Thank You New Orleans

IMG_4067I had a wonderful stay in New Orleans and hit many of my favorite haunts, including Felix’s twice for charbroiled oysters (my favorite). Mr. B’s YaYa gumbo was great as usual (though I am afraid the soft-shell crab dish and service was pretty dreadful). I got up at 5:30 am to walk the city. That is my favorite time to see New Orleans as the French Quarter wakes and shopkeepers and artists arrive to have coffee and set up for the weekend. There is a unique community in the streets of New Orleans that is hard to see when the tourists are roaming. I love sitting around and having coffee and just listen to these denizens of the Big Easy greet each other and chat about the day.  Even the small exchanges between the Tarot reading ladies in front of the Cathedral had that charm like a New Orleans version of the flower street scene at the start of My Fair Lady.  One tarot lady brought homemade cookies for all of the others and, when one asked the occasion, she said “cause of love y’all.”  (One would have hoped that a fortune teller could have seen that one coming).

One of the saddest aspects of waking up with the city however is to get a full view of the number of homeless and the many heroin addicts. As in most of major cities, the heroin and opiate epidemic is in fully rage. The city are full of young people who look skeletal and most trying to score drugs. I went into an area where many of these kids sleep on the streets. It truly broke my heart since this will clearly not end well for most of these kids. Yet, in the sadness there were moments of incredible kindness like one scene where a group of young and older homeless people gathered around a kid who was lying on the ground. He was clearly still high but they were concerned and checked to see if he was okay. They made him sit up and one homeless kid put what looked like his last bill in his pocket even though the guy was barely conscious. Frankly, I find a kid like that giving up his last $5 far more inspiring than Bill Gates giving a billion (even though I have great respect for the Gates Foundation).  I asked the kid if his friend was going to be alright and he said “Sure, he hit pretty hard but he’ll be okay.” He said the guy had just arrived on the streets. I am not even sure if he knew his name. I asked him if he had any money left and he said no and that he and his dog panhandle during the day. I bought him breakfast and coffee at a nearby stand. He gave his dog a sizable part of the muffin and they walked away into the quarter. He clearly did not want to talk and I never asked his name.

As a father, I felt an urge to run after him but just stood there. He had not reached the comatose stage of some of the others who were laid out in flower beds and park benches.  Yet, we both knew that this would not end well.  This was a kid no more than 20. He was thin and tall like my boys.  He clearly has a great heart and struck me as an intelligent young man but he seemed reconciled to this life on the street in this barely observable community just under the surface of the French Quarter. It was as if they were performing their own tragedies — played out largely to an audience of peers.  Somewhere these kids took a plunge into an abyss and have learned to live as denizens in this dangerous and destructive existence. I do not think that I will forget the image of that boy and his dog disappearing into the morning mist of the French Quarter. I will always wonder if they survived and somehow were able to break out of this life or whether they just descended further into the cycle of addiction.

Here are a few pictures from the Quarter this morning and reminded me of why I so loved living in New Orleans.

 

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9 thoughts on “Thank You New Orleans

  1. Reblogged this on Truth Troubles: Why people hate the truths' of the real world and commented:
    Jonathan, we do see New Orleans and the French Quarter quite differently. I see the French Quarter as nothing but a filthy slum that these people are having to live in. The Quarter and the city itself is just filthy and crime ridden. The government at all levels and industry and the education system have totally failed there just as these same issues haunt the slums of Detroit and the south side of Chicago. America is burning while the politicians and the top .01% are playing their fiddles like Nero of old.

  2. Good photos. I happen to love Louisiana and New Orleans. The opiate thing might pass. Many users will pass. Guns are quicker. Same with tobacco. It takes longer and is legal. I love the photos. I wish I was there. I have visited the state and city many times. It is my favorite place in the U.S. I am wondering why I do not move there.

  3. I have mixed emotions about New Orleans. On the one hand I have a love affair with the food and years ago, before the rap and metal descended, the music. On the other hand the oftentimes depressing lack of good sanitation, the homeless population – not unique to New Orleans – high crime rate.can be hard to handle. Those of us that grew up in the North have no concept of how people live – in condemned houses and on the street. Not too may years ago I happened to drive by an area of houses that were condemned – Do No Enter Signs Posted – and could see people using the structures.

    Back to the positives – The Nawlins Cookery has the best crawfish etouffee I have ever had and when eating there I tell the waiter that when he sees me close to fininshing the first one bring me another. While I highlight that establishment there are so many where one finds culinary delights found no where else. One can always hope that as time moves on New Orleans will work to eliminate the negatives without damaging what is so good about the city.

  4. I have decided to move back to New Orleans. Here are the lyrics to an old song about the town:

    Fire on the Bayou

    Artist: The Meters
    Composers: Arthur L. Neville, George Joseph Porter Jr., Cyril Neville, Joseph Modeliste, Leo Nocentelli

    Fire on the bayou
    Fire on the bayou
    Fire on the bayou
    Fire on the bayou

    Down in New Orleans, in Lucky’s din
    He wouldn’t deal y’all for a 5th of gin
    One dude wanted a bottle of wine
    Hit that dude yes he did up for a dollar and a dime

    Fire on the bayou
    Fire on the bayou

    Take a little toke on your smoke
    Buy yourself a bottle of wine
    Cool, cool wine going down your throat
    Don’t try and tell me don’t make you feel fine

    Fire on the bayou
    Fire on the bayou

    I got a nickel now, you got a dime
    Let’s get together and have a good time
    Goin’ to buy a fifth, going to buy a joint
    when you gettin’ down now, you doin’ things right”

    “I got swamp water runnin’ through my veins
    The Mississippi River can’t be tamed
    I pole my pirogue in the middle of the night
    I’m an uptown ruler, I can do it right”
    Lyrics taken from this page

  5. Louisiana is the most unique state in the country from my perspective because of its CAJUN culture. New Orleans is a beautiful city, but as mentioned crime is high and black crime is higher and racial hatred of blacks towards whites is also high. I spent 2 years in Louisiana, had the shit kicked out of me and was robbed by 3 blacks one Sunday morning in Baton Rouge and could not interest the Advocate or any other Louisiana publication in my story. Apparently, black on white crime is not PC. That said I loved speaking French with the Cajuns and loved the Cajun country and music in the western part of the state. The best mardi gras are near Lafayette. I saw one with 600 costumed horseback riders.

  6. Yeah, ya gotta love “Naaw-leans,” as the locals say it. I have fond memories of visiting the country terrain outside the city.

  7. No native says Naaw-leans. The mixture of cultures including African american culture contributes to the vibe down here. Sorry you had a bad experience Slone, but I’ve have a number of negative experiences at the hands of whites and men but I don’t denigrate all whites or men. Youjust experienced what is commonly referred to as the minority experience. That said, come on down y’all.

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