Utopian Turtletop. Monsieur Croche's BĂȘte Noire. Contact: turtletop [at] hotmail [dot] com

Thursday, September 15, 2005


Spoke today with an employee of an agency that shares the building with my agency. I'll call him H. H is a short, wiry, 50-ish African American man from the south, one of the most upbeat people I've met; religious; writes sweet ceremonial rhymes for office occasions. The first time I took my son to the office to introduce him to everybody, a few weeks after he was born, H said, "Isn't it just amazing when they're this age? It's like they got one toe here on earth and the other 9 still up in heaven. Say hello to God for me, OK?" I'm culturally and emotionally Protestant Christian but philosophically agnostic in sectarian matters; what H said was one of the most beautiful things anybody said in those first engulfing weeks of Mr. Jumping Chocolate Pudding's life.

Today, in the men's room, H told me what's going on. Like I said, I knew he was from the south, but I'd forgotten from where.

"You know that Charity Hospital they were always talking about in New Orleans? I was born there. It's like a little piece of my heart is gone. I grew up in St. Louis but we spent summers in New Orleans, running up and down Canal Street. My parents lived in East New Orleans, one of the most flooded areas, until a few months ago, when they sold their condo and made a little money and moved to Arizona. It would be bad if they were still there. My dad's diabetic. They would have been some of the people going up on the roof, except now you can't see the roof, the whole neighborhood's under water. Everybody's accounted for except 2 cousins and an uncle. Everybody else got in a car and drove to my sister's in St. Louis. My uncle is about 80; he's probably one of those people who said, 'Hell no, I'm not leaving.' My cousins are relatively young -- I'm sure they'll pop up somewhere, they're strong. My uncle, I'm sure he's OK because he's so mean. I feel sorry for those rescue workers. My uncle's one of those people who'd say, 'Get the hell out of here,' and the rescue workers would cower, 'Oh, OK, can we give you some water?' 'Sure, I'll take the water, now get the hell out of here!' I'm sure they'll all turn up."

He sounded upbeat, but I don't quite believe that he completely believes himself. "I hope you're right," I said.
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