NOLA’s Spirit Reminds Us To Keep Going

Jackson Square

A statue of Andrew Jackson rides high on his stallion amid Jackson Square in New Orleans’ French Quarter.
(Photo by Jathan Fink, Jadeworks Entertainment)

Proud NOLA natives, Deborah and Merlin Dyer celebrate everything about the culture of their hometown, from the French fleurs-de-lis that are prominently “hidden” in every picture frame, seat cushion and corner of their home to the vibrant, jazzy art that covers its walls. Last night, my wife and I joined the couple for an authentic New Orleans feast in their new Texas home, but they introduced us to much more than an exquisite meal.  

In 2005, the Dyers’ lives were irrevocably changed by Hurricane Katrina, which sent so many lifelong residents running for their lives, many who never returned. When we crossed the threshold into the warm embrace of their new house last night, we were met with a wall plastered with snapshots of the Crescent City in all its glory, and sprinkled between the colorful feast of photos are Chris Rose quotes they treasure, including one that captures the spirit of every NOLA native I’ve ever met.

“We dance even if there’s no radio. We drink at funerals. We talk too much and laugh too loud and live too large and, frankly, we’re suspicious of others who don’t.”

Other dinner guests had already arrived, so we quickly sat down to a sumptuous meal of gumbo, potato salad, rolls and bread pudding served with steaming mugs of chicory coffee. When we finally pushed ourselves away from the table, feeling fat and happy, we retired to the living room and talked about football, the Saints, and what the team means to the city of New Orleans, particularly Drew Brees and the team’s 2009 Super Bowl victory.

Court of Two Sisters

Whether working at one of New Orleans famed restaurants (like the Court of Two Sisters, pictured here) or writing for a newspaper, NOLA’s spirit lives in each of its residents no matter what they do for a living.
(Photo by Jathan Fink, Jadeworks Entertainment)

Eventually, the other guests departed and left us chatting with the Dyers. Once again, the conversation turned back to Chris Rose, and they explained why many called the journalist the Voice of the City, particularly in the wake of the hurricane, when his writing became even more prescient and meant a great deal to so many New Orleans residents.

Deb pulled out the December 2015 issue of New Orleans Magazine, which features an article Rose wrote called “Looking For Order: A Writer’s Tale of Working Tables,” which recounts the difficult predicament the Pulitzer Prize-winning scribe suddenly found himself in which led to his working in a restaurant between November 2013-14. My host was sure I would love his work, and she was right.

There is much to be admired here, from Rose’s languid, delicious prose to the way he crafts a story. As a former waiter, a professional storyteller, and as a fellow journalist who suddenly finds himself without a platform from which to write, I connect to this piece on multiple levels. Most importantly, however, I admire Rose’s ability to bare his soul and reveal his empathy for others caught in a similar situation.

Authentic and courageous, Rose is truly a New Orleans writer. He has a poet’s heart and a survivor’s instinct, and through every word he writes he reminds all of us that our time on this raucous ride of humanity is by turns turbulent, miraculous, devastating, blissful, insane and inspiring. He shows us that we all navigate the same turns, curves, hills and valleys as every other passenger, just at different times.

Hurricane Katrina may have swept the Dyers’ out of Louisiana and turned Rose’s career upside down, but NOLA’s spirit resides in each of their hearts. As they open their arms and homes, kitchens and lives to us, they seem to whisper, “Persevere. Keep going.” The reminder is clear. If we hold on and savor the ride, whether through screams of terror or peals of laughter, we will make it through. And when the ride finally does come to a screeching halt, rather than walk away, we’ll pull the lap bar back down, grin at the attendant and say,” One more time around.”

About Jathan Fink
Jathan is a journalist, philanthropist, and entrepreneur. He is also a travel junkie, foodie and jazz aficionado. A California native, he resides in Texas.

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