Sunday, October 24, 2010

The return

Something strange and wonderful has happened. My words have returned to me. I promise I will explain which words, but first we must travel back in time, approximately five-plus years ago. It is pre-Hurricane Katrina and, like now, I am living in the city of my birth, New Orleans, preparing to visit Cleveland, Ohio. I live for the most part on the second floor of my duplex, but the bulk of my library and extensive record collection is housed downstairs. A small apartment occupies the remainder of the downstairs and I have a tenant, a young divorced man who lives there with his beloved German Shepherd. When the mandatory evacuation occurred, I was away and that fact meant little could be done to save most of my records, CDs, 45s, paperbacks and hardcover volumes which rested on custom constructed shelves there. Because pets are not allowed to evacuate with their owners to the refuge of last resort at the Superdome (this policy has since been changed), my tenant is forced to leave his pet downstairs with a few day's supply of food and water, not knowing the rising waters would drown the animal or that he would end up losing all of his worldly possessions. I am a visitor in Cleveland worried about my home and my city, but forced to watch it from afar, helpless and inadequate. As it turned out, my life would be forever changed by that storm and the flooding that occurred after Hurricane Katrina. I lived and worked there for nearly two years and my return to New Orleans required packing a great many boxes of new possessions coming from my time spent away. In the meantime my housekeeper was able to put away boxes of my possessions that had somehow survived. Since her home was also destroyed, she was away for and unable to return the city for nearly a year, living in Houston and Dallas. However, once she returned to work, she started to put things away for me that had survived the flooding. We were not able to communicate on a regular basis, so whatever she packed away for me was not clearly documented. Between those boxes holding my old items and the new boxes filled with momentos from Cleveland, much of my home has been filled over the course of the last three and a half years with all manner of things largely hidden from view. Just a little over on my second floor entrance way. Inside were my words. To be more specific, inside one of the larger boxes that my housekeeper had put away was my bound edition of my work from 1972 and 1973 as Features Editor and Executive Editor of the Tulane University Hullabaloo, the weekly newspaper over which I labored in my freshman and sophomore years. To say that this volume is irreplaceable is an understatement. How that volume escaped being soaked in the deluge that stood stagnant in my home for nearly three weeks is nothing short of a miracle. When I looked inside it, I found an incredible array of pictures and stories that I had not even thought about in over 36 years. There was the junior Senator from Delaware - a Joseph Biden with hair no less - addressing a forum at Tulane. Also, a story and picture on George Bush, the head of the C.I.A., a full 16 years before becoming President, talking to students. And the president was Richard Nixon. Wow! I cannot believe this volume has mysteriously returned to me, but I know I will treasure it for many years to come.

No comments: