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Live From New Orleans: Riding My Bicycle To The Office

by Marc Ellis

Some colleagues have asked about me, knowing I lived and worked in New Orleans.
Thanks for the thoughts. The good news is I'm not completely dead yet. The bad news, is I'm not completely dead yet. For those who would like to read how I spent my week off due to Hurricane Katrina, what follows is a true account, a day-by-day log that chronicles the only time I have ever ridden my bicycle to work.

I was smart enough to get out of Orleans Parish two days before the storm. I fled to the place where the storm made a direct hit, Slidell. I lost half the house to a tall yellow pine that crashed into the master bedroom upstairs & destroyed the fireplace. Water leaked into the upper & lower parts of the house. Bad breaks, but at least I wasn't fending off AK-47 wielding gangsters in New Orleans.

I had lots of adventures. I rode my bicycle twenty-five miles back to my office in New Orleans, despite martial law and alligators believe it or not. I had to retrieve a notebook computer that had client files on it. I also needed to retrieve some clothes and office cash. I was worried about looters.

Here is my account for those who are interested.

Report from Louisiana

September 5th

I'm writing this on September 5th, and the only word we have from lower Plaquemines Parish is that the Gulf of Mexico has reclaimed the towns in that area. A good friend of mine is from down there. He just got a nice deal on a house south of Port Sulphur. He was a Marine Rifle Squad leader in Vietnam. He went back in 2000 and found a Vietnamese wife. They have two young sons. The Gulf of Mexico now has his home as well as his home town. I hope it doesn't have them also. He seemed really happy the last time I was down there.

Bottom line on damage from the news reports is that Orleans Parish in the CBD, New Orleans East, Mid-City & the east bank of Jefferson Parish (Metairie mainly, especially Old Metairie), got slammed by the levee breaking. Had the levee at the Seventeenth Street Canal near Lake Pontchartrain not broken, the story of Katrina might have been, "New Orleans Dodged Another One".

What happened apparently, was a pump in a canal near Lake Pontchartrain stopped pumping on the Orleans Parish side, not the Jefferson Parish side. Soon after the pump stopped, a breach occurred and Lake Pontchartrain spilled over into a nice New Orleans neighborhood called Lakeview. The breach was seven hundred feet long.
Uptown New Orleans wasn't hurt so much by the levee breaking. At least that's what I've heard. But the CBD (downtown) and the Lakeview areas are destroyed, as is much of Metairie and New Orleans East. There were sharks reported swimming around in Metairie and Kenner. A ten foot shark was spotted at the Landmark Hotel near Veterans' Boulevard.

What follows is my chronological log, beginning on the day that Katrina stuck.

Monday, August 29th

Katrina hit my neighborhood around 4:30 or 5:00 a.m. By 6:30 a.m. she was kicking serious *** in Slidell. Trees were down everywhere. 20,000 to 30,000 trees lost according to the mayor. No yard I've seen kept all its trees. The force of the wind pushed at the tall trees, causing them to topple and pulling them up by the roots.

I was staying alone, guarding the house with two watchdogs, a young Pitbull who looks and sounds mean, but is the friendliest dog imaginable. She barks like a hound from Hell. Then she'll fall down at an intruder's feet and go belly up, hoping to get scratched. There is also a very alert Pomeranian. If something moves a block away, she is up and yapping, waking myself and the Pit Bull from our sleep.

A tall Southern Yellow Pine crashed into the bedroom upstairs. It's a tree about 90-100 feet tall. It smashed through the bricks, destroyed the chimney and ripped a line across 75% of the roof. The water coming in through the chimney caused water to go downstairs also. So half the house is essentially gone. I heard the freight train sound we associate with tornados a few times that morning. But I never saw a tornado.

What I'll always remember though from the day Katrina hit though, is how clear the sky was on the night of August 29th. Gulf Coast states are not great locations for viewing stars. The Gulf always seems to have a cloud cover. When Katrina moved inland, she apparently took all the clouds with her. The stars in the sky were clear and seemed very close. I've seen night time skies like this in Georgia, Colorado, and New Mexico. I've never seen a sky like this in Louisiana. It was really beautiful.

August 30th

I spent the day clearing the fallen trees out of the yard. Three had fallen, all ripped up by the roots. The big Yellow Pine did the worst damage.

