Tag Archives: Louisiana

Lessons From The Sludge

Note: This piece was inspired by yesterday’s outrageous downpour and my husband’s subsequent muddy bike ride. Upon his return, he found me eating potato chips that I had dropped on the floor. It was our anniversary this weekend. Sixteen years. I guess this is a tribute. Kind of.

When I lived in New Orleans, there was one particularly soggy Jazz Fest where just as Robert Cray finished belting out the last stanza to “Forecast,” — I can feel the thunder
/ I can see the lightning
 / I can feel the pain
 / Oh, it’s gonna rain,” — the already ominous looking grey skies opened up, and torrents of water-soaked this curly-girly’s hair in less than 30 seconds.

My soon-to-be fiancé and I huddled under an enormous piece of plastic that some smart person had thought to bring, and when the downpour turned into a light sprinkle, we slogged over to the food vendors.

Hubby immediately headed for the shortest line and opted for something cheap — a piece of pizza. I, on the other hand, went full throttle N’awlins and went to stand in a line advertising étouffée and crocodile and turtle soup and crawfish pies.

The line was ridiculously long; it wrapped and weaved around which, to me, indicated I’d found the Disneyland of food vendors. For 30 minutes, I sloshed around in a combination of mud and muck and hay and urine, my feet and ankles covered in a chocolaty-goo.

Eventually, I made it to the front of the line where I asked as politely as a ravenous, sleep-deprived, ridiculously sweaty, mud-covered dancing fool could muster: “One soft-shell crab Po’ Boy, please.”

Finally, a woman with honey colored skin and a long, kinky ponytail placed the sandwich of my dreams in my hands. My Po ‘Boy was thick and ungainly. Holding it, made it near impossible to retrieve my wet wad of dollar bills out of my pocket to pay. The woman behind the counter offered, “Sugar, let me hold dat for you.”

I reached in my pocket for $15.00.

Expensive? Absolutely. But I was beyond ravenous, and I just felt certain my “sammy” would be worth the wait.

Ms. Honeysweet Food Vendor traded cash-for-sandwich and, napkins in hand, I stepped away from the smell of fried food and the stink of people whose deodorant had washed off hours earlier. Or had never been applied at all.

I scanned the crowd for my fiancé, knowing he wouldn’t be far and, spotting him, I triumphantly raised my sandwich in the air.

Photo by rpongsaj @ flickr.com

And then it happened.

The innards of my sandwich — all that crabmeat, the special sauce and lettuce and tomato and onion — slipped, slow-motion style from the wax paper into which it had been carefully swaddled and splashed into the filthy sludge pile beneath my feet.

“Noooooo!” I howled, scrambling to my knees to retrieve what I could salvage.

Future Hubby was mortified.

“You. Are. So. Not. Eating. That.”

Future Hubby probably meant this as a gentle suggestion, but I have always heard sentences like that as a kind of dare.

And I always take the dare.

I picked up my broken sandwich parts and picked out the largest, most offensive pieces of hay and grit.

Did I mention the dirt? And the sludge?

I looked at Future Hubby, just so he understood the girl he had chosen and what he was getting.

And I took a bite.

My sandwich was not delicious. It definitely had bits-o-mulch in it, but I made a point of chewing and swallowing.

Future Hubby made gagging noises. He told me I would, undoubtedly, become sick. He told me all about germ theory and all the kinds of parasites that live in urine and dirt. He told me I was going to get tapeworm. And toxoplasmosis. Don’t ask. (I know I didn’t.)

I was unimpressed. If it was going to be my time, I figured it was as good as any to go. I would have lived fully. I would have been warmed by the sun and then survived an amazing lightning storm. I would have heard Herbie Hancock and Pearl Jam and Wynton Marsalis and Superfly and Chilliwack Dixieland.

As it turns out, that Po’ Boy was not worth a 30-minute wait. Neither was it worth that $15 price-tag. Even if my ridiculously expensive sandwich hadn’t fallen in the flarg, it is unlikely that I would have finished it. It just wasn’t very good.

Later, the sun came out again in full force. Exhausted, Future Hubby and I went to the Gospel Tent, where a person can usually find a chair away from the heat. I felt transported back in time, to some kind of revival meeting straight out of Huckleberry Finn. With so many people raising their hands in the air and saying “amen,” I knew I would not get sick. That afternoon, I put my faith in Rance Allen and Albert S. Hadley and Soul Children — in their voices, and in my immune system.

