I keep saying I can’t possibly take another thing: COVID, my father’s illness and continuing decline, two car accidents in as many months, seeing my rape translated into 15 languages and on the front page of the New York Times. And yet shit keeps happening: my mother’s sudden death, a ruptured ovarian cyst landing me in the ER, a Category 4 hurricane.
What can you do, honestly, except grin and bear it?
Well, maybe not grin. But bearing it is essentially the only option … with of course a healthy pour of bourbon as a chaser.
And of course it could be worse. In fact, now, with almost two weeks of distance from our post-Ida evacuation, it’s almost funny.
We initially went to my in-laws in Metairie because they had a generator and solid hurricane shutters, but once we learned power would be out “indefinitely,” we decided to get out of town, leaving around 5 p.m. on the Tuesday after the storm with four people and a carsick dog crammed into a Corolla.
As we drove up I-59 bound for a lovely and generous friend’s home in Columbia, Tennessee, we realized we’d have to stop for the night, and I thought I’d successfully booked two pet-friendly rooms at a good rate … only to realize moments later that, due to overwhelming stress and my sketchy internet connection on my phone, I’d booked rooms for two weeks out. (They kindly refunded my money.)
After my disastrous hotel booking attempt, my husband decided I should not be in charge of such things, and we pulled off the road in Meridian, Mississippi, to try our luck. And lo and behold! After a few strikeouts, we found two rooms at a chain motel. Hooray!
However, the first room was full of liquor bottles and fast food wrappers with a tangle of dirty sheets and towels on the floor, and the second room was off of a courtyard where people were blasting loud music and screaming obscenities. After we watched a one-legged man try to break into the room next to ours; had another guy curse at our dog, as though a half-blind golden retriever mix isn’t the least threatening baby on the planet; and heard a fight break out at the pool, we left without unpacking a single bag.
Finally, at midnight, we pulled into a motel in Tuscaloosa and just crashed, not even caring what we paid or how clean the rooms were.
It was depressing to realize that ultimately, in the course of a few hours, we booked six hotel rooms, paid for four, and actually used two – but that’s how it goes in an evacuation.
Once we got to Tennessee, we tried to make the best of it, even though it was like no one there had ever even heard of COVID. But no matter how much we knew we should be grateful, no matter how good we knew we had it, we still weren’t happy, exactly. And we felt guilty about it.
But my friend Fritz likes to share the advice he got from a Red Cross worker after Katrina: “If you can still be happy when other people have it better than you, you can still be sad when other people have it worse than you.”
So if I can be happy with a simple pleasure like a perfect iced coffee on a sunny day while somewhere a billionaire is sipping cognac and playing cornhole with leatherback turtle heads while his servants lay out ivory flatware on a table made out of California redwood, then I guess we were allowed to be cranky at our set of circumstances, as pleasant as they were.
Now, though, we are back and dealing with school closures, insurance hassles, and grocery store shortages … but we are happy.
We don’t belong anywhere else. We don’t feel at home anywhere else.
New Orleans isn’t perfect – God knows it isn’t even close! – but it’s the only perfect place for us.
Welcome back, y’all!