Tuesday, January 25, 2011

From Sunrise to Sunset

Marais Street consists of several double shotguns of varying upkeep; a few boarded up with graffiti (5555) and the rest on an upwards mend. It is located between Ursline and St. Philips. Louis Armstrong Park and the African American Museum, which nestles up to the oddly fit fence and my hammock. A neighborhood known for consistently spitting out some of the best musicians the Jazz world has seen, Treme homes are pressed tightly against one another with shutters closed, sitting chairs on their porches, and is quickly becoming French Quarter North instead of the Treme steeped in musical history. All white people on my block besides the neighbors on either side of mine. My home, a former Hondurian boarding house for those that worked on ships docking at port and after that a brothel.

The rain poured for the past day, which is doing wonders for my garden beds, but limiting my cycling. I found a packed used bookstore, not unlike the one I frequented in Eastern Market during my DC days, a few blocks towards the river where I located some local gardening books and Nine Lives by Dan Baum.

Dan Baum arrived in New Orleans shortly after Katrina to write for the New Yorker the status of recovery, but realized the city is much more complicated then the recovery efforts of just the latest disaster to flood its streets.

"Most visitors to New Orleans sooner or later start asking impolite questions: Why has the rebuilding since Katrina gone so slowly? Why do you put up with such corrput and incompetent politicians? How can you waste so much money on Mardi Gras when you're still living in trailers? Doesn't anybody in this city ever show up on time?

New Orleanians are hard to offend. Stop thinking of New Orleans as the worst-organized cit in the United States, they often say. Start thinking of it as the best-organized city in the Caribbean.

That New Orleans is like no place else in America goes way beyond food, music, and architecture. New Orleanians don't even understand such fundamentals as time and money the way other Americans do. The future, for example: While the rest of Americans famously dream and scheme and chase the horizon, New Orleanians are masters at the lost art of living in the moment. If we're doing okay this minute, goes the logic - enjoying one another's company, keeping cool, maybe having something good to eat - of what earthly importance is tomorrow or next week? Given the fragility of life, why even count on getting there?

. . . . Long before the storm, New Orleans was by almost any metric the worst city in the United States - the deepest poverty, the most murders, the worst schools, the sickest economy, the most corrupt and brutal cops. Yet a poll conducted a few weeks before the storm found that more New Orleanians - regardless of age, race, or wealth - were 'extremely satisfied' with their lives than residents of any other American city."

Off to clean the turnip greens.

Renee Claire

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