And guess what? I’m still here.

What’s the most disgusting thing you’ve ever tried to eat?

Guest Post by Abby Fendler: In Memory of Ronnie

Today’s guest post is by Abby Fendler, a former student at Metairie Park Country Day School. Earlier this week, Ronnie Frazier, Buildings and Grounds Supervisor, unexpectedly passed away, shocking the entire MPCDS community. While Ronnie wasn’t officially a teacher, he sure did mentor a lot of people. That man touched lives. My condolences to Ronnie’s wife, Rubie – whom Ronnie adored.

Photos courtesy of Sarah Choquette

How many people can say that their school janitor was – without a doubt – one of their best friends, heroes, and idols of all time? Rest assured, thousands of students, graduates, faculty and parents of Metairie Park Country Day School in Louisiana, can.

Born in Ferriday, Louisiana in 1957, in a town of 5,000 people, Ronnie had an English teacher aunt who stressed the importance of reading. As a result, Ronnie grew up articulate, politically acute, and knowledgeable. The day after he graduated from high school, he joined the army and, after his stint, he came to New Orleans looking for work.

“There weren’t many jobs available,” he said, “so I took a part-time job working in a grocery store warehouse, but I wanted to get into management training.” Although there were many stumbling blocks to his being admitted into the program, he persevered and eventually became assistant manager. Only then did he discover that the job did not pay a livable wage. Through a friend, Ronnie heard about a position with benefits and the possibility for career advancement at a well-known private school in the city, Metairie Park Country Day. “I felt that I’d found what I was looking for. In the past, I had only held jobs for short stretches of time, but at MPCDS, I felt like I could be happy,” Ronnie said.

Ronnie’s official job title was “Building and Grounds Supervisor” of the Metairie Park Country Day School in Louisiana, but Ronnie was also the head of maintenance, a bus driver, a woodworker, and a do-anything-and-everything-man-for-anyone-and-everyone on campus guy; in actuality, he was every student’s greatest hero – a real life “Superman.”

Graduate Traci Berger said, “Not one student at Country Day thought of Ronnie as ‘just the janitor’; he was like every student’s unofficial psychiatrist, funny uncle, favorite teacher, and best friend all wrapped up in one enormous, smiling package.” To the people who knew Ronnie, he was not merely a maintenance man; he was a fixture of the community, the real heart and soul of Metairie Park Country Day School.

An imposing figure at six feet five inches tall, dark, muscular and two hundred twenty-five pounds, Ronnie was a commanding presence at the school. Mallory Bohn, a thirteen year veteran of Country Day, remembers her first encounter with Ronnie Frazier as a kindergartener and new student:

I remember carrying my new “Barbie and Ken” lunchbox and an empty “My Little Pony” book bag, and from what I remember there was no one around to help me, but just as that first tear rolled down my cheek, Ronnie appeared from out of nowhere with this gigantic, welcoming smile. He’s was always around, to high-five when you were up and to commiserate and help when you were down.

Every faculty member and student has a fond memory of Ronnie Frazier. In 2004, graduating class president, Ben Fendler read these words in his speech. “I learned many things at my school – Math, Science and English – but the real lessons of life were those that I learned from watching Ronnie Frazier. He works hard without whining or complaining; he never quits. He’s a confidant, but not a snitch. He shines at a job that many would consider beneath them, and makes it all worthwhile and even enviable. Ronnie says that to succeed in his job requires diplomacy, flexibility and level-headedness, and that the kids make this easy for him because of all of their energy and inherent goodness. Although I think all of you would agree with me that it is not the children but Ronnie’s own character that accounts for his success.”

Ronnie worked at Country Day for 20 years. He once said being a member of the Country Day community was “like a vacation” because he was able to make a good living and get to watch wonderful kids grow up. “I get to drive them around, watch them play their [sports] and get paid for it. And, at the end of the day, I get to go home and know that I may have helped a student… That makes me so thankful.” Ronnie said. “I may not have the highest paying job in the world, but nothing is as rewarding as knowing that a child looks up to me and that, in his or her eyes, what I have to say really does make a difference.”

Does anyone recall having a bond with a person who worked at a school? Not a teacher but someone else who made a difference in your life? I’d love to hear your story.

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