Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Katrina's eve. How about something good?

August 25, 2007

Circle Food
1522 St. Bernard St.
New Orleans, La.

Dear Family and Friends,

Wherever you are, New Orleans will be on your tubes and your screens, your breakfast and coffee tables this week.

Whatever you read in the big shop media this week--read it with a critical eye.

There will be stories of struggle and heartache. The ones that tug and make you say, “Oh my.” It’s what writers want you to feel. It’s what writers dream you feel.

These are good writers. Human interest is what we--humans--are all

And then you’ll read about the crime. And the still partially sutured status of what The New York Times calls our “Patchwork City.” You’ll read about the lack of this and that and slowness of here and there. And the “Two years later the Big Easy struggles to Recover” headlines.

It’s all true.

But, know that buried underneath the stories of struggle and patchwork, stories of strength and persistence are here, too.

And I’d say: Where are those stories?

Take the Circle Food, a grocery store in New Orleans’ Seventh Ward, which had been in operation since 1938 until Katrina. This weekend, the owner, Dwayne Boudreaux opened Circle Food in its parking lot to test the viability of reopening.

“We were the original one-stop shop,” Boudreaux said. “We tried to provide what the community wanted and needed.”

I met a woman and her mother at the parking lot grocery store. People came and shopped, I asked them whether they’d shop at Circle Food if it reopened.

I must have seemed out of place. After all, I had a clipboard.

The interactions with a few discrepancies went like this,

Excuse me, mam, may I..?”

“Oh, Baby yes, bring my Circle Food back!”

“Well, why?”

“Because I’ve been coming to this store my whole life. It’s the only place in town where you could get five peppers for a dollar and pay your utility bill too.”

I think Circle Food will reopen, insiders tell me so. Boudreaux wants to do a few more one-day sales to gauge the community need. Again, he’ll bring people in for a make-shift block party where people leave with peppers and seafood, toilet paper and iced tea.

Saturday was hot like everyday. A sheen topped the parking lot. People without sunglasses looked funny, really. One eye open or squinting, saluting the sun while they shopped, socialized and listened to a DJ underneath a tent.

If Mr. Boudreaux has anything to say about it, they’ll be inside the store soon enough.

Chalk this column up in the Boring Category. Circle Food is a solid this is happening but not quite amazing enough or sad enough or despicable enough story for a headline. But it's good enough to know New Orleans will be ok kind of news.

And I’m ok with that.



No comments: