Photo of a Katrina ravaged kitchen from IStock.com
It started out simple enough. Blenders, alcohol, frozen pina colada mix cans, Rotel dip, chips, the young pre-Katrina Oil Patch adult kids party. These parties were best given in rental houses with heavy duty vinyl flooring that could be scoured with a Zamboni later. I should have known something significant would happen that night when we had heavy rains and large pieces of hail pummeling our little New Orleans house. I opened the door and stared down at the white balls accumulating on the concrete steps outside our kitchen, and thought we’d be drinking pina colada drinks until Doomsday. Not to fear. Free booze and food always brought out the young, restless, single, and couples with babysitters with nowhere else to go.
I will backtrack a bit here. One January I found myself recently dumped by a mama’s boy of a fiance’, and soon had two guys of my acquaintance wanting to take me out. One was Tall Bill, a gorgeous guy who wasn’t of the oil patch milieu, but an entrepreneur and business owner. I had had a crush on him previously, pre-fiance’ from Hell, and knew he was interested. Between those beautiful black curls of his and big blue eyes, he was a handsome guy with a great deal of scathing wit and intelligence.
My other would-be suitor, my now husband, Dan, was blue-eyed, blond curly hair, funny, sweet, wounded, and adorable. He was also the first guy of the two to actually ask me out, courtesy of my dear friend Linda’s expert matchmaking.
My fiance’ dumped me on Christmas Day, and my first date with Dan was on a Friday the 13th in January. (Between these two events was a run-in between my tiny sports car and a tractor-trailer rig on I-20 on New Year’s Day. My stress level was rather high during those holidays.) After that first date, I knew Dan was the One, and my ex-fiance’ had done me a tremendous favor by dumping my keister.
Tall Bill called me soon afterwards, and was shocked that I’d already decided to only date Dan. He was disappointed and surprised. He’d secretly taken it very badly, but waited for until the night of the party to let us know. That sweet “revenge is a dish served best cold” kind of thing.
The party progressed, the vinyl flooring getting progressively stickier and stickier from spilled pina colada drinks and dropped cheese snacks. We were more than a little tight, so to speak, when Tall Bill made his appearance. Always polite, always cordial, always handsome and observant, he took in our little domesticity and a fuse was lit in his beautiful head.
Dan and I have never been deities of domesticity, and our large refrigerator was a chilly science experiment in progress. Tall Bill had a few pina colada drinks with us, then started examining our refrigerator. I have to say that there’s no pretense in my lack of housekeeping skills, so when Bill started doing a comedy routine on the duplication of jars and bottles of catsup in his dry wit, I was one of the first to laugh.
Some of the comments got a lot edgier, but I was still laughing so hard I was on my knees crying. It was true. I couldn’t tell you what some of the plastic containers in the back of the ‘fridge had once held, because they were past identifying. It was funny.
Later a friend asked me if I was humiliated that Tall Bill had done such a devastating deconstruction of our ‘fridge, but I said no. Comedy often comes with truth, frequently comedy is edgy, and my perception of his routine was truth and not shame.
I seem to remember being in Tall Bill’s small bachelor apartment one Friday afternoon when our Oil Patch kids were having a nearby volleyball game out on the lakefront. He was lucky enough to have scored a tiny but perfect place almost at the lake seawall, and was the closest bathroom. A girlfriend and I followed him home after he’d offered the use of said bathroom, and I can tell you his place was pristine. Even the fridge was perfect and organized when he offered us a cold refreshment.
So Tall Bill and I were not to be, and even if he’d asked first, one look at my single girl’s fridge in Metairie would’ve set him straight on my true disorganized and distracted character.
He did judge me on the contents of my refrigerator, but I was past caring.
As a footnote, I finally went by that old rental on Athis Street in New Orleans during last year’s Christmas break. After Katrina, I didn’t want to see that part of town, and it’s still raw, but signs of renewal are there. We found the little old wooden house and my kids asked about the dried slime line high on the front, a telltale sign of where flood waters had been. It looked close to six feet.
One of the common pictures that came out of the New Orleans area in the aftermath of Katrina was of bound refrigerators out by the curb of houses waiting to be saved. They were like tombs of what had been households’ last meals. Now they were seal and waiting to be taken away to a dump or recycling, some poor souls having to pry apart the doors and take out the waste inside.
It was a metaphor for the ruin of so many neighborhoods and lives. Not one person could tell the contents of that refrigerator for the stench and ruin inside. Abandoned Tupperware, antique Corningware, styrofoam takeout containers, bottles of catsup sealed in the metal tombs. The owners have moved on, and so have we.