It was just another white pick-up truck, clattering as we all do down the streets of New Orleans. Sticking out the bed was an assortment of tongue-and-groove lumber, in pretty good shape by all appearances, although certainly not new. No, not store bought. Old.
We cherish the old things in New Orleans. I am sure that just about everywhere else in America, the weekend handymen make a beeline to the local big-box "home improvement" store to fill their cars, their trunks and truck beds with the finest, fresh-cut lumber for their latest projects.
Not that there's anything wrong with that.
America was just recently enthralled with the "Cash for Clunkers" program, an economic stimulus scheme with the added benefit of disposing of a lot of old cars from our highways and driveways. Because old is bad. Old is inefficient. Old is unreliable.
But I venture nobody ever pined for a poster of a 2009 Ford Taurus to decorate their dorm room. No band ever considered posing with a 2008 Chevrolet Impala for the cover of their new CD. New, it turns out, has its limitations.
And in a city on the verge of 300 years old, I think we understand that. Where others see blight to be removed, we see our squandered heritage and fight to preserve it. Where others revel in the "hip" and "now," we're happy to say "Where y'at?" for a few more decades. Where others dine on Nouveau Cuisine, we're happy to eat stuffed mirlitons like grandma used to make.
So I smiled when I saw that truck filled with reused lumber. I don't know what project they were working on, but I would not be surprised if it was going to be a dining room floor or a paneled wall for a house that was already 100 years old.
That's part of the charm of New Orleans. No, not store-bought. Old.