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In the aftermath of Hurricane Betsy in 1965, much of St. Bernard Parish and Chalmette were flooded to a depth of about five feet. These were the days before federal flood insurance and FEMA trailers. What was available was a loan from the Small Business Association, which my parents dutifully took out and repaid just in time for Hurricane Katrina.
My family’s roots are submerged in the bayous of Louisiana. If you think Louisiana is the armpit of the country, then the bayous are the pit hairs.
My grandparents raised eight kids on little more than what could be hooked, dragged, dredged, gigged or netted out of Bayou Des Allemands. My grandfather was a barber; my grandmother ran an ice cream parlor. Between my grandfather not charging the Depression-devastated inhabitants for their haircuts and my grandmother frightening the children who came in her shop at the wrong time for ice cream, my grandparents eventually lit out for greener pastures: the reclaimed malarial swamp known as Chalmette, where I grew up.
Site of my first and only public spanking for eating my lunch during class time, and trying to impress Melanie Ybarzabel, my first grade girlfriend (tho she had no idea of that status, of course) “We’ll go see lites in St. Bernard And what they got that’s gone… Atlantic Thrift…Ain’t dere no more Drug store […]