When was the last time you walked through your neighborhood and something, indeed many things, brought a smile to your face? These Bywater morning walks continue to amuse me. The beauty of decay and neglect abound, but it’s the little things that make me smile. The advertisement for “Pie Ho” Pizza, the painting on the outside wall at Frady’s warning of a local mugger, the beautiful roses and other flower bushes in people’s yards, the occasional small child’s toy or bike on the front porch, the cat in the window…. I am enjoying these morning walks. They bring me back to life.
I got out to a later start Sunday morning, due in large part to a wonderful but “late” Saturday night. “Late” is relative—the fact that we left the Blue Nile after one set, and that set did not end until 1am, and it appeared that we were the only ones leaving, tells the true story of what I consider “late” and what New Orleans considers “late.” My friend Lisa had been out the night before all the way to sunrise, and perhaps even later. That “might” be considered late in New Orleans….
Once infused with early afternoon coffee, Cece and I venture back to Simon’s shop on Magazine and Jackson. She is interested in interviewing him for her project. Once again, I am amazed at the “cordial” response Simon gives when describing how he feels about Ray Nagin. He too must pause for quite a long time before he responds with “in the end, Nagin will be remembered for doing something good.” I can’t think of a thing Nagin did “good” for the city, but perhaps Simon knows more than I. Still, Simone cannot name a good thing either.
Cece heads out on Magazine Street in search of another interview. I remain behind and intend to spend a wonderful afternoon discussing life with Simon. I have brought my six-pack of Heinecken, and I am sure we both will do our level best to finish the whole thing off in less than an hour. We are joined in our discussion this afternoon by a neighbor named John. John lives in Atlanta but owns a small “condo” on Jackson and Laurel. He, and occasionally his wife, comes down to the city once a month. His children are out of the house now, though his son goes to school at McNeese State and he finds time to visit his son in Lake Charles when he can. John also volunteers at the Jazz Fest (at the drink booths). I really hope that Susan and I can do something like this very soon—buy or rent something small in New Orleans that we can call home while here. If anyone knows of a cheap but safe efficiency apartment for rent, I would like to talk with you.
Simon’s new paintings continue to be “signs” of sayings or commissions to mark special events. His non-commission work goes out the door almost immediately after it’s completed. A couple come in to commission three pieces to help commemorate their lives in New Orleans. They have lived here for three years, but their work is transferring them to Los Angeles. They are not happy with the move, but they know they will come back someday. I believe they will—you can hear the passion for New Orleans in their voices. After they leave, Simon confides in me that his job is “non-stop.” What a wonderful thing in life when you are doing what you love to do on your own terms.
After about an hour, Cece comes back but has been refused her first interview. She thought she had a lead, but it turns out the person didn’t want to participate. She wants to complete three interviews today, and though this might be a bit ambitious, she is determined to get it done. We tell Simon and John goodbye. I know I will see Simon once again before we leave.
Next stop—on a whim, Cece decides to interview “anyone” at Dirty Coast. It’s close to closing time, and we are able to corner Anika into an interview. I know her story too. Anika is originally from Germany, but her sister lived in New Orleans so she decided to come and visit. She arrived in New Orleans a few weeks before the storm. She STAYED during the storm! You can see in her face that the experience for her was not too bad, but that it was “interesting.” Once the city got back on it’s feet in late 2005, Anika returned to Europe. She was back in New Orleans one year later to stay. I do not hear what she said about Nagin, but it wasn’t bad.
We get back in the car and head to my neighborhood, Broadmoor. We’re really on our way to City Park, but I figure we can get there “quicker” going through my neighborhood. Honestly, I love driving through the neighborhood whenever I can. It still is home for me. As we leave the neighborhood and head up Jeff Davis towards City Park, I notice that the car next to me has Jack and Sherry in it—neighbors from across the street in Broadmoor. We roll our windows down and say hello, and it turns out they are heading to the new Dog Park at City Park to walk their beautiful brown lab named “Cooty” (“Mardi Cooty Fiyo—Indian Red, Indian Red”). Cece and I follow them there so we can sit and catch up. Cece gets a chance to interview Jack. Sherry and I catch up on what’s been going on since I last saw them in May. We make plans to do something this week—whether that be a poker game, or a cookout. I volunteer to make Gumbo. Jack and Sherry love my gumbo. Ironically, the last time I made Gumbo for Jack and Sherry was for a poker night on Tuesday, August 25, 2005—the Tuesday before the Storm. We had all just learned about Katrina forming off the eastern coast of Florida—really two tropical disturbances joining up into one very big and ugly storm.
