Tuesday, August 30, 2005
How small is my world?
Long Suffering Traveling Companion and I are "ride the bus with the locals, eat street food," level tourists. Gringo First Class requires way too much wardrobe, and my ideal vacation fits into a single carry-on luggage. We broke that rule when we were in New Orleans for the Saints and Sinners GBLT writer's conference though when we wandered into Irene's Cuisine.
We were miles from home, in a restaurant chosen at random, and eating at a level far beyond our usual fare. And who was our waiter? The brother of my best friend from high school.
I had no idea. I thought he still lived in Palm Springs.
After the initial shock and bouncy hugs, I was reminded of the one reason why I miss the South, the jaw-dropping hospitality. He hadn't seen me in years, but the third thing out of his mouth was "check out of that hotel room right this minute and come stay over at my place." He dug into his pocket for keys to hand us. I was tempted to introduce Long Suffering Traveling Companion as a serial waiter murderer just to remind K that it probably wasn't a safe thing to do-- trusting us like that. But I know how the manners game is played, so I thanked him profusely as I reminded him that our BnB wouldn't be able to rent out our room on that late notice, so it wasn't fair to the owners. I promised that for next year's SNS, I'd be the first to claim his couch though.
Watching the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, I might not be able to keep my promise. The French Quarter still stands, but it's going to be a long time before it recovers. The magnitude of the hurricane's damage is numbing. To make it real and keep a sharp edge to tweak my conscious, I have to pull down the scope to a personal level. To me, this is all about how K is getting along.
I know that he didn't evacuate. He had neither the means nor a place to run to. I know that he has no phone service. His sister keeps me up to date on the lack of news. The water is rising. That's the sum of what I know.
The unknowns drive me nuts, but I feel as if it's so trite for me to say that, because I'm sitting a thousand miles away. My entire world isn't under water. Except for K, I know where everyone I love or love by proxy is, and that they have food, shelter, and drinkable water. Many people on the gulf coast can't say that with certainty about themselves, their loved ones, or their acquaintances.
It's going to be a long, rough autumn this year.
I believe that K will ultimately be okay. He might be worse for wear, his possessions might be waterlogged, and his job may be in jeopardy, but he's got a few people pulling for him, and we won't ebb away with the flood waters. Now that we've reconnected, I'll be keeping him in my heart.
Besides, I have a free couch coming to me. I just hope that it's dried out by then.
If there's any city that can live to party another day, it has to be New Orleans. Let the good times tread water!
(And YES, I do take pictures of cemeteries everywhere I go, especially when I see stuff like this. How could I pass up Mardi Gras beads for the afterlife reveler?)