‘Wegoadie Gone – Alimia Day

by admin on 2014/04/30

[Jimbaux experienced the glorious send-off of a whoadie gone, and he is sharing the pictures with you here.]

Gratitude

This is an illustrated story about life, death, service, reconciliation, friendship, community, and hope; these are the pictures that I took of the day that Philip Vincent Alimia, a public servant and the father of my often-mentioned-here friend The Mid-City Marine, was eulogized and laid to rest.  Last week, Mr. Alimia died after a long struggle with COPD; he was 71 years old.

Friendship and Family Displaced

Regular readers here will be familiar with the mention of my friend, whoadie, and foamer The Mid-City Marine.  As you recently read at great length, he and I became friends in late 2003 and early 2004 when I was still living back home in Cajun country, and a trip to New Orleans on Saturday 17 April 2004 helped solidify a friendship that remains to this day and was a factor in my decision to move to New Orleans, a decision that would have brought me closer to my friend and all other things New Orleans, but that was very poorly timed with the Katrina that affected all of our lives, and to this very day, which will be a theme of today’s post too.  If you are someone coming here who found this page because of my presence at the funeral, reading the article linked in the previous sentence gives all of the background to my connection with the Alimia family through The Mid-City Marine, whom I will, since this article will be long, call “PPA” for much of the rest of this post (since “The Mid-City Marine” gets to be cumbersome after awhile.)

An Early Gretna Diversion to The Past

A day that honors the past and has me going to the W’ank would commence appropriately with some action of street-running on the New Orleans & Gulf Coast Railway and, if at all possible, a stop at my favorite Subway restaurant in the world, the one right next to the track on 4th Street in Gretna.   “Where you been at, stranger?” along with a smile are what greeted me as soon as I walked in the place!  Back in the day when I worked nearby, I would even take dates here (after work), if you can believe that goofiness.   One attractive young woman still fondly remembers going to Subway and seeing trains with me (and talking, of course), but another one doesn’t talk about it anymore (though I haven’t talked to her in a long time either); that sounds so cheesy, doesn’t it?  Speaking of cheese . . .

This is the best “fast food” breakfast!  A 12″ flatbread with eggs, bacon, cheese, red onions, tomatoes, and chipotle sauce.   MMMMmmmmmmmmm.

As I was sitting there munching down on the last bite of this, I heard a horn to the west.   Oh, crap! I had been smart enough to leave my camera with exposure set out on the front seat of my truck, and the girl working there had told me that the morning eastbound had not passed yet; so, I knew that it would be anytime anyway.

A Terror-Free Encounter

Well, look at who it is!  (Well, you can’t tell, and that is for the better.)  Yes, the past is the past, and we are both much more mature now and have moved on.  He gave me a non-acknowledgment acknowledgment as I got this picture.

That first gondola was a CN gondola, the second an ICG gondola, and I don’t remember the reporting marks of the third.  Yeah, we both overreacted back then, but we have both learned.  My reaction to that encounter was emotional, but it was emotional for plenty of rational reasons.   (Remember that even though society generally consider racism, sexism, and homophobia to be “wrong,” each of those does have a rational basis.)   I may have “overreacted,” but the hornets’ nest needed to be stirred up; an important debate was started, and many of us learned many important things in the process.   I think that we all won in the long run.   Terrorism is real, terrorism is a real problem in the world and in the United States today, but there was no terrorism here in Gretna this morning.

We are in Gretna, and there are local courthouses nearby, with the surrounding bail bonders and attorneys.  Gretna is the capital of the W’ank, which is the major southern province here in the Republic of Whoadesia.

The weather was gorgeous and cool, after a warm-and-humid spell for about the last week.  This is a great day for a funeral, for wearing thick clothes and long sleeves (which I generally do not like doing.)

Eat Your Cookies, Get Dressed, And Go

So, back inside I went to eat my cookies (yes, cookies for breakfast, after a 12″ flatbread of bacon-egg-cheese-onion-tomatoe-chipotle), drink some more soda, and then go into the bathroom to change into my clothes for the funeral.  I didn’t want to risk getting tomatoes or chipotle sauce on my shirt, coat, or tie!  Because of all of that, I missed a chance to get some shots of the NOGC job switching at Gouldsboro Yard.  I got there just in time to park, hoist my necktie-wearing self atop my truck, and get this shot:

The speed of the wind was surprisingly strong as I stood atop the truck to take this picture, a fact that on its own is barely worth mentioning but became amusing several hours later when I overheard a comment about myself made while in the Westwego Volunteer Fire Department’s building, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.   I had to get on top of the truck here because of that new fence that you see in the picture; apparently, NOGC has had some problems with some trespassing morons in Gouldsboro Yard.

You can’t tell from the picture, but the crew was in the process of tying the train down as this picture was being made.   Then, the truck came to get the crew, and the men were gone.  I wasn’t quite sure where they were going to go or what they were going to do, but it, combined with my knowledge of NOGC operations in the area, told me that there wouldn’t be much of anything happening – or happening worth photographing – in the area in the next few hours.

So, with that in mind, even though it was a bit early, there was little left to do but to go to the wake; the funeral itself was scheduled for 13:00.

Whoadie Gone

What’re we going to do now?  I made it to the funeral home.

There were many people there when I got there, none of whom I knew, even though I recognized PPA’s three siblings from their pictures on social media accounts.  I did not want to approach them because I felt weird about being there in the first place.

Apparently, Mr. Alimia had touched the lives of many people.  Plenty of the attendees were wearing firefighter or EMS uniforms.

I went outside and took a peek at another place that is an important part of my past.

Not only is much of my professional history there, but that’s where I was when my cell-phone rang with the first post-Katrina telephone call that PPA made to me while I was at a Friday night football game.

There were plenty of fire and EMS vehicles in the parking lot, and more would arrive as the time would come, with many of them making it into the funeral procession.

I had not told PPA that I would be at the funeral.  We had a little communication error, and I halfway wanted to halfway surprise him anyway, but also because I halfway felt that I halfway did not even belong there.  First, I need to explain some background information.   Mr. Alimia had been dying for nearly a year, or maybe longer than that.  A few years of working without masks in Avondale Shipyards and then his own paint and body shop meant that the die was cast a very long time ago for his recent illness; his illness and death were a surprise to nobody, and even Mr. Alimia himself was surprised to have survived for nearly a year after getting worse in mid-2013.

I had asked PPA to let me know of funeral arrangements, but he did not.   So, I was not even sure if I should go, not even sure if he wanted me there, and, yes, due to that separation caused by Katrina that was mentioned in that April 17 post that you need to read (to get more background) if you have not already read, I knew none of the family.  I am nearly certain that had Katrina not happened, I would have already known much of the Alimia family; no, I did not even know Mr. Alimia, the man whose funeral I was attending, and I knew nobody else in the family other than PPA.

So, after I looked at the many pictures of Mr. Alimia, learning more about him and his son, I went outside and got some pictures of the vehicles that were gathering for the procession.

Most of the drivers, of course, were inside of the funeral home.

As I would later learn, PPA was ‘late’ for his own father’s wake because he was up so very late the night before catching up with family.  His parents relationship ended when he was young, and his father was not his main father figure. The wake lasted several hours, though.

Mr. Alimia touched the lives of many, it seemed.

I wish that I had known him.   My presence here was somewhat selfish.  Not knowing the Alimia family (other than, of course, my good friend whose father was being laid to rest here) reminded me of the damage that Katrina had caused, for, as I said already, I’d have known many more of them had Katrina not happened.   I was, however, by learning so much about his father, beginning to get a stronger picture of my friend, who he was.

Mr. Alimia was a co-founder of the Westwego Emergency Medical Service after several years with the fire department.  Prior to the creation of the Westwego EMS, firefighters and police in Westwego had to rely on ambulance services from hospitals.  According to his older son, my friend:

When Dad started with the fire department, the City of Westwego had its fire department but relied on Jefferson Parish, West Jefferson Hospital, and Orleans Parish for its ambulance service.  He and his mentor, Doc Authur Musser, convinced the city to add the ambulance and paramedic services to the fire department; this way they could provide timely and quality care to Westwego residents, independent of and no longer dependent on the parish and hospital for this.  They set the program up, got it recognized and accredited, and got people trained.  They were so successful that other small cities and towns across the nation borrowed ideas, and some used it as a model to base their services on.   When Doc Musser died, Dad became the director.

I found the story to be fascinating.

My Whoadie

Eventually, PPA showed up.  He saw me.  We quickly caught up, and he quickly introduced me to the rest of his family, his siblings and their families, the people whom I had recognized but felt wrong for approaching.  Feelings that I did not belong there quickly dissipated.  He told me that he thought that he had sent me the link to the obituary; again, it was a communication error, a communication error that also meant that I was about his only friend in attendance (since the other local friends didn’t get the message either.)  It is understandable that in times like this, people forget little details; the emotional state in which one finds himself after the death of a close loved one can be overwhelming.

He and I had gone a long time without seeing each other, the longest such time in our friendship.  His recent visits back home had been to take care of his father, and it was too difficult for us to meet up in those times.  When you move away from home and have a strong connection to home, especially when you move away unwillingly, you end up using all or almost all of your “vacation” time going back home; such have been nearly all of the times that I have seen him post-Katrina, but I was not able to see him on his last few trips to Louisiana, since he was preoccupied with his father’s sickness.  The last time that I had seen PPA at all was when he and I went foaming on the CN’s Baton Rouge District in August 2012.

PPA told me many stories that accompanied pictures of his father as he pointed to pictures.  The sisters asked PPA if he had his good camera (they know that he is a photographer) so that they could get a family picture, something that is critical for a family that, because of geographical distances, so rarely can get together like this.  (Some years ago, PPA’s wife secretly consulted me about photography equipment before she surprised him with good camera gear as a birthday gift one year.)   I then mentioned that I had my camera, and they asked if I could take some pictures.  I went and got it and took some family pictures for them.

Requests

Now that I was more known as PPA’s photography buddy, I was asked to get some other pictures, including of the motorcycle hearse.

Mr. Alimia loved motorcycles, and, when he was dying, was apparently excited to learn that he would move to his grave in such style.

His slow, months-long death meant that he and his family had time to get all needed life-and-death-related affairs in order.  There were very few tears shed at this funeral.  PPA was mainly relieved that his father’s suffering had finally ended, a sentiment that, as best as I could tell, seemed to be shared by most of the rest of the family, if not all of it.

It was time to go back inside for speeches, ending with PPA’s eulogy of his father.

Class, Friendship, And More Gratitude

Councilman Glenn Green of the city of Westwego spoke about his long relationship with Mr. Alimia.  Green, a former police officer, said that he hoped nobody would get offended prior to describing that he and Mr. Alimia called each other “ethnic names.”  Green called Alimia a “dego” (or however it is spelled) while Alimia called Green a “nigger” all while they respected and loved each other.   “This man saved my life . . . twice,” Green said, telling of two occasions during his time as a police officer when Alimia saved his life.

Green later told me:

I was a motorcycle traffic officer.  I was responding to a call with my lights and siren when an elderly motorist, disregarded my signals and hit me and dragged me and the motorcycle up the expressway.  I was seriously injured; Phill responded to the call and administered emergency treatment to me without which I would have suffocated from purgation of my own blood.

I was in the process of chasing a burglary suspect; upon catching the suspect I began to suffer sever chest pains accompanied by shortness of breath.  I went into cardiac arrest.  Phil resuscitated me with CPR.

Westwego mayor John Shaddinger Jr. then spoke of Alimia’s service.

Then, it was PPA’s turn to eulogize his father.   Mr. Alimia had been something of a fighter in his younger days, and PPA said that his father told him that he spent the first part of his life busting up people and would spend the second part of his life helping put them back together.

PPA also spoke of his father’s response to his (PPA’s) decision to join the Marine Corps.  His mother and step-father were wondering why their peace-loving son would join the Marine Corps, but he said that his father knew that it was about service and about helping others, much like he (Mr. Alimia) did with the fire department and, later, EMS.  This was revealing, and it was an insight into the idea public service, which the son has done in his own professional work since leaving the military.  His father supported his son’s sense of service and duty to join the military, as he felt the same things by joining the fire department and wanting to become a paramedic, which he did; both of PPA’s grandfathers and a step-grandfather served in the military, and his grandparents’ sense of duty to serve stuck with him.

After he spoke, I got prepared to depart so that I could photograph the funeral procession, which I seem to recall being asked to do.  I inquired to PPA about the routing, and he was kind of apologetic about “my sisters putting you to work.”

