Wednesday, August 31, 2005
Deep in the Heart of Dixie
The Deep South. Many years ago, when the South was still sort of a seperate country in just about every way but name, there was a two year part of my life in which I travelled about the area recently destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. It was a very pleasant part of the country--it will be again. Even now, some residents of the area are making plans to rebuild.
Seeing and hearing the news coverage of the ravaged areas, it seems like an impossible task, but there have been other disasters. We recover and rebuild. In a couple of years, we won't be able to tell there was a storm. New Orleans will never be the same, but it will be a wonderful city again.
Millions of people on and near the Gulf Coast have been wiped out. Their homes are gone. Their neighborhoods are gone. We don't yet know how many are dead, or who will yet die from secondary consequences of the storm.
I've found myself wondering about the fate of Julius, a Cajun man with whom I shared many a liberty in the Chicago/Waukegan/Milwaukee areas while we went to Engineman school at Great Lakes NTC. My orders sent me to Mayport, Florida to the USS Saratoga. His sent him to the West Coast to a ship, and presumably to Japan and maybe Southeast Asia. Before we left, Julius suggested that I spend part of my leave with him and his family in Lutcher, Louisiana.
It was there that I got my first taste of down home Cajun cooking, a style to which I quickly became addicted. Thus I remain, to this day. Blackened 'gator and redfish, crawfish bisque and Jambalaya poured over Cajun rice--don't get me started!
There's a brand of coffee we can still buy at most supermarkets, called Luziann. It has a little chicory mixed in. They don't advertise anymore that I know of, but when they did, they called it something like "the taste of Louisiana." The truth was, for the bayou folk, coffee was too expensive. They'd rather have had pure coffee any day of the week. They couldn't afford it. They cut it with chicory to make what they had go farther. Oh, some could acquire a taste for it, but it was ghastly, bitter stuff.
Lutcher was a small town, no one had much money. One of Julius' neighbors kept a large 'gator pit in his back yard. It looked to have about fifty 'gators sloshing around. Most of the folks fished or trapped in the bayoux back then. I think I remember seeing Po'k Salad Annie head out on a dugout canoe on one of those visits.
Oh, yeah. I went back a number of times on weekends from Mayport. Seems there was this girl..... Michelle Pernicieri, as I recall. Beautiful, but with one blemish to her nature: she was obsessed with getting away from Louisiana (to Los Angeles) and wanted someone to take her there. Well, I hope she made it. She sure tempted me.
All those times I hitchhiked across the Gulf states, from Jacksonville to the Bayoux, gave me an appreciation for that part of the country and a desire to travel through the area again. I'm deeply saddened by the events of the past few days and fervently hope that the recovery is easier and quicker than current predictions.
I find myself wondering whether Julius and Michelle, and the others whose names I've forgetten or never learned, are dealing with this disaster; if they're still there and still alive. I wish them well.