I rejoined my group in Treme where we continued to work on the front trim. Painstaking work that was somewhat frustrating for the students. However, Julia had strategies for quickly painting over mistakes here and there and finished product was much more satisfying that they thought possible. She was pulled off to supervise another group, so we were given the very real privilege of being trusted to work alone.
For lunch we made a run into the Quarter for muffalettas from the Central Grocery on Decatur Street. I’m always entranced by the deli counter and specialty-stocked shelves. And we were lucky enough to snag a space right in front so that I was able to get out of the car and enjoy it. We sat on the front porch, soaking in the sun and the olive-relish infused mortadella, prosciutto, and mozzarella on slightly crisp, sesame seed Italian loaves. Unfortunately, afer all that, we had to get back to work.
actually packed up and moved our operation over Broad Street into Gentilly. There we very efficiently put two coats of exterior paint on one side and primed the front porch, porch ceiling, and front gable. We broke off a bit early so the group could make their way up Gentilly for snowballs. I stayed behind to help Julia with the tools and all the groups gathered at St. Ray’s for the volunteer appreciation dinner of spaghetti and meatballs.
While waiting on the front step of the Bruxelles Street house, an elderly woman from down the street paid me a visit. She was upset that a crew had power-washed her house a week before and no Operation Helping Hands had returned to paint. I told her that I was a volunteer, but she insisted on waiting for Julia to return. While we waited on the stoop, I asked her about her experiences in the wake of Katrina. Like the previous homeowner, her house did not take on flood water; however, the roof gave way and she received considerable interior water damage. She evacuated to her son’s home near Lafayette where she waited, and waited for utilities to return to her neighborhood. In the meantime, Hurricane Rita struck west of New Orleans and she was once again plunged into darkness. She ended up returning to New Orleans in January 2006, only the third resident in her block to do so. And she still had to wait for the lights to be turned on. The resilience and stubborn sense of home that these people possess never ceases to amaze me. And beyond everything else, that is the thing that will keep this City going.
After showering and an inordinate time spent trying to get all of the paint off, I headed out in the Bywater neighborhood to meet my friend Burt and his friend Jeannie at Vaughan’s. Kermit Ruffins was not there for his normal Thursday evening, but we stayed nonetheless to soak up Vaughan’s radical unpretentiousness. Backed by Kermit’s Barbecue Swingers, the front men included trombonist Corey Henry of the Rebirth Brass Band. They were extraordinary musicians and showed a lot of musical range. However, it was not what we came to see and, after one set and a bowl of free red beans and rice, we parted ways with Vaughan’s. I stopped by the Spotted Cat for a short while, but fatigue set in and I headed back to the West Bank.
Over the next hour or so, students started filtering back, van by van. One group went for zydeco night at the Rock and Bowl. The others explored the ferry and streetcar system; and I gather with some challenges. However, I was too tired to wait up and here about it. I suspect I’ll get an earful today!