Wednesday, September 09, 2015

Working on a House

That Saturday the Mayor of New Orleans had set a goal to have 10,000 volunteers out working in the city.  And I think they might have reached that goal.  I talked to someone from Tulane who told me their university alone had 1,500 people out.

All week we had been noticing how great the weather was.  It was not your typical hurricane weather.  And if you really think about it they were taking a huge risk to plan such a major event on the very anniversary of what was the worst weather disaster in history.  The town was packed with people.  I can only imagine what their "bad weather plan" binder looked like.  And they didn't even need it.  Sure, it was hot.  But not THAT hot.

Project Homecoming had a house for us.  All we had to do was show up. They also had much better worksite managers.  Where my only contribution as a worksite manager was keeping a list of who was working on which house and telling the volunteers to not get too tired because that's when most accidents happen, the Project Homecoming guys actually knew how to do stuff.  Colleen, Kelsey and I arrived after most of the crew and were therefore assigned to hold ladders for the people painting.  As such, we got hardhats (cool) and a five minute class on how to hold a ladder.  Seriously.  There is a right  and a wrong way to do it.
I love wearing a hard hat. 

I held the ladder for John Hill for an hour or so.  We eventually fell into that relaxed stratosphere where you start talking to the folks around you and find out where everyone is from (the kid on the ladder next to us was from Sierra Leon), where they're going next (college, then home to help his people), all sorts of miscellaneous tidbits (one year in AmeriCorps will wipe out $5,600 of student loans). 

After a while I got antsy and ask if we could switch so I could paint for a while.  I soon remembered why I don't paint my own house anymore.  It turns out I have a touch of carpel tunnel and within twenty minutes my thumb started tingling and then went numb. But at least by that time we had painted close enough to the ground that John didn't need me to hold the ladder for him anymore so I went exploring.  If I couldn't be a painter I would revert to journalist.  I went in search of a story.

One block over I ran into about 40 kids from Tulane University clearing brush.

Tulane always schedules the first weekend of school for service projects.  It is only a coincidence that it's the same week as Katrina.  They worked on two different houses across the street from each other.  There have been a lot of wildlife reports (coyotes in city parks, snakes, etc) because of so many abandoned lots. The city assesses fines but there's not much more they can do. However, there are FAR fewer of these houses than I saw the last time I was here.

video


I came back to the house just in time to meet the homeowner and hear his story.  That's always the best part--hearing the stories.  We also found out that the guy worked for the Los Angeles sheriff's department just like John Hill so they got to compare dates of service and such.





Sometimes the neighbor across the street sat on her porch watching us.

We were only scheduled to work on the house until around noon.  We had pretty much finished, anyway.  When you have enough people it doesn't take that long to paint a house.

The minute I knew Colleen was coming I knew we would go to Mona's.  It was Colleen's and my favorite.  The best hummus I've ever had.  A delicate smoky flavor I've never had anywhere. The baba ganuj, tabouli, dolma, right down to a baklava.....all heavenly.  Colleen had another of our old friends from years ago meet us; Sue LaRue had worked for Project Homecoming when we were at PDA.  It was good to catch up.

This is Kelsey and Colleen and I -- I guess Sue took the picture.

I think after this we went to see another of Colleen's friends and that's when things start to blur a bit.  She knew so many more people than I did.  During her second round of managing the camp, Colleen somehow found a trained chef to come to the camp once a week and cook authentic Cajun for the volunteers.  So we went by that lady's house to visit her for a bit.

After that, we drove around looking for a certain gas station that sold boiled peanuts to make her trip complete.  I settled in for the evening with a carton of Ben and Jerry's ice cream and Zapp's potato chips.  My week was almost over.


We took time for one last photo of us together.  We enjoyed having our old camp together.  We noticed the  indoor shower was still cleverly marked off limits to volunteers with a generic sign so they never even knew what it was. Our only regret was that they had "our" office locked so we couldn't see if the TV was still in there.  We had run a cable through the ceiling specifically so we could watch the  2008 presidential debate by ourselves and cheer when we wanted. We felt a great deal of ownership of the place.  It had been our home.

Tomorrow:  I enjoy one last young adult and head home.

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