Listening to the Great Ones now: Ella, Nina, Dinah Washington, etc. It was my choice of music. Wanted to feel the romanticism of the place, or at least, the romanticism I created for myself. This moment, I feel I am accomplishing that goal.
The heat is enervating. We’re back in Greg’s shotgun house after walking on Magazine Street. The torpid atmosphere has it’s advantages. One see how how fecund the Southern Louisiana environment is – oak trees with Spanish moss spring from the sidewalks with their thick, uncontrolled roots showing. Palm trees are abundant as well. It reminds me of Lahore in many ways. Nature is unavoidable here, even in this very middle- and upper middle-class neighbourhood filled with a mixture of stately seemingly ante-bellum homes and more modest but still spacious “shotgun” houses. Many of the houses seem worn with time, only adding to the Southern Gothic mystique of this area.
Just had a crawfish boil in Audobon Park’s “Pit” right next to the Mississipi. Met some of Claire’s (Greg’s fiance) Tulane classmates. I do enjoy crawfish, although I must say I found the process of peeling them troublesome. These Tulane students, mostly but not exclusively middle-class white Americans served as an interesting contrast to the other “garden parties” going on, many of them involving groups of Latinos (the Hispanic population has increased since Katrina) or Black family gatherings.
Greg and Claire took me to see Lakeshore at the bank of Lake Pontchartrain to see evidence of flooding. Most of this formerly prosperous area seems dry. What’s left in the area are remnants of a tragedy in the way of an abundance of all-white, perfectly rectangular, 30-foot long FEMA trailers, newly constructed homes, other hoes showing a need for their complete dismantling. Other homes seem perfectly intact save for their deconstructed bases. Overall, the impression I got was that of a beautifully maintained ghost town where the homes, and the overriding aura of the neighbourhood, is that of a place inbetweeen repair and dilapidated abandonment.
I can only imagine what areas like the mostly-poor Lower Ninth Ward must be like, apparently still flooded and neglected as it was before Katrina. Going to the Ninth Ward at any time is unlikely; despite the decrease in crime attributed to the post-Katrina exodus, it remains one of the city’s more troubled areas. Given the staggering rate of violence associated with a city long known as “the murder capital of America”, this is no small thing.
Driving in New Orleans I got the impression of some of the divides that are an almost intrinsic part of the city. Driving towards St. Charles Avenue through Jackson Avenue you can see the contrast between the relatively well-off, white New Orleans and the New Orleans typified by urban, black poverty. I could see chop-shops, run-down homes, and a fascinating surfeit of churches and ministries. My desire to go to the Tremé district to see the renowned St. Louis Cemetary alone as I originally wanted (despite warnings in all travel books I’ve consulted not to do so) was officially abandoned as Greg recounted an incident where he was politely “escorted” out of the area by someone from the corner after taking a wrong turn, giving him the distinct impression he did not belong. This area is near the Iberville housing projects, which border both the cemetary, French Quarter, and the downtown business district where Greg works, gives an indication of the close proximity yet segregated, self-contained distance that New Orleans neighborhoods have with one another.