We said goodbye to John today. John said he will miss us, New Orleans, and to our surprise, he said he will especially miss Five Happiness Restaurant.
John was a co-worker who recently took a job in Tennessee to be with his family. That's where they went when Hurricane Katrina hit. And that's where they're going to stay.
We gathered outside our cubicles this morning to give him a farewell present and a card. He assured us how much he loved New Orleans, and said if not for the terrible turn of events brought by Katrina, he would still be here.
John was on the verge of tears as he told us how much he loved this town. After all, he said, it was while attending Tulane University that he met his wife. And although he grew up in Florida and she in Tennessee, it was here where they made their home. It was here they brought four children into the world.
And it never occurred to me that Chinese food could be so integral to the New Orleans experience, but John gave a touching farewell to Five Happiness Restaurant.
The popular Chinese eatery is well known for great service, excellent food, and its bright blue roof. On Carrollton Avenue just south of Washington Avenue, there's no counting how many fortune cookies have been served in over 20 years of business.
None of this mattered to Katrina. When her storm surge burst over and through the city's hurricane protection system, about 3 feet of floodwaters doused the Happiness, leaving telltale water stains on the walls and tarnishing the brightly polished front doors. It has not yet reopened.
John explained how he had asked his future wife to marry him over a meal at Five Happiness. And how she had told him their first child was on the way at the restaurant. And how it was during a meal there that he and his wife had decided to move back to New Orleans following his service in the Navy.
I always knew that everything in New Orleans revolves around food, but I never expected that food to be Chinese.
John and his family are some of the best people you could ever hope to meet. Kind and caring, eager to live and love. New Orleans will miss them. I hope one day circumstances will bring them back, and I hope the Five Happiness will greet them when they do.
A link: Five Happiness Restaurant