Thursday, September 01, 2005

Always wanted to see New Orleans . . .

But I guess that I never will.

The place just barely missed the brunt of the storm, thought that it had survived, then found itself inundated when the levees broke.

Result? Eighty percent of the city under water. Hundreds, even thousands, feared dead. Total evacuation ordered. Expected to be empty for the next two or three months.

They say that the New Orleans will never be the same. From the photos and news, I believe it.

To a boy like I was, growing up in the Ozarks, New Orleans might as well have been on the other side of the world. Now, I'm living in Seoul, and it really does lie on the world's other side.

One of my best friends from Berkeley, Lionel Jensen, comes from New Orleans, and used to talk about the Yats of Gnaw Lynn's Loozie Anna.

"What's a 'Yat'?" I asked.

"You mean 'Where y'at?'" Lionel 'explained.'

"No, 'What's a 'Yat'?" I repeated.

"Where y'at?" Lionel insisted.

Our dialogue remained stuck there for a while till Lionel grew tired of my obtuseness and explained that "Yats" are New Orleans natives who eat a lot of batter-fried Cajun cooking, tend to get quite fat, and say "Where y'at?" when they mean "How are you, today?"

Lionel showed me a book of Yat dialogue overheard on the streets of New Orleans. In one conversation, two old folks were talking about juvenile delinquents and how bad these young criminals were.

Once said, "Ah wuz at Woolwuts thuh othuh day, 'cause Ah had tuh get some shoos, and they stole 'em off mah feet befoh Ah'd even paid foh 'em!"

The other person commiserated, "They'd a-stole Chris' off thuh cross if 'e 'adn't been nailed down!"

I've probably mangled the dialect, but you get the drift.

Now, that world has disappeared under twenty or thirty feet of water.


At 12:44 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

I've been keeping up with the news by internet and haven't gotten to hear any accents, but I can well imagine what the various folks sound like.

The closest that I've ever been to New Orleans was in my undergraduate days when I had to go to Thayer, Missouri to catch a bus from there to Waco, Texas. They sometimes routed me through Memphis, then across Arkansas and down eastern Louisiana before sending me over into Texas and up to Waco. I recall standing in front of a deserted bus station somewhere in Louisiana at 3:00 a.m., waiting under a single, bare light bulb for the next bus, which was to come at about 5:00 a.m.

The old days . . .

Anyway, I've sent an email to Lionel Jensen -- the friend whom I mentioned in this post -- but I haven't heard back yet. He's at Notre Dame, teaching in the Chinese History Department, so he's not in any danger, but he has family and friends in New Orleans.

I may post on this again if I hear anything of interest.


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