Virtually everyone who has lived in New Orleans for any length of time has at least one hurricane story. About staying or evacuating. About lights going out or rain coming down. This is a hurricane story of the formal kind — a story about how a proper British lady rode out Hurricane Isaac.
You know what I love about New Orleans? We are a most resourceful city.
We figure that the good Lord gave us everything we need to survive. So, we make do with what we have, in often creative ways.
I love it that we eat everything. All of everything. We eat the feet, the tails, the jowls, the ears. We pickle the heads and call it cheese. Why, have a few too many and we'll toss you in the pit and eat you, too. It's not personal. We're just hungry.
When we enter high season, I love it how anything you see has costume potential. It's wonderfully charming to stroll City Park admiring the Spanish moss. It's downright resourceful to take some home with you, nuke it, and voila, your feufollet costume is complete!
And I really, really love a woman named Beatrice. Though we have never met, she will always be, to me, the embodiment of New Orleans resourcefulness.
I first heard about Beatrice during Hurricane Isaac. I had met this guy at the Carousel Bar where both of us had come to charge our phones. Nice guy. Lawyer, I think.
We were having a wonderful conversation, when suddenly he looked at his watch. "It's almost 2,” he all but cried. “I gotta get out of here for the next showing."
"The next what?" I enquired.
"The next showing of Beatrice's gowns."
My friend went on to explain that he lived in an old, four-story apartment building. One of the tenants was a rather proper British lady of a certain age named Beatrice.
While no one had ever known Beatrice to be high society in New Orleans, apparently she had a much more opulent past across the pond. Which everyone found out when Isaac hit and the power went out. And stayed out.
Beatrice became quite concerned that her entire collection of formal ball gowns would mildew in the dank darkness. Fearing catastrophic loss, she got resourceful.
Every two hours, she put on a different gown, opened the door to her apartment, sashayed out into the hall and descended the stairs into the lobby. White hair up in a bun, shoulders back, head high.
Beatrice never spoke during these viewings, my Carousel Bar friend said. But she did twirl ever so gently, moved by music no one could hear. Memory no one could see.
After about 15 minutes, she’d consider the dress aired out, ascend the stairs to her apartment and close the door, where she remained hidden from view. Until the next show.
Which for my friend was perilously near.
“I can’t miss it,” he said paying his bill.
Well, of course he couldn’t!
He had to be there to applaud Beatrice’s resourcefulness, to stand in awe at her unwavering class. And maybe, just maybe, to get a costume idea. Or two.
To read more commentary from Brett Will Taylor, visit nolavie.com.