Monday, August 27, 2007

A P.S.

http://blog.nola.com/updates/2007/08/neighborhood_touchstones_lost.html

I wish I'd seen this article before blogging. That's what I get for putting pleasure before responsibility.

Everyone has always had a list of "I miss..." in this city. It's part of our charm. Mark has found it annoying, asking why we can't let go of things. We can't. I guess that's the best reason as to why we're here, all of us returnees. From my childhood, but before Katrina, I miss K&B. Rite Aid is CRAP. And, most importantly, they don't have a color to call their own or the best damned ice cream you've ever tasted.

I miss McKenzie's. Thank God Tastee has picked up the recipe they had for king cakes. I just wish they'd bring back the cheesecake, the yellow cake with chocolate icing, the petit fours, and those awesome cookies that only came out at holidays...the large orange and black stripes...the Christmas trees....oh, what I wouldn't give for those. And Thanksgiving isn't the same without "pocket books," the Parker House rolls. Brown-n-serves are just nasty.

And D.H. Holmes and Dino's frozen yogurt and Maison Blanche and Fitzgerald's....it's just a bygone era.

But those have been gone for a while. Sure, every Mardi Gras, we mention McKenzie's, and while I've cultivated a taste for Blue Bell, I miss K&B. I remember that time when I was a senior, proudly sporting my purple senior sweater and my school uniform, and having a lady tap my shoulder and ask me where something was, thinking that I worked there.

We even lost local characters, from Nash Roberts and his grease pencils (take that, Super Dopplers!) to Buddy D, a man Mark was lucky enough to get to know before his death.

But nothing tops what we've lost. Some of it has come back, and soemtimes it's different. But it's not quite the same. I miss walking into Bayou Bagelry and having them start my order for me before I got to the counter.

I miss the funky handwritten and misspelled signs with "clever" sayings on them in Charlie's Deli on Harrison Ave. Touché Café is nice and all, but I miss the old seediness of my favorite neighborhood po-boy place. I mean, "What goes slap thud, slap thud, slap thud? My mama's hand upside your head if you throw away our trays!" and the playing card order claimers are nowhere else in this city.

Bubby's has a decent snowball, but it's no Phil's Firehouse, also known as Fireman Phil's. When I told people I lived across the street from it, they knew right where my house was. My friend Jeff lived in New Orleans East, and HE knew where it was. What about that day we had a bunch of my coworkers over for a party, and Kevin and Keith and Alex showed up with extra large stuffed "ice cream" snowballs with condensed milk on top? While Bubby's carries that, and has updated and improved upon the facility, I have a harder time describing where my former house was. I just say "Fleur de Lis in Lakeview, a block from Harrison Ave" now.

Oddly enough, we have an iPod on random, and it's playing "The Saints Are Coming" by Green Day and U2. Eerie.

I hate driving past Plantation Coffee House every now and then. It's so sad and decrepit looking. I remember the last time I ate there, when mark had a tire changed at the tire place across the street. We ate lunch there after we picked up his car. It was such a lovely afternoon.

Thankfully, amongst the places that have returned are my father's service station in Lakeview and Tony Angelo's, also across the street from where I lived. My parents ate there recently, and they said it was as good as ever. But Dino's pizza, down the block, is gone. I found a flier that we'd grabbed when evacuating (we took all of our mail to pay bills) and was sad that I didn't get to redeem that coupon.

Most of the places, if not all, that I have listed are food-related. In fact, the grocery store next to my dad is gone. I often think to myself that I'll stop there while getting gas, and then remember that I actually have to go far away. But this city, allegedly built on jazz, was built on food. It is a symbol of family and friendship, two things we cherish deeply here. You gather over a meal for births, weddings, funerals...and every occasion in between. You bond over food. You talk about food. You worship food. At St. Patrick's Day parades, you catch cabbage and potatoes and carrots, and at St. Joseph's Day, you make an altar of food...tons of food...at Mardi Gras, you gorge yourself silly before you abstain during Lent. You eat a turducken at Thanksgiving, go to a crawfish boil at Easter, and barbecue year-round. In the case of my parents, you even barbecue during a tropical storm. Hey...we had to eat! At a wake, you celebrate with food and wine, and there's always a trip to the Roman Candy cart when you go to the Zoo.

Houses of friends we knew and neighbors we knew are gone. Aunts and uncles, best friends and casual friends...many of us never could go home again.

But we're making new homes, by purchasing some, by rebuilding some, by renovating some. But it will never be the same. All of those things you bought when you got married, all of those gifts from long-dead relatives, the memories of childhood and teen years and college years and adulthood are gone, decomposing in a fetid pile somewhere. And there's nothing you can do about it. At times it hurts more than you think you can bear. At times you beat yourself up for feeling materialistic. At times you are numb and don't care. But we press forward, because we have to. We must.

To remember those people and places. To remember those things. To heal our lady, our love, our temptress, New Orleans.

1 comment:

misti said...

Hey! Thinking about you all day. I can't believe the lack of coverage, or so it seems here in Florida. Here's to a long time without any stinkin' hurricanes!!