Sunday, February 27, 2011

Living on the waters

Coast Guard helicopters circled over the Mardi Gras parades today.  It is a normal occurrence during Carnival, even before the storm.  They perform aerial security patrols.  Of course, seeing those orange buggies in the sky conjure up different thoughts than they did before Hurricane Katrina.  I remember seeing them before the storm and thinking, "Coast Guard?  What coast!  There are no beaches or oceans around here."  The possibility of a "typical" hurricane disaster didn't seem real to me.  We don't have a vast, scary, wave brewing sea to look over!  We have levees!  I have to drive three hours to go hang out at the beach!  Sure, you can look over the lake and the Mississippi River, but that serene squiggly stretch of water conjures up innocent boyish images of Mark Twain, riverboats, and frog catchin'.  It still doesn't feel like I live on the Gulf of Mexico.  I will see a seagull and say, "Where did that come from!"  It feels like I live in a bathtub.  Now, when the St. Patrick's Day parade rolls around and I get hit in the head with a bar of Irish Spring soap, then I am reminded of where home is!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Mardi Gras Season

Yesterday Krewe du Vieux invigorated the spirit of Carnival. There were fantastical costumes, cheering crowds, loud vibrations from marching bands. I was not there. I stayed at home and deciphered food coupons then ventured to the grocery store:
Oscar Mayer Bacon 16 oz. Sale Price 2/$8-$1 Register Rewards Good on next purchase=Like paying 2/$7. See coupon for exclusions and limitations.
When did life become so strange? My life is "like" a life. I eat food without tasting the flavors. I feel the textures. Applesauce, mushy, smooth tiny beads finding their way into the small pockets inside my mouth. I feel the cold metal spoon as it leaves my puckered lips. The toughness of French bread is no match as my shark teeth bite hard and pull against the resistance of a loaf. Food enters my body like coins in a parking meter. Standing outside the store I see the streetcar packed so tight.  The passengers look like one solid color from the blended colors of each person piled together. New Orleans feels less gritty tonight, more polished. The storm gave us a wash. The air smells cleaner now. I can't tell a tourist from a native anymore. The girls are too young. Their ponytails are too tight. My memories, too distant. Behind the store are new condos where the projects used to be before the storm. Back then I used to buy candy for the little black kids. Once, at Christmas, I brought my old computer up to the store and gave it to the first kid I saw. I stand in line at Walgreens. The register goes "beep, beep, beep, beep, beep, beep." Mardi Gras season is here.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Valentine's Day

Valentine’s Day roosts at my doorstep on an empty concrete slab where my front door freely swings over sandy cement.  Chocolate candy wrappers wisp against each other in my hand.  The teeth hurt.  My eyes stare funny and dead, two hard candies, butterscotch.  The years stole the cinnamon from them.  Love.  An orgy of lust.  The healing hands of Jesus.  Red.  Red.  Red.  Crinkled red.  Cardboard red.  Red tissue paper.  Blood red.  Sweet, crimson red.  Pink girls begging for the red.  Girls spend fortunes on baking powder, baker’s chocolate squares, brown sugar, cocoa, flour—only to use them once.  They leave me and my home.  All that remains are these vials, boxes, and canisters of poison.  I hold a tiny, cold glass bottle of vanilla extract in my hand.  I try to read what it is used for.  I walk to the door and put on the chain lock.