To Catch A…

I’m Irish; although I’m also several other things, I’m still Irish. And as such I feel it important to celebrate that heritage with the one holiday a year that actually acknowledges this fact- St. Patricks Day. Enter the fact that I live in New Orleans. People down here know how to celebrate! Actually, from what I’ve figured out, they only celebrate in one way- have a parade.

Now, where I’m from, a parade means hooking a flatbed trailer up to a pick-up truck, throw some cardboard and tissue paper together in some fashion, get a bucket of candy to toss to the kids and your good. Not so in the Big Easy. Forget the pickup, they use 18 wheelers. A little flatbed will now not do. They construct these huge… I don’t even know how to describe them. They’re like these two story creations covered with sequence and anything shiny. Some have huge wooden statues on the front. I’m fairly convinced they use the same float for every event and just nail new paraphenalia to the sides depending on the holiday. They are loaded with at a minimum 15 people who toss things to you. That’s where it gets interesting.

Instead of candy, people here throw strands of beads. Just cheap plastic beads. When you think about if from a detached viewpoint, you wonder- what’s the deal with the beads? What the heck do you do with them when you get home?? But in the moment, it’s like a whole other story. It’s like The Lord of the Rings and Smeagal with the ring. The beads turn into my precious. People get fanatical.

Upon first arrival, I thought I would just be a spectator… but you get sucked in. Before you know it, I’ve got several strands of beads around my neck. And then I start to get picky. I don’t want just any old strand of beads, I’ve noticed they have several varieties. I now only want the big chunky beads. And I’m sucessful in getting a few strands of those. Then I see the motherload of all beads… a strand of beads the size of christmas tree ball ornaments. And I haveto have that. Enter Jeff. Jeff is really good at getting people to give him things. He barters with everyone. And he likes to have a mission. So I send him on Operation Big Bead. After several attempts, I now have monster beads around my neck. And then I notice the boas. I’m no longer satisfied with beads… they’ve got feathers to be had!! Again, Jeff is sent on a mission. The boas are the hardest item to procure. He walks along the floats as they go by yelling “Feathers! Throw me the feathers!” That in itself was worth the afternoon. And then the moment comes. Some guy tosses Jeff a boa… and it’s like he’s made the prize kill. He returns to me triumphant and I’m elated… over a $2 strand of green feathers that I’ll never ever wear again.

We return at the end of the day with a huge satchel of beads… the fruits of our labors. After the emotional high has worn off we’re left wondering- what the heck do you do with all these beads?!



Every thought of trying to run a company where every week you get new employees and only management stays the same? Think about that for a minute and you’ll find your self in my boat. Except my employees aren’t paid, they volunteer.Hmmm , there’s a twist. The great thing about volunteers though is they bring back good stories. Let me set the scene: We’re rebuilding a house on the east side of New Orleans for a Miss Angeline. The said house does not yet have plumbing: meaning no bathroom. Number one question of volunteers is “What do we do when we need to use the bathroom?” Answer: scope out the nearest port-a-potty. Now, in your average city, port-a-potties would typically not be located in various parts of a neighborhood, but New Orleans is not your average city right now. So port-a-potties are a standard. Miss Angeline’s house has a POP down the street, around the corner and to the west… that is, 2 blocks away. Quite the jont when you really have to go. Enter team Michigan. This team is made up of 2 women and 6 men. Guess who has to use the restroom the most often?

Wallace is an 80+ year old man who lives down the street and just around the corner on the way to the above noted POP. Having already completed his house, his daily activities are limited to watching the daily happenings of the neighborhood… and those walking by in search of the POP.

Day 1: Wallace takes note of the activity at Miss Angeline’s house and watches as the two ladies make trips the the POP in two hour intervals.

Day 2: Wallace invites said ladies to use his bathroom, conveniently located just inside his back door. Each trip results in a 5 minute bathroom break and 30 minutes of talking to Wallace.

Day 3: repeat of Day 2.

Day 4-5: Team Michigan drops ladies off at Wallace’s house promptly at 8:30am prior to arriving at job site. Michigan ladies make first bathroom break and conversation with Wallace before proceeding to job site. Two hours later are back for potty break #2 and the cycle repeats.

Wallace has now become as much a part of Miss Angeline’s house as the work. How many of us live in a city where your neighbor would invite you to use their bathroom if they saw you walking down the street to the nearest POP? New Orleans I’m realizing is not just about high crime rates, daily murders, poverty and racism that is protrayed in the media. There are daily happenings of good that go un-noticed… thanks Wallace.