Tuesday, August 26, 2008

When to Open a $70 Bottle of Wine

We have plywood.

After he got out of school, Simon called from the Home Depot. I measured the windows and doors. An hour later he unloaded the wood while I made dinner and listened to WWOZ broadcasting from Denver, where the Democratic National Convention is in full-swing. On the radio one of the local DJs said, "So it's what, 20-to-eight in New Orleans? That means people are cookin'." I was cooking. I smiled. "Just so you know, people, we ARE aware of the weather reports, of Gustav. We hope the music can take you away from your worry."

When Simon and I sat down at the kitchen island, I asked him if he wanted to have a seventy-dollar bottle of wine for dinner. The wine was given to me by a friend upon the publication of her novel (it was that way around because I'd helped her find the agent who sold her book) several years ago. The wine is pre-K stuff, which means there's a good chance it's turned, but somehow I've just kept hanging on to it, not drinking it after we returned to New Orleans after the storm, not drinking it after we got married, not drinking it when we closed on our house, after we moved in. I don't know what we've been waiting for...

"I figured we should drink it now," I explained, "in case we can't toast our new house when the dining table arrives."

Simon considered it. "Let's wait."

I did not tell Simon what I'd thought earlier--that it's a good thing our dining table is not ready yet, since everything in our house might be gone if Gustav makes a direct hit. The dining table--a custom piece that my parents are giving us as a gift and that's being made by a Northshore furniture maker who made one for Rashida in her This Old House-house--is made from boards taken from walls we removed during the renovation.

Once upon a time, the boards floated down the Mississippi River on a barge. The barge was deconstructed and turned into our house some 100 years ago. In 1927, after the devastating Mississippi River floods of that year (our house flooded because the even-then buffoonish city officials decided to blow the levees downriver in order to spare the upper-crusties in the Garden District), the owner papered the barge board using issues of the New Orleans Tribune. (One story reported, "President Coolidge urged to visit New Orleans." It seems even then the government was relying on the "personal responsibility" of its own victims to heal the devastation wrought by poor leadership.) The man who is making our table reports that the wood is likely "first growth virgin pine" from Natchez (I think he said this was in Tennessee, not Mississippi).

One day we hope to have meals atop those boards. We hope to look out our window and see the big ships go by (the ones that make US commerce possible; the ones that rely on our New Orleans ports and our New Orleans workers).

I am therefore grateful to Simon for keeping me from opening the $70 wine, because it needs that table.

I am also grateful to Bob Breck of Fox 8 New Orleans for reminding me (with one of his trademark turkey gobbles and a girlish hoot) not to "hyperventilate" over this Gustav.

I think I'll go to bed.


pfunkem said...

hey sarah
it's cate root. i read your blog, so it's more than just your mom. anyway, i just wanted to say i really liked this entry.

hopefully see you at the NF party at HW saturday. crossing fingers.


Anonymous said...

Hi Sarah,

I am writing to from the BBC News website. I was looking for people affected by Gustav and came across your blog.

I found your entries very interesting and would like to know if you would be willing to write a short thing for us about the preparations. I know the circumstances now are difficult, so I could also give you a phone call at a time of your convenience.

Please let me know if you are interested. Please reply to my email at

Best of luck,
Ana Lucia