by Jordan Rock
Let me start by saying I’m not entirely sure how I ended up here. My life has been needlessly complicated and full of drama, half of which I caused myself. No, I’m not going to step up to this mike and try and get over by saying this was destiny or all according to some master plan or any of that garbage. Instead, I’ll tell it to you like this; life is not a highway; it’s a catapult. You wake up inside the basket, and before you know it, you’re getting launched over the horizon with no parachute. That’s the only way I can explain how I went from being a shy 12-year-old kid watching the warm rain fall over New Orleans to a jaded 20-something watching the Portland Skyline as it gets drenched. That’s Portland, Oregon, for the record.
How in the hell did I end up here? Well, we’ll get to that later.
My name is Jordan Rock, and in my short time on planet Earth, I’ve been a lot of things. Stage performer, fiction writer, public speaker, sketch artist, food service worker, film scholar, and most recently; animation student. More than any of those things, what I’ve always been, and commit to being is a Storyteller. Mostly, I prefer to write pieces of fiction, none of which is currently published. Don’t bother looking for my work, because, frankly, you won’t find it. To you, I’m a nobody, and for the moment, I’m fine with that assessment. It means that when I speak to you about matters that are important to me, you just have to take my word that I’m being serious and honest with you. Telling stories is my passion, and that’s what I intend to do over the course of this article and others. I want to tell you, in neat little pieces all about New Orleans, how I was taken away from it, and why I’m not there presently.
Actually, let me ask; who are You? If you’re reading this, I assume you’re a New Orleans native like me. And you like to read, probably half out of spite because folks don’t like to read any more. Probably you live in the city, or someone who does told you to take a look at this. That’s my best guess, anyway. I could be wrong; you could be someone that has no idea what I’m talking about. Either way, thanks for coming.
For the uninitiated, here’s a quick rundown. On August 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina came barreling up the Gulf Coast and hit New Orleans head on. People were expecting a big blowout. Every once in a while, a major tropical storm hits New Orleans, it’s just a matter of course. The wind and the rain will come, and some trees will get blown down, maybe a window will get cracked, so tape ‘em up. You know the drill, storms come, and they go, and you just pick up the pieces and get back to your life. Nothing special.
That’s the sentiment I remember hearing from the grown-ups around me. I was 12 years old at the time, and I was full of anxiety about the storm. It was one of the few times that I paid attention to the news as a kid, trying to guess at how bad things would get. It wasn’t until two days before the hurricane hit landfall that my family made a decision about what to do. All of the news reports prophesized a calamity, and to me, at the time, seeing that massive swirling cloud on the weather report was like looking straight down the barrel of a gun. I don’t think anyone could have imagined how heavy the blow would be.
Let me take a second to talk to you about my city. Your city. Do you remember New Orleans? That’s a trick question; everybody knows the city a little bit differently. To me, New Orleans is good music and good food and art, some kind of art everywhere you look. I remember walking under the ancient oaks that lined the path to the New Orleans Museum of Art. I remember going to the sandwich shop on Magazine Street. Hummingbirds and owls and rats and roaches. The smell of hot sausage cooking and the sound of buck jumpers shuffling their way down cracked pavement. All sorts of music and stories, stories, stories.
I remember the warm rains in the summertime, the kind you could set your watch by. Bad streets and good people. The kindest, most jocular people on the planet Earth. That’s New Orleans. And now? Last time I came home, here’s what I saw; New Orleans is like a stained-glass window that got broken in a storm. It’s beautiful; you can see the light change color as it passes through the glass that’s still there, but you know the pieces are everywhere and nowhere, and what it was is beyond repair. I wouldn’t return to New Orleans properly until I was 15 years old. Exploring the devastated remains of my city then, as an angsty, cynical teenager hurt me in ways I have a hard time describing even now.
Now, I know how cynical and tired that sounds, but I promise; I’m going somewhere with this. This piece is Part One of Two, after all, so tune in next time to hear the rest of my immediate thoughts on the matter.