Saturday, February 21, 2009

On the river rather than the bayou...

(V, M and R in my courtyard on Barkus Sunday)
This starts my French Quarter journal, with pieces about the good, bad, ugly and splendid of this tiny village, written from my courtyard on Saint Ann (a street name which is almost always written out, when St. Peter is almost always written as abbreviation.) Ironically, my permanent home on Bayou St. John is on St. Peter street, between Hagan and Moss Street.

When I decided to abandon the FEMA trailer in November, I did it with the knowledge that going to rent an apartment would severely damage my ability to save more money and also divert my attention at times from our Hagan Ave work. Still, even I needed to find something a bit more calming and less dangerous, so started the search for a temporary place to live while I started to design my house.

I looked at three places before finding this on Craigslist. One of them near Hagan, and the other two kind of in Esplanade Ridge. They all had some things going for them; the one on N Johnson had a great extra lot as a side yard with room for the dogs of present tenants to roam and their chickens too. Maddie the dog would have had a great place, but just wasn't sure she would understand the chicken deal, and though the rent was cheap, my share of the utilities was not.
The second was a 2 bedroom on Broad Street. Not so much...
The third was actually a real possibility; on Gayoso off Saint Ann (hey just realized that), and was a charming little 2 room apartment. too bad it was on the street rather than one of the back apartments; I would have taken it right away.
Although, what kept occurring to me was I would be adding more complexities to my life to take on another neighborhood to worry about and to plan living in and around. So, when I saw the studio listing for the Quarter, I thought hard about it, as I had spent my youth in the Quarter and knew what it meant to be, even for a short time, there. But, the lack of neighborhood rebuilding and the proximity of the amenities, and the every day service worker world seemed like a good plan for me to use while I thought about MidCity.

So, when I looked at it, it was about what I needed, and believe it or not, about the same price or cheaper than everything else I had seen in much less fixed areas. I think that has to do with type of locals who own only one or two buildings in the Quarter, live in their buildings and with no damage, had no need to raise their rents to triple their pre-K levels, as the rest of the city had done.
So, saw this small studio. Actually about the same square footage as my FEMA trailer, but with high ceilings, 4 windows and a small courtyard for me right outside my door, it was worlds apart.
Also furnished and with a great landlady who had a dog, and was happy to welcome my dog to the building.

So, took it in mid-November, and as I have very few post-Katrina possessions, moved in my car in 3-4 trips of boxes and bags. The first night, I listened at dusk as the bells from St. Louis Cathedral bonged on the other side of my wall. I had just returned from my first trip to Italy and had spent my last night in Florence, and had listened to bells such as these while in my room on the square. As I sat with my books and shoes in piles on Saint Ann, my eyes filled with tears at being settled where I was wanted, where I could take stock and revive my New Orleans soul.

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