Red Beans & Rice by Joseph B. Stahl
Christine, I thought you might like to know about the story that I have entered on the “Your Pages” section of my copy of Why People Live in New Orleans.
Starting in 1972 I took a six-year break from law practice, and during that time I worked as a longshoreman in the Port of New Orleans in 1974, in the course of which I acquired some tools of the trade like a sack hook, a sack claw and a carpenter’s apron full of necessary carpentry implements. In 1975 I was living in Greece and France, and by 1976 I was living in Pensacola, Florida, but all the while I still had those longshoreman’s implements. So one weekend when I was back in New Orleans I went over to the longshoremen’s hiring center (then on Race Street) with those tools in a box, to sell them during one of the hiring sessions when I knew it would be crowded. By and by a black longshoreman asked me why I was selling them, and we had this conversation:
JBS: I’ve moved away to Florida and no longer work on ships, and I won’t be coming back here.
Longshoreman: Was you born here?
JBS: I was.
Longshoreman: I has a daughter in California. She call me all the time and say, ‘Daddy I wanna come home, it not be the same out here.’
JBS: I won’t be coming back.
Longshoreman: Let me tell you something: Once you is done taste dem red beans and rice, you ain’t goin’ nowhere. You be back.
He was right. By 1978 I was back, and, except for trips, I haven’t left since. The way he spontaneously pronounced that line about the red beans and rice was unforgettable. It has never left me.
Joseph B. Stahl
Note from Christine to blog readers: Please let us know how you’ve used “Your Pages,” or feel free to comment on Joe’s post, telling of your own experiences.