Arriving at Dooky Chase’s and Who’s Your People?
I walked in the door to be greeted by a small man in a baseball cap and slightly rumpled shirt grinning toothlessly at me and family friend Lloyd Gonzalez. Lloyd introduced me to him.
"Perez- I know some Perez's" he said.
I would never have dreamed that this was Dooky Chase, owner and namesake of this well known restaurant.- a porter maybe, or a dishwasher. Hey, but that's how the Chase's are, so humble, approachable and accesible to everyone.
"Emmanuel Perez" Dooky continued.
I demurred, not connecting the name to myself.
"Yeah- that's your uncle" LLoyd piped in. "Manuel".
Oh Manuel, I thought. Now where in the world could you walk in a door, and have someone connect you to, and accept you as one of their own through your father's uncle who has been dead for over 60 years?
Emmanuel- until my brother Eric recently sent me biographical material he had unearthed on Uncle Manuel, I had not even known his naem was Emmanuel. Uncle Manuel-Manuel Perez – the legendary New Orleans trumpet player, who I had once heard Louis Armstrong say he followed around as a child.
Lloyd dropped another name or two as the conversation continued- Ann DuPlessis (Du PLessis is my mother's maiden name)- currently a New Orleans councilwoman, who I know nothing about. Just a name I'd come across in newspaper articles after Katrina, along with Llopeis, another of my ancestral names. All these " perhaps" relatives I've never met. Even Leah Chase is related to my mother somehow we figured out afer my last visit.
As we left Dooky we were still discussing origins, and Dooky was still calling off family names and their connections to each other. That's New Orleans- who's your mama?