I've been in New Orleans at my parents' place for about a week. This is never easy, for the same reason that it is not easy for many young people of my generation. I don't know why though, but I know the commonality is present. Anyway, last night we went out to eat, and as we were driving home we passed a store on Magazine Street where my dad bought his school uniforms for elementary school. I didn’t know my dad lived near there, so I asked him to show me where he lived. It turned out to be 908 Philip Street. He then showed me the house where he bit his tongue – he has this weird flap in his tongue because when he was playing football once he bit it and tore his tongue. I know this because he is similar to Michael Jordan, whenever he does anything he usually has his tongue out, and is usually biting it. I have these vivid memories of my dad from when I was growing up, and he could be cutting wood, or playing basketball, or washing the car, and his tongue was always out, and the little flap was always there. He then showed me the house where his half-sister Cleo lived; her father committed suicide and her mother couldn’t cope, so his family took Cleo in when my father was in 5th grade and she was a bit younger. This compassion, by people who were so poor, has always put me to shame. Then we drove a few more blocks and he showed me where he went to elementary school: 2001 Constance Street at St. Alphonsus Elementary School. It is connected to St. Alphonsus Church, which is now a Community Center, and was the largest domed building in the state of Louisiana before the Superdome was built. St. Alphonsus is right across the street from St. Mary’s Assumption Church; from what I’ve found they even share the same address somehow so that they both gain national historic designation. St. Mary’s was built for the German immigrants in the area; St. Alphonsus was built for the Irish immigrants. This history is really neat to me, and simply understood as the way things go, rather than negative. My dad told me stories of having to walk out of the school, down the lines in the sidewalk, “or the alligators would get you,” on the way to the cafeteria. He told me of getting left-over buns from the cafeteria on the way home from school, when there were left-overs, and how they would still be warm and were so good. I remember wanting to cry in the car, and now I am. He talked about having to cross Jefferson Ave., a pretty big street, by himself, from the age of 6. We talked about Abigail, my niece and his granddaughter, who just turned 7, having to walk anywhere by herself, and how we wouldn’t allow it because it is so unsafe here now, but also how she couldn’t do it even if it was safe because she couldn’t figure her way out of a cardboard box. We smiled and we laughed, and I thanked him for showing me around, and I feel like I have some more addresses to add to my Identity Box.
And I wanted to share this with you, because of the journey we traveled in the short two weeks we had together. This experience made me think not only of Identity, but also Place, which Steve and I discussed for a bit, and is certainly a theme in Steve’s writing.
Thanks for being really cool people, and leaving your fingerprints on my soul. And thanks for putting up with me and my rambling writing.