Category Archives: katrina

Growing up With Hurricanes

Barataria Preserve

 

“Are you planning on writing anything about Katrina?” My friend Missy posed the question to me during one of our quasi-regular coffee dates two weeks ago. The 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina is coming up on August 29, and my social media timelines are saturated with links to articles from both local and national news outlets.

I have mixed emotions about “K10”. I acknowledge the importance of commemorating the struggle, the lives lost, the frustrations felt (no matter if you stayed in town or high tailed it out of here), but I find rehashing the experience on a yearly basis exhausting.

I’ve shared snippets of my Katrina story with everyone from friends to total strangers, but I’m not ready to write my entire experience down yet. Instead, I’ll share an excerpt from Allons, a longer essay I wrote this summer. The piece is about growing up in a house that was situated on the cusp of the swamp in an otherwise nondescript WestBank subdivision. This particular part of the essay explores what it was like going through adolescence with the constant threat of hurricanes. If you enjoy it, or even if you hate it, please leave your thoughts in the comments. Thanks for reading.

 

 

I was eight weeks old when I took my first pirogue ride. The levee was just a glorified dirt mound then, and a storm brought enough rain to flood our house, requiring my parents to bundle me up and float us out. The levee was still inadequate when my brother was born two years later. Whenever Nash Roberts would announce a hurricane was coming, neighbors would join together to fortify the levee with hundreds of sandbags, most likely purchased with their own money. The Army Corps of Engineers finally built the levee up and installed a pumping station that would suck the water out of the streets. However, the levees could only do so much. Whenever Nash predicted a really big hurricane was projected to make landfall, we got the hell out of town. If Nash said it was bad, then it must be bad. Everyone trusted Nash.

My sister was born seven years after my inaugural boat ride and by then me and my brother were evacuation pros. We could each take three toys with us, but no more. Mom would bring photo albums and important documents, such as our birth certificates, to my maternal grandparent’s house, since their house never flooded. Dad would board up the windows with sheets of plywood, which protected the glass panes and blocked light from coming in. We put all of our furniture up on wooden blocks, as if those extra two inches would make a big difference if significant flooding occurred. Anything that could get ruined would go on top of beds, dressers, and closet shelves. I would put my most prized possessions at the highest points, which forced me to assign value to everything I owned. Sometimes I thought about the worst case scenario, imagining our house filled to the roof like an aquarium. I imagined Sac-au-Lait and Redfish doing circles around the wooden dollhouse my paternal paw paw built me. I never worried about my own well being, but worried about my precious belongings, like what would happen to my microscope or my roller skates. Mom and Dad took care of the bigger things that my adolescent mind couldn’t quite comprehend, such as personal safety in the midst of a natural disaster. We also stocked up on canned goods and filled the bathtubs with water just in case water sources became contaminated after the storm. We never needed the water, but once every few years we would have to live without power for a few days and subsist on canned beans and PB&J sandwiches.

Post Katrina Musings- I never plan on doing these.

   
This isn’t a Katrina story per se, but it does represent a time of uncertainty in my life in the months immediately after the storm. I didn’t intend to post a Katrina memorial; I wrote this piece as a writing exercise for class based on Kathleen Hill’s work Forgiveness. (We had to start with “It happened.”) I thought it would be quasi appropriate to share. Love it or hate it, let me know what you think in the comments below.
Blind Dates in the Desert
       It happened inside the Starbucks on Scottsdale Road. I sat down with last month’s National Geographic and a coffee that cost as much as my used Honda. I was new to town, a New Orleans gal that felt about as comfortable in the desert as an alligator. My husband and I moved to the Phoenix suburb a few weeks after we evacuated for Hurricane Katrina.

     We decided to start somewhere new instead of taking a chance on my water logged hometown. Prior to the move, we had only spent time in Flagstaff, Arizona, Scottsdale’s patchouli laden, hiking boot wearing Northern cousin. Snottsdale, as the locals called it, wore stiletto heels and Chanel No. 5. Her boyfriend drove a Hummer and wore sunglasses at night.
     As I sipped on my caramel mocha latte, the couple sitting across from us piqued my curiosity. They were clearly on a blind date, and judging by the reverse magnetism of their body language, sparks weren’t flying.
     “So,” he asked her, readjusting his glasses to the bridge of his nose. “Do you have a carport or a garage?”
     “I have a garage.” she said, uncrossing her arms just long enough to push her long blonde mane out of her face.
     “Oh, that’s really nice.” he replied, even more unsure of himself than before. They sat in awkward silence, anxiously waiting for a connection. Something. Anything.
     “You?” She asked.
     “I have a carport.”
     “Oh, I used to have a carport, but now I have a garage. I like them both!” she feigned a modicum of excitement, the conversational equivalent of shoving your feet into a pair of shoes that are two sizes too small.
     I leaned over to my husband, who was wrapped up in Nietzsche. “This is so painfully awkward. Are you listening to this?”
     “Trying to.” he admitted.
     “They must be on a blind date.”
     “They’re so boring.”
     “So what does that make us?”
     “Judgmental and petty, because we have nothing better to do.”
     “Well, yeah, that’s true.” I said, looking out the window at the dusty red mountains that loomed in the distance.
     “I can guarantee that neither of them are getting laid tonight, at least not by each other.”
     “Yea, that’s for sure.”
     “What’s wrong with us, judging people like that?
     “Eh, it’s entertaining.” he said, and we both went back to reading.