No!  Not only am I supremely honored to do this, I told him, but it was also a way for me to heal that Katrina wound from not having gotten to know them or their father, and having my head whoadie displaced to Georgia.  I had at first felt kind of awkward and selfish for attending the funeral, and this was the least that I could do.

Honor

It was almost time to leave the funeral home.

Standing at the far right of the above picture is Earl M. Wilson III, who is an instructor at Nunez Community College; he also spoke to the gathering at visitors and told them that he uses what Mr. Alimia taught him in his teachings to others.  That, my friends, is how we all live onward, and, in the case of people who save lives, that is literally true!

Look below, and you’ll see my friend, my whoadie The Mid-City Marine as the first pall-bearer, carrying his father’s casket.

Note at about the middle of the picture (both the above picture and the below picture) the black man standing and saluting at the far right edge (his right, not your right) of the line of EMS and firefighter personnel; that is Joseph “T. J.” Aldor, the current director of the Westwego EMS and who PPA said was his father’s protégé.

Various agencies of different municipalities were represented in the lines of men saluting.

The harsh lighting was playing havoc on the image-making, and processing these things was a bit frustrating; I hope that, despite the harsh lighting, the results honor the spirit of the occasion.

Seeing this, I have the utmost respect for such first responders who, like police, have such difficult, stressful, and important jobs.  None of the decorum here is remotely unwarranted.  These men do more than just mere “jobs.”

I will get one last picture before I hurry out of here, and you can see Aldor in this picture.

I jogged the few hundred feet to my truck.  I cranked up the engine and scurried out of the parking lot, and when I approached the front of the funeral home, I was greeted with the outstretched palm of a police officer.  I hung my camera with a telephoto lens out of the window in an effort to signify why I had to get out before the procession left, and he motioned for me to continue through.

The Procession – ‘Wegoadie Gone, Going To His Final Resting Place

I was familiar with all but the very last part of the route of the procession, and I knew that there was one stretch of the route that would work best for the mostly-otherwise-unfavorable lighting this time of day.  So, I hurried ahead of the procession and got set up for a shot on Belle Chasse Highway just before the turnoff onto Whitney Avenue.  I explored a few options before climbing atop my truck right where I had parked it.  By this time, the wind that I had experienced this morning when I got picture number 05 had, for all practical purposes, stopped, and it felt like a typical still and warm late spring day in Louisiana; again, this is not particularly noteworthy, at least not until a silly comment that I overheard in the party that evening.

At this time, if you have not already done so, play the song for today’s post, and if you already opened it when you started reading this, play it again!  (It is the link in the bracketed statement at the very beginning of the body of the text of this post.)  I doubt that Mr. Alimia would have Master P in mind as one to help remember him, but this song seems oddly-appropriate for some reason.

Here it comes, the funeral procession with representative vehicles of various emergency medical service, firefighting, and law enforcement agencies.

Yes, I was kind of hoping that an NOGC train would pass as this procession was happening, but I wonder if the sheriff’s office also coordinated this with the NOGC.

Note the black drapings (for lack what they are probably actually called) on the approaching ambulance and fire truck, both of Westwego.  It is essentially impossible to tell in the below image because the hearse was riding too close to the fire truck (perhaps because they were all slowing for the turn that is just past this location), but the hearse is right behind the fire truck, appropriately, a Westwego fire truck.

This was an amazing spectacle and scene to witness.  I am reminded of something that a cousin once told me.  He said that he started reading the book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, and when he got to the part that had the reader imagine what kind of funeral he would have and what people would say about him at his funeral, he put the book down and quit reading, thinking that there was nothing more that he could possibly gain from the book than that deeply thought-provoking exercise.

And, now, here it is, Mr. Philip Vincent Alimia riding in style to his final resting place.

The Alimia sisters were not “putting me to work,” as this was such a supreme honor for me to do, the least that I could to help honor a public servant whom I had never met but whose son I know well and who has been a great friend.  I can at times be a difficult friend to have; so, I have tremendous gratitude for the whole family.

It is and was so weird; I feel like I am being taken back to 2004-2005 when I view and process these pictures, and I feel like I am being taken “back” to  – or toward – everything that would have happened since that time in a Katrinaless parallel universe.

