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Five Years After the Storm: A Celebration of the Crescent City

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This story was written in the Fall of 2005 in response to Hurricane Katrina. Five years on, I'm posting it here as a tribute to the city and the friends I made there.

Darrell Breen was born and raised in the same New Orleans neighborhood where I lived in the spring of 2000. When Darrell grew up there, the neighborhood was known as the Irish Channel. He summed up his life to me with a memory of sitting on his grandfather’s lap as a boy of five. “Half Irish,” his grandfather says looking at him. He bounces Darrell to the other knee. “Half Italian,” he says shaking his head at Darrell. “Lad, yer fucked.”

Italians and Irish have been marrying for generations in America, the Italian women assuming the easy Irish surnames and keeping their Catholic faith. In the neighborhoods of New Orleans in the 1960’s it was not so easy for the offspring of these marriages.

When I met Darrell (spelling deliberately changed) in New Orleans, he was 43 years old. He looked and spoke like he was…