“Scare the hell out of ’em,” my grandfather used to routinely yell at the TV during the weather under a hurricane watch. Louis was a funny, old guy. Spot on, too. Laying back in his ratty, leather Lazy Boy, he’d peer at the precipitation prognosticators through his thick glasses and maybe shake his right index figure counterbalanced by a crooked pinky a la an old football injury incurred when shoes were still and truly spiked. This phrase accompanied every foreboding forecast while my grandmother Mireille would counter his groans with a dismissive “Oh Louis . . .”
And that was that. My grandparents took things in stride. My parents too. We never really evacuated for hurricanes growing up. Yes, I grew up above sea level in Southeast Texas and we had hurricanes too. Some seasons we’d get flooding. Others we’d lose power for a week or so. So it went. No vouchers, no FEMA, no Salvation Army. You could buy dry ice at grocery. Until they ran out that is. I just remember sweating a lot. Picking up debris. And wondering when the power might return, or if it never would. But it always did, and things always returned to normal.
Meanwhile my other grandparents, Paul and Louise, on occasion found themselves bailing water out of their garage from their home in Lakeview on Canal Blvd. I remember these times too. With accompanying video footage on the evening news of coffins floating down the streets of New Orleans. Talk about making a distinct impression on a young mind. Floating coffins. All I know is water wins, every time. Of all the elements, and maybe it’s because our of composite biology (we are mostly water), nothing gives or takes life as quickly or as surely.
Louis was also famous for telling crying toddlers in their strollers at the Covington Wal-Mart “Give’em hell, boy.” That and after a few drinks at a party he’d tell how if he were president he’d make every Tuesday “Naked Lady Day.” He was a retired Lt. Col. after all. Decades of service he gave. Looking back on it I agree with just about all of it. How we handle ourselves in the light of conflict whether natural or manmade. And as I watched Debby move on over to Florida this week, all these moments echoed back to me as I remained unaffected by computer model paths and ready to be ready.
To be sure, “Naked Lady Day” isn’t the worst idea anyone ever had either.
Jean-Paul Villere is the owner of Villere Realty and the Du Mois gallery on Freret Street and father of four girls. In addition to his Wednesday column at UptownMessenger.com, he also writes an occasional real-estate blog at villererealty.com and shares his family’s adventures via pedicab on Facebook and Twitter.