Last week I visited Dad and his new family in New Orleans, Louisiana, which is a town that Dad says proves that “poor people are happier than rich people.” And everyday I was there, we had the exact same thing for lunch: a crawfish boil.
A crawfish boil is where you put a lot of weird creatures that look like a cross between shrimps and spiders into a huge pot of boiling water with garlic and corn and potatoes. Then you take the dead crawfish out, remove their heads, peel back their tails and eat the middle part of their bodies. It takes a really long time to eat a tiny bit of chewy meat.
And I think the crawfish boil is kind of like Dad’s new life in New Orleans: he works really hard for a tiny reward.
This is what happened to Dad:
When Dad left me and Mom, he moved to New Orleans to "find himself.” I didn’t know what that meant, but Mom said he was really just trying to find some “hotter, dumber woman who would steal his money in exchange for making him think he’s still attractive.”
But Dad’s new girlfriend Izzy is not dumb and she is definitely not prettier than Mom: she has short hair like a man, weird teeth and wears man’s clothes, like dirty boots and ripped jeans. And she runs a big company that builds houses for poor people who lost their homes in a hurricane. When Dad moved to New Orleans, he started building houses for Izzy’s company as a volunteer and then fell in love with Izzy, which seems hard because of her hair, teeth and clothes, but I guess she was easier to love than Mom who was always yelling at him. Now, Izzy and Dad run the company together and take care of Izzy’s son, Edgar, who is five years old and not a good person.
And Izzy definitely didn’t like Dad for his money because they lived like homeless people if homeless people were allowed to have homes and still be called homeless. Their house was really ugly and small and rotting and their backyard was overgrown with weeds and broken potted plants. I thought it was interesting that they lived like this because their job is rebuilding other people’s houses. It almost seemed like they were punishing themselves for not losing their house in a hurricane.
And it was weird to see Dad in his new life. He looked older and younger than I remember. He had a beard and his face was tan and wrinkly but he also seemed calm and his body seemed like it had more energy. And I think I never saw him smile before but it was actually kind of creepy because it was a familiar face doing an unfamiliar thing.
And when he hugged me I felt a little weird because it felt like a stranger was hugging me. He squeezed me really hard and held me for a long time, but not in a way that felt like he meant it, but in a way that felt like he was trying to make up for the last year when he didn’t visit or hug me once. I tried to pat his back because I thought it might end the hug but he just started patting my back. Then we were both just squeezing each other and patting each other’s backs but I was doing it to end the hug and Dad was doing it to keep the hug going.
Dad said that Izzy was out building a poor person’s house and that she would be back in time for lunch, which was going to be a crawfish boil (surprise surprise!) in the backyard. Then Izzy’s son Edgar came running through the house like a dog that just got let out of a cage. He was five years old but he acted much younger and was very dirty and didn’t make eye contact and always had some dried snot hanging out of his nose that he sometimes licked by sticking his tongue high out of his mouth and trying to reach the snot. Seeing this made me nauseous.
I thought I might feel jealous of Edgar because Dad was now taking care of him and not me, but when I saw Dad with Edgar I just felt sad for Edgar. Dad seemed to pretend Edgar didn’t even exist. He just let him run around the house knocking into things and he didn’t even introduce him to me. And I started to remember that Dad used to act the same way to me but I never noticed it because he was my Dad and I was used to it. I guess sometimes it’s easier to see how people act when it’s not happening to you.
When Izzy came home, Dad tried to give her a hug but she said, “I’m filthy” and walked straight into the bathroom. When we heard the water turn on, Dad turned to me, smiling in an embarrassed kind of way and said, “That’s Izzy.”
All three crawfish lunches were the exact same experience: Izzy and Dad talked about the poor people whose houses they were rebuilding and how sad the hurricane was while Edgar ran around us, holding the dead crawfishes like they were monsters trying to attack us. Dad and Izzy just ignored Edgar, which was probably the reason he had no social skills, but they also ignored me, which just made me feel left out.
Dad never asked me anything about myself or school and he definitely didn’t ask about Mom. The only thing he would say to me was “Can you believe that?” after he would say something sad about the hurricane, like how many people drowned or why the government didn’t like the black people because of racism.
And I thought it was strange because a part of me wanted to be angry at Dad for not asking me about myself but I also felt guilty being angry at him because he was ignoring me to talk about something sad. And I guess I felt like he was doing a good thing by rebuilding the houses, but I thought it was weird how he felt so much for the strangers in New Orleans but nothing for me who is his son.
And then I started thinking about Mom, who is kind of the opposite of Dad. She spends every day doing selfish things and doesn’t help anybody that’s poor and when we pass a homeless person on the street, she holds her nose like she might get sick if she smells them. And she’s not even that nice to me, but at least she treats me like I exist.
And I guess if I was a homeless person from New Orleans, I would like Dad more than Mom. But I’m just a kid from the suburbs and that’s not my fault.
And that’s why I’m giving the crawfish boil and Dad and Izzy and Edgar 213 out of 2000 stars.