Feb 12, 201012:00 AM
Joie d'Eve

Living, loving, laughing, and learning in the new New Orleans

A Tale of Two Toasts

My friend Nick catches a few minutes of rest in my dad's moldy living room in early October 2005.

It was dawn on Oct. 5, 2005. My husband, Jamie, and our friend Nick and I had been driving since 6 p.m. the night before. Knowing that my ’88 Chevy Nova didn’t have a chance of making it from Columbia, Mo., to New Orleans, I’d bribed Nick, the proud owner of a new Honda Civic, with a six-pack of beer and the promise that he could be the godfather of my firstborn child. We’d been taking turns driving and trying to sleep in the backseat. We’d stopped for gas and coffee and not much else. We were finally here.

As we drove over the 17th Street Canal into the city, Jamie remarked, “Jesus. It’s like The Wizard of Oz in reverse. The color just went out of the landscape.”

When we got to my dad’s house in Mid-City, he started the generator and made us some more coffee. Running only on caffeine and adrenaline, we immediately got to work, pulling up mildewed carpet, spraying walls with bleach, rinsing Katrina scum off of my dad’s album collection, lugging furniture and appliances to the neutral ground.

Around noon, we wandered a few doors down, where some neighbors had made jambalaya that they were insistent we share. My dad brought a few bottles of warm white wine he had lying around, and someone located a corkscrew. We had no clean glasses, though, and no clean water to wash them in. Luckily, Nick’s a former Boy Scout from New York City, which means he’s equipped to handle almost any situation in the world. And so he took a half-dozen empty Dasani bottles, cut them in half with the X-Acto knife he’d been using to cut sheetrock and passed them around. With the cap screwed on, the top half of a Dasani bottle was a fully functional wine glass, and we all raised our makeshift glasses and toasted the city of New Orleans. “We will rebuild better!” my neighbor screamed at the top of his lungs, and we all hugged and cheered and cried.

I couldn’t imagine being anywhere else.

***

It was 7:30 p.m. on Feb. 5, 2010. I opened my e-mail to find the following from Ben, one of my oldest and dearest friends, a true-blue Saints fan who now lives in Washington, D.C.: “Our flight on Saturday was canceled due to Snowmageddon. For about two hours, we had a 5:25 p.m. Friday flight; then it was canceled, too. And no remaining flights out of BWI, IAD or DCA were available until Sunday. Rental car companies allow one-way rentals, but not from D.C. to New Orleans. We then purchased tickets on Amtrak. Amtrak canceled all southbound trains out of Washington, D.C., today –– all trains but those destined for Miami and New Orleans. At 6:30 p.m., we departed from D.C. Union Station on Train No. 19, the Crescent, and into the blizzard we go. Twenty-five hours or so from now we are scheduled for arrival in New Orleans. Depending on our condition, we will be heading to Café Prytania at 11 p.m. Saturday for a pre-Super Bowl party with the Soul Rebels Brass Band. If you're in town, we hope to see you there. WHO DAT?!?”

On Sunday, Jamie and I made jambalaya that we were insistent people come over to share. And after the Saints won the Super Bowl (I still laugh every time I say that), we popped the cork on a bottle of Veuve Clicquot, took our best champagne glasses and toasted the city of New Orleans. My daughter –– and, because I keep my promises, Nick’s goddaughter –– screamed, “Who Dat!” at the top of her 3-year-old lungs, and we all hugged and cheered and cried.

I couldn’t imagine being anywhere else.

***

Whether it’s driving through the night in someone else’s car or braving a blizzard on Amtrak, New Orleanians who feel the pull to get back –– for happy reasons or sad ones –– will find a way to get here.

And even though I wanted to help my dad with his house and Ben wanted to watch the game, our reasons for having to be here weren’t about home repairs or football. We wanted –– needed –– to be here because we wanted and needed to be around people who understood –– people who get that no matter what happens, we will make jambalaya and share it with our friends and toast the city and scream and hug and cheer and cry –– and not ever want to be anywhere else.

 

Reader Comments:
Feb 14, 2010 05:08 pm
 Posted by  SherryParfait

Thank you for this write-up, Eve. It's encouraging to hear someone else feeling the same sentiments that I am. I've wanted to move back to New Orleans since Katrina, but being that I had no family there, I just felt that I would only be in the way.

I visited New Orleans on my birthday last fall, and that was when the desire to return really kit me in the face. Part of the desire stemmed from the fact that my best friend from UNO just moved back there to attend grad school. But I just plain miss the city -- everything I loved about it growing up. I look forward to moving back...and hopefully that will be in time for my next birthday. I hope we can chat over drinks some day.

Take care!

Sherry Parfait

Feb 22, 2010 12:39 pm
 Posted by  pmrichard

Eve, you just know how to put things SO perfectly!! You always make me cry (happy, sentimental tears)!!

Like you, I just couldn't imagine being anywhere else! Thank you so much for being here and sharing your wit and wisdom with us!

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Joie d'Eve

Living, loving, laughing, and learning in the new New Orleans

about

Eve is further proof, if any is needed, that New Orleans girls can never escape the city. After living here since the age of 3 and graduating from Ben Franklin High School, Eve moved to Columbia, Mo., where she received bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the Missouri School of Journalism and became truly, unhealthily obsessed with grammar.

She had originally intended to strike out to New York City and work in the cutthroat magazine industry there, but after Katrina, Eve felt a strong pull to return home, to her roots, her family, her waterlogged and struggling city – and a much more forgiving work atmosphere that would allow her to skip a routine of everyday makeup and size 0 designer label business suits and enjoy the occasional cocktail or three with an absurdly fattening lunch. She moved back home in January 2008 and lives in Mid-City with her two daughters, Ruby and Georgia; her stepson, Elliot; and her husband, Robert Peyton.

Eve blogs about the joys and struggles of living in post-Katrina New Orleans, the unique problems and delights of raising a child in such a diverse and challenging city – including her experiences with the public education system – and her always entertaining and extremely colorful family.

Eve has won numerous writing awards, including the Pirates Alley Faulkner Society Gold Medal, the Society of Professional Journalists Mark of Excellence award for column-writing and Press Club of New Orleans awards for her Editor’s Note in New Orleans Homes & Lifestyles and for this blog, most recently winning the award for "Best Feature Affiliated Blog."

She welcomes comments, advice, empty flattery, recipes, drink invitations and – most especially – grammatical or linguistic debates.

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