Saturday, September 26, 2009

Hurricane Katrina: Being Back in New Orleans


Being back in New Orleans, my home city, is incredibly wonderful. These are some of the things I'm enjoying about life in New Orleans.

A PLACE WHERE YOU LIVE: This may sound odd, but I had an interesting impression the first time I returned to New Orleans after moving to North Carolina. I left New Orleans at the end of April 2006, and I drove back in October 2008 for my high school reunion. As I drove into Mississippi, I began to feel more and more at home, largely because the land is flat and there are lots of pine trees, which are familiar to me as a plentiful type of tree in Louisiana and Mississippi, north of New Orleans. Then, when I drove into New Orleans itself, I had an overwhelming sense of familiarity. Everything was familiar--the architecture, the streets, the vegetation, the speech patterns, the people. And this was my thought: New Orleans is a place where you live. North Carolina is a place where you go. I'm trying to live in a place where you go. This is completely subjective, of course, and I imagine that North Carolinians would have the reverse impression. Nonetheless, I feel very blessed now to be in what, for me, is a place where you live!

MY APARTMENT: I have a great apartment on the second floor of a two-story double, with a living room, kitchen, bathroom, and bedroom. The bedroom and living room are quite spacious. I have two beds in my bedroom and I bought several room dividers so that I can accommodate a house guest by sharing the bedroom and yet give us each some privacy. The living room is large enough for nice parties. I have off-street parking and many windows that let in lots of light. A friend of our family, Rae, lives across the street.

I'm just a block from the Mississippi River, and I can look out my windows and see the Mississippi River bridge, boats sailing past, and bikers riding on the levee. Besides the river, I'm also right near a set of train tracks and the streetcar line. I can hear boat horns, train whistles, and streetcar jangles.

BIKE TRAIL: The Mississippi River levee is just a block from my house, and it has a paved bike trail atop it. This makes a wonderful bike ride of an evening. I like to ride as far as the Huey P. Long Bridge and back--about forty-five to fifty minutes. It's also nice to ride to River Shack Tavern in Jefferson LA--Monday evenings are the red beans & rice special with live blues music by Amanda Walker.

The paved portion of the levee trail is quite long, extending from Audubon Park, through Orleans Parish, Jefferson Parish, and into St. Charles Parish as far as Destrehan LA. Beyond Destrehan, the bike trail continues but is no longer paved. It shouldn't be hard to ride on, though, as it is well-packed dirt. I rode as far as Destrehan and back on Labor Day--it took me four and a half hours.

BIKING: It's wonderful to be back in a place where I can ride my bike. I can bike to work and to many other places. I can go for a week or more without needing to use my car, especially in summer when we have daylight well into the evening. In North Carolina, beautiful as it was, I had to use my car to get anywhere. This was a concern because if I ever had car trouble I wouldn't be able to get to work. (Actually, this never did happen.) Here in New Orleans, I'm so close to work that I can walk if I need or want to.

FRIENDS: I have my family and long-time friends in New Orleans. My brother Danny is in New Orleans, and the families of my two married sisters are a forty-five-minute drive across Lake Pontchartrain in Mandeville LA. I sometimes drive over for family dinner at my sister Janet's on Thursdays.

The Party Pals are a group of friends who like to have each other over for parties. These include Barbara & Dick, Ellen & Paul, Toni & Ken, and me. We are the core members. Other people sometimes attend our parties, too. These are some parties we've had.

  • Black & White Party. Everyone wore all black, all white, or a combination of black and white, and I served black and white foods--black beans and white rice, black olives and white cauliflower, pumpernickel bread and white bread, blackberries and vanilla ice cream.
  • Paul Revere's Midnight Ride Party. I showed the scene of Paul Revere's midnight ride from the film Johnny Tremain, we read Longfellow's poem "Paul Revere's Ride," I displayed pictures of Paul Revere's silversmith work, and we discussed the concept of connectors from Malcolm Gladwell's The Tipping Point, since Malcolm Gladwell uses Paul Revere as an example of a connector.
  • Santa Lucia Breakfast. This is a Swedish custom. I served coffee, coffee cake, and spinach-cheese-egg casserole, I told the story of Saint Lucy, and we all sang the Santa Lucia song.
  • New Year Party. I've had several of these shortly after the New Year, but I especially remember one that featured the singing of "Good King Wenceslas" as an eight-part round. (If you have enough people, you can sing it as a sixteen-part round--I've been in a group where this was done.)
  • Saint Nicholas Party. We had an appearance by Saint Nicholas himself in the person of my friend David.
  • Name Bugs. This party featured drawing name bugs. You fold a piece of paper in half lengthwise, open it and write your name along the crease, fold the paper and rub so that you get a mirror image of your name on the other side of the crease, open the paper and use the double version of your name as a base to draw an interesting bug.
  • Snowflakes. This party featured making paper snowflakes.
  • Story Circle. Each person told a story from his or her life.
  • Talent Show. Each person shared a talent, very broadly defined.

My class from the Academy of the Sacred Heart has been meeting for monthly lunches ever since our fortieth class reunion in October 2008. The Academy of the Sacred Heart is a Catholic girls' school in New Orleans that goes from Pre-Kindergarten through Twelfth Grade, so many of us in my class were together for fourteen years. Our classmate Ninette has been wonderful in organizing these lunches.

EATING: I'm in walking or biking distance of great eating places! These are just a few.

  • La Madeleine Country French Cafe--wonderful French onion soup
  • Bangkok Thai Restaurant
  • Pupuseria La Macarena
  • Franky & Johnny's--neighborhood seafood restaurant
  • Oak Street Cafe--boudin fresh from Opelousas LA
  • Rue de la Course coffeehouse
  • Cafe Luna
  • Casamento's Restaurant--oysters beyond compare
  • Bee Sweet Cupcakes
  • Blue Frog Chocolates

LOYOLA UNIVERSITY NEW ORLEANS: It's wonderful to be back at Loyola. I'm enjoying teaching the international students and reconnecting with colleagues old and new. I also like the spirituality at Loyola. The Jesuit priests are far removed from the oppressive version of Catholicism that I grew up with. I feel very much at home at Loyola. It's right in my neighborhood, and Audubon Park is just across the street.

PRYTANIA MOVIE THEATER: The one-screen neighborhood Prytania Movie Theater is close by. The Prytania is doing a classic movies series several days a week. The eighty-eight-year-old father of the Prytania's owner, Mr. Rene Brunet, introduces the classic movie of the day and stays around to chat over coffee and cookies in the lobby afterwards. Some of the classic movies recently shown or to be shown include The Sound of Music, Singin' in the Rain, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, Vertigo, The King and I, To Kill a Mockingbird.

CULTURAL HOME: It's extremely nice to be in a place where I know the history and understand the cultural references.

2 comments:

  1. I love the richness of what you describe. Indeed, this New Orleans is a place where you live. It makes me want to experience more of it.

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