I slept downstairs with the guard dogs. There was no electricity, thus no internet, and water was on and off. But I had plenty of batteries, flashlights, water and candles. The was only one radio station, New Orleans' WWL, which has a fifty-thousand watt transmitter and can be heard nationwide at night. The station had relocated from New Orleans to Baton Rouge.

I thought WWL's early coverage of the hurricane was dismal. There was very little news about my location or Gulf Coast Mississippi, and none about the horrors unfolding in New Orleans' Superdome and Convention Center.

Mainly WWL gave us a talkathon where alternating hosts would take calls from family members seeking news about their loved ones or their neighborhoods and try to make happy talk between calls.

August 31st

Floating Prairie, Flying Big Boats, Vanishing Brick Homes

I needed to go back to my office in New Orleans East. I knew I couldn't travel by car. I'd have to make the trip by bicycle. I knew the route. It would be Highway 190 from Slidell into Lake Catherine in Orleans Parish. So today was the day I would reconnoiter the roads.

Nobody could get on the two main highways, I-10 or Highway 11. Katrina had wiped out two spans of I-10 over Lake Pontchartrain and Highway 11 was blocked by the Slidell Police. That left only one option, the Rigolets [1] Bridge on US 190. So I made a trip by bicycle to see how close I could get to the Rigolets.

The destruction was unbelievable along 190 in Slidell. There were four-foot thick chunks of sod, called "Floating Prarie", the storm surge had lifted from the swamp and placed on the highway. In total, these chunks were approximately one New York City block long, four feet thick. Most amazing to me was that they seemed to be symmetrically cut. They were almost perfect squares of deep, black wet sod, as if they had been cut by man-made tools. The surge lifted these chunks of sod from the Bayou and when the tide went out, left them in the middle of highway 190.

Across the bayou from these chunks of sod, I saw a ninety-one foot steel-hulled fishing boat that had been thrown up into the tall trees. Its weight broke the tree tops, and it came to rest on the lower part of the stumps of Cypress and tall Yellow Pine trees. All the power lines along 190 were uprooted. And a brick home had vanished.

The First Pile of Debris

There was a quarter mile long pile of construction debris, approximately 8-10 feet high off the road, consisting of boards, furniture, shingles, stuffed animals, mattresses televisions and other artifacts of American Middle-Class life. I climbed atop the debris and began to carry my bicycle across. I was wise to South Louisiana. I was concerned about snakes and Fire Ants that might be trapped in the debris. I wasn't worried to much about losing my footing or stepping on a nail. But it was very slow going, stepping gingerly from one board to the next.

After Katrina destroyed the homes along Highway 190, apparently her storm surge rose from the bayous on both sides of the highway and lifted the debris. When the tide went out, surge receded, the wall of debris, like the chunks of Floating Prairie came to rest in the middle of the Highway, making it impassable by car.

I ran into several state wild life agents. They were looking for a place to launch a boat so they could search for bodies. I ran into some National guard too. They gave me some water and asked me questions about the state of 190 where there vehicles could not reach. I traveled the length of the highway to the Rigolets Bridge. I saw another huge pile of debris blocking my access to the bridge. But I also saw a side road that could get me closer.

It was hot and I hadn't brought enough water, so I went home resolving to go all the way the next morning. I'd stupidly left a notebook computer with all my client files at the office. I also had some cash laying around there that might come in handy. Mostly, I was very worried about the client files on the computer.

September 1st

Today was the day I'd go all the way. I left the house about 8:30 a.m. and parked the truck 7.4 miles away from the Rigolets Bridge at an abandoned Slidell mall. The total distance from my truck to the office would be 25.8 miles.

My office is in a Vietnamese part of New Orleans East, off Chef Menteur Highway. It's the same highway as 190 in Slidell. New Orleanians named their stretch of it after a local Chef. Chef Menteur Highway was the highway where Baton Rouge native, movie star Jane Mansfield lost her head in a car wreck, as I recall. Back in those days it was the main route to the Gulf Coast beaches in Mississippi. It is still a very enjoyable trip to take 190 into the beach areas of Gulfport, Biloxi, Bay St. Louis and Pass Christian.

Today, Chef Menteur Highway is a slum except for the Vietnamese area. I was worried about looting and I could not reach it by car. So I made the 25 mile trip by bicycle. I had to park my truck seven miles away and bike to the Rigolets Bridge. When I crossed the bridge by at about 10 a.m. I was stunned by the devastation. Lake Catherine was almost completely gone.

