It takes a certain kind of person to truly live in New Orleans. Each of us are “kay-rack-ters” in every sense of the word. Those who live in an organized, time oriented schedule do not do well here. Those who seek drastic change from the slow, laissez-faire lifestyle of this town will only find frustration. True, there are those who always complain about one thing or another, including our slow pace of life at times. And we all know that “Mayor” (sic) Nagin gave many of us lots to complain about. But we shrug off complainers because we know they wouldn’t live anywhere else—New Orleans gives them the stage to not only complain but become “kay-rack-ters” in the neighborhood and community-wide soundtrack of the city. As one person put it to me yesterday, she wouldn’t feel normal living anywhere else. And I knew what she was talking about. For many of us to live somewhere else, we would be seen by others as “abnormal” Here, we turn things on their sides, upside down. Here, the social “abnormal” is very normal, and we wouldn’t trade that for anything in the world.
I had designs on not doing any work on Friday, but I quickly found myself working for four hours while at the coffeehouse. Catching up with grading papers was paramount, and it seemed that “work” at the University had slowed down. Fridays at the University are the quietest days of the week, especially in the summer. I let my Administrative Assistant off early so that she could study for a test and gather research on her final paper. I had electronically signed all of my morning’s paperwork. I had begun the process of setting up my adjuncts with their online course accounts. Once the papers were graded and I had answered all my emails, I was pretty much done for the day. I had also consumed four hours of work.
As I traveled back to the house, I intended to park myself in the Quarter and take advantage of at least one day of Tales of the Cocktail. It was nice that this event was “conveniently” taking place during this trip, but as I have reintegrated myself into everyday New Orleans, I found solace in knowing that the event was taking place and I have the opportunity to participate. For some of us, we know this feeling as residents in this geat city. We know there is so much activity taking place in this city, and at times we go home knowing that we can go out at any time and take advantage of it. We fall asleep knowing that there is so much we could do.
Where I currently “stay,” all we are sure of is that tomorrow will be a work day when we get up. There is little going on during any day that goes beyond the boredom of everyday life. Thankfully, I have a wonderfully creative wife and a truly beautiful little boy to spend my time with at home. Between the sounds of WWOZ on the radio, or Susan playing piano, or Devin drawing or playing legos with me, I find that I’ve done a pretty good job of creating a bit of New Orleans in our home. This is what I crave for during the day—and if I weren’t in New Orleans right now I would anticipate with great anxiety the fact that I am going home to my “little” New Orleans and the ones I love every day after work. Its as close as we are going to get to New Orleans for the time being.
I pass on going to Tales of the Cocktail, and choose instead to go to the house and rest.
Cece calls me to inform me it is time for my interview for Humidbeings.com. She’s working on a project with Blake Haney to interview residents about their pre- and post-Katrina experiences. She comes to the house with Michael, her intern coordinator, and Sean, the other intern. They’ve just interviewed the owner of “Island of Salvation” botanica here in the Bywater. They settle into the house and get their equipment ready. As Cece begins to ask her questions, I believe she will hear things she has never heard before.
“When did you evacuate for the storm?” “What were your thoughts during the evacuation?” “What did you do when you first came back to New Orleans?” I tell her the story of how I picked up Kaya Martinez from her Marigny apartment the day before we evacuated because she had no way out of town, and how we then traveled down Royal Street throughthe Quarter and I was amazed at how many people were still on the streets and how many businesses were not boarded up. I told her about how Susan cried as we left our house, knowing that we probably wouldn’t be back. I tell her about the sound of dried mud under my feet echoing for blocks when I get out of my car in October 2005 when I return to clean out the house.
“How do you feel about the oil catastrophe?” “Why should the rest of the country be concerned about what is happening in the Gulf?” Questions that are so familiar to us from a Katrina perspective.
Finally, the last question throws me for a real curve ball. “How do you feel about Ray Nagin?”
The first things out of my mouth are “Mother Fucker!!!” The next thing is “Fuck You You Fucking Fuck!!!” That pretty much summarizes how I feel about Ray Nagin. Everyone laughs—I imagine I won’t be the last person to state these feelings about our former “Mayor” (sic).
