Rodney Dejoie (Courtesy of Ingrid Lobet)
The psychological cost of losing one’s neighbors and the connections that comprise a home, is one native New Orleanean Rodney Dejoie has had to pay. Living on Earth’s Ingrid Lobet met with Mr. Dejoie in his Ninth Ward neighborhood and produced this portrait.
GELLERMAN: Since the devastating hurricanes and floods that struck New Orleans almost two years ago life in the Big Easy has been anything but. As part of our continuing coverage of the Gulf Coast after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, we take you this week to the holy cross neighborhood in New Orleans Ninth Ward home to Rodney Dejoie. He and his family have lived in the city for generations. His house is on a street that dead-ends into the rise of a levee holding back the Mississippi River.
Dejoie was a financial analyst for the city and before the storm, his neighbors knew him as a guy who took extra care to keep his neighborhood neat. But now the neighborhood is pretty much gone. Across from his property is a school where people used to park their cars. That’s where Living on Earth’s Ingrid Lobet met Rodney Dejoie one recent spring evening.
[MUSIC Miles Davis “Generique” from ‘Ascenseur Pour L’Echafaud’ (UMG Recordings – 1957)]
DEJOIE: This is the trailer I’m in. I’m about sick and tired of the trailer. I am housed in the trailer with my wife and my chow-chow dog, a full breed chow-chow that has become my shadow. I can’t move without him. He wants to follow me everywhere, and I have to step over him every time in the trailer, or bump into my wife. It’s really an obstacle course living in a trailer.
The trailers sweat, and near the windows there’s algae and mold growing. The carpets, they are damp all the time. You can leave the windows open when you’re not home to help with that, but on rainy days you have to close the windows. So you come home and it smells all musty and everything.
Pre-Katrina this was sort of a lover’s lane or something in the evening. So you’d get people they came and frequent this area and they would discard stuff out in these parking spots and often times it was items that you didn’t want to touch with your hands.
People all the time ask me: Who do you work for? And my response is, I work for you. I work for me. I mean, this is for us so that we can enjoy a respectable lifestyle and we don’t’ have to live in filth and clutter, and that’s why I do it.
After Katrina it started out with just my neighbor and I in the area then we got another neighbor on the side street and now we have a fourth. But there’s nobody for five blocks on this street. It’s really mind-boggling really but I can’t blame anyone if they found better living conditions.
I mean this was the Big Easy at one time, that was one of our monikers, but now it’s a Big Struggle, it’s really hard living here.
I had just completed a renovation of my home in 2000. I was really ready to, for the good life. I mean I’m involved in physical activity on the weekends. So, (coughs) I’d greatly like to get back to that, I haven’t been able to because I can’t even focus on social, social activities. I haven’t been able to enjoy Mardi Gras. I haven’t been able to enjoy the Jazzfest, and I mean, I am a diehard, I go to every day, all seven days of the Jazzfest, and I just don’t enjoy it anymore. I don’t see the same people at the Jazzfest. It was like a reunion every year. I’d see people from all over the country that I’d see every year. I didn’t even go to the parades this year to enjoy Mardi Gras. I mean I was so busy trying to piece back my life.
[MUSIC: Miles Davis “Take It Or Leave It” from ‘Miles Davis: The Complete Bitches Brew Sessions (Box Set)’ (Sony Music – 1970)]
Maybe I’m suffering form some sort of depression or something I don’t know, I haven’t been to a psychiatrist or any of that kind of stuff, I just go on to get back to normal.
Now, this is a great view here. This is the Mississippi River, um, you can see downtown New Orleans’ skyline. You can see the Crescent City Connection, the twin bridges there.
I really enjoy living back here, I’ve been back here since 1980. I never thought about living anywhere else. But fear of the unknown has me thinking along those lines.
[MUSIC: 2.) Miles Davis “Take It Or Leave It” from ‘Miles Davis: The Complete Bitches Brew Sessions (Box Set)’ (Sony Music – 1970)]
GELLERMAN: Our profile of Rodney Dejoie was produced by Living on Earth’s Ingrid Lobet.
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