Category Archives: louisiana

Re-Membering Katrina, “When Chris Met Katrina”- a short story

The boat whistled its’ way through the waters and soon the screams of the women faded. The air was now filled with the constant yells of families sitting on roofs screaming for help.  They approached Memorial Medical Center and Chris decided to seek refuge there.  As he got closer, he could see through the lobby window hundreds of people camped inside.  Every seat was occupied and people were sprawled out on the floor with blankets.  Police were patrolling the doors.  Chris knocked but the policemen just stood and shook their heads in the negative.  Chris trudged through the water to the other side of the hospital and policemen were standing heavy guard at those doors too.  He knew besides the sore bones and loose teeth, he had no serious injury and they were not going to let him in.

Chris double tied his bag of food and treaded through the water on his tippy toes.  He began to reminisce on the summers growing up in New Orleans.  His father worked as a mechanic in a neighborhood shop and in the summer Chris would help out by washing the cars once he was done.  Afterwards, instead of joining his cousins down at the local swimming pool, he hung out with the neighborhood knuckle heads and smoked weed.  Or they convinced one of the older drunks to buy them liquor.  He was all of nine years old.  With the water slapping up against his chest and occasionally splashing in his face, he wished he had taken those swimming lessons instead.

A few blocks from the hospital, Chris found himself pacing in the water side by side with a dog.  The dog was a dark brown cocker spaniel probably looking for a dry place to rest his feet.  From atop, the dog seemed to be relaxed.  But he knew underneath he was probably  paddling his legs wild as the devil!  Chris remembered how easy it was to tread the dog paddle when he was younger so he picked his feet up to give it a try.  He quickly dipped in the thick, murky waters and emerged panicked.  He struggled to get his stance stable but soon regained his pace and continued down the street with the other stranded people.

A little ways down, Chris spotted the small boat and whistled to get their attention.  They acknowledged him by waving.  Other people began to whistle and try and make their way to the boat too so Chris picked up his pace.  The eyes of the dog swimming nearby were showing signs of exhaustion.  There was no telling how long the dog had been in the water.  The dog let out a bark, then went under the water.  Within seconds, his head reappeared and he began to bark in desperation.  Chris was mindful to stay as far away from the dog as possible to avoid being bitten.  The small boat reeved it’s engine as they waited for him.  The dog’s bark now became aggressive as he continued to swim towards Chris.  The men on the boat splashed water towards the dog to slow him down and distract  his concentration on swimming.

“Come on man!  Dat dog look mad or summin’!,” one of the men said.

Chris turned his head to witness the dog go under again.  He started to run on his tip toes because he knew he would get sprayed with the dirty water when the dog came back up.  He reached the boat and threw his bag of food aboard.  He could feel the water spray on the back of his neck as the dog shook its’ head.  The men reached down and pulled Chris on the boat.

“They wasn’t lettin’ nobody in down at the hospital huh?,” Gunner asked.

“Naw,” Chris simply replied.

The boat pulled away and the dog continued to swim behind it.  His eyes were bulging as he barked pleas of help.  There was nothing in sight for the dog to take refuge on.  The dog’s shiny, brown coat disappeared under the water a third time, not to emerge again.

a snippet from the short story book, Mississippi Window Cracks.

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Mississippi Window Crack

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“When Chris Met Katrina” Snippets of a story from the book “Mississippi Window Cracks”

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The boat whistled its’ way through the waters and soon the screams of the women faded. The air was now filled with the constant yells of families sitting on roofs screaming for help.  They approached Memorial Medical Center and Chris decided to seek refuge there.  As he got closer, he could see through the lobby window hundreds of people camped inside.  Every seat was occupied and people were sprawled out on the floor with blankets.  Police were patrolling the doors.  Chris knocked but the policemen just stood and shook their heads in the negative.  Chris trudged through the water to the other side of the hospital and policemen were standing heavy guard at those doors too.  He knew besides the sore bones and loose teeth, he had no serious injury and they were not going to let him in.

Chris double tied his bag of food and treaded through the water on his tippy toes.  He began to reminisce on the summers growing up in New Orleans.  His father worked as a mechanic in a neighborhood shop and in the summer Chris would help out by washing the cars once he was done.  Afterwards, instead of joining his cousins down at the local swimming pool, he hung out with the neighborhood knuckle heads and smoked weed.  Or they convinced one of the older drunks to buy them liquor.  He was all of nine years old.  With the water slapping up against his chest and occasionally splashing in his face, he wished he had taken those swimming lessons instead.

A few blocks from the hospital, Chris found himself pacing in the water side by side with a dog.  The dog was a dark brown cocker spaniel probably looking for a dry place to rest his feet.  From atop, the dog seemed to be relaxed.  But he knew underneath he was probably  paddling his legs wild as the devil!  Chris remembered how easy it was to tread the dog paddle when he was younger so he picked his feet up to give it a try.  He quickly dipped in the thick, murky waters and emerged panicked.  He struggled to get his stance stable but soon regained his pace and continued down the street with the other stranded people.