Trapper John, His Wife and a Paranoid Pink Chihuahua

Lake Catherine was a nice waterfront area of Orleans Parish. It's actually an island. It once had million dollar homes next to less expensive homes owned by shrimpers. Today, I'd say that for every five homes that once stood in this community, only one remained standing and even fewer were inhabitable.

Immediately over the bridge, I encountered another wall of debris. This one was comparable to the one I crossed in Slidell. But the Lake Catherine debris piles were more unpleasant than the ones in Slidell. There were large numbers of dead animal carcasses in the debris of Lake Catherine. Mostly dead Nutria and Cottonmouths. These species are ubiquitous in Louisiana. On Lake Catherine's debris piles, they were both ubiquitous and dead. On the first day of my trip, they had not yet started to stink.

As soon as I crossed the first pile of debris, I met a volunteer fireman whom the locals know as "Trapper John". He had weathered the hurricane on Lake Catherine. But his house was destroyed. He was now staying in a neighbor's house and caring their paranoid pink Chihuahua.
The dog had almost no hair at all. It was a pitiful thing, a shivering pink little dog. Trapper John told me someone had mistreated it when it was young, keeping it in a 4x4 box. He was trying to expose it more to the outside while he cared for it. So perhaps the first exposure the little pink dog would have to the outside world would be to the debris piles full of dead animals left by Hurricane Katrina. I'm not sure that will reduce its paranoia. But who knows?

Trapper and his wife were very nice. They filled one of my water bottles. His wife offered to take me to my office by boat. But I declined. Gasoline is too precious now. I took their cold water though and had a nice talk. I didn't know it at the time. But we were the only living human beings on the eleven mile stretch of Highway 190 through Lake Catherine.

Trapper John asked me to set fire to the debris piles along the road. I told him I was worried I might be arrested. After all, it's not normal to ride your bike around starting fires.

Trapper John said,

"No problem. I'm the Chief of the Lake Catherine Volunteer Fire Department. Raise your right hand, "

I did. And he promptly swore me in as a volunteer fireman. He reached for some flares to give me. But I was still pretty dubious about traveling alone on my bicycle and setting fires. So I politely declined.

As it turns out, it would not have made any difference. Besides myself, Trapper John and his wife were the only live human beings on the eleven mile stretch of Lake Catherine. Someone could have set fire to the whole damned island and nobody would have known.

About a mile toward New Orleans from Trapper John's place, I saw another pile of debris. This one was the biggest of all. Its elevation was about 7 feet above 190 and stretched for what I estimate to be a half-mile. My heart sank at the thought of walking across it. But I found a way to circumnavigate most of it, by going toward the beach front and walking past all the dead animal carcasses. Besides Nutria and Cottonmouths, there were hundreds of dead fish and a 9 foot dead alligator.

The debris on Lake Catherine was more interesting and varied as well as more plentiful, to the pile I crossed in Slidell. Besides the usual stuffed animals and TV sets, I noticed a shotgun in a plastic carrying case, bottles of Vodka, Scotch, and J.D., a nearly complete black Naugahide bar with matching naugahide stools, and believe it or not, a dildo. I was in Orleans Parish, after all. They don't call this town the "Big Easy" for nothing.

Venetian Isles

After you leave Lake Catherine, the next stop on Highway 190 is called Venetian Isles.
It's another luxury waterfront subdivision in Orleans Parish. There is a bridge connecting the community of Lake Catherine with Venetian Isles, it's called the Chef Menteur Bridge. Like the Rigolets bridge, this bridge was not open also. A barge had been lifted up from the storm surge and had come to rest on the east side of the bridge in the middle of the road, tilting on a rail.

But on a bike, I could get across. Like the Rigolets Bridge, it had not suffered serious damage. Venetian Isles had fared better than Lake Catherine. Most homes weren't damaged so seriously.

This tells me that Katrina made landfall right at Lake Catherine and moved north down 190 into Slidell. The weather reporters claimed Katrina turned east before it reached New Orleans and made landfall at the mouth of the Pearl River. But to get to the mouth of the Pearl River from New Orleans, it have to go through Lake Catherine and down 190 to Pearl River. There is no other way to get from the southeast of New Orleans to the mouth of the Pearl.