Cece and I don’t have any real plans for the day—though we really do have a plan. Only in New Orleans would that make sense. We head out to the Bywater for some lunch and whatever we might experience. She chooses a sandwich from Satsuma. I choose a Roast Beef PoBoy from Frady’s Grocery. I’ve been searching for a great neighborhood grocery since finding out that Verti Marte in the Quarter was damaged by a fire a few weeks ago. I find that Frady’s is going to be my sandwich shop of choice for the rest of the visit. Eclectic like the Bywater, Frady’s has a real neighborhood feel. “Kay-rack-ters” abound inside, both patrons and workers. Smiles and warm feelings are equally bountiful, and I feel right at home here. They make a pretty good Roast Beef poboy too!
Cece and I browse through the local second-hand stores, take pictures of some houses and buildings, and walk our way back to the house. I try to get some rest (I didn’t get any rest like I intended earlier due to Cece’s unexpected interview) and am somewhat successful. By 7pm, we’re ready to head out the door to my friend Alli’s birthday party at the Le Bon Temps Roule on Magazine Street. We stop at a bookstore along the way so that I can pick up two books for Alli—Tom Piazza’s “Why New Orleans Matters” and Dan Baum’s “Nine Lives—Death and Life in New Orleans.” I consider these two very important books about New Orleans today, and I know it will help aid in Alli’s New Orleans knowledge-base. It is the professor in me that motivates this gift.
Alli loves the books—she informs me that she hasn’t read them yet. I buy her a birthday drink—a pint of New Orleans “Brown”, a local beer on tap at the Bon Temps. I have one too, and we all talk about her new job (per se) at the Food Coop. Shortly, we are joined by others. I finally meet “face-to-face” fellow Blogger Adastros and his lovely wife Grace. I am happy about this very much. Patrick is here—a close friend of Alli’s and we talk about their collective “wild night” celebrating the NFC Championship game victory. Suffice it to say that Alli ended that night at the emergency room at Touro with a wound inflicted in her foot by an errant nail on the street. Gina and her boyfriend Greg Peters are there as well. Greg informs me that he is working on projects with Humidbeings.com, and I realize how small this world is, especially in New Orleans. You may remember Greg as the cartoonist with the Gambit.
Two hours pass quickly, and before we know it it’s time for Cece and I to head out to our next adventure. Where, we don’t exactly know, but we have designs on going to Mimi’s for a late-night dance party. It is so grat to be around these friends again—I can’t wait to see them all when I return in late August for the Rising Tide Conference. We say our goodbyes and Cece and I head down towards the Marigny.
Knowing it might be difficult getting Cece “in” to Mimi’s, we veer off course and head down to Frenchman Street. The crowd is thick on the street, and the music from the clubs is alive and wonderful. My ears hear a Brass Band playing on the corner, and sure enough the Young Fellas Brass Band is entertaining a lively and large street crowd on the corner of Frenchman and Chartres. Though Cece and I will continue to make one “lap” on Frenchman, I choose ultimately to settle here and enjoy the Brass Band. Dancing. With others. On the Street. In New Orleans. Yeah You Right!!!
There is something magical about hearing brass bands play live on the streets. It is nearly as magical as being in a second line parade. But Second Line season is over, and this is as close as we’re going to get to a real second-line parade during our visit. My friend Lisa Palumbo is there as well, and she and I share stories of taking our teen daughters out to experience New Orleans culture. I also know that Lisa is bound to be out late tonight, and though I am ambitious, I know I could never keep up with her on her musical journeys. Cece finds herself writing poems for the street poet on Frenchman, and then she meets a young man who is riding his bike across country. He’s originally from Minnesota, and now finds himself in New Orleans. His ultimate destination is Portland, Oregon. He’s 18 years old. I really admire his drive to see the country on his bicycle. I am pretty sure Cece is impressed as well.
Two hours pass on Frenchman Street, and Cece and I decide it’s time to head back to the house. Once again, I find myself in before 2am. Not a late night, and I know I can actually sleep in Saturday morning (though I am sure I will be up by 6am no matter what). This has been a wonderful and magical day in New Orleans. They all have been.
Today, we have no plans other than to try to get some interviews and take some pictures in the Bywater. Tonight, we hope to get down to Lucy’s in the CBD to catch Rotary Downs. It seems that Bonnie is going to whimper out, though her cool rains and winds will be much appreciated later today. I don’t think the rain will keep Cece from seeing Rotary Downs tonight. THAT is a long story in of itself.
Life is good.