“My kids are starting to notice I’m a little different from the other dads. “Why don’t you have a straight job like everyone else?” they asked me the other day.
I told them this story:
In the forest, there was a crooked tree and a straight tree. Every day, the straight tree would say to the crooked tree, “Look at me…I’m tall, and I’m straight, and I’m handsome. Look at you…you’re all crooked and bent over. No one wants to look at you.” And they grew up in that forest together. And then one day the loggers came, and they saw the crooked tree and the straight tree, and they said, “Just cut the straight trees and leave the rest.” So the loggers turned all the straight trees into lumber and toothpicks and paper. And the crooked tree is still there, growing stronger and stranger every day.”
― Tom Waits
The French Quarter has become too touristified for my taste. Filled with grimy bars, expensive antique shops, tacky trinket emporiums, and overpriced food the Vieux Carré isn’t always what it promises to be. Immediately downriver, however, is another neighborhood that is.
New Orleans is a city of neighborhoods and one of the best is the Fauberg Marigny. At the start of the 19th century, Bernard Xavier Philippe de Marigny de Mandeville (also famous for “inventing” the dice game craps) divided his plantation into residential lots, and the Fauberg Marigny was born. In the middle part of the twentieth, the neighborhood fell into decline, with the area around Jackson Square being called “Little Angola” – after the prison due to the extreme crime. In the eighties, however, commercialization in the French Quarter drove a lot of the residents downriver into Fauberg Marigny. The Marigny became what the Quarter used to be with Frenchmen street becoming ground zero for New Orlean’s essential live music scene.
The neighborhood is a good twelve inches above sea level and escaped the worst of Katrina’s ravages. There is a wide variety of classic New Orlean’s style architecture there – early Creole cottages and townhouses, American cottages, American townhouses, shotgun houses , 19th century corner store-houses, and various modern additions.
If I could live anywhere… I think I would live in Fauberg Marigny.
Standing outside the Balcony Music Club last Mardi Gras (I had stepped out for a second simply to catch my breath) a large group of German Tourists came down the crowded sidewalk. The man in the lead asked me in a thick accent, where to find, “Some real jazz music.” I lead them around the corner and pointed them up Frenchmen Street, telling them to stop by each club and pick the music they liked the best. He thanked me and said in very excited broken English, “Goot… Now Ve will get to see the Real New Orleans!”