"Is that my sausage po-boy he's making?" cried Glenn, a New Orleans native who returned to the city this weekend for the first time since Katrina. "Oh my God! He IS making my sausage po-boy."
"Cheese?" the cooked asked.
"Of course! Double cheese, with extra lettuce and tomatoes," Glenn demanded. I've never seen anyone get quite so excited about buying a sandwich at the Nelli Deli, a Bourbon Street corner grocery where I stopped for take-out dinner tonight.
But Glenn and his friend Derrick were in town for the first time since days after the hurricane when they were evacuated from the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center. They've been living in suburban Seattle since, and they're planning to stay in Washington.
There was no question they would return to the northwest after riding through the dead zone from the airport, Glenn said. "It's horrible. It's so depressing" he told me while we waited for our po-boys at the deli counter.
Before the storm, Derrick worked as a kitchen assistant in a local high-end restaurant where the chef had allowed him to try his hand at cooking from time to time. After arriving in Washington, he found a kitchen job in a Seattle suburb but the manager wasn't interested in fostering his cooking ambitions. They also had trouble understanding his accent. "It's different up there," he said.
He lost the job after a few weeks.
There are better opportunities in Seattle proper, but Derrick doesn't have a car and he hasn't yet mastered the city's transit system.
Still, he says his life there is better than it ever was in New Orleans or what it could be now here.
They both miss New Orleans - the friendliness of people here, the music, the food (in Seattle they paid $13 a pound for fresh shrimp and are limited to salmon for fresh fish), sunshine (Seattle had a record string of rain days recently) and even The Times-Picayune, which Glenn bought at the deli. "Oh my God! Look Derrick. It's The Times-Picayune. I didn't know they were still publishing."
But they're just visitors now. They've moved on, and they're not looking back.