Sunday, September 17, 2006

Budd, George, Marilyn

These names reflect a wondrous thing; people who had moved away before and directly after the storm who have just moved back to New Orleans. Let me tell you a bit about them, so you can see how fabulous it is that they came back.

Budd and George (Amy George Hirons is her real name, we call her George) had moved away in July of 2005, way up to Lexington Kentucky, where George could use that advanced degree of hers. I saw them twice during the levee break year, both times while I was in Ohio to visit friends and family. They seemed a bit out of place up there, but okay. Then came the news: George got a gig at Tulane and so they were coming back. Not just that, but they have reported to us that they're bringing a baby-in-training, due in 6-7 months!

Marilyn stayed in Austin after the levee breaks to find a nursing home for her aged father, where and her partner Anna Maria, had lived previously. They had just sold their home in Lakeview in July of 2005, and had moved into a second story apartment in MidCity. (Anna Maria's family lost 11 homes in Lakeview, and at last count, 9 were not going back to Lakeview.) Anna Maria came back right away to do her important work of mental health counseling, and to support her many family members struggle to reclaim some part of their past and decide on a future.

Both of these couples are active in the local food movement; Budd and George are founding members and much of the driving force behind the movement for cooperative food stores and mobile markets in the city. Even in Ky, they remained active in our struggle to find the right path, emailing us with logical and emotional exhortations to continue on the right path.
Budd will probably become the first employee of the NOLA Food Coop, when the grant monies come in later this year to start building the mobile markets. Budd is a computer guy, so he has built fantastic sites and forums for us (as well as running the buying club we founded), while George has become our institutional memory, secretary and a bold organizing force.

Marilyn and Anna Maria brought food security issues to the forefront of organizing in New Orleans back in 2002 when they moved here. They brought a bunch of us together to start talking about food access in our area, and through those meetings, I met some absolutely amazing people and learned tons about organizing around food. Marilyn has always been our emotional center in the meetings (and in the organization that was founded from those, New Orleans Food and Farm Network), while Anna Maria is the workhorse and the logical one. They work well as a team at NOFFN, unusual for a couple.

They bought another house in July of 2006; on Bienville Avenue, in a formerly flooded area across from Mercy. They were among the first in that area, and will bring a serenity and hope to their neighbors lives when they return or move in new. Their new house is 6 blocks from my trailer, and makes me feel better knowing they're just a dog walk away. Marilyn is bringing her father back to Metairie in October, and hopes that it is the last move for him.

Here's what it says to me: see we are worth it. these people have options and talents that can be used elsewhere, but they choose to bring them to this city. We have something that is meaningful for talented people to want.

In return, I say to them, Welcome back and stay focused. You will wonder why you came back at times, you will grow angry at the waste and the incompetence you see, but you will also be recharged and inspired by the grassroots-red-bean-and-rice-on-Mondays, Rock-n-Bowl-on-Thursdays, Frenchman-on-Saturdays culture that says, we live in the most interesting place in America.

1 comment:

amygeorge said...

George here writing to thank Dar for her kind comments. In my currently excessively hormonal state, kind comments make me cry so that's that.

But I would say that a return to this slightly shattered New Orleans would not have happened were it not for the people of the city. This city received me as an astoundingly naive eighteen year old, straight out of the woods of New Hampshire and was so responsible for the creation of my adult identity. Leaving, pre-storm, my plan was to explore the academic world for a decade or so elsewhere before figuring out how to get back.

When the city was devastated just a month after my move, suddenly the desire to return was so urgent. This city had given me so much and I was not there when it needed me. I hope with my return to bring some fresh energy to the reconstruction process. I hope to support my friends in need. I hope to do some hard work so that my very tired and stressed companions can get some much-needed rest.

And I hope to birth my child in this city so that the population can continue to grow. I don't know if being a yankee is an inherited trait, but I would like it very much if my baby could be a New Orleanian.

New Orleans has heart and soul that does not exist elsewhere in this country, and even in its current fragile and damaged state it is worth the effort.