It is hard to see things when they are actually happening.  Time is motion; time does not stand still.  Such is true in both narrow and broad senses; such is the nature of scope.  In these pictures, moments in time frozen for perpetuity, I can see what happened far clearer than I could with my own eyes as I was witnessing the scene.  Such is a major purpose of photography, to aid us in seeing what our own eyes fail to see – what our own senses fail to perceive – in the moment; all photography is of the past, and photography itself is therefore a form of perspective, to know, to perceive, to sense – to live.

Captured in these images – all images, but especially so in these – are junctions of time and space.  For being photographs of the funeral procession of a man whom I did not even know, these images surely bring to mind the past, and what I, in that past, thought that the future – now the present – would be.

Therefore, meeting the family, and helping to say this most honorable goodbye to a man whom I did not even know, and helping to render that goodbye in a unique way using what little that I have to offer the world, has helped even more than other recent events and realizations in coming to a sense of peace of the destruction that Katrina had caused in our lives.

Isn’t it interesting to ponder the avenues of time and avenues of place through which our lives intersect and how they intersect?  Isn’t it important to show gratitude in whatever ways we best know how? like these various EMS and fire and law enforcement vehicles and personnel are doing in these pictures? and like I am doing with my far less tangible contribution here?

Katrina happened; I am much more willing to accept it – and, therefore, be at peace with it – than I was even a few years ago, and the events of this day have served to further the healing, even as the events of this day also remind me of Katrina’s scars.  Simultaneously, the events of today remind me of and helped to further heal those scars.  I am grateful to the friends whom I do have, and I finally got to know more of the family of one of them.  I value quality over quantity in friendships (I am an introvert; that’s how we roll, beyotch.)  Therefore, even the physical displacement of one close friend can – and did – hurt.  I am reminded now, however, of how grateful I am to even have the friendship, and that makes me feel more gratitude for all of my friendships.

I then dismounted the truck and ran across Belle Chasse Highway (one of the cars in the procession let me get across) and ran toward the Whitney Avenue Canal to get these shots of the wonderful ‘gate’ that two local fire departments made.

The David Crockett fire company is based in Gretna.  Check out the firefighter at the top taking pictures.

My guess is that the placement of the fire trucks – what fire truck on what side of the road – was intentional; I seem to remember that the Whitney Avenue Canal is where Gretna ends and Terrytown starts, hence (apparently) the placement of the David Crockett truck on the left-north-Gretna side and the Terrytown truck on the right-south side.  So, that is why my shot below taken from Whitney Avenue once I got back into the truck – after running back across Belle Chasse Highway now with regular traffic – is the only one here that is labeled as Terrytown.  (Remember that caption information for each picture here is in each filename, which can be read by placing the mouse arrow over the picture.

While I was running away from the canal after taking the above pictures, a few people stopped in traffic for the procession asked me who it was.  I could only yell out “PHILIP ALIMIA” as I was running away.  “A politician?” one asked; no, actually, someone more important than a politician, but you’re going to have to look it up for yourself, lady, as I don’t have time to explain.

By this time, from all of that running around, I had the AC cranked up high.  Again, this was a cool day after a spell of heat and humidity, but I had just been running around, and it was early afternoon anyway.  That was actually the most running around that I did since emergency back surgery in early February, and, most assuringly, the only thing that felt bad from it was my lungs, which are no longer accustomed to such heightened aerobic activity due to the limitations that my back has placed on me.

Cemetery

While on my way to the cemetery, at a red light, I skimmed over an e-mail message from The Vault on my telephone.  That could be part of why I got lost.  I simply missed the cemetery, and I had to turn back to get to it.  The death notice said that the cemetery is in Gretna, but my Whitney Avenue Canal line of demarcation tells me that it is in Terrytown.  I don’t know, but I labeled the below photo (the only cell-phone snap that I made after leaving the inside of the funeral home) the way that the death notice labeled the location.

The burial was taking place at about 90° to the left of the optical axis of this picture.

I left the cemetery before most of the crowd left.

Foam Time – Again

I was invited to a gathering with food and refreshments at the Westwego fire station, but, especially since I was already leaving the cemetery early and did not want to arrive at the party early, I took the long way – i.e., by the track.  Naturally, my first stop was at Gouldsboro Yard.

