Love NOLA: Coming home from Katrina
Editor's note: today we're rerunning a Love NOLA article from last August to observe the Katrina anniversary. To hear Brett Will Taylor's on WWNO, click here.
You know, sometimes I think we're only here, in this crazy love affair we call "life," to find our way home.
Not just that place we go to bed each night. But that space where we belong. Where we can be ourselves. Where we can live our truth.
It’s not always an easy journey. Just ask Miles.
He’s a man I met early one June morning at a corner store in Treme. Both of us were hungry. He for pancakes, me for a bacon, egg and cheese sandwich. As we waited for the cook to work his magic, we did what you do in New Orleans. We started talking.
"Beautiful morning," I said. "Not too hot out there yet."
Miles nodded and added that, for him, the day had already been long. He had just driven in from Houston.
Did I mention it was 8:30? In the morning.
Miles explained that he had a construction job doing a renovation off Claiborne.
"They don't have jobs in Houston?" I asked.
They had plenty of jobs in Houston, Miles told me. He just didn’t want any of them. You see, Miles is from New Orleans. West Bank. He grew up here. Got married here. Settled here.
Then Katrina hit, the levees and the government failed, and Miles and his wife left to be with her family in Houston.
“How long are you in town?” I asked.
“Oh, I’m here, man,” he said. “I ain’t leaving again.”
Miles had given Houston just about eight years. Eight years of eating shrimp that are pink, not brown. Eight years of people telling him he talks too much. Eight years of feeling like a stranger in a strange land.
And, then, one morning, that particular morning he and I were talking, Miles got up at 3 a.m. Picked up a pen and wrote a note to his wife. He told her that she was a good woman, that he loved her and that he knew she loved her family and wanted to stay in Houston, but that he just couldn’t do it any longer.
Miles left that note on the kitchen counter. Jumped in his truck. And started driving. To New Orleans.
When our breakfast was ready, Miles and I walked outside where the now blazing sun was beating down (I swear the temperature went up 20 degrees in 10 minutes). We shook hands and went our separate ways. Last I saw him, Miles was leaning against his old, red and silver truck, digging into his breakfast and staring down St Philip Street. Toward the river. And the West Bank.
Yes, indeed. We're all here to find our way home.
Some of us actually make it.
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.