The True Wasteland Begins

“Leaving New Orleans also frightened me considerably. Outside of the city limits the heart of darkness, the true wasteland begins.”
― John Kennedy Toole, A Confederacy of Dunces

waiting for a parade Nola Brewing New Orleans, Louisiana

waiting for a parade
Nola Brewing
New Orleans, Louisiana

“there was something about
that city, though
it didn’t let me feel guilty
that I had no feeling for the
things so many others
needed.
it let me alone.”
― Charles Bukowski

waiting for a parade Nola Brewing New Orleans, Louisiana

waiting for a parade
Nola Brewing
New Orleans, Louisiana

“Yes, a dark time passed over this land, but now there is something like light.”
― Dave Eggers, Zeitoun

waiting for a parade Nola Brewing New Orleans, Louisiana

waiting for a parade
Nola Brewing
New Orleans, Louisiana

“Times are not good here. The city is crumbling into ashes. It has been buried under taxes and frauds and maladministrations so that it has become a study for archaeologists…but it is better to live here in sackcloth and ashes than to own the whole state of Ohio.”
― Lafcadio Hearn, Inventing New Orleans: Writings of Lafcadio Hearn

Sugaring the Beignets

“Sometimes life is merely a matter of coffee and whatever intimacy a cup of coffee affords.”
― Richard Brautigan

Everyone I talk to about New Orleans says they went to Cafe du Monde for chicory coffee and beignets. That’s fine if you want to do the touristy thing, I suppose – but there is better coffee and there are much better beignets.

My favorite is the New Orleans Coffee and Beignet Company, in Uptown, off St. Charles, about halfway to Tulane. You’ll never eat beignets on Decatur again.

Take the streetcar.

New Orleans Beignet Company

New Orleans Beignet Company

The Control of Nature

“The industries were there because of the river. They had come for its navigational convenience and its fresh water. They would not, and could not, linger beside a tidal creek. For nature to take its course was simply unthinkable. The Sixth World War would do less damage to southern Louisiana. Nature, in this place, had become an enemy of the state.”
—-The Control of Nature, Atchafalaya, John McPhee

Levee strengthening, New Orleans, Louisiana

Levee strengthening, New Orleans, Louisiana

“The Unites States Congress, in its deliberations, decided that ‘the distribution of flow and sediment in the Mississippi and Atchafalaya Rivers is now in desirable proportions and should be so maintained.’ The Corps was thereby ordered to preserve 1950. In perpetuity, at Old River, thirty per cent of the latitude flow was to pass to the Atchafalaya.”
—-The Control of Nature, Atchafalaya, John McPhee

New Orelans, Louisiana

New Orelans, Louisiana

Construction Project at the Bayou Boogaloo

While in New Orleans for Lee’s Tulane Graduation I rode my bicycle to Bayou St. John for the Bayou Boogaloo. There is always a festival going on in The Big Easy and they are always fun. This was a particularly good one.

I bought a beer and found a shady spot on the shore of the Bayou. I sat there chatting with the locals about cycling, music, and aging hippies. We watched the watercraft plying the waves. It was a beautiful day.

A small group of people arrived on the far shore (not very far away) towing something on a trailer. They proceeded to extract a large, homemade barge consisting of a wooden platform with plastic barrels strapped underneath for floatation. We wondered how they were going to launch the ungainly contraption.

The guy had it going on. He directed his motley crew with efficiency and before you could swallow your gumbo they flipped it neatly into the water – using ropes to control the weight.

Then the guy proceeded to start hauling out prefabricated railings, benches, and an umbrella – screwing everything into place with a portable drill. It was an efficient and impressive display of carpentry. He soon had his own portable floating party barge, right in the middle of the bayou.

“Get that guy’s name,” one of the folks sitting next to me said between gulps of Abita Amber and bites of muffuletta. “I need a new deck and that’s the best carpenter I’ve seen in New Orleans.”

As I watched he extracted a full-blown steel anchor and dropped it into the mud at the bottom of the bayou.

The barge arrives and is flipped

The barge arrives and is flipped

over into the Bayou St. John.

over into the Bayou St. John.

Pretty bare bones at this point - but it floats.

Pretty bare bones at this point – but it floats.

Adding benches and railings.

Adding benches and railings.

Dropping Anchor.

Dropping Anchor.

