Two days ago on Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2021, I woke up extra early, around about 1a.m. in the morning. Immediately noticed a light was on. Hallelujah. I quickly surmised power had been restored. I know that our slog is far from over, but now we are rolling down the easy side of the mountain.
However, it has not been an easy ten days. Hot, with only brief rain. All kinds of rumors fouling the air. Stores with empty shelves, if and when you found a store open. Fortunately for us in New Orleans the tap water was still flowing. In other parts of southern Louisiana the order of the day was either no water or a boil water advisory.
Hurricane Ida was a beast. Killing people as far north as New Jersey and New York even though it arrived on land in Louisiana. Right after Ida hit us in New Orleans, life was strange. The sun was shinning. The sidewalk was dry. But the day was nothing nice, especially following the way Ida slow-walked through our city.
It wasn’t the water, it was the wind. All over the place, trees had been blown down. Not snapped in two but rather the whole nine, ripped from the ground, roots visibly sticking out. Old oak trees and especially small trees of various kinds that had survived Katrina lay on their sides unable to withstand Ida’s powerful wind gusts.
Our small unit: Asante, Peteh, Akeel and myself had decided to tough it out. And tough it was. Early in the aftermath I sometimes second-guessed the wise-ass wisdom of my decision to stay when I had various opportunities to abandon ship.
I dipped heavily into my stash: generator, food, household supplies. But that is what savings are for, moving through and pass the unforeseen but deadly storms of life. And, of course, there were numerous negative surprises along the way.
Like when Chop jumped up on me one day when I was returning from the store. I had plastic bags in hand. I thought the dog was playing but he was serious. Took a deep nip out of my chest. I’m from the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans. I was surprised but not afraid. The bleeding was minimal because I had quickly backed away but even in the following week I had small but nevertheless deep bumps where Chop’s fangs had punctured the right side of my chest.
Or when Akeel and I went to a supermarket early one morning trying to beat the crowd only to find out that the store didn’t open until 9a.m. So we went to another store a couple of miles away and were able to secure the necessary food supplies.
I knew I couldn’t return empty-handed. The plan was to have a small free breakfast program for the neighborhood. Ms. Rosita Richardson, Peteh’s mother, came over to give us an expert hand. Peteh’s sister, Melanie and her family, supplied a foil chafing dish set-up that was used to keep the food warm. Asante was cooking. Peteh and Akeel were moving boxes, tables and giving out styrofoam go-plates with grits, scrambled eggs, orange slices and either biscuits or toast.
The food giveaway was Peteh’s idea with Asante’s immediate concurrence.
Earlier in the week, Peteh had planned to drive up to Baton Rouge to get some chickens. Felton DeRouen II is the animal husbandry staff person at the Southern University Ag Center where he helps “new and small farmers with knowledge on how to start and run a small poultry farm while providing fresh eggs to our community”.
So Peteh returned not only with the thirty chickens he went up there to purchase but also with thirty dozen eggs. The start of Peteh’s small poultry operation was the basis for our free breakfast program.
We were blessed. We had our health, working vehicles, and the cash needed to purchase food and supplies, plus material support from family and a friend who provided supper plates. Needless to say the much appreciated breakfast went quickly as the word spread that we were offering free food.
At some point we must realize that giving thanks is not simply a “don’t worry be happy” mental exercise.
Of course, Asante lives in a working-class neighborhood rather than in a gated community where a free breakfast doesn’t mean much. In a sense giving out meals is not a philanthropic nor even Good Samaritan activity. Many of us profess Christian/Islamic/Buddhist ideals, but how many of us actually work to help people we see every day but whom we probably don’t even know by name?
By noontime all the food was shared and the kitchen and front room cleaned. What a productive morning.