Painting a porch on Maple Street, Slidell LA, March 2012

After weeks of anticipation, the students and leaders were excited to finally get to work. I went with the Baratarians and Los Islenos groups to work with East St. Tammany Habitat for Humanity in Slidell. The Wild Magnolias had a 45 minute drive to St. Tammany West. It would have been an early day, even if it weren’t their spring break. The morning yielded slapped together lunches, yawns and sleepy eyes, and a 6:45 a.m. reflection time, all prior to heading for the the work sites.

Cutting floor joists, Tupelo Street, Slidell LA, March 2012

After some struggles to find work placement for the class, it was heartening to see them all put to work within a few minutes. In a fine example of self-selection, the ones who wanted to use power tools and build a house went to once site; the ones who were just fine with prep work and painting porches went to another. While it proved to be a fine day weather-wise, the preceding rainy days left yards of wet sticky clay and mosquitoes the size of sparrows. A quick run to the store for bug spray and the emerging sun  solved the mosquito problem. The clay didn’t go anywhere — besides footwear.

Home site on Tupelo Street, Slidell LA, March 2012

The third group, was over north of Mandeville; it split into two groups. The larger worked on the punchlist for a house outside of Abita Springs. The smaller group stayed behind at Habitat and their adjoining ReStore to work on small projects.

The students seemed very satisfied with the day, clay and all. And it was clear from the Habitat folks that I have talked to that they are quite pleased with the students’ work ethic. As a result, the students will be given more and  more complicated projects to work on as the week rolls on.

Stephanie, making cookies for St. Joseph's Day altar, March 2012

For me, there were mixed feelings. Even after seven years, the prospect of students using power tools terrifies me. They receive great training, are eager to learn, but… In addition, I am nursing a bad shoulder that is going in for surgery later this month. Thus painting, hammering, and much lifting are out of the question. And that is driving me crazy. I can only watch the students working for so long. To make up for it, I’m volunteering in the kitchen at the Peace Mission Center. It’s fun working with Stephanie and work like chopping and paring doesn’t generally require holding your arm above shoulder level. And, I might learn something new.

"Uncle Lionel" Batiste, bass drummer for the Treme Brass Band, Frenchmen Street, March 2012

After a meatloaf dinner (as much as I cook, I’ve never had the opportunity to put my hands in thirty pounds of ground beef), students gathered for a trip into the French Quarter. They had taken the night before off, and there was shopping to be done on Decatur and Royal, music to e listened to, and beignets to be eaten. I had the chance to see the Treme Brass Band at d.b.a. on Frenchmen. The music was great, especially their versions of “I Ate Up the Apple Tree,” “Big Chief,” and “Bourbon Street Parade.”  The crowd seemed well lubricated, as well, which offered entertainment driven by somewhat morbid fascination. A couple of women, in particular, seemed to defy gravity as they lurched in front of the stage. However, by the time I left after the second set, they were still, amazingly, upright.

Treme Brass Band, d.b.a., Frenchmen Street, March 2012

Most of us were back around midnight. And lights did not stay on long. Morning, and another day of hard work, would be coming soon enough.