Update on the Beans Gang

When I posted that last piece, I really wondered what had become of Dave and Simon and all the wonderful Monday night bean-eaters. Luckily for me, the Internet is a small world.

Simon read that piece and used the “comment” feature to give us a quick update — the storm blew him to Austin, Texas, about 450 miles from New Orleans, where he’s starting over. He also let us know that Dave had landed in Illinois.

A few days later, an e-mail from Dave appeared, entitled “Moored in Champaign.” His mother, who lives outside Champaign, Illinois, opened her house to 11 refugees. In the weeks since the hurricane, they’ve rented a couple of houses there, where the kids are in school and several of the grownups are working in a local chocolate store. According to Dave, “I’ve still got work from existing clients, which I’m very thankful for. Now just to find the time to start working again (being a refugee is a lot of work!).”

In response to my offer to replace the crockpot, Dave wrote, “As far as I know, the crockpot and rice maker are OK.”

A couple of paragraphs from Dave’s update give an inside glimpse at the refugee experience:

In addition to the work, we’ve also received a lot of charity. FEMA has given us some money, as has the Red Cross, the Salvation Army and Champaign County Public Aid (food stamps). We’ve also got a host of public services being offered for free to us here in Champaign-Urbana (as they are to evacuees everywhere). And then there’s the font of cash, gift cards, clothes, food, etc. we’ve been receiving from family and friends. Wow. It’s really been amazing, this outpouring of support from everyone from complete strangers to close friends. As traumatic as this all has been, the love, kindness and generosity we’ve experienced has been downright inspiring and deeply touching. We feel profoundly appreciative. Thank you all.

So we are settling in here and trying to make the most of being here. We all miss our home very much. We want to go back as soon as it is safe and practical to do so. Ana still has her job at Tulane and they sound like they are determined to re-open in January. If so, we’ll probably be back by then at the latest. Our house fared very well in the storm, considering some of the experiences of others we know. I’ve attached a picture taken on Thursday of last week by the intrepid David Martin. You can see the waterline on the garage door. Thankfully, it didn’t get high enough to damage our main level (where most of the red beans and rice congregating happens). We have likely, however, lost some personal, irreplaceable things which were stored on our ground level. We hope to go back to New Orleans for a couple days soon to recover a few things we didn’t bring in the evacuation. We also want to try to arrest the mold growth as best we can.

Home of red beans and rice

Dave Martin, who took the photograph of the house, commented that he was currently in New Orleans dealing with “floody mattresses” in his “poo stained” house. Lucky for us, he was inspired to write some beans lit (or maybe it’s no-beans lit) a couple of weeks ago:

Totally unauthorized beanetry to be sung to the tune of “The Old Cotton Fields Back Home”, more or less:

After this damp hiatus
Dave’s beans shall again cause flatus
and I will cross a sea of crestin’ foam.

Cause when the crockpot is a hummin’
them folks’ll all be comin’
to Lapeyrouse from wherever they may roam.

When Brad’s rice cooker is poppin’
well on Dave’s door we’re knocking
cause y’all all know New Orleans is our home

It all comes down to that concept of home. Your home is in your community, and the folks who return have to reconnect with their community. All over the country, people are wondering why New Orleans residents would return to such a place, where nature has destroyed the infrastructure and may do so again, as evidenced by Hurricane Rita. It comes down to community, which requires people to live near each other: How can you get together for Monday night supper when your friends have been blown all over the country?

From exile in Austin, Simon commented, hopefully, “Someday there will be Monday night beans again. :)”

I was hopeful, too, that someday I can make it back to New Orleans for a bowl of beans with Dave. After reading the following paragraph from him, I’m certain of it:

Of all the things I miss about New Orleans, it’s my friends I miss most. And the center of gravity of my longing is our weekly red beans and rice gathering. I know many others miss it too. To me, I won’t really be home until I’m crocking up a pot of beans again and opening the door to greet my friends on a Monday night.

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