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Love NOLA: senior wisdom in Treme

Brett Will Taylor (photo by Jason Kruppa)

One of the things I love about my neighborhood is that we have a lot of elders who call Treme home.

They watch over us.

Like my almost senior neighbor who went after two kids trying to hoist — and steal — my bike over my alley gate. The force of Treme called “Gladys” screeched her big mama of a pickup to a halt, jumped out and let fire with such a string of obscenities that the kids took off for parts unknown.

When Gladys told me the story, she delighted in adding, “Don’t worry, your bike is fine AND one of those $@%^ got so scared he left his bike behind, too!”  Shaking her head, Gladys muttered,  “Shoot. Doesn’t even have the guts to be a good thief!”

Our elders remind us to be thankful for what we have … and don’t have.

Like the immaculately pressed gray-haired lady who works in the cafeteria at the Craig School.  One afternoon, we passed each other on St. Philip as I was walking my dog, Tyra Banks.  Without breaking her “I am so happy to be out of that school” stride, she looked down at Miss Tyra and said, to no one in particular, “Lord, I wish my children were dogs.”

And then there’s Miss Jessie, our frail, arthritic neighbor who always has a sweet smile and a kind wave for anyone who passes by her stoop. I love Miss Jessie. She saved my life once by opening a can of Bush’s baked beans when I was sans can opener.

She teaches us …. well, I’ll let you decide!

A few weeks ago, I was heading out about 10:30 p.m. to catch some music. As I walked by Miss Jessie’s house, her door was wide open and her niece was standing, all wide-eyed, on the front stoop.

“Everything OK?” I asked. To which she replied, “We can’t find Miss Jessie. Her car’s here, but she’s not answering. And now I’m afraid to go inside because what if someone is in there who hurt her?”

For some reason (which I happily lived not to regret) I said, “That’s OK, baby, I’ll go in and look.”  Which I did. Room by room. No Miss Jessie (and no murderer).

The niece thanked me for looking about and said that, since there were no murderers inside, she’d go on in and wait to see if Miss Jessie turned up.

Two days later, I saw Miss Jessie on her stoop. Same sweet smile. Same kind wave.

“Miss Jessie,” I said. “It sure is good to see you. Where were you the other night?  We were all worried!”

“Isn’t that sweet,” she said. “I was in Baton Rouge for a funeral for a real good sister of mine. My friend picked me up and we drove up together.”

“Miss Jessie,” said I, blocking out the image of Miss Jessie or any of her friends behind the wheel of anything more powerful than a shopping cart. “You can’t just go running up to Baton Rouge. You gave your family a real scare. Why didn’t you tell them?”

Miss Jessie looked at me with that “you youngun’s sure are crazy” look that seniors get, leaned forward in her rickety old chair and said, “Why, sugar, none of them knew her.”

“Well, when you put it that way, Miss Jessie,” was all I could stammer before bursting out in laughter.

And giving thanks that I live in a neighborhood where wise elders help us keep it all in perspective!  (By the way, be sure to visit Gladys at her Cafe Treme. The coffee’s great, plus you know your bike will be safe!)

Brett Will Taylor is a southern Shaman who writes Love NOLA weekly for NolaVie. Follow him @bwtshaman, email him at or visit his site


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