Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Finally a living city!

I know we traveled through Chicago, Cleveland, Memphis and many other cities in the winter on weekdays. I know we looked in the wrong areas and I know (trust me I do) that it was raining and windy and grey. We only had one short day in each city too. I am aware that we were thirsty for movements (blues, soul, etc...) that happened ages ago. I know I am lazy sometimes as well. What I am getting at is that our sense of each city we strolled through, the slow, desolate, forlorn feeling we got in those cities may not be an accurate depiction.

But man, it feels great to be in a city with some red blood flooding its veins.

We stayed in the French Quarter, a section of New Orleans that was not really affected (physically) by Katrina. The buildings in the FQ are generally 2 story houses, painted in bright pastel colors with porches full of plants that looked like they had been frozen as they exploded green leaves and flowers over the streets. All the windows have shutters painted in contrast to the houses. Even with the narrow streets empty I bet they would have felt busy.

We got in fairly late and so woke up early the next day and walked around the city. There is a kind of bohemian thing going on, loads of street punks, homeless and buskers (a lot like Venice Beach in that respect). The Audobon Aquarium of America is right along the Mississippi river where we were walking. Hands down the best part was the very first exhibit of young stingrays. There is a large glass tank with an arched walkway through one section that let the flat little ghosts glide up and over us. Great thin smiles with tiny little bone white teeth and squinty eyes.

For lunch we went to a Po-Boy (sandwich) shop. They had a classic New Orleans menu of gator sausage, gumbo, fried crawfish, jambalaya, jumbo shrimp and loads of other cool stuff. Keppie ordered a bowl of sea creature gumbo and half a breaded shrimp po-boy. In my mind I was going, "Gator sausage or crawfish po-boy, gator or crawfish, gator crawfish gator crawfish gatorcrawfish..." When the friendly blonde girl at the counter turned to me and asked what I wanted I blurted, "BLT!"

Stupid. I was grumpy for the next two hours. Probably just some leftover energy from the Sun Studios tour.

That second night we met Jenny (friend of a friend kinda thing). Jenny, a writer from Salt Lake City, had dreamed of living in New Orleans all of her life and had finally made the move a few months earlier. Both Kep and myself were in awe (and more than a little jealous) of her sense of belonging. Every time Jenny mentioned an aspect of the city she would light up, almost glowing with love and fascination. That kind of thing is infectious.

Aspects of the city seem fictional. Individual areas of the city have beautifully evocative names; The French Quarter, The Marigny, The Bywater. They sound like names from a China MiƩville book (who if you have not had the pleasure yet, is... incredible. Perdido Street Station had me wet). We went to Frenchman Street to the Spotted Cat and saw some great jazz and drank beer and liquor from small plastic cups. The place was packed and people were dancing, smoking and drinking and laughing. The range of ages and ethnicities were pretty stunning as well. I think it was a wednesday evening, and cold.

I want to get back there some time.

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