There does not appear to be much if anything happening here.  That power set seemed to be unoccupied, and I figured that a long time would pass before anything would move, even though I was nearly certain that something would move before sunset.  Yes, when there are nothing but tank cars in the yard or in a train leaving the yard, the NOGC quickly gets kind of boring.  I wish that there was a very active lumber distributor around here receiving carloads of lumber; those Blaine Kern warehouses in Algiers would be so good for that.

Some 16 minutes later, we are in Westwego at Klein Street.  Pipe gondolas break the monotony of tank cars.

There are two pipe yards – Tenaris and Hunting – nearby.  Below, as we turn to look in the other direction, is seen the new yard.

The track at the far right is basically where the Southern Pacific mainline was; it was apparently removed some time around or shortly after the merger.

Westwego

PPA and his older sisters are from Westwego and spent their first few years there; one still leaves there.  At the time of his death, their father lived just two blocks from the fire station and from the EMS station that he had helped to found.

The EMS station is in the foreground but behind the ambulances, while the fire station is to the corner, on the left, almost directly under the water tower.  Note the US flag at half-mast.

To my surprise, despite my killing of time by the railroad track, I got there long before the family did; nearly all of the people who were there when I got there were firefighter and EMS people.  However, by this time, some of them recognized me, specifically from standing atop my truck to get the shots in the funeral procession.

“You are brave,” one first-responder told me (apparently due to my standing atop my truck on the side of the road to get pictures), as she asked how and where she could see the pictures.  Not really, I don’t think; I mean, in this case, the road was closed and under police control for the same reasons that I was there, but even if that were not true, I’m no less safe standing atop my truck on the side of the road than I am in standing on the ground next to my parked truck on the side of the road.  I guess people who park on the side of a road are brave.  Seriously, though, firefighters and EMTs are brave, for more than I am, have ever been, or will ever be.

What I overheard later on once the Alimias arrived was not only silly but insulting, though.  “That guy was standing on top of his truck taking pictures,” the firefighter whom I resisted the temptation to turn around and face (and identify, preferring to not know who he is) said in a tone that seemed stern, sharp, and accusatory; “if the wind would have caught him just right,” he’d have fallen over, the firefighter said in a tone suggesting that he now thought it was funny, which resulted in a few chuckles, which all seemed juvenile, which made me feel a little unwelcome.

Really?  Seriously?  I have heard comments like this over the years, and I have never publicly responded to them because such comments are usually made to me in person directly to me (instead of literally “behind my back”), giving both the chance of and the expectation to respond, but this silliness was just too much, particularly both in the context in which it happened and in the stern, judgmental, and behind-my-back manner in which it was delivered; a post that will get more readers than normal is a good place to publicly respond to this sentiment, regardless of who expressed it, even though everything that I write in the next few paragraphs came to my mind within about a minute of hearing that comment about me, particularly since the firefighter seemed to possibly imply he thought I had exhibited poor judgment or that I was stupid.  Furthermore, if one person says something, especially if the recipient was not supposed to hear it, then the sentiment is probably held by far more people than just that person.  Actually, you know, he was right, because, in addition to standing on top of my truck today, I also many times stood up at all, just on solid ground, outdoors, like a normal person does; if the wind would have caught me just right, I’d have fallen to the ground (on which I would have already been standing.)

Apparently, one firefighter, who theoretically has experience climbing things, thinks that there is a significant increase in wind speed a mere six feet (roughly, the distance from the bottom of the inflated tires to the top of the rack on which I was standing on top of the truck) off of the ground in an urban area with buildings all around.  I had no idea!  Apparently, I am either much stronger or much heavier (or much more dense) than I had thought!

Over the last dozen years, I have hoisted myself atop my truck (and my previous one) probably thousands of times (not every day, and maybe not even every week, but then often many times per day), and I have never fallen off.  Why would I?  I don’t fall when I stand anywhere else!  I have hoisted myself atop my truck to take pictures in more than a dozen US states and in two Mexican states, including in the Great Plains in Nebraska, in South Dakota, in North Dakota, and in the semi-desert of Nuevo León – you know, places where there actually is wind, unlike around here (at least this time of the year, as it can get windy here in the winter, and, yes, I climb atop the truck and take pictures then too.)  I have stood atop my truck barefoot, I have stood atop my truck with rain from a regular storm falling on me and the truck, I have stood atop my truck with rain from an approaching tropical storm falling on me and my truck, and I have stood atop the truck in flip-flops; I don’t see any reason why you or I should be worried about wind blowing me off of my truck on a clear, windless, dry, warm spring day in an area surrounded by buildings, as there is almost the same chance of the wind blowing me off of the ground as I stand upon it.  After thousands of tests and quizzes wherein the only grades are “pass” or “fail,” I have a 100% average.

