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Love NOLA: A termite apocalypse

Brett Will Taylor (photo by Jason Kruppa)

Brett Will Taylor (photo by Jason Kruppa)

I just love it how New Orleanians come together when faced with disaster.

Natural disasters like hurricanes. Man-made disasters like our state legislature.

And apocalyptic disasters like last night's termite swarm.

Truly, the swarm of May 22 was one for the books. For a few hours, the entire city was overrun by a marauding band that crashed onto the hood of your car, tried to get in your pants and fell out onto your shoes. I felt like I was on the 200 block of Bourbon Street. Or upstairs at the Phoenix.

But we came together, New Orleans. Yes, we did.

Facebook lit up with dire warnings and bone chilling news.

"Don't go outside. Termites!"

"I feel like I'm driving through snow."

"I just plucked two out of my teeth."

A friend of mine cheerfully noted that the invasion had not reached the Marigny. "Yet," he quickly added.

That was enough to persuade my houseguest and me to make a dash for Mimi's, where we sat down, ordered some mushroom manchego toast, brushed the dead one-flight wonders off our shirts, and enjoyed a nice G&T with the gentle breeze blowing in from the open windows.

That lasted about 45 seconds.

"Sh^t," said the bartender. "Someone help me close the windows." Four of us jumped up and did just that, successfully beating back the steady onslaught.

After we were done, we just stood there, watching, as hundreds of hapless termites kept crashing into the windows ... and falling to their death. To be fair, they were just looking for a good time. And who doesn't like to have a good time at Mimi's? (Oh, that's right. The neighbors who had Mimi's music shut down don't like to have a good time, but I digress.)

Things quickly settled back down into the normal Mimi's groove. There were about 50 or so termite stragglers that got in before we shut everything down, but they were well-behaved, limiting their shenanigans to the pool table.

"Better the pool table than my bar," said the bartender.

To live in New Orleans is to live with termite swarms. And everyone has their favorite story.

A friend of mine talks about cradling her newborn in her arms one evening. "It was a beautiful scene," she told me. "I was in a rocking chair, my daughter was wrapped in a blanket, sleeping peacefully. And, bam. In swarm the termites, from a nest inside my walls. I got up and ran with such force that I knocked the rocking chair over."

It's one of her first memories of her first child.  And it is forever shared. With termites.

Another friend told me how he had a very lovely certain someone over for a romantic dinner one night. "I poured a really expensive Bordeaux (you know the kind you have to let 'breathe')," he explained. "This girl and I went into the kitchen to finish bringing dinner to the table. When we got back, there were termites in our glasses, floating in my Bordeaux."

"What is that?" she asked.

"It's cork," he lied. "Drink it. It's good for your digestion."

"You're going to hell," I told him.

"Hey," he replied, "I hear they have good wine down there."

Those who like to research their apocalypse experiences might be interested in the comprehensive 2009 series Home Wreckers: How the Formosan termite is destroying New Orleans, by John McQuaid and Mark Schlefstein.
Brett Will Taylor is a southern Shaman who writes Love NOLA weekly for NolaVie. Visit his site at ashamansjourney.net, tweet him @bwtshaman or email him at [email protected] (choices, so many choices). 

 

Brett Will Taylor is a southern storyteller whose previous column, Love NOLA, appeared weekly on NolaVie.  He now shares his stories at Brett Will Taylor: A Storyteller and his Stories. Follow him @bwtshaman.