In June 2002 my father passed away and Joel and I went to New Orleans for the funeral. While we were there, The Times Picayune, published a series of articles titled Washing Away that discussed the changes to Louisiana’s coastline and explored in some detail what the consequences might be if a major hurricane hit the city head on over this dramatically altered landscape. That was the first time I heard about Louisiana’s vanishing coast, though at the time I was far more concerned by the writers’ descriptions of what would likely happen in New Orleans when The Big One hit. Three years later when Katrina hit the newspaper would seem to have been prophetic (which made me want to spit when president junior went on tv to whine ‘but how could we have known…’ ummm, you could have read it on the front page of the newspaper.)
After recently reading several books about Katrina and its aftermath, I found my attention returning to the more basic issue of the vanishing coast and picked up a copy of Mike Tidwell’s 2003 book Bayou Farewell, subtitled The Rich Life and Tragic Death of Louisiana’s Cajun Coast.
Tidwell combines a detailed explanation of the forces that cause Louisiana to lose coastal wetlands at rate of more than fifty acres a day and the plans proposed to reverse this loss with intimate portraits of the three population groups that live in the coastal region– the Cajuns, the Houma Indians and the Vietmanese. Growing up in New Orleans I always thought I knew Louisiana. But I really don’t. At one point Tidwell speaks with a Cajun fisherman in Golden Meadow and is shocked to learn that the man has never been to New Orleans, 80 or so miles away.
Following along as Tidwell hitches rides on fishing boats around the bayou region, you get to know the people and their world. Most of Tidwell’s fishing trips are with Cajuns but he also manages to fish with a Houma and a Vietnamese. Their version of gumbo (with lemongrass broth) did not appeal to me but I swooned at the descriptions of the food at the blessing of the fleet in Bayou Grand Calliou. I learned a lot I didn’t know about the land loss and the proposed solution (which as of this date is still awaiting funding in DC) and about the people and the culture. And was moved to make jambalaya for supper. Mmmm, mmmm good.
The interviewer from last week called to say that they had decided to repost the position and that I was welcome to re-apply for it. Other than that I didn’t get it, I’ve no clue what that means but suppose I will find out. Ron seemed more bummed than I was that I didn’t get it, but I am focused on my interview tomorrow.