Jack is kind, too, to Nagin during Cece’s interview. Jack thought Nagin was the wrong person in the wrong situation at the wrong time. We had lots of hope for Nagin, but he never fulfilled his potential.
Wow—am I the only person that HATES Nagin so much that I can honestly find no redeeming qualities to his pitiful little self? I guess there is something wrong with me—or perhaps I need some therapy for this deep hatred I have of Nagin!
We all agree that we all must do something together before Cece and I head out of town. I imagine it will indeed be Poker Night on Tuesday. We say our goodbyes and Cece and I drive around City Park.
City Park is beautiful, and it has come back relatively well. I don’t believe the golf course is back online—it doesn’t look like it. But the Museum has been going strong since shortly after the Storm and the grounds look wonderful again. Cece informs me that the young man he met a few nights ago—the one who is traveling by bike across country—spent the night in City Park. He has his own tent and sleeping bag, and he found City Park to be a good venue since it was far enough from the Quarter to be out of the way of potential muggers, homeless people, and curious police officers. Honestly, I admire his frontier attitude with his trip. I am not sure I could spend the night alone in a tent in City Park, but the thought does make me think of trying it out someday when I ride my motorcycle into town.
Cece also informs me that she and “Bike Guy” are going to attend the free dinner at the Hari Krishna temple on Esplanade….
I love my daughter. She reminds me of me so much….
I don’t have a problem with this date, and I’m actually curious about what her experience will be at the Hari Krishna dinner. After a short rest back at the house, we are on our way to our respective dinners—she to the Temple with Bike Guy, and me to Mandina’s by myself.
We get to the Temple and Bike Guy is waiting for her there. I tell Cece that I’ll be back in an hour to pick her up. She has a look on her face that is both smile and smirk. Hard to describe, but it seems that she is both thanking me for letting her do this, and wishing that I would vanish quickly.
Mandina’s is one of my favorite restaurants in New Orleans. It seems that I have beaten the late crowd since I find a table relatively easily, and mid-way through dinner the line is outside the door. I am in full anticipation of two things here—a Sazerac and their Trout Meuniere. The waitress informs me that they are out of Trout tonight!!! They can put the Meuniere sauce on their Soft Shell Crabs, but I have my heart set on trout. I settle for the Fried Oysters instead.
The waitress assures me that the oysters are from PJ’s. This is good to know. The helping of oysters is large once I get my plate. The problem is that the oysters are small—smaller than I’m used to seeing. And they taste “bland”—no real salty, muddy taste to them. I am sure I’m imagining things, but it seems that these oysters are a bit immature to be on the table. Still, I save enough to put on a po-boy sandwich tomorrow. The waitress brings me another Sazerac and some of Mandina’s wonderful Bread Pudding. This IS a nice way to end the meal.
On my way back to pick up Cece, I find her and Bike Guy on the corner by the Temple sitting and talking. I can tell she is having a great time. I tell them both I’ll be back later, and I end up driving down the street to Jared’s new house and parking the car. It is a beautiful night, and I feel like walking.
Walking…. In a neighborhood…. At night…. A neighborhood with life….
I could hear distant sounds of music, some rap and some jazz. I could hear WWOZ on the air. Sounds of voices coming from the living rooms. Smells of barbeques that had ended a few hours before. Mardi Gras beads on fences. A light pole with hand-made “Saints” signs with different sayings that seemed to be added with every significant victory in 2009. I had once again died and gone to heaven. I do believe I have done that every day while we’ve been here.
Finally, I go back and pick Cece up. She is ready to go back to the house. I am sure she will see Bike Guy again later this week. I am also sure I will get another chance to walk through a neighborhood with life. And I know I will see something that will bring another smile to my face.
I have no plans for Monday other than grading papers and attending to work issues in the early morning. I do believe, though, I will try to go with Cece on the Street Car to City Park. We have a date at the New Orleans Museum of Art. There’s an original Picasso I want her to see there.
Yeah you right!!!