By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
Laissez les bon temps rouler: Talk radio last week was all over testimony from the Government Accountability Office that emergency aid given to victims of Hurricane Katrina was used in at least one instance to buy goodies from the Condoms to Go store on LBJ Freeway, among several local purchases that the GAO calls fraud. Yeah, well, leave it to those radio cynical conservatives to look on the dark side. Maybe, just maybe, the purchases tell a happier story of love, romance and the redemption of a fallen woman leading to the sort of long-term monogamous relationship so beloved by the Right.
Sara Lee Goff, owner of Condoms to Go, says the purchases at her store were made using a debit card issued by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. It looked like a regular debit card, so her employees didn't know it was intended for hurricane relief. Even if they had known, she says, they wouldn't have turned down the sale. Hey, the money was meant for "emergency relief," which is right in Condom to Go's wheelhouse. The manager of the LBJ store says the card was used to buy a harness and some "toys" (price, $150).
The plot thickens. Turns out, according to the GAO, that emergency debit cards were also used to pay for a tattoo at Cat Tattoo in Addison (price, $450), booze at Tiger Beer and Wine in Dallas (price, $200) and for unspecified services at the Swedish Institute, a local massage parlor (price, $400).
Drunk, screwed and tattooed. You can take the evacuee out of New Orleans but...
But wait, the GAO report also notes that one of the debit cards was used to purchase a diamond engagement ring in Plano (price, $1,100). Now, the GAO doesn't say whether one card or several were used for all these purchases, but Buzz is a romantic sort, so we like to think it was just one guy, a lonely evacuee out for a night on the town to relieve the stress of his displacement. He hits the Swedish Institute. His eyes meet the masseuse's. An angelic choir sings. It's love at first, um, sight. They head off to commemorate their romance in permanent ink at the tattoo parlor. Quick stops for a rock and bottle of bubbly, another for a few aids for the honeymoon, et voilà...
Total for a night on the town, $2,300. True love, or a reasonable facsimile thereof...priceless.