Sunday, April 8, 2007

Memories of Grandma Vivian's House

April 6, 2007
3010 Pauger St., 7th Ward
New Orleans, La.

Family and Friends--

First, a little back-story. The AmeriCorps and Tulane University have put me up in Tulane's Medical Center dorms for the year. My roommate, Jules, is a fellow AmeriCorps member and native New Orleanian. We have hit it off since day one.

He was journalism major, I was journalism major. He uses "word" to end every sentence. I use "bro."

Jules had to evacuate for Hurricane Katrina. He spent a year and half in Houston. You see, Jules wanted to come back right away. But his mom, a diabetic coupled with seizure and aneurysm issues couldn't trust the uncertain medical care in New Orleans.

He set her up, joined the AmeriCorps and returned home.

On Good Friday, Jules and I went to a barbecue at his boss' place.

The barbecue was close to his grandma's house he said. So we went. Jules had told me about this house. How it flooded. How his grandma hadn't seen it yet, 19 months after the storm. Grandma Vivian currently lives in Dallas.

We drove by his high school, St. Augustine. A private, all-boys prep school. St. Augs as it’s called down here, boasts the best brass band training ground in the City. At St. Augs, it's harder to make the band than the basketball team. Last week I went to a show at one of the Crescent City's best jazz clubs that featured three 17-year-old St. Augians.

About two blocks away from Jules' school is Pauger St. We take a left. The dilapidated houses squeeze us in on both sides.

Six or so houses up, stands what used to be a comfy single- family yellow home.

3010 Pauger St: Grandma's house.

A note left by one of Jules' family members reads something like this, "This house is due to be gutted on or about September, 2006."

The note is true.

It's crazy to see a house down to its planks the first time. Now, my eyes see it is as pseudo-normalcy. At least in New Orleans.

As Jules walks around the house and looks in Grandma’s windows and her backyard, you can tell he is reminiscing.

Finally, he comes out with some stories.

"Remember that room your relatives have that they never want you to go in?" he says.

"Oh, yeah," I say. He points through the window into a no-walled room.

"One time, my sister and I snuck in there," he says. "We broke the head of an owl made out of sea shells.”

He says they put the head back on and bolted out.

"My grandma never said a word about," he says with a smile that shows about 15 years of relief from the day they broke the statue.

Jules would come over to Grandma's house when his father, Jules Raymond Sr. was going through chemo. Grandma took care of her son while he battled cancer.

Jules hadn't hit double-digit age yet. His two sisters were even younger.

Jules was 10 when Jules Sr. passed.

Today, Jules' sister, Lauren, is a 2004 Harvard graduate. Rachel, the youngest, is a senior at Howard University in Washington, DC.

Jules Jr. graduated from NYU.

The Goins family obviously handles adversity well.

It makes me proud to be in New Orleans and see Jules here today. He works 70 hours a week helping New Orleans' neighborhoods get back on the feet at the Neighborhoods Partnership Network.

Since I work at City Hall, only 300 yards from our apartment, I usually joke with him about having the place all to myself.

He needs a break. But I doubt he'll take one. It isn't like him.

Best to everyone,


To donate to the Jules’ organization, the Neighborhoods Partnership Network contact him @ or visit their website,

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