Twitter: slowsouthstyle Facebook: Slow Southern Style

5 years ago

‎5 years ago today, on my husband’s birthday, we left New Orleans, our home, and our outside cats to face a very uncertain future. This year we (literally) got back everything we left and plus some. From here on out nothing can take away what we have earned.


Me & Runty, one of the cats, on our porch. God I'm going to miss that house.

The title from my ancient Photobucket account reads “Me & Runty, one of the cats, on our porch. God I’m going to miss that house.”  Funny how life works itself out. On a fashion side note that denim mini skirt was very on trend in 2005. 🙂

I’m not going to recap our plight, the sadness that I felt and still feel at times, and the hardships that everyone has endured as a result of Hurricane Katrina. Instead I’m going to revel in how far the city has come, how exciting it is to be a part of the New Orleans revival, and how content I feel to have my little piece of the city that I love so dearly. 
New Orleans, I love you.



Twitter: slowsouthstyle Facebook: Slow Southern Style

How’s your home life?

I’ve  been really busy with some exciting projects, both related and unrelated to Slow Southern Style.  That said the heat has been ridiculous and all I want to do is drink lemonade, play with my food dehydrator and read. I’ve been working on potty training with Nadia, the newest addition to the family
I realized I’ve never shared pictures of my house, mainly because interior design is not my forte. However my sister keeps telling me to share the story of how we bought our house with a home improvement show.  While money for a makeover would be nice I have yet to heed her advice.  The story is a good one so it’s about time I shared it here. 
However first item on the agenda is pictures. 
My fabulous Mardi Gras hat collection is too good not to leave out year ’round. This is the mantle in the office aka my closet. Two of the hats are my husband’s and the rest are mine.

I managed to nab a mannequin from a shop that was getting rid of theirs. Basically this is an adult Barbie doll and I fully plan on giving her a new outfit every week. She’s currently sporting this year’s Halloween costume. Now y’all see why I have to hit the gym every week?  
Archway in the upstairs hallway, there is another just like this in the living room downstairs.

Wish I could get a better picture of the stairwell and the stained glass window. The stairs are probably my favorite feature, aside from the stained glass and exposed brick. 
Hannah Stouffer blik wall decal above the sofa. This wasn’t exactly easy to put up. I hate the wall color but this is such a large room painting it is overwhelming. The snakes give the beige an edge, at least that’s what I tell myself.
Reading nook with our rocking chair that is over 100 years old. I just bought the antlers at an antique shop. We keep threatening to turn Nadia into a reindeer with them. 
Mantle in the living room. The waterfall is Havasupai, where we got married. The rest is an homage to the Grand Canyon and more snake paraphernalia. 
Am I the only girl who gets excited about vintage prints of anacondas killing other animals? Probably so. 
 The Anthony Turducken paint can art was purchased at DuMois gallery. Yes, that is a termite. Back in late April we discovered we have a termite problem. Awesome. We’re actually evicting our little house guests within the next two weeks and plan on writing RIP and the date on the back of this piece. 
Still with me? Good. 
In 2001 when Thomas decided to move to New Orleans he rented the house we are in now. Eventually we met, got engaged, shacked up for a year, then got married. We celebrated our first wedding anniversary with this house, then a week later Katrina hit. We evacuated and reluctantly left the house he lived in for 5 years and some feral cats. More on them in a minute. 
We lived in Scottsdale, AZ for 3.5 years. It was rough being away for so long but our careers really took off and moving is annoying and expensive. Finally we had it with the cultural wasteland that is the Phoenix metro area (sorry) and decided to make the move back home.  
Long story short we were back in New Orleans a little over a year. One day we were driving past the house, saw the for sale sign, and the rest is history. Now when we first lived here the house was in some disrepair and needed serious updating. The previous owner (who purchased it from our old landlord) did some major renovations so all we had to do was move in and enjoy. 
What makes this story even more special? Two words:
Runty
and
Tigre
A momma cat had 6 kittens on the front porch of the house 9 years ago. One of  Thomas’ roommates and I had all the cats spayed/neutered and fed them. All of them slowly disappeared except Runty and Tigre remained for years. We tried evacuating with them but they were too feral and we feared they’d hurt themselves from the stress. Even after Katrina brought water right up to the porch these cats still stuck around. Now they are inseparable from us and hang out on the back porch, waiting for us to feed and pet them. Oh yea and they remember their names after us being gone for over 4 years.
So if any TV execs want a New Orleans home improvement story, it doesn’t get much better than that. 

Twitter: slowsouthstyle Facebook: Slow Southern Style