I was born into a household of chaos and disharmony. By the time I made my appearance, my sister was already 13 years old and my brother a month shy of 17. Our mother suffered from a collection of maladies that prevented her from really being a parent and our father was a tired workaholic who did his best to hold it all together when he was not at odds with my mother’s family over everything from politics to my mother’s illness. My father’s mother was beset by demons that drove her mad and she did her very best to lavishly share what tortured her with the rest of us. She and my mother also despised one another.
Hence, when I was a child, I thrilled to the threat of a hurricane.
My tired, workaholic father was also a perfectionist, and he built our Old Metairie home to withstand anything man or Mother Nature could conjure up. There were iron I-beams running generously through the through the structure, the walls of which were made of skim-coated concrete cinderblocks.
That sucker wasn’t going anywhere.
So, when a hurricane came calling the disparate warring parties that made up my “family” gathered at the overkill of a home my father built and found commonality in the threat of the storm, the only thing powerful enough to drive them to rise above their ever-present discontent.
I remember one storm in particular, (I forget the name) when I sat up all night watching my Aunt Eleonore, my mother’s sister, embroider a small, brilliantly colored tapestry featuring both a lion and a tiger in a circus scene. I was simply amazed by the flawlessness of her handiwork. Though her work was intended for her infant grandson she gifted it to me.
It remains a treasured possession.
Other than being a happy memory in a sea of few, the last recollection was insignificant to my point, which is the healing power of a hurricane. Yes, they are terrifying and destructive and last week some of us lost and suffered more than others but for once in a long, long while in a time when loved ones and neighbors have been pitted against one another due to a host of polarizing issues we were forced onto the same dammed page.
For those of us who rode it out we did so with close tabs on and unity with our neighbors. We boarded each other’s windows as the winds kicked up, then cleaned our streets and patched one another’s houses, passing borrowed tools hand to hand as we did so—no politics, no religion, no COVID-19.
With the prediction that the power would remain out for as long as a month, some neighbors left but they remained ever-present, checking in with those of us who stayed and took turns providing the goods for the evening meals we shared around one another’s barbecue grills to the sound of roaring generators.
People stopped to help strangers on the street and most waited patiently in line for gas and groceries.
According to Mayor Latoya Cantrell, Ida whacked New Orleans with winds that clocked in just four miles per hour below those of a Category 5. I would also like to lift a figurative glass to our mayor. Despite the very brief window of time the storm allotted her, she had relief stations, work crews, and all manner of assistance poised to engage as soon as the winds died down. Going in, she was calm and reassuring. Coming out she attacked her mission with passion and purpose and continues to do so.
As the power comes back on and our fears subside my hope is that we can continue to share community while enjoying the leadership we experienced through Hurricane Ida.
Should you really be feeling the love for your neighbor consider dinner out together. Excellent and jewel-like, Palm&Pine will be open this Saturday and Sunday for a shortened dinner service. The crew will be serving a limited dinner menu starting at 4 p.m. and closing whenever city curfew determines. They are planning on normal hours next week following the return of most of their employees.
Lastly, due to the increase in generator incidents in Orleans Parish, the New Orleans Health Department is giving away free carbon monoxide detectors at all eight cooling stations and the Central City Senior Center. This limited supply will be available daily from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Generators are helpful to charge phones and run fans, but they are also very dangerous. Improper generator use can lead to carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning, injuries, and even death. Carbon monoxide gas is a colorless, odorless gas that can go undetected, and when people who are sleeping or drunk, they can die from carbon monoxide poisoning before they have symptoms. Carbon monoxide detectors and generators go well together.
Anyone interested in picking up one of these devices can to the following locations between the hours of 8 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Treme Rec Center (900 N Villere St)
Cut Off Rec Center (6600 Belgrade St)
Gernon Brown Rec Center (1001 Harrison Ave)
Milne Rec Center (5420 Franklin Ave)
Stallings St. Claude Rec Center (4300 St Claude)
John P Lyons Rec Center (624 Louisiana Ave)
Joe W Brown Rec Center (5601 Read Blvd)
Rosenwald Rec Center (1120 S Broad Ave)
Central City Senior Center (2101 Phillip St.)
The most common symptoms of CO poisoning are:
- upset stomach,
- chest pain,
- “Flu-like “symptoms
If you are experiencing these symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning, please dial 9-1-1.
That’s it from me. Continue to build unity. Y’all play nice.