The Dinner Project: Week 14
April 21, 2011
It’s hard to believe it’s been just about a year that we’ve lived in Nashville. The actual move-in date was April 30th, 2010, the day before the 1000 year flood. No one knew it was going to flood that weekend, the forecast called for the usual springtime storms, but a few hours after we emptied our car that Friday night it started raining. And the rains didn’t stop until Sunday night.
It’s a curious thing to move to a new city the day before a natural disaster. Drew and I didn’t know a single person, we hardly had any idea about our neighborhood let alone the rest of Nashville, we didn’t even know how close we were to the river that was flooding, which, as it turns out, was only two blocks away.
On Monday morning when the rains finally subsided and the sun came out, we walked down to the river. The river that now spilled up onto street, passing through businesses and warehouses on its way, water covering doors and windows, cars floating in the now submerged parking lots. You could walk up the street perpendicular to the river and see the backyards of houses all the way up the road drowning in eight or ten feet of water. It was hard to fathom the scope of the damage. Seeing as that we didn’t know anyone, we had no one to call to find out what exactly was happening in the city, which places got hit and which were lucky. And at that point the names of other areas meant nothing since we had only the day before found out how to get to our nearest grocery store.
Since we had some time on our hands, and since there is nothing worse than feeling utterly helpless in the face of disaster, we spent a couple days volunteering with various flood relief efforts. The first day was spent on a street somewhere in Nashville that ran along a creek, a creek that had never flooded in the 45 years that many of the residents had lived there. Hardly anyone had flood insurance and every single house lost everything. The street was lined with piles of soaked carpet, waterlogged furniture, mattresses, couches; garbage bags full of clothes and picture albums, mementos and tchotchkes. People were hanging outside on their lawns, searching through their belongings pulling out anything that might be able to be salvaged, waiting to hear back from their insurance companies.
The next day we went to a small apartment complex in a very poor side of town, apartments where all the tenants were on disability and food stamps, people who had hardly anything to begin with and now had even less. One man we talked to had finally moved into his place after years of being homeless and living out of his car, now, he told us, he was grateful his car didn’t get flooded so he’d have somewhere to sleep. We spent hours that day cleaning out the apartment of a man, Joe, who told us that he and his wife had woke up early Sunday morning to find water pouring into their place, it would reach over four feet before it finally subsided. We worked side-by-side with Joe going through his stuff, throwing out the things that were ruined and making a stash of things that could be saved, like the photo of he and his wife on their wedding day, she in a bright red dress and he in a matching red suit.
Despite how incredibly overwhelmed I felt that week, our very first week in Nashville, what I remember most is being in awe of people’s resilience. It was profoundly humbling and I think about it often, especially when life can feel confusing and uncertain.
As much as I don’t wish the flood happened for the sake of so many people who lost so much, I’m grateful that it threw us headfirst into living here since moving somewhere new can at times be very self-absorbing. In some ways it feels like we’ve been here a lot longer than a year, and in other ways, like when I have to use GPS to get pretty much anywhere that’s not in East Nashville, everything still feels brand new. And perhaps it will always feel a little bit like that, I hope so. I really like Nashville.
Monday, April 11 – Peel ‘n eat shrimps; salad of cucumber, tomato, lime, cilantro & peanuts; grapefruit slices
Tuesday, April 12 – Spicy coconut chicken soup, red cabbage slaw & chocolate truffles for dessert (this meal was courtesy of my friend Jenny, who is a phenomenal cook. I took some photos for her non-profit Feast in exchange for this totally delicious dinner. photos of the truffles above. best.truffles.ever)
Wednesday, April 13 – Soft corn tortillas filled with sauted onions, turnip greens, feta & salsa
Thursday, April 14 – Mushroom & roasted garlic risotto
Friday, April 15 – Chipotle carnitas burrito
Saturday, April 16 – Medley of leftover pasta mixed with sauted spinach, green onions & garlic
Sunday, April 17 – Thai Pookhet take out – green curry with chicken, pad thai with tofu & spring rolls with shrimp