Continue reading “When Chris Met Katrina” Snippets of a story from the book “Mississippi Window Cracks”

Love for Louisiana, Re-membering Katrina

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August 29, 2005 marks the day the world has now recorded as one of the deadliest hurricanes to hit the United States.  Hurricane Katrina struck the poorest region in this country, Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.  She changed the lives of hundreds of thousands of people.

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The following story was inspired by an interview I conducted with my neighbor.  He moved to Los Angeles after losing everything to the storm in New Orleans.  Although the story is fiction, and written to connect with the other short stories in the book, some of the incidents, times and locations are true accounts of what he described to me during his four day ordeal of waiting to be rescued.  My neighbor declined interviews from dozens of Los Angeles newspapers that contacted him.  His simple request to me was that his name be Chris in the story.  I am honored he felt comfortable enough to share such an intimate story with me.  He cried twice and broke down once.  A man who can no longer sleep when it rains.  A man proud to be from New Orleans but angry that he was left to die.

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I dedicate the story, When Chris Met Katrina to EJ from apartment #7

also

my Grambling State University roommate, Kelly Lawrence.  A Louisiana native whose face flashed on CNN news with her three children at the Houston Astrodome.

And respectively,

to the millions of people

effected directly and indirectly.

love, libations and prayers.

nikki

ms window crack pic

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Louisiana Blackberry Summer a prose by Jolivette Anderson-Douoning

Madear is short in stature. She speaks in gentle tones with a high pitched voice. Her skin is dark. I liken it to the color of the blackberries growing on prickly vines in the Louisiana summer sun. To get those berries when they are plump, juicy and sweet, we check on them daily and hope that no one else beats us to the tree or field to pick them first. Plump, juicy and sweet –just like my Madear– are those blackberries, and their darkness makes them pretty and inviting to my heart.

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Those blackberries make me anxious to be near the source of their sweetness. The darker they become, the more my mouth waters with anticipation to pick them, wash them, and put them in my mouth, if I can wait long enough to reach running water. Continue reading Louisiana Blackberry Summer a prose by Jolivette Anderson-Douoning

The Rage In Me a poem by Jolivette Anderson-Douoning

the sound of metal expanding
water approaching 212 degrees
the first rumble of the interstate
when dawn breaks
the levels of the sea
the rage in me
the cracking of a window pane
the pain crack causes a brain
the deafening sound of a page turning
signaling a new chapter’s beginning
the scream of orange turning to red
a fist to the side of a head
the anguish of what you thought you knew
turning into what you can’t believe
deep levels of greed
release
the rage in me
a poem, a song
with all the wrong words
words unknown are thoughts unheard
chances missed climbing a crystal stair
that was never there
two tears kissing at the bottom of my chin
pure emotions wanting to be free
releasing
the rage in me
emptiness, crossing over to the barrel of a gun
hitch a ride on a bullet
to take life as it comes
a dance, a twirl, a shake, a moan
the rage in me
is looking
for a home
the safest haven?
this poem
this poem
this poem
(c) 5/27/2003
jolivettebiopic
Jolivette Anderson-Douoning is an Interdisciplinary scholar whose research is grounded in the Humanities and Applied Professions disciplines. 
Also known as Jolivette Anderson ‘the poet warrior’, she is a Race and Culture Educator who uses “Third Space Theory” to develop teaching and learning experiences that facilitate greater understandings of Black cultural existence and experience in the United States.
She is a Phd student and research assistant in American Studies / Curriculum and Instruction at Purdue University. Her current research examines the purpose and relevancy of Black Cultural Centers between 1965 to 1995 and interrogates the future of BCC in a post – Obama United States of America. 
She has four recordings of poetry and prose: Love and Revolution UndergroundAt the End of a Rope in MississippiJolivette Live: A Bluesy Funk Life Cycle, and She Energy.
For bookings and additional information thepoetwarrior@icloud.com or DrJolly2015@gmail.com 

DC Dreaming

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I recently visited my grad school city of Washington DC where I attended Howard University.  I abruptly left the city in the middle of a semester and said good bye’s to a group of the most intellectually creative individuals I know.  It had been some 17 years since I’d visited the city and a lot had changed!

This southern city of Atlanta has not grown on me and it will be six years in January.  I know, I know… this is the new “black Hollywood” this city is “where it’s at”, well not for me.  I have lived in quite a few cities and fell in love almost instantly.  Even with putting into perspective this move was life altering with taking guardianship of five children, Atlanta has simply not settled in my heart.  It is the south… the dirty south with their own style of politics.  It is truly black OR white. NO gray or other colors in between.  Regardless of education or professional connections, this part of the south is black OR white… that is the determining factor.