Which is Worse - the Mud or the Debris? Part One

There appeared to be no live human beings in Venetian Isles. I biked through it quickly. No debris piles, thank God. Outside that community though, is an industrial development that includes Textron Marine, a Defense Contractor for the Navy. They make certain kinds of fast boats for the Navy.

Chef Highway on this stretch was covered with a layer of slimy, black swamp mud, about an inch thick. It was really tough to navigate my bicycle through it. This industrial area was completely wiped out. Shrimp boats were on the highway or were reduced to splinters.

Meet Young Mr. Nguyen

Here I met a young Vietnamese-American, Louisiana-born, riding his bike. He owns a shrimp processing plant there and a fleet of shrimp boats. He told me he's lost around 1.5 million. He was awfully cheerful though. Always had a smile and was helpful. The best kind of Vietnamese are like this. Cheerful.

The mud had clogged up the works on my bicycle. I had to stop twice, losing maybe an hour, to clean it off. In retrospect, I should have carried the bike over the mud.

Up to my Ankles in Alligators on Chef Highway

Finally I got out of the industrial area by crossing a "No Trespassing" area. I was on the last leg of my trip. Only 4.7 more miles to go on Chef Highway until I reached my office. I'd traveled twenty miles through debris, mud and dead animal carcasses.

Then, I saw a bigger problem, a few of them in fact. This stretch of Chef was covered with water. The central part where the yellow lines were located had less water and was navigable by bicycle.

I was pedaling as fast as a 53 year old man could after biking twenty miles. But then I saw two alligators. One was about 8 feet long and one was about 6.5 feet long. They were floating near the center line. At first, I thought they were construction debris, long 2x4 pieces of lumber perhaps, until I got within fifty feet. The big one noticed my bike splashing and fled. When I saw it move, I stopped cold. The little one wasn't scared. It moved closer to the center line where I was traveling.

I thought, "****! I've come twenty miles and now I have to worry about alligators?"

I stopped the bike and looked down Chef Highway around the bend. From what I could see, it was all underwater. I was moving in the direction of the Bayou Sauvage wildlife sanctuary. It's near my office, I used to jog there until the numerous Cottomouths scared me off.

Bayou Sauvage is largest urban wildlife area in the US. If you read the tourists' reviews of Bayou Sauvage Ridge Trail, the number one complaint people seem to have involves big alligators who don't appear to be afraid of humans.

I didn't know what to do. I was not worried about these two gators, although the big one was moving back toward me now. I was worried about the ones I did not see, waiting for me when I got near the entrance to Bayou Sauvage. I wasn't sweating two alligators. But three? Four? Five, six, seven, eight? How many alligators around your ankles is too many?

So I decided to turn back. I hated it. I'd gone twenty miles and I'd failed to reach my destination. But I didn't want to end up as gator feed. Young Mr. Nguyen saw me going back through the Textron Mud and asked, "How far did you go?"

I told him I had to turn back because of alligators.

He was surprised, "Alligators on Chef Highway?", he said.

I told him I was going to my office in the Vietnamese Village. He said he was going there too, to visit friends. So we decided to ride back through the gators together. Two of us had a better chance than one.

We got past the two alligators easily. They just watched us pass. And fortunately Chef Highway around Bayou Sauvage wasn't populated by large numbers of the reptiles either. We only saw one, but it was a big one too, about 8 feet, I'd say.

But there were large numbers of water snakes swimming around us. I know the local snakes. These were not Cottonmouths. They were the slender, fast moving non-venomous water snakes. We must have seen a hundred. These snakes seem to have survived better than Cottonmouths & Moccasins. I don't know why. But I saw maybe fifty dead Cotton mouths and only one living one. I saw very few dead water snakes and over a hundred living ones.

We also saw a family of black Russian Wild Boar splashing around in a pool. We startled them and they ran off. Young Mr. Nguyen noticed a Muskrat. He didn't know what it was. Muskrats also seemed to fare better than Nutria. I have seen no dead Muskrats and three live ones. I have seen no live Nutria and at least a hundred dead ones.

Maybe a salutary effect of Hurricane Katrina is that it killed large numbers of Nutria and Cotton mouths.

Twelve Feet of Water in the Vietnamese Village

My office had maybe a foot of water in it and it had receded . But the Vietnamese Village is down the hill from my office. It was utterly destroyed. Twelve feet of water and in some places deeper, up to the roofs of two-storey homes.

