Smiley: Tears after Katrina

The eighth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina’s landfall on the Gulf Coast and the subsequent flooding that devastated New Orleans caused me to go back in the files and pull out a column written a few days after the disaster, to relive the sadness of those bitter days.

I’m repeating it, as a reminder of the emotions so many of us shared at that time.

I called it “Finally, tears for a beloved old town:”

A week after the storm, my wife finally cried.

She had been busy around the house, cooking and making room for our visitors from New Orleans.

She’d been talking to friends in other states wanting to know how we were doing.

She’d been watching TV pretty much nonstop, seeing the news go from bad to worse to unbelievable.

She’d walked around the neighborhood and talked to our neighbors about how they’d weathered the storm and who was staying with them …

But she hadn’t cried.

“I can’t,” she said. “It’s too immense. The suffering is just too great. It overwhelms me.”

Finally, though, the tears came.

They came when the vast scope of the desolation was narrowed down, in the way you look through the wrong end of a telescope, and focused on one individual. In this case it was her sister.

For years her sister and brother-in-law have devoted their life to promoting New Orleans, pointing out its virtues and attractions to tourists and would-be tourists. They’re quintessential New Orleanians, living on Royal Street with offices in the French Quarter.

When she heard her heartbroken sister sobbing over the phone, the tears started flowing.

“She never cries,” she said of her sister. “She’s always been so strong …”

Later we sat on the darkened front porch and talked quietly of the good times we had had in New Orleans — Sunday evening streetcar rides to Camellia Grill for chocolate pecan pie; the fishbowls of beer with the fried shrimp at Liuzza’s; the leisurely strolls through the Aquarium of the Americas that she loved so much; movies at the retro Prytania Theater; memorable brunches at CafĂ© Degas and Commander’s Palace; po-boys at Mother’s and elegant dinners at Brennan’s.

We thought of the Jazz Fest where we sat under a tree and listened to Irma Thomas, and the Carnival parade on Napoleon where from a shiny black limo a hand reached out and presented me with a gold rubber rat and someone in the crowd yelled, “That’s Anne Rice’s car!”

She dried her tears and even laughed a little at some of the silly things we’d done in that fine old city.

It’ll be many days, and there’ll be many more tears, before we laugh there again.

That raccoon look

Della Stout does one of those “They can send a man to the moon, so why can’t they …” items:

“The Holy Grail of the cosmetics industry is ‘The Perfect Mascara.’

“It would make lashes look false, go on with one coat, and not come off in the heat and humidity of south Louisiana.

“At press time, this product is still a unicorn. I have the dark circles under my eyes to prove it by noon every day from April to October.”

Singing and driving

Wayne Goldsmith says one of his favorite car songs is “Those Feat’ll Steer Ya Wrong Sometimes” by Little Feat, about being stopped for speeding by a Texas state trooper.

Mark, of Prairieville, says, “What many consider the very first rock ‘n’ roll song was also a car song — Jackie Brenston’s ‘Rocket 88.’”

He says his favorite Bruce Springsteen car song is “Racing in the Street.”

“But now, a little older and a tad mellower, I lean more toward stuff like Guy Clark’s ‘Out in the Parking Lot’ and ol’ Jerry Jeff Walker’s ‘Pickup Truck Song.’”

Tats and Wabbits

Ronnie Stutes says the restaurant on East St. Mary Street (“right down from my elementary school”) in Lafayette, mentioned by a reader, “was ‘De Puddy Tat,’ not ‘The Putty Tat.’

“There was also a ‘Da Wabbit’ in Gretna, established in 1949, and still in business as a more upscale ‘Cafe 615 Home of Da Wabbit’ (dawabbit.net).

“Evidently Warner Brothers was not too concerned about enforcing the copyrights on their cartoon characters at the time.”

Special People Dept.

Elmese Stevens, of Baker, celebrates her 92nd birthday Thursday.

On Thursday Frank T. and Theresa M. Janca celebrate their 60th anniversary.

Eddie and Ora Dean Lee celebrate their 59th anniversary Thursday.

Generation chasm

Phoebe Thompson says, “My son recently called me to tell me he had purchased a router.

“I was beside myself. My father, a very accomplished woodworker, always told me a router was the most dangerous tool in the shop, and my son had no woodworking experience.

“I envisioned my son with all of his fingers removed.

“When he got home, I saw that it was some attachment to his computer — and breathed a sigh of relief.”

Write Smiley at Smiley@theadvocate.com. He can also be reached by fax at (225) 388-0351 or mail at P.O. Box 588, Baton Rouge, LA 70821.