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Initiation into the City of Chaos

Now I know why there is a krewe of Chaos.

For New Orleans' transplants, being in Isaac's path was an initiation.

The closest I ever came to a hurricane, before Isaac so rudely introduced himself and refused to leave, were the sugary libations sold at Pat O’s. I’ve seen all the Katrina footage and have read all the books, but being a transplant in this city, it is the little things that you didn’t see and the senses that can not be stimulated through any form of media that mark you a novice when disaster strikes.

Moving here four years ago (to work in disaster recovery nonetheless), I anxiously sat through three and a half long hurricane seasons without so much as a broken window. Not that I would ever want any more destruction or devastation to this city that I have grown to love, but one can’t help think that drinks mid-week and a day off work every now and then would be nice.

It was Sunday (late morning) when the calls and texts started coming through from friends and family scattered all over the country, who seemingly knew more about the state of my city than I did. Questions like, “Are you evacuating?” and “Are you prepared for this?” were coming through 10 at a time.

I had no plans to evacuate and I obviously wasn’t prepared for this (whatever this was), because I really wasn’t even prepared to get out of bed that day. The last and only time I had heard of Isaac, he was somewhere near Florida and nothing for me to worry about.

A quick glance at the weather channel and I realized my busy day of sleeping and rom-com’s didn’t stand a chance.

I had been told that if I ever found myself in this situation, my evacuation plan should be to find out what everyone else’s evacuation plans are and follow suit. I knew I was supposed to stock up on batteries, water, canned food, and gas … but no one ever told me that every store in town would run out of all of the above before I had even had the chance to get dressed for the day. I didn’t anticipate the excitement of having an amazing excuse to break my diet quickly overturned with cravings for lettuce, nor was I expecting to be locked out of my house for several hours because both of the external doors had swollen shut. Nor did anyone mention that, afterward, the entire city would smell worse then the Quarter during Mardi Gras because the trash collectors haven’t come in pushing two weeks.

I hadn’t realized that I had already forgotten all of my favorite drinking games from college and that, while Chris Rose’s One Dead In the Attic After Katrina is in my top five favorite books, it’s probably not the best choice for when Katrina’s little brother is on his way to pay you a visit.

Despite gripes of power outages, road blocks, and feeling like Cynthia Stout from that Shel Silverstein poem we loved as a kid because they just will not take the garbage out, no one tells you that when it’s over and you are trying to put the pieces back together (for most of you, again) you are more grateful than ever to call this city home.

As the universities are back in session and the freshmen are starting to pledge their favorite sororities and fraternities, just as I did not so many years ago, I realize that the biggest pledge I have made is to New Orleans.

Now, after four glorious years and one long hell week, I have finally been initiated.

Rachael Kostelec writes about New Orleans people and places for NolaVie.




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