Now, by no means am I saying there is nothing good about this city.  I have friends who LOVE living here and friends who come to visit every chance they get because they LOVE Atlanta.  The artists here are hands down some of the best writers I have met in my life!  They are exposed to some of the most beautiful landscapes, colors and family stories to document and/or perform.  The “family feel” that has a dominant spirit around the city is often missing from other major cities I have lived in.  And now with caring for children, schooling is important and I live in one of the best counties for education in Atlanta.  (they care for/about black children and their well being.)  But as far as my personal growth as an artist and my growth as a maturing single woman… the “A” is not for me.

I was curious what I would feel when I visited DC. I was curious if I would want to move back? What would the energy be? I took the bus from Atlanta to DC. (hey, when you have kids, any time you can have a long length of time to listen to your heartbeat and only think about yourself…you will buy that time whenever/wherever you can!) I slept most of the ride to DC and upon getting my rental car and driving out of Union Station, there was DC. I quickly remembered all the buildings and downtown with all the circles and parked cars everywhere… I was TERRIFIED! It felt like someone was watching me at every stop light! I didn’t know which lane to be in to get to New Jersey St while driving DuPont Circle! Why are the cyclist lanes so damn close to the cars driving?! Where are all these people jogging to at 9:30pm??! Why are there people with business suits walking? Have they really just gotten off work? I remembered… I didn’t like DC! Remember why you left so abruptly during grad school?…

Then there were my colleagues. We caught each other up on where we are in life. Discussed recent awards and credits to our art. Laughed about our yesterdays 🙂 Talked about our plans and immediate goals in our perspective art forms. They filled me in on the ever so obvious gentrification that has happened in the greater Washington DC area.  (It is no longer chocolate city, Atlanta is!) And we even discussed our fears… Now, I remembered why I stayed at Howard while I did. These minds. These perfect mixtures of left and right brain thinkers. I have an amazing circle of family friends in LA… but not like this.

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I remember everyone being so serious in DC. Everyone had a gym membership or therapist. No one laughing. Everyone had somewhere to go and they had to get there in 6 minutes! Fast paced!! That is not what I needed in my life at that time. I was moving from Louisiana, Grambling State “where everybody is somebody”! And DC was everybody for themselves. I was not comfortable, I felt out of place. Perhaps I am just thirsty for some type of artistic/progressive connections, but I was sold. Project Move Out of Atlanta began immediately! The kids will finish up this school year and we will begin new in DC or Philly August 2014.

I look forward to using both sides of my brain and being creatively driven in a city where politics live.  And if DC doesn’t make the cut, it is a short drive away from Philly, a city I have been wanting to live in for quite a few years now.  DC re-charged my batteries!  My goals have deadlines now!  Don’t short change a bus ride people!  It allowed me to do some DC dreaming…

the grits of New Orleans

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I live amongst an amazing circle of friends who write for magazine publications, theater, poetry, novels and short stories. What is amazing is the variety of genres that are covered and how most have embraced this is how the stories come to them. From whomever or where ever they contribute their muse or creative direction, we are all very different.

I am folklore and history. I have been since elementary. I have been visited by songs from oak trees to rural area cobble stone streets. Like most artists, my sleep has been kidnapped by the smells of their cooking and their loud and sometimes hallow laughter. You’ve heard of the “dog whisperer”? Ok, allow me to officially introduce myself, I am Nikki Skies the “southern city whisperer”.
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A summer visit to Jackson, Mississippi inspired my book Mississippi Window Cracks. Working in Montgomery, Al inspired my book Porch n Pork. I recently visited New Orleans for a weekend getaway and was bombarded with voices and stories! From the arrival of marble steps from France to the soulful meals of low country boils to feed families.

I get a romantic story or poem every six years or so. For the most part, excluding the freedom I am creating for this blog, I keep my personal life and stories out of my writings. I would much rather write about you through my colors and seasons. Like how you spent the first musky humid filled night with Katrina, or how your bead strewn streets are actually full of prayers. The life found in your cemetaries and the trusting trance you’d place on swamp gators till daybreak. New Orleans, I heard you. And yes, I will write one of your stories.

9th Ward, I Saw You

I finally saw where you ran.  I finally saw where you climbed.  I rode on the freeway you slept.

I wept.

I saw your cobble mixed streets and humidity strangled window panes

the markings on your porch remain / your neighbor remain refrained from returning

and we partied on Bourbon Street.

I saw how you thought it’d be safe to stay / I saw where the levee gave way

…the Mississippi lived up to her name, Mighty.

like yellow stained teeth from coffee and smoke / I saw

the flood stains that remain against your doors and fences and house panels

up to 6 feet / too deep for grandmother and her 55 year old niece

and we partied on Bourbon Street.

and I saw the roofs where you climbed / the shot gun houses with attic crawl space

for the young to cling to who were small and few

I know how you pray / so I know you thought it’d be safe to stay

forgive us for not pouring some spirits on the streets for your soul of mind.

9th Ward, I Saw You.  I saw where you met Katrina.

 

inspired by a New Orleans visit 6/2013 -copyright nikki skies 2013