Friday, July 27, 2012

Going Down in Flames

My brother Jimmy called me from our home town of Crowley just now to tell me that a pie factory on my street was on fire and was I okay?

Now, me, I was downstairs with the TV turned on to Turner Classic Movies. I had gotten up real early and had channel-hopped until I'd come across an old Perry Mason movie I felt pretty certain would put me back to sleep. It did, and I slept well and deep until the phone rang and my brother Jimmy's voice cried out, saying, "There's a pie factory on fire in New Orleans. Are you all right?"

My first, immediate thought was that he might have been having a vision of something about to befall me, and it had come to him in the form of a pie factory burning down. Our sainted Sicilian mother used to have visions and premonitions. Hers were never outright clear either. They spoke to her in metaphors and symbols, and she had to learn to interpret them—or wait for something catastrophic to happen before she could tell what her vision had meant to begin with.

But Jimmy had long before left the one true church our mother had raised us in to become a Baptist like his bride; and Baptists don't have visions. They just get saved at some point in their lives and go about their business for the rest of the duration, leaving all the mumbo-jumbo stuff to the gypsies and the Catholics.

It turned out, though, Jimmy hadn't had a vision. What he'd had had been a news report he'd seen on This Morning in Acadiana that described a fire at the Hubig's Pie building over on Dauphine Street in the Faubourg-Marigny.

And it also turned out he hadn't thought I might have been inside a pie factory in the dark, early hours before dawn, but that the pie factory might have been in my neighborhood and caught me on fire in the process of undergoing its own flammary obliteration.

You have to understand, we come from a real small town in the country where a fire in north Crowley might easily consume parts of east Crowley and south, because they're all just about in the same place to begin with. So his fear was conceived in the knowledge of his own personal geography.

And I was touched by his concern.

I explained to him that I was fine, our house was fine, the air conditioning was running, and we still had water. I was grateful he had thought to call me, but that everything would work out for the best. I explained to him that Hubig's Pies would just rebuild, bounce back, and light their ovens up once again.

That's what we do in New Orleans. If Katrina couldn't break us, a fire sure won't stand in our way for long. We might be damp and moldy; but we are a race of web-footed phoenix birds down here, inevitably drooping but invariably reborning.

Why, in the last few years alone, we've risen above the waves of the great Federal flood of Twenty-Aught-Five. The Verti-Marte might have burned to the ground, but Chel and Sam re-built. Rocky and Carlo's did the same. There's no earthly reason to assume Simon-the-Pie-Man won't rise up again, as well.

You see, Hubig's Pies are important to New Orleans. They matter. And if you have to ask why, you'll never be a New Orleanian. Mark my words, Hubig's crust will rise again! Until that day, I just might manage to lose a few pounds.

Ya gotta look on the bright side.


  1. I hope you're right. My mom used to pack a Hubig's in my lunch at least once a week. I still can't eat the lemon ones without remembering my awesome Planet of the Apes lunch box. Oh, and my mom.

  2. Moms, yeah — where would we be without 'em? As for Hubig's, they'll come back. They have to come back. We'll make them come back. We'll ... we'll sign petitions if we have to!


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