Sheesh.  Anyway, I understand why anyone reading this might think that my response is excessive, especially given the circumstances of the day, but please understand that I only make this long and public response here because of the utter wrongness of being thus judgmental and automatically assuming the worst in people and not thinking before you judge and speak, especially when I was sitting right there and could have been asked about my practice of mounting the truck; the idea that I was in such danger of falling with such ease seems to suggest (depending upon how it is expressed) that at least some people think that standing atop my truck at least possibly reflects poor judgment on my part (including the “you are brave” comment, which, yes, I realize is generally a compliment, which, in addition to the fact that it was addressed directly at me instead of behind my back, is why I left it as it was.)  Apparently, at least one firefighter thinks that I am irresponsible enough and reckless enough – i.e., dumb enough – to put myself in a situation in which a sudden gust of wind (in an urban area of humid southern Louisiana, no less) would blow me to the ground (even though, again, that has never happened in the dozen or so years that I’ve done this); yeah, he was basically calling me stupid behind my back to his buddies, and it made me feel a little bit less welcome in the place.  Being as close as he was to me (close enough for me to hear him talking about me), he could have, instead of making such an unwarranted assumption, simply asked me something like, “hey, man, you’re not worried about falling off the top of your truck?”  The mere possibility that I am a responsible and safety-conscious adult, have considered and thought through the risks of standing atop my truck, and have gotten the process very well under control (and have done it many times before) apparently never occurred to this firefighter; so, he just assumed that I am a reckless dumbass who is lucky the wind did not blow him over and did not consider the possibility of that happening.  It’s easier – and wrong – to assume, as we know all too well, especially when I’m right there and can be asked about the process.  Oh, well, they’re not why I am here in the first place, but I want to think highly of them because of what they do (I really do want to believe the best in people); such an idiotic comment makes it hard for me to do that.  Hopefully, you understand that this is about far more than just me, my truck, and photography; one who makes such unequivocal judgments and assumptions (particularly the assume-the-worst-in-someone-else kinds of assumptions) in this one case probably has a habit of doing that in general life situations.  That is why all of this needs to be said, as unpleasant as it is (both for me to type it and for you to read it.)

Not only is standing atop my truck something that I did not just start doing today (or this year, or even this decade), but it is safer than something else that I do with my automobile: drive on Louisiana’s public roads and highways.

Anyway, I took many pictures inside of the fire station, but most are personal pictures that I will send to the family.  Here is a wider view.

I got to catch up with PPA more and meet his family more and get to know them.  It was great!  We walked over the two blocks to his father’s house where we hung out for awhile, and then he gave us – well, his nephew and niece, really, as they had not known Westwego – a tour of the neighborhood and the family’s history there.  I thought that it was really neat.  I heard nearby train horns during this time, probably that power set that we saw at Gouldsboro Yard earlier in the afternoon after the burial.

I was having fun, but I was tired and needed to leave to go do other things (like shower and sleep), having devoted the whole day to this.  Also, they wanted to go to the French Quarter, but that is just too much for this introvert on this day.  So, I said my goodbyes, and I left; I was now almost treated as if part of the family.

On my way out of this part of Westwego, I noticed this:

Now I know why my whoadie fell in love with and settled in Mid-City!  Then I noticed something else, something that told me how he connected to the top New Orleans train-watching location.

Central Avenue, eh?  Check out that stupid sticker on the sign.  No, you’re right, Obama will not take your guns nor your Bible, but nor will he take your ice cream or your television; so, why make a dumb bumper sticker?  Hey, Westwego streets department (or whatever it is called), please have someone come and remove this.  Thanks.

