And Then What Happened?: The village it takes


For the Recorder
Published: 5/30/2022 11:24:35 AM

It was May 8, the last day of the New Orleans Jazz Fest that marked the event’s exultant rebound after two years of quiet. For me it culminated a month-long marathon of 14-hour workdays as coordinator and sign-writer for the festival’s art department, and Trombone Shorty’s triumphant stage bow at the end of that last evening meant I could finally go home and sleep. I was exhausted like the wet mop of salad greens I found neglected on the bottom shelf of my refrigerator, and decided to thus, forego dinner, just finish out the happy day’s duties and go to bed.

I lugged the kitchen garbage outside since pick-up was the next day, passed polite howdys with the neighbors about the successful festival, came back in, shut and locked the door, plopped down to make sure no one was texting any last-minute instructions for the next morning’s launch into festival teardown, and heard someone in my kitchen.

I live alone in New Orleans, and did not recall inviting anyone to visit. But someone was catapulting things at my kitchen wall, so I stormed in to find out who it was and what they thought they had a right to in there.

Squatting atop my overturned garbage can, a giant opossum hissed at me. Giant, I say because this guy was 2 feet long before his tail started. “What the hell are you doing in here?” I demanded. He hissed his equally profane reply, leapt down and backed into the corner of the tiny pantry, jutting his head out with plenty more to say.

It was 10 p.m., only eight hours until teardown started. I considered locking him in the kitchen until morning, but realized that, not only is the kitchen doorless, but no barriers close off any rooms in this house, so my kitchen guest could end up my bedmate if he chose to. That did not seem like a good end to an exhausting day. What did I know about opossums? Not enough.

In New Orleans, I knew that for a two-legged intruder I could call the police. But four legs and a tail? Who you gonna call at 10 p.m. to get an opossum out of your kitchen? I called Warren Kirkpatrick, Ashfield’s animal control officer, whose number is on speed-dial in my phone.

His raspy voice told me what I feared.

“Warren!” I said, “I am so sorry for waking you up! This is Nan Parati and I’m in New Orleans, and there’s an opossum in my kitchen, a big one. And you’re the only person I know who can tell me how to get him out.”

“Well,” said Warren, “Let me get dressed and I’ll be right over.”

“I’m in New Orleans!” I said.


“New Orleans! Louisiana!”

“Oh!” he said, fully awake now. “That won’t work then.”

“What should I do?” I asked.

“You got a pitchfork?”

“Not here in the city,” I said.

“Well, if you’re real quick, you could grab him by the tail and jerk him up in the air real fast. You surprise ’em like that, they can’t reach up to bite you.”

I looked at the opossum. He hissed at me as if to say, “You’d better not try anything like that!” That’s how opossums talk in New Orleans.

“You think he’ll bite me?” I asked.

“I don’t think so, but you just don’t know what he’ll do,” Warren said. I stepped out of my flip flops into hardcore shoes and asked Warren lots of questions about the emotional stability of opossums.

Warren on the phone gave me the support I needed to find my plan. I thanked him profoundly and released him back off to sleep.

I write festival signs on corrugated plastic that comes in 4-by-8-foot sheets. Armed with Warren’s intel on opossum traits, I cut a 2-by-8-foot sheet of Coroplast into a barrier that I installed between the sink and the opposing wall, creating an approximate 2-foot zone between us. With the opossum still crouched in his pantry, I stepped over the barricade and propped the exterior door back open. Then, back on the safe side of the wall, I grabbed the broom as a stand-in pitchfork, reached behind Mr. Hissing Possum and gently prodded him out of the pantry and toward the door. Ooh, he was mad and cussed me loudly, though I just rolled my eyes since Google Translate doesn’t have an Opossum-to-English setting. I saw it in his body language, though, hissing opossum threats over his shoulder as he shuffled down the kitchen steps to the backyard.

It truly takes a village to get ourselves through life, even if the village is sometimes located 1,500 miles away. Thanks Warren! And if you ever need to know how to … build a festival at 11 p.m., I’ll be there for you.

Nan Parati lives and works in Ashfield, where she found home and community following Hurricane Katrina. She can be reached at


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