this particular refugee stop in San Antonio.

Fin: Part 1

Epilogue: 5 parties in all set out from Houston, 2 turned back, 3 made a successful run from the hurricane. Best time - our heroes: 12 hours to Austin (typically a three hour drive). Meanwhile, armed with the news that it was now a 24 HOUR DRIVE TO DALLAS, due to the traffic, the company changed their plans and decided to stay put and weather the storm at the Doubletree. With bathtubs filled with water, bags stowed in the bathroom, and a contingency plan to convene in the protected 2nd floor ballroom when the storm hit, the company awaited the inevitable. The storm veered east, bypassing Houston as our refugee heroes sipped margaritas (in honor of Rita) and dined on crab filled portabello mushrooms, courtesy of the peerless culinary expertise and generous hospitality of the Steve and Mary Welch Refugee Center for wayward actors.

Like I said, Milissa and her troupe were lucky, if a bit worse for wear. G;ad to hear she was OK.

To help those who are not so OK, try one of these resources.

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