One More Train

Wasn’t that a Phil Collins song?  Anyway, I wanted to get a picture of a moving train before it got completely dark, and I knew that there was only one place where I could quickly get before it got dark where I had a chance of photographing any trains.  There was nothing right at Avondale, but a few miles to the west in Waggaman, I spied the headlights of what looked like the Chip Local.  Well, I want to climb my truck here to get this shot, but, damn, now I am really worried that a sudden gust of wind might knock me down.  I had better be really careful with this.  I mean, it’s not like I have ever done this shot before, or even climbed on top of my truck more than a handful of times before.

That is right, I have never climbed atop my truck at this location before, and, apparently, “never” comes right after once, twice, thrice, etc . . . Anyway, man, I’m so glad that the (nonexistent) wind didn’t blow me to the ground there.  Whew!!  I think that that was too risky; don’t you?  Maybe I should refrain from climbing my truck and should just be normal and “get a life” and just drink beer and watch TV whenever I am not working or sleeping.

Anyway, yes, business has really been down for the Morgan City Local; it is both sad and unsurprising to see it return to Avondale with no cars.  I hope that it picks up soon.

Epilogue

What an epic day this was!  It is easy for me to describe it like that since I am not the one who lost a loved one.  I suppose any day that I buried a close relative was “epic,” even if I don’t describe it as such.  I am not sure how much more I can say that I have not already said, and I’m sure that the few of you who are still reading this (or even started reading it) are ready for it to end too.  I am just grateful and honored to have participated in this day the way that I did, and I am grateful for my friend, like I am for all friends.  I told the Alimia sisters that I was grateful to them for their brother.  Taking pictures for them was the least that I could do, but, I guess, too, it was the best that I could do.

Until next time, mes amis,

Jimbaux

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Tex Collins May 5, 2014 at 07:02

What a gift that you were able to give. Way to go, jimbeaux!

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2 Angeline May 5, 2014 at 07:50

Great post, Jimbaux.

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3 Deacon Nitro May 5, 2014 at 11:33

Man you sure can pull at the heart strings of a person , yet again you amaze me with you skillset and your way of words knowing you , you amaze me with the wiser beyond your age philosophy . Looking forward to see your next adventure , Decaon

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4 John Robichaux May 5, 2014 at 13:36

There is no doubt that Mr. Alima’s family will appreciate and treasure this post. Excellent!

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5 Andrew May 5, 2014 at 15:45

Good stuff Bro, thanks for sharing

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6 Christie May 5, 2014 at 20:57

This is something the family will cherish forever. I for one rode in too many of these processions. Ever since my mom passed (it’s going on 7 years now) I can not step into wakes. Even though, we also had time to settle things before, letting go is not easy. She had the honor guard stand guard at her casket throughout the wake and funeral because she was an officer. Her burial was in the cemetery at the church that the wake took place so there was no procession, but many local LEOs and EMS were there out of respect. It is something I will never forget, but also something that I wish I never had witnessed. The respect that was given by everyone in attendance was sincere, as I am sure is the same here. Thanks for sharing.

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7 Mid City Marine May 5, 2014 at 23:38

Very nice, whoadie. I really appreciate you attending the service, as well as taking photos of all of us. My sisters and brother said they enjoyed meeting you and are looking forward to seeing your pics.

Don’t be too hard on the firemen joking about you falling off your truck; it was a somber, respectful service earlier, so some levity and humor was good. Besides, my dad would have laughed too. And if you did fall and needed medical attention, he would have teased you about your rooftop acrobatics while you got patched up.

Thanks again!

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8 Jimbaux May 6, 2014 at 11:25

Whoa-DEE!!!

Understand, please, that I’m not so much criticizing the firemen, whose work I greatly respect, as I am the comment itself. (Making the distinction is deliberate, since the sentiment can be and has been addressed by other people too, regardless of their occupation.) I went back into those paragraphs and added some description of why I felt the need to address this topic, as it seemed to be a possible criticism of my own judgment, especially given the stern and seemingly accusatory tone of voice with which the comment was made. He basically suggested that I was stupid.

Yes! Your father would have made jokes about it! I forgot to mention in the post that he would endeavor to keep people alive not just by normal physical methods but by making them laugh!

Again, it was wonderful meeting them too! I look forward to seeing you on your next trip home, which will hopefully be far more relaxed than this one.

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