Laissez les bons temps rouler

Laissez les bons temps rouler

Bead Tree

“To encapsulate the notion of Mardi Gras as nothing more than a big drunk is to take the simple and stupid way out, and I, for one, am getting tired of staying stuck on simple and stupid.

Mardi Gras is not a parade. Mardi Gras is not girls flashing on French Quarter balconies. Mardi Gras is not an alcoholic binge.

Mardi Gras is bars and restaurants changing out all the CD’s in their jukeboxes to Professor Longhair and the Neville Brothers, and it is annual front-porch crawfish boils hours before the parades so your stomach and attitude reach a state of grace, and it is returning to the same street corner, year after year, and standing next to the same people, year after year–people whose names you may or may not even know but you’ve watched their kids grow up in this public tableau and when they’re not there, you wonder: Where are those guys this year?

It is dressing your dog in a stupid costume and cheering when the marching bands go crazy and clapping and saluting the military bands when they crisply snap to.

Now that part, more than ever.

It’s mad piano professors converging on our city from all over the world and banging the 88’s until dawn and laughing at the hairy-shouldered men in dresses too tight and stalking the Indians under Claiborne overpass and thrilling the years you find them and lamenting the years you don’t and promising yourself you will next year.

It’s wearing frightful color combination in public and rolling your eyes at the guy in your office who–like clockwork, year after year–denies that he got the baby in the king cake and now someone else has to pony up the ten bucks for the next one.

Mardi Gras is the love of life. It is the harmonic convergence of our food, our music, our creativity, our eccentricity, our neighborhoods, and our joy of living. All at once.”
― Chris Rose, 1 Dead in Attic

Bead Tree, Gibson Quad, Tulane, New Orleans, Louisiana

Bead Tree, Gibson Quad, Tulane, New Orleans, Louisiana

“I dust a bit…in addition, I am at the moment writing a lengthy indictment against our century. When my brain begins to reel from my literary labors, I make an occasional cheese dip.
~Ignatius J. Reilly
― John Kennedy Toole, A Confederacy of Dunces

Bead Tree, Gibson Quad, Tulane, New Orleans, Louisiana

Bead Tree, Gibson Quad, Tulane, New Orleans, Louisiana

“Leaving New Orleans also frightened me considerably. Outside of the city limits the heart of darkness, the true wasteland begins.”
― John Kennedy Toole, A Confederacy of Dunces

Birdhouses in the Tree of Life

While I was going on my little bike ride in New Orleans I made a quick stop on the river side of Audubon Park, next to the Zoo. There is a cool tree there – an ancient (planted circa 1740) and enormous live oak. Locals call it the “Tree of Life” – its official name is the Etienne de Boré Oak. It’s a beautiful spot – very popular for wedding photographs – and was worth a look even on a rainy and overcast cold day.

My commuter bike by the Etienne de Boré Oak - Audubon Park, New Orleans (click to enlarge)

My commuter bike by the Etienne de Boré Oak – Audubon Park, New Orleans
(click to enlarge)

I noticed a work crew with a highlift and a series of ladders working around the tree – laying down plywood for stability in the muddy soil. A van pulled up and discharged a couple of women drinking hot coffee. They walked over to the workmen and began to plan a project.

Walking around, I found a large collection of finely detailed birdhouses. Most were still in a pile off to the side, but a bunch of them had already been hung off the branches, mixed in with the Spanish Moss.

Birdhouses waiting to be installed, Audubon Park, New Orleans (click to enlarge)

Birdhouses waiting to be installed, Audubon Park, New Orleans
(click to enlarge)

Birdhouses in the Tree of Life, Audobon Park, New Orleans (click to enlarge)

Birdhouses in the Tree of Life, Audobon Park, New Orleans
(click to enlarge)

Birdhouses in the Tree of Life, Audobon Park, New Orleans (click to enlarge)

Birdhouses in the Tree of Life, Audobon Park, New Orleans (click to enlarge)

It was pretty cool – I wished that I could stay and see them all hung up there – but I had places to be so I peddled on.

Now I have had time to look up the installation online. It was an advertisement for an online peer to peer house rental company, Airbnb.com. Each of the birdhouses had been carefully made as a tiny duplicate of real homes that are for rent on their service.

Neat little advertising gimmick, if you ask me.

Slideshow of the birdhouses and the homes for rent they represent.