The Good, the Bad, and the "I Wasn't Expecting That"

06:05 December 21, 2015
By: Debbie Lindsey

Don't tell me Bernie Sanders is too old to be president. If two people, condescendingly referred to as “senior citizens,” can pack, lift and haul 10,000 (okay, maybe only 9000) books equaling one-and-a-half to two tons in weight, then I say standing at a podium or sitting in the Oval Office sounds like a piece of cake. Yeah, yeah, I know that having the weight of the entire planet on your shoulders might trump (no pun intended) moving a small bookstore across town. Presidents don’t go gray without reason, but Bernie’s already tackled that. 

 Perhaps this whole comparison thing is a wee bit off base, however. The point is that when Boyfriend and I should have been making bank, catching up and getting ahead during what is generally a great time of year to be shopkeepers in the French Quarter, we were hauling ass, books, cases, furniture and 10 years of stuff to our new digs. And while we were not feeling very “oh, things happen for a reason” positive (okay, I was downright pissy about it all), Boyfriend and I actually bonded tighter and refueled our mutual admiration for each other…and for our friends. Although friends and customers of all ages offered their time and energy, it came down to a small group whose muscles we taxed. And guess what? Not a soul was under 50. We senior sucker-punched that cargo and drove that rental U-Haul like bats out of hell, and I learned to shimmy up and down a ladder and paint 2400 square feet of retail space.

This relocation put years on our backs, various joints and muscles, but it damn well took years off our attitude on aging. This was the best birthday present for our respective turnings of 62 and 72. I might end up in traction, but I sure looked spunky in my “tough girl” work clothes (I smelled a bit ripe, but hey). The fight-or-flight mode works wonders at deceiving your body into thinking it can do anything. Now that those endorphins have stopped pumping, the aches begin. Not to worry; I’m sure that the prospect of making the rent will stir those endorphins again.

I must be the only person who’d rather take out a loan and slowly drain my savings to run a business that can barely pay me a salary than simply go get another waitressing job. And it’s not like I don’t really enjoy restaurant work—I do—but I just cannot abide having to go through the motions of training and starting new. At my age, having a 20-year-old train me to serve food is so demoralizing.  

Actually, starting a new job always gave me a pair of sweaty palms and a full-on assault of intestinal butterflies. However, I think the truest reason for moving our store was simply that we were not done—not with our business, our creation of funk or the pride of being uniquely (that is, weirder than dirt) New Orleans. So here we are ready to put to bed 2015 and begin a new chapter that hopefully will not be Chapter 13. We did add a clause to our lease saying that we could dissolve our obligations to our landlord in the case of natural catastrophe or dismemberment. Boyfriend removes all sharp objects when business is slow or the loan payment is due.

This relocation put years on our backs, various joints and muscles, but it damn well took years off our attitude on aging. 

Speaking of bidding 2015 adieu, there are so many (always have been, always will be) people and places to miss—dearly miss. And I would be remiss if I did not segue into those murky waters. I cannot do proper justice to all, but must share my respect and personal sense of loss for those who touched my life.  

K. Balewa was the voice we woke to every Wednesday at six a.m. A music aficionado who shared his exquisite taste and knowledge of jazz with a broadcaster’s cadence that Morgan Freeman would envy (imagine velvet slowly pulled across gravel), even his weather, time and station identifications had a State-of the-Union air. Then, one Wednesday, we heard a voice-over announce the station’s condolences to the family of K. Boyfriend and I both just sat and cried.

As I said, too many have left our city: Syndey Byrd, Trumpet Black, Smokey Johnson, Frankie Ford, Joseph Torregano, Miss Willie Mae Seaton, Joe Segreto, Steve Steinberg, Chef Paul. And then when you thought our town couldn’t lose another icon, Allen shocked us with his departure. 

Mr. Allen Toussaint’s death had me in tears for weeks—a bit of much-needed eloquence has left us forever. I think my emotions go beyond affection for this lovely man and his enormous talent that made our city a better place; I feel the loss of all that has left our New Orleans. (And don’t start me ranting about the loss of our everyday citizens to gunfire.) Mr. Toussaint, you were the final straw. Now I have no one in a Rolls-Royce to wave howdy to.

So, here we are at the beginnings of a new stretch of time, another year and even another opportunity. There are those who like to tell you that change is for the best, that things happen for a reason, that a loved one had a good run and now is in a better place. I say, screw all that. Yeah, yeah, I get it and begrudgingly will give a nod to some of those sound bites, but frankly, sometimes all you get is a wake-up call—and for that I am grateful. We need to safeguard the persons, places and things that make us and our town what it is. Never take for granted your life, livelihood and those who make each day a little bit easier to rejoice in. 

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