Gidley Gumbo

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Red Beans at Sunset

Sun, Oct 5, 2008

4:45 am

This is WAY too early to be at the airport. Even the damn planes are asleep. Ugh. But this was the best time to catch a plane heading from here to eventually end up in New Orleans, so that's why I'm here.

At least the line was short at security, and I was able to sail right through. One thing that's new is that the TSA agents are all wearing these blue uniforms--like a cross between a cop and an Air Force guy. Presumably, they got tired of people treating them like $10 an hour functionaries, so somebody thought "Hey, let's make them look like cops and THAT will add to their appeal!"

I wonder what real cops think about this.

They ARE cute uniforms, though.

10:00 am (Central Time)

Houston and New Orleans are both on Central Time, so my clock has been advanced. When I was a kid, I always wanted to live in Central Time, because they got to see all the TV shows an hour ahead of everybody else.

Now I live in Pacific Time and I see the TV shows the next day from everybody else. Where did I go wrong?

A stewardess/flight attendant just plopped down a breakfast tray in front of me. It contains: 1 banana, 1 carton of milk, 1 pre-wrapped bowl of sugary cereal, and 1 shrink-wrapped muffin. It's disgusting, but I eat it anyway, because I'm trapped on this airplane for the next two hours and this is all the bread and water I'm going to get.

I try catching up on some of my missed sleep, but I've never been very good at sleeping sitting up in a bouncing metal tube five miles up hurtling through the sky at 500 miles an hour. Every time I'm about to doze off, the plane hits some more turbulance and I dream I'm on a roller coaster...

12:10 pm

A connecting flight. The great fear of a connecting flight is not connecting with it. This one is particularly nervous making as there's only a half-hour window between the two flights (and how many times has your flight been delayed "only" half an hour? Yeah, mine too).

But the flight from Seattle to Houston makes it in on time and a quick walk gets me to the next plane, where I'm waved on board and settle in. Whew!

2:30 pm

In New Orleans! Of course, the airport at New Orleans is not particularly festive, but you do know that you are here:

  1. The humidity is about 110%--it's like swimming through the air
  2. The airport Musak is Cajun Zydeco
  3. The airport announcements are repeated in strangely accented French (probably Cajun)

I'm to rendezvous with somebody coming in shortly after I arrive and then we'll get picked up and taken back to the "Homecoming Center"

3:30 pm

I'm now at the Homecoming Center, which is a community center with dorms upstairs for the various groups that come in to help rebuild. There's an office and eating area downstairs. Upstairs is also where the kitchen is. When I was planning for this trip, I was thinking that I'd be cooking in a Church Kitchen--you know, with a big griddle and big refrigerator and a big ass range.

The teeny kitchen in the Homecoming Center

Turns out I'm cooking in a kitchen about the size of the one in a studio apartment I once rented on Capitol Hill. It's got a regular stove and a regular refrigerator and I'm supposed to cook for 17 people in it. Hmmm. Well, it wouldn't be fun if it was easy, right?

4:30 pm

Our Den Mother Kathy (or trip director or some damn thing) and I are just finishing up buying a few groceries for the folks at the local grocery store. We manage to fill two shopping carts and drop $300, but we're planning on going shopping for real, tomorrow.

On the way to the grocery store, we drive through the neighborhood. It's much better than I thought it would be (although we're in an area that's pretty well recovered). Still, about every 10th house is boarded up or clearly gutted and there's still the occasional dumpster full of trash around.

The Homecoming Center has a brass plaque that says "Katrina High Water Mark 2005." If I stand on tip-toe I can almost reach it. Kathy says that the entire area around here was under eight feet of water after Katrina.

The high water mark is the plaque in the upper left of this photo

On some of the doors you can still see the spray paint markings that the searchers made of how many people were found dead in the houses. My favorite bumper sticker: "New Orleans: crawling back to life."

A building about half a block from the Home Coming Center

6:30 pm

Well, the mystery of how you cook for 17 people on a regular size stove is solved. You have to have several pans going at the same time, doing the same thing. When frying up four pounds of andouille sausage, you have to do it in shifts, because they don't all fit into one pan.

Dinner was a tasty little dish called "Red Beans and Sausage," and whoever decided the serving size must have been feeding teenager weight lifters. When I made a two-person version for Laura and me, we had about five servings. I thought we must be weird, and I wouldn't want anybody to go hungry so I recalculated it for 17 people. And those 17 people only ate about half of it (and several of them went back for seconds).

8:00 pm

We have a brief worship service, and the homily is "Logistics," in which our Den Mother runs us through various things like washing dishes, fixing lunches, and taking showers (which happens outside, but not like you think).

There's a lady who lives in the Homecoming Center named Pam, who helps groups like us figure out what's going on (and answer questions like "Where the hell are the measuring cups???"). She says that this is a bad place to get sick, because health care really (really) sucks. A lot of the doctors haven't come back after fleeing Katrina, and only a few hospitals are open.

I make a BIG NOTE of this. Don't get sick. Don't slice off a limb. Don't drive nails through body parts.

9:00 pm

Well, the rumor of WiFi is true--and it's even unsecured! So Trip Logs will be happening daily!

That's it for now. Tomorrow will be a shopping day where I'll probably bake up some cookies so that everybody else will like me. That's what cookies do. Really.



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