I slept at my office that night. I could hear helicopters flying in to lift people off the roofs. It was really sad. A lot of Viet Kieu had stayed through the storm. Nobody knew a lakefront levee would break. Now, these people were congregated around the commercial area. Bathing in the dirty flood water and relying on what drinking water they'd stashed or the passing National Guard deuce and a half trucks that were passing out water. No electricity, no phones and no water. I too bathed in the dirty flood waters that night. Thank God, Slidell still had running water.

I slept at my office that night and prepared for the trip back the next morning. The trip back to Slidell almost killed me.

September 2nd

A Stable Full of Horses - Where is the Owner?

I left the office around 7 a.m. I packed approximately two liters of water for the 25 mile trip back. It was not enough. The previous day had been a rainy day. That kept the Louisiana summer temperature down and made my trip easier. But today was starting out to be a typical hot, sunny Louisiana summer day. I should have packed three liters.

I also stuffed too many things into my backpack. I had come to pick up an important notebook computer and some cash I kept in the office. But I stuffed a lot of other things into it, mostly clothing. I also put a pistol in my belt. I was thinking about the alligators. A pistol would be no use against a Cottonmouth. If you were close enough to pull out a pistol and shoot it, you're already bit. But fortunately, the venomous snakes had not been much of a problem so far.
A big stick could scare off an alligator. But if several of them were looking for breakfast down around Bayou Sauvage, I knew I would need more than a big stick.

My backpack probably weighed around 50 pounds and there was a stiff head wind from the northeast against me. Another mistake I made was walking much of the way, rather than cycling. The headwind made pedaling difficult. So most of the time, I put the heavy pack on the bike and walked beside it. That may have been my worst mistake of the trip. I had not factored that walking would take three times as long as cycling, even with a strong wind. By the time I realized my mistake, it was almost too late.

About a mile down Chef Highway from my office, I met a nice old guy who was very eager to talk. He hadn't talked to anyone. There was a foot of water in his home still several days after the flood. He and his cats lived alone. It was as if he hadn't seen another soul for days. He helped me quite a bit by letting me use an Allen Wrench to tighten my handlebars. My bars were loose and I'd suffered many crashes because of it. I gave him a bottle of apricot-flavored water in return. He was delighted.

He showed me a stable of horses near his home. He didn't know the owner. The owner had abandoned the horses apparently. The nice old guy was scrounging around, trying to find hay or other plants for the horses to eat. There were four horses and a Shetland Pony stabled. The hay from their stable had floated out across Chef Highway into the swamp.

No Gators - But Lots of Snakes -

Going down Chef Highway, I didn't see any gators this trip. But I saw dozens of the slender, fast-moving water snakes swimming around the road. I also saw some beautiful white-tail deer. Two of them, they jumped when they saw me and took off running through Bayou Sauvage.

Which is worse - Debris or Mud Part II

The mud was worse in the Textron industrial area. I didn't think it was possible, but it was worse. This area is only two miles across perhaps, but it took me two hours to cross because of the mud. It was awful.

I ran into young Mr. Nguyen again. He was cleaning up his plant. He told me he'd lost all his boats. The roof was torn off his plant. It was a total loss. At least 1.5 million dollars. But still, he was cheerful. A young, optimistic guy.

The mud exhausted me for this trip. It had taken me twice as long as the previous day to get that far. I started to worry about heat exhaustion. Then I ran into a boat captain. I forget his name. The heat was starting to fry my brain. But he and his wife gave me two 20 ounce bottles of cold water. It was wonderful.
His big shrimp boat was parked in the middle of Chef, about a block from young Mr. Nguyen's processing plant. He stayed there with his wife and his mother. He told me his mother had been thrown into a tree the night Katrina hit. He had to pull her down from the branches. She was med-evac'd by helicopter out of New Orleans.

Those two bottles of water got me through the Textron mud and through Venetian Isles. But the heat was starting to get to me on the eleven mile stretch of 190 through Lake Catherine.

Lake Catherine Revisited (Where is Trapper John?)

When I got to that half mile long pile of debris I'd been dreading all day, my body temperature was soaring. I was dizzy. I'd already stopped once on the roadside and slept briefly in a little spot of shade by the side of the road. Now, it was much worse. I had water, but not enough. And what I had was hot from the heat of the sun. It was about 2:30 in the afternoon. I don't know what the temperature was. It had to be in the high 90's.

I had to rest, so I went down to the shore, took off my shoes and put my feet in the water. Then the solution occurred to me. It was so obvious. I took off my shirt and pants and dove in the water. It was WONDERFUL!

The water at Lake Catherine was cool and clear. I wouldn't have minded staying there all night...or the rest of my life even. I didn't care about the dozens of nutria carcasses or the big dead alligator that littered the shoreline around me.

I didn't ever want to leave the water. I wanted to drink from it. But I didn't succumb to that temptation.

I knew eventually I had to leave. The sun would be setting. I thought I could get some more water from Trapper John and his wife. If necessary, I could spend the night with them. I really wanted to sleep right there by the shore. But I worried the tide that brought the debris to a rest on Highway 190 would bring me to rest atop that debris if I stayed all night.

That swim in the cool waters of Lake Catherine was enough to get me back to Trapper John's neighborhood, but he and his wife was gone. My hope of getting some more cold water was gone too.

Some rich people were getting in to view what remained of their homes. Not one offered me any water. One came up drinking a cold bottle of Budweiser and asked me a lot of questions about Highway 190 & Chef into New Orleans. Not once did he offer me a drink.

I thought of young Mr. Nguyen offering to brave alligators with me, of Trapper John and the old man scrounging around to feed someone else's horses. What was this rich punk with the Budweiser next to them?

I never asked for a drink. I kept going.
But the heat had started to make me delirious as I got over the debris pile and near the Rigolets bridge. But I made it to about a hundred yards from the bridge. Then I sat down on some debris and rested.

The authorities had opened the bridge on the Slidell side & removed the smaller pile of debris near the bridge on Lake Catherine. Cars could now drive in a short distance from Slidell to Lake Catherine.I was almost in Slidell. I had 7.4 miles to go by bicycle and I had one 12 ounce bottle of hot water remaining in my backpack.

A older woman was surveying the damage of her home and I was reeling again from the heat. I pulled out a jade bracelet I'd gotten in Vietnam this year from my backpack. I walked up to her and said, "M'aam, I'll trade you this jade bracelet for a bottle of cold water,"

She was very nice and gave me a cold water and a cold banana.

She said, "Here. Eat this. It will give you some potassium,"

The banana was fantastic. I hadn't eaten all day. I never knew what great food a single banana could be. But I've been eating a lot of them since then.

Then I had a stroke of luck. Someone I knew had driven across the Rigolets bridge. I walked up and started talking to him. He gave me some more water and offered to drive me back to my truck. He was going that direction anyway.

He told me, "You don't look too good."

Maybe not. But I got a Hell of a nice tan.

The mission was a success. I got the necessary stuff out of my office. I have my client files on my computer. I was breaking martial law to even attempt the journey. But during my entire trip, I saw ZERO Orleans Parish cops. I saw a few national guard personnel in Orleans. That's all.

Across the bridge in Slidell, the place was crawling with law enforcement. It's a nice town. Very safe. And the power, cell phone & internet just came on last night, September 5th.

I was thinking about opening an office in Houston this month anyway. But now, I'll be driving to Houston as yet another Louisiana refugee. I may make a side trip up to Colorado. I need a vacation.

Closing Thoughts on Katrina

Now in New Orleans metro area & Gulf Coast Mississippi, there are probably over 1 million unemployed. My ex-wife #2 is an Medical Doctor. She's unemployed now too. Her office is flooded. Her paying patients are unemployed. I'm unemployed. We're all unemployed, except for the Military, the police and Wal-Mart employees.
Wal-Mart in Slidell opened up around September 3rd and Sam's Club next to it opened up too. Sam's Club has allowed non-members to shop there. They have ice. They sell gas but the lines are incredibly long. And they give every customer a free bag of bananas.

They're full of potassium, you know.

1The Rigolets are strips of marshland that separate Lake Catherine from the Gulf of Mexico.

About The Author

Marc Ellis is an immigration attorney in New Orleans. He is a frequent chat moderator for ILW.COM and also an advisory board member for Immigrants Weekly. In France, he is known as the composer of "The Fantomas Waltz". Mr. Ellis served two tours during the Vietnam War with the US Army, 1971-73. He can be reached at

The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinion of ILW.COM.