Ok, I'm a cop, so I'm supposed to have a shrine to 9/11 and be prone to exclaiming "never forget!" any time there's a discussion that's even remotely related to September 11th. The thing is, that's not what I'm remembering, or what I want other people to remember right now. Far as I can tell, we've got a presidential administration that's done a fine job, thank you, of making sure that no one "forgets" September 11th. I'm sure our current administration would much rather we remember 9/11 than think about the reality that our government f*cked up on a colossal scale as a major city drowned. Not me. I'm remembering Hurricane Katrina. I still have a hard time controlling my rage whenever I think about it.
New Orleans is the closest thing to my adopted home town--I love the place, I feel more comfortable there than I do almost anywhere else, and I've been in enough eateries and gin mills there that I nearly feel like a local. Only without the regional dialect that sounds like a Brooklyn accent on quaaludes. I like the premium that New Orleans (and most of southern Louisiana, really) puts on hospitality, food, music and showing people a good time. I like their goofy stories, and the way they tolerate eccentricity. And being from Cook County, Illinois, I appreciate the breadth and depth of their public corruption.
When Katrina hit, and the levees broke and the city descended into chaos, I couldn't believe what I was seeing. I started calling places like the Red Cross to see if I could volunteer in some way--yeah, I have no real skills but I'm good at dealing with hysterical people and I'm cool in a crisis, and I've got a gun and 17 years of law enforcement experience, which it certainly looked like was needed at that moment. The Red Cross suggested I sign up for a volunteer orientation-- the next month. Yes, in October 2005.
I was eventually lucky enough to be part of a group of police officers who volunteered to go down there, and I spent nearly a week working in the 2nd District of New Orleans (the Uptown/River Bend area) in the aftermath of the storm. I was blessed again with the opportunity to go to St Bernard Parish in March, gutting houses with Habitat for Humanity as part of the St Bernard Recovery Project. When we got down there I was shocked to see how much was still undone 7 months later.
I've been reading the various Katrina-one-year-later stories, and catching a couple shows on TV. It's just too easy to be enraged, or maudlin, and no one wants to read stuff that just relentlessly brings you down.
So, let's talk instead about food and booze, and wish the people of New Orleans strength and courage in their recovery.
Sunday afternoon we had my mom over, and actually managed to get both daughters home at the same time for a nice sit-down family dinner. It was, if I may say so, delicious. One of our better efforts. Here's the menu (recipes available on request):
-Sazerac cocktails (a delightful blend of rye whiskey, absinthe and bitters, invented in New Orleans)
-Chicken & smoked sausage gumbo
-Southern style greens (mixed turnip, mustard & collard greens cooked in beer, with a little vinegar and molasses)
-Corn maque choux with crispy bacon
-Abita Turbo Dog beer
-And for dessert, a peach blackberry crisp, made with fresh fruit from our farmers market.
I'll try and post some pictures from last year, and from our